Try before you buy?


So, I've been a part of the audiophile community for a long, long time now. A major part of the hobby, IMHO, has been gear rolling: trying new stuff, deciding if you like it, and then moving on to the next thing. Cable rolling is probably second only to tube rolling.
When I was at MIT all those years ago, I decided the industry really needed a true lending library. So, I've been building one and have had huge support from cable companies like MIT and Cardas. It's good for them to let people try their cables out to see how much they like them, if at all. Consumers who really fall in love with a pair of cables will eventually buy, either on the used market here on AudiogoN, or on the new market through authorized resellers.
Anyway, I wondered how many of you would use such a library, and, if so, how you think it might change the way you buy audio gear (if at all). I'd love your feedback.
gavn8r
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Good idea by Elizabeth to inquire at CC ’incognito’. Also read all the threads in the Archives and on Google.

The Cable Co. is not cheap, but they run a first class operation. The have a database of components and cables and the synergy between them. They'll usually suggest and lend out 2 or 3 different sets of cables after a discussion by phone. I've used them several times without a hitch.

The potential buyer pays all shipping charges and taxes, and this is where it starts to get expensive. After you have made some purchases, you begin to get discounts based on a percentage of these purchases.

I would like to see some competition in the cable lending market. For me it's been a merry go round to find the right cables.
I think I finally may be done.


I know The Cable Company very well, as they were a dealer of ours when I was at MIT (they probably still are). They’re a great company run by a great guy. But because they require customers to buy first, then offer them trade-in on future purchases, I just can’t call what they do a “lending library,”

The library I’m building requires users to pay for shipping, and they have the option to purchase accidental damage protection, but other than that, it’s completely free.

Is is anyone interested in being a beta user? I have about $100K worth of cables available right now.
Gavn8r- you are incorrect.  The Cable Company charges a 5% deposit to borrow current production cables that have been burned in.  The borrow period is 2 weeks.  They do NOT require customers to buy first and later do trade ins, which would be a BAD idea.  BTW- supposedly they have $3M in cables in their library.
Thanks for that clarification, @jwpstayman. You're right, I just looked at the terms. 5% non-refundable deposit, though the deposit does get applied to any purchase you make. Not bad. Still, free would be better, especially if you are looking at some expensive cables.
Free is always better but imagine how many "tire kickers" would use that free trial offer just to hear them, with no intention of buying. That, and people like that tend to not treat the gear kindly and end up abusing and/or damaging it. 

I think they arrived at their present formula to weed out the bottom feeders and entertain the seriously inclined. I also think (if memory serves me correctly) that they used to have a more generous policy many years ago and arrive at their present system for reasons mentioned.

All the best,
Nonoise
Good point by nonoise. What would be your protection? Maybe require a credit card on file?
You want free? Join a local audio club and borrow from your friends. It really works. As a side benefit you get guys to listen over your shoulder and tell you that your opinion is wrong ;-) 
Cheers,
Spencer
@nonoise - That’s a terrific point. To address this issue I have a trust system that I built to weed out the people who abuse the system. Time will tell how effective it is. I’m sure it will evolve in the same manner that The Cable Co’s policies did.

@lowrider57 - Yes, I require a credit card to be on file in order for people to borrow my stuff. I offer them a choice to purchase accidental damage protection to protect themselves and me in case something happens.
@sbank - That’s really the point of this; to make an online audio club. :)

BTW, if anyone wants to check out what I've built so far, you can download the app for free from the App Store. For now, I've just got an iOS version, but Android is in the works. :)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lendi/id1296139839

Many fine companies will let established customers audition in the home.  The customer pays all shipping.  Easy sales.
What is the sales path in your model?  Let's say that I borrow a pair of Cardas Clear xlrs and like them enough to buy.  Do I get to buy the borrowed pair?  Who do I pay? Cardas? A Cardas dealer? You?  What is my price? Is it set before I borrow the cables?  Who sets the price?  Playing devil's advocate:  I borrow them, like them but return them so I can find a deal on a used pair or I call 20 dealers asking for a big enough discount that I actually buy them.  How does that benefit you?  What if i call Cardas direct and want to have them certify that your loaner cables are authentic?  Not down on the idea, i just see a lot of room for abuse.  How would you know if someone bought cables after returning your loaners?
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@meadowman - Right now there isn't a sales path built-in to the app, though there is a plan to have one. My idea is to have authorized dealer accounts so dealers have a new sales channel. As for if you get to buy the borrowed pair of cables, that's up to the manufacturer and dealer. In the case of Cardas, for example, they have laser engraved all of the cables in my library as loaners. So, if you wanted to buy the cables, they'd ship you a new pair.
There's certainly a lot of room for abuse, which is why the trust system that has been built is so vital. Here's how it works:
Each time you participate in a transaction either as a borrower or a lender (users can be both), the other party reviews their transaction with you. These reviews are analyzed by the system, and you're assigned a trust score from 0 to 100. Everyone starts at zero. The higher your score, the more trustworthy you're deemed to be. If you have a low score, other users won't lend to or borrow from you, so you have an incentive not to game the system. Obviously, it's more complex than that. But in a nutshell, that's how it works.
@sts - That's a reality I lived when I worked for MIT all those years. It's just something we had to deal with. Many customers are not that way, though.
I think it sounds intriguing.I'll wait for your Android app and check it out more thoroughly.
I hope to get that out soon, @jtcf. I'll do my best.
I use the Cable Company for this very reason, to ensure that I make informed decisions when it comes to the sound I'm looking for. To ratchet it up a notch, they also like to know what equipment you have in order to recommend proper interconnects, etc.to get the sound you're looking for. My distinct advantage with them is that I'm within driving distance so shipping costs are not something I have to think about. IMHO, since they offer these services, I'd rather spend my money with them. Maybe I could go used but why, the internet selling place is a weird place & your chances are 50/50 on anything but new. Just to prove my point, the same cables I priced on Audiogon, the person selling a used pair was asking full retail price & I got a new pair (burnt in also) for 30% less. Now does one get lucky all the time like that? No, just one mans story. When my priorities change back to audio, then I'll go to them again because of the conveniences listed above. If I might give you any advice is that you should also read some of the forums on here & think about carrying some of the "other" cables some are talking about to offer some different alternatives. I wrote a review on some cables that I wasn't particularly impressed with but for the new audiophile, I recommended they hear them so they realize what a difference good cabling makes.

Nice to see Robert and the gang getting good press here, they deserve it!

Good luck with your venture Gavn8r!

Michael Green

@vista1868 - Good points, all.
@michaelgreenaudio - Yep, Robert is the man. And thanks!
@vista1868 - I would love to carry all sorts of cables from other manufacturers large and small. If you have any contacts that I could reach out to, please let me know. I'd love that.
I do not think you need to be so concerned with abuse of any kind . No matter what safeguards you put in place to protect from the few in society who are looking to take advantage of things , they will do what they do . Now if you make it so safe for yourself you exclude the regular folks who do not want to cover extra costs of these safe guards . In the long term you will do more business . I have been aware of the Cable Company for years , I have read their policies and the extra costs keep me from using it . 

I agree, @maplegrovemusic. With the way I've designed Lendi, there will be bad players who take advantage of the system. But they'll only do it once before everybody else in the community decided they won't deal with them anymore. Thanks for the comment!

I don't know if this helps or not, but what I have started doing again is sending a full stock of my cables to certain listening hubs and let them pass them around among their friends on an honor system basis. Malaysia for example (great listeners) has a complete compliment of all the Bare Essence and Picasso Types. I do the same thing with the new Rev6 speakers.

The audiophile community has always been about friends helping friends. Maybe that way of doing things did loose a little ground there for a while but we're getting back to that gentlemanly pursuit of goodwill and great music again in our hobby. That's one of the good things about being a small community.

MG

That's fantastic, Michael. I hope you're right about things coming back around.
With the inclusion of individual users being both lenders and borrowers the system has a real chance of being successful.  Let me know when the android app debuts.  As a dealer for Nerve Audio I would like to get their cables.more exposure.  
You got it, @meadowman. I have a lunch appointment with an Android developer today. I'm hoping to get him onboard soon.

@gavn8r  Would your lending library be US customers only, or would international loans be available. I have always wanted to take advantage of The Cable Company program, but being that I'm in Canada, it's a "no go" They will not "loan" outside the US. At least, that was their policy the last time I inquired.

@crazyeddy - Right now we're piloting in the US, but after the pilot I do plan on opening things up internationally. I'll probably do it one country at a time, Canada being the next obvious choice. There's a lot to consider. For example: warehousing & logistics, not to mention limitations that manufacturing partners might put on us.

Oh, hey, no problem with Canadian warehousing. I've got plenty of room at my house to help you out with that !! LOL

Keep us posted, and good luck with this ambitious venture.


Cheers

Hey everyone! This week a Lendi user helped me identify and fix a problem with the "return a product" flow. It was a major bug, and I'm happy to say that a pair of $10K Cardas Audio cables are now on their way back to me thanks to this user's honesty and trustworthiness.
If you're interested in borrowing something from the warehouse, please download the app and sign up for an account. Right now, Lendi's only available for iOS, but an Android version is in development as of late last week.
https://apple.co/2DFsYAu
Hey guys. I just uploaded a new release of Lendi into the App Store. This version fixed a bug with the Facebook login system and addressed iPhone X formatting problems.