Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Organization? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Organization

I have a pair of Electro-Voice RE-18’s in the shop that need, I hope, minor repair. The RE-18 was one of the best handheld vocal microphones ever made by anyone in audio history. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it because I’ve owned about a dozen of these amazing tools and everyone has been terrific. Every vocalist I’ve taught to use the RE-18 has taken to the microphone like it was a revelation. Every FOH engineer I’ve convinced to try the RE-18 has fallen in love with the mics. Obviously, the RE-18 was doomed to failure in an industry where the SM58 is considered “good enough” when it is obviously barely competent as a talkback mic or a taxi company dispatcher’s desk mike.

When I wrote EV’s misnamed “Technical Services” about obtaining repair parts for the RE-18, the response was, “Unfortunately, we no longer have parts or service to support this series." Although this was a very good mic it was discontinued around 1990.” I, of course, knew all of that except for the non-existent parts supply and EV’s arbitrary decision to discontinue their lifetime warranty, “Also, these microphones are guaranteed without time limit against malfunction in the acoustic system due to defects in workmanship and material.” [Words taken right from the RE-18’s Product Manual.] That warranty was one of the reasons EV was able to ask a premium price on all of the RE Series microphones: $350 back when an SM58 had a street price of $75. Bosch, a German company, has no clue how to deal with customer service, manage quality, or produce a competent product: a typical condition for German companies. Nothing new here. If a German company didn’t totally hose up customer service functions, I’d be suspecting someone else actually owned the company.

evre16EV does, however, still make and sell the RE-16. Many of the RE-16;s parts are identical or close enough for practical purposes. After going around via email with the “we no longer have parts or service” Tech Service guy, I called Tech Services today. Same song and dance, except this guy knew he didn’t know much and really, really wanted to transfer me to “Parts.” Usually, I have had to go through Tech Service to get part numbers and/or assembly drawings. At EV/Bosch, Tech Service has none of that. In fact, I have to wonder what technical services Tech Services can provide without actual product information at hand.

Lucky for me, the woman who answered the parts call was, essentially, an actual Tech Services technician. We quickly identified the parts I wanted to buy, she priced them, she told me when I’d receive those parts (about 14 days), and took my order.

ev-re20-service-manual-coverAll of this hassle could have been easily resolved with a simple parts manual/service data sheet, like the one that is well-distributed and easily found for the RE-20. The fact that this information doesn’t seem to be even in-house at EV/Bosch is disturbing. A lot of companies seem to think manufacturing or service information is “proprietary” information. That philosophy is excessively customer-hostile and leads the company down a path of becoming known for lowered capabilities and lowered expectations from customers turns into lower performance. That results in lower price points because customers assume the company’s products are poor quality, poorly designed, poorly supported, and incompetently represented at all ends of the product chain. That is certainly what has happened to EV over the last 40 years. From a well-known, often used microphone supplier and technical resource in the early days through the 70’s, EV has slowly become a second tier company, mostly known for cheap knock-off microphones and with no real presence in the condenser market at all. In fact, the RE-20 is probably the company’s only well known, well respected microphone. That seems like a pretty serious problem.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.