What to Buy?
Okay so know you where to look for gear and you have found some resources to learn about gear. What equipment do you buy? That is strictly a personal decision. One of the advantages of the second hand market is that often with a little bit of money and a bit of knowledge of what to look for, you can sample a variety of gear that you otherwise would not have considered if you were restricted to laying out several hundred or even thousands of dollars on new equipment. As I mentioned earlier your buying decision are your own. As you may or not be familiar with there are a variety of “hot topics” such solid state vs. tube, digital vs. analog or vinyl vs. CD that are regularly debated in the audio world. What equipment you buy really depends on personal preferences. Your budget, your living space and even the people who will have to live with your audio preferences will all have a much greater affect on the gear you chose than the debates raging among the on-line audio communities.
When evaluating gear always try and test it out. In the audio world hearing is believing. If a seller won’t let you test gear that can be an indication there is an issue. The physical condition of the gear is important because it tells you something about the pride of ownership. You have to look at the gear as well as listen to it keep that in mind. However do not be fooled by a pretty picture or well polished case. There can be issues lurking just below the surface. When you test equipment be respectful of the gear but test it well enough to know if everything functions as it should. Bringing a CD, tape or even a record with which you are very familiar. This is a great way to verify the gear is producing the sound you are looking for and it makes it easier to determine if there are any problems. If you do find something with issues be realistic. Don’t be swayed by a low price. If you have limited abilities in electronic repairs or are on a very limited budget it often does not make sense to purchase the equipment. There are a lot of audio hobbyist out there with garages or attics full of “projects” they were going to get to “someday”. However there are also many a pair of speakers left for dead that only needed a $15 re-foam kit and an hour of your time to suddenly start beating again. Know your limits and know your budget and you will find some great equipment out there.
Probably the most important thing to learn is your market. As you begin visiting thrift stores, view Craigslist or visit E-Bay you should begin to get s sense of what gear is selling for in your area. Search “Completed Auctions” on E-Bay to learn how the wider marketplace is valuing items you are considering. Once you have a price range in mind it makes it easier to sort through the stacks in the thrift store or the multitude of listings on E-Bay or Craigslist. Knowledge of your local marketplace along with knowing your budget makes buying so much easier. Not every $20 pair of speaker is a bargain but others become a steal. The big plastic receivers with a myriad of buttons are passed over for that sleek little CD player. Slowly your system begins to build and you know you have paid a fair price for the gear you want. As mentioned earlier the nice things about buying used gear is that you can sometimes find gear cheap enough that it does not hurt to be curious. Also keep in mind, particularly, when buying older gear that components used to build this equipment has a limited shelf life. Some highly regarded (and costly) equipment contain parts which are no longer serviceable. You should know this prior to purchase and keep it in mind when testing the gear. A small click or hiss may be the first sign of a much larger problem that has no solution. Knowing the value of the gear even after the purchase can help you make decisions when it comes time to upgrade or make repairs. Among many audio hobbyists the decision to repair or upgrade is made despite cost relative to the value. There is nothing wrong with paying more to repair a piece than its market value if you really love how that gear performs. Some equipment can be viewed as an investment but if buy used equipment with the idea of making money you are buying it for the wrong reason.
In closing I hope you have found some of these suggestions helpful. I have enjoyed many hours looking for and finding used gear. Along the way I met many people with some great stories and even made a few new friends. Best of all at the end of a long day at work or searching for even more audio gear I can kick back in my favorite chair and just smile as the music plays.
Scott aka “Thekid”
Do you have your own hints or tricks to suggest to people? Use the comments below. – AudioReview
Check Out the AudioReview Classifieds – Post an Ad, it is Free!