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Monday, May 5, 2014

Walt Bender, Hi Fi Town and Audiomart - where all began

Only few words... I already wrote and will never be tired doing so... my passion wouldn't have be the same without Walt Bender, his wife Lennice Werth and his son Early Bender-Werth, period!

I was one of the three, then five, Italian subscribers of Audiomart, the fanzine which did the eBay and Audiogon in pre-WEB era.

Walt's knowledge of vintage audio and everything related was encyclopedic and his kindness to par.

The last time time I shopped at Hi Fi Town, before his untimely death in 2008, he was quite aware of the upcoming crisis and more and more conscious about the shiny past of his Country and passion, to same extent. 

I really miss him... like everyone who knew him does - i.e. Vincent Gallo, Joe Roberts, Herbert Reichert, Don Garber and many, countless others owe to him something... Walt was behind the curtains of Triodes and Vintage Renaissance in the USA and beyond, as his TAS' two parts review about classic audio, followed by Sound Practices, inspired a multitude, worldwide.

His son Early is every bit as knowledged and passionate as Walt was... I stop often to the old Hi Fi Town site and it's a fresh air breathe I take, there.

I thanks Early, Lennice and the late Walt for everything they did and do for audio, with kindness and honesty.

Abour HiFiTown USA/Audiomart

Location: Crewe, VA. Original founder, Walt Bender. Current operations manager, Early Bender-Werth.
Walt had many talents. A writer and GW law graduate, he preferred a humble existence and productive work. Starting at an early age in magazine sales, he moved on to become a computer technician in the 1960s. Later serving in military intelligence (he often alluded to the irony).  Walt was also a professional carpenter, woodworker and registered meat cutter. All the while a dedicated audio hobbyist & technician. In the late 70s, he took ownership of the then fledgling  Audiomart Magazine. A precursor to the ubiquitous internet forum and online auctions; admission was by fellow subscriber reference only. Quickly printed in house as a bi-weekly, sometimes monthly booklet. At it's peak serving as the world's largest, international classifieds publication for Hi-End and vintage audio gear. Thousands of 'former members fondly recall the golden era of good deals and safe trading it provided. In 1988-89 for Absolute Sound Magazine, Walt and wife Lennice penned several articles about postwar HiFi. A coup to bargain hunters, the multi-issue review project chronicled the "best of the best" forgotten vintage USA hi-fi. These articles re-introduced classic tube products by Marantz, McIntosh, Scott, Fisher, and Pilot to name a few. Even sleepers like the Lafayette KT-600 awoke to younger US audiophiles of the 90's. Over the years Walt pioneered and nurtured native US interest in low power prewar design SE tube amps and high efficiency full range drivers. We have consulted or supplied parts & info to almost everyone in the audio business at one time or another. Walt consulted and wrote for the Orion Blue Book during the 80's and 90's. And, contributed to the ultra hip magazines Sound Practicies & Positive Feedback . Many stories circulate as to "how" the orient discovered forgotten american made sound reproduction equipment.Western Electric is surely it's apex. And, ir-regardless as to how - Japanese hobbyists were the first to re-appreciate it's industrial quality. At this time, now the early 80's, WE 1086 amps sold for a mere $300 to dealers in Tokyo. Out of curiosity, and on a hunch Walt restored one and listened to it. He immediately heard the mystical sound of it's 300A & B triodes. And the later, precise tone of WE's 350B (super 6L6) in the 124, 142 amps. We cherish and champion the WE 171C C-core as the best and most useful ever output iron ever wound.

Walt Bender 2006
Walt setting up a temporary party system.
Audiomart Cover
At HiFiTown, we openly investigate aging classics, slumbering discoveries to-be, famous circuits / coils, and the latest in digital / analog designs. To our dismay and nostalgic guilt  the unilateral maxim "older is better" is constantly reaffirmed. Walt passed away on July 29th, 2008. His son Early and wife Lennice carry on his ideals, knowledge and top notch sales & service expertise. A truly fascinating, ever expanding 40 year old inventory of audio awaits the HiFiTown customer. As a patron you can expect famously courteous, prompt and impeccable prep/delivery of your items. Communications and dispatch of purchase will be as immediate as humanly possible. Our direct email is, as

Thanks a lot, Walt.


widerangesound said...

Every once in a while I search the web to see if Walt is still remembered by the audio community. It’s good to see someone keeping the memory alive. I was fortunate to live an hour or so away from them and they were kind enough to invite me over a few times. Many of my audio ideals were found in discussions and listening sessions with Walt and Early. My life ideals were also enhanced in many discussions with Lennice, but as I recall, the audio discussions were amongst the boys. It’s somewhat odd to see audio lumbering on, with voices from everywhere - but with no senior moderator to sort the fact from the bizarre. Without ever claiming that position, Walt was a reasoned voice that many looked to for guidance through the noise. He is missed by many and will continue to be.

widerangesound said...
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twogoodears said...

Thanks for your feedback... strange - or not so strange considering our little globalized world - the fond remembering and appreciation to Walt and Early and Lennice came from Italy and not USA... but, you know: "nemo propheta in patria sua" - i.e. nobody is a prophet in his own country;-)