What to ask when buying used speakers?

I have purchased used components in the past and I can do this with confidence their functionality is well defined and easily verified. I am starting to look for a new set of speakers and will consider buying used. Assuming that I am doing this over distance and will not be able to inspect or demo the speakers in person, what are some good questions to ask to determine the real state of the speakers? Any red flags? Can used speakers have incurred subtle damages or wear that will affect the sound? For the sake of discussion, let's assume that they are less than five years old so we can rule out decaying surrounds and old caps, etc.


If the seller is dishonest, he’s not going to reveal any problems such as a rubbing voice coil or if something is not original, such as a driver that was replaced with a non-original driver. Personally, I’d never buy a used speaker and if you are your main concern should be their refund policy/ warranty and if the seller would be required to pay for the return shipping. To me buying a used set of speakers is not unlike buying a used car and buying someone’s else’s problem. Many speakers also get abused and cranked up and from day one without properly breaking them in and that will also lessen their life expectancy!

  • photos from each side
  • any scratches
  • look out for details on the photo, is it surrounded by a well cared for system, or on a bench outside?
  • original packaging
  • what amp it was used with
  • seller's communication - eager, strangely too eager, normal, reluctant, etc...
  • seller's background - when it's craigslist, or something iffy, definitely look them up e.g. linkedin

@ellajeanelle   +1   When buying used or demo/open box components a reputable audio dealer(brick/mortar) is the only safe option.

I am a lot more likely to buy a used component than speakers.    My last few speakers have been new , reason for that is my last pair of used speakers needed a part that took months to get...   the seller was kind enough to pursue the warranty but it took 4 or 5 months.     

The only used speaker in my experience that is a safe bet are speakers like Heresy, Forte, Cornwall....   if you have a problem they are easy and relatively cheap to fix.  

Best bet is a speaker that isn't too old and has a transferable warranty,  but not too many speakers have transferable warranty...     ATC is the only one I know of.  Maybe there are others?

@oddiofyl  you can always contact the vendor and ask if you they are willing to transfer the warranty

If the speaker works now odds are it'll work another 20, so do you trust a stranger with your money? There could be a damaged driver that's squawking outside of their hearing ability or it was a gradual thing they adjusted to and don't notice. 

Often the cost of shipping + paypal +  agon fees can cause a used product to cost as much as the new thing will cost if you spend some time talking cash with a shop owner.

I failed to mention: Even if the seller accepts a bad speaker back and pays the return shipping one way or both or if it is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, let’s not forget the hassle, inconvenience and wasted time involved! Time is one commodity we can’t get back! Personally, my time is worth more than the savings, and who doesn't love the smell of fresh electronics 😉! My advice again- when it comes to speakers-buy new unless you’re buying from a friend or trusted source and have tested the speakers first.



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Grisly, not so sure many mfg would be open to that. Worth a call for the right speaker though.

And there’s always the chance of nothing ever going wrong. Which honestly is probably the case with most quality speakers.


"If there is a problem with them that can be fixed, who in my locality can do the work?"

@zlone  I have purchased used speakers in the past and have had no problems.  Acoustic Zen Crescendo MK ll, and a set of Focal Sopra 2 were the last two sets. Not cheap speakers.  In both cases, using email and video calls, I was able to get a good feel for the seller, hear the speakers being used, and have the seller slowly walk around the speakers in good light, showing every aspect of the speaker in detail.  I could confirm the original packaging was available and the condition.  After agreeing on the shipper, there was no reason to believe they would not arrive as described.  And they did.  Speakers get shipped around the world by manufacturers every day.  No reason to think the used speakers will be damaged in shipping, and you fully insure just to be safe.  Do your due diligence, and you should be fine.  IMHO

I like and use @bigtwin ’s approach. Also no feedback or bad feedback ratings I won’t pursue at all. I’ve probably bought 15 used speaker pairs and never had an issue with a single one. Probably only half were shipped, the rest were driveable. 

@mofojo  Whenever I've been the seller of speakers, they have always left my home like this.  Overkill?  $100 and a couple hours of my time.  Only happy buyers at the other end.  😁

Aside from the usual cosmetic, function, and seller's history, I'd ask if anything had ever been repaired or modified, or has any abnormalities when pushed hard.  Hopefully they'll answer that they never pushed them hard, and wouldn't know.  If there was a repair or mod, I'd want to know as many details as possible.  

@ellajeanelle people who want more for their money and have a limited budget will take the risks. I had been burned by vendors more than by private parties. Honestly, from individual sellers everything arrived in a better condition than described, so far and all my buyers have said the same. Some vendors want to/have to move their products whatever way they can, scratched, damaged, and I spent way more time arguing with them than with individuals. My time is valuable too. 

If you decide to go used, I suggest engaging in a back and forth with the seller over some related matter--or even the weather wherever the seller is. Then decode his responses in terms of what kind of personality you're dealing with. Get a savvy friend to help. You can tell a lot from a fairly ordinary conversation.

To me, buying used is much more about who you're buying from than anything else. One guy I bought from punctiliously pointed out the very minor cosmetic flaws, working hard to get them to show up in photos. Then when he discovered he'd failed to notice a couple, he knocked $200 off the sale price. Before that, we had a nice chat about what speakers he was moving to, his wife's pregnancy, etc.  That was my answer about whether I could trust him.

Of course, this only makes sense if you know what the speakers will sound like and that's exactly what you want. Other than a few semi-guaranteed to sound good brands, taking a chance--from internet research alone--that you'll like a given signature sound is risky. It's worked for me, but I'm sure others have been sorely disappointed.

3 pair of used Maggie's 1.7, 1.7i and now 3.7i no problems. Do research on seller, I wouldn't buy a pair more than 5 years old, ask condition and if there were ever any problems.

Lot’s of a "worst case scenario"-mentality abounds here, though while I generally recommend buying used equipment I have only bought used speakers from dealers and pro dealers that I know very well and trust, and I’ve never encountered any problems here - one way or the other. Speakers are mostly quite sturdy; if there are no signs of misuse, neither visibly or audibly with a thorough inspection and test run, they’ll play fine for years.

I can understand the part concerning sole-ownership joy that comes from a pair of brand new speakers (I’ve been there several times), but through the years I’ve become less obsessed about owning new stuff (because I do find it often comes down to that: a kind of gadgetry obsession) and instead taken on a more pragmatic stance of the speakers + gear as "vessels" for enjoyment and experiences, and not as much as a gear-value in itself. Once the used speakers (and other equipment) I’ve bought have passed the tests/inspections and been properly implemented, they’ve felt like mine through and through and with no less of a feeling of satisfaction for what they have provided.

To boot: you’re smiling on the way to the bank having often saved a substantial amount of money. A friend of mine (a former electrical engineer) excels in buying up used quality equipment for pennies almost, and repairs it cheaply if necessary. Years ago he bought a pair of used Acoustat ESL speakers for less than $1,000/pair (now subs augmented, and still going strong since the 80’s), and coupled to the other quality components in the chain, also bought used, he has astounded many visitors with the sound it delivers - not least when they found out it represents a monetary value way below what they expected.

You are familiar with the house sound of the speakers you want and speaker you don’t want? So, you have a short list of speakers that you know you will like if received in good working order?

@bigtwin ,

@mofojo  Whenever I've been the seller of speakers, they have always left my home like this.  Overkill?  $100 and a couple hours of my time.  Only happy buyers at the other end.  😁”


I’m lazy so anything large I have a real good pack and ship place close that is very reasonable. They also get heavy discounts from FedEx so the packing usually does not add all that much. I normally rate everything an 8 I’m selling if there is no noticeable imperfections. 7 if there is a couple SMALL things. Under that it’s Marketplace only listing and I want you to come see it before purchase. So far no one mad at me………. That I know of. 

@ghdprentice You are familiar with the house sound of the speakers you want and speaker you don’t want? So, you have a short list of speakers that you know you will like if received in good working order?

In this case yes, while I do not have an option to demo this model anywhere close, I am familiar with the house sound and confident I would like it. On the other hand, I have little experience with other brands, and am wondering what I might be missing. My master plan was to visit a show in the spring and do my best to eliminate those brands on my list that are not a fit, house sound-wise. Not the best place to do that, but I am confident I could whittle things down a bit.

Thanks everyone, lots of food for thought here. While this particular situation is with a reputable online dealer, the private sales experience and feedback is very useful. I will have to decide if I want to wait and hear some more speakers or grab a pretty good deal with relatively low risk.



Some manufacturers such as Von Schweikert Audio have used speakers that have been traded in for upgraded models. They are often been lovingly owned, gone over carefully by the manufacturer and can be trusted to be of excellent value. Or the manufacturers may  refer you to clients they know well to be honest and take care of their equipment well that have speakers for sale direct.



Excellent. Good to hear. I have purchased speaker without hearing them, but I was very familiar with their sound and knew exactly what to expect. A trip to weed through them is exactly the right thing to do.

I’ve bought 5 pairs of speakers used, 2 Monitor Audio (1 Gold/1 Silver), 1 Zu Audio, 1 Vintage Cerwin Vega, 1 Vintage Sony, no problems whatsoever.  Asked if there were ANY imperfections in the cabinets or drivers, ANY issues with the sound, ANY problems with being driven hard.  Everyone said they were never driven hard except for the Cerwin Vega guy, he said never any problems at all, had just put new surrounds on the woofers, told me the speakers were made to be played loud with no problems.  He was right, they were perfect and actually sound much better than I expected.  The non-vintage speaker values were checked in the Audio Bluebook so I was sure I was getting fair deals on them.  I would buy used again in a heartbeat.  Oh, and all the non-vintage speakers were purchased through US Audio Mart’s website.

I prefer sealed enclosure speakers because of possible insect or rodent damage through the speaker port.     Also, more common brands where it is possible to get replacement parts.

You hit the main issues right on the head.... age for decaying caps and speaker foam.... both of those issues can be addressed though if the price is right and you know what you are doing. High end speakers around 15 years old may start having issues but not necessarily. Ask about cosmetics, distortion, and If they are the original owners. I've bought several used sets of speakers and had to refoam one pair after a short period of time but the seller wouldn't have known it would happen. Some people want to know if the seller was a smoker or not.

Here's my list of questions:

- Have you ever played the album The Big Sound of the Drags at over 110 SPL?

- Have you ever tried to troubleshoot a "no sound" condition by maxing out the volume control on the preamp, then switching sources until something made noise?

- Ever left your system unattended for hours with someone under 25 at home?

- Ever made a water/smoke/vandilism claim on anything in the room were the speakers reside?

- Ever use this room for the kitty potty area, or to housebreak a dog, skunk, or Tasmanian Devil?

There's more, but thought this would be a good start.


I would ask if they were broken in yet or were still relatively new? That way I'd know what to expect from the sound over weeks or whatever.... 

I had a nightmare used speaker experience with a Thiel CS3.7. It turned out to be fun in the end because I made the speaker perfect, but it took 2 months to fix it all.

1) Find out if the drivers were ever replaced. If so, by whom.

2) Are replacement drivers available to buy?

3) What amp was used to drive the speakers?

4) Is the warranty transferable?

5) Can the speakers be serviced at home or does it need to be shipped back. For, example my old Revel Salon 1 needed to be shipped back to Northridge, CA for a simple driver replacement. They said they need to re-measure the speaker after the new driver. That was done 2 times, and I will never buy a Revel again. My Thiel was messed up by the seller with a bad repair. However, there is 1 guy left providing drivers and advice on Thiel speaker repair, so I was able to do a home repair to make it perfect.

BTW - I could hear 1 issue with the speakers when I got it home. When I measured the speakers with REW software a whole can of worms opened up. The guy at this place helped me measure and pinpoint exactly the spots that had issue, phase, crossover, driver. It was a mess.

Digital Room Calibration Services, Convolvers, Headphone Filtersets (accuratesound.ca)

I literally haven't bought new speakers since the late 70s when I bought Polk Monitor 10s. I've never had an issue with anything used.

The best thing to ask for when buying used speakers is a good deal.

Always ask for good or better deal.

I'm lucky living in Southern California, where there's a huge range of used audio within an hour's drive. While I hate gambling in general and never go to Vegas, I really enjoy the process of taking a risk and meeting a seller at their house for a local transaction and pick-up of a piece of gear. I've bought Quad ESL's, Klipsch Cornwalls, Altec 604's, Snell Model E's, and Monitor Audio MA-3's this way. The Snell's, from a used gear store, at a low price, were the only ones that gave me trouble. But I could see the tweeters' coatings were cracked, and I had fun cleaning the old coating off and replacing it with shellac, which restored the highs nicely. Classic designs have good resale here, so to me it's a bigger gamble spending a ton of money on new speakers whose sound will keep changing for weeks as they break in, and whose resale goes through the floor as soon as they're in your door. Spending time with speakers at home, experimenting with amps and placement is the only way learn how to get what I like from my gear. In-person visual inspection, hearing a test with music you know, chatting up the seller and doing your research is fun and rewarding- whether you buy locally new or used. Buying new speakers shipped from a remote seller is the last thing I'd do.

This was a timely post; because I’m actually getting ready to replace all my speakers; I originally built out an entire theater room with Focal Chorus 836v/cc800v/sr800v; with 4x sr700v as front height and side surrounds … now I am in the process of a teardown and rebuild for sound proofing and two tiered seating arrangement. I have a full speaker matching setup which performs very nicely in 5.1.4 configuration (made mounts to angle and ceiling mount the sr700v, I have no real reason to sell other than the itch to have Focal Utopias… needless to say I’ve already started the Utopia journey and soon will have two full theater setups, which I don’t need … which leads to me to your original question; what to look out for when buying used. Condition of course; animals or not; smoker?; consistent climate controlled environment (not a cabin or beach house) and lastly WHY the person is selling; I’m in a situation where I just don’t need them; I’ve upgraded and I would like to keep them, but don’t have a place for them. Rather minimize and have the speakers be in a happy home being used versus in a closet and/or unhooked not being used.

Lots of good advice in the previous posts

I am in the UK and both my previous and current speakers were one ex dem and two used from a private individual near Kansas city.

Carmel 1s from a former YG distributor in Croatia and Kipod Signature Passives which are very rare but an exceptional speaker.

In both cases did a lot of due diligence first.Used Paypal for both purchases. Both were great buys at very good prices.

So yes it can be done successfully

I agree with many others, forgoing used is silly especially with the lead time issues some manufacturers are still faced with.  You simply have to feel out the seller and let your spidey sense be your guide.  I'm batting 1.000 with my 3 purchases, of which 1 was a high-dollar-never-saw-them-in-person transaction.  I honestly wasn't worried in the least after talking to the seller and (admittedly) stalking him a bit once I had a name.  

Unrelated - someone brought up "pet free" what exactly are people afraid of with pets?  Is it cats and speaker grilles in particular?  

@soix I have avoided posting any budget or brand names to prevent the discussion from devolving into specific speaker recommendations. The feedback here has been very useful and I would say mostly in favor of used purchases with proper due diligence. Thanks everyone. 

I've owned 3 sets of Magnepans and a current set of Acoustat speakers,  all purchased used. 3 of those sets were sight unseen.  The 2nd pair I purchased from ebay, they were damaged which may have been a result of shipping.  The seller had me send the speakers to Magnepan for service at his expense. 

There are still honorable people out there, just be careful and selective. 

Enjoy the Music



Lots of good advice here so far! If buying from a reputable dealer I wouldn't worry honestly, assuming they have a good return policy. If buying from a dealer, I would still like to know if the speakers were modified in any way. This can make them sound different than what you are expecting, but it can also lead to problems in the longer run. I've seen speakers with changes to the crossover or drivers which would put a lot of stress on the other drivers, but also once bought a pair where the previous owner drained all the ferrofluid from the tweeter to 'make them sound more detailed'.

I buy all my speakers used and I do always expect to have to do some small maintenance, such as glueing a surround or replacing ferrofluid. If you don't mind doing something like that with some pairs, there are real gems to be found for very little money (:

@mtbiker29 cats destroy grills, but I've also seen surrounds and cones with claw marks.

Speakers (and other components) I  have almost always bought dealer demo or used from a reputable dealer.  They have always stood behind all details of the product and sale.  No worry a that product had been misused.  Twice when I bought something i had not been able to demo and did not like the product, the dealers took them back within 30 days no hassle with full refund or very minimal fee.  My years of building relationships with dealers who I trust and now trust me, has proven very valuable.  I now get great deals and service.  I like supporting dealers.

I am glad the responses were helpful.

I, and I am sure other contributors will be interested in, is whether you do buy some used speakers, which ones, and how successfully.

Could you update in due course please?

I'm happy for the folks that can spend 2.5x the used price to avoid the risk of used gear.  I, on the other hand, have only been able to have a taste of high end audio by buying used.  

Yeah, I've gotten lemon gear. But overall through the life of the hobby there's no question I have saved over 50% of the new budget by buying mostly used gear.

I agree with the advice above that the best protection is getting to know the seller.  For any significant purchase, I invest my time in ongoing dialog with the seller. Not only does that "make friends" and make the transaction more pleasant, but you can get a very good sense of the person, their knowledge and treatment of gear, and ultimately build trust with them.  

I also buy a lot of used gear from Andy at Saturday Audio in Chicago.  He stands behind everything and the gear is thoroughly checked out.  He's swapped out speakers for me when something was amiss.  This is the type of dealer relationship you will also want if you are building an ever-evolving system. 

One thing I would say is that buying some components from a smoker household may not matter, speakers are big and right in the room and pick up (and release in your house) the smell of smoke worse than most other components.  I remember having to wash some ML panels in my shower to make my room livable. 

Used gear, and navigating and negotiating...that's part of the fun for me! I have met a lot of really nice people, all walks of life, all layers of society. You'd be surprised what gear some guys who make $40K per year actually have! 

@bigtwin if only others would ship items like that. Wow. Most NEW speakers don't arrive in such good packaging. Wish they would. 

@mtbiker29 cats can shred grilles. Friend of mine made chicken wire cages around his ESS speakers back in the 1970s because of that.  He spray painted them black so they didn't look all that bad with a stained hexagonal wooden base at the bottom.  Even worse are dogs that can piss on the speakers and leave a very bad lingering smell. Same with humans who smoke tobacco.  I bought a used laptop computer once that stunk of cigarette smoke for months.  I'll not make that same mistake again. 

For ported speakers, watch out for any bugs and spiders that might be lurking inside. Even new speakers can host such creatures. 

@grislybutter laid out a number of the well-known precautionary steps, all of which I agree with.

I’ve purchased 4 or 5 pairs of 2-way monitors/speakers and had very good luck. I followed those precautionary steps, plus one other that needs to be discussed: protected transactions. And that usually means either Paypal’s "Goods and Services" category of transactions; or using a credit card; or both.

I really dislike Paypal. It’s a parasitic organization that siphons off ~3% of each transaction, more than some credit cards. They also burn you down on currency transactions, which if/when you buy from another country (in my case, Canada); in such cases they make exchanging currency unavoidable and offer rates considerably worse (ie, more profitable to them) than any bank. .

Another factor must be mentioned regarding Paypal: there is an avalanche of ignorance out there about the IRS’ planned (not yet implemented) program to tax some (not all) of Paypal’s "G&S" transactions. The net result of this is a LOT of sellers proudly demanding Paypal payments only via "Friends & Family," which is an unprotected transaction with huge risk.

But I digress. When I buy speakers, I insist on using Paypal’s "Goods & Services" feature. If that’s not acceptable to the seller, I walk. I also save all Q&A in my transaction w/that seller as a pdf file so I can prove (if necessary) that, for example, they said the drivers were intact and functional, yet they arrived non-intact and non-functional.

Finally, I’m not a fan of face to face transactions--going to someone’s home, or them coming to mine. It feels risky to me. But the only time I made an exception for that was one time buying a pair of vintage speakers (mid-’80s vintage KEF 103.2s). I needed to see and hear them in the seller’s system.

I've had buyers drive from 400 to 900 miles to pick up a pair of used speakers and I've driven as much as 350 to buy a pair. Again, paypal is 4%, Agon is 4% shipping on a pair of floorstanding speakers on a pallet and insured will be expensive. Suppose we're shopping $20k speakers that we can find for $10k used, we're already at $800 in fees and say $1000 shipping curbside lift truck insured...now we're at $11800 or $8200 and still have to decide to trust the buyer/seller. If I want it I have a bank check drawn up and make the drive. If I'm not willing to make the drive I don't want it that bad or 1 of my local dealers comes down enough in price on the same product to get er done.

Just an update here, I did end up purchasing a used pair of KEF Reference 1's from TMR. The feedback here was very helpful and allowed me to proceed with confidence. Granted it was pretty low risk as they were certified pre-owned and backed up by their guarantees. I have had them in place for four days now and they are a great upgrade from my LS50's. 

Having been a KEF listener for some time now, I was confident that I would like the sound. I have a list of speaker brands that I still want to hear and will be attending a show, likely AXPONA, in the spring to get an idea of other house sounds.

The deal and the time were right with these speakers, and I am very happy with the results. Thanks again for all the feedback!