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  1. #1
    Aging Smartass
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    This crazy business

    I learned the hard way, many years ago, that if I truly disliked a product the company I worked for was selling, it was best to keep my mouth shut and not voice my opinion, unless I wanted to write my own walking papers. Once that company goes away, either through bankruptcy or sheer mismanagement, then all bets are off. I've also written a number of threads describing some of the most staggeringly foolish products some of the companies I worked for made (the Stanton turntable for one example). I only recently came across a post from a Dave Moran (formerly of dbx) referring to me as the "ex sales guy" (which is correct) and wondering why I "have it in for dbx." That's not actually so, but I felt entirely justified to post a few threads on some of dbx's biggest blunders (at least sales-wise) despite the enthusiasm those products had from the engineers who designed them. First and foremost was the Soundfield 1a speaker, which to me, and many, many others was an ugly and very expensive speaker that simply didn't deliver sound quality commensurate with its price. The amount of engineering, and the excessive cost of that engineering, that went into the design of the speaker is a perfect example of money spent lavishly which was never recovered by the sale of the product. Another blunder, also posted by me, was the combination of the dbx BX-1 amplifier, and CX-1 preamplifier, each designed as " the best possible designs," but both over-engineered, troublesome and ridiculously expensive. I genuinely believed in these products initially, and was responsible for the largest number of pre-sold units prior to the actual delivery of these items. When the price of the amp went from $1,500 to $2,700, and the preamp from $1,000 to $1,500 - overnight, and just before a single item was shipped - all existing orders were cancelled, and even our most loyal dealers told us we "were nuts." These prices today may not seem excessive, but this was during the late 80's, and astronomical for the day. Still, a handful of loyal dbx dealers purchased the BX-1 and CX-1, only to claim afterwards that far less costly products from other companies (Adcom, in particular) sounded much better. After my own BX-1 crashed for the third time, I purchased Adcom products, and had to agree. dbx made outstanding professional products, and was the leader in its field at the time. I believe the Soundfield speaker project was intended to keep the consumer business afloat, and it did that quite well with two less expensive models: the SF-100 and the SF-1000, which were priced within reason, and actually sounded pretty good. Still, the complaints existed about ugly cosmetics and cheap drivers. The "solution," from an individual largely responsible for tanking the company, was to put costly (albeit very attractive) grilles on the speakers, and to build exceedingly complex trapezoidal-shaped solid wood bases. A truly idiotic scheme to put cast-aluminum trim rings around the drivers to give the impression that they were other than stamped speakers didn't fool anyone, but cost the company a fortune. The result was one of the best looking series of speakers in the business, but a ridiculous 50% price increase over the previous models, but with no sonic improvement. The inevitable result was a staggering drop in sales. At one point, Michael Kelly (currently, owner of Aerial Acoustics) was hired as president of the company, but then dbx was sold to Carillon Technology Inc. (CTI) who purposely ignored any of Michael's outstanding design ideas, and deliberately sunk the dbx Soundfield speaker project as well as all dbx signal processors. To his lasting credit, Michael resigned in protest over the manner in which CTI treated its people. The only worthwhile division left was the pro division and CTI sold that to Harmon International. I write all of this to let people know about some of the under-handed, and at times, downright dirty dealings that once were rampant in this industry, and because I think it makes for interesting reading. I know of too many companies that would still be around "if only" egomaniacal VP's and such didn't ruin them. Unfortunately, dbx was one of those companies. I should also like to point out that, for some reason, I'm unable to separate paragraphs while writing this, and so all of this looks a bit odd, going from one subject to another, without the appropriate indentation. Sorry 'bout that...

  2. #2
    Charm Thai™
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    I am currently in a similar situation where I have trouble backing the product the company I work for is making. Fortunately I am in a position of power where I have the leverage to drive change but we are years in the making for our web product and there are inherent problems in the architecture I just cannot comes to grips with. The vision is right but the execution has been really sloppy for a while. It's just so user-unfriendly that any enhancements or new feature sets I have the team develop just don't mean a damn to me. Kinda like dressing up a pig I guess.

    The only dbx product I own is the 120x and it has not disappointed.


  3. #3
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Arrogance, stupidity, and greed commonly occur together.

    I can bring to mind a couple of instance of corporate stupidity from my own experience. I was a business systems analyst who specialized in the accounting area for a number of years. In two cases the relevant companies undertook to install new general ledger computer systems.

    In the first case, contrary to the recommendation of me & the project manager, the company undertook a radical & massive project that cost over $6M, (about 3x what we suggested). Almost immediately the project was completed, the company was sold to another whose existing GL system as adopted and new, $6M one tossed in the trash can.

    Learning nothing seemingly from the preceding example, the acquiring company shortly undertook an even more grandiose & radical GL replacement project that would have cost $60M; (that's right $60,000,000 for a GL system plus some functionally minor fixes to up-stream systems). The is project was well under way but never completed because the erstwhile acquiring company was itself sold and the new acquiring company's GL system adopted.

    Now here's the rub: in both cases it is certainly true that senior management knew that their companies where on the auction block and likely to be sold, yet still elected to piss away over $60M of shareholders' money. (Anyone who thinks large scale waste is the exclusive problem of governments ought to think again.)

  4. #4
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    The hospital I use to work for needed to buy an electronic medical record system. They brought in 5 vendors for use to choose from. My colleague's and I picked the best system, which was the most expensive but also the system that other hospitals were using in the Twin Cities. The hospital administrator gave the Ok to buy it but eventually they changed their mind and bought the cheapest and one of the most user unfriendly systems which cannot interface with the other hospitals in town. Well, it is 3 years later and the hospital is ditching the system and going with the best and most expensive one that we picked out originally. The hospital is losing about 10 million dollars plus the cost of the new system along with the loss in revenue due to the decrease in productivity while the hospital staff is trying to learn a new system.
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  5. #5
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    emaidel,
    As a stupid owner of a SF-1 speaker, I absolutely agree with your assessment of the speaker. I love the concept of a phased array driver system that I could sit closer to the left speaker, but hear the right speaker just as loud. I thought the concept of trading phase for intensity was pretty ingenious. However, the speaker did not sound very good, and it certainly did not sound as good as the Walsh speakers which were also omnidirectional speakers.

    I also agree with you that the SF-100 and SF-1000 were better sounding speakers, but by the time they came around, I was soured by my experience with the SF-1's.

    When I opened my first studio, it was full of DBX processors as they were some of the best processors in the pro-audio business. The problem is their competitors passed them up when it comes to sound quality, flexibility and overall technology. To this day, they are still behind the times with their signal processors, and I(and everyone else I know with a studio) no longer own any of their products.

    Their current marketing schmeel says they are the choice of audio professionals for signal processing. Personally, I no longer think that is the case.
    Sir Terrence

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  6. #6
    Aging Smartass
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible View Post
    emaidel,
    When I opened my first studio, it was full of DBX processors as they were some of the best processors in the pro-audio business. The problem is their competitors passed them up when it comes to sound quality, flexibility and overall technology. To this day, they are still behind the times with their signal processors, and I(and everyone else I know with a studio) no longer own any of their products.

    Their current marketing schmeel says they are the choice of audio professionals for signal processing. Personally, I no longer think that is the case.
    Frankly, that surprises me, as, even though I was never directly involved with the pro division of the company, I always thought they were the "crème de la crème." Apparently, that's not so now, but the company has gone through so many different owners, one can hardly blame the original designers who, at least in my opinion, would have kept the company in the forefront of signal processing. I know that at least four of them have formed their own company, and are apparently doing quite well. Good for them.

    Why BSR bought dbx in 1983 forever remains a question, as the marketing principles of the two companies were diametrically opposed to one another. In the end, when CTI took things over, they just trashed whatever they felt like, and sold off the only worthwhile division - the pro division. Whatever exists today of dbx is in no way related to what the company once was.

    "And another one bites the dust."

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