There are refurbishments and there are transformations. The new Audio Connection has undergone a serious transmutation. Like an amalgamation fusing ample reserves of experience, business smarts and bold chutzpah to deliver a powerful new narrative… a world-class audio haven, now profoundly rejuvenated. Yes, the words ‘Grand Opening’ are super-appropriate.
There’s quite a bit of history behind Audio Connection. Josef Riediger gave birth to the story decades ago, growing the flourishing entity from humble beginnings in the late 1980s to one of Sydney’s premier high-end audio retail destinations. Among other things, the store’s growth reflected multiple relocations to ever-larger premises (and even dual localities at one stage), with the journey culminating, some years ago, at the current site in inner-city Leichhardt. Sadly, Josef passed away, going on to two years now, but Audio Connection has remained in the family under the dynamic stewardship of Nigel Ng and Maggie Leow. Now, near-post-COVID, Audio Connection is regenerated with major refurbishments dressed in an up-to-the-minute interior design language, remodelled and enhanced demonstration studios, an expanded product portfolio and a revitalised team of dedicated staff. Time to officially celebrate.
The interior design was done in-house – image shows early work-in-progress
And the festivity of Audio Connection’s new life chapter was staged, like the enterprise itself, on a grand scale. Greetings are important and, as you enter the store, your first impression is one of alluring elegance accented by the imposing and beautiful Estelon Forza loudspeakers on static display. Estelon’s warm and engaging duo of proprietor and chief designer Alfred Vassilkov and Marketing & Sales Director Ilias Koutromanos were VIP guests, as were the entertaining Johan Coorg, Hegel’s Sales Manager APAC, and Linn’s affable Scot, Business Development Manager Michael O’Rourke.
Edgar Kramer presents Alfred Vassilkov with Estelon X Diamond’s SoundStage! Australia award for ‘Aesthetics and Sound Quality’
Then, in a meeting space at the rear of the ground floor and put-on for the night, the most sumptuous… ‘exhibit’ (an accurate word) of culinary generosity. A massive feast offered to the near-100 guests but potentially capable of catering to at least double that amount. Ditto for the plentiful wine from Glandore Estate in the Hunter Valley who provided samples of its excellent current production – this writer was especially taken by the aroma-rich and rather flavoursome ‘TPR’ Tempranillo.
Of course, the senses were then further overloaded by the audio fare on offer for audition. The big guest numbers necessitated rotating half-hour sessions in two main rooms upstairs while the studios downstairs were free-for-all listen-as-you-come. The main room upstairs saw an über system to please the most ardent audiophile. Linn’s superb Klimax DSM was used as source to feed the literally awesome pairing of Gryphon Audio Commander preamplifier and Apex power amplifier driving the delightful Estelon X Diamond loudspeakers all hooked-up via Transparent Cable and Nordost. Despite the sheer physical scale of the system’s components, the speakers performed the usual disappearing act I’m accustomed to hear with Estelon loudspeakers driven by quality electronics (in this case “quality” is an understatement).
The room next door saw KEF’s Blade Two driven by Hegel electronics and again hooked-up with a mix of Transparent and Nordost cables. Johan Coorg played the accommodating DJ for the evening in standing room only continuous sessions. In this well-treated room, the system sounded big and dynamic while still possessing refinement and good tonal qualities.
Hegel’s Johan Coorg toe-tappin’ to the tunes
In the largest space downstairs, the combo of dCS source, D’Agostino Audio amplification, Wilson Audio Alexx V loudspeakers and Nordost cabling made for a present, detailed and thoroughly expressive sonic presentation with razor-sharp imaging.
Yet another room was a dedication to KEF, with the LS50 Meta, the new LS60 Wireless in impressive active duties while a full R Series suite was on standby at the sideline in static display. Further audio exotica was peppered around the showroom, providing a small sampling of what is actually normally available for audition (the building also houses a very large warehouse).
I had several questions I flicked at Nigel Ng regarding some of the ideas behind the re-imagination of Audio Connection, while also seeking some background behind the gestation stage prior to the Grand Reopening.
Edgar Kramer: As the proprietor, what are your aims, inspirations and also aspirations for the reinvented Audio Connection?
Nigel Ng: The main reason we wanted to uplift the presentation of the showroom was to suit the nature of the amazing audio systems we have. We’re lucky enough to work with the luxury high-end brands we have, and it’s only natural to want to have the right housing for it.
We designed the layout and the interior design all in-house and we are incredibly lucky that SJ Constructions, the builder we contracted, are also audio and music lovers. Their knowledge and expertise were integral to bringing our vision to life.
When it came to working on the design, I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to travel the world and see the presentations of other retailers, distributors and manufacturers to draw inspiration from. The presentations that really stood out for me were the Linn Home in the factory in Glasgow and the KEF Music Gallery in Hong Kong. The Linn Home hammered home the point that hi-fi can be integrated into the home without being intrusive. The KEF Music Gallery is one of the best showrooms I think in any industry, demonstrating strong interior design themes in different sections of the showroom, ranging from obvious flagship statements to minimalistic integration. I’m not terribly creative myself so I took elements of both these presentations and combined it into our showroom.
The KEF Gallery in Hong Kong was a strong interior design inspiration
Just like any other industry, be it automobiles, wine, whiskey, houses, when you’re at the higher level of the spectrum, choosing between the products becomes less about the function of the product and more about the qualities. Take automobiles as an example. When you’re at the entry level, the comparisons are between engine size, fuel efficiency, number of doors and boot space. At the other end of spectrum, it’s more about how the car feels to sit in and drive, the brand story, the design ethos and ultimately, the emotional connection. Audio is no different, and a good system allows the listener to connect more emotionally to the music.
Which brings us to our aspirations. Above all, the main driver for us is the experience of music. We all get such enjoyment out of watching our customers reconnect with their favourite song and artists. I’ve been in the houses of accomplished lawyers, doctors, politicians, and brought them to literal tears when they hear their systems reproduce their favourite music, and it’s our primary goal to spread the love of music to as many people as possible.
EK: If at all, how will the new store change the way Audio Connection operates and connects with its customers? Are there new strengths and advantages the new store presents its sales team?
NN: The new layout of the store is designed to tell a story. As customers enter the store, they’ll arrive in a large, open area with plenty of natural light that acts as a decompression zone. Making their way through the store, they’ll see an example of a smaller living/media room, a dedicated high-end theatre, a couple of appointment rooms that can be set up for personalised demonstrations with two different interior design themes, and a flagship room with the best we have to offer. The way the products and systems are set out are designed to quickly allow customers to identify with an area they’re most interested in so we can get down to the fun stuff – the music.
With this new store design the team at Audio Connection will have plenty of options at their fingertips and allow them to tailor a system for their clients. It is a highly personalised field, where the wants of a first-time audio buyer and that of a system veteran are different, yet the needs are the same – a better emotional connection to music and audio.
EK: What impression do you hope customers will leave with after visiting Audio Connection?
NN: I hope that customers will recognise that we have an incredible team of highly skilled, technical people, who use those skills to design and deploy high quality systems for our clients. I consider myself truly blessed to be working with the team here and that we all share a similar goal. While the dollars are obviously important to keep the business running, it’s never our primary agenda. We get as much satisfaction installing a $2000 system as a $500,000 system and the joy that all our systems bring to our clients.
Above all, I hope that customers have a great experience at the store and its team.
I can only wrap-up with an affirmation of Nigel’s last sentence. All the ingredients are in-situ for a satisfying audio buffet. What’s needed is a visionary with the skills and experience to bloom the full flavours. With Nigel Ng and Maggie Leow, Audio Connection is at the hands of two very skilled Master Chefs. Bon appétit!
… Edgar Kramer
515 Parramatta Rd
Leichhardt NSW 2040
+61 2 9561 0788