📜 Feature Smart buying practices--a game of opportunity, patience, and a little luck!

Feature article


¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
Someone once asked a group of us how we were able to afford the equipment we use to play our music on. At face value, the casual observer might look at our equipment and music collections and imagine years of skipping lunches and coffee, massive credit card debt, dealing in illicit substances, or living in a nearly empty house and riding a bike everywhere.

As us music collectors know, it doesn't quite work out that way. And the same applies to the equipment.

My audio system has evolved over time. My first system as a young teen used a small home-built kit that powered some older speakers pulled from an old hi-fi console my dad had built small cabinets for, and a turntable rescued from a similar console. One by one, things were replaced as money came in. But back then, everything was purchased new.

Most of my system today was purchased as pre-owned. For the audiophile world, we have sites such as US Audio Mart (and Canuck Audio Mart), Audiogon, and a few others, and some of us use a site called HiFi Shark which is a meta search engine which watches these sites and others (including eBay, Kijiji, etc.) and sends us a notification any time the search has a match.

I have long set my sights on certain brands and models, and it has taken anywhere from several months to five or six years to locate a specific component I've wanted. With most of them, I was in the right place at the right time--the item came up for sale, it was priced below my limit, and I was fast enough on the draw to make the move to acquire it. The opportunity arose, my timing was perfect, and I was lucky to have noticed the opportunity to take advantage of it. There is no way I ever could have afforded what I own when it was new, but with a lot of research and incredible patience, those deals do come along.

Short version: Maybe I'm just a cheapskate? 😁

Buying recordings for our collection is a similar game of opportunity, timing, and just the right amount of luck. Like anyone else, I have come up empty many times in my Discogs searches, as I am very particular about the version of the recording I am looking for and, if it's vinyl, I have to get a sealed copy or something that is hopefully play-graded honestly at Near Mint. And, it can't be outrageously priced.

Some of the A&M/CTi records I bought to fill in the series were so reasonably priced, and available sealed, that I still pinch myself for being that lucky. In fact, one I had purchased at too high of a price as Near Mint turned out to be in deplorable condition; taking a chance on the MusicStack site, I found a sealed copy at half the price, and even the foil-based cover was in excellent condition for its age. (This was Nat Adderley's Calling Out Loud.) Had I not remembered to check MusicStack, I would have missed out on this title--I lucked out since it was there at the time I was looking for it.

How about those times you've walked into a music store and saw an entire section on sale? I bought quite a few of those Living Stereo classical SACDs when Barnes & Noble had them on sale for $8.98 each.

I also remember a bookstore chain's outlet (I think it was Border's) having all of those MCA Jazz and GRP titles on cutout CD for $5. (This was when GRP was overtaken by Universal, who cleared out most of the artist roster and dumped the entire back catalog into cutout bins while taking them out of print.) And a few weeks later, I found they had dropped the price in half--two for $5. Had I known I'd never see many of those titles again, I would have bought a lot more of them. But for the ones I did get, I lucked out. They also were closing out some 5-CD sets of Telarc titles for $20; I got a couple of those also. Right place, right time, and lucky to have had the opportunity.

Cutout bins for LPs were also a game of opportunity. I never heard of cutouts until I saw bins of them at the Peaches record store near our house. $1.99, or even 99¢, I bought a few. There were many in the bins I saw time and time again, but others would show up and I'd take advantage of the price.

While we sometimes splurge on rarities that provide another piece of our collection, it's these opportunities that have allowed us to fill in our collections (and for some of us, build our playback systems) on a budget and provide us with years of enjoyment. I am always watching for the next opportunity for a missing piece in my collection, as I'm sure many of you are as well.

Do you have any lucky, opportune purchases to share with us?


Well-Known Member
Do you have any lucky, opportune purchases to share with us?
Yes too many to recall but I will vouch concerning cutouts of which I purchased from every kind of music and department store for as little as 50 cents to $4 this was back in the late 70s onward as a young music collector you can imagine the inner excitement I felt after every shopping trip for example at a Payless drug store ( later known as Rite aid) they periodically had a huge cut out record section separated from their regular priced LPs and many were times I came out of there with a big armload of Records especially stuff I held off buying for years because I was too poor to afford them when they were first released that was also where I purchased my first copy of the Sandpipers foursider for $1.99 along with Burt Bacharach's Reach out for 99 cents and the Sandpipers Guantanamera lp for 99 cents ( yes they were sealed) those were just a couple examples just to give you all an idea


Well-Known Member
Cut out bins were my first line of attack back in the day when they were super common. I would pick up the full price when I could and my older brother let me know about cutouts. I scored a tremendous amount and saved a lot of money. The first A&M cutouts I saw were Herb Alpert Ninth and Warm and bought them both. I also still have them. One of my favorite scores was Louise Tucker Midnight Blue. One thing that amazed me was how rapidly some artists went to the cutout bins. Melanie-everything by her was in the bins even though she had a couple of very big sellers.
Another thing I would watch for was a drop of the suggested retail price. CBS would drop a lot to a lower retail. I found Laura Nyro-The First Songs that way.
Three of the Soul City issues by The 5th Dimension also got a reduction in list price. They would show up for $1.88 but were not cutouts.
I am also still using a record player from Panasonic that I bought back at the end of 1976. It still works very well.

AM Matt

Forum Undertaker
Only "Soul & Inspiration" by The 5th Dimension (from late 1974) is not on Apple iTunes. The rest of their catalog is there.

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I've never had a high-end system, but I've had pretty good systems. Currently I don't have a real stereo system at home -- I have various components around, including some Akai speakers from 1976, but I don't have an amplifier to run them and I never have time at home to listen anyway. What home listening I do is done through my computer speakers, which sound pretty good but could never hold a candle to the classic systems we all know and love.

The only time I splurge on audio these days is in my vehicle. I currently have a Ford F150 which I ordered with the top-of-line Ford system -- it has extra amps, subs, and something like 18 speakers - and I have to say it sounds pretty good for a factory outfit. If and when that system craters, I'll visit a stereo shop and see what kind of upgrades I can get without losing my controls and such.

Before this truck I would always take out the factory unit and put in something from Pioneer, JVC, JL or the like. My last off-the-shelf system was in my 2011 Ford Ranger - that was one of the better sounding systems I had.

Before THAT, we had the stereo store so I got all my stuff at dealer cost... my brand of choice was Pioneer. Those were the days, although the markup in that kind of equipment is not all that great, so it's not like I saved a ton of money.


Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Though I do have my stereo system mostly hooked up and together in the living space, it is mostly used as amplification for video equipment. I long ago lost my fascination for surround sound for movies and TV. It was an OK experience when we lived up north where the room allowed wiring up all of the speakers without taking up valuable room space, but down here, I'm satisfied with having the system do 3.0 sound (a center channel and one each left and right). That allows dialog through the center speaker and ambient sounds through the stereo sides. It all sounds just fine to me. Explosions from behind my couch aren't all that exciting for me anymore. Been there, done that.

My turntable, cassette deck, CD player, CD recorder, Blu-ray player, DVD recorder and Roku are all connected to the A/V amplifier. It's a Sony unit.
Top Bottom