[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

Re: The ongoing saga of Oberheim


Thanks for your comments. You are not anyone's scapegoat for "stopping the
production line" of Echoplexes. I would characterize your particular
situation as more of a catalyst.

You see, the temptation is great on my part to try to resolve as many
problems as quickly as I can. I have been playing guitar for 22 years (I'm
35), I have worked in music stores as a salesman and purchaser, I have
worked at Gibson in sales and marketing of the USA and Custom Shop
divisions. This does not give me any particular expertise in anything, but
I do know what satisfying a customer entails. The level of "service"
provided by Oberheim up until this point is unacceptable to me. I can't
bear to be associated with such blatant mediocrity and I do not wish to
continue the trends of the past.

When I was asked to transfer to this division, I have to believe it was
because I have shown past success and resolving problems and getting things
in order. If Oberheim was indeed guilty of half of what you warned everyone
off of, we would have never met. I would be much too busy duping more
people into buying our completely defective product and letting them rot on
the repair shelf- at least then I could show my boss some new sales income.
You must be aware by now that my focus is elsewhere. It is on you and
everyone like you who may have a problem with their Echoplex. I certainly
have other duties, but I doubt if I have better things to do.

What you may not be aware of is that Oberheim currently consists of two and
a half employees: Keith Paul, Pat Murphy and me. We share Pat's Customer
Service help with our drum division, Slingerland. That's it...there are no
more employees. There is no bureaucracy of MBA'd suits roaming through the
halls of some cavernous office. We are, however, in the process of
recruiting and hiring the necessary manpower to get the product flowing

We are still using the sub-contractors that have been assembling the
Echoplex in the past. We are drafting improvements to make the assembly of
the Echoplex a turkey operation - this means that we place an order for an
Echoplex from one source and get a completed and tested Echoplex in return.
At present, the process is a bit more convoluted. With Kim's valuable
input, we are making the appropriate changes.

The reason I am refining our "fully operational" target date is to avoid
any further temptation on our part to prematurely solve long-standing
problems. We will accept units for upgrades (by "quick fix" I meant a
service that takes little time to perform, not "makeshift repair"), due to
the fact that Kim has trained our borrowed tech on the necessary 

Explaining why things were so screwed up in the past is really not going to
make you feel better or allow us to move ahead. I will say that we are
intensifying as many cases of customer problems as we can, and given the
shipping totals for the Echoplex, the number of problem units is not 

The truth, Andre, is that your e-mails made an impression. An obviously
well-connected, informed, vocal, and dare-I-say influential customer (such
is still my impression of you), is a legitimate candidate for emergency
problem solving measures. Your ability and willingness to clearly point out
our failings makes you an excellent bet to tell the public about our "doing
things right". I wanted to help solve your problem, and if the cost was one
new PCB, I thought it a bargain for the good feelings it could generate
among your fellow loopers. My regret is that we failed to do so. I sought
to counter the negative vibe towards Oberheim and only succeeded in
perpetuating it, as everyone now knows. My point is: Did the fact that we
were attempting to replace rather than repair your unit warrant the tirade
you posted, without first contacting us directly for an explanation? We did
the same replacement option for nine other customers who had waited a long
time and had been equally as vocal about it. Apparently they do not have
Internet accounts. 

You asked: "Why is it necessary to hold back on shipping these items
because of ONE REPAIR JOB on another unit?!" 

Let me be very clear:


What we will no longer do is prematurely attempt to solve customer
problems, no matter how long they have waited, no matter how many e-mails
and voice-mails we receive, no matter what. We can ill-afford to be blasted
for doing anything of the kind again. We have learned our lesson, as Randy
Jones put it, "with our heads in the public stocks". We won't make that
mistake in the future. There definitely should be no guilt or blame
associated with this decision on your part, in effect you have truly done
everyone a service, which was your stated intention.

As evidenced by early comments made by you that were later amended in Pt.
2, amended further in Pt. 3, and tempered even more in your latest
message,and comments made by me in my initial response, perhaps it would be
best to contact each other directly before the passion we both share clouds
the professional reputations of Andre, Tom and Oberheim.

Thanks to all who have commented on this thread so far - your input is
vital and appreciated.


Tom Spaulding

At 11:06 PM 10/29/97 -0600, you wrote:
>On Wed, 29 Oct 1997, Tom Spaulding wrote:
>> Well Andre, thanks for the public flogging. 
>First off I have to say that I really have been attempting to maintain a
>level of civility throughout this.  Even in my posts from last night, I
>made a very concerted effort to not be unjustly rude or callous.  Tom, 
>you yourself thanked me for being polite to you when I first contacted 
>you, and mentioned that you doubted you could have contucted yourself as 
>calmly had you been in my position.  I have attempted to maintain that 
>degree of civility throughout, and in reassessing my posts from last 
>night, I see considerable potential for flaming, negativity, and insult, 
>which I have not and do not wish to instigate.
>I do think that I'm entitled to being somewhat distraught at the current
>situation, but I have (and continue to) made every effort to prevent this
>from becoming a personal issue between myself and anyone else.  I hope
>that this has been understood; if not, I apologize, and I hope that it is
>> As I have shared with you in
>> private e-mails, I am all too well aware of the task I have been given -
>> fixing Oberheim. 
>And as I have told you in private e-mails, I genuinely appreciate the fact
>that someone is going about trying to fix things there. However, I also
>feel entitled to voicing my reaction to these efforts.  Particularly when
>they seem of an ill-advised variety. 
>> I 
>> have admitted and apologized for all of the past 
>> mistakes, untruths, lies and poor service of the past.
>I've also told you that I don't hold you personally accountable for all 
>of the problems that have arisen -- the string of misinformation from 
>Oakland, for instance.
>I appreciate the apologies, but what I (and presumably many others) would
>prefer even more than an admission or an apology is an EXPLANATION.  Why
>were things allowed to be so poorly-handled for so long at Oberheim?  Why
>was the head of California operations at Oberheim not informed of the fact
>that the company he was in charge of was relocating 2,000 miles away until
>the day that the move occurred?  Why did I have to find out about this
>relocation through someone on this list rather than from someone at
>> But despite our efforts, it is apparent that
>> we have erred again. 
>At the very least, failing to properly attach all four of the knobs on a 
>dealer-repaired unit is not the best way to instill a new plateu of 
>consumer respect.
>However, given the fact that you have replaced all of the internal 
>electronics, yet the anomaly persists, I am presently unconvinced that 
>were in fact unable to "repair" what may in fact not even be a 
>malfunction.  It is for this reason that I issued two follow-up posts 
>last night, which freely admit that if you have swapped the innards of 
>the unit and the same problem is there, then it is possible there is in 
>fact no problem other than a system-based ideosyncrasy.  It is also 
>possible, as Kim Flint pointed out, that the anomaly resides in the 
>chassis of the unit rather than in the circuitry.
>> I guess our latest mistake was agreeing to push your
>> unit to the top of our priority list, ahead of all of the other patient
>> users you feel so sorry for.
>I recognize that this comment was intended in a somewhat sarcastic and
>guilt-tripped light.  I don't know exactly what I find more disturbing: 
>the snide tone of the comment, or the underlying implication that I was 
>given unsolicited favoritism at the expense of other users.
>If my unit was, as you say, "pushed to the top" of the priority list, then
>I don't understand why I was given preferential treatment -- because I
>subscribe to Loopers Delight and have been vocal on describing the
>problems I've had?  Does that mean that people who *haven't* been as vocal
>or persistent in following through on the repair work and reporting their
>results, but have in fact waited longer for repair work to be completed
>than I did, were pushed back in deference to one user in California with
>an Internet account and a loud mouth? 
>If there were units that had been waiting longer for service than mine
>had, then perhaps putting my Echoplex at the top of the list was a
>"mistake"  (to use your words).  If mine had the longest track record of
>having been waiting without repair or work, then it deserved to be fixed
>first.  If you were trying to make me feel either relieved or guilty via
>your comment above, you have failed on both counts. 
>> Given your position - that speaking <underline>to</underline> others =
>> speaking <underline>for</underline> others - 
>I honestly have no idea where this comment comes from.  My position has 
>nothing to do with "speaking to others = speaking for others."  I'm 
>speaking strictly for myself, Tom.
>> I believe it best to say it
>> will be 3-4 months until we are fully operational. 
>> We will not ship any
>> Echoplex products until we are fully staffed. 
>I think that this is ABSURD in the extreme, as I will elaborate on 
>> Good-faith quick fixes like
>> installing updates will no longer be attempted. 
>I won't go into detail, but I will say that anyone who had looked at the
>circuit board -- and more specifically, the software -- of my unit when it
>was shipped to you should have realized that installing the upgrade would
>not have alleviated any problems. 
>In your first post to this list, Tom, you said that you were eager to be
>informed of the Echoplex in detail.  My suggestion (and I in no way mean
>this sarcastically, but given your immediately preceeding reference to the
>installation of the shipping version of LOOP III in my Echoplex as a
>"quick fix," it seems appropriate) is the following: familiarize yourself
>with the upgrade in depth.  Find out what it fixes and what it doesn't
>fix.  Find out what the bugs in the original software were and then check
>their status in the new upgrade.  Then, find out how many, if any, of
>these problems correspond to complaints associated with incoming units
>being sent in for repair. 
>In this manner, you may be able to avoid administering an unnecessary
>treatment for a problem, as well as avoiding needlessly sending out extra
>eproms.  "Good faith" (to use your words) doesn't identify or fix
>technical problems.  Understanding the function and extent of the remedies
>you prescribe, however, often does. 
>> I realize that this
>> policy will likely further annoy our customers who have certainly
>> suffered enough, but it will preclude any misunderstandings or premature
>> shipments on our part.  
>Tom, WHAT ON EARTH does my situation have to do with shipping new
>Echoplexes and software upgrades?!?!  Why is it necessary to hold back on
>shipping these items out because of ONE REPAIR JOB on another unit?!  Why
>is it necessary to postpone the shipment of Loop III and *new* Echoplex
>units for three or four more months due to confusion over one repair job
>on a two-year old unit?!?! 
>> We do not want a repeat of your scenario, so we
>> will be more vigorous in our testing proceedures. The recent visit by 
>> Flint has been invaluable to us and should speed the process along, but
>> we will definitely take the side of caution from now on. Just don't
>> confuse it with lethargy. My sincere apologies to all for the continued
>> delays.
>I'll say it again: What does "taking the side of caution" in repair work 
>have to do with shipping out new Echoplexes and upgrades?!?!
>A "repeat of my scenario" (your words again) will only happen if *I
>personally* send *my unit* back into Oberheim.  If "taking the side of
>caution" means making sure that you identify the problems in units which
>are sent to you for repair, and then make sure that these problems have
>been eliminated before being sent back, then I personally think that's a
>step in the right direction, and I'm sorry to see that it's taken my
>posting to instill this sensibility into your repair ethic. 
>Tom, I in no way intend to become any sort of scapegoat for any further
>delays in Oberheim releasing its product to the marketplace.  Rather than
>cryptically imply that the service reports of an unknown struggling
>musician will single-handedly impede for a third of a year the efforts of
>a musical instrument company to release its product, why not *explain* to
>us exactly what the situation is at Oberheim? 
>> <bold>Message to Andre</bold>: You were given an entirely new Echoplex
>> board and software. It was our intetion to fix any problem you may have
>> been having by replacing your entire board. 
>Thank you for making this clear.  I was uncertain as to exactly how much 
>of the internal electronics had been replaced; I take it from your 
>message that all of it has been.
>> It was our expectation that
>> any specific problems that your unit had would be fixed by replacing the
>> total circuit board. 
>> We were well aware of your notes on what the problem
>> was, but rather than attempt to fix an old unit, we thought it would be
>> best to essentially give you a new one. 
>Did you actually test the unit in the first place to attempt to identify
>the problem?  Did you test the unit afterwards to see if the problem was
>still there?  I honestly don't think it's a flame, or a display of
>negativity, or an unjustified affront to you or anyone else to suggest
>that these are two fairly significant elements of any repair process. 
>When I talked to Pat on the phone a week ago, he didn't seem to 
>understand my reference to the problem.  He did recall that I had shipped 
>the unit without any screws in the upper plate, so I presume he had some 
>hands-on experience with it.
>Kim has suggested that the problem may have to do with the actual chassis 
>of the unit.  If the problem had been checked for before and after 
>installing new circuitry, the time and expense of shipping a whole new 
>circuit board could have been spared.  
>> (Apparently the last batch of
>> boards we received from our vendor had a mixture of pots with different
>> shaft lenghths and widths. We will, of course, replace with different
>> pots once we are fully operational).
>Tom, please don't make a judgement about the contents of the last batch of
>gear that your company recieved based upon what one user reports in his
>specific unit.  And for God's sake, don't think that you have to go back
>and replace all of the shafts on the units you're preparing to ship 
>I determined what the problem was with the Input knob: There is a
>translucent green sheath which fits along the shafts of the pots, which
>holds the knobs in place.  On the Input knob, this shaft was crumpled into
>the end of the knob, which prevented it from properly attaching to the
>shaft.  I was able to fix this with minimal trouble once I determined what
>the problem is.  The knob length on the INPUT control is now equal to that
>of the OUTPUT control. 
>I don't think the problem was inconsistency of shaft lengths, but rather
>inconsistency of knob installation, and that as I've said, that the knob
>had been improperly (I would have to use the term "carelessly") connected
>to the shaft of the pot.  At the risk of beating this issue into the
>ground, my dealings with this unit are the first impressions I have of the
>actions of the new department at Oberheim.  And I've still got to say that
>shipping a unit without making sure that each of four knobs is properly
>attached is not a good route towards being taken seriously. 
>> We left your check uncashed on purpose, and if my memory is correct, we
>> still owe you an additional sum, for which I told you I would write you 
>> personal check for if need be. Please e-mail me (publicly or privately)
>> with the amount due and I will send the check. 
>I sent an additional check to Pat Murphy for $45.  Under the present
>circumstances, and in light of the quantity of materials which were
>replaced in my unit, I have to insist that you cash that check and apply
>it towards expenses which were incurred during the work which was done on
>my unit, as was the original intent. 
>> <bold>Message To All Echopex Users</bold>: I will keep you informed of
>> the status of Oberheim and the Echoplex as the details become available.
>> Forgive me for any past or future transgressions. It is my nature to try
>> to help our existing users first, even as I was hired to sell to new
>> ones. It is my belief that you and your Echoplex-derived music are the
>> best sales team we could possibly have.
>Tom (and I apologize for my error concerning your name -- no offense was 
>intended), I have to say that I wouldn't be going to the lengths that I 
>have been on this list if I wasn't passionately concerned about the 
>future of the unit.  I want desperately to see this product succeed, and 
>to be made available.  At the same time, I simply cannot sit back and 
>leave circumstances such as those which have transpired go unreported.  I 
>have too much respect for myself and for the other Echoplex users, past 
>present and future, to try and mince words for the sake of watching out 
>for the professional reputation of Oberheim.  
>I understand that Oberheim is a small company.  I understand that you're
>trying to do things in the fastest and most efficient way possible.  And
>in spite of the problems I've had with my unit over the last 24 hours, I
>still do believe that you're making deliberate, honest efforts towards
>correcting things.  I also believe that some of these efforts, though
>obviously generous and well-intended, are being executed somewhat
>In looking over this whole thread, I can't escape one recurring issue: 
>COMMUNICATION.  We all appreciate your words of determination and purpose
>(or perhaps I should say that I at least appreciate it, since I don't wish
>to be accused once more of speaking for anyone other than myself), but I
>would feel MUCH better knowing that there was some sense of in-depth,
>specific information relayed.  Making your presense felt on this list is a
>good first step.  But please *explain* to us what the specific problems
>are, what they entail, and what we (if anything) can do to help alleviate
>We've heard you say "The Echoplexes are coming!  Very soon!" for a little
>while now.  What *exactly* is it about *my* situation that means that the
>Echoplexes ad memory upgrades are apparently now coming no sooner than
>three or four months down the road?!?! 
>If anyone wishes to chastise me for apparently impeding the flow of 
>product from Oberheim, they are free and welcome to do so in private or 
>public.  I warn you, however, that any and all flames will recieve no 
>similarly hostile response from me.
>It is my sincere hope that this situation can be straightened out.  It is 
>my sincere belief that, in spite of the present static and interference, 
>the channels of communication and action are attempting to be cleared on 
>both sides.