When we last looked in on Liquid Hi-Fi, down on the edge of the Charlotte NC market, Ron was humming right along. He had some of the best brands on the market— brands like Hegel, KEF, NAD, Dynaudio, Rogue Audio, Moon, and of course, Nordost cabling to connect it all. In the past few years the owner, Ron Buffington, has followed a path similar to a few other top dealers in the country by upping the game.
When Covid-19 hit and we were all semi-forced into home quarantine, we all got bit by the audio bug again too. The more everyone sat at home and listened, the more they wanted to make some system improvements! Ron started getting calls from his clients asking for even more performance and advice on products which could make that possible.
Fast forward to today and when you walk into Ron’s place to see what treasures reside there, you will still see all the well-known and trusted brands he had before, but also some new stuff that reaches the very top end of the market. These products are game changers in performance (and honestly price) — brands like YG Acoustics, Wadax, CH Precision, Boulder, and even more.
A new location for Ron also brought even more listening space, as well as improved acoustics for his clients to hear this new level of performance. Of course, there is also plenty of Nordost Valhalla 2 and Odin 2 being used to pull those fantastic systems together!
I am very pleased to introduce you to one of Nordost’s top North American Dealers: Absolute Audio/Video.
After realizing that there was a lack of quality stereo
shops in Calgary, the founder Ross Sisson, who’s an avid music lover, opened
the original store back in 2005. They now operate out of a newer, larger, and
more sophisticated location.
The first store, which was slightly more modest than the newer more luxurious shop, was situated just a block down the same road in the Bowness Area in Calgary. Ross, who’s a very handy guy, actually built all of the original showrooms pretty much by himself and did an amazing job. It didn’t take long for local clients to start pouring in and be amazed by the line-up of quality brands and products on display. What impressed clients even more was Ross’s technical expertise and, furthermore, his diverse musical knowledge. I have always believed that the main reason Ross and Absolute AV are so successful is because of his contagious passion for music. I have come to meet many of his patrons over the years and if there is one thing they all have in common, it’s their love of music and trust for Ross’s recommendations and advice.
With his lifelong knowledge of music and what good sound is,
Ross helps others by providing knowledgeable information on topics like room
acoustical improvements and electrical upgrades for audio and video
improvements. His advice scans many topics from whole house audio and video to
lighting and security.
Ross was raised on good music that he was introduced to by
his mom and his older brothers. Ever since he was a kid, strong audio and
musical versatility was extremely important to him. He’s an LP and CD collector
who spends much of his time finding rare gems in record shops around Canada.
In 2015, Ross spotted a nicer and larger location just down the road, which he envisioned as the perfect space to turn into his dream store. In May of 2016, his dream came true and the new shop was inaugurated. Clients and suppliers alike were delighted with the new store’s look and functionality. In my humble opinion, the new location is truly one of the nicest stores in Canada.
Here are some of the brands you can currently find at Absolute AV: Nordost, Bowers & Wilkins, ATC loudspeakers, Monitor Audio, Odeon Audio, Vivid Audio, Bryston, Muraudio, Neat Acoustics, Transrotor, Acoustic Solid, Oracle Audio, MOFI, NAD, VPI Industries, Dynavector, HANA, Nagoaka, Kiseki, Grado, Sorane, Jadis, MOON by Simaudio, Ayre, Rotel, Atoll, Rogue Fezz, Zesto, Dan D’Agostino, Merging Technologies, Lumin, Antipodes Audio, Roon Labs, Lindemann, etc … What a line-up! It’s also worth mentioning that Absolute AV was the very first Supreme Reference Dealer in Canada in 2007.
The other thing Absolute AV is really good at is organizing very popular and sought-after special events, many of which are held off-premises in glamorous settings like art galleries and famous restaurants. Attended and hosted by famous people as well as industry specialists, these events have surely contributed to building a strong and loyal customer base which consistently continues to grow.
Then, in 2008, came along James Davies who is now the Sales Manager and Product Specialist at the shop. James is a contemporary and avant-garde Jazz music lover of the late ’60s and early ’70s, as well as lots of other music spanning across generations.
“For as long as I can remember, I have listened to music: from the calming effect of listening to The Moody Blues’ “Night in White Satin”, as a child, on the radio, to rhythmic complexity of electronic beat gurus Autechre and Avant-garde Jazz pioneers The Art Ensemble of Chicago – I crave music. I consume music. I believe, if there is one secret to the success of any one Hi-Fi dealer, it’s in their ability to help customers explore and consume music. And, existentially, where do we expect the music industry to be tomorrow if we aren’t supporting our favourite artists of today?
Before getting into the Hi-Fi industry (and probably the main reason I ended up in this industry), I sort of flew where the wind took me. I don’t have a background in any one thing. I’ve been in manufacturing and construction, and am a trained painter and illustrator (and I look forward to pursuing this again if I ever get to retire!). The parallel between painting and music is a fascinating one for me, as colour theory and musical harmony are really one and the same. The same is true of the technologies used to record and produce modern music. If you understand the behavior of one frequency band, the rest starts to make a lot of sense. Much of all art is simply problem solving…we just use different techniques and methodology.”
James’s primary tasks are searching for reliable brands and creating bonds with people in the community. James loves products and brands that don’t make excuses for themselves and that have an interest in not only modern relevance but progressive techniques and ideas as well, which is why he likes Nordost so much.
“I don’t think there’s a terribly sophisticated reason for our success with Nordost. In the beginning, before my time with Absolute, I believe we chose to represent Nordost not because of its marketability or brand cache, but because of its performance and the company that stands behind the product. In my time with Absolute, I have never experienced a company more dedicated to training its dealers and willing to disclose as much of the technical aspects of their products. As you can imagine, a cable brand with no technical background is easy to label as nothing more than snake oil. So the knowledge base that Nordost brings to the table is really paramount in our success.
Secondly, Absolute AV made the investment. We do not wait around for customers to inquire about and order products on a whim; we demonstrate them in all of our systems, keep a generous amount in stock for quick turnaround, and take the time to recommend the correct Nordost cable systems to meet our customers’ needs and budgets.
Absolute AV is a performance oriented retailer. That’s not to say our focus is purely on esoteric high end. Rather, we do our best to present Hi-Fi equipment as more than an appliance simply meant as a means to an end. Working with Nordost products helps to remove some of the mysticism surrounding high end audio by being firmly rooted in science and engineering; Nordost products take the guesswork out of Hi-Fi, allowing for predictable and repeatable results.”
The entire staff at Nordost is extremely proud to count Absolute AV as part of our team, and I am personally honored to count Ross and James as personal friends of mine.
For 30 years, Nordost has been sharing transformative, high-end audio products with music lovers. In that time, we have expanded our reach throughout North America and to over 80 countries, worldwide. Today, Nordost is recognized within the hifi community as the premier manufacturer of hifi audio cables and accessories in the consumer electronics industry. However, this glowing reputation, notoriety, and global reach was not achieved alone. There is no question that the longevity and respect that we have enjoyed within this industry has been made possible, in part, by the strong partnerships that we have cultivated over the years with an exemplary group of dedicated distributors and dealers.
Now, at the beginning of 2021, we want to take the time to thank all of our partners around the world, for all that they have done for us, and for introducing Nordost products into a countless number of hifi systems over the years. We would also like to officially welcome all of the retailers that have joined the Nordost team throughout 2020. We are so happy that you have chosen to represent our brand, and we look forward to an exciting future together.
Here is our newest group of dedicated Nordost dealers and distributors:
If you ever find yourself in the beautiful foothills of the Adirondacks, just South of Lake George, a stop at Adirondack AV in Queensbury, NY is a must. Adirondack AV opened its doors in 2008 and initially only specialized in custom installations. Jason Tavares came on board in 2009 while teaching at the college level and pursuing his PHD in European History. In 2010, Jason decided to become part owner and added to their already successful custom integration division, a HiFi division which he has managed to grow 20% year after year. This success comes as no surprise, as Jason brings his passion for keeping the thrill of music alive to the business every day.
I had the pleasure of visiting Adirondack AV recently where the peak foliage outside added to the good vibes felt on the inside. When you step through the doors of Adirondack AV, you will find yourself immersed in a two-channel heaven with walls adorned with artwork from Jason’s talented wife. You will find brands such as Magico, Triangle, Harbeth, Klipsch Heritage, Luxman, Clear Audio, Tsakaridis Devices, Grandinote Silva, and of course Nordost, just to name a few. Walk through the shop to enjoy the various sound rooms with products that have synergy, but, as Jason describes, are not “all vanilla”. Some of the brands you’ll see at Adirondack AV are a result of another one of Jason’s passions: travel. With frequent trips to Romania to visit family, Jason has the opportunity to expand his repertoire of quality gear with brands that are not well represented outside of Europe, such as Soulines turntables which he picked up during a side-trip to Serbia. After meeting the owner in Belgrade and listening to music, things clicked, and he became a distributor for the first time.
Now, if you’re more of a city slicker, then you cannot miss a visit to their urban location, HiFi Loft; a true boutique experience with the same gear that offers the best in music reproduction. The NYC location started in Manhattan in 2015, moved to Brooklyn when it outgrew that space, and will soon be returning to a much larger location in Manhattan in January 2021. Like the Brooklyn location, which was equipped with an intimate stage for live performances, Jason has every intent to keep live music a part of the mix in their new Manhattan home.
At Adirondack AV and HiFi Loft, Jason and his staff will give you an experience where the accuracy and emotion of music comes through, conveyed by their experience and love of music. As Jason said it so very well, “in the end, it’s the music.”
Excel Audio is a Nordost Supreme Reference dealer. There are few places in the world where you can experience the best, leading edge cables connected to some of the finest loudspeakers and electronics available anywhere, in an atmosphere of kindness and expertise hosted by Mike Rose.
opened Excel Audio in Newport Beach, California, out of his deep love for vinyl
and superb music reproduction. Excel is a classic gathering place, the kind of
intimate retail experience that has become all too rare in the digital age.
Mike’s clients love to stop by Excel, whether to peruse his vast collection of
records, to listen to the latest high-end audio equipment, or just for a
friendly chat. It’s a great place to enjoy Wilson Audio’s latest flagship, the
Chronosonic XVX, which is now on display at Excel.
also a gathering place for the Orange County Los Angeles Audio Society, LAOCAS. As can be seen in the pictures from their
last event, Mike sure knows how to throw a party!
“We’re America’s premier hi-fi audio destination, located in Orange County, CA.”
4678 Campus Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Open Monday through Saturday, 10AM to 6PM.
LargestSelection of Turntables in Southern California
Excel Audio offers a large selection of turntables, headphones, vinyl, and everything hi-fi for your personal sound system. We are dedicated to offering audiophiles in Southern California the best sound possible at all price points.
Contact them or visit them in their Newport Beach, CA store. They have a large selection of vinyl across all musical genres specializing in jazz, blues, and classic rock. Their wide range of audio gear includes amps, preamps, speakers, turntables, and other components from well-known brands like Nordost, Pass Labs, Burmester, dCS, TAD, D’agostino, Audio Research, Wilson Audio, KEF, Clearaudio, and AMG.
Hailing from the Greater Toronto Area or “GTA”, the megatropolis just north of the US Border, Sonic Artistry is a boutique high end audio retailer catering to music lovers. With two locations in the GTA, Roncesvalles/High Park in the heart of the city and just north in Aurora, they are an appointment only establishment. The owners, Jonathan Badov and Edgar Balian made it clear to me that their credo of ‘Artistry, Integrity, Music’ is their guiding force in serving their customer base. Ed and Jonathan met in University while studying Mechanical Engineering in the mid 80’s. Their lifelong friendship and business partnership was forged in their love of music and incessant record collecting. They are both avid collectors of British Progressive Rock and Folk music from the late 60’s through the 70’s. They have a deep collection of original pressings and more recent independently produced records. Their one goal— to dig out as much information from those tiny grooves as possible. Don’t get them started on their obsessive record cleaning and archiving process.
Both Ed and Jonathan are practicing professional engineers in Ontario. Their detailed and scientific approach to selecting products and the synergies that exist between them is at the heart of the customer experience. They both believe that products made by companies with deep engineering backgrounds and manufacturing capabilities that exist in solid science and not in the hair shirt arena are typically the ones that sound the best. Finding brands that are at the apex of sonic excellence is key to producing a coherent and visceral listening experience.
Not trying to be all things to all people, they remain resilient in the fact that the only person the hobby needs to make happy is the customer. Nothing else matters. It is their escape and transcendent journey. With many trails blazed to the top of the Sound Reproduction Mountain, they are happy to share with you their own successes and failures along the journey and route to musical harmony. They believe that utilizing the full line of Nordost products in their systems ensures that they can reproduce the best musical experience they can. Teamed with other heralded products such as darTZeel, Stenheim, TechDAS, SAT, Audio Technica, and Minus K. they are focused on the details that count; power, vibration and acoustics.
An individualized customer experience is the way they chose to work with their customers. Without interruptions, the appointment process allows customers to focus on the musical experience. Time is taken to understand what the customer is hearing and their needs. The atmosphere is controlled with a system that is known and set up much like the customers’ own home experience. In-home auditions are the next part of that journey. It is important, with a sizeable investment, to ensure the purchase is what they are looking for, and make sure the customer obtains the audio experience they want to live with.
In Jonathan’s own words “The most fulfilling parts of the experience are the friendships you make over the course of 25 yrs in the business and the exchange of music— learning about new music, new artists, different pressings. Everyone brings something new into the conversation that allows all of us to grow as music lovers, consumers and retailers. We could not have found a better hobby to grow as people, transport us, and make lasting friendships.”
The entire team at Nordost is very proud to count Sonic Artistry as one of our team members.
Besides rodeos, Tex-Mex, BBQ, NASA, and many other things, Houston Texas is known for being one of the largest and most diverse cities in America. With all the great things to love about Houston, 3mA Audio stands at the top of the list for audiophiles and music lovers alike.
With a passion for music and vintage audio gear, especially tube audio, Johnny Yip first opened 3mA Audio’s doors in 2012 with just a few product lines. Johnny’s experience and passion for tube and vintage gear gave him the reputation of being the walking encyclopedia for vintage audio. Fast forward to today. Johnny Yip and now partner, Luis Miranda, who was once a client, have expanded the business and carry some of the highest quality audio gear and accessories in the industry, such as YG Acoustics, Vitus Audio, Bowers and Wilkins, Audio Research, Nordost and more. There is something for every taste and budget, and Johnny and Luis help their clients find what’s right for everyone.
Unlike the famous Texas barbecue restaurants, who will never reveal their secret recipe, 3mA Audio’s secret to success is no secret! Their commitment to treating everyone who walks in the door as if they were family is what sets them apart and keeps their clients coming back. With their multiple listening rooms, events at 3mA Audio are not ones to be missed! They cater to their attendees, treating them to music, demonstrations, food, and beverages. Their expansive but cozy outdoor deck (with patio!) hosts live concerts and attracts big crowds.
For Johnny, Luis, and their staff, 3mA feels like a second home, and it will to you too! If you’re in Houston looking for the best high-end audio buying experience, look no further than the experts at 3mA Audio.
Very few small to mid-size cities are fortunate enough to have both a nationally renowned record shop and a fantastic high-end audio boutique. Allentown, Pennsylvania is one of those very lucky cities. The two stores are located adjacent to each other, so it is easy to visit both in one trip! I’m talking about Nordost dealer, BEK Hi Fi, which shares a building with Double Decker Records, rated one of the top five pre-owned records shops in the US!
BEK Hi Fi started out several years ago as a home-based audio boutique business. However, in 2013, after manager Erik Konigsberg graduated from college, a decision was made to open a brick-and-mortar store with Erik running the day-to-day operations of this business. What a great decision that turned out to be! Erik’s approach has been to establish a comfortable and accommodating venue in which his customers can audition audio gear at their leisure with a “no pressure” sales approach. Potential customers travel from both the surrounding Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia, about an hour away, for the opportunity to audition BEK’s fine lines in this very comfortable setting. His customers are very appreciative of both his expertise and accommodating demeanor, which many have related to me on my visits to this audio oasis. Erik also possesses the advantage of having well-tuned, youthful ears, which means he is quite adept at auditioning any gear he considers for display in their store. In order for any new gear to make it to the show floor it must first pass his critical audition for great sound quality and great value!
Erik and his father, Barry, have just completed a renovation of the store, including the addition of a second, nicely appointed sound room. This has greatly expanded their demo capabilities. Erik has utilized comforting earth tones along with some cool art to the walls and has added some tasteful mid-century modern furnishings. The rooms have very comfortable seating so that you can audition speakers and gear in a relaxed, home-like setting. Erik has a very wide selection of music available for you to use during auditions, and you can, of course, bring your own. Over the past seven years BEK Hi Fi has expanded their audio mix to include a wonderful assortment of premier audio gear. This expansive list includes, among several others, Devore Fidelity, Harbeth, Sonner Audio, Oswalds Mill Speakers, Luxman, Line Magnetic, Audio Hungary, Chord Electronics, Moon by Simaudio, Brinkmann Audio, Rega, Dynavector, Kiseki, Ortofon, Innuos, and of course, Nordost! BEK is authorized for our Leif Series, Norse 2 Series, Valhalla 2, our QRT products, and our great accessories. Make sure to ask for a demo (particularly of our new QPoints)! Please note, visiting this shop is a great opportunity to audition — and buy! — many different brands of gear. Then you can walk next door and peruse the vast selection of pre-owned vinyl that Double Decker Records has to offer! I purchased two LPs myself on my most recent visit to call on Erik. Visit BEK Hi Fi’s website to find all their contact information, especially so you can set up a convenient audition time. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday, so please make sure the next time you are in eastern PA, you drop by to visit Erik and his wonderful store!
This month’s Dealer Spotlight focuses on one of the Netherlands’ leading audio stores, Audio21, and their new location, which, it’s safe to say, does not look like your typical hifi shop!
Mark van Braam opened his high end store, Audio21, in 2012, and until six months ago, it was based in the woods of the nature park, The Veluwe. Mark’s speciality is in advising his customers on how they compose their audio systems. He has been passionate about music for his entire life. He owned a turntable from an early age, and when he turned 16 he did not ask for what the typical 16 year old Dutch boy asked for – a moped. No, Mark simply asked for a bigger audio system! Unlike his friends, Mark continued using his bicycle for the school commute!
Whilst Audio21’s original location was in a beautiful setting, the continued success of the business meant that space was at a premium. This issue was exacerbated by the size of some of the components and speakers that Mark had on demonstration. As a result, Mark started to look for larger premises that had that sense of individuality for which Audio21 was synonymous – he was not interested in Audio 21 moving into ‘a typical shop front! Happily and surprisingly, it did not take Mark long to find the perfect location for Audio 21’s new home. An original City Hall located only a few villages away became available – Mark’s dream location! As the pictures illustrate, the building was full of character, charm, history and charisma. Crucially it also had the necessary space that Audio21 required for demonstration purposes. When Mark first viewed the property, it only took him a matter of seconds to say ‘YESSS!’ to the property. Mark has since spoken with a wry smile about ‘Audio21 Mk2’.
The new location has high ceilings and comes with old ornaments, antiques, chandeliers and exudes old fashioned but tasteful ‘chic’. The building was built in 1884 and was the first City Hall of the town of Heerde. The beautiful and large entrance area is perfect for showcasing Audio21’s audio collection. There are two listening rooms (35m2 and 48m2), the larger of which was the Council Chamber of the city council from 1884.
Regarding the audio brands that are showcased in this beautiful location, Mark and Audio21have always dared to think ‘outside the box’. You will find many well known brands but also some less well known brands, which can’t easily be found in other Dutch, Belgian, and German stores. Almost all the systems are connected with Nordost – yes, Mark loves quality! Besides Nordost, brands on demonstration include Davone, Trenner & Friedl, Gold Note, Jadis, Estelon, MasterSound, Termporal Coherence, Kuzma, Pathos, and Transroter. Mark was both proud and excited in 2019 to become an exclusive retailer for Gryphon.
Audio21 is open Monday through Saturday, but only by appointment on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This way, Mark can ensure that he gives is clients full and personal attention. And do not be surprised to find Mark’s Moto Guzzi parked in one of the listening rooms!
The word ‘Epicurean’ is applicable to Mark. He loves music, sings in a jazz choir, and regularly attends live concerts. He also loves motorcycling and traveling across Europe with his beloved wife in their vintage campervan.
Audio21’s new Heerde location is centrally situated in the Netherlands and is easily one of the most beautiful audio shops in the Benelux region. Find out for yourself by paying a visit to Audio21, where Mark will treat you to great music and delicious coffee!
Since 1977 Quintessence Audio has been widely known for honest, high quality Hi-Fi in Chicago. Their commitment to customer service, top quality products and demonstration has allowed what began as a part time home business to become Chicago’s premier hi-end audio retailer.
Led by Mick Survance, their knowledge of the audio industry has only been surpassed by the personal service and trust that they have engendered to generations of music lovers in the Midwest. Located in the northern Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, they represent some of the best, most in demand products in the Hi-Fi industry. Here you can find a full loom of Nordost Supreme Reference Series, Odin 2 as well as QRT audio enhancers in a reference system comprised of Audio Research and Sim Audio Moon amplifiers, dCS digital products, Sonus Faber and Wilson speakers and Clear Audio reference turntables. Beautiful sounding and looking sound rooms in their shop put components in their best light for evaluation and comparison.
Truly a family business, Mick’s son Patrick has been a fixture at the shop since he was a child and now helps his father serve aspiring music lovers to get the performance desired. In home set-up is crucial to giving customers the best sound and they do not disappoint. Their room tuning expertise and knowledge of setting up compatible systems based upon the customers’ taste is incomparable. They also know that sometimes hearing components in the customer’s own home system is the best way to understand if a new product or accessory is right for them. That’s why they encourage people to take new products home and audition them.
Give them a call or stop by when in the area for an experience you will not soon forget.