it depends what you mean by bargain. Some speakers are so overpriced to begin with that even if it was a fraction of the price it would still be overpriced.
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From my perspective, there we very good loudspeakers made 10 years ago that easily compete with loudspeakers made today....BUT...how much risk are you willing to take.....
Its likely that someone who bought a $40k speaker 10 years ago and is selling it now took pretty good care of it. But its unlikely that the price has dropped 90% unless there is an issue... Nevertheless, the question remains how much deterioration has occurred over 10 years to the loudspeaker's surrounds and internal electronic components...and if there is a problem, can they be easily and cost effectively repaired or has the company gone out of business and/or shipping would cost a small fortune.
Dave and Troy must have some $30,000 speakers that are all beat up and they are trying to get $29,995 for them as demo's. Skip those.
But, I get your point. I have an old pair of PSB Stratus Gold i's, which cost $2,300 new about a decade ago. Today, they are worth about $750, event though they are in perfect shape. A local dealer told me to keep these speakers as they represent what a $5,000 speaker can produce today.
I would have no problem with used, but 10 years is getting up there, especially based on how loud I play my music.
When buying older speakers, be sure and make sure that the surrounds on the drivers are made of rubberized material and not foam, as foam surrounds break down. Unless of course you are skilled at replacing surrounds on drivers?
Fortunately most modern speaker/driver manufacturers have adopted better, more durable materials.
Cabinet design and materials, crossover design and implementation as well as driver selection are large factors in how a loudspeaker voices.
Let's assume you already have a darn good system, i.e. speaker choice that sound darn good in your room. Beyond your budget 'might' give 'better' results.
Oh boy, what a deal! You skipped the first question, even free, will they be 'better'? Likely, but not always the case.
"Deal or No Deal?" There is little risk in acquiring a great bargain in good shape, you will be able to sell them for a profit later, soon if they don't work out, or later if a magic new technology is invented (likely very expensive).
I am 70, been involved, auditioning quality audio products for 50 years. My lifetime favorite speakers, current, were designed and manufactured in 1956. Drivers from Fisher President II console, Electrovoice horn tweeters and midranges, and 15" woofers, original crossovers, in a new enclosure designed by me, Electrovoice engineers, and my av consultant way back in 1978.
I have re-coned the woofers twice, the horns proven by 60 years to be bulletproof. I have a full spare set of drivers anyway, to keep them going for life (mine anyway).
Over the years I have acquired some great bargains, including speakers, the category subject to more audible change than anything else without doubt, the heart of your question. New designs with easily perceivable results will assuredly come.
However, stereo tape began in 1956, stereo lp in 1958, the quest for 'better', at any price, has also been going on for over 60 years. Change? People with Quads (i.e. .. ) are like Charlton Heston, good luck prying them from their dying hands!
The best deal in the world on an unknown sound, even if perfect shape is unwise. Search for reviews, find an expert with experience who might have heard them, all while checking out the condition, the first thing to check is the driver surrounds.
I recently bought a pair of Aerial Acoustic 10T's which are older and in MINT condition for 2000$ with stands. and all boxes and paperwork! They sound amazing and will for years to come. I can't afford 7000$ (what they cost 20 years ago) so used is where I live. Anyone know the formula for then money to now?
I did buy a new pair of ML Vista's 10+ years ago and had nothing but problems with them... I'm pretty sure I am the only dude here that has a ML panel in his garden... so I went used with pistons.
The AA's were the best I could do with a 2000$ budget...
No regrets and love listening again.
As long as the drivers are in good shape , rebuild the Xover
with much higher grade parts ,for 90% of speakers are always
built with cost savings.athe Xover is the heart of the speaker
weak link in the chain , Ihave 20 years of modding , this includes electronics also , the payoff is Huge often minimum 10-20% sonic
improvement lthese. Are facts quality does count .
i just rebuilt my whole crossover ,and rewired my whole system
with the best VH audio Thin film Teflon Solid Core 0-CrystalCopper
which made substantial increase in. Resolution and system synergy and saved $1,000s in what a new lesser speaker,electronics could provide. All electronics,speakers invest
less then 25% of its cost including the case work ,or cabinet actually goes into the cost ,the rest overhead ,and markup ,hat is why Modwright has been so successful in the past putting in premium parts in stock equipment.
DACs change too much and we need the newer technology. I guess I am wondering in what ways DACs have changed that much over the years?
It is hard to answer a question where we do not have an idea of the product. The 10Ts are a good speaker for the $2K especially. There are many older speakers that have great sound. IMF, Alon, KEF, B&W 801, etc.
"All electronics,speakers invest less then 25% of its cost including the case work ,or cabinet actually goes into the cost ,the rest overhead ,and markup..."- audioman51
I do know that there’s one place that’s not the case, it is however very rare.
I know a bespoke builder in Australia who uses 12AWG hand wound air core inductors, Duelund cast capacitors, Duelund or Path Audio resistors, ultra thin, high purity copper ribbon internal speaker wiring, no PCB whatsoever. Makes 4-6mm steel lined enclosures, the design tuned by ear and a stethascope over years.
And after the speaker is fully assembled, had a tuning bay on the back to fine tune the circuit which is measured and listened to, the drivers had already been broken in, before installation. By a craftsman who used to sight sniper rifles. Almost nobody knows him in USA, well except some people who are very lucky and some recording studious.
Yeah, he’s not a wealthy man.
Buy the used ones if they can be listened to and impress you. I build and repair speakers and see the effects of time often. 10 years isn’t even half the life expectancy of quality drivers and crossovers. So if undamaged and play well you -have a bargain. Driver technologies and crossovers have not improved that much. Not at the $4k level today compared to $40k a decade ago. The older design has the possibility of being much better. I said “possbility” because there is no guarantee the older speakers were any good new. Enclosure design has improved, but speakers incorporating that advanced technology cost more than your hypothetical $4k today. If the older speakers wow you, don’t let age be a concern.
The closest I have seen to this is speakers like the $40K Talon Firebird Diamonds that you can now get for $7K or so, maybe less, in perfectly good shape. They are every bit as capable as speakers made today, and will easily outperform speakers that sell for $7K new. Part of the reason they are so cheap is that Talon as a company doesn't exist anymore. If something goes wrong with them, you're on your own.
I recently bought a pair of Gershman Acoustics GAP-828 speakers, which are likely around 10 years old or so. Original list was around $15K, I paid $5K, and they were in perfect shape. One of the Dynaudio Esotec tweeters got a nice big dent while they were being unpacked, and I got in touch with Gershman and they sent me a brand new set. I also bought a set of midrange drivers to keep in reserve. This is why when buying older speakers, I think it really pays to buy from a company that's still around, so you can still get parts. I have one spare tweeter and two spare midranges ready to go just in case, and Gershman still has some of the original woofers left in stock should I ever need one. They can also be upgraded to the final GAP-888 spec ($24K list) for about $3800, which still represents a 66% off deal over new - and they basically would be new at that point since Gershman would put in new crossovers and new woofers as part of the update.
Good luck finding a speaker for $5K that can hit 22Hz like the 828s can, or that uses their "box within a box" construction, arced pyramid shape to reduce standing waves and diffraction, etc.
I have purchased three pairs of used speakers used over the last 7 years. All are in mint condition. The first was a pair of Kef Reference 205's in perfect shape and perfect cherry finish. I paid $2800. They were a 'hold me over' speaker as I relocated, and I paired them with an Emotive amp and preamp.
When I got more settled, I found a perfect pair of B&W Nautilus 802's for $4100. I think this was a great deal, and I upgraded (got my old) Classe pre amp and bought a used Classe CA 5300 stereo amp for $4800. Since then, I have moved the B&W's downstairs and found a pair of perfect Revel Studio 2's for $7200. This is just under half of their $16,000 new retail, but this is a current speaker and that is the best I could find. I also now have BHK pre amp and BHK 250 amp, along with the Direct Stream DAC. Wow. For subs I bought new, but found a good deal on a pair of REL Carbon Limited. I listened to several new speakers before buying the used Revel's; Kef Reference 3's, Proac K-36 and D48, B&W 802's, Paradigm and Vandersteen Quatros. I did like the Proacs the best, but the K36's were over 20K. I feel I got good value and great speakers for the money, and think used speakers are 'less scary' to buy used. First, you can look at their condition and tell if they were well cared for. Second, you can listen to them.
Here is my take on this. The $40,000 speakers. Have you heard them? Do they sound better or worse than the $2000.00 speakers? Never buy something sight unseen or unheard. Also,
an important thing. The drivers used on the $40,000 pair of speakers; Can the woofers be
re-coned with the same material or if the surround is cracked or torn match the material? Can you get replacement diaphragms for the tweeters? If the mid-range unit is metal can you get replacement parts.(Voice Coils) Unless all of the drivers are paper edge surround expect after about ten years that rubber surround dry out and foam surrounds rot. Some tweeters have dampening behind the titanium / beryllium which can rot over time. My point is that a new pair will be good for at least ten years and affordable to repair. How long will the $40,000 now $2,000 pair last? And can they even be rebuilt at a reasonable cost?
I got a pair of B&W 802 Series 80 floor standing speakers from 1981 for nothing from a woman who was downsizing to move into a smaller apartment. She paid approx. $4,000 in 1981 for them, which in today’s dollars is closer to $10,000.
The dealer upgraded the midrange/tweeter heads so they’re technically Model F’s.
She drove them with an underpowered integrated amp with 12 gauge speaker wire in the 35 years she owned them. Knowing that the caps needed to be upgraded, I sent the crossovers to Walt D’Ascenzo, a brilliant audiophile who solved a ringing issue for Dave Wilson of Wilson Audio and shared tips with Walt Jung, the legendary audio engineer. What he sent back improved the 802’s to a much greater quality than they were originally. I’ve heard the latest offerings by B&W and have been underwhelmed. As a side note, with every tweak I make with better interconnects, power cords, and power conditioning, the speakers sound more fantastic. So when considering old speakers, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
mcmanus, I would look for new speakers at $4,000.00 rather than used upmarket speakers. There are a number of reasons for this. First is warranty. There will always be a warranty with new speakers. Even if you get a 'warranty' from a dealer on the second hand speakers it will likely be only a few months. Second is technology. There have been a lot of advances over the past decade, and there continue to be. Driver materials in particular are always improving. What was top dog ten years ago is not top dog now. Third reason is wear. Moving parts wear and there is not much getting round that. Time will also ravage the finish on products. A possible fourth reason is design. This won't apply to all speakers but do you really want your lounge looking like an antique shop?
I have been buying and selling used audio equipment for over 45 years and will assure you that that any pair of speakers that was built by a well known and respected manufacturer that originally sold for $40,000.00 will not sell for $4,000.00 ten years later, unless they are stolen or heavy damaged, the average price of such speakers would be $13,000.00 depending on condition. After consulting several experienced techs who have worked on $40,000.00 (there is not many) all agreed that the quality of the crossovers and drivers in a $40,000.00 speaker that is ten years old would be considerably better than a new speaker that cost $4,000.00 or even $13,000.00 today.
We don't normally invest in speakers that are over 15 years old (unless there classics) and most of the problems we encounter with speakers of that age is not from parts going bad but rather from misuse and or abuse, a few examples are (1) Exposing a speaker to direct sunlight for ten years will fade the finish and deteriorate the surrounds (2) Over driving your speakers or clipping your amp, can get you a big repair bill or maybe worse, the knowledge that the speakers can't be repaired at all.
Interesting thread. I have designed and built a lot of high end speakers, and I have owned many, and used more as a studio Engineer for 25 years. Just to respond to some of the points here.
It's easy to get a 10 to one sort of advantage if you are willing to undertake a repair.
Drivers last a long time unless they are driven hard all day. Because the Voice Coil is suspended in a magnetic field, friction at the moving part is minimal. Surrounds deteriorate, and are generally replaceable. Paper cones do too, but they are also replaceable. Entire drivers are often replaceable, and not very expensive in the overall picture. The top end driver makers (Scan Speak for example) often will have a close-to identical model for some very old drivers. Sticking with a vendor who has been around for a while improves dramatically the chances of finding a proper replacement.
The way to tell a burned voice coil is to smell it. No kidding.
In a crossover, the main failure point will be caps. If you have older speakers you can get instant improvement by replacing the caps with some of the excellent audio caps now available. Caps in general are a horrible thing to do to an audio signal, so I avoid any crossover over 3rd order. Low order crossovers do sound better, but make other aspects of design very tricky.
The "overheads" on speakers are design and engineering time. They are totally worth it. The basic MO of large manufacturers is to use extremely smart design and scale to help drive down the cost of parts and manufacturing. You pay the design costs once. Crossover design is mostly automated at this point, but in years past, getting all the factors in place (box, drivers, xover) just to get a good test was very time consuming. So, one advantage of more modern speakers (>2000) is that design tools have become commonplace. The interaction of xover, drivers, and box is still a matter of engineering art, however.
Speaker builders who sell just a few pairs of a high end model can't make much of a living. However, I expect that 3d printing, the availability of cheaper NC machines, etc, has changed that. Keep in mind that the cabinet is costly. I used to have fun buying blown up speakers with good cabinets, and reverse engineering new drivers and crossovers to the cabinet. That's a way to get really amazing quality inexpensively, although it probably makes a few people choke on their coffee.
Finally, in general, second hand speakers are a bargain, and a chance to afford speakers that were built without compromise. Audiophiles, including myself, like to experiment with sound, and with speakers, that means selling your old ones. My old ones are worth zero to me after I get new ones, so I sell them cheap. Also, our circumstances change. Listening environment, noise restrictions, room size, SAF. Any of these factors demand different speakers ... so, again, bye bye old speakers. They might be perfectly good, but are only worth what the market will pay, which, sadly, is not much.
I guess I would look at the problem your seem to be trying to solve in a different way.
You have $4000 to spend, OK. What is the size of the room, what electronics to you have to power them, what are your musical tastes all must be considered first.
Then you can look at what you can get new for 4k or used for 4k that meet those needs and make a decision. Certainly there is always some risk buying previously owned but the site has a thriving clientele buying and selling "used" gear.
Also new speakers are easier to audition but even if looking at particular brands used, you may be able to listen to the general sound/voicing from that brand to help.
If I were you I'd take that approach, put in the time and effort and not expect a silver bullet answer
My 25+ year old Legacy Focus speakers are still being made, with higher quality parts, for $13,000 while used older pairs go for $2-3,000. However, the older units sound better. Same with the Legacy Signature IIIs, selling for $1-2,000 (foam surrounds on woofers need to be redone rubberized). New Signatures are about $7,000. So, not 10X cheaper but very significant bargains in the used category for great speakers.
Big heavy speakers are a challenge to sell at any age. So when someone has to move them, bargains are possible. So key is listen to them and assess their value. But speakers do need foaming when they age, and that could be a problem. Also are parts available, is the company in business still, etc? This would greatly diminish the value. Custom updates are possible, but at the buyers discretion and caution. I love bargains. I say go for it. My Bozak speakers I gave away to a friend are selling for real money 40 years later!
My B&W 801 Series 2's were $3500 in 1989, and considered near state-of-the-art. I bought them in 1999 for $2200. I've had them now for 20 years, and the drivers are all perfect, as far as I can tell. The crossovers are another story.... Being a DIYer, I've done many incremental upgrades over the years that have really improved them. If they were still all original and 30yrs old, hard to say what these 4th-order crossovers would sound like. My point is... I've tried many times to replace my 801's, and haven't found anything under $10k that really does it for me. AND.... I can likely still sell them for around $2k if I wanted.... but I don't!
There are truly some good deals to be had in the used speaker market.
I still have a pair of PSB Stratus Gold i, that I picked up used several years ago for about $1,200.00. I used them for a few years in my 2 chan. system and since, are the mains in my AV system. I like them, hands down, better than any of PSB's current line.
I may be old fashioned, but still prefer some of the old, vintage, high end speakers, over most of the new. I have yet to hear any speaker at any price sound more like live music than the Apogee, Duetta Sigs. of the late 80s, but then again - I am a bit bias towards all the old ribbons and stats.....Jim