The Pros and cons of buying off the internet. “I left the receipt for it lying around and she found it by chance, which was bad news!! Very bad news!!! The fact I had for years just bought and changed kit regularly without often mentioning the actual price I had paid for it couldn’t go unnoticed”.

Boxing Clever (and how to dodge the punches)

What is it about this hobby of ours that makes so many audiophiles restless about keeping the same kit for any length of time? I started buying hifi from an early age, 16 to be precise, and from the very first moments of excitedly going to Comet (readers  in the UK will remember them!) and buying a Metrosound amplifier, BSR HT70 turntable with Goldring G800 cartridge and Koss Pro 4AA headphones I was hooked… but already wanting better units.PIGGY

Round One

I had to patiently wait about a year until my next summer holiday job in an office to save enough dough to buy my next turntable, a Thorens TD165 with Shure M75ED type 2 cartridge. You see, I already saw improving my source components as an important stepping stone and chose that over getting speakers, much to my parents relief I am sure. I went to University at eighteen briefly but never settled down there, I did though do the typical student trick of blowing £40 (a small fortune back in 1974 and a lot of my first terms grant) on an SME 3009 tone arm to put on my TD165. That was fun but fiddly as it required tediously filing out the metal sub chassis before I could fit the new arm board and SME arm. However, I was in seventh heaven for quite a while and the SME was beautifully engineered and never let me down.

Never content to rest on my laurels, upgrade after upgrade followed and when I got a full time job the floodgates were opened to many new adventures in quality equipment. I could fill a whole article on my system changes over the last 43 years, but that would bore many of you I am sure and would only serve as an exercise in my memory’s ability. The reason for this article is to hopefully guide you, the reader, through a less costly way of upgrading (or fancying a change) process that our hobby instils in us.

Fancy Footwork

Invariably I have spent thousands over time on upgrades/changes of equipment which although I don’t regret (no point crying over spilt milk), my bank manager and long suffering wife haven’t agreed with. I recall the time I decided to upgrade my CD player to a Yamaha CD1000 a few years ago. Now this was a beautifully made and very heavy piece of kit. I bought it at a good price off the internet and expected it to arrive soon after I placed the order. Unfortunately the carrier delayed the delivery for some reason and my Friday’s plans of it arriving whilst my wife was at work were blown out of the water. Anxious to ascertain the problem and get it in my greasy mits I contacted the company, only to be told they would deliver on the Saturday morning and apologising profusely for the delay. This was not ideal as I had to go out Saturday morning to an important meeting and so had to tell my wife a new CD was arriving and could she be so good as to receive it? Well, when I said CD she simply, and quite logically, thought it was a CD disc and not a large 16 kg box. The worst bit was I had taken my door keys with me and she couldn’t find hers, so when the carrier arrived she had to open the window to the living room and manhandle a hefty heavy box into the living room.

On The Ropes

The other funny incident was when I was 55 and cashed in some of my pension. Now having a large sum of money was a dangerous thing for an addict like me. I constantly look on the internet for equipment and every so often you see a bargain that just can’t be missed. This time it was a Burmester 069 CD player for just £4000 which normally sell for over £8000 new, but this was a mint part-ex deal with a dealer I was friends with. I had lusted after Burmester kit for years and the chance to own some for what I felt was a bargain was simply too much for someone as weak willed as myself where Hi-fi is concerned. I made the call and duly received my audio delight. It was fantastic, but how do you sneak such a chrome plated piece of audio jewellery into the hi-fi without my wife knowing. Well you can’t! I left the receipt for it lying around and she found it by chance, which was bad news!! Very bad news!!! The fact I had for years just bought and changed kit regularly without often mentioning the actual price I had paid for it couldn’t go unnoticed. It wasn’t so much the fact she didn’t like the look of it ( I personally think it was gorgeous), it was how could I possibly justify spending that much money when I had no good reason whatsoever, especially with my daughter getting married in the then not too distant future. Needless to say it had to go. The dealer I bought it off was prepared to take it back in exchange for other kit but at a loss to myself (of course) and this was leaving egg on my face. I decided to advertise it and as luck would have it a Chinese gentleman in London bought it from me leaving me with a 25% loss. “Caveat emptor, buyers beware “. I had to take the hit and be thankful I sold it quickly for cash. The moral here is fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Boxing Clever

So if you want to indulge but not affect your bank balance too much, box cleverly.

The way to do this is simple. First be patient. Secondly do your homework, make sure you are fully aware of the true market value of an item and check the kit’s pedigree out. An item is only worth its value to you if you want it enough and are happy with the price. If there is a demand the price will be higher and mint condition units, especially with original packaging and instructions, command higher residuals.

I recently bought some old Quad units, a 33 pre amp and 303 power amplifier. I got them off a well known auction site and took a chance on the pre amp being ok as the seller was being quite honest about it in the write up and the pictures didn’t lie. I paid a reasonable price for it and a lot less than they are currently going for if in good condition because I was going to have to refurbish it and replace old parts past their best. I got an upgrade kit from a well respected internet company and started my venture in restoring it. The 33 was an early example at least 45 years old and had been well used in a dirty environment and exposed to damp at some point. This meant a complete strip down and many hours of fiddling. Now I enjoy this, but it is not for the faint hearted, or those who lack the skill to fault find. One of the issues of its age was that the front panel and controls were scuffed and the case cover was badly re-painted. I replaced the controls and front panel with second-hand buys, but couldn’t get a spare cover. I thought about getting the cover re-sprayed with powder coating, but this is not cheap and you try getting a company to do a small one off job for you. The god’s must have been shining on me because a few weeks later I saw another 33 on eBay which had a slight fault with it but otherwise was immaculate with full packaging and instructions. I duly bought it for less than the poorer unit I had already gambled on and it is like brand new. A late production unit, it was as if it had only just come out of Quad’s Huntingdon factory. Needless to say I was delighted and I will now sell the older unit in due course and recoup its cost.

It’s A Knockout

Now buying on auction sites is not without its perils, but if you are savvy then bargains can be had. I have learnt the hard way and like most of us I can’t afford to throw money away all the time. Priorities in life change and circumstances dictate our audio path more often than we like to admit. A colleague of mine has a mantra about this, rather like Martin Lewis (English money saving expert/guru) on money matters – “If you can’t afford it don’t buy it and make it a golden rule to self fund if at all possible”. There is nothing wrong in changing your kit whenever you wish to as long as you don’t waste that hard earned cash.

Hi-fi and music are fun and meant to be enjoyed like any hobby, so if you use some common sense and don’t let your heart rule your head always then audio happiness can be achieved without breaking the bank. As a famous police series from the eighties said every week, “People, be careful out there!”.

Ian Ringstead

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