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Integrity in a fellow inmate! Nice to see! Good Job!

You wrote "Sure, some gear you could demo new from a dealer and then look for it used, but I don't have a desire to take advantage of someone's services if I'm not planning on buying."

I agree completely that to use the dealers in such a manner is not the decent thing to do.

You caught me on a good day.
(Well good for you, bad for me. I am home sick, and have time to write up all of this for your review.)

My advise to buying used is this:

One, research the products you are interested in.
Getting one or two subscriptions to the audiophile magazines (Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, HiFi+, etc..) is a fairly cheap way to get the main stream reviews on equipment. (This includes some, but not all, of the on-line magazines as well, as they are now being paid for their work.) However, what you are really using these magazines for is to determine what equipment is available. (Take their reviews with a grain of salt, as they are PAID to do reviews, so they are usually more favorable than they should be, IMHO.) Try to determine which reviewers have sonic tastes similar to your own. (Every reviewer is different, and their tastes vary as well: I.e. Some my prefer tubes vs. solid state, some may prefer a neutral sound across the frequency spectrum vs. a more musical mid-range bloom, etc..)

Two, research some more:
Only this time, research on-line only for users comments. (Try researching here on Audio Asylum, and on Audiogon, as well as Audio Review.com, and some of the smaller audio review sites (that are not paid for their reviews, like 10audio.com). This will get you some information from actual long time users. Again, you need to be careful, as these are coming from people who have usually purchased the unit, and therefore are very much influenced to give the unit a glowing recommendation. However, if you can see what other units they have auditioned as well, you can sometimes determine which other units might be a consideration as well. Also, post some questions here and on Audiogon about the pieces you are buying, asking what current and past owners thought of them, and asking what other pieces they recommend in the same price range.

Three, Time to buy, (well almost):
Once you have narrowed down the list from half a dozen models to just two or three, you should start tracking these units on Ebay and more importantly on Audiogon, to determine their anticipated prices. This will let you know what units are in your price range.(Note: most units go for around 50% retail, except for those few units that are only available direct from the manufacturer, like the Resolution Audio Opus 21 CDP, and the line of Turntables from Teres, which hold their value higher, typically around two-thirds of their retail cost.) Newer units usually go for slightly above 50%, while older units will sell for closer to one-third their original retail price. This will get you a good idea of what you will need to pay.

Four, Okay, now it is really the time to buy!
If you can't decide between two or three different units, wait until you see one come up for a better than expected price and strike quickly. (You can always resell it for what you paid for it, as you already did your price research, and got a good deal, right?!)
If you actually have narrowed down the choice to just one unit, you can either wait to get a good deal, or just bite the bullet and pick up the first unit available. (If you wait, you can save money, but you lose time with the unit, so this is up to you.)

Five, who to buy from:
If you can, try to buy from a local seller.
This has several advantages.
A.) Shipping prices is nil, and shipping can run into some serious money, especially for heavy items such as speakers, and amplifiers.
B.) You avoid the possibility of shipping damage to the unit, which is the biggest hassle that I would not wish on my enemies. (Well, maybe my worst Enemy! :-) ). Trying to collect from the shipping companies is like trying to squezze water from stone.
C.) Ask to if you can hear the unit in their system before buying it. Most sellers are okay with this. This has three benefits. One, it lets you hear the unit before you buy it. Two, it lets you hear the other components in their system in case you have other pieces you want to upgrade. And three), you can possibly make a friend, as you obviously have something in common with this person. (I have made one really good friend this way, and a couple of acquintences.) One can never have too many friends in my book!

Well, that is about it.
In case you are wondering I put together my entire system off Audiogon, and to a lesser extent, Ebay, in this manner. I have pretty much lucked out, in as that I have managed to not buy anything I was disappointed with, so far at least. But if I do, I can always resell it, for just about what I paid for it, less the shipping costs, which is a pretty cheap way of doing long term demos!

Good luck in your search!

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