Gear experiences: Who to buy from and who not to

I've been mulling this post over for quite some time. I'm not here to sell gear. I've stopped making demos of new gear I get or stuff I own because it's not my business. However, musicians spend a ton of money trying to get "the sound in our heads" and find new colors and approaches to best help us translate our art. So I thought I'd post about a few outstanding experiences I've had in the gear world and a few horrendous ones. 

First, the good ones. 

The companies that I've had the absolute best experiences dealing with and actually truly support musicians completely are Barefoot Pedals, Pigtronix, Trutone and Evidence cable. All four have outstanding customer support and back their products fully and completely. 

Donner Rusk at Bearfoot is a total mensch and he and Bjorn Juhl makes some of the most distinct, diverse and useful guitar pedals on the planet. They truly love music and musicians and they live for this stuff. The pleasure it gives them to hear musicians using their work is fun to watch. Huge props boys. Keep up the great work. 

Pigtronix similarly makes really complex, useful, ground-breaking and unique devices and my experience with them has been superb. They listen, update their products when possible and take care of stuff if and when it breaks down (c'mon, everything does once in a while). Fantastic. Cheers to David Koltai and crew. 

Trutone. What can I say about Trutone. They are the pinnacle of product and musician support. I went to Europe and ran into a case of needing special cables to make a certain pedal work. They shipped them out right away to me. For free. They wouldn't even accept shipping. Good god. Also, when I had some One Spot power supplies fail after a few years I sent them back to them AND THEY SENT ME 3 NEW ONES. FREE. Holy Christmas!! Talk about customer support. These folks deserve and award. A+++++ 

And speaking of awards, besides having world-class, award-winning cable technology Evidence Audio is there for you 100%. Why? When I had one of their cables started to fail (it still worked but the plug got a little wonky) they told me to send it in, sent me a new one right away within two days, and fixed the old one for free and sent that to me as well!! What?!?!? Customer service? What's that you say??? Well, there you go. First class all the way and first class human beings to boot. Later, when I considered that the I/O cable of my custom pedal board was darkening my tone vs. straight in the pedals I called them to talk about it. Three days later 20 feet of their highest quality cable showed up, again for free. Sheesh. A guy could get used to this!!! Amazing. 

So, support Evidence Audio, Truetone products (their pedals are great too), Pigtronix and and Bearfoot Pedals. I know I'm leaving some folks I think very highly of out but these are the four most outstanding examples so I hope my other comrades will forgive me. 

Now, for the bad and the ugly. 

I really can't recommend that you buy from Vintage King. Yeah, I know, they have the "cool factor" and they do a lot to cultivate that. I also genuinely like their sales people but their customer support is the pits. THE PITS. I bought a UA Apollo Twin interface from them last year (I had bought a few fairly high priced pedals before this so I had some experience with them). It never worked right. First off, the power supply was wonky and intermittent. They told me to contact UA (more on them later). They didn't respond right away and I thought I got it working so time goes by. However, the interface isn't really working properly. Something is amiss. By now I'm living in London. It turns out UA tells me the machine was a re-box and was registered to someone else. Vintage King says no. Still no new power supply. Eventually, after weeks and weeks of back and forth and losing a ton of expensive production time I had to let pass by, UA de-registers my unit, assigns it to me and sends me a new power supply. This whole time Vintage King is USELESS. I mean, truly worthless. They couldn't have been less help except they made me run circles around myself chasing the issue and interfacing with UA and....I'm out of breath. One of the worst experiences of my professional career. Never again Vintage King. It's funny too because a friend who owns a studio in Norway asked me to get them a new Pro Tools rig complete with 32 channels, etc. and it was gonna' cost over $25,000. Sorry Vintage King. You lose that sale. 

Now, let's get back to UA. 

Let me start by saying I really do like their products, in theory, and their plug ins are fantastic. Their customer support? Not so much. Here's why: 

Every time I had a problem, for almost three months by the way it was intermittent or I was shut down completely, it would take them 2-3 days, sometimes more, to get back to me. For full-time professionals that is unacceptable. So I deduce they are not a company for professionals but instead hobbyists. But I digress. This whole issue with my machine, from power supply to wrong registration, could have been solved in a week not three months. Ah, but that's not the worst offense. Dig this: When Windows 10 had the big update last August or September the machine stopped working altogether. What? What gives? So I do some checking on the web and find I'm not alone. So I go to the UA website and they have a post "whatever you do don't do the automatic new Windows 10 update".. OHHHHHHHHHHHHH, now you tell us! Could I have checked the UA website before the update (even though my computer does it automatically...). Could I have stopped it? Sure. But UA sends me marketing emails every dang day or at least every other day and they have your email when you register their product for you to access their customer support and web store but they can't send out an email warning of this issue? C'mon. I was born at night but it wasn't last night. The pits. I sold the machine the next day. Bye, bye UA. never more. I don't care how good people claim your product is. 

And one last gear purchasing caveat today for my friends in Europe or the UK: Don't buy from Thomann. They have the absolute slowest and worst return policy of any site I've ever bought from and if you know me you know I've bought a ton of gear. I had a problem with a brand new pedal and it took 2 months to replace and that was only after I got the manufacturer themselves to intervene. Trust me, there's tons of other, better, more friendly web stores to buy from with great return policies. Guitar Guitar in the UK is my first choice for instance. They have a no questions asked return policy and one day shipping. A+. There are plenty of others as well but avoid Thomann. It isn't worth the time or frustration. 

So there you have it friends. Big Ed's rant on gear but please share your stories as well. It's our money and time after all. 


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