Primary tabs

Do You Buy HT Gear Online or In-Store?

Yesterday, it was reported that Best Buy plans to close 50 stores and eliminate about 400 jobs over the next year due to mounting losses in the face of competition from online retailers. Of course, online buying is the ultimate in convenience, but then you have nowhere local to go for service. Also, a store provides at least the possibility of seeing and hearing a demo before you buy, though TV demos in big-box stores are typically useless because the TVs are not set up properly and the environment is nothing like any room in a home.

This news leads me to wonder about where you buy your home-theater gear—online or at brick-and-mortar stores? Why do you shop online or in-store?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Do You Buy HT Gear Online or In-Store?

K.Reid's picture

My preference is to listen or view before I buy - especially in the case of speakers, but sometimes it may not be possible as a manufacturer may not be in the area of where a person lives. In that case, the best bet is to reach a reputable online company/dealer that has an excellent return policy.

Notwithstanding the above, I have had success on Audiogon even though, in most cases, one may not receive a factory warranty on a purchase.

One other point - with smart phones and tablets, it's easy to comparison shop in a brick-and-mortar store like Best Buy or HHGregg.

KikassAssassin's picture

I bought my speakers and AVR from a local dealer, because I wanted to be able to listen to them before I bought them, and I got them on sale so the local prices were actually better than the online prices. Even if they cost more at the dealer, though, I'd still have bought them there after taking advantage of their listening room.

I got my TV from Amazon, because it was way cheaper there than anywhere I could find it locally, and Amazon is supposed to have a really good TV return policy. It even had free shipping, which probably paid for my Amazon Prime account for several years. Since big box stores are useless for demoing TVs, I don't feel bad about not buying this locally.

I got all my cables from Monoprice, because local stores will gouge you on cables. They were super cheap and they work flawlessly.

Blove23's picture

There is no store that can demo the television the way you like it. You purchased from online, but you had to view it in the store. I understand purchase AVR or Speakers online because there are so many different speakers. Maybe just maybe Amazon can demo that television for you. I'm not upset with Amazon at all with their pricing, but I take offense to individuals like yourself claiming stores can't demo material the way you like it.

If a store had to demo every television to your specific liking then the next person would be complaining. Just like speakers there is a television for everyone. Cables I have to agree with you 100% but don't knock the brick and mortar stores because with out them you wouldn't be able to even view the television.

If you ever want to demo your material on the television that you like bring the material that you want to demo to the store.

limabird's picture

I don't think it's terrible to ask that manufacturers include a setting that approximates the standards in their sets, nor to ask that stores display their models in that setting. I'm not asking for a detailed calibration, just a basic setting that comes somewhat close to producing the images directors intend when they master material. Until they start doing this, I'll base my TV purchases on reviews and purchase them online (or, I'll go to the store, play with the settings myself and, if the store employees complain, gladly purchase the set for less money online).

dlaloum's picture

I prefer to find a store where I can listen, view and purchase... as well as experiment with differing speakers, settings etc...

Unfortunately these are few and far between, most stores "demo" the gear in a huge space, with dozens of screens, speakers and other kit blaring simultaneously.... in other words there is no demo possible at all.

If I have to choose between this kind of store and online - I prefer to do my shopping online...

I am willing to pay a premium products from a bricks and mortar store that provides good service - but that premium should be 10% to 20% over the online pricing not 50%+

Markoz's picture

I almost always listen/view before I buy. The only exception is my Oppo Blu-Ray player. We have some smaller boutique stores in town that specialize in high-end audio and video where you can really relax and have a listen or watch.

My main speakers are 20 years old (B&W 804s) and purchased from the same small store I got my centre channel and latest subwoofer from last year. I would never purchase expensive speakers or amplifiers online but neither would I buy anything from a big box store where the atmosphere makes it impossible to properly evaluate the equipment.

The boutiques may charge a bit more but they provide an invaluable service. If you keep your stuff as long as I do you want to make the right decision and these small stores really help.

utopianemo's picture

Given that a lot of the products I'm currently interested in aren't even available in stores (Aperion, Oppo, Emotiva, Rythmik, Velodyne), I've had to develop a habit of gathering information online and trusting in reviews, word of mouth, and good return policies.

A few months ago I walked into a higher end Home Theater store and struck up a conversation with the owner, who was dismissive of my opinions because they were formed through reading countless articles, websites, and online forums(as opposed to just accepting everything he said). I almost chuckled when it came to the topic of buying online. "We need each other", he said. I didn't bother telling him he was wrong.

I don't buy from stores much anymore because they're usually either like Best Buy, which is usually staffed by under-informed people who try and tell me that I need a $90 3 foot HDMI cable, or they're like that high-end store, where the staff are arrogant and patronizing. When Magnolia was still its own entity, I actually had a salesperson respond to my request to demo a pair of speakers by saying, "Before we start, are you planning on buying anything today?"

That said, there are local stores that are staffed with knowledgeable, polite salespeople and I shop at them whenever I can.

Albert71292's picture

I prefer to buy locally, that way, if there is a problem with the equipment, it can be quickly returned and replaced or serviced. Too much of a hassle returning something ordered online.

notabadname's picture

The ability to research both performance and best pricing simply can't be beat on-line. At times, my final decision from that on-line research will be bought at a store if they can offer competitive pricing. I don't expect price-match from a good store that provides service and support that I could never get on-line.

I did just buy a Definitive Technology SuperCube Reference from an eBay seller, new, un-opened, for $300 below list. I will forgo "service" for those types of savings, not to mention the tax savings potential. And it has performed flawlessly for 2 months now. (Great speaker BTW:)

I find having my decision generally made, and product choice selected also prevents last minute impulse decisions.

Bob Spencer's picture

You know it's kind of ironic, I can remember when the big box stores came out the local guy was saying I give all this real advice and then you buy from the discounters. Now the discounters are saying you look at my product but buy online. What is going to happen next I wonder?

I wish that the little guy with personalize service and advice would come back especially in electronic gear.

aforms's picture

I prefer to buy local but most of the electronic stores in our area stock low to medium grade merchandise. I purchase mainly from, and Crutchfield.
Abt Electronics sells higher end units from Denon and Definitive Technology and Higher grade of Sony HX929 LED LCD TV,s.

Abt Electronics has special ordered me several pieces like the Definitive Technology BP7000 tower speakers and they are great if you run into any problems and there a authorized dealer so you have a full factory warranty.

I do not work for any of these companies just a very happy customer.

gary1000's picture

I work at a speciality Audio Video retailer and am paid on commission. Many other retailers are paid an hourly wage but are judged on productivity, or dollars sold per hour.

Those of you who "shop" at local stores and then purchase on-line are ASSH__ES! When you waste my time, I could have had a sale from a real customer. Also, when you have a problem, why do you come to us for help? And then you have the nerve to call us names and say you'll never do business with us...actually, we don't want to see you in our store!

How would you like it if I were to come to your place of employment, waste your time, and not get paid for "helping" me. I have a family to feed, just like most of you.

Incidentally, I do purchase items on line. The difference is, I do my research on-line and with publications and NEVER, EVER go into a store and waste a salesperson's time. We'd all appreciate it if you'd do the same.

For those of you who purchase on-line to save on sales taxes, you're nothing but a bunch of lowlife freeloaders. Those taxes pay for education, roads, social programs, police, fire etc etc etc. If you agree to not take advantage of tax supported services, then okay.

For those of you who purchase at Brick and Mortar stores, ...a big THANK YOU.

Blove23's picture

I could not have said it BETTER!

notabadname's picture

For starters, I doubt many of the well-informed and well-read readers on this site enter a brick-n-mortar and say "Will you help me find a TV please". If I have been researching a product, via any source, I have never gone into a store and asked for help in making a decision on a purchase. And unfortunately, many of the high-end HT or Audio stores, like the one that failed in my town recently, prey on your arrival to the store like salesman at a used-car lot. They were so hell-bent on selling me their stocked product line and going for their commission, that the unsolicited advise was clearly biased.

Example: Hello sir, what are you looking for today?

Oh, just browsing right now, thank you. I'll let you know if I have any questions.

Browsing for anything in particular?

Just seeing if you carry a particular Klipsch speaker that I am interested in (or insert product of your choice).

Oh (judgmental tone) . . . Well we don't carry that (product of your choice), you would really be better off looking at . . . . This is what you really want . . . etc.

I even recently went into a store looking for the Sharp Elite (which they didn't carry), and was quickly told that it, being an LCD, it would not compare to their Plasmas they stocked. Instead of any type of offer of trying to see if they could order it, it was an immediate press for me to shift to their product line, even though a good salesman would have quickly realized that I was informed, and had a very specific interest.

But given how you have so quickly leapt to calling posters on this site who differ with you "ASSH__ES!" "Scum" and "a bunch of lowlife freeloaders" (all while ironically complaining about posters who "have the nerve to call you (sales persons) names". I can't help but expect the same type of arrogance, conceit and entitlement if I stepped into your store and had the (mis)fortune of meeting you. But who knows, maybe you are more personable, less judgmental and a better listener when you perform in sales. One can only hope.

gary1000's picture

As I said earlier, if you plan on purchasing on the internet, STAY OF BRICK AND MORTAR STORES...this way you'll avoid the hassle of dealing with local dealer's salespeople.

Most commission stores have a system where you take turns helping the customers as they come in...that means I can't pick and choose my customers. I have to "help you".

If you don't like to be approached or hassled by a salesperson, stay out of their store.

I don't mind if I lose a sale to a local competitor who did a better job than me because I at least had a chance at their business. You have no clue how much time I've wasted on people intent on buying on the internet.

I once had a customer who stated flat out that he was going to only buy on the internet. I then told him I would give him internet service and walked away. He had the nerve to complain about me. Our management supports us 100-percent and told him to leave.

If I didn't say Scumbags and freeloaders, I'd be hiding the true feelings of salespeople.

Once again, do all salespeople (hourly and commission) a favor and stay of their stores unless you plan to purchase locally.

Thank you.