Remembering Robert Levin – 1945-2021

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Remembering Robert Levin – 1945-2021

We are deeply saddened to announce that Robert Levin, the owner of Hawthorne Stereo, has passed away from natural causes.

This past year he celebrated his 50th year as the store’s owner.

“Bob,” as he was affectionately called by his customers, worked tirelessly to create an easygoing environment where newcomers and audiophiles alike could enjoy the process of filling their homes with music.

He steered the ship from the era of the turntable and reel-to-reel, through recessions, industry downsizing, and a global pandemic, to the era of digital streaming and once again, the turntable.

His quick wit, charm, and down-to-earth attitude helped to create incredibly long lasting relationships with customers and staff alike. We regularly hear customers saying “I’ve been dealing with Bob since the seventies.” The average length of employment among current staff is fifteen years.

His presence and friendship will be sorely missed by all of us. It is truly the end of an era, and Hawthorne Stereo will never be the same. We are committed, however, to keeping this “pretty nice place” alive using the same principles and values that guided Robert during his long tenure.

Rest in peace Robert Levin, “a pretty nice guy”…

 

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Comments

  1. Lee Sumner Lee Sumner

    I'd like to expressive my appreciation for Bob through an excerpt from my email to him in June 2020. "I've been transported back to 1996, and to the first pair of SBLs I bought from you, when Naim was a total revelation to tube converts like me. Well, I'm back and I wanted to send this little tribute to you, the dealer who sent me home with my first Naim kit, without taking a deposit or even having me sign a document of any kind as I recall." I will miss him. He was one of a kind.

  2. Lennie Lennie

    Was an infrequent customer over the years, selling more than buying. The news is sad, but the comments show a business life well lived. RIP Bob.

  3. Dean Dean

    Sorry to read about Bob's passing. Because of Bob I met my wife in the first Roosevelt shop almost 27 years ago. We will always remember him. RIP

  4. Troy Taylor Troy Taylor

    I met Bob many years ago and would frequent the store to see what was available. There used to be a record store next door and I would go and buy a couple of records and then see Bob. One day while stopping by to visit, Bob called me out as a vinyl junkie. We both got a good laugh over that. to this day I refer to myself a vinyl junkie. You will be missed Bob.

  5. Mike Harlow Mike Harlow

    So sorry to hear about Bob. I moved away from Seattle in 2014. I first met Bob at the Bellevue store in 1989 I believe. I had never heard of many brands they carried but once I heard I was hooked! We did lots of purchasing, trading, listening and always got his honest opinion on everything. Still have my Naim and Rega gear from there. Always loved seeing what they had in the store. One of my best memories of Seattle getting to know him over 25 years. RIP Bob!

  6. Timothy Bruton Timothy Bruton

    I'm sorry to hear this sad news. I purchased my Yamaha YP-D8 turntable from Hawthorne Stereo in 1979 and still use it today. Fond memories from the Portland store on Hawthorne Blvd. RIP Bob.

  7. Joe Gotchy Joe Gotchy

    Word arrived at my doorstep several months after Robert's passing. I'll attribute that to the pandemic. Robert created a really nice place that mirrored his personal and professional approach to life and relationships. I always looked forward to talking with him, looking through the inventory, and enjoying the audiophile experience. As I sit at my computer this morning, I'm listening to a set of AE speakers and subwoofers he sold me. Around the corner is a Rega, Naim, and Sonos system that came from Hawthorne. Robert and his team have provided me with countless hours of entertainment and joy. But visiting the store was always more than that. It was the exchange of stories and getting to know one another a little better. Once he found out that I restored 1920s-1960s lighting (military, maritime, Hollywood, industrial).....he never forgot the fact and always wanted to know about my latest project. He was a really good guy, stereo savant and bodhisattva of kindness. I'll miss Robert and hope that Hawthorne Stereo carries on his legacy for future generations.

  8. John Walker John Walker

    I write this with heavy heart as I am listening to my beloved Epos ES-14's, I horse traded with Bob for some work he needed done to his S Class. I first met Bob in 1991. At the time, Hawthorne was in Bellevue, a block from where I worked. I used to stop in all the time during my lunch break just to be surrounded by an environment I loved. It was so much better than the noise and chaos I put up with every day managing a body shop. Bob had a humorous and intense way of educating me about the finer side of high fidelity, thus, the need for constant upgrading with the brands he sold. looking back, I now realize how certain people in our lives help us stay true, or point us back to what you love. Bob helped me in so many ways to rediscover what was there since the age of 12 when I was "tapped on the shoulder", listening to KSAN - FM (clock) radio in 1968 as a kid. I consider Bob a Master of his craft. Today I still cannot think of anyone or any business that has better customer service than Hawthorne. Although these qualities may be written in some corporate b.s. manual, they most often fail because greed always trumps service these days. Funny to see how other big-box competitors have come and gone. Today I try and emulate the customer service skills I learned from Bob. I am grateful to have known and learned from Bob and for the life experience of High Fidelity.

  9. Paul Shelp Paul Shelp

    Dammit! The longer I live, the more often this happens. Truly good people who have enriched my life in large and small pass on. And, though it is an inevitable part of life, I am deeply sorry to hear that Bob is gone, and sorry that I am just now hearing it. I am not from Seattle. In my youth I frequented audio stores in Boston and Kansas City. 25 years ago when I moved to WA, the first time I stepped into Hawthorne I knew this was an exceptional place. And truth is, it was a reflection of it’s owner. It is my hope that those who have been with him for years will carry on his legacy and his way of doing business.
    PAS

  10. Mark Sparks Mark Sparks

    I sold Bob advertising in Willamette Week in Portland in the early 80's. He was indeed a 'pretty nice guy'. Loved going into his store and chatting with him. I introduced him to the sales rep that soon afterwords became his wife. The world needs more Bobs. My condolences to his family and the staff.

  11. Greg Wesner Greg Wesner

    I met Bob when I moved to Seattle in 1999 and enjoyed his quiet presence in the shop as I navigated my way through the right equipment. I usually worked with Dom or Matthew but before I made any major purchase I’d look at Bob over in his wizard corner and sometimes without saying a word he’d just nod - and I knew my upgrade was on the right path. I know the team will keep Hawthorne pointed in the right direction. And that’s part of Bob’s legacy. A gentleman, and a true lover of music. Thank you Bob.

  12. Steve Farrell Steve Farrell

    I purchased many product from Hawthorne Stereo over the past +20 years I know Bob is in a better place.

  13. Jeff Kalina Jeff Kalina

    I do not live in the NW anymore but always visited Hawthorne when in town. I believe I spoke with Bob during my Christmas 2021 visit. I was always respectful of his line decisions and appreciated hearing his reasoning behind why he chose certain lines. My favorite retailer. RIP.

  14. Bruce Quanz Bruce Quanz

    Godspeed Bob
    Gobsmacked!
    He was such a unique , knowledgeable, and passionate enthusiast . Always enjoyed his banter( usually contrary to my opinion)
    Long Live Hawthorne Stereo !!!

  15. Charlie Kopp Charlie Kopp

    I was peripherally aware of Hawthorne Stereo but in 1998 my friend Rick Scheuer brought me to Hawthorne to audition a pair of Epos ES12s. Unfortunately, that day I heard a CD played on a Naim CD5 and I realized part of the reason those speakers sounded so good was the phenomenal signal coming from the source. From that day on, every piece of gear I’ve purchased has come from Bob’s pretty nice little HiFi shop on Roosevelt. Rega P3, Naim CD5, 202/200, NAPSC,Stageline. Always got honesty and great advice from Bob (and Matthew, and Dominic and everyone. I remember when I was flirting with the idea of getting a tube rig, and Bob said: “depends on what you want. Do you want a hobby or are you more interested in listening to music.”

    I used to steal time here and there to come into Hawthorne the way some guys would squeeze in a drink on the way home from work.

    Thank you, Bob, for caring about sound and music and being so low-bullshit and for making my life better.

    We’ll miss you and we’ll think of you now and then.

  16. Tony Aguirre Tony Aguirre

    Wow, this is very sad to hear. I had a 20-year history with Bob and every encounter was memorable. I recall I walked into the shop ask asked Bob why my Pioneer Elite 7.1 sounded horrible in 2 channels when compared to my old Marantz. I walked out with a Naim and Rega setup and never looked back. In fact, I upgraded to a new P3 at the beginning of the shutdown and think of Bob every time I put a record on because he accidentally charged me for a P1 instead of a P3. When I called to make up the difference he laughed and said he was simply working too much. RIP Bob, you made a difference in many peoples lives including mine.

  17. James P. Jacobsen James P. Jacobsen

    So sorry to hear the news. I loved dealing with Bob who was so straight forward. I must have last seen him shortly before he died. He touched many lives in Seattle and beyond. Very sorely missed. Heartfelt condolences to his family.

  18. Ed Pearson Ed Pearson

    Really sad news. My condolences to Robert's family and the staff at Hawthorne. Seattle won't be the same without him.

  19. Murray Hutchins Murray Hutchins

    Very sorry to hear about Bob's passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends. I walked in to Hawthorne Stereo in 1994 and have been a customer ever since. Bob always made me feel welcome and inspired me to continue my love for music and cool gear to listen to it with. The vibe Bob created in his store was and is a breath of fresh air in the audio industry. I will remember him always. Bob- it was a pleasure to know you my friend.

  20. DRitz DRitz

    Every day I benefit from Bob's advice as a Hawthorne customer of nearly 30 years. More gear than my partner likes to imagine has gone between our home and his shop, and we enjoy the results of his advice nearly every day. Bob was an enjoyable curmudgeon and well liked by his excellent crew. My condolences to his family and friends and crew and Hawthorne Stereo on this loss.

  21. Ken Wahl Ken Wahl

    Met lots of audiophiles who had been to Hawthorne at one time. Purchased equipment at Hawthorne, some Naim gear, Rega, etc. Robert was willing to trade, which is not usually a possibility with a dealer. Quite frankly, Robert was quite aloof, and quite a grump at times. So what happens to the store since Mr. Levin is gone?

  22. Colin Danby Colin Danby

    Sorry to see this! I met Bob in 1998 and he guided me through early purchases. I felt like I disappointed him slightly when I didn't catch the Naim bug, but he was unfailingly helpful, never pushed anything on me, and always had a sense of humor. I'll miss him.

  23. Tyrone Heade Tyrone Heade

    Oh my goodness, just seeing this now. I bought from Bob at the original "Hawthorne Stereo" in Portland, late High School and early College. When I moved to Seattle in '88, I was surprised to see the Hawthorne Stereo sign in Roosevelt. I stopped in with a Nakamichi cassette deck that needed repair - it had distinctive wood side panels. I walked into the store, set it on the glass counter, and Bob said, "Where did you get this??" and I said, "From you, Bob." It was, and I'm sure will remain, a delight to walk into the store. I noticed over the years he always picked excellent folks to work with. You've all been consistently great over the years. I'm so saddened by this news. I have no doubt you'll keep it "a pretty nice place". I'll try to stop by soon. If you need a tune, feel free to call guys.....

  24. Bill Jones Bill Jones

    Like so many of us long time regulars, Bob and the store was/is Hi-Fi in Seattle - bar none. Reading all the comments makes me smile to understand we all felt the same affection for him. Whatever reason I needed to go to the store, seeing and hearing Bob was my day's pleasure. Missing you Bob.

  25. TONY L ENDERS TONY L ENDERS

    I was stunned to hear from Matthew that Robert had passed. I have known him as a client and friend for 40 years. I always appreciated his professionalism and occasional banter. Anyone that knows sarcasm was always good in my book. Having recently moved to Arizona I was still intent on doing business with Robert. Before I left, he gave me some recommendations for vintage stereo in Phoenix. I never met his daughters, but I knew them through Robert as we talked about our girls occasionally. I hope they are at peace with the passing of their father. I will miss you, Robert. You cannot be replaced. All the best to the staff at Hawthorne. Regards, Tony

  26. Eric Anderson Eric Anderson

    Bob introduced me to Naim in 2001. I just recapped the 250/72 I bought from him this month. I moved away from Seattle in 2003, but have always bought equipment from Hawthorne no matter what part of the country I lived in. Only 18 months ago he sold me a mint Creek 5350 integrated for my home studio. This makes me super sad.

  27. Tom Lienesch Tom Lienesch

    My condolences to Bob's family, friends and the excellent staff at Hawthorne, he will be truly missed. During the many years of going to Hawthorne I came to regard it, meaning Bob and the staff, as one of the (rare) establishments that continue to feed the City with character, integrity and humor - plus a dash of self-effacement . A pretty nice place, indeed.

  28. Andy Schneider Andy Schneider

    I've been a customer since Bob sold me my first entry into high end (Epos ES 12, Rega Mira, Planar 3) in the 90s when I was in middle school, and I've always enjoyed returning for upgrades and, frankly, loitering around the store because it is one of the few shops around that gave me that kid'in'candystory feeling, even today while I'm in my late 30s. I think I spent more money there (and had more ROI from that investment) than any other singular organization aside from the IRS.

    And beyond Bob himself, the staff whom I'm sure he hand picked and managed throughout was just as great, and I'd often leave the shop with nothing more than obscure music recommendations (Squarepusher, Warp Records, etc) that, thinking back, had more to do with my taste and current music production than any other source. How the f*** any other store, offline or online, will be able to achieve anything close to that seems incomprehensible.

    Bob and the legacy he created is one of the local treasures that defined Seattle and, either directly or indirectly, much of my love for music and the enjoyable reproduction thereof. I'm not religious, though part of me is thinking that heaven is about to sound a whole lot better, but we'll certainly miss his terrestrial presence. Until next time, Bob, and thanks for everything.

  29. David Endicott David Endicott

    I'm so sorry to hear the news that Robert passed away. Condolences to his family and the great staff at Hawthorne. I always appreciated his honest advice over the past few years. He will be missed.

  30. pqb pqb

    still have my nait 3 , rega planet cd , & meadowlark / kestrel speakers bob sold me...beyond countless hours now of listening & learning & simply rockin' out...still nice!

  31. Tony Limtiaco Tony Limtiaco

    Still in shock over this and not exactly sure how to process it.

    I walked into Hawthorne Stereo in Bellevue because a friend told me about Kyocera CD Players. After hearing them kill a "high-end" Technics player, and then wandering into the big room and asking about the funny little black boxes, John Vernig was nice enough to do Naim Nait vs. Aragon 24K/4004 comparison with a California Audio Labs Tempest II CD Player as the source. The proverbial David vs. Goliath audio demo. I left with a Kyocera DA410, Naim NAC62 and Naim NAP90. I knew right then that I wanted to work there and offered my services if they ever had an opening. Who knew it would only be a couple of months later?

    First time I met Bob, "Chief" as I started calling him, was when he interviewed me. That was 33 years ago, more than half my life ago, and we always stayed in touch even after I left Hawthorne. He was a great friend over the years. I will always be thankful for getting a chance to work at "A pretty nice place".

    I'll remember our shenanigans in Las Vegas during CES, riding in the various cars he would purchase, him watching me set up a Linn LP-12 for 3 hours to get it perfect, his "just like Christmas day" look when some obscure or incredibly large piece of audio equipment would arrive in the mail (think pairs, plural, of Acoustat Electrostatic Speakers) and our constant search for good demo music.

    I'm very saddened to hear of Bob's passing. His sense of humor, his witty banter, his non-technical rhetoric during demos, and his penchant for haggling a deal on another Phillips 312, Nakamichi tape deck, or Akai Reel to Reel will forever stay in my mind.

    My heartfelt condolences to Bob's family and the Hawthorne family.

  32. Geoff Patrick Geoff Patrick

    Hawthorne Stereo — its excellent staff and my many satisfying purchases and experiences — has been an important presence in my life for nearly two decades. It’s a major shock to hear of Robert’s passage. I will always remember him. My sincere condolences to the team and his loved ones, and I hope the torch he lit will continue burning bright.

  33. Laurence Chen Laurence Chen

    Sorry news. Thanks, Bob, for all you've done and for you being you. Condolences to the family and staff.

  34. Jeff Hack   (a.k.a Hawk) Jeff Hack (a.k.a Hawk)

    I will miss Robert very much, I have to admit that this one hits me pretty hard…. I tallied up the years last night and it turns out I’ve known him for at least 28+ years.

    At first I was one of Hawthorne’s “annoying regulars”, switching out kit right and left until one day Robert finally gave me an ultimatum and sent me home with a couple simple Naim pieces saying “here, try this…. If you like it you will be spending a lot more money here than you ever thought, if you don’t like it I don’t think we’ve got whatever it is you’re looking for”. Simple. To the point. Perfect.

    He was right. I slowly morphed out of my “annoying regular” phase a year or two later to Robert politely asking if I would “consider, considering coming to work” for him. I gladly accepted and worked with him for 6 years. I am a proud member of the Hawthorne Employee Alumni Association. Those were good years. I learned a lot from him and many of my now “best and dear friends” were customers I met while working at Hawthorne.

    Even after I left Hawthorne Robert let me keep a key and use the store as an after hours rehearsal space for my Jazz trio…. A true friend!

    Believe it or not, through the years on several occasions I would have a conversation with him trying to find out if he had any inkling of how rare and special Hawthorne really was in the whole country and that he was the real reason that made it special… quite extraordinary actually…. I think he had an inkling, but not really a full grasp on how many people he helped and connected with not only through hi-fi, but on a real personal level.

    I am very blessed to have known him….!

  35. Greg Hale Greg Hale

    So sorry to hear of Bob's passing. He was an honest and enjoyable human being, and helped me discover audio enthusiasm and musical discovery. My condolences to his family and to the Hawthorne employees.

  36. Frank Corrrado Frank Corrrado

    Devastated. Simply devastated. He was so much more to me than a mere salesman. He was my friend, as are other folks at Hawthorne. He was (is) one of a kind and I will miss him forever. He turned me into a loyal and unrepentant Naimista and I remain grateful for that. This is sad beyond measure.

  37. Marshall Katzen Marshall Katzen

    I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about Bob. He introduced me to audio in 1960 when we would discuss it at length when we should have been studying on high school. We were friends through out college and beyond. So sorry we were on different coasts. My heart goes out to his family.

  38. Robert Hirsch Robert Hirsch

    I’ve been a repeat customer of Bob’s since Hawthorne’s time in Bellevue. I will miss his quirky and understated humor that could sometimes mask his underlying honesty and integrity. My condolences to his family and Hawthorne staff. As noted in another post he was truly “a good guy”.

  39. Curt Yamamoto Curt Yamamoto

    Very sorry and sad to learn of Bob's passing. I met Bob when Hawthorne was in Portland in the late 70's. I just saw him in December and can't believe he's now gone. A great guy who will be truly missed.

  40. Andrew Homa Andrew Homa

    My condolences to you Hawthorne folks. I met Robert in 96 when I firsts moved to Seattle. We even shared a blanket spot once at a Lyle Lovett concert at the Chateau St. Michele. I always appreciated him loaning me units to take home and audition that were worth thousands of dollars just on a hand shake. I am very sorry to hear of his passing. Glad to hear that the Hawthorne store is remaining.

  41. Patrick Hub Patrick Hub

    Oh no! I can't tell you how sorry I am to get this news. He was wonderfully astute and perceptive and had a great dry, ironic sense of humor. Even though I'd only show up maybe a couple times a year, he always remembered who I was and we'd make jokes about his business and mine. I and my friends trusted his guidance implicitly. Thank you, everyone at Hawthorne Stereo, for your diligence and humanity and dedication to the team effort you've always shown. I'm kind of shocked, I'd have appreciated one more conversation and the wry commentary he provided.

  42. Mark Johnson Mark Johnson

    So sad to see this news. Robert (and everyone at Hawthorne) has always been so good to me. My condolences to his friends and family.

  43. Robert Samuelson Robert Samuelson

    Saddened to hear about Bob. I always looked forward to some clever repartee with him - his sharp, dry wit, a unique blend of sarcasm and cynicism. He showed me a Naim Nait in 1995, and from then on my church has become Hawthorne.

  44. nancy weiner nancy weiner

    wow very sorry to hear about this:( i had know bob thru many of the companies i have worked with over the last bunch of years, and we always has the best phone chats! RIP Bob! on behalf of all (at my current company) at fidelis distribution - harbeth , our sincere condolences.

  45. Brad Liljequist Brad Liljequist

    Very very sorry to hear this. Best wishes to everyone at Hawthorne, as well as his family - I'm sure this is difficult. I have many great memories of Robert over the years; truly a hifi sage who called it like he saw it. Hoping the best for the Hawthorne crew during the transition.

  46. Quan Ton Quan Ton

    How fortunate we all have been over the decades to have such a nice place here in the PNW owned by such a sweet human! People and Things all come to pass, but the impact is everlasting. RIP Bob, thank you, and love all of your staff! Please carry on with his torch.

  47. Mark Wieman Mark Wieman

    So sorry to hear this terrible news. Bob sold me my first turntable in 1993, and I've been hooked ever since. I appreciate having his shop in our city -- with such a great team and wide selection. I hope it continues for many years to come.

  48. Mark Allen Mark Allen

    I'm so very very sorry to hear this. My condolences to his family and Hawthorne staff. He was one of a kind. I will also miss his quick quick wit.

  49. Robert Lyons Robert Lyons

    S0 very sad to hear this news. Bob was a stand up human being and I not only bought some wonderful gear from him, exchanged stories and thoughts but purchase a 1975 Alfa Romeo sedan from Bob. I kept it about 2.5 years and when I was leaving Seattle for Berlin he bought it back from me.....WOW!
    He will be sorely missed by the community....my deepest condolences to his family and all of you at Hawthorne!

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