Buying Used Speakers

Want to get the group's thoughts on buying used speakers.  The value proposition in many cases is compelling.  However, there is a pretty good element of risk as well, even from reputable Audiogon sellers.  What exactly does, "completely tested mean?"  Or "performs flawlessly?"  You don't in most cases get a warranty for starters and you're at the complete mercy of the adds and pics.  Some of the sellers are broker dealers (with stellar reputations), so do they even know how they were treated?  Prob not.   Let's face it - the vast majority of condition ratings are based on the cosmetics IMHO.  

Has anybody bought expensive speakers on AG or elsewhere?  What questions did you ask the seller to help ensure they're as sonically good as cosmetically?  Did you test them yourselves once you received them?  Any good lessons learned would be much appreciated as well.  I know for starters to get a complete  description of how they're going to ship them.  Thanks in advance!   


I practically only buy used gear. There are not may high end stores where I live, their selection is narrow and they charge exorbitant prices. I never bought speakers used, but I did buy a number of headphones. It is very difficult to find a place that would let you listen to headphones (Japan has no issues with that... but US does). But used or demo units provide great opportunity for evaluation. If you don't like them, you won't lose much.

Exception is when technology is new and there are no used units yet. For example, I purchased R2R DAC new - Denafrips makes really good ones and you rarely can find them used (I guess people keep them). 

Otherwise I bought and sold Pass, BAT, Sonic Frontiers, Adcom, Rotel, Marantz, Auralic, Rega, VPI, you name it.

@helomech That really resonates with me.  The dealer I'm considering has a hifi store and deals almost 50/50 between new and used sales.  His feedback is plenty and at 100%.  Still, it's definitely wise to verify exactly what you're describing and better yet to travel to the store to verify in person if possible.  Like you're saying, I wouldn't be able to afford what I want new but could in the used market.  

The other element is to verify his past sales.  Are they high end items similar to what I'm considering?  I can't tell you the number of times I went to verify a seller only to find the high rating was based on selling nickel/dime items.  It's also good to see how cooperative they are in doing up front things like taking your calls, taking more photos, entertaining a visit to audition, etc.    

As a seller, speakers are by far the worst item to sell.  When we say things like fully tested and performs flawlessly, I can tell you at least what I mean.  I connect them to my system and put them through their paces.  I listen to tracks and check if I hear static or distortion.  If everything checks is fine.  These are speakers.  They are not that complex to test.  Incidentally, I do the same thing when I test gear.  Need to test all inputs and outputs and make sure everything works.  DACs and servers are most annoying things to test.  

That said, speakers are hardest item to ship.  I have had two issues in 5 years which is higher than on any other product type.  In one case, FedEx beat the hell out of the box and the base of the speaker was damage.  This was $150 item that was easily removed and replaced.  The other, FedEx beat the hell out of the box and a glued piece of wood came loose inside and knocked a wire loose on the crossover.  In that case, it was an inexpensive repair.  Both cases, I covered it. Clarify what happens with your seller if something goes wrong.  

Other notes.  I would want to see them in original packaging and depending on the type of speaker, might insist that it ships freight rather than UPS/FedEx.  I would flex on this if you were buying from a very reputable seller that has purchased packaging materials from someone like ULine or has it professionally packaged by FedEx.  Then if anything happens you have a checkmate on the people at FedEx and they have to pay the claim.  


I have absolutely no problem driving from New York City to, say, Ohio to pick up speakers I want. I know more often than not people generally don’t have a problem with FedEx or UPS, but if you’ve ever had a problem trying to collect on an insured audio shipment, you know how vulnerable to mumbo-jumbo fkery are. I don’t want to be a lawyer to get my money back on a lost or destroyed shipment. They don’t like to pay.

Buy speakers in your region of the country and...

A) You get your item on your timetable

B) If you’re going to pick up in, say, Pittsburgh, take your lovely spouse with you and spend a day doing whatever it is you do in Pittsburgh.

C) A $79 hotel stay, some gas & a day or two out with your friend, kid, S.O., etc still beats a fingers crossed 8 day $500 delivery fee- and you’re still on your schedule to hear those speakers you really wanted.

D) I’m not a believer in shipping speakers. You want them shipped right? Common carriers do a fine job with big, heavy, well packed fragile items, but thats a prohibitive expense.

I don’t feel this way about buying modern components via shipment. USPS has been absolutely 1000% spectacular over my entire time as an audio enthusiast. In terms price, time, value, tracking and safe arrival- I can’t ever say the same for audio shipments with UPS or even worse, FedEx.

I bought mine from a store that I'd been going to for decades with a strong reputation that given your s/n you probably know. The last pair of 2.4s they had were first sold months before I came in and found them, in the finish I wanted, no less.  Some high powered attorney with more money than time wanted the latest in speakers so I picked up his 3month old trade for less than half price. I think they wanted the space as home theater had become their main focus. I'm not a big believer in divine intervention, particularly in audio but this still seems pretty miraculous to me.