You are here

Log in or register to post comments
jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Manufacturer's setup of review samples

I've yet to see this pet peeve of mine addressed in this RnR section - you're reading an equipment review in one the high end audio magazines and the reviewer is recounting about how the team from the factory worked so hard to get the equipment setup just right in his listening room. Wow, that's great! But then there is no mention of whether this outstanding treatment is extented to all customers or just those whose opinions will be published in a major audio magazine.

Now I can understand the need for setup assistance when the equipment under review is a mega-buck 100+ pound statement speaker system but many times the equipment under review is far from this level of performance or cost and still the manufacturer feels the need to give things that personal touch. Gee, that's so great, I can't even get the UPS guy to put the package inside my doorway!!

My suggestion - full disclosure of exactly just how much setup assistance comes with the listed purchase price of the equipment, either via the factory or the dealer. If setup will cost the buyer extra then state that as well.

For all of those Stereophile readers out there, just how many of you have ever had any manufacturer come into your home to setup a newly purchased piece of equipment?

Kal Rubinson
Kal Rubinson's picture
Offline
Last seen: 7 hours 16 min ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:34am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

Of course, for the consumer, it very much depends on whom you buy from, even with the same equipment. Also, do not assume that assistance in installation means much more than delivery and unpacking.

Kal

jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples


Quote:
Of course, for the consumer, it very much depends on whom you buy from, even with the same equipment. Also, do not assume that assistance in installation means much more than delivery and unpacking.

Sounds like a cop out to me. "Delivery and unpacking", even for something as simple as a power amp can be involved and time consuming, not to mention the dangers of possible damage to the equipment due to mishandling.

Look, I don't begrudge you your "special" treatment, I would just like to know if the same treatment is available to the reader and at what cost. Is that so much to ask?

Plus there are things to be gained from the manufacturers and dealers by disclosing whether these services are available, namely the always popular used high end market would come to viewed in a different light. If part of the cost of mega-buck piece of equipment included in-home dealer or factory setup and that fact was clearly stated in a well respected magazine review, then the price for a used piece of that equipment would have to reflect the lose of that service.

These are all things that we, the readers of your magazine, need to make informed buying decisions. Suppose in-home setup is included in the price but the local dealer somehow "forgets" that is it? Should'nt we know about it? Come on guys, I'm not asking for a lot here, a couple of lines of type and you're done.

stereophillips
stereophillips's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 13 2005 - 10:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

As I'm pretty sure Jazzfan knows, the number of manufacturers who include set-up service as part of the purchase price is pretty close to a null set. It's certainly rare enough that I'll mention it if I ever come upon an example of it.

In my experience, manufacturers coming by to "set-up" gear falls under plausible deniability -- meaning that they want to be able to say, "yeah, I heard my system at Wes' house and it did suck. His room is inadequate." I have learned to prevent this from happening by asking, "Does this sound like it's supposed to?"

I'd much rather have my audio buddies help me install gear. It's not work (and trust me, having manufacturers invade my personal space is work, even if they are nice) and I don't have to clean the house first.

It's not that most manufacturers aren't pleasant people, but I've never understood why this is thought of as a big treat. If it happens during office hours, it cuts into time I could spend writing something, which is the only activity I do that actually generates income. If it happens after hours, it cuts into time I could spend with my wife. Besides, nine times out of ten, I have to undo a lot of the "work" manufacturers have put into making my system sound like they want it to. If I let them change things too much all at once, it invalidates my comparison with my baseline.

I once had a manufacturer invade my home for three solid days "tweaking" his products. He insisted my interconnects were inadequate and brought special imported silver cables that cost about $30k to wire my system. He didn't like the Class-A preamp I had in the system -- his preference was at the photographer's getting snapped for the cover -- and none of the power amps I had on hand were top-notch enough for him. He insisted I use a special tube monoblock that used a tube nobody but the manufacturer could get. IIRC, he didn't like either of my reference CD players, either. That visit essentially cost him a Class-A recommendation, since he convinced me that his product could only perform with a frustratingly specific (and 'spensive) set of ancillary components. Consumers who did not have to endure that kind of "special treatment" were generally quite enthusiastic about his product, however.

stereophillips
stereophillips's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 13 2005 - 10:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

Lest anybody think my last post falls into "Poor poor pitiful me" territory, I'm not asking for sympathy because my job requires me to do a few things that qualify as "work." That wasn't my point -- all I'm saying is that the manufacturer visit is a double edged sword. As a writer, I'm probably more misanthropic than the average audiophile. I actually prefer sitting alone in my listening room to having to talk to strangers. And audio manufacturers -- like audio critics and audiophiles -- are stranger than most.

jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

Wes that was a very amusing reply and while it did shed some new light on the issue, i.e. how an in-home visit from a manufacturer might not be all it's cracked up to be, you also managed to dance around the issue with addressing my concerns. And unlike the moderators in a political debate, I'm not just going to let you slide on by.

So let me repeat, I fully understand why a manufacturer would want to "assist" a reviewer with the delivery and setup of their equipment during the review process and I also understand how sometimes this "assistance" can be a less than pleasant experience, but that's not always how it it appears in the final printed review. Not your reviews, but then again you are not the only equipment reviewer out there. So why can't small disclaimers be added to the reviews stating that the in-home setup afforded the reviewer by the manufacturer/dealer is/is not a normal part of the purchase price of the equipment but is/is not available for an additional fee. What is so hard difficult about that?

Kal Rubinson
Kal Rubinson's picture
Offline
Last seen: 7 hours 16 min ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:34am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples


Quote:

Quote:
Of course, for the consumer, it very much depends on whom you buy from, even with the same equipment. Also, do not assume that assistance in installation means much more than delivery and unpacking.

Sounds like a cop out to me. "Delivery and unpacking", even for something as simple as a power amp can be involved and time consuming, not to mention the dangers of possible damage to the equipment due to mishandling.

Not a cop-out. I have never seen anything in print that says that the buyer is entitled to delivery, unpacking and/or installation. Despite that, there are pieces of equipment that I, as a retail consumer, would expect to come with all of those services, simply as a consequence of size and cost. At the end, it is something that appears to be determined by the retailer and, if you believe you should be getting a service that the retailer seems to be unwilling to provide, you can always ask the manufacturer.

Frankly, as a reviewer, I would rather have packing and pickup rather than unpacking and installation. ;-)

Kal (who crated up 260lbs of amplifier last night)

jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

All right guys, now the gloves are going to have to come off. I'm going to look through some of my back issue of Stereophile and find some of the reviews that I seem to remember where equipment with less than "monster" price tags and weights were setup in the reviewer's homes by the manufacturers.

Like I keep repeating, if you are buying $50K statement speakers I can understand the dealer or manufacturer helping with the setup but I find it quite a stretch to believe that for a pair of $5,000 or even $10,000 speakers and I know that I read reviews were the manufacturer or one their representatives have assisted the reviewer in the setup of equipment in the $5K to $10K price range.

And again I ask, if this little piece of information (full disclosure) helps to make your readers more informed, then why the resistance?

stereophillips
stereophillips's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 13 2005 - 10:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples


Quote:
And unlike the moderators in a political debate, I'm not just going to let you slide on by. <snip> So why can't small disclaimers be added to the reviews stating that the in-home setup afforded the reviewer by the manufacturer/dealer is/is not a normal part of the purchase price of the equipment but is/is not available for an additional fee. What is so hard difficult about that?

Well, I did say I'd indicate it if I ever came across it. (-;

Basically, I think it's not necessary to say that manufacturers don't visit every customer. When they do -- that's news and ought to be reported. As I indicated to you in a personal email on another subject, I think the real shame is how little service the majority of high-end dealers offer these days.

My local bike shop wouldn't dream of selling me a bike that it hadn't set up to my needs. They flat out wouldn't sell me a bike in a box. When I walked in to buy a cheap fixed gear bike, Tom Kim refused, telling me I'd blow out a knee (his exact words were "at your age . . ."). He found me a road bike that I had assumed was out of my price range and worked a trade with its owner, which garnered my bike's old owner the bike of his dreams (and me mine). That major bit of service sold one customer a $6k bike and another (me) a $2k bike. All three of us came away happy.

That kind of service used to be typical in high-end audio, but is rare these days. If I had an audio store that steered me away from products it thought wouldn't make me happy and went the extra mile to score me stuff it believed in -- or to set up what it sold me the way Tom Kim does at Verrazano Bikes -- I'd be a customer for life.

Okay, that's a bit off-topic for manufacturers treating reviewers well by setting up gear for them, but I think that personal service ought to be provided by the dealer, anyway. And the way reviews are set up, we reviewers don't have a dealer.

Of course, neither do most audiophiles these days. One reason a lot of us became interested in the high-end in the first place was precisely that it wasn't business as usual. Loaners, set-up assistance, tube-testing, personal tweaking all used to be part of what dealers offered. Of course, you don't get all of that and the lowest price nationwide, too. But I don't blame consumers for focusing on price when there's no difference between the service a local dealer provides and that of a trans-shipper. Tom Kim went the extra mile for me, so I pay a buck or two more for my Polar water bottles and Campagnolo compact crank. He's earned 'em.

I don't think a manufacturer visit is a big deal, but I think the fact that most audiophiles will never have a dealer visit is -- and I can assure you that tomorrow my picture will be gracing dartboards in audio stores everywhere for having said so.

Kal Rubinson
Kal Rubinson's picture
Offline
Last seen: 7 hours 16 min ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:34am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples


Quote:
All right guys, now the gloves are going to have to come off. I'm going to look through some of my back issue of Stereophile and find some of the reviews that I seem to remember where equipment with less than "monster" price tags and weights were setup in the reviewer's homes by the manufacturers.

Like I keep repeating, if you are buying $50K statement speakers I can understand the dealer or manufacturer helping with the setup but I find it quite a stretch to believe that for a pair of $5,000 or even $10,000 speakers and I know that I read reviews were the manufacturer or one their representatives have assisted the reviewer in the setup of equipment in the $5K to $10K price range.

And again I ask, if this little piece of information (full disclosure) helps to make your readers more informed, then why the resistance?

You seem to think we are holding something back. On the contrary, we are revealing that the manufacturers, in fact, did help us with delivery/unpacking/setup lest other readers find out and accuse us of hiding this.

Do not assume that any components come with home services required by the manufacturers and do not assume that the setup 'help' we get is always advantageous. Component price has nothing to do with the latter; only the personality of the manufacturer.

Kal

300Binary
300Binary's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 10:47am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

Nobody has ever set up any portion of my system. Nobody ever will, unless my health gets even worse
Stuff written in magazines to impress other magazines induces jealousy and envy in impressionable readers. Relax, this is a hobby, not a political investigation. Sigh. The high drama of some people's imagination ... let us be brutally frank, people just buy whatever they think they can afford, whenever they think they can afford it, and then make up ultimate voodoo legends while they listen and grow It is all harmless BS. Price has no point ... even at 99% discount!

And whether product X sounds better than some other that costs twice as much is really important, too

Did you hear the one about the fancy turntable demo where the MFGR cabled two phono preamps in series? Life in the Faust lane ...

Costin
Costin's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 2 2005 - 3:14am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

Each and every piece of equipment I own was delivered, unpacked and setup by the dealer (well, except for the tuner but it was my option to carry it home personally from the showroom).

This summer I decided my house needed to be repainted. The dealer sent two salespeople to uninstall my system and store everything neatly in the original boxes (they handled the gear as if it was china). When the time came to put everything together again the dealer came in person to guide the same salespeople through the snakepit of cables and proper setup.

My cost? Nothing (zero) for the dealer. When asked about the salespeople that worked after regular office hours, the dealer's answer was "Well give them whatever you see fit".

No, it's not Dreamland - it's being a loyal customer for over seven years. And believe me, this kind of service beats any money I could have saved buying over the 'net.

jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples

Thank you Costin for your post. It's reading about experiences like yours that really help to open up my eyes to many different possibilities out there as far as equipment purchase and set up are concerned.

As for myself, I've been assembling and disassembling my stereo systems since my college days back in the early 1970's and don't mind messing with the wires. I do, however, get a bit overwhelmed with things such as proper system matching (which pre-amp likes sliver cables and which one likes super thin high purity copper, etc) and when I read about how Mr. Manufacturer bought over his special wires or recommended brand X cables to a reviewer, yes I get a little peeved.

Anyway, I'm quite glad to read that you have found a local dealer who is more than willing to work with you in a relationship which appears to benefit both of you quite nicely.

Kal Rubinson
Kal Rubinson's picture
Offline
Last seen: 7 hours 16 min ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:34am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples


Quote:
....and when I read about how Mr. Manufacturer bought over his special wires or recommended brand X cables to a reviewer, yes I get a little peeved.

Aha! You know, this has nothing to do with reviewers but with communication between consumer and manufacturer. If you are contemplating the addition of a new component, you should definitely ask the manufacturer for suggestions about matching and connecting. They, especially the smaller ones, are often very forthcoming about their preferences, particularly if it is not for publication!

So, why should you get so all heated up that the reviewer in question told readers something of potential added value?

Kal

jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Re: Manufacturer's setup of review samples


Quote:
So, why should you get so all heated up that the reviewer in question told readers something of potential added value?

Kal,

As I may have stated earlier there are many equipment reviewers who do not raise my hackles when they write about the assistance given to them by the manufacturer and then there are those reviewers who's tone just sets one's blood aboil. (If it's any consolation, you, Wes and most of Stereophile fall squarely into the first group.)

And yes, you are quite right about many manufacturers being more than willing to discuss their product with an owner vis-a-vis system matching or tweaking or upgrading. This I know from first hand experience with more than one manufacturer.

So while my initial postings may have been a bit too harsh, the ensuing dialog has been quite rewarding. To recap what has been learned:

Reviewers have to deal with the manufacturers (for the most part) since there are no dealers to speak of.

An in-home visit by a manufacturer is not all it's cracked up to be.

The best way for the consumer to get similiar in-home service is through a local dealer. It's up to the consumer to decide if the added cost is worth the added service.

And lastly, many times the manufacturer and/or dealer is available to assist the consumer with answers and advice as far as set up and other questions about their equipment is concerned.

I thank you and Wes for your time and help in setting me straight.

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading