Clearly no one told Durban’s Mike Blake that turning a hobby into a business is a bad idea- or he ignored them while enjoying his lp records.
Blake’s first career as a quantity surveyor progressed to property development, but property wasn’t the only thing Blake started developing.
In 2005 the avid music lover was frustrated when he was asked to pay upfront for a phono stage (a component that goes between an amplifier and a record player) with no demo available before placing his order.
He approached manufacturer Manley Laboratories and, to cut a long story short, became their Southern Africa agent. The first order saw Blake with $50 000 worth of equipment at home and a low-key audio business, while still making strides as a property developer.
He opened The Listening Room, South Africa and things grew very quickly around some esteemed products: Manley Labs, Vandersteen loudspeakers, Sugden amplifiers, the iconic Michell turntables (as owned by Apple Inc’s Steve Jobs) and legendary Koetsu cartridges – all of which remain The Listening Room’s core products.
The opening of a Cape Town branch under Rodney Mckelvey in the Cape Quarter has been a success. In addition, Blake showcases his equipment nationwide and The Listening Room has grown into one of Southern Africa’s major importers of specialist audio equipment. Like many who have followed their own path, Blake encourages people to follow their passion, their dream. He did. “My mum threw me out of the house” he reminisces. “She said either the stereo goes or I go with it. So I went”.
Choose from some of the best digital or analogue equipment, but look elsewhere for surround sound and video packages. The Listening Room is a great place to enjoy a fine cup of coffee and fine music on superb equipment in a relaxed environment. No hard sell. Blake quietly builds relationships and happy clients may market his wares more forcefully than he does. And those clients are from Mozambique, Nigeria, and further afield- like Portugal, Australia and France. Music- and good equipment that delivers it- is a universal language.
The most recent addition to the stable is Kronos, with the Kronos Pro turntable retailing for about R990 000.00. A pair of Egglestonworks Ivy loudspeakers (many found in the world’s best recording studios) will set you back around R2 500 000.00.
On the more affordable end of the spectrum? Grado headphones, hand built in Brooklyn, New York and amongst the finest in the world, became an addition to The Listening Room line-up in 2016. Grado started working with wood decades ago- even exploring the sonic properties of whiskey barrels- and their latest product is the Hemp Headphones.