When a Customer Gets Screwed - Bad Pennies in Audio

This morning I got a call from an old audio acquaintance. He's 82, a retired Army staff sergeant, and he's been an audiophile since the days of the original Infinity Servo-statik (which he owned). He is in short, to use a phrase you don't often hear directed at a Staff Sargent, a "mench" and I would trust him with my life. 

And he had just been screwed by a high-end audio company. 

AR-pic of bad penny2.jpgThe $6500 USB DAC, which he had recently purchased was not working with his PC using Windows 7, and a standard driver. His dealer couldn't solve the problem and the manufacturer's customer support had deteriorated to "Sorry, we can't do anything for you." Imagine a Jeff Probst voice just after you lost the reward challenge... 

My advice to him was "sell it." For all we know it might, just might, work perfectly for the next guy or gal, maybe. Yes, he will lose money. But at the end of the day sometimes you just want XXXX that doesn't work GONE. Worst case scenario he nets $.40 on the dollar to what he paid, that's still walkin' away with $2600. I can think of at least a 1/2 dozen USB DACs I've reviewed during the past two years alone that are really exemplary, and they are all UNDER $2000. And all with solid customer support who answer questions from end-users in a timely manner. 

AR-bad penny3.jpgNow somewhere out there in cyberspace some of you less charitable types (like me on a bad day) might be thinking "this guy deserved what he got because he went for the obscure tweaky product instead of something from a more well-established company." And I see exactly where you are coming from. 

But in high-performance audio I've noticed that more often than not it is the little guys and the more obscure firms that are create some of the best sounding and highest value audio gear. And they are often one guy or two guys who just happen to have figured IT out. Whatever the particular sonic IT they chose to focus on... 

But for $6500, or more than $1000 for that matter, I expect a company to support its products in the field. Especially when it comes to USB DACs a company must support end-users - and it's so easy with a decent website and email support. And if all else fails, a company needs to put on their big-boy pants and repair or replace - just like the warranty says... 

AR-bad penny4.jpgSo, I feel bad for a fellow audiophile who is not enjoying his hobby because he made a bad choice, that like the proverbial bad penny, keeps hopping into and burning his pocket. 

And the irony is that 99% of the industry is made up of great people who love what they do and bust hump to do what they do as expertly as humanly possible. Slacker, supportless audio firms usually don't last long, thank the powers that be. And NO I'm not naming names. But I would recommend directing a question or two to an audio firm's support folks before making any sizable audio purchase to see how they respond. If they leave you hanging at the beginning, most likely they will leave you hung by the end... 

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