If you’re asking yourself, “is Sweetwater legit?” this article will answer all your questions about this predominantly online musical equipment and pro audio company. We’ll look at all the pros and cons of buying from Sweetwater and give you a peek at what it’s like from an employee’s point of view.
So, grab your favorite beverage and make yourself comfortable!
You can use the table of contents below to take you to the area that interests you. Click on the little box to open it, and then click on the section of the article you want to read, or you can read from start to finish if you want the full Sweetwater experience!
So, Is Sweetwater Legit?
Sweetwater Sound is one of the best (if not the best) places to buy musical gear and pro audio equipment.
It was started and run by musicians and people who love music, a tradition that continues.
Every department of this company is committed to providing musicians with the best experience in selecting budget-friendly equipment that is the ideal fit for their musical needs.
Sweetwater prides itself on maintaining close ties to the local and online communities it serves. It helps over 600 nonprofit organizations each year and supports music education nationally and in its local schools with charitable donations.
Although their ads may appear on this website, I don’t have any direct financial affiliations with Sweetwater.
Keep On Reading To Learn More!
What Is Sweetwater?
Sweetwater Sound is the largest online music, pro audio, lighting, and accessories equipment retailer in the United States. Their corporate office is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Chuck Surack founded the company in 1979 as a home-based recording studio with a mobile recording unit in his Volkswagon Bus.
Providence Equity, the majority shareholder, currently owns Sweetwater Sound. In 2021 Sweetwater had 2,300 employees and a revenue of $1.4 billion!
All Sweetwater’s Sales Engineers undergo an extensive 13-week training program at “Sweetwater University” to keep current with everything musical and pro audio.
Sweetwater has a full-service guitar repair, upgrade, and restoration workshop, a music academy with a youth program, and a state-of-the-art recording studio.
They host GearFest, one of the USA’s largest annual musical and pro audio gear exhibitions.
Why Shop At Sweetwater?
There are so many great reasons to shop at Sweetwater. Here are the highlights.
- Great reputation
- Competitive pricing
- Huge product selection and inventory – 480,000 square foot distribution center
- Offers in-shop customization – of guitars and other products they sell
- Outstanding customer service
- Each client is assigned a sales engineer
- “Sweetcare” – Free 24/7 technical support on everything they sell
- 55-point inspection – for guitars and all other instruments
- Sweetwater credit card – 0% interest for 24 months & up to 48 months on special offers
- 2-year Sweetwater warranty – on all instruments
- Free shipping nearly everywhere in the USA – no minimum purchase
- “No hassle” return policy – 30 days on new items and 90 days on preowned equipment
- Gear Exchange – Online marketplace for buying or selling preowned items
What Makes Sweetwater Unique?
Here’s a look at the inner workings of this incredible company. Sweetwater is not just a fantastic buying and selling resource for musicians. It is really worth a look as a career opportunity!
Consumer Online And In-Person Services
Online Guitar Gallery
When shopping for musical equipment online, Sweetwater has an excellent guitar gallery. It is run by a dedicated team that researches and photographs each guitar in high definition and from multiple angles, complete with serial number and weight.
You can search the guitar gallery by over 15 parameters and compare the features of each guitar against others.
When you find what you want, you can add in-house, factory-certified customizations that are added before the guitar is inspected and shipped to you!
Sales Engineers And Technical Support
The best way to begin your relationship with Sweetwater online is to speak with a “sales engineer,” who will be assigned as your personal guide to answer questions and help you choose the best gear for your needs and budget. They are highly knowledgeable and helpful associates!
The Sweetwater technical support team provides free 24/7 assistance with everything that’s sold. They are a separate department at Sweetwater and are consistently updated on all the latest technologies and products in the musical and pro audio world.
Sweetwater has a dedicated concierge office that can help you find who or what you’re looking for and can even schedule a tour around the Sweetwater campus.
They also coordinate employee benefits like family outings, the video lending library, and dry cleaning.
Sweetwater’s Gear Exchange is a great starting point if you want to sell your gear on consignment or trade it for in-store credit. The exchange personnel will help get a deal that works for you.
55-Point Guitar Inspection
Each guitar purchased (over $399) goes through an extensive 55-point inspection by an inspection staff member so that it is set up to play great right out of the box! You can request a special setup accommodation at the time of purchase, like low, medium, or high action, a particular string brand, and gauge, etc.
Here is a video from Sweetwater that shows the way they process each guitar and the 55-point inspection.
Service, Custom Shop, And Warranty
Sweetwater has an outstanding factory-certified service staff, which can handle most repairs in-house. If anything goes wrong, give them a call, and they’ll take care of you right over the phone or have you send the equipment back so they can fix it as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Their guitar shop has expert luthiers who can swap out pickups or install custom electronics, do impressive guitar mods, and fix damaged instruments.
All instruments have a free 2-year “Total Confidence Coverage” warranty.
Music Store And Piano Showroom
If you live nearby, Sweetwater has a nearly 40,000-square-foot store with the largest on-site inventory in the United States of nearly 1,000 brands of instruments and other top equipment! It includes “fully loaded” demo studios and a massive band and orchestra gallery.
Their piano showroom has over 100 keyboards and pianos (home to full-size concert grands) with free delivery and installation!
If I lived near this music store, I might not ever leave!
GearFest is Sweetwater’s yearly 2-day trade show. It offers the best deals you’ll find all year on music gear. There are clinics or performances by world-class artists and demonstrations by leading industry pros.
This trade show is the largest convention open to the general public. It hosts around 14,000 visitors with hundreds of vendors!
Sweetwater has a suite of recording studios and isolation booths where artists from all over the world have come to record their music. They feature state-of-the-art equipment, from classic analog gear to the most sophisticated digital equipment.
Their staff of award-winning producers and engineers can help you make the most of your recording session.
Employee Training And Diversification
LEED Platinum Certification
Sweetwater employees work in environmentally-friendly buildings constructed from recycled and rapidly renewable woods! These buildings are also designed to conserve water and electricity with a high air quality standard while providing a healthy and comfortable environment for both staff and visitors.
These achievements and many other improvements have allowed Sweetwater to achieve the Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum certification.
Sweetwater University is an intense 13-week program that all sales engineers and other new employees go through to ensure that they are up to speed in all areas of pro audio and musical gear.
The program is run by over 80 industry leaders and offers over 300 classes. It is regularly updated and offers its employees new classes on upcoming products to stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening.
Product Optimization And “Creation Station” Computers
The product optimization department works behind the scenes to update and optimize products by doing firmware updates and other tweaks to make your purchase as smooth and stress-free as possible from right out of the box.
Creation station computers are built in-house specifically for high-performance pro-audio production and professional media production. They have become the industry standard for Windows PCs over the past ten years.
What’s worse than waiting for your new guitar or amp to arrive? The Sweetwater distribution center ships most in-stock orders the day they’re placed with free shipping to nearly anywhere in the contiguous United States.
And best of all, there’s no minimum purchase. You get your equipment in a matter of days, making an unbearable waiting experience a tolerable affair.
There is an incredible list of privileges that come with working at Sweetwater. Here are some of the highlights. What are you waiting for? Get that employment application in today!
This free clinic is offered as an exclusive service to staff and their families to help keep everyone healthy and happy. There are on-site doctors for annual checkups and sick visits, with everything you would expect from a primary care physician. Booking appointments is quick and easy!
Sweetwater’s fitness center provides employees and their guests with access to state-of-the-art training equipment and on-staff personal trainers for coaching and consultation.
The exclusive locker rooms and shower facilities provide a comfortable and user-friendly environment!
The Sweetwater indoor racquetball court is available for employees and their guests and offers an invigorating and healthy exercise experience.
Wavelengths Salon And Spa
Wavelengths, located on the Sweetwater campus, is a registered Aveda Concept Salon! It offers a complete list of employee services such as haircuts, massage therapy, and manicures. The facility is also available to the public by appointment.
Video Lending Library
Another Sweetwater employee perk is their extensive video lending library. Hundreds of free DVDs, Blu-rays, and video games are available for employees to take home for their enjoyment.
Fun For Everyone
These Sweetwater activities and venues are open to staff and the general public.
Workshops And Master Classes
Sweetwater routinely hosts guitar clinics, workshops, and master classes year-round by greats such as Joe Satriani. They are open to the public, and many are free or affordably priced. If you live in the Midwest, this is the place to be!
Academy Of Music
The Sweetwater Academy Of Music is run by a team of over 30 professional musicians who give regular group classes to local musicians on popular instruments and studio recording techniques for beginners to advanced students. The Academy hosts many free gatherings.
One of the most popular aspects of the Academy Of Music is their Summer Rock Camp, which brings musicians together to learn and jam in a group environment!
This Sweetwater auditorium offers the best in pro-audio listening in a comfortable and luxurious environment. It features a 7.1 state-of-the-art digital surround system for family movie nights with headphone jacks in every seat for ongoing staff training and product demonstrations.
The Performance Theatre frequently hosts a wide variety of musical performances.
The Performance Pavillion is a 24,000 square-foot outdoor music venue specially designed to host concerts and individual performances for up to 3,500 guests. It provides the perfect stage for the GearFest shows and some of the hottest band performances.
The Crescendo Club allows Academy Students and other talented community members to give performances to an intimate audience on a state-of-the-art stage with cutting-edge gear. You can enjoy a latte from the Crescendo Cafe and some of the finest music you’ll ever hear.
Downbeat Diner And Crescendo Cafe
The Downbeat Diner serves reasonably-priced healthy restaurant-quality food made with fresh ingredients. Everything is prepared from scratch by the Sweetwater staff. Food is served from 6 AM to 7 PM.
The Crescendo Cafe is a great place to grab a snack or drink while shopping or waiting for a music lesson. The coffeehouse environment features excellent espresso, ice cream, chocolate, and baked goods.
Arcade And Game Area
For the ultimate in entertainment, stop and play a game or two at the free arcade and game area. It’s a great way to kill a little time among staff, family, and friends!
The Sweetwater Slide
On your way out, be sure to take a ride on the giant metal Sweetwater Slide adjacent to the Stairway. It’s the fun way down and their way of saying bye, and please come back again soon!
Sweetwater Buyers Beware
There have been a number of problems reported by consumers in online reviews and on consumer advocacy sites, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
In the vast majority of cases, Sweetwater has reached out to the consumer in an attempt to understand and rectify the problem.
As I investigated this, it was evident that Sweetwater tries to make customer satisfaction their top concern. Still, there are some things worth mentioning.
Product Problems And Returns
Some customer reviews claim that the item they received was not what they expected based on the product description or that the product was somehow faulty.
Other consumers feel that the return policy (30 days on new items and 90 days on preowned marketplace items) is cumbersome. They needed to obtain a return authorization (RA) number from a Sweetwater sales engineer, a standard operating procedure with all online music retailers. Additionally, return shipping at Sweetwater is free in the USA.
Several years ago, I had a favorable experience with returning an item to Sweetwater. The process was straightforward and pleasant.
However, be aware that some items like special orders, discounted products, speakers, tubes, and software may be non-refundable.
Additionally, you may encounter a “sanitation fee” for items like instrument mouthpieces, which I think is a safe practice.
Reports have been filed at the Better Business Bureau that Sweetwater’s security policies and procedures are substandard. Some consumers have said that their accounts have been compromised or hacked, allowing others to make fraudulent purchases.
Sweetwater claims that its online privacy and security practices meet or exceed the industry standard.
Some consumers feel that Sweetwater engages in aggressive and nuisance-causing email list marketing practices. Anyone can be removed from their email list by selecting “unsubscribe” from any of their correspondences, calling their 1-800 number, or completing the online privacy request form.
Online Shopping Checklist
Here is a generic shopping list you can use. It is generally applicable to any online music store retailer.
- Set a price range – How much you can afford and what you are willing to pay
- Make a list of guitars you are interested in comparing in that price range; try to keep it to five guitars or less
- Do an initial search for each guitar on Amazon and two or three online music stores
- Email your list of guitars to a family member or friend that plays the guitar if you are a beginner to get a trusted opinion
- Make a note of which online store has the lowest price, does not charge tax in your location, and offers free shipping and return shipping
- Check the website’s return policy and if there is a “restocking fee”
- Find out which websites are offering services like a guitar inspection, an extended warranty, and technical support after the sale
- Look for verified online reviews of each product, read both the good and the bad reviews
- Speak with a website sales representative to get all your questions answered and inquire about any upcoming sales on these or similar guitars
- Alert the sales rep if you found another website that offers a better price on the same guitar and ask for a better deal
- Try to negotiate a free gig bag or other sales incentive into the price of the instrument
- Attempt to find some brick-and-mortar music stores in your area where you can play a similar guitar
- If the online store has a physical store in your area, ask them to ship the guitar there so you can play it before you take it home
For more info on buying online, check out my article on Online Guitar Shopping – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly!
Frequently Asked Questions About Sweetwater Music Online
Here are some of the questions I get asked about Sweetwater and online shopping.
If your question does not appear here, please put it in the comments, and I will get right back to you with an answer.
Is Sweetwater Only In Indiana?
Yes, Sweetwater is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with one storefront there. Everything is done from their corporate location.
Does Sweetwater Have “Brick And Mortar” Stores?
Sweetwater’s only actual in-person retail store is located on-campus at their corporate office in Fort Wayne, Indiana. However, it is one of the largest stores in the US at nearly 40,000-square-feet.
Where Does Sweetwater Deliver?
Sweetwater currently delivers to the USA, Canada, UK, and Europe. Be aware that an international shipping fee may be required.
Does Sweetwater Do Price Matching?
Although Sweetwater already has very competitive pricing, they may do price matching on some items. Speak with a sales engineer to inquire about each product and get info about upcoming sales events.
Does Sweetwater Have Coupons?
No, Sweetwater does not have coupons or honor coupons from its competitors. You can ask your sales engineer about the best Sweetwater deals currently being offered.
Does Sweetwater Collect Sales Tax?
Yes, but not for all states. The states where they collect sales tax are listed on their website and updated as needed.
Does Sweetwater Charge Immediately?
Credit cards are charged when the product is shipped. PayPal payments are charged immediately.
How Long Does It Take Sweetwater To Process An Order?
It typically takes 1–5 business days within the contiguous U.S. and 6–7 business days to Alaska and Hawaii. International orders can take longer.
Does Sweetwater Ship Guitars Safely?
Yes. All their products are shipped in very well-protected packaging, sometimes double packed, if necessary. Each guitar (and all Sweetwater instruments) is unpacked, given a 55-point inspection, and then repacked in its original box.
Are Sweetwater Used Guitars Any Good?
The condition of the guitars you buy online can vary, but used guitars come with a 90-day return policy. All used equipment is purchased and sold online through their Gear Exchange.
Can I Use My Sweetwater Card Anywhere
No, your card is not a generic charge card. It can only be used at Sweetwater Sound.
Who Is Sweetwater Sound Owned By?
Chuck Surack was President and Founder of Sweetwater, Inc. It was acquired and is managed by Providence Equity Partners – a firm out of Providence, Rhode Island. Chuck is now Chairman of the Board.
Does Sweetwater Own Guitar Center?
No, Guitar Center is currently owned by Ares Management.
How Do I Stop Getting Mail From Sweetwater?
According to Sweetwater, “To exercise the right to opt-out, you (or your authorized representative) may submit a request to us by completing the privacy request form or by calling us at (800) 222-4700.” The most straightforward approach is to give them a call.
How Many Employees Does Sweetwater Sound Have?
Sweetwater had about 2,300 employees in 2021.
Are Sweetwater Reviews Fake?
No. Their consumer reviews are legitimate, with an average online rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. They pride themselves on customer satisfaction. Sweetwater has a 4.7 Trustpilot rating and a 4.47 SiteJabber rating.
Hopefully, this article has answered the question “Is Sweetwater Legit?” to your complete satisfaction. Although many high-quality online musical equipment retailers exist, Sweetwater Sound has the most extensive inventory with world-class customer service and excellent overall customer satisfaction ratings.
There are some potential pitfalls when dealing with Sweetwater, but they go “above and beyond” to get you what you really need at the right price and stand behind everything they sell.
Sweetwater makes sure that any guitar you buy is ready to play when you take it out of the box with their 55-point inspection and stand behind it with their two-year warranty that covers adjustments and repairs. They have the in-house facilities and expertise to customize your guitar with different pickups, tuners, etc., before it is shipped out to you.
They provide you with free shipping to most places in the USA and quick turnaround times. Sweetwater strives to ship your guitar the day you place the order if the item is in stock.
Their 24/7 “Sweetcare” free technical support is staffed by highly trained personnel that will help you solve your problem.
You can use the Sweetwater credit card to pay 0% interest over 24 months & up to 48 months on special offers.
Most new items have a 30-day return policy, and they stand behind the preowned equipment they sell in their Gear Exchange for 90 days!
Sweetwater prides itself in providing state-of-the-art and customized pro audio equipment. They have a world-class recording studio available for company and commercial recording artist use.
If you are looking to work at an online music retailer, Sweetwater offers some of the best employee perks out there! I wouldn’t hesitate to fill out a job application.
Tell Me What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this article, have any questions about Sweetwater, or want to give your point of view. I will be happy to help you.
- Have you bought musical or pro audio equipment from Sweetwater? How was your experience?
- What do you like most about Sweetwater? Least?
- Where do you prefer to buy your online musical equipment, and why?
- After reading this article, would you buy something from Sweetwater?