Prepare for AV shipping delays and product shortages due to COVID-19
Tom Petty once suggested that “waiting is the hardest part.” In these difficult times for home theater enthusiasts and audiophiles alike, the wait is unfortunately going to become more and more part of the pastime. Recently, as part of a new school effort to stock up on everyday items in the event of a second national stay-at-home order in the entire city of Los Angeles, statewide or possibly a some form of national order to “bend the curve” of this virus, I ordered a large box of my favorite Gillette disposable razors from Amazon. Normally I would buy these blue-green razors from CVS right in the city where I live, but like many these days I try to limit my trips to retail stores to keep my contact with other people at a minimum. The blades appeared nine days later. Not only am I an Amazon Prime customer, but my wife is a “Level 7” at Amazon Studios. None of this helped me get my shipment in a timely manner. Fortunately, there’s Stanley Cup hockey in August for the first time, so I can safely say that my manly growth is a “playoff beard” until I cut it all off.
Unfortunately, the specialty audio-video world is experiencing similar supply chain issues. Simply Home Entertainment, based in Culver City, CA, designs and manages many of the largest distributed smart home audio systems and Bel Air Circuit (think a real movie theater inside your home with daily movies) . One of their billionaire class customers north of Sunset Boulevard needed two DirecTV receivers. As a long-time DirecTV customer, I can tell you that the satellite TV company isn’t that quick to ship out new material or do installs quickly. Having worked with some of these mega-customers of Simply Home Entertainment services, I can also tell you that these people are not at all interested in waiting for anything. With almost unlimited funds, they want what they want when they want it and can be quite demanding about it. Knowing that time was a major factor in this situation, the Simply Home team called a local satellite installation company and purchased the two required DirecTV 4K boxes “on the side” (meaning they don’t didn’t get them directly from DirecTV, in an effort to save time). Normally one of Simply Home’s staff would drive to the nearby satellite company and collect the units, but the satellite company is locked down and wouldn’t let anyone in; thus, they would only sell the units if they were shipped. They arranged the expedition from Culver City for about four to five miles to another posh location on the Westside of Los Angeles. The UPS package with the receivers arrived no earlier than 11 days later. If the satellite dealer had allowed an in-person pickup (or even left behind the dumpster), there would have been no issues or delays. A courier could have picked up the units and had them delivered the same day. Who would have ever dreamed that 11 days was the possible delivery time for a small parcel in the same city?
Amazingly, this is becoming the new normal for logistics in a post COVID-19 world. The products needed can be hard to come by, whether it’s an AV component, garlic at the grocery store, or the ever-elusive Clorox wipes. Shipping may be much slower than ever, even as Amazon and other delivery companies hire as many new drivers as possible. As with many other elements of our lives, we need to redefine our expectations. At least the traffic isn’t as bad, is it?
Delays and shortages are not exclusive to AV retailers and installers. My lawyer loaned me a pair of MartinLogan Summit speakers (who says all lawyers are assholes?) since I moved into our new house about a year ago. These are gorgeous transducers with aluminum accents and a beautiful birdseye maple wood finish. I’ve always loved MartinLogan hybrid electrostatic speakers, but the pair in my new media room are, respectfully, about the worst ever. To sound good, I need a speaker that has ultra-wide dispersion, and while I can say a lot of good things about MartinLogan ESL speakers, having wide dispersion isn’t one of the best attributes of these speakers. Along with my beloved Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers sold as part of my old house last spring, the MartinLogans actually produce believable sound for audiophiles. The goal was for me to sell these speakers, along with a matching birdseye maple center speaker, and replace them with something else. To add insult to injury, my contractors threw away the main speakers as part of the moving process after being carefully stored for over 10 years. I could be a bad friend after this disaster because I can only imagine having to custom-package such large but delicate speakers. The viral pandemic slowed down the process of reselling the speakers as we didn’t want anyone in our home, but after an unexpected water leak washed out my guest bathroom downstairs, we had two months of contractors masked in and out of the house despite our previous caution.
I recently considered buying some new speakers and was offered a pretty good deal on around $7000/pr of the Revel BE speakers in white. The media room was painted a very seaside grayish blue. The new carpet has arrived. I took delivery of a reclining four-seat (with chaise) sand-colored leather seating system from Elite HTS that everyone loves. The play is really progressing. Now is probably the time for new, more user-friendly speakers. The problem is that there is no inventory according to my trusted connection at Harman. I have been told that they are sold out on their entire line of BE speakers. Revel-Harman-Samsung is based in the San Fernando Valley and therefore was subject to the same city-wide lockdown we had back home, which is located a bit closer to the beach. The company also deals with China for some of the elements of said speakers, and we all know how stuck that nation has been for months and months.
Buy now while you can?
In the spirit of merging both manufacturing and timelines, I’ve been waiting almost three months for an entire house full of Crestron automated roller blinds. I’ve had these in the past and the cool factor is off the charts. In an adapted smart home, you can raise and lower the blinds depending on the position of the sun relative to your geographic location. It sounds like rocket science, but your integrator can make it work quite easily and without millions of programming dollars. The effect can improve your views, make your home look better, and even save you money on your HVAC bill. At the moment I have west facing windows with literally no covering. We have the small supports ready to use but no shades. The reality is that companies like Crestron simply can’t make blinds as fast as they did a very long time ago (i.e. six months ago). And when they’re done, God knows how long those tubes will take to ship across the country, from New Jersey to California. In the meantime, I must be patient. Very patient.
Time and again, supply chain is hammered home here in the United States with global overtones. It affects all kinds of businesses within and beyond our beloved hobby. If you’re on the hunt for new AV equipment and have the opportunity to make a purchase, you might want to do so now because it’s not 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, is most likely not the reality of These days.