I had the great pleasure of sitting down with John Rein, owner of Audio Video Therapy in Nashua, NH. John and his knowledgeable staff are dedicated to giving their clients a hi-fi experience tailored to their specific needs and budgets. I hope you enjoy reading this interview with John as much as I enjoyed sitting down with him.
– Amy Hansen
Q: What started your passion for HiFi?
A: When I was in high school, I walked into Tech HiFi in Harvard Square and, for the first time, I heard a good speaker that impressed me…and I remember there was a wall of receivers all lit up. Everything was back-lit dials, and it was mesmerizing. That’s when I started spending all of my money on audio. In college, I heard a pair of early B&W 800 series driven by Audio Research monoblocks and realized, oh my god… there’s a whole other level I didn’t even know existed.
Q: How did AV Therapy come to be?
A: About 8 years ago, it was time for me to move into a different area and concentrate more on two-channel audio. The driving force was that it seemed like everyone in audio had left the people in the middle behind. There were no feeder systems for younger people to get into the hobby because ultra high-end products were so expensive. After places like Tweeter closed down, there was really no place for someone who had a $3-4K budget and wanted better stuff to go to in order to get started in the hobby. My goal was to have everything from $199 to $50K speakers in the same place. To help, we even have a trade-up policy to help people gradually work towards their goal.
But, what’s going to keep this going when we’re not here? We have to build for the future. I want what AV Therapy is doing to continue whether I’m here or not.
Q: How has this past year been? Has the pandemic been the most challenging thing you’ve had to face as a business owner?
A: COVID has been the weirdest time because it exploded our business! I really have to say that you are either on one side of the pandemic or the other. You’re either a restaurant owner, or a business owner that is working in a field where people are stuck at home and need your product. We are blessed enough to be on the right side of this pandemic. I have friends who own restaurants, that have not been so fortunate. Anyone who’s in this business should be incredibly grateful.
Q: How do you incorporate music into your personal life?
A: As you know, I’m on the board of trustees for Symphony NH. But that’s only part of it. Music for me has always been an emotional switch. When the right music comes on, it can transport you into any moment of your life. Music is relaxing, invigorating, and one emotion after another. How often do you watch your favorite movie? Once in a while? Once in five years? Now, how often do you listen to your favorite music? You can do that every day and you don’t get tired of it!
I have five systems at home and a very tolerant wife. With five systems, I have obviously taken over a fair amount of real estate in our house, and she has tolerated this for over 40 years. For me, music and quality of life are synonymous. It’s playing all the time. Whenever I can, I play with toys at work during off-business hours—that’s one of the joys of work and it’s a great thing.
Q: Is there any genre of music you prefer?
A: I embrace every kind of music there is. Since I went to college in Boston in the 70’s, there was always a reasonable amount of live folk music available, and I’ve always liked it because of that. I go to the Montreal Jazz Festival every year, so Jazz has always been part of it too. I grew up in the rock ‘n roll era, so there is a lot of rock ‘n roll in my background too. When I was 13 years old, my mother bought two records: one was a Mozart record, and one was a Beatles record, so my musical taste has been diverse from the beginning. There’s beauty and complexity in classical, and modern classical has incredible diversity that pushes the envelope and is quite engaging. I like to explore everything, and I like it all.
Q: How do you see vinyl and digital evolving in popularity?
A: I think streaming has opened the door and that digital’s quality has gone up astronomically in the last few years. The edginess of the 80’s and 90’s is well in the background if you just spend a little more money. I think you can get a more liquid sound for less money in vinyl, but you can get a lot of that same liquidity in digital, it just tends to cost a little bit more. I think that one of the things people are starting to realize is that high resolution streaming is much closer to vinyl than a lot of people actually want to admit. I love vinyl and have 6,500 records at home! So, I’m a vinyl person with turntables all over the house. We tend to be a lazy species… so even though I have 6,500 records, 80+ percent of the time I’m playing digital because it’s convenient, and now that it’s good enough with Naim, Chord, and Linn streaming at home, I’m listening to more and more digital even though I’m a vinyl lover. I think that the whole ritual of vinyl is part of it. I love the fact that you tend to sit down and listen for 20+ uninterrupted minutes. When you’re doing digital, a lot of times you flip the track before the song is over. Patience is hard.
Q: What other changes are you noticing in the industry that have had an influence on your business?
A: I think “whole-house audio” and streaming has been a godsend. Not only do they allow you to spread music everywhere in the house, but it has created a category that didn’t exist years and years ago. We sell a lot of products like Bluesound; sometimes 7 or 8 units per house to have music everywhere. It allows music to be more integrated into people’s lives when it’s everywhere.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you at AV Therapy?
A: I see customers in-person, and I spend hours on the phone with customers. I average 40-50 phone calls a day. Recently, especially since the start of COVID, a lot of our sales have started over the phone, in order to narrow things down for customers before they come in for a listening session. We have thousands of customers now and a lot of them will call up and say, “You know my system and I’m thinking of doing this, this, and this. Which of these would you recommend?”. That resulted in a lot more home trials. Before the pandemic, people would just wander in and sit down, and we’d audition one thing after another. I think our focus has increased on getting things right quickly when they get here, because a lot of people don’t want to spend a lot of time in a store, where before they wouldn’t mind spending 4 or 5 hours auditioning. In the last month or two, I am seeing a trend where people are starting to spend more hours here again.
Q: You are one the nicest, most genuine, and trusted people in the industry. What do you attribute to that and to your success?
We put the customer first. We try to give them the best stuff we can give them, while being fair and reasonable, and always…their needs come first, yours second. In the end, this benefits us. I think you have to have a long-term vision. I understood when I came into this industry from corporate life, what I had wanted as a customer forever. What did I want? I wanted someone who looked out for what I was doing…and I didn’t see a lot of that. I was a kid who had been thrown out of audio stores because I had no money. We don’t do that to anybody. Whether your 12 years old or 80, you’re going to be treated the same. This business is about enjoyment and fun. If you’re buying toys, it should be about fun—it’s that simple.