If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, especially the original Vinyl Anachronist column for Perfect Sound Forever, you probably know of my fondness for Gene Rubin of Gene Rubin Audio in Ventura, California. I’m generally not a person who can cite my mentors and heroes over the course of my life, but if I did have a mentor in the world of audio it would be Gene. When I first met him, back in 1991, I was making the transition from mid-fi components to high-end audio, and Gene gave me solid advice and soon became my audio dealer of choice. From that first pair of Spendor S20 loudspeakers I purchased from him, I started down the road I’m still on today. Gene turned me onto mostly British hi-fi, Rega and Spendor and Naim mostly, and over the years I probably made close to forty purchases from him. I first wrote about Gene way back in August 1998, when I stressed how important a trustworthy dealer can be when you enter this hobby.
Since I went pro a few years ago, I haven’t really stayed in touch with Gene. That’s too bad, because sometimes I miss him and his good taste in gear. He never once steered me wrong. So I found myself at T.H.E. Show 2019, walking through the marketplace, when I heard someone call my name. It was Gene, of course. He was running his booth, featuring many of the brands I still love such as Harbeth and LFD (who are very much still in business, despite their uniquely low profile in the industry). We chatted for quite a while, talking about everything we’ve done over the years, and it felt odd that I was no longer the journeyman he met almost thirty years ago.
I was surprised, however, that he was featuring the new Unison Research Unico Due integrated amplifier at his table. During my years as Unison’s US distributor, I tried to get Gene to take on the line. Gene was always reluctant–he wasn’t a tube guy back then, and he liked sticking with the same trustworthy brands he sold since he first went into business in 1979. (How many high-end audio dealers can say that?) Gene picked up the line when Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV took over distribution from Colleen Cardas Imports–Colleen and I personally recommended Walter as the best possible distributor to the Unison Research and Opera factory in Italy. Gene and Walter have been teaming up to represent Fidelis’ brands for many years–Gene’s sort of the West Coast connection for Walter. In other words, it’s all good.
When I said I hadn’t talked to Gene in years, I forgot the one exception. Gene messaged me just a few weeks ago, before T.H.E. Show 2019, asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the Palmer turntable that Walter imports from the UK. (They decided I was the right guy to do it, which is a huge compliment from these two.) I’ve known about the Palmer for years, and yes, I’ve always wanted to try it–especially with the Audio Origami arm from Scotland. It was wonderful to see this gorgeous turntable in the flesh at Gene’s booth, and even more wonderful that I’ll soon get one in for review.
Best of all, I got to see Gene again. I’ve missed you, my audio brother!