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Should You Save Or Trash Your AV Boxes?

by Jerry Del Colliano February 19, 2021

In a perfect world, we would save all of our equipment boxes, knowing that, as audio/video enthusiasts, we are likely to want to upgrade our system at some time in the future. The concept of having an original box can add real-world value to a good used AV component, as I learned when I found a vintage 1964 McIntosh 225 tube amp, with not just the original box, but also the manual and the actual receipt from back in the day. The amp, even after an extensive restoration by Audio Classics (they are great for McIntosh work and much more) in upstate New York, wasn’t really something that I had room for in my collection. When I sold the amp after writing about my Wayne Carini “Chasing Classic Cars barn-find experience, the collector in Japan who bought the it loved the fact that the amp had all of its original patina, as well as packaging.

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Storing cardboard boxes is a problematic challenge, in that not all of us have the space to do so in our homes. If you have room in a garage or basement, that is great, but not all of us have such options, especially here in California. Water damage or overall decay can be an issue, especially in basements. Storage units or “Pods” can be a good way to go, but in bigger cities, they can be very costly. Simply put, AV boxes are very important, but they can be a true conundrum to deal with.

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When I moved into my latest home in California, my dear friend, audiophile writer Brian Kahn, was kind enough to lend me a three-channel MartinLogan speaker system, as the buyer of my old home actually wooed me into selling him my beloved Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers thus I was a speaker-less soul. Brian reviewed the gorgeous, bird’s-eye maple (with brushed aluminum hardware) hybrid electrostatic speakers years ago for my former publication, and basically had them sitting around, so he generously said, “If you send a truck to get them, you can borrow the speakers.” He even had the boxes that he had stashed at his mother’s house for more than 10 years, and they were in perfect condition. If you can imagine the shape of these MartinLogan speakers – they are very unique and very fragile, because of the curved electrostatic panel on top of the woofer “box” below. The upper panel is installed at an angle, making these speakers anything but a rectangular box. I sent a service to get the speakers from Brian, as they would never fit into my SUV without multiple trips. My contractor helped me unbox them, and took the boxes up to my garage, where he (without me knowing) threw the boxes out with a load of construction trash the very next day. This officially makes me the single worst audiophile friend in the history of the planet Earth. I couldn’t have felt worse, and told Brian that not only was I sorry, but that I would sell the speakers for him when the time came, and that I would find a professional solution for the boxes. COVID came first, and I sat on the speakers for a good long time, even though they weren’t a great fit for my new room, because I needed a speaker with a wide dispersion and, with all due respect to these MartinLogans, that’s not their strength as a speaker. When the time came to sell the speakers, I called my highly trusted shipping expert in Santa Monica, California, and sent him photos of the speakers, weights, value, and more for a quote for a potential buyer on the other side of the country. For the custom boxes alone, he quoted $675, and the shipping via truck (meaning a week plus to get there) was going to be even more. This was a good 20 percent of the value of the speakers. Ultimately, I was able to find someone locally who didn’t need the boxes and who wanted the matching center channel speaker. He came over to my place with a “toy hauler” normally used for his Harley Davidson motorcycles, but on that day, they transported the MartinLogans back to his Southern California listening room. Crisis thankfully averted.

You might be thinking: why did you need to have a professional company make your boxes for you when you can order a box and packing materials at a fraction of the cost online and do it yourself? Trust me friends, you do NOT want to go down this path. I have story after story of issues with AV boxes. Two houses ago, right before I moved, I sold my Paradigm Signature S8 speakers after having procured fresh boxes and packing from the company. In an act of blatant laziness, I hired the local Los Angeles Paradigm dealer to come over and pack them and take them to the FedEx drop-off for me. To my utter shock and disgust, the speakers arrived unexpectedly at my office (that was the address on my FedEx label) literally destroyed. One speaker didn’t have a box at all. The other speaker had half of a box, and was simply bashed to bits. I immediately called in a claim with FedEx, and what did they do? They tried to fight me. Of course, they did, as this is an insurance claim and that’s what insurance companies do – they fight you. I had the facts on my side and a good amount of money (never short yourself on the insurance value of your products when you sell and ship them) coming my way. I was able to buy a brand-new pair from Paradigm, and send them to the buyer, who was cool enough to not throw a hissy fit over the delay. Hell, he got a fresh pair of $9,000 speakers for a fraction of that price, thus it was likely worth the wait. On the other hand, if I had not handled the shipping like a pro and gotten new boxes, insured them for enough money, and had the dealer pack them, I could have been in for a big fight, which I could have lost.

In the case of shipping the vintage McIntosh 225 amp, I bought a new, larger box and foam for maybe $25 to pack the amp safely. It is very much worth your time and money to have the shipping company mark up the box on you before you ship it, as it puts the liability on them – not you. They are professional shippers, and make a big margin on selling you boxes, but that is a small price to pay to save you the grief of getting blamed for not packing something correctly, when you and I both know that you know how to pack a pair of speakers or some electronics correctly. The powers that be will argue the contrary. Count on it.

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My conundrum today is that I have replaced Brian’s MartinLogans with brand-spanking-new Revel F-228 BEs in white. They look better in the room, and sound better on many levels, but the boxes are sitting on my treadmill in the garage, with no good place to store them for the next God-knows-how-many-years. Could they be damaged over time? Sure, they can. Is it worth paying for a Pod or storage? Not in Los Angeles or anywhere close, it isn’t. Since they are traditional rectangles and Harman (Revel) isn’t likely going anywhere, I could try the same move that I did with the Paradigm speakers, i.e., getting new boxes. If that won’t work, I can go to my source in Santa Monica to box them professionally in the event that I can’t sell them locally. In the real world, giving a “hometown discount” to a buyer is likely very worth the money, especially in a post-COVID world, if we can imagine one of those right about now. Another complicating factor is actually trashing my perfectly good Revel boxes and packaging, which might take a few weeks to jam into my one blue recycling can. Nothing is ever that easy.

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Not long after I moved into my new home, I had a professional organizational company that works only in garages add in very creative storage solutions in places like above where my car is parked. AV component boxes fix up there nicely, and solve this issue perfectly and easily. Will the Revel boxes fit up there? I don’t think so, but I likely could do some measurements, and remove a few items that could get the Marie Kondo treatment on eBay, thus creating a little more space, and possibly putting a few bucks in my pocket.

Everyone’s situation is different with boxes. In a past life, I had an audiophile reviewer who covered very expensive electronics for me on the toney Upper East Side of Manhattan. When he did the reviews, he arranged to have the boxes shipped back to the company, or taken to a dealer, until he was done, as his 925-square-foot, beautifully redone co-op simply couldn’t accommodate the extra boxes that came with a Mark Levinson DAC or an Audio Research tube preamp. If I lived near my mother, like Brian Kahn does, I could use her empty basement to stash boxes. I would work to keep them slightly above the floor, so as to avoid a once-in-a-decade water issue but a few 2x4s and perhaps some scrap plywood could accomplish that. In my case, here in California, I think that I am going to roll the dice on the Revel boxes, as shipping to and from Pennsylvania isn’t very green, nor is it very cost-effective.

The moral of the story is to never go cheap on your boxes, and/or shipping of your AV equipment. That $11,000 Fujitsu 720p plasma TV from 2009 isn’t worth $11 today, thus is more of an E-waste problem than a shipping concern. Therefore, you should toss television boxes. That $11,000 Krell stereo preamp from roughly the same era is likely still worth a pretty penny, and you want to protect your best interests, investment, and buyer on the other side of the deal. Use the best boxes you can find, and look to bring in professionals to help offset your shipping liabilities. You will never be sorry putting a little extra time, money, and effort into your AV shipping as you continue in your audiophile and videophile journey.

 

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