Wow it looks like there is a real big problem with AMX today. Just discovered that article tonigh on Internet…
Shortly one of AMX vice-president is in jail since friday evening ! David Goldenberg, that just arrived at AMX company in summer 2007, has been accused to introduce itself in email servers of a competitor company, and stealing some confidential informations. The competitor company, Sapphire, is in charge of representation, marketing and sales for few famous companies, including main competitor of AMX: Crestron company.
Goldenberg would have stolen informations from Sapphire about bidding on some big projects, allowing him to underbid and get affairs. Sapphire indicates loss would be more than one million US$ !
We can expect news on that soon, and we’ll need to wait judge decides if Goldenberg is guilty or not. In meantime, it looks pretty bad for AMX as we can suppose justice doesn’t put someone in jail without good indications (looks like an important investigation took place before Goldenberg has been jailed).
So wait and see…
That post is intended as help for choice between AMX and CRESTRON. They are both the main competitors in high-quality market for automation systems of audiovisual equipments.
They can be encountered in so different systems as Conferencing Rooms, Boardrooms, private residential installations, churches, …
Elements of comparison presented here are based on our experience as independant programmers since three years and a half here in France, and also our past years working at old french distributor of AMX (Pilote Films) for me, and directly at AMX belgium office for my associate.
When you need to select a company, whatever you are an end user or a dealer prepared to open an account at one of these manufacturers, you have to carefully review different important things. I’ll try to list most important points here, to help you in your choice.
- AMX: Well not to say the least, it’s not the best, as company already changed of name two times in past (Panja story), once when it started to be quoted, then back to original name two years later ! and finally it was no more an independant company so it definitively lost its individuality last year when it has been bought by Duchossois Industry.
- Crestron: privately owned since its beginning, so at least it keeps the same line of view so long its owner is there They just got few problems few years ago in France, when their distributor disappeared, before they open their own office in Paris.
- AMX: it’s nearly ten years now I program these equipments and they have proofed to be pretty good quality. As all electronics equipments, most default appear in few weeks after install, but once it’s running, you can forget it ! You just have to forget some few persistent things such as quality of plastic of MVP (it scratches very quickly and default is present since first units, in fact it’s just a painted plastic and not colored plastic !) or link efficiency of R-4 and ease of use for programming (each time you need to put it back in USB mode, restart, load it for pages, then put it back in zigbee, restart and then you can test it, easy….) (oky it’s Zig-Bee a pretty new system, but at these prices you would expect products that work well), or MAX Servers (we have been confronted with three of thems and none worked well, and AMX guy that came on site was unable also to get it working, it was nearly worse when he left !)
- Crestron: from what I have seen till now it appears to be pretty good quality as AMX. For repairs, it’s not at all same game as AMX. You get something dead or wrong on site, they send you immediately a replacement, without asking you first to fill papers and serial numbers and all these stuffs really boring when you are on site and need to get everything running in time. And you get the replacement next day. Whatever it’s AMX or Crestron you’ll still find some recurring issues for connectors access: RJ-45 connectors on back of Modero (pretty difficult to remove with fingers), or USB program port on Adagio (behind the front panel), but no-one is perfect ! Engineers should just sometimes use their equipments as a final user in real conditions.
- AMX: well I would say it’s a 150% american marketing view. You communicate on fact you have your equipment installed in all war equipments of american army….. Very good idea when you know that at least half of the world is against irak war and more generally don’t follow at all american political view. But you have to keep the line, after having changed two times of name previously (Panja stuffs again) and most fun of it, was that Panja reversed gives Japan (at time where AMX started to produce its products in Thailand !!). Concerning France, as it’s our primary market, it’s completely non-existent. Last publicity we have seen in press here for AMX, was at time of french distributor, nothing since. Well I made a mistake, we got a roadshow three years and a half (just before end of distribution in France) that was supposed to show AMX products to dealers and customers in different towns in France. Well it never happened as AMX cancelled it just two days before the start (some of our customers went on site for nothing, what a shame !). Something you should definitively see also: AMX at professional exhibitions such as SATIS in France: if you look for help or informations about products, forget it, often not much people of AMX, or too busy…, probably not always the case but our customers told it to us few times already. Also if you wear a badge or a tshirt from Crestron, you’ll be unable to approach AMX booth ! Last thing, don’t expect a regular newsletter to be up to date with new products, it’s up to you to find informations about new products !
- Crestron: first they are at least present in magasines and publications to present their new products, and you receive monthly a newsletter in your native language about new products and also solutions from their customers. Crestron spoke about our SMS solution in one of their newsletter (it’s really nice such support) when AMX never spoke about us. They chose also way to develop and sell products all around their automation products. It looked pretty strange at first when they started that, but few years later it looks pretty good solution, all the more all these technologies are fully integrated in their line of products (Cresnet link direct) so they are very easy to use with Crestron controllers as you just need to plug them on Cresnet and it works (no need of a module, or develop a piece of code to control them and no need of a specific control port (rs-232 or other)). You should compare that with AMX, that does the same now but in a different way. They buy different companies but keep them on side, so you are obliged to use these equipments with one port for control of each of them and use an external module to control them (yes I know, it makes them to sell products but not in a good way I think !).
- AMX: Well at least here in France, I think we can say it’s inexistent and obstructive. Don’t expect to receive regular prices list (generally they change it without notice and most of time to get prices higher for them). If you ask for a quotation, don’t forget they can change price between quotation and invoice (more than one time it occurred to our dealers) and without warning, for them a signed quotation has none legal value for invoice… Very interesting also they want to get name and adresses of final customer for quotation (isn’t it intrusive way to work ?). I got also a very nice experience: one of our dealer is working on a very specific market where it installs since years some amx products, it worked perfectly well, AMX doesn’t find better thing to do that to put on that market a new dealer (that has no training on AMX products) that breaks prices and is unable to make it work in the end. So end user is now bored with AMX (as AMX went with new dealer for a demo at customer) and we had to give help for free to get system back to work !! And don’t forget only one sales representative for whole France ! Also an other nice experience: one of our dealer got a controler that died under warranty. He sent back the unit to AMX UK for repair. As always, AMX doesn’t loan a replacement equipment so we had to loan it one of our controller. In the meantime, he got a loan of a Modero touchpanel for a demo at a customer. As he was very busy he forgot to send back quickly the Modero to AMX. More than two months after having sent back controller for repair, he asked AMX status of repair. AMX then told him that they would return controller repaired only if he bought the Modero panel in loan…. Look for error here…. In all matters, concerning after-sales repair, you’ll have only to hope to get your equipments back repaired !! It takes weeks, often months to get anything repaired. It’s so bad that we need to loan our own private equipments to our customer to put on site during repair, as AMX doesn’t loan any equipments ! It looks they don’t imagine their equipments are really used by customers. Don’t forget also AMX never sells power supply with its equipements (if you buy a power supply expect to receive it with US or UK socket), neither furnishes user manual, neither programmation cable.
- Crestron: At least they have more than one sales representative (for different areas of France) and they have some specific ones by markets or line of products (such as lighting system). When you ask for a quotation you get it in the next few hours with all details. When you order products, your order is in same day acknowledged and shipped, so you can expect it next day most of time (shipped from their warehouse in Netherlands). When you need a loan, you get it quickly without problems, and they are alway ready to help you for any sales need you might have.
- AMX: Well as they say at AMX, their products is The Rolls-Royce, so it’s probably reason you are unable to get a real tech support. It looks they really have difficulties to understand their products may have a problem or a bug. The nicest experience we got was one and a half year ago with a controller that crashed without reason regularly. We were unable to get a real help from here, so I contacted some relatives in Dallas (AMX headquarter), I got an answer stating it was a real engineering problem and that they were investigating, and never got back news since, I tried more than one time to get news but without success, and two years later, with latest firmware, bug is still there. In the meantime, the french representative of AMX told us we were too bad and were unable to program correctly their system (Should I remember we are fully ACE certified and that the representative has absolutely none knowledge of programming work, and the best one is that Dallas have seen my program and found nothing wrong…). In a more general way, support is very difficult to have and takes a lot of time, and often to get none answer or no real solution, whatever is final customer or urgency of your request when you are on site. We won’t speak of website that has regularly these last months problems of access, which is very useful when you are on site and need in urgency some firmwares or a module, and don’t expect someone from AMX to send it to you by email (no way !).
- Crestron: My few experiences till now are very positive, you always get someone willing to help you and find a solution with you and quickly. They fully understand urgency you might have when you are on site. One drawback: when you need Simpl+ help you need to contact someone in Belgium but you get nevertheless a french correspondant, and you should know that Simpl+ use is not current use of their system. I think we can assume 95% of their system is done in SimplWindows, not Simpl+, so it’s not a big deal in my eyes.
- AMX: You get the choice to go either in Belgium (french or dutch speaking) or UK (english speaking only) for training (no facility in France, AMX just have a mailbox in France…). They developed a certification system that till recently was only avalaible through training in Dallas. Now they offer certification in their European training center but way it works has been redefined by french representative. So now if you live in France you have to follow guidelines of french representative and so she decided that all ACE made in USA have no value here. So I have been certified since the beginning in US but now I have to do the whole process again here in France… Is it really normal to work that way ? and don’t expect any benefits of being ACE, excepted to put a useless logo on your business cards ! All the more AMX in france has absolutely none respect for freelance programmers certified ACE, they say all the worse about you at dealers, so it’s really a nice way to promote their company and their products. Just a little story: when we first met the french representative more than two years ago, she didn’t know what was ACE program (she was already working at AMX since more than one year).
- Crestron: You get a training session every month in their office in Paris, in french speaking. If you need the advanced training (very few programmers are concerned about that) you needed till recently to go in Belgium headquarters of Crestron, but now you can do it also in France. Crestron, similarly to AMX, develops a certification cursus named CAIP, which allows best programmers to be distinguished. But, opposite to AMX, Crestron promotes really that cursus et lists on its own website all programmers certified, et advises you at its own customers when they need a programmer.
- AMX: About software, they work not so bad if you except bugs present since long time, and fact that software are not really tested when released (latest version of programming software: NetLinx Studio, don’t work at all for Combine, which is something pretty important when you program). Concerning programmation language itself, it’s very efficient as you can do some very advanced stuffs as you have a lot of control on system. The graphic engine running in Touch Panel (G4) is also pretty nice and clearly in advance on one of Crestron touchpanels. Drawback is that you need to program whatever you want to do or use Visual Architect but it’s an enormous software and it’ll be complicated if you want to do hand adjustments later on program ! AMX develops also modules all ready to use for control of most used equipments, unhappy you are unable to modify or edit them in any way as you only have compiled sources, a shame. And often the ones I used didn’t work well or not at all and as they are developped in Dallas, they are focused mainly on products avalaible on american market !
- Crestron: Programming logic is completely different. Current way to program is to use SimplWindows, which is completely graphic way to program with boxes, functions and wires. It allows easier access to program to people not aware of programming stuffs. Nevertheless you still have the choice to program in command line mode (Simpl+) for advanced programmer guys. but language is less powerful till now than NetLinx Language (AMX language), and you can’t do everything in Simpl+. Just a reminder, till now all stuffs done in AMX are also possible in Crestron, it’s just most of time a different way to do it ! Concerning touchpanels, it’s definitively different as graphic engine running in their panels is not as efficient than AMX one, and the software to create pages looks archaic (looks like Windows 3.1 program !).
So now it’s time to finish all these comparisons and do it short !
If you look at end user side, both systems are similar, excepted that one is very difficult to sell and support, when the other one is easy to buy, install and support, and all the more you can do whole system with only one company, so my definitive current choice is go to CRESTRON, and avoid a lot of hassles unless I’m a ten years old programmer and fan of AMX products !
Feel free to comment below, I’ll answer all comments !
So today I went on site for interfacing a NetLinx AMX system with Sauter HVAC system. The HVAC system is interfaced through a PC that translates internal bus to more regular Modbus/Jbus protocol.
Modbus is a pretty simple protocol but its implementation is not so simple due to three facts:
- It uses a pretty complex system to calculate a mandatory checksum at end of each message. But with help of a friend Jon, and also piece of code made by Crestron for their Modbus module, I was able to automate creation of Modbus messages in my NetLinx program. Here is result for exemple for a read command:
TEMP = “1,3,0,((ETAPE-1)*4),0,2″
CRC = $FFFF
TEMP_1 = TEMP[I]
XFLG = (CRC^TEMP_1) & $0001
CRC = CRC >> 1
CRC = CRC ^ $A001
TEMP_1 = TEMP_1 / 2
I = CRC / 256
J = CRC – (I*256)
INTERRO_A_ENVOYER = “TEMP,J,I”
That sample computes automatically checksum for a read message of two bytes
- Second problem is for answer you get back from HVAC as temperature value is coded with IEEE system. I looked at it on internet but it looks pretty complex to encode, so for now I just do a comparison between know values and it allows me to get correct value, at price of extra comparison work but it functions perfect If someone already did a piece of code in NetLinx to encode/decode IEEE value, I’m interested in !
- Last point very important with Modbus protocol is that it doesn’t speak by itself So each time you want to know something you have to issue a read command. So best way is to use a timeline you run in background that continuously asks values at system so you keep always value up to date
Hope it helped you, and feel free to ask questions you might have in comments !