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Semi-OT: Sweetwater vs Vintage King? (For non-location audio stuff)


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I have my preferred dealers for location-audio equipment (usual suspects here). But for post equipment, I don't have established relationships with any local or online dealers.

 

Sweetwater I've bought from in the past. But I'm hearing less-than-great things about recent after-sales support. So as I get ready to make a couple big-for-me purchases, I wonder if I should check out another dealer. Such at Vintage King.

 

I know this is more of a Gearspace question, but I don't want hundreds of responses. So I ask here: Does anyone have any strong feelings pro or con about Sweetwater these days (ie- after a private-equity firm became major owner)? And same for Vintage King: Any strong pro or con feelings about them?

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Jim, things may have changed. YMMV etc.

I only know what happened when I ordered a Digi002 Protools interface from SW back in the day. Before they even shipped it, some guy started calling, and kept calling weekly “to make sure that I had everything I needed”, trying to sell all kinds of stuff to go along with the 002 …. from cables to mics to external pre-amps, speakers, sound proofing etc etc.

Yeah…. that was quite a while ago, but it turned me off so much that I would never consider buying from them again.

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Yes, SW does kind of keep after you.  But I had pretty good luck with them otherwise.  Ditto VK--they were a little more hands-on about complex shipping issues and they are into real vintage gear in a big way if that interests you, w/o any pitching afterwards.  SW is a general shop--I think they deal with a lot of amateur musicians, sells guitars etc..  VK is more of a pro audio dealer I'd say.

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The thing that keeps me going to Sweetwater is the 2-Year warranty. A few times I had things go bad and they just shipped me a new one. I understand that some people get annoyed when their “personal” salesperson calls, but I don’t find it too intrusive. I have even had lovely conversations when they call.

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Thanks everyone. Really helpful. I used to have what I considered a good handle on the different markets SW & VK were after. But now SW lists big $100,000+++ SSL, API, and Neve consoles in their website (perhaps just window dressing; not sure how many they move). And VK sells inexpensive non-vintage guitar pedals. Smart moves for both companies, I think.

 

But since SW got bought, or invested in, a couple years ago, the calls from them have stepped up. Perhaps there's more pressure on their sales engineers to hit specific revenue targets. But I feel like they're trying to close sales more than help me make intelligent purchases with the added goal of making me a long-term customer. Not evil; that's business. But SW generates fewer warm fuzzies than it used to.

 

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Thanks again. Glad to hear that people's VK experiences (and most SW experiences) are good.

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  • 1 month later...

I've been a customer of SW for quite a few years. They have been great IMO. Customer services has always been top notch. I've bought some demo gear in the past, a couple times was received damaged. They replaced with brand new gear...No question! The ONLY call I get from them is an after-sale call thanking me for the sale and offering assistance. I have never gotten another call from them otherwise in all my years.

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  • 10 months later...

Jim Freely, I will answer all your questions but I need to share an experience I had with both Sweetwater and Vintage King, although a slight lengthy I hope that it is rewarding when you reach the end because you will see the approach of both companies through their salespersons, and even a little bit about purchasing power most of consumers do not know they have.

 

First and foremost, do not pay retail at either one of them (Sweet vs Vintage). I did for sometime like everyone else until I joined AMP, The Association of Music Producers, who have as part of their benefits to members contacts in both places to give you some real sweet pricing. At Sweetwater they have a well known gentleman by the name of Judd Goldrich who handles artist relations and sales at Sweetwater. Great guy, extremely responsive, and when I reached out to him he was on vacation and sent me a message within an hour of emailing him letting me know that he would be in touch upon his return but if it was a pressing matter to contact another person he provided. Long story short, I never got a chance to establish a client relationship with Judd as he discovered upon his return that  I had already been a Sweetwater customer and had a Sales Engineer assigned to me. It is Sweetwater's policy to pair you for life practically with that individual. Not wanting to miss out on discounts I asked Judd if my current Sales Engineer Nick Ozden could still provide to me the special AMP member rate. Judd stated that Nick would not be aware of the rates he gives AMP because they are not in a sense known throughout the company, these are deals he works out for them. Then he added the words that did not go well with me at the moment "But Nick can get you great pricing also."  That I am honestly going to say at the moment sounded like some cliche. I through some emails expressed to Judd and Nick that I was not very impressed with Sweetwater's policy, and in my mind convinced that I was going to get some discount from Nick, but it would never be what Judd gives other AMP members, and truthfully who knows in reality.

I then went to Vintage King, since AMP had another contact (like Judd in SW) there named Sam Routheaux. I started with explaining to Sam why I was seeking to start a new relationship elsewhere and some of what happened at Sweetwater. I also explained that I do spend in a year about 50K in pro Audio gear (and growing yearly) so definitely was looking to seek competitive pricing. Sam assured me that he was up to task. But Sam wanted to first see a quote that Sweetwater had been working for me. 

During this time two things happened that changed the whole course of dynamics and presented a clear winner. Nick Ozden called me on a Friday afternoon while I was bringing into my studio a gorgeous Fender Rhoades I had just purchased. Nick stated that he called just to check up on some purchases that I had made and to touch base. As we talked I brought up the subject of the past few weeks and how that had left me as a consumer feeling, with no real trust in Sweetwater as to the pricing I was going to get was even going to be a real attempt to save me money or some whitewashed attempt to keep my business. Nick did not really press it too hard and just left the conversation at if I wanted a quote he gave me his word that he would try to get me the best pricing possible. Here is where he also stated to me that aside from AMP, he would have tried to quote me better pricing on some of my purchases but in the past I had bought at retail and NEVER HAD ASKED PRIOR TO SALE for a better price, which he would have tried to do even if AMP was not in the mix.

I decided to test pricing, and made a list of items I had been viewing to get in the next few months. The list had a total of retail as advertised on their website of $9824.93, Nick's pricing was $8279.82 on the quote he provided, that was a $1545.11 off with tax. I thought if I could have saved $1500.00 average per purchase in a year I would be looking at roughly $6,00.00 or more in total savings. That got my attention. Some of Nicks items were getting $750.00 discounts almost (like an SSL Pure Drive Octo) but on big items I saw savings all around. Another example was API 312 Preamps (500 series) which I was buying 3 were getting $183.00 each in savings. After adding more items and having the quote revised two more times, it took Nick to finalize me a quote. Savings were up there and generous.

I contacted Sam to see what he could offer on these same items. He did 3 things that steered my decision and were completely the deciding factor.

The first is that he beat the quote but only after requesting to see his competitors quote. Sam should read the confidentiality clause in his email which he should in a way try to also work with some integrity and give it a shot without having to compare how low he could really go by using competitors pricing as his litmus. No one has time to be rounding quotes for a salesperson every time they have to make a purchase. At that point I should get a larger discount for doing all his leg work. 

Second point against Sam was that he only beat the quote by subtracting a few dollars here and a few there. If I probably went back to Nick, I guarantee you he would have answered the same way, but here is where I realized Nick was giving me some real good over the top pricing or Sam was only willing to take off marginal discounts. Either way I started gaining some real respect for Nick, who did not ask, mentioned, or even seemed to be concerned with what his competitors were doing.

Finally, the last item that turned me off to Vintage King was that Sam criticized a cabling choice that Sweetwater quoted stating "We don't carry those because they are not very good but we have a better and slightly more expensive option that in the end would be better" - that item is on VK website listed retail at the same price as Sweetwater. 

When Sam realized he did not get the quote he asked me twice once through email and once though a voice call why did he not get the quote, and wanting to know where I purchased and the factor that lead to my decision. My reply was a competitor and as I explained to him earlier that I was not thrilled with the way he never has provided me with any pricing of his own unless he first had a quote to compare with. 

To me Sweetwater is the clear winner, but here is a question I have for everyone reading this. Have you even tried to ask your rep for a discount? No BS, I am sure a serious company that want to keep your business will not be afraid to offer discount whether a member of an organization or not.

 

Gerardo

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