Many audiophools don't like him for that very reason. They can't understand how a guy can appreciate such a wide variance. They want reviewers who simply reinforce their purchase decisions.
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Yes I have noticed his CNET reviews in the past. Not just hype like the usual suspects who are audio snobs that are most heavily influenced by aesthetics of products, marketing hype and nose bleed prices. Steve’s review ratings seem primarily determined by a products value (quality/price) and he actually conveys a practical approach to great sound.
I totally agree with Steve’s view that great sound is available at very low entry prices. I think this fact is reducing the demand for high end audio because good sound is more widely available than ever. The other factor is the poor quality of produced music - a lot of pop rock no longer sounds good at realistic levels as it comes heavily engineered (clipped and pre-distorted) such that it sounds best on cheaper setups at low volumes.
IMHO the main advantage of a high end setup is the headroom or distortion free clarity and dynamic integrity that can ONLY be obtained with a large and powerful setup. At low volumes with limited dynamics the competition is fierce with many great products. That said, I have heard very few setups that can realistically portray a real acoustic drum set, as if it was there with you in the room.
Good sound has always been available at reasonable prices. For goodness sakes, we don’t need anybody telling us that, as if it were a bolt from the blue. If you have to rely on other peoples’ opinions you’re in a world of hurt, anyway. This hobby, if nothing else, is interactive. It’s not a plug & play hobby.