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

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.


I’d like to add one name to your list and I feel it’s a big one. Andy Payor at Rockport. Incredible speakers.