How did you choose your equipment?

As I surf this site and look at different systems, certain questions arise for me: What actually makes people choose one manufacturer over another? What was the influence or recommendation that made you decide on an amp from company "x" instead of company "y"? I'm guessing it's from one of these possibilities:

1) Read a review from an audio magazine: This is probably (and unfortunately), the most common way.

2) Visiting your local audio retailer: Honestly, how many of us do this anymore? The internet is a big place...

3) Hearing a friends system. This seems like the most likely way. Think about it: Brick and mortar audio stores are so scarce that it makes it difficult to go somewhere and listen to a variety of equipment. When locations to hear music are rare, going to your friends house is the most likely method. Obviously, the possibility of you purchasing one of those components increases.

4) Finding a deal on the internet without actually hearing or reading about the component: Basically, taking a chance on something.

So, what determines your decision?
Option (5) is buying used equipment and putting it in your system to hear with your own ears. When it doesn't meet expectations, reselling it.
In recent history, using the net to find out who has what for sale that interests me and auditioning it for a few weeks to a month. Being willing to spend several months if necessary to find what works to my ears, is fine with me.
Many differences are heard but not a lot of improvement with the auditions.
I like transparency and accuracy so it is fairly easy - I just check for track record and wide acceptance among pro audio users.
Option (5) is buying used equipment and putting it in your system to hear with your own ears. When it doesn't meet expectations, reselling it.
That's my method. Although there are a few decent dealers close enough, I don't visit them all that often. Not enough time and I wouldn't be willing to pay the price for new gear so why waste their time?
I combine what Uru975 and Mingles suggest. I do a lot of research to decide what I want to try. Then I wait until one shows up on AudiogoN for a fair price. I listen to it in my system until I'm comfortable with keeping it or I re-sell it for little or no loss because I bought it at the right price in the first place.

For me, its a simple and consistent process.....


I flip a coin.

Just kidding.

Actually, I do a lot of research for equipment that meets my requirements. I look for equipment that garners consistent commentary in reviews and research the technology utilized. Then I create a shortlist and look for best value.

I also attend live concerts in good venues for reference and audition equipment live with dealers whenever possible.
Mingles has the method along with finding local audiophiles and listening to their gear.
All of these suggestions are great. As far as the audio magazines go, what you can do is read them over a long period of time, at least a year's worth, and try to determine what the reviewer's sonic tastes are and how they compare to your own. This can then make their reviews much more valuable to you.

However, nothing beats using your own ears to determine what you think sounds good. Always audition something first whenever you can, in your own room if possible.
Hey Devilboy. You cannot depend on magazines. My biggest disapointment were from the magazines. I did get some very good information from friends in the business of making audio gear. I purchased a VTL power amp and the reason was that I had heard it sounded very good and was reliable plus I got a good deal. It also used a tube I like, the EL 34's and that was cool too. So I took a chance on it. I also have a Van Alstine Super PAS 3si tube preamp. I had owned CJ, ARC, Audible Illusions, PS Audio (80's vintage) some Chinese gear, Rogue, and the list keeps growing. The Van Alstine surprised me more than any of the other gear I mentioned. I have had it for almost a year and I can only find one thing I would like to have more of and that is transparency. This unit is a 8.9 out of 10 which is very good IMO.

I read every review I could find on both pieces and my honest gut feeling was to try it. I got a good deal on them and I won't loose any money on them. I am guranteed to break even no matter what. But I was surprised how well both the power amp and preamp matched each other and I decided to keep them.

My speakers are over 13 years old. Spica TC 60's. I turned down several expensive speakers including Magepan MG 12's, Living Voice Avatars, VonSchweigert VR 3's and Vandersteen 2Ci's. The TC 60 may not play as loud but they are a better match in my room.
Yes, friends and reviews gives you some very good choices but it's all about taking a chance on what you like and what you want and putting in the time to extract everything out of that gear you can. If it means buying a new amp, wire or better stands, etc.
options 6 and 7:

arrange a home audition, before buying a component--option 6

consulting with a manufacturer or distributor about a product--option 7
I want to echo what Entrope said:
finding local audiophiles and listening to their gear.
This is one of the best ways to learn. I've met a number of great people through the classifieds. As long as you're upfront and honest about your intentions, you'll find that most audiophiles love an audience to listen to, and talk about, their gear. Some of my best experiences have been in these situations.
I am a real snob, I choose my components on how well they will impress others.
i try to buy vintage used gear that is in great condition and i think is cool. no other criteria....the collector's curse.
I am very conservative and change components very slowly: Research+ears, and serendipity+ears. I do my research in a variety of ways: Internet, mags, and a lot of phone calls to friends, dealers, importers, manufacturers. Eaquipped with my own test compilation CD, I listen to the equipment I researched at friends, dealers, RMAF, my own system. . . I am open to being surprised. . . by equipment I thought I would like and didn't. . . and by devices I never even considered and ended up loving at first audition. In the end, I seldom acquire anything I haven't listened first to a fair extent. Oh yes, She Who Must Be Obeyed must be obeyed all the time. . . and must approve. . . which She does very seldom. . . so errors in judgement must be avoided at all cost, because correcting them may take years.
I place all the pictures of stereo stuff spread out on the garage floor. I put a chicken in the garage. Whichever picture the chicken shits on.. THAT is the equipment I buy.
Actually I just buy what is well liked (good comments, reviews) and available in my area to audition.(if new) or I can find it on the goN' used
My stuff:
B&W 805s new local demos with free stands
Adcom pre new local special order someone else did not buy
Sony SC777ES local demo
Forte 4a amp local new
Kimber cables, new speaker cable local, some interconnect from the goN' and some Blue heaven from the goN'
Audio Research phono PH-1 and a PH-2 from the goN'
TT's: one from eBay (when I still used eBay) and one from a Audioasylum member who emailed me after I posted about something on the site.
surround sound speakers local blowout sale Canton 300CS and 360CD.
Receiver Denon 4806 demo local
DVD local new blowout sale Denon 5910

The only problem with your chicken---- approach is that I think chickens hear differently than people and more like turkeys!
Mapman, Elizabeth got an audiophile grade chicken. . . she got it used on Agon for a song.. . . and that was of course a used song.

There is a much better way - use a turkey to perform blind listening tests.
That's what I use. . . a blind chicken. Works every time.
Ponnie: I never said magazines were a good way to decide. They are, unfortunately, a common way.
Elizabeth: I'm still laughing....
1990; I heard the "Grail" at The Spectral/Wilson dealer of the time.Lived in Alaska at the time/ On vacation to visit family/friends in Chicago. Spent 3-4 hrs ; 3-4 days every week during the month I was on vacation ( the dealer was a great guy and multiple rooms/ Spectral systems. Visited many dealers in Seattle and Chicago but never heard the "Grail" again; great systems,great sound but not the "Grail"
It has been rare to hear the "Grail" even with the best gear at some of the best dealers. I was able to achieve it in my Alaska apartment just as I was moving back to Chicago . Only stuff not packed as freight was eguipment and some tube traps. Made me realize room/ room , speaker setup.
Have stayed on Spectral path since I got my first used piece in 1996. Have not been disappointed Other than my own room/system it is rare that I hear the big G. Last I heard it, was April at Axpona( CAT/ Martin room)
 Alaska system/ Thiel 3.5; Nelson Pass electronics, Tice power conditioner, LInn LP12; MIT ICs
I fully understand having no dealers near you,Wait and visit when you can. Use your ears when you can. ROOM , Speaker set-up, TT ( if used) and electronics far away as practical , ROOM , Speaker set-up, ROOM, Speaker set-up.

Nice story- nkonor

Agreed! get out into the marketplace (read roadtrip) and listen, listen and listen to the your that you are considering purchasing.  Then, read about said gear in the Audio press, to get an idea of the attributes that reviewers
wrote in comparison.
The first thing I did, 20 years ago, when I decided I would put together my dream rig - I read.  And read.  And read.  I learned.  I learned that with a pile of money, I can buy a lot of gear, but it would not necessarily give me what I wanted.  The difference between smart people and genius' is that smart people learn from their mistakes.  Genius' learn from other peoples mistakes.  Not having the funds, money or energy to buy, listen, sell and buy again, I read and read the forums on who felt they nailed their perfect sound.  Boy, did I get lucky.  I was introduced to Roger Sanders back in 2001 by someone I met online.  I bought my amps and speakers from Roger, then, Innersound, and now have is Magtechs and 10E's.
Old thread however always relevant.

My system developed from:

Consideration of the acoustics of the room within the system was to be placed. 

Determining preferred system design.  2-way monitor speakers; SS amp; tube pre; digital via DAC, computer and disk; turntable with separate phonostage. (Current system, not same for all)

Read audio press for years and was aware of many brands. followed online forums, researched specific components online, went to dealerships when traveling.

Buying used/demos/discounted via online exchange sites (principally AG in recent times), and at dealerships.

Searched out and always auditioned speakers, those I felt would react well with room, prior to purchase.
Jafant, Agree! Get out to brick & mortar dealers. Listen, Learn. Internet is spec and someone else's ears. Support your dealer. Traveling is good 
Audition, Audition, Audition! No more said.
I read, including about the designer, and listen. Also, by looking at the piece of gear and at the photograph of the designer, I try to guess how the piece will perform. I also have a good idea of what I would like to accomplish, and I know well how live music sounds, both acoustic and electric.
I buy based in part on the manufacturer's long-term offerings and the sound the preponderance of reviewers/owners ascribe to that manufacturer's equipment.  In two notable cases, when finances permitted, I had modifications made to maximize the original piece.  Years ago when there were brick and mortar stores in our area, I would audition multiple pieces from a  particular designer to get a sense for that brand's sound.  After that it was settling in on the specific piece I could afford that would give me the sound I was looking for. I have found most good listeners do a pretty competent job describing the sound of equipment they've experienced.  There are exceptions to this of course but I have been fortunate not to have been stung.

Sometimes, knowing the individual that you are dealing with helps you to invest trust in them and what they are trying to help you achieve with your system.  One truly notable example of this is Bob Backert of RHB Dezigns who has performed a few modifications to my stock cj PV-12L.  I never worried about leaving my gear with him to upgrade.  Each time he worked on that line stage the music became cleaner and clearer, just as he professed it would. Thankfully I am listening to music through it right now.  His work brought the sound to such a level that I have no yearning to mess with it further.  He got me where I wanted to go.

Finally, sometimes you're lucky to find a dealer who is a true straight talker, with good listening skills who knows what's going on with the gear he carries and can provide either guidance or assurance about your next purchase.  One such individual on the east coast is John Rutan at Audio Connection in Verona, NJ. My latest purchase was from John.  We had a few phone calls prior to the purchase where I was able to gauge him as a person and listener.  Everything he said to me about equipment and listening affirmed that he gets what we as audiophiles/music lovers are trying to accomplish.  I can only hope that I'll have occasion to make the 6 hour round trip to visit with him again.

By trusting in myself.
Visiting your local audio retailer: Honestly, how many of us do this anymore
Call me old fashioned 😞

I did order my DAC from Schiit, because the writeups and price made a compelling case.

But I find there is no substitute for letting your ears be the judge.

I either arrange an in home audition, or go armed with my cables, all of them. Even took my amp to one store when buying my current speakers 😊

@williewonka  "Visiting your local audio retailer: Honestly, how many of us do this anymore"  How great would it be if there actually were brick and mortar stores around.  It used to be fun to just drop by a local audio salon and browse with eyes and ears.  As an example to highlight this....  my latest purchase, Vandersteen Treo CT speakers required a 6 hour round trip jaunt to the nearest Vandersteen dealer.  Fifteen years ago I purchased my model 3 Vandys at a dealer 15 minutes away!  Sadly, many local dealers either did not have the interested population to support their existence or some overextended themselves with the advent of home theater, building too big, too elaborate and again did not have sufficient volume to pay the bills.

Again, I'm with you about visiting a local dealer, but only if those local dealers exist.  Otherwise you have to rely on reviews of both professional reviewers and anecdotal testimonials, and importantly, manufacturer's reputations.  I have owned Vandersteens for about 30  years.  I bought the Treo CT because I trust Richard's designs and after the TAS review which supported my experience with Vandys, I was totally set on that purchase.  Fortunately, I am totally satisfied.

Hifiman - I consider myself very fortunate - in the 15-30 minute travel radius  of where I live there are around 6 stores that sell mid and high-end gear, with a wide variety of products and knowledgeable and friendly staff. An extra 15 minutes and I can double that number - hi-fi seems to be popular in Toronto.

My relationship to many of them affords me the privilege of in-store  auditions of specific requested setups.and one store has allowed an in-home audition, with others offering the service.

Not all of my gear is purchased in this manner - many things, like Arms and  various turntable upgrades, were purchased  via the web after consultation with friends and/or store owners. But in general, for "components" I tend to visit the stores.

But I have experienced lemons after an in-store purchase, so I do not consider the in-store approach infallible.

I tend to stay away from reviews - but If I do use them it's to get a "general impression" and may seek out the reviewed component at one of my local stores for audition purposes. but I never rely solely on a review.

OI've had a few internet "leaps of faith" and the one success was my Schiit Bifrost DAC. After reading so many positive reviews and at sporting such a reasonable price tag how could one go wrong?. But the journey to get it to the performance level I now enjoy has been a long one that required a lot of  research on the web.

My two big purchases (amp and speakers) were serendipitous, in that I just happened to be in the store, probably looking at other stuff like albums, and heard something very special - that doesn't happen too often (fortunately)

The other reason I go to the store - to compare sound of what I have to something better and generally much higher priced - I tend to walk away feeling very satisfied with my system.

And those other times when I'm no so satisfied? - well,  the price tag usually brings me back to planet earth. :-)

Until I win the lottery...


In recent years, I've done it very carefully after a lot of reading and listening, to try to put together the best sounding system I could with a reasonable budget.

Having done that, moving forward I am more likely to just  try  different things when I can for whatever reason I choose.  Something different, something with the right aesthetics, whatever, just to see.   But I won't buy anything that I don't think has a good chance of sounding really good in its own way.

@williewonka   I am jealous!  Way to go Toronto.  As a recently retired audiophile I would love to have all of those stereo shops to visit.  Living in the Amish country of southcental PA I don't expect an audiophile Renaissance to occur here anytime soon.  ugh

For the most part option 3 for me buying, listening, reselling over and over. However over the years and  a variety of tubed gear, every time something would need repairs I would take it to Deja Vu Audio. Vu almost always gave me a loaner amp and his stuff always sounded better than whatever I was getting fixed. I now have a Deja Vu preamp and amp. All of my other gear is from Agon with the exception of a few cables.
All good recommendations.
Surprised no one has mentioned audio shows. I discovered my speakers and amp at AXPONA. Yes, there are significant sonic compromises common in a hotel room. However, after sifting through the dredge, the great setups and equipment shine - and can give some indication of what is possible. Speakers are especially revealing at shows and I would anticipate they will sound better at home. The magazines, paper or internet, fall short in covering all that is out there. And then with their predictable conclusions, are hardly reliable. But that's another subject.
What ever happened to Elizabeth? I miss her responses... 

>11-21-2008 8:29am
>I place all the pictures of stereo stuff spread out on the
>garage floor. I put a chicken in the garage. Whichever
>picture the chicken shits on.. THAT is the equipment I buy.
Ah yes, the old "chicken sh-ts on the picture of the hifi toy" trick!   Works every time!
Most of the components in my system have never been reviewed by either a paper publication or an on-line publication or were reviewed long after I had already made my purchase.  There are far too many components that sound really bad, based on my particular taste, that get rave reviews for me to treat reviews as a reliable source of information on sound.  Reviews can provide other useful information--such as features, connection/compatibility with other gear, potential problem areas to look out for--but sound quality is far to personal for reviews to be of much help.  I also audition the gear in my own system if that is at all practical.

The one notable exception to actually auditioning gear was my choice of turntable/tonearm.  It was not practical for me to audition different tables in my own system so I relied on the advice of a friend who is in the industry that has heard practically everything out there.  He strongly recommended the Basis Debut table and Vector tonearm that I ended up purchasing (his company has no association with these products).

The other sort of exception is my Naim NDS/Uniti music server.  While I did get to hear it in another system, my choice of that server took into consideration the fact that I already owned the expensive power supply needed for the NDS (I already owned a Naim 555 CD player); I could not pass up the "savings."

Jond, I agree about the remarkable sound of Deja Vu gear.  That store sells a lot of expensive gear that has been turned in in trade for their house brand of gear.  A lot of times the trade-in item is so much more expensive than the Deja Vu gear that the buyer wants that the store ends up actually paying out cash or credit for the trade (the used gear is sold on audiogon or ebay).

Papermill, I agree that shows are a great way to be at least introduced to potential candidates.  While one should not write off something that sounds bad at a show, something that sounds good obviously has the potential to also sound good in one's system.  There really is no practical way to hear a wide range of candidates in a short enough time span to make meaningful comparisons outside of a show. 
Elisabeth now posts under the name Smelly_Socks on the Audio Asylum.
The same way I choose a TV. I look at the picture and if I prefer the picture quality compared to other TVs in the same price range I buy it. It’s not rocket science.

Stereo shows,my ears and sound quality.
Lawyers, Guns & Money.

But seriously...
listen, heart skips beat, add gear to list of possibilities. If company seems likely to survive still a candidate. If symbiotic with my other gear, serious consideration. If outperforms others in it's price range and seems like a significant improvement over current gear, then go for it. Cheers,
Just guns, no lawyers or money needed.