It shouldn't be surprising that dealers do not allow prospective customers to demo valuable cartridges at home. The risk of damage and cost of repair or replacement is too high. As for the assertion that "components are likely not to sound of their best when first installed", I don't believe this to be entirely relevant. There are certainly some psycho-acoustic effects going on but the component is either going to sound good or it isn't. Whether it sounds its "best" is irrelevant.
If you're interested in a particular cartridge, would you be willing to a "you break it, you bought it" agreement to demo at home? You pay for the cartridge up front and if returned undamaged you get your money back, minus a small fee for wear and tear on the cartridge. To be fair about it. Cartridges wear faster than other stereo components and therefore have a reduced resale value.
Or, why not bring your cartridge (or turntable) to the dealers and make comparisons there? I know that the acoustic environment and components, and thus the resulting sound, will not be identical to your listening room. But if you try to match the components and the room setup as closely as you can to your setup, the RELATIVE differences between your current cartridge and the one you want to compare should give you an idea of how it will sound in your home.
I agree with Tom. I have had dealers that I've come to know from previous dealings lend me new equipment to try out, but I never heard of anyone lending out a cartridge for trial. The only way I think a dealer would even consider this option is if they had at least a 25% re-stocking fee if returned in excellent condition (since they can no longer sell it as "new"). Also, a "you break it you bought it" understanding. That would balance the risk on both sides I think.
I think cartridges, like most components, settle in over a period of about 100 hours or so. Most that I've heard give you a good idea of their sound right out of the box, but will change slightly over the next 100 hours or so. I have heard a couple of items that have changed significantly with time, but these are in the minority.
I completely agree with the above comments. Aside from the already mentioned risk of damage, a cartridge that has been loaned out would then have to be sold as a "used" item, and not a "dealer demo" thus significantly (IMO) decreasing it's value. As an aside, and I realize that I may be in the minority, I feel that the asking prices of used cartridges tends to be way too high when one considers all the unknowns and potential for damage from mishandling that may only show up at a considerably later time when there is no longer any recourse.
A cartridge is a tough one to loan for a trial. I bought a Cart recommended by my local dealer w/o hearing it, as he did not have one in stock (He then installed it onto my TT). After listening for about a week, I told him I did not like it and was there anything we could do, such as a trade-in and upgrade. He said no because it was now a used cartridge.
You may want to give The Cable Company a call. (fatwyre.com). They specialize in lending audio gear out so you can do an in home demo. The only thing is thing is, I'm not sure if they will ship outside the US. Its worth a try, though.
Thanx for your input everyone. I totally understand that dealers lose out in terms of time/expense on home trials, esp. in this day and age of timewasters, and reduced margins.
But like spkrs I believe the cart is so open to getting the final choice wrong that I've had to move on from this dealer, luckily to another stocking the model I'm interested in, who is happy to extend the courtesy of home trial. Chances are he'll get my hard earned cash, but not the first guy. Btw I'm interested in the Soundsmith Straingauge.
Too much risk of unseen damage and too many variables in how it was installed and set up go into what an end user will do, or not, with a cartridge that is out of control of a dealer makes it one of those components that can't practically be home demoed. I buy cartridges sound-unheard based on friend's opinions and reviews and have finally found a line that consistently provides me with musical enjoyment.
I think cartridges are an area where research on these forums can be of great help. Negotiate and buy low(the retail mark-up on new ones is high relative to electronics) and sell high(used prices are relatively high, given the perishable nature of these items.)
Perhaps there is an alternate possiblity. Why not see if you can take your turntable to the dealer, have a listen with your existing cartridge on his system, and then change over to the cartridge that you are considering. The dealer might be up for this and it would give you the comparison of your existing cartridge with the potential new one and determine if it is a good match for your arm.
Now you have me confused Spiritofmusic, did you actually find a dealer who will lend you a Soundsmith Straingauge, or are you just phishing?
Realistically, I don't think that it is reasonable to expect dealer to loan cartridge for home trial. The best offer I had was when a local dealer offered to bring his turntable setup to my place for home audition but won't let me try just the cartridge.
However, I could audition the turntable with my cartridge, if I wish. To be fair, I knew that I was serious about his products and already bought quite a lot from him already.
JMc2, yes I have subsequently found a dealer for the Straingauge who's been courteous enough to offer a home trial. But reasonably I'm going to need to build a relationship with him by travelling the couple of hundred miles to his shop and demonstrate my seriousness as a potential purchaser.
I've sure become aware of the pitfalls involved in being a dealer in 2012 compared to the golden age of audio in the 80's where dealers would be queueing to provide home demos, even with carts.
Yes, times have changed. I am surprised that you found a dealer willing to provide a home trial, but I'm sure he will take driving a couple of hundred miles as enough evidence to support your claim as a serious potential buyer. Good luck, and let us know how you make out.
JMc2, not only that, but he takes a whole day to install at no extra cost. Aiming for early part of 2013. Will keep posted, this needs to be my last major component change before I work on system wide improvements (supports/cabling/balanced power/acoustic treatments).
I have never heard of a cartridge being lent out. If it is new, then near half it's value is gone, just mounting it and playing a few sides. A demo model risks damage.
The only way it would seem possible is to lend out the dealers demo model and take a credit card payment for it's value, against safe, undamaged return. That risks the dealers relationship with a customer, if the charge is enforced.
David, sorry to be ambiguous. I'm not expecting a home trial on a brand new cart. What I'm aiming for is the dealer to bring his shop demonstration cart to my home to listen for a couple of hours.
I mean this would be the cart I'd be hearing in his shop and will be well bedded in.
First dealer point blank refused any possibility of home demo, using the reason that it had no chance of sounding any good, in any system, in such circumstances. This was additional to the expense/timewasting reasons.
Personally I don't find this logical or acceptable when we're talking about a $6500 outlay, and hence I'm going with the second guy who is happy to bring his shop demo unit with him.
He's the one likely to get my hard earned $s.
Spiritofmusic, while I'm glad that you found a dealer that will meet your requirements, I think that your expectations are unreasonable for most dealers. You believe that an in-home demo for "a couple of hours" is fair and reasonable on a $6,500 purchase, but let's look at what is involved:
1- dealer needs to block out time for an in-home demo that could or should be spent in his shop
2-dealer needs to unmount the cartridge from whatever unit is is on, taking time and risking damage to the cartridge
3- dealer needs to travel to your residence (time is money)
4- dealer needs to mount the cartridge on your deck, risking damage to his cartridge and your tonearm. Additionally, this may require anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on a variety of conditions including you.
4- dealer has to sit around for "a couple of hours" while you evaluate the cartridge
5- Maybe you like the cartridge, maybe you don't. In either case the dealer now has to unmount his demo unit (risking damage to his cartridge and your tonearm). Assuming that you liked and purchased the cartridge, you will undoubtedly expect the dealer to mount the new cartridge on your deck for free.
6- dealer travels back to his showroom, home, or the nearest bar
7- dealer needs to remount the cartridge on his deck, risking damage yet again
So, let's say that all of this requires a full 8-hour day. At $75/hr, that equates to $600. Would you be willing to pay for this service, with the understanding that a partial or full refund should you elect to purchase the cartridge? And would you agree to indemnify the dealer if there was any real or claimed accidental damage to your gear during this process? If the you answer no to either of these questions, how could you expect anyone to do this for you for free?
Br, totally agree. And if dealer had stated that he wasn't prepared to do it on cost/time grounds alone I would have totally understood.
But to say that the cart COULD NEVER sound good on a home trial left me perplexed to say the least. I just feel there is a subtext here that I can't quite see.
Well after everyone's rants (including my own), it seems that there is at least one dealer that does offer a home trial for high-end cartridges, via a 7-day return policy: Robyatt Audio for Miyajima cartridges. http://www.robyattaudio.com/Otono.htm
This seems to be a very fair to do promote these fine cartridges, and I applaud this dealer for promoting these products in this way. I wish that more dealers were this forward thinking.
Br, Happy Xmas to you and all at A'gon. Quite agree with everyone's reasons for cart home demo reticence. But now I've found a dealer with the cart I'm interested in to accommodate home demo, I'm a very happy boy. Thanx for everyone's input.