Sunday, 01 November 2015 11:36

Classic Stereo Rises from the Audio Ashes

Written by  Rich Tupica
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Some of the Classic Stereo team enjoying the sounds in the new store’s Speaker Room. (L to R) Electronics Consultant Michael Hamilton, Electronics Expert John Higgs and Electronics Systems Designer Dustin Deal. Some of the Classic Stereo team enjoying the sounds in the new store’s Speaker Room. (L to R) Electronics Consultant Michael Hamilton, Electronics Expert John Higgs and Electronics Systems Designer Dustin Deal. PHOTO: Nicole Rico

For those of you keeping tabs on the digital download market, you probably know Neil Young isn’t happy with all of these blasé millennials listening to music on thin sounding, lo-res MP3s. His passion even inspired him to create Pono, a high-quality portable player and streaming service.

Sure, he mildly comes off as a grumpy old man — but the veteran rocker’s got a point. Artists labor for days in the studio and then their fans only hear a fraction of the sounds.

For those looking to step it up sonically, the once defunct Classic Stereo reopened last month. The recognizable brand, which closed in 2008 amid the financial crisis, is back and once again stocked with high-quality home stereos and home theater systems.

The newly built storefront, located at 6275 28th St. SE Grand Rapids, is an extension of the appliance store Bekins. The store is staffed with a team of audiophiles, many of whom are veterans of the old Classic Stereo team. Even the store’s former owner John Higgs is back on staff as an “electronics expert.”

“This new store is about 3,000 square feet, the old store on 28th Street was about 10,000 square feet,” Higgs said. “The old store emphasized more and more on video and big screens. This new store is a little more specific on 5.1, 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround. We have enough TVs, but we’re not loaded with TVs. We’re about how it sounds.”

Scott Bekins, owner of the newly relaunched Classic Stereo, said he recognizes the fact younger generations lean toward handiness, but he and his team hope to show them better methods.

“The struggle for music is the fact people have traded quality for convenience over the past few years,” Bekins said. “There’s a whole generation of people who haven’t experienced music the way it was intended to be heard, or has been heard by generations past on CDs and higher quality sound systems.”

With turntables at Classic Stereo ranging from $399 to $15,000 — there’s something for college kids and their well-off parents.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy good quality music,” Bekins said. “A really good pair of headphones are just a few hundred dollars and with the proper high-quality downloads, you’ll be listening to better-than-CD quality music.

“Often people have some pieces of equipment and they just need a couple extra pieces to make it a lot better,” he added. “They don’t know how to do it correctly. What we’re trying to do is re-educate the public who may not understand what they’ve been missing.”

Unlike big-box stores, after a quick visit to Classic Stereo, you’ll be offered a demonstration of what their walls of speakers and systems can do.

“I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but that doesn’t make any difference,” Bekins said. “I can take my iPad and say, ‘Let me show you.’ We let you listen to it. You’re not taking somebody’s word for it that might not have your best interest at heart. Audio is subjective, there are many opinions. What matters is your opinion and how your ears perceive it and your brain reads it.”

As for what’s next in the auditory world, Bekins said vinyl is trendy but hi-res downloads, like those championed by Neil “Get off My Lawn!” Young, are likely the next hot trend.

“Vinyl buyers are listening to LPs on their turntables and going, ‘Wow, this is a lot better than my iPod.’ They’re getting more emotionally connected to the music,” Bekins said. “Then they’ll look for ways to get those same emotional highs without the hassle of the vinyl. That’s where they’ll start seeking out other formats, like streaming or downloading in hi-res audio. There are a lot of different services and download sites now. It’s truly high-end audio that’s better than CDs and with the convenience people want.”

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