Morton Grove audio shop offers quintessential listening experience
Mick Survance is the owner of Quintessence Audio in Morton Grove which features a collection of high-end audio equipment. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Quintessence Audio
ADDRESS: 5701 Dempster St., Morton Grove
SPECIALTY: High-end audio equipment
CONTACT: (847) 966-4434
Updated: January 15, 2013 1:54PM
MORTON GROVE — Mick Survance remembers the first time he listened to music on a high-end audio system.
“With the first note the goose bumps came up on my arms. I teared up,” shared Survance, owner of Quintessence Audio in Morton Grove.
It’s an experience he refers to as the “wow” factor and something he tries to offer his customers.
“People get goose bumps. They start giggling,” noted Patrick Survance, Mick’s son who also works in the store.
The shop, located at 5701 Dempster St., looks small from the outside, a place easily missed. But audiophiles are familiar with the business and its listening rooms with their collection of high-end audio equipment.
And “high-end” is no exaggeration.
A pair of Italian-made speakers could set you back as much as $200,000 — and that’s just for the speakers.
Near the front of the store a pair of French Focal Grand Utopia speakers hover like some cross between modern technology and a large, carnivorous animal. At 573 pounds each and 78 inches high, they are not for everybody.
The shop also carries less costly equipment, like speakers that are $1,200 a pair.
“We’ve got something for everybody – almost,” Mick Survance said.
Both Mick and Patrick Survance say picking the right speaker is where they start in designing an audio system for a customer.
Then they will add amplifiers, turntables or whatever else the customer needs. They also take into account the room where the system will be located, as well as the customer’s preferences and budget.
“It’s not magic. There’s a science to it,” Mick Survance said. ”There’s synergy that has to happen. That’s where we come in.”
Quintessence Audio first opened in the western suburbs in 1977. Mick Survance eventually bought it from the original owner, Frank Sousa, and moved the shop to Morton Grove 18 years ago.
Mick Survance said he was a factory rep for audio equipment and would spend time enjoying music at the shops where he did business.
“I tried to get my work done in time to get to the high-end audio shops,” he said.
He became a partner and when he had the chance he bought the business.
Patrick, on the other hand, said he got into the business pretty much because it’s what his father did.
“If your dad’s a plumber you learn to fix a toilet,” he said.
But it was initially the last thing he wanted.
“I always stayed away from the audition,” Patrick Survance said.
But then something happened.
“He took me in one night. I heard a high-end system and he chose some music — Dire Straits. I listened to music for the first time that night,” Patrick recounted.
Mick Survance said he tries to help his customers enjoy the same kind of experience he had when he first heard music on a high-end audio system.
“Almost everyone who’s into this high-performance audio are music lovers and had this wow experience,” he said.
Toward that end, Mick Survance said he will sometimes set up an audio system in a customer’s home before the customer buys it in order to demonstrate just how good a system can sound.
“People realize there’s something so much better than they knew existed. That’s what happened to me,” he shared.
Survance added: “I wish I could tell more people about it.”
He also recalled one occasion when a potential customer brought his wife in to check out a system.
“She brought in a favorite CD. She was crying before the first song was over,” Mick Survance said.