Why Buy Used Equipment?


To answer this question, first let's look at new equipment and the new equipment owner:

There are a large number of audiophiles and technophiles who absolutely must have the latest equipmnet for any number of reasons. This can be because it sounds or looks better, measures better, uses new design methodology or technology , susceptability to marketing hype or simply feel it is the best way to get closer to the music and will settle for nothing but the very best. The more practical minded audiophiles want the security of warranties and the support of the manufacturer and dealer which can be a truly fantastic value. Most of the time though, it is a combination of all of the above.

New equipment, particularly when new technology is used, is often a showcase for the company's latest thinking. The new buyer not only buys the latest but they also buys the exclusivity of being the "first on the block" and perhps being the envy of those who can only wish to own something so magnificent. The price of exclusivity, which could well be worth it, is not just measured in dollars but also in time, effort, and sometimes exasperation. Especially with new technology, there is the possibility that it's use and application is unproven in the real world. For this, we can thank the new equipment buyer because they can (and are even willing) test this stuff out for us - possibily at the detriment of their ancillary equipment. Of course, in the high-end world this may be an exagerration, but to certain degrees this has happened plenty of times with even the most respected manufacturers

There always comes a time when the new owner must part with thier now used piece of audio equipment. For whatever reasons (most of the time it's upgrade fever) the equipment ends up in a dealer's showroom or on the web for a tremendous discount on the list price. This is very good for the aficianado of used equipment!

Used audio equipment has both benefits and drawbacks which will be outlined here, but it becomes clear that the relative advantages of buying and using used equipment outweigh the disadvantages. It may even be concluded that the merits of owning used equipment surpass buying new, but that can be left up to the reader.

Just like clothing, good audio equipment has an extended usefulness that goes through several phases:

  1. For the new buyer, it represents the heigth of fashion for a few seasons until it becomes unfashionable.
  2. For the next buyer fashion is not as much an issue. This person will benefit from the huge discount and the opportunity to aquire this Object D' Audio.
  3. The next phase might be the re-assignment of duties for the particular piece - main amp becomes the subwoofer only amp, old speakers are used for the office system, or the piece is sold or given to a friend who can provide a good home to old equipment.
  4. In some instances, old equipment can be given new life and may come back into fashion.

Primarily, the real world audiophile is concerned about bang for buck. Used equipment is quite attractive in this case. One can get something of higher quality, power, level of fit and finish or durability compared to something new in the same price range. The value here is simply quality. The owner can usually be assured of purchasing those particular traits that seperate good equipment from great equipment. In fact, sometimes it is worthwhile to buy something of extremely high quality, regardless of sound, because it must be better than what is already in the system. Past issues of audio magazines are sometimes good for determining what was considered "Class A" or "Editor's Choice" and can give a good idea of what that particular product can do. Incidently, many audio equipment manufacturers feel pressure from the market or dealers to constantly produce new and exciting stuff. The manufacturers response is usually a small circuit modification, slightly different parts or just a new faceplate with a consequent increase in price. Differences between current production and used gear can really be quite small.

Like the first owner, a used piece of equipment for the used owner represents pride of ownership - perhaps more so because the used owner has had some time to lust after a particular product. Pride of ownership is a sometimes overlooked factor in high-end and while sound should always be the primary objective, somewhere in the back of our heads we really would like to impress the hell out of unsuspecting visitors friends and neighbors. Pride of owneship also virtually ensures the longevity of a component - if it's cared about, it will be maintained to continue providing pleasure.

The used buyer has a few more advantages, one of which is by completely bypassing the new equipment break-in process. Sometimes breaking-in a piece of equipment is unpleasant and can also take a long time. For the occasional listener, it can take months and even the most hardcore listener must wait a weekend or so until the new equipment is tolerable.

One of the drawbacks of owning used equipment is parts availability. In the world of electronics, obsolescence is expected and relatively few things these days are built to last. Even well made and well designed high-end audio equipment that is built fo the long haul will wear out after a period of time due to heat, dust, and particularly the life span of electrolytic capacitors. Individual component manufacturers discontinue certain parts or replace them with slightly different values. There are two main options available to the owner of used equipment that may have failed - repair and replace or modify using different components.

Often, if the used item is recent enough, it can be upgraded buy the manufacturer to current spec. Sometimes it can be an expensive proposition, but you often get the new buyer's advantage of a warranty. Better still, if the component has been around for a while and is popular, it can be upgraded or modified to exceed current performance levels by a passel of third party companies. For the technically inclined, the prospect of modifying or tweaking a piece of equipment is worth buying used. In concert with the many internet sources of information, equipment can be tweaked to very high levels. If an older used unit needs repair, most of the time any competent technician should be able to fix it.

The internet is a great help to the used equipment buyer. With the touch of a button and a few search skills, info on the unit in question can easily be found. There are at the time of this writing, three major sites to find reviews of audio equipment on the internet. In addition to having read a review in a magazine a few years ago, the user can find the opinions of actual owners with a much wider variety of equipment than any professional reviewer has access to. While some owners may not find the "corrcect" technical jargon, and others may have a completly different impression of a piece, these user reviews can give a good overall impression of the characteristics and long term reliability of a given component.

Finally, there are two more points to buying used equipment. Used equipment almost makes itself more available to trying out in your own system than new equipment. For the price of shipping and a little bit of time, one can have equipment arrive at the door, listen to it, yay or nay it, and then put it back up for sale. Local dealers are sometimes willing to do a similar thing with used equipment. Unless the item is "As is, no refunds", the user can actually buy the equipment try it out at home and if it doesn't work out return it for store credit. Dealers have a limited stock of used equipment (unless they're spicifically a used equipment dealer) to exchange for, but it pays in the long run to develop a relationship with a good dealer.



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