Viva, no longer a fan

Viva as a company has decided to abandon the audiophiles who engage in the used market.  I heard that the had implemented new transformers in there amps.  I emailed them directly 3 times over a 2 week period with no reply.  Finally I called and the knew who I was by name, surprised I was then told that the US importer would be contacting me.  Here is the mail exchange:

From: John Krupa
Date: September 21, 2016 at 7:04:52 PM EDT
To: support@vivaaudio
Subject: Fwd: Viva Audio

Totally what I did not expect!!! I was primarily looking to upgrade them to the new Quattro status as I understand there was an big transformer upgrade that I was willing do in addition to the voltage change. After the Bob Clarke email I was taken back and responded how I felt. I really am no longer interested in Viva as a company to do business with if that is the case and will blog the copy of this email to the various sites.

From: John Krupa 
Date: September 21, 2016 at 2:08:37 AM EDT
To: Bob Clarke
Subject: Re: Viva Audio

The Verona's are at my Girlfriends house in Manchester. I heard there was a new Transformer upgrade in the Quattro series, hence my interest. I have over $300k invested in my system and I have Sola CVS transformers providing both voltages hence it was only for convenience sake. Upgrades are and have been part of this industry that I have been a part of for over 40 years since I started in this hobby. Name the manufacturer and it hasn't been a problem. Upgrading from. Mk1 to a Mk2 or an SE upgrade. Weather it be BAT, YG, Plinius, Ayre, the list goes on and on, It's a shame that a manufacturer acts in such a petty way. I will make sure that I share this email on all the sites that I am a part of! It's funny but this I believe reduces the brands appeal and will drive down its resale valve hence the initial desire to purchase in the first place. This is an email I would have expected from a "name deleted" type. Now I guess Viva! No longer a fan!

On Sep 20, 2016, at 12:02 PM, Bob Clarke wrote:

Dear Mr. Krupa,

Viva Audio has asked me to respond to your request regarding voltage changes and upgrades for Viva Verona amplifiers and Linea linestage. Viva no longer services equipment purchased on the used market from anyone that is not an authorized Viva dealer. They do not make voltage changes, in order to discourage grey-market international sales. I would recommend using a high-quality, high-current step-down transformer, which, besides allowing the use of a European voltage product, will also have the beneficial effects that isolation transformers provide.

Best regards,
Bob Clarke

John thanks for the post. I was considering Viva since I heard them many years ago and loved the sound and look. This has changed my mind and will stay away from this brand. 

I get your point that Viva is not servicing products unless they were purchased from authorized Viva dealers. I'm not surprised, as other European manufacturers have done the same. So, it's shameful but not surprising. 

I read your post a few times and only understood it after I read the response from Bob Clarke, at Profundo. I assume you meant to share the contents of your emails to Viva, but I don't see them. Also, it appears that the sequence of your email exchange is backward. 
It is disappointing for sure, but you have to realize the position they are in as well. Gray market sales a really frustrating to the dealers that these brands are supporting, so they do what they can to make these purchases less attractive to potential buyers.
I'm in the jewelry industry, and we have the same problem with Gray market watches. The brands we carry refuse to perform warranty service on watches not purchased from authorized dealers.

Thank You for taking the time and consideration to post this non-sense.
It is imperative to post both positive & negative information when dealing w/ these manufacturers. Same goes for specific dealers/retailers who choose to work against the customer.
I am with roxy54 here it's a bummer but not hard to see Viva's side of things either I am sure many dollars are lost to manufacturers/dealers via grey market goods. However I can understand them not doing upgrades but offering service and repairs is another thing. Hopefully a good dealer can help with this it seems churlish to not offer repairs to your products if the customer is willing to pay for said repairs regardless of whether he's the original owner.
I certainly would not deal with companies like that. If they want to fight grey market they got to find other ways of doing it. If originally the product was bought from an authorized dealer it must be serviced regardless of the number of owners besides the original owner. This should include all available upgrades. And the fees should be reasonable, and I don't mean low.
They can tell from the serial # if it was originally sold by an authorized dealer. They don't care how many people have owned it. 
Its easy to say that they should find other ways, but what would you suggest?
+1 @ inna - and I think most manufacturers are willing to do that.
No Viva for me in the future. Just bad business and it will cost them long term if they stick to this policy. I have been interested in this brand, but no longer. 
Roxy54, I don't know what to suggest, I am not a pro in this field.
How is grey market formed in the first place? Usually, whatever it is, you try to affect the causality. If it is not possible or extremely complicated you move a little further down the chain.
This kind of company policy creates, among other things, the situation of people belonging to different hierarchical classes, with one having certain priviledges and the other not. European at its worst. We have it here in America too, but it is also European in origin. Or has it always been that way since our ancestors left African continent or even before that? In any case, I believe, that's not how it should be in a modern civilized society. One can perhaps argue about transferrable and non-transferrable warranty, but that's different.
I’m with Jond and Roxy54 on this issue, what more effective steps can Viva employ? This is a major concern for a small cottage company such as Viva dealing with undermining grey market competition. If there is a better approach would someone here kindly suggest what that might be?

They make superb amplifiers (I love their sound) based on their own hard work and talent. I can’t fault them in their attempt to discourage grey market competition. It seems reasonable to me that the "initial " sale be via an authorized dealer.
It happens in different ways. Sometimes an authorized dealer is selling them out the back door in quantity, and sometimes there are small quantities that hit the market from businesses that close.
There is another way of course, and I really doubt that it applies here. Some watch companies, I am thinking of Tag Heuer in particular, say that they protect their retailers, yet there are large numbers of their watches online from unauthorized sources. Same with Bell & Ross. I, and other people I know in the industry believe that because business is not good at this time, they are deliberately dumping inventory to these vendors to make at least some money during a difficult time.  
How did the amp get into the grey marketplace in the first place, if not through their own dealer network? Why punish the customer for a problem in the dealer network? Seems to me they need to tighten up their distribution/retail channels and not punish potential customers and kill  the use market. I would think all high-end manufacturers would maintain a database to track serial numbers from manufacturing through retail to possibly even re-sales. Maybe, I am just being naive.
What is the big deal.......( Jerry ) find someone who works on tube amps and order the upgrades to be installed by them....I don't get it. You buy a piece of gear used and expect royal treatment from an over seas manufacture. Try taking a used iPhone in to have it upgraded.  Bob Clark at Profound is a good guy. Though he is not in the service business.

Yeah, directly or indirectly thru poor choice of authorized dealers they themselves create the so-called grey market and then they blame and punish the others. Very human, sucks big time.
I can't imagine there is a ton of grey market sales of an esoteric set amplifier manufacturer. 

If he wants to pay for transformer upgrades, them refer him to local Viva dealer and all should be good?  
Refusal of service on Grey Market audio gear regardless if purchased new or used is done to protect those of whom had purchased thru an authorized dealer. It is an attempt to protect brand value plain and simple. If someone knowingly purchases from the Gray Market, then its a risk that you accept when service is needed. On the other hand if purchased used, and the seller did not disclose the he bought from the Gray Market, then sadly you are stuck with no recourse. Good Luck! 
Not servicing used products unless purchased from an authorized dealer is overly restrictive to Viva owners unless they couple it with a liberal trade-in/upgrade policy.  In effect they are limiting the resale value of existing customers' equipment by strongly discouraging sales to third parties.

I understand their policy regarding grey market goods.

Viva is a niche player.  In all probability neither of these policies will hurt them in their intended market.  In the North American market you have to really want a
Viva to buy a Viva.
One of the things you give up when you buy used, is being treated by the manufacturer as if you had purchased it new. There are some manufacturers who, as a courtesy (Roger Sanders, Jeff Rowland, Loyd Walker, Nelson Pass, Ralph Karsten and others) go out of their way to offer their support to the user of their gear without question.  I'm not sure if those courtesies would be offered to me if I were overseas, or if the manufacturers sales were exposed to gray market competition.  

Read literally, the distributor’s note implies that the company will not service any equipment "purchased on the used market from anyone that is not an authorized Viva dealer." I wonder if they really intend to proscribe that broadly? Say you are in the States and want to buy a used piece of gear from a private seller (or even a non-Viva dealer who received it as a trade-in) -gear that was originally sold by an authorized dealer in the U.S. market. No service or support because the (used) purchase was not made directly from an authorized dealer? Even though the product was originally sold by an authorized dealer within the territory?
I do understand the grey market issues- and those are legitimate concerns both to protect the marketing/distribution system and the integrity of the product (especially if there are regional product differences that may involve legal compliance).
I like the ViVa gear I’ve heard. I doubt that the company intends to foster ill-will among existing owners or prospects. I’m not entirely sure of the facts in the OP’s situation--he says the amps are in Manchester (England?) and wants to upgrade and use them Stateside? (Thus the response from the U.S. distributor addressing a voltage change, among other things?)
If the gear had been purchased from an authorized dealer in one country, and the owner (whether or not the original purchaser) wanted to relocate to another part of the world, the customer ought get support. That would seem to have little direct impact on the grey market unless the customer’s objective was to "flip" the gear- but in that case, why bother with the voltage change? Why not just resell in the "foreign" territory?
My bet--the company might revisit this broad statement of policy to ward off grey market issues without alienating or limiting their customer base. If it is the company’s intention that all resales of equipment have to go back through an authorized dealer, that should be made clear. I had experience with this at one point with a car- I was required to sign a contract that said I wouldn’t "flip" it privately but if I wanted to sell it, must resell it to the authorized dealer--this was to prevent premiums for a then "hot" product that had limited allotment. I didn’t have a problem with that and the time frame was limited to a year after purchase. (Even in the case of cars that are built as "world market," there are compliance issues that vary by country, but that’s a separate matter).
I know that sometimes, posts like this are constructive, because they bring attention to a situation that has put a customer in an untenable situation. Sometimes, it is the communication process- frustration leads to annoyance which leads to unintended outcomes for both parties. My experience with big companies- and ViVa as far as I know is a small company (unless they are owned by a large operation) is that the wheels of bureaucracy are frozen and almost impossible to turn. Let’s hope this situation is clarified for all concerned.
Consider this. A customer purchases a product from the dealer and would like to upgrade it. The dealer and manufacture would have an interest in maintaining that customer relationship by providing that services at a very "reasonable price." That is the key "reasonable price."
On the other hand someone picks up a product used, perhaps abused, or modified. Should the dealer or manufacture offer the same degree of service to that person and at that same "reasonable price." I think not. 
I think that situation must be approached with a great deal of caution. 

soundsrealaudio - you posed the question: 'Should the dealer or manufacture offer the same degree of service to that person and at that same "reasonable price." I think not". I think I have to disagree. The manufacturer should support its product to anyone. They aren't losing anything by doing it, they are actually gaining a sale. They will still make money by doing the repairs and they will make a user very happy. Especially for those users who cannot currently afford their new gear, in a few years, maybe that user can now afford to buy it new and remembering the goodwill of that manufacturer, that user may someday buy new. The manufacturer has now expanded its customer base instead of getting negative publicity like Viva is doing here. Being in business a lot of years, I have learned it is best not to burn any bridges, you never what effect its going to have.
Soundsrealaudio, yes they should offer service. Goodness, it's just more income for the shop! No warranty work is being asked for here.

They don't want to support older units that have been sold, resold etc... They will hurt their brand image in the long run. They will shrink an already small market for their gear. As a used Viva owner, I may well buy a new one from the dealer if my experience has been good with both the dealer and Viva. However, when my pre-owned Viva amp gets old, and they treat me like this, then no way I would consider a new Viva amp. Lost me as a potential new Viva owner. 

I talk all to my audio friends about how Viva only wants to help me with brand new gear ONLY and they also have a bad taste in their mouths. Yes, rancid is the flavor the brand will take on. 
By the way I have purchased several brand new units from manufacturers based on the service and joy I received on a pre owned, used unit that turned me onto them in the first place!  We are quick leaving the notion of great service, service beyond our expectations, behind and it is now far too rare. Sure, one can overthink this antique notion of remarkable service, service beyond what we deserve, and pervert into the thought that it is bad for business. This is what Viva is doing. They have lost common sense. 
STAX USA is the exact same way.

They will not even service Headphones bought legally in Japan, and brought into the USA.

They are pricks!

I am very happy Honda will still service my pre-owned Pilot. 
One thing that soundsrealaudio said that I agree with is the Viva is a tube amp and I would imagine there are any number of good technicians out there who could install a new transformer and do any other upgrades. That is one of the great benefits of owning well made tubed gear it's relatively easy to repair and usually not horribly expensive.
Hi Bill (Grannyring),
I don't believe that Viva is refusing to service any and all of their used products but rather those that weren't sold new by an authorized dealer thus grey market. My apologies if I'm mistaken concerning this scenario.

If I do have it right then I do not blame Viva for this sensible policy. It seems that this would to some degree discourage grey market practices. What do you believe to be a more effective and reasonable approach to halt/diminish grey market competition.?
@Charles: I think in those circumstances, they should have a problem not with an eventual end user, but rather with their dealers. If they only sell to authorized dealers and they track their serial numbers, they will know exactly what dealer that unit was shipped to. If that dealer sells it in a manner that doesn’t equate with their rules, and thus those become units become grey market goods; who should suffer, that dealer or a subsequent end user? I am assuming that all of the units leaving the factory only go to authorized dealers and distributors so the goods don’t start off as grey market. Viva is making a user suffer for a dealer’s unsavory sale.
Viva audio is a very small company and tracking serial numbers is very easy to do. This is just an excuse to not offer an appropriate customer service. When you buy a new device from VIVA, it takes a couple of months to make it and get delivered to you!. Grey market phenomena is more valid for big companies.

Here is my story with Viva cutovmer service :
Three years a go, I called their distributer in US, based in TX. I left several messages without any feedback! I then called Blackbird Audio and talked to Dan Muzquiz, whom is a gentleman and answered partially my questions about Viva preamp. A friend of mine in San Diego bought a couple of gears from him, and always talks about Ken being a nice professional person to deal with.
Then I bought a used VIVA Linea and had a few question which is not answered in their web site and manuals. I sent emails to VIVA in Italy without any feedback. I then asked the same question on their Facebook page a couple of times. Finally they sent me some fuzzy answer and then ejected me from their Facebook page!

I sold my Viva Linea XP last month,I bought it at 1/4 of its retail price and sold it as such. I have now an Einstein the Preamp which is fantastic compared to Viva Linea (same retail price!). Besides, Einstein customer service is wonderful on answering promptly your question, thanks to Mr. Volker Bohlmeier (designer) of Einstein for his fast feed-backs. Einstein is also a small company but they don't use funny excuses like Viva Audio.

Viva must be losing the competition and for some reason got engaged in self-destructive behaviour. Whatever it is, they can listen to their stuff bloody selves. 
I think you have to distinguish between grey goods and equipment on the resale market that was originally authorized to be sold in a particular territory or region. Grey goods, as I understand it, are legitimate goods, but only within the territory or region for which they are authorized to be sold. In many cases, rather than using the authorized dealer or distribution network within your country, you can buy from the country of origin or neighboring country at a cheaper price, but that bypasses the distribution and support system the manufacturer has put into place. (Some of the mark up or difference in price is a reflection of the additional cost of that local distribution and service network). In the case of electronics, power supplies may be modified or other changes made to adapt the product for the remote market. The manufacturer typically does not want to have to support that -even if being paid to do so by the end user--since it not only undercuts its distribution system, but puts its brand in jeopardy if unauthorized modifications have been made to the equipment.
I don’t think these are shabby excuses, but reflect legitimate concerns. (PS: I’m not addressing ViVa alone here, but the issue more generally and have no view on ViVa’s service or support, in the U.S. or elsewhere).

In my earlier post upthread (I thought these posts were numbered, but it appears at 09-25-2016 9:57am), I pointed out that the U.S. distributor’s stated position went beyond that, and denies support to "equipment purchased on the used market from anyone that is not an authorized Viva dealer." Read literally, this would exclude support for goods that were authorized for sale in the territory in question, but purchased used from a private seller.
Excellent comments and perspective in making the distinction.  To not offer service to all used Viva product ownersowners is wrong in my opinion.  I'm specifically addressing the true grey market dilemma. Viva shouldn't discard the baby with the bathwater. 
Agreed Charles. Don't punish the customer. 
@roxy54 Well, if you are thinking of companies owned by the Swatch Company, I hope they have improved. Their service was so bad I promised I'd never own another watch in their brand umbrella. I hope that got better.



The type of protection of the US distributor and the local dealerships that Viva appears to be employing will, unfortunately, hurt some used buyers that unknowingly purchased a unit that has ended up in another country/sales region.  But, absent some protection, it is almost impossible for brick and mortar dealerships to make a go of it with people shopping all over the world via the internet after using their local dealership as a show/demonstration room (or even making a purchase without auditioning based on the "wisdom" of the internet or reviewers).  Distributor/dealer network for demonstrating gear vs. losing dealers and relying on shows or internet hype to promote the products/brand?  This mini war between bargain shoppers and protected local distribution unfortunately appears to have created some collateral damage in the used equipment market.  There is a tradeoff involved no matter what the policy employed. 

As for repairs of Viva gear, their stuff should be quite easy for any competent repair shop to do the repairs.  Most tube gear can be repaired easily without having to go back to the manufacturer.   

I would never knowingly buy a product from a company with such a policy. Grey market concerns are the companies issue, not the consumers. It hurts the resale value for those who might want to move up those very companies lines, and thus compromises the value to the original purchaser. There are still many top quality products that are more consumer friendly; I'll spend my money accordingly.
@larryi - thumbs up.

@unsound - I respectfully disagree- the issue is a consumer issue as well. We seem to want it all- low prices, ready availability and support. What’s that saying? You can only have two out of three: good, cheap and fast? I don’t begrudge a consumer, looking for a bargain, buying out of the distribution chain, but that should be an informed decision, knowing the trade-off is potentially a lack of support. I may not be the typical consumer of hi-fi gear because I want the comfort of knowing that whatever I buy will be supported, and am willing to pay the premium to get it. Support costs money--for the manufacturer and distributor; of course this is passed on to the customer in the form of higher prices. But with that also come certain intangibles, apart from peace of mind--I’ve had unbelievable support from manufacturers and distributors--in many instances way beyond the call of duty-- supplying loaners, direct replacements, and quick turnaround on repairs ,extra spares, discounts and the like. Yes, I "paid" for that upfront rather than bargain hunting, though in some cases, the equipment came into my hands used, through an authorized dealer. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky and I’ll hit a snag at some point--buying gear through authorized channels and getting zero support. But, how can loaners, replacement products and other courtesies (I do regard them as courtesies to the extent that the manufacturer/distributor makes such accommodations beyond a literal reading of the warranty)--be extended without paying for it in some way? As I said, I don’t begrudge the bargain shopper- but as long as it is an informed choice, you take whatever risk you (and your pocketbook) are comfortable with.

Does this mean that Viva will not service anything purchased on the used market, period?  Or does it just mean that it will not service something that was not initially purchased from a Viva dealer?  Sumiko has always had a policy of not providing parts or service on any item not initially purchased from an authorized dealer.  Just trying to make sure I understand exactly what is going on here, because, IMO, they are two very different things.  

Companies which do not service used products devalue their product and their brand; their products, sold used, have a lower value due to the lack of support.  Denying support to owners of a used product, in order to "protect" a dealer network, places the interests of dealers ahead of the interests of owners of those products, and devalues the product itself.  

I try my best to avoid such companies, and will certainly avoid Viva.  Their products do not appear to represent good value, anyway.      

Wow!!  I appreciate everyone's reply. To be clear, yes if you purchase a used piece of Viva gear from a private seller who paid full retail from a US dealer, Viva will not provide support no matter what you pay.  So here they are punishing the original buyer!!!  It renders VIva u sellable and actually reduces their brands. worth. SAD!   For the record these were bought from a private seller, who was the original owner.  The voltage change is not a big deal.  I was looking to upgrade them to "Quattro" status.  If I knew all the changes that went into the Quattro I would get it done here.  I have bought watches when I have traveled, Rolex and jaeger Le C. To name 2 and even though bought overseas there has been no problem servicing them here in the US for they were purchased from reputable dealers.  I have since received another email.  Again the specifically say the won't support the used market.  I understand the grey market problem but this is not the case here.  And what is worse is that I owned a pair of Verona's that were purchased from a US dealer that I sold 3 years ago.  I missed them and wanted them back I found these.  Viva knew this for it was in my first email to their support.  See the email below, come to your own conclusions.

Dear Mr. Krupa,

We really do not understand this animosity. Verona is a discontinued product from years and any upgrade would be expensive.
The only thing we said is that we do not support equipment directly, only through dealers/distributors, and we do not support equipment coming from used market, transferred from overseas.

Since you are doing this, I think that our decision is right.

Best regards,

Amedeo Schembri

Guess they just don't need or want your business!
and we do not support equipment coming from used market, transferred from overseas.
I am confused.  Is this email coming from the US importer?  If so, it sounds like he is saying we will not support Viva products not sold through a US retailer.  To the US importer, this is a grey market amp.  I would like to see an email from the US importer saying that they will not support used products that were initially sold through their US distribution.  Two very different scenarios.
TOTALLY agree with Whart.  You get what you pay for.  Loyalty rules.  We get it back in spades.  
The OP wasn't asking for free service, he was willing to pay for the upgrade. Whart is correct if you are asking for warranty service. In the this case, however, the OP wasn't asking for that, he was willing to pay for the upgrade. There's a big difference.
I have no experience with Viva at all.  So, not necessarily a comment on them specifically.  I have however sold and serviced audio gear for nearly 40 years, and see this as a big warning sign.  

I personally would not support a product from a company that would refuse upgrades or service to second hand owners.  I have seen this many times from some very big names.  A company that will not support its products is a problem.  This should be a factor in your buying decision.  
Guys: My main point in the earlier posts here was to distinguish between grey market and 'authorized' for the market goods, not whether it was covered by warranty or whether it was repair or upgrade. I think the question raised--and reiterated by BRF a few posts above--remains. 
Having exactly same problem with Stax headphones. Bought an used pair that was original purchase from Japan. It turns out Stax US will not repair items that are bought else where. I was not aware of the policy and original seller didn’t bother to disclose that.

Frankly, the business might think this will discourage people from buying grey market item. What’s actually going to happen is simple, people will stop buying the brand all together. Who wants to own a piece of expensive equipment that you can’t even pay to get it serviced.

@Whart - then the manufacturer needs better control of its distributors and dealers to avoid the products becoming grey market. Their issue is with their people, it shouldn't be with the people who use the products.
I don’t get the philosophy, or the business model, that supports the idea that a ’professional’ manufacturing company can refuse to support any of its previous year ( or for that matter current year) gear....simply because it was bought from a non-representative! If this faulty business tactic was applied to car manufacturer’s, can one imagine the issues that would crop up if one bought a used car from a non-dealer! Never mind the legal issues???
There is plenty of money to be made by the manufacturer in supporting their old product. On top of that, the ’good will’ that the customer will experience will most likely lead to some loyalty to the brand. Sure, the local dealer wants to control the sale, but in this day and age of worldwide markets....that’s truly expecting a lot, IMHO.