In our case, the term “b-stock” has to do with subtle cosmetic imperfections in either the power supply or main chassis of our preamps (never with the sound).
At CES about five years ago, we happened to be talking with three of our retailers. We mentioned in passing that we were sending any chassis that had even the slightest blemish back to our fabricator to be either tossed out or re-done until it was perfect. And that it was about one in fifty chassis that had something that, under our criteria, fell under this category.
Unanimously, they asked us to hang onto all of them going forward. Their thought was that if we installed brand new electronics inside slightly blemished chassis, they would be able to discount them enough to get them into the hands of some of their customers who would not normally be able to afford our preamps. They would have a happy customer, and we would have another “word-of-mouth” owner/advertiser. It made a good amount of sense and we started to do it.
I must mention that the “imperfections” in many of these chassis were almost un-noticeable unless you knew exactly where to look. Sometimes it was on the bottom; sometimes you even needed just the right light, etc.! In fact we had more than one customer call us directly to say that we must have made a mistake and sent a normal preamp because they couldn’t find anything wrong with it!
Looking at our database, there have been roughly thirty b-stock preamps sold since we started doing this. It all worked out well and everyone was happy with our collective decision until we saw that an inordinately large percentage of our preamps being sold on the internet over the last three years were these particular units. And, they were also being sold every year or so to someone new. Now, five years later, we are now dealing with multiple re-sales and owners and very low resale prices. Additionally, as our preamp model names TA-1000 (line stage), TA-2000 (line w/phono stage), and TA-3000 (stand-alone phono stage) had not changed, it was very easy to confuse a one year old preamp with a seven year old one. Worst yet, there is now a direct correlation with the b-stock’s resale price and our printed Blue Book value for normal preamps.
I must mention that Audiogon has been extremely understanding in this matter. When we asked them to try and separate out at least the newer “black” ones from our seven year old “gray and brass” preamps, they said that they would give them a separate categorys in their Blue Book. This would at least help in educating potential buyers that there was at least a 30% resale price difference, and up to a seven year date-of-manufacture difference between the two versions.
I have no idea in how to handle the confusion regarding our upgraded MK1 preamps and the “MKII” wording/terminology used in the newest internet ads. I suppose we could (reluctantly) change the model names completely, but that could potentially be even more confusing. I will however ask PJ to continue to try and keep all potential internet buyers as informed as he can so that they do not wind up with something much less than they thought they were buying!
Going forward, all of us at Thor Audio will answer any questions about our used components immediately. Please contact us before you make your purchase.