First HiFi speakers, should I consider second hand?

Hi, first post here :slight_smile:
The world of HIFI has been in my mind for quite some time. A few months ago, I got a pair of high end headphones to get an idea with Uniti Atom - the normal edition – to power them.
After spending some time with these headphones, the idea of getting a pair of speakers seemed very appealing, so I went to visit some audio shops in my area.
The initial idea was to get bookshelf speakers – the KEF seems popular in the forum. But I was shown that the Atom can work well with freestanding speakers.
I tested out a few brands, and at the moment the Spendor A4 seem like the best choice, but I still have to check another shop.
A lot of members here seem to appreciate older speakers as well, is it worthwhile for an inexperienced person to get second hand speakers, or are there many pitfalls to know about and avoid?
Should I just get a new pair, or start looking for something on ebay or other?

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Best you listen if possible before you purchase anything, different speakers will work in different ways with different equipment. Try and audition something at home.

And welcome to the forum, hope your search goes well. Good luck.

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Hi Apathetic,

The obvious advantages about buying 2nd hand speakers is firstly the price and secondly, you’ll save time on running them in. The A4 is a mighty fine speaker but before you settle on them, consider your listening position and space. Like most speakers, the A4’s will need to be as far away from the back wall as possible (and this applies to standmounted ones too). You want to be thinking about a foot minimum really and not shoved into the corners either, slightly toed in. If space is an issue then look at manufacturers with closed-ported or downward-ported designs. ATC, PMC and Pro-Ac are the 3 that come to mind. Whatever you decide on, your options for purchase are a dealer (many sell ex-demo products at good prices), and you’ll get a warranty plus a chance of a home demo to ensure you like them. Otherwise, eBay’s fine but you’ll not get a chance of a home demo of course.
Good luck!

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Welcome to the hobby.
In general, I would say speakers are the least likely item to fail so going second hand is not unreasonable. As mentioned before in the replies please please do listen before you buy. A great speaker with amp A can sound crappy with amp B.
Lastly, avoid the temptation of getting too much speaker for your Atom. Bigger may not always be better.

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With a budget of £2850 (the rrp of the a4s) there is a whole world of speakers out there. You could always look for an ex dem pair.

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Secondhand gives you much greater buying power for any given amount of money. So also does buying ex-demo from a shop. Personally I have no concern at all about buying both speakers and amps secondhand, and that is indeed what I have done.

However, the majority of speakers are far from perfect transducers, and as a consequence out of all system components they contribute most to the sound character of the system. For this reason it is always advisable to audition them - hear them in use. If possible at the very least that should be with the same amplifier you will be using, and ideally in your own room as the room can affect how speakers sound. That of course can be more difficult with secondhand speakers from a private seller, though in my experience people are generally happy to let a potential buyer hear them in the seller’s house.

If a full range sound is important to you, right down through the bass, then speakers can be expensive - the design effort and manufacturing costs of good full range speakers (which inevitably means floorstanding or otherwise large) is considerably greater than good speakers cutting off the bottom octave or two. Also, some full range speakers can be harder for an amplifier to control well, so requiring a better amplifier, the risk with a difficult to drive speaker and poor amplifier is tiring ‘wallowy’ bass.

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Thanks for all the good advice! :smile:

@Jonners Good to know, I just checked where I want to put them, and there is at least a foot of breathing space.

@flame_rose I am looking at using the most of the capabaility of the Atom without overloading it. Is there such a thing as causing premature wear on an amp by connecting it to speakers that are too big? Also are the A4 within the range or overkill for the Atom?

@Innocent_Bystander this is my first pair of HiFi speakers, I suspect a full range speaker is overkill for the Atom? I want to spend some time with a good speaker that works with the Atom for some time and then decide where to go from there. In the long term, the Atom and the set of speakers could be relegated to another room if I decide I want to upgrade. Knowing this what would you recommend?

Apathetic:
Jonners offered excellent advice on choosing and placing speakers. I will address your specific question about the Atom and the A4. I auditioned that combo with a good long listen in a medium sized room and was impressed. I then brought the speaker home with a demo with my Nova and was again impressed. In the end I bought another brand (Harbeth) ex-demo but the A4 had so much to recommend.

Now whether it would suit you depends so much on how loudly you play music and how dynamic that music is. But do trust your ears. There is nothing wrong with that combo, although some will say you need more power.

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My entire system is secondhand and I would recommend that path unreservedly. The inclination to fussiness that this hobby encourages means that you’re very likely to end up with kit that has been very well looked after.

As for speakers, I’ve bought three pairs secondhand and they’ve all been great. Without wanting to naysay the advice above about auditioning, I bought two pairs without listening to them at all and the other pair I listened to in the shop, thus flouting two pieces of auditioning advice. Maybe I was just lucky all three times!

Mark

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Another vote here for not buying new.

I have an Atom in front of me as I type - it is excellent, but spending £3K on speakers would be overkill if you were not expecting sooner or later to upgrade it.

The big problem in buying secondhand is that you would ideally audition speakers in your actual room, not the dealer’s. If you already know what you are looking for, eBay can be great, but I am not sure that you do as yet.

The A4s are certainly good, esp if you favour ‘incisive and clear’ over ‘warm and comforting’ and/ or if the room is not really bright-sounding. If A4s really are suitable, you could probably buy them on eBay for less than £2K.

That would leave you more than enough cash cash to buy an old (but serviced) NAP250 power amp if you wanted. That really will get a grip on A4s.

Away from A4s, I’d consider several Neat models, probably alongside the recommendations above for ATC, PMC and Pro-Ac. If however, you do want a bit more warmth without losing clarity, a lot of people here will point you toward Harbeth. However, if you don’t know what they sound like and cannot guess how they will sound in your room, anything you buy on eBay may be back there again quite soon.

Given all that, asking dealers to play you some speakers while making clear you are interested largely in ex-dems (and can be patient) may well be a good compromise.

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As you are fresh in the game, you are perhaps in a better position than others who have commented. In that you have yet to form some preferences here.
There is a notable difference between headphone listening and that from speakers - especially at the top and bottom frequencies and with the room playing along.
I’d suggest first thinking about what types of music you want to play, and would you then want the speakers to help you discover new types ?
Buying used requires a lot of luck and patience. Finding a good dealer with a lot of stock could be preferable as you have more options to listen, and who could later offer a trade in deal if you wanted a side step or an upgrade.

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No first hand experience with Spendors so others are in a much better position to answer.

In general, speakers that are easier to drive (higher impedence and higher sensitivity) will play nicer with smaller amps like the Atom. Using large, low impedence speakers with small amps will yield an anemic sound and smaller speakers can actually sound beefier and fuller.

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It’s a bit like buying a second hand car you don’t know how they’ve been treated. :thinking:

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@novadave I tried some other speakers before, but the Spendor A2 while not being the most “exciting” at first were the ones I felt like listening for the longest time. Switching to the A4 made the sound feel more “natural”. That’s why they are the ones I currently have in mind. Sorry for the vague descriptions, but I don’t know the correct vocabulary yet. Hope what I say makes some sense.
If they need more power, then I need to rethink it, I would like to use the Atom because I already have it and getting speakers that are a good fit seems like a good next step. I can see that this hobby can go very far :rofl:

@Ebor Did you get them off ebay or from some dealers?

@NickofWimbledon Same question, do you go through second hand dealers or ebay? I look out for second hand A4s.
Funny you should mention Neat, they were recommended by another shop. Going for a demo in the next couple of days or so. It should be the entry level from the motive series if I remember correctly. I am certainly going to ask if any ex-demo speakers are available.

@TOBYJUG Very fresh indeed! As you say, I have yet to form preferences. And yes, getting into HiFi is making me want to re-assess what I like, and I don’t like. I was hearing new details that were completely hidden in tracks that I listen to regularly. That means that I might like genres that did not do much for me before. I need something versatile that can play a bit of everything. I am still visiting all available shops around my area.

@flame_rose High impedance would be something like 8 Ω? And high sensitivity something over 80dB?

@Skeptikal Buying a second-hand car is like a lottery in my experience. Can speakers be badly abused and still look fine from the outside?

Looking in ebay, I can find a lot of beautiful looking speakers for much less, but I don’t know what to look for. There are so many brands.

Personally I would never be happy with speakers that curtail the bass, which is a key component of some of the music to which I listen. I suggest looking at secondhand transmission line speakers, for example from PMC (I don’t know what your budget is - going down in price probably EB1, Twenty-26, OB1, GB1) or further back in time some TDL speakers were TL type, and before that IMF. How good tge Atom will be with them is another question, that I can’t answer - you’d have to try and see how they sound to you with it. (When buying quality speakers secondhand, many sellers will let you bring the Atom to try.)

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But unlike a secondhand car it doesn’t really matter - if they sound good, they’re OK - it’s not as if they’ve hundreds of moving parts that are subject to wear, which can be considerably worsened by inadequate lubrication etc.

Most Hi-Fi shops will sell speakers that they know people will buy.
Once you get your eye in you will see a top tier group of brands that are very popular with buyers - along with the folk on this forum.
Although this can of course be different in other regions and countries along with a price hike due to shipping and what not.
This often means that speakers from a more boutique brand that could perform much better in a price range than those that are popular, might get overlooked as the Hi-Fi shops might be afraid to stock them as they won’t sell.
So don’t be afraid to look at brands that are not always in the top ten listings. Just do your research as much as possible and you should be good.

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All three of the speakers I’ve bought were from dealers, although one was sold via eBay.

In fact, I’ve just remembered/realised that I’ve bought 1.5 additional pairs of speakers secondhand - a centre speaker and a pair of surround speakers. One was on a dealer’s website, but the surrounds were offered to me somewhat randomly during a conversation with a dealer about something else.

So, trawl the dealers’ websites, but also talk to them and ask if they’ve got anything in a back room that they haven’t got around to advertising yet - you might get lucky.

Mark

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A mate of mine has just got back into the audio scene after about 30 years away. I suggested that he looked at an Atom and a second hand pair of Naim speakers. After a shop audition he ended up with the Atom and a pair of Naim Intro speakers. He loves both and the Intro’s work really well close to a wall, which really suits his room layout.

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I almost thought you were serious. :rofl: