Outside Edge

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THOMAS HEINITZ runs a music shop in Moscow Road, London W2. But no ordinary music shop. With its sombre brown carpet and brown leather chairs, its motley collection of speakers and hi-fi equipment, its piles of CDs and reference books, and its large presiding portrait of Toscanini, No 35 looks more like a gentleman's study than a modern showroom. Heinitz is a salesman, but what he prides himself on selling most is advice.

Heinitz, purveyor of hi-fis, CDs and musical wisdom, has enjoyed the trust of classical music aficionados - from bus-conductors to royalty - for more than 35 years. He arrived in England from Berlin in 1934 and initially trained as an engineer. But it was music that he loved ('my natural habitat') and he began reviewing classical music records. His twin-track expertise - sound perfection and musical discretion - has been his meal ticket ever since.

People come to 35 Moscow Road (where Heinitz cultivates a domestic air - 'I don't want to create a musical laboratory') to find out what to buy. Heinitz keeps up to date by reading 'those wretched magazines', but in the course of his career, has seen only three technical developments: 'LP, stereo and CD, and in each case I've been out there fighting on the barricades.'

In terms of stereo equipment, Heinitz asks his clients three questions: what basic facilities are they after? How big a room are they dealing with? And what sort of total do they have in mind? 'I've never been interested in pushing something to someone who can't afford it,' he says, 'I don't work on commission and anyway, equipment is so darned good today, even on a modest level, that the difference between a vastly expensive amplifer and a cheap one is virtually indiscernible.' Not that this rule applies to speakers. Heinitz waxes lyrical on the subject of 'woofers' and 'tweeters' and that little pig in the middle, 'the squawker'. Particularly close to his heart is the 'sub-woofer', a third speaker that catches the very deepest notes. A sub-woofer combined with two more pedestrian speakers could set you back about pounds 900. 'But you should hear it,' he sighs.

Heinitz also stocks several thousand CDs (he sold off all his LPs in a bumper sale eight years ago), ranging from Gregorian chants to the most avant-garde compositions; there's a 20 per cent discount for anyone who's ever bought equipment. And he gives support here too. 'The choice of recordings is frightening and people need help. It's not a field you can judge by scientific measurement, so I am only really interested in people who genuinely listen to music.'

He himself is passionately interested. Toscanini is his patron saint; Karajan his bete noire. Does he sell much more Toscanini than Karajan then? He laughs ruefully. 'When I was younger I was more inclined to force my views. But if there's one that 40 years has taught me, it's patience.'

Thomas Heinitz, 35 Moscow Road, London W2 (071-229 2077).