Buying Used Audio Equipment


Most, I repeat, most audiophiles are not wealthy. They may talk about their Krell, or Mark Levinson or other expensive high end equipment, but because someone decides to spend a signifigant chunk of money on a particular piece of equipment does not necessarily mean that they are stinkin' rich. The trick to getting this kind of stuff requires patience, knowing what to buy, knowing when to sell it, and knowing who to sell it to.

Developing a high end system takes time. It requires a willingness to research all the possibilities, narrowing down your choices, and then auditioning if at all possible. This process goes on over a period of years - it must. Most audiophiles can't/don't just go go out and buy a whole system at a time and the ones who do often end up unhappy with it for some reason or another. Why? Because system matching is crucial for long term enjoyment and pride of ownership.

As patience is a requirement in developing a system, patience is also required to find the right opportunity at the right time and place. Everyone has heard a story where someone went to a garage sale and found a rare and valuable thing for a few dollars simply because the owner did not know how valuable it was, and just wanted to get rid of it. For the most part, this doesn't happen very often to most of us, but this does happen more often then you think. Being there when it happens and taking advantage of it can have some very good long term effects. The point? Keep an eye out for good deals, especially if you see a good deal on a piece of equipment that you know to be better than your weakest piece of equipment because as you develop a good idea of what you want, you can either feel good about getting this thing for cheap, or selling /trading it for something that you know you want.

What to buy
As you keep an eye on the classifieds and research the things that you think you want, you can get a good idea of what maintains it's value and what doesn't. Obviously, equipment that earns the classic status will usually maintain a steady price over a longer period of time. On the used market, you can be pretty much assured that a piece of equipment will depreciate to at least 40% of it's original price, some more, some less. Mass market Japanese equipment like recievers and home theater depreciate right in the store and can be found all over the place really cheap - obviously not a worthwhile investment. High end equipment, usually made in the US, Canada, UK, Italy, etc., tends to retain some of its value longer and also tends to last longer because it is well built and lovingly maintained by its owner.

Classic equipment can be an especially good investment for the beginner for several reasons: 1.) The equipment continues to gain a good reputation over the years. Everyone and their uncle has owned one at one time or another and is willing to recount their experiences with it. 2.) The equipment has particularly well known sonic attributes and while it may not be the very best in its class these days, it does what it does consistently. 3.) The beginner will have a better chance to experience the product and develop a better idea of what they're looking for based on it. 4.) The beginner, after using the equipment can always sell the component for more or less what they paid for it. 5.) After being so well liked for many years, support and or upgrades are plentiful and still available.

When to sell
When to sell equipment is sometimes important too. How do you know when? Well, if you're unhappy with it, then the sooner, the better. What's the point of owning something you don't like - this does not add to the enjoyment of the hooby. If you just plain need the money (and this has happened to some of us) then it's time to sell right now. If you're not unhappy and not financially challenged, but want to upgrade to something better, then you may have a couple of choices. Wait and sell during the cold months because audiophiles are most likely to be indoors listening to their stereos and thinking about upgrading. You could also wait and sell for the highest price you think you can get away with - it could take months, but there is always someone out there who absolutely can't wait to get his/her hands on your equipment and will pay top dollar to have it right now. It also helps when you have the only ad for this component and dont have to worry about competitive pricing. Sounds almost evil, but that's how free trade works, so take advantage of it.

Who to sell it to
You can always sell your equipment to the first taker - that's pretty simple. I believe, however, that it's best to try to narrow down your potential buyers to a specific group. A person who owns super-efficient speakers is not likely to look for a high power/high current amplifier as an upgrade. Most tube lovers are not going to be interested in your solid state preamp. If possible try to recommend a good match for that equipment and target those owners.

Bear in mind that although the point of high-end is really good music and good sound, visual appeal and pride of ownership play a big part in it (although some may be unwilling to admit it). That's why B&O is still around - some folks will pay big dough for the newest, coolest looking stuff even if it doesn't perform particularly well. Tubes have that classic look, and you can see them working - people like that. Preamps may have a certain feel to the knobs - people like that too. Speakers may feature the finest exotic wood veneers and be trimmed with rich Corinthian leather, and you can be assured that someone will obsess over it and then do whatever it takes to get their hands on it. I think this happens to everyone and there is nothing worng with it - it's good for the seller to make the money, and it good for the buyer because he/she finally has what they've been wanting.



Page created by James L Woodley © 2002 Page last updated 21 August 2005