In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Category: electronics Page 3 of 10

Emotiva replies

You will recall that I sent a letter to Emotiva Audio Corporation detailing the failure of the USP‑1 stereo pre-amplifier I purchased from them, as well as the exact sequence of events their support people took to diagnose and (fail to) fix the problem. In addition, I printed the letter and sent it via Canada Post/USPS. I received a response yesterday via e‑mail (names redacted):

Subject: Emotiva Letter
Date: March 15, 2013 6:24:02 PM EDT
To: <>

Hi Rick,

We have received your letter regarding your USP‑1. I am very sorry for the issues you have had with your unit. We are going to send you a quality checked brand new unit on Monday. Please let me know if you have any questions.

xxxxx xxxxx
Accounting Department
Emotiva Audio Corporation

I haven’t replied. Something bothered me about the message. The result is what I want, a working pre-amp, but there’s something about this resolution that just didn’t sit quite right.

Coincidentally, today’s episode of Under the Influence was named “Tales of Customer Service.” While listening, everything fell into place and I understood the reasons for my unease.

In Emotiva’s reply to me, they stated that they’ll do exactly what they must. They will replace my non-functioning USP‑1 with another that works. You’d think this would be the desired outcome, but it’s not. After not having the use of the pre-amp for ten months, while going through entirely ineffective channels to get it fixed, then finally having to get angry enough go through my records to assemble a timeline of the entire customer service clusterfuck and make my extreme displeasure known, the response is lacking.

Part of the reason is my own fault. I thought Emotiva was different. They’re a lean company that sells well-crafted audio equipment only on-line at very good prices. They also have their staff, including the company owner and product designers, participating in the forums on their website. They came across to me as a cool company, a different company. The message above, in just four sentences, reverses all the work they’ve done to make themselves stand out and makes me feel foolish for having believed it.

Look at the response. They’re sorry the pre-amp broke. This would have been a good thing to say when I first reported the problem in May. There’s no mention of the complete failure of their support process to deal with it. In fact, based on this reply, I’m given no reason to think my experience is anything but ordinary.

It’s also clear that the company is not at all different in the way that I thought they were. I entered into a business transaction with them, and they’re simply fulfilling their end of the contract. Nothing more. My happiness is not a factor in the transaction. I’m especially surprised because all the ‘eyes’ on their website come from the few ads they buy and word-of-mouth. I would think genuinely happy customers, and not merely satisfied customers, would be a big priority because happy customers generate the kind of word-of-mouth that ads can’t. They feel a relationship with the company. A caring and cool company keeps customers coming back, and bringing their friends.

Rather than telling all my friends, I find myself without reason to complain, and every company should know this feeling does nothing to generate sales. After such an experience at their hands, their doing only what’s required will bring this issue to a close and nothing more. Doing the absolute minimum tells me they don’t care that my experience was such a disaster and that could very well happen the next time I have a problem with their equipment.

Simply, there is no hint of “Holy crap, we really screwed up …” in their reply, never mind “… and we’ll make it up to you.”

Why would I consider their equipment in the future?

[Update: Emotiva wrap-up]


Ever wonder why they named the short-range wireless communication protocol ‘Bluetooth’? I have, but I never thought to look it up. Then I hear on an episode of Cash Cab that it was named for a king of Norway or something. How does that make any sense? The site sorts it out:

‘Bluetooth’ was the code name for the SIG when it was first formed and the name stuck. The name “Bluetooth” is actually very old! It is from the 10th century Danish King Harald Blåtand — or Harold Bluetooth in English. King Blåtand was instrumental in uniting warring factions in parts of what is now Norway, Sweden and Denmark — just as Bluetooth technology is designed to allow collaboration between different business sectors such as the computing, mobile phones and automotive industries.

The story doesn’t end there. According to the Wikipedia entry on Bluetooth, the logo is a combination of Harald’s initials in Younger Futhark runes. The particular runes are Hagall and Bjarkan, respectively, as you see to the left.


Logo and runes courtesy of Wikipedia.

Emotiva’s USP‑1: fail

[my address]
March 1, 2013
Emotiva Audio Corporation
135 SE Parkway Court
Franklin, Tennessee
United States, 37064

Dear Emotiva,

I’ve purchased four pieces of equipment from you over the last three years and have been pleased with most of them. I’m having a problem now with the USP‑1 and the stunningly lacklustre support I received after it failed on me. Let me give you the whole timeline without the technical details so you can understand my disappointment:

June 2011 — I bought a USP‑1.

May 2012 — The USP‑1 failed. It produced no sound but the front panel illumination worked as normal. After talking with Matt and having a look inside, I found a fuse had blown. Matt told me it was a 10a, 250v slow-blow fuse.

I could not find a glass fuse with this rating anywhere in town. With the summer coming on, and my frustration at the trouble of searching with no results, I let it slide for a while.

October 10, 2012 — I wrote back after having to order the fuse by mail. Replacing it did not solve the problem. Vincent told me he wasn’t sure of the next step, but someone would get back to me as soon as possible.

October 21, 2012 — Not having heard anything, I wrote back. Vincent told me he had handed the case over to the lead tech and he’d be getting back to me.

October 24, 2012 — Joe wrote me to confirm the fuse I bought was a 1a, 250v slow-blow, which it was not. Matt gave me the wrong information, which is probably why no electrical/electronic supply house in town had a fuse with that rating.

October 25, 2012 — After installing the 1 amp fuse, I replied to Joe to report that the behaviour of the USP‑1 had not changed.

October 26, 2012 — Joe told me he would be sending me a replacement relay board, and that it should take care of the problem.

November 12, 2012 — I received the board and installed it. My message to Joe reported that there still was no change in behaviour.

November 20, 2012 — I wrote again because I had received no reply. Joe replied that he was still trying to sort out the issue, and that it was ‘perplexing.’

As of today, three months later, I haven’t heard back from Joe. Not a word.

November 22, 2012 — Approaching the problem from a different angle, I wrote to your customer service department with another possible solution. I asked if I could return the USP‑1 for credit, and purchase an XSP‑1 to replace it. I’m sure it was an unusual request, but things were going no-where with fixing the USP‑1 I had.

November 26, 2012 — Nick replied stating that there is no exchange program for pre‑amps. I wasn’t asking about an exchange program but rather trying to suggest a reasonable solution for a badly deteriorating service issue. No such luck. Further, Nick’s message then asked if I’d contacted technical support. Since my message stated that I had in the second sentence, I can only assume that Nick had not bothered to really read what I had said.

And that’s where we stand today.

I worked as a technical support rep for four years and my experience is that a tech support rep would at minimum get a talking-to if they treated a customer this way. Setting the customer’s expectation and then meeting it doesn’t seem to have been on customer service’s or technical support’s radar. I don’t even get the impression that the people I’ve talked too particularly care.

Yes, you’ve got good prices and good gear, but I’ve always been of the opinion that a customer only really sees what a company is made of when things go wrong. I’m sorry to say that this not poor support, but closer to no support. You say all the right words in selling the equipment, but I’d caution anyone against buying from Emotiva because my experience is that they’ll be entirely on their own should the equipment fail.

After all this, you can certainly understand that I’m not convinced that you know what customer service even is. How could you when your support manager thinks it’s perfectly fine to leave a customer with non-functional (and fully paid-for) equipment for three months (and counting) with no communication?

Poor show, Emotiva. Poor show.

I’ve tried working with support. I’ve tried suggesting another solution. I’ve tried waiting. None have taken me any closer to a solution. So now I’m asking, what do you suggest as a solution to this problem?


Rick Pali


[Update: Emotiva replies]

Hard drive strangeness

When I bought my NAS device, I bought a few Western Digital Green drives to use with it. I wasn’t about to pay the price-premium required for enterprise-class drives! Then, within two weeks, Western Digital released their series of Red drives, which are designed specifically for home and small-office NAS systems. It figures. I bought the Green drives and I was going to use them, damn it!

Except I didn’t. There are a few things that make me uneasy about using the Green drives for my NAS, including that they’re not designed for a 24/7 duty-cycle. So I replaced them with Red drives.

The Green drives sat around until recently when I decided that I’d retire a pair of 1.5 TB Green drives and use two 3.0 TB Green drives in their place. They still had the NAS formatting but I thought that would be simple to remove. I was wrong! No matter what I did, both the PC and the Mac reported a maximum size of 746 GB. I spent half a day troubleshooting the issue. I even wrote to the NAS manufacturer and asked how the heck to undo their device’s formatting. It had to be the formatting because it’s only these drives have this issue, and surely, if my drive dock supported 2 TB drives and no larger, I’d see 2 TB capacity.

Things started to fall into place when I corrected one of them directly to my Windows machine via the internal SATA cable. The PC recognized the drive as being 3 TB in size, and formatted it just fine. So I thought I’d format them that way, and they’d be fine in the dock. It turns out that I never got that far. I did note that I had eliminated the dock as a variable so maybe it was the issue. While the second drive was formatting, I decided to have a look at the Western Digital message board. It couldn’t be the USB dock, but I’d satisfy my curiosity.

As you may have already guessed, it was the dock. Why does it report 764 GB? Older and cheaper drive docks that do not support anything larger than 2 TB are limited to 32 bit logical block addresses. Support for 3 TB drives requires more than 32 bits … so when the computer queries the drive about its maximum size, the dock can’t handle the entire answer and strips the first digit of the number of blocks (in hex). The result, when converted to base-ten is 746.5 GB.

Sure, now it makes sense!

I bought a new hard drive dock and everything works as it should.

Photographing birthdays

Among my family and friends, September is the month most densely packed with birthdays. Last weekend was my mom’s birthday as I said in my last post, and yesterday I had the pleasure of attend Lori and Rustin’s son’s birthday.

The party was at one of those family amusement places designed for this purpose. They’ve got laser tag, bumper cars, a climbing wall, all sorts of arcade games, and similar such activities. I took pictures and with the extended ISO range of the 5D3 (as compared to the 30D, at least), I was eager to take some photos in conditions that were too dark for my previous camera.

Our hostess invited me to watch the laser tag match without participating and I enthusiastically accepted. Here’s the birthday-boy firing at his mom, who’s standing beside me:

4M6C0780.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 17–40mm 1:4L @ 40mm, 1/40, f/4, 25600 ISO

4M6C0780.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 17 – 40mm 1:4L @ 40mm, 1/40, f/4, 25600 ISO

Not only was there a lack of light, but what little light I had in the laser tag area worked against me. Fluorescent black light was the only light source. I’ll never complain about tungsten lighting again!

4M6C0780.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 17–40mm 1:4L @ 40mm, 1/20, f/4, 25600 ISOLori stood beside me because she decided to take a break from the mayhem. Despite it not earning her any points, she felt free to ‘fill me with photons’ as she approached a moment earlier.

The image to the right is quite soft because the shutter speed is 1/20 of a second, without image stabilization. The photo isn’t bad, considering. This also explains why the beam expands so much as it crosses the room. The slow shutter allows plenty of time to capture any movement of the beam during the exposure.

Except the shutter speed, all the exposure settings are the same as the previous image.

The kids all had fun, and that was the most important thing. I took some photos that I’m pleased with and that’s nice, too.

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