I like Fremer. He clearly has come under fire for his Monaco review, but he sticks to his guns. No one is perfect. I dont think I woul dhave nearly as thick a skin as some of these guys have to. I also Like the 6 Moons folks.
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My first choice is the amateur reviewers here on audiogon and audio asylum. Take a bow guys!
My second choice would be Roy Gregory from HiFi+. He seems insightful in his reviews.
My third choice would be Paul Bolin. (I like how he compares units directly.)
My very last choices are Art Dudley, his infusion of political nonesense is not appreciated, nor necessary to the review of audio equipment, and also Mikey Fremer, who not only has the same problem as Art, but whose methodology of reviewing is very poor. (Thanks to those two I have saved myself $10 a year, as I no longer subscribe to Stereophile.)
Art Dudley, mostly for his writing, it is clear, clean, gives his postition without denigrating the alternative and has room for humour, how much more can you have?
So much with reviewers is taking the time to read them for awhile to find out what they are looking for and where their biases are in listening. Yes they like we have biases. Then comparing theirs to mine and figuring out from there if the product is worth pursuing.
J. Gordon Holt, founder of Stereophile. He stated
"If the midrange isnt right nothing else matters" See this
"That so-called laid-back middle range (now known as the "BBC dip," after their design of the LS3/5A) has become an epidemic among high-end loudspeakers. Richness and unctiousness are In, realism is absolutely Out. "
Those statements were in 1985.
Sad to see he writes so very little now, although, reportedly, he has more time to enjoy his ATC SCM 50 ASL at home.(yet another quite shameless plug for my favorite mid range)
the true measure of a good reviewer is someone who can put you on the right path when you leave the house to go audition some equipment for yourself. what music should you bring- what should you listen for- how were the components set up at the store- how good was their room/room treatments. did you have to suffer having to listen at uncomfortably loud volumes, or did they let you set the volume at your comfort level. a good reviewer let's you know when something is REALLY well built, and also reminds you OFTEN when it is not. a good reviewer compares the component to at least two other competitive pieces, especially ones that alot of us have come across at one time or another.
and, while it's okay if something is really, REALLY expensive- some equipment is so elegant and so well made, that it's clearly part of the mystique of the hobby; BUT it would be irresponsible in my opinion to NOT remind the reader that brand-Y- which might be homely looking in comparison- for a fraction of the cost, will give you 95% of the performance.
i can't remember names that well, but take out some older stereophiles (the little ones), and you may see what i'm talking about. high-value gear was often high-lighted "with a big flashing arrow". eccentric gear HAD to sound as good as it looked, or else. if something was next to impossible to set up to get it sounding good, it was all too obvious. if something else sounded good right out of the box, the reviewer could tell you, almost immediately, what the tonal character was "with every amp i tried", or "with all types of music", etc. and to my best recollection, there were VERY FEW speakers that cost more than $15k. premium speaker cables (MIT SHOTGUNS) were $5k a pair. $5,000 was considered top dollar for a stereo amp, $10k for SOTA monoblocks. you could spend more, but certainly there would simply be no point in reviewing WAVAC'S (300K??), when you had audio research, VAC, and VTL building superb tube equipment for real audiophiles. digital was getting more and more expensive, but trickle-down rapidly solved most if not all
of the financial hurdles even there. a good/great analog table might cost $3k to $10k with everything. the goldmund reference was nice, but it was audio sculpture- nicer to look at than to listen too (and who even had one?- a handful of rich technophiles no doubt). for music, you bought a sota saphire, or "maybe" a nova.
anyway, those are some of my impressions, even though they are changing all of the time as well. equipment costs more now than it did then, but there's no excuse for not making some astute comparisons amongst components that cost about the same. and if a reviewer tells you his/her room has a major deficiency in some area, like a chronic "BASS" manangement problem, what good are they doing telling you about the low-frequency performance of very-expensive speakers? if they tell you they spend 10 minutes cleaning and demagnetizing every cd, and then treating it with some exotic smutz before inserting it into a CDP, their reviews should be in the funny pages of the sunday paper. sure they liked some $25k transport, but only 3 dealers can even get you one, although even they don't stock it- it might take them 4 years to sell it if at all.
maybe it's all just a rich joke- but at the end of the day, the emperor has no BVD's- just a crown on his head that he can use for... nothing actually.... a reviewer with a good system with some budgetary constraints here and there can talk turkey better than some guy who spends too much time hanging out at the "bentley factory".
Without a doubt it is Roy Gregory. His reviews are descriptive so that when I'm finished reading, I have an understanding for the feel of the product and what it does or doesn't do and he goes to great length to educate the reader to not accept the review as gospel. The majority of reviews are blah, blah, listen to this (name a cut) and hear veils peeled away, ad naseum, and when I'm finished reading, all that's left is a comment like "highly recommended." So what! Art Dudley winds up a distant second on my list.
BUT it would be irresponsible in my opinion to NOT remind the reader that brand-Y- which might be homely looking in comparison- for a fraction of the cost, will give you 95% of the performance. i can't remember names that well,but take out some older stereophiles (the little ones), and you may see what i'm talking about. high-value gear was often high-lighted "with a big flashing arrow".
That was Gordon Holt's influence I suspect (founder of Stereophile). They changed ownership and he left...advertisers/ad budget may have had something to do with it, who knows. Today, more than ever, a reviewer MUST be able to hear the improvements of stratospheric prices and this years model versus last years. Furthermore, negative reviews are simply NOT ALLOWED at all (some reviewers try to put "in between the lines" info to indicate that they really don't like a product but these people are very rare).
In essence, the magazines start out with good intentions and then little by little, as they gain circulation, inevitably the ad $$$ take over and the "tail wags the dog!"
"What Hi-Fi", a UK rag, probably remains the nearest to down to earth advice that I have seen.
Chadnliz: I'm not sure your argument is valid about AGon members having no agenda.
Lots of us want to sell our equipment at some point.
I know I've refrained from stating some minor shortcoming of my gears (just kidding) to maintain whatever rep' my equipment may currently enjoy.
Used equipment buyers are so tweaky about anything negative (I couldn't sell my 9/10 BAT 300X because it had to be sent to the factory for a minor repair).
Tainted! Too be sure...
Well I mean in general, there are always exceptions but I do feel some reviews and reviewers are honest but it always is more comfortable talking to other members over a slick written review which contains 5 pages of travel and wine selection and 8 paragraphs but what is actually the point of the review.
reliability is always the "unspoken" issue with much of the hi-fi stuff discussed here. but it turns up in other areas, like the "where do i send my xyz mark-2 in houston for repair?" questions that pop up all the time. it doesn't invalidate the sonic virtues of the equipment, but admittedly some gear out of warranty is VERY expensive to repair, IF you can get the parts. but that's why you're often getting the darn thing for 60% off plus free shipping.
I agree.You can always find people serving their own agenda.This is true not only in reviews but in anything that has $$$ signs attached.
I feel that almost all of the contributors on Audigon are people that actually want to help by sharing their experience and knowledge.In fact there are several names that I look for when following a thread.I value their opinions
Shadorne, I am not sure exactly where are you coming from but I think we are on the same side. My sources might not be as good as yours but to shade some light to those that are not exactly aware how audio press have changed in the past 10 years, here is a little scoop ( I am sure you are aware of this practice as well as few dealers and manufactures that take part in this website ).
I have said that some place else ones before. Press became a tool as much as TV, Media for those in control.
Don't get me wrong, there are FEW honest reviewers, but unfortunately they are not running the paper. Their hands in most cases are tied. In the times where $$$$ is main factor in making a decisions what gets to be review and what not. For smaller companies $10,000 to $20,000 a year in advertisement is a lot. And if you decide to make that commitment in top 3 magazines it can reach easily over $50,000 a year. Then - someone might consider your product for a review and you still have to kiss their %@$. If your are a loyal supporter of the magazine - you can count on good review. Even if the product doesn't do so well giving it a thumbs down is a NO NO.
As far as I know it is not a practice of 6moons, which is a good thing. Enjoy the music... I am not sure.....I hope it is the same.
So, reading reviews might be helpful but you have to read between the lines and draw your own conclusions. I personally, never made a purchase based on the reviews alone. My amps, speakers, CDP Apollo, preamp was purchased before reviews that were actually very positive and some of my Eq. wasn't reviewed to this day. Do I care?.....NO.
YOUR EAR IS THE BEST REVIEWER. Case closed.
1. Harry Pearson kept this whole serious aspect alive for years in my opinion, and Richard Hardesty of The Audio Perfectionist for honest easy to understand opinion with references to irrefutable facts- without the pathetic, plastic & mindless drivel of the current TAS & Stereophile. (Just got my copy of Stereophile & see yet another "follow up" on the "8"; I think they'de use a review of a cheap Dac to refer to their advertizing "darling". Since when did Stereophile think one could find it anything but distasteful & nauseating for them to be 'going steady' with a big advertiser. The pair of them are beginning to remind me of a pimp & his hooker-not a pretty picture. Someone should call the Sheriff. Fie.)
Doesn't anyone share my appreciation of Harry Pearson.....??
I think he should be on a first name basis; -not- suggesting he's been without flaws- but-I think he kept it interesting for many. Certainly those who sold hi fi from the late 70's on owe him. His articles were used on me in the 80's and certainly got my attention and got me to 'buy up'!! Congrats to H.P. for refining my focus and expectations. Cheers to you Harry!!! Pete
So the last post was almost 7 years ago. I think maybe I will add Part-time Audiophile (Scot Hull) to this list. He's close to my favorite audio read anyway.
Looking up above to Dazzdax's post, I do read 6moons but Srajan Ebaen's writing style reminds me of a book I read years ago where it took the author 3 pages to simply say, "Right Full Rudder". Very lyrical prose, but annoying at the same time.
This is easy. What other reviewer provides the reader with a reference (something you can measure all other reviews from the SAME reviewer by, not just hyperbole or salesmanship)?? He's been reviewing small monitor speakers for years, against a reference (in years past an Alon, now Nola, Petite, I believe), and then often against other models in addition to the Alon from previous reviews. Other reviewers change gear week to week. Check out a review of some speakers that you thought was enlightening, in whatever magazine, and check the associated electronics, if they list them. Then note that the speakers they -might- compare them to, from a previous review, might have electronics in the associated equipment totally different, or even in a different room ! There is no consistency, whatsoever. It is mostly based on their 'golden ears.' Mr. Reina's reviews are some of the few that provide something meaningful that a potential buyer can trust. And even better, monitor speakers represent something that represent a manufacturer's "house" sound, that can be placed in most of our rooms. As opposed to the huge, multi-buck speakers that won't work in most. This is as close to a controlled experiment/review that we can get. Kudos to Mr. Reina.