Skip to main content

Beware of demos and used gear (even in a store)

Hi guys,

Here an interesting story :

A bit more than a year ago, I bought a Focusrite Liquid saffire 56. Arriving to the store, the salesman said his last unit was a demo and offered a nice rebate, so I thought I was lucky and took a bit of time to test it and it was all good.

I made a lot of tests the following weeks and was very happy. A band booked some time to record an album so I went and bought a new octopre to have enough inputs. Before they arrived I tested some recordings with all the mic inputs all at once to be sure my computer was ok with the new interface and track count and it when perfectly.

So the mic placement and levels were done and we started to record songs. On the 3rd song I lost the bass drum. First thought, I checked the cable, unplug and plug it and it was fine.
It happened 3 other times in the session and I was able to get the bass back by pushing the gain up and then back where it was. After I was done with the band I made many test to find out that when the first mic preamp did receive a low signal for a while, it would stop working.

Even if it's a demo, I returned the unit for warranty. The store sent it to a local service center (authorised for focusrite) and after two month they said there was nothing wrong with the unit. I was mad and explained what was happening and said it did it with any mic and many cables and only with that preamp. They finally said it was a loose connection inside and I got it back a month later (total of 3 months). All that time, I couldn't record a band, but I bought a used smaller unit as a backup and it had also some defective features. (but it's another story)

I got it back, did a few session and the problem returned. At that point I was mad at them but I wasn't gonna miss another 3 month of business, so I just decided not to use that preamp.

Last week I decided to revisit all my mics and new preamps to have a play to record my drum. At some point the preamp 3 on the 56 started to make a buzz and the recordings were all wrong. I looked for the invoice; the 1 yr warranty has expired. *&%/&(?%"$/?

I took my courage and dismounted the unit and cleaned up all the connectors and took an electronic cleaner to clean the switches and knobs. I was pretty sure it would not change anything but I had to try. It's a 1K ynit after all and I do not have the money to replace it right now.

I re-assemble it and tested it. At first, the noise was still there but after playing with the buttons (phantom, phase and pad) the noise went away.
I also tested the other defective preamp and it seem to be ok. I think I'm very lucky !
I hope it's not gonna fail again but I thought I'd share with you.

My conclusion:
I saved 250$ for the demo but how much business do you think I've lost while I was waiting for the repairs? Let me say it was way past that 250$

If you are to record customers, think about having a solid system that have a low fail rate or have a backup ready !


anonymous Sat, 09/20/2014 - 10:17

It's also important to have a dealer you can trust - and unfortunately, that's not exactly the easiest thing to find anymore.

I was lucky enough to grow up at a time and in a place where there were several stores in my region, well-stocked with current gear, and each of them were competing for the business of the pro musicians in the area - of which there used to be quite a few, back between '75 - '88 - when this area was still "hot".

In those days, it was much easier to make "friends" with those stores, their owners and the sales staff, who called you by name when you came into the store, knew the brand and gauge of strings you used, the size of drumsticks and your brand of heads, and who thought much more "long-term" in their customer relations. They wanted to cultivate repeat business with their clients.

I don't recall a single incident where I returned faulty gear from a local store that I had purchased from (even outside the warranty period) when it wasn't either immediately replaced with no questions asked, or, ordered new as a replacement for me from the factory - and - the stores would even give me something similar to use, if it was going to take time to replace - at no charge, btw.

You're hard-pressed to get that kind of service anymore. Most sales staff that I encounter these days are in it for "the NOW sale", and couldn't care less about whether you are happy or not, or whether you will return or not. You'd think that with the huge numbers of online stores, that your local dealers - even if they are one of the big stores - would be doing everything they possibly could to get your business... but it certainly doesn't appear that way.

In your case, they should REALLY be bending over backwards to help you and make you happy, because you're a PRO and not just some kid who visits a music store once, drops a couple hundred on a cheap guitar, gets bored with it and never goes back. You have a reputation, you have clients, and it's obvious that you spend money on good caliber gear. You're not a one-time customer or a fly-by-nighter. And they should know better than to treat you like one. How do they know that in the next few years you won't be dropping 50 grand on gear? Based on your history, there's much more chance of that happening than you not doing that. If I were a dealer in your area (and yes, I've worked music retail several times over the years) I'd be doing everything I could to make sure you were happy. But, then again, I was always one of those sales reps who thought quite a bit further into the future than just to my next paycheck. ;)

I hope you're finally working with gear that is performing as it's supposed to. It sucks to have gear auger in in the middle of a session.

Good luck Marco. ;)


audiokid Sat, 09/20/2014 - 10:34

Thats the shits indeed. I rarely buy used unless its from people like me ;) or stores that will guarantee stellar condition backed up by them or manufacturer just in case. Get it in writing.

A few years back I sold 4 brand new Kel mics to a member here. I never even cracked the boxes. When they arrived, 2 of the 4 were faulty. Thankfully the manufacturer replaced them for him ( cause they knew we had a forum!) but it was still time out for this member and embarrassing for me , not to mention a royal PITA to wait around, rebox and ship. Gas and time is money too.
I do believe that manufacturer is now out of business ( no wonder), more china crap that looks like a deal but is it really?

The only way we are going to reduce this is by making noise. No one wants bad press.

pcrecord Sat, 09/20/2014 - 15:14

I know what it is to work in a store, I was an associate in a renting/selling live gear for a few years and after that in a computer store.
I never address them as a hysteric fart. I'm always polite and try to smile even when things go wrong. So, you could say I'm not looking for troubles and I'm the kind of customer I liked.
Thing is, they didn't offer a replacement and I can't say neither the store nor the service center did a good job to help me.
I can understand it was a intermitent problem but in doubt I would have change the unit.
This happened with a mid level unit and I could have judged the Focusrite line on that experience. But I won't ! Lucky for them I know it is possible that the store had this unit for testing mics for years and it's them who went down on my chart for not telling me.
I'm not used to call names on the public place, but in Montreal, Archambault store won't get more money from me !!

I bought 2 ISA two from other stores and they are wonderfull. (But they were brand new)

anonymous Sun, 09/21/2014 - 00:36

I think that Focusrite should be made aware of the problem(s) you had with the store. If the store you purchased from is an authorized Focusrite dealer, then FR would want to know if they are being represented poorly.

Some manufacturers have very specific terms when it comes to choosing stores to be authorized dealers of their product, and they have guidelines not only for wht prices they should be sold, but also as to how their products are to be sold in terms of demo models, warranties, etc.

I remember years ago, working at a music store that had obtained the status of being authorized to sell Alesis gear. The hot piece that particular year was the SR16 drum machine. Terms and conditions were that no store could advertise a sale price of any kind on these models. The store I worked at did just that, and within a week, Alesis pulled their entire line from the store, which really sucked for the store because within 3 months of having the line pulled, the Adat was released...those things were selling like crazy, everywhere... and we couldn't sell it, all because the boss had broken the dealership agreement.

I guess what I'm saying is that you should let Focusrite know what occurred. I'm not making a guarantee that they would do anything, but, it's pretty much guaranteed that they won't if they don't know about it.



Josh Conley Sun, 09/21/2014 - 04:42

so where are you guys buying and selling your new/gear these days?

if its something i have to buy new im getting it from jrr shop because they offer a 10% discount to uad forum members. which is quite nice.

other than that, i only buy used stuff from forum "regulars" like you guys.
guitar ctr is for "need it now" stuff like cables and strings

pcrecord Sun, 09/21/2014 - 06:16

Don't get me wrong, I had some good experiences with used gear. My LA-610 came from a random guy on ebay and I'm quite impress with the quality. (of course they are workhorse that could last forever...)
My Mytek AD96, also from ebay, works perfectly except for a tinny spot on the gain knob. I just avoid that spot and I'm ok. At some point I'll find the part to fix it.

I had a terrible experience with a M-Audio Project mix. I went to the guy's house and he was bold enough not to tell me that 75% the buttons weren't working correctly. I tested the preamps and the sliders, everything seemed fine. Once at home, the play, stop, most of the solo and other fonctions were not working. I had to replace all those button's switches. Now I keep it as a backup unit.

I once bought an electric guitar at a pawnshop, an old charvel for 150$. It was missing strings and the knobs were very noisy, but it had an authentic floyd rose on it. I cleaned it up and sent it to be ajusted and used it for a while. 2 yrs later I sold it for 300$

I may take the time to write to Focusrite. Just to let them know and clear my conscience.

kmetal Sat, 09/27/2014 - 05:02

I don't use sweetwater anymore in general because they sold me an mbox, it didn't work for one reason or another, after months they finally took it back, lost it, and wouldn't refund the money. I faxed them a copy of the USPS reciept and everything, nothing. And I had spent thousands, w this particular "sales engineer" as they call them. They finally after another 4 or five months broke down, and sent me m audio $100 interface, as a constellation prize. I had already bought another interface from a store, months before this. I lost $300 bucks. That's a lot of Raman noodles!

Mail order I feel like works almost all the time, but when it doesn't, like how I've been for a big box online sector to send me my $900 saw for almost 2 months now, it really doesn't work well. I've never had a prob w amazon. I don't like eBay, it's not like it was when it started and you got crazy deals, it's been a regulated market for a while. Plus I hate pay pal in my business lol. I go to a couple local music shops, or craigslist.

Certain things, especially instruments, I have to play first. Each one is different. I wouldn't mail order a guitar in general.

I like to buy new as mich as possible, on electronics, or delicate mics, and just use them for a long time to get my money's worth. At some point what I would have saved buying used becomes kinda insignificant. Instruments besides synths and stuff I couldn't fix, who cares, used new, doesn't matter, you can tell when they're right for ya.

Stands, equipment boxes, effects lights, barroom pa gear, comes cheap used, and 57s and dbx 166xls, vlzs, are a dime a dozen, any may have a dent or a busted knob, but usually consistently good at what they are meant to do. Loose jacks, little things like that, are fairly easy fixes usually.

A guy I know always used to buy the unit he demoed, not the in box or another one. He wanted that one he liked. He always says by the one you tried and like.

anonymous Sat, 09/27/2014 - 06:57

"They finally after another 4 or five months broke down, and sent me m audio $100 interface, as a (constellation) CONSOLATION prize."

fixed. ;)

Sorry Kyle... it's not my intention to be the grammar police. ;)

When we respond to posts, all of us type fairly quickly while engaging in contextual thought; so, from time to time, we're all a bit guilty of using questionable grammar in our posts.

But, the English Major in me simply couldn't let that one slip by. Unless of course, you were referring to Sweetwater giving you Orion's Belt or The Big Dipper. LOL


Josh Conley Sun, 10/19/2014 - 08:54

to add to the list of experiences buying used, there is this new chain of stores that opened a location just up the road a piece, Music Go Round. the name reminds me of the clothing store from the 80's Merry Go Round ;) They buy and sell used gear.

so i decided to check it out. the owner was a nice guy, so i traded my echo audiofire 8 and audiofire 12 and 52$ for a gibson epiphone sg (i looked up the serial number, made in 2002 in korea) plus a gig bag. having seen too many episodes of that pawn show, i thought it was a fair trade and i was clear and up front that the headphone jack on the af8 was blown out.
so i wasnt too surprised when the loose output jack on the sg turned out to be an incorrectly sized and cross threaded nut. a new and properly sized tightened it back up nicely. the rest of the wiring is solid and in tact. volume pot on the neck is scratchy, but im sure it can be cleaned... once i get a can of cleaner ;)

so 4/5 stars.

kmetal Mon, 10/20/2014 - 05:00

I bought a used 6505 combo in like new condition used it a few times, put it in a reasonable storage spot, piled it out recently about a year later worked for a few hours, then faded out, no sound. If I think I'm gonna keep something for the long haul i buy it new usually. Otherwise ive had decent luck w used stuff. But I've seen a lot of other people used stuff break too, so really it's case by case. A used 57 or acoustic is much different than a used digital mixer, or some other delicate electronics thing.

anonymous Mon, 10/20/2014 - 05:12

Sometimes you get lucky.

A colleague of mine purchased a Leslie cabinet a few years back from a musician's bargain basement type of store; I think it was the 145 model, with the static driver and rotating horn. The driver didn't work, the horn(s) did but they wouldn't turn. He paid $100 for it.

He took it home, replaced the driver for around $100 and lubed the horn. Both worked fine after a little maintenance. His total investment was around $200, which included the original price he paid for the cab and the parts/repairs he made.

I'm pretty sure that cabinet - in average working condition - is priced around $1200 these days on the used market... maybe more.

He got very lucky.

Me? I'm still scouring yard and garage sales hoping to find a Telefunken ELAM.

And the search continues. ;)