Borrowing equipment from dealers


So pretty much invariably when someone asks “can someone help me decide between a or b” be it amps, speakers, cartridges, etc., someone posts the suggestion to find a good dealer that will lend you whatever to try free in your home. So I ask do these dealers exist? I’m sure they do, but how many are there really?  Also some stories of borrowing equipment that lead you to a new discovery.
limbonner
For high end dealers it depends on where you live. When I lived in the metro Boston area there were several dealers I could borrow gear from. Now that I live in Maine it is a very different story. Working with a good dealer is great because they have knowledge about the gear that they are selling and the good ones know that if they do right by you on the first sale you more than likely will return in the future. I have borrowed gear that just didn’t work in my system and I have had occasions where what I borrowed sounded better to me at home than at the store.
 If you don’t have anyone locally you can visit there are a lot of audio businesses that will send you gear for an in home trial. There are a couple of downsides to this with the first being shipping and the other break in time. When I borrowed from a store it was always a demo so it was usually broken in. If you liked it you would return it and get a brand new one. If I decided I really liked what I borrowed I would call the store before I returned it to negotiate a price on a new unit. Sometimes the dealer would make a counter offer on the demo unit that was very attractive but make sure if you do this that you get the manufacturers warranty. 
In Phoenix, AZ there are two dealers I know that will allow you to borrow equipment for home audition.
NO dealers like that in New York.
That's incredible. Not a single dealer to borrow equipment from in NYC.
Over the years, there have been several dealers that I've borrowed equipment from.  Now, borrowing usually involved putting a hold on funds on a credit card, which is perfectly fine with me.  

Most recently, Audio Connection in Verona, NJ offered to lend me a preamp for evaluation over a weekend once the Maggie's I purchased there are fully broken in.  They are now and I'll probably take them up on it shortly.
I developed a relationship with a local shop and can pretty much try anything I want... gotta at least try.
Let me cut right to the chase: waste of time.

Here is my system: https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367

You want a story? Read the stories in the comments. People who have been here and heard it.

One guy the guitar was so much more dimensionally real and there he did not even recognize his favorite Fleetwood Mac until he heard the voice. Another one, you can tell he is no fan of vinyl, the whole time he was here he was wishing it was more analytical- until he got back home and found himself longing for a sound his system is missing. His own words. Read ’em. And more.

Point is not to brag. Here’s the point: everything in that system, how much of it did I bring home? Or even hear in a store? Zero. I am in the Seattle area, willing to drive from Canada to Portland. How much of what I have could I find here? None of it. Not one single thing.

The cold hard fact of the matter is in the world today you can either take the time and learn to read reviews and comments that will enable you to find the very best value for your money- whatever your budget!- or you can throw darts and flip or buy whatever you can manage to scrounge up in your area.

Now, I could tell you a whole big story, about how the greatest dealer I ever knew showed up one day with a mini-van full of awesome gear I never heard of before, let me enjoy one after another for two weeks, followed by several years of access to some of the best gear on the planet. Like that will ever happen again. You could say I learned so much from that it enabled me to get by without it now. You could, but you would be wrong. The truth is looking back that was a crutch. Once Stewart retired, once I was on my own, that was when the real development began. Hardly ever set foot in a store again. When I do, it is downright hilarious how far behind I have left them.

You can do it. I know you can. Start by looking elsewhere for your answers. The information is already out there. I never ever ask anyone here. Read through my posts. Look for where I asked anyone about Koetsu, Herron, Tekton, Townshend, any of it. 8k posts you would think if that is how its done I would have done it. Go ahead. Look. Good luck!



From a dealer's standpoint, lending gear is lose-lose proposition
for them most of the time.  If you do not have a buying history with
the store It is unreasonable to even expect it I believe.

After all the retailer is not an A to Z Tool rental shop offering bullet-
proof, drop proof, idiot proof equipment. This poor fellow has one
one of each item you covet and fussy buyers who expect new mechandise to be "Flawless". Not open box, been around the horn stuff, right?

So if you as a buyer have:

A. Done your homework reading reviews/forums
B. Been to a store or a show to hear/see the item in question
C. Checked with a local Audiophile club's membership
for opinions/who owns one. No club in your area? Join one
somewhere that provides good information. Major payback
will come your way. 

After your due diligence:
You should feel certain enough to buy the item and have a trial/satisfaction period. 2 weeks is not enough to burn in most gear
for most people. 30 days is better. 

If you have something you carefully researched, buy it on a trial basis
and decide no on day 29, in my mind the freight should be on you.
Wear and tear should be on you. A 5% restocking fee is in line also.
You just "rented" something for 30 days after all. 

I do not own a store but have a retail background and sympathize
with their plight.
It is up to a dealer and what kind of relationship between the two. The thing is if you want to do it that way. Otherwise all above comments are valid.

G
It is all about relationships. I don't think any dealer is going to casually loan equipment to someone who just walks in the front door.

I've been an audiophile for decades and worked with a handful of dealers over the years. Each of them has been willing to loan me equipment for evaluation at home.
If you get the right to return for full refund (u pay return shipping) (not store credit), then research, buy, try, keep or return.

A. Done your homework reading reviews/forums

Reviews are good only to create a short list.  If you can even trust them, they tell you little or nothing about how it will sound with your equipment in your room.

B. Been to a store or a show to hear/see the item in question

This tells you even less, same reasons above.  Plus, a good dealer will optimize the equipment choices to show off the component in its best light.  This is not a bad thing, but you can then spend a lot of time and money trying to recreate that sound in your room, and may never be able to achieve it.

C. Checked with a local Audiophile club's membership
for opinions/who owns one.

Again, opinions tell you nothing, unless the members are willing to lend you the item.

There is simply no substitute for some form of in home audition.

Thanks for all the replies. I am not looking for any gear at the moment that would require an audition. I was curious about others experiences, and also sort of felt like the response to go find a dealer to lend you equipment was mostly impractical and was a little lazy. Happy to hear some of you have dealers you like and work with you. 

It seems from reading the forums that it is somewhat pointless to ask about this speaker vs that speaker etc.  I am looking more for in general questions that tap into the experiences and knowledge on how you got to where you are now.  Just the variety of rooms people deal with, mine is a living room in a 1915 house with 3 doors and a stairway that comes down in on corner. And no one ever asks about the most important equipment---your ears, but that differs also.
I find my dealer sponsored in-home auditions to be invaluable. Every VAC piece I now own went through 1-2 home auditions each before I decided to buy. Of course I supplement this with "buy and try" via audiogon/etc - especially with phono cartridges, which are extremely hard to arrange audition.

How did I find this? I built a great relationship with my main local dealer over the years. I asked reasonable questions, didn’t tire-kick, didn’t constantly waste their time and then run out to buy the piece for cheaper online. And when they want a favor from me - e.g. to host one of my pieces a few days in the shop to demo, or have the occasional customer around to me place to demo - I happily oblige.

It works great - I eventually stopped building Frankenstein systems like some muddy "brand stew" comprised of audiogon hand-me-downs and "vAlUe oF tHe CeNtUrY" internet/factory-direct components, and started crafting a coherent synergistic high-end system tailored to my own preferences. The revolving door of gear has slowed to a crawl, hopefully soon to end for good!
Yes Muleving, being a good person is what makes a difference. Using your intelligence in a positive manner consistently usually works best.

Your system is so good now, I don't know what  you might consider an improvement, but you are enjoying the process, so carry on!

Regards,
Dan

Tannoys are hard to beat!
@islandmandan 
Thanks Dan! Yep, Tannoy lifer here too :)
A good dealer is hard to find but they are there and they are worth searching out because they will save you all kinds of headaches in audio/stereo listening.
I don’t deal with dealers, prefer used equipment, never auditioned anything but cables (long time ago) , but buying them from dealers was not so smart move as the same used cables online are 70% cheaper. I don’t want to borrow anything from dealers if I have no intention to buy from them. Local dealers in my country are useless, prices always much higher than online import including shipping. I feel sorry for dealers, because people can use them for audition and buy elsewhere.

Anyway, I’m happy to bring my stuff (amps, phono stages, cartridges, cables) to my local friends for a demo, it’s fun!

P.S. Yet another Tannoy user. 


My dealer would call me on the phone when he got some new item or line in the store and ask if I’d like to come in and listen to it or take it home to listen to in my system for the weekend. Of course this offer wasn't made to all his customers, but there were many besides myself. We valued each other’s opinion and for him there was always the chance that I might like it enough to buy it. For that and other reasons, he’s still in business and thriving. I find establishing a good relationship with a good dealer to be invaluable.
I know several local dealerships in my area that allow customers to take home gear to audition.  I don't know if they allow anyone to borrow stuff, but, they certainly allow it for good regular customers.  I personally would not ask to do a home audition of delicate gear that is prone to being damaged, like turntables and large speaker systems.  I know a dealer who has allowed people to take home phono cartridges to audition, including some crazy expensive cartridges that I am afraid to even touch.

If you are a good customer, dealers will go to quite extreme measures to accommodate requests.  I once had an interest in a new linestage.  A local dealer carried three lines that I had an interest in, but, he had none of the flagship models of those lines.  On a handshake deal, he offered to buy all three flagship models if I promised to buy one of them.  I took home the first model he got in, liked it, and purchased it without having him get in the other two.  
I would love to see the manufacturers serve the function of providing the in home demo. I realize that PS Audio does some form of this, but they also ended their dealer network. I'm thinking of a hybrid model.  A consumer could request an in home demo of a preamp or streamer for example from a set of demo equipment the manufacturer maintains for consumer trials. The consumer would secure the equipment with a credit card and pay return shipping. The factory would not sell direct, so the consumer would have to buy from a dealer so the dealers do not get cut out of the purchase and/or trade in. I can't imagine being a designer/manufacturer and NOT having a way to get my gear listened to! Or maybe worse, have a dealer sell agaist my products because they have a better deal or incentive to reach with my competitor. 
I recently went through trying to hear a VTL 6.5 preamp, and it occurred to me during that process that at VTL you have this couple dedicating their professional lives to their designs and it was so hard for them to get their products heard! I can think of lots of "yeah buts" about this idea, but I think the brands that figure out an in home loaner program could  really accelerate. Especially as the prices of single components keep going up and up. 
I've seen many people audition equipment (not only audio, but virtually anything) in dealership/brickstore and then go for online shopping for bargain.
I would appreciate dealers lending their equipment, but I don't see such business practice would survive when people can easily find 10~20% lower price from online. 
However, very specialized high end audio dealers might be willing to lend their equipment assuming that the customer is a potential buyer, not a bargain hunter.
Getting discounts from local dealers is a simple matter.  In my experience, it only takes 4 words, "How much for cash?".

I never expect local dealers to match internet prices.  Dealers add value, and cultivating a good relationship with dealers is worth more than the couple of bucks I might save.

Exceptions of course for products not carried locally.
Some like dedicated audio in AZ will let you audition but if you send back it may cost you 15-20% on say $5k. Plus shipping 
that’s a big piece of change. I don’t know of Any that let you audition with no deduction of Monies , except Mojo Audio for their very good digital 60 days,, and Svs Subwoofers- speakers , full $$refund 
With Svs subwoofers, speakers 45 day audition ,they will even pay the freight back !!
The first time you walk into a store, even if you are ready to buy then and there, no dealer will send you home with anything valuable unless it is paid for on a trial basis.

As the others have said, build a relationship over many years and then
you might be allowed. 

Bottomline is the system is "Broken" when it comes to auditions.

I hope to implement some changes.

Another Tannoy Forever Nut.

At the same time you can build a relationship with audio enthusiasts instead of a dealers, and you can audition stuff at their homes. 
By being a loyal customer, I not only have been able to audition gear in my home, I have gotten free minor repairs, including free parts, from a local dealership. 

The relationship is mutual--I once lent my amplifier to the dealer who wanted to use it in an audio show.  The dealer builds, or has a special builder in Italy build, amps, preamps, linestages, and DACs.  This particular amp was built in Italy to be a replica of a Western Electric 133 amp (including vintage parts).  A visitor to the show came in, looked at the amp and asked how much it cost; the dealer quoted a price, sort of off the top of his head, of $22k.  The visitor looked a bit surprised and replied something like "really? I'm looking at twenty thousand in parts." (prices were based on original acquisition cost of parts, not the current value).