Second Hand Speakers?

by Andrew Bishop

Here are five things to look for when you are buying second-hand speakers.

Some deals are often too good to be true and the seller may “be economical with the truth” however, there are a few questions to ask the seller before buying used speakers.

5 Questions to ask when buying Second Hand used speakers.

1. What type of amplifier was used to power the speakers?

Many different types of amplifier power passive speakers. If the amplifier is overpowered or underpowered it will cause damage to the driver and crossover which may not be audible at the time of purchase but will result in failure during future use.

Many customers do not focus on the correct wattage or impedance. Always concentrate on RMS, not Program Power or Peak Power. It is better to match the RMS of the amplifier to the speaker. Some prefer more RMS in the amplifier to the speaker but be careful with the volume control.

Impedance is even more important. The amplifier will state its capabilities 4 ohm or 8 ohms and some even go a low as 2 ohms, but this is not the preferred impedance. Most single speakers are 8 ohms, and some are 4 ohms.

Beware! If you change the impedance by adding the wrong speakers in the incorrect configuration you can damage the amplifier and your speakers. Ask the seller detailed questions about how he drove his speakers before buying.


If the speakers are active and have a built-in amplifier ensure they are PAT tested before you buy them. Faulty earth or loose connections could result in an electric shock to your audience, you, friends or family.

2. How old are the speakers and do they contain the original parts?

Sadly, some people selling replacement speakers do not tell the truth. They lie about RMS ratings and power output of the driver. You will see 5” speakers advertised on a well-known selling site claiming 500w power! A 5” driver costing £30 will never deliver 500w!

Open the side handle or backplate and try to see the driver. Is it branded by the original maker? Has it got a date on it? Is the impedance correct? Are the cables corroded?

Take the grille off and spread your fingers wide. Press down gently on the paper cone with equal pressure. Can you hear any noise? If you hear anything you could be buying a problem!

Whilst the grill is off checking the surround as this often decomposes quickly and ensure the dust cover is glued on properly. Also, check for damp!

3. Where have the speakers been stored?

Many people store speakers in a garage or shed that is not temperature controlled. Cold and damp in the winter, hot in the summer.

From the moment a speaker is made the paper cone starts degrading just like leaving the morning newspaper in the shed over 12 months. The paper will not be as crisp or fresh. New speakers perform much better than old speakers.

Professional hire companies often retire their speakers after 5 years of hard use and replace them with new ones.

4. What have the speakers been used for?

Like buying a second-hand van, has it been cared for or thrashed within an inch of its life up and down the M1! Or has it been treated with care? We just never know.

Are you certain that the seller was the owner? Could the seller be in possession of stolen goods? Is it worth the risk?

Touring speakers often get positioned gently and set up correctly mainly because people are watching! At the end of the gig when the only people around are tired roadies who just need to get some sleep or another beer! This is when speakers are dropped, cabinets damaged and magnets on driver knocked out of alignment.

It amazing what history can be covered up by a lick of paint! A cracked or weepy joint on a Bass reflex subwoofer will blow air and not perform at its best.

Do they smell of old beer? Are they sticky? What's been spilt on them? Is it worth the risk?

5. What would the same speaker cost new?

Putting to one side the brand as we are all led by the big names in sound and history the question, regardless of cost “Are you really getting value for money”?

What warranty or guarantee is the seller prepared to offer?

It is a known fact that the big brands with huge marketing budgets command more for their products, but the principle of sound reproduction is the same. We make a good box and move some air! Do not be fooled with fancy jargon or revolutionary technology Bose has made millions making tiny speakers sound great with fancy electronics but trained ears can identify the issues.

Most big brand speakers go through 3 pairs of hands with each one adding 20% to the cost for simply being in the room! BishopSound sell speakers direct from the factory with no middlemen!

Ask yourself how many pairs of hands have the second-hand speakers been through? Unlike a used van there is no logbook or mileage check on the MOT.

In closing – Spend every penny you earn carefully and do not be fooled. Email today at or message us using our Live Chat for more info.

Finally – if the second-hand speaker system deal seems too good to be true – it probably is!