Why you better avoid reFX for now and how you may be treated as a customer of reFX
Read my story about a special kind of service experience …
At the end of 2012 (that is, almost 10 years ago), I became aware of the Nexus software instrument from the Canadian company reFX Audio Software. I was first impressed by the cutting-edge sounds, which were also well presented in the many demos.
In January 2013, I then bought Nexus. Over the years, a sound bank was added – most recently in 2016. I have used Nexus in several productions of mine. Until then, I did not think about anything else, because everything was running and I also did not need any support from the manufacturer until then.
Then in May 2019 the disaster
Then in May 2019 the catastrophe happened. My e-Licenser – the USB dongle that contains the purchased licenses – refused to work on my computer. Nothing worked anymore. Steinberg Cubase didn’t start anymore and Nexus didn’t work either.
Since I had a replacement e-Licenser in the closet for this unlikely case a long time ago, I thought at first that I would simply deactivate the old e-Licenser at Steinberg and activate the new e-Licenser. Unfortunately, it is then not so simple. However, Steinberg has not only exemplary, but also responded quickly and helped me unbureaucratically. The old license was simply blocked and I was allowed to re-register my e-Licenser as part of the availability assurance.
Now I was happy for now and wanted to work directly with Cubase – what did not work was Nexus from reFX.
Of course, I thought: how is that supposed to work? The license is still on the old defective stick. So I thought that at reFX you would get quick and unbureaucratic help and simply block the old e-Licenser and register the new one.
That was actually the first time that I urgently needed help from reFX – unfortunately then I had to experience what reFX means by help and service. I would like to explain this to you in the following so that you know what you are getting yourself into and what will happen to you if something goes wrong and you really need help. Maybe this will save you one or the other bad experience – but in any case you will save yourself money which you can better invest in other software synthesizers.
The first problem was that there are no options with reFX to deactivate an e-Licenser and activate a new e-Licenser. Whether this was due to technical reasons for which Steinberg was responsible or whether it was simply not wanted: I have no idea and as a customer I don’t care in such a situation. Certainly there would have been other ways within the framework of customer-friendly behavior to provide help.
The second problem was that support at reFX is only available through the ticket system. Okay, that’s actually a bit of a problem if everything goes well – but when I was looking for a simple email address, I just couldn’t find anything. Unusual. But okay …
You have to send your defective e-Licenser to Canada
The third problem was that the support didn’t offer any real help. Instead, I should send the defective e-Licenser to Canada so that reFX can test it and decide whether to help me or not. To a mailbox. There is no alternative street address – not very serious, in my opinion (more on that in a moment). Disregarding the fact that insured shipping to Canada from Germany not only takes time but is also not cheap, I would also hand over my proof and would have a difficult time if it were lost on the shipping route, for example. should reFX refuse or not send it back to me. After all, the e-Licenser – defective or not – is my property.
By the way, the ladies and gentlemen from the support team, who, in retrospect, were perhaps just the sock puppets of the only two employees (more on that below), are quite “funny” when they succinctly responded to my concerns about the costs of shipping and handling the customs duties noted that a low value for the defective e-Licenser should be set – well … Even if it no longer worked for me, it contained licenses worth several hundred dollars (including Steinberg Cubase Pro)
And since I was informed immediately that a new purchase would be due in the event of loss, I certainly don’t see a low value given – after all, in the event of loss, the resulting damage should be insured. But that again makes shipping more expensive …
I could be a thief or a pirate – with a proven purchase history
When I was already very annoyed after my ticket was simply closed (the notifications ended up in the spam folder, so that I only noticed after a few days that there was a new reaction) and I clearly expressed my displeasure, I received from ” Michael “- as I now know the owner of this company received an answer in which he latently implied that I would want to sneak a license without authorization – that is, that I might be a thief or a pirate … That’s what I call adding fuel to the fire . Maybe you can understand that I was really angry afterwards and wrote down my anger as an answer.
Steinberg makes the elicenser and has 100% control over it. If they can disable it on their server, that doesn’t mean it magically stops working. We also have zero evidence to support ANY of your claims, so we have to rely on our policies to protect us from fraudulent claims. We’ve had quite a few over the years.Michael, Support Staff @ reFX Audio Software, Canada
I don’t think it’s a sign of intelligence to say something like that to a customer and frankly I don’t accept such allegations. Technically, this is also untenable – and even if you generally think negatively about customers, it would have been about one copy at most. But how many of the customers of reFX report about defective, stolen or lost e-Licensers and how many of them are up to evil? Probably the smallest part.
I made the mistake of venting my displeasure and complaining very clearly about the customer-unfriendly behavior in the ticket system. The result was that reFX completely refused to communicate and banned me from the support system – so I no longer have a reasonable opportunity to contact me. In almost 50 years of my life, I have never experienced anything like this at any other company.
A serious entrepreneur doesn’t have to hide
When I sent my incomprehension about this in writing by post, I encountered further oddities. The company specifies a PO box as the address (reFX Audio Software Inc., PO box 61543 Brookwood, Langley BC V3A 8C8, Canada). There is no information on the responsible persons, there is no sales team, no contact form – you feel a bit like you are on the website of a Chinese scammer.
Reading the End-User-License-Agreement, the terms or the data protection declaration doesn’t make you much smarter. There is no information about who you are dealing with – instead, the company hides behind the company name. It is questionable whether these are legally binding documents in this form outside of Canada.
Encouraged and curious, I wanted to know who is behind this company – if only because I wanted to write my point of view to him and let off steam.
One source of information was what I consider to be the reputable website of Dun & Bradstreet (See it here). And there I finally found some (informative) information. The house address is given there, which is around 45 minutes by car from the post office box address (reFX Audio Software, 9120 154 St Surex, BC, V3R 0B9 Canada) and even a telephone number can be found there – in contrast to the reFX website. And finally I find the names of the managing director (Michael Hartmann) and his partner (Elliot Rigets).
I find it sad that I have to research such information and I can’t find it on the website of this company – which, according to Dunn & Bradstreet, only has 2 employees and generates less than $ 350,000 in income. That doesn’t give me a serious impression. On the contrary. This is also supported by the very bizarre understanding of service.
Of course, the amount of income or the number of employees does not play a major role at first – but for me it is not a sign of intelligence to damage one’s own reputation without need through a remarkably customer-hostile company policy – if you look for something on the Internet for reFX (for example at Trustpilot or here, here, here, here and here – just to give you a few links) who understands what I mean.
Lack of service understanding? Thin-skinned? Or just a huge asshole?
Maybe it’s the personality structure of the CEO, who may be a talented software developer but have no idea how to deal with customers, or maybe it’s the workload you have at such a small company that makes it thin and stressful leads. Maybe the managing director is just a huge asshole – I don’t know, because he is more or less hiding and simply excludes customers from support who do not respond gratefully to refused help.
The fact is: As long as everything works, you have bought a mediocre to good sounding rompler for a comparatively large amount of money and can enjoy up-to-date, ready-to-use sounds by purchasing additional sound packs. So far so good. If something goes wrong, however, one should not hope for quick help, for friendly help, or for help at all.
I am now curious whether Michel Hartmann or Elliot Rigets will go one better and after a devastating understanding of service and the exclusion of support, the next step will be an expropriation and delete my licenses – according to my experiences so far, I would not rule that out and it would be in the picture fit. On the other hand, I’m done with this company for life.
Therefore my recommendation: Better to steer clear of this company and buy from a provider who values their customers and does not have a disturbing view of the human being, where customers seeking help are potential thieves and pirates.
Shortly after I published my article here, an anonymous source leaked me a mail correspondence, which is apparently the discussion between a customer of reFX and Michael Hartmann. This customer apparently felt the same way as I did: Broken e-Licenser, disastrous customer support.
I find a few of his statements – from the customer’s point of view – quite disturbing. They reveal a deep bitterness, great arrogance and a complete lack of appreciation towards his discussion partner.
In light of this illuminating conversation, I now feel pitty for Michael Hartmann. He seems to have had many bad experiences in his business life – up to receiving death threats (which is completely unacceptable regardless of the facts described here and should be punished). This has apparently turned him into the asshole that customers experiencing problems and not getting proper help experience and describe today.
He should urgently refrain from having direct contact with customers. On the one hand, as a protection for himself. On the other hand, because this is not how a company should deal with customers. There are specialized service providers, mini-jobbers, students, volunteers, communities that can do the job – and any of these options would probably be better for reFX than Michael Hartmann continuing a scorched earth policy towards demanding customers.
Note: My statements correspond to my view of the facts and my personal opinion and have been compiled to the best of my knowledge and belief. All screenshots from reFX.com and Dun & Bradstreet were taken by myself on November 10th, 2021. I have archived the ticket IDs and the complete texts of the tickets with me.
Axel Napolitano says
I see the need for an addendum to this article as a result of new developments at reFX – and good developments at that.
The fact remains that Nexus is a very expensive product and is primarily suitable as a convenience preset machine rather than as a powerful synthesizer – but license management has changed. The eLicenser is history in the current version of the Nexus – instead, reFX works with online activation, which (with all the disadvantages of such a technology – such as the ability to monitor usage behavior) offers the great advantage for users that defective hardware dongles are no longer a problem represent. In addition, installations can now be activated/deactivated, so that switching from one computer to the next is no hurdle.
The manufacturer deserves great praise for this. This is – especially considering the “difficult” history – a big step towards more customer-friendly license management.
One could criticize the quite hefty upgrade prices for existing customers – because they are quite a challenge and it is not clear (at least for me) whether you can continue to use your existing sound packs after an upgrade or whether these are incompatible or lost.
But at least: New customers receive a really up-to-date preset machine, which can be used to create club and radio-compatible mainstream productions in a wide variety of genres with absolutely official sounds in no time at all. This has its price – but everyone has to decide for themselves.
Matthew Tout says
i have been waiting 2 years for michael to either apologize for maliciously blocking me fir being angry about persistently poor customer service: not showing any concerns for my issues taking my issues personally and then going in a personal threatening attack telling me im the 0.1%of unhappy customers: it turns out im the 88%, and the internet is littered with bad reviews. I spent a thousand pounds on ReFx software and the owner treated me like a pardon expression ‘C word’, I actually want to fly to Canada and punch him having studied customer service extensively in my life I know when someone not fit for purpose is attempting to provide a service but failing by not retaining paying customers by being persistently rude, who knows if he had bothered to say sorry and pull his head out his own backside I may have spent more maybe another grand however I spent it elsewhere and got a better deal, I still believe a watchdog should step in or the authorities to properly compensate customers who have been betrayed by his bad attitude: they continued to accuse me of piracy despite aending the proof of purchase, the situation is now exasperated by german company Cleverbridge whom took payment who are equally poor at providing the refund I expected especially as Michael Hartmans closing words were I d be happy to refund you after which he blocked me from asking for the refund .. the software isn’t even that good unless your a cheesy EDM or techno producer.. what really grates is whilst he blocked me from future upgrades he’s busy buying studio equipment and mountain bikes he’s a big guy with a big ego whi thinks he can break uk consumer law with a UCLA Trademark licence where he dictates terms of customer property with no judicial or magistrate agreement to back up what is essentially a non binding non legal agreement a trademark agreement is not an excuse to hijack and hold valid paid accounts to ransom with proven false accusations of piracy.
He even told me I was not technically competent to self diagnose although I started using computers before he was born in the 80s, consequently I was left to fix issues alone, and the idiot still doesn’t except that his technical help.portsl was not fit for purpose, yes he got response times down but no he didn’t resolve issues was rude to 88% of customers and only hit those response times by systematically blocking them for being justifiably angry that thier queries were not being answered effectively. 2cyears later and im still posting negative feedback weekly wherever I can as the world needs warning I have written to the computer magazines who take no notice and continue to sell and advertise his software in full knowledge that tge customers are highly likely to be ripped off, the CEOs don’t care, its venture capitalists with no knowledge of consumer law, which I hope to god gets them sued one day, untill such a time I will dedicate a ine day a week to let my feelings about Michael Hartman be known I am looking forward to the day I get to put this bulked up ego out if his misery and prove him wrong if only the Canadian government would step in and protect angry customers who swear at appalling service rather than protecting the villains who hide thier contact details and scam software owners out of millions routinely. I will never stop moaning untill Michael gives me a complete refund or sincere apologies for my ongoing frustration at the complete lack of appreciation for loyal customers who spent a fortune only to be personally insulted and consequently having our cloud sabotaged and our terms changed from what we expected at the point of purchase. Do not buy from ReFx apparently you font have any ownership rights and he might blick you if he wakes up in a vad mood, basically theres absolutely no point contacting technical unless you want your software ruined and you account blocked from buying over priced soundbanks and upgrades to the latest version blocked forever with no way of you or your lawyer to contact them as they are only contactable vua the cloud they block you from. I have been persistently complaining 2 years now, Michael just does not care I wish someone would just step in and make him apologise with compensation to the thousands who have been left emotionally scared by his disregard for consumer rights, I cant believe he’s allowed to get away with daylight robbery. The whole system regulating software in Canada is seriously flawed what do I have to do contact the Canadian government, I’ve already let the Langley police know about the matter they don’t care its outrageous that software companies are even allowed anonymity especially considering thier poor trustpilot scores bad redit feedback and thousands repeat posts all over the internets various hubs by customers who have also been left feeling robbed, why wont anyone in authority prosecute this blatant criminal Michael Hartman.
Axel Napolitano says
I had a conversation with Michael and can confirm that he very quickly leaves the matter level and reacts remarkably thin-skinned. In doing so, he also followed the argumentation pattern with me that I belong to a minority of dissatisfied users – it’s quite possible that this is the case and that he behaves strictly according to the Pareto principle.
In the discussion, he named a few reasons why he is playing a game of hide-and-seek, and if these are true, I can certainly muster partial understanding. It should also be noted that the company is more or less a two-man show. Naturally, there are few resources available and the stress level is probably high.
However, this can of course not be an excuse for Michael to turn down customers who have problems with “features” that do not serve them – but only the manufacturer – and to treat them in an unfriendly manner and sometimes even attack them personally.
In the meantime, he has replaced the dongle constraint with a cloud constraint. The computer then also runs a dubious service that probably also retrieves updates in the background. On the positive side, the problem of defective e-licensers has been solved, but on the negative side, the user is much more directly at the mercy of the company.
In the meantime, after weighing up the risks, I have decided not to use any more software from reFX in my productions and also advise other users not to do so, as it is “fair-weather software” and considerable difficulties can be expected in the event of problems.
Hi, found your article. ReFX Michael is a complete jerk. And I agree, among the worst customer support I’ve experienced. Seems that they prefer people to pirate their stuff.
MATT TOUT says
MICHAEL GAVE AN EMOTIONAL UNPROFESIONAL RESPONSE SHITTING ON ONE THOUSAND POUNDS OF MY GENUINE SOFTWARES WHICH I PAID OVER ONE THOUSAND POUNDS FOR RATHER THAN ADDRESSING THE ACTUAL REPORTED ISSUE AS ONE WOULD EXPECT & QUOTE:
“WEVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU YOU ALWAYS BLAME EVERYBODY FOR YOUR PROBLEMS.
YOU ALWAYS USE ACCUSATORY LANGUAGE AND YOU ALWAYS EXAGERATE.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. YOUVE BEEN BANNED FOR LIFE . YOU ALSO CANT OPEN ANY TICKETS OR REPLY TO EXISTING ONES.”
MICHAEL YOUR TRUST PILOT SCORE IS 1.6 WITH 1 BEING THE LOWEST SCORE POSIBLE I AM NOT THE 1% FAR FROM IT AND AS SUCH I HAVE REPORTED THE MATTER TO OFCOM AS YOUR ACTIONS ARE ILLEGAL AND SHOULD BE PUNNISHED
Axel Napolitano says
thank you very much for this passionate comment. But allow me to point out that I am not Michael and the chances are rather bad that he visits this site and responds to comments.
I’ve also had the experience myself that he tends to be unobjective and quickly gets personal – maybe it’s related to his life path, maybe he’s choleric, or maybe he’s just an asshole. I don’t know him personally. What is certain, however, is that I would rather not let a person with his personality loose on customers, but leave customer contact to trained, professional staff.
A stylistic note: Unless by chance your capslock key was stuck, it can be taken as “roaring” when texts are written in capital letters throughout. They are also hard to read 😉