Buying used or sight unseen speakers a bad idea?

Hi folks, reading & absorbing as much as I can in the Learn forum, question from a novice in this field, is it safe to purchase used or sight unseen a pair of hi-end speakers? Are speakers considered "too old?" Does it effect the sound too much? Thanks
Buying used "anything" is a risk...Audiogon is a very good place however to buy used equipment..Many Audiogon users are well known...Bottom line do your homework and buy from someone you either Know or who has good selling/buying feeback on Audiogon..This will not assure you of a perfect deal but will minimize soem of the risk.....
I bought a new pair of Magnepan 1.7's without ever hearing them. I just went by the reviews of folks I respect.

No regrets.
It's like buying anything used and sight unseen. You takes your chances. But if your gut causes you concern, go with it. There will be other deals. As far as age, that is all dependant on the manufacturer and how they have been cared for. Old speakers can be "mint as new" or a good bookend. Drivers and crossovers can be worn or have issues. Cabinets can be in poor condition. It really comes down to how good a description you have of the speaker and if you can gain a trust that the individual is forthcoming. I find here on AGon that the feedback is a good indicator on the latter.
I have bought a lot of equeptment on here and on Audiomart before it, including 4 pairs of speakers and 2 subs that I can recall, probably more. I have never had a problem; can't guarentee that you would not but odds are in your favor if you deal with reputable stores or members with feedback. Speakers in my way of thinking are about the best thing to buy used; excellent deals can be had. I got my present speakers at less than 30 cents on the dollar and they look like new. Of course I have been doing it a long time but you should be able to get a speaker in very good condition for 50% of new cost. Since speakers are a very personal choice many buy ones they think they will like and then fall out of love with them quickly. I have actually seen unopened ones for sale where the buyer changed his mind before listening to them. I currently have 5 pairs of speakers that are around 20 years old and my total maintance was one pair of tweeters due to amp failure. Although there is a general upward trend in performance a very good older speaker will outpreform the vast majority of current speakers.
The biggest issue of used speakers is shipping.
Buy off Audiogon, but wait until the items you want are near enough to go pick them up. Thus you SEE and hear them before you pay.
I have found a bunch of really heavy stuff on the Gon close enough to go pick them up, or have them dropped off by the owner.
Having a bit of patience helps.
I have bought 2 pair of speaker here and have been very pleased with both condition and packing.


I, too, bought multiple pairs of speakers (4 pr.). I have been incredibly satisfied with both the orice, the courteous service - of course member-deoendent. However, all of my transactions went thru without a hitch and in every case the speakers exceeded my expectations.

That, plus the fact that on average I bought the speakers at 30 to 50 cents on the retail dollar and I feel like I came out way ahead all in all...

Good Luck To You!

Just be aware that if speakers are not packed properly, they can be damaged in shipping. I bought a speaker that was not packed tight enough, got shook around by FedEx, and ended up getting some damage on it.
Most high end speakers will last very long time without requiring repair or maintenance, so unless the owner has abused them buying used should not be a problem, but strongly recommend you at least audition the model you're interested in at trade show or dealer. Very risky to buy speaker based on review only and I personally would never do so, especially in the high price range.
Another great option, depending on where you live and dealer availability, is to buy a floor model that dealer is selling. Usually this will still have warranty and can be had for half retail price. Many of these can be found on audiogon as well.
As others have stated, buying used is always a risk. I bought my speakers from a guy in Hawaii and they arrived at my home in Florida in pristine condition. I've only had one bad experience here but I have to take part of the blame because I waited a few weeks before I tried it out. The blatant lack of communication from the seller told me all I needed to know.Oh well, live and learn. Good luck with your purchase, if you choose to make one.
I can mention one thing that has not been mentioned. There are knock offs of speakers recently that are being sold as new and authentic. This used to be a huge problem back in the late 70's / early 80's where people would sell them out of vans. Watch out right now for Harbeth knock offs. For more information visit their web site and read Alan Shaws information about it. Harbeth's are some of the most well reviewed and regarded speakers in the industry.
You might also find fake knock offs of Dynaudio, Sonus, Proac etc.
It is almost inevitable that you can't hear/audition speakers before buying them due to the continuing dirth of local good audio stores. The shows can help but require travel and audition under less than ideal circumstances. I have managed to buy just a few speakers that I didn't get a chance to hear but have bought some. Only a couple of those really dissappointed me.
I've purchased used speakers three times on this site. The first set was delivered freight across country and arrived without a problem. The second set I picked up, and they were just as described. The third set were shipped to me by a private courier and they arrived in excellent condition. They were like new, as described. Two sets were bought without an audition. I read a lot on these forums, and other sites, to make an informed decision.

Check their feedback to get a handle on whether you should purchase or not. Communication is the key. Ask a ton of questions if you feel you need to.

I haven't had any problems.
It's a risk but, as in my case, when you can buy a rare set of speakers, that would never show up locally, and were less than 10 years old, for a small fraction of the retail... it can be worth the risk.

Shipping is the problem. Just because they have cardboard boxes and styrofoam doesn't mean they're safe. If I were to ship large speakers again, I would spend the extra and crate them up. At least the edges.

Then again, I know people that are afraid to buy anything online if it isn't from Amazon.

Foam surrounds deteriorate with age. Rubber, not so much. Cabinets can get scratched and dented. Tweeters get blown from misuse. "Too old" is a fine line but be wary when the parts to repair them become obsolete. Of course, that's where the real deals are, especially when the manufacturer has gone out of business.
Lots of good advice. I'd add that it is often reassuring if you can call the seller and talk to her or him directly. Explain that you're new at this, and that a conversation would help establish confidence on both sides. You're bound to get either a positive or negative vibe, which you can use in your decision-making process, along with the seller's feedback.

You might also search for posts from the seller in the discussion forums. If the seller is a jerk, that particular personality trait is likely to come through in hie or her posts. I've done quite a bit of buying here and never had a problem.
Hesson11 has a good point. See if you can call the seller to talk to him directly. I had one fellow call me just to pick my brain, to see where my head was at, before he made his decision to buy. He asked why I was using this item, and why I'm selling it now. We talked about how our systems started and how they got to where they are now. What we liked, disliked, and why. He was comfortable with dealing with me.
I agree buying used is always a risk and yes, the sound can be degraded if the speakers are abused. I like to ask the seller if they are the original owner, if the speakers have ever been repaired and what amplifier was used with the subject speakers. I also make it a point to buy from sellers with all positive feedback. Even after all of that I recently purchased a set of speakers that arrived in very poor condition. Fortunately the seller took the speakers back and gave me a prompt refund. However, it cost me over $100 to find out the true condition of the speakers. A recent post here recommended observing how sellers conduct themselves on the forums. I think this is a good idea because it can tell a lot about a seller's character. This is good to know if you have a problem with a purchase.
Often the best approach, if possible, is to do a pickup and have the units demo'd. That way cost is lower since shipping itself is risky. Also gives you a way to check the surrounds, grills etec. I have purchased over six pairs of speakers this way, and yes I rejected three other pairs.
Seems like a lot of classifieds have appeared recently here on Agon with feedback scores of 0. Perhaps it's just due to the un-economy, and people are needing to raise some money.
I will never buy with someone with 0 feedback again,thats a fact. I attempted to buy a pair of Totem Sttafs. The seller told me they were 6 months old, so I asked him to send me a pic of the serial numbers, which he gladly did. I paid him in full, via paypal. 6 weeks later still nothing but excuses and no speakers. He also stopped taking my calls or returning my e-mails.Finally he sent me an e-mail saying the post officce dropped one and broke it. I told him wanted my money back and finally had to dispute it with paypal and my credit card company. My money was returned within 24 hours after that call. In the meantime, I sent an e-mail to Totem with the serial numbers. The speakers were 9 years old.
Holy cow Sprink, what a dishonest jerk! I haven't bought anything yet on here but unless the seller had lots of good feedback I would only buy if I could pick up and see what was being sold and meet with the seller in person.
The real risk in buying used speakers is the typical listing - big heavy speakers, seller has "0" feedback, no pictures, and will only take a money order. Wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Also, I would not buy any speakers without plenty of pictures. I just don't "get" guys who list speakers with no pictures.
My favorite story about buying used speakers on Audiogon dates back to April of 2007. Stillone and I spoke several times and eventually he said that he would ship me used Dahlquist DQ10 speakers with the understanding that if I liked them, I could send him the money. I did like them and did send him the money. However, to this day, I can't believe he went through all of the trouble without any guarantee that I would either pay nor send his speakers back to him. The audio world has all kinds and Stillone is at the top of the heap!
If you're familiar with the sound of a certain speaker then there's the normal risk issues-shipping, and condition. In this case going by other buyers recommendations is reasonable due-diligence. If you're not familiar with a speaker I think you really have to audition them. If the seller won't allow an audition I think you have to pass. Just a note on shipping. If you can pick up yourself - do it. If you can't - go with a freight company. UPS/FedEx, and the others, are high risk for large items.
There is risk with all purchases, new or used. All just depends on how lucky you feel, and your research....
Kira, Pictures mean very little when the seller is taking pictures of only the good side.

As far as listening I think you can only audition a speaker properly in your system and in your room. To me that is half the fun. Speakers can sound many different ways depending on the system and the room. I get enjoyment out of trying to get the most out of speakers. If you have several amplifiers and a closet full of cables you can get almost any speaker to sound good.
Buying new is a far bigger risk than buying used. If the new piece does not live up to expectation you take a 30% hit. If you buy the used piece at the right price you are out shipping cost at most. Case in point - I have gone through 4 pairs of high end speakers over the last decade and written off a grand total of $500. Most I used for a few years and resold for what I had into them. I only got screwed once in a decade buying and selling on A'gon (on a cheap cable). Folks here are extremely reliable - look for sellers with feedback. Another piece of advice. Stay away from the very esoteric stuff, no matter how good a deal you get - very hard to resell if you don't like it. Better pay 40-50% of MSRP for say a pair of cardas cables than 25%-30% of MSRP for a garage operation brand. The cardas will resell in a heartbeat, the garage brand you may get stuck with.

Now, buying on Ebay is a different story.....
My advice on buying used speakers: buy local or make sure that the seller has the original boxes and foam packing. Only buy from someone with good A'gon feedback who either posts pics or emails you some. Good communication is a must. If a seller really wants to make a good honest deal, you should not be waiting around for a response to your email.
I bought my last pair open box from audio advisor, I get a full manufacturer warranty and they were half price. I'm thrilled with them. There was some hidden damage, but audio advisor took very good care of me. My experiences buying from A'gonr's has also gone very well. The used amp I bought started blowing rail fuses, but worked flawlessly for 6 months before that happened.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having the original packaging with the original foam inserts for heavier equipment. The box my pre-amp was in got practically crushed by UPS. Not really the sellers fault, he told me he didn't have the original packaging but would double box. He did, also wrapped with bubble wrap and filled with peanuts, which probably saved the unit; the box looked like it'd been run over with a forklift. the foam inserts would have better protected the pre, which was luckily undamaged.
Yep, there is a set of large speakers for sale on Agon right now that I emailed the seller about. This seller has a zero feedback score. It's been two days and no reply to my email. I'm really interested in that model speaker, but this doesn't look good.
Not much to add. Just to say it again - never from people with 0 and perhaps only 1 feedback unless someone you trust reasures you that the person can be dealt with safely. Not even if the speakers are free.
Even better approach. Buy only from those who participate here and whose posts are at least okay with you.
And, yes, unless it is something very rare and unique, or virtually new, never pay more than 50% the retail plus shipping.
Maybe I'm missing the point but isn't most everything sold on Audiogon "sight un-seen”? I live in the Chicago metropolitan area, point being “lots of people”, but whenever I have $$$ burning a hole in my pocket, I rarely find what I’m looking for locally. Everything I have was purchased on Audiogon, “sight un-seen”.

Here’s the proverbial local rare exception… I’m right now chasing a guy in the Chicago area who has listed what might be a too good to be true cable (emphasis added)… the only payment option identified in the ad is “Money Order”… and the member has 0 feedback. As fate would have it, the seller has failed to respond to my E-mails. In this case, I would not buy the cable "sight un-seen", and I'm close to taking Kira's “ten foot pole” advice.
I would not buy the cable "sight un-seen", and I'm close to taking Kira's “ten foot pole” advice
I would not buy any speakers without plenty of pictures. I just don't "get" guys who list speakers with no pictures.

yes plenty of pictures(close up) and may be video would be helpful.Why close up?when i was buying dyns c1 in pictures speakers looked fine.But when they arrived ,during unpacking stright away I noticed that bafles of both sides had cosmetic factory defects because of sandwich layering.At first came idea may be it is faked,then i checked up drivers, crosovers.Were original.Seller sold them 400$ cheaper for this reason I think....
Wow! I read very response. One word...Invaluable. Thank you all.
Which reminds me. The ONLY time I ever got screwed on A'gon in 10 years was by a guy with no feedback, new to the site. He got kicked off after I escalated the issue, but could of course easily set up a new account with a different email address.
How does one escalate an issue? I have one right now on a purchase.
Akhan..., I think the advice above is spot on. As I have mentioned many times on the Forum, mostly all my gear is either a dealer demo, a factory rehab or used. ALL, the used stuff was bought off A'gon. And, I followed the due diligence advice steps mentioned above. Most important -- KNOW YOUR SELLER. Look at feedback, make a call and have a chat, and so forth and so on.

One topic that wasn't discussed very much is model. I refrain from making equipment recommendtions because such choices are inherently very subjective. However, I do recommend that if you buy a pair of speakers without first auditioning them, stay with tried and true models that are well recognized. That way if you are not happy with the speakers, you should be able to get most of your money back.

One last point, I have mentioned many times that system synergy is very important: (i) between various pieces equipment and (ii) between the amp and speakers (e.g., tube or solid state). Some speakers are easier to drive than others for various technical reasons. I suggest that you call the manufacturers of both the speakers and amps that you are focusing on to ensure there is a good match.

The better manufacturers have very helpful customer service reps who are more than happy to give advice.

Good luck and please let us know how you make out.

There is a member dispute link on the member page. One more thing. If you want to have recourse for your transaction you need to use paypal. They will block the funds in the sellers account the moment you raise a dispute until the issue is reolved. You pay 3%, but it is a from of insurance.
Another quick note: try to buy brands that are sold in local dealerships near you. That way you have access to repair techs that are in your area. You are also able to audition their products, then go out and find them used. When my Rotel amp starting blowing rail fuses, I took it to ListenUp here in Denver. They are a Rotel dealer, and the front desk guy was a little reluctant, but they have repair facilities onsite, and took good care of me. My Halo Pre can be supported by Gold Sound, a brick and mortar shop that's been in business for 20 years. Otherwise if something breaks, you have to ship it off to some out-of-town joint.
I do not recommend buying speakers unless you've listened to them first...
Realremo, the only problem I have with your post is that I am uncomfortable auditioning equipment at a "bricks and mortar" retail audio store because I would be taking up the time of a salesman who probably earns his/her living (in whole or part) through commission. Hence, if I take up the salesperson's time with the intent that I will buy used off A'gon or where-ever, any time spent with me would be time not spent with someone else who might be a serious buyer. But that's me.
As a newb I've bought on Audiogon once; A KEF center channel from another newb that didnt even leave me a feedback. Great.
I'm currently looking for a nice set of "classic" speakers because I feel they will hold their value over the HOT IEM of today.
I have bought a Kuro reciever from a sponsor;
Are they supposed to leave feedback as well ?
If buying "sight unseen" from anonmymous sellers was generally causing a lot of trouble this would be reflected in far more negative feedback than what is actually there(and the demise of audiogon). Typically, feedback is overwhelmingly positive, indicating problems are the rare exception and smooth transactions are the rule.
There are some very good people with little to no feedback. I know this because I'm one of them!

How are people supposed to build feedback if no one does business with people with no feedback?

I've bought 2 items here, and sold 2 here. Never bought nor sold on eBay. Just because I'm not a serial buyer/seller doesn't mean I'm a bad guy.

With that being said, I only accepted and used paypal, only used and accepted signature required delivery, and only bought and sold with plenty of pics. I offered to email additional pics to anyone interested, and was very specific about flaws in the equipment and why I graded them at what they were. I'm a bit OCD in descriptions.

With all that said, I don't have anything listed nor likely will for quite a while.
You generally start building your feedback by buying couple of things. Yes, feedback as a buyer and as a seller are not quite the same, but at least someone already did business with you. I bought and sold a lot on ebay especially records and cds but not much here, just a dozen of items.
I am a good guy too - if the the price is right.
Do your homework!! Luck is not an option. Research the speaker you are interested in. find out the repair recommendations. For example, (just an example folks). Martin Logan Speakers are excellent speakers. However, how old are the panels? Do they require replacement? Power Supply or crossove updates available from the manufacturer also? Fortunatly, Martin Logan has excellent customer service and still carries most replacement panels for their entire speaker line and really low costs. My Monolith III speakers which I purchased used are basically brand new because I replaced the panels with new ones, sent the crossovers and power supplies to Martin Logan and they repaired and updated them also. For standard speakers, what is the age? are the surrounds in decent condition? What does the manufacturer say about the age of this speaker? After you have done this type of homework, who is selling the speaker? Have you spoken with that person? Why are they selling it? What do they say about the condition? Are they close by? Can you come by to audition them? If I'm selling a piece of equipment, I have absolutely no problem letting a potential buyer come by with their music to demo the equipment first. I don't sell or buy much on line and I am not a member of the amp of the month club. However, people that have dealt with me are happy with their purchase and I never represent equipment as being something that it isn't. Condition or style or cost. Don't cross your fingers and hope for the best. Do your homework first. If the seller is stuffy or won't give you the time of day, move on. There is no such thing as a free lunch. But, there are reputable dealers out their that sell demo or used equipment that will let you take the equipment home for a week or so and let you listen in your own home. That is my number one way of purchasing. Second is Audiogon. I have purchased some equipment on Audiogon and after doing my homework, made the purchase and each piece of equipment arrived in the condition stated, on time and worked great.

Take it slow, do your homework and be careful.

Lots of good advice here. From my experience this is what I would add.

If you request for pictures of speakers from the seller make sure they are actual pictures of the speakers being sold. I have seen sellers on other sites use pictures from Canuck Audiomart or various pictures from google and say my speakers look like these. Sometimes they would say nothing at all and say these were pics of the speakers they are selling. That is a major red flag to me if a seller is pulling these stunts.

Also be wary of extreme close-ups of speakers or just a fuzzy distance shot. I've dealt with people on local classified listing sites who posted extreme close ups of just a drivers or a speaker badge. When I went to see them the speakers had all sorts of blemishes. The same went with fuzzy distance shots. Here on A'gon you get 3 free picture posts. Use all of them and use them wisely. On another site I saw 6 pictures allowed to be uploaded.

IMO if a seller can't add pics to their listings on any site they are either lazy or have something to hide. Pretty much every phone has a camera now and sometimes nice ones at that. Digital cameras are so cheap now. Heck I've even seen people take pics with their laptop webcams. There are many ways of getting pictures.

When I had little to no feedback here I would state in my sale listings I had feedback on other sites and for the prospective buyer to review those. If I was buying I would tell them seller to check my feedback and in some cases I would try to assure them that I'm a serious buyer and will not flake out on them via e-mail. Pretty much if you have little feedback I think a little more effort should be put forth on your part. Whether it be a more detailed sale listing or reaching out to a seller.

These one line listings from a person with no feedback is one I would never buy from.
@ Bifwynne, you sound just like a dealer. Just because I don't buy that particular set of speakers I'm auditioning, doesn't mean I won't come back at a later date and buy something else. I've spent thousands of dollars at ListenUp, and I did not buy every single thing I listened to. I also did not buy something every single time I walked in the door; in fact several times I enter dealerships without the intent of buying anything. Its called browsing.
I've spent hundreds of dollars at Gold Sound, and I didn't buy everything I listened to. I go into these dealerships a lot to listen to new gear and check things out. I don't make a purchase every time, sometimes I buy new, sometimes I buy old. Whether or not I am going to make a purchase should not affect how I'm treated in the store.
I agree with Jallen. I have an employee who purchased a new M5. Don't ask me how, because I can't afford one...

She was driving the car with less than 30k miles, when suddenly the transmission slammed into reverse. The indicator lights lit up like a Christmas tree, and BMW keeps giving the run around on an issue that seems to be rather common according to forums.

Sometimes you just get a lemon. It's always a risk. At least Audiogon gives you a chance to get to know the reputations of sellers. It is a smaller community than eBay or Craigslist, etc.

You run less risk, but there is never a guarantee in life.

Ask me how I feel about buying speakers sight unseen in a few weeks. I just mailed my cashier's check today...

Realremo, as I said above, that's just me. Also, I find it difficult to meaningfully audition speakers in brick and mortar shops because dealers can only sell what they have. So, if I wanted to compare some Vandys to a Wilson, I have to hope the shop carries the brands I'm interested in.

I am not critical of those who take a different view. It's just that I generally do not buy new equipment, so I feel uncomfortable taking up a salesperson's time if I likely will not but something new at some time in the present or future.

OTOH, your post says that you do buy gear from various shops. I think puts a different spin on the situation.
Why would a woman need M5? Either M3 or Porsche.
Anyway, modern cars are computers on wheels and computers sometimes have minds of their own. Good for us that speakers are much simpler so far and it is unlikely that they could go into reverse.