Norvinz is Vinh Vu's newest baby and in collaboration with Norm Ginsburg again. The man's one proud papa too. In fact, Norvinz is his umbrella outfit for new audio adventures slightly off the beaten path. Vinh is familiar to audiophiles through his company Gingko Audio. It began offering acrylic turntable covers to soon expand into affordable resonance control platforms and stands, combining acrylic chassis and rubber balls. The latest addition were the trisobaric Tubulous loudspeakers we reviewed earlier. As an ex telecom man in well-deserved retirement (from Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies), Vinh's entrepreneurial energies grew restless despite Gingko Audio. Late last year, he crossed paths with the newly launched Merrill-Scillia Research turntable. Reborn Sanders Sound, RL Acoustique and Opera Audio's new distributor and personal friend Joe Trelli of UltraViolet Audio followed and deals were cut and arrangements put in place.

Vinh read the tea leaves and Norvinz is the outcome. However, it's not quite your standard distribution company that'll support your usual emerging dealer network. Vinh's concept replaces dealers with so-called field reps. Those are home-based listening stations manned by professionals who are successful in non-audio fields. Without exception, they'll be enthusiast owners of certain Norvinz products committed to conducting demonstrations for prospective buyers via their personal systems. Vinh opened a formal Norvinz show room in Keyport for the Garden State of New Jersey.

It's also the training facility for his field reps. After all, they start out as audio enthusiasts, not trained professionals in this field (though they will need to form separate companies since they won't be Norvinz employees but subcontractors). According to Vinh, this scheme offers a number of advantages. Manufacturers working with Norvinz won't need to extend prolonged payment terms. Norvinz field reps are owners, not borrowers of inventories floated by flooring companies or extended loans for which the manufacturer plays bank. Each sales transaction is paid for in full by Norvinz at the time of product shipment when the customer has made the choice at the field rep listening station. In turn, Norvinz won't act as warehouse central. Manufacturers are expected to drop-ship items directly to the customer's home without delay.

Turning actual owner systems into demonstration facilities has further advantages. One, the system will be fixed and dialed to the max. It won't be in permanent flux as at rushed stores where systems tend to hang in limbo without truly being optimized for any given component - depending on what happens to be hooked up that day or hour. Two, the demonstration takes place in a real-world living/listening room environment such as the buyer has to contend with. Three, Norvinz field reps don't rely on audio sales for a living. They have jobs in the real world and join Norvinz foremost as enthusiasts. Their commissions make it worth their while but the relevant thing is, they're not stressed about making rent or payroll on retail premises. Hence the buyer on audition won't be subject to overt or subliminal pressure tactics. Four, demonstrations are by appointment only. This guarantees undivided attention and zero competition from other shoppers lurking in the background keen on your hot seat. Five, you as the interested buyer won't get switched to a product you didn't come in for. Norvinz agents demonstrate Norvinz products. That's what they bought for themselves because they liked it. That's what they'll demonstrate exclusively.

From the manufacturer's perspective, joining Norvinz comes with certain prerequisites. The most obvious one is that you'll be a maker without preexisting US distribution. You must also be willing to embrace an emerging brick'n'mortar hobbyist network though the right kind of dealer will be considered as well. And you must be capable of supplying product to Norvinz buyers from your own factory inventories, with Norvinz providing service support (and warranty repair for non-US manufacturers).

Considering the changed retail climate of AudiogoN, manufacturer-direct sales, Internet discounters and the senseless overcrowding of brands competing for floor space and market share in a shrinking US market, the Norvinz model might very well be an idea whose time has come. Jeffrey Kalt of Resolution Audio has worked with a related solution for a while, rewarding owners with commissions for facilitating sales with private demonstrations. The Norvinz recipe expands that concept to include multiple brands; to offer a headquarter with a full-time professional operator who himself is in the manufacturing business; and who will conduct one-on-one product and sales training for his agents.

Norvinz further offers web-design support with its own in-house IT specialist to help foreign companies optimize their sites for English visitors (not that it's just foreigners who may need help on that front). The Norvinz website becomes the umbrella portal that presents all the offerings, services and facilities. Vinh Vu acts as the domestic marketing manager for any brand represented by Norvinz in the US. Looking for a few good men - and women. Yes, Norvinz is in full-on recruiting mode. Interested readers and manufacturers should contact Vinh Vu for the low down. The first field reps have been activated so the process is well underway. The notion of reintroducing honest passion and enthusiasm to audio commerce is rather exciting, don'tcha think? Many hifi shoppers complain about professional audio establishments. Fair enough. If you put yourselves in their shoes encircled by Internet sellers and unethical punters who use their facilities to shop on price on the web thereafter; with high overheads and payroll to make every month ... well, you might at least sympathize with their plight and count yourself lucky not being in it.

Shifting operations to the home environs of non-audio professionals takes a lot of sting out of the equation. Discounting too will be eliminated since Norvinz HQ controls all sales. The listening stations merely pass their customers on to Vinh Vu who collects all payments and arranges for product deliveries to the customers' homes. The manufacturers get paid at the time of order shipment as do the field reps for their commissions. Norvinz wants to focus on high-value lines to nip the discount mentality and seeming justification for it right in the bud, all the while offering a superior audition and buying experience. Anyone who's met the affable Vinh Vu in person would certainly agree that he has what it will take (no guarantees implied of course). Additionally, Vinh's a made man. Norvinz won't be a struggling outfit trying to make ends meet. It'll be a retired gentleman's endeavor to do what he enjoys best while helping out a few fellow manufacturers and spearheading a new concept of making it in the beleaguered HiFi industry. Needless to say, Vinh's Gingko Audio product remains with its current dealer base and won't become part of the Norvinz chain. Norvinz customers will have a 30-day in-home trial option with a restocking fee if returned (since returned products can't be sold as new again).

If you're a HiFi junkie like Vinh and Norm, live in a nice house in a good neighborhood and would welcome to host products you already own (or will shortly) while making some discretionary audio income which you can spend on your audio habit without domestic justification - give the men a call. If you're a manufacturer like Sanders and Merrill and Opera, do likewise. Come to papa. That's got quite the ring to it, don't it now?

For samples on what to expect, flip the virtual page for an on-site Road Tour inspection by our own John Potis who also took all the above shots of Vinh Vu's personal system.