Eleven featured manufacturers and one great dealer team up to prove music really does matter
On Friday, July 24, 2009, I attended the inaugural “Music Matters” event held at Bjorn’s Audio – Video – Home Theater, a regionally famous dealership based in San Antonio, Texas. The event represented a collaboration between Bjorn’s and a group of ten featured manufacturers or A/V technology companies, including—in alphabetical order: Audyssey Laboratories, Auralex Acoustics, B&W Group, Definitive Technology, Denon, Klipsch Group, McIntosh Laboratory, PS Audio, Rega Research Ltd., Sonos, and Yamaha. As advertised, the theme of the day was that music matters, and accordingly many of the product demonstrations focused on the joys of traditional two-channel audio.
To be perfectly frank, only a dealership with the resources and staff expertise of Bjorn’s could have pulled off an event of this kind, as there were no fewer than eight (count ‘em) sound rooms plus a ninth seminar room kept in more or less continuous operation throughout the day. Even so, the store was still able to conduct some measure of business as usual in other of its extensive display/demonstration facilities.
The physical plant at Bjorn’s is impressive; imagine a very large and elegant store, rectangular in general layout, and about size of a typical big-box retail operation—yet markedly different from and better than any big-box store I’ve ever visited. Around the perimeter of the building are a large number of dedicated, acoustically treated sound rooms/home theater demonstration rooms, each with a designated name—such as the “Hill County Room” or “Santa Fe Room”—almost as if Bjorn’s were a well-run, A/V-oriented conference center rather than a retail store. The large center section of the store is devoted to a customer greeting area and to well-organized television display spaces (with, hallelujah, appropriate subdued lighting rather than the harsh mercury vapor lamps you’d find in typical big-box outlets). One corner room within the store is reserved for a dedicated “Sony Gallery”, featuring various Bravia-series products, etc. Then, in the far back of the store, there is a big seminar room that, for the Music Matters event at any rate, was done up with acoustic treatment panels so that it was suitable for conducting music-oriented audio demonstrations.
But there’s more to Bjorn’s than an impressive facility, because when it comes to things A/V the store’s sales staff members are knowledgeable and the picture of professionalism (plus, they exhibit a truly welcoming “we’re here to serve” ethos, which stands in sharp contrast to some of the snooty, big-ego, attitudes I’ve observed in some high-end establishments). There’s an old aphorism that says, “As the captain goes, so goes the ship,” and this is certainly true at Bjorn’s. Although founder Bjorn Dybdahl has been in the business for many decades, he shows—through his wit, wisdom, and especially through the gleam in his eye when he puts on a favorite Mahler recording for a product demonstration—that he’s still passionate about music and remembers that, while audio certainly deserves to be taken seriously, it is also meant to be fun. It’s an attitude and company culture that permeates the whole staff.
So, hats off to Bjorn Dybdahl and his team for making the Music Matters event possible—an event that, by the way, attracted a lively stream of avid listeners throughout the day (from 11AM to 9PM and then some). Let’s hope they do it again next year.
In follow-up posts (about two/day), I plan to sketch out some of the demonstrations seen and heard at the Music Matters event.