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Melbourne's secret hi-fi superstore

Gerardo Borbolla on Scopio
(Image credit: Scopio)
Sound+Image mag review

Sound+Image

(Image credit: Future)

This review originally appeared in Sound+Image magazine, one of What Hi-Fi?’s Australian sister publications. Click here for more information on Sound+Image, including digital editions and details on how you can subscribe.

So we've been aware for several years now that Rio Sound & Vision in Melbourne is in the process of building a monumental new hi-fi store. 

The big reveal is planned for November 2021, but they’re still keeping it all largely under wraps at present, other than releasing a teaser video (below) - which is rather like a 'lyric video', giving little away but containing some key bullet-points, including confirmation of a whacking 3,000 square metres of space, with more than 20 demonstration rooms including seven THX theatres, plus a ‘Platinum Bar’ and a ‘VIP sky bar’. 

So for our regular 'Talking Shop' series in Sound+Image, we asked Rio Sound & Vision’s manager Rob Surace how much more he could tell us. And, well, he's clearly under tight instruction to keep schtum... 

SOUND+IMAGE: These are grand plans indeed – how long have you been working on this, and when will it open?

Rob Surace: Paul [Riachi] began the design phase when he bought the building back in 2013, getting a team of architects, set designers, and retail flow managers involved. Paul had kept all the details and designs a complete secret – he likes to keep the surprises coming; there’s never a dull moment here!

S+I: Talk us briefly through the rooms.

RS: Would love too, but we’ve all signed strict NDAs. All I can say it’s big, it’s classy, and there is something for everyone. We wanted to keep in mind those who have an affordable budget and those who can go extreme, and we believe we’ve covered everything. I personally had control of what goes where and what works best with brands and set-up. I have to say everything sounds and looks amazing.

S+I: Who do you see as your customers? Will it be predominantly walk-in, or appointment-based?

RS: We believe everyone is a potential customer. We get excited if we sell a
$50 cable, so we don’t put value on our clients; we treat everyone the same, and we just love what we do. Having been with Paul for more than 11 years and knowing what he expects, the level of detail, I guess we want to keep all clients inspired and wanting to buy from RIO.

S+I: Given your extensive online operation, how important do you regard auditioning a product before purchase?

RS: Our online operation is phenomenal, yes, and it’s still growing by the month. But there’s nothing like experiencing what you have been reading or dreaming about, by visiting a mind-blowing showroom that not only presents well but performs above your expectations. 

We believe auditioning is crucial, as most reviewers online are either biased or have no real experience… you can’t hear speakers online and compare, you can’t see the world’s best TV online and then buy… you really need to experience it. And this is where we believe RIO has taken it to another level. 

Our showroom is designed to take you on a journey, experiencing the quality of what we sell. We’ll have all models on display operational, and with the true-to-life installations we’ll have, you’ll know exactly what you will be getting and how it will look in your home.

Spendor D9.2

Rob Surace with Spendor's D9.2 floorstanders - but NOT pictured in the new store... (Image credit: RIO Sound&Vision)

S+I: Can you identify a couple of things – products or technologies – in audio or AV which are exciting you at present?

RS: To be honest it’s hard – we have some of the very best brands in the world available. However we do love Spendor! Amazing sound and, like another of our speaker brands, Canton, they make everything from the cabinet to the terminals. Spendor is one of those products you must audition, and when you do there is nothing like them. I can’t overstate how excited we are to have these speakers.

Then there’s M&K Sound, hands down the best cinema speakers, and in the new store we’ll have seven THX theatre rooms, all running some serious Krell processing and amplification. 

The new Loewe Bild V and S TVs are also surreal – just when you think you’ve seen the highest quality in picture, Loewe takes it to another level.

As I say we are just humbled to be around some of these amazing brands. Every month we’re getting new toys, and you will be hearing about them I’m sure. But let’s just say for now that the new RIO store will be the new ‘Disney Land’ for audio-visual in Australia!

Jez Ford

Jez is the Editor of Sound+Image magazine, having inhabited that role since 2006, more or less a lustrum after departing his UK homeland to adopt an additional nationality under the more favourable climes and skies of Australia. Prior to his desertion he was Editor of the UK's Stuff magazine, and before that Editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and before that of the erstwhile Audiophile magazine and of Electronics Today International. He makes music as well as enjoying it, is alarmingly wedded to the notion that Led Zeppelin remains the highest point of rock'n'roll yet attained, though remains willing to assess modern pretenders. He lives in a modest shack on Sydney's Northern Beaches with his Canadian wife Deanna, a rescue greyhound called Jewels, and an assortment of changing wildlife under care.