Friday, August 22, 2014

A Slice of Analog Heaven: Audio Renaissance in Rochester

Ever since Craig Sypnier of Audio Renaissance in Rochester, New York became an Opera dealer a couple of years ago, it seems like he's been apologizing about his tiny, humble store--or "my little room" as he often calls it. It's taken a while for Colleen and I to visit him and see it for ourselves, and we finally had a chance during our current tour of our Northeastern dealers. Craig's been doing well with Opera--he prefers the entry level bookshelf Mezza since it fits his small space so well. (He's also a dealer for our Carot One line.) During our visit, however, I realized that I had never heard the Mezzas sound so great. Craig definitely attends to the details and really knows how to dial in the sound of our favorite bookshelf monitors.

Audio Renaissance is little off the beaten path. Located at the rear of an industrial park, you can barely spot the signs from the outside. You walk in through a common door on the outside of the building, and the store is located just on the left. You can't even see the inside of the store until you walk in through a single glass door, but once you do you'll be pleasantly surprised at the warmth and coziness of Craig's little room. To put it succinctly, Audio Renaissance resembles an audiophile's heavily stocked listening room, full of records and equipment and lots of album covers on the walls. It really doesn't feel like a store--it just feels like a great place to hang out. If I lived in the Rochester area, I'd be visiting Craig and listening to records with him whenever I could.

In other words, Audio Renaissance is far from a typical high-end retail store. You'll find plenty of turntables there from the likes of SOTA, J. A. Michell, Pro-Ject, Thorens and more, a wide selection of cartridges from Grado, Ortofon, Dynavector, Lyra and Denon and cleaning accessories from Nitty Gritty, Audio Desk Systeme and more...and lots and lots of vinyl. You won't see countless racks of equipment, however; Craig is fairly loyal to the underrated yet spectacular amplification from Belles. There's a good reason for that--Belles has long been one of the best-kept secrets in audio. Over the years I've known plenty of audiophiles who have only had Belles amps in their systems because nothing else is quite as musical and satisfying.

After spending an afternoon listening to LPs on Craig's main system that included a Belles amp and preamp, our Opera Mezza speakers and both Michell Gyrodec SE and SOTA Sapphire turntables, I can safely say that I agree with Craig wholeheartedly about the quality of sound he achieves in his store.

One of the most remarkable things about the system is just how quiet and pristine his records are. He owes it all to the ultrasonic record cleaner from Audio Desk Systeme. "I can't believe you haven't tried ultrasonic record cleaning," he said to me. "Once you try it, you'll never go back." I have to admit that the results are astonishing, and if I had the money I would buy the Audio Desk Systeme in a heartbeat. If you're in the Rochester area, Craig will clean your records ultrasonically for just $5 a piece. It's a bargain.

I wish there were more audio stores like Audio Renaissance. It's the kind of a store that takes me back to my early days as an audiophile and vinyl lover, where I'd hang out at local record stores and listen to LPs all day. It's a tiny, humble little store, but it's a must-see for any analog enthusiast.

You can check out Audio Renaissance's website for more info, or you can just call Craig at 585-272-7898 or email him at

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