Tucked away amidst the rolling green hills of Northern New South Wales is a growing force in contemporary Australian HiFi. And while the casual air of this golden location is no doubt responsible for their humble nature, make no mistake. Living Entertainment North Coast are laser focussed on the future of audio.
Their digital presence is first class. YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram channels all share incredible production quality, exploring every step of the audio journey from individual components to entire system setups. And their in-store experience receives the same coat of polish: clean displays, plush listening zones – all brimming with light.
And despite the intense schedule of these incredibly busy audio retailers/content creators, founder Nat Dobbie graciously took some time away from his work to share with me the backstory of their growing business, and answer a few questions I had on key aspects of the listening journey.
LENC was first established in late 2014 by Nat Dobbie, a long-time Hi-Fi enthusiast and systems integrator. Nat grew up in the Gold Coast Hinterland in a small town called Canungra.
“We lived on a rural property and periodically my folks would throw large-scale ticketed field parties with live bands and bonfires as tall as buildings. Furthermore, a lot of close family friends would often have events on a property called ‘Bonobil’… This is where my love for music was first seeded.”
Under Nat’s ownership, LENC first launched as a small Hi-Fi & Home Theatre store tucked away in Lismore’s Summerland Arcade, occupying no more than 20 square metres of floor space. After a solid 5 years of growth and recognition throughout the Northern Rivers, Nat seized the opportunity in late 2019 to expand the business dramatically.
“I started out as a custom integrator, primarily for CAT TV and distributed AV systems. While it was a great job that allowed me to explore our beautiful area, it was my passion for Hi-Fi that pushed me towards opening my own showroom … against almost everyone else's advice!”
Officially relaunching in January 2020, LENC now proudly operates in a custom-designed showroom and is positioned as the premier Hi-Fi and Home Theatre destination for the Northern Rivers and beyond. With passion, dedication and a lot of hard work , Nat say’s “it’s been a raging success to this point,” and one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
So what’s the Northern NSW audio scene like?
“A mixed crowd! However, if I had to geographically categorise everyone, I’ve noticed the further customers are to the coast the more likely they are to go for multi-room audio solutions. A little closer to home here in Lismore, we find that folks are more geared towards vinyl and 2-channel Hi-Fi.”
In HiFi circles, NZ and Aus are known to have alternate system preference philosophies. The Kiwis tend to invest more on their amplification while us Aussies favour our loudspeakers. And I was keen to hear if Nat himself had any preferences.
“For me, each component is as important as the next. To give an example, you’re not going to buy a Ferrari to put a 4-cylinder Camry engine in it! Or, vice-versa, have a Ferrari with a set of $100 tyres on it! Each component needs to match the others for ‘system synergy’.”
As somebody who’s no doubt performed countless audio demonstrations, I was keen to know if Nat had a favourite track when testing systems:
“ The track I probably play more than any other is ‘Nightbird’ by Eva Cassidy. The song is very emotive and beautifully produced, allowing any good system to showcase its dynamics and range, and give that ‘goosebumps’ moment."
And as somebody who’s no doubt performed countless audio demonstrations, I was equally keen to know if there was one track that, if he heard again, would make him carve out his eardrums with a tonearm:
"Diana Krall - ‘S Wonderful’. Why? It’s drab and overdone. Sorry Diana."
But, if stuck on a deserted island Tom Hanks-style, what’s the one album he’d take with him:
“Tough one! Let’s go with - ‘Carolina Confessions’ by Marcus King Band. It’s chill enough in some songs, and upbeat enough to not make you go dull ‘Cast Away’.
And, finally, there’s always a ton of debate in HiFi circles around format, which is better and why. So I was interested to know where he sat on the whole digital vs. analogue debate:
“Major fence-sitter. Both have great merit. Digital has an ease of use and ability for music discovery up its sleeve which I love. Analogue undoubtedly has a sound all of its own, with a tactile feel and a process that forces you to take a minute and sit back for that ‘music moment’. I could easily live with one or the other, but I don’t have to so I’m going to enjoy both!”
LENC (Living Entertainment North Coast) is a family-owned and operated specialist Hi-Fi store located in the heart of the Northern NSW. It’s a tight-knit team that brings a diverse set of skills to the table, all revolving around delivering the best customer experience possible. LENC operates with a forward-thinking, new-world business model, focusing on creating helpful videos, product demonstrations and how-to-guides that inform and educate their customers. Customer-focused’ rather than ‘product-focused,’ they ensure the right solution for your individuals needs.