Here it goes again. Once more you’re at the point of suffering from a new G.A.S. or “Gear acquisition syndrome” crisis, a notorious disease among musicians whereby you’re pushed to buy new gear a bit more often than you should!
Anyway, you’re about to buy this new instrument you’ve always dreamed of, but this time you’re actually thinking of staying quietly at home and ordering it online. However, you keep on asking yourself: should I really buy it online or should I run to my good old local shop? We’re here to help you make your decision!
Simple, convenient and not so risky, online instrument shopping has exploded the past few years, and one of the main reasons of this boom is the broad variety of models you can’t get anywhere else.
Moreover, big online shops like Bax-Shop, Thomann or Musicians Friend do not only offer instruments, but also a fair amount of sound equipment, home studio or DJ gear; in short, everything to increase the frequency of your G.A.S. crises.
Another big advantage of online stores is that it has never been easier to go from one shop to another in order to compare different models, prices, user reviews, or even check out demo videos.
On the other hand, all material you’ll find online may be more standardised than what you’ll find at your local store. Big brands are always available, but you’ll probably have more chances to find a truly unique model through a seller close to your place, which has its own distribution network and knows the local producers and instrument makers. In the end it all depends whether you are looking for the same signature model as your favourite player, or whether it’s a little gem that only you will own and whether you happen to have the appropriate budget… And while we’re at it, if you’re looking for a particularly unique piece, you might as well go directly ring the door of the person who created it.
What could once be considered as risky (for example receiving a scratched instrument that has been badly treated by your postman) is not really a problem anymore. Indeed, you can always send the instrument back a few days after your purchase if something doesn’t feel right.
However, even two models of the same series can sound different. No instrument is the same and you could unfortunately buy a particular model that didn’t get the proper quality control it deserved, without even knowing that the same model could have sounded better otherwise. This is even more true when it comes to “beginner models”, which are less expensive and use cheaper raw material. All things considered, when it comes to starting out with an instrument, you probably won’t even feel you’re playing on an inferior model anyway.
This is why nothing can ever compete with the fact that it’s always better to be able to try out an instrument before buying it. A crush on a particular instrument found in a real shop is well worth a few more shekels than bought online. However, you can also of course try out an instrument bought online and send it back if it doesn’t fit your personal standards.
It also really depends on what you’re buying. If it’s a drum machine, it will sound the same in any case… If it’s a guitar, your local seller should be able to make a few instrument adjustments to get everything sounding right before you bring it back home. Those are the little additional services that can also bring some bang for the extra buck.
Naturally on the online market where there’s fierce competition and where online shops sell more units than physical outlets (and can therefore drop their prices), the lowest prices are almost certainly found on the web.
Also, nothing holds you back from trying out an instrument in a shop before buying it online at a lower price. Not many people dare to say they do it, but many do. Of course that is not really a nice move for the local seller that has a store to run and a rent to pay. But we’re not here to lecture you anyway!
To split the two, we could say that it’s even better when the online shop does own a real store where you’ll be able to try your next purchase !
When it comes to comparing online prices, we advise you to check out a few different price listing sites like Audiofanzine or Google Shopping, where you’ll be able to find the best price for your instrument.
We keep on hearing that when it comes to service, everything’s definitely better ‘in real life’. Of course, in your local shop, you can always establish a closer relationship with a seller that you can (eventually…) trust. Someone who will know you better, know your tastes, and who will maybe offer you a little gig bag for your new guitar, or do a quick repair on your instrument. It goes without saying that local trade does have its advantages and that the famous “support your local dealer” sentence still has many beautiful days ahead.
However, online stores are well aware of that and put a lot of effort to compete with ‘offline’ outlets and humanise their customer relationship.
We ought not to forget that behind a website, there are real people working and that we often get advised by experienced musicians and technicians that are here to pamper their customers, it’s just a matter of asking them to do so!
In terms of other services available, returns are very often free for the client, it is therefore easy to try out some instruments at home and send them back for free if they don’t match your needs. This could also save you from trying out the instrument in a shop where passing customers could mock you for your ‘beginner’ skills!
Moreover, nothing prevents you to do like every other fashionista does, by ordering 3 products in order to keep just one at the end !
Regarding the warranty, one more time, online shops usually offer a better bang for the buck than offline retailers. It’s just a matter of checking out what each website has to offer for that, but as a rule of thumb, it will be just fine.
Finally, when it comes to delivery times, one more time online shops try everything to make it as fast as possible, you should get your goods in 48 hours on average. This really isn’t much, knowing that not everybody has a shop around the corner. And, being delivered at home is a pretty convenient thing anyway.
To conclude, “support your online dealer”
As we have seen, there’s no one stop solution, and the choice of buying online or not depends on you, your budget and your needs. During these days where one can find true love online through apps like Tinder, maybe you’ll also find the instrument of your dreams online, who knows?