Staying home

November 13, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

It wasn't that long ago that my purchasing decisions were made mostly in stores. I would figure out what I wanted, search for a retail outlet that carried it, hopped in the car, and hoped for the best.

Today it is different. Other than food and clothing, I want to try everything I buy at home. In my own space and at my own pace.

Especially HiFi gear.

It's nice to read the reviews and get the lowdown of what others think via the forums, but none of that compares to trying it at home.

To be sure, this new means of evaluating products is different. And, it can be just a little bit scary.

But living with a new piece of stereo kit for a few weeks is, in my opinion, the only true way to know how well it fits into the home and suits your tastes. Does it make you smile to play music? For me, that new DAC or those new speakers are what get me revved up when I turn on the system. Time to explore and enjoy!

I am envious of what awaits all our Beta Testers for the DSMK2 they are receiving at home. And for those that grab a pair of FR30s and get excited as they are white glove delivered just where you want them to live.

As they say, there's no place like home!

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28 comments on “Staying home”

  1. It does make far better sense to audition prospective home-audio gear at home.
    Maybe CoViD-19 has accelerated that...should we thank the Chinese? 😉
    'Indie Hi-Fi', in Australia, goes one step further & will send you a product that is
    already burned-in & if you decide that you want to complete the purchase, you
    can return the 'loaner' for a replacement brand-new Richard Branson 😀

          1. And we play Rugby League, Australian Football, but without the padding & the helmets (padding & helmets are for sissy's) also in
            all sorts of weather, except if there are lightning strikes 😉

  2. The attributes of an “in home” demo are well documented again.

    The other side of the issue, have 2-3 things on the comparison list from different manufacturers?
    Good luck…. How are you going to compare in an initial side by side? Have an issue or a question the web is great. Fill out a form send it. Then be ignored…. NO! in that case pick up the phone and call….. We’ll get back to you via e-mail... All real life scenarios, all experienced dealing with a friendly HIFi on line organization.

    On line shopping was initially a bargain - now it’s a way to be charged full retail and have all the profits stay with one entity. From a sellers point Minimal support required and no face to face interaction. From a consumers point of view no in person interaction - one stop - one choice.

    If I feel I need a comparison with unbiased (at least less biased) advice I’ll buy from a retailer that I have to visit…. This assuming they carry more than one brand.

    When it comes to electronics If I feel I can get away with ‘taking a chance’ or a calculated risk I’ll roll the dice and do all the work. This for the pleasure and convenience of never having to leave the residence, or put in any effort other than typing and reading.

    I’ll NEVER buy any speaker system (priced at $300 USD or more) without having a way to hear them in person a few times 1st. EVER!

    Happy listening beta’s - the alpha’s still rule. ✌️ 😀

    1. My whole rig was delivered to my front door (oh God, I'm sounding like Steven)
      I heard the Orangutans at the last Hi-Fi Show in Sydney & they were the best
      sounding & most interesting loudspeaker there, within a reasonable price...
      in fact they even had the edge on the Harbeth's.
      So it was only logical that I should buy them.

      1. I’m not surprised. You already knew what you wanted in the back of your mind.
        To those who are more pragmatic and are trying to decide it can be another story.
        To those who don’t have the ability to make it to a show or Colorado without incurring travel (flights) and lodging expenses the show circuit or manufacturer demo is not an option.
        To those who don’t have industry connections, pricing may become more of a stumbling block.
        You say it all the time, it’s all in the ears. A choice of one doesn’t really open up options for comparison for YOUR, or my ears.

        All I’m saying, is for me, I don’t subscribe to on line speaker purchasing (which includes demo) without the opportunity to hear them 1st. Then There’s the settle in time - the set up time - the delivery and pick-up time

        My opinion and my opinion only.

      2. Strangely, the guy who sells the most Harbeth in the UK is called Dave (nothing strange there), he's late 70s, lives out in the countryside in a lovely house and you have to go to him for a demo in his barn. On a good day you'll also get a cup of tea, possibly a biscuit. He never visits customers and gets things delivered direct from Harbeth.

        Most of the dealers I've come across do home trials, whether they send by courier or deliver and install. Some are more devoted to customer service than others. Once you know them they lend you stuff without having to pay anything, if you don't want it you just take it or send it back.

  3. Even before COVID the vast majority of my purchases were made online. As I tend to look for gently used pre-owned gear, my cost of entry is usually far less than retail. If I get something in that way and don’t like it after a few months I just peddle it again on the used market and don’t lose much in value. I have had a few items in the past sell for as much or a bit more than I paid initially so that is even better.

    I do take a long time, reading reviews and first person accounts of a product before buying, so that cuts the rejection rate for me. I also tend to buy products from manufacturers I already have experience with so that helps as well as the expected sound is already cooked into the product.

    I do have a local shop I buy from, but for products I just know will work, such as subs, or the odd phono cartridge, or a center channel speaker for my HT.

  4. Paul, I got a good laugh from that one. "But living with a new piece of stereo kit for a few weeks is, in my opinion, the only true way to know how well it fits into the home and suits your tastes". I recently went to the Humane Society for a puppy, substitute "puppy" for "stereo kit" and you have what the nice young lady at the HS told me. Both are statements of fact. Thankfully stereo kit is nothing like how I describe our untrained 6 month old puppy, a self propelled bowling ball with no off switch. Both have similar break in times.

  5. It should be clear to even the most casual observers that the best of all worlds is the stocking dealer that facilitates pre-selection via demo at the store followed by in home loan to ascertain the viability of the final selection. That is the way my local dealer did it, the same one PS Audio canceled. A mistake in my opinion.

  6. I think that buying online and auditioning at home requires common sense. I think it works well for most electronics, cables, small speakers and headphones. I do not recommend it for large heavy speakers and large heavy power amps. I think for simple basic turntables it good, but probably not for complex turntables.

    Also, the more expensive the gear, the more I want to hear it before I buy it. Pre-covid this could be done at audio shows, it is unclear if that will work in the future.

    Finally, A lot of this depends on where you live. I live 30 miles north of NYC. I can be there in about an hour on a commuter train. There are at least six or more good audio dealers in NYC. Compare this with someone who lives 200 miles from the nearest city in North Dakota.

    As I said, common sense.

    1. Even with the reasonable selection of local dealers in the NYC area, I would still recommend attending an audio show. The selection at Capital Audiofest this weekend was vast. With over 90 rooms set up, it was like visiting 90 dealers, though a few dealers had more than one room. Even if it cost you $1000 with airfare, room, and board, if you're buying a $5-10k item online without ever hearing it (or a similar model from the same manufacturer), what is it going to cost you to resell it if it doesn't work out and the online retailer or brick & mortar store won't take it back? Several thousand? People spend that kind of money to follow their favorite musicians or football teams. And who knows? You might discover something at a show that you didn't know existed but sounds quite fantastic. And it might be something other than what you initially thought you needed or wanted. It's good to get out of your bubble, and with Covid, it has been a long bubble for many people...if they managed to survive it at all. Live life with gratitude.

      1. NYC is a great place for auditioning. It took me seven months of auditioning between Wilson and Magico speakers to finally find the ones I wanted. No audio show could ever do that. Audio shows are good and I wish they were the way they used to be, but I think they are more of a good place to find what you want to hear more of rather than what you want to buy.

        1. I mostly agree, Tony. But Capital AudioFest was a real fun event this past weekend. Very friendly and easy to explore.
          If you're set on two big, popular brands, I get it that you can do extended comparisons in NYC. But you might not discover something as good or even better that appears at a show and never makes it to your local brick and mortar stores. Regardless, I hope you found (or eventually come up with) something that works extremely well for you. Be well....

  7. I think there is a huge difference between upgrading a component or a pair of speakers versus assembling and purchasing an entire system. The latter has become so daunting that I am not surprised the audiophile community is not gaining as many new members as it would like.
    A recent experience brought that in very sharp focus. I arrived in the US (Berkeley, California) in 1976 as a student and promptly started assembling a system from pre-owned components that I could find in stores and audition. To guide me I could visit several stores and listen to systems even when I explained that purchasing a system was years in the future.
    I also found that I could build a dream system for about 4 thousand dollars (Gas Ampzilla, Gas Thaedra, Dahlquist DQ-10 or Tympani T1-c, Linn Sondek or SP-10 with tonearm and a Koetsu or Dynavector plus a cassette deck, all included. I could go to a store and listen to that very system fully assembled. I could go to another store and hear a Threshold amp and pre-amp for comparison.
    I now live in Singapore which does actually have high end stores with many of these stores being in a single building. For a number of reasons my audio components from the US are in storage. But I went to the stores with the expectation that I could disclose my budget (that same 4k adjusted fully for inflation, about 22.5k today) and that I would find a system of pre-amp, power amp(s), streamer and perhaps CD player that would be to my liking. I would want to hear all the components connected to assure it was to my liking. That turned out to be impossible. And the experience was so challenging that if I were a potential audiophile I would simply have given up.
    So I have no idea where a prospective audiophile would start today

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