Dave Horn

Dave Horn

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011 09:59 AM

If it's too loud, you're too old -- or not

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In addition to my professional role in the realm of technology for worship and pro audio, video and lighting, like a lot of you, I am also a tech volunteer at my own church.  I'm subjected to the same criticisms and what some might perceive to be a lack of appreciation in my role as our lead sound technician.  I get the joy of hearing "It's too loud!" or "I can't hear my my kid's voice in the mix." just like you do. 

Awhile back, something interesting happened, which showed me that I should have been paying better attention.  At the rear of our sanctuary, there's a partial wall that separates the main room from the elevated overflow areas.  The front-of-house mix position is in one of those overflow areas.  Along that wall, we have a row of chairs that's more heavily padded, so our older members tend to sit there.  For a time, it wasn't unusual for me to get comments from two particular people among that group that the system was too loud for their taste. 

"If it's too loud, you're too old," right?!  Before you think that I'm insensitive or cynical or whatever, bear with me for a minute.  The mix position is further from the speakers than those people were and I monitor SPL frequently.  I am very sensitive to what "too loud" is, so I almost shrugged them off.  Then, it happened.  I got out of the booth and listened to what they were hearing. 

Sound systems and rooms aren't perfect.  Try as designers might, not every seat in the house experiences the same sound quality, and this was no exception.  When I actually picked my tail up and listened to what they were hearing, I had a "duh" moment.  These folks sit with their heads up against a wall.  Bass has a tendency to build up where?  Against a wall or in a corner.  That's just physics. 

So as it turns out, we had a communication problem.  The overall sound wasn't too loud as much as those folks were getting their fillings rattled (so to speak), since the bass was too loud where they were sitting.

Get out of the booth and listen to what others hear before being tempted to roll your eyes (when they're not looking, of course) and go on with your business.  Sometimes, it really is too loud, even when you think that it's not.  Lesson learned. 

Monday, November 14, 2011 07:31 PM

Gurus - a video tribute to church tech volunteers

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Here's a video to make you smile and that will make you laugh a little.  Admittedly, it's kind of scary how close to home this hits.  To all of you who make technology for worship happen each week, thank you! 

We wish you Leathermans, LED flashlights, Sharpies, a case of Mountain Dew and a fresh supply of black t-shirts for Christmas this year -- not to mention all the new gear you've been dreaming of. 

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A few weeks ago, I had the chance to design a video system for church about an hour and a half away. Before our meeting, I knew that there would be at least one other proposal from a local vendor, but they were referred by a friend, and asked whether we'd be interested in taking a look at their plans. Going in, I knew that I didn't have much of a chance to make the sale.

We met for about an hour, I took some measurements, ran through the standard questions on how they'd use the system, and wrote a lot of notes. The church was on a tight decision timeline, and asked that I quote exactly the same equipment that the two other vendors quoted so that they could compare apples to apples.

From their perspective, that makes the decision easier, but the customer told me not to low-ball him because he "always threw those bids out." Let's see -- out-of-town vendor and can't be the lowest price -- what's a guy to do?!

When they look back on the project in a couple years, I wanted the church members to be happy with their choice, so I went out on a limb and offered an upgrade to wide-format projectors and screens, along with HD cameras and switching equipment, right at the top of their price range. None of that was on the list from the other vendors.

A week or so went by, and I made the followup call. With resignation in his voice, the person on the other end of the phone told me that the church board had decided to go with the local vendor, despite his recommendation of our system.

He thanked me for thinking outside the box, and said that our proposal offered a more "future-proof" solution, and met their price point. What was the sticking point? After two hours of discussion with the board, he had thrown up his hands. 

In the end, despite a recommendation for us from the man charged with interviewing vendors, it seems like the church board chose to let potential problems be at least part of their choice of vendor.

Aren't we all sometimes the same way? I've done it.  We make decisions or take on stress about things that will likely never be a critical issue and often miss something better while we're worrying about what might happen if...

I want each of our clients and potential clients to get what's best for them -- whether from us or from another vendor.  Like my contact at that church, I hope to see life as full of possibilities, as opposed to potential problems. It's a lot more rewarding that way! 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011 06:24 PM

Thank You for Twenty Years in this Chair

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On a sunny November morning in Ohio as I was lying in bed, I realized something.  First, it was November in Ohio.  It's hardly ever ever sunny.  Second, I realized that I have been with this company for 20 years.  Then it hit me. The only way to still be in business 20 years later is to have had a great group of people with whom to do business and a great foundation on which to build. 

Let me tell you a story that you might not know.  I didn't start Truth Seeker Productions.  It wasn't my idea, but I've kept the dream alive, one that started in 1985, almost 27 years ago.  The original Truth Seeker is Lance Johnson.  Lance is a friend of mine and made this sunny morning possible by offering me an opportunity to buy his business.

Lance began Truth Seeker Productions in 1985 and his company provided equipment to some of the biggest names in Christian music.  The bands and artists of the 80's and early 90's bought their gear from Lance.  He was based in Yakima, Washington, and I was introduced to him by another friend Dan who led a band called Eternity Express, and I met him (along with Mark Matthews, and Mike Buster) in 1985 in the parking lot of Westland Mall in Columbus, Ohio.  My friends and I had heard of the band through CCM magazine and we saw their two pink Silver Eagles parked there and decided to knock on the door and introduce ourselves. 

That introduction began lifelong friendships for which I'm very thankful.  Since all bands need sound systems, Dan suggested that we call Lance to get what we needed.  His prices were great, and we hit it off, and at one point several years later, he decided to get out of the business and offered it to me.  I had been a good client and had referred lots of business to him, along with doing some installation work on the side. The fit was natural.

That's the very short story, but the fun part is that from one moment of meeting another person that the entire course of events in your life can change, if you'll let it.  I risk boring you with Old Testament-type lineage and history, but here goes.  It'll probably be more fun for me than for you, but this is my blog, after all.

Let's start from the beginning.  I talked with Mike Buster last week, since he needed some new lighting fixtures for his church.  I'm glad that he's still a part of my life.  My brother, the doctor, took a cast off Mike's son's arm a couple years back while his family were traveling trough Columbus.  Last week, Lance and I exchanged some email expressing the disbelief that it had been 20 years.  Mark has been a long-time friend and is out of the music business these days.

When I bought the business, Lance introduced me to a handful of the regular customers.  Wayne Young from Olive Branch Church might have been my very first sale.  If not, it was Roby Duke or maybe Scott Carter.  At Olive Branch, Wayne Young became Leon Pyatt who became Joel Kessler, and now, Wayne's back at Olive Branch.  He emailed me yesterday. 

Wally Grant wasn't far behind.  Wally and I met for the first time (along with Paul Aldrich) in 1992 at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim.  He and his wife Joy have become great friends, a friendship built by years of their generosity in allowing me to stay at their home during NAMM shows.  We'll never forget the $35 langostinos and $10 bottles of water at Ago, will we?  Wally and I have talked almost weekly for 20 years. 

Lance also introduced me to Keith Loy.  I always liked it when Keith changed churches as a youth pastor, because he usually bought a new sound system wherever he went.  Today, Keith friendship has been extended to his tech team , and to guys like Cory Vinz and Tony Schoborg, along with Tim Troxell, Todd Copeland, Kyle Marker, Jon Sanders, Rick Klein, Matt Pribyl, and Mark Law. 

Lance also introduced me to his childhood friend Scott Coyle and pioneering worship leader Lamar Boschman, along with guys like Mark Douthit (who probably introduced me to Mike Haynes), Mark Hammond, Mark Baldwin, Steve Brewster, Louie Weaver, John Elefante, Bob Hartman, John Schlitt, Rick Adams, Dino Elefante, and Lance Parra.  Maybe Rick Altizer (who made the connection with Scott Rodriguez) and Eric Darken, too, but I think those connections came from Mark Hammond or Mark Douthit. 

I had some help on the Ohio end, too.  John Mallinak was probably the first Ohio client, other than my long-time friend Bryan Hitch and my home church.  Bryan Hitch (one of the guys with me when we met Dan) and Tony Wold made lots and lots of referrals.  I just sent Bryan some gear in Fresno, where he's been for 10+ years.  Tony has purchased audio gear for nearly every church that he has served and some others with which he consults. Tony introduced me to Charlie Carpenter, Lisa Lewis, Rob Pottorf and Rob Reider, among others.  Bryan connected me with Jeff Hughes, Dan McLaughlin and Dave Anderson. 

I forgot to mention that Bryan was my connection to his college buddy Tony Wold, too.  Jeff connected me with Matt McKenzie, Wayne Chaffin, Mike Rice, Alan Stringer and others.  Dave Anderson introduced me to Dave Brown.  Dan introduced me to Ken Smeader.  Bryan might have also connected me with Keith Matthews and Bruce Christian.  Maybe I should be buying Bryan's kids' Christmas presents like he keeps telling me! 

John Opal, my Beyerdynamic rep at the time, connected me with Nolan Pauley at World Harvest Church, who connected me with Eric Chancey and Shane Scyoc, who reconnected me with Marcus Gresham (a friend from high school) who introduced me to James Schleich, and who also just referred me last week to Randy Montague.  Bryan probably also helped connect me with Dan Patton, who introduced me to Doyle Jackson.  Shane also made the connection with Byron Goodew and Dave Dodd.  I talked with Byron just last week.  After 10 years, he's still a character.  Ebay allowed Ron Eicher to find me, who now knows Eric Chancey and Robert Scovill, who has been a friend of Wally Grant's for a long time.  Crazy circles!   

Some of you complain about your college experience, but I don't.  It was at Judson College (now University) that I met Dave Ellis who introduced me to Art Ziarko.  I also met Warren Anderson at Judson, and Jamie Ballew.  Those guys have accounted for a lot of business over the years. 

Then there's Bruce Adolph of Christian Musician magazine.  When I started, Bruce was selling advertising space for CCM magazine and its brand new publication Worship Leader.  I bought the first ads for Truth Seeker from Bruce.  He now publishes one of the best magazines available for Christian musicians.  And what I didn't learn from Bruce about advertising, I learned with the help of Danny Wike.  Danny became a sounding board for direct response advertising ideas and a good friend.  Many of our clients came by way of Bruce and Danny's publications.  Speaking of media guys, Mike Sessler of ChurchTechArts found our internet site and bought a Heil microphone capsule, and now allows his tech writing to be published by us.

From a little ad in Worship Leader, I was introduced to my friend Tom Parks, who introduced me to Greig Hutchens.  Tom also introduced me to Paul Fox, who introduced me to Marcus Holston.  John Holsapple was another who called from an ad in Worship Leader, if I recall correctly.  With John comes Amanda Fellows and Mike Berwick.  Mike Franklin called out of the blue from Ministry Values and spent about $10,000 before I knew what had happened.  Same with Sean Robinson, except that ad was in Pastor Resources.  From those advertising connections also came Mike Ellerbe, Byron Clinkingbeard, Jerry Joule, and Tom Hassler who I think introduced me to Travis Isaacson -- the last guy I talked with before starting this journey down memory lane. 

Larry Doran connected me with Mike Wuellner who introduced me to Steve Gill who introduced me to Scott Binder.  Tom Parks arranged the purchase of some used equipment, some of which was sold to Rich Horton who introduced me to Charlie Schafer and Bob Vance.  My elementary school friend Steve Murphy made the connection to my lead installer Gary Purvis who has been invaluable to me for about 15 years.  Gary introduced me to Mike Richardson, Phil Stoll, Ted Harmony, Tom and Amy Hanes, Eric DeVoe, Phil Manson and most other Nazarene churches on the NW District of Ohio that weren't connected via Mike McClurg, who also introduced me to Dave Lutz and John Spyker.  Thankfully, Gary knew some Baptists, too, like Butch Peyton, Bert Patton and Dan Londeree, and a Pentecostal or two like Greg Collins. 

Through my ABC connections came Mark Douglas, Larry Gamble, Mike Halliburton, Bob Cassady, Larry Swain, and Kevin Thomas.  Mark has introduced me to Jon Cool (not Joe), Mark Noe, and a handful of others.  I'm not sure where Randy Miller came from (neither is he).  Ron Schafer has been to Florida and Virginia and back, and probably called from an ad, but we go so far back that we can only remember that his assistant at the time was the mother of a girl that I went to college with.  Jake Barbour got connected through Rob Sharpe, who I think came from the Wayne Young/Wally Grant connection. 

In one of the few times that a manufacturer made a referral to someone other than their largest dealers, Kramer Electronics referred Matt Shaffer who introduced me to his pastor Steve Hubbard.  I think that Jeremy Myers is one of a very few clients who literally called us from a phonebook listing.  Through his referrals, Terry Schey has sold almost as many wireless microphones for us in NW Ohio as I have myself. 

Thank you to all of you!  And to all who I didn't think to squeeze in, thank you, too.  Everyone has played a part in allowing me to sit where I do. 

Most of all, I thank God for allowing me to have met all of you.  If you think that anything in your life is a coincidence, I hope that my story allowed you to see the hand of God in making the connections that make life a piece of art, in Old Testament genealogical sort of way. 

You might think that, for me, this all started on a dark night in a mall parking lot, but it goes back much further than that.  All of our stories go back to God's forethought in creation.  Consider your own story and the path that God has weaved through you for His purposes. 

Enjoy today!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 04:06 PM

What is value?

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Maybe I'm old, but it seems that a recurring theme in my life is finding value - value in what I buy, do and recommend to others.  The question remains, "What is value - at least in the realm of equipment?"  I don't think that question will be answered completely today, but let me share a couple examples of value and what it is and isn't. 

Just this week, I've had two conversations about value, and I've been both on the receiving and on the giving end. 

After almost 20 years of doing what I do, I've learned that when equipment companies like ours present their value that you can pick any two of these three factors -- lowest price, expert personal service, and quick product delivery.  In this business, you can choose generally only two of those.  I like to think that we offer a pretty good balance of the three, or at least the better of the two that I feel are more important. 

What you value, you have to choose for yourself.

This week, I started a new nutrition regimen.  It's one that a friend of mine has been following and he's enjoying the results.  He has more energy, is losing weight, and thinks that he's found somewhat of a renewed life.  That's important for those of us who are on the other side of 40. 

He's a bodybuilder type and is a fanatic about whatever he does, so he talked me into it.  Of course he did.  I love a sales pitch. 

The program costs a lot, compared to others, and I said, "But can't I take the the protein powder that I've been taking?  Up until 8 weeks ago, you took the same stuff that I take now." 

Here's where the advise came in.  He said, "This is a program.  It was designed to give certain results.  You paid a lot of money for this program, and don't you want to be able to know whether the the program works, or not?"   

That's a fair point.

We do the same thing as the nutrition company. We design systems, but it's up to our client to stick with the "program" to assure that they get the results they expect. Sometimes, when we call to check the progress of the decision making of a potential client, we find that they've taken our design and bought a piece here and a piece there, and substituted this for that -- and that they're either not getting the results that they expected and/or are in over their head and need support. 

What the person doesn't know at this point is whether our design was good or not, or whether they compromised it by picking and choosing.  Had we sold it as a system (our "program"), it would be fair to ask us for help. 

Since the equipment was bought a piece here and another there, there's no single source to "blame."  Any of the other dealers would be perfectly just to say to that person, "You ordered it, and yes, you bought it from me, but I didn't tell you that it would work." 

I think that getting products that integrate well into great systems should be part of your value-driven decision making process.  Only real world experience can provide that to you. 

What we value at Truth Seeker, and through our website Geartechs.com, is providing responsive, knowledge-based service, and giving you the best product that we know of to get the job done.  That's it. 

We feel no reason to sell you something that's not going to work, and frankly, we'd prefer not to.

Getting the right product into your hands the first time is our part of your stewardship equation. 

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The short answer is now. 

Over the past three weeks or so, we've all watched the value of our 401k accounts drop and the US dollar drop (in terms of gold), too.  That's a bad equation, because if you're cashing out of stocks, the cash from your stock investments when liquidated now buys less gold (one of the very few assets that has been rising while the stock market is falling). 

The dollar of 2011 and beyond is guaranteed to lose purchasing power since Uncle Sam is the world's largest borrower.  It's almost a lock that any future policy of the Federal Reserve will be beneficial to borrowers.   And what is most beneficial to anyone who needs to pay back a debt or loan?  A cheaper currency. 

If you don't know what I mean, think about the stories that your parents told about their $150 a month mortgage payment, and how easy it became to pay the loan over time.  We and our parents make higher wages (as measured in dollars), but real wages over the past 40 years are pretty much the same; it's just that it takes more of a cheaper currency to buy the same things -- and that is going to continue into the future. 

I have no way to guarantee the future, but since most of the equipment we sell is manufactured overseas, a long-term falling dollar will lead to higher equipment prices (as priced in dollars), and we're starting to see that today since it takes more dollars to buy the same amount of metals like copper and steel, and labor.  

To get the economy "going" again, it's also in the best interest of the Federal Reserve to allow inflation, forcing you to spend your dollars sooner than later since the longer you hold your dollars, the less they'll buy. 

Bottom line:  Don't be wasteful, but don't hold out for lower prices.  I think that they're quickly becoming a thing of the past. 

Friday, July 22, 2011 09:32 AM

We do installations

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Between installations and vacation, June and July have been busy months, so our blog readers might be feeling neglected.  Unlike most other dealers that you'll find in the online world, we actually integrate audio, lighting, and projection systems.  We do most of our work in churches, but the guys find their way into banks, schools, restaurants, and other institutions from time to time.  So what does that have to do with anything? 

I like to think that doing hands-on installation work makes us a part of the real world of equipment use.  We don't just take orders.  We actually use the gear, and have a good idea of what works, what doesn't, which features are important, and how someone like you will use a system.  Any dealer can sell pieces and parts at a price, but not everyone you talk to has the right experience to help you make things work when it counts. 

On our days off, most of our guys are tech volunteers in their own churches making audio, lighting, and video happen on a weekly basis. 

Take a look at a few pictures from one of our recent projects.  It features audio with digital mixing, lighting, projection, and acoustics -- and it's prewired to easily add personal mixing and subwoofers, as the budget permits, in the future.  Please call if you have ideas or needs with which we can be helpful. 

 

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 05:07 PM

You bought a fake what?

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Today, I shared part of my afternoon with the regional Line 6 sales rep.  He was in Columbus and stopped by to check in.  Since we both have a background in the music business, we had a fun conversation about instruments, bands, people we know in common, and life -- and then we talked about Line 6.  That's part of what makes this business fun. 

Somehow, our conversation came around to counterfeit equipment.  With today's technology and with many manufacturers operating overseas, it has become more and more difficult to be sure that you're getting what you're paying for.  Companies like Shure, Gibson, Fender, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Martin, Schecter, Monster Cable, D'Addario, Crown, JBL, DBX and many more wage a constant battle to protect their brand, and in turn to protect you.  For years, you've heard of fake Gucci watches, Dooney and Bourke bags and luggage, and counterfeit Calvin Klein clothing.  It's almost a joke that you go to New York City only to buy fake goods.  Some of the fakes are "good enough" but they're nothing like the real thing. 

Well, now you need to worry about fake pro audio, video and music gear. 

A word to the wise, if the price seems too good to be true, there's very likely a problem.  Online auction and classified ad sites are loaded with opportunities to buy.  And it's getting harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys. 

Not long ago, the owner of a Columbus pawn shop was arrested for selling stolen tools at a large auction site.  The shop had a perfect online selling reputation, but was selling semi trailers full of goods destined for Home Depot.  Did the auction customers like those $349 power tool sets for $99?  Sure they did, and the owner was all too happy to ship them quickly.

In the technology business, as much or more of a problem are fake goods -- goods that might say Shure or Audio-Technica or Sennheiser, and are packaged as such, but that are not actual name brand products, and that don't carry any warranty.  What's to stop the company that prints boxes for Audio Technica in Asia from selling a batch of the same boxes to another company who has stolen the A-T designs for itself?  Sadly, not much. 

The Line 6 sales rep shared a story that he had bought some ultra cheap batteries on eBay and it turned out that they weren't really Duracells after all.  We got a laugh out of that, but can you imagine?  Someone took the time to copy a 50 cent battery to sell it for 15 cents.  That's madness. 

So what's my point?  You work hard for what you make, so spend it carefully.  We've been in business for about 20 years.  We know where everything we sell comes from.  We don't import gear directly, we don't buy from companies we don't know, and every new piece we sell has a full manufacturer's warranty.  Our prices are competitive with other dealers.  There's generally not a price that we can't match, but occasionally (when we know the deal is too good to be true), we turn someone away and suggest that they buy all that they can from someone else. 

Without truly losing money, we can't sell Duracell Procell AA batteries for 15 cents, we can't sell Shure SM58 microphones for $49, we can't sell Sony HD broadcast cameras for $999, or Paul Reed Smith Guitars for $299.  We don't buy them anywhere close to those prices and neither does anyone else - unless they're fake or stolen.  

I'd like to buy a Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone.  It's one of the most copied instruments in history.  Several years ago, you could buy one for $2500, and I didn't want to pay that much.  Today, they're $4500-6000, and I really don't want to pay that much.  Good ones are actually considered an investment, kind of like old Martin guitars.  Or to satisfy my whim to play saxophone again, I can buy a Chinese knockoff of a Selmer Mark VI for $500-1000.  It looks like a Selmer, it plays something like an intermediate quality horn, and it might even say Selmer.  But is that right and is it wise to do?   

I have to admit that I like the crazy good deal, too, but the last thing you want to do is to waste the money you've worked hard to make.  Shop carefully. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 11:14 AM

Finally - a $169.95 projector lamp

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If I've thought it once, I've thought it a thousand times.  Why on earth does a replacement lamp for a video projector have to cost $400-500?  I think that everyone who buys and/or sells these projection products thinks the same thing.  I know all of the real reasons -- the cost of the manufacturing process, the limited number of units sold to reclaim those costs, etc., but for crying out loud, it's a light bulb!  Even BMW headlights don't cost that much - at least I don't think so. 

So the other day, while I was showing a projector to a client, he asked about the cost of the lamp (bulb) and I was surprised to find out that its replacement lamp was $169.95 - and not $400. 

The Sanyo XD and XK series are very reasonably priced both at the time of purchase and when it's time to get a replacement lamp.  One client even offered that "At that price, I can afford to have a replacement lamp on the shelf, just in case."  Exactly. 

Just one more reason to like Sanyo.  Finally - a reasonably-priced projector lamp. 

For more information, please click here for details on the Sanyo PLC-XK Series, and here for details on the Sanyo PLC-XD Series

Thursday, April 28, 2011 04:25 PM

How $4 gasoline can save you money

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Today it happened - $4.15 gasoline in Columbus, OH. Most things don't bother me much, but $4 gas hit me in the pit of my stomach.  Last night, I had contemplated filling up at $3.74.  Overnight, prices increased by 10%.  Said another way, the value of the money in your pocket or your bank account decreased by about the same amount relative to gasoline -- overnight.  Ouch. 

Without getting into the intricacies of economics, the dollar keeps losing value.  It's been on a long-term slide since 1913 - with a few ups and downs along the way.  Since the dollar will likely continue on its long-term downtrend for the rest of our lives, what can you do?  About the only thing that you can do is earn more or spend less.  Earning more sounds great, but that's harder to control.  But who really wants to spend less?  We need our expensive coffee, our gasoline and the right equipment.  Oops. 

Like you, I want to be properly equipped when it comes to audio, video, projection and lighting equipment.  It's important. 

I know, I know.  So how will $4-a-gallon gas save you money? 

Lots of people don't consider the costs of time and travel when they're buying gear.  Some will drive an hour each way to talk with someone or to pick up new gear when all they have to do is to pick up the phone or order online, and wait for UPS, FedEx or the USPS to bring it to them. 

When you call here, we pay for the phone call, we ship many orders at no additional cost, and you don't have to drive anywhere to talk to someone about getting the right solution.  That's how we'll save you both time, and money. 

If $4 gas has you down, stop driving and call us!  We think that you'll be glad you did. 

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What others say

The new microphone worked great! The guy running our sound board yesterday said he didn't know the choir sounded that good! We will want to order at least one more.

Thanks,

Danny Dolan, All Saints Anglican Church