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Posts: 41
Reply with quote  #1 
With recent devaluation of the US dollar vs Indian Rupee I have seen prices for Indian classical instruments being jacked up by these stores like there is no tomorrow. And this is not just adjusting to the new rupee value but rather at gouging levels using the pretext of currency fluctuations.

Given that: I invite forum members to start a discussion on which shop or store represents the best value for money, quality of instruments and customer service and honest pricing.

Please include AACM, Sitars,etc, Kalakendra, Buckingham, Silverbush and also others not listed.

A Hiren Roy bought at AACM compared to a Hiren Roy at Sitars,etc. Tell us your individual buying experience. Why you went with one particular shop over the other.

Again, Thanks for the inputs.

Posts: 41
Reply with quote  #2 
Originally Posted by "cwroyds"
Oh boy, Ill tell you from experience that you just opened up a can of worms. You are about to be pelted.
Seems these conversations get people riled up.
He he he. good luck.
I aint gettin into this one.
I know, you just got beaten black and blue on your recent foray into AACM and the hippie episode, but my point is prices were not discussed, only customer service. They were mum on the pricing.

Posts: 1,932
Reply with quote  #3 
I'd be curious to know if any of the above mentioned suppliers send stuff back if it arrives damaged or doesn't meet basic standards - what happens to it? I'm not implying anyone would sell a sub-standard instruments, but it must take a toll on the profit margin when that does happen.
As I see the standards would also be difficult to define; on any given day any supplier might have in stock any combination of diamond, lemons, and just average instruments.
And what's the deal with the nomenclature, "student grade", "deluxe grade", "professional grade", etc. Who's doing the grading and can you really compare grading systems when no such thing even exists in India. I think it wouldn't hurt anyone if the said suppliers actually explained their selection process in a little more detail, no?

Seriously, I'd like to see all of the stores and suppliers mentioned succeed financially - the more customers are informed the more quality they'll demand, the more instruments they're likely to purchase and subsequently be willing to pay more for - then perhaps the stores would have the leverage to demand better and more consistent quality from their suppliers in India. Am I dreaming??

BTW - I think every customer needs to do serious research before making any purchase and whining afterwards about getting "ripped off". It's your responsibility to know exactly what you're purchasing along with the terms of exchange.

If he could sing, and nature to accompany him, what need would he have for an instrument?

Senior Member
Posts: 1,452
Reply with quote  #4 
Since Bill has posted with some good points I'll answer in what should only be taken as my opinion....Now as for value for the money everyone has items which they get a better deal on and so can offer at a lower price or just the opposite. The only stuff we ever get damaged is not really damaged at all, the finish is french polish and it seems that some instruments from Calcutta usually will have an imprint from the packing on it. That's it though, air shipping eliminates major problems although it's $300 more per sitar than a container......I've never had a broken sitar, if I got one I would repair it and sell it as 'repaired'. A student one broken would probably get tossed or used for parts, etc. I know Bharat had a few student sitars from other vendors arrive broken and they were scrapped.

Student grade sitars to me are basic playable instruments, concert (professional) are better made, highly decorated, natural gourds, etc.

Our student tablas: the main difference is a lighter bayan. Less copper used = lower price. A little less time spent on the gab/syahi.

Professional tablas: nothing spared! Here, go watch Gourisankar playing a set, he always uses them....tell me, are these professional?

For sitars it seems that everything is 'professional' almost, look on ebay, the web, etc. I think the term is overdone at this point and I'll be changing the site to reflect that. The professionals generally only play Hiren Roy's or Rikhi Ram's with the occasional Hemen or no name gandhar pancham sitar. I've been thinking about changing the terms on to Concert/Student instead. With regards to the question about grading the level of instruments. I buy my main offerings through longtime friends who are musicians, they grade them accordingly. If I didn't have this resource I'd hang it up. Clearly, sitars and tabla need this type of facility, one can find other instruments from good suppliers that are of good quality such as DMS dholaks & harmoniums, etc. but from my experience sitars and tablas need a high degree of supervision when they're made.

People in the US are lucky to have a handful of stores/sites serving their needs. Questions and comments like we've seen recently only serve to stir things up, I'm happy to oblige to a point. Sitarmaster if you have questions about HR comparisons between AACM and Sitarsetc. why don't you call them or myself? I can definitely tell you they're both made by Hiren Roy and good instruments. And in fact I was in AACM a few weeks ago although no one knew me there but Kalyan was quite nice and knew what he was doing. While there may be differences in operations or prices, when it comes to my competition I'd recommend AACM or Keshav any minute if I thought that's where someone was heading. You asked for our inputs...I bought my first sitar in 1980 something from AACM, it was Bruce in fact and a Radha Krishna Sharma, I loved it...You have to remember that at least these 2 plus myself are all grounded in appreciation of the music first, the rest just happened to follow the love of the music.

Nobody is gouging sitarmaster, actually I'm raising prices in January as I'm sure everyone else will. I factored in my time in this business and I don't think what I make even amounts to $1 an hour for the time and money spent. Since our government has trashed our currency I'm sure any rational person would say it's OK to keep it at that level? Or maybe I should chase the dream and open a dhobiwallah, seriously I enjoy this, I was away for a few years or at least behind the scenes but it never leaves you.

Bruce? Keshav?


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Posts: 2,487
Reply with quote  #5 
It is good to see this finally unlocked.

Anyway - I have done business with Sitarsetc and AACM. For accessories I often go to Sitarsetc. For instruments to AACM. I have bought from AACM a total of three sitars (an RKS in 1999, a Hiren #1 in 2005 and a Manoj Kumar Sharma #3 (just a couple of weeks ago. Plan to use it as a second instruemnt I can tune to various pitches to aid in practicing to recordings). Also a tamboura machine and a tabla machine as well as various miscellaneous goods. With both stores, in person at AACM and on the phone with Sitarsetc I have always concluded my transaction completely satisified and at, to my mind, very fair pricing.

As far as "price gouging"? That is patently ridiculous. You cannot go by how much an instrument costs you in India. Stores here have real overhead. Phones. Rent or mortgage. Utilities. Staff. Insurance. Shipping costs to get the instruments here. Advertising. Etc etc etc.

Do you ever eat in a restaraunt? Do you ever look at your plate and realize that, at a supermarket there is perhaps $6 worth of food in your $25 or $30 entree? Or that the price of two glasses of wine would be more than enough to buy a bottle in the package store? Or the price of two rum and cokes would by a fifth of Bacardi in the package store? Better yet, travel to France and buy your Bordeaux there. Or to Puerto Rico for your rum. Much cheaper than here. How about going to the department store and spending $30 on that cotton "made in Singapore" shirt that probably cost a buck or two?

I AM fortunate to have the AACM store about 25 minutes from my home. It means I can go there when I want. The service there is usually not warm and fuzzy. They can be brusque because they are often very busy. I don't care about that. I do not go there to be treated like a sultan. I go there to insure that when I want something music related I will end up with the best experience I can get. And invariably that is what I end up with.

I am sure, especially given the current plight of the dollar, that some prices may go up a bit. To my mind it is about time! I knw that at AACM prices have been pretty static over the past 8 years. Ocassionally, with their sales, the same instrument can now be had at an even lower price than 8 years ago. If they need to raise the prices on some things to survive I say go for it. It doesn;t bother me. I know the instruments I get will be lasting me a long time. Amortized over that time the price increase would probably work out to a few cents a day. Big whoop-de-doo. Still worth it to me because I know I can get on the phone, talk to them, get problems addressed etc. And that they will indeed stand behind what they sell.

So you ask for an opinion of these places. I just gave it.

PS - I forgot to mention I also purchased a Hemen Surbahar from AACM last year. They did a lot to bring it to my own specs and charged nothing in the process. This was done over a month or more where I would take it back, play on it for a week then go back with more critique.

Dasani - the official bottled water of ICM
Panini - the official bread of ICM

Posts: 270
Reply with quote  #6 
I agree with povster and lars. Last trip to India, I carried back a pair of tablas and let me tell you, it is painful. Plus, when I'm there, I don't have time to go to various places and check out the instruments.
"Except for ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, War Has Never Solved Anything."

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