Shopping for Hi-Fi in Singapore

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 the UK.

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.


YC's Buying Principles for the cash-strapped

Best price?
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.

Reliability=lower maintainance costs
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.

Service & Support
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.

Sales? When? Where?
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).

The Singapore Hi-Fi shopping Scene

  Where? Auditioning?  
  The Adelphi
(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 it here.
  Various High-Fi shops eg:
High End Research
KH Marketing
Stereo Electronics

People's Park
Unlimited Electronics

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 when crowded.


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    

People's Park
Sound Impression
Larry Hi-Fi

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 now].

  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  
  Freelancers A few mainly retired engineers who do repairs, modifications, upgrades, build you a tube amp etc.  

I'll add more details soon.