Don’t Necessarily Pick on Gold-Line…

by Jim Sorensen

There’s been some talk about Gold-Line on the list and my comments aren’t pointed at them but I think they are a good example of a specialty company that serves our industry.
I think that we tend to think of our industry as pretty big if only because we know that there are several thousand members of SAC (even if there are only a few of us that have driven the rest out of the daily list) but our industry is very small.

In my own case, I’m a sole operator.  I work for me and I work alone.  I seldom hire anyone to help anymore because everything I do is planning and paperwork.  If I get a construction project it’s almost always to supervise someone else’s crew or to be available to make sure the work gets done properly.  I”m “the suit.”  Even in the RF end, it only takes one guy to tune an antenna (although the field work takes more.)  Yet and all, my letter head looks like “a company.”
I know of several design build companies who have five or six employees but who seem to the public to be much larger and several very well respected RF engineering firms which might have four or five “real” engineers (PE’s) and a few support staff but who do tremendous volumes of work.  Computers, CAD, NEC and other software modeling applications and fast data-base management systems have made the work much faster and very much more accurate.  Whereas in the pre-computer days you made enough calculations to satisfy yourself that the pattern was correct and then sketched it on a chart, nowadays you feed in the parameters and the modeling program makes several hundred thousand calculations and draws you a very accurate prediction of your pattern.  The same is true with acoustical application.
I actually get a big kick out of measuring a room with TEF and comparing what I think I can learn from the TEF work with what I think I learned from an EASE model.  When a room comes out to test like what you modeled, it’s a great feeling!
The problem is for companies like Gold-Line and others to keep up with changes in things like computer systems and with the demands of their customers in the face of competition.  For years Gold-Line was by itself in terms of competition but it was also literally stuck with a hardware package system that was the only way it would work until better computers came along.  When they did, Gold-Line to their credit migrated to a software-only system…sort of…and only under what seemed to be duress.
Things have changed.
I’ve seen people who know and work in acoustical science take an I-Phone with a calibrated microphone attachment and make some very presentable measurements with no need to drag out something like my old TEF-20 and that’s part of the problem.
I use the TEF-20 because I own one.  It was expensive as you might recall but I happily ponied up because I wanted the best.
When technology changed and Gold-Line came out with the TEF-25 I got the feeling that they wanted us all to line up and buy one, scrapping the older technology.  A great idea but for someone like me who uses the TEF-20 only a few times a year, not very practical.  I say bless their hearts for not pulling a Microsoft on us and making the newer versions of their software break the older versions.  I can continue to use my TEF-20 as long as I stay with an operating system that will recognize it and by the time won’t work anymore, I’ll be long retired or dead.
If Gold-Line made any mistakes it was in not getting into the “no hardware” platform ahead of everyone else.  Broadcast Electronics did the same thing with a superb product called AudioVAULT which is a mass-storage system for radio automation.  It required a proprietary sound card which was horribly expensive and they stuck with that architecture well past it’s expiration date.  It cost them huge market share but worse, it cost them the confidence of their customer base.  Other companies came out with what were actually inferior systems but which used high quality over the counter sound cards which gave the consumer the idea that he was saving money.  Which he was.  You can buy a lot of 24 bit sound cards for the price of one $4,500 AudioVAULT single-stereo channel card.
This was Gold Line’s problem.  By sticking to the TEF-20 and then to the hardware requiring TEF-25 they gave the impression that you were not only married to them in terms of software but in terms of hardware as well…expensive hardware, too.
This is the same problem the Post Office faces today.  If they had gotten into the low-buck really, truly fast parcel and document delivery business when FedEx and UPS did we wouldn’t need FedEx and UPS for that but, no, the PO fought them in court claiming some sort of Constitutional right to be the only carrier of “mail” however they chose to define it and lost.  You can see the results.  FedEx and UPS carry the important documents and the US Mail carries the Tuesday flyer.  FedEx is one of the most prosperous companies out there…and one of the largest airlines…and the PO is losing money as fast as the Fed can print it.
The Post Office also failed in one other respect…actually two…first is that if they offer a “next-day” delivery, they only offer to try and most of the time, in my experience, they don’t succeed.  Often they have no excuse other than “they’re the Post Office” and you can’t fire them.  That’s the other failure area…a lack of respect for the customer and from time to time Gold-Line and most other companies have fallen into that.
This almost always happens when you customer base is telling you what they want and you’re not listening.  They want a “no hardware” platform and you’re insisting they have to buy a $2,500 pre-amp that only you can make.  They want to be able to use anyones high quality sound card and you insist that they have to buy yours.  These are exhibits of greed on the part of the company and of a company acting like a customer owes them continued patronage.  No more needs to be said.
Yes, Gold-Line is a very small company but it makes a very big product and it does it pretty well.  It could be more responsive, but then who couldn’t?  I’m not trying to make excuses for them, they need to sharpen up a bit, but they’re still there and still supporting the investment that many of us have made and I admire that but we don’t have to worry about it much longer.
With every kid on the block having a couple of ear buds stuck in his head blasting MP3 compressed “audio” at him for at least a few hours a day, no one will be able to hear anything anyway so we won’t need to worry if a room is acoustically correct either they won’t be able to hear, or the next generation will simply play the PA system through an I-Phone App right to your ear buds.
Next time you have to go in to have your pace-maker battery replaced, they can replace the battery in your built-in Blue-Tooth headset!
Keep it out of the red!