Prepare for AV Shipping Delays and Product Shortages Thanks To COVID-19
Tom Petty once suggested that “the waiting is the hardest part.” In these challenging times for home theater enthusiasts and audiophiles, waiting is sadly going to be more and more a part of the hobby. Recently, in a new school effort to stock up on everyday items in the event of a second Los Angeles citywide, statewide, or possibly some form of national stay-at-home order to “bend the curve” of this virus, I ordered a big box of my favorite Gillette disposable razors from Amazon. Normally, I would get these blueish-green face-shavers from CVS right in the town that I live in, but like many these days, I am trying to limit my trips out to retail stores to keep my contact with other people to a minimum. The blades showed up nine days later. Not only am I an Amazon Prime client, but my wife is a “Level 7” at Amazon Studios. None of that helped me get my shipment in a reasonable amount of time. Thankfully, there is Stanley Cup hockey in August for the first time, so I can claim my manly growth is a “playoff beard” until I cut it all off.
Frustratingly, the world of specialty audio-video is having similar supply-chain problems. Culver City, California-based Simply Home Entertainment designs and services many of the biggest smart-home, distributed audio systems, and Bel Air Circuit (think of an actual movie theater inside your home with day-and-date movies). One of their billionaire-class clients north of Sunset Boulevard needed two DirecTV receivers. As a long-time DirecTV client, I can tell you that the satellite television company isn’t all that snappy about sending out new hardware or getting installations done quickly. Having worked with some of these mega-clients that Simply Home Entertainment services, I can also tell you that these people aren’t all that interested in waiting for anything. With nearly unlimited funds, they want what they want when they want it, and can be pretty demanding about it. Knowing time was a major factor in this situation, the Simply Home team called up a local satellite installation firm and bought the two needed 4K DirecTV boxes “sideways” (meaning they didn’t get them straight from DirecTV, with the goal of saving time). Normally, one of the Simply Home staff would drive to the nearby satellite firm and pick the units up, but the satellite firm is on lockdown and wouldn’t let any people in; thus they would only sell the units if they were shipped. They arranged the shipping from Culver City for about four to five miles away to another swanky locale on the Westside of Los Angeles. The UPS package with the receivers arrived no sooner than 11 days later. If the satellite reseller would have allowed an in-person (or even left behind the trash dumpster) pickup, there would have been no problem or delay. A courier service could have picked the units up and had them delivered the same day. Who would have ever dreamed that 11 days was the possible delivery time for a small package in the same city?
Amazingly, this is becoming the new normal for logistics in a post COVID-19 world. Needed products can hard to come by, be it an AV component, garlic at the grocery store, or the ever-elusive Clorox wipes. Shipping can be far slower than ever, even with Amazon and other delivery companies hiring as many new drivers as possible. As with many other elements of our lives, we need to reset our expectations. At least traffic isn’t as bad, right?
Delays and shortages aren’t exclusive to just AV retailers and installers. I have had a pair of MartinLogan Summit loudspeakers on loan from my attorney (who says all lawyers are assholes?) since I moved into our new home about a year ago. They are gorgeous-looking transducers with aluminum accents, and a beautiful bird’s-eye maple wood finish. I’ve always loved MartinLogan hybrid electrostatic speakers, but the pair in my new media room are, respectfully, about the worst fit ever. To make good sound, I need a speaker that has an ultra-wide dispersion, and while I can say a lot of nice things about MartinLogan ESL speakers, having a wide dispersion is not one of these speakers’ best attributes. With my beloved Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers sold as part of my former home last spring, the MartinLogans do in fact make audiophile-credible sound. The goal was for me to sell these speakers, as well as a matching bird’s-eye maple center speaker and replace them with something else. To add insult to injury, my contractors threw away the main speaker boxes as part of the moving process after being carefully stored for over 10 years. I might be a bad friend after this disaster as I can only imagine having to custom-pack such large yet delicate speakers. The viral pandemic slowed the resale process of the speakers since we didn’t want anyone over to our home, but after an unexpected water leak that took out my downstairs guest bathroom, we have had two months of masked contractors in and out of the house despite our earlier caution.
Recently, I’ve looked into buying some new speakers and was offered a pretty sweet deal on some $7,000/pr Revel BE speakers in white. The media room has been painted a really beachy grayish blue. New carpet is in. I’ve taken delivery of a four-seat (with chaise), reclining, sand-colored leather seating system from Elite HTS that everybody loves. The room is really coming along. The time for new, more room-friendly speakers is likely now. The problem is, there is no inventory according to my trusted connection at Harman. I have been told that they are sold out of their entire BE line of speakers. Revel-Harman-Samsung is based in the San Fernando Valley, and thus was subject to the same citywide lockdown that we had at my house, which is located a little closer to the beach. The company also deals with China for some of the elements of said speakers, and we all know how locked down that nation was for months and months.
Buy Now While You Can?
In the spirit of merging both manufacturing and delays, I have been waiting for almost three months for a whole house full of Crestron automated roll-down shades. I’ve had these in the past and the cool factor is off the charts. In a suitable smart home, you can have the shades go up and down based on the position of the sun relative to your geo position. It sounds like rocket science, but your integrator can make this work pretty easily and without millions of dollars in programming. The effect can improve your views, make your house look better and even save you on your HVAC bill. For now, I’ve got west facing windows with literally no coverings at all. We have the little brackets ready to go but no shades. The reality is that companies like Crestron just can’t make the shades as fast as they did in the long-long ago (meaning six months ago). And when they are done, God knows how long these tubes will take to ship across the country from New Jersey to California. In the meantime, I need to be patient. Very patient.
Over and over again, the supply chain is hammered here in the United States with global overtones. It is affecting all sorts of businesses within and beyond our beloved hobby. If you are in the market for some new AV gear, and you have the chance to make a purchase, you might want to do it now as it isn’t clear when the next shortage or shipping delay might get in your way. The idea that there is an unlimited supply of gear waiting for you to be ready for your next upgrade, or that you can get said product with same-day delivery, very possibly isn’t reality these days.
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