Tour Music Direct's Chicago Warehouse With MD's Josh Bizar

Before the start of last April's AXPONA show at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer and Music Direct's Vice President Josh Bizar drove to Chicago and to the home of online vinyl and audio dealer Music Direct.

Mr.Bizar gives us the "inside" tour of Music Direct's huge warehouse, showrooms and offices. It turns out the company has more than a web presence. Lucky locals can shop for gear by auditioning it in MD's showrooms and the company is also active in the local used record business and holds regular in-store events.

Enjoy the "tour".

DinoDan's picture

I have a couple of comments:

1) You french-kissed Daryl Hannah? That's totally awesome, but what was she thinking?

2) I hope Josh provides you with a review sample of the Mofi StudioDeck turntable soon. I've been eyeing this one for a while and look forward to your review.

Michael Fremer's picture
In The Groundlings improv school. We were paired in a sketch. Can't tell the story here, but all she was thinking was acting. All I was thinking was something else.
Ortofan's picture

... interviewer/videographer to dial down the level of anecdotes and ancillary commentary? Give the interviewee a chance to speak. Do we need a running commentary about which records MF does and does not have - especially when the tour guide says that "we send you a copy of everything"? Likewise, the on-camera appeals for free records and review samples of equipment tend toward the unseemly.

DinoDan's picture

I dunno...I think Mr. Fremer is a very interesting fella and more often than not look forward to his ancillary comments; he has exposure to many different people and industries most of us will never experience. I find his sharing of his multitude of experiences quite entertaining.

....and he french-kissed Daryl Hannah, for crying out loud!! I'm assuming that was during the Jackson Browne era, not the JFK Jr. era, but perhaps Mr. Fremer can qualify.

Eskisi's picture

Never read an issue of Stereophile?

These reviewers are all about themselves. They talk about their wives, girlfriends, girlfriends' hobbies, their new house in Albany, apartment in Hoboken... And why not? We all seem to live in a reality show world, led by a reality show president and this is the Hi-Fi version of it, if you will.

See, there is not a great deal new to say about today's hifi really -- even the lowest end gadgets would be a 60s hobbyist's dream. But...if you want to justify paying for expensive devices, you have to buy into the "God" status of these reviewers and their recommendations.

Not that different from God-like art critics who convince collectors to buy trash for small -- or large -- fortunes. Of course not everyone does.

Ortofan's picture

... the latest adventures of MF's corgi and AD's terrier, but not so much about JA's cat.

dazeofheaven's picture

the comments section. Equating one of Stereophile's writers - ones who share their worlds with us as an
interesting companion to the reviews of audio equipment with the "reality show world" and our loathsome "reality show president" is way way way off. Cynical. I feel bad for you.

Eskisi's picture call others’ comments “stupid.”

But I suppose one cannot be too offended by those who have drunk the “high end” reviewers’ Kool-Aid seemingly too long. Those reviewers too attack anyone they disagree with viciously, call a NYT or WSJ technical writer’s article “fake news.” Or do you find criticizing our tweeter-in-chief cynical too?

Michael Fremer's picture
You make completely indefensible generalizations and add a dollop of outright lies about what's written in Stereophile, a magazine that does include measurements along with observational reviews and then when you get called out on your cheap and vicious shots you act the wounded fawn.

Any audio reviewer who objects to being responsibly criticized is of course a hypocrite but your original comment was not responsible criticism. It was just a vicious, irresponsible attack for which you deserve to be attacked.

I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with my opinions, since they are just opinions but I do not put up with the kind of bullshit you spewed in your original post, which mischaracterizes Stereophile's content. You are a liar. What's more you are a thin skinned one.

Michael Fremer's picture
You've never read an issue of Stereophile where products get measured and the sonics are described with great specificity. Yes the reviews are written by people trying to also be entertaining. i suggest you join The Boston Audio Society where wearing a hair suit is mandatory, emotions are veroboten and music is kinda not the point....and why are you visiting this website other than to pop your puss pimples?
Michael Fremer's picture
A sense of humor. My comments about 'free records' was meant to be self-mocking and 'unseemly' but in a humorous way. As for my slipped in anecdotes, I was trying to add some color to what could have been an exercise in inventory-taking and not particularly entertaining.
Ortofan's picture

... a better outlet for your humor. Too bad it's no longer on the air. I'd have been willing to trade all of your color commentary for a peek inside the cartridge vault.

Michael Fremer's picture
And had I been able to enter the cartridge vault I would have. It was not a choice of "be entertaining OR you can enter the cartridge vault."
airdronian's picture

I was just spinning my MoFi editions of Miles Davis Sorcerer and Nefertiti the other day. Great records....

Cartel's picture

The following is what I wrote on UTube.

Thanks for the visit Michael.
Entertaining and informative as usual.
I noted two things (among many others):
1. You said that you should make a list of recommended LPs.
2. You’re going to write a review of the MoFi ‘table whenever MD send you one.

Kurt's picture

That's what they emailed me after I ordered the reissue of Pink Moon you recommended and it arrived with the corners bent. They'd shipped in a large box along with a bottle of MFSL record cleaning fluid
& brush. They offered to replace the record if I shipped it back at my expense (their standard Return Policy), and when I emailed that I "expect a new LP to arrive in new condition," they replied "we do not cater to collector standards."

jon9091's picture

Oh brother. Cross them off my record list of online stores. I’m not paying $30 a pop to a dealer who can’t figure out how to ship a record properly. That just shows they do not care about the customer.

Michael Fremer's picture
Is that a really fair comment? Why don't you describe here how MD packs their records and then tell everyone how they could possibly do it better? They pretty much use the same or very similar careful packing used by the other excellent online sellers but occasionally UPS, USPS handles them irresponsibly and abusively....
jon9091's picture

Read what the guy said, First, they shipped it in the same box with a bottle of MoFi record cleaner.
Second...if they can’t manage to get it there without the corners getting bent, then they aren’t doing it good enough. And regardless of if it’s the fault of USPS, they shouldn’t put the onus on the customer to pay for return shipping. If you pay $30 for a new record, it should look like a new record. Period. Amazon U.K. used to have the same problem, bent corners all the time. It’s very frustrating. They started double boxing and the problem was solved.

Mazzy's picture

MD usually is amongst the best shippers of vinyl. Occasionally every company fuc$s up but I order regularly from them. In the rare instance there has been an issue, they take care of you.

Michael Fremer's picture
Is that they go the extra mile to pack carefully (which they do) and that if UPS or the USPS mis-handles the record and a corner gets bent, they'll replace if you pay for return shipping and they'll try again. But I think it's fair to say they don't cater to "collector standards". I buy a lot of records online and sometimes they do come with a slightly bent edge. I live with it because I bought to PLAY not look at, and inevitably many of the "perfect" records i do buy end up with an occasional bent edge or other physical blemish. If the record is defective, that's something else. Sometimes poor shipping causes a record to actually break through the seam. I do return those...
Edmund's picture

Your distinction between bent edges being acceptable but a split seam unacceptable seems arbitrary to me. You think someone who returns a new record with bent edges is being persnickety but someone who returns one with a split seam is well within their rights. I think a lot of audiophiles would find both unacceptable.

nixonismyhero's picture

is a small DC record label founded as a label for DC hardcore punk bands in the 1980s. When I ordered a couple of records from them (all priced around $12, because of the DIY ethos of the bands), they all arrived outside of the sleeves to prevent split seams. I thought it was awesome that a small record label selling inexpensive records would put the thought and time into doing that. Not digging on any other labels or companies, just thought it was cool.

Kurt55's picture

I wrote that my record "arrived with the corners bent." You changed that to "a slightly bent edge" to make your point, which is a fair one, it just doesn't apply to my situation. I wouldn't return a record with "a slightly bent edge" either.

jon9091's picture

Was the record floating loosely in a larger box along with the MFSL cleaning fluid, or was the record packaged separately in a record shipper, and then placed in a larger box with the cleaning fluid?

Michael Fremer's picture
"Music Direct has catered to collectors and audiophile for the last 30 years. And customer satisfaction remains our number-one priority. We will bend over backwards for any customer and go out of our way to quickly and fairly solve any problems.

To try and ensure every LP arrives in mint condition, we developed top-notch packaging methods that we strictly follow for all orders. While we cannot guarantee every single package will arrive in perfect condition, we pay for return shipping and replacement in the rare event of shipping damage.

Seeing someone spread misinformation about our policies is undoubtedly hurtful and unfortunate, but anyone can type anything on the Internet. I can sleep perfectly well at night knowing we have been taking good care of our customers for three decades and counting.

Josh Bizar
Vice President
Music Direct

Kurt55's picture

I paid return shipping for my damaged LP in 2014. From the email I received from Music Direct re my return:

“The return shipping cost to Music Direct is the responsibility of the customer. Music Direct does not pay shipping for returned CDs or vinyl LPs. Replacement shipping costs on a defective exchange will be covered by Music Direct.” 

They paid to ship the replacement record. It seems their policy has changed since 2014, which I am glad to hear.     

jon9091's picture

Btw...if Music Direct is saying they “don’t cater to collector standards”...why the hell did they buy MoFi?
What a joke.

Michael Fremer's picture
When MD says that "don't cater to collector standards" they are not talking about the sound quality or the pressing quality. They are talking about what occasionally happens to jacket corners in shipping. Sometimes an edge gets bent. There are two kinds of record customers: one that accepts an occasional physical blemish (bent corner, etc.) as well as an occasional pop or tick and one kind that expects "perfection". I think MD has decided that they'd rather let other companies cater to the perfectionists. I know that "off the record" the other online vinyl vendors keep informal lists of their "problem customers"—the ones that seem to take more delight in returning records that are not 100% perfect—than in receiving, playing and enjoying their purchase. I say, if you want "perfection" buy the CD version or pay for the download.
jon9091's picture

When we pay $50 or $60 for these records, they should be in mint condition when they arrive. What’s so hard to understand about this? New means new. Mint means mint. These things are expensive. Maybe you get free review copies...we sure don’t. Many people buy extra copies of MoFi records and keep them sealed. They are very collectible and the price can soar after a few years.. What happens to the value of these records if the corners are bent? If MD doesn’t care about that, that’s certainly up to them...but I wouldn’t buy my records from them. If they don’t stand behind their sales in every way, how do we know they weren’t damaged before they even shipped them? And I have to pay to return it? Forget it. CD’s and downloads? Not the same mastering...hardly perfection.

Ortofan's picture

... get a sense of what proportion of record buyers actually open and play their new records, as opposed to buying them to display as artwork or for speculation and future resale, in which case jacket condition may be a paramount concern.

Kurt's picture

BTW, I've used Acoustic Sounds and Soundstage Direct with no problems. Soundstage once sent me a shipping label to return a defective record, but before replacing it, they play-tested another copy of the record they had in stock and found that it was defective, too. They chose to refund my money rather than send out defective records. That's thorough.

nagysaudio's picture

Music Direct has some of the best customer service, period. Being from Chicago, I visit them almost every week. I purchase a lot of vinyl and analog related equipment. Never once did I have any problems with shipping, or pick ups, or returns for whatever reason. They also work on pricing and are very competitive.

Kurt's picture

Not sure what's "complete and utter nonsense." That's the experience I had.

Michael Fremer's picture
Music Direct probably would describe their "experience" with you as a buying customer as equally unsatisfactory. In that case both of you are probably better off not interacting. They are probably as happy as you are to shop elsewhere.
azmoon's picture

I see some crazies have arrived. Inevitable I suppose.

Michael Fremer's picture
Chemguy's picture

That was wonderful. I enjoyed it all.

Kurt's picture

No, the record was not packaged separately in a record shipper; it was at the bottom of a box along with other items, including the MFSL record fluid and brush. I assume that's why it got damaged. I was surprised it was shipped that way and more surprised by Music Direct's response.

As a long time reader of Analog Planet, I'm disappointed that Michael would make me out to be a "problem customer" in the comments. I suspect that very few readers of AP would want their records shipped in this way.

jon9091's picture

Thanks for the detailed description on how it was packaged. I am also a long time reader of AP and subscriber to Stereophile, and no, this is not how I want my records packaged. This is *not* “going the extra mile and packing carefully” as Fremer described...more like going the extra minute and tossing it all in a box. It’s not surprising the corners were bent. What is surprising is Music Direct’s response, and Fremer trying to guilt/shame you and others who don’t want to accept defective merchandise right out of the box,. Some people just don’t give e a crap about the album covers. Others do. The labels often put a lot of time and money making them as nice as possible...and that’s figured into the cost, it’s part of the product. I’m not dealing with any companies that make you pay return shipping on defective or damaged products. Period.

Kurt's picture

Thanks, Jon. I found it odd that MD wrote that they don't "cater to collector standards." I would think most of the people who buy $30-35 (and up) records are collectors.

Michael commented "I buy a lot of records online and sometimes they do come with a slightly bent edge." I've been buying records for 40 years, so of course I’ve bought new records that had a small blemish, but two corners of this record had bent and the cover was creased.

audiof001's picture

In 1992, when the majors decided to kill the LP, they pressed them and sold them... then refused to take defective records back. Today, I have little to no problem paying return shipping to, hopefully, get a better pressing. Such things don't happen often for me.

Michael Fremer's picture
That's an unfair characterization of my original response, which was written before the detailed description. Based on my experience with MD I would never have believed they'd toss in other stuff without first carefully securing it in the box. I doubt that's SOP at MD and probably was done by someone either no longer working there or who has been reprimanded. It's not acceptable.
Michael Fremer's picture
And written that the record was packed in the bottom of the box with the fluid and brush I'd have taken your side here. Yes, I am sent many records free but I also buy thousands of dollars worth every year and sometimes they arrive with bent corners. I don't buy records to speculate about future value (not saying anything's wrong with that). I buy to open, play and enjoy so I have a different perspective.
Kurt's picture

From my original comment:
"They'd shipped in a large box along with a bottle of MFSL record cleaning fluid & brush."

Michael Fremer's picture
"Along with" does not make clear how it was packed. I often get multiple items packed in the same box but not just thrown in so they can bang around inside....I've never received anything haphazardly packed that way from MD....
Kurt's picture

You say you would’ve taken my side. That’s nice to know, but what’s worrisome is what happens when you don’t take someone’s side. I shared something that I thought readers of AP would be interested in -- that Music Direct emailed me saying they "do not cater to collector standards," and you implied that I was a “problem customer,” and you encouraged negative comments here by replying with a smiley face when someone wrote “I see some crazies have arrived.” I’d grown to respect you from reading your posts these past years, so it stings even more.

Zardoz's picture

buy 15-20 LPs a year from MD, and have been for years and years. I don't think I have ever gotten a damaged LP cover, that wasn't sold as such. When I order with other items, like cleaning fluids, they have arrived in a large box, but the Lps are on the bottom and then covered with cardboard to protect them. They are not just in there loose with everything else.
They do an excellent job in packaging and when you consider how many millions of records they ship, of course a few will get damaged. With that volume it's unavoidable. My guess is that at least part of your story is out of context.
Thanks for the informative tour Michael, and the entertaining tidbits.

azmoon's picture

I buy many from Music Direct and they all arrive perfect. They have the best packaging.

Paul W's picture

I've stopped in Music Direct more than a few times to pick up merchandise I've ordered and don't want to wait for the item to be shipped.

While they don't have a retail "store", there's a nice vibe to the place. You have to wind your way through a department or two before winding up at customer service, but I enjoy going there.

They have a scratch and dent area in the warehouse where there's some good deals too. I picked up a Solid Steel rack for under $200.00 that was used for (I think) a photo shoot.

I also appreciate their expertise. I've called a few times to ask questions, get clarity on something, etc. Anyway....great interview and video MIchael!

McFaden's picture

great tour Michael, enjoyed all the jokes and the insights. Your comment on the 90's vinyl and it's value made me want to share a crazy story with you all.

Was at a record store recently that deals mostly in classical and jazz. Owner mentioned that he just purchased a rock collection from an audiophile as he pointed to 20 or so boxes. "Have a look through it, I haven't even looked so I'm not sure what's in there."

Opened the first box and scored a mint original Track pressing of Tommy. Cool! Open the next box and start flipping through and there is a sealed original pressing of Tom Petty Wildflowers! My heart jumped. Asked what he wanted for it, $60! SOLD!

Also scored a sealed original pressing of Tom Petty & Heartbreakers Echo (not really familiar with it but snagged it) and a sealed Almost Famous soundtrack. All for $60 a pop. My greatest record store trip of all times, not sure it can be beat.

John1001's picture

MD is my least favorite online music source. Even after making the customer pay for return shipping, if the replacement is equally defective, they offer only store credit, whereas the competition refunds to the original method of payment. Also, despite the huge inventory in that vid, MD lists for sale many records they don't have in stock, and in at least one case couldn't even get in the month or more they gave themselves to source it.

By comparison, my favorite in general is SoundStage Direct, which as noted upthread provides a shipping label for returns (sadly, frequent) at their expense. They also have the best pricing in most cases and lowest threshold for free shipping. The best for advice, though, is Acoustic Sounds – folks in their “vinyl vault” have listened to many of the reissues they sell and can comment on sound quality of different versions (and no, they don't automatically push the most expensive one).

Edmund's picture

SoundStage Direct has a video on their site showing exactly how they pack the records. They'll even open them if you request it and ship the record outside the jacket to prevent seam splits. I've never had a problem with them.

Eskisi's picture

...(more) lies, irresponsible, bullshit, liar...” Wow, had I set a trap for proving my point about nasty attacks I could not have done better!

But tell me, isn’t turning Julian Hirsch’s obituary into a just-below-the-skin nasty attack and an opportunity to praise the founder of Stereophile (see p.4, reminescent of our president turning everything into self-praise?

"’I want to thank you all. It's very early in the morning. I think you probably broke the all time in history television rating for three o'clock in the morning. That I would say.’
It is 3 a.m. Trump is standing beside a trio of men who have been held captive in an authoritarian regime for months and, in some cases, years. And he talks about how many people must be watching on TV”

Jeffrey Lee's picture

"Weezer," or The Blue Album, was never released as part of Mobile Fidelity's Silver Label Vinyl Series. It has always been an Original Master Recording release but was reissued twice, on black and then blue vinyl.