Many years ago, when I was a kid living in Montreal, my parents owned an electronic store. I remember every day after school, I would come to the store and play with all the gadgets. I’d listen to music, tinker with the various speakers and amplifiers, and even close myself up in the theatre room and watch Home Alone on full blast while eating candy. So, I do know a thing or two about high- end electronics. #memories
A few weeks ago, I got an email from David Lalin, CEO/owner/head sales person of the “Audio Doctor” a high end audio/video company based in The Heights. Dave invited me over to experience “cool technology” and hear his story. I walked up to the address Dave gave me and realized I was in a residential area… I stopped in front of a brownstone…. not a store front. This wasn’t what I was expecting! I stood in front and put my ear on the door, and I heard was really loud music. I knew I was at the right place.
I simply can’t make this shit up. Dave, aka the “Audio Doctor” is a character. He is so passionate and extremely knowledgeable about his business. The moment you walk into his home he takes you on an audio/visual tour you’ll never forget. I was there for two hours and I felt like a kid again. I listened to music, watched parts of movies and tinkered with all the cool electronics. Dave provides a level of service you really can’t get anywhere nowadays like in the typical “big box stores.” I go to Best Buy to look for earphones, for example, and the salesperson barely looks at me or says “Hello.” Like. what the hell is that?! If you are in the market for an entertainment system, checking out the Audio Doc is a must.
What’s your name? My name is Dave Lalin.
What do you you do? I am the president and owner of Audio Doctor, which is a full service, high-end audio and video company. We do high performance sound systems which range from $1,000 to over a quarter of a million dollars.
Wow. How long have you owned this business? Over 30 years.
I didn’t realize when we set up this interview that I was going to visit a home and not a storefront…. Can you elaborate on that? Instead of putting money towards store rent, we can put that money into product selection. We actually have the most diverse selection of high performance electronics, audio/video products, headphones, amplifiers and speakers on the east coast. We are also specialists in architecture-friendly audio, which means we can hide the audio/video products in plain sight and they look great. We make custom television mirrors, which is a hidden television inside… we can do circles, triangles, ovals… any kind of frame we custom build them. We also have speakers disguised as artwork, and in many different sizes; we even have speakers made out of glass.
This is a speaker? Wow! The other thing we do is specialize in retrofit installation. We run wires and we paint patch plaster, which makes us also a fabrication shop. In fact, we were just featured in Rev Run’s [from Run DMC] renovation where we designed, built and fabricated a room for him which can be seen on the DIY Network.
Are you in that episode? Yes I am! we did everything there.
How many people work for Audio Doc? I have about three people… programmers, installers, and in terms of sales–it’s all me.
How did you get into such a specific field of interest? I started playing with electronics at age three. I lived in a very middle class home and at that time people actually built their electronics, since most couldn’t afford the expensive brands. “Audio” was more of a hobbies industry. My dad built a really good mid-fi system at that time, which in this day would be worth around $5,000 or more. But because it was a kit and you built it yourself, it was much less expensive. As a 3-year-old I was fascinated by the equipment and drawn to it. By age 5 I had a “reel to reel”, I had a compact cassette at 7, a compact system at 13; all that time I was very unhappy with how it sounded–it didn’t sound like real music to me. In my head and my heart, I thought, “something has got to be better.”
When I was 13, the system I had was really good. It had a turntable built in, a cassette tape in the front—it was a Fischer, which was a really good brand. So then I said, “Ok, I gotta go with separates” and I went with a separate receiver. I kept adding more equipment to get the sound I wanted, and all the magazines I was reading at the time weren’t giving me good advice. No one was telling me how to get things to sound real. When I got my driver’s license, I drove past a high-end audio store and there I saw American and European equipment quality.
When I heard my first high-end audio system, it was my lightning strike, my epiphany. When you first discover something that’s really good…and changes you forever.
At what point did you decide to open your own shop? Well after I found out about high end audio, and I started buying and pursuing it…. and putting together systems. That was at 17, I became someone that was concerned with the quality of sound. What eventually happened, I got my degree in English, I went to the University of Massachusets and I was going to go into copyriting… while I was going to school I had a killer sound system in my dorm. I also worked part time at a mid-fi store. I decided to come back to New Jersey and find a job in advertising… but I couldn’t find anything. One day I walked passed this audio store…. and I started working there. I went from starting there, to becoming the top sales person for years.
I then worked for another company and long story short…I turned my house into a private store 10 years ago. I was very unhappy with the level of service that these companies I was working for were interested in. One day, it was close to closing time and a gentleman came in who was impeccably dressed, a young executive. He said “I want to buy a $25,000 sound system”, this guy was interested in buying a really good system…. and you have to interview people “How big is your room? What’s your interest in music? Do you like bigger speakers etc…” so we started picking out a system for him. The manager came and and asked “Is this guy buying today?” and I said “no he can’t buy today, he just came in. Can we stay open another 30 minutes?” and the manager said “no, get him out of here….” So I had to escort him to the door, and the guy never came back.
I was mortified. In my opinion these are high performance luxury goods you don’t need, you want them. So if someone comes in because they care about this stuff you work for them. In the case of my business we are totally private. Part of the reason is so we can say “Wanna come at 8am, I’m open. Want to come at 9pm at night we’re open…. 6am we’re open….” As long as we have that window of opportunity and we are here, we are going to accommodate people. When you are a private by appointment boutique, it’s about serving the client rather than just turning more gear and more numbers.
Let’s say I call you and make an appointment. Tell me about the experience of coming here…Normally, we would interview people…. ask them questions of what they want and are looking for. For example, if you have a really large room you need a bigger pair of speakers to fill up the room… if you like to play very loud, you might need a different amplifiers. We have amplifiers which are streaming… you can stream via Bluetooth and your phone etc. Some people are more “old school” and don’t want that, they want to use records or CDs. Other people want their whole house wired… every client is different in terms of what makes them happy. Then we will put together a system for them… we try to tailor what they are looking for to their needs.
If someone tells you they prefer hip hop music for example will you taylor a system accordingly? Sure, if you listen to hip hop you are going to want a speaker that has more base. That is going to play louder…
What do you listen to? I listen to everything. Sam Phillips, Chloe Barnett… if you listen to WFMU, those are the types of artists that I listen to. I used to be an avid record collector and CD collector. My taste in music is really eclectic.
Why are you called the Audio Doctor? Because we make house calls! Take two speakers and call me in the morning–haha. Well, the concept is that we aren’t afraid. If someone calls me and says, “My sound system doesn’t sound good,” we will come check it out.
Do you fix electronics? We don’t really, because when you are dealing with electronics, fixing is sometimes silly. If something is ten years old you should get a new one. The term “doctor” – there are two types of doctors… it could be someone you consult with because they have knowledge… but they are a specific expert in their field and they are working to better your health, your life and to improve things.
Can you give me a tour? Sure. This first room, these are high performance micro speakers. These are perfect for a lot of apartment dwellers who don’t have a lot of space….. they start at much lower price points.
Wow. This room is crazy!!! There is more equipment in this room then in most audio stores.
Crazy!! Wait till you listen to the audio quality.
Oh my gosh. Look at this movie theater!! this is incredible. It’s like MTV Cribs!!
How long have you been in Jersey City? Since 93.
Favorite JC Hangout spot? Mod Cup, Do You Tea? on Summit, we love Gino’s…. Jersey City is changing now.
How do you feel about the change? I really like it! I live in a home, and I am 15 minutes away from the city…. it has everything I want.
Anything else you want people to know about the Audio Doctor? If you are considering any type of home entertainment systems from relatively inexpensive…. to wanting to experience what real entertainment is about, we are the place to go to. We are one of the few companies that if you move into a new space we can not only mount the television, we can put the electrical in the wall, we can wire up the whole place for surround sound. It’s the whole gamut of entertainment. We want people to consider us when they are thinking about quality home entertainment. We are the place in Jersey City to go.