Let’s face it, being an audiophile or home theater enthusiast isn’t a cheap hobby. In fact, really good, quality gear can cost hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars. And yes, there are those who have spent over a hundred thousand or more. How then can the average joe afford good, high end gear and where can you go to find good deals?
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a millionaire to get high quality, high-end gear. And, with a little patience and knowing where to look, you can oftentimes save 20%, 50% or even up to 70% or more. I’ll break down my personal buying strategy below.
1. Go to your local dealer: The first place to look is your local high-end audio or home theater store. “Wait!” you might ask, “I thought you were going to tell me where to save money?” That’s right, I am. The first place to look is always your local dealer and see what they have for demo and used (normally on consignment) gear.
Demo equipment is simply equipment that they’ve been using in the store to demonstrate a product or product line. Because the equipment has been used in the store, it cannot be sold as new. However, in 9 out of 10 occasions, you’re usually getting gear that’s like new. Best of all, demo gear comes with a full manufacturer’s warranty. Dealers will normally sell demo gear at about 20% off retail prices and sometimes you’ll see demo gear as much as 50% off. Most dealers will post a list of their demo gear for sale on their web site or will have a list in-store.
In addition to demo gear, your local dealer will also usually sell used equipment from their customers on consignment. Normally, used gear will come in for consignment when a customer upgrades to better equipment and trades in their existing gear for a discount. Consignment/used gear is one of the best values in high end audio. Normally, you can save 50% – 70% on used gear. Your dealer will normally test the gear that comes in on consignment so you can normally buy with confidence. Be warned, however that used gear rarely carries a warranty. And, because it’s used, your dealer may have a strict no-return policy.
2. Online Auction and Trading Sites: I’m a big fan to supporting local dealers and developing long-term relationships with them. However, there are instances where your local dealer won’t have the brand or item you’re looking for. In that case, I recommend looking online. The first site you should check out is www.audiogon.com.
Audiogon has been around for many, many years and is arguably the premiere auction and classified ads site for high end audio gear and for audiophiles. The site works on a similar model to eBay where sellers and buyers earn points for good, clean transactions. You can therefore see who is a reputable seller. A slick feature of the audiogon.com site is an online Blue Book that shows you the average selling price and price over time of the particular piece of gear you’re looking for. You can therefore make sure that you’r not overpaying.
|Audiogon’s Blue Book is a great reference if you’re buying or selling gear|
Because Audiogon.com has been around for so long and has such a strong audiophile and home theater community, many audio dealers from across the country post their demo and consignment deals onto Audiogon.
What about eBay and Craig’s List? Ebay is a distant second choice for me and Craig’s list an even more distant third. Generally speaking you’ll find everything you need on Audiogon. However there are instances where you may find gear on Ebay that you won’t find on audiogon.com. My advice when buying from Ebay or any site for that matter is to simply do your homework and make sure you’re protected.
As far as Craig’s list, good audiophile gear is generally thin pickings. You also need to make sure you’re searching multiple local Craig list sites (depending on your location) otherwise you may miss deals. Although I did get one super deal on Craig’s list (my subwoofer) I haven’t found Craig’s list to be a real go-to place.
3. Online authorized dealers. A third place to find good high-end gear at huge discount prices is from online authorized dealers. Like brick and mortar dealers, online dealers will normally sell demo gear, clearance models, or even refurbished models. Some of the great online authorized dealers are MusicDirect.com, AudioAdvisor.com, SpearitSound.com and Accessories4less.com. Crutchfield.com and OneCall.com sometimes have good deals, but I much prefer the aforementioned three sites.
MusicDirect is a real, high-end audio store in Chicago. Their clearance and demo gear offerings are spectacular. They ship and have a generous and fair return policy. SpearitSound and AudioAdvisor.com sell specific brands. AudioAdvisor will sell the gear they use for photos in their catalog as demo gear at a fair discount. Accessories4less.com carries some inventory liquidation, refurbished, or closeout specials. You can easily save 30%-60% on Accessories4less.com. The only caveat is that Accessories4less.com is geared more to low-end to mid-tier audio and home theater products with an emphasis on the latter.
Most of us won’t hit the lottery and have $100k or even $10k to spend on audio gear. However, if you’re in the market for high-end gear and want to know where to get the best gear at the best deals then you’ll appreciate my recommendations above.
4. Outlet Stores. A fourth place you might want to reference are specific outlet stores for manufacturers such as ClassicAudioParts.com, which specializes in ATI and Audioaccess (JBL) branded amps, processors, and speakers. Some manufacturers like Harmon Audio (JBL, Infinity, Harmon/Kardon) even maintain their own Ebay outlet store where you can find great deals on lots of different gear.