How to audition used speakers???

I'm looking for some nice used speakers for a second, very modest system. I'm looking, almost entirely, at used speakers, especially Spicas. I've bought equipment on Audiogon, but as far as speakers, I'm hesitant. How can I audition speakers that I want to buy used via eBay or Audiogon? Isn't buying speakers this way as good as rolling a die? I'm interested in these Spicas, but I've never heard them! Anyone have a pair that lives close to me (06830)?

Incidentally, what are good "classic" speakers?
One advantage of buying used is you can audition them in your home indefinitely (which IMO is the only legitimate audition), and if you decide you don't like them, just resell them and recoupe most/all of your investment. This is a little more difficult and risky with speakers that are large and hard to ship, so you need to be careful.

You should do your research so you're comfortable there's a hi likelihood that they will suit your room size, musical preferences, and will be compatible with other system components, etc. I would also try to locate speakers in closer proximity to home, so you can avoid shipping, or make sure the distance is short and cost is lower. If you find a local seller, they may also afford you an oppty to audition them in their home prior to purchase. Also, the archives contain many, many "speaker recommendation" threads that should be helpful if you search.

As for good classic speakers, I think there are many, many. I'm not familiar with Spikas but see mention of them often here. You may want to spell out more of your parameters (ie budget, room size, musical preferences, and will be compatible with other system components, etc.) here to entice recommendations.
buying used speakers is where feedback rating is especially important. you need to really trust the seller when getting answers about age and how much use the speakers have had, etc. on the other hand, if they're lightly used, you save yourself the break-in period (and some money too...)

I would suggest you check out the "Audio Clubs" forum here at AudiogoN. There is a listing for The Connecticut Audio Society. There may be some folks near you that would enjoy demo'ing their systems to you so you can develop a point of reference regarding other speakers.

Also, Bdgregory's advice is good (as usual). Decide what speakers interest you, determine the current going price (as best possible) and buy a pair when you find them at/below your target price. Be sure the speakers are packaged appropriately and are in excellent condition as a provision of the purchase. If you love them, great! If not, re-sell them with little or no loss as you did your homework when you purchased them and subsequesntly didn't overpay. Proper packaging and overall condition is absolutely critical if you plan to buy and re-sell as a means of auditioning speakers.

BTW, I've always been curious about Spica speakers, but I've never heard them. I think the TC-50 and TC-60 models are bass challenged and would require a subwoofer in the opinion of many people. However they are said to be imaging champions if that is what you desire. The Spica Angelis apparently has similar imaging attributes with better bass extension.

Also, I agree with Bd that providing budget, room size, music preferences and desired sonic qualities, will help folks recommend appropriate speakers to you.


IMHO, get something that is currently supported so that you can repair it, if necessary. Speakers are quite easily damaged when overdriven/clipped amp.
Shadorne makes a good point. Spica is out of business and getting replacement parts may be difficult.
"Isn't buying speakers this way as good as rolling a die?"

Yes. Find a good dealer and work with him, unless you like rolling dice.
Thanks for the responses so far. I'm planning on using these speakers for a second system (in my dorm). I will reuse an Onkyo receiver which has an output of only 40 WPC (into 8 ohms, I believe). Since the output of the receiver is small, I'm thinking about some older Klipsch speakers. As a rule, I prefer floorstanders; I feel that you don't need a subwoofer if you have a good pair of floorstanders.

I have a pair of Ohms in my regular system that I bought largely because I got a good deal; I didn't audition anything else. Although I LOVE the Ohms, I want to explore my choices a little more than I did with them. My budget is $250 since this is just for a little room.
I bought a pair of bi-wired KEF Reference 104/2s based solely on reputation and reviews. I recognized the shipping address as very high-end Manhatten, but still I suppose it was a gamble. I love the speakers and have never regretted that gamble. If at some point the 104/2s become unrepairable, I'll look for a pair of Sophias or Sophia-2s. So I'd say buying used speakers entails some risk, but a worthwhile risk. I'm not as cavalier about selling and shipping as some who have posted on this thread, but then I've only been a buyer.

"Since the output of the receiver is small,..... I feel that you don't need a subwoofer if you have a good pair of floorstanders. "

A sub takes the power away from the main amp, and of the amp is small as you say, then all the more reason you need a sub.

Note that many, or most floorstanders don't have an appreciable output where the sub would be in any case.
I've thought this way Goatwuss, but I can only listen to a small number of brands by going to a dealer. Even if I go to three different dealers, I may only be exposed to a few speakers. What if I'm curious about vintage speakers or speakers that only have one American dealer? For example, there are no Mangepan dealers near me (as far as I know). I'm not sure what to do in this example.
"Isn't buying speakers this way as good as rolling a die?"

Yes. Find a good dealer and work with him, unless you like rolling dice.

well, I just disagree. I DID buy a new set of speaker from a good dealer after spending a great deal of time auditioning them. When upgrade time came, I sold them for half my purchase price. Don't be mistaken, buying from a dealer IS a good option, but don't be confused about the economics. If you are careful, and thoughtful, you can significantly eliminate the risk of used, and end up with more speaker than if you buy new.
Your best bet is to use your ears...locate a pair of the speakers and listen to them...better yet, listen to them with the amplifier that you are buying. Klipsch may not be the best bet with Onkyo...the Japanese electronics have a bit of high frequency bias and the Klipsch speakers, being very sensitive, might emphasize the bias. The Spicas are definitely darker, and while they may work a little better with the receiver, you may be disappointed down the road and the resale value might not be as great as you might wish...if you desire to trade up. You might consider a pair of B&W 302s for a dorm room...these were $299 brand new (Stereophile budget component of the year in 2000), image well, and can be had at a fair price. Yes, you trade off some bass response, but your receiver will drive the 302s without breaking a sweat. When you can upgrade from the receiver, then make your investment in speakers. There is a good resale market for the can nearly sell them for what you paid for them...providing you take care of them.
You will have to save up to get good floorstanders. Even the low end is higher than that. Once youve at least doubled and more likely tripled your capitol. The only way to "audition" anything is to listen to them. That is by definition what you must do. If you want a bewildering array of current production speakers go to an audio show. You will hear a bunch but but that will eat into your money. I would go the garage sale route if I were you. It's hopless witth just a couple of hundred. A decent pair of input tubes cost that much.
I am a big Spica fan, but I would be hesitant to put them in a dorm system, unless you are sure you can keep someone from cranking them to 11. They are very different than floor stnading Klipsch speakers. They will sound much more natural, but not nearly as powerful, no matter how much amplifier you give them. One of their shortcomings was what the designer, John Bau, called dynamic compression, by which he meant that as you turned the volume up past a certain point, they didn't really get louder, but compressed the sound more. TC50s were the first speakers I bought, and at the time, they sounded so far superior to anything else I heard, there was no contest. Even by today's standards, they sound great. I do remember turning up Talking Heads and Yello fairly loudly with no damage, and liking the sound, it is a very clean, non-fatiguing, controlled sound, but not nightclub / bar room sound. Replacement drivers are no longer available, so if some knuckleheaded friend of a roomate does something stupid, yuou're out of luck, unless you buy another pair for parts.
It's interesting that Dphd mentioned the KEF 104.2s. If you can find and afford a pair, this might be a better choice. I remember hearing them in a store at the time and thinking they sounded kinda like my Spicas, but with better bass, and presumably more ruggedness.
My humble advise is to never buy speakers without hearing them driven by the power amps one intends to drive them with ultimately (period). And in the same room you plan to put them in, if possible.

Yes, I know this is more difficult and sucks but, not as difficult and sucks less than repeatedly being disappointed and continually flipping gear that doesn't have synergy yet, everyone agrees is (individually) a very cool piece of gear.

This is experience speaking and you probably will not know the difference unless you try working out your system in this way. LOL

Happy Listening!
Great posts and great points! Honest1, I think you're totally right; I was worried that Spicas wouldn't fare well only being driven by 40 watts. In a dormroom, I think that abuse could be possible. For those of you skeptical about putting ANY system in a dormroom, this is just a clever way for me to reuse some gear. I'd rather spend $250 for some speakers and reuse this receiver than spend $100 for some crappy computer speakers that I'll hate.

What do you all think of Magnepan, Paradigm, and Axiom?
The Magnepan QR speakers (I forget the exact model, they were in the $1600 - $1800 range, I think) were great speakers, if you can get them to work with your room. I had a pair on home trial for a bit, and found them to be very detailed and musical. The bass was problmeatic in my room, htough. While there was a lot of bass sound present, it seemed like some bass notes disappeared (I believe this is called a comb filtering effect). The deal-breaker for me was when I mistook the opening basses of a particular track for violins. At first I thought the Magnepans were so good because I had never heard the very quiet violins that opened the track. When I played it again on my other speakers, I realized they weren't really violins. This more than any other speaker I have heard, needs to be auditioned in the final room before buying. Or, buy at a price you cn sell them at later if they don't work out in your room.
By the way, putting the dorm room consideration aside for a moment, 40 watts can be a lot of power. I have a Threshold T-200 amp, runs in Class A mode vs. push pull, that puts out 100WRMS and can drive just about anything within reason. I also have an Audion PX25, single ended tube amplifier that works its magic on 8 WRMS...and that tube amp would rock your dorm room. Audiogon is a good place for you to benefit by everyone's experience...keep an open mind to what can be accomplished...and since you are in a dorm room, go to Home Depot and purchase a Belkin AV Master power conditioner/surge protector for 75 bucks...I am using one with my Naim CDX...amazing product. And to isolate your CD player, to to your local Ace Hardware and purchase a set of four MACK lavatory gaskets, model 45381, for a couple of bucks each. Insert the rubber feet of your CD player inside the hole of the gasket...another amazing bit of isolation for a man on a budget who likes to spend spare change on pizza and beer.

Enjoy college...time of your life...and enjoy the music!
$250 ?... get a pair of used NHT monitors. 40wpc will be adequate for small room. in small room you will get bass extension anyay so don't fret low end specs too much. nht is abundant and fininished in lacquer gloss look great. sound is crisp and punchy and generally neutral overall. easy to resell also. solid history of design and value and easy to locate parts.