Reference Audio has been designed and purposed as a Destination Store for lovers of music and audio equipment. We are located just off the High Street in Witham, Essex where we have five demo rooms and 15 private customer parking spaces to make your visit enjoyable from the very moment you arrive. We specialise in stereo and multi-channel audio systems with our three First Floor demo rooms designed specifically for two channel music reproduction with rooms designed and sized to match typical living room environments.
On the Ground Floor our Reference Room has been designed to demonstrate the very best two channel systems available anywhere in the UK. Also on the Ground Floor we have a dedicated Home Cinema room specialising in multi-channel surround sound where we have a 7.1.4 and Dolby Atmos system permanently on demonstration.
All our products have been carefully selected by Bob and Adam with the specific aim of helping you find the right equipment for your lifestyle whilst enjoying great coffee and relaxing in our two reception areas.
Bob’s Hi-Fi Journey
It all started for me when my dad purchased one of those single box record players that could stack and play a number of singles in one session, I can’t remember the make, but it was in a portable blue square suitcase box with a lid, it must have been the mid 60’s because I remember visiting Tottenham Court Road soon after to buy several Beatles albums. It was soon replaced by a stereo radiogram in a long wooden cabinet that had an amplifier, record player, cassette deck and tuner all in one box that stood on tall legs and had speakers at each end, made I think by Fergusson. It got me hooked on stereo and this would have been 1971 because T-Rex had just released Electric Warrior and I listened to it endlessly via headphones connected to the radiogram. In those days turntables were mostly still called record players.
It was 1975 when I purchased my first separates components HI-Fi system from a small shop near Bell Corner in Walthamstow called Speakers Corner. It was pretty much entry level high-end for the time comprising Celef Monitor speakers, Armstrong 600 series amp and tuner and a Dual turntable and soon after I added a Tandberg TCD 310 cassette deck which I could hang on my bedroom wall. This system lasted a few years and during that time I experimented with rear channel effects by adding a pair of Videotone Minimax speakers wired to give rear channel ambiance using a Hafler effect set up that that sent the difference between left and right stereo channels to the rear speakers. It sounded great and I’m not sure why we all stopped doing this, it’s like free 4 channel setup but without the hassle, and the proper quadrophonic effect if I’m honest. But eventually this system gave way to a complete Sharp Optonica setup which I loved for all the buttons and lights, but it didn’t sound great.
Then in 1978 I went to college (only really clever people went to Uni in those days) to study Architecture and in 1979 I spent most of my first year’s grant (yes we got paid to go to College or Uni in those days) on a complete Toshiba Aurex System 15 system including two stereo power amps that could be bridged into monoblocs and their ADRES noise reduction system, I still have that system and it all works except the cassette deck, not bad after more than 40 years.
It’s fair to say that I have always been a sucker for good looking as well as good sounding well-made hi-fi separates and for some reason monobloc amps have always featured in my most memorable systems (Aurex System 15, Meridian series 200 and 600, Denon POA 6600, Muse Model 300, Nestorovic NA-1, McIntosh MA 1201 and Michi M8’s).
After college I returned to work in London as a newly qualified architect and not too long after that Meridian launched their 200 series of shoebox sized components and I just had to buy them. What was not to like – a one manufacturer compact system with monobloc amps. I bought the whole system. I did eventually upgrade to their full 600 series including the now rare tuner and even rarer ADC but was not so taken with their later 500 series, so I gave it a miss. Unfortunately, I no longer own those fine 600 series products, but I do again have a full 200 system purchased on the second-hand market and set up as my second home system.
I used to buy a lot of second-hand equipment but that was in the days before eBay so it was all from small adds in magazines and from specialist second-hand dealers where you could see before you buy. I have three regrets from those times for not buying when offered to me second hand, a Nagra reel to reel tape deck that had the 10.5” reel adaptors fitted, the Primare 928 system of amplifiers (Google it, it was truly amazing kit and now highly sought after) and a Trio/Kenwood L-07D turntable, all long in the past now.
I’ve had a few turntables in the past but sold all my vinyl when CD was launched in 1983 and have only dabbled with it since but I don’t currently own a turntable and to be honest I never really missed it. I was definitely an early adopter of CD purchasing two of the very first decks available in the UK, the Marantz CD63 and the Toshiba XR-Z90 a front-loading deck and you’ve guessed it, I still have both of them in working condition. Since then, I’ve owned CD and SACD players from Meridian, Marantz, Esoteric, Wadia, Sony etc. I was also an early adopter of DAT tape recorders and Minidisc and used both extensively.
I have owned many sets of speakers including three different electrostatic pairs, one set by Soundlab and two from Martin Logan - CLS and Renaissance 15A. More conventional speakers have included many models from KEF including 104/2 with Kube, 107’s and Blades and I still own a mint set of 104/2’s one of the last pair off the production line. I’ve had Sonus Faber Cremona, Wilson Audio Sophia and B&W 800 D3 but not many bookshelf speakers although I have owned models from Wilson Benesch, ProAc Tablets and more than one pair of LS3/5A’s.
I have always been interested in FM Tuners and currently own around 10 different ones mostly from the 70’s and 80’s when manufacturers were able to build some really good tuners, but today streamed radio is probably better than FM and with greater choice. Reel to Reel tape recorders have also been a passion of mine and at times I’ve owned 3 or 4 at the same time. I currently have a Teac X-2000M and a Revox B77 MKII half-track high speed machines in regular use, but I’ve owned many others from Revox, Tandberg and Sony as well. I remember many years ago visiting the Sony shop in Lower Regents Street in London where they had a whole line up of Reel to Reel tape machines, I was in fantasy land.
And today my system is still evolving and I’m trying hard to take it forward having seen so many people go round and round in circles but never really going up the ladder and often ending up on a lower rung than where they started (sound familiar?). My current system includes Gryphon amplification, Marten speakers, Innuos streamer, PS Audio DAC and a good old Sony CD player from the late 90’s.
I retired from full time architecture in 2020 after 36 years post qualification practice and have worked in audio retail since then, turning a passion into a new career. But my knowledge and experience go back more than 45 years to that first HI-Fi system purchased in Walthamstow in 1975. I don’t see this journey ending anytime soon, especially now that our new venture at Reference Audio has just launched
Adams Hi-Fi Journey
As with most of these origin stories it starts with what my parents used to listen to. Our house at weekends always had music playing, be it Neil Young, Beatles, Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, Leftfield - the list went on and on. It was the peak of the CD era and we had an entire alcove filled with an Alphabetized collection of CD's. At the time the living room system comprised of a Marantz CD player and a Musical Fidelity integrated amp with a small DAC in between. The speakers were up high on wall brackets and were made by Mordaunt Short, an MS20i if my memory serves me right! These were later changed for some second hand mission speakers, but the key memory will always be the Music, the soundtrack to that period of our families lives.
I bought my first system from a proper HIFI Dealer after having gimmicky convenience HIFI's and the difference, even for the same money was stark. No levitating CD trays or flashing lights, just music delivered in a completely different way. It was a Kenwood Amp and a Yamaha CD player, couldn't have been more than £250 for the whole lot at the time, but it blew me away!
Latterly after a brief dalliance with a Naim system I have settled on the Power and Warmth of a full Mcintosh system. For me, it brings music to life in such a way as to be emotional, involving and powerful. As an Audiophile I know deep down ill never really settle, and opening Reference Audio has bought to my attention so many brands that do so much so very well, we truly are spoilt for choice. We recognise that most folk are on a journey with HIFI. The systems we own may grow as we do, origins may be sensibly priced but musical enjoyment doesn't have an entry fee, and superb results can be gained with both a modest priced system and those that reach well into 6 figures, if your desire and budget takes you there.
I have a background of Car sales, and know how different each customers requirements can be. I hope to extend this expertise into providing systems to delight our customers time and time again.
Mitch’s Hi-Fi Journey
At the age of 8, I remember getting ready to go a primary school disco in my parents’ upstairs bathroom and somehow, Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much came on through two in-ceiling speakers installed by my Dad. I had absolutely no idea how he had done this.
It soon occurred to me that this was also playing in the dining room downstairs. And in the conservatory… and kitchen! In a sideboard in their dining room, lived a Kenwood stack comprising of a power amplifier, preamplifier, tuner and a Pioneer 5 disc CD changer/player. Each side of this sideboard had a large Kenwood speaker, with Mordant-Short M10s being on the walls in the conservatory and some Monitor Audio BR1s being hidden among the plants above the kitchen cupboards. He really knew how to do a tidy job, taking care to hide all cables (probably contributing to a large part of my obsession with cable tidiness).
Years later, when he decided to upgrade to one of the new, wireless multi-room systems he was about to get rid of all of his gear. I just couldn’t let that happen. There was something about cables that intrigued me more than wireless signals floating through the air. I was way more interested in something which seemed like an almost primitive technology.
I brought everything from this system up to my teenage bedroom - speaker switch included (so I could have as many speakers running as possible) and stacked it up on my desk. I had essentially built my own Frankenstein system, learning how to cut and strip cables and which speaker is best placed where. I then realised that I had a stereo system with 6 speakers in it. I then added a Bose computer sound system to it (not even sure how I did that) which meant I had two satellite speakers and a sub woofer. That’s when things really changed.
I could finally listen to the first CD I ever bought - Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ - and feel Tré Cool’s awesome drumming.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a fairly quick upgrade path from that system. I started off with a Yamaha AV Receiver when I moved into my own place, which was powering some Bowers & Wilkins DM602 S3s, with a vintage Technics SL1200 MKII. I even lifted up the carpets to lay wires in the floorboards in order to have no cables visible, which could allow for me to have my turntable on the other side of the room, right next to the sofa. Not sure how happy the landlord would be if he knew this.
I soon got my hands on a powerful Marantz Stereo amplifier to power some Monitor Audio GS20s which is when the penny really dropped. Having to downsize, I realised that if you don’t just go for ‘big’, you can get stunningly accurate and pleasing results. When I first met Adam, he advised me on going for a Naim system with some Bowers & Wilkins 700 series stand mount speakers with a standalone streamer/DAC. This was a real game changer. I still have this system in my bedroom to this day.
Being a huge movie fan, I’ve always been drawn to the illuminated gothic font of the McIntosh Logo and those blue VU meters (I mean, who wouldn’t be?) Seen in countless American films such as The Departed and Magnolia (and also THAT scene from 9 1/2 Weeks.)… A few months back, I took the much needed step to purchase a McIntosh amplifier which I can confidently say will never be regretted. This beast powering a pair of Marten Duke 2s in relatively small room is an absolutely stunning combination. It is a system with a synergy that cannot be put into words. But there’s still a long way to go!
It’s funny when you look back; from being 8 years old and remembering the smell of your father’s aftershave you pinched before rocking up to a primary school disco, wondering how on earth I am hearing my parents’ disco tracks upstairs when the stereo was downstairs… to spending the majority of my time listening to the best music in the world on some of the best systems in the world. I feel very fortunate to be working alongside Adam and Bob for these reasons; the things we share, the things we show each other - hi-fi-wise and music-wise is immense.
I’ve been influenced by many people around me for my music taste. I’ve played the guitar for 15+ years which has forced me to go down the blues rabbit hole, but I must say I do have a general fondness for pre-millennium rock (of all types) but I do occasionally stretch to Dr. Dre when I have a fleeting moment of when I think I’m down with the kids.
Mitch, aged 26.