Buying second-hand devices, such as an in-ear monitor, carries a certain risk. Read on to learn a few useful tips and reminders for buying second-hand top in-ear monitors for drummers and audiophiles.
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Is It Okay to Buy Second-Hand In-Ear Monitors?
Price is usually the top reason people go to the IEM second-hand market. In-ear monitors are more expensive than earbuds [In-Ear Monitor Vs Earbuds] and headphones because they offer more superior features, such as highly effective noise cancellation and strong audio quality. And for people with deep pockets, they can have them custom-made to ensure perfect fit and sealing in the ear.
But some people are hesitant to buy them second-hand, even if it meant saving money. Based on what we’ve gathered from IEM forums [Popular In-Ear Monitor Forums], most people are hesitant to buy them used because of hygienic issues. If you feel the same way, you can do the following:
- Replace the ear tips with new ones.
- Disinfect the old ear tips and other parts of the IEM with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. If they’re made of silicone, you can wash them using soapy water.
Overall, buying pre-owned IEMs is a good decision, as long as the previous owner took good care of them. With that said, here’s a list of things you need to consider before parting with your hard-earned cash to buy second-hand IEMs.
7 Tips for Buying Used In-Ear Monitors
1. Set a Budget
Like any type of purchase, you need to make sure you have a budget in mind before buying pre-owned in-ear monitors. Don’t forget to include in your calculation the costs of shipping or pickup. Can the seller deliver it himself (if he lives in the area), or do you have to pick it up yourself, which means you need to take into account your transportation cost.
2. Buy Locally
It’s easy to see why most people would prefer to buy second-hand items online, such as on eBay and Head-Fi. It’s more convenient to get hold of many private sellers in the comfort of your home.
But as much as possible, buy from someone who lives near you. This will give you the opportunity to meet the seller in person and inspect the in-ear monitor before finalizing the deal. And if ever it stops working after you bought it, you can easily return them to the previous owner and ask for a refund.
Perhaps you could also look for brick-and-mortar music stores or thrift stores that sell used audio devices near your home. Nothing still beats seeing and feeling the actual item beforehand.
Reminder: If you’re going to meet in person, be sure to bring someone with you. If that’s not possible, let friends or family members know where you’re going and who you’re going to meet. And always meet in public places, such as a coffee shop or library.
3. Ask Questions
Don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions, especially for something as valuable as in-ear monitors. Below are just some of the questions you’d like to ask the seller:
- What’s the reason for selling?
- How often does the seller use his or her in-ear monitor?
- What’s the current condition of the device?
- Does it have defects?
- Has it ever been repaired or modified?
- How old is the device?
If the seller posted his or her phone number on the ad, it’s a good idea to call than to send an email. With all the inquiries, it’s easy for your email to be buried beneath other emails. It also gives the impression that you’re a serious buyer, so the seller might put you ahead of those who only sent an email.
4. Don’t Dismiss Red Flags
In a rush to get the best deal, you might miss signs that should signal you to avoid a seller. Remember what the old adage says, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
Look for these seller red flags when shopping for second-hand IEMs in any online marketplaces or forums:
- Refuses to meet in person (if he or she lives near where you live) or talk through video calling
- Doesn’t answer basic questions
- Doesn’t accept other modes of payment, except for remittance
- Unusual payment methods, such as cryptocurrencies or gift cards
- Rushes you to pay in full and promises to ship the item immediately
- Photos posted look like they come from a stock photo site (Tip: Use an image search and recognition app or website to look for similar images across the web.)
- Wants to communicate outside the app or website, leaving an unchangeable record of your communication
Most seller websites allow users to create a profile. Take advantage of this and assess the information on that seller’s profile, which should have a clear photo and complete personal information. Also, read what others have to say about their experience with that seller.
5. Compare Prices
What particular brand and model are you looking for? Once you know what IEM you want, check out how much it costs brand new online or in stores. Also, check all sites and websites for reselling items to see how much it costs used. This will make it easier to make a comparison and decide if you’re better off buying it brand new or refurbished.
Try asking if the price is negotiable. But if you see the person needs the money or the price is already ridiculously low, you might want to pay the full asking price instead.
6. Ask for a Return Policy
As a buyer, you have the responsibility to read and understand the product description and terms and conditions of the seller. Unless not specified in the ad, ask for a warranty from the seller. Put it in writing, if possible. Honest sellers will usually offer some form of guarantee, especially if the fault is theirs.
7. Check for Authenticity
Today, every known product is being copied. It’s no different with in-ear monitors. Spotting a fake in-ear monitor can be tricky, especially for untrained eyes. Most often, the only way to be completely sure you’re buying an original is to buy directly from the manufacturer or authorized dealer.
Cheap components (including the accessories) and poor audio quality are often telltale signs of counterfeits. But if you’re shopping online, you only have photos to rely on. Photos alone, even if they have a high resolution, can’t prove that an in-ear monitor is genuine.
Shure products are often the targets of many counterfeiters. Despite this, Shure hasn’t provided tips for spotting a fake Shure IEM. They cited two reasons:
- Subtle differences, such as the shade and texture of the exterior finish, are difficult to describe through photos or words.
- If they release ways to spot fakes, counterfeiters will only use that information to produce better counterfeit Shure IEMs.
On the other hand, Sennheiser provides a unique way to authenticate their products online. The hologram sticker on the box serves as the product ID, which you can authenticate on their website. The hologram label also has a QR code. You can use that QR code to check for authenticity.
Here are other ways to protect yourself from counterfeit IEMs:
- If you’re unsure if you bought an authentic second-hand IEM, email high-quality photos to the manufacturer. Don’t forget to include photos of the box and the accessories inside, if available. The manufacturer can help ascertain that the device is authentic or fake.
- Check if the seller lives in your country. According to Shure, counterfeit Shure products are almost always sold from one country into another. As much as possible, buy locally.
- Always be wary when buying this device through online auction sites, such as eBay, and other online marketplaces. Remember our previous tips: don’t ignore red flags and ask lots of questions before plunking cash.
- Consult people who have extensive knowledge on in-ear monitors, especially the model that you plan to purchase. One of the best ways to be certain a device is authentic is to know it really well.
You don’t really need to shy away from second-hand in-ear monitors. They’re a good investment, if you take your time canvassing the market and scrutinizing the seller.
What really matters is the seller, not just the device. Willingness to answer basic questions and meet in person, giving a return policy, taking good-quality pictures instead of snapshots, and not making strange requests are always good signs.