Buying hifi, surround sound and video equipment should be based on careful research and lots of auditioning. However with so many products out there, where do you start? This article will hopefully give you pointers on how to end up with the perfect product for your system.
The first step is to work out what you actually need. That may sound silly but it is not. Are you starting an entire system from scratch or are you improving an existing system? Either way, the items you select must be compatible in terms of relative performance and operation together. First things first, you should decide what you are trying to achieve and set a budget. Budgets are often broken when you starting looking around and see something better than expected and it costs more, but it can be worthwhile in the long term. Also there is no point buying cheap gear when you have a revealing and top-end system and visa-versa.
Now it is time to start the research. This can take many forms, ask friends what they have and their experiences, they can even let you have an audition or borrow products to try in your room. The Internet is great for doing research but be very wary of cheap online prices as they often have a whole bunch of problems associated with them. Visit dealers and talk to them, you will soon find out who is knowledgeable and who just wants your hard-earned $$’s. Building relationships with dealers will pay dividends down the track, they are often eager to help and will sort out any issues with set-up and configurations. It is often much better to visit the specialist retailers for this same reason, they weren’t selling a dishwasher before they serve you!
Once you have a short list of products, check magazines for reviews; back issues are often available (see index at the rear of this issue for AVL’s list of previous product reviews) and will give an unbiased opinion. Online forums are also a good place to obtain opinions, there is sure to be somebody who has some knowledge about the particular products you are interested in.
Read any product brochures carefully, sometime you have to read between the lines as companies make up new names for old technologies and try and baffle you with technology. I am a great believer in listening to what you want first; many decent stores will lend you equipment overnight or even for a few days so you can try it out at home, in the actual room environment and with any other associated products. This will give you an exact experience as to what the sound will be like, as stores environments will only give an indication. You will likely have to leave a deposit or refundable payment unless you know the dealer very well. At home you can make an independent judgement, no salespeople around to try and twist your arm.
It is a good idea to make some notes during your listening tests as the human mind is not so good at remembering what things sound like from one day to the next; these notes may jog your memory as to what to listen for when making multiple comparisons. Have several pieces of music already prepared that you are familiar with, they will allow for better judgement. Take them with you when listening around but if any shop won’t let you play them, leave! There are rumours that some brands have their own CD’s specially produced to make their gear sound good (making up for inadequacies) and they wont let any other CD’s be played because it may reveal the truth!
Final things to check are the warranty provided and the sort of service you can expect. Many brands farm out their repairs to third parties and have no effective control on them. Some products need installation, is this provided or at what extra cost? What about delivery if required for heavy or large products? Many items can easily be collected from the dealer but carrying a plasma TV under your arm is not recommended as they are very fragile! In fact large screen TV’s are a special issue as if they are bent in any way, the screen can break and that wont be covered under warranty if you did it yourself. Watch out too for some hifi gear; amps and speakers can weigh well over 50kg, you will need a trolley or several people to avoid putting your back out.
Does it come with decent cables or will you need new ones? A good sales person should ask about that, new technology means new cables such as HDMI. When collecting the goods always make sure you are getting what you paid for and that the supplied accessories are included.
Hopefully you will find the most suitable products this way, don’t rush, read a lot and listen even more! And remember, you are doing the listening, not the salesperson. You should not be pressured into sales and certainly don’t believe that the offered price is only valid for today, this is one of the oldest sales tricks in the book. Remember, this is meant to be an enjoyable experience, not stressful. And finally, never buy anything off the back of a truck, or down at your local, it will be invariably stolen property or have a very highly inflated price.
Written by Leon Gross, originally published in Audio & Video Lifestyle magazine.
Looking for a specific product? Click here for our site index.
Order by phone: (02) 4627-8766 or 0411-88-1967
Offices in Sydney and Melbourne
General enquiries: +61 (0)2 4627-8766 or (03) 9859-0388; email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 1999-2013 Soundlabs Group ® Pty Limited
ABN 64 088 708 472