I find that critical listening to components is stressful and I will now be doing my best to avoid it. Critical listening to music is an effort for me because I am not musically trained; as in Art, I don't know what's good but I know what I like! So I now want to listen for fun.
All the posts above have some good stuff in them. Yes, the glossies inspire lust, not unlike Mr Hefner's brainchild. Tantalizing angles in photos, soaring hyperbole, new version comparisons inevitably trashing the old and lauding the new, and the esoteric and often painful vocabulary employed, all conspire to force one to spend money for the benfit of advertisers and the mags themselves. At least Hugh H. does not run a brothel (to my knowledge), but his work (and that of his better imitators) does raise the bar for judging women's beauty.
One needs to be reminded that many of these audio critics are in smallish apartments in NYC or London and many times don't have the environment to make a given component perform to full potential. Then there is the issue of memory. Being of at least average intelligence (but don't ask my wife!), I have a hard enough time comparing two CDPs if I heard one of them only yesterday. And these guys dig months into their memories!
Many hobbies have the potential to degrade into obsessions, and this is certainly one of them.
Teetering on the brink of insanity...