It is LOUD - I'm afraid to fire this thing up when the kids are sleeping. I don't have experience with many machines, but if you want quiet - this ain't it.
During the first two monthes I noticed little specks of shiny metal at the bottom of my cup. Upon inspection, I noticed that this happened pretty frequently for the first 10-12 weeks. Starbucks had nothing to say on their help line. I assumed that it was coming off the inside of the wand? I haven't seen anymore since that time. I suppose I could have returned it, but didn't have the time...
The frothing wand drips water when warming up and when brewing espresso. I'm pretty gently with the knob, but have to keep a cup under the wand to keep the counter from getting wet.
Initially, I was questioning the machines ability to froth, but it turns out that I just needed some practice. After a few weeks I was making forth like a pro. I had been using a burr grinder to get a nice fine grind and the Krups steam driven espresso machine that I used for 8 years prior could handle a pretty hard tamp before brewing. In this machine I had to tamp lightly for the first few weeks or it just took way to long to get a shot. At this time I do tamp pretty firmly and am getting a shot very quickly. Must have taken a few weeks to get warmed up? I am thinking of getting another for my office. I haven't seen much in this price range that turns me on and at least I know that I get a great shot and good froth.
Purchased at your favorite neighborhood Starbucks. The Barista's mentioned that they liked theirs and I figured if a trained Barista was happy with the performance, I would be as well. No issues with their service as everyone who goes to Starbucks knows.