Hearne: High End KC Audio-Video Store SoundFX Bites The Dust

IMG_2834And then there was one…

Just like that SoundFX, one of Kansas City’s two remaining high end audio video stores closed it doors recently. No fanfare, no fond farewells, just rumors of an ugly split between owners who reportedly were family members.

“Not sure if this is the right place for this, but does anyone know if SoundFX in KC, MO is shutting down?” asked one visitor on the blog the audiokarma.org “Their building has been for sale for awhile now, but now it also looks like the business is dark, and the website simply links to email.  This was owned by a guy who worked for (DavidBeatty at one time.”

“You know, there’s good competition and there’s bad competition and SoundFX was good competition,” says A/V Design Studio staffer Janet Young. “They were knowledgable; they were professional and they were a good competitor and they told the truth and knew what they were doing. And so the city has lost yet another good audio store.

“I’m sorry to see them go,” says Kiefs main man John Kiefer. “(Robert Bruce) was a good kid and he worked hard at his business. But he had a very small facility – but very nicely done – and he had some good specialty lines, but you know, they weren’t mainstream lines and they were not well known to most people.”That leaves A/V Design Studio at 90th & Metcalf as the last local high end retailer (aside from Kief’s in Lawrence).

The bottom line: “They didn’t (really) have good lines – sellable lines at a good price. They had lines that they were the only ones in Kansas City that had ’em, so nobody could price shop them. They were good lines, but if you took all their lines, I don’t think they had a single one that was in the Top 5 in any price class…I mean, how do you make a living selling one of something every six months?”

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 2.08.50 PMWorse yet, these are ultra tough times for high end audio, Kiefer and Young agree.

“You know, audio is like a step above Blockbuster Video,” Kiefer muses. “And who the hell cares about Blockbuster Video anymore? Quite frankly I don’t know what’s going to happen to the audio industry. And quite frankly, I don’t have a lot of hope for it.”

“Right now, it’s tough,” Young concurs. “And you know, I think it would be helpful if people like you would help bring about the awareness of what people are missing if they’re just listening to MP3 music on their cell phones. It’s incredibly compressed with no dynamic range, no detail and no resolution. And if more people would become aware of what they’re missing, there would be more support for brick and mortar audio stores.”


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23 Responses to Hearne: High End KC Audio-Video Store SoundFX Bites The Dust

  1. the dude says:

    That sucks, I always meant to go by there and check it out but all of my purchases as of late have leaned towards used tube equipment and horn speakers. Most of high end leans away from that unless you have around $60K to $70K to squander on a pair of JBL Everests.

  2. harley says:

    “And if more people would become aware of what they’re missing, there would be more support for brick and mortar audio stores.”’

    hey mr. businessman…people were aware of what they were missing…NOTHING!!!
    that’s why you’re biting the dust.
    that’s why blockbuster went down…along with all those other
    audio/video stores.
    you didn’t change..you became a dinosaur….and there was no market for
    the products you sold.
    THIS IS A WALMART TOWN…the people like lots of crap cheap.

    • admin says:

      Easy Big Guy,

      Such harshness!

      High end audio stores aren’t selling outdated video and audio software like Blockbuster and – wait for it – Streetside.

      They’re selling state of the art audio and video gear that if you have the money and the inclination is usually between excellent and beyond belief. Equating quality sound and video to obsolete formats and suggesting that WalMart is the way is like suggesting that anything above and beyond Hardees and Outback Steakhouse is above Kansas City’s paygrade.

      Now if you’re trying to tell us that it’s above yours, that’s an entirely different matter. You may have a point.

  3. Mysterious J says:

    Well MP3s DON’T sound great…but the people who bemoan the public’s unsophisticated ears seem to forget that a large percentage of us in our 40s came of age getting our music from cassette tapes in boom boxes. It is a minor miracle that there is ANY high end audio retailing going on at all.

    • mike t. says:

      cassettes were still analog and thus less compressed. so even those in a boombox could provide more depth and range… at least until the tape or playback heads got too worn. and some of those boomboxes had pretty damn good speakers.

      • Mysterious J says:

        If you bought the commercially produced cassette releases, they generally sounded horrible on any equipment. By the mid 80s most of the so-called boom boxes were mass produced crap that didn’t have good speakers in any sense. I stand by my point that trying to sell high end audio to people who came of age after the great audiophile fetish years of the 70s and very early 80s is a tough business model.

        • Hearne says:

          Again I agree with MJ on how bad the commercially produced cassettes sounded. However, I bought a pretty nice cassette recorder and using high end tape, Dolby, etc. got what I thought to be kickass sound, mainly playing in my car systems (which usually I tricked out to some extent).

          But starting out with lousy equipment as a kid didn’t hold me back from wanting better and better as my paychecks grew.

          If you’re young and don’t have much dough and your interests are divided into more areas – areas that really barely existed for me at one point like video games – then maybe high quality sound is a low priority. Maybe you prefer to spend your disposable income on kickass surround to watch movies and sports on.

    • admin says:

      Good point, MJ.

      Actually, I’d be embarrassed to own up to how crappy the gear I listened to early on way. But little by little after I started working and making some money, I started to climb the listening ladder and buy stuff that was a little better. And then down the road, a little better yet.

      That doesn’t seem to be the case much anymore.

      or maybe it’s a case where the technology has advanced to the point that even pedestrian priced equipment is more than good enuff for most ears and the people have other things they want to spend their money on rather than admittedly overpriced “stereo” gear few can afford.

      • Stomper says:

        Seriously, HC ?? Always seemed that you focused pretty hard on your music from the days of the Temptations et al. You dragged this Neil Diamond guy into the big time.

        • Hearne says:

          Of course I did, Stomp.

          Still do but I’ve lost a couple steps since I got married a year and a half ago. But I was at the incredible Imagine Dragons show at Starlight this summer. As well as The National. I’ll be at Panic at the Disco. I saw The XX at the Uptown.

          So I’m still hanging in there…kinda.

  4. chuck says:

    People are addicted to signal to noise ratio.

  5. Sned says:

    I am sorry to see it go. I purchased a set of ProAc speakers from Robert a few years ago and they are fantastic. No one in this town cares about quality in anything, much less audio. They only want disposable image!

    • the dude says:

      Not true, some of us do care about HiFi, it is quickly dying with the boomers though- my generation is doing a crappy job of passing the torch. Friends and guests that come to my house and see my 6ft tall Martin Logan hybrid electrostatic speakers just stare and ask, “Where does the sound come from and how does it do it?”

      • admin says:

        Martin Logan…

        That sounds like a serious system.

        • the dude says:

          No greasy kid’s stuff allowed in the bear’s Den. Amazingly most of my equipment that I own was made in America save the digital devices and the Bryston amps made in Canada. Whoodathunk it in this day and age?

          You do pay for it though, the used market helps tremendously with that blow.

          • admin says:

            OK Dude, here’s my stereo system lineup:

            Rega RP6 turntable
            B&W CM10 loudspeakers
            B&W ASW 12CM subwoofer
            Classe DR5 preamplifier
            Aragon 200 watt per channel amp
            Rotel RCD-1570 CD player

            My goal is to brainwash Wilson into buying some decent gear instead of blowing his wad on pontoon boats and vacation homes.

          • the dude says:

            That’s a decent setup, what cart are you running on that Rega?
            Is that Aragon an 8008?
            Yeah, since Wilsun does like music the next step is getting him to spend some money on a decent rig if all he has is a poopy Sony receiver and some low end JBLs or Bohse.

    • Hearne says:

      Check out A-V Design Studio, Sned.

      They’re the former Audioport people.

  6. MT says:

    This is really bad news. We’ve done quite a bit business with Robert over the years and cannot express with words what a magnificent job he did for us. He was super knowledgeable and would take and make any amount of time and effort to make sure we were satisfied. At our place that involved toiling for several hours in rafters and crawl spaces several times to set us up with virtually all the electronics we use in our home on a daily basis. This was after another company told us that it couldn’t be done.
    Follow up service was gladly provided with NO charge from day one. If there was a problem Robert handled it himself, no questions asked.

    Probably not good for profits, but as a customer it was a pleasure doing business with Sound Fx. Very sad another local business providing truly personal and personable service is gone.

    • Hearne says:

      I’m with ya, MT.

      Even more unfortunate was that they went down pretty hard (and reportedly pretty ugly).

      It’s a cold, cruel world out here, and I’m not sure about the good dying young, but in an economy like today’s death comes pretty easy…unfortunately.

  7. Ron Boster says:

    I spoke with Robert prior to the closing of the store and at that time he expected to move to another location…sadly when I checked back with him in late September he stated what was eluded to in this article, an ugly turn between he and his partner (soon to be at time ex-brother in-law). From what Robert said, he was blind sided by the literal closing of the store (locks changed etc).

    He did say there were a few job offers, so I would hope he’ll land on his feet. He is a truly good person and terrific audio/video professional.

    As far as some of the product lines Robert carried, I found there were products at all price points. But, I think it’s overwhelming for some to step into a high end electronics store…people feel before they will be over paying for whatever they purchase. My experience with Robert is you are paying the market value and getting exactly what will match your needs and wants. His expertise and advice were added value that you just couldn’t get from the mass market retailers.


  8. Vickie says:

    Robert, if you read this let me know how to contact you. I only want you taking care of my TV and sound needs. We really miss you in the neighborhood!
    Loyal Customer, Vickie

  9. Jason says:

    I bought multiple ProAc speakers from him as well as a couple amps, etc. Robert was great to work with – he was straight forward on how to build a system within a given budget. I’m surprised and really disappointed to see them go.

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