US retailer lets you virtually audition speakers online before you buy

Crutchfield SpeakerCompare: virtually audition speakers online before you buy
(Image credit: Crutchfield)

The 'try before you buy' phenomenon has been largely muted by the rise of online shopping. Even a clothing store's Try Before You Buy service involves you having to wait for clothes to be delivered before you can try them on. Well, US electronics retailer Crutchfield is offering a way round such an innate impracticality of online shopping with its newly-launched SpeakerCompare service.

Integrated into the retailer's website, the online service aims to allow you to compare multiple home and car speakers simply using the website and a connected pair of headphones or speakers.

Naturally, the quality of sound you hear will depend on your source – laptop, phone...? – and the speakers or headphones you've connected. Of course, it won't take into account your home acoustics either. But the tool will, as designed, give you a taste of a speaker's sonic characteristics. How sensitive is the speaker? Does it err more on the rich or neutral side? Is it a bass fiend?

Once you've selected the speaker(s) you want to audition, the tool asks you to select your brand and model of headphones so it can tailor the experience ("remove any sonic coloring"). Don't have a pair in the dropdown list? For $25 you can rent Crutchfield’s SpeakerCompare Listening Kit, which includes a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro over-ear headphones, the AudioQuest DragonFly Black DAC/headphone amp, a $25 merchandise credit, mobile adapters for iOS and Android, and a guide to getting the most out of your listening session.

Will it really work? Well that's up to you to decide. 

Of course, those wanting a true and tactile demo experience can of course order the old fashioned way and, if needed, take advantage of Crutchfield's 60-day money-back guarantee...


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.