Remembering Audio Retailing Legend Andrew Singer

Remembering Audio Retailing Legend Andrew Singer

Written by Frank Doris

The audio world has lost a giant with the passing of Andrew Singer at age 73. Andy was the founder of New York retailer Sound by Singer, a larger-than-life figure who wasn’t shy in letting you know what he thought – about gear, or about you. He was a successful retailer who in his own individual way helped define the rise of high-end audio. It was obvious that he loved music.

Almost everyone in the audio industry has an Andy Singer story, and I have mine. At my first CES in 1988, I spotted Singer in a hallway. He was impossible not to recognize, having seen his picture in his self-aggrandizing Sound by Singer ads. Knowing his reputation, I took a breath and went to introduce myself, thinking that regardless of how intimidating the encounter might be, from a professional standpoint I needed to get to know this Very Important Audio Personage.

“Hi, I’m Frank Doris from The Absolute Sound.”

He quickly sized me up, and with a look of disdain, replied, “The Absolute Sound? What are you, the janitor?”

Well, I’m no stranger to New Yawk attitude, but that took me aback. I think I said something like, “I’m working my way up to it,” with as much you-don’t-faze-me blowback as I could muster. I thought, boy, this guy really does live up to his reputation. He gave me a dismissive look and walked away. Truthfully, it wasn’t the first time I’d taken crap just for being on the staff of The Absolute Sound.

Over the years I inevitably ran into him again at shows, and though I approached him with skepticism at first (and probably vice versa), we gradually warmed to each other. After all, he was one of the most important figures in high-end audio retailing, and he clearly did know his stuff. And I really didn't care about his gruff attitude, or take it personally.

He came to realize that unlike others he undoubtedly encountered, I really had no agenda other than to get to know him and find out about his store and the gear he liked and sold.

I remember going into his store for the first time shortly after I met him, and being highly impressed. Nine rooms of high-quality gear that all sounded great. I mean, really great. He wasn’t just copping an attitude – when it came to sound and setup, he was clearly an expert. At shows, the Sound by Singer rooms I heard always sounded exceptional.

I think the turning point where we turned from being cordial to one another to being genuine friends was when he found out I was a musician. (At one show, there were a couple of guitars on display and I couldn't risk picking one up and shredding a little in front of him to drive home the point.) Our conversations turned more to music and guitars than to audio gear. It got to the point where we’d greet each other warmly at shows and events and take some time to shoot the bull.

The last time I saw him was at one of the New York shows, pre-COVID, maybe in 2019. He seemed to have mellowed out from his earlier fire-breathing days. The room at that show sounded utterly wonderful.

Sadly, at the Stenheim speaker event at Manhattan’s Power Station last winter, I’d struck up a conversation with a friend of his, who told me that Andy wasn’t doing great. I wrote a note and asked the friend (sorry, his name escapes me) to please give the note to Andy, and tell him I was thinking of him. I hope he got it.


Header image courtesy of a Sound by Singer press release.

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