It's one thing to buy a CD or a toaster oven online, but what about audio components? Wouldn't it be great to compare one speaker with another? With receivers it's impossible to gauge the touch and feel of the controls online. Sure, professionally written reviews can steer you in the right direction, but in the final analysis buying a hi-fi or home theater is mostly about personal taste. Buying "the best" at the cheapest price isn't always the ideal option; I think it should be more about getting the product that's right for you.
Sadly, expert advice isn't so easy to find, now that more and more independent brick-and-mortar audio shops have closed. That's no concern for buyers who happily forgo the advantages offered by the shops in favor of the lowest possible price. The online retailer can easily afford to give greater discounts; they don't have to pay high rent for a showroom, have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in demonstration units, provide on-site service technicians, and pay sales commissions. They can pass some of their savings onto their customers. Everybody wins, or do they?
I don't think so; it's the buyer who is losing out. Yes, the online discounters and factory-direct companies can always undercut the independent brick-and-mortar guys, but how do their customers know they're buying the speaker, amplifier, or turntable that best suits their needs? Have they listened for themselves and heard three or four competing speakers with their own ears? And if they wind up with a malfunctioning piece of brand new gear, they'll have to deal with it on their own. They won't get a "loaner" to use while they wait for the repair or replacement unit. Hookup questions will be answered by an anonymous person on an 800 line, not by the sales person at the local shop who knows you by name. … Read more