Audio enthusiasts with limited financial resources can turn to the used marketplace in order to build a high quality stereo system. At one time, the used market was largely comprised the newspaper want ads and the traded-in equipment found at local audio stores. With the increasing popularity of the Internet as an additional resource for used audio, the market opportunities have exploded. Learning which sites to visit can make it possible to browse through thousands of different pieces of audio gear. The real trick to navigating the used market successfully is to know the benefits and risks associated with various avenues from the websites offering used audio equipment.
eBay has widespread name recognition, and many people use this site to buy and sell their stereo equipment. The site began as an auction house that allowed individuals a unique way to buy or sell their goods. Over the years, the nature of eBay has changed. While it is still a viable avenue for private individuals to execute audio transactions, it has now become the domain of the commercial audio merchant. Power Sellers dominate the listings, and many auctions are now replaced with the “Buy It Now” price tag. The risk factor associated with eBay has traditionally been higher than the other options for used audio gear. This is a giant auction site, with thousands of transactions being completed every day. Con artists have used this site to defraud unsuspecting customers. With a bit of common sense, it is possible to avoid an eBay scam. It is important to view pictures of the item up for sale, to ask direct questions about the electrical and mechanical condition of the unit, and use a protected payment method such as PayPal. Even with the changes it has undergone, eBay is still the most likely way to pick up a coveted piece of audio electronics at a reasonable price. Audiogon is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the used audio marketplace. This audio site is the second largest offering of used audio equipment on the net, trailing only eBay. While there are commercial merchants on the site,
Audiogon is primarily composed of private individuals. There are thousands of listings on this site, and the majority of the equipment is high-end audio gear. Since this site is composed of audio enthusiasts, it tends to be a safer avenue to obtain a good piece of used equipment. In addition, there is a feedback system that allows a prospective buyer to research the integrity of a seller. While this system is not infallible, it can set the stage for a smooth transaction. It is still important to take the normal precautions listed in the previous paragraph for any transaction involving used audio gear. Audiogon is the first place I look for good preowned audio equipment.
There are alternative websites to Audiogon for private buyers and sellers. While many of these sites still exist, their role in the marketplace has been steadily diminishing. Still, a determined shopper should visit these sites. Take the time to visit Audioshopper, Audioweb, HiFIClassifieds.com, or Canuck Audio Mart. These sites are smaller than Audiogon, but may hide that elusive audio gem that gets snapped up on the larger websites.
Many of the audio forums on the Internet run a classified page for their members. The listings are usually free, and offer a venue for a seller to offer up an inexpensive audio item. I have browsed the classified pages on Audio Asylum, Audio Karma, Audio Circle, Sound-Thinking, and the Polk Forum. As a general rule, the transactions on these classified pages are fairly safe. Members of these audio boards are not willing to risk their standing for a bad transaction. Once again, it is still prudent to apply the usual precautions needed for the purchase of any used audio component.
The brick and mortar audio store is quickly becoming a footnote in the history books. The stores that remain often create a website in order reach out to a larger pool of perspective customers. Actually, there are several large stores that specialize in the buying and selling of used audio equipment. Echo Audio and Jeff’s Sound Values are the two large retailers of used audio equipment. These businesses maintain physical storefronts along the west coast, but run websites as well that list their used offerings. Used audio retailers will properly check out all incoming gear, and usually offer a warranty on their equipment. It is also possible to trade in a piece of equipment, and apply the proceeds to a new component. These retailers offer several services that make the purchase of used audio gear a very safe and convenient transaction. These businesses do need to make a profit, so you will pay a premium price for a component. Still, a well-cared-for pre-owned audio component represents a good value. Paying a few extra dollars for the services and guarantees provided by the audio retailer is money well spent.
Craigslist is another venue for that elusive audio bargain. This computer-based classified listing has displaced much of the traditional want ads as a venue for selling personal goods. Audio enthusiasts who value vintage gear often scour Craigslist in search of audio gems. For an audio enthusiast with a limited budget, this is a great way to build an inexpensive audio system. Craigslist is set up for local transactions, making it a safe way to obtain a pre-owned audio component. As a buyer, you can physically inspect the equipment prior to completing the transaction. Shipping no longer is a factor, and the chance of damage by a freight carrier is eliminated. Diligence is the key to finding good deals on Craigslist. Veteran shoppers of this forum will scour the electronics listings every day. When that elusive “score of the century” listing shows up, they bolt out of the door with cash in hand. For the audio enthusiast with a small audio kitty, Craigslist is an excellent way to put together a good sounding audio system for a modest outlay of cash.
The pre-owned audio marketplace is a treasure trove for the frugal audio enthusiast. Anyone who uses a proper amount of caution and common sense can minimize the risks associated with buying used equipment. The lowest risk level can be achieved by purchasing a component from a retailer specializing in pre-owned gear. The highest risk level is associated with eBay, although the “audio bargains” are most likely to come from this site. In some ways, Craigslist offers the benefits of both these venues, although you have to be on top of your audio shopping game in order to find the killer scores. Personally, I prefer to shop for pre-owned audio equipment on Audiogon. This site has the best combination of selection, price, and low risk. Over the years, I have put together many fine sounding audio systems from equipment purchased on this site. If you have limited audio funds, you can put together a fine audio system by sifting through the offerings on these sites.