Audiogon/Asylum and magazine reviewers posts

For whatever reason(s), I have always prefered Audiogon over the Asylum; a few weeks ago there was this post on the Asylum, "Is Stereophile Abstaining From AA ?". Many on here may already know that several reviewers do participate on AudioAsylum. I posted this question to that post, "My question is, why don't they frequent Audiogon as well? Any response JA?" I received the following reply from the reviewer Kal Rubison, "I monitor Audiogon but there's rarely anything worth commenting on."

This post isn't anything against Kal, I was just curious if others that frequent both sites find that AA has more meaningful posts?
As someone who just started out about a year ago with tubes, I found Audiogon participants to be more inviting and approachable than the Aylum inmates. Though I have a lot to learn, I'm always ready to try to return the favor by giving as much as I can to those who pose questions. Perhaps the response indicates that the people who frequent Audiogon are doing a fine job and don't really need their input.
I saw that post as well and had the same reaction. I find that while a lot of the discussions at AA can be provocative and informative (particularly the tubes forum), too many of them seem to me to be bordering on paranoia and distrust of any established companies or wind up turning into name-calling and childish fights. The Audiogon forums seem a little more civilized to me, and include some interesting offbeat threads (often started by Sdcampbell or Onhwy61 and the like) that you might never see on AA. Maybe a reviewer could find A-gon a little watered down, less spicy, but on the whole I find it more enjoyable.
Well, I don't know a blessed thing about the Asylum (I only have the room in my life for one these monumental time-fritterers!), but I do notice that the ol' StereoPile sure gets dumped on a lot around here (and not always without good reason), so maybe they just stay away so as not to get their feelings trampled. Then again, maybe it's even more of war-zone on the Asylum - what do I know (or care, really)? If I was them (the reviewers) though, I sure wouldn't ignore this forum, however uninformed or poorly-written it might tend toward being at times. Just the mere fact that this site has the extremely successful For Sale classifieds as well as a Forum guarantees its relevance in terms of viewing and participation by the very folks who make up a good portion of not only Stereophile's readership, but also the lifeblood of the high end industry.
Interesting topic, I personally don't care for the format of AA hence I have never posted there, it seems unorganized to me. If reviewers don't feel its worth their time- fine with me! I have noticed the few times I wandered over that things were a little too hokey for my palette(not that we are perfect at audiogon, but just my preference here) and the name calling and uncivil conduct just isn't my cup of tea- that's why we are allowed to do what we want when we want to thus the two different sites with there own fans. I have a funny feeling I know where I am staying Happy listening everyone ~Tim
I monitor Stereophile, but there is rarely anything in there worth reading.
Twl, best post of the week - right on brother!
I second that !
I wonder if Mr. Rubinson's current opinion has anything to do with the post here back in early June I left regarding his boorish behavior I witnessed in an elevator at the HE show in NYC. I think the thread in which I posted was titled: "Weirdest thing you saw at the show" or, something like that. If he monitors these boards as he says, then he must have seen it.

As to AA, I have frequented it and agree with previous posts as to it's paranoia, name-calling and general Inmate like talk.

Just my 2 cents...
I couldn't agree more Twl. Listener or even The Absolute Sound have suddenly lept in front of Stereophile. I'm not sure what happened but something sure did....
"I wonder if Mr. Rubinson's current opinion has anything to do with the post here back in early June I left regarding his boorish behavior I witnessed in an elevator at the HE show in NYC."

I doubt it. Mr. Rubison's comment is the summary of main reason why others (non-reviewers, but non-novice) I know do not post here.
I agree with Tireguy. I do check in at AudioAsylum, but am not enamored with the layout of the site.

Yes, the discussion there is often detailed, but the layout of the site makes it much harder to keep the thread in the forefront for more than a day or two. You have to go back to the date the thread was created. Maybe this sounds trivial, but it is not as good as how this site is laid out.

If someone tries to knock either the discussion here, or the members, I will take issue with them. I can drop 10 names off the top of my head of people who really know what they are talking about here. Albert Porter, Asa, Brulee, Carl_eber, Dekay, Eldragon, Jcbtubes, Megasam, Natalie, Sdcampbell, Swampwalker, Sugrabrie, Tireguy, Tubegroover, Vtvu, the list goes on.

In my opinion, aside from the layout, the discussion here is also more to my liking. I enjoy tech talk, but I also like to read someone's opinions. The discussion here is much more well written. Very often, members here will write quite a well thought out post. The length of the post shows the thought, experience, dedication, and passion of the person. I just do not see that on Audio Asylum.

Perhaps, the writers at Stereophile feel threatened by those on Audiogon. I mean, basically anyone I listed above is more than capable of displacing any Stereophile reviewer. Are they intimidated?

No, we don't have Sam Tellig here. But, his contributions to AA are on the same level as the content of his articles in recent years. 9 times out of 10, his posts on AA are just a title, with no text(NT).

As far as Kalman Rubinson goes, I am happy he doesn't frequent here. It would only get me into disagreements with him. His writing style is definitely the most boring and dry I have ever come across in an audio magazine. And, judging from most of his reviews, we disagree in taste as well.

I do have to defend Kal in terms of the NYC HiFi Show, however. I saw him all over the place, and he seemed to be quite gracious to the people he ran into. I didn't introduce myself, as I am no fan of his articles. But, I must admit, he seemed to me to be a gentleman. Of course, others have stated that he was a boor, so I cannot comment on that.

I also saw Fremer more than once, and he looked like a real sourpuss. But, that might just be the way he looks.
Not to get too far off on a tangent here, but Trelja's post prompts me to comment on a sentiment I've seen expressed around here before: That most of - or at least a lot of - us A'goners could be Stereophile-calibre reveiwers. While I don't believe that there's anything uniquely special about most of those who have written for the magazine, and neither do I doubt that there are probably a few around these parts who could succeed well in that job, I think the general opinion I've found about this subject at A'gon tends to short-shrift the skill needed - and often displayed in Stereophile - to be a good reveiwer.

Personally, I do tend to be increasingly critical of the direction that magazine is taking, for a variety of reasons that I have expounded on in other posts, and so won't go into here. And yes, some of that criticism does have to do with the writing and reviewing work of individual contributors. I just want to say, however, that as many A'goners seem to be discovering in their own "reviews", writing cogently and entertainingly about component sound is apparently no easy task - and especially month after month, I would imagine. KR, for instance, while maybe not a paragon of writing excitement or wit, does a basically thorough and honest job, I feel; you can tell he puts a lot of effort into his work, and he is never less than intelligent and competent in his reporting. Ditto Brian Damkroger. Obviously, Michael Fremer is a better writer, Martin Colloms a better technician, and Chip Stern a better music critic; all of them make valuable contributions in one way or another. At all the magazines and webzines, I have read good and not so good writing, and have had complementary and not so complementary opinions of aspects of all the writers' work; there is no such thing as a perfect reviewer.

The great thing about a forum such as this is that contributors need make no apologies for their own biases and tastes, and opinion-mongering and humorous clashes can be diverting and fun to read, not to mention thought-provoking. But even the most well-informed and passionate among us need to admit, I think, that it's a different thing entirely - a balancing act, I suspect - to have to write publicly, on record, for a wide audience. A reviewer needs to build a certain amount of predictability into their work if they are to establish a credible base of information with their writing that consumers can draw upon. This may lead to a perception of boringness compared to the web forums, but it is essential, I think, to be down-to-earth and consistent, even reserved in some degree, if both consumers and manufacturers alike are going to have reason to take a reviewer seriously. The writing itself must be linear and logical, as well as correct and comprehensible - qualities often lacking somewhat not only on the forums, but also in some Webzines and smaller magazines. While there is certainly room for personality and taste, reviewers must walk a fine line, if they are to be believed, and which is akin to an art form; at its best, their work will not be controverted by a careful reader's reaching a different conclusion about any particular review subject.

My hunch is that "professional" reviewing is probably a tougher row to hoe successfully than we often give it credit for being, and that the very qualities that can make for stimulating writing on a forum are not necessarily what is desirable for a wide-circulation magazine reviewer. I suppose in an ideal world, all magazine reveiwers would be full-time audio writers, with educational and professional credentials in the literary, musical, and technical electronics fields. This describes John Atkinson, but not too many others - nor will it ever in the real world (and nor is it saving JA from making what I feel are either grave mistakes, or grave concessions, at his magazine, BTW). In short, I think it's easier to criticize the critics than it is to do what they do (not that we should all want to!). We can always have our opinions and our fun, and that includes the areas of audio reviewing and reviewers, but we ought to be cautious about positing that our Audiogon ramblings might somehow automatically qualify us as potential expert practitioners ourselves. If we tried it, we just might find that we weren't any less fallible than those whom we frequently heap our scorn upon.
Excellent post Zaikesman - I think you really nailed it, that there are a lot of people on this site who are experienced enough with audio to be a reviewer, but that being a reviewer requires having the whole package, including writing skills, endurance (ie, month after month), etc. I generally agree that there are at least several and perhaps many that _could_ become reviewers for one of the magazines, but it wouldn't happen overnight.

Personally, I think many of the people here who could become reviewers wouldn't, as I think it would suck a lot of the fun out of the hobby. -Kirk
Wow Zaikesman, that was the best writing I've seen around here in a while. Thanks for the great perspective.
I was sure you were Albert as I read your thoughts, he's the only other guy I know who is so eloquent.
One reason I rarely comment here is that there rarely is a need since you guys seem to be able to take care of yourselves just fine. It has nothing to do with any past accusation of boorishness since, frankly, I do not recall it.

I simply find it more fun to comment on AA where there is more 'shooting from the hip.'
Zaikesman, I think that your opinion was very well stated. From what I have seen, you are an intelligent, well written audiophile.

And, that is simply my point.

I would have to include you in my list.

While I respect your post greatly, I do disagree. I do not hold that the reviewers of Stereophile are in their position because they are the best at what they do. In my opinion, their position is a result of many factors. Love for audio/music, education, determination in following the path of being an audio reviewer, etc. Ability to write well, organize thought, develop the tools required for the job, etc. are skills that I believe many on this site have. And, as important as anything in life, some of it is fate/luck. Yes, luck.

One trivial example about this type of thing happening every day in life I have is about great high school friend of mine. Mickey Pergine. He was the quarterback on my high school football team. He came from a long line of quarterbacks, his uncle is John Pergine, who was a star at Notre Dame I believe. Mickey was one heck of a quarterback. A cannon for an arm, fearless in battle, the unique ability to make the right decision in the heat of the moment, 6'3" - 210 lbs. He was a Philadelphia Inquirer choice for All Area QB.

So why does no one on this site besides me know who he is? Well, Mickey wasn't the best of students. And, he kind of liked to have fun. Too much fun. Somehow, somewhere, along the way, all that he was the prototype for never materialized. Instead of talking of him in the company of QBs that came out of this area, Rich Gannon, Matt Blundin, Steve Bono, and Glenn Foley, he is just some obscure person I am using in my trivial example.

I am the first to admit I review the reviewers. I critique the critics. This is a hobby that I love. Stereophile is a magazine that I love. I have been a more or less loyal supporter/subscriber since 1987. I put my money where my mouth is. My current round of being a subscriber began in 1998, and is paid for until 2005. In my mind, I have earned the right to say what is right with the magazine. And, also, what is wrong with the magazine.

I have a very low tolerance for incompetance at what is the paragon of our hobby. I do not genuflect at a reviewer. I am upset when Michael Fremer does not have a balanced interconnect. I am dumbfounded when he expresses surprise that an Audio Research power amp is bright or forward. I complain that John Atkinson is a slave to his measurements. I do not understand how tube equipment is not a part of the ancillary components he uses to evaluate audio components. I wonder how Sam Tellig can describe the sound of a component if he evaluates it in a very small context(both system and music). I am amazed that the only piece of equipment that Jonathan Scull reviewed with a non - stratospheric price was lynched. I wonder how Kalman Rubinson can use a 1988 Pioneer PD-7100 CD player as reference equipment. I fall asleep when I read a review of his that robs every ounce of passion that this hobby fires within me, making a review sometimes feel like reading a legal docuement or textbook. I complain when people who make their living, and are held us as THE experts, make fundamental mistakes in terms of perhaps the most important aspects of audio, room interface with the system, and system synergy.

I guess me noticing these things is heightened when I read some of the insightful threads on Audiogon. As far as people not measuring up to the official reviewers, if they are anything like me, a great deal of their posts are hammered out during lulls in the action at work, or at home. I often use Audiogon, for better or worse, as a means to turn to something when I need a break.

I remain steadfast in my belief that no one at the magazines is indespensible, including Jonathan Scull, and that there are many here among us who could get the job done.
Trelja - I certainly agree with your point about the reasons for substandard writing quality often seen on A'gon, but feel that when it comes to the reviews in particular, this ought not to be an acceptable excuse. Thanks for including me on your 'list', but I would have to disqualify myself; I know I don't have what it would take to be a reviewer that *I* would want to read for long. I don't have the experience - or the interest, frankly - to imagine myself trying to pursue that kind of thing for real. I don't go to the shows, or even the dealers very often, I'm not 'widely listened' enough, I don't belong to an audiophile club or have 'audiobuddies', I don't have any actual writing credentials, I don't know enough about classical music in particular, I don't know enough about the technical side of the audio arts, or its history - I could go on.

But more importantly than any of those personal limitations (shared though some of them may be with other A'goners), I acknowledge what I think many of us would have to concede about "professional" reviewing, if we were to really be honest about it: that I simply wouldn't have the stomach for it. Talk about robbing passion - and never mind passion for audio, what about for music? Fun as it may be to daydream about constantly getting in new toys to play with, I can't imagine anything more dampening to the spirit of actually enjoying listening to music, than to have to continually tear apart the system, tweak new setups, substitute comparision pieces, make notes while listening, and always having to write a damn article on a deadline about what you heard, month after month after month. Maybe this just means I'm a 'music-lover' more so than an 'audiophile', but even as far as the equipment goes, I imagine it would be tough not begin regarding everything in somewhat of a blur, or to start becoming paranoid about really trusting yourself to maintain an accurate mental hierarhcy of all that you've been exposed to - or to keep caring as much as you would ideally want to.

And then there would be the very sorts of things alluded to above: people hounding you or following you around at audio shows; people emailing you with their takes, or why yours is right/wrong; people posting about you in less than glowing terms on internet forums. Who needs it? Some are going to be cut out for this sort of attention, but I definitely would not be among them. The whole high end hobby is too permeated with neuroses, agendas, inflamed passions, and simple BS for me to want to be that much a part of it, because what I like is to listen to music, first and foremost. Writing about gear and systems can be fun when you feel like it, and that's where the Audiogon forum comes in handy.

I, too, agree with your post, when you say that reviewers make mistakes, are not always terribly insightful or prepared or thorough, and are not to be believed 'sound unheard' 100% as though they were truly golden-eared - I realize that's a mistake many novices will make, but have encountered enough instances where I felt a respected reviewer must have had their ears in a jar by the bed that day to know better myself. But I also agree with Kirk when he says that not only are there skills to be mastered in order to be a great reviewer that will weed out most, but also that the very process could turn what is supposed to be a joy into a grind. And so I tip my hat, for at least the effort if not always the result, to those who are willing to shoulder the chore for our benefit and entertainment, and to take the flames as well as the hosanas, risking their own personal enjoyment of that which they presumably love as much as any of us (and don't get paid much for their trouble, I am sure).
Another sterling post, as usual, Zaikesman.

This time we agree almost uniformly(see below). Especially, in the area of the grind eroding the love of the hobby. In my own life, I live with this very same thing. Perhaps the only topic on the same level as audio to me is food. I love to eat, but love cooking maybe even more. Since I was a child, my family and friends have pushed me to get in the field, and eventually open a restaurant. I have standing job offers, and even financial backing. My reason for not doing so is just as you mentioned. I would never want my passion to become its own worst enemy, a job.

The one premise I have to disagree with you on is your opinion that you wouldn't make a fine reviewer.

Have a great day!
Trelja and Zaikesman: Your very well-written and very well-considered posts prove Mr. Rubinson's point -- he is not needed here. I don't necessarily understand why Mr. Rubinson prefers to spend his time "shooting from the hip" on the Asylum (which I take as indicating some need to reassure himself that he is more knowledgeable than others), but I will factor that in whenever I read one of his reviews.

As a newbie with a lot to learn, I appreciate your passion for the hobby and your willingness to share your knowledge. I respect your choice to remain committed amateurs, but I would prefer to read your thoughts to Rubinson's any day.

Trelja, as a fellow food lover, I have to ask -- have you read The Soul of a Chef, by Michael Ruhlman?
I did not say that I liked to spend my time 'shooting from the hip.' I ascribed that to the general style on AA which, I must admit, is often entertaining.
I guess KR's suffering our ongoing biting at his ankles just proves my point, although I'll grant that maybe he doesn't take it badly - or give a hot damn. I submit that's part of the reason HE'S the reviewer in this exchange.
KR I would encourage you and the other "processionals" to bring your knowledge and exchange up to a new level. When Audiogon was a ‘shot from the hip/ fist and cuffs' site it was a whole lot easier to participate. Now it requires thoughtful responses that might actually help improve ones knowledge or enjoyment of the hobby. I beg you and your colleagues to consider Audiogon for what it is, the premier Internet site for Audiophiles. AA has it's place, but in the past two years it has been left behind by this site and the participants who frequent it. I believe we would all benefit from the insight of "professional" reviewers if not only because you are exposed to so much more. Maybe a place for you to start is in the review section, are there other components you have heard or heard about that might be similar in characteristics that people might look in to? Do you have suggestions to the writer that might be useful to them, help them to improve the review for the next time? How about music, in your position I would expect you have found music we should all be aware of. Could you make some suggestions? It seems to me there is a lot you could do to improve the hobby. I'm not saying you should not enjoy the ‘wild west' at AA, but I do believe your position in the audio community requires you to do all you can to expand the hobby.
Thanks for the encouragement. I am not intentionally standing back from Audiogon and it should be apparent that I, and other writers, do monitor it. OTOH, there are only so many hours in the day and I do respond to any and all posts which evoke sufficient motivation for me to do so. (Yours is one.)

BTW, one reason that writers (and others) try to be a bit circumspect about their postings was nicely demonstrated in last night's re-run of West Wing wherein a staffer responded to a Web group and reaped much more than he expected.
Swingman, thanks for the kind words.

I have not checked out the book, but can tell from your enthusiasm that it is definitely a must read. My reading has more or less been limited to Gourmet magazine, and my cookbooks. I have slowed down in my purchases of cookbooks over the past couple of years due to the good fortune of basically finding any recipe on the internet.

However, there is one recipe that I have never been able to find, chicken nin~on(sorry for the lousy representation, pronunciation is neen - yon). A French dish of chicken, in a broth with cream, mushrooms, white wine, etc. My mother used to make it for me as a child, and it was out of this world. Unfortunately, I have not had it since, and have never come across the recipe. If you or anyone was able to help out, I would be eternally endebted.