Tucked away on a side street off London’s Tottenham Court Road is The Cornflake Shop, which appeared back in the Eighties to sell high-end audio equipment with a more considered service than was available from the multitude of hi-fi shops which, at the time, thronged the main road.
Since that time the audio industry has changed and many dealers have struggled or closed. Hi-fi today, for most people, means an iPhone dock or a set of powered speakers. Despite those challenges, on a recent visit to London I was interested to see that the Cornflake Shop lives on; in fact, they have just opened a new showroom called the Art of Technology, Realised and whose window declares “The Smart App-artment”.
I could not resist a visit. Inside it has a striking animated graphic projected on the wall and framed artefacts – a typewriter, an old tape recorder.
I chatted with them about the state of the audio industry and was told that the their business had transitioned to something more like automating the home, but still with a strong element of home entertainment; they aim to have every installation include a fine music system. However they will still sell you just a CD player or a pair of loudspeakers if you ask, and now intend to renew their focus on high-end audio alongside the other things they do.
Go downstairs and a series of subterranean showrooms demonstrate various home environments.
The back room, if that is the right word, is amazing; racks of networking gear, home entertainment controllers, music and video servers. They use Sonos for multi-room audio and Kaleidoscope, which lets you legally rip Blu-Ray to a server, for video.
Would someone really have something like this in their home, I asked? Oh yes was the answer.
Then it was time to listen to some music. These striking Martin Logan loudspeakers from the Reserve ESL series combine electrostatic drivers for the mid-range and treble with a conventional sub-woofer.
Spot the valve amplifier. What on earth are valves doing in an ultra-modern home entertainment setup? The answer is simply that they like the sound. There is an element of retro here.
We played a couple of tracks, selected from an iPad app, and a music video, for which a large screen slid elegantly into view. It sounded good but I did not stay long enough to be able to comment in detail.
The Cornflake Shop always had its own individualistic and slightly quirky approach and it is great to see that this continues. You will get something stylish for your money that will deliver high quality home entertainment. But how much back-end kit do you need in the modern home? If you are looking for the minimum amount of wires and the smallest amount of equipment, this might not be the place for you.