Monday, April 6, 2020
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Performance, Reliability,

And Peace of Mind

John Sien’s hi-fi story begins as so many other hi-fi stories begin: with his father.

John’s dad was an electrical engineer at a time when good hi-fi was not only a status symbol, but a source of real excitement and fun, a true hands-on pastime. He knew how to get things done—especially when it came to the hi-fi system.

“He and my mother enjoyed music and dancing,” John reflects. “My father purchased or designed a variety of hi-fi equipment so that they could play their records and tapes. I was immersed in music and great-sounding music systems from a very early age.”

It’s no wonder, then, that John Sien continued to enjoy live and recorded music all through college and would go on to eventually become an electronics engineer. However, the road to opening his own hi-fi shop took a somewhat circuitous route and required a real leap of faith.

“I worked in Silicon Valley for many years, gaining extensive experience in international and domestic services, many of which were within the electronics industry,” he explains.

While he and his wife always enjoyed the areas surrounding Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Mountains, John’s job required a great deal of air travel; he commuted by air to work all over the world. And, though he couldn’t have known it at the time, he was traveling toward a future that shared much with his past.

A New Family Business

“We decided to move to the Reno/Tahoe area,” he says. “When the economic bubble popped, most of the audio, video, and system integrators in the area disappeared. Friends who knew me and knew of my interest in audio/video systems asked if I could help them design and build new systems or fix problems with their existing systems.”

Of course, John was happy and eager to help. In a sense, before he had even realized it—basically, right before his eyes—his childhood passion had returned in the form of a new profession.

“I successfully completed a few jobs for friends and neighbors, liked it, and graciously left the corporate world, and, along with it, a life of domestic and international travel.”

In 2008, John and his wife independently founded their new family business—Calibration Consultant LLC, parent to Channels AV, the only high-end audio/video specialty shop with regular business hours in the Northern Nevada/Sierra Mountain region.

A New Family Business

“We decided to move to the Reno/Tahoe area,” he says. “When the economic bubble popped, most of the audio, video, and system integrators in the area disappeared. Friends who knew me and knew of my interest in audio/video systems asked if I could help them design and build new systems or fix problems with their existing systems.”

Of course, John was happy and eager to help. In a sense, before he had even realized it—basically, right before his eyes—his childhood passion had returned in the form of a new profession.

“I successfully completed a few jobs for friends and neighbors, liked it, and graciously left the corporate world, and, along with it, a life of domestic and international travel.”

In 2008, John and his wife independently founded their new family business—Calibration Consultant LLC, parent to Channels AV, the only high-end audio/video specialty shop with regular business hours in the Northern Nevada/Sierra Mountain region.

Starting Small

But stepping away from a fast-paced life and a successful career in the corporate world to pursue a lifelong hobby must have come with real risks, challenges, and at least some amount of trepidation. How did John manage to nurture his dream in the desert?

It seems he made the right move at the right time.

“We started small,” he explains. “This was right around the time the Great Recession bottomed out, so there were few competitors and the only people buying were successful businesspeople, professionals, public-sector entities, and those who were financially secure and/or financially independent.”

But there was more to Channels’ success than mere fortunate timing. And here is where John’s audio background comes into play.

“Of course,” John continues, “having been raised, educated, very aware and articulate about good sound, properly designed systems, high-quality products, proper installation and configuration, audio/video calibrations—everything that goes into a day’s work in this business—we were able to earn a good reputation with enough referrals to grow and generate a respectable profit.”

After a few years in business, John realized, in order to reach their full potential, they would need more space.

Concierge-Level Service

“We needed a facility where we could build and demonstrate our differentiated solutions, so we acquired a building that includes a small shop, assembly bays, office, calibration lab, demo area, and warehouse.”

For several years, John and his wife invested most of their profits directly back into the business, into their shared passion. Their commitment is evident in everything they do.

“We strive to apply our training, skills, knowledge, and resources to provide a concierge-level service to all our customers. Our facility is designed to present an upscale image with a sound and video experience that exceeds all expectations. All of our products are selected and demonstrated in optimized setups with music, video, and equipment that is the best of the best. Prospects and clients leave our showroom knowing that our offers, levels of service, product knowledge, and customer service are at the top of the scale. They can see, hear, and feel the difference when doing business with us.”

AudioQuest: Performance, Value, Reliability
Where does AudioQuest fit into all of this?

John Sien explains: “I initially became acquainted with AudioQuest when a high-end client wanted a 50ft HDMI cable that fully conformed with the then-upcoming HDMI 2.0 standard, which, at the time, had not yet been ratified. AudioQuest offered HDMI cables that met the bandwidth requirements, and we were able to satisfy the client’s wishes with an AudioQuest 50ft HDMI cable. It is still in use today, four years later, and does indeed work with the HDMI 2.0 standard.”

John says that HDMI—the technology itself, as well as the associated cables—had been a thorn in his side for some time. “Not only are the specifications in a constant state of evolution, but there is an ongoing proliferation of HDMI cables from a variety of suppliers with a range of prices and margins that only go in one direction: down. This is confusing to clients. This proliferation gives the impression that HDMI cables are commodity items that are all the same. Of course, they are not and it’s easy to differentiate the AudioQuest product line.”

Acquiring and recommending AudioQuest became an easy decision for Channels AV. “Now, we sell and install all AQ products in every possible application—because they just work,” John says.

But reliability is only one factor that convinced John to work with AudioQuest products. Performance and value are others.

John appreciates the fact that all AudioQuest products, regardless of price, are meticulously designed and manufactured, with the same dedication to delivering an outstanding entertainment experience. While some AudioQuest models are specifically made for the world’s most sophisticated systems and homes, others, such as Pearl, are well within the financial reach of just about anyone with the desire and interest to move beyond the ordinary. According to John, AudioQuest simply makes the highest-quality products with the best dealer margins, providing the best long-term value to his clients and our staff.

He explains: “On two occasions, we needed AQ cables of certain lengths that were not in stock. AudioQuest’s customer service team substituted the next higher-level cables—at no extra cost—so we didn’t have to wait. When we tried the more sophisticated models, we discovered that they offered noticeably better performance, and we are now focused on selling these cables and using them in our showroom.”

We couldn’t believe a speaker cable could make such a positive difference.

—John Sien, Channels AV

Incredible Results with AudioQuest

To John and everyone at Channels AV, performance is defined first by sound quality. The team goes to great lengths to ensure the best possible performance under various circumstances and for all applications.

For instance, John says, “We carry and demonstrate top-of-the-line speakers that sell for as much as $35,000/pair. One of our favorite models is the Revel Salon Ultima2, which sells for $22,000/pair. These are our most demanding speakers. Their impedance goes down to 2.7ohms and they have two internal 24db/octave passive crossovers. In the past, we could only deliver the top-quality sound from these speakers by splitting the crossover and bi-amping with McIntosh and Soaring Audio high-power amps.”

For this particular application, Channels had fabricated special biwire speaker cables with four-conductor speaker wire from a company that unexpectedly went out of business—a challenge that turned out for the best.

John explains: “We worked with our AudioQuest Regional Sales Manager (Krista Haughey) to find a replacement. She recommended AudioQuest’s Tree Series and signed us up to try Oak speaker cables. Not only did we not have to bi-amp the speakers, but we also got noticeably better sound with one set of full-range speaker cables than we got with the bi-amped cables from the other brand.

“Quite frankly,” John continues, “we couldn’t believe a speaker cable could make such a positive difference. The Oak cables allow us to eliminate an $8000 to $12,000 high-end amp and get equivalent sound! They make power amps seem more powerful with better bass and clearer sound, especially when driving speakers with complex crossovers. With our best integrated amp, the Mark Levinson No.585 and the AudioQuest Oak cables, the Revel Salon Ultima2 speakers sound better than anything we’ve ever had in the shop.”

John’s unexpected success with the Revels compelled him to try the AudioQuest Oak cables with some of his other favorite speaker models and share the experience with his customers.

“We next tried the Oak cables on large Mangepans, which are also power-hungry, low-impedance speakers, and we found similar results: noticeably better sound. Ultimately, we found that both speakers sound more open, more spacious, and actually seem as though they’re being driven by more powerful amplifiers when wired with AudioQuest speaker cables. We did speaker wire comparisons with our clients, and they noticed the improvements, too.

“Now, we only use AudioQuest speaker cable to demonstrate high-end speakers and actively sell it to our customers. The results are incredible.”

And John Sien might be just as satisfied with AudioQuest’s people as he is with the company’s products.

“AudioQuest has excellent people,” he says. “Everyone we’ve worked with is supportive, responsive, and knows how to get things done.”

Just like John himself.


For more info on Channels AudioVideo, visit www.channelsav.com or call John Sien at (775) 800-1866 to schedule an appointment. The beautiful showroom is located at 5475 Reno Corporate Drive, near the intersection of Double R and Longley. Hours are 9am to 4pm, Monday through Friday, and noon to 4pm on Saturdays. John’s looking forward to your visit!