In the world of high end audio there is probably no subject as controversial then the retail cost of high end cables vs. what they really bring to system.
While that may be the subject of a more specific future article that I may write for Copper, this article is how, as a salesman, I tried to wrap my head around the process of “selling” them.
I first started working at Lyric Hifi in NYC in 1995, at that time the most expensive audio speaker cable Lyric carried was made by MIT and retailed for approximately $8,000 a pair.
Just 1 year later MIT debuted yet another, more expensive speaker cable with never before seen large boxes near one end.
We were told that these boxes contained a network of electronic circuits that were supposed to control the frequency and time align the delivery to the speaker.
HP at The Absolute Sound wrote about them and Lyric, which always, somehow, had the hottest product featured in TAS at the exact time that TAS waxed orgasmically about something, carried the whole new MIT line.
In order to create further excitement at the retail level, MIT sent a couple of guys to spend two days at the store demo’ing the cables for us and teaching us (meaning the salesman) the reason(s) why the cable was so effective and, as a byproduct of this kind of “advanced” research, justify the new (and even more insane) cost of $12,000 per pair!
Armed with this new amazing and fantastic cable we could then explain (in depth and detail) to anyone whose pockets were deep enough, why they “Had to have it”!
There is some of logic in all this, I guess.
I just listened to what the MIT reps explained to us and, after listening to these cables on our reference system probably convinced myself that they were “worth every penny”.
Having been at Lyric at that point for over a year and having the opportunity to play with some of the world’s most expensive “toys” I became less desirous of owning the stuff. Not that I didn’t avail myself of the connections I made and the great discounts I got. I did and I put together a really great but sanely priced reference system.
I just no longer jones’d about owning the biggest or best.
Just ‘really good’ now worked for me!
But still, this was Lyric HiFi, the most famous Hi End emporium and many of the clients wanted "the best" and one could never lose sight of that.
One day I walked into work and Mike Kaye announced that we would now be carrying not just another cable line but “The Best In The World”!
I can’t tell you the brand of the cable because I need to tell you about a conversation with the company’s president that probably said more to me about the entire high end industry than anything else I ever learned.
I don’t need a lawsuit (neither does Copper) but I do need to tell you what this cable president told me.
We were told that this new, incredible cable line was fairly extensive but the reference speaker cable at the top of the range was priced at a then staggering $22,000 for a 15 foot pair!
So then Mike says that the owner is coming to the store in about a week.
And, about a week later, in walked the owner of the cable company. He was unlike any manufacturer I had met up to that point. He had a real swagger: a hustler's swagger. He was not an unassuming ‘nerd’ type.
As a born and bred Manhattanite, whose father worked on 47th Street in the Jewelry district, and as a musician, I had spent years on 48th street, I knew a hustler when I met one.
I walked up to the guy and introduced myself.
I walked him into one of the demo rooms, away from other customers and said “MIT was here a couple of months ago to explain to us about the technology involved with their new cable line and especially how to sell their new $12,000 cable. What do I tell a customer when he asks why your cable cost almost twice that amount at $22,000 for a 15 pair?”.
His response, to this day, pretty much summed up my entire high end retail experience.
He looked at and said “Son. if somebody askes you why this cable cost $22,000 for a 15 foot pair, you just tell them that there is a lot of good shit in it!”
I was waiting for a laugh, a wink, some kind of humorous fallback…
I then said “You really want me to say that?”
He continued, “Listen, if a guy buys a Mercedes he doesn’t care how the steering wheel is connected to the drive train and the tires. It’s a damn Mercedes. If someone is spending 100k for a system that means he wants the best. My cable Is the best. Period. Tell if they want the second best buy the MIT!”
Sounds pretty logical to me and the complete opposite of the MIT presentation..
This was predatory, type A, NY salesmanship to the max!
I told this to the salesman who sold the most and said (and knew) the least.
He said “See, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I always say, 'This one is good, this one is better, this one is best'. Take the credit card and ring it up!”
This effectively marked the end of me thinking that I was going to educate a customer.
After this, I just started “selling” them.