Great thread topic!
I have been a fan of buying solidly built well designed gear within a price point that worked for me with the intention of having it modified by either the OEM or a technician who specialized at working on that gear.
Decades ago it started with the Adcom GFA-555 and a Mission CD Player that I had modded by Musical Concepts. Very good results. Coincidentally my main system amp is away being rebuilt right now and the modified Adcom is in circuit, providing pleasant tunes.
I bought a cj PV-12L line stage about 20 years ago at about $1800 and it sounded very good. As money became available and I became aware of Bob Backert of RHB Dezigns, I took it to him a couple of times and had very invasive, proprietary mods done to that piece. With a total of over $4000 invested in it, I like to think that I’m enjoying the performance of a truly top line preamp without the top line cost. Of course Bob has gone on to found Backert Labs where he is marketing his own designs.
My Marantz SACD player got the Modwright treatment with tube rectified outboard power supply. It sounds great!
Lastly, my SMc Audio modified McCormack DNA-1 amplifier is at SMc Audio right now receiving a 20 year rebuild. As wonderfully open and agile as it was before, it will be thrilling to see what Steve does with it this time.
I know many A’Goners are leary of having their gear upgraded as they fear it will affect the resale price. I’m not looking to do lots of "gear trading". For me, it would become too much about the kit and not enough about the music.
Thanks! I have seen equipment from ARC, Ayre, CJ, etc., where the seller proudly states that the gear is original and not an upgrade from the company. I wonder what those companies would have to say about that? I made a similar post on Audio Circle a couple of years ago and no one replied.
I would truly love to hear from someone who thinks that upgraded equipment is somehow inferior to non upgraded equipment. One example would be an ARC Ref 75 being upgraded to a 75SE. Is the upgraded version inferior to an original 75SE? Perhaps desoldering and then resoldering affects the SQ? ; )
@grk regarding the difference between an ARC SE version that was the result of an upgrade from a non SE and one that was not. The latter while identical in circuit terms will contain some parts that are older than others and so will potentially age differently from a stock SE. Whether this difference is material or audible is questionable however it’s good to declare full provenance and provide all the paperwork.
I owned the REF-75. Replaced the KT-120’s with the KT-150 for a nice upgrade. When ARC came out with the REF-75-SE I sold the REF-75 and bought a new REF-75-SE. The SE version has less grain, is more dynamic, is more three dimensional, and overall, is more organic and pleasurable to listen to. Definitely not a backward move.
I recently bought one of Grover’s upgraded Pioneer Elite DVD players to use as my main CD player. Upgraded caps and a beefier power supply. I didn’t A/B the unit, but the upgrades made for a totally killer CD player.
Thanks Grover. :-)
For me, I would not discount an upgraded unit from the manufacturer.
Sure, it may have some older parts, but I trust the manufacturer to know what needs replacing and what doesn't. If some people are so anal, then let them pay the premium price.
This is why I buy from Ayre, Atma-Sphere and McCormack.
I never have to worry that my equipment will be obsolete. Far better than buying another new unit and eating the depreciation.
One example would be an ARC Ref 75 being upgraded to a 75SE. Is the upgraded version inferior to an original 75SE?
In this example I would say that though the upgraded unit may sound the same, the original 75SE will have greater resale value on the used market.
Why? Because in the upgrade process, only certain parts are being upgraded, not the whole amp. So if you are buying an upgraded used 75SE, 70% of your parts may be a couple/few years older than a used original 75SE.
Outside of that, there are qualified modifiers outside of original manufacturers. Folks like Steve McCormack, Chris Johnson, Bob Backert, Bill Thalmann, and others who perform modifications outside of the original manufacturer. Many of these certified modifiers products may idea sound better than the original. However, you will lose about 80 of your modification investment on resale.
Then there are other lesser qualified modifiers (all DIYers), whose work actually devalues the original product on the used market.
I don't want to sound like a crabby old fart, but precision in language counts! Upgraded vs. original is not the same as modified vs. original when you are describing a unit for resale or determining what you think its value is. At least to me, an upgrade is a change in the internals of a unit developed by (and in many cases done by) the manufacturer. Like the Vandersteen 3 to 3A to 3A Sig or a VAC Ren 30/30 to a 30/30 Sig. In my mind, the value of such units is increased as they are brought to more current designs and parts. The value of modified units may or may not be better, based on who did them, how well they did them, etc. While you won't get your investment back at resale, a unit modified by Dan Wright or SMc Audio will be more valuable than a stock unit. OTOH, we've all heard (pun intended) of backyard butchers who return units in less than fully functional condition, if they return them at all.
At least to me, an upgrade is a change in the internals of a unit developed by (and in many cases done by) the manufacturer. Like the Vandersteen 3 to 3A to 3A Sig or a VAC Ren 30/30 to a 30/30 Sig. In my mind, the value of such units is increased as they are brought to more current designs and parts.
Yes, the value is increased, no doubt, but not up to the level of an original Vandersteen 3A Sig or VAC Rev 30/30 Sig in your stated case.
Look at what @oregonpapa did:
I owned the REF-75. Replaced the KT-120’s with the KT-150 for a nice upgrade. When ARC came out with the REF-75-SE I sold the REF-75 and bought a new REF-75-SE.
There is a reason for this, and I just did something similar.
I just bought an original ARC Ref 5SE, and now have my ARC Ref 5 up for sale.
It would have cost me another $2,000 to have ARC perform the upgrade to 5SE, and even then, they are only upgrading some of the internal parts (maybe 20%).
When I am buying used items, I always get the serial number to look at the age and service history of a component.
Eg: I would rather buy a 3 year old original component than a 7 year old component that was upgraded 3 years ago, as would most others.
The 3 year old original will have more value on the used market than the 7 year old upgraded version.
Bottom line: Updating a few of the parts doesn't make it equal to a newer unit. Hence the value of an original unit is greater on the used market than even a unit upgraded to current standard.
The value of an upgrade has a great deal to do with who is upgrading it and the degree to which it is being upgraded. The upgrades I mentioned in my previous post involved new circuit boards, replacing the originals with upgraded capacitors, resistors etc. You need to discuss the upgrade with the upgrader and get to specifics of what improvements they can offer at what price point to evaluate the overall value to you, the owner, of that upgrade.
Since ARC does a lot of model upgrades, let me tell you what they did that I found unbelievably unethical . It was in the 1990's; maybe they have abandoned the practice.
When ARC discontinued the LS-2B MK.2 pre-amp (originally listing at $2995), their dealers were allowed to buy from the factory and then sell to their customers ARC's remaining stock of "Factory Reconditioned" units in sealed boxes for $1995. Great I thought, and bought one. After all those units had been sold, ARC sent their dealers the remaining stock of new (as opposed to "Factory Reconditioned") LS-2B Mk.2's. I found that to be lacking in integrity; how 'bout you?
I felt betrayed and taken advantage of. What ARC could and should have done is offer both new and Factory Reconditioned LS-2B MK.2's at the same time, the Factory Reconditioned units at a lower price than the new. THAT would have been the honorable, ethical way to sell off their remaining stock of the discontinued model. I lost a lot of respect for ARC by them acting this way; how 'bout you?
When ARC discontinued the LS-2B MK.2 pre-amp (originally listing at $2995), their dealers were allowed to buy from the factory and then sell to their customers ARC's remaining stock of "Factory Reconditioned" units in sealed boxes for $1995. Great I thought, and bought one. After all those units had been sold, ARC sent their dealers the remaining stock of new (as opposed to "Factory Reconditioned") LS-2B Mk.2's. I found that to be lacking in integrity; how 'bout you
I don't see anything wrong with that at all.
I do not have any problem purchasing equipment upgraded by the manufacturer. An Audio Research REF 250 amp upgraded by Audio Research to a REF 250 SE means that not only did Audio Research upgrade the device, the changed the faceplate and whatever they needed to do to make it basically a REF 250 SE. they also service checked the amp to make sure it operates within their specifications and standards. Who better to check this? It is now a REF 250 SE amp.
Maybe the sale price would be slightly lower than an original REF 250 SE amp.
equipment upgraded by anyone other than the manufacturer would require some more investigation on my part.
I for one do not purchase with resale in mind. I purchase based on my musical/audio needs at the time.
I upgrade and modify equipment often. for example, there are much better more linear transistors available now than in the past. So if the transistors have the same specifications, but are much more linear, that is a natural replacement. On my Bedini 250/250 MKII amp, I have upgraded/modified by replacing all the output transistors with much better more linear transistors and also the drivers. I now have separate power supplies for each channel with much more power supply capacitance and bypass capacitors also. I installed a slow start circuit, installed Threshold like monster heat sinks, removed the speaker fuses, used Cardas internal wiring, new/better power cord, individual rail fuse protection.
I spoke with John Bedini while I was doing this (before he passed) and he liked my ideas. He even searched through his storage facility and found some unstuffed circuit boards that I could use. I increased the bias and this amp really sings.
Is it original? nope. If I were to sell it, I would make sure the buyer knew about the upgrades/modifications. It is my backup amp to my two Audio Research REF 250 amps and my Mark Levinson 23.5 amp.
I've done similar work with Robertson Amps and many Threshold amps.
cleeds, I inadvertently left out the fact that the Factory Reconditioned LS-2B Mk.2 were sold for $1995. Then, only after all of them were sold did ARC sent the remaining brand new, never owned, non-reconditioned LS-2B Mk.2’s to their dealers, who sold them for the same $1995. You think it’s fine to wait to send out brand new LS-2B’s until after all the reconditioned LS-2B’s are sold? And to charge the same for both new and reconditioned units? I don’t. If you walked in to a shop buy an LS-2B, and the retailer had two of them, one brand new, the other reconditioned, and they were both priced at $1995, you wouldn’t prefer to buy the new one? You think a reconditioned LS-2B is the "same" as a new/never owned one, and the two should be sold at the same price? I don’t. If I had known that brand new LS-2B’s were going to be available at $1995 after all the reconditioned LS-2B’s were sold for the same amount, I would have waited. Anyone and everyone would, that's why they kept it a secret. So they could get as much for the reconditioned LS-2B's as for the new. I find that a cynical deception of consumers---unethical, disrespectful, and insulting.
"In this example I would say that though the upgraded unit may sound the same, the original 75SE will have greater resale value on the used market.
Why? Because in the upgrade process, only certain parts are being upgraded, not the whole amp. So if you are buying an upgraded used 75SE, 70% of your parts may be a couple/few years older than a used original 75SE."
I'm not so sure that would make a big difference, even over the long haul...unless the capacitors, etc., were very old to begin with. Also, as someone else pointed out...there is always a big depreciation on new gear. It's usually cheaper to upgrade.