On Loaning Gear


If you've been involved in audio as long as I have, you've probably borrowed or loaned gear to other audiophiles from time to time. While I've never had any truly horrendous experiences loaning or borrowing audio gear, I've seen more than a few friendships and working relationships go south after a loan or borrow ended badly.

In an effort to encourage loaning and borrowing among friends and associates here are my personal rules that, so far, have kept me from situations that are best avoided.

Rule 1 - Never loan anything essential to your system. Among the more selfish audiophiles, such as yours truly, this is pretty obvious. I would never think of removing some part of a currently set-up system (or some part of a system under review) for a loan, no matter how brief, to anyone, no matter who. There are too many negative what-ifs. If it's in use, it's not going to be loaned out.

Also, I don't loan out fragile components, such as phono cartridges, whether I'm using them or not. It's simply too easy to snap a cantilever, especially during the initial installation (which is the only time I've broken carts during the last couple of decades.)

Rule 2 - Always make the return date ridiculously obvious. Don't just say, "get it back to me when you can..." Set a definite return date. Even "Keep it for two weeks..." is too vague. I always supply a specific date I want a component returned by when I loan it out. If it can't be returned by that time I want to know so we can set up a new, specific time. Vague return dates lead to vague returns.

Rule 3 - Don't loan out gear to barbarians. What is a barbarian? My own very personal definition is simply, "someone who can't use a piece of gear without damaging or abusing it." I have one relative, who will remain nameless, who is "hard" on things. When I loaned them a pair of headphones not known for fragility, they broke the headband. They now own that particular pair of headphones. Yes, just like that fine china shop down the street, if you break it, you own it.

But how do you tell who is and who isn't a barbarian except by trial and error? I look at how they keep their own stuff. Is it all their gear clean, neat, and working? Or does their stuff look abused? When in doubt, it's probably a good idea not to loan out something pristine for that first-time loan.

Rule 4 - Never loan out equipment while under review. This is pretty simple to understand - if I don't own it, I don't loan it. Also many manufacturers specify in their loan agreements that the gear can't be loaned or even leave the primary review location during the review period.

Rule 5 - Always "go over" a loaned piece with the loanee before letting it go. By go-over I mean if you both check out the gear you can both see what condition it was in before the loan so that after the loan both parties can acknowledge additional beauty marks, if any. Also by going over the gear you can review how it works and any quirks that need to be worked around to keep it operating correctly. If one of the inputs in a preamp is bad, it's nice to tell someone which one it is.

So there you have it, five basic rules to keep you from having to go through aggravation while loaning audio gear. If you have some rules that you use, please feel free to add them to the comment section at the bottom of the page... 

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