Here’s an audiophile dealership that grooves (pun intended!) on building community around Good Sound and offers audiophile products, services and valued advice in a congenial, no hassle atmosphere. Fidelis AV (“Fidelis”) recently moved to a new location in Nashua, New Hampshire (off Route 101A)- an easy one-hour drive from downtown Boston. The listening rooms and space have been renovated from the ground up to create an inviting space to audition gear and listen to music.
Fidelis is owned by Walter Swanbon, one of our region’s most trustworthy and knowledgeable audiophile dealers. Swanbon has been in business for many years and can be counted on to offer the candid pros and cons of audiophile gear from his years of listening to live music; attendance at national and international audio shows and his experience with manufacturers around the globe.
Swanbon and his excellent staff (including store manager Bill Henk) were instrumental in helping me select components for my own listening systems here at bostonconcertreviews. I made the (serious) financial purchase (now almost ten years ago), of a pair of Hansen V.2 Prince loudspeakers from Fidelis. These loudspeakers continue to offer great performance and I am indebted to Fidelis for steering me in the right direction of the Hansen loudspeakers and their dynamic and engaging sound.
The selection of products found at Fidelis have been hand picked by Swanbon and his staff and cover the price waterfront from budget to high end. They sell products for two-channel stereo (including digital and vinyl front end products) to full headphone systems and surround sound and video systems. Customers are encouraged to bring in their own music to audition components and there is always a sense of camaraderie and fun around music with these guys.
A recent visit to Fidelis was, as always, a welcoming and ear-opening experience. First, the community rooted (and friendly atmosphere) of this shop was readily apparent in the large group of audiophiles who had gathered this Saturday afternoon in a “Cam Jam” session to exchange ideas and listen to the latest in headphone gear.
Spread out in Fidelis’ central foyer were several tables lined with headphone gear: solid state and tube based headphone amps (illustrating the great diversity of small, modular amplifiers now on the market); headphones of the latest technologies and custom designs and finally, stacks of headphone cables. People moved from station to station, listening to each system and discussing everything from the latest recommended hi-rez download to the merits of planar-magnetic design headphones. Here was Fidelis at its best: a fulcrum for local people to get together to enjoy music; learn about the latest gear and enjoy each other’s company.
Notice too the back area of Fidelis dedicated to selling used and new vinyl. This is another great reason to visit Fidelis and mine these reasonably priced bins for vinyl treasures. I picked up several such titles on my visit: a classic jazz reissue from the audiophile Pure Pleasure Label (www.purepleasurerecords.com) and a nice Sterling pressing- by mastering guru Robert Ludwig – of a John Mayall classic. New titles come in all the time to Fidelis, making this little corner of vinyl heaven a place to check out regularly.
A final treat was, of course, taking in the music playing in both the large and smaller audition rooms that Fidelis has installed in its new showroom. Clearly, great attention has been paid to room set up and treatments in these listening spaces. For instance, the largest listening room is appointed with a beautiful custom acoustic sound wall created by master carpenter Brooks Tanner (and his company, Resonant Woods www.resonantwoods.com). Tanner is a well-known New Hampshire craftsman who has designed and built many a custom equipment rack or acoustical treatment system for local audiophiles. (I still enjoy listening to a 2007 recording that Brooks passed along to me years ago: a meditative audiophile gem from local reedman Don Davis and pianist Joe Deleault, [along with Eugene Friesen on cello and Glen Velez on percussion], entitled Davis & Deleault [Delvad Music]). Swanbon demonstrated how Tanner’s ingenious wall system could be adjusted on the fly to allow for more or less dampening in this main listening room.
The system playing here was anchored by the beautifully designed electronics of Dan D’Agostino (www.dagostinoinc.com) driving Wilson Audio loudspeakers. Spinning CD’s through a Metronome player offered a sound that was propulsive with great transparency into all the musical action. The source being digital, (as opposed to analog), Ruth Moody’s voice (on her incandescent gem of a recording, These Wilder Things [Red House Records]) was light and airy but a little less soulful and human than heard on my own system. Peter Wolf’s great rollicking duet with Shelby Lynne on “Tragedy” (taken from his eclectic recording Midnight Souvenirs [Verve], was all punch and pizzazz on this kinetic system.
The smaller rooms were also very well appointed, and included on this visit a nice setup of the latest incarnation of the big-boned Harbeth Super HL5 loudspeakers driven by a new Pass integrated amplifier. The sound here was beautifully burnished and deep for such a small footprint of a system with the Harbeth Super HL5 displaying their signature midrange soul and emotion. Ruth Moody and Kat Edmonson (on her bold and beautiful recording Way Down Low [Spinnerette Records- www.katedmonson.com) were fully fleshed out in their individual vocal styles on this inviting small system.
As the Pass amplifier was swept away to take its place in another room for another audition, Swanbon grinned and apologized that the “show must go on!” We are happy that it does with such good humor, integrity and joy (in the music making) at Fidelis AV!
*2017 UPDATE ON MY VISITS TO FIDELIS*:
The friendly and knowledgable current staff at Fidelis, which includes Bill Henk, Jansen Young and Dwight DiMartino, (with Walter Swanbon at the helm), continues to keep this audio dealership a vital place to come for a listen and check out the latest in audio gear for all budgets. One of the great things about this dealership is its environment: always relaxed, filled with information at your fingertips from the staff and nonintrusive to getting to the music and listening to the gear that these guys recommend – without any sales pressure. Conversations go from what vinyl has just come into the store for sale to what concert one of the staff members recently attended. On my recent visit, I was treated to a relaxed listening session involving the latest Wilson Audio loudspeaker, the Alexx (www.wilsonaudio.com) driven by VAC Reference preamplifier and amplifiers (www.vac-amps.com) in Fidelis’ reference listening room. The sound was delectable and I urge readers to get a chance to visit Fidelis just for this opportunity to hear this combination in action. The system delivered a huge and layered soundstage (on recordings that provided it) with the full heft of a layered orchestra (or the intimacy of a singer like Odetta sitting in front of you) in startling image and natural dimensions. The artistry of each player, from the intensity of Keith Richards’ grit and guitar fire to the joyous vocal flourishes from Cecile McLorin Savant, were captured with great presence and tactile detail. The system also captured the acoustic spaces of different recordings with a vitality and presence that I have rarely heard before, from the intimate confines of the Preservation Jazz Hall to the spaciousness of the Orchestra Hall in Minnesota (on the Reference Recording of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances).
On the other side of the budget spectrum, I also had fun listening to some of the latest headphone gear at Fidelis as well as the latest incarnation of a favorite loudspeaker of mine from Harbeth (www.harbeth.co.uk), their Super HL5, again driven here with VAC gear and new cabling from Tellurium Q (www.TelluriumQ.com). The tactile feel of Doug Macleod’s dynamic strums on his acoustic blues guitar and the “heavy air” created from Phil Lesh’s bass guitar (on some Grateful Dead rambles) were ensnared by the new Harbeth Super HL5 loudspeaker in great soulful doses that invited you in to hear all the intimacy and drama of this music.
A trip to Fidelis brings all of these new riches to the ears and a chance to learn more about the latest in what is happening to bring us closer to the music we love. Fidelis continues to be a special place to audition new gear and a vital resource in this region for everything audiophile.
Fidelis AV: www.fidelisav.com
460 Amherst Street
Nashua, N. H. 03063
Hours: 11-7 Tuesday-Friday; 11-5 Saturday