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?
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.