Tivoli Hi-Fi has been operating in Melbourne since 1973, and on its present site since 1990. But over the last two years it has undergone major renovations, and finally all is complete, freshly decorated and themed, the rooms sound-treated and ready for inspection. 

So whether you’re looking for a new system or just keen to see the store’s new approach, Tivoli Hi-Fi is inviting you to head down to the Camberwell Shopping Precinct (full address 155-157 Camberwell Rd, Hawthorn East, VIC 3123) for a visit. We asked Tivoli’s Geoff Haynes why the big changes, and what were they trying to achieve?

Geoff Haynes: We want people to come here, we’re inviting them to experience Tivoli Hi-Fi and the ideas we've now put in place. Come and see what we do, see Tivoli as you've never seen it before. And we will take them on a tour of the store. This latest renovation, the way that the McIntosh room looks, for example, is unique. So come and visit. 

Sound+Image: You’ve cleaned up your list of brands as well?

GH: Well the brand mix now is phenomenal. We realised as we looked around the store, there was some confusion. We understand that our position, our job as a specialist store, is to help guide people into a decision and into the right products. We have the opportunity of listening to a lot of products, and certain things represent great value for money, while other products become kind-of also-rans. In our mid-priced hi-fi, for example, we had six brands all doing exactly the same thing. So in consolidating, we've made the store much easier for the consumer to use, and we’ve gone for greater depth in the products that we carry, almost as a single room per brand. So when a person looks round, they can more of a full-brand immersion. 

S+I: And this can also help prevent that feeling of facing overwhelming brand profusion?

GH: It really does. We've looked at the brands that make the most sense to us based on our way of choosing products, which means that they need to be established, they need to be reliable, and of course they need to sound absolutely terrific. And they need to represent great value for money —  which doesn't mean cheap, it means that within the price point it represents a better solution for somebody than another product. You get what you're paying for, rather than bells and whistles and whatever else. 

So we've set up a Bowers & Wilkins room, a Linn room, a Bang & Olufsen room, a B&W 800 and PS Audio room with Artnovian room acoustics. Talking of acoustics, we've also changed our approach to room treatment, using the difference between absorbers and diffusers, how they change the sound of the room and have made our listening spaces so much more exciting — larger, sonically. And can present a better appearance as well.

S+I: And you’ve themed some of the rooms directly to the brand, like the loft space for McIntosh, which is very New York. That shows quite a long-term investment in the brand. 

GH: Yes, it does. There were some brands even in that price point that we didn't feel were the right ones for us moving forward. To be able to dedicate a space to McIntosh, as we have, we've had terrific responses from our clients who have felt immersed in the brand.

S+I: So take us through the rooms one by one.

GH: Okay, so starting downstairs, we have a Bowers & Wilkins room. It has a comparator of all of the 600 Series and 700 Series. It has an in-built flush-mount home cinema speaker system. And in the coming weeks it's going to have an in-wall speaker comparator as well.

S+I: Yes, we've seen one of those in Sydney — very useful for people to be able to hear the in-walls, it's something people can hardly ever do. 

GH: Correct. Unless people just point to the ceiling and say ‘we've got one pair of in-ceiling speakers, there it is’. This way we can take people on a journey. 

S+I: Next room. 

GH: Moving out into the foyer we've actually just put in a coffee machine underneath the stairs and a little bar area so that people can have a conversation with us which isn't in the general hubbub of the counter area. It's also a nice place to wait for us, it's also a nice place for our meetings to occur with our sales reps. And obviously fills the store with the smell of coffee, which is very nice.

GH: Then we go to the Linn room. It's split in two different directions. One's a gallery of all of the products you can buy from Linn, then flip the room around and you sit down in a lounge chair and listen uninterrupted to a Linn system. 

S+I: Are you are you running the Linn network streaming in there?

GH: Yes, we are. And we absolutely love it. It's a great up-market solution over your traditional brands of streamers, and we use it all the time, it sounds absolutely terrific — and the great thing, it works really nicely with other brands. So in the past Linn was always Linn streamers and Linn speakers, but most of the presentations and evenings now that we've done with Linn, people have been blown away by how good it sounds together with, say, the B&W 800 series.

S+I: It's opened up their world, taking all the Neutrik connectors off, making them deliberately more compatible.

GH: Definitely, yes — there are now 2000 speaker brands built into Linn’s Konfig software, so you can physically match it up with any brand of speakers, any model of speakers that you might have. 

S+I: Okay, next room.

GH: Next room is Bang & Olufsen televisions. We used to carry a German brand of television — a number of reasons we don't any more, but we've replaced that room with Bang & Olufsen. We carry every item of Bang & Olufsen, including all their televisions, their Beolab 50 speakers and all of the Bluetooth and wireless speakers they do as well.

S+I: Fantastic. Okay, next room

GH: So we now go upstairs and wander through our gallery. Our gallery used to have lots of additional new high-end audio, but we’ve decided to cull that down, and now it displays our trade-ins, all the bargains that we've got. We sell these on our website, on eBay — we only use eBay for secondhand stuff — and we’ll ship these all over the country.

GH: So then coming off that room, we have our 'empty nesters' room [above]. So when the kids have left home, and dad or mum says I've got no room to have a music system, here we present a room about the size of a straightforward kids' bedroom and we’ve put a great hi-fi system into it. It's acoustically treated, a great little space where you can have bookshelf speakers, a music streamer, a turntable, whatever else.

S+I: Next one.

GH: Wandering through the corridor, we turn a dog-leg and we've set up a little space just to demonstrate active speakers. We think there’s a great market for active speakers, it’s a great deal of the new future of our industry.

S+I: Absolutely agree. Do people understand immediately the advantages of an active speaker? 

GH: If they don't, then we're very concise in being able to explain that to them, and because every room is demonstrable in this place, when they hear it, they're blown away by it. And such value for money. The ones that we're currently demonstrating are the Dynaudios, and they're great value for money. 

S+I: Alright, back out of the dog-leg, where next?

GH: So now we go into what we call Studio Two, which has always traditionally been our Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series room. It's had the room acoustics changed, so it used to have sound absorbers in it, now it's got Artnovian sound diffusion. It sounds absolutely terrific. It's transformed the way that James and myself have always listened to the B&Ws, so much more detail and clarity, rather than the room sucking all the performance out of it, as has happened in the past. It's a terrific-sounding room right now.

S+I: It looks really nice as well — is Studio 2 a reference to Abbey Road, or was that just a coincidence?

GH: Actually just a coincidence, but we'll take it!

S+I: And where next? 

GH: The high-end room, we call it Studio One. It has some beautiful Thrax equipment, a Dohmann Helix turntable, and some Dynaudio Evidence Platinum speakers. The room is set up with Artnovian diffusers, the traditional blocky ones, and what it does to the soundstage, what it does to the staging of the artist is incredible. As you sit on the couch, singers sing directly at you, it sounds brilliant.

S+I: Now back to the gallery?

GH: Back through the gallery and through the pink door. And the pink door is a copy of half of the door that leads to McIntosh's townhouse in Soho. 

S+I: Half of a copy?

GH: So the McIntosh townhouse in New York has two big metal double doors; we only have a single door, so we've taken half of the image. It's a picture of half of a wolf...

S+I: And you've got a New York mural embedded into the arch here, it looks fantastic. Tell me more.

GH: So all the elements of the room are drawn from that McIntosh loft. So the loft has one of only five indoor swimming pools in Manhattan, and when you walk in you're looking straight into the swimming pool. So we've taken that image and that's now our window, that's why you've got the blue thing there. And then we've taken the stairways, we've concreted the walls, and it makes it an experience — people need to walk into it and have a look. The equipment in here is all McIntosh, and we've coupled all the Macintosh with our choice of speakers to go with McIntosh, which is Dynaudio. 

GH: Then if we turn around, we can go out through the record rack — a bookcase with records on it, but it's a secret doorway which leads into a 'home theatre lounge', where we do Arcam and DefTech. We have a selection of four packages to make life easier for people to choose a home theatre system. It's all based around the television and Definitive Technology speakers. So it's just a nice, straightforward simple room.

GH: And then we walk into the Cinema. And the Cinema has a 135-inch anamorphic screen, Sony projector, and Dolby Atmos with Denon, McIntosh or Arcam power, and Definitive Technology speakers. 

S+I: And is this designed as more of an experience for people so they can see what you can do in the custom environment, or are you're recommending bits of equipment?

GH: Yes, it's more so people can see what we can do, and then we will build a system around them. We can build a home theatre system from, say, seven grand installed up to whatever the person wants to achieve.

S+I: What other projectors do you offer? You have the Sony installed... 

GH: Yes, we tend to have the Sonys, Epson, and Vivitek. 

S+I: So whichever the install deserves in terms of sizing, brightness... 

GH: Correct. And we can control all of those systems from upstairs with Control4.

The tour complete, we left Geoff Haynes to his customers. His invitation to visit Tivoli Hi-Fi’s new-look store is open-ended; give them a call, or just turn up.

You can visit tivolihifi.com.au for all contact details and to see their latest news and events. 

Images & 3D visualisations: https://barneymeyer.com/