Julie Mullins

Julie Mullins  |  Sep 06, 2023  |  0 comments
Phaenelagh "Nel" Lenard Burnett is an outlier in a most basic sense: She's a woman who works in hi-fi. For the past several decades—essentially all her adult life—she has immersed herself in running her father's audio business.

Her father is John Lenard Burnett of Lenard Audio, a veteran designer, researcher, and educator whose work has crossed over from recording studios, concert halls, and commercial spaces to hi-fi for the home. The Opal 4-way active loudspeaker system is the senior Burnett's signature product and serves as the foundation of Lenard Audio's hardware and strategic designs.

"When I was a baby, Lenard was the largest manufacturer and supplier of concert PA systems and guitar amps and so on in the Australian market," Nel told me. "Some of my very first memories are of me sitting on his workbench. That was one of my happiest places to be when I was a kid, literally sitting on his work."

Julie Mullins  |  Jun 18, 2023  |  1 comments
Many family-owned hi-fi companies have experienced generational leadership transitions over the last few years: Wilson Audio, Von Schweikert Audio, PS Audio, and VPI Industries, to name a few. In two of those cases, the founding father is still around. One of those is VPI Industries.

Harry and Sheila Weisfeld founded VPI in 1978. A succession plan? "Initially there really was none," VPI President Mat Weisfeld (above), who took over for his father Harry, told me. "They'd hoped to work to the last of their days. Unfortunately, my mom's days were cut short."

Julie Mullins  |  May 22, 2023  |  2 comments
Even if Darren Myers's name isn't familiar, you still may have heard—or at least heard about—hi-fi components he designed, including the PS Audio Stellar phono preamp, which garnered Stereophile's Analog Product of the Year Award in 2020.

After working on projects for Classé and Bowers & Wilkins, Myers was hired by PS Audio, where he ended his tenure as senior analog design engineer. Myers recently joined Parasound (footnote 1) following the company's acquisition by David Sheriff.

Julie Mullins  |  May 02, 2023  |  9 comments
Several traditional hi-fi dealerships have shuttered in recent years: NYC's Lyric Hi-Fi and Chicago's Audio Consultants are prominent examples. A few new brick-and-mortar shops have opened, but it's rare to see a next-generation owner breathe new life into a long-established dealership. Christopher Brewer (above) is doing exactly that with New England Hi-Fi.
Julie Mullins  |  Mar 30, 2023  |  0 comments
I'm a music lover first, not the most Type A of audiophiles. Sure, I clean my records, but I'm not obsessive about keeping them immaculate like my audiophile father is; he cleans each record ultrasonically before it lands on his turntable platter, writing the date of each record's last bath and which cleaning machine he used on the outside of a fresh plastic inner sleeve before sliding the LP back inside. I don't think his cleaning schedule is rigid—he has far too many LPs for that—but it's regular. Whenever I visit with LPs in tow, they must pass through the record-cleaning machine (RCM) gauntlet before they're permitted to land on his turntable's platter...

Recently, I tried out one of the many RCMs currently on the market: the redundantly named Nessie Vinylcleaner ProPlus+ ($2495), which despite the name does not hail from Scotland, nor is it a monster; in fact it's smaller than some other record cleaners I've used.

Julie Mullins  |  Mar 22, 2023  |  10 comments
Probably the biggest group of audiophiles right now are still "Boomers": members of the "Baby Boom" generation, which by most definitions puts their minimum age at close to 60. Boomers are aging and won't be around forever. So bringing new blood into the hobby is more important than ever.

Younger people (post-Boomer generations) listen to a ton of music—but are they really listening? Are they paying close attention, or, as the cliché goes, is it, for them, all background music? Generational clichés are rarely accurate. Of course they actually listen. Enough of them are, anyway. And they hear more; their hearing is better.

Julie Mullins  |  Feb 22, 2023  |  2 comments
Those of us who aren't wealthy must often sell something before we can buy a new piece of hi-fi gear, and it's usually another piece of hi-fi gear. Selling in order to buy makes a great deal of sense because, after all, you only need one of everything (or two in the case of speakers) at a time in a two-channel system.

Another secondary-marketplace incentive: As I pointed out a couple of Re-Tales columns ago, the higher prices rise on new equipment, the more appealing pre-owned gear becomes.

Julie Mullins  |  Feb 01, 2023  |  14 comments
In last month's Re-Tales column, I discussed the impact the current economy is having on the hi-fi industry. Some hi-fi companies said sales have "normalized" after widespread, dramatic increases during the COVID years—which is to say, sales are down relative to their peak but still strong. Others have noticed customers biding time before making expensive purchases or opting to buy less-expensive equipment than originally planned. Yet, even in this risky economic climate, a few people are taking the risk and opening new brick-and-mortar retail stores.
Julie Mullins  |  Jan 04, 2023  |  9 comments
How healthy is the hi-fi market? One widely reported silver lining of the pandemic was increased sales of anything to do with home entertainment, including hi-fi. Recently, though, inflation has broken out and the stock market tanked. Higher prices all around—from shipping and logistics to necessary parts and raw materials—added pressure from all sides.
Julie Mullins  |  Dec 08, 2022  |  40 comments
I spoke with people working in hi-fi to get a sense for how the industry is evolving. Here's one way: Some companies at the market's higher end are eschewing the traditional distribution model, in which a domestic company serves as middleman for products from overseas, buying and reselling inventory to dealers and then providing support. In the newer model, distribution services are provided by the overseas manufacturing company itself, either directly or via a US subsidiary. Brinkmann, dCS, Estelon, Gryphon, and T+A employ variations on the model.