How Sweet It Is: How Sweetwater Sound Separates itself From The Music Retail Pack

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The arrival of a Sweetwater Sound catalog at my home is quite an event.  A tome multiple sizes larger than most retailers’ catalogs, Sweetwater’s “ProGear” catalog carries everything from your standard Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal to Behringer X32 mixers to the kind of recording equipment you would find in world-class studios.  In other words, Sweetwater definitely has something for everyone.  Sometimes, flipping through the pages of ProGear, I have no idea what I’m even looking at.  Mastering Insert Switcher? Analog Summing Mixer?  Clearly, Sweetwater is playing at a different level than much of its competition.  They deal with top studio pros with significantly greater resources and knowledge than a lot of us have.  It also indicates that they can handle any question a customer has, whether that customer is a weekend warrior, rank beginner, or seasoned professional, because they’ve probably encountered it all.  That translates into confidence for the customer that he’s getting the right kind of equipment for the job.

Sweetwater is also famous for it’s customer-focused service, and I recently had the opportunity to experience that service firsthand.  I’ve been a Sweetwater customer for years, and even though I have a personal sales manager to assist with all my purchasing needs, I can’t recall ever having called him to place an order.  I’m very comfortable ordering gear, from pedals to amps to guitars to just about anything, online, without assistance from a salesperson.  I’m rarely impulsive when it comes to gear shopping.  I consider my needs/wants, do my research, check out some video demos, and will even engage in a forum discussion or two before pulling the trigger.

But I was bound to encounter a purchase that I would need some personal expert assistance with at some point, and that day came not too long ago when I decided that I wanted to outfit my modest home studio with a set of monitors.

Now, when it comes to recording my skills are just a pinch above that of a novice.  My home studio is nothing fancy and I’m not the greatest engineer, but I have a set-up that, in more capable hands, could probably produce some pretty professional-sounding tracks.  So, in an attempt to up my recording game a bit (I’ve been monitoring through nothing but headphones for years), I decided it was time for a set of big-boy monitors.

I had a general idea of what I needed, based on my budget and the size of the room I use to record in, but this was one area where I knew I would greatly benefit from a little personal assistance.  So, from the comfort of my home, I rang up my sales engineer at Sweetwater Sound.

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From the second my finger dialed the first digit, I had faith that this was a good move.  Sweetwater sales engineers are not just folks who happen to be good at retail; many of them are working musicians and studio engineers with years of experience and tons of passion for music and gear.  In particular, my sales engineer’s bio (yup, they have bios) noted that he has a lot of experience in studio environments.  I decided that I would put the fate of my home studio in his hands (better his than mine!).

Over the phone, I quickly described my set-up, my budget, and that I would pretty much need my hand held for the better part of the decision process.  My sales engineer asked me a couple of questions, then recommended a set of monitors that would fulfill my needs within my budget.  Better yet, he took the time to describe why he was recommending them for my specific situation.  If I ever expanded my set-up, the quality of these monitors wouldn’t be overmatched.  They were also excellent sounding and would make it easy for a ham-fisted pseudo-engineer like myself to analyze and properly mix my projects.  And, they were well within my budget.  He also helped me make sure I had the proper cabling to connect the monitors to my interface, something that I surely would’ve overlooked until I tried to set them up at home.  I also had the opportunity to inquire about some other unrelated purchases I was considering, and my sales engineer provided some excellent advice on those as well.  I think the whole call took fifteen minutes, and was absolutely one of the best buying experiences of any type I have ever engaged in.  I wish Sweetwater sold houses and cars.

The level of competition in the gear world has caused lots of retailers, established and new, large and small, to put their best feet forward when it comes to price, selection, and customer service.  And many retailers have successfully risen to the challenge.  It’s a good time to be a gear shopper.

But Sweetwater Sound is clearly a different animal in the gear world, as we’ve noted before in the virtual pages of TheToneKing.com.  The online Guitar Gallery, free two-year warranty on most purchases, assigned sales engineer, and massive selection covering nearly every possible gear need are things that are not in abundance among music retailers.  It’s amazing to think that a guy like me can buy a pair of very nice and affordable studio monitors from the same place that a professional studio with a bunch of Grammys on a shelf and an hourly rate roughly comparable to the GDP of a small nation, and be treated no differently (though the studio would probably already know what kind of cables they need).  But that’s the Sweetwater difference, and why we here at the TheToneKing.com dig them immensely.

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