Buying Blind

Tough times for buying new gear. With audio shows dead for the foreseeable future, it is extremely challenging to see/hear audio equipment you may be interested in. I know the home demo is a thing in the UK, in the USA it’s a cruel joke. What few brick and mortar dealers are left are often hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Even if there is one near where you live, the chances that they have the specific model you’re interested in and will loan it to you to evaluate are slim to none. The exception being if you have a very long term relationship with them and have spent tons of money.
The time and expense for travelling long distances to evaluate a big ticket item was viable (until now), as were audio shows (until now). I know, first world problems for sure. The only alternative if you’re determined to buy new gear is to patronize retailers, online or otherwise, that have generous return policies. Not ideal for many reasons. Or, keep and enjoy what you have until some semblance of “normal” returns. That’s what I’m doing, even though the itch is strong right now on a few upgrades.

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I would check with dealers and see what their return policy covers. The dealer that I use does offer home demo for equipment he has but as you pointed out this is not the UK. He also offered a 100% refund for purchased items returned within 7 days. In this time of COVID-19 some dealers may be willing to ship and take return with a refund if paid up front. It can’t hurt to call and ask. I’m sure there are some looking to do some business.

Yes I’d be on the phone… they are struggling I would imagine…

I’ve bought loads of stuff blind on recommendations. Guess I’ve been lucky so far. The only one I was disappointed with was the NAC112 and that’s probably not because it was bad more that I’d been used to better. Successes include; NAP250DR, Superline and NAC252. All 2nd hand of course which limits the downside if you have to move it on.

There ARE dealers here in the States that are easy to work with, and support home trials. You just need to find one. What are you looking to audition at home?? And in what part of the country are you located? No need to lump ALL dealers together; again, you only need one.

I am in Colorado. There are two Naim dealers in the state. The closest about 90 minutes away from me. I have no relationship with either of them, so the Naim gear I have I got from an out of state retailer that does online sales, to avoid 8% sales tax. They also allowed for 14 day returns. The speakers I would like to hear no one anywhere close to me carries, e.g. Joseph, JBL synthesis, Fyne, Kudos, etc. My point was: I (and I think many others) relied on audio shows to get exposure to other brands and, if I was serious, travel to locations where I could hear them in optimal set-ups. Both of those options are no longer available until or unless we get past this awful situation we’re in. Like many industries, this mess could wreak havoc on high end audio manufacturers and retailers everywhere. Don’t see how some of the little guys will survive.

I think this is where reviews, especially customer reviews are a huge help.

The best pound per sound I ever bought was bought blind ( a Pro_Ject DAC for the Blu Ray player and Sat Dish)

About to buy blind, if my dealer can get a Pro_ject Phono Stage I will go with that < if not then probably a Graham Slee. I certainly feel relaxed about buying smaller items blind, but would hesitate if it was a major item like amp or source

I would also add the caveat that there are firms such as Naim or PMC that having owned I would be more relaxed buying than others

Speakers are tough; much more difficult to home audition in any event, and especially so long-distance. I did audition Kudos long-distance, but it’s a dealer I have quite a relationship with and who was willing to send them 1000 miles. Everyone is in the same boat with speakers. But electronics are easier.

And remember, with speakers, hearing them in “optimal setups” won’t tell you how they’ll sound in your home. Many a mistake in that regard has been made!

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Agree with Bart. There are good US dealers. I have one locally that is always willing to let me take something home for the weekend.

However, the problem now is that Vervent Audio Group bought out the US/CA distributorship and have apparently become stubbornly stingy with demo gear. My dealer is unable to get a SuperLine from them for me to audition, and there just isn’t the market for it that the dealer can risk buying one. They’ll send my dealer a new one in box, but once it’s been opened they are refusing a return. I know I’ve harped on about this before, but it pisses me off, after all the money I spent with them on retail product. They won’t get another thin dime from me, if that’s how they want to be. I hope more US customers start complaining as they see what’s going on. I wouldn’t be surprised if dealers start dropping Focal-Naim. There are plenty of other great brands out there.

So the problem in the US isn’t just dealers, it’s also Naim’s new owner.


Suggest you try again, once the pandemic has settled. This may have been a blip. Just a hunch…

During this time where business are struggling they may be willing to bend on home demos and pricing because they have to pay the bills without a steady income stream. So you may be in a good position to give what you are looking for a demo and maybe at a good price. It can’t hurt to make a few phone calls the worst you may be out is shipping costs if you return an item.

I’m not sure if you’re responding to my specific comment, but if you are my complaint about getting demos is all pre-pandemic business climate and post Vervent buying out Audio Plus. The folks at Audio Plus would have accommodated me. Focal-Naim NA not so. We went back and forth with the rep (who has done a great job on the past for me) on this for a while. All the business shut downs happened after this.

I’m also in the USA -have bought Kudos Titan T88s (s/h) from dealer, xps dr (dealer demo), and Chord Co Sarum T interconnect (new ) - all purchased blind. Always done after due diligence- talking to other forum members, dealer and using search function on this forum.
No regrets so far. There is a inherent risk in this kind of purchase.
Home demo in USA difficult at best.

I didn’t home audition my speakers. I had heard them many times at my dealer, in the same room as the speakers I already had at home. I took a chance that they would work, but as a recently discontinued model the dealer offered me a new pair at 37% off retail. MOst other things I have home auditioned, or they were upgrades from what I already had (e.g. 282 -> 252, 250DR -> 300DR, HiCap DR -> SuperCap DR).

Right now I have a Boulder 508 phonostage on loan from my dealer, and because of the shutdown I have indefinite use of it.

Kudos has a great USA distributor in Tyler. Look him up. I’ve bought a lot of stuff from him.

Tyler is a good person to deal with. Bought my 252 (used) and three PowerLines from him.

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My Titans and xps dr are from Tyler
Hasn’t steered me wrong yet

Am speculating that - depending on when you were trying to obtain demo kit - your experience have have reflected an interruption to ‘normal service’ when distributor stock will have been transiently ‘drawn down’ around the time that ownership of VAG changed hands in late 2019 / early 2020. Parts and stock levels are deliberately run low at such times so as to increase the cash position of the business and this may be why demo / loan kit was unavailable. Now that the change of ownership is complete, and once the pandemic has settled (whenever that will be), you / your dealer may well be able to obtain demo kit more readily…

The rep gave up. The dealer gave up. I gave up. The transition was complete. They had stock and didn’t want to open anything. There is a new sheriff in town and it just isn’t happening. I’m looking elsewhere now for a phonostage. I am also considering a Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 for my office system, instead of the Atom I was considering, and that will save me a bit of money. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Obviously it is pretty stupid to piss off a customer who has been loyal to the brand for such a long time; and probably @JosquinDesPrez is not the only one with this sort of experience. I certainly remember a sales rep for the US not making the best impression in this Forum…

This makes me wonder whether Naim HQ should be more attentive to what is going on in the “colonies” and elsewhere – North Americans experience a drop in service, the Australians haven’t been happy recently… That can’t be good for the brand image – relying on the UK market can’t be enough these days…