I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I just recently stumbled upon the Turntable Lab in the East Village in NYC. The shop was established in 1999, and the company also has brick-and-mortar shops in LA and Seoul, Korea.
The NYC shop may not have a huge selection of goodies on display, but I was very impressed with the range of products offered. Store manager David Azzoni stressed that customer service is "attitude-free" and totally avoids the snooty vibe sometimes associated with high-end hi-fi shops. For example, if you're new to vinyl and need help picking out and installing a new phono cartridge on your turntable, someone will show you how to do it (when the shop isn't super busy). Cartridge prices range from $39 to $200; non-DJ turntables go from $129 to $399; headphones from $49 to $399.
You can audition some headphones at the NYC shop, but Azzoni estimates that 90 percent of the customers buy based on the staff's recommendations. They're not interested in selling a headphone or turntable that's not in line with your price range. Customers can listen to the shop's LPs, and I was surprised by how much space was allocated to underground dance, disco edits, funk, soul, and fringe hip-hop LPs. Azzoni explained that fresh music keeps drawing DJs in to see what's new, and they're the 'Lab's core constituency. The shop is a destination, and it's a nice place to get headphones and phono cartridges.
The 'Lab also has a few speakers, including my favorite Audioengine models, plus Alesis and KRK Rocket Series speakers.
I wouldn't want to give the impression the Turntable Lab only caters to DJs; they have affordable hi-fi turntables and headphones for everyday listeners. The place has a very welcoming vibe, a real neighborhood-friendly feel.
If you're not near NYC, LA, or Seoul, Korea, check out the Turntable Lab Web site or its sister enterprise, the Headphone Lab; both sites have far bigger selections than the brick and mortar shops. If you've visited the Turntable Lab stores or Web sites tell us about your experiences in the Comments section.