Your top 3 worst purchases ever

Hopefully none from me!

While many are asking what are the best preamps, best amps, best this or best that, wouldn't it be nice for others to know our worst nightmares with certain products?


My top 3s are:

1) Kora Eclipse preamp
From an Canadian member, the preamp arrived DOA. SInce it was shipped from Canada, return shipping cost and logistics are typically expensive and brutal. So the preamp was sent to a self-proclaimed Kora fan and expert in VA. Turned out, the repair cost was way more than I bargain for. The seller refused to fund it adequately. Ended up a super overpriced purchase with 2 months down time. Lesson learnt: Just return anything that is DOA even the seller talks sweet and offers to repair it to save you money.

2) Kora Galaxy Reference power amp
From the same Canadian member, this unit arrived with all output tubes mixed up. The amps kept blowing fuses and overheat. Bias pots do not work. Again, I was too nice to have it 'repaired' at seller's expense. Not a single penny was collectible from this seller, however. The unit was sent to the same Kora 'guru' who wasted near a grand of my money to fix it - turned out nothing was fixed, the unit suffered additional shipping damages, and I was labelled as a tube idiot by this repairman who just conned me $1k. Out of total frustration, I hammered the amp into pieces and sold it as scrap for $4 in Audiogon. That's a near $3k loss! Lesson learnt: Take anger management class.

3) Krell PAM-3 dual-mono preamp
Arrived working for first few days with noisy volume pot, then the unit caught on fire - the caps melted with lots of tar inside. Seller refused to take it back obviously since it was not DOA. Sent to Krell for repair, only to be told the repair estimate was near $3k (including $350 return shipping cost from Connecticut to New Jersey - $250 of which is for a Krell shipping box). Made perfect sense to me when I had purchased it for $550.

What are your lemons?
Ultra fi music stream DAC, Ultra fi iRoc DAC both left me cold I was immediately stuck by how much I did not like the sound, re sale was terrible too. Third was ridge street audio cables. They did nothing for me were expensive and again resale was terrible. There are others I'm sure but those 3 are the worst.
- Burmester 948
- Koetsu Sig. Platinum Rosewood
- Aesthetix Rhea
- *aehm* I got Amnesia, my audiophile protection circuit was activated
KR Audio Antares integrated, weighed a ton, used crazy expensive tubes and broke fairly quickly. And a Supratek Syrah, I read all the rave reviews and this thing showed up and it was a poorly built piece where obviously all the designer care about was making it pretty, plus it never sounded very good. I also had a Graaf 5050 amp that looked great and also broke down a lot. Luckily since then pretty smooth sailing and I am off the gear changing merry-go-round.
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Bsimpson, you have had some terrible luck.
I have only had a couple bad buys here on AudioGon, but in both cases the seller made good. One was an Arcam integrated amp that was almost DOA. The seller took it back immediately. Another was a pair of speakers which received some damage to one speaker. The seller refunded half the price of the sale. That was more than reasonable.
There were a few items I've bought that didn't live up to the hype. But that isn't the seller's fault.
My really bad experiences were on ebay. Things like speakers in a box with zero padding. And the seller said "they were well packed" when I complained.
Listed below are my biggest mistakes but not my only, thank GOD for Audiogon.

I had my Counterpoint SA-20 upgraded to a SA-220 by Counterpoint. It came back veiled and with much less punch.

Selling my first CAL Alpha after they closed the doors. It was something special. I tried multiple DAC's and never recovered, that sound. I purchased another Alpha and it was good but different.

Purchasing my Thiel CS-6's. They caused me upgrade my entire system, twice! Please don't get me wrong, they are outstanding speakers. Yet, they require top notch amps with huge current ratings and a price tag to match. They currently sit in my listing room and are used when the mood strikes.
Cary cd 303t, from Bill Coomes in AZ.

Sounded great, but had intermittent skipping issues right out of the box. He refused to do anything other than refer me to Cary for warranty service. Two more players with identical problem.

Cary was kind enough to assist in getting me a refund, but that took close to 4 months of dealing with the most despicable dealer I have ever come in contact with. A real nightmare!
Easy: a Melody 300b amp: I have rugs that are more listenable. I've had other 300bs...yes, it was the amp., not the tubes.

The Supratek Syrah: However, I did hear one that sounded really good. Mick's QC just sucked. In and out in two days...yes, it was broken in.

Way back when...the MIT "Music Hose" cables. My neighbors couldn't believe what my Wife allowed in the living room: my audio friends couldn't believe what I allowed in my system.
Musical Fidelity NuVista integrated... all bling, but lacked any hint of musicality.

Simaudio W-6 monoblocks. Below average build quality and sound quality was a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Even had them paired with Dynaudio C4 speakers... was supposed to be a synergistic combo... resold them within a week.

CJ Premier 140 tube amp. Lacked tube magic... sounded like bad solid state.
Vandersteen 2W sub- sounded great. Seller rated it 7; it was more like a 3. Water stains on cloth (which was an undisclosed replacement), Veener mostly gone, mdf corners totally ragged, top repainted w flat black w wax stains. Luckily, as a sub I could hide it and placed a marble slab on top to look like an end table. Seller gave me a partial refund; no way was I gonna pay to ship it back.

Woo Audio headphone amp- not really a purchase; more like a failed transaction. I was high bidder on a no reserve auction (around $400, IIRC, not chump change). Seller emailed me saying I was nuts if I thought he was going to sell it that cheap, that he had gotten a higher offer elsewheres and I could pound sand. To their credit, A'gon booted him for violating site rules. Then he emailed me several times w obscenity-laced tirades! I wrote a really snarky response, my wife convinced me not to send it. It was REALLY nasty. I never sent it but I felt better.

And as far as failed transactions go, I "sold" a SOTA Nova TT; packed it up in their bullet proof packing, bolted to their wooden "pallet" inside a double box and sent it via BAX, known (before they sold to foreign owner) for quality handling. Unfortunately for me, I shipped it post-sale. They jobbed it out to a nameless sub who delivered it 3 days late and totally trashed. I refunded the buyer and BAX never made good on the claim. They dragged it out and eventually said that they were not notified in a timely manner, even though I had called and emailed, they had "no record" of my claim w/in the time frame. After 19 months of getting nowhere, I decided my mental health was more impt than the $1400 I was out, and just wrote it off to experience. Lesson learned- unless you can totally disassemble a TT into unbreakable parts, NO NOT SHIP unless buyer is willing to take complete responsibility.

Almost all transactions have been more than fine. I guess I've been lucky. Don't get me started about flea-bay!
"Then Stereophile, for giving high ratings to average stuff."

I find Stereophile reasonably responsible, but TAS is master of suck-up. I ignore all of their reviews and I'm far from alone in that.
Stereophile provides measurements along with their reviews, which adds an objective aspect to the reviews rather than being purely subjective based on reviewer whim. I thank them for that!
I'm willing to concede that my experience with Merlin Music Systems is not typical, considering the very high regard others have for both the speakers and the service from Merlin.

But...I bought a used pair of Merlin TSM's and when they arrived I excitedly hooked them up to my Audio Refinement Complete amp. A puff of smoke from the amp later, the right channel was dead, a repair that cost as much as I had paid for the amp. Not believeng the speakers could have been the problem I put in a cheap Rotel amp I had hanging around as a backup, which had protection fuses in each channel, and the right channel fuse blew immediately. Obviously a problem in the right TSM speaker.

So, I contacted Merlin and they wanted me to send the TSM's to them for repair, strongly recommending BAX Global, an expensive but well respected courier.

I did that and the response, after a long, long while, was that they could fix the short and that they would recommend that I upgrade the speakers to the next generation, since I'd gone to the trouble to send them in.

I agreed to that and waited for months with no communication. When I pressed them for information I was told the cryo lab had lost the crossovers.

After a longer wait the crossovers were located and the upgrade was done but any information about that was only after I pressed them. I paid again for expensive shipping via BAX Global.

When I got them back it was obvious that there was a loud buzzing vibration from the woofer at certain low frequencies, something that should have been obvious if the speakers had been tested after the upgrade.

When I complained about the very obvious noise I was asked to send them back, again at my expense. By this time many months had gone by. I was so upset by the complete lack of communication and the pace of the process that I bought a used pair of DeVore Fidelity 8's.

As soon as I closed the deal on the DeVore's the repaired Merlins were finally shipped back to me, after more than eight months of haggling. The two pair of speakers arrived the same week so it was the perfect opportunity for an A/B comparison.

Trying to put aside my frustration with the poor service from Merlin, I spent the next couple of weeks doing as objective a comparison of the DeVore's and the Merlin's as I could. I really wanted to like the Merlin's.

It wasn't even close, The DeVore's were much, much more satifsying speakers, at least in my system, and my interaction with John Devore was pleasant and informative, completely different from my communications with Merlin.
Mark Levinson No. 23 amp. Nothing but problems with this dud of an amp. The first unit went up in smoke. The second one overheated and shut off. When driving Apogee speakers (which love power) I kept blowing ribbons. And the sound was complete dullsville. Muffled and closed-in. You needed a lot of EQ to open up the sound.

Ensemble mini monitors. This speaker was made by the Swiss company Ensemble. It got great reviews and it was supposedly Swiss made. So, I figured why not? Anyway, I was appalled by the build quality. Hollow cabinet, and what looked like a styrafoam cup for the midrange/woofer. And the sound was dreadful. Dull, muffled, no dynamics whatsoever. Flat as a pancake. They were driven by an FM Acoustics 611 amp, so it wasn't the amps fault even though the stupid dealer insisted that it was.

Goldmund Mimesis 12 dac: This got a great review in TAS. I bought it used. Build quality was ok, but the sound was very restrained, not dynamic, and uninvolving. A real turd in my book.
I bought a name brand amp on ebay from someone on some Caribean Island once.

It worked fine but physical condition was quite shabby and dirty beyond anything expected. It looked like it was used in some tropical jungle shack by a group of heavy smokers!

I polished and cleaned it up myself inside and out and got it looking pretty good as well.

Over-payed for the condition it was in originally, but not a horrible deal. Sold it a good bit later after using it for a while when I decided to move on, in much better physical condition for close to what I payed, so happy ending for all I suppose, though I would not have pulled the trigger had I known the true condition going in.
Merlin TSM- no bottom end. A paper thin sounding speaker

Canary 339- worst 300B amp I ever heard

Koetsu Coralstone- sounds very much like the $1600 Black
Merlin TSM- no bottom end. A paper thin sounding speaker

Canary 339- worst 300B amp I ever heard

Koetsu Coralstone- sounds very much like the $1600 Black
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1) Jennifer Warnes "Famous Blue Raincoat". Some good things came out of it though; I learned that many audiophiles are idiots. Horrible music enshrined in early digital sound. She makes Krall, Cole, Monheit, et al sound like Fitzgerald and Washington.

Hmmm, I thought it was just me. Lackluster performance of some great music IMO.
AMR CD 77 was one the worst purchases. It was only marginally better than a playstation. I would have sworn the playstation was the simplified version of this CD player. Got caught up in the 6 moons review and paid dearly for the privilege. When I tried to sell it used the importer fabricated a story about my unit so he could sell a unit directly to my eventual buyer.

Hcat preamp. Ok, I am a sucker! Luckily I was able to return it. Even went to the designer's house to hear the Doppler effect. Some people will go to any lengths!

TRL Marantz SA 14. I liked the SA 14 unmodified. I spent the money for the mod based on the 500 post Audiogon thread. I found it sounded very mechanical after it was modded. I took a bath on resale and it took forever to sell.
I haven't really made too many mistakes when it comes to high-end stereo equipment actually. But here goes:

1. Sony DVP-S9000ES SACE/CD player. A fair 2 channel SACD player and a mediocre, at best, CD player. (Thankfully bought used - still own it for the few SACDs that I own, but it was not good enough to get me hooked on SACD as a format.) Overall I would grade it as a C- piece.

2. Audio Research PH-3 phono preamp. A decent enough phono preamp, which worked well, but the mute switch did break. Not a very flexible unit though. I'd give it a grade C+.

3. A Nakamichi BX-2 cassette deck. Bought used for $50. Broke about the fifth time I used it. Oh well, it was only $50, so I did not expect much. I'd give this unit a grade D-. Still have it. Maybe I can fix it.
Thorens 318 - leaden, slow, dark, plodding. It did render wood instruments with a nice woody tone however.

Mission Cyrus 2 - So bad, I can oniy assume all the rave reviews were written by maniacs. Everything sounded chromium and brash and digitized.

Audio lab 8000P - sand preamp that basically stole the life out of music. The grocery store muzak playing Tainted Love sounded better than through this thing. Traded it in for a Croft Micro which was a million times better.
Mark Levinson 333……cap problems (not an isolated case)………enough said…… POS
Musical Fidelity made a Turntable, the M1 ... nothing but problems. Spindle bearing bad (too much play) Drive motors defective, they sent me Three of them! Besides sounding bad, it was just plan junk. Sold off the SME tone arm. Repaired the 3 drive motors , sold them on Ebay. Traded the table for other audio gear .
Also Ridge Street Audio balanced interconnect as above and also Cardas neither did anything for me.

Adopting or trying SACD at the lower level-real waste of time-I still think SACD only shines on the odd disc.....
Cyrus 2 - terrible,chromium coloration. Those who gave it rave reviews were maniacs. Lasted a week before being replaced with an Audiolab 8000 power amp.

Audiolab 8000 preanp - dreary well reviewed colorless solid state. My T amp blows it away. I replaced it with a Croft Micro in 1986 and it blew it into orbit.

Thorens 318 - leaden, wooden, dull and that's with a bright cartridge. At least it wasn't expensive.

"1. Sony DVP-S9000ES SACE/CD player. A fair 2 channel SACD player and a mediocre, at best, CD player. (Thankfully bought used - still own it for the few SACDs that I own, but it was not good enough to get me hooked on SACD as a format.) Overall I would grade it as a C- piece."

I had the same one. If its still hooked up, unplug it and see if your system sounds better. The one I had made my other sources sound not as good when it was in the system. When I unplugged it everything got better. It drove me crazy trying to figure out what the problem was.
Resolution Audio Opus 21 CD player, modded by now sadly defunct, Great Northern Sound. It sounded great, but just kept breaking down, again and again.

Karan K180 integrated amp, just sounded hard edgy and lacked drive, despite it's power output. The toroid transfer kept ringing, with DC from somewhere.

Unison Research S6 integrated, showed all the features people complain about with tubes, soft wooly sound, no base, rolled off treble.
guess i'm better than most, w/ no horror stories. my list...
1) soundlab U2s---just took me getting them installed in my home to know i hate stats. no cojones.
2) audioquest redwoods ---these cables were single handedly responsible for another $25k worth of upgrades due to their transparency. damn things.
3) nimbus isolation stand---the mad scientist isolation platform, about as high maintenance as a coked-up supermodel, but it did work well.
Aragon 2004 MkII - very clean sound with tight bass but lifeless, not musical at all

Sonic Frontiers Power 2 - sounded OK but the selector switch went bad. I emailed Chris J from Parts Connexion who confirmed an issue with the cheap plastic switch for a small percentage of his amps but he refused to cover repairs (although was not under warranty). Would have thought a $5000 amp would not use $6 plastic selector switches.
My friend, a good tech, needed 8 hours to under wires, boards.... to replace a simple switch. Terrible design if you ask me. I sold this beast and acquired Monarchy Audio class A amps which cost less and sound considerably better

NAD C542 cd player - great HDCD sound, CD is average. Skipped almost from the get go. Found out NAD had serious issues with early production runs of this player. My friend also had 2 other more current NAD cd players - both having issues. I will never purchase another NAD cd player

The worst of my purchases were early on:
1)I bought a pair of those direct-reflecting bose 501 to replace my $50 Pioneer two-ways, and returned them. Man, they were awful.

2)I did not realize how bad my (home-made) flexy rack sounded until it was replaced by a lighter, more wobbly ikea lack.

3) LFD Mistral looked good; sounded bad. Replaced with a far better SA-2000, which of course broke.
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Audio Research SP9.... real thin sounding. I kept it 48 hours and sold it immediately.

Sunfire tube preamp...real thin sounding. I kept it 48 hours and sold it immediately.

Pass Labs X0-2 preamp...$10k retail...Audio Research Ref2 Mk2 stomped all over it. I sold it after two months.
1. Sony S9000ES SACE/CD player. Terrible flat, sterile CD sound.

2.Plinus CD LAD. Another highly reviewed and rated extremely crappy sounding CD Player.

3.Cary SL-05 Preamp. Very weak sounding bass and treble despite tube rolling with some very expensive vintage tubes.
The problem is many worst purchases may be a result of a system mismatch of some sort, and is no reflection of the quality of the product itself.
The problem is many worst purchases may be a result of a system mismatch of some sort, and is no reflection of the quality of the product itself

In my opinion is a mismatch a problem with technical datas, for example the output of a Preamp does not match with the input of the connected amp.
A total different story is the quality of Tone for example or speed problems with a turntable. Here you can find indeed a lot of units which accelerate depression.
But at the end of day, there is a Fangroup for everything and a thread like this one is interesting.
One of my lemons was the Klyne System 7 phono.
Based on all the reviews and praise this should have been very good.
It was blown away in terms of the level of detail, soundstage transparency, speed and timing quite comprehensively by both my modified 1960 Marantz 7 and also my 1980's Theta B tube preamp ( standard apart from some cap upgrades ).

The other was a Helius Cyalene tonearm purchased second hand that arrived covered in silicon and the antiskate broken, necessitating a rebuild from the factory. Either the seller covered the vertical pillar in silicon for ease of adjustment or the silicon inside the elastomer anti skate mechanism leaked.
Hey Zd542,

Yeah it is still hooked up, but it is turned off, (rarely ever turned on actually), and since I have 3 dedicated circuits, (one for my preamps, and analog source; another for my amps, and lastly, one for my digital sources), I have never felt that the Sony unit ever affected the sound.

Thanks for the tip though.
VAC PA 100/100
Meadowlark Shearwater HR
Sonic Frontiers Power 2

In no particular order, but they are definitely the top 3.

"Yeah it is still hooked up, but it is turned off, (rarely ever turned on actually), and since I have 3 dedicated circuits, (one for my preamps, and analog source; another for my amps, and lastly, one for my digital sources), I have never felt that the Sony unit ever affected the sound."

It makes sense that you don't have any problems given the separate lines. I had mine on the same line as everything else. For me, a JPS Digital AC power cord fixed the problem. It has some type of a filter in it.

"10-14-13: Shakeydeal
VAC PA 100/100
Meadowlark Shearwater HR
Sonic Frontiers Power 2"

Did you try and play music through any of that stuff? The tubes they put in those amps aren't the same kind of tubes you weld with.
"Did you try and play music through any of that stuff? The tubes they put in those amps aren't the same kind of tubes you weld with."

Naw, I just sold it all because it didn't go with my decor.

Don't be an obtuse idiot.

Marantz PM72 integrated, quite a few years back. defective all the way, output transistors blew a couple of times, bad phono stage too.
I don't know if Shakey has a good sense of humor.

"Naw, I just sold it all because it didn't go with my decor."

That's really good. It got a good laugh out of me. But then he goes an spells obtuse wrong.