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Pre-Owned Music Gear Buying Guide: Finding Your Diamond In The Rough

Pre-Owned Music Gear Buying Guide: Finding Your Diamond In The Rough
It’s hard enough to pick your next piece of kit when they’re all brand new and untouched, but trying to decide whether you should invest in that (slightly) banged-up Telecaster is a whole other story. Fortunately, we can help. Follow this checklist of what to look for and if it passes - and you’re still digging the gear - go ahead and pick it up! We’re big believers in pre-owned instruments and kit, so much so that we even offer part-exchange and pre-owned services for our customers! Here’s how to make sure you get the perfect pre-owned kit.  

Check The Physical Condition Of Your Gear

This is probably the absolute first thing you should do when considering a pre-owned instrument. Depending on the gear you’re looking at, you will be looking for different signs of wear, but generally you just want to check that it isn’t heavily damaged.  

Guitars & Basses

If you’re looking at guitars and basses, you’ll want to really analyse the joints and overall finish of the instrument - any significant cracks are a big no-no! Furthermore, check the frets to ensure they have enough life left in them. The headstock is often the most vulnerable and can be susceptible to rust and cracks, so always thoroughly check.  

Drum Kits

Drum kits that have been abused will show signs of rusting to the hardware and damage to the shells themselves, such as a warped shape (they should be perfectly cylindrical), cracks, bent rims and tensions rods. Furthermore, check included cymbals and stands for their condition before committing to a purchase. Other gear (pedals, drum machines, synths, amps) will require their own checks. Is the casing cracked? Are all the buttons and knobs present and in working order? Most pre-owned items will carry some battles scars - scratches, slight dings or dents, colour fading - so keep that in mind. It’s entirely up to you how stringent you are with superficial issues, so just make sure you’re comfortable with the condition.

Research The Item & Check Out Some Reviews

If there’s anything that the internet is good for when scouting for your next piece of music equipment, it’s for research. You can learn a lot about a prospective purchase by taking the time to learn more about it. There’s so much content available for every piece of kit - whether you read community forums, check some YouTube videos out of the instrument in action, or read reviews of professional music journalists - that you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect when you get to try it out. Speaking of trying it out...

Test It Out Thoroughly

Whether you’re buying privately or through a retailer, it’s crucial that you sit down and spend some time with the potential item. Any quality seller will be more than happy to let you get to grips with it, so don’t trust anyone who isn’t willing to let you try it out. This is one of the biggest issues with buying solely online - unless you can arrange a meet to test the instrument, you’re really going off some (probably less than stellar) pictures from the guy’s Windows phone. I know, we shudder thinking about it too... In-person tests give you the chance to test a number of things - do all the electronics work as expected? How does it sound? Does it feel good to use or play? Again, depending on the gear you’re looking at, you’ll need to check different things to give it a passing grade.

Guitars & Basses

Guitars are incredibly individual instruments - no two play or feel quite the same as another. That’s why you’ve got to put it through it’s paces - make sure it feels and sounds like a guitar you want to play! Important things to check include the action (how easy the strings are to fret properly), the intonation (is the guitar fretting in-tune at higher frets), the pickups and electronics (is the jack socket secure, do the pickups work correctly), and the tuners (do they hold tune well).

Drum Kits

Drum kits are a little more difficult to assess. A drum kit that isn’t properly tuned or set up might not feel brilliant to play - the drum response, for example, could feel all out of whack if the skins aren’t tightened to the right level. If you are confident tuning any kits you test, definitely do - you’ll get a much better feel for how the kit plays and sounds this way!
You’ll often find that a pre-owned instrument will play and sound better than a like-for-like one fresh off the wall. Once it’s been ‘broken in’ through general use and age, you’ll get a lot more back from the instrument itself - there’s a reason people love true vintage relics, after all!

Check The Price Of The Instrument

No matter how good condition the item is in, if someone offered it you at the same price with the protective film still on, you’re going to say yes. Pre-owned gear is great because of the discount you get, but if you’re not getting enough of a price drop over a new piece of kit, definitely consider whether you want to take the plunge. Really, it’s up to you. Gear that’s in better condition will be closer to the RRP anyway, but you should still stand to save some cash in the process! This is generally a bigger issue when buying privately, as retailers will often have similar products available new for comparison regardless.

It’s Passed? Great. You’ve Just Scored A Bargain!

If you’ve given it the full inspection and are still ready to take it home, then you’ve got yourself a steal. More often than not, we see people notice an imperfection or slight issue that makes them fall out of love with it, no matter how great the deal really is, so you know that it’s the right piece of gear for you if you’ve not fallen prey to this classic scenario. Enjoy your new instrument or gear and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we’ll do our best to help out!

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