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Meet Your Dealer – Adams Audio

Meet Your Dealer – Adams Audio

A few years ago, a number of audio dealers added a custom install arm to their portfolio. Very few went in the other direction. Adams Audio is the exception. Starting out of Custom Electronic Design’s studio in Egham in Surrey, Adams Audio brings a more traditional audiophile aspirational view to the company’s multi-room, integrated systems platforms. This is perhaps not as unusual as it first seems; many of the best custom installers who came from the hi-fi retail side retained their hi-fi retail business, and a few who gently side-lined the two-channel side in the face of lucrative home data networks and centralised lighting systems, have just as gently re-inserted themselves in the traditional audio world recently.

We spoke with Dave Adams of Adams Audio about working with the custom install world, how audio has changed, how it’s changing, and what drove him to work in this passionate industry.

Who are Adams Audio?

Adams Audio is the specialist hi-fi side to Custom Electronic Design. Custom Electronic Design are smart home solutions providers or custom installers, which is a broad umbrella for integrated control systems, multi-room audio and video, home cinema, centralised lighting, data networks, and a whole host of other services. This comes in very useful when setting up the necessary networks/routers/switches etc., for network based audio components such as servers, NAS drives, and streamers, as trained and experienced engineers are available to assist.

What brands/products do you stock?

Having been in the industry for a very long time and having built good relationships with the UK’s leading manufacturers and importers, we’re in the fortunate position of being able to select the best of what’s available. We look for more than just a one-off award winning product as we base our business on excellent long-term customer service. We expect this from our suppliers as well, working together to bring great products and long-term consistent quality and service to our mutual customers. The hi-fi brands we work with are Naim Audio, Dynaudio, Cyrus, Arcam, B&W, Focal, Edwards Audio, SME, Sonneteer, PMC, Renaissance Amplification, Acoustic Signature, Dynavector, Ortofon, Belles, Primare, Mark Levinson, Melco, The Chord Company, Audioquest, Quadraspire, Grado, Audio Technica, and Acoustic Energy.

In addition CED also works with Crestron, Control4, Anthem, Sim, Sony, Denon, Stewart, Sonos, Panasonic, Spectral, Future Glass, Future automation, LH, Plus Eight, Bluestream, CYP, Velodyne, Audio Control, Ruckus, Draytek, Kaleidescape, Autonomics, Middle Atlantic, Mode, Deltalight, Prandina, Screen Research, Totem, Russound, Artison, Amina, BPT, and Siedle.

What inspired you to get into the industry?

I’ve always had a love of music. I can remember saving my pocket money up to buy a Phillips mono cassette recorder! As a teenager I built my own speakers using KEF components and bought and sold hi-fi – but that was just a hobby. I hadn’t considered a career in the audio industry. In fact, I trained and worked as a chef and then went on into catering management. At 23, I decided to change careers and started to look around for a job in hi-fi or electronics. It was an Area Manager for Tandys that talked me into a job as Branch Manager; hours were crazy and the pay was half of what I had been earning, but I loved it! I went on to join Laskys in the early 80s and ran the 257 Tottenham Court Road shop for a few years.

What music do you listen to when doing a demo?

I keep a cross section of most genres on Vinyl, CD, ripped to NAS/server and USB stick! Although I do encourage customers to bring in their own music on their preferred format, it’s useful or necessary to sometimes demonstrate what a system can do with music you are personally familiar with. Once I feel I have an understanding of what a customer may like, I will use some old or new well recorded favourites: Andreas Vollensweder’s White Winds, a little flamenco by Vicente Amigo, James Parsons Toccata and Fuge, some big band soulful blues by Jonny Adams, Muddy Waters Folk Singer, and the list goes on and on! I really love doing dems with customers: I have discovered a variety of new artists from customers and I would like to think I have introduced many to customers as well. When you really get a system singing you can see the emotional response from people – sometimes just a subtle smile although I have had women jump up and start dancing and grown men reduced to tears, you know you’re doing your job properly when you can trigger reactions like that!

What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who is looking to improve/upgrade their system?

Find a dealer you feel comfortable with who will take the time to get to know you and your system. Don’t rush the process. A good dealer will treat you like a friend and go to great lengths to ensure you end up with the right equipment for you. It should be a long term relationship you’re hoping to build. When evaluating someone’s existing system we always look at the source first, you can only get out of the end what you put in at the beginning! Customers often think they need new speakers (or just fancy changing them) when really it’s a source component that needs to be upgraded first. But probably one of the most important factors when building a system and usually overlooked by the dealer is the room the system will be in! We always offer to visit to evaluate the room and although not everyone takes us up on this we can usually get a huge improvement in performance by one simple visit, repositioning the speakers, maybe just moving them out an inch from a wall can have a big effect.

Where do you see the industry going?

Isn’t it interesting how the oldest format (vinyl or shellac record disc) is still one of the strongest selling formats! Plenty of formats have come and gone but we’ve never stopped selling vinyl players, arms, and cartridges. There’s something magical about playing vinyl and not just the fact that it is still, for me, closer to the truth than any other format. I can relate it to the difference between turning on a big TV or firing up a projector and a big screen. The big screen gives the real ‘wow’ factor and creates an event; you can’t hurry it. Say you invite friends or family round to watch a film or sport; it’s just the same with vinyl – you plan your time to listen, carefully remove the record from its sleeve, gently lower the styli onto the record and sit back and listen to the whole record, often listening to tracks you would normally skip past with CD. Whilst listening you will probably gaze at the cover or read the accompanying record notes, it becomes a real event to relax to and enjoy. And then there’s the engineering, a decent record player is beautifully engineered and becomes a prized possession, there’s something quite special and mesmerising watching that platter spin at a steady 33rpm! I see vinyl carrying on for many years yet, but new and emerging ways of listening to music cannot be ignored. We demonstrate and sell more streaming devices now more than any other format, accessing customers’ digitally stored music (e.g. ripped CD’s on a NAS drive) and streaming services such as Tidal that have come of age. Even internet radio can be good fun; it’s about discovering new music from anywhere in the world! We have been optimising customers’ networks and music storage methods for many years now, and I see streaming as well as vinyl as the future. There’s definitely room for both!

Who has been your biggest influence?

Although I didn’t realise it at the time it was my parents. My father worked for 20th Century Fox and as a young lad I was given a hand-me-down “His Masters Voice” wind-up gramophone and a bunch of 78”s, so I was introduced to record playing at a very early age. My mother sang, played the piano, and guitar, and when she wasn’t playing the piano or guitar then the radio would be on. I was saturated in music and film! (And I still have a Dansette and His Masters Voice wind up gramophone!) 

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