Marantz & NAD not sold in major stores


Mandy Washington
Just curious: Marantz and NAD receiver are not sold in any of the major North Eastern stores: Circuit City, BestBuy, J&R. Any reason why? On the other hand: Sony, Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, HK are everywhere.

John A.
It is economics; how large is the group of potential customers, and will the number of sales still turn the required profit? It is only worthwhile for the major stores to sell things in large numbers. You might argue that the overheads are smaller and you therefore get better value, but a larger proportion of the price of the high-throughput items is ploughed back into advertising, and the dealer's competence to advise on an individual purchase can sometimes be lower than zero. Then you get into exclusive retail contracts, franchises, (and their kickbacks) etc., and is becomes difficult to make any generalization about real value for money on these sorts of grounds.

To get the best total value, you still need some expertise and advice. It is not like buying newspapers, where, if you don't like the one you bought, you choose another the next day. It is more like buying a car; you hope to make the best single purchase first time, and keep the item for years. If you write off the cost of good advice, or get someone else to pay for it, you may get a good deal, but you may not.

I think a good, professional, specialist audio dealer who really wants customers, and values their total satisfaction, is worth his weight in gold, and I recommend you try to find one. Unfortunately there are some cowboys, too.

The real new force in all this is direct sale from manufacturer to customer, and some very high quality speaker and electronics manufacturers now go this route. The disadvantage is that you are then often tied to a local market (here in Europe I could not get the N American direct sale audio lines if I wanted to). International direct sale is only for computers, at present, I think. I only buy computers by direct sale. The learning curve I went through to make my own decisions was never assisted in any way by computer retailers, but there may be others who talked the same language, and still get some real help. But I am an Apple Macintosh user (I instinctively join minority groups...), and Apple dealers are pretty scarce where I am, for much the same reasons, I think. And we have to hand it to Dell for introducing direct sale in a big way.

BTW your list of "big names" in big stores would be totally different in different countries and regions, except for the really huge, mostly Japanese, makes. Where I live, every store has Audio Pro speakers which hardly anyone in the rest of the World has heard of. Whereas HK and Denon electronics are definitely specialist, low-volume items here, hard to find, and with about the same market penetration as NAD, perhaps even less.

Often it is different marketting strategies. NAD, Arcam, Marantz, Paradigm, etc feel they will get a better shake in audio salon dealerships and they might get lost among the "big" guys in the chain stores.

Since the salons won't sell Onkyo, Sony, Denon, etc (probably because they can't discount them and still stay in business) they have a synergistic relationship with brands they sell that need them and that they need--to both successfully stay in business.

Problems occur when companies like NAD and Marantz feel they can break out of the salon mode and do even better after the small dealerships feel they have already done the marketting groundwork. This cause some hard feelings, particularly when they see the product on the internet.

Some manufacturers police this much more than others. Paradigm is one manufacturer that is tough to find being sold on the internet.

John A.
Quite right, G-Man.

The audio salon cannot afford to stock Sony; the big store cannot afford to stock NAD. But the "regional" issue still applies; Denon and Onkyo are certainly salon-only over here, as I guess Audio Pro is over there. I personally wish for a World without frontiers. The critics say that would eliminate diversity and choice, but I think it would have the opposite effect.

G-Man and John,
Ufortunatly the salons in my area do carry SonyES because there are lots of people who buy products by name only. Both my good stores carry Sony and both tell me it's neccessary to stay in business. My Marantz dealers told me that people come in to his place and won't even listen to Marantz, they want a Sony and nothing else. What a shame there are such people and how frustrating for a salesman trying to help people put good systems together. My other store actually pairs Klipsch with SonyEs in their main theatre room and it's just awful. They admit as much to me but can't change for market reasons. Very sad.


So we're knocking Sony, but do you think Onkyo is ok?

Yes I knock Sony. Their receivers are the worst I've heard in recent years. I have owned 2 Onkyo's and would not hesitate to buy one again. I like the 800 and the new 801 and really like their Integra line. I have no problem recommending Onkyo at all.

John A.
It is very region-dependent. Also, you have to think of illusory benefits and how much you are being asked to pay. At one end, people may think a big name is reliable and good value because so many people buy its products. It could well be rubbish, and people are being tricked by reputation and techno-babble. At the other, you pay for exclusivity, becoming one of the few who have a little-known and allegedly superior product. But it could be overpriced and underperform. You cannot generalise about brands.

Sony has made some great stuff, and introduced novel and fine products. Their 1980s mass market Trinitron TVs were the best around for picture quality. I have a Sony Walkman Pro tape cassette recorder and there has been nothing to match it. At the other end, I have a Rega Planar 3 turntable, never advertised, and bought entirely on the recommendation of an exclusive retailer who seemed to talk complete sense and who gave me and hour or more of audition time before I bought. These were both good decisions; I never expect to replace either of these units.

All you can do if you want a new AV receiver is read the specs, consider the company's reputation and position, try a few, remembering the one you want has to be compatible with the rest of your stuff, get some advice, including other owners if possible, and take the plunge. Someone has to pay for the time of the guys who will help you with a demo and background knowledge about compatibility and so on. My NAD AV receiver (bought after a home audition) does analogue stereo from the ancient Rega turntable like nothing I have heard before, it is a joy and a pleasure; I have never before heard what that source can really do. NAD's own current turntable is as close to the Rega as you can get, so they get my vote for quality and design in that department. All I can say about e.g. Yamaha is I never could have auditioned one in the first place, not around here, the retailers want to push sealed boxes over the counter. And on paper, they get the highest marks for techno-babble, and specification claims that border on the fraudulent. Probably the most expensive models from big names are as good as anything; it is the priorities they have with more affordable items that tell you you may be better off with a more specialist manufacturer.

John A.
BTW Bose is audio salon only in Europe: exclusive; hi-tech; US-patents for revolutionary new technology; distinctively American; cool. Thought you should know!
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