Following a couple of very stressful weeks since my Digidesign Control 24 desk stopped working properly, I felt I should write in to warn other readers who may own a similar desk about what not to do if they ever experience a breakdown. I also need to vent some frustration!
I bought my Control 24 in November 2002 from reputable audio company 'X', and it's a great little interface which makes using my Pro Tools rig much easier. A couple of weeks ago however, I realised that the automated faders had stopped working and I called the company to ask their advice. They told me that the cause was likely to be a dodgy power supply inside the unit, a fairly common problem, and that the unit would have to be sent to their repair company. They said it was a simple problem to fix and fully covered by the warranty. As a small studio owner whose setup is based around the desk, I was worried about losing business and asked them to supply a replacement for the repair period. They said they didn't have another one, and that I would probably get the unit back in a couple of days anyway, so I accepted the situation. (Rick's Word of Warning 1: In his review of the unit in SOS March 2001, Paul White rightly pointed out that returning it for repair could be a potential hassle, and this is definitely something to consider when purchasing a desk if your livelihood depends on it.)
The company organised for a courier to pick up the unit and take it to their repair company, and told me to put the unit in its original box. I no longer had the original box, as it was accidentally thrown out by builders working on my house, who thought it was rubbish. (Rick's Word of Warning 2: Always keep the original box, and find a safe place to store it, even if you have to stick it in your gran's loft!) The company said that was fine, and that I should package up the unit as well as I could. I wrapped it in thick polythene sheeting, then three layers of industrial bubble wrap, and then boxed it up with a combination of cardboard and high-strength gaffer tape to form a thick box. The courier picked up the unit and that was that — or so I thought!
The next day I phoned to find out how everything was going, and was told that the repair company had received the unit but that it had been badly damaged in transit. The metal casing of the unit had been dented in several places, screws had been sheared off, and the packaging had been torn. They said it was also likely that some of the circuitry had been damaged, given the force that would have been necessary to create the dents. They told me I was looking at extensive repair costs that would not be covered by the warranty, and as good as called me an idiot for not sending the desk in its original box. They also told me it would take at least another two weeks to repair, which meant two more weeks' lost business.
A call to the courier was fruitless. Since I had not paid for the delivery, I could not make a claim. Another call to company X was equally disheartening — they told me they would pursue a claim with the courier, but that the courier would probably try to wriggle out of it by claiming the package was poorly protected. Even if they were successful in their claim, that particular courier pays out only £15 per kilogram on damaged goods. That would translate as about £300 compensation for a £5000 unit — not good news. (Rick's Word of Warning 3: If you do have to send a large, valuable bit of audio gear back for repair, I would always consider taking it there yourself, even if you do still have the original box.)
Next, I talked to a solicitor friend of mine who advised me that, technically speaking, company X were liable for the damage. Since they hired the courier, the damage to the desk essentially happened when it was in their care. He told me it would not be unreasonable to ask for a replacement desk. I did this, and was told in no uncertain terms that company X were not liable for the damage and that if I was serious about trying to force them to replace my desk then I would have to contact their solicitors directly, and prepare for an expensive and drawn-out dispute. They suggested instead that I check any insurance policies I had to see whether the desk was covered. (Rick's Word of Warning 4: Always contact your insurance company straight away to inform them of a new purchase you want to cover. This is something I had repeatedly put off. I had insurance on my other, older items but not the desk and when it came to the crunch, quite literally, I wasn't covered.) While all of these unpleasant phone calls and emails were bouncing to and fro, the repair company got back in touch and said that the desk was actually functioning OK following their replacement of the PSU, and that the damage to the desk was purely cosmetic!
I suppose I should be happy that the desk wasn't irrepairably damaged and that I'm not facing the prospect of lengthy legal proceedings. But I'm not. At the end of the day, I sent off a desk that was in pristine condition (bar a faulty PSU) and I'm getting one back that looks like it's been attacked with a sledgehammer. Sure, it works, but it's not exactly going to impress my clients. I'm also concerned that the desk might develop problems in the future, considering the battering it received. What's more, the repair company have declared that they "cannot be held responsible or accountable for any related failures that may arise subsequent to our handing over the C24 in question". There is nothing more I can do save to warn others about my experience.
I read Eric James' article on stereo microphone techniques in the March issue with interest, and have just finished a solo harpsichord recording of the Goldberg Variations using a pair of Sonodore RCM402 mics, Sonodore preamps and a Lucid 9624 A-D converter.
We were recording in a fairly reverberant country church close to Melbourne, Australia. The initial problem was reducing the mechanical noise of the instrument. After trying virtually every miking position, we ended up moving the instrument from a nicely resonant wooden floor to a carpeted one. This not only virtually eliminated the noise but also helped to focus the harpsichord's sound. We ended up using much the same A-B pair arrangement as described in the article, only with the mics spaced a little closer together.
The Sonodore mics have an excellent transient response, and are supplied with a constant voltage from their own power supply that can handle any sudden peaks. As they produce such a realistic sound, the quality of instrument, location and performance is of utmost importance. We were lucky enough to be recording a fine instrument in a nice location, and found the resulting recording had a pleasing stereo spread, with the harpsichord well centred yet with a sense of space around the instrument. Even listening to takes where you can hear a car driving past outside is a pleasure!
Thomas Grubb, Mano Musica