Reviews used judiciously have been very helpful to finding good euqipment. I received Stereophile for about two years, and in that time, I believe it did absolutely nothing for finding an affordable outperforming component, whether speaker or cdp, etc.
I got sick and tired of the format and politics of the magazine, so I dumped it. I never felt that they were honest enough in their assessment of the equipment. No matter what the problems with the component being reviewed, their reviews had to end with an "it's good" commendation. That sells components, but it doesn't help the audiophile one bit in making selections. It just keeps the people flowing to the showrooms.
Conversely, I recently saw a review in HiFi+ which panned the NuForce 9 amps. How refreshing to see an honest review that says the component doesn't live up to the hype! If I ever get the chance (there is a Nuforce dealer living nearby, who offered to let me demo them vs. my PS Audio HCA-2) to hear them in my system, I would, just to see if my judgement agrees with HiFi+'s.
My experience with the times I've glanced at HiFi+ Mag has been very positive. That they focus primarily on shootouts to mid priced components is advantageous to me, considering that like most people, that is where my budget for audio is.
I have found users' reviews, like on audioreview.com to be far more useful in finding real-world high quality to price components. I weigh the comments regarding the component over against the associated equipment owned by the reviewer.
I also check to see what equipment the reviewers owned previously, if that information is offered.
Strangely, after many years of purchases away from a dealer, I went back and bought new for cdp, putting emphasis on the opinion of the store owner who educated me as to the merits of the player.
The Audiogon community has been very helpful, as I once did an upgrade based on the majority opinion of the responses to my inquiry here. It was a delightfully good upgrade.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that he reviewers need to agree with you! They are only as good as they confirm your suspicions of which components are worthy in your opinon! ;) Again, HiFi+ has done this on two occasions; once in a favorable review of the Eminent Technology LFT-8A speakers, which I found to be far superior to the Magnepan 1.6's which are so adored by the masses. And again, recently, when they did the shootout between the Rega Apollo cdp and two others. They discreetly said the Apollo was superior sonically.
I had previously owned both components prior to finding the reviews, but I found the reviews to be "spot on", as they might say. Whatever their methods, they seem to get to the same conclusions I do regarding good sound, and they do it without being loquacious.
Having said all this, I now do not receive any audio magazines. I visit Barnes and Noble once a month to spend about an hour perusing them. I found that when I received regular doses of advertsing that remained to entice me I was less happy with my equipment/sound and spent more time considering upgrades.