Saturday, July 18, 2009

Brooks Berdan, LTD - Monrovia, California

Ever visit somewhere for the first time and feel immediately comfortable there, like you've been there a hundred times, like you belong there? That was my immediate impression upon entering what is the best Hi-Fi shop I've ever visited - Brooks Berdan LTD in Monrovia, California.

My 12-year-old Nick and I finally got around to making this road trip after several weeks of vacations and other obligations. Incidently, any trip by car in California over 20 miles qualifies as a road trip because the traffic can delay your return long enough to make loved-ones forget your name.

Brooks Berdan is the only "certified" or "qualified" McIntosh repair shop within 25 miles of my home, and my new (used) MR 7083 tuner needed a bulb replacement. No - not a major repair, but I'm a strong believer in letting professionals handle any repairs on gear for which I paid more than my first car. Plus, I'd seen the Brooks Berdan online museum and HAD to check out the gear in person.

I'll admit to having weighty expectations of this shop, and am pleased to report that I was not disappointed. Nick and I were greeted by Brooks himself, who was inspecting a turntable. We were immediately introduced to Brooks' son, Brian. Tom, the technician took the tuner and began working on it immediately. Brian led Nick and I around the shop, showing us the various audio listening rooms, which were tastefully adorned in some of the most beautiful high-end gear I've seen in person. Folks, if you're used to the audio listening rooms at Best Buy, treat yourself to a visit to a true high-end shop and experience the way audio SHOULD be demonstrated. I wish I remembered more of the brand names, but a few - Wilson Audio, Vandersteen, McIntosh, well here - take a look at some of the sound rooms and suddenly brands become superfluous.

Brian was very helpful, very un-salesman-like and seemed genuinely interested in hearing about my gear, which of course I was happy to talk about. I told him of my problems getting good sound from my Vandersteen 3A Sigs in my tile-floored family room, and he made some sound treatment suggestions that I felt reflected an understanding of the compromises one is forced to make between creating the perfect listening environment and staying married.

"Use a throw rug between the [Vandy's] and your listening position to deaden the first order reflections off the floor," Brian suggested. Sounds good to me! He even gave me tips on how to toe-in the speakers - all this without an utterance of a sales pitch. Kinda makes me want to go back and pick his brain some more when I get time. That's the ultimate goal of any good salesman, right? Create a relationship with your customer and the sales will follow after trust is established. Very smart. Ahhh. . .good customer service - something we used to take for granted. Now when we find it we feel compelled to write blog posts about it!

The tuner was fixed within about 20 minutes, and Tom made a point to tell me that the battery inside the tuner was nearly dead. He explained that the battery's function is only to hold the preset memory, but was very helpful in suggesting places where I could find a replacement battery when the time came (he didn't have one of those in stock).

Nick and I shook hands with Tom and Brian and were on our way. Driving home I reflected on how refreshing that experience was, and how I couldn't wait to find an excuse to return. McIntosh gear is rock-solid, so I can't wait until something else goes wrong with it. Perhaps just a friendly visit to learn more from Brian or another team member. Can I see myself becoming a regular customer, even purchasing there? You bet. Even in Southern California traffic, it's well worth the trip.

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