Digidesign: Why you NEVER should buy their products!

The story I’m about to tell you is such a great lesson in how NOT to take care of (or manage) your customers, I had to share it with you. Take from this what you will, but there are such obvious lessons here for all of us that it might be as informative for you as this experience has been for me.

Four months ago I wrote a post entitled, “My Digidesign Paper Weight…” ranting about my experience with the MBoxPro2 I purchased to drive a new, more powerful Shure SM7B microphone — and record client interviews, do voiceovers and other work — and at the time (more than two months after Apple had shipped Leopard), Digidesign couldn’t even hint at when they’d support this new operating system.

Since that post, this MBoxPro2 has been worthless to me since it no longer functions with any of my machines and, of course, imagine how agitated I am with a total investment of approximately $1,500 now gathering dust for months and months.

Over the last five months, I’ve been to their site dozens of times to check on the status of a Leopard upgrade. Never obvious and tough to find, I nonetheless did but found nothing. Since so much time had elapsed — and terribly unusual in today’s marketplace — I reached out to Digidesign Customer Support who twice responded to my queries with recommendations:

1) To downgrade to Apple’s old Tiger OS (but you know the cascading effect of upgrading an OS and all your applications which also would need to be ‘downgraded’) and I only have a Tiger upgrade disk in my office closet and Apple no longer sells it…making this ‘fix’ not an option.

2) After pointing this out, a few days later they then recommended I go out and buy a Tiger install disk and install the old OS on a bootable hard drive, reinstall all the relevant applications, Digidesign’s non-Leopard-compatible version of ProTools as well as all the ProTools-compatible plugins I purchased OR go out and buy an old Mac. If both of these options weren’t so ludicrous in putting the burden of additional investment and the time-to-install effort on me, the customer, I’d laugh.

Here’s where the obvious lessons come in from the unbelievably bad customer service job they’ve done — and are doing — and why you should NEVER give Digidesign any of your money…ever:

  • Digidesign doesn’t bother to communicate with their customers. They have my email, know all customers waiting for this Leopard upgrade, but the onus is on we, the customers, to go again-and-again to check their web site, the support forums, or contact Support in order to discover the latest update status!
  • When they do bother to communicate, they are very, very slow to respond. The afternoon of Tuesday, April 8th, I realize that I’d be needing audio gear this weekend and sent a support request in to Digidesign asking when Leopard support will arrive since it’s been OVER FIVE MONTHS SINCE LEOPARD SHIPPED. A reply shows up today, Friday April 11th, three business days later.
  • They’ve not realized that we’re living in a time of conversational marketing that makes it imperative that customers connect with actual humans. The email is completely anonymous, coming from “Digidesign Customer Service”, and whoever threw this out simply cut-n-pasted a copy of an open letter from Dave Lebolt, Digidesign General Manager, a letter which had already been posted on their Customer Support Forum on April 5th and I’d discovered myself after not hearing back from Support after two days.

Here’s my current state of mind when it comes to Digidesign:  I will never, ever buy one of their products again and will go out of my way to ensure no one else I know does either.

I suspect that there is a set of major software design problems at Digidesign, though I have no evidence to support that opinion. It’s just that I’ve seen this before like the alleged spaghetti code of the publishing software, Quark, that kept the company from innovating or even shipping upgrades in a timely fashion (plus, Quark people had the reputation of being supreme, arrogant a**holes and the company had notoriously horrible customer service…just like Digidesign does today).

So when will Digidesign ship a Leopard upgrade? How does a supposed EIGHT MONTHS from the time Leopard shipped strike you?

To quote the Digidesign GM, Dave Lebolt, from his letter I referenced above:  “We hope to have the new release within between 1 and 2 months from now; some of that timetable is contingent on Apple.”

Dave, hope is not a strategy or plan and you’ve lost my hope and me as a customer.

6 Comments

  1. Graeme on April 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I was in the same exact boat during the Jaguar to Panter switch with the exact problem, but I had the Mbox 1.

    Because of the keyboards I use and wanted to have a device with both Audio and MIDI input. I went to one of the Guitar Centers and saw the Focusrite Saffire.

    I may have done the wrong move and not looked in to it before hand, but I bought it and never thought twice about returning it.

    It may be a little bigger than the Mbox2, but you can use it as a firewire powered piece of hardware.

    But congrats on making the blog post. Digidesign is not what it was once thought to be!



  2. PXLated on April 11, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Hey Digi, welcome to Dell hell 🙂



  3. bvangen on April 12, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Let’s face it, you made a bad decision and didn’t do enough research before buying the product. Take some responsibility. Just because you wanted to upgrade all of your systems to Leopard right away, doesn’t mean you can demand Leopard support on your terms. The audio hardware market has always trailed Apple OS updates. You should have left one system running Tiger.



  4. Steve Borsch on April 12, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Will all due respect…give me a break.

    So you’re saying that five (estimated to be eight) months for an upgrade is somehow my fault?

    I’ve been at this game for over two decades and have LOTS of experience with Mac, Windows and innumerable applications for upgrading. So I get it.

    Name me ONE major peripherals company that estimates nearly three quarters after an OS upgrade before a current product will be supported. Imagine HP took more than half a year to release printer drivers.

    One more thing: Digidesign chose to support ProToolsHD with Leopard — which I understand since people make their living off of it in some cases — so it’s not like it can’t be done.



  5. Jim Haile on April 12, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I have to agree with bvangen. I’ve been using ProTools since version 6.0 and have always waited to upgrade my Apple Operating System until Digidesign released a compatible version. Apple is notoriously bad about third party application support. Just look at the iPhone; their SDK (third party software development kit) was released only two weeks ago, nearly a year after the iPhone’s release. Any user who wants their iPhone to work with MS Outlook (myself and millions of others) has been out of luck. I totally get why they started with HD leopard support (pro users) as it is likely the bulk of their business. As I am a pro user, it makes sense to me. 🙂
    You really should have done your research before buying the MBox. About a year ago, I bought my daughter a MacBook Pro and my first visit prior to purchase was to the Digidesign web site to make sure they had a compatible version with the Intel Mac. And there is a huge difference between HP releasing new print drivers and professional audio recording software. Kind of like comparing writing a blog to writing a novel.



  6. Steve Borsch on April 12, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    @Jim Haile: I need to beg to differ with you as well. Let’s talk “reasonable” because that’s the crux of my post: the nearly unbelievable length of time for an upgrade (eight months) and zero customer communication.

    I need to first mention that I’m flabbergasted that your position (and at the heart of your defense of Digidesign) is like that line from Animal House where Otter says, “Hey, you f**ked up. You trusted us!” Don’t know what work you do, but I’ll bet satisfying your customers keeps you in business and I’ll wager few customers would hang around and give you more of their money after the first time you made them wait for something critical and told them, “Ahh…it will take three more calendar quarters before we can get to it.”

    Oh yeah….and they had to contact YOU to find that out since you didn’t bother to reach out to them.

    1) “Apple is notoriously bad about third party application support.”
    This is counter to my experience but send me some links from developers that have voiced this opinion in any way (or provide any data at all since I’ve seen none) and I’ll change my mind.

    2) Once a major OS upgrade appears there is a cascading effect of application upgrades as you know. One either sits around for years with the old OS, or judiciously and carefully tests and upgrades or plans to do so when it becomes safe since a critical mass of vendors you rely upon are ready. The kicker? ALL of our other major vendors of equally (or more complex) product lines seem to get their stuff out in a reasonable timeframe (usually meaning within one quarter after the release of a major OS upgrade) and we just completed our cycle of Leopard upgrades throughout our entire shop.

    We’re in publishing and I count on vendors that communicate and I know will upgrade in a reasonable timeframe. We’re an Adobe Creative Suite shop and wait on OS upgrades for our systems until Adobe has announced or actually released theirs — and then test before investing thousands of dollars upgrading (ALL apps, not just Adobe’s). InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro, Dreamweaver, all are tools we use professionally and are mission-critical and we can count on Adobe and they send us upgrade info by email.

    3) Your remark about being a “pro user” is lame. Not that I am an audio geek, but who is to say that the MBoxPro2/ProTools LE isn’t a mission-critical product for me? Who says what you (or any ProToolsHD user for that matter) is doing with their setup that’s somehow more important than what I, or any MBox user, is doing with our gear?

    Did you know, for example, that the largest growing market for digital photography isn’t the professional market, it’s prosumers? How many lenses, camera bodies, copies of Aperture or Lightroom are sold, for example, to National Geo or NFL photographers? Just the two leaders, Canon and Nikon, sold 6.16M digital single lens reflex cameras in 2007 and these expensive models (sold primarily to prosumers) are drivers of peripherals (e.g., color printers, accessories, lights, the software mentioned above and much more).

    What if Canon told their 2.97M users that they’d done a firmware update just for the 567k so-called ‘pro’ users globally whose investments are formidable…but can’t possibly outweigh the more than 2M other owners.

    4) With regard to the iPhone, this is a just a weak analogy and not germane to this topic.

    5) With respect to “researching the MBox” prior to a purchase, where and with what? Contact the company and ask them if — once they ship a stable version — I’d have to NOT UPGRADE MY COMPUTER FOR EIGHT MONTHS? Or as you say, “go to the website” and do what? Troll through years of forum postings to see what happens when Apple does a major upgrade to the OS and count how many people are pissing-n-moaning in posts?

    Sorry Jim…my words stand as-is.



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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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