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Digital Sound Planet goes out of business, leaving customers without unlock keys for their software

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In 2003, I purchased a multitrack recording program online called Quartz Audio Pro. I bought it directly from the company that created the software, Digital Sound Planet (DSP). The software had previously been available from a company called Canam Computers, which I assume went out of business.

Screenshot of Quartz Audio Pro

After purchasing it, I discovered to my dismay that after installation, the program had to be activated by entering an “unlocking key” generated on DSP’s website that could only be used once, something which DSP hadn’t informed me of beforehand. I was unhappy about this because it would mean that if DSP were ever to go out of business and I had to reinstall the software (as would be the case when migrating to a new computer, upgrading the operating system, or recovering from a hard drive failure), I would lose the ability to access my Quartz Audio sessions.

I emailed DSP and demanded a refund. After hearing my concerns, they talked me out of the refund by promising me that if they went out of business, they would make sure their customers would be able to permanently unlock their software. To quote their email:

 > Finally, to answer your last question (which is
> legitimate) about possible
> company-breakdown :
> We are musicians above all, and want our
> software to be used by musicians. If we
> ever ran out of business, we would make the
> programs fully unlocked for all our
> customers.
>
> Regards,
>
> The DSP Team.

Not long after this exchange, however, I started seeing signs of trouble.

Emails to the company would go unanswered, as did queries in its support forums.

A search of Google’s usenet archives shows that at least one person was experiencing problems with this company as early as 2002, and in another usenet message it was reported that the DSP website was down for over a week in January 2004.

By 2006, the DSP support forums were full of messages from users who were wondering if the company was still in business. The company hadn’t posted a single message in its forums since 2003.

One user who needed a new unlocking key but wasn’t getting responses to his emails decided to make some phone calls and found out that DSP had cleared out its office in Les Mureaux, France, in September of 2005.

The situation was looking grim, but then in January 2007, the site was updated. It looked like DSP was alive after all and was finally getting its act together.

This sudden burst of activity wasn’t to last, though; in September 2008, I went on the site only to find that it hadn’t been updated since September 2007, that the support forums were disabled, and that I couldn’t log in to my account. I tried to email DSP using the contact addresses provided on the site, but those didn’t work as usual. I then tried contacting DSP through the email addresses provided by its domain registrar, and surprisingly, got a response a week later. The response, however, wasn’t helpful, and my second email was ignored.

Earlier this year, I noticed DSP’s website had disappeared, and it is still missing as of the time of writing. On February 19, I sent emails to the contact addresses provided by the domain registrar and they were returned as undeliverable. There can no longer be any doubt: DSP is out of business.

I’ve written this article in the hope that it will encourage the owners of DSP to do the right thing and provide a patch or key generator to enable their customers to permanently unlock their software, as they promised me they would back in 2003; or, failing that, to warn people about doing business with these individuals, one of whose names is Tranquille Tabard (his middle name is probably Thierry).

I’m also posting this to serve as a cautionary tale about software which uses these sorts of activation schemes. If you want to be able to access your data into the foreseeable future, don’t use a program with a proprietary file format that employs this type of activation scheme. If a program won’t allow you to install it where you want, when you want, and as many times as you want, don’t buy it; it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth in the long run.

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Written by Igor

June 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm

27 Responses

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  1. Great post,
    I have the same problem. I need the unlocking key.
    I still use the program by uninstalling it once a week
    and then reinstalling as the program is set up to
    give you a week to get the unlocking key.

    bobby

    September 26, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    • Hi Bobby.

      I’m surprised it lets you do that. Normally programs that expire have a way of “knowing” they were previously installed.

      I found a listing for a “Tabard, Tranquille Thierry” in the French white pages. I imagine it’s the same guy since that doesn’t strike me as a common name.

      I personally don’t feel strongly enough about it to phone him, but maybe someone else does. Here’s his address and phone number:

      Tabard Tranquille Thierry
      3 pl République 50550 SAINT VAAST LA HOUGUE
      09 53 04 73 43

      BTW, make sure you bookmark this page if you want to find it again because Google and the other search engines aren’t indexing it for some reason.

      Igor

      September 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

  2. I know this is an older topic, but I just came across my Quartz registrations from 1999 and was looking to see if they would still be usable. Apparently not. I did use it on and off back then, but haven’t for years.

    By the way, not being able to offer those keys might be beyond their control. When a company goes out of business, a liquidator or curator usually takes over and employees generally aren’t legally allowed to touch or access anything. Unfortunately I’ve been in a couple so know what happens ;)
    Unlocking it shortly beforehand would have been illegal too as that would be destroying company assets, which could have made them personally repsonsible for any losses in liquidation sales. All in all it was a kind promise back in 2003, but maybe a little naive. They might have realised later it wasn’t really an option.

    Best thing to do would probably be to find the liquidators, as they would be the legal owners of the assets (and hence the software), and if not, they would know who they sold it to.

    Louis

    July 6, 2012 at 7:56 am

    • Louis,

      What employees? As far as I can tell, Digital Sound Planet was a one-man operation run by Tranquille Thierry Tabard. Why would his business have fallen into the hands of liquidators? DSP hasn’t had a physical office since 2005. Tabard’s only overhead was the website; it doesn’t cost a lot to keep a site online.

      I highly doubt that Tabard doesn’t still own the rights to his software.

      Quit making excuses for the guy!

      Study the timeline in the post above. It doesn’t jibe with what you’re proposing. DSP had been behaving like a company that was going out of business since at least 2003. It had plenty of time — several years — to either get its act together or do the right thing and provide permanent unlock keys to its customers. Instead, it spent those years ignoring its customers, keeping them in the dark, leading them on with false promises, dodging their emails, not updating its website or software, etc. It didn’t even have the courtesy to inform its customers that it was shutting down.

      Thierry Tabard was obsessed with the risk of losing revenue because of software piracy, yet apparently it never crossed his mind that treating his loyal, paying customers like dirt might do more to harm his business than having a few cracked or illegal copies floating about. It wasn’t piracy that killed his business; it was his own negligence and mismanagement.

      DSP had no business accepting money from people for products it didn’t have the means or intention of supporting. That support was crucial since the ability to use the software was dependent upon the website remaining functional. By 2008, if not earlier, the website was clearly no longer functional.

      There was no notice posted on DSP’s site to the effect that it had gone out of business and that its assets (which would surely include the website, since the software can’t be activated without it) were frozen. The site simply went from its usual neglected state to giving a blank page when accessed; and later, and at present, one simply gets a photograph of a sidewalk cafe without a word of explanation. Who put up that photo — the liquidators? (That’s a rhetorical question, BTW; it obviously wasn’t any hypothetical liquidators who put it up, but Tabard himself.)

      I don’t consider Tabard’s conduct merely negligent or unprofessional; I consider it borderline criminal, since he continued to take money from people well after he was no longer supporting the software. DSP’s shopping cart system remained operational long after it became impossible to reach the company; stop for a second and think about what that means.

      Igor

      July 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      • As far as I can tell, Tranquille Tabard is a retired man who knows absolutely nothing about computer science. But his son does and was once an employee of a software company which produced Quartz Studio Free. Does he still work there, is he the owner ?

        I don’t know, I happened to use Quartz Studio Free (back in the early 2000s) and noticed that one of the devs had the same family name as Tranquille Tabard, an elderly man who used to attend my English training classes then. I asked him and he told me this was his son (Thierry ??).

        I don’t know much about DSP as I only used their free tools until I purchased Steinberg’s. But I doubt you are accusing the right guy. There are pieces of information available on the internet as to who owns such a company/business or not and it is really not difficult to find out the right name. You are mistaking the father for the son, assuming the son is really the owner of DSP and not just an employee, and accusing him like you do is just as illegal as DSP’s conduct.

        Bob

        April 19, 2013 at 11:34 am

      • Bob,

        You admit that you don’t know Thierry Tabard, have never paid for a DSP product, and that what little experience you have had with the company was more than a decade ago, before the problems started, yet you feel entitled to come here and give me a sermon, informing me that I’m wrong and acting as the Tabards’ self-appointed defense attorney? You have some nerve, pal.

        To address some of the drivel you’ve written:

        “As far as I can tell, Tranquille Tabard is a retired man who knows absolutely nothing about computer science.”

        And yet, per your own comment below, Tranquille Tabard Sr. was one of the “4 main managers” of DSP:

        Administrateur M. Jean TABARD TRANQUILLE

        First you charge me — despite the blog abounding with statements that flatly contradict your claim — of fingering an “innocent” man who, according to you, had nothing to do with his son’s company, then you post an excerpt from a document that states that the father was one of the administrators.

        It appears you’re so eager to injure me that you’d fall on your own sword in order to impale me with it. Why the hostility, Bob? Do you have a dog in this fight? I wouldn’t be sticking my nose in business that doesn’t concern me because of a passing acquaintance from a class I was in a decade ago, so why are you? It’s odd, to say the least.

        “But his son does and was once an employee of a software company which produced Quartz Studio Free. Does he still work there,”

        It’s unlikely he “still works there”, since had you bothered to actually read the article you are responding to, you would know that the company has been out of business for years now.

        “is he the owner ?

        I don’t know,”

        Precisely; you don’t know, yet you have an awful lot to say about it anyways.

        Those who don’t know what planet they’re on should refrain from giving lectures to those of us who do.

        “You are mistaking the father for the son,”

        No, I am not. In the very comment you have responded to, I said the fellow’s name was Tranquille Thierry Tabard; additionally, the phone number I provided in another comment is for “Tabard Tranquille Thierry“, and I mention in the article itself that the person’s middle name is probably Thierry. You are a remarkably careless reader.

        “assuming the son is really the owner of DSP and not just an employee,”

        Until you can provide evidence to the contrary (i.e., name the name and provide the contact information of Thierry’s alleged employer), I’d say it’s a reasonable assumption that DSP was his company. We know from various sources that he created the programs, and since the unlock keys had to be generated online, it is safe to infer that he must have been intimately involved with creating and managing the website. In your other comment, you provided a list stating that Thierry was one of DSP’s administrators, and by doing so, you once again fell on your own sword, providing evidence which contradicts your baseless assertion that Thierry was only “an employee”. We can safely rule out the father as having played a major active role in the company, since you yourself have stated that the father “knows absolutely nothing about computer science.” I’d guess that the father’s name is on that list merely for show, as a formality, perhaps for legal or tax reasons, since there is no obvious practical reason that a man who “knows absolutely nothing about computer science” should be managing a company that sells specialized software online.

        Thierry created the product, and created and managed the website through which the product was exclusively sold, distributed, activated, and supported; to an objective observer, that means the company was his, regardless of whoever else’s name may have appeared in some of the paperwork. If this is false, then let Thierry himself come forward and tell us who his elusive “employer” was. I won’t be holding my breath.

        “and accusing him”

        This allegation of mistaken identity is a straw man, a red herring, on your part. It was established long before you showed up that the Tabard being discussed is Thierry, and if you didn’t have the reading comprehension of a 3-year-old, you would know that.

        I can’t help but notice that you posted these two comments on the 19th, and that as of today, the 24th, I have heard nothing more from you. I thought you were going to go find all this readily-available evidence that had somehow eluded me about who the “real” owners of DSP were and then come back here and shove it in my face to prove how wrong I’ve been. What happened, Bob? Let me guess: you searched a few minutes, and quickly realized that all of the evidence you were finding was working in my favour and not yours; but instead of being a good sport about it and coming back to apologize for ignorantly shooting your mouth off, you decided to scurry off with your tail between your legs, like a drunk driver fleeing a hit-and-run. Am I right or am I right? If your search had turned up anything, even the sparsest crumb, in support of your contentions, I’m sure you’d have come racing back here to tell me about it. Your silence is as revealing as anything you could say.

        Igor

        April 24, 2013 at 10:50 am

      • 2sec on Google : DSP used to have 4 main managers :
        PDG Mme Dominique CELLIER
        Administrateur M. Jean TABARD TRANQUILLE
        Administrateur Mme Dominique CELLIER
        Administrateur M. Thierry TABARD TRANQUILLE

        A one-man operation hey ?

        Bob

        April 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

      • Bob:

        First of all, what is this? Where is it from? At the moment, I’m paying for internet time by the minute and my connection is slow; I’m not about to go wasting my time and money chasing after a result on Google that you could have easily provided a link to and should have. Learn some basic manners and in the future post the link if you expect to be taken seriously. I mean, what, you really couldn’t spare the extra second it would’ve taken you to copy and paste the URL?

        Second of all, this list says nothing about “managers”; it lists 3 administrators and one “PDG”, whatever that is. It does not define what an administrator does. And since there are only 3 names on the list, there are not “4 main managers” as you contend; two of the positions are occupied by the same person.

        Thirdly, this list is undated. Does it apply to 2001 or 2007? I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that someone who would quote a document without providing the URL wouldn’t see the importance of supplying a date.

        Fourthly, far from proving me wrong, this list corroborates what I’ve been saying and contradicts the claims you made in your previous comment. If Thierry Tabard was an administrator, then he could not have been a mere “employee” as you contend. Of the other two administrators, one would appear (if what you say is true) to be his father, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the other was also a relative, perhaps a girlfriend, sister, or daughter. You yourself have stated that his father knows nothing about computer science and wasn’t involved with the company, so despite his name appearing in the list, he couldn’t have had much to do with running DSP; and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same applies to the female listed here. Eliminate the other two names, and that leaves only one: Thierry Tabard. I’ll say it again: for the last several years of its miserable existence, DSP was nothing more than a shoebox operation run out of Thierry Tabard’s closet. I haven’t seen a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise, and you, despite a lot of fanfare, haven’t provided any.

        Why do guys like you and Louis, who haven’t had any interaction whatsoever with DSP over the past ten years, insist on defending Tabard when the facts are so plainly in my favour? I’ve been careful in the statements I make on this blog, while you guys just go off half-cocked, shooting your mouths off before you’ve even bothered to do a minute’s worth of research. Your attacks in particular, Bob, don’t make any sense, as I’ve pointed out in my other response. I think that in the future, I may just end up deleting snotty, argumentative remarks like yours, since they don’t add anything useful to the discussion and are a waste of time to respond to. Why should I expend energy defending myself from such comments when the person I’m responding to clearly didn’t do his homework, and can’t even be bothered to post a simple URL? It’s not a reciprocal relationship. It’ll be far easier to just hit the delete button from now on.

        If you guys want to argue for sport, join a debate team. I don’t want uninformed, knee-jerk responses like yours cluttering up this blog and lowering the signal-to-noise ratio. The comments section is not a free-for-all, and I’m under no obligation to provide equal “air time” to the Tabard fan club. I’ve been accommodating enough as it is.

        Igor

        April 24, 2013 at 11:44 am

    • When you say you have registrations dating from 1999, was that when the Quartz software was being sold by Canam Computers rather than Digital Sound Planet? I’m surprised they were using product activation that early. None of their competitors were.

      Igor

      July 9, 2012 at 8:27 pm

  3. I’d like to add that over here in the Netherlands, any actions that devalue the company up to six months before liquidation could be judged illegal. Similar laws probably apply in France.

    Louis

    July 6, 2012 at 8:00 am

    • Tabard was peddling crippled, obsolete* software through a broken, abandoned website and had managed to alienate all of his existing customers. He couldn’t have devalued his company more than he already had if he had tried.

      * Obsolete? Yes, obsolete. I doubt any of the Quartz programs would run on Vista, let alone Windows 7 or the upcoming Windows 8. If I’m not mistaken, the Quartz programs only record at 16 bits, when today’s market expects to be able to record at 24. They also lack support for VSTi (VST instrument) plugins.

      Igor

      July 9, 2012 at 9:18 pm

  4. Hello,
    I began recording with quartz studio back in 2001.

    I recorded up to 50 songs and tracks with the DSP products, and for back then worked well for my needs at the time.

    Officially i paid for two different pieces of DSP software, Quartz Studio Pro and i think it was audio master or something like that.

    I am really upset as I lost the free ware version (4 track studio free) and still have my studio pro or (8 track version) which of course asks me for the unlocking key when i try to use it.

    I am really wanting to free up my recordings, and remaster some, or convert them so i can rewrok them in a different multi-track system.

    I have the qri, qrx, qrm files.

    Does anyone have functioning or unlocked software that they could send to me, or link me to for proper download?

    Has anyone created a key for the software?

    is there a support group out there that has found a way to at least salvage the tracks from the saved files as i mentioned above through a different software?

    i am one of those that deserve a key or an alternative and have paid twice in full for these programs and this is not my first time attempting to reach out over the past decade to both DSP and of now in forum.

    Any help would be appreciated. Anything that will allow me access to the tracks even if i have to capture them as they play would be helpful.

    Thank you

    Marc

    December 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    • Hello I have a copy of Quartz Audio Freeware and A copy of Quartz Audio Master Pro with a set of serials and unlocking keys burnt onto a cd. I can install this as many times as I wish on as many PC’s as I wish. I would be very happy to send to you a copy for you to use with my serials and keys if you can let me know your serial numbers and versions of Quartz Audio. The Freeware I would send you any way. IHTH.

      Jennifer

      Jennifer

      March 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm

      • Jennifer,

        If Marc posts here again and says he’s interested, I’ll forward him your email address so he can get in touch with you directly. I don’t know if Quartz Audio Master Pro will read all his files, though, as I think the Quartz Studio programs used a different file format from the Quartz Audio ones.

        How did you manage to put a copy that you can install as many times as you wish on a CD? My recollection is that in order to unlock the program, you had to: 1) type in your serial number, 2) copy and paste a number that was randomly generated by the program onto DSP’s website, and 3) enter the automatically-generated unlock key you received from the website into the program. How did you bypass step 2? Using the same unlock key every time won’t work, since a new one has to be generated for every new installation.

        Igor

        April 5, 2013 at 11:44 pm

      • Hi Jennifer
        I too am locked out of QAM PRO if you can please help me I can send you my original serial details if needed .Thanks Kevin

        kevinprockter

        August 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    • Marc,

      I wonder how hard it would be to create a program that could convert a Quartz Audio session file into an EDL file that could be opened in a DAW like REAPER or SAW (since if I’m not mistaken, there isn’t any way to export a Quartz session, beyond just rendering each individual track, which is tedious and needlessly degrades the audio). Quartz Studio sessions would probably require an additional conversion step, since I recall hearing that the program stores the audio in a special format instead of as standard .wav files.

      As for a keygen or patch, there may be individuals in the “cracker” community who would be able and willing to create one if they were provided with copies of the programs. That would be illegal, of course, but considering the way Tabard has treated his customers, I could hardly blame someone for taking that course.

      Igor

      April 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm

  5. I also just found a version of audio project on a cd I had. I had copied it over from my program files folder long ago. I was able to just drag it over to my new program files folder in windows 7 and run it. It asked for the unlock code. Since it wasn’t a new install I was able to use the original.

    Ole

    March 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    • Hi Ole.

      So if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that if I have a fully unlocked copy of Quartz installed on a computer, all I have to do is go into the “program files” folder, copy the Quartz program files, transfer those to the “program files” folder of a second computer, launch the program and enter my serial number, and as long as I’ve retained the original unlock code, I’ll have a fully functional installation? I’ll give it a try (if I can find the original unlock code!), though I must admit that I’m sceptical, as that sounds far too easy. I don’t understand why DSP would even bother with an activation scheme if it was that easy to bypass.

      I’m glad to hear the Quartz programs work under Windows 7. I know that a lot of my old Windows 95/98 programs barely work in Vista, if at all.

      Igor

      April 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      • Hello Igor, I got you questions and I’ll do my best to answer. When I purchased Quartz Audio Master Pro I was sent 2 serial numbers. One was for the QAM Pro the other was for the MP3 converter. I installed the QAM Pro first entering the serial number. I then got the “you may use this program for so long—etc.” message before having to unlock (I think). I copied the serial number into a text file with the serial number for the mp3 converter also into that file. I then requested the unlock code via the DSP website, got that, copied that into the file and then entered it into the QAM Program. Everything was then validated. When I came to save my work as an MP3 I was asked for serial number, got another unlock key copied that into the file and entered it into QAM ant the MP3 converter was validated. I then burnt the whole of the QAM program directory to the CD. This was all done on WinXP. I also copied and relative DLL’s for Win\System32 also ont the CD and put them into the program directory. I then found if I copied all of the information into c:\program files ……. on another machine and I ran the the QAM it would install and run with the serial number that I had been given telling me that I had a limited time to run it before I had to enter the unlock key. As soon as I entered the unlock key I had another version of Qam running on another machine fully unlocked. I do hope that helps and can send further info. I have also succeeded in getting the help files to display in Win7 and Win8. Special installation required for Win7 and Win8. Will provide details if required. I see that I am repeating a lot of the above BUT it does work. Regards Jennifer.

        Jennifer Dillon

        April 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      • Thanks for the info, Jennifer. Since you’re the second person to say that it can be done that way, I’ll have to assume that it’s true.

        Out of curiousity, why do you offer to trade with Marc for other DSP programs instead of just giving it to him? I thought Quartz Audio Master Pro was the top of the line and that it could do everything the other programs were capable of and more, so why are you after the others? Are you a collector? :-)

        I personally don’t plan on upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 any time soon, but I’m sure that information would be useful to others, so by all means, go ahead and post the details. Since this blog is the only resource for Quartz users left on the web, we may as well make it as complete as it can be.

        Igor

        April 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

  6. Igor, I’m not sure what you mean by “trading with Marc”. The reason why I was asking him for his serial numbers and /or the version/build number of his QAM Pro was to see exactly what he was running so that what I was offering would be suitable for him. I plan to put my DSP stuff with instructions on a website and give the url for download. I hope that helps. Regards Jennifer

    Jennifer

    April 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    • Jennifer,

      Now I get it. I didn’t (and, to be honest, still don’t) understand why you needed the serial numbers, and assumed that you were proposing a trade since you mentioned at the end of your comment that you would send him the freeware version (which AFAIK, still requires unlocking) unconditionally. I’m sorry I mistook your altruistic gesture for a selfish one.

      Making your copy of QAM available on an external site is a great idea. I would offer to host the files on this blog, but don’t want to take the chance of having my blog shut down in the event that that doesn’t meet with Mr. Tabard’s approval.

      Igor

      April 16, 2013 at 7:03 am

  7. I also got ripped off by DSP after paying £60 years ago for one of their music apps. I think I helped people track him down by publishing the website whois data in the forums. I remember the owner claiming in the forums (after a long period of no support) that he had been recovering from a heart attack, I think he also said his marriage had falied. Well if true he could at least have turned off the ordering pages of the website to stop people making new purchases. The contempt the owner showed for his customers was summed up by the DSP home page which changed to a static picture of a nice little wine bar just before it disappeared forever.
    I have to say after suffering several crashes where my work was lost I moved on to better software which was actually cheaper and better supported. The DSP apps are now so old and out of date, they only have value to owners with work save in its format.
    Incidently Amazon used to sell a book about computer programming written by somebody with the owners name. It’s long gone now.

    Russ

    July 23, 2013 at 8:45 am

  8. Been awhile since I’ve been back here. I still have the files and such. Should anyone need them still, shoot me an email and i can send them off. File hosting isn’t forever. toreador666 at hotmail.com

    Ole

    July 30, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    • Hi Ole
      I would be most grateful if you could send me the files I need to get up and running again with QAM PRO 460E as I lost my activation code when my hard disk packed up.

      Kind regards

      Kevin

      kevinprockter

      August 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm

  9. Update, I have sent the files to Kevin and it works for him. I’ll also note that I just got a new windows 8 running laptop. This method works on it as well

    Ole

    September 23, 2013 at 9:53 pm

  10. Still have them and yes still sending them out. I’ll never delete this. If anyone has any of the plugins, please let me know.

    Ole

    May 12, 2014 at 11:18 pm


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