There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when purchasing a stereo involved magic, conversation, research, and dealing with weird but friendly audiophiles in cluttered spaces smelling of solder that seemed more like workshops than showrooms. These days you go to some corporate warehouse where the latest Mel Gibson movie is blasting and a pimply-faced youth is trying to sell you a dodgy warranty that might cover the cost of a broken fuse. But the old coven of rumpled hi-fi freaks still exists at The Sound Well, which is only open Friday through Sunday. In a smallish storefront the speakers and tuners and amps and phonographs (yes, record players
) are stacked higgledy-piggledy. The incredibly helpful and relaxed audio techies will happily take the time to explain the virtue of one piece of equipment over another, imparting nuggets of wisdom like the heavier the amp, the more likely it's a good buy. Here, apparently, hernias are a good thing, and they're willing to repair old components that most places would laugh at. Indeed, these guys all look like they stepped right out of 1979, haircuts and all. But that's part of the Well's charm. So are the prices: $150 will buy a really nice amp, and speakers go from $80 and up. And if you trade up to a pricier component within six months of your original purchase, they'll give you full value.