Buddha
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Buying "sound unheard."
rvance
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I live in the remotest wilds of the rugged Redwood coast below the Oregon border, far from civilisation and hi-fi emporia. Years ago I purchased a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 7.2's based on 1) a recommendation from Audio Advisor and 2) the company's affiliation with Quad ESL's which were my epiphanic audio archetype from the mid-'70's.

I have upgraded to the Evo and Opus models with great satisfaction. Same deal with my Marantz stuff. I realize there's always "better," but it's a hobby, not a vocation. I have some old Fisher and Mac tube gear, which I will recondition as time allows.

So I'm guilty as charged.

struts
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Great question Buddha!

Okay, I confess. I have done a fair bit of blind buying in my time, sometimes through choice and sometimes more through necessity. Sometimes it has worked out well and sometimes it hasn't. I guess an interesting part of this will be to see if we can correlate the two and come to any conclusions about how the worst mistakes come about.

Early on in my audiophile journey I did a fair bit of blind buying, mostly on the basis of rave reviews in various magazines and a fair bit of it on the used market. All my worst mistakes fall in this period and cover the full spectrum from components that just weren't as good as the reviews made out, horrible system mismatches resulting from trying to 'pick the raisins out of the cake' to taking great components and compromising them with poor setup and/or ancilliaries. Luckily most of these mistakes came before I could afford the really good stuff.

The electronics (dCS/Nagra) in the first incarnation of my current system were bought after hearing them toegther at several shows and always being mightily impressed, although I didn't actually audition them at home or at a dealer. So I guess that begs the question whether show auditions count, I'm kind of divided on that one.

The speakers were a bit more complicated. I was interested in a pair of B&W floorstanders (mainly as they were quite compact and front ported) but the local dealer refused to offer a home audition so the guy who sold me the electronics (he was actually the distributor for them at the time) brought along a pair of Verity Fidelios and left them behind on an open-ended no obligation home trial so I would have something to listen to. That was when I learned the hard way that the first hit is always free . I loved the sound of the Fidelios but the rear-firing woofers worked poorly with the speakers in the positions dictated by the smallish family room we had at the time. In discussing this through with him he mentioned the Parsifals which had a similar sound but where the woofer could be oriented to fire forwards or rearwards to aid room integration. So I bought them on the basis that they had the same virtues as the speakers I had grown to like very much, and this turned out to be the case. As an aside I think those speakers were just about my best audio buy ever, I've had them over 10 years and don't see myself parting with them.

Everything else in the bigrig (apart from cable choice which I have usually left to the dealer) I have auditioned first, with the exception of one pickup (an EMT JSD 6) bought on Audiogon in a moment of madness. I had done half my research right, it was a better match for the Breuer than the Dynavector I was using. Unfortunately it didn't jibe well at all with the phono stage in the Boulder. Doh! Another lesson learned.

Most of my headphone gear has been bought blind, either because it is just not available for audition anywhere nearby (e.g. Grace, Rudistor, Lawton Woodies) or because it is out of production and more-or-less hard to track down (e.g. Sennheiser Orpheus, AKG K1000). I think I've been lucky with most of these purchases and haven't made any real mistakes, although I have been a lot more careful and researched them a lot more thoroughly than I used to.

Conclusions?

  • I made my worst mistakes buying blind on the basis of a single rave magazine review.
  • I made bad mistakes buying equipment I couldn't afford new on the used market and subsequently finding it didn't mate well with the rest of the system.
  • Best buys have been made based on sage advice from knowledgeable people who had taken time to understand my needs and prejudices and whom I had come to trust. Often, but not always these decisions have been based on audition or no-obligation home trial.
  • When I think back I realize that throughout my journey my best, most musically satisfying systems have always resulted from buying the majority of the components from the same dealer, often at the same time.

A final thought. The purchases I have made based purely on audition have mostly been on behalf of others. This happens for instance when a friend or relative asks me to either advise on a purchase or just to choose something for them, whereas my own purchases are often premeditated and researched long in advance. In almost every case I found I have come away with something different to what I expected to buy, simply because it sounded better.

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I bought my Luxman PD121 unheard in 1978, and much later the Denon DL103. That's about it. And a few speaker cables too btw.

Edit: Oh yeah then there were these DIY horn speakers waaaay back...

Welshsox
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Its an interesting question.

Im sure we have all either done it or been tempted to buy stuff from Fleabay or Audigon for half what we can from a dealer. The only major peice ive ever bought unheard was an Esoteric SA60 and that turned out great. I have bought a few cheaper items unheard, ive never been really biten though.

What scares me though is the position im currently in, im past the basic stuff and into the bottom end of the upper echelon of hifi, you know $5,000 TT or $5,000 speakers, the issue gets worse because i do not believe in going to dealers and then going home and buying online, how do you rationalise buying something for $5,000 when you know you can get it for $3,000 easily. The stupid thing is that ive audtioned loads of stuff at home that should in theory of being great for me based on reviews etc and ive hated it !! so i might have got something at 50% cost but it would not have fit into my system at all.

The bottom line is that dealers really do add tremendous value, its just so hard when its your dollars paying for it !!!

alan

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I just bought a set of Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pro Earphones unlistened after a LOT of research and a price 40% of its price before they replaced it with a newer model...Sounds great for $175...

Listener
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I think that buying gear without hearing it first will be increasingly necessary for me from now on.

- The network of bricks & Mortar stores is getting thin even in large metro areas. You may not be able to hear the product you read about.

- If you are interested in PC audio related gear, dealers may be clueless or just incompetent in this area.

- If you are looking for products at the Rotel, NAD, PSB, etc. level, dealers may not be interested.

- In store demos usually fail to convince me that something is worth buying. I leave the store resolving not to hold the malfunctioning gear, poor system setup, bad sound and incompetent salesmen against the product I was auditioning. Home auditions of gear borrowing from a B&M dealer do help but I can't do many of those in home trials.

Bill

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Great topic-----I will honestly admit that in the last 6 years every piece of audio gear I've bought was "unheard", at least lately (which includes an amp, a CD player, a phono-pre amp, a cartridge, a surround receiver, and various cables).

It might seem crazy, but my method is one of cross-referencing and a great deal of experience. In the past I listened to a ton of stuff and got a solid feel for types of gear and "company" sound. I use this base, along with extensive reviews from reviewers I am familiar with and can relate to. So far I have not been unhappy with this approach- in fact I'd say in 6 of 7 purchases I was thrilled and got just what I expected. The only minor misstep I can say is my phono amp, while very good, was a little (and not by much) underpowered for my low output moving coil cartridge. I also got some interconnects I really did not like and they basically got shelved as soon as I could replace them. If I had the time AND local section, I'd certainly do a demo of each piece.

I don't recommend this for the inexperienced of those who are easily prone to self-doubt and buyers remorse!

ncdrawl
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my speakers(well my listening room ones) were bought unheard. i got real lucky though..they are amazing,..but that was a ballsy maneuver(or stupid?)

Orb
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Just to add.
Personally I feel future bricks and mortar stores that do well are those that include both lower and higher end products from Rotel,NAD,Denon,Yamaha,etc and also the specific high end manufacturers

mjalazard
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I've committed the ultimate audio sin (and Buddha has lambasted me many times about it!!!). I've bought digital equipment and sent them of to be modified even before I've listened to them (Denon DVD 2900 and Oppo BDP 83SE...thanks Dan Wright).
Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.
Hang me high.
Mike

Buddha
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Quote:
I've committed the ultimate audio sin (and Buddha has lambasted me many times about it!!!). I've bought digital equipment and sent them of to be modified even before I've listened to them (Denon DVD 2900 and Oppo BDP 83SE...thanks Dan Wright).
Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.
Hang me high.
Mike

So, let's say you decide to buy Dan's Modwright KWA 150 amplifier. When you order it, where do you have him ship it to be modified before you get it shipped to your house?

mrlowry
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Speakers are the only category I couldn't bring myself to purchasing without hearing the specific model. To me it would be like buying a car without a test drive or purchasing a home without setting foot in it. Digital products I'd be less than comfortable purchasing too. With respect to other product categories if I've heard something from that company in that component category I'm pretty comfortable buying unheard because I feel I already have insight into the brand.

For example after owning an Adcom GFP-450 preamp I had no problem pulling the trigger on my Adcom GFP-750 (Nelson Pass design) preamp without a listen. I've also upgraded upgraded from one level of Audioquest to another without an audition, twice in fact.

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Quote:
Speakers are the only category I couldn't bring myself to purchasing without hearing the specific model.

That's pretty much my view as well... Almost all of my HiFi purchases in the last few years have been online and unheard... I got my Benchmark DAC1 and AKG K701s online, and just ordered an Emotiva UPA-2 Amp online as well... The only item I purchased in a store was my M-Audio Active Speakers... And the Revel F12 Speakers I will buying shortly , I already auditioned...

So only speaker purchases have been auditioned...

I suspect we'll see more and more people moving to purchasing online and doing in-home auditions in the not too distant future...

mjalazard
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Quote:

Quote:
I've committed the ultimate audio sin (and Buddha has lambasted me many times about it!!!). I've bought digital equipment and sent them of to be modified even before I've listened to them (Denon DVD 2900 and Oppo BDP 83SE...thanks Dan Wright).
Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.
Hang me high.
Mike

So, let's say you decide to buy Dan's Modwright KWA 150 amplifier. When you order it, where do you have him ship it to be modified before you get it shipped to your house?


I'de have to ask Dan about that!
Probably to John Hillig, at Musical Concepts!!! Or, maybe to Chris Johnson at Parts Connexion. Hell, my favorite, Chris Ready, Readytech...he did a damn fine job on the Adcom we used at the 2010 THE Show!

M

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I am more of a listener than a buyer, so my stuff is all class c anyway! My next purchase will be a DAC for my computer files. Currently I am using the DAC in my Denon receiver, so I feel very confident that the $400 or so I spend on an outboard DAC will be an upgrade.

Speakers are different, and I will not upgrade my speakers without hearing the replacements.

But in general, the less expensive your gear is, the easier it is to upgrade without listening IMHO.

Trey

Freako
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Maybe so, but I bet you can have many "surprises" that way too

Buddha
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Hmmmm.

How does this part work:

A brand new product hits the market, and even before the modder has heard it, has a mod for it?

I mean, before the damn thing hits the market, there is a mod that will improve the sound - and NOBODY has heard the unit?

The modder doesn't even know the parts list or contents of the unit, but has a mod ready and waiting?

How does anyone know what it did?

Obviously, the unit must sound "better."

Maybe I should go ask Alice, I think she'll know...

Ajani
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Quote:
Hmmmm.

How does this part work:

A brand new product hits the market, and even before the modder has heard it, has a mod for it?

I mean, before the damn thing hits the market, there is a mod that will improve the sound - and NOBODY has heard the unit?

The modder doesn't even know the parts list or contents of the unit, but has a mod ready and waiting?

How does anyone know what it did?

Obviously, the unit must sound "better."

Maybe I should go ask Alice, I think she'll know...

Well that's a real issue with modding... How do you know that the more expensive parts being used to MOD the unit, actually improve the sound? I suspect some of these guys just look at a parts list for the component and determine what parts they can replace with more expensive ones, rather than really testing to see if these mods make a noticable improvement in sound quality...

mjalazard
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I'de love to get Dan Wright involved in this thread. He started his career (and obviously still) modifies equipment. Now he is a well-respected manufacturer.
I do indeed have much lower-budget electronics modified. Outside of some very old receivers and the Adcom amp whose caps were long gone, these mods were not simple switching out of parts.
When you consider things, modifying is what manufacturers do on a regular basis. Every MkII, Type 2, item is essentially some type of modification of their original product. Hell, Dr. Amar Bose made a career and a bundle of cash on his 901 series modifications over two decades.
I'm still buying and listening to vinyl and to CD's. I try to get out to hear live music several times a year. And I do enjoy listening to my music at home. I wish, like most of use, I had more time every day to do so.
ce est la vie

Mike

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It is harder to implement in the US as national chains grab the low and mi-fi, leaving local high end stores with only one alternative if they want to compete in price

The high end audio stores here are stuck into high end but are involved into the installation of home cinemas with $10,000 front projectors, etc -Plasma is gone and they can't compete with new flat screens.

Buddha
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Quote:

I do indeed have much lower-budget electronics modified. Outside of some very old receivers and the Adcom amp whose caps were long gone, these mods were not simple switching out of parts.

Do you own any unmodified gear?


Quote:

When you consider things, modifying is what manufacturers do on a regular basis. Every MkII, Type 2, item is essentially some type of modification of their original product. Hell, Dr. Amar Bose made a career and a bundle of cash on his 901 series modifications over two decades.

So, then, for these updates to mark II, etc....you think they just come up with them without ever having listened to the gear?

I enjoy looking at the 'systems' section of Audio Asylum and have a new diagnosis for a certain group of subjects in this hobby:

As a subset of Audiophilia Nervosa, we have Compulsive Modification Disorder.

How do you know if this affliction affects you?

The warning signs....

1) You have no pieces of gear that are "unmodified." *Exceptions are cabling, which is pre-priced as though it has been modded, and some phono cartridges for similar reasons.

2) You have modified gear that you never bothered to listen to, even once, before having it modified.

3) When someone asks you what kind of speaker, amp, digital player, etc...you have, your answer includes a full modification pedigree.

4) After four mods, you actually think a piece of gear sounds better than it did before the first mod.

5) You reference Amar Bose as part of the validation of mod process!

Really? Amar Bose? Well, I guess if modding was good enough for him, and his speakers got that much better each time, and it makes "bundles" of cash for the modder, then your point is complete.

mjalazard
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Quote:

Quote:

I do indeed have much lower-budget electronics modified. Outside of some very old receivers and the Adcom amp whose caps were long gone, these mods were not simple switching out of parts.

Do you own any unmodified gear?


Quote:

When you consider things, modifying is what manufacturers do on a regular basis. Every MkII, Type 2, item is essentially some type of modification of their original product. Hell, Dr. Amar Bose made a career and a bundle of cash on his 901 series modifications over two decades.

So, then, for these updates to mark II, etc....you think they just come up with them without ever having listened to the gear?

I enjoy looking at the 'systems' section of Audio Asylum and have a new diagnosis for a certain group of subjects in this hobby:

As a subset of Audiophilia Nervosa, we have Compulsive Modification Disorder.

How do you know if this affliction affects you?

The warning signs....

1) You have no pieces of gear that are "unmodified." *Exceptions are cabling, which is pre-priced as though it has been modded, and some phono cartridges for similar reasons.

2) You have modified gear that you never bothered to listen to, even once, before having it modified.

3) When someone asks you what kind of speaker, amp, digital player, etc...you have, your answer includes a full modification pedigree.

4) After four mods, you actually think a piece of gear sounds better than it did before the first mod.

5) You reference Amar Bose as part of the validation of mod process!

Really? Amar Bose? Well, I guess if modding was good enough for him, and his speakers got that much better each time, and it makes "bundles" of cash for the modder, then your point is complete.


I'm waiting for that diagnosis to be listed in the DSM V.
Buddha, can you suggest and therapy? SSRI's?; Thujone; benzodiazepines?; THC?; silver-in-oil caps?

I think I'll just go out and buy a Mustang GT and have it sent to Shelby for the 2010 GT500 Super Snake custom package before I drive it.
http://www.shelbyautos.com/vehicles/2010SS.asp
I'm sure that the auto buffs don't receive castigation for planning to mod their cars prior to purchasing them.

Hey Buddha, can I borrow $30K !?!
Mike

Buddha
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Quote:

I'm waiting for that diagnosis to be listed in the DSM V.
Buddha, can you suggest and therapy? SSRI's?; Thujone; benzodiazepines?; THC?; silver-in-oil caps?

I think I'll just go out and buy a Mustang GT and have it sent to Shelby for the 2010 GT500 Super Snake custom package before I drive it.
http://www.shelbyautos.com/vehicles/2010SS.asp
I'm sure that the auto buffs don't receive castigation for planning to mod their cars prior to purchasing them.

Hey Buddha, can I borrow $30K !?!
Mike

"I'm sure that the auto buffs don't receive castigation for planning to mod their cars prior to purchasing them."

Yes, and they get special accolades for doing mods that offer no objecticely measured changes in performance - lap times, acceleration, horsepower, etc.

They pay extra for mods that create effects that only they can discern....

"Same quarter mile time? Same lap times? I don't care, I'm an automotive subjectivist."

I wonder if Shelby offers the same tweak for every make and model of car?

Now, more in tune with what an audiophile might call a legitimate tweak, I'm sure you'd be just as happy with what a custom modded shifter knob or chrome foot-shaped gas pedal can add to the table.

I wonder which knob makes the car perform 'better'.....

Probably the one treated with special sauce.

ncdrawl
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My brother in law , who is an engineer at Intel, has 3 ford SHO cars that he mods the piss out of..and some of the mods are right up there with the audio stuff.... nuts

http://www.v8sho.com/SHO/modifications.html

http://www.bringbackthesho.com/phpnuke/

Welshsox
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Now Ford is a company that gets it.

They told Obama to shove it and have been bringing out kick ass cars at sensible prices. The SHO is a great example of a car that gets back to US strengths, its well built with a kick ass engine. There is nothing out of Germany that comes close at the price, Ford has great cars at all levels Focus, Fusion, Mustang, Taurus, Flex etc.

Anyone who had the sense to buy Ford stock a year ago has seen over a 7 times increase !!

Nice to see a US company kicking ass in the automotive world and not just with trucks, with high quality cars at great prices.

Alan

enframed
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I've bought many audio pieces w/o hearing them but I'm also not an audio nut, I like to listen to music.

Recently I purchased a VPI Scout w/ Blue Point; the cartridge I had heard, but not on a Scout. I also got a PS Audio Trio C100 amplifier and GCPH phono stage w/o having heard them, got them directly from PSA. I'm very pleased with both.

I did listen to the Dynaudio Focus 140 speakers I have but on a far more expensive system in a treated, rectangular room, and through speaker wires that probably cost more than my amplifier. Taking that into account, you could say I bought them blind as well.

What it comes down to is if you don't hear a component in your system in your room, you didn't really hear it.

I knew about all of the products I purchased by reading reviews and following the companies: I remembered PS Audio from when they were based in California, when I first got into "audio," I knew that many speaker manufacturers use Dynaudio drivers, and I knew that VPI made a helluva turntable.

Oh, and I just bought a Play Station One, you know, the one, for $5.50 w/o having heard it.

Buddha
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Quote:

I've bought many audio pieces w/o hearing them but I'm also not an audio nut, I like to listen to music.

So, buying without listening is the music lover's approach!

Nice.

"If you audition first, you're just an audio nut."


Quote:

I knew about all of the products I purchased by reading reviews and following the companies:

Wait, so you read and buy based on what audio nuts write, which allows you to remain a music lover.

_____________________

I'm purely goofing around. Buying by educated guess is likely the most common modern method of purchase as the brick and mortar dealers go the way of the dinosaur.

Cheers.

Orb
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Heh now I wonder how many buying Ferrari's/Porsche GTs/Lambos/etc test drive these top of range performance cars on a race track.
Madness I say maaaddneeessss to buy just driving them round the block at 20mph!!!

Cheers
Orb

enframed
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Quote:

So, buying without listening is the music lover's approach!

Nice.

"If you audition first, you're just an audio nut."

Yeah, everyone knows audio nuts don't actually like music.

My point, convoluted as it was, was that without hearing it in your house and on your system, any component heard would have been colored by many factors and components.

mjalazard
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Quote:

Quote:

I'm waiting for that diagnosis to be listed in the DSM V.
Buddha, can you suggest and therapy? SSRI's?; Thujone; benzodiazepines?; THC?; silver-in-oil caps?

I think I'll just go out and buy a Mustang GT and have it sent to Shelby for the 2010 GT500 Super Snake custom package before I drive it.
http://www.shelbyautos.com/vehicles/2010SS.asp
I'm sure that the auto buffs don't receive castigation for planning to mod their cars prior to purchasing them.

Hey Buddha, can I borrow $30K !?!
Mike

"I'm sure that the auto buffs don't receive castigation for planning to mod their cars prior to purchasing them."

Yes, and they get special accolades for doing mods that offer no objecticely measured changes in performance - lap times, acceleration, horsepower, etc.

They pay extra for mods that create effects that only they can discern....

"Same quarter mile time? Same lap times? I don't care, I'm an automotive subjectivist."

I wonder if Shelby offers the same tweak for every make and model of car?

Now, more in tune with what an audiophile might call a legitimate tweak, I'm sure you'd be just as happy with what a custom modded shifter knob or chrome foot-shaped gas pedal can add to the table.

I wonder which knob makes the car perform 'better'.....

Probably the one treated with special sauce.


I'de have to go for an upgrade on that gas pedal, however.

Buddha
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Getting the left-foot shaped pedal is the tough part.

Lamont Sanford
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"sound unheard" doesn't make any sense. I'm no monument to grammar but it "sounds" like an oxymoron.

Buddha
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Quote:
"sound unheard" doesn't make any sense. I'm no monument to grammar but it "sounds" like an oxymoron.

Imagine the term "sight unseen" and then "analogize" it.

(I included the link to the definition of "analogize" so you woulnd't fixate on the 'anal' part.)

Also, did you notice the quotation marks?

Finally, maybe you could go complain to PSB, they use the term as well...

"While we'd love to think you could just buy any of our speakers sound unheard and live happily ever after, we'll certainly understand if you want to know how they sound in comparison with each other and those of other manufacturers."

Now, after all that and reading through the thread, do you think you know what it meant?

mjalazard
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Quote:
Getting the left-foot shaped pedal is the tough part.


No problemo, you just have to cut off your fifth toe!

Lamont Sanford
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I'm confused all the time. They tell me it comes with age....

roadster
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Last fall I purchased a pair of Polk Monitor 10s (with the original packing) at a yard sale for $40. They looked good, sounded fine...rebuilt the crossovers and they sound even better.

Lamont Sanford
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Quote:
Last fall I purchased a pair of Polk Monitor 10s (with the original packing) at a yard sale for $40. They looked good, sounded fine...rebuilt the crossovers and they sound even better.

And you forgot where you put them? Actually, I love this sort of stuff. Good for you! You are an honorary member of the Lamont Sanford Fan Club.

Monty
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I thought this was going to be a Shelly Manne thread.

I buy almost all my gear off Audiogon now...unheard. Not because I have anything against audio dealers, but because I can't ask a dealer with a straight face to allow me to audition the gear for a month or so and I can't afford to spend dealer prices only to resell a piece if it doesn't satisfy me at a substantial loss.

Having spent a good number of years evaluating both gear and my own listening requirements, I've found that I have certain particulars that I can live with and others that I can't and those particulars aren't in sync with what is apparently the conventional pallete of tastes. It's simply
not enough that a given piece of gear is widely accepted as being better than others, it has to be better in the areas that are important to me without being worse in the areas that my current rig manages to do well.

How do you explain to someone that a $500 amplifier is more satisfying than their $2500 amp and then ask for an extended audition?

Audigon works fine for me and allows me to broaden my experience with all sorts of stuff. I look at it like a nominal evaluation fee with an unlimited time duration. I'd rather pay a dealer a fee to audition gear and be able to keep it long enough to be satisfied that I know its character, but until that's the business model I'll keep using Audigon.

RGibran
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Joined: Oct 11 2005 - 5:50pm


Quote:

I thought this was going to be a Shelly Manne thread.

Good Vun, Monty!

I pretty much fall squarely in the same camp as Monty.

I also love the new direct sales with 30 day return business model being used by manufacturers and retailers. Lengthy in home auditions are now possible for the minimal cost of shipping. Timed correctly similar products can be compared as well.

Of course I couldn

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