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Decisions, Decisions: Thinking About Upgrading Your Inventory?

There are a whole lot of variables beyond sound that come into play

Crystal Ball
Having performed some strategic thinking and with a rough budget in place, here are some additional factors that I considered.

First, note that I said a “rough” budget because gear shouldn’t be chosen based solely on price.

For example, reliability is important to me. My clients don’t want excuses as to why something has gone wrong at a gig, so a product’s reliability is of paramount importance.

Look into warranty specifics and service options. Shipping a large heavy item across the country to the only authorized service center that can fix it might tie up your investment for weeks or even months. Worse would be paying for shipping.

Further, assume any unfamiliar piece of gear will need to be used well within its defined capabilities – if you foresee running it at the upper end of its operating range, consider stepping up to something bigger. This might cost a little more now, but will save money later in terms of reduced downtime and maintenance costs.

The same goes for the feature set. For example, buying a console with more inputs or a snake with more channels now may seem like overkill, but if you anticipate needing these features in the future, go for it now.

This brings us to expandability. Some products, especially software-based ones, offer the ability to upgrade and expand without having to purchase an entire newer unit.

Compatibility Issues

Rider acceptability can be a big consideration. If you have to meet riders on a regular basis, this may limit your choices. But if you only deal with a few riders each year, and don’t expect that to change, then renting an item for those few instances probably makes financial sense. Do the math to be sure.

Another factor is size and weight, as well as truck packing.  Most of my company’s work is here in town, providing modest-sized systems, so it isn’t nearly as much of a concern as it is to those providing large-scale concert systems hauled hundreds of miles in a big rig.

Still, I don’t like lifting heavy pieces like monitor wedges whether it’s in the shop or on the job site, so smaller and lighter is a plus.

Cross-rentability is a further consideration. Some companies choose equipment such as loudspeakers and truss based on what their friendly competitors provide so it’s a snap to rent more when needed. Rentability can also be a consideration if you rent equipment to the general public.

As a smaller company, we look for gear that can multi-task, filling more than one role. For example, our 10-inch coaxial stage wedges have a stand mount so they can be placed on sticks for main and fill duties.

However, while multi-tasking is great, make sure that the item can do the additional job(s) adequately.

Additional Scrutiny

Finally, evaluate how a purchase might affect existing system infrastructure. For example, if new electronic gear doesn’t fit into an existing rack, the expense of a different, larger rack also becomes part of the equation, and then, will that new rack be more difficult and/or expensive to transport and store?

Further, will the electronic gear require different cabling and connectors? Will it incur training costs getting the crew up to speed? Will it require another crew member, or conversely, allow us to use one less crew member on certain gigs?

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Every new piece of gear needs to undergo this type of scrutiny, even though some of it’s not obvious. And this leads to another question: beyond issues of ROI, will an upgrade matter to your clients?

Certainly our goal is to always do the absolute best for them, but will the added investment make a noticeable, justifiable difference in your service to them, while also serving your own bottom line?

Ultimately, I’ve decided in favor of new stage monitors, and am now in the process of investigating specific options. It really is time to retire the old wedges due to reliability, performance and aesthetic issues, and we also have decent prospects for expanding into new markets.

And did I mention I hate lugging around big, heavy, ugly wedges? Sometimes an aching back, like a squeaky wheel, gets its way.

Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and ProSoundWeb, and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.

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