It’s the time of year for saving money!
Let me be clear right out of the gate that the word “disruptive” isn’t meant to be pejorative whatsoever here. Audiogon.com is effectively the well-established eBay for audiophiles. The site may retain a retro-ugly design language as if they somehow still employ a graphic artist who never evolved past sites such as GeoCities. Audiogon’s web technology isn’t anything game-changing by modern standards, either. But the site is fully automated and pretty rock-solid today, and the truth is, it’s hard to imagine the audiophile hobby as it presently exists without audiogon.com.
There was a day in the long-long ago when audiophiles sold their gear to their dealers or in the back of a printed Stereophile magazine or perhaps in some little rinky-dink bi-monthly mimeographed pamphlet with a stamp stuck on it. This seems archaic by today’s standards, but that was the way of the world until the UseNet in the mid-1990s. This crude yet compelling online listing of audiophile gear brought people with enough Internet savvy to get to rec.audio.highend (or whichever forum that you were most likely to visit) to be able to connect and often sell gear.
Before that, I knew of brokers here in Los Angeles who paid roughly 30 cents on the retail dollar for used audiophile gear, boxed it up, packed it into a container (like the ones on the big shipping vesicles) and sent our good old American Hi-Fi to Asia. My hippie buddy Joel would make about a 10 to 15 percent return, which he could repeat over and over again. Compare that to even a tech-based mutual fund back in the day and that’s a pretty hefty return on investment.
I started AudioRevolution.com on April 1, 1996, and not too long after that – about the same time Audiogon.com came along – I built a site that was much like Audiogon called AudioVideoMarketplace.com. I must have put $50,000 plus into the project back then and while the graphics were better looking than Audiogon’s, the business model simply wasn’t. At the time, we charged for ads ($10 per, if I remember correctly) and focused on having AV dealer friends of ours post their used AV inventory to populate the site. Audiogon.com appealed more to the end user and at first didn’t charge a thing to post an ad.
It turns out their model was a far superior one, and they gained critical momentum in the online classified space, while AudioRevolution.com (which would ultimately become AVRev.com before I sold it in 2008) was at the same time becoming successful as an online magazine for audio and home theater that made money selling online advertising while giving away reviews and other content. After a few years, I pulled the plug on Audio Video Marketplace and focused on other, more profitable ventures.
What makes Audiogon.com so powerful is their enthusiastic community. In a world where eBay.com has become the de facto standard for nearly every other possible reselling of enthusiasts goods, Audiogon.com has an aging but powerful audience that buys and buys and buys more gear. It is not uncommon to list a component and have it sold in minutes to someone just dying to own what you want to sell.
I had a Chasing Classic Cars moment years ago when a friend of mine found a 1964 McIntosh 225 power amp that I procured, had restored at Audio Classics in New York, and reviewed. Sadly, the review was that the amp was cool but couldn’t hold a candle to today’s amps. Not even close. But the guy in Japan who paid twice what I did for the amp (pre-restoration) didn’t care. He was a McIntosh collector and the patina, provenance, and originality (I had the original box, manual, and even sales invoice from 1964) made the price worth it.
The guy in Japan was only one of many examples of where people came out of the woodwork to buy audiophile components on Audiogon.com. I know audio enthusiasts who, along with their second cup of coffee, see what’s new on Audiogon.com as a part of their AM ritual. Other audiophiles that I’ve met religious check the “blue book” values of the components that they own almost as if they were actual securities – securities that made sound.
Some retailers claim Audiogon.com ruined the business of specialty audio. That’s a bogus claim, just like saying Amazon.com ruined retail for everything else. Bad retailers ruined retail. Audiogon.com harnessed the power of the Internet to create a community that has resulted in a more liquid market for selling audiophile gear. For manufacturers who don’t like Audiogon.com and/or the idea of people buying used gear, there is a simple solution – just make new gear that is way better and at an excellent price. Consumers will vote with their wallets, and if new audiophile gear performs better at a very fair price, they will buy that. Plain and simple.
As we head towards a crossroads where the Baby Boomers will eventually hand off the hobby to younger audio enthusiasts, the legacy of Audiogon.com will likely be at the core of the future of the hobby. In the end, it is the community that is the power of the site and that community is a powerful buying force that will likely define the hobby for the next generation of enthusiasts as they continue their audiophile journeys.
How do you use Audiogon.com (if you do at all)? Have you had any success stories? Perhaps some nightmares? Share your experience on how you keep upgrading your audiophile system in the comments section below.
I think that Audiogon was the most significant change in the audio Industry in the last 25 years. It has totally changed how business is done ( we can argue whether that is good or bad and which side of the coin you are on) but it has taken much of the retail industry away
Never did like “A’gon ” much and have plenty of colleagues with nothing good to say about that site. Back in/around ’98, I responded to a thread on Audioasylum referencing how the Canadian audio folk were not well-served by that site. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by an audio enthusiast with web-building skills and, a couple of weeks later, we launched Canuck Audio Mart – where there were no fees for listing products nor for buying products. That site grew and has changed hands several times over the last couple of decades. I never had any financial interest in it – it was just (mostly) my idea and that was good enough for me.
The current ownership launched US Audio Mart and similar in UK/Europe and Australia. The US version is growing and growing (of course I keep a bit of a watch on it – wouldn’t you? There’s a wee bit of pride involved here.)
So – if Audiogon disappeared – I really wouldn’t miss it. Mostly because I really had no use for it to start with!
“…. I had a better option right out of the box.”
i like audiogon…in addition to a good source of equipment, it helps one know what the going prices are.
Back in the 90’s the discussion forms were an amazing way to connect with audiophiles that you would other wise not be able to. Discussions were animated and sometimes Albert Porter would have to step in and set things right. The online selling was just finding its protocol as the internet was still newish. Desperaudio was correct in that Audiogon did not serve Canadians well, and not so much Audiogons fault as the customs paperwork hassle and people just not shipping north. Now everyone north of the border uses Canuck, it has developed into a tool with amazing integrity, so thanks for starting that Desperaudio. I still use the Blue book on Audiogon as reference for what was made when. I would like it if someone would make a more complete data base on components, the details, when made etc. Great article Jerry.
Title as clickbait. Disruptive? Perhaps in the move from retail to online. How long ago? Since then? It’s the manufacturers, other social media such as Facebook and specialized group forums where the action is today. It could be argued that A’gon itself has been disrupted by a growing credibility gap. No amount of tinkering with graphics will relieve that problem. Dumping or at least separating sales from the forums could help sales be removed from the growing credibility gap present in the forums. Demographics have changed. Everyone has internet access. Critics, new entrants, and the experienced are all mashed together. I don’t see it working vs established forums like AVS or What’s Best.
A new age group is hardly being served by the present structure.
How does Audiogon compare to HifiShark? I searched for a “DAC” on both sites… 191 units returned for A’gon and 6851 on HifiShark.
HiFiShark is an aggregator site which indexes listings from Audiogon, eBay and numerous other sites from around the world which sell audio gear.
I recently purchased a pair of Dynaudio Focus 260 off the site from a seller that was very knowledgeable and helped me with a couple suggestions. I thank him and Audiogon.com for helping me realize my dream.
I find their blog helpful in getting opinions on gear I may not be able to audition.
I used to use it alot. Recently slowed my use. Some great people on there, but some are very rude, this is why I do not participate in conversations on audiogon.
I would like to know what percent of the listing never sell….I would guess 60%+….not many people who believe in buying $3,995.00 six foot speaker cables as I see listed.
i’ve been on AudiogoN since 2001 and my system page is the second most visited on AudiogoN. for many years i was active on the threads daily, for the last 7-8 years i post but not that much. the vibe has shifted away from the more serious audiophiles over this time. and the selling part has also shifted to US Audio Mart more and more. most stuff sits and sits with AudiogoN ads.
my hifi hangout forums now are mostly What’s Best Forum, to a lessar degree audionirvana, and audioshark.
not sure i would agree with the points made in this article.
I’ve used Audiogon for years with great success for purchasing and selling. Never a bad experience and met some great people through Audiogon!
What makes this article appear disingenuous & lacking in integrity, is the presence of an alternative & long established, popular site doing the essence of what AG does – for free. One many (the majority?) advertising on AG use simultaneously & substantial numbers use instead. A site that lets everyone buying & selling actually talk to each other w/o having it go through AG to censor or modify & over the phone as well, often forbidden by AG (the only way to avoid almost all the problems that AG charges extra to mediate – on top of all the fees charged in the first place. The discounts occurring on AG ever more frequently are only because of this popular site.
That site is US Audiomart. Purposefully collegial & no time limits put on ads as well. It never required the bill of rights AG had originally put up (& took down because of their refusal to abide by it). It is inconceivably impossible Jerry Del Colliano (the author of the article above) did not know of the very successful & well established & respected site. He very clearly did not want to properly discuss the audio ecosystem he proclaims to, by beginning to explain its considerable contribution. Everyone is left to speculate in every possible direction, as to why.