Can you save money by buying B-stock equipment, or is it a false economy?
Dealers often offer 'B-stock' products at way below the normal list price. But is B-stock value for money, or will you get something that doesn't really work properly?
Mail-order pro audio equipment dealers commonly offer excellent returns policies.
In some countries they have to give you a 'cooling off' period where you are legally entitled to return your purchase if you have changed your mind.
You are however expected to change your mind before you open and use the equipment to take advantage of this.
However, it has become relatively commonplace for retailers to allow you to open the box, try the equipment out, and then return it if you don't like it.
Now that is generous indeed. But if you think about it, buying mail-order or online is all about trust. If you know that you can trust the retailer to help you out, you'll be more likely to buy.
Most people are very honest about this and wouldn't dream of ordering a piece of kit to use on a session, then return it for a refund once they had finished with it!
And if they did, I suspect the retailer wouldn't want to continue doing business with them after too many occurrences.
But what happens to equipment that is returned? You wouldn't want to buy someone else's cast-off would you?
What happens commonly is that retailers put such items into their 'B-stock'. It isn't factory fresh, but it's far from being secondhand.
And they offer such B-stock at knock-down prices, which are often very tempting indeed.
So if you find B-stock pricing attractive, then you can equip your studio for far less than factory-fresh prices. Of course you will have to be patient for opportunities to arise. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.
And when you receive your B-stock item, often you will be amazed that it is apparently in absolutely brand new condition, other than the packaging that has been opened and resealed.
So get to work and start enjoying your new equipment. Spend your savings on something else.
Of course there has to be a disadvantage to B-stock...
One disadvantage is that you might not get everything that was supposed to be included in the box. Perhaps the manual is missing, or a power lead - usually nothing more than a minor item.
You probably won't get a guarantee that is as good as the factory fresh item. If you normally expect to get a one-year guarantee on a new item, then on B-stock it might be reduced to three months.
What you don't expect from B-stock however is for it not to work. It's B-stock, not Z-stock. You expect it to work 100%, and to be able to return it for a refund if it doesn't.
So here is a real-life Audio Masterclass experience with B-stock. We needed another DAW system and our regular supplier had a suitable interface that was B-stock. So we bought it at a very good price.
When it arrived we gave it a check out to make sure that everything worked.
Everything did work... but we didn't check some features that we didn't expect to use. Like the phono input for a record player for instance.
Fast forward a few months and we suddenly find a need to connect a record player directly to this DAW. And....
It didn't work. One of the phono sockets was blocked by something inside, and neither of them produced any signal.
So we looked at the guarantee that came with this item and found that it had expired a month ago.
But we sent a quick e-mail to the retailer asking if they could do anything. We didn't use the Audio Masterclass e-mail account, so the message looked like it could have come from anyone.
A couple of hours later and we had a returns authorization number for a repair free of charge!
There are three conclusions to this tale...
One is that B-stock is well worth investigating,
The second is that when you take delivery of a B-stock item, check absolutely everything to make sure it works entirely 100%. In fact do this with any new equipment.
If you need help on anything, then ask the retailer. Good retailers like to build up a bond of trust with their customers and will help you out if they can. Don't go overboard and abuse this trust though. If everyone plays fair, then everyone will get a better deal all round.