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Thanks for turning me on to this site! The author struck a real chord in me. And a deep one at that. I am on record here regarding my feelings about Michael Fremer. And Jonathan Scull, for that matter. In my opinion, both perfectly illustrate how far Stereophile has indeed fallen. I will only deal with Fremer here. His letter to the author is a summation of all that he is. And is not. Fremer is a textbook case of the short guy syndrome. I have never been a fan of him, or his writing. I believe his overinflated popularity is a direct reflection on his vinyl leanings. His opinions are as often baseless as they are on point. He is continuously on his high horse. One that lectures and patronizes, rife with condescension. As if he is somehow gifted, or better than the great unwashed. Able to hear better than others. Able to judge a component better than others. As stated before, he is clueless on an incredibly frequent basis. Bragging about his reviewing talents and experience one minute; chiding those less experienced in the field. Explaining with surprise the sonic signature of an Audio Research power amplifier the next. Audio Research is to tube amplification what GM is to automobiles. A reviewer portraying himself to be a tubeophile who does not know about Audio Research's sound is a flat amateur. In fact, the whole review of this product was an utter waste of time. One in which several variables were juggled without the slightest thought about them. Starting with cables, and ending with confusion. How could the conclusions of this review elicit anything along the lines of credibility? His anger in the letter is of no surprise. His indignation is a running theme of his personality. Witness his retort of the letters regarding the very expensive turntable he reviewed. To say that he was less than courteous would be a supreme understatement. Gone are the capable reviewers of the Stereophile of yesterday. Gone are the days of the annual Audio Equipment Directory. Where we audiophiles were presented with an objective list of virtually all audio components. Along with contact information. We could search out the equipment that piqued our interests, and then review it OURSELVES. Forming our own "Recommended Components" list. A complete list. We are now left with the flagship publication of our hobby whose second most critical reviewer is sometimes incompetant, sometimes disengenous. And all of the time a horse's butt...
Trelja, if you think Mikey is on his own "high horse", you would REALLY hate J. Peter Moncrieff of both International Audio Review & "Wonder: wire / caps / solder" fame. Quite honestly though, i think it was he that set the pace for ALL other test labs / reviewers back in the day. While i haven't been over to check out that website yet, i can say that "Mikey" is a real nice guy in person and very outgoing. Sean
THANKS PHILD! The high-endaudio.com site is a breath of fresh air. This should be required reading, especially for those just starting out in the hobby. This should be a warning shot for the marketing rags, in particular, Stereo-pile. Had I found a source of info like A.Salvatore's site when I first started audio (did computers even exist back then?), I'd easily have saved tens of thousands of dollars. It's taken me 20 years and too much money to reach most of the same conclusions that he has concerning this hobby/addiction. Great site!
I have spent a lot of time reading through Arthur's site. Jctubes put it better than I could when he said that this is a breath of fresh air. Jctubes also says the one thing I read in Stereophile that I most agree with, "You had to spend more to realize you didn't have to spend more..." Arthur says A LOT that I agree with. Some that I do not. Nothing that I am in major disagreement about. The one thing that I believe he is limited by is being only one person. Unlike lists gathered from groups of people(Stereophile, and even we here at Audiogon), you are only seeing one person's opinion. At some point, that becomes a detriment. Sean, it is nice to hear that Michael Fremer is not the same guy in real life. He just picked up a couple of big points in my book based on your comment. It seems Moncrieff has never engendered a lot of support for the Nobel Peace Prize, but he has caused us to think more about the capacitors, solder, wire, etc that we use. Fremer doesn't have anything like that on his resume.
Sean, I do not have any old IARs. I have read from them in the past. But, it has been a LONG time. And I was also reading with different eyes back then. I used to read for different things back then. I take your word on his personality. Was he at least informative, on top of the bluster? I cannot recall any negative reactions to him that I had. From the Wonder products I used, I have nothing but the highest praise. I later found better, but they got the ball rolling for me.
I too lament the changes in the audio press. Used to look forward to the reviews as much for what they said about the immediate subject as the comments on products it was compared to. Martin Colloms, Anthony Cordesman, Corey Greenberg, Tom Norton and Robert Greene always gave meaningful insights into related issues and the high-end in general. This is no longer the case, as stated by Mr. Salvatore. Can you remember when the C.E.S. report was nearly the full issue and judgements were made about the products IN the rooms? Now all you read is a capsule describing the look and price with inevitable caveat about hotel room sound. Many of the displays are even static! Money corrupts and big money corrupts absolutely. As far as the equipment recommendations on the critique site, I have no frame of reference, save one. The Parasound 1000 is listed as a sort of "best buy". Having owned one I can state that it's virtues lie mainly in rolling off the treble which makes it sound more analog-like but also less truthful. I think Mr. Salvatore has a long road to travel before he comes to grips, as many of us have, with the abandonment of the analog RIAA curve and the greater frequency extremes of digital.It could be argued that much (most,all?) of the amplification equipment designed today is voiced with CD's and would necesarily sound less truthful with vinyl records. I will leave that for someone more knowledgeable.
I finally checked out that website. I have to agree with a LOT of what he has to say. I have said most of those things before and posted public statements supporting the same position on AA several times. I find a LOT of similarities to what he's doing there to what Moncrieff did with IAR. The difference is that Moncrieff actually gave measurements along with his sonic observations and personal opinions of the specific gear whereas Mr. Salvatore is mostly "exposing / confronting" the audio press itself instead of the actual gear. While he does offer his personal take on some equipment, it is rather limited in scope considering the amount of space that the entire website takes up. To answer Trelja's question about IAR, it was the MOST informative magazine that i have ever seen. It might not have had glossy graphs and test specs, but it did give REAL information such as the frequency response of cables, various loading characteristics and the effects on individual cartridges ( complete with FR graphs and noise measurements), etc. instead of just "subjective blathering". One other thing that Moncrieff did was to literally SLAUGHTER products that were "highly reviewed" by others that did not measure up for ANY reason ( price, construction, sonics, marketing hype, etc..). He had no fear of either the manufacturer or the other reviewers. The only thing that comes to mind that i did "dislike" about IAR was that it became a "plug" for both "Wonder" products and Audio Research gear. While I have very limited experience with ARC products myself, I have seen TONS of glowing praise about them. Even with all of that, it did seem like there was favoritism taking place there. Since Peter did not have advertisements in IAR, one could only wonder what was going on behind the scenes. Nonetheless, i long for the day when he or someone else picks up the gauntlet and begins to publish something of that nature on a regular basis. It might not do very well in terms of circulation or popularity with manufacturers, but those interested in "truthful" audio news and reviews will eat it up. Sean
I am surpised by the lack of response to this thread. Where is the anger over much of our hobby being controlled by an absolute bunch of thieving robber barons? Salvatore's site, while limited, is a fresh and revealing breath of air. It is most unlike the typical audio publication, in that there is a no BS tone. I would love to be able to subscribe to a publication such as IAR. As it is now, I only buy Stereophile. While I have NO plans to cancel(or not renew when the time comes) my subscription, I would love another magazine to come to my home. As it stands, we are more than poorly served. Where have our favorite writers gone? Dick Olsher, Robert Harley, Jack English, Peter Moncrieff, etc. Into oblivion. Replaced by the feeble likes of Jonathan Scull, Michael Fremer, Kalman Rubinson, Chip Stern, Brian Damkroger, et al. I even long for the days of Wes Phillips, who consistently characterized himself as an amateur. Sadly, there is not much else to choose from. The Absolute Sound is as much hit as miss(keeps me from picking up a subscription). Stereo Review was never anything serious, and has sold out even more. It, along with The Audio Critic are not the type of publication that appeals to us on this site. The mostly English European magazines leave me unfulfilled. Audio has bit the dust, taking my favorite audio related issue(annual equipment guide away). The Golden Days of Audio publications these are not...
Trelja asked: Where have our favorite writers gone? Dick Olsher, Robert Harley, Jack English, Peter Moncrieff, etc. Into oblivion."
I can say FOR CERTAIN that one of those mentioned above is in the pockets of some very specific manufacturers. I know this from first hand conversations with them. I will not say who it is because i don't feel like getting sued for slander, so figure it out for yourself. It is conversations that i've had with him that made me realize just how "goofy" the reviewing game really is. Those conversations are also the reason why i've made some of the same statements that Salvatore did over on AA. Any of you that visit that site KNOW that i was very vocal about this subject and had posted about it MANY times. Over on that site they call me a "conspiracy nut" though..... Sean
Well I think we owe a lot to Holt, who started it all, to HP, who gave us a language to describe our listening experience with and to Moncrieff for understanding cartridge loading and the influence of caps on sound. For me Salvatore is on a mighty ego-trip, scavenging on our rightful mistrust of reviews in general. I found some of his points a bit far fetched. I've stopped reading Stereophile a long time ago and still read TAS for fun, although they've bcome stale too, in my HO. I miss the days, when TAS was still young and without advertising.
Just my belated 2cents.
Djjd and Detlof, I think you guys misunderstand Mr. Salvatore. He is the Annointed One who holds the truth. In the truth is salvation for the misguided fools who know not better. There is no irony or hyprocrisy when you are absolutely right. Although I agreed in general principle with much of what he said, his rationalization about the motives of reviewers and their e-mail responses if not the magazines crossed just a WEE bit over the line. Especially when he goes on to name his OWN list. Talk about pompous and self-righteous.
I finally checked out his site and I gotta come down on the side of Detlof and Tubegroover on this one. I do agree with a lot of the points Salvatore makes (the refusal of Pearson to criticize Wilson speakers till well afterward when reviewing a later version has always galled me, although, unlike Salvatore, I don't think Pearson owes any of us a duty to be riding herd over his reviewers, and indeed he's been criticized in the past for doing so through his footnotes), but I think he ultimately goes overboard. His passion is admirable, but he's too much of a zealot for my tastes.
Tubegroover - You missed my point in this thread too. My question about irony and hypocrisy was not directed at Mr. Salvatore's article. My question was directed at some of the remarks made in this very thread -- and in other recent threads -- where a few of Audiogons anointed" engage in precisely the kind of behavior they complain of here. I didnt think I would need to explain, but if you read through this thread again, the hypocrisy should be obvious. If its not, then read the thread Trelja in New York in the context of this thread.
The shallowest layer of (situational) irony I see in this thread is that by trying to discredit certain reviewers, some of the posters have used the same objectionable review methods they so strongly object to and, in so doing, they ended up discrediting themselves -- the opposite of the intended outcome. Hoist with their own petards, so to speak. (There is also a nice example of dramatic irony here, since the posters in question could not see they were engaging in the very same conduct they complained of, while some readers in the Audiogon audience could see it.)
A deeper level of irony is that by posting reviews of the reviewers, the posters opened themselves up to being similarly reviewed and charged with the very same crimes -- another contrary and unintended outcome. For instance, I think the following remarks made by Trelja in his first post above apply with equal force to Trelja himself: He is continuously on his high horse. One that lectures and patronizes, rife with condescension. As if he is somehow gifted, or better than the great unwashed. Able to hear better than others. Able to judge a component better than others. ... Bragging about his reviewing talents and experience one minute; chiding those less experienced in the field... In fact, the whole review of this product was an utter waste of time. One in which several variables were juggled without the slightest thought about them.... How could the conclusions of this review elicit anything along the lines of credibility? His anger ... is of no surprise. His indignation is a running theme of his personality. Witness his retort.... To say that he was less than courteous would be a supreme understatement.
Not my words, nor would I choose to use such derisive language to criticize anyone else. However, because Trelja chose to use these words to attack another person, I dont have a problem reflecting them back at the source. When in Rome....
In lieu of Treljas own words, I probably would have used words something like the following to review him as an Audiogon reviewer: I think many of Treljas posts are intelligent, insightful, and informative, and they have therefore contributed positively to the discussions here. But some of his other posts have been mean-spirited, irresponsible, and perhaps even libelous, and this has significantly undermined his credibility in my book. I think Audiogon would be a better place without those kinds of posts, though it would probably be a worse place without Treljas participation and the sharing of his knowledge in his more balanced posts.
In musical terms, Id say that, at times, Trelja is way too forward and aggressive -- it's difficult to listen to such in your face presentation. Such an attacking presentation lends new meaning to the phrase Hey Joe, where you goin with that gun in your hand? Sometimes hes very strident and harsh like a bad solid state amp; in such cases, he can veil over relevant details even though the details are probably all in there and capable of being presented objectively if only he didnt have the occasional bias or imbalance in his source material. Could be made smoother, warmer, and more detailed by a relatively minor adjustment of position or orientation. Unfortunately, this adjustment isn't likely to happen since he seems firmly bolted to his present position. Too bad for us. To take the edge off, perhaps we could try running him with a set of good tubes (e.g., a six pack of NBB Fat Tire Ale).
This is my attempt at a partial review of a few of the reviewers on Audiogon (the foregoing remarks apply to some of the other posters as well). It is intended to be thought-provoking and humorous, albeit in a poignant way. Better, me thinks, than hammering away with unexplained -2,-2 ratings. Done with reviewer issues I hope; back to the music.
Still to come: The potential for recursive irony as other reviewers now review my hypocritical review of those who hypocritically reviewed the reviewers. Dizzying indeed.
Given Djjd's comments the following thought comes to mind: What kind of person reads an Internet discussion group and expects the same level of journalistic professionalism as that of a highly visible author being paid to write articles whose very content can make or break a company?
No need to share the answer, just ask yourselves the question.
The air *is* heavy with irony, isn't it?
OK Djjd, let's see what you are about. Maybe now, we should start looking at you with the same microscope that you want to use on some of the "reviewers" on Audiogon. It is now more than obvious that you are completely obsessed with me right now. Why is that? Do you think that I am that important? Or, that I am that interesting to talk or think about? I can assure you that I am none of these things. Sorry to disappoint you. Just an average guy who loves audio, but loves music even more. "Annoited"? By who? For and as what? If your opinion is that I am on a high horse, I can assure you, you know me not at all. I express myself on this site, and welcome the expressions of others. You, on the other hand seem to have the idea that your teethless banter is enough to quell the opinions of someone(in this case, me) on this site. You can best believe you do not have any such power. I stand by my words. My assertion of Michael Fremer is the way I honestly read the guy. I have a subscription to Stereophile. I love the magazine. The fact that I express my unhappiness with certain reviewers of facets of the magazine is a plea for it to return to the higher level it once occupied. A question to you, are you here to add anything of consequence, take part in the discussion of audio(what this site is about, believe it or not), or ask a question? Or, is it just to trash me(be honest)? I have witnessed a lot on this site. Your spouting off at me this week is one of the more remarkable things that I have seen. Believe me, I can take anything you can dish out. I am a big boy. I just want to know what are your reasons? If you are man enough, you will come out with it. And, it will be THE TRUTH. Let's try to break it down a little. This whole campaign of yours started with my discussion of the Hifi Show in New York City. I obviously really touched a nerve there(and it's eating you up inside). Admit it. I must have offended you by trashing something very, very dear to you. Is it something you own? Something you, a friend, or relative of yours manufactures, sells, in some way represents, or writes about? We can see this miles away. Come on, come out with it. And I mean the truth, the whole truth, and NOTHING but the truth. That is, if you have the guts...
After reading Treljas' first post here, I must agree 100%. I hate to see him take so much hate-mail for stating his opinion.
For the record, I've been in CES showrooms where highly accredited reveiwers didn't realise that the tweeter section on one side was disconnected. And, the same room recieved high praise in the show report from the very same reveiwer!
Many base their opinion soley on what is reported by the reveiwers, rather than rely on themselves. Why not trust yourselves? Do I feel like an annoited one? No, just a music lover, who has adequate hearing and logic to base my own conclusions. I feel that many of us here, like Trelja and myself, feel the same but will sit this one out to avoid confrontation.
And from reading Fremers response, stating that advertising revenue makes and breaks an audio magazine, don't you think that there may be some favoritism? Remember back in the early eighties when Car and Driver claimed that the Audi quatro was the finest sports/touring auto of the day? Did you happen to see how many pages of ad Audi had? Don't hate me, just give this serious thought.
Oh come on Trelja, not much point in digging for Djjd's motivation. You give him too much attention. I first thought about responding, that he was comparing pears with apples a tad unfairly and that his irony was heavyhanded..but then I stood back from the idea thinking it not worth the trouble. This guy probably just loves to hear himself talk. YAWN.
Djjd I guess the air is indeed full of irony as you anticipated it would in your last paragraph. No surprises there given your attack on Trejla which sounds personal to me. All I read in Trejla's remarks was a personal distain for a particular writer and see little correlation with the points made by Salvadore who was basically presenting his case as objective truth and using hot buttons that most audiophiles would agree with. That is the irony and hyprocisy I saw. A self-appointed savior breaking things down and assuming a bit more than he let on.
Hi Trelja - Thanks for the challenge; I like a good argument. It would be easily to get into a shouting match with you, but I think theres too much hostility in the world already, and I dont want to add any more. So Ill try to keep it civil.
What would you like to know about me? Heres all you should need to know for your next salvo. Im probably not as smart as I think I am, but I hope Im smarter than I sometimes act. Admittedly over-educated, but I dont use this against others (some of the smartest people Ive met never had the chance to go to college). I spend most of my time working on ecological problems, but I feel were now losing the battle, and the world looks pretty dark to me these days. Music helps.
I dont work for any audio-related dealer or manufacturer. Never have, probably never will. No relationships with anyone in the audio business either (though Ive made a few friends on Audiogon I hope). I dont get any "endorsement" freebies, deals, or discounts on audio gear from any dealers or manufacturers. Never have, probably never will. I buy all my gear new or used just like many of the other people here. My average income is less than $20k a year; always has been since I got my first job pumping gas at $2/hour. Not a trust-fund baby. Still paying off student loans. At my urging, my parents have been spending what little prospect I have of an inheritance. Never owned a new car or a house. Probably never will. Not impressed by money; detest greed and waste. Impressed by good music and other things sublime or beautiful (including a clever idea or a good argument). Spend most of my spare change on music. Not a saint; make my share of mistakes (including a few whoppers). Not afraid to admit I'm wrong.
Been an audiophile since mid 1970s. Still have my original top-of-the-line Akai 8-track player/recorder (boxed up now with a bunch of old tapes) and Nakamichi RX-505 cassette deck (sees occasional use and remains enjoyable). I dont profess to know more than you or anyone else here; Ive actually learned quite a bit at Audiogon (even a little from you). I think everyone has something positive to contribute, even if they dont always say things I can agree with. I think every audio product on the market (well almost every one) has some merit when used in the right system or with the right recordings or by the right listener. I think people should be nice to each other. I try to set a positive example. I like Audiogon because there are some genuinely classy and intelligent people here -- a really interesting and diverse community of folks; most everyone is respectful and interested in learning more; a quantum leap above the other sites, Id say. I think you (and a few others) could be more polite in the way you present some of your opinions on Audiogon. But I know I cant control that. I will nevertheless continue to give the occasional nudge. Too bad if that chaps you or seems condescending (probably is - no apologies).
From your line of questioning, you probably think Im pissed at you for criticizing certain products in your post Trelja in NY. Actually not the case though. I cant say what you did or didnt hear at the NY show, and it was never my point to debate you on that. For instance, I own Talon speakers and completely disagreed with your characterization of them, but I didnt try to dispute what you say you heard because I couldnt go to the show to hear that system in that room for myself. (If youd like to engage in a debate on this product, Im ready and willing, but Talon products can readily defend themselves when auditioned in a proper setting.) If you read my NY post again, I think youll see I didnt actually defend Talon or any other manufacturers at the NY show. If some manufacturers didnt set up their systems properly to show their gear in a favorable light, they deserve some criticism. In your NY show thread, a few people criticized some of the same products you did, and even though I didnt agree with some of what they said either, I didnt have a problem with their remarks because they generally allowed for the possibility that room set-up or other factors may have contributed to what they heard. My problem with your NY review was that you didnt allow for such possibilities (except, as I recall, for saying some products other than Talon were played too loud). This seemed unfair and lacking in objectivity, and I said so. I know Im flogging a dead horse with this -- asked and answered -- but you wanted me to put it all out on the table, so here it is again.
In addition, when I read your post about the NY show, I also recalled the very harsh comments you made about Michael Fremer in this Reviewing the Reviewers thread. Your NY show review therefore struck me as being extremely hypocritical, as did your scathing remarks about Fremer. I singularly detest hypocrisy (sometimes guilty of it myself, but at least I try very hard to avoid it). It always eats away at me until it boils over and I have to say something about it.
So I vented. And I did so knowing this would subject me to retaliatory attacks from you and a few others like you. I didnt hide behind the rating system; I did what I think all others here should do -- when somethings bothering them, spit it out in the most polite way they can. What I said apparently bothered a few people, and they said so. Good for them. Their comments didnt hurt me (I expected some backlash), though it did compel me to carefully re-examine my remarks in the context of their statements. After doing so, I still feel comfortable with what I said and how I said it. If I didnt, Id offer you and the others an apology. But I think I'm right on this one, so I stand by what I've said, with no reservations or regrets, and youll therefore get no apology from me.
The instant thread asked for reviews of the reviewers. I think my remarks about you (and a few other Audiogoners) fall within the scope of this topic. When criticizing someone else, youve gotta be prepared to reap what you sew. Doesnt feel so good when youre on the receiving end, does it? Nonetheless, I dont think I was overly hostile or mean-spirited in what Ive said thus far. (Other than using the word hypocrisy and mentioning that youve lost my respect, the only mean words I directed at you were your own, and even then, I found more polite substitutes to use.) I also tried to add some levity to my remarks (bad analogies and good ironies are always good for a laugh). Finally, I tried to provide an example of how someone can disagree and even criticize without being mean or vicious. Again, I dont expect you to follow the example -- you can keep saying whatever you want to say in whatever way you want to say it. But maybe someone else will hear what Im trying to say, and perhaps this will make Audiogon a slightly less antagonistic place for those who are put-off by libelous, slanderous, or disparaging comments like some of yours. (For those of you out there who actually enjoy reading vitriolic attacks, I might suggest getting some counseling or watching some pro-wrestling or daytime talk-shows to address that craving. Music is supposed to be fun, not hostile.)
Trelja - if you have any other questions about me or about why I said what I did, Ill be glad to see if I can provide some more answers for you. However, I dont think any more explanation will resolve this controversy, and I think were now trying to squeeze water out of a stone. So if it's OK with you, I'd prefer to get back to music. But, by all means, keep blasting away if that'll do it for you.
Djjd, I am not the attacking type of person. Despite the streak you seem to have found me in. I will not attack you. In fact, I will compliment you. For standing up like a man, and presenting yourself. All in a rational, sane, intelligent way. You seem to be a very admirable person. The first few paragraphs show you to be exactly the type of person I most root for in life. That is why I am not that big a fan of Fremer. However, if you read my reply to Sean(who said Fremer is actually a good guy in person), you will see my take on him mellowed after that. But, I still have problems with him in my favorite magazine(the only one I care enough about to subscribe to). I am sorry if I came across as arrogant, obnoxious, or mean spirited. Hopefully, you will believe me when I tell you I detest those things, and try my hardest not to be anything like that. I am simply a guy who loves audio, and loves music. If my passion gets the best of me, perhaps I need to be reigned in. I do try to be forever vigilant in this hobby. Looking for the value products, eschewing those I find to be sheep in wolves clothing. I do agree(for the most part) that almost every product can be good in some system. My derivesivness at Talon was more out of sense of disappointment in the way they sounded to me, at the show. I have seen this product talked about in such polarizing arguments. Some love them, some hate them. Based on what I heard at the show, I fall into the second group. Without a doubt. I would allow that a broken in pair(if those at the show were not), in a good room, might just make me smile. Always willing to give a product a second, third, or fourth chance. The truth is, I want to love EVERY product in this industry. Why not? I have a voracious apetite for everything in this hobby. While I cannot buy everything, I want to at least derive pleasure from it in another's system, through an audition, or at a show. You are correct, I have criticized a fair amount of products. All of which I have expected so much from(don't think I react so strongly to value equipment that I find lacking), only to be let down. Just like the Legacy speakers you mentioned previously. I lusted after them for so long as a teenager. For years, I read their literature and specs. One day I found a used pair for sale. If they were too far to be auditioned, I would have bought them sound unheard. But, the dealer happened to be local. I went there flying above the clouds, foaming at the mouth to buy them. Then... Nothing. Talk about letdowns. I gave them more(many) chances. Same reaction. My biggest disappointment in audio. How could I NOT love them? This started me on a new quest. I am still on it. To actually use my ears, rather than my eyes to listen to equipment. Yes, I probably am too emotional about this hobby. Please accept my apology for any words said in less than civil tones. Hopefully, we can now shake hands, and move on.
Djjd, Trelja--well done! What a spirited dialogue! I learned as much from your dispute as your reconciliation. When I saw the title of this thread I knew it would be about Arthur Salvatore's website. What strikes me overall about his project is the "political theological" dimension. I think of him as the "Martin Luther" of the high end world leading the "Audio Reformation," criticizing the corrupting influence of money on the high end scene (just as Luther did with the Church), realigning our notions of faith in the audio gods whether they be designers or reviewers. Occassionally he gets rather passionate, as some of us have pointed out, and there seems to be a limit to what one person can do (even with the help of his friends, all more or less kept in the background), and he clearly has a strong bias for tube amplification of LP recordings, without much interest at all in digital, leading to a certain blindness at times to his insights. The "Reviewing the Reviewers" page is clearly a polemical, critical, passionate dissection of the audio press and the misuse of its power, and this topic easily leads to heated exchange to the extent that it often gets personal. I wish others would share their point-by-point opinions about the recommendations he makes on his "Recommended Components" and "Supreme LP Recordings" pages.
I worked in Las Vegas hotel Golden Nugget, where Stereophile held their
> yearly parties, usually at the end of the CES week. As, a matter of fact i
> was at the 'gates' along with Mr. Thomas Norton who was greeeting the guests
> (i was monitoring the number of guests coming in so 'occupancy' code didn't
> exceed the limit) I can tell you that these guys weren't just on the
> 'cordial' terms. And i am talking about the most of the "heavy weights" in
> the industry and the Stereophile's editorial 'staff'. I agree with Mr. Salvatore 100%. Somebody have to, at least, acknowledge the fact that our passion have been used and taken advantage of by those that we supposed 'trust'.
Well Eldragon I myself am an existentialist when it comes to audio matters. This is a capitalist society we live in. And the way I see it, it kind of works something like this "Never let the whole truth get in the way of making a buck". We HAVE to be responsible for our own decisions. Why should we trust anyone to give us the whole truth. Call me a cynic, I say just pragmatic. Mr. Salvadore offers no surprises on his site. He just hit the hot buttons that we all suspected. One hand always washes the other. The rags are for entertainment. Yes we could expect more from them but my question is, ARE WE WILLING TO PAY WITHOUT THE ADVERTISING? Stereophile is in it for the money. It isn't that they lie to us, I don't see it that way. They just don't provide in their format enough information for us to make the best choices.
All Salvadore did was point out the obvious. My observation is that most audiophiles/music lovers are educated intelligent folks. I can't imagine too many that believe anything he states was a revelation. And just about all would agree with his points. As Slawney so eloquently states above (as usual Slawney, I do enjoy your dialogue and commentary on most matters), Salvadore has his own biases and preferences. The reviewers aren't the problem. They are just the messengers. Why shoot the messenger? They are just agents for the powers that be, the magazines and the BIG manufacturers. The problem is that the magazines do not compare products and attempt to give an unbiased comparison. Products are rated by price/performance not by absolute performance. There are many over achievers out there and the magazines don't point it out. My guess is that half the reviewers wouldn’t recognize it if they heard it anyway. All they need to do well is write and maintain a minimum degree of credibility.
The reason for cheap subscriptions is to boost circulation which increases advertising revenues. We think we are getting a deal when in reality all that is happening is the rags and manufacturers just get closer and cozier. At whose expense? Well hot damn, why would they want to do that? And now here comes Martin Luther Salvadore, the Great Reformationist. And what does he do? He starts shooting the messenger and then goes on to tell us the REAL truth. His intentions may be genuine but in every cult following there is too much absolutism which must be followed. And that is pretty much the way I read him, as Reprince says, a Zealot. If you want honest opinion and truth, you’ll get a better sense of it here on this site than any magazine. We all have a common vested interest. Here there are thousands, the rags only have a handful and remember, most are nothing more than good writers.
JGH “In who’s ears we trust”. Yes indeed Gordon, we certainly did.
A question: Honestly, aren't we all a bit infantile, speaking of trusting the magazines and complaining of trust betrayed. For heaven's sake, these guys must make a living like us and how can we be sure ourselves, that we - with conflicting interests - are always able to choose the right path? Audio publications are not there to be trusted. They exist to make interesting and sometimes enlightening reading....and to make money. Besides, in the publications I like to read, I am continuously told something in the way of " this is what I hear in my setup, BUT TRUST YOUR OWN EARS." So lets grow up and forget about Salvatore, who peddles to the childlike, who still like to believe in Father X-mas, hoping to be the great Zampano himself.
Wow, this will get me minus points, but I had to get this off my chest.
hey, i liked trelja's nyc post - i also liked djjd's response to it. i like arthur salvatore's site - i've had it bookmarked for 2 years, & i acshully bought someting from him. but, i also like s'phile & have been a reader since '84. i also abhor hypocricy - how can that be? easy - i have a *brain*! :>) i can read what i want, like what i want, dislike what i want.
djjd is right, imo, that trelja wasn't taking everyting into account in his nyc report. i appreciated trelja's report still, being able to identify all djjd's objections myself, before djjd even said anyting about it. trelja doesn't have to say the rooms sucked - i can figure it out. i was even at the '96 show, so i *know* about poor room set-up. if the above is true, then how can i like what djjd said? simple - yust cuz i don't draw the same conclusions as djjd - ie: i won't write-off trelja's opinions - doesn't mean i don't tink djjd makes walid points. the same is true w/the salvatore-vs-reviewer idea. i like salvatore *and* reviewers. sure, there are some reviewers i like better than others. sure, the rags make their money from the adwertizers. but, i feel i have the ability to separate the wheat fromn the chaff... no one's perfect - take what ya need, leave the rest. if someting registers high on yer bullshit detector, then go ahead & say someting about it - i sure do! :>) but, i don't lose any sleep over it.
regards to all, doug s.
I agree with much of what you say Detlof. However I think you underestimate how many people feel betrayed by the true motivations of most of the mainstream rags. It didn't use to be the way it now is. There was more integrity when there was little or no advertising. Sure the magazines need to make money and the mainstream ones make more than ever at least Stereophile does. I myself feel that it is a good value overall. You get good technical info on the products ala Audio. I do feel that their reviews for the most part are to the contrary of enlightening. They are so generic cookie cutter in their descriptions that you could easily apply one review to any other. Is this the fault of the reviewer or are there editorial lines that the reviewer must stay within? My guess is the latter. I would rather see more honesty in how they really hear and feel about a product and I seldom get a sense of that.
Of course they tell us to use our own ears and ultimately that is what we must do. The problem that I see is the allegiance that the mags have to the Major Manufacturers that get much more exposure because they advertise more. I find this very self-serving and not in the best interest of the readership or hi-end audio as a whole. They also do not compare products. There used to be more of this. This is one feature of the Absolute Sound that I really do like. Small manufacturers that can't afford to advertise may make it to the recommended component list but don't stay too long if they don't advertise. This is really a very calculated format issue that is more in the interest of the manufacturers than the readership.
And that brings us to the real beef I have and one area I totally agree with Salvadore on, their Recommended Component List. It is little more than a marketing tool to sell more copy and appease manufacturers', killing 2 birds with one stone. The readers seem to like it and the advertising is heavier than ever in those issues. I do not feel it is critical enough of the components that are selected. What with A+, A etc. Maybe I'm in the minority but I personally find it almost useless. I have listened to some of their “A” rated components and there is NO way that they should be included among the best, period, IMHO. Except I don't feel too humble in my adamancy on that point!!
The best parallel that comes to mind is the triad of legislators, lobbyists and voters. The legislators need the lobbyists to raise enough money to be elected by the voters. Yet they are often beholden to the interests of the lobbyists which may be at conflict with the best interests of the voters. The manufacturers need the magazines to get exposure for their products that the reader wants. The magazines are beholden to both their readership and the manufacturer. Satisfy both needs with the ultimate realization that by balancing both, they will make money. I feel the balance has gradually been moving over to the manufacturers and the readership has become little more than a commodity in achieving the primary goal of increasing the bottom line. Capitalism at its true essence. There is no reason to believe it should be otherwise. Your allegiance is going to be stronger to the customer that is the greatest source of your revenue. So can we "trust" a magazine to be completely honest in the interest of its readership? No we can't. All we can be is entertained and enjoy it for what value it does offer. And when those values becomes lost on the readership at large or if the market changes faster than the magazine can adjust to, they just go out of business.
And to the last point. JG Holt found the magazine on a principle that is still remembered by some. And it wasn't about making a lot of money. The magazine was established by an audiophile for audiophiles. Maybe it is expecting too much for things to remain the same but it appears that the ideals of this publication and its goals have pretty much been lost over the past 15 years. It sure is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm to me. A gradual shifting of allegiances in the name of Capitalism over Ideals. I will not use the word corrupt, a strong word and one not to use lightly. My final .02 cents on this thread.
Tubegroover, I am very grateful for the time and energy you took, to write this thoughtful and very well considered post....and I could not agree more. I've read TAS from its very beginning and have experienced that "gradual shifting of allegiances in the Name of Capitalism over Ideals", as you so aptly put it, with sadness and discomfort. But "the times they are a-changing" and true idealsm, especially as regards values like truth, meaning, beauty are becoming more and more of a private thing to hold up, cherish and work upon. Hence I tend to feel, that we must be weary of any self annointed gurus pointing the way to whatever nirvana, including that of audio, but must learn to think and judge for ourselves, with the help of other idealists of course¨and this platform here seems just right for this purpose. These were the ruminations behind my somewhat emotional post above in the sense of: Come on guys, things are what they are, no use crying over spilt milk, lets grow up, make ourselves knowledgeable, share with each other. There are better things to do than to lament about things, we are unable to change. If we cannot better the mags, at least we can better ourselves. If they've betrayed their original ideals, we don't have to at all, because as hobbyists we are free, without having to face conflicting interests , which probably sooner or later would grind down our ideals as well. We have, contrary to the mags, what in German is so aptly called "Narrenfreiheit"...the freedom of the fools and the innocent, because its our hobby,perhaps even our passion, but not our way to make a living. If it were, I wonder how long it would take us, until also we, the righteous, had at least to question our ideals by just plain necessity.
No Tubegroover, I realise full well, how many people feel justly betrayed by the mainstream rags. But I still maintain, that exactly those people, instead of endlessly complaining about that deplorable fact, should try to become independent and learn for themselves...and haven't we found a good platform here to do just that? In my humble opinion, the loss of idealism, the "whoredom" as has has been said above, of those rags, is a chance for us to grow and to learn. Regards,
Tubegroover and Detlof, agreed in principle. You seem to be seasoned audiophiles, but what about the young, the newbees? They will need guidance by necessity, will avidly read the mags...until finally they too will feel betrayed. You Detlof, probably went through this stage quite a while ago. I agree with your conclusion, but if disillusionment is still fresh, you as a shrink should actually know best, that there is nothing but anger first.
Fremer's response to Salvatore illustrates how backward (reactionary) Fremer is when it comes to exploiting his own social position. His readiness to form judgements and protect his own interests is, as in all people concerned with status, far prompter toward those beneath them (and one of the purposes of his response is to situate Salvatore below him) than toward those higher up. It must be a good deal writing for Stereophile (a better deal than Salvatore has in writing his web page or any of us have writing our posts at audiogon and our gratis reviews at other audio sites). What strikes me is that Fremer for the most part is unable to give an account of the social function of his writing. This is paralleled by the fact that Stereophile contributors in general are not able to publicly reflect to any significant effect on their function in their dealings with manufacturers (except for the manufacturer's reply column). There are undoubtedly somewhere in the world reviewers who take a naive view of their own activities and who genuinely believe that their only moral task is to distinguish between good components and bad (some of the names of these reviewers were already mentioned in this thread), and those that believe that their only commercial task is to distinguish components that will sell from those that will not. In general, however, it is probably the business people at Stereophile that have a clearer idea of the circles to whom Stereophile is selling than the individual Stereophile contributor has of the audience for whom they write. Fremer, or any other Stereophile contributor is really in no position to control all of Stereophile. And who else should do it? Not the reading public; the activities of Stereophile fall outside all of our fields of vision (we may be interested in some of the same components as them, but we work outside Stereophile). This leaves the audio retailers and manufacturers as a court of appeal. But it is almost superfluous to mention how problematic, irresponsible and secret retailer and manufacturer control of the audio press must be.
If one wanted to fully critique the audio press, one would need a statistical survey of the capital at work in the audio publishing world. What is the source of these capital sums? Specifically, how much capital has migrated into a publisher from a given manufacturer in advertising fees and "corporate hospitality" (dinners, gifts, free reviewer samples, etc.)? On the other hand, what does an audio publication supply to the audio market for this manufacturer? It would be a short step from there to combine these questions and investigate whether, when capital flows into a publisher, it is directed at specific customer strata and trends that correspond to, say, SACD as opposed to DVD, or certain manufacturers as opposed to other ones, etc. It would be interesting also to see the sales figures in different markets for the main products advertised by or positively reviewed by a publisher. Of greatest interest would be information about the rating of a component and the advertising charges for it in the same magazine (Salvatore has repeatedly pointed to collusion on this level); likewise a picture of the relation between commercial success (sales figures) and literary succcess (critical reception in the press).
Of course, there are valuable components that fail to sell, and that a good publisher well nevertheless wish to sell not only as a matter of honor. But of course a common--and cynical--view of publishing is to see it as selling worthless components that succeed in selling only with its help. Another way to see audio publishing is as a combined operation, consisting of organized patronage and a lottery, in which every new component is a number and the reading public acts as banker. From the player's (in other words, the publisher's) winnings, a part is to be used to bet on numbers (components) that look splendid and significant but that scarcely figure into the gambling of the reading public. How much the player (the publisher) can bet on these numbers of course depends on their winnings on other more successful numbers (components). Of course, a publisher has to have a close relationship with specific writers--it does not need to follow a particular line--in order to maintain contact with a reading public. Obvious though it is, it is striking that in America, which possesses a number of clearly defined audio publications--Stereophile, the Absolute Sound, Ultimate Audio, etc.--very few attempts have been made (excepting Salvatore's and a few others) to undertake a systematic critique of these institutions. Yet this would be the only way to measure the abyss that separates big publications from smaller underground publications and those internet webzines that appear and disappear by the dozen every year, only to be replaced by similar smaller publications that open up in their wake. A systematic critique would also be a way to measure the gap that divides some of these big magazines from their disillusioned readers. It may lend additional weight to this already lengthy, abstract and unoriginal reflection if audio publishers came to see that the leaders among them will benefit more in terms of honor and profit from a sound criticism of their activities than from a socially reactionary response to one of their reviewer's (here: Fremer's response to Salvatore). Only experiece will enable us to discover the benefits of such a critique.
Slawney, would you really say that Salvatore's critique of "these institutions" you mention is a "systematic" one, as you call it ? (Unless of course by systematic you mean a critique of the alleged "systems" behind those institutions and not the critique itself being systematic in its methodology and purpose) Besides that, I find your thoughts interesting and indeed an inquiry along the lines you draw out for us, could show us publishing policy, but hardly, I venture to say, something about the spirit and the integrity or lack thereof, of the individual journalist, who sometimes may be lead by a large rope and sometimes not.
Detlof, the analysis I am suggesting, I believe, is a reliable method of making use of audio magazines to inquire into the spiritual (intellectual) currents of an institution (in this case, a long-established audio magazine), not of the intergrity of an individual journalist, as you say, except to the extent that that journalist embodies the systematic interests and principles of the institution for which he works. Such journalists are not unknown. I think we all know a few. In an age (and a country) in which both economic and intellectual production has been so thoroughly rationalized (as in America), it is the norm that audio magazines like Stereophile and the Absolute Sound work fairly systematically in comparison to underground publications. One sign of this is the way a publisher approaches individual reviewers with specific projects and sometimes very specific plans. Readers are making a great mistake when they see reviewers as mere gatekeepers or yes/no sayers, instead of as experts in a publishing policy who are intelligent enough to follow through on this policy rather systematically by drawing up plans (with or without their editors) for their articles before writing them. The audio press reading public is also wrong (as you say in your admirable post above) to set their idealism against a publisher's materialism, instead of treating their own ideas in such a way that the publisher will be tied to them for the sake of their material interests. What if a large number of audio enthusiasts started to think otherwise about audio technology than Stereophile and the Absolute Sound? I think that these magazines would be desperate to find out how their readers' ideas have changed to reestablish their customer base and market share. As far as Salvatore's critique is concerned, it is systematic to the extent that he outlines some of the principles and policies that reviewers obey when they write and he has even drawn up a chart showing the increasing number of advertisements in Stereophile and the increasing number of components on its "Recommended Components" list. This is an important aspect of a systematic critique which would also have to make use of sociological and financial data that Salvatore does not possess in order to further lay bare publishing policies. Such a critique would probably expose the conception of the audio magazine as an organized patronage/lottery system that I mention above as a common annd erroneous conception of publishing. Who should do this critique? It would probably be a perilous and thankless task. Look at some of the inflammatory reactions to Salvatore's website (not only the responses from journalists, but also from audiogon members). Perhaps it was even wrong of me in this thread to point to the political theological dimension of Salvatore's project (his similarity to Martin Luther) since such comparisons are easily parodied to his disadvantage. I still feel it would be illuminating to call for case-by-case opinions from audiogon members about Salvatore's own "Recommended Components" and "Supreme LP Recordings" and his own sense of fair play (the dispute between him and Fremer lies in Salvatore's site's negative assessment of the Rockport turntable and the Stereophile recommendation of it as an A+ analog component of the year, to a large extent) since Salvatore cannot be approached completely only on the basis of his 'Reviewing the Reviewers' page alone. Some audiogon members have already given a few case-by-case opinions about Salvatore's other pages (one member already indicated that Salvatore's recommendation of a Parasound CD player shows his analog bias, and so on). I would like to see more case-by-case opinions of Salvatore rather than general put downs. Personally, whenever I find I disagree with Salvatore on some component or LP recording, I cannot help but feel that he should nevertheless excercise more of a decisive influence on readers (especially young readers) than some of the big audio magazines.
Slawney, thankyou for your thoughtful response to my query. To my mind at least it should be difficult to refute the points you make in your brilliant analysis. The methodology you suggest, is, as you say, difficult to apply in practical terms, but it points a way to help us hone our critical minds, helps us to question rationally and "systematically". I very much agree with the conclusions you draw in both your posts and wish to thank you for the time and effort you took to share your thoughts with us! Regards,
Slawney, "excercis(ing) influence" requires acceptance on the receiving end, IMO. i.e., it takes two to tango... one giving advice or expressing opinion, and another to listen, acknowledge, "intelligently". I think this isn't always the case.
It seems to me we have a dichotomy in the reactions to opinion (in form of reviews or other) even among seasoned audiophiles sometimes.
1) "Rational" reaction, that takes a stated opinion and tries to understand the parametres upon which the stated opinion is based, and accepts, rejects, or simply acknowledges a subjective experience ("opinion") stated by another person.
2) Emotional reaction, where the receiving end *indentifies self* with equipment or person reviewing equipment. We've seen posts that could be paraphrased as "what do you mean, *MY* amplification of choice is no good, those (MY) speakers are terrible???" Likewise, with one reviewer's credibility vs. another's, worse still (IMO), for newcomers who would give credence to a well published and thereby known reviewer and disregard *USERS* opinion. In this case, disillusionment seems unavoidable.
More so, since common sense easily evidences the commercial limitations imposed upon and followed by mags. In order to pay but lip service to the mags' obvious profit pursuits, there *must* be an emotional side that shroudes reality.
If not, then what is it?
Greg, remember the old Latin phrase "degustibus non est disputandum " ? One man's heaven (speaker, cable, what have you) is another man's hell. So even the most rational of statements in our field here, will most probably be met with an emotional response. The so called objectivists, who in fact are the most subjective amongst us here, try to cheat themselves (and us for that matter) out of this dichotomy, by maintaining, that most of what we hear is but a figment of our imagination anyway. To my mind, if we refuse to fall into that trap, we must learn to live with the dichotomy you mention, which in fact will become less and less difficult to bear, if we learn to accept, that most of us here will voice and shape their systems according to what their ears will tell them is "best", or at least approaching it and I suppose that there are as many "bests" out there as there are audiophiles around, who at this point in time happen to be happy with their systems. I've noticed, that the most seasoned amongst us will tell us about their systems and describe its musicality but will only get emotional if derided or hard pressed. They still tend to experiment and occasionally upgrade, but I would venture the guess, that they stick to their stuff longer than a relative newcomer with means. Also I've never heard them say that this or that gear is "best". If you haven't had the time to mature in the fairyland of audiophilia however, you tend to look for what is "best" and do so with much emotion involved. Its the mags, which tend to feed and accelerate this, because they have to find a new list of "bests" everytime they bring out a new issue. Nobody would read them, if they would not do so. They would bore us all stiff.
At the same time, they tell us, that when all is said and done, even the "best of best" will never approach the "absolute sound of real music in real space and time".
In peddling "best" in every issue, hinting that this month's "best" is most probably just a step closer to the real thing, than last month's, but at the same time maintaining, that the real best can only be real live music, they feed us what is called a double bind in psychology, which at best,( pun intended) will emotionalize us , at worst, drive us nuts and make us bust budgets in the process. It is also the mother of addiction. It is in this double bind, where to my mind the actual poison lies hidden, not in our suspicion, that the mags could possibly be corrupt. How to avoid it? Well, perhaps we should not entirely, because it nourishes the fire, underlying our quest for beauty. But too big a dose of it will make us restless, disatisfied, never content how "it sounds", because there might be something "better" just around the corner. My personal solution to this problem has evolved but slowly through the years: I've learnt neither to trust nor to mistrust the statements reviewers make, because I don't see any objectivity in them anyway, neither will I in mine or in anybody else's in fact. I've learnt, that there is neither a "best" in systems, nor an absolute truth in describing them. I've learnt, that I have my own tastes as far as musical software as well as hardware is concerned. In the course of time I've built a system just following my own ears and trying to voice and shape it in the way I wanted it to sound. To me its "best" emotionally, rationally I know that there are better around. I will read and listen to keep informed, I will experiment, as I do with the Bybee stuff right now, but there is a hardware foundation to my rig, which is neither the latest, nor the most expensive, which I know I will never change, because it comes closest to what in my mind and soul I find is musical. Newcomers to our field, I find, should be told of those basic rules which exist to make a system sound better.
They should be sent to as many live musical events as possible, to have a tertium comparationis between the sound of their system and the ideas of sound they have in their minds about how a system should make music. They should read the mags, but with the attitude of a sportscar enthusiast, who knows that reading about how a Porsche handles, will reflect the journalists experience, but not the feeling he himself will have, when he has his behind in the driver's seat, but above all he should learn to understand, that there is no "best", nor ever will be. If that is achieved, you're out of this double bind I mentioned before and if reviewers are music lovers of independent mind and soul or capitalism's slaves becomes a point of little or no consequence and the dichotomy wich Greg has pointed out so well, is just the "both sides of the same coin". Speaking of coins: just my two cents, sorry I was so long. Cheers to all,
Detlof notes: "I've built a system just following my own ears and trying to voice and shape it in the way I *wanted it to sound*"(my emphasis). Which begs the question: HOW does each one of us like music reproduction? Laid back? Bass articulate? Dynamic? Pace & rythm? etc. A useful point when relating to others' opinion, and extremely useful for newcomers to this hobby, maybe.
I, for one, like transient attack, dynamics, and passion. Listening to music is an "interactive experience": I catch myself speaking to the (imaginary) musicians while listening to my system... I like to hear the sudden bursts in intensity -- SPL *and* the emotion / energy this belies.
A friend tells me, he can't enjoy sitting back with my system; the moment he relaxes, a burst kicks him out of the chair.
I fully subscribe to Detlof's proposition regarding the benefits of experiencing "...as many live musical events as possible". And that "best" is largely a subjective notion, and time/experience-related, at that. Indeed, Detlof, de gustibus non est disputandum!
And yet, disputes are sometimes the name of the game!
Greg, thanks for having read my long diatribe. You are right about the importance of disputes. They help to clarify where and how we stand. Why don't you start a thread about "shaping preferences" ? I myself, like you need dynamics, I need "those sudden bursts of intensity", like you have in live music, I go crazy if the highs are missing or grainy and I need a solid bass foundation to the music. Subtle timing cues should be rendered as lifelike as possible. Listening to music as an interactive experience...that was an eye-opener for me, because, not unlike you I "correspond" with the musicians as a natural matter of course, but was never really conscious of my doing so...never thought about it, but it was there..so be thanked! Cheers