Guidelines for buying used speakers (as in, are there any?)


Can anyone offer up some suggestions or guidelines for buying used speakers?

Initially I thought 5 years old max, buy from original (and only) owner, half original retail.

But then ...

Found some nice Zu Omen Defs ($1350) but they've had 2 owners.

Also found some Vandersteen 2c signatures ($900 + $100 shipping) but they're 10 years old and, again, 2 owners.

So you can see my guidelines may be preventing me from getting very high quality speakers at a good price.

The Defs I can listen to and physically examine; the Vandersteens would be purchased online.

Thoughts and comments would be appreciated.
Read seller feedback most important. Don't buy from someone unproven as a seller unless local pickup is an option. 

Your guidelines might be okay starting point, but plenty older than 5yrs that would be great buys and last many years without incident. There are also plenty that have had 2 owners that would be great. Find a model you like a lot, and then ask many questions and be pragmatic. 

Considering all the time online researching, etc. vs. a few hour drive to demo/pickup, sometimes it's worthwhile investment to take a nice long drive. Cheers,

Back in January of this year, I scored a sweet pair of Thiel speakers that I have been wanting to purchase for many years.  Always, inquire about the number of owners. Next, inquire about how the speakers have been stored and treated ( not in a garage, unfinished basement, storage facility) for example.  Finally, whom is selling- a fast buck, professional find-and-sell or a Music lover/Audiophile?

I am very fortunate, as my speakers, were (2) owners. The 1st was a dealer/retailer. 2nd is an Audiophile with an impressive dedicated listening room. In other words, these speakers rec eived the very best care, conditions with all original documentation.
I agree with Coli...price to condition. Determine how much you want to spend and what a fair price is for the condition of the speakers,


First thing you should do, before a speaker purchase or taking any of the recommendations here, is to look at what your amp is able to drive. That should be mentioned here, before anyone can suggest anything. 

Then scour the internet for the impedance/-phase angle graphs of whatever speakers you are keen on, and see if your amp is able to do the job of driving them unhindered, and to the best of it’s ability.

Cheers George

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Yeah, read the feedback.  But that's no guarantee either.  I bought a pair of supposedly super fine Quad 2805s and one of the speakers arrived with a damaged panel.  A month trying to work it out, ( not really good, but I got some compensation) and 1k in repairs. 

Feedback is everything and if I did it again I would not only look at the feedback here, but elsewhere as well.  If there is even a hint of a problem, go away.

I don’t care how many owners a pair of speakers has had, as long as they’ve been treated well. If all of the previous owners have taken great care of them, and they’re coming to you in near-mint or mint condition, what does it matter if they’ve been in 3 houses previously or 5? It’s speakers - not underwear.

There’s so much flipping going on, people buying gear just to try it and then move on to something else, it’s not uncommon for a perfectly good (and possibly heavenly sounding) pair of speakers to go from home to home until they match up with that person who says "THAT is the sound I’ve been looking for".

I'd love a pair of Wilson Benesch Endeavors, but the cost is a tad high ($50K) I'm waiting for a pair that have had 18 owners and are discounted enough for me!

I’m with Coli - price to condition, that’s all I need to know.   
I cannot speak to any of the speakers but the Vandersteen 2s. That speaker model line has been one of the best selling, most successful speakers for many years for good reason. A very good design and the sock enabled Richard to cut costs on cabinet wood and place value in the speaker by including quality drivers and components instead. His speakers are not gimmicky, just good design. I have the 2CE Sig II and I had listened to about a dozen different brands before I settled on them. Also, since so many of the 2 series were sold, that is part of the reason you can find them at a good price. They were sold new at a good price and there are many out there used which drives the price down a little
Buying second hand has its challenges.

Zu Essence ... saw a set, good price very intrigued ... seller claims he's had a bad experience and doesn't want me coming to his house so I can audition them. Hmmmm

Zu Omen Def's - he'll let me audition but I personally only want to make sure they're working. I've never heard a Zu before, don't want to put his speakers through the ringers like i might at an audio store.

Vandersteen, Totem's - seen some that intrigued me online but that's buying totally sight unseen. Ug.
2psyop -  I have the opportunity to purchase a 20 year set of 2s, seller says they sound pristine, said he took care of them "ike they were "another child" and rates as being in excellent condition - 9/10.

What kind of a lifespan do these speakers have? When would one typically expect degradation on the sound?
Age or the amount of owners are irrelevant condition is whats important as were pointed out.

Depending how old speakers are original foam surrounds can be a concern.  As can replacement surrounds depending on replacements, were they done with quality accurate duplicates made by a company for a specific driver or one size fits all flea market type surrounds. And were the replacements installed by somone reputable or atleast someone that cared enough to do a good propet job. This should reflect in asking price or make or break the sale.

Also wire coatings can dry out and become brittle and crack over time and cause a short in extreme cases.

Capacitor age might also be a concern, they dry out in time as well, some sooner than others. Poly caps tend to last longer.

None of these should become a concern unless reaching over a decade plus. Or depending on where the speaker lived its life thus far. Sunlight and tempatures can play some part in it.

Well I say this ... buying a new set of speakers is fun, and widening the field to include used speakers is way more fun.

Speakers otherwise out of my price range become available and that's exciting. 

Turning it around and discussing selling a used pair of speakers. When going through a speaker selection process I bought and sold quite a few speakers. I only sold one pair locally and the rest I shipped.

One thing I would not do for a local buyer is audition speakers. I was willing to demonstrate that they worked, but only if the purchase price was agreed and the buyer was willing to purchase based on the speakers working correctly. Buyers need to realize they are buying from another hobbyist, not a dealer.

I have 100% positive feedback on Audiogon and include detailed pictures including pictures of any flaws. I think that helps buyers understand what they will receive and avoids further discussions of minor blemishes.
I always avoid loudspeakers where the bass drivers have foam surrounds.  Those go bad as soon as 10 years of age.  Just don't go there.
Modern foams supposedly outlast the older ones. Its a bit of a head scratcher. Who’s to know exactly what speakers employ the "new surround" technology.

I have speakers that are 20 years old with foams that are still holding up. UV from sun and artificial light and the gassing of of carpet and other materials will play a role in there longevity.

Arro's are fine sounding speakers in an appropriate size room with good amplification while standing at an optimum distance from wall. I can see some people being able to live with there bass response. I preferred mine with a pair of subs. But I like to feel the bass as well as hear it.    
In the last year I acquired 4 sets of used Meadowlarks (Swifts, Kestrals, Ospreys, & Swallows) all from the original owners and all but the Swifts were purchased remotely and shipped.

All but the Kestrals are in fabulous shape and sound great.  The Kestrals had some dings but I knew that up front and they also sound great.

Since these speakers are all at least 10+ years old the only concern I had was most of the drivers are no longer available.  I've scoured the internet and found a number of unused replacement drivers.

For the money I paid, these are fantastic speakers! nuff
I would not buy used speakers unless:

A) I trusted the seller completely; or
B) I listened to them to my satisfaction.

I've done this, and I am now enjoying speakers that have changed my understanding of high-end audio. I would not have easily come to pay $35,000+ for the speakers someone else broke in for me and that set me back $9,900.
Biggest problem: shipping. FedEx has destroyed two pairs of speakers I shipped to buyers. They spend all of their time explaining why they did not have to pay for the damage they caused. 

You need to open the boxes immediately and complain the same day. The burden is on the buyer. Once I paid for all necessary repairs on a pair of B&W 803Ds.
My standards/rules for purchasing used speakers are:

100% positive feedback ratings from the seller. 

"Local" seller where possible - although I've driven 250 miles to Massachusetts twice to pick up a pair of Ohm Walsh 2's and then a pair of Thiel CS3.5's...both worth the trip. I've driven to virtually all the boroughs in NY for others, including 3 different Maggies, Von Schweikert, Dynaudio, Totem...

Original owners. Unmodded in any way. 

In November of 2014 I picked up another pair of Thiel CS3.5's from an original owner in NJ. Now 30 years old they still sound wonderful. 

99.95 % of the members here truly care about their reputations like myself, so that rating truly matters. I have had one purchase go south here during the course of my tenure because the seller lists (and still does) one address yet ships from another - in a different state no less! 

A'gon members tend to take better care of their stuff in general, period. Buying here is a good course of action. 

Buying used speaker is very risky if you can't hear them in person.Good luck.

Zu Essence ... saw a set, good price very intrigued ... seller claims he's had a bad experience and doesn't want me coming to his house so I can audition them. Hmmmm

Perhaps you had no feedback on the site you were looking at and buying privately is very different than buying from a store. There are loads of crazy people out there so one must be cautious. It is too bad but......

What is a good rule of thumb for a "good deal" as far as the percentage off what you are paying to the seller versus buying new.

Apples and Oranges time: A friend of mine sells used boats.  He told me not to consider buying used unless you get 1/3 off the price for new.  he said warranty is an issue.

I saw a used amplifier that I was interested in listed for $750 which is $800 new.  My boat selling friend's formulas comes up with $535.  I know there is a better analogy that boats and amps.  But back to my original question.....

What is the minimum percentage you should be looking for to save?