Do You Buy Speakers Without Hearing Them?

In the 'good old days' there were a lot of hifi stores around so there was plenty of opportunity to go in and listen to various brands and models of speakers.  With the continuing disappearance of audio shops, I'm wondering if more people are making the leap to buy speakers they've never heard in person, or just limiting their purchase options to the brands they can hear locally?  If you are buying a speaker that you haven't heard, how do you get comfortable with that?  Magazine reviews?  YouTube demos?  

I've mostly heard any speaker I ended up buying, but in two cases I bought speakers that weren't available in my area.  I made my decision based on reviews.  In one case the speaker was really nice, but in the second case, the speaker was well-reviewed but ended up being disappointing.

Appreciate your thoughts.


Ag insider logo xs@2xazkeith

Good speakers can be quite expensive. If I hope to keep them long term, I’d definitely want to listen to them first, or ensure there’s a 100% return option. Speakers are so subjective and personal, and they behave differently in different rooms and systems....each case is unique, so I’d want to listen to see if they’re going to work for me.

I've done both, but if I've never heard them, I only buy with full free refund privileges...

My favorite speaker of all time was bought without a demo BUT it was based on much feedback that in one case included a common denominator (Magnepan 1.7) that we both had owned and which served as a reference point.  The new speaker exceeded expectations.  

Another case was based on one very enthusiastic professional review.  That speaker I never learned to love.

So with the right type of feedback (and a return policy) I would not be fearful at all.  Gone are the days of showrooms packed with speakers.  Honestly, that isn't the proper way to evaluate a speaker anyway.

It depends. Even if you audition a loudspeaker you can not be sure of what you will get at home in your room. If you have a dealer that will let you audition at home that is a huge plus but rare now a days. I usually by based an design and reputation. But my interest in loudspeakers is limited to dipole line arrays, principally ESLs. My choices are limited. If you know what format you want, tower vs bookshelf, efficiency you need to get the volume you want,  know your amp will drive them correctly and have a set price you can go by reputation. An example would be you want a highly efficient loudspeaker as you have a 60 watt/ch tube and you like rock at realistic levels and size is not an issue. The Klipsch Heritage series very well made and supported. The Cornwall is the speaker for you. I like 8 foot tall dipole ESLs. I have only one choice Soundlabs and I got exactly what I wanted without hearing them in person first. 

I'm up against that right now. I want to hear the KEF r 7 Meta but no dealer within reasonable distance. The r7 non Meta are available and at a good discount but if I buy them it will always bother me if I missed something not hearing the Meta ized version. One way or another this will be my last speaker as I am 73.

Just did. I bought some KEF Reference 1’s used, without hearing them. These were preceded by LS50’s, so I figured it was low risk. An excellent upgrade. 

I bought once great speakers from few states away and then company went bankrupt.  Why? Because of poor dealership base.  They had only 3 places for whole US to demo them.  Still love them, but there is no support in case of any problems.  

I've had IMF Monitors and now the KEF 104 a/b so i do know the KEF signature sound, just can't pull the trigger. 

In general no. Descriptions of the sound of speakers is only really effective if done in relation to speakers you have heard and know. Otherwise each qualitative statement has little quantitative information. A comment like a bit bright and detailed could mean anything from something you might not hear it to ear shattering, chalk board scraping sound. It is difficult to talk about without common sign posts.

But after three decades of experience and owning a lower tier speaker from Sonus Faber to verify that they had exactly the sound I wanted, the next two upgrades with the same company and doubling or more my investment was very safe. The outcome was exactly what I expected.

i did that with 3 speakers



Triangle Comte

Ref 3A de Capos-had these for 14 years now

As a general rule,I’d never buy anything without hearing it first, although I made one exception.  I have a Hegel H390 and when Hegel was at the shows, they were using KEF speakers for a while.  I figured that Hegel would want to show off their wares in the best light, so I bought a pair of KEF Reference speakers and after two years I’m still pretty happy with them.

All the best.

I really sympathize with folks who live removed from metro areas and have no hi'fi shops.  When one buys new speakers there is always a large loss taken if the speakers are unsatisfactory and have to be sold.  I think I would be OK with buying speakers that I've never demoed off the second hand market.  They can always be sold for break even or a small loss.  Good luck and cheers. 

My last 2 speaker purchases were without audition; Buchardt Audio S400 MKII, and Clayton Shaw Caladans (which have finally shipped and should be here Wednesday now). Both bought direct from manufacturer without dealer middlemen.

The Buchardts turned out to be a home run for $2,000 two way bookshelf, and here's hoping the Caladans are as well. I definitely bought those on Clayton's reputation alone, and an extremely attractive price point.

It all comes down to IQ level of the engineer...

If it's a high IQ engineer behind the speakers, for example,

Andrew Jones 

Michael Borresen

Shinji Tarutani et al

Yoshiyuki Kaku

Greg Timbers

Peter Comeau

Masahiro Tobise

Akira Nakamura,


you can buy it without hearing it...if these kinda guys were given a enough of a budget to work with it.


On the other hand, If a low IQ dude is designing your speakers...yeah, it's imperative that you hear it and decide if you wanna run away (as fast as you can) or not...In general, you can throw all kinds of cash on a low IQ engineer and he'll still come up with crap because cash never created aptitude/brain cells.

I do, I bought a pair of Revel 228be (in fairness I head the 328be before buying) and JBL 4367 unheard. Both have been exceptional. I also listen to anything I can. Locally I have access to the Kef Blade, Revel Salon 2, 802D4, Sonus Faber Olympica, Martin Logan, magnepan, entire Klispch line, etc. This I all in suburbia mid west. The only dealer that is now a bit of a drive for me is wilson audio.

When it is all said and done I am glad I went with the unheard JBLs as I think they are a step above these other speakers in key areas (dynamics, tonal balanced, as detailed as anything). So don’t be scared to trust measurements if you understand how to read them. Estimated in room measurements are the key. 

Crutchfield and others offer returns my guess have to pay shipping .I do buy a lot of opene box that people must not have liked.other dealers offer same thing wish Mac did that more for people like me in small area.the music room did that but must have had a taken advantage of because now charge 10% return.

Not never.... but rarely.  If I'm familiar with the brand and they are utility speakers, then yes.  My current surround speakers for instance.  I wouldn't do this for main L and R.


I buy used gear and use reviews e.g here, YouTube (Thomas, Jay, audio excellence in Canada), etc and if they all say the same thing, and you know what you like you can have good results.

I just bought Gresham Studio II (50lb bookshelf) speakers which will arrive this week. 

I've never bought without hearing, but I have bought without listening.  I buy almost exclusively used speakers.  I will always make sure all the drivers work and there are no defects, but I have found there is not much point in focused listening until I get them home.  

That is of course after research and being interested in a specific set.  Then I probably know I'll like them enough to give them a real try at home.

I have purchased several KEF speakers without auditioning and never been disappointed. Risky maybe, but I’m a diehard KEF addict and unfortunately there are no good audio dealers anywhere near Albuquerque!  

I ordered my last two sets of towers WITHOUT hearing them first.  My first ones I went with Greg Belman's Bache Audio Tribecca-001's by just talking with him and going by the specs... They turned out to be fabulous speakers for $6000 and play way above their price point.  They were custom painted and I love them.

Second pair I ordered were the Focal Aria 938's since Crutchfield was blowing them out for $3000 a pair or something crazy like that.  Unfortunately the left side tweeter was not working once hooking them up, but no foul:  Crutchfield sent me a replacement and I was back in business.  LOVE the bass response and both sets of speakers REALLY cater toward highs and voices.. .LOVE THEM BOTH, NOT disappointed.

Yes, multiple times. I have bought usually with a right to test and return, and fortunately have not needed to do so. Most have been standmounts, so shipping could have been done without freight shipping with crating and palleting. In each case purchase was preceded by searches and reading. Were I in the market for very expensive speakers (I'm not) I would travel to have a demonstration before buying.

I feel your pain.  I'm an American living on a Pacific island.  The nearest hifi showroom is 3000 miles away.  So for decades, I've had to buy every speaker system, audio component, even cables, without the benefit of auditioning them first.

I really hate that, but I've learned to live with it.  The last few years, I've prefaced any major purchase with lots of researchm including enough questions on Audiogon & similar forums to make myself a real PITA! (Actually, I hope not, but I bet I have.)

And even so, about 1/4 or my purchases were disappointing.


Only once but it was a good buy. A great review in IAR that sounded (SQ) fine.

More telling is the homemade pair.

My two main pairs were acquired after schlepping the same records to dealerships.

Four of the last six were bought without hearing them.  One was returned (Walsh Ohm Tall).  For the other three I read or watched every review and looked at user comments in the forums about the speakers/manufacturer.  Two of the three (Volti and Coherent Audio) had something similar I could listen to (Klipsch/Tannoy) so those were not completely blind.  The third was Tekton which was completely unique.  Those three also had some type of custom finish which was important to me as well.

My next pair will probably be direct since it I am looking at open baffle - PAP or Caladan?

Good luck.

I just purchased a pair of Heco Aurora 1000 towers from Audio Advice in the US. I was not able to listen to them prior to purchasing. They meet and even exceed my expectations for sound quality and esthetics. 

One tower suffered a small area of damage on the rear corner around the mid point during transit. Audio Advice apologized for the damage even though it wasn't their fault.  They shipped out a new tower less than 24 hours after learning about the damage from the contact support form on the website. They also emailed a pre-paid return shipping label for the damaged tower. What excellent customer service.

I still have the 30 day return available if I decide I don't like them.  I am 100% sure I will be keeping these gems. 

I have owned Vandersteen speakers for the last 40 years.  Going in order from 2C to model 3 to 3A to 3A Signatures to Treo CT’s now with stereo subs. They just reproduce what goes in with a “you are there” sense of realism. I bought them before hearing them after reading consistent and corroborative reviews along with 40 years experience working my way up the Vandersteen line.  

So far, only from brands and technologies that I have owned and liked. Scanspeak drivers for the sub, Magnepan DWM for mid bass boost.

But as you point out, the days of auditioning are fast disappearing.

I bought without hearing either the speakers or other examples of the same model but I did listen to the two next/later examples of that size/type speaker made by the same company.  I liked the house sound, bought my speakers used, unseen and unheard, and it worked in this case. 

The speakers I bought after a dozen auditions of all sorts of speakers at local hifi shops in 2000 were good, but ultimately, not keepers.  In 2009 I bought my current speakers without any auditions, based largely on a lengthy thread here on the 'gon.  They sounded exactly the way the posts described, and were exactly what I wanted in a speaker, including the price point.  14+ years on, I haven't had a minute's regret.  The speakers were direct from the manufacturer, and came with a 120 day return option.  Ohm Walsh 2000s.  It's a shame that Ohm seems to have gone dormant since founder John Strohbeen passed last October.

I bought my entire +$30K system online without auditioning at any audio store. I’m 74 years old and I don’t have the energy to drive to Denver for two hours and drive back after what would be hours of auditioning I would hope. There is one hi-fi store in Boulder. Not many choices of equipment and full retail +Tx at Listen Up.  Ugh
I did buy Zu speakers! (Not too popular here) Yes you have to pay to return them, but they let you keep them for a while I bought the Soul. They were great, but I wanted something better, so I traded them in for a pair of Soul Supreme.  Paid shipping only to return them. The new-traded speakers were shipped free as I remember. Could be wrong on that. They have a very generous no fee trade-in program. and great to work with.
Electronics, including phono, pre and amp are all from Aric audio. Without audition. I bought the Pro-Ject carbon 10 EVO Table from Music Direct, I think. I researched hard. I shopped hard and bought everything at a discount online for about $22K. Everything, cables, SUT, phono, cartridges, all without audition and online. Nothing is used except one pair of cables.  Don’t forget the NOS  tubes from Brent Jesse.  The entirety of my system was purchased on-line, on-line trying anything. I’ve not been disappointed with anything. And never traded anything in or had to resell  any of these components except an ion Audio preamp.
 I must admit  this is a very fine system. It does take work to do it. You have to do a lot of research. It can be done!  
Good fortune to you on your quest!



Bought my tannoy eatons w/o a listen, luckily I like them. Hifi stores used to be prevalent...not any more. Also bought my wharfedale diamond 225’s without an audition. I bought them based on Stereophile’s Herb Reichert and the late Art Dudley’s review of them. They both seemed to enjoy them and gave them a very positive review. I’d have to say they were not lying...they are terrific speakers for cheap. My last acquisition was the JBL Synthesis 4309's bought on line. Still new in box, no idea how they sound. I bought them because they have horns, and because I think they look cool. They did receive many positive reviews as well. 

Lates 60s I bought JBL Dorian S12 after hearing a huge JBL system at a Dick Clark concert production at the Chicago Stock Yards amphitheater. I think I did listen to them at Allied Electronics on south Western avenue when buying.

Mid 70s I bought JBL L222 Disco after listening to them at a store north west of Chicago.

I still have both sets. The L222 are my active speakers.

Now for the ones I did not listen to but purchased. I was into collecting JBL at the time.

L25,L36,L40,L120,L300,AquariusIV,S1,4408,L65,L100,B380. Still have but not using the last 3.

If I had the space I would have really tried for a Paragon. 😊

Never heard any speaker before I bought it except one (JBL L40) at the start of my hifi life.

Since the L40s (handed down to baby brother) I bought Boston Acoustics A40, Proac D2, Reference3A DeCapo I, and ELAC DBR62 Reference.

All have been keepers.  The Proacs sounded wonderful in mids and highs, but needed more power than I had available at the time.  The Boston Acoustics died of old age.  The DeCapos and the ELACs are in use to this day.

No way. Audio preferences are very personal. There is no universal standard. Reviews can steer you but thee is no substitute for how your own ears react to the sound. 

Yes, 3 of the last 5 pairs of speakers I purchased were without hearing them first. 

First, I heard ProAc Response 2, and I liked them. Then, I heard Response 3 and their sound stuck in my had as the best I have ever heard. However, they were way beyond my reach, so I purchased Response 2. At some point later, I heard Response 2.5 but they did not tempt me enough to replace my Response 2. When Response 3.8 appeared, I purchased a pair without hearing them and they exceeded Response 2 in every possible way. They were exactly as I was hoping they would be.

In an unlikely case that I get an opportunity ($$$) to upgrade, I would go for K6 and I would not insist on hearing them. But chances are I will die with Response 3.8 in my possession, which is not a bad way to die at all.

I usually try and hear everything first. Speakers. Amps. Pre amps. But didn’t do that with my last 2 big purchases. The first one was the B&W Matrix 800s. Have read about them for many many many years. I knew they would be phenomenal. Also without hearing I bought the ARC Ref 750s. Once again I read many many reviews over the years. No regrets. Same with my AQ Dragon PCs. Phenomenal sound. No regrets. 

@deep_333 How to find out the IQ level of speaker designer? Is there some kind of database?

My way of thinking 50-50 is stupid odds and buying on total magazine opinions can only make a loss feel worse. 


Bought pair of Dynaudio Evoke 10s without audition But I had Audition other Dynaudio at RMAF and new they were good and what I liked.  Hooked them up to my AV system and thought they sounded a bit thin. Moved them to my main system where there is a Quad Atera amp and realized the issue was the Denon Av amp. 

Before the Evokes I had a pair of Gallo Classico book shelf speakers in the AV system that I bought purely on reviews and they were cheap on Craigslist.  

Although the Evokes are certainly better but at 2X the cost it made me realize how good the Gallo's were for the $$ and were a better bang for buck solution.  I need a better AV amp to make the Evokes do their thing.   The gallos masked the inadequacies of the amp or were a better match. 

Bought a pair of Quad S-5 based on reviews (again, smoking deal off craigs)  and ran them head to head against my Focal 926s.  Sold the quads but a year later I wish I had kept the Quads as my music taste changed to favor the Quads.  

Just recently I bought a pair of Quad Z-5s again off craigs for a good deal but totally based on how much I like the Quad S-5.  Ran those against the Focal 926 and ultimately sold the Focals but I really liked those speakers.   Wish I could have kept them both but I need a new espresso machine so they had to go. 



There is no substitute for listening IMHO.  I auditioned many box speakers, but once I heard Maggies I was sold.  I have had good success with electronics, buting McIntosh used.  If I wanted to sell, I could always get all my money back.  My tube preamp bought 17 years ago is worth more than I paid, same for my mono bloc amps.

I understand the issues with travel, but before spending serious $$ I would go on a road trip.  I am a buy and hold kind of guy, so the effort becomes an adventure with a long term reward.

I have a found a way to listen to speakers for my main system before making a purchase. I think speakers are the most important component, so I have insisted on hearing speakers before I buy and comparing choices. I wouldn't say I will always do that because it does limit Your choices, but so far that's been my practice. I have not always auditioned speakers for a secondary system, with mixed results 

Magazine reviews? They are ALWAYS positive, when have you ever seen a negative review from stereophile? TAS? Hifi+? If every product review is positive, which it can’t be, there is always a product that comes in second/3rd, etc.

Sound thru YouTube sucks, even going thru a good audio system.

The best bet is to go listen to speakers at an audio show, fly to a city to a dealer that has them, or buy online with a 30 day money back guarantee. I have multiple friends fly across the country to hear some speakers, both dealt with buying $100,000+ speakers and they wanted to hear them. If I would want to buy their speakers, I would just fly to their house for a listen.
For speakers $10k or less, I would buy them and if I didn’t like them send them back or resell them. I went to many audio shows to listen to My last couple of pairs of speakers because if they sounded good in a hotel room, I can get them to sound better in a custom built dedicated room. 

Only once. Boutique brand (Salk) which had no dealers; only sold direct .  No regrets.

Everyone has different wallets and use case scenarios. In general, if I’m buying bookshelf speakers for use in my den in the $1000 to $1500 range, I bought them without hearing, based on reviewers I’ve watched enough of to know what they like, i.e. Steve Gutenberg likes "lively in your face" speakers, but when he reviews he’ll tell you if he hears that or not. So, I bought some Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 and am very happy with them.

However, I’m getting ready to buy my "real" speakers around $5K for my living room. I’m 65 and want these to be my "last" speakers, so yeah, I want to hear them.

Fortunately, I live within about an hour from an Audio Advice who carry the speakers I’m considering, so I’ll go hear them first.

It is a pity because even those speaker companies that offer generous return privileges are up against people who just don’t want all the reboxing, and shipping hassles. For that reason, I’ll likely never consider Zu or Tekton, or even though they have some interesting models I’d sure love to hear.

I know the chance to buy direct saves money (quite a bit), but I still wish there were a business model around where in a few cities these brands could set up a system and you could go hear them, maybe offer the speakers and a system to a record store, an art gallery, or even a restaurant or a car dealership to set up in a corner. It would be a "win-win" for both parties, without messing up the dealer direct model.

I bought a pair of Klipsch Heresy IV’s a year ago ear unheard (sight unseen… ear… never mind) and I swore up and down I’d return the *&@&)$^*’d things inside 48 hours of arrival but decided to wait.

I ran FM radio classic rock for a couple days straight and WOW! Combination of “owner bias”, “breaking in” and placement did the trick.

I’d been listening to a pair of Ohm 4’s for 3 years previous to this; the Klipsch placement isn’t - yet - ideal, but they’re keepers.

HOWEVER, I’m very interested in buying a pair of Schmidt Audio’s “Ubiquitous” speakers; they’re up in Ontario, Canada and I plan on driving up in early March to “audition” them. There’s a total solar eclipse March 8 and I’ll be visiting an old army buddy too so we’ll take a road trip.

My alter ego, “Hudson Shepherd” named their new subwoofer, “SUBiquitous” (it was so obvious they’d missed it) on fakebook. Hudson liked woofers.

I miss the Ohms, but can’t afford “German Physik” speakers - not until I win the lottery anyway.


So, to answer your question, yes and no.