Shopping for Music Gear

I am a musician and former music store owner, so I have a few decades of experience with both buying and selling music gear. I know that most musicians have a limited budget and an unlimited appetite for new toys. There are lots of stores offering all kinds of great deals on all sorts of equipment, so which one is right for you?
Brick and Mortar vs Internet
Back in the old days we didn't have too many choices. It was either your local store, a long drive to the next store or the few and expensive mail order catalogs. Then Al Gore invented the Internet and the Web changed the rules. Online stores popped up like mushrooms. Some of them big, others small, mom-and-pop operations. Some of them will stay others will go away, and few are just plain scams, they will take your money and personal info then disappear. You get great service at one store and nothing but frustration at the other. Based on my personal experience, I can only recommend one of the online stores : Zzonds*. I have purchased several keyboards, sound modules and other gear from Zzonds during the past few years without any problems. As for brick and mortar stores, I have yet to find a good one. I know it's hard to find decent help these days, but music stores seem to get the worst. Salesmen are either pushy or completely ignorant, and very few of them are any help (at least when it comes to my main interest, synthesizers). Some of them are wannabe musicians who need a day job until their band makes it big. Others are are older, disillusioned hippies or local folks who couldn't find better jobs. I find brick and mortar music stores noisy and depressing, so most of the time I shop online. There's still use for b&m stores, if you buy something big, like a piano or drum kit, and you want to play before you pay, it's best to do at your local store. Same with guitars and acoustic instruments. It would not be fair to try a dozen guitars at your local b&m shop, and then go online to buy the one you like. Electronic instruments, like synthesizers on the other hand are too complex and take too long to really check out, and you rarely get any help from sales people, so do your research, ask questions and buy the thing online. Then spend a few days or weeks to figure it out, see if you like it, and if not, you can always return it to get another one. If you have any questions or need advice, go to our forums:
the Synthesizer Forum and the MIDI Forum.
Used vs New
Almost everyone can afford at least a small home studio these days. The problem is that once you have one, it wants to grow. If you're like me, you just have to try everything you can get your hands on. And if you're a musician like most of us --the starving kind-- you have to find a way to get what you need without maxing out your credit cards. I got hooked on synthesizers shortly after MIDI was invented, and managed to own at one time or another most of the known models. My constantly changing home studio setup is a mixture of new and old equipment, the essentials the favorites and the temporaries. I buy both used and new gear, and sell the ones I can live without when I need the money for more toys. I get my new equipment and software from Zzonds*.

Ebay is the place where I unload the old stuff and buy new old stuff. Ebay has become huge, and unfortunately without real competitors, so when it's time to sell or buy used gear, you don't have too many other choices. Be careful when bidding on any auction sites, there are a lot of dishonest sellers (and buyers) and your best protection is to make an informed decision. When you buy on Ebay follow a few simple rules to be on the safe side:

  • Check the feedback history of the seller
  • Carefully read the item description and the seller's terms (fine print)
  • Check the actual shipping cost, ask the seller for a quote if not posted
  • Contact the seller, ask for details and pictures if needed
  • Search for similar items and compare
  • Search for similar items in the completed auctions section to see actual selling prices
  • Use a credit card to pay for an item in case something goes wrong, credit cards offer some protection
I could fill several pages describing various scams on auction sites, many of them successful in ripping off customers.
Just one example: Ebay store listing about 100 new items, at very good prices. The story: "We are a new store, we can only accept money orders until our credit card system is in place. All items will ship one week after payment received." etc.etc. This is a new ebay user, with no history, and yet most of the items were sold. Of course the seller disappeared immediately, while the "lucky" winners of these auctions sent out their money orders for several hundred or thousand dollars each, and waited patiently for the goods to arrive. This "seller" got away with approximately $60,000. Not bad for posting a few auctions, he probably used a stolen credit card to set up the account, and I doubt he was ever caught. A lot of people got ripped off here, and all becuase they didn't have the common sense to follow the rules listed above. If it looks too good, it probably is. Only pay with a credit card, so if your seller is a crook, you will be reimbursed by the credit card company. Check the history of the seller, and never pay cash or money order. Also look out for fake ebay emails. They may look exactly like a real message from ebay, and if you click on the links they may take you to a site that looks exactly like ebay. Bookmark your real ebay login page, and use it to log in to your account, never follow any email links. HTML email is a bad idea, if ebay would only send out plain text emails with a one-liner "You sold something" or "You won the auction, log in to your account and deal with it", there would be no problem, no links in the email, no fake links either. Of course this would make sense, so big corporations will never go for it, they prefer making their emails overly complicated, which makes you a target for identity theft.

As long as you're careful, you can get some pretty good deals at Ebay so it's definitely worth checking out when you're on the market for used gear. It's also a good place to sell what you no longer need. Selling can be tricky as well, I may add a section about selling, contact me if you're interested.

What to buy?
If you're trying to put together a home studio on a budget or into synths and electronic music, and need advice on what to buy, post your questions at our forums: the Synthesizer Forum and the MIDI Forum. The best way to get a good answer is to ask a good question. Let us know what you have, what you're interested in, what kind of project you have in mind, and we will be happy to help. Your questions will also help me with the new pages I have in the works: the description and illustration of various home studio setups.

Hope you found something useful on this page. Please contact me with any suggestions and corrections, so I can improve and expand this section or any other areas of MIDIWORLD.

* Yes, I am an affiliate of Zzonds and if you purchase something from them I get a small percentage of the sale to support this website. Almost all online stores offer affiliate deals and most of them pay higher percentage. I choose Zzonds because I believe they provide the best service. My websites have been around for over 10 years, and the main purpose is to be useful for everyone who likes music. If you would like to support my efforts and about to buy any music gear, please click on this link: Zzonds. You will get excellent service and eternal happiness for contributing to the survival of my websites. What a deal!

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