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Planet of Sound

Posted by Staff / Posted on September 10, 2010

Planet of SoundPlanet of Sound is not your typical big box stereo store. Here, it's all about the quality. And as I stare at my black Crosley record player -- admittedly from Urban Outfitters -- I feel out of place meandering Planet of Sound. They've got some nice product.

It's not a big store. But that's part of the point. Walking around the joint -- located on Queen St. East, equally between Jarvis and Parliament -- Planet of Sound is minimalist. When you walk in, to your right is a decent vinyl selection of common music store fare. To your left are some record players and a wall of headphones. The products themselves come from around the world.

Planet of SoundThe vinyl selection isn't huge, nothing that's going to outsell Kops Records, but it gets people in the door. As you walk the length of the store, there's designated areas of audio-related electronics. There's the amplifier area, the stereo section, the radios and the subwoofer section. And lest I forget, James Brown's The Payback is playing on the store's system. It sounds good.

Not originally from around her, owner Gunnar Van Vliet started a small stereo store in Ottawa. Five years later, after the store grew in popularity, Gunnar looked to the Big Smoke as the next adventure. Because the thing with Gunnar is that he's looking for the top quality in stereos. And in order to do this, he travels the globe -- Britain, Germany and Japan -- going to hi-fi radio shows. It's there that he handpicks the standouts and brings them home.

Planet of SoundAnd a lot of the systems in Planet of Sound aren't native to North America. Names like Harbeth (U.K.), Perreaux (New Zealand) and Oyaide (Japan) aren't for your typical alarm clock radios. "The really good stuff you couldn't get in Canada," Gunnar explains of his selection. And that's another reason why Gunnar made the call to move to Toronto -- to be a distribution hub. Having made solid connections with a lot of these providers -- stereos, amplifiers, turn tables, headphones -- they asked if he would be their Canadian provider. He agreed. And now Planet of Sound is the official distributor for systems like Roberts Radio, Audiolab and Beyerdynamic.

Having opened up in late July, they are still putting up the finishing touches. One wall in the back was actually being worked on as I entered. But the location works for them, Gunnar says, albeit it wasn't the first pick. First pick was Queen St. West, of course. But after four months of looking at "insane" renting space prices, Gunnar turned to the up-and-coming locale. And the neighbourhood is good, he says, noting the walkby traffic that pop their heads in, but also the locals that make the trek for the quality. "It has exceeded my expectations," says Gunnar, which is usually a good thing to hear from a new store. Especially a high-end niche stereo store.

Planet of SoundStarting stereos at Planet of Sound are around $699 and can go as high as $10-$50,000. "For someone that really wants the cream of the crop," says Gunnar, nonchalantly. But like I noted, that's the point. Quality. If you want to search for it, you can find it here. Because Gunnar already searched for it across the pond.

"I've always been interested in hi-fi," says Gunnar in his relax disposition. "At a certain point you run out of options of what you can buy. Certainly as a store, what you can sell, because there's only so much available in Canada. And you realize if you want the really good stuff, you have to go out and get it."

Planet of SoundWriting by Ryan Bolton. Photos by Dennis Marciniak

Discussion

12 Comments

Syncros / September 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm
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nice use of the old hooker clothing store..
bob / September 10, 2010 at 05:00 pm
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What!!!!! Gotta check this out!

ps. I don't think of Kops as one of the 'great' Toronto record stores....
tom / September 10, 2010 at 07:08 pm
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Gunner. got damn amazing. love it.
Michael / September 10, 2010 at 08:40 pm
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Nice piece, but I found a typo.

"Not originally from around her,"

You forgot the e in here.
saltspring / September 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm
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This place is my favourite stereo store. They're honest. Fantastic equipment. Dudes who know their shit. None of the BBR fuckaround I'm-here-for-mega-me-so-suck-my-dick-you-disturbing-client-peon attitude. Gunnar is very helpful, and so is the other guy (?name). A peach of a store. But make sure you park your car a little further than the dirtballs' reach west of there.
rick / September 11, 2010 at 11:47 am
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Do you guys carry WESC headphones?
what replying to a comment from rick / September 11, 2010 at 02:26 pm
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Are you kidding me. You don;t go to a store like this for WESC. Go back to Urban Outfitters.
Ryan replying to a comment from Michael / September 11, 2010 at 02:46 pm
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Hey @Mike,

I saw that too, but I think it's kinda funny how it reads now. It's a little humourous, no?
Mike / September 11, 2010 at 07:13 pm
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The best stereo store in all the land. All the best Gunnar!
Alex T / January 14, 2011 at 06:22 pm
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Very nice store. Very honest staff. I had a problem with sound quality and they fixed it with a $100 DAC instead of pushing something else. When it is upgrade time I will be back! They have selected great lines that provide exceptional quality and value. I spent 10 years in a High End Audio store in the 70s and 80s and this place really brings me back. These days good "sound" is a rare and beautiful thing - look no further.
pahblow / April 16, 2011 at 03:23 pm
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nice store, great hi-fi equipment and accessories (loving the leather and cork slipmats!) but their vinyl prices are incredibly high - some of the highest ive seen in town, for items you can get for far less at other shops (in terms of brand new 180g represses) or in dollar bins if you get lucky (nothing beats a cheap O.G. pressing!)
Richard Ravenwolf Wright / March 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm
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This is by far the best stereo shop I've ever been too.......... Staff are fantastic...... Equipment by far so much better here...... And They really Dig their Jazz and Dylan............ I fell in love with the little shop I minute I walked in............ Left with a few records a Turntable, Amp, Speakers and wire.......... Got home set it up to my iMac............. & said goodbye to the wife! It's been a sweet affair.......... Now I spend most my days streaming my music through the amp while at work on the computer............ Come evening out comes my Jazz Vinyl, my bodum & Pipe......

Thank you guys for coming to Toronto!

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