Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tonight I received the following email...

Tonight I received the following email.
"I'm looking for an open-box/b-stock of the Burson HA-160 amp. Let me know if you have anything. Thanks - xxxxx"

This is not an unusual request. In fact I get several of them daily. As a dealer, I am slightly offended by this. But who is to blame?

I do not blame the customer for wanting a good deal. I do not blame them for expecting a 15 to 20% discount on their first (and probably only) transaction with a dealer who concedes their request. They came to expect it because it is happening regularly. So often that it has become the norm.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

3 Quick System Setup Tweeks That Can Make a Huge Difference

I liken setup at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest to one of those food challenges you see on television where you are given limited time and resources to create something great.  At RMAF, You are given 24 hours (or less, depending on when you arrive) to unpack your gear, set it up, and get great sound. It is 80% hard work, and 20% luck. I have learned a few tricks when setting up shows that may seem small, but can make the difference between having beautiful music in your room, or nails on a blackboard. 
Tip#1: Phase
I had a personal nightmare with this last year. We had set up our system and it sounded great the night before. The morning of the show, you guessed it, nails on a blackboard. I was panicked and totally bewildered. Nothing in the system changed, or at least so I thought. after an hour or so of troubleshooting, someone suggested reversing the phase of the speaker connections. It was then I realized what happened. The remote control on the Modwright 36.5 preamp had a phase switch which I had accidentally hit right before shutting the system down the night before. So I simply hit the switch again to restore the phase that was set the night before, and things improved significantly.
Tip#2: Lifting the ground on your digital source.Digital audio components are notorius for injecting noise into surrounding components. One way to reduce this is to lift the ground on your digital components. This can be done by adding a power cord that has no ground within it, or by adding a cheater plug to the end of the cord that connects to the power receptacle. We prefer the Synergistic Research Quantum Ground Lifter ($35). It is basically a cheater plug that has been treated with Synergistic's proprietary Quantum Tunnelling process. It sounds better than a stock cheater plug. Enough so to make the price worthwhile.

Tip#3: speaker placement. While the other 2 tips are important, I saved the most important for last.  Nothing can make or break a system's performance like speaker placement can. At the 2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, we had some issues with the interaction between the room and the speakers that, where we first placed the speakers, really caused issues with the midbass.  With the help of Philip of On a Higher Note, and Arien of Sonorus, we were able to minimize the interaction between the Vivid B1's and the large room we were exhibiting in.  The main take away here is  it will take two people to make the process work properly, and moving a loudspeaker an inch or two can make all of the difference. For more information, read the full article on speaker placement at

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Newly Redesigned Tweek Geek Site is Up!

The newly redesigned web site has been running smoothly now for about 2 weeks. In addition to the new look, the site features a more streamlined navigation (fewer clicks to get to the products you want), one page checkout process, and a click to chat/email function (the blue banner in the upper right hand corner).  Of additional benefit to you the customer is the free shipping for US destined orders.  This is like getting an automatic 7 to 10% discount on your order. We are still offering our In-Home Audition Program for many of the items we carry, as well as a 30-day money back guarantee. It's Tweek Geek's way of helping out in these uncertain times, and also a way of saying "Thank you" for trusting us all of these years. Happy shopping!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Important Updates from Vivid Audio

1. Vivid Audio Facebook page and forum - Vivid has created an informational and useful facebook page. I encourage you to visit it to get the latest information on new developments, ask questions, and view some gorgeous photos of Vivid loudspeakers.

2. G3 available in late ‘11  - Laurence Dickie and his engineering team are!finishing up the work on GIYA G3, which they hope to show at the Tokyo High End Show early in November. The G3 has evolved into a typical GIYA both in appearance and in acoustic performance, albeit from a slightly smaller platform than G2 and of course G1. The strong attributes of ultra low colouration, life like imaging and the fastest most accurate lf on the planet, are retained in G3. Pricing is estimated at 80% of G2.

3. New absorber tubes - To the right is a photo the new absorber tubes - for the high/mid frequency D50 driver on the left and for the high frequency D26 driver on the right. It looks as if the tubes have some new vibration damping material on them. There may be other differences as well, but that is the most visible change. I have an inquiry in to see if there will be an upgrade available to current owners.

4. Price increases slated for mid September - You may or may not be aware that Vivid Audio designs and manufactures all of their own drive units. Being able to design exactly what they require with little cost limitation has enabled Vivid Audio to achieve great successes in a very short time. A drawback of this policy is the cost of implementation. All Vivid Audio drivers incorporate  motor assemblies that implement rare earth magnets. These magnets are sourced from various vendors in China. Recently the costs of these metals have risen exponentially. These escalations have resulted in a six fold increase in magnet prices effective July 2011. Fortunately, Vivid was able to secure a large quantity of these magnets in order to stave off price increases for as long as possible. Due to the demand however, it looks like that supply will run out in September. As a result, it looks as if a price increase of 8% or so is inevitable in the next month or so.

Eye Candy - From left to right, the Vivid K1, B1, and V1.5 loudspeakers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Consumer Electronics Business Model Is Failing, What Can High End Audio Learn From it?

You read about it all of the time, another large consumer electronics retailer is going bankrupt. Just recently, HP announced it was getting out of the PC business. Why?  Because the pricing "race to zero" has made it unprofitable for them to sell electronics. There has been an artificiality to the pricing of electronics over the past decade that is now coming home to roost with these giant retailers. They are realizing that they can make more money doing other things besides selling electronics, so in HP's case, they are abandoning the low profit venture for a higher profit one. In the case of large electronics retailers, they are trying to add higher profit services to their business models in order to bolster profits and stay in the black.

What can the high end audio industry learn from this? 

  1. Dealers, being the "low price leader" is not a good marketing strategy. You will continue to work longer hours for less money, and someone will always be willing to beat your price. What are you doing to differentiate yourself from your competitors? Why should people buy from you? Now tell that to your potential customers. Offer them something that creates loyalty to you, not their wallet. Stop answering the deluge of "What's your best price on..." emails. Those are not loyal customers.
  2. Manufacturers. Its time to start developing quality dealers, supporting them AND monitoring them.  I know its nice getting a fat opening order from a new dealer. But simply having a checkbook is not a good qualification for being a quality dealer. Too often, these "dealers" are the ones giving your product to an Audiogon "fence" 6 months after they buy it from you and destroying your brand with fire sale discounts.
  3. Manufacturers/Distributors: Help your dealers with lead generation (yes that is partially your responsibility), generating product demand/buzz with reviews, product videos, a good web site and social media campaigns (not necessarily facebook). Also traditional marketing like co-op advertising, sponsoring get togethers at dealer locations and being creative about allowing the bundling of products at a savings rather than offering a straight cash discount to customers. If your dealers buy product for their showroom or to send out on audition, give them a significant discount from wholesale as an incentive, but make them sign a contract that keeps them from selling those items until the new models are out. MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) pricing is bullshit. There I said it. the MAP price instantly becomes the MSRP price to the consumer, and your dealer loses valuable margin.
  4. Monitor your dealers by secret shopping them and setting up Google Alerts for your products. Have a clear pricing and sales policy IN WRITING that all dealers must read and sign.  Do not sell any gear direct, unless you sell all of it direct, and in that case don't use a dealer network. Refer customers with no local dealer to the nearest dealer or use it as an incentive to reward good performing dealers. Don't sell the gear yourself.
I know some of my customers will read this blog, and may even get angry that I am talking about protecting profits and avoiding deep discounting to get the sale.  I understand, but understand I am taking a long term view that will preserve this great hobby, as it stands now high end cannot survive (pricing is not the only factor there, but that's another blog altogether).  This industry works on an infinitesimally smaller scale than the big box retailers, it costs more for high end audio retailers as a percentage of profits to run our businesses than large retailers who can purchase huge volumes of product.  Besides, have you ever tried calling Best Buy and have the president of the company answer?  With high end audio, you can get a level of personalized attention and service that is hard to get anywhere else. What is that worth to you?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Advantages (and fun) of Near Field Listening

I remember as a teenager, I would place my bookshelf speakers on the floor and lay down in between them to listen while reading. I was amazed at how differently they sounded than when placed on their stands. The bass seemed fuller, I heard a lot more detail, and the tone was more even.

Flash forward to today. I recently tried this experiment again with my current system. This time I sat in my listening chair, with a pair of Vivid B-1's equidistant from my seat and toed in more so than usual, and a JL Audio F113 directly behind my listening seat, blending very nicely with the Vivids. I was stunned at the dynamic slam, immediacy and depth I was hearing. This was fun!

The technical term for this type of setup is called near field listening. You can find several articles and diagrams on the subject by googling the phrase. Here are a few:
Advantages of nearfield listening
Nearfield listening does offer some technical advantages. It greatly reduces many of the problems a room creates for the listening environment. Rooms are full of reflective surfaces, not to mention the shape can emphasize certain frequencies over others, shifting the tonal balance. These reflections and room nodes can make the sound muddy and blurred. Why? Because the reflected sound arrives at your ear at a different time than the directly radiated sound from the speaker. This timing error creates the muddy/blurriness. This is one reason why speaker frequency response measurements are taken from 1 meter away, even in an anechoic chamber. With nearfield listening, the sound that reaches your ears first and with the most magnitude is the directly radiated sound from the loudspeaker. You are minimizing the effect of all that sound bouncing off of the room's reflective surfaces, as well as reducing the effect of the room nodes ( r
oom treatments still benefit nearfield setups, just not to the degree that far field setups benefit). Nearfield listening also reduces distortion simply from the fact you don't need to turn up the volume as high as you would if the speakers were trying to fill up the entire room. The speakers and amp aren't working as hard, giving you more headroom too.

Good news for those on a budget. A nearfield system can deliver more sonic bang for the buck, since you may not need the massive speakers and amplifier to achieve the desired sound in the nearfield as opposed to trying to fill a large space.

For headphone listeners, the nearfield system will sound familiar, only better. You get the same sense of immediacy and detail as you do with headphones, but you also get a center image and greater depth.

For those with limited space, a nearfield setup is ideal. If you have a small room, you can still get the speakers away from the walls and create a fantastic sound that sounds far bigger than the dimensions of the room itself.

What is needed
Speakers that are coherent at distances of around 5 feet or closer to your ears. Monitor speakers are the easiest choice, as are many 2-way floor standing loudspeakers. The 3-way design is a bit more challenging to achieve coherence at short distances ( the Vivids manage to work well). your ears will tell you if they work or not. Set your speakers up in the nearfield position, and move your head up higher, then lower. Was there a discernable change in tonality? If so, then you may try some others. A subwoofer may or may not be needed. I can tell you however that a good sub properly tuned can add a real live impact to the overall sound.

Be warned, the nearfield setup will be very revealing of your system. You may not like what you hear as a result. You may have spent a lot of time and money getting your system to sound the way you like it from your normal listening position. With the nearfield setup, you will be able to hear colorations added by components, and cables, you will be able to hear edginess and harshness that the room may have absorbed.

A nearfield system does have many technical advantages, it may or may not end up being your favorite way to listen. But I highly recommend giving it a try

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Musicians on Call - Bringing the Healing Power of Music to Those Who Need it Most

Music does many things. It soothes the soul, It can stir memories of special times, and can be therapeutic to the mind and body. I feel very strongly about the therapeutic aspects of listening to music, that is why I want to bring to your attention a great organization that is using music to make a positive impact on people's lives.

Since 1999, Musicians On Call has brought live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. It started when the founder, Kenli Mattus, performed a concert at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's rec room. The event was magical to the patients well enough to leave their hospital beds and attend.

But what happened next was even more magical. The nurses saw the reactions of the patients who could attend, and were saddened that not everyone was well enough to hear the wonderful music being played. It was clear to the nurses and Kenli that the patients who needed the music the most were too sick to leave their beds and join in. So in an inspired moment, Kenli brought the concert to them.

He went room to room, and played at the bedsides of those who had missed the concert. What happened in the rec room happened on an even deeper and more intimate level.

Hence the birth of Musicians On Call.

Today, Musicians On Call has a nationwide network of volunteer artists who deliver music in person to patients undergoing treatment or too sick to leave their beds.

"It is a program that inspires smiles and thank yous, sing-a-longs and tears. And beyond much-appreciated moments of entertainment, these one-on-one interactions between musician and patient have the powerful effect of resurrecting the emotions of joy and happiness that often fade away in healthcare facilities."

I hope all who read this can find a way to support Musicians On Call. Blog about it, volunteer, donate, whatever. It's a fantastic cause that I know we as music lovers can fully appreciate the value of.