UPDATE (February 5th, 2014): This is still one of the most frequently viewed posts on Geek Bravado. Judging from the search terms WordPress tells me brings people to it, it’s clear I’m not the only one who has been screwed by Auzentech. Just on a whim last week, I decided to go check out their web site and it appears their domain has expired and now redirects to a parking click farm page. This occasionally happens when someone at a company forgets to update a credit card and their domain renewal fails but in those cases, it’s resolved within a day or two. As of today, their site still goes to the parking page. This could be an indication that Auzentech has finally succumb to their own hubris and gone out of business. If so, be even more wary about buying any of their products that may still be on shelves as there will now be even less support available than there was before. Still, if they are gone, it is some kind of victory to know they won’t be screwing over any one else. Good riddance.
Bad customer service is the rule and not the exception today. I’m a victim of it every day both personally and in my job as is most everyone else and like those people, most of the time I just have to suck it up and accept it as the way things are. However, my recent experiences with boutique manufacturer of sound cards (and other things) Auzentech Inc. has been so incredibly, mind-boggingly awful that I had to write something about it not only to vent but as a warning to anyone else who is planning to give this awful company any of their money.
I built a new gaming PC a little under a year ago. I use a good headset and discovered quickly that the mainboard’s built-in audio didn’t have enough power to properly drive it. I tried out a mid-line Asus sound card and wasn’t terribly pleased either but then found out about the Auzentech X-Fi Forte 7.1. This card uses Creative Technology’s well regarded X-Fi chip but has much better amps on it. It was well regarded both in reviews and on forums so I went for one at a cost of almost $150 after taxes. Until recently, I couldn’t have been happier. The sound quality was fantastic and it had all the features I wanted.
Then a couple of months ago, I started running into a problem where after extended play sessions, the sound would get very staticy, like you were listening to a radio that was out of tune. I did some poking around and discovered this to be a common and known problem with the Forte 7.1. The built-in heat sink is not good enough and it can sometimes overheat. This problem has worsened over time. In addition, the latest drivers made available from Auzentech’s web site will not install because they say the installation CD isn’t inserted (putting in the one that comes in the box doesn’t help). Several people said Auzentech has fixed the static issue with a new hardware revision and that setting up an RMA to get my Forte 7.1 replaced would solve everything. I’m never pleased with having to pay shipping to get someone else’s screw-up fixed but such is life. I created a ticket on Auzentech’s web site and waited for my RMA number.
That was six weeks ago and counting. No acknowledgement, no response, no replacement card. I have about a month left on the warranty and the time gets shorter every day.
I started looking around some more and discovered that many people going back as far as 2008 have had problems with Auzentech taking weeks to answer tickets and in some cases, never answering them at all. Apparently in their minds, actively selling premium products with a legal warranty doesn’t mean they have any obligation to honour said warranty. As usual, the useless tech press never mentioned this in any reviews of the product (save one from HardOCP that I missed originally), despite it being well known among users. The consensus I found was that Auzentech products are great when they work and don’t break often but when they do, you’re basically screwed. Not in my world, thank you very much.
Since the second week went by with no response, I’ve been on a quest to get a hold of someone, anyone from this company and get the replacement I am legally and morally entitled to. This has been neither easy nor fruitful thus far. Auzentech does not offer phone support and the only US phone number on their web site is a voice-mail only line. I’ve left multiple messages, none of which have been returned. I have not yet incurred the expense to call the South Korea office but I don’t imagine I’ll get anywhere there either. I tried to join their forums but new accounts have to be manually approved by a moderator and mine never was. I did manage to discover e-mail addresses for their RMA department and company President Stephane Bae but so far, those have gone unreturned as well. I’ve tried to dig up more on this guy but other than finding out he once worked in marketing for another company that was at the same address until around the time Auzentech started, there’s not much out there. All of this has the feeling of a company that’s gone out of business but their phone number still works, their products are still being actively sold in stores and online and just this month, they made a news posting on their web site about migrating to a new server. They’re clearly still around, they just seem totally uninterested in honouring their warranties.
I’m not sure what to do from here. I’ve submitted this story to The Consumerist twice and been ignored (likely because this isn’t a big company they can publicly shame). From what I can tell, there is no real legal recourse I have for this other than suing which obviously isn’t fiscally practical for an issue like this. I’m considering replacing the card with another Asus model that’s in the same ballpark but it’s over $200 to do that and I won’t recover much of it by selling my Forte 7.1, which I would have to do at a steep discount because of its issues. I’ve asked the place where I bought the card if they have a different support channel but have gotten no response there either. It truly appears that there’s nothing I can do at this point, something I’m quite certain Auzentech is aware of. If anyone knows of anything else I may have missed to try to find out more information about the company or how to contact their employees, please feel free to leave a comment or let me know over Twitter.
I’ll post more about this saga if anything further develops but needless to say, I don’t think anyone should give this scumbag, fraud practising company a dime. If you are in the market for a sound card or anything else Auzentech sells, run, don’t walk away with your money. Don’t believe the useless tech press reviews, this is a company that knowingly sells products with design flaws and seems completely unconcerned with honouring the legally binding warranties they include with them. Whatever their reasons are for this, I don’t care. You took my money, you have an obligation to support your customers and if you can’t, you should stop selling products to them. I’m hoping this public shaming will cause someone at this company to crawl out from under a rock and provide me some kind of help but I’m not holding my breath.
UPDATE: I got fed up with the continuing issues and after some research, decided to pick up an Asus Xonar DGX because I couldn’t justify the expense for the higher end ROG Xonar Phoebus. Ever since, I’ve been kicking myself for not buying one of these back when I built this PC. It cost about 1/3 as much, the drivers while not as elegant as Creative’s, do still offer a ton of customisation options (including a manual maximum volume cap which I’ve wanted and the Creative drivers couldn’t do) and the sound quality through my Razer Carcharias headset is fantastic. Beyond that, I have actually noticed a noticeable improvement in both my frame rate when gaming and my overall system stability. I used to get occasional blue screens (especially when resuming from sleep) that I blamed on my overclock and my monitors would also refuse to sleep because the system kept thinking an audio stream was open, even when there was nothing playing. Both problems have vanished with the Xonar DGX, meaning there was more wrong with the Forte than I even realised. I’m going to continue fighting to get this card replaced and if I can, I’ll be selling the replacement and sticking with the Xonar DGX. An Auzentech product will never go near a system I own again.