Second hand loudspeakers

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Aug 10, 2019
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Dear gurus.

I've got one interesting question for you and would love to hear your opinion. I'm the happy owner of Canton Ergo loudspeakers that are being used in pair with Devon AVC 11ASR and now I'm looging for an upgrade. There is a possibility to buy previosly used Reference level loudspeakers Canton Karat. The price was 6000 Eur/pair approx 7 years ago, now it's 1300 Eur/pair.

So where is the risk in purchasing second-hand loudspeakers? I see no chance to buy new Hi-End equipment, because of the pricing policy :doh: , but here I see chance to get hi-end at low price

Many thanks in advance.
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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Coned and domed speakers are relatively simple electro-mechanical devices. Things that can go wrong with speakers include:

Blown speaker drivers. Tweeters are the most likely items to get damaged by being overdriven as they don’t have the power handling of midrange and bass units. Easily tested by playing some music and putting your ear close to each driver to make sure it’s making a noise. Fixable by replacing the drive unit in conventional coned and domed speakers. Compression driven units (generally used in horned speakers) are even easier to fix as you just replace the diaphragm which is a quick and easy do it yourself job.

Pushed in dustcaps / domes. Happens often with soft dome tweeters when kids with prying fingers are around with the grill cloths removed. Can often be pried back into shape but may leave the dustcap creased. The speaker may still sound fine after this has happened. There may be some deterioration in the drive unit dispersion of an out of shape unit. Easily detected by looking closely at all drive units for this kind of damage.

Foam rot. Many speaker drivers use foam surrounds – the flexible bit around the outside edge of the cone that attaches it to the drive unit cage. Over time these can get brittle – especially if exposed to sunlight. Look for cracks or gaps in the surrounds. Expect to pay a lot less for speakers with foam rot. This problem is fixable by replacing the foam surround or the drive unit. You can either get a specialist company to replace foam or do it yourself with some care and a couple of hours of your time. The trick is to make sure the surround is glued in exactly the right place to avoid the voice coil rubbing with the drive magnet. Some speakers use cloth or rubber surrounds which can last much longer than foam ones. I have seen 45 year old latex rubber surrounds which are still fine and have every chance of staying fine for many years to come. With 7 year old speakers, foam surrounds should still be in very good condition – but worth checking for early signs of rot.

Crossover capacitor ageing. Capacitors can go out of spec over time. Different types age at different rates. Can be difficult to diagnose as it’s a gradual process and the speaker may still sound fine – but not quite as clear as one with up to spec capacitors. For 7 year old speakers there’s a very good chance the capacitors will be fine now and for quite a few years to come. It helps if the speakers designed so that you can easily look at the crossover capacitors for visual signs of ageing – such as bulges or leaks. Also this is the sort of thing that some owners will want to replace the capacitors every 30 years or so “just in case”.

Internal wiring faults. Will create the same symptoms as blown drivers. Not particularly likely to happen with speakers that haven’t had previous owners fiddling with the insides, and where the manufacturer had some quality over the internal soldering.

Cabinet damage. Lots of chips and dings and scratches will not affect the sound but will affect how it looks. Massive damage resulting in holes or completely broken cabinet panels will affect the sound. Panel replacement will require someone with some woodworking skills – assuming the cabinets don’t use a non-traditional material such as carbon fibre.

Most sellers are honest in describing the condition of hi-fi equipment that they’re selling. With speakers, cash on collection with a quick demo on collection minimises risk.

I totally agree with your thoughts on not buying new hi-fi equipment – especially at the high end. Buying second hand means that you should have minimal depreciation compared to massive depreciation when buying new. Something else to bear in mind is that sound quality is largely independent of price – even when comparing brand new prices. When you buy at the right price 2nd hand the good news is that you should be able to sell it for what you paid for it if it doesn’t sound better than what you’ve already got.
 

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