Grace Design Newsletter - June 2004
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<<Dealer Spotlight >>

Sweetwater- Jeff Radke

Mr. Radke in the studio

For high-end, smaller scale pro audio manufacturers, creating and maintaining an effective distribution network is essential for survival. For the first several years at Grace Design, we focused on developing a strong network of smaller, regional independent pro audio dealers who worked with customers primarily in their own territory, using the time honored business model of being service oriented and maintaining longstanding client relationships. High-end audio products can only be sold by salespeople who have a real, hands-on working understanding of the products they are selling.

So when Sweetwater approached us to represent our company, we were originally a bit hesitant. However, our apprehensions were quickly dispelled as we learned the real deal about Sweetwater.

While Sweetwater may initially appear to be a large box house, one phone call to their headquarters in Ft. Wayne, IN, and you are immediately impressed with their excellent and personalized customer service and complete product knowledge. The corral of sales associates at Sweetwater are thoroughly trained and posses a real working knowledge of all the product lines they carry, so all sales inquiries are met with thoughtful and thorough answers.

Sweetwater has created a pro audio dealership that blends the best of both worlds- intimate product knowledge and dedicated customer service with a large infrastructure to represent a very complete product line. From high-end boutique outboard gear to musical instruments and everything in-between, Sweetwater offers a wealth of selection and service.

Jeff Radke, the long standing Vice President of Sales at Sweetwater, has been a great friend of Grace Design, and is kind enough to give us some further insights into the inner workings of this remarkable business.

Thank you Jeff!

Q. Can you give the short version of the history of Sweetwater?
Chuck Surack, the founder and owner of Sweetwater, actually started the business as a recording studio back in 1979. In the mid '80s, the Kurzweil K250 was introduced and it was love at first sight for Chuck. He immediately became deeply involved in sound design, creating the first pieces of what would eventually become the Sweetwater library of sounds. During this same period, he was also being asked by lots of his friends who owned studios around the country for advice and support for their K250s. It was a natural evolution to become a dealer for Kurzweil. Once the retail business got rolling other lines quickly followed.

Having been in the customer's shoes both as a musician (Chuck still plays out once or twice a week) and as a studio owner, he'd often found himself frustrated at the lack of knowledgeable retailers and their inability to support him after the sale. The whole concept of Sweetwater is wrapped around adding value...starting with an extremely well educated sales staff and including a dedicated tech support department, very deep and informational website, and a complete service department including several technicians who do nothing but configure turn-key systems for our customers. Here we are, 25 years later and the little studio business has grown far beyond Chuck's dreams. BTW, we still have recording studio on site with three PT HD equipped rooms. The studio is a stand alone business (not something set up in the corner of a show room) and is a wonderful test track for us as well as a great training facility.

Q. What is you background in pro audio, and how did you get started at Sweetwater?
Fortunately for me, I realized pretty early on that I wasn't going to be a rock star so I was able to focus on something only a little more practical...going to college to become a recording engineer. Along the way I discovered that I liked the business classes that were part of the program and ultimately wound up with a double major - recording technology and music business. I worked in a studio for a short while but was drawn to the retail side of things so I wound up in Los Angeles

My biggest initial learning experience came when I moved to Los Angeles where I managed the Pro Audio department of one of the larger retailers there and got some great experience (the school of hard knocks is an accelerated curriculum <g>). From there, I moved on to AKG Acoustics, Inc., starting as a Regional Manager. Through my years with them, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a lot of other lines as AKG acquired them and even more when Harman eventually acquired AKG. Beyond AKG, I've been a district manager for dbx, Orban, BSS, Turbosound, JBL, Soundcraft, UREI and Quested. Prior to coming on board at Sweetwater, I was the Director of Sales for AKG for the United States and Mexico.

Due to the work I did with AKG, I'd known about and worked with Chuck and Sweetwater since he was running the business out of his house. I'd always really liked the value added philosophy of the company and was happy that the model seemed to be succeeding (it seemed like every time I'd visit, there was more construction going on and more employees running around!). When I became aware of a position here, it was a pretty exciting opportunity and, frankly, a fun move for me to reenter the retail world. The years I'd spent on the manufacturer side gave me the opportunity to visit hundreds of retailers and was experience that really fit nicely with my responsibilities at Sweetwater.

Q. Its pretty amazing to call Sweetwater- the sales staff is always armed to the teeth with information about all the product lines. How do you guys stay so informed?
Honestly, it's not easy, we work our butts off. The big difference with us vs. most retailers is that the Sales Engineers here view their position as a career, not a "day gig". They attend 3 1/4 hours of meetings (where manufacturers come in to train us) outside the normal work day every week, read the latest trade magazines like maniacs and use the gear at home constantly. They just live and breath gear. Beyond the knowledge that lives in their heads, we have pretty amazing resources here in terms of our database as well as all we learn from the issues our tech support crew runs into and the feedback we receive from our clients.

Q. Since the word go, Sweetwater has had great success selling Grace Design products. Why do think Sweetwater and Grace have been such a good fit?
I remember when I was first begging you to consider seemed then and does now that Grace is just a great and logical partner for Sweetwater. With all of the sales we do to high quality studio environments, Grace is exactly what many of our customers are looking for in terms of quality and features.

Q. Pro audio is a rapidly evolving business, where dealerships, both large a small, seem to come and go every day. What are some of the key ingredients to staying afloat and remaining effective as a pro audio dealership?
All good business is based on healthy personal relationships. Our business model is built to develop and maintain long term relationships with our customers. By having Sales Engineers who are here long-term instead of the usual "revolving door" you see at most retailers, we have the unique ability to really get to know our customers and their goals. It's not unusual at all for us to have worked with a client from their first bedroom studio all the way to building their dream studio and making a living doing what they love. Everything we do to add value feeds into this long-term, customer oriented model.

Q. Any big, exciting changes on the horizon for Sweetwater you’d like to discuss?
Due to our ongoing rapid growth, we're in pretty much a constant state of change. Our systems are being updated almost daily (we actually have several programmers on staff to handle the load) and we're always looking for ways to improve. We've worked really, really hard to develop our niche and see lots of opportunities to grow while playing to our strengths.

<<Tech Talk >>

Lunatec V3 optical/TOSLINK upgrade is now available!

Since its introduction 3 years ago, The Lunatec V3 has become the industry standard portable mic preamplifier/converter. And now we have now decided to make a good thing even better- due to overwhelming demand from many Lunatec V3 users, Grace Design is proud to announce the Lunatec V3 Optical output option / upgrade. This option replaces the existing WORDCLOCK output on the V3 with a TOSLINK optical format output.

If you plan to purchase a new Lunatec V3 preamplifier, you can now order it with the TOSLINK/Optical output. Or if you are an existing V3 owner and would like to upgrade your unit with TOSLINK out, here is how to have it done.

The Luntec V3 optical upgrade service includes the following:
• A new V3 rear panel that replaces the standard Word Clock output with a TOSLINK optical output
• Complete system testing and performance verification
• New 5 year warranty
• A V3 manual addendum that describes operation with TOSLINK
• New packaging components if required
• Return shipping of your preamp via FedEx ground service paid by Grace Design

How much does it cost?
The cost of the upgrade to existing V3 owners is $195. New units with TOSLINK output will be handled through our dealers as usual. We do not accept credit card payments so payment needs be sent in full via personal check, cashier’s check or money order with your preamp when it is sent in.

How do I arrange to get optical upgrade service for my V3?
Because of the high demand for this service, we have implemented a very simple and strict procedure. This must be followed such that we can make the process as efficient as possible for you and us both. By following these guidelines you can be assured that your preamp will be serviced and returned to you in the quickest manner.

The skilled staff here at our Boulder, CO shop will be doing all upgrades. The upgrade services are being scheduled via appointments on first come – first serve basis. We have allocated Tuesday to be the official upgrade day, which means every week a certain number of V3 optical upgrades will be started on Tuesday. For the service we are shooting for a 48 hour turn around period, but we cannot guarantee this.

To schedule an upgrade appointment, please call Eve @ 303.443.7454 9am-4:00pm M-F. Before calling, please determine the dates that will work for your schedule. As stated previously, all upgrades begin on Tuesdays, which means that units must be received no later than the previous Monday. Preamps that do not arrive by Monday, will likely have the upgrade process postponed until the following Tuesday. We will be scheduling appointments for the entire summer immediately so even if you can't send your unit in right now, we recommend you set up your appointment as soon as possible.

When you call, please have your V3’s serial number handy, as it is required to set up the appointment. Eve will provide you with return details and can handle all scheduling and return questions you may have. If you have any technical questions you can contact us directly.

Thank you all for your patience as we worked to make this feature available. Hopefully it will prove to be very useful for you all. Thanks for your continued support!

About Grace Design
Grace Design was established in 1994 and is a leading manufacturer of world-class hardware for the professional audio industry. Grace Design’s mission is to provide audio professionals with exceptionally engineered and built products coupled with best-in-class customer service. The product line currently consists of the model 801, 801R, 201, 101, Lunatec V3 microphone preamps, the model 901 reference headphone amplifier and the m904, m904B and m906 reference monitoring systems. The company’s customers include audio professionals in the music, film, television, live sound, education and corporate markets.

Thanks for your continued support!
-The Grace Design Team

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