Simple audiophile or stereo systems can be easily assembled often with excellent do-it-yourself results. Many of today’s system configurations are far more complex. You need expertise in system design, electrical engineering as well as programming skills. That’s no small feat if you want to install a “smart home”

How do you find the right specialty audio video dealer for your system? We’ve got some thoughts.

Online Recourses For Specialty Audio-Video and Audiophile Products

I once was told by a high-up executive at Sony back in 1999 that they would NEVER sell any Sony product online. Today, they sell EVERY Sony product online. And Sony isn’t alone. You can buy all but the most expensive and most esoteric/exotic audio and video components directly via the Internet.

Return policies are generous. Shipping is free. Support is available via the phone, email or even chat/Zoom.

Big Box and Warehouse Stores

Costco is a very smartly merchandized store. While you get little to no support in terms of after-the-sale AV – their return policy is nearly unconditional. Their prices are unbeatable and they often have some pretty good 4K HDTVs as well as supporting audio components.

Best Buy (with Magnolia stores inside the Best Buy) offer many people that don’t live in large U.S. cities access to some of the better audio and video products be it: headphones, record players, audiophile speakers, CD players, preamps, amps and beyond. Their in-store “knowledge” is iffy at best but they do sell some very good brands be it: Sony, McIntosh, Bowers & Wilkins, Sennheiser, SVS, KEF, Pro-ject, MartinLogan, Arcam, Marantz, Rotel, AudioQuest and more. By all means, you could put together a serious system from a Best Buy and-or a Magnolia

Specialty AV Dealers and Audiophile Salons

Some people are off-put by audiophile stores but most are run by very welcoming, well trained and well educated staff that are happy to help you through your audiophile or home theater journey. These stores sell more high performance brands that they personally hand curate for your needs. They give better support, service and resale advice than a big-box store. They will work with you as you grow in the hobby. They often offer special events where you get to meet the people who design the best audio-video products. They often have active demo systems with “floored” equipment that we can only dream of. The hobby is about having aspirational goals to a bigger-better system. These stores can help with that without question. Support your local AV dealer.

Custom Installers aka: “CI Guys”

For smart homes, you likely will want to go with a firm that specializes in the IT, programming, rack building and more. These Custom Installers often don’t have an active “home theater demo” at their offices like a more traditional stereo store. They tend to run their businesses out of an office or warehouse complex. They keep their wares in their truck and order what you need on a bespoke basis. You tend to pay them in advance and labor is a big part of what you get from a custom installer in terms of overall cost. A good CI guy or smart home programmer is worth his or her weight in gold. Embrace and support any good CI guy when you find them.

That covers the range of AV dealers. We hope this helps you make an informed decision as you grow you home theater, audiophile or smart home system.