Where it all began
It was in the late 1960's when my headmaster offered me the chance to operate the new Philips reel to reel tape recorder that had just arrived at my primary school.
Church music and hymns for assemblies and dance music for the country dancing lessons. All I had to do was to make sure the counter was set to zero at the beginning of the tape and I could cue each track with great accuracy. It was around the same time my father purchased a ITT KB stereogram with a Grundig tape recorder enabling me to record my own compilations of music from his easy listening records – Bert Kaempfert, James Last, Herb Alpert (perhaps later to become my guilty pleasures) and then of course there was my Mum’s collection of Andy Williams favourites! I was hooked! Not necessarily to Andy Williams you understand but the whole idea of listening to music, recording my own compilations and the technology! Then one Christmas a few years later I was introduced to cassettes with my first ITT cassette deck given to me as a present – needless to say the compilations kept on coming.
During my teens, I worked at a radio and television store in Bournemouth called Rings. Every evening after school I would cycle up a steep hill to the shop in Southbourne Grove where my tasks were anything from setting up and selling the latest Sony and Technics equipment to going out on installs and attending exhibitions. In the corner of the shop was a selection of records so there was always a recording or two being made! The job enabled me to fund my first stereo cassette deck purchase, a Sony TC121 and then a Golding Lenco GL72 for my vinyl, some Luxman separates and my Wharfdale speakers. Perhaps because of my love for playing the piano and trombone, I enjoyed listening to all genres of music. I was just as a happy listening to my recordings of Norrie Paramor and the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra on BBC Radio Two's Top Ten Tunes on Saturday night as I was my favourite bands on the weekly Top of the Pops!
It was in those early years that I started to appreciate listening to music and became (only slightly you understand) obsessive about the equipment I used for its replay! Then came 1983 and a trip to Laskys in Notting Hill Gate where on the day of launch I purchased the world’s first CD player, a Sony CDP 101 together with Dire Straits’ Love over Gold, Roxy Music’s Avalon and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I was using my Tascam reel to reel to create compilations of music for parties on Saturday night which I supposed was the closest I was ever going to get to becoming a DJ! Sadly, as my CD collection grew, my vinyl collection diminished – I can’t be the only person who made that mistake! A few years later my own system comprised of a Meridian 602 CD player, a 604 tuner and a pair of DSP 5000’s in my first apartment.
I had moved into the events industry and was running my own business producing product launches, fashion shows, store openings and corporate conferences. During the following years, hi-fi and music became even more of a passion with the latest piece of equipment always taking pride of place in my home; a Linn CD12, an SME Model 30 turntable (yes, I finally realised I shouldn’t have sold my vinyl collection) and countless other pieces of shiny equipment and accessories. I even appeared in a What Hifi review back in 2002!
I have always enjoyed running events but have also enjoyed sharing my passion for listening to music with my family, friends and strangers so I decided to set up my own hi-fi business. I knew I didn’t want to become a traditional retailer with a store full of countless shelves of product from every manufacturer, I wanted to carefully select equipment that gave me real listening pleasure that I could also share with my customers. I needed to find equipment that reveals the music as it was recorded. I also knew that some equipment is so ‘hi-fi’ and almost over revealing that it gives you a headache having listened to it for 15 minutes. The UK hifi market is saturated with mass brands. You can drive perhaps as little as ten miles between towns that sell equipment from the well-known manufacturers. With so much really good lesser known equipment from North America, Scandinavia, the UK and parts of Europe I started to develop my own area of speciality. So, the journey began to select the brands I was to work with.
However, it’s not just about the equipment, it’s how we store and play our music. A few years ago, I digitised my own CD collection and some of my vinyl so I could start to select and play it more easily not only in my main listening room but around the home. Whilst I still enjoy pulling a record from the shelf, placing it on my turntable and watching it play as I read the liner notes enjoying the warmth of the format, now I can easily move around artists and genres, and listen to new music I haven’t purchased by streaming it. I can read up on the artist, find out who accompanied them and what other albums they appeared on. Now the appreciation of the music goes way beyond just the listening!
So why Ultimate Stream? As I have said the way we listen to our music is changing and for me it’s about introducing my customers to new ways of listening, digitising their music collections, streaming their music in the best formats and quality possible and helping them find equipment that looks good, sounds good and above all is going to enhance their listening pleasure.