AudioGold - As Told by Smitty's
Ben runs Audiogold, Hi-Fi specialists and the coolest shop in Crouch End, and welcomed a steady stream of regulars during our visit. Some are looking to browse the vinyl collection, others for advice on their home system, and one brings a speaker which Ben reluctantly tells him ‘will cost more to fix than it’s worth’. The customer laughs; ‘well, it was worth a try’.
Customers come here for completely personal service, and Ben clearly loves the process of, as he puts it, ‘re-engaging their music library’.
‘There’s a group of people aged around 12 to around 30 and their entire music consumption will have been on devices, whether that’s Spotify on their phone or an iPod dock. So when they come here it’s like going to your first gig; a whole load of new sensory information is coming on board. It’s like a lightbulb moment’.
Ben is off, pulling things from shelves and pointing out bits of kit around the shop. He plays snippets of Grant Green on his current favourite set up in the window of the shop. He’s eager to point out its not always about how much money you have though.
‘We’ve always had a firm philosophy of being egalitarian, of having something great for everyone regardless of what their budget is. We can never quite tell what someone wants when they come in, and there’s always this process of discerning what’s right for them, so we have a very broad selection in the shop. It’s also more characterful, more interesting for us.’
I ask about how a person chooses their system, when there is such a huge range on offer and so much information available online.
‘The key to a really good system is chosen with you in mind. A really bad system is chosen by aping someone else’s system, by reading a review where someone else says, ‘that sounds good’. That’s irrelevant information, it’s about you, your room, your music and the kit.’
This personalisation is what Audiogold does so well, as Ben’s knowledge far outshines anything you can read online or the advice you get in a chain store. It’s clear that a system isn’t always about one person though, and the resurgence in vinyl has helped bridge a generational gap too.
‘Amongst our favourite customers are when youngsters come in, they’re going off to university and they come in with mum and dad. Its 50/50, sometimes the youngsters gone up into the attic and found 300 records, sometimes the parent's said 'I’ve got loads of records you can listen to'. They’re lovely transactions, they come in as a family and they get some equipment to listen to all those records again. It feels like there’s a new bond happening between them, and its happening around music. It feels good.’
Audigold has made an entirely different way of enjoying music accessible to a whole new type of listener, and it’s no wonder audio nerds as well as beginners flock here. We leave with Ben’s ultimate piece of advice still ringing in our ears:
‘Bluetooth is the devil of music. Don’t put your music through bluetooth’.