High Fidelity in Wilmslow

Wilmslow's premier venue for Hi-Fi aficionados used to be "The Transistor Centre" in Green Lane - this became "The Hi-Fi Centre" when it went up-market in the 1970's. It sold a wide range of expensive hifi's from the likes of Quad & B&O. The demonstration room upstairs was a dense jumble of loudspeakers, amps and turntables and customers had to be careful where they put their feet. The dem room was christened "Studio One" in a further up-market move.

They had an interesting bargain & secondhand window. I believe it closed around 1985 when the owner retired. The shop now sells PCs - perhaps a sign of where the disposable income is going these days?

The advert is from 1974 when B&O had just introduced their latest surround sound hi-fi system with remote control & an appearance that would look up-to-date today.

Then there was Wilmslow Audio in a building round the back of Swan Street, making & selling loudspeaker kits. The exotically-named Van Karen Publishing operated from the same address, offering books on high fidelity loudspeaker-making. Wilmslow Audio later opened a retail shop across the road in Church Street. Around 1990 they transferred to near Knutsford, continued to expand, and then to Broughton Astley outside Leicester, but still keep the Wilmslow name. Wilmslow Audio belonged to Swifts of Wilmslow.

Swifts of Wilmslow was the other hi-fi retailer, in a long thin shop on Swan Street. The owner must have moved in elevated circles as I recall being regaled with a story of his visit to Buckingham Palace. Swifts started life in 1966 at Styal Mill as Swift Teleservice, before moving to Swan Street from 1971 to 1983 when they moved to very large & swish premises in St Ann's Parade. I think they could never make full use of all that space and the shop later transferred to more modest premises further down the Parade, which started with Hi Fi and then began to sell PCs as well. It has recently undergone another change and - although the sign outside is still the same - in 2003 it became HiFi4Less selling hifi over the internet at discount prices, still run by two long-time Swifts staff who have managed to survive through evolving their business.

The advert is taken from a 1979 Hi-Fi News: a time when Philips were still developing the compact disc and a pair of Castle Richmond II loudspeakers cost £75. Twenty-five years later hifi4less were selling Castle Richmond IIIs for £279 a pair.

There were also shops such as Rumbelows selling audiovisual stuff but these would never be classed as hi-fi and in any case all have closed.

The main purpose of hi-fi used to be to listen to records. For younger readers, these are like CDs only larger, black, and the "record player" has a needle instead of a laser. Wilmslow was also fortunate to host Rare Records which had a huge selection of music in all categories except "pop". They published records as well as selling them and from small premises in Church Street they moved to what used to be the foyer of the Rex Cinema, alongside the bookshop, till the bookshop closed in favour of a (higher rent paying) furniture showroom. Yes they did sell CDs when they became popular!

And now coming sort of full circle B&O have their own shop in the town, on the site of (at one time) 'Our Price' records.

PS no-one's still on the same number as in the ads above so don't try phoning!