In audio, the value of a product can be tied to many different factors


I try to keep the topics and discussion here light and straightforward. In this column we dip our toes into little audio pools all over the place, touching on things that are applicable to most folks who may be reading the Daily. When I’m picturing who I write for, I picture coffee shop patrons, college students, bus riders, coworkers, friends and family … you know, people.

I wouldn’t say that someone who spends $10,000 on a pair of short speaker cables isn’t a person, but I would go so far as to say they are not your average person.

But the world I live in, day in and day out, more closely relates to the last guy, as I work for the world’s largest retailer of used high end audio equipment. Today I want to chat about the value of audio products, and how they can appreciate or depreciate over time. And why. You can rest assured I know what I’m talking about, because I’m at the very tip of the spear when it comes to this stuff.

To understand the “whys” about stereo equipment value you need to understand the history. In the case of valuation of audio gear, the age of the internet really tossed the old method on its head. Pre-internet, information about products new and old came largely from the mouths of dealers of audio equipment. Or, in some cases, from specialized audio publications, of which there were few for many years over the history of the hobby.

The rise of worldwide connectivity has changed the paradigm completely, and now more information about audio is spread by “word of hand” through online audio forums than ever existed between dealers and clientele.

Dealers used to carry just a few brands anyway, and the relationship was always tinged with a capitalistic sheen. On an audio forum, real owners of the gear they talk about have no financial stake in the matter — just pride.

So when users of a popular audio forum post about the virtues of the “Mark 1” version of a vintage amplifier over the Mark 2, and then the actual designer of the amplifier, also a member of the forum, chimes in and says basically yes, the first one was better, you see sales of the second version plummet in price, and availability of the first model vanish.

That’s how a Marantz receiver that was $1,500 in 1977 can go for $7,200-ish now, and how an understated, basic-looking tube amp from a company nobody’s heard of but has a rabid fanbase can hold its original value year after year.

But this is only part of it. AV processors absolutely plummet in value when a new codec or protocol comes out. McIntosh audio, with its famous blue meters, holds its value like no other. And not necessarily because they’re revered on forums. Its just because they’re good, and also wildly popular. Same with B&W speakers.

There are many factors that affect the resale value of a piece of audio equipment, but I can offer one relatively dependable rule in this arena. If it sounds really good, chances are it is a good investment.

Now. Are there any takers for my 8-year-old AVR? $200. Going once….

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