There's high-end audio, and there's a wholly different strata of high-end audio that even I, the Audiophiliac, rarely come in contact with. I was keenly aware of that fact when I dropped by Rhapsody Music & Cinema, here in NYC. I was warmly greeted by the owner, Bob Visintainer, who showed me around his impressive selection of truly exotic gear from the US, Europe and Asia.
Here's but a small sampling of brands sold at Rhapsody: Acoustic Signature, Aurender, Kaiser-Acoustics, Goldmund, Kondo-Audio Note Japan, Magico, Ubiq Audio, and Vitus Audio. These brands may not be known to the general public, but they are the Rolls Royces, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis of the audio world. Rhapsody opened its doors in 2004.
We chatted for a while, but Visintainer was eager to walk a few blocks to check out the Iliad showroom. That space was filled with gorgeous bespoke furniture and art, great stuff indeed, but I didn't at first notice the Goldmund speakers deployed throughout the lavish surroundings! You see, Visintainer also sells "lifestyle" ultra high-end audio systems, working hand in hand with Iliad's designers. The Swiss-made Goldmund speakers can be custom-finished to the buyer's requirements. In-wall Goldmund speakers are also available, anything is possible.
I assumed Rhapsody was exclusively a two-channel audiophile oriented enterprise, so I was a little surprised to learn three-quarters of the systems Visintainer sells have video or home theater components. He has customers all over the world, but if they are in the NYC area, Visintainer visits their homes to get a fix on their rooms acoustics. He's a big guy, and has learned over the years how to uncrate 300-pound speakers and 200-pound amplifiers by himself!
After spending time at Iliad we returned to the Rhapsody showroom, where I took in the staggering array of audio components. We listened to a pair of Magico S1 Mk II speakers, which sounded great, but then we talked about how customers find Rhapsody: word of mouth, referrals from manufacturers or in the press. Audiophiles seek out the store because it sells components no other NYC area dealers do. For some lines Rhapsody might be the only US dealer.
Many customers are wealthy and extremely busy, so they rarely have time to come to the showroom or get involved with selecting their systems. That's also true for the most famous ones, they have aides and assistants that handle that stuff. Visintainer wasn't about to divulge any rock, sports or movie star customers names, he was too discreet for that. I tried to pry a few loose, but he remained mum. Some of those customers even have Iliad design furniture to house the gear.
To say I was impressed with the store and Visintainer's expertise and passion for audio would be an understatement. I've visited a lot of audio shops in my time, but nothing compares with Rhapsody Music & Cinema.