Christmas Gifts: Great sounds and gizmos

"There is actually a hi-fi buying season," says Brandon, an assistant at The Cornflake Shop as he wrestles with some speaker cables like Captain Nemo overpowering a giant squid. "From about October to April, the days get shorter and people think about new hi-fi."

Despite its location on London's 37 Windmill Street, off Tottenham Court Road (0171-631 0472), most of Cornflake's reputation is spread by word of mouth. Film directors and supermodels call its experts in to install state-of-the-art sound and home cinema systems. But pay a visit, and you can pick a system ("midrange, about pounds 500 per box,") in the demonstration room. You can even book a session.

At London Bridge, Richer Sounds (enquiries: 0171-378 0345) seems at first as the McDonald's of hi-fi - fast sound done cheap. Fluorescent lights, floor-to-ceiling-racked black chrome boxes, shiny shoes, shiny shirts, shiny hair: "When they put in the boosters, it sounds like it should do anyway," a salesman explains to a bemused customer while Jimi Hendrix plays.

But Richer's 32 stores nationwide refuse to sell all-in-one mini-systems. Like Cornflake, they insist that hi-fi means separate boxes, and wire tentacles to join them up. Except no one goes to Richer to spend pounds 500 on a box. For that, they want - and get - lots of boxes, with many knobs on, flashing lights, and a remote control or three Charles Arthur

No snap, no crackle: Cornflake's demonstration room (below) where customers can test any combination of hi-fi units with prices from pounds 500 to pounds 20,000 and more. Bottom (far left): Musical Technology speaker, pounds 425 a pair, and, for control freaks, the ultimate gizmo, a Touchscreen Home Controller which operates hi-fi, video, hot water and even curtains and lifts from a single position. Prices from pounds 2,000 to pounds 5,000

Choice: Cornflake

Sennheiser HE 60 Electrostatic headphones, pounds 998; Naim NAT 01/NA PST radio tuner, pounds 1,730; XLO Type 1 Reference 1-metre connector wires, pounds 275; Mark Levinson No 31 CD player plus converter chip, pounds 24,450; Mark Levinson No 38 pre-amplifier, pounds 6,495; Pair of Mark Levinson 33H power amplifiers (1 per sound channel), pounds 19,395; ATC SCM 300 Active loudspeakers, pounds 15,000; QED 42-strand loudspeaker cable (per speaker per metre), 70p

Choice: Richer Sounds

Cambridge Audio handset ("control up to eight different products from this single handset"), pounds 79.95; Sony MDSJE510 Minidisc digital recorder plus player, pounds 179.95 (remote control, pounds 10 extra); KLH 970 speakers, pounds 39.95; Wharfedale Airedale Subwoofer speaker, pounds 119.95; Turntable flight cases (for budding DJs), pounds 59.95; Recordable 74-minute Minidisc, pounds 3.99; Umbrella: free with hi-fi purchase if it's raining

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas