Tips on dealing with audio dealers

Where I live we don't have stereo stores that handle high end audio equipment. So, I need some guidance. Can I order a preamp from an audio store and have it shipped to me? I know Mcintosh won't let you do that. Does Audio Research? How about prices? Are they set in stone or negotiable? I don't have a dealer and have never dealt with one so can some of you guys suggest a good one? I am considering the REF6 but for a good price I would consider a 5SE. I have heard there are a number of 5SE's for sale but I haven't run into any yet. Any advice you guys can give me would be helpful and much appreciated.
First thing to do is Google....Audio Research 5SE Hifi Shark. It will take you to all units being sold on the web.
Use Hifishark to search for used high end gear.
Typically the manufacturer ships the product to their dealer....then the dealer ships it to you. This isn’t a loaner program, you now own it.

Some audio stores will have gear that they may send you, but each one will have their own rules and conditions. Home demos are always a good thing.

I suggest that you contact the nearest dealer that supports Mac and AR and ask them the other alternative is to go to a regional audio show.
Audio Connection is known to be tops for in-store or online sales...
Plus a return policy.

Reno Hifi is the best for discounts on Pass Labs. New and demos.
I concur- wemfan,
always buy used/demo and enjoy the savings!
Hifi Shark had several REF 5SEs but they were all out of the country. I'm glad to know about that site. I will be checking it often. I looked around on Audioconnect and they seem like what I need. How about price? Should I expect a percentage off or do these things sell for full retail?

I saw that Audio Connection had one used Ref 5SE on their website on the link that @lowrider57 provided.
I see it listed for $7995, not bad for a dealer price.
Wow! I sure missed that. I'm going to call on that one. Thanks!!!
Keep us posted on your search.
If you want to buy McIntosh stuff look no further than, They are the top seller of new and used McIntosh on the east coast! you can buy a preamp from them no problem. Also, Fine Sounds Inc owns McIntosh, Audio Research, Sonus Farber, so it should be fairly easy to find out about these products by calling one place. there are in Vestal NY.

The real question is what is the rest of your system? The ARC preamp may be excellent or not depending on the synergy of your system and just because someone has brand x amp that doesn't mean that brand x preamp should be used or would sound the best.

If you let us know what components you have I am sure we can make some good suggestions.

Audio Doctor
877 428 2873
mattmiller, I do know Audioclassics. I have purchased 3 MAC pieces from them in the past with good results. I had to do it through someone else because of MACs shipping policy. Now, I am really wanting to move away from MAC and try something else and right now ARC is what I am considering.

Audiotroy, I also have a thread going called "I need a preamp" where I give details on what I am trying to do. Please look it up and respond if you would. 

I have two systems that I want a preamp for. They are set up together so I have been using one preamp and just connecting it to which ever system I am in the mood to listen to.

MAC mc275VI  Klipschorn 
Krell FPB 350mcx  B&W 801 Matrix seriesII
You should be able to work out with ARC who your supporting dealer should be and there will most probably be some latitude as you seem to be far from one.
for example when I lived in Charleston SC with no dealer in the state they told me pick from nearest three and build a relationship. two were in NC and one in Atlanta.
my REF5se went to my dealer and he installed tubes, listened to it and caught a few errors ( simple cosmetic stuff but errors none the less resolved them.
Ayre and Aesthetix suggested I do same so 
DAC and power amp business went to Atlanta dealer a five hour drive away.
to say that I have special relationship and enjoy phenomenal support from these two dealers is an understatement 


who are your dealers/retailers?  Happy Listening!

You can try to negotiate on all MSRP prices.  It never hurts to ask.  I recommend creating a relationship with a small audio specialty shop that deals with manufacturers that you are interested in.  I was able to get a substantial discount just by asking for one.  If you are looking to make additional purchases from that dealer in the future than you can even ask for a higher discount by just telling them that you are a repeat customer and that you respect the service that they have given you.  One has to be careful though - once I had the bait and switch line played on me.  They quoted me a price that was twice as high of the ball park that I was expecting and then they tried to direct me to a lower quality product.  One thing that helps it to try to figure out their sales volumes.  A home builder type boutique type of shop doesn't make much profit but a small to medium sized business even with low volumes but sells  world wide can have a huge markup in their products.  One thing for sure is that don't be afraid to call around to get pricing information and go ahead and ask about discounts up front.  If you are sure you want to purchase that product, then tell them that you are a serious buyer and not just window shopping (wasting their time).  Keep in mind that people need to earn a living as well so in all sense, be fair.
@wemfan , did you make any inquiries at Audio Connection?
Try Audio Classics, Vestal NY. I've recently bought amp, 2 sets of speakers and media server from them (all Mac) remotely and was extremely well served both in service and price. I'd go back to them. Mike Sastra was most accommodating and excellent to deal with.
John Iconomou @ Audio Salon in Coral Gables FL. is one of the classiest dealers I've ever encountered.  He carries ARC and many other fine lines and often has used inventory since he also takes trades!
If its ten Grand , mark up can be 60% depending on the company , """BUT""  Do not forget service in which the dealer should !  but not always provide . If you buy online you could get Fucked . Its happen to me . Like all the other listings suggest a relation with local dealer could be best option . Problems occur  you can walk in confront them . Please be care full, use credit card for a deposit ! get warranties and delivery time in Writing! And be ready for the Mail box all full up recording . You could luck out

You've made some great points but they need a bit of honing and expansion.

"A home builder type boutique type of shop doesn't make much profit but a small to medium sized business even with low volumes but sells world wide can have a huge markup in their products." (Not sure what you mean after the "but....")

In the USA all retailers have to be offered the same cost price as a rule by Federal law. For most brands there is a MSRP sometimes called list price. Most dealers, even shopping cart dealers, advertise or advise you of list price. "Program" or "demo" gear that is usually supposed to be on display maybe, depending on the manufacturer, have an additional discount or incentive. This latter gear might be on sale once a year if mass market big box stuff or more frequently for some of the so-called high-end brands you mention. Therefore you are more apt to get a discount from a dealer on a demo product than a new one. The good thing about demo electronics is you know it works. Anything mechanical (CD player, TT, cartridge, etc.) a good dealer can consult their records or have some other policy about when it came in. Also, many DACs and so on change as often as Moore's Law with computers so unless they are built to be updatable by firmware or changing chips they have a limited service life, as a rule, since they become obsolete.

As a rule, the biggest markups on equipment are realized by those who import or manufacture equipment and then sell it direct or through the internet to the retail customer. Some of the most esoteric, exclusive and expensive gear on the market therefore has perhaps an extra 20%+ markup since the consumer is buying at MSRP or some "discount" off that from the importer-retailer. But the boutique retailer who carries the same line and services your account does not get that ~20% extra. Sometimes the importer-retailer are part of a "software" company in which case equipment might be a loss leader for them. They make money from the servicing dealer who has to buy at dealer cost and does not get that extra %. In other cases the importer keeps that brand in their own few stores under the guise of exclusivity. You're also looking at the extra markup here. Given the strength of the $ right now this makes $ and sense for the US importer. I looked at one line in the overseas country they are manufactured in. They have one retailer only and it is owned by the manufacturer - the company store!

One might ask the importer-retailer if they have a separate company set up for importing from the retail outlet. In that case their captive retailer maybe bound by the same cost price as the independent dealer buying from them. In either case, consider they might be able to knock the ~20% off. Just ask. Don't be surprised if they hang up, troublemaker!

Finally there are foreign manufacturers who get compensated by their governments for any "losses" they occur selling to the USA or are otherwise incentivized to sell here.

I could go on. Comparisons to other markets/commodities could be made.  

"One thing for sure is that don't be afraid to call around to get pricing information and go ahead and ask about discounts up front. If you are sure you want to purchase that product, then tell them that you are a serious buyer and not just window shopping (wasting their time)."

This may work for expensive mass-market gear like some of the brands you mentioned and more. If you see a review in one of the print magazines or go online see how many dealer they have and start calling. True custom-made or small distribution gear the retailer either has a territory thus knowing all the other dealers - or should know them. Word does get around. Ask the dealer if they have pre-owned, refurbished, or demo equipment. They just may.

"Keep in mind that people need to earn a living as well so in all sense, be fair."

I just had a great experience with an audio dealer. I too live far from any audio store. I found a listing online for a NAD 356bee amplifier.. which was something I was looking to use for my home theater & as a backup to drive my Maggie's if my Prima Luna ever needs a break. Anyway, Michael Burton from Audiotronics in Norwalk Connecticut was superb. They're a boutique stereo store deal in McIntosh etc...Gave me a great deal. Fast shipping, great communication. Treated me like I was buying a $20,000 piece of equipment when I spending a few hundred.
I must also highly recommend Audio Classics. Last month I bought a previously owned Mac preamp. They call it grade B1 but you'd never know it was anything except new. It can't be more than a year old because it's a C52, And it was a deal that I couldn't refuse... I gotta go there sometime!
+4 for Audio Classics!  Ernie, Ryan, Mike....all great guys that take care of you if there is need for service. 

Hi wemfan, please look at my post on my audio research experience before wading in.  Maybe you should consider Allnic or Ayon.  I think both are better sounding and please see my comments on my dealings with Allnic which were much better than I ever expected.


ivanj wrote: " In the USA all retailers have to be offered the same cost price as a rule by Federal law."

What Federal law would that be?  Most states used to have so-called Fair Trade Laws under individual state UCCs, but these have been done away with over the last thirty years for the most part.

While it is typically considered a poor business practice that does not encourage dealer loyalty, to my knowledge there is no Federal law preventing a distributor from offering differential pricing to dealers.  In fact many distributors do offer price incentives based on volume, combination orders of more popular and less popular models and local market conditions, among other promotional incentives.

May be the law but if so I am 100% sure ,like most US laws, it is not enforced .
Always ask for a discount. I just picked up a Parasound Halo integrated new and was given 20% off retail. Only a few hundred more than the used market.
>> In the USA all retailers have to be offered the same cost price as a rule by Federal law.  <<
Not even remotely true.
>>If its ten Grand , mark up can be 60% depending on the company <<
More like 10-15% on average...

Brush up on your knowledge especially about the product you want and its competition. Once the dealer realizes you are not an ordinary schmuck, you'll gain respect and discounts.
Its your money and if he doesn't want your deal go somewhere else .
Most stuff is marked up about 40 % , I usually get 15 % off which seems fair to me .