Monday, 20 June 2016

A guide to Second Hand Synths in UK

So you want to buy a synthesiser, but don't necessarily have the budget to go all out on a new item: where do you go next? The UK second hand market is full of options and people selling their gear for a variety of reasons, whether it's to raise funds for newer hardware, whether children on the way, a change to all in the box or perhaps relocating to another country.

However, it can be daunting for newcomers to know where to get the best deals or just what to expect in terms of prices, availability, selection and so on. So here's a little run down of some of the places to go where you can check listings and maybe pick up something fun to play with at a decent price.

And as always with these things; Caveat Emptor!

Ebay

The big boy of the second hand world, boasting the biggest variety of items and prices of all sites on the internet. However, it can be tough to get a decent bargain as everyone else is also checking ebay for the same thing. 

One tip I have seen is to check the recently posted listings in a section and be prepared to hit the buy it now button to secure your purchase. You may not get an amazing bargain but you will at least get that rare or elusive item. You can also try searching under both Keyboard and Pro Audio sections in case they have been poorly listed. 

Otherwise, Ebay is always useful to get an idea of what second hand prices are generally like to compare against listings elsewhere or for when listing your own gear.

Positives:
  • Biggest selection and variety on offer
  • National and worldwide reach
  • Postal delivery or local pickup
  • Great online, mobile and app support
Negatives:
  • Ebay and PayPal fees for sellers, who often ask buyers to foot the cost.
  • Potentially expensive postage costs
  • Issues with missing/damaged packages
  • No chance to view or demo the item
  • PayPal account mandatory

Gumtree

Some may not realise this, but Gumtree is actually owned by eBay, making this a more local alternative than the monolithic eBay to try. Gumtree is all about the looking for more local listings, meaning that you limit yourself to people you can visit in your area to try before you buy and for convenient pickup. Interestingly there has been a recent shift in people listing their items on Gumtree and offering Paypal and national shipping as an option (presumably to get around paying Ebay's fees). 

In general, this site is the one I have had the most success with and I have picked up quite a lot from here.

Positives:
  • Good turnover of new listings
  • Emphasis on local items, as well as national listings
  • Ability to check and test out items before you buy
  • Opportunity to haggle a few quid off an item
  • Good for networking with likeminded people in the scene
  • A good selection of items, with some rare things from time to time.
  • Free to list items, free to buy items (ad supported)
  • Great online, mobile and app support
Negatives:
  • Majority of listings are for Face to face selling - personal security issue
  • Limited audience if you are not in a built up area
  • Car needed if you want to travel distances to pick stuff up
  • Usually cash only accepted.

Craigslist

While Gumtree has cornered the market for local listings in the UK, Craigslist still has a presence in the UK and their London site in particular is a notable alternative to Gumtree. Given this, it is only their selection of items and traffic that differentiates them from Gumtree so a lot of the pros and cons are similar.

A cursory glance highlights a number of vintage synths available under the section for musical instruments (abbreviated as MSA on their site), though they do not seem to have a lot more and certainly not in the price range that others have. Still, if you are looking for that elusive older synth then this is a decent option to consider.

Positives:
  • Great selection of rare vintage synths
  • Free to list items and free to buy (ad supported)
  • Listings based across the UK
  • Ability to check and test out items before you buy
  • Potential opportunity to haggle a few quid off an item
Negatives:
  • Majority of listings are for Face to face selling - personal security issue
  • Not a great deal of variety or turnover of new items
  • Limited selection of items, particular for low to medium sized budgets
  • Slower turnover of items due to limited userbase
  • Limited audience if you are not in a built up area
  • Car needed if you want to travel distances to pick stuff up
  • Categorisation not as detailed as other sites
www.craigslist.co.uk

Preloved

Again, another listings site that puts an emphasis on local listings and adds a charitable on things to boot. It does take some looking through to find the musical instruments section (helpfully called Making Music), but therein you can find plenty of older keyboards and some synthesisers as well and while most seem to be keyboards bought for school and the like, there are some good listings there (as well as plenty also listed on Gumtree). The search functionality and mobile app are nearly on par with Ebay and Gumtree, though with a reduced audience don't expect a high turnover of different items.

My own experience with this site has been positive; while I haven't ever bought anything through it I have successfully sold through it where other sites were unsuccessful. I have also noticed a recent ad campaign on London's underground, so while they are not currently as busy as their competitors, they could grow significantly in the future. One to watch.

Positives:
  • Local audience, better chance of picking up what you want
  • Ability to check and test out items before you buy
  • Opportunity to haggle a few quid off an item
  • Good for networking with likeminded people in the scene
  • Free to list items, free to buy items (ad supported)
  • Good online, mobile and app support
Negatives:
  • Majority of listings are for Face to face selling - personal security issue
  • A lot of listings duplicated on more popular sites like Gumtree
  • Limited audience if you are not in a built up area
  • Slower turnover of items due to limited userbase
  • Car needed if you want to travel distances to pick stuff up
www.preloved.co.uk

Sound On Sound



A website as old as I am, Sound On Sound is one of the longest running titles in the UK, having run a successful magazine and website that continues to this day. Their subject material is rather all encompassing, taking into account all manner of areas of music making, hardware, recording and so on (and well worth a read!), meaning that they also have a varied audience for their readers' advertisements section.

For medium and large budgets, as well as for more esoteric and rare synths, SoS' readers' ads is a real goldmine of different synths and if you are happy to organise private transactions over email and deal with the hassle of shipping without much protection or returns policy, this could be a good place for you.

Positives:
  • Great selection of items for medium to large budgets
  • Quite a few rare items
  • Keyboards and Synthesiser sections
  • Free to list items, free to buy items (ad supported)
Negatives:
  • Potentially expensive postage costs
  • Less likely to find a bargain as audience is very savvy
  • Issues with missing/damaged packages

And the rest...

Some other ideas that I have looked at briefly include:

Facebook Buy / Sell groups - varied results, need to belong to many buy/sell groups or specialist groups to get exposure to the listings you want.

Muffwiggler - dive into the world of buying and selling on the forum, but you do need to have a positive reputation beforehand.

Matrixsynth Classifieds - a very small number of classified ads, though sadly none in the UK.

Vivastreet - no listings for "synthesiser" and very few relevant ones for "keyboard".

Car Boot sales - your mileage may vary, but the only musical things I have ever picked up from a car boot sale has been cheap Casio and Yamaha keyboards, which are very basic and toy-like.

Got another suggestion for a site? Let me know!