Buying Used Home Theater Speakers: 5 Step Guide to Success!

Browse any of the various forums and you will undoubtedly see a post from a novice that asks for advice. They want their first speaker system but have a VERY modest budget Plus, they want the full meal deal. To this, I ask – would you consider buying used home theater speakers? If you answered yes (or even maybe), read on! 

The good news is that our hobby suffers from a healthy dose of upraditis! It’s a good bet that your city has a pretty decent used gear market that you can take advantage of. This should allow you to get great gear that is much cheaper than new. I’ve put together a 5 step guide to ensure success in buying used home theater speakers. 

Not sure if you want to buy used? Check out my article that lays down the pros and cons. If you are still on board, let’s begin.

1) Set A Budget

Ok so this is a no-brainer, but if you didn’t have a budget, you wouldn’t have considered buying used home theater speakers. You need to set a budget and you need to stick to it. That means sometimes you just need to walk away. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) guide your decision! Another great set will come along – trust me. That said, I see a lot of people with completely unrealistic expectations about how much they can get for just a handful of dollars. To give yourself the best chance of success, you need to…

2) Do Your Research

HiFi Shark is my go-to when I am looking at buying used home theater speakers. It aggregates all the listings for that particular speaker and will show you what it was sold for, or is currently listed for across the world! This will give you an idea if the listing is in line with the current market. You can use this to calibrate your expectations for how much you can get for your money.

This is not the only online resource I use. eBay sold listings, Google, and online forums can often give you a solid indication if that price is in line.

3) Look For Red Flags! 

A listing with no pictures? Big red flag! But pictures that show speakers covered in dust, nicks, and pulls all over the grills aren’t much better. Look for missing grills/badging, visible significant dents/scratches/damage, or claims that they have been stored for years in a basement or garage scares me. It generally shows that they were not cared for, and might be a bad purchase.

Other damage, however, isn’t so bad. If I see pushed in dust caps, something that worries most people, doesn’t bother me as much. My lovely kids did that to my speakers when they were young and it is easy to fix. Pushed-in dust caps will scare away a lot of buyers. This allows you to buy some great home theater speakers at a true discount. This is especially true when that is the only visible damage and the speakers are well cared for otherwise.

4) Be Respectful!

This is a lost art. If I see something that I am interested in, but the price is a bit out of my reach, I will start with “Hi! I am interested in your item. Is the price negotiable?” If they respond that they are, so starts the dance of haggling! I will often give a breakdown of my research and what my budget is, and then make my offer. Sometimes it works, and sometimes they are very firm on the price. If it doesn’t work out, I thank them for their time and I will often tell them that if they change my mind, my offer stands. I have received many emails, after a week or so, accepting my offer.

Just don’t be the type of buyer that ends up on one of those listicles. You know the ones I’m talking about! If you really want to buy these home theater speakers, and they truly are a bit overpriced, the seller will eventually come around. But only if you were respectful.

5) Test before you buy

I realize that with the pandemic, we need to be safe and sometimes testing can be problematic. But it is always a good idea for you to hear the speakers before you pull the trigger. If you are buying local, ask if you can hear the speakers before you buy. They may say no, and you’ll have to respect that (see #4). At that point, you’ll have to decide if the risk of buying without hearing is worth the monetary savings.

If they will let you audition them, you’ll want to be prepared. Bring music or material that you are familiar with and make sure you have them run through the speaker’s capabilities from low to higher volumes. If they won’t let you test what you are familiar with, or won’t turn up the volume, I get red flags right away. That tells me they are hiding a flaw or damage to the speaker. Don’t be afraid to walk away. 

Summing Up

Buying used is a great way to get a head-start on the hobby. Novice home theater enthusiasts can buy quality speakers without a huge outlay of cash, and it can often help you set a clear upgrade path for future purchases.  

Buying used also allows you to save on one part of your home theater and spend more on another. In my case, I was able to save money on my front soundstage by going used, which allowed me to increase my budget for a subwoofer. Have you bought used home theater speakers? Let us know in the comments!  

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