BEHIND THE SCENES
Tivoli Hi-Fi has been in Hawthorn for 36 years, but recent changes mean that although the store is at the same address, it’s a now a whole new destination!
Tivoli Hi-Fi has been an institution on Melbourne’s hi-fi scene for years. Forty-five years, in fact, the last 36 of them at the same address at 155–157 Camberwell Road in Hawthorn, the exterior of which hasn’t changed all that much in all those years. This means that if you haven’t been inside Tivoli Hi-Fi in the last few weeks, you won’t have realised that everything inside it has changed. It’s not the same store it once was.
‘It may be the same address, but it’s now a whole new destination,’ says Store Manager Geoff Haynes. ‘We’re moving with the times, becoming more modern and in touch with today’s trends, while at the same time maintaining the original guiding principle of Tivoli’s founder, Philippe Luder, which is that of ‘experts helping people’.’
Change is evident from the moment you walk in the door at Tivoli, because you’re now confronted by a fully active headphone listening station where you can listen at your leisure—and using music from whatever source you like… your phone, a CD, the internet—to any one of 80 different pairs of headphones ranging in price from $200 to $12,000 and in design from dynamic, to electrostatic, to wireless and everything in-between. There’s even a full length mirror, so if you want to check what you might look like wearing the ‘phones on your daily commute, you can. ‘We offer headphones at every price point,’ says Haynes, ‘and we also offer an incredibly wide range of brands. We see it as our job to allow our customers maximum choice, as well as to inspire them to want something better.’
Deeper into the store are several smaller display areas packed with products that you wouldn’t expect to find at any specialist hi-fi store, and most particularly one with a ‘highend’ pedigree. ‘This area is further proof that the address is the same but everything else
has changed,’ said Haynes. ‘You can see that we have the full range of Tivoli radios, small sound products from Sonos, Heos and BlueSound, plus a variety of Bluetooth audio products… all different, but the single thing they have in common is that they’re not products you’d expect to find in a specialist hi-fi store. We’re about giving our customers choice, and we’re about proving that we’re very price-competitive. Our aim is to be able to match prices with anyone, anywhere in Australia.’
All the headphones and small sound products can be purchased from Tivoli Hi-Fi’s website, which not only guarantees competitive pricing, but also same-day service. ‘Damian Rio usually handles all our Internet orders’, says Haynes. ‘He makes sure that you get exactly what you’ve ordered, that it goes out on the day you ordered it, and that it’s properly protected by black shrink-wrap. But if he’s not available, one of the other team members will jump in to ensure the customer gets absolutely the best sales experience. When you buy from Tivoli, you’re not just buying from Geoff or James or Paul, you’re buying from the whole team.’
Right at the back of the store is a private consulting room with a fully-active ‘Marantz Wall’ as well as a sophisticated comparator system that allows staff to demonstrate the sonic differences by inter-linking different music sources, amplifiers and speakers at the touch of a button… literally. Six sources, six amplifiers, six pairs of speakers, able to be linked in more than 200 combinations. The concept is to be able to discover the particular sound you like, after which a more fine-tuned system can be put together in one of the listening rooms upstairs.
In the next room, which is past the staff counter and the cable display, you will discover what, perhaps, is the most dramatic change at Tivoli. The store is no longer selling the Loewe TV brand. This is because Tivoli is now an independent Melbourne retail outlet for Bang & Olufsen—an accredited B&O ‘Destination Store’ in fact, hand-picked for the task by B&O executives. ‘Loewe makes outstanding televisions, and we’ve been confidently recommending and selling them for many
Tivoli Hi-Fi has changed. ‘It may be the same address, but it’s now a whole new destination’
years,’ said Haynes, ‘but when we were shown the picture quality of B&O’s newest TVs, and saw their styling, and investigated the quality of the manufacturing, we realised we had to move with the times and update to what we now think is the best TV brand in the world.’ But Tivoli is not only selling B&O televisions, it’s selling B&O’s complete range of products, including its range of active Beolab loudspeakers, wireless BeoPlay speakers and its incredible new wall-mounted BeoSound ‘Shape’ speakers which can be customised to suit your home’s décor.
Haynes says that one of the other attractions of B&O was the Danish company’s philosophy that style is as important as performance in the electronics, speakers and screens in the modern home. ‘Here at Tivoli we shuddered when we first heard that horrible abbreviation WAF…wife acceptance factor, being used in relation to home audio equipment,’ he said. ‘Our philosophy has always gone far beyond just ‘acceptance’. We want every member of the household to truly appreciate and enjoy all the technology in their home, not to just ‘accept’ it—including the hi-fi and video equipment. They need to enjoy how it sounds, how it looks in the room, and how it complements their decor, so everyone in the family will be proud to have the equipment in their home.’
Scottish manufacturer Linn has a special place in the hearts of all those at Tivoli, not least of all Tony McKay, who is an accredited Linn technician, able to extract ultimate performance from any LP12… or any other vinyl-spinner for that matter. Tivoli is the only retailer in Victoria accredited to sell the full range of Linn products, so tucked behind the B&O showroom is a single small room dedicated to products from the Scottish company. Not just some products, either. ‘We stock every single component made by Linn,’ says Haynes, ‘right up to the $115,000 Klimax active system.’ Rather unusually, this room is not acoustically treated; instead it’s full of hard surfaces and is exceedingly bright-sounding. This is deliberate. ‘It allows us to demonstrate Linn’s unique Space Optimisation technology, which uses sophisticated acoustic modelling that can compensate for the unique characteristics of your room to reveal the music that would otherwise be hidden,’ says Haynes. ‘It proves to our customers that with the right equipment, you can get great sound in any room.’
Tivoli has three rooms on the second floor that show the store’s commitment to this philosophy, but although you’ll no doubt be impressed by the dedicated home cinema room, and by the home theatre room, you’ll be knocked out when you see Tivoli’s fully-kitted-out ‘apartment’ room. It’s so realistic that when you open the door, you might close it again thinking you’ve intruded on a private area of the store… one where someone is actually living. ‘The idea is to show exactly what is possible to achieve in a small room,’ says Haynes. ‘We’re excited by how well it turned out with the brands we’ve used in it, but we may turn it into a B&O space in the future. That’s what happens here at Tivoli…we’re evolving all the time, so even if you’ve been here before, we’re not the same now… it may be the same address, but it’s a now a whole new destination.’
The second floor has other secrets. One is the ‘two-channel’ room where you can settle into the store’s comfy sofa and listen not just to what’s in the system that day, but to any components you like. ‘We’re happy to heft any of our speakers into this room for our customers—or into any of our rooms, partnered with their choice of electronics—because we want all our clients to be able to hear exactly what they’ll hear in their own home,’ says Haynes. Almost on cue, his phone pinged. It was an email from a customer asking for a complete system to be set up at 2.00 p.m. the following Saturday for a private auditioning session. ‘That’s how all our customers see us,’ he said. ‘Our goal is to help music-lovers buy from Tivoli.’
But buying your equipment from Tivoli isn’t the end of your journey because Tivoli will also deliver it to your home and, if required, install it to a professional standard including showing you how to get the best from it. If you need additional post-purchase assistance, the person to ring is Tivoli’s Paul Ong, who can succinctly and patiently explain any-
That’s what happens here at Tivoli…we’re evolving all the time, so even if you’ve been here before, we’re not the same now…
thing you need to know about operating your system. And he can do it in English or Mandarin. And if he can’t explain it over the phone, he’s happy to visit your home. ‘Paul is one of our best trouble-shooters,’ says Haynes.
Exit the two-channel room and you’ll find yourself walking down a corridor lined with the finest audio electronic components available anywhere in the world, every one of which is ready to be moved to a private listening room for auditioning. Haynes tells me it’s fairly common for people visiting for the first time to stop at the start of the corridor and exclaim ‘I’ve arrived in audio heaven.’
Turn left at the end of the audio heaven corridor and you’ll find Tivoli’s own ‘Aladdin’s Cave’—a small room packed full of second-hand equipment that has been traded-in, but this being Tivoli Hi-Fi, it’s not so much ‘second hand’ as ‘collectable’. Famous names such as Audio Research, Electrocompaniet, Duntech, McIntosh, Primare, and Meridian to name but a few. (You can see the full list on Tivoli Hi-Fi’s website, along with new products available for sale.) What’s more, you’re not buying unknown, because Tivoli is one of the few hi-fi stores that has its own in-house service department, managed by 40-year industry veteran Tony McKay, who does a full Check/Service on every trade-in before it’s sold. You can be assured of getting the right price on your trade-in too, because valuations are done by resident high-end and stereo expert James Tranchina. ‘James is only 40 and has gained vast experience of audio since he was a young boy. His knowledge and skills are among the best in the country,’ says Haynes. ‘Give him a model number and he’ll tell you when it was released, what it sold for and, if it’s a turntable, what arm and cartridge were usually fitted to it. He’s a walking encyclopaedia. James’ love of audio and music leaves Tivoli’s customers enriched with new bands and tracks to look up ‘way after meeting him’, raves Haynes.
The ‘ piece de resistance’ at Tivoli Hi-Fi is the room Tivoli staff (who number 7 in all) call ‘Studio One’, an appointment-only high-end audio room in which the luxury of the equipment is matched only by the luxuriousness of the furnishings. Unlike Tivoli’s other rooms, this one is definitely ‘appointment only’, with $300,000 worth of speakers ready for auditioning and one of the sources no less than Mark Doehmann’s Helix 2 turntable. No surprise there: Tivoli is Doehmann’s nominated Victorian retailer, and the great man regularly makes himself available on Saturdays to assist Tivoli’s customers align their cartridges and tune their own turntables… all part of the Tivoli service.
‘One of our greatest tasks as a specialist hifi retailer is to expose more people to the joys of music and teach them how they can have a great listening experience,’ says Haynes. ‘One of the problems we face is that there’s a whole new trend in the world to damage the credibility of experts: the so-called ‘fake news’ phenomenon. But we are experts, we are specialists, and the specialist hi-fi industry lives through our souls. We truly care about music, we care about hi-fi and we care about all our customers… all we need is for people to trust that specialist hi-fi stores have their best interests at heart to establish a rewarding, respectful and reciprocal relationship.’
Haynes says that it’s not just the joy you’ll experience because of the way your favourite music will sound when it’s played through a good, well-matched system curated by a hi-fi specialist. ‘Hi-fi equipment is a great investment,’ he said. ‘You replace your phone every 2 years or so, your washing machine and fridge every 10 years or so and likely even your car every 5 years, but a good hi-fi system lasts a lot longer than ten years—and not only will you use it far more often than you will any other item in your home, so will other members of your family, because listening to music is a family-oriented activity.’
If you’d like to experience what Tivoli HiFi has to offer, even if you’re not interested in buying anything at all, Haynes welcomes you to drop by one day and ask for a tour of the store. Either he or one of his staff will be more than happy to be your guide. You’ll discover that although the address is the same, everything else has changed.
Tivoli Store Manager Geoff Haynes (left) pictured with store founder and owner Philippe Luder.