My Digidesign paper weight…

A cautionary tale for those of you who rely on vendors of product upon which you depend for your livelihood.

This morning I sat down in front of my three month old audio setup: a Digidesign MBox2Pro ($800); Shure SM7B microphone ($350); and my Macbook Pro loaded with all sorts of software (~$300); (all worth roughly $1,400-$1,600 in order to do a voiceover for a product I’m shipping this coming week.

When booting the software (ProTools LE) I got an error message that it couldn’t find the Digidesign hardware. “No worries, it’s a driver issue probably due to a Leopard incompatibitlity, and they’ll surely have an update on their site” I thought since it had been about two months since I used the Digidesign hardware and about seven weeks since I installed Leopard on all of my machines, including the Macbook Pro I use for audio work.

Digidesign still doesn’t support Leopard, seven weeks after it shipped. Since so many of my other applications have been upgraded, I can’t downgrade Mac OS X just because Digidesign doesn’t have their act together, so I’ve got a big, expensive blue-faced paperweight.

If audio was my main business or completely mission-critical, I’d have a dedicated machine for it and would’ve waited on upgrading to Leopard. But since every other vendor I rely on (e.g., Adobe with the Creative Suite) and even scanners and other devices already supported, I assumed (wrongly) that a vendor upon which so many have invested large sums and rely upon would have their act together.

I won’t even get into the issues with hosted applications (e.g., Twitter’s outage yesterday or Skype’s recent multi-day meltdown) and the trepidation many of my clients, family and friends experience.  Today’s experience of mine is but one more reason to tread cautiously with any technology you’ve bet your business or product on and make no assumptions about support.

On Saturday, 12/15/07, I submitted this to Digidesign via their tech support web page:

Please give a concise description of the problem:
It’s been four weeks since I’ve used my MBoxPro2/Pro Tools setup and in the interim I upgraded all the machines at home and the office to Leopard. Much to my dismay, I just discovered you don’t yet support Leopard and thus booting ProTools gives an “Unable to locate the Digidesign hardware” error message.

After digging around your site this morning — at a time when I had intended to use that time and energy to create a product that must ship on Tuesday — I see that you don’t yet support Leopard so I’m totally screwed!

So I have a roughly $1,400 investment in your products,  a microphone, Ozone and other plugins and all is unusable.

Pointing fingers at Apple is undoubtedly justified, but I need to know a window of time in which you WILL deliver an upgraded set of drivers? I’ve been using both Mac’s and PC’s for over 20 years and the lag time of an update (between an OS upgrade and a major vendor like Digidesign delivering) that I’m experiencing is really troublesome and has made me second-guess the wisdom of investing in your products.

Today, 12/18/07, I receive this back from Digidesign (Note to marketing and PR people…this is NOT how to respond to a customer dismayed over the lack of support for their major investment in your products which are now unusable. It’s clear some customer service person took roughly 30 seconds to dash off this email):

Customer Service <techsup2@mail2.digidesign.com>    
Tue, Dec 18, 2007 at 1:19 AM
To: xxxxxx@xxxx.com

Hi,

We do not have any preliminary compatibility or product information it is not possible to give you a projected release date.  I know it is a priority and we are working on it.

Leopard OS is not currently supported. You need to rollback to a version of Mac OS that supports your Mac and current version of Pro Tools LE. If you need assistance with this you will need to contact Apple.

You can find compatibility information (computers, hard drives, operating systems, requirements, etc.) in the Support section of the website under Compatibility:

http://www.digidesign.com/compato/

Information about support for leopard OS will posted are our site as it becomes available.

Best regards,
Digidesign Technical Support

So….do you think I will either:

a) Buy another Digidesign product?

b) Recommend others do so?

If you answered “yes” to either I regret to inform you that you failed this multiple choice question.

UPDATE on 12/23/07: Digidesign tech support and I have gone back-n-forth in a couple of emails. Their suggestions?:

1) A second suggestion to downgrade to Tiger which, I explained fully, is not an option since so many other applications have already been upgraded to take advantage of Leopard

2) Their final suggestion was to use Boot Camp to partition my hard drive, load a copy of Tiger on it, re-install Digidesign ProTools, all my plugins and so on. That is so laughingly stupid since it would take a few HOURS to do so and I’d have to re-register the plugins.

Why didn’t they just say, “We don’t support it yet so why don’t YOU expend alot of effort so we don’t have to?”

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5 Comments

  1. Geoff on December 16, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    This is par for the course with Digidesign – they do ship updates but not quickly. Once Apple went to Interl macs the update was a $80 paid update. This is one reason I’ve avoided Digidesign (the other is cost) and gone to a Presonus Inspire instead. Pro Tools is a DRM system – you have to have a Pro Tools qualifing device just to run the software.
    Presonus is currently supporting core audio so when Leopard came out I didn’t have to update anything at all. So I use the Presonus Inspire with Amadeus Pro ($40 and covers all the bases I need) and GarageBand

    Good luck. If you are really stuck email me and I’ll let you record in my humble home studio in St. Paul



  2. Steve Borsch on December 16, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for the kind offer Geoff!

    Scratching my head over why they don’t support CoreAudio fully and be done with it. I’ve got other solutions here that I am already using but have the Digidesign/mic/software solution optimized so that with it I can achieve (though an audio engineer would argue with me) nearly 80-85% of what I hear from MN Public Radio out of my humble home studio.



  3. Geoff on December 16, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Well software shouldn’t effect sound quality – just mic and mic preamp, limiting background noise, etc….

    Good luck!



  4. Youareawesome on April 20, 2008 at 12:12 am

    You’re a retard for updating your OS and assuming your Digi hardware would still work. Just use Garageband – it’s made for prosumers such as yourself. Keep up the good work!



  5. Truethat on December 26, 2008 at 5:24 am

    This is a classic case of “look before you leap”. The hardware and software industries run at different paces – all you needed to do was check their website first! Setting up a Tiger partition on your machine is not that big a job either and would be a perfect solution to your problem…



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