Shopping for Hi-Fi in
Let's admit it. We're influenced by foreign hi-fi magazines, particularly,
What Hi-Fi. When I was young, I borrowed it from the neighbourhood
library. After reading a few copies, my view was that they were biased
towards UK equipment. However, I would have to say that it was reasonable
for them to be so biased because of the prices of non-UK equipment in
Singapore is an interesting
place. Basically, thanks to all these magazines, we are keenly aware of
the list prices of foreign equipment. Of course, list prices may not mean
much as different manufacturers may have different margins. However, my
understanding is that by and large, most retailers in the US and UK stick
with the list prices (except if there's an opportunity to move large volumes
I suppose -- otherwise it doesn't make sense to cut prices in a market
with highly inelastic demand). So it is quite interesting to see prices
for different brands vary wildly in Singapore in relation to the stated
list price. This would clearly affect your buying decision.
Buying Principles for the cash-strapped
I believe you should try and buy products that are sold here that are
favourably priced compared to their overseas list price. Of course,
I'm referring to 'real' hi-fi products; this doesn't mean you should buy
junk (I don't have to tell you this do I?) But list price doesn't tell
the whole story, so lets look at other factors (but generally it does):
Cut out the Middleman
Musical Fidelity is overpriced in Singapore. Why? Because the Singapore
dealers are not getting MF direct from MF in UK. They're getting MF from
a HK distributor. There have been MF dealers who got stock direct from
MF before, I think Margil, Hi-Fi Corner, and 1 more shop... As to why
no Singapore dealer deals with MF directly now, its a long story.
Generally, I don't think there're any brands that have really bad reputations
for poor reliability. What I think yo should do is to look at the design.
Generally, class A amps (solid state or tube), generate prodigious amounts
of heat, and thermal degradation of circuits, transistors, and other parts
will definitely occur (you canna' change the laws of physics). And on
the speaker side, we can talk about electrostatics and other fancy speaker
designs as well. If you're going to get this type of equipment, make sure
you're prepared to pay for repairs (of course 'repairs' may be a pejorative
work, for example, if you have to retip your stylus after X hours, you
don't think of it as a repair - so perhaps I should use the term maintainance
costs) Of course, if you're the DIY sort who can repair your own tube
amps, 'maintainance costs' don't count, in fact, repairing/upgrading is
'fun' on its own.
Look at less popular
brands, new 'unknown' brands etc
Everybody wants XYZ because it has a Stereophile class 'A' rating. Is
there any incentive for the dealer to give you a good bargain? On the
other hand, a dealer taking the risk of bringing in a relatively unknown
brand (maybe he trusts his ears) will try and popularise the brand by
giving very good prices initially to popularise the brand. (then
it gets discovered by Stereophile and its all downhill from there) And
if sales are still not good (very often not because the equipment is bad-sounding,
but because it hasn't been reviewed), you can expect more sale prices.
A few shops believe in top notch after sales service support. These are
generally the very high end shops who are selling the expensive stuff.
Though most people buy this stuff because of good sound, some people buy
it cos' its expensive (but to put it into perspective, their hi-fi probably
only costs a small fraction of their S-class parked in the porch). There
are also benefits like generous trade-in policies (they give you good
trade-in price for equipment bought from them) etc.
But personally, I
think that all the 'average' hi-fi shops all provide good service and
repairs too. Ultimately, how much more you're willing to pay for all of
this depends on you.
If you're just starting out, I suppose you can't wait to assemble
a system, but if you're upgrading, you have the luxury of waiting for
the right moment to upgrade, as your original system should keep you happy
while you wait (well it should if you followed this guide:))..
Some shops don't
believe in sales, some shops have sales once in a blue moon. [Margil had
a 20% sale on Nordost cables recently], sometimes only old stock is cleared
(but really, good hi-fi is good hi-fi, you aren't buying a obsolete when
released computer), sometimes new products are featured, etc etc.
And for the 2nd hand
buyer, perhaps the local 2nd hand store gets a new great piece of equipment,
or even better, your audio buddy wants to upgrade and sell you his Krell
amp directly (bypassing the 2nd hand store commission).
Singapore Hi-Fi shopping Scene
(will be putting up an 'Adelphi' guide soon)
|Yes. Good Demo rooms.
Of course, I have gotten a LOT of comments through e-mail and from
people I know about *1* particular shop, but I won't comment about
||Various High-Fi shops eg:
High End Research
They'll connect it up for you to prove that sound
actually comes out of the speaker, but no real demo rooms.
||Emjay (Peninsula Plaza)
||They'll connect it up for you with some reluctance.
Also, they don't keep much stock. Good prices but parallel import
(do they have the capability to repair the stuff? I've never asked)
||Sim Lim Square
ditto, but with greater reluctance especially
Yes. Good Demo rooms. They connect everything
with an elaborate switching system (probably degrades the sound),
but for instantaneous A/B comparisons, its just fantastic.
||DIY / 2nd hand Scene
|Small shops stuffed with stuff
||Martin at Outram
Out of the way store that advertises in Sat. classifieds
regularly. Well, you can visit Chiang Huat (Chesky etc distributor
- sells those hard to find Chesky classical music CDs) which is
just next door. [remember Friends the Music Cafe? The chap is here
||Zenn Audio at East Coast
||Recommended by one of my contributors, who
got his parts for building his 'flesh & blood' 300B amp from here.
||The shop next to Roxy (at Roxy Square)
||I'll have to ask them what it is they
do? Lots of 2nd hand stuff inside
||A few mainly retired engineers who do
repairs, modifications, upgrades, build you a tube amp etc.
I'll add more details