It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to making large and expensive production purchases. With such a competitive marketplace, products all seem to do pretty much the same thing for pretty much the same type of money. So as a small business or HoW, what constitutes a good investment? Well, there are many things that should be considered when purchasing equipment. Here’s a few to think about:
Can it do the job? This is fairly obvious but needs addressing. If you are looking at purchasing a new mixing desk, can it physically handle the inputs and outputs you require? If it can’t it’s not a viable solution. Only if it can handle your requirements is it a possible candidate for purchase. Perhaps a more revealing question to ask though, would be ‘Does the new console meet the projected worst-case-scenario requirements of the system in say 3-5 years?’ If you can easily envisage a scenario where you can max out the new console you probably haven’t pitched it quite right.
Products have a lifecycle. It’s important to understand where your product sits in terms of its product lifecycle as this will affect things like future updates and support. When was your console released? Have there been regular updates to software? Is there an active support forum online? These are all good signs that manufacturers are actively supporting the product and developing it. Buying a product at the end of its lifecycle can limit the amount of support you receive. This might not seem the end of the world now, but in a few years, you will be left with a product that the manufacturer doesn’t want to touch with limited options for updates and servicing.
Open or closed architecture?
Manufacturers can often save money by using ‘proprietary protocols.’ This effectively means that they’ve written something brand specific, i.e. it will only work with their brand of consoles. Whilst this can be totally fine in some situations, it does limit the scalability of your system. If you can, choose an open architecture that allows you to link to other devices such as Dante or MADI. This will give you much more flexibility in the long run and help you increase the lifecycle of your purchase.
Things break. You should be aware of this and expect it to happen to you. If your new console were to break, could you get a new one quickly? Do any hire companies stock them locally? Is the manufacturer’s customer support good? Remember when you purchase a product, you’re actually buying into a company. Make sure you are happy that the company values you and your investment. Make sure you can get your hands on something else quickly if something were to break.
Is it scalable?
A system that can be scaled up to do large events and then back down for smaller events is going to give you the best ROI and the most flexibility. A scalable system allows your initial investment to be relatively modest and your system can be expanded as and when required to deal with larger events at a later date. Sometimes it is more cost effective to hire additional equipment for a few one-off larger events rather than purchase a larger system and not make use of it regularly. Fixed architecture systems can be cheaper, but do not give you the ability to grow and shrink your system as your requirements dictate.
How much is this going to cost?
Ultimately, the cost is usually the main dictating factor to your investment. However, most people underestimate the total cost of a project by ignoring the often ‘hidden’ costs of a fully designed system. You will need to factor in flight-casing, storage, patch panels and cabling. Ensuring your investment lasts for years often costs a substantial amount of money, but not spending it now will almost certainly shorten the lifecycle of your product and cause reliability issues later on. Factor this into your budget at the start so you are not hit by spiralling costs at the end of a project.
Does it need to be ‘rider-friendly’?
If you are a hire company, you will need to think about what your clients are requesting. Purchasing a console that no one wants however much you believe in it will slow down your ROI. In some situations, being rider friendly isn’t that important. For example, in a Church environment, functionality and ease of use are more important than being rider friendly. As a result, you may be able to consider options that aren’t as rider friendly but deliver on cost and performance. However, you need to remember the previous points raised in this post. It’s not just about buying a console that works. It’s about the support available should something go wrong and the scalability of the system. It can be a good move for HoW to align themselves with local production companies in terms of infrastructure and equipment brands to help with this.
Hopefully, that’s given you a few things to think about when purchasing new equipment. If you have any projects you would like help with or some advice, please feel free to get in touch on our contact page.