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AV Education on RHT

The Art of the Demo

Written by Jerry Del Colliano
November 2004

In the glory days of high-end audio, the demo sold at the local stereo store often made indelible impressions on consumers, causing people to save every penny to afford that new tone arm or tube preamp. Today, the audiophile market is basically dead in all places other than eBay and Audiogon. Dealers have had to adapt in order to sell engineered systems in increasingly complex homes that come complete with touch screen control of distributed audio, a full home theater system, lighting, HVAC, a wine collection and so much more. The problem is that many dealers in this time of real estate boom (and the impending home theater sales that go along with such a boom) have forgotten how to really blow a customer’s socks off.

In my career, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for some of the more legendary and colorful icons in the audiophile world, including Joe Cali and Mark Levinson at Cello, as well as Christopher Hansen at Christopher Hansen Ltd. in Beverly Hills. Both of these stores focused their attention in the early 1990s on the sale of ultra-expensive audio and home theater gear. The art of the demo was at a premium at Cello, where Cali, an actor from “Saturday Night Fever” and many TV shows, expected me to be as entertaining as the system was. We did basically zero advertising and each client who walked through the door was expected to buy something. You had to be sharp to keep your job.

Readers of Revolution Home Theater generally own or soon will own a significant home theater. You are the next generation to keep up the art of the demo for the industry. Over the next few years, dealers will increasingly be more like architects and less like stereo stores of the past. You, with your incredible system at home chock-full of the latest AV technology, can help advance the industry by wowing your friends with the emotion your system can reproduce in terms of music and film playback.

Here are a couple of my rules for a great demo that anyone can do:

1. Treat a demo like it is a menu for a fine dinner. There are a number of courses and a number of different tastes. Not all of them have to be related, but it is cool if you can pick up on trends. You need to think of your guests before you start spinning discs, just as you wouldn’t smoke ribs for your vegan friends. You shouldn’t be playing Metallica’s Black Album for your grandparents, but you might get a standing ovation if you played “Fahrenheit 9/11” as dessert at the end of a demo of your system for your more liberal friends.

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