reviewers pitch the new product and that's what reviewers are for. if they're paid to pitch, they will. cars, hi-fi, wi-fi, scmi-fi, pills -- it doesn't matter.
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My take on this, is that current gear, for the most part, is very good.
The designers are more talented and educated and experienced. The technology to build these and test them is much better. The parts quality is better. This is the 21st Century.
I think it would be rather hard to really make a bad sounding piece of audio gear nowadays.
Also, high-end audio, (like most other hobbies) has and will always be subjective. Everyone hears differently, has different rooms, and listen to different source material.
This is just my opinion, but after almost 40 years in this hobby, (and business), I think year after year, this industry just gets better.
I've yet to find, outside of the 3 mainstream car mags, only positive reviews of cars. One needs to know where and how to look. Same goes for audio reviews, movie reivews, etc. It takes some time to get to know how reviewers "hear" things and it involves getting to know the reviewer.
I've personally contacted a few reviewers to get their take on some equipment and found it, so far, to be for the better. Take the time to get to know them: the better ones will answer and hopefully, offer good advice. I've had great luck so far in selecting components.
Just as you can get to know how folk here actually hear things the way you do, the same can go for a reviewer. Blanket statements about their veracity only serve to widen the gap.
All the best,
I swear to god - I am so tired of hearing about this giant conspiracy and how the reviewers are paid off and how certain people set themselves up as the self-appointed guardians of all of us stupid audiophiles. There is no help for anyone who hangs on the word of any reviewer and who must upgrade because a reviewer says that this Wilson speaker blows away the old version. Every industry has reviewers and there is no way of knowing what they get out of it. Can you imagine how much Mercedes could pay for a positive review? Audio reviews, as all reviews, are one person's opinion about the product. That's it. Anyone who thinks different has a lot to learn and anyone who thinks they need to protect us all from reviewers by exposing them should find more productive things to do with their lives. IMO. :)
I completely agree with Mofimadness, Nonoise and Chayro. The thing with reviews is that you have to learn to read between the lines. So to me, the good reviewers are better at conveying what they hear and through experience in reading reviews the reader learns to discern what they are communicating. Most reviews to me are for entertainment value.
As for any reviewer, they are no different than us, they have their listening preferences and biases. The good ones communicate the characteristics of a component under review regardless of whether you agree or not, it's up to the individual reader to review the reviewer and determine whether or not to value his judgements. The decline of HiFi, if it is happening, never did, is or will have a thing to do with reviewers. Your premis seems a real stretch and you give the reviewers much to much credit. As long as people listen to music there will be a fringe group that will want to hear it well reproduced regardless of the new technologies on the horizon.
I do wonder who on this forum read the second half of my thread starter.
It's not about a conspiracy either.
A failure to relate and be genuinely critical will lead to the continuous demise of Hi End hifi. If reviews are always wishy washy, uncritical, and irrelevant, then when people have a browse through the magazines on the shelves, like many people do when researching a moment of big spending, do writers genuinely believe they are doing the world of audio a favour?
Remember my point about Breitling outselling the whole of the High End audio industry in the states put together...
The review process is almost completely unrelated to the decline of hi-fi. The whole technical world seems to be currently revolving around the concept of portability. Therefore whatever is small is of high value seeemingly without regard to the sound quality. I don't think 99.99% of people even bother to read a review of high end electronics, therefore whether it is an honest appraisal or not doesn't matter. For those of us who do read them we have to read between the lines. I find the same to be true for most car reviews as well. My enthusiasm is not altered by reviews and I doubt that others are affected either.
Just to be clear, I've read your post twice now. You contend (first), that the fact that reviewers consistently fail to bash any meaningful number of products that they write about could be the likely cause of the demise of the high end industry's sales. For the life of me I cannot see a tie in between the two and cannot fathom how you correlate these ideas.
Second, you posit that Breitling's US sales exceed the entire volume of high end sales of audio gear in the US. Again, please help me because I have no idea what that has to do with the price of tea in China.
I think I speak for more than a few here when I say that you have made no discernible points to agree or disagreee with.
"A failure to relate and be genuinely critical will lead to the continuous demise of Hi End hifi."
The above is what you said so I guess it is what you mean and completely in line with the responses to your query as far as I understand, am I missing another point somewhere? First off there are reviewers that are entertaining writers at best who's judgement I don't hold in any higher regard than anyone else's. Then there are reviewer's who by the consistency of their descriptions of products lend more credibility to what they describe. Another thing to consider is that most reviewer's review products that they think they will like. Why waste time on products of little interest? This idea about being "genuinely critical" is a bit vague, what exactly do you mean? There are usually clues in the review that let you know the plus and minus points of the product. There is no need to openly bash a product in a publication unless there is some type of consistent objective method involved, certainly not subjective, that would be totally unfair to the manufacturer of the product and would go back to biases and preferences. Measurements are one of those objective tools upon which the reader can draw his own conclusions but as most experienced audiophiles know, they don't always tell the whole story.
I don't completely understand your point about Breitling and how this relates in any way to Hi-end audio sales, could you explain, I am curious.
Watches hold an edge over audio when it comes to disposable income so it's no wonder why or how they can outsell audio equipment. Breitling is not even on my radar when it comes to desirable watches and yet it has an audience. I just don't like the looks. They sell enough to employ John Travolta as a spokesperson but the really big players in the watch industry don't need celebrity endorsement.
I've read where a certain brand took 40 prototypes to a gathering at a yacht club meeting and sold every one with orders for another 40-50 and they went for $400K apiece. These type of people already have a quality stereo system or don't really care about it, but their love of watches goes back generations.
It would be like Ferrari selling out an entire years worth of inventory on a car that has yet to be made and comparing it to the slow sales of farm combines to small family farmers.
All the best,
The general business of car reviews is as corrupt as those of audio reviewers. I have a neighbor who is a car reviewer, she does about 60 reviews a year. Never anything negative. My talks with her confirm, be always positive or you will be put out of business, quickly. She gets about $3,000 a review. Remember, the only long established product reviews are conducted by consumer Reports, who pays their own way.
for a review to be of value the following conditions must be met: a) the reviewer be at a non-profit that does not advertise, b) the reviewed equipment must not come directly from the Manufacturer but be purchased in the manner we as consumers would purchase, c) the reviewer does not know and has no contact with the manufacturer, d) the reviewed item is reviewed in a real world system (5k speakers in a 10k system --- not a 40K system; a 4k preamp in a 20k system --- not a 100K system), and e) the reviewed item is compared in one system against 3 other items and reviewed in a relativistic manner (example: 4 total 5k speakers compared & contrasted or 4 total 4K pre-amps).
These conditions are never met.
Thus, no professional reviews are of value --- except as a diversion for a few minutes and to look at pretty pictures.. otherwise, professional reviews are biased, non-relativistic (and thus meaningless) and of no real value to a person considering a purchase.
Ah come on Buconero117, reviewers are for the most part regular audiophiles like the rest of us. Corrupt? Come on, that is a real stretch. Has it gotten to the point in the world we live in that we find it necessary to view ourselves as victims and dupes for seemingly everything? It seems a real trend. Mind you there are real victims and in the context of this discussion your comments diminish the importance of people that are so legitimately. We're talking about Cavaet Emptor here. I say, get educated, be smart, take responsibility for your decisions and STOP blaming and accusing. It's what the hell's wrong in the world we live in. I just HAD to vent this, I am so tired of people not taking personal responsibility and always pointing the finger. We are each the master of our choices.
Regarding the opening sentence about M.Fremer's reviews, i have to say that Stereophile almost ALWAYS gives him the most exotic/expensive components and speakers to comment on. This in itself shows a bias that i am uncomfortable with. Are not the others on the staff capable of evaluating the really pricey equipment both for sound as well as value/dollar?
The really good stuff out there at this point IS going to sound very very good.
some manufacturers still have reliability issues and in those cases they either have to fix the component RIGHT AWAY for the customer or they should not be in business at all. But what a reviewer says is too often a result of either a very good listening room and associated components or perhaps not one and/or the other. or they are partial to vinyl over cd's. nothing wrong with that, but they (in Mr.Fremer's case) own a VERY exotic record player, not a Linn or VPI, etc. Perhaps redbook cd's should be the acid test for most systems due to the fact that just about EVERYONE knows what the good and bad of cd sound results in.
Overall i find reviews are helpful, although of course you need to go hear the components yourself. and where are those few stores that carry high-end gear set up for auditioning? certainly not readily available for most of us. you can however get a sense of what is going on with high-end audio from what IS available to listen to within a 2 hour radius of your house, especially when it comes to really good speaker systems. and perhaps as the internet forums get better and more to the point, you can find out from other individuals what they thought about a piece of gear they heard at a store or an audio show. If you've heard it, and more importantly if you've OWNED IT for awhile, PLEASE contribute what you know about speaker-X or preamp-Y, etc. you may not have the writing skills of a professional reviewer, but you may know a lot more about living with a piece of equipment than they would.
I hear what you're saying Robsker but a "non profit" for hi-end audio? Another consideration is someone with some business savvy and ambition that might explore the viability of a for profit in the mode of Consumer Reports, not likely either. (I'm not sure if they are a non profit or not for profit but you can bet, someone or somebodies is making money along the line.)
In any regard I'm certain it would take a lot of investment capital and market research as a start that few would risk UNLESS some altruistic audiophile with deep pockets decides to do it as a worthwhile "non profit" or "NOT FOR PROFIT" enterprise in the service of his fellow audiophiles maybe? Again, not likely unless there is some beneficial tax loophole regarding the 2nd option. Consumer Reports researches a wide variety of product so has vastly broader appeal and a greater subscriber base. Another problem is that objective analysis can never override subjective appeal, how do you deal with that? It can NEVER be like Consumer Reports for that reason alone. Remember Audio Magazine and Stereo Review? Everything was pretty much based on measurements and a brief comment or two about how components sounded, which was generally "good".
Schubert while you're at it why don't you just ask Kr4 what his average "take" is since he is a reviewer. While I agree that there are industries in this country where there are serious issues with corruption and greed that may affect peoples' lives in a profound manner, hi-end audio rags, reviewers and the industry as a whole are not even on the radar. Besides, it is a luxury expenditure. If one feels the reviewers or magazines are dishonest it is easy enough to choose to not subscribe.
good points. It seems we agree (at least i think we do) --- that the context for professional review of audio equipment whereby the review would be of value (not biased, not absolute but relativistic, etc) simply does not exist and likely cannot exist.
i like your Consumer Reports idea... but, like you, such is not likely.
So... again, audio review websites, magazines, etc. --- they are pretty pictures and, essentially... nothing else.
Actually it did exist and was an alternative to the mainstream audio magazines of the day. When JG Holt established "The Stereophile" in the early 60's it was to describe the subjective sonic characteristics of audio components, a first of its kind. It was a different approach in that the magazine didn't accept any advertisements unlike the other audio magazines of the day. There was a problem, it relied totally on a subscription base with no advertising. Of course from a business model perspective it meant that folks would have to pay more than the other magazines that accepted advertising. The value to the reader that the information provided would be ideally unbiased and uncumbered by the pressure from advertisers. It would provide what the reviewer heard (JG Holt) as well as measurements and how the two might correlate. The problem is the over the years, the magazine was never published on a timely basis which gave rise to another publication in the early 70's, The Absolute Sound with the same idea but a more timely publishing schedule.
Both of these magazines have evolved over the years and in order to stay viable and become profitable (a novel idea wouldn't you say?) decided to accept advertisements. It is tempting to be cynical when there is a conflict at play namely, is the magazine always being totally objective in describing subjective preferences and differences in components? I feel for the most part they do. Are they pressured by manufacturers' for good reviews of their products with the risk of losing advertising if not positive? I suspect that happens too. It isn't a perfect world and maintaing a viable business in a constantly changing business environment is not always easy. While there has been an evolution of both of these magazines most particularly Stereophile when Larry Archibald sold it to a larger publishing concern, I'm sure other pressures on the Editor/Publisher came into play. We as readers can't know these details but we can only rely on our own senses and experience when reading reviews.
There are numerous e magazines to read and there is a wealth of information, more than ever before, for audiophiles to gather data in order to make sound purchasing decisions. But yes, I agree, virtually any consumer interest magazine that accepts advertising yet reviews products can be viewed as nothing more than entertainment and "pretty pictures".
Why is everything always "in decline"? Why is there constantly a "conspiracy"? BTW I am using quotation marks to be extra annoying. I look at the choice in high quality gear at various price points, a wide multitude of musical formats, and the wide embracing of various and often contradictory forms of technology and, well, I see a bit of a golden age. Maybe I am being naive or pollyanna-ish, but I can read reviews for fun with a grain of salt. I doubt there is corruption per se, more like occasionally misguided enthusiasm?
If one just looks at reviews as a jumping off point and do their due diligence (homework, footwork, inquiries) and stop relying on others to gift them the answer to their prayers, than all would be well in the world.
We've become a spoon fed country and rarely look beyond what's told us. Critical thinking seems to be in short supply these days.
All the best,
"Why is everything always "in decline"? Why is there constantly a "conspiracy"?"
That's a good question. I know for sure that I am in gradual decline getting older and we all are in that same boat as far as I know. I think its just perhaps wanting the rest of the world to go with us as the ship goes down..... :^)
That gradual decline you speak of seems to me to be just a generational thing, in that different values and expectations are the norm now instead of the exception.
When that ship goes down, we're taking an irreplaceable part of that culture with us, leaving those who follow with, hopefully, a decent map to go by.
All the best,
If one just looks at reviews as a jumping off point and do their due diligence (homework, footwork, inquiries) and stop relying on others to gift them the answer to their prayers, than all would be well in the world.
Couldn't agree more. To many people fall into the trap of believing that a review from a "consumer" supported review is somehow free of not only the manufacturers advertising bias but the reviewers bias and prejudices as well. Reviews of either type are the starting point, not the end point in deciding on a purchase.
Tubegroover,Jond and Nonoise, nice points and well said.This knee jerk everything is corrupt or some corporate conspiracy is lame.Too much NPR and NY Times type pablum.I`m glad there`s a High End market available and I can choose to buy and spend what I want with my money.How long before this choice is regulated and taken away?
The HiFi industry is in decline and HiFi reviewers are always positive. I would'nt argue with either statement, it does'nt mean the one follows the other.
I read some of the magazines, particularly HiFi+, because it is at least literate and an interesting. I agree with Charyo though, anyone buying kit on the basis of a magazine review, needs there heads examining and by the way, I have a great investment opportunity, building a railway through the Amazon jungle, just send me a PM. I read some of the magazines because I am interested in HiFi and it keeps me abreast of what new kit and technologies are becoming available, nothing more. I think that is true of 99.9% of other Stereophile/ Absolute sounds, etc, readers. I do'nt feel I need protecting from my own gullibility.
I agree there is a lot to be desired with the quality of reporting nowadays but the biggest threat is what passes for journalism and is simply propaganda. If you were to check the W-2s of most of the loud mouths out there you'd find "entertainer" as the most common occupation, not journalist. They are just highly paid cheerleaders and propagandist (which is still illegal but never enforced) . Great journalism is out there, in abundance. One just has to read and critically assess.
All rely on corporate handouts as well as advertising revenue and public donations. They're all prisoners to those whose interests are not the same as yours.
That's not to say that the entirety of their output is compromised: far from it. They're just reminded now and then as to just how far they can go before a story is quashed. You can find some great reporting along with the usual pablum from the VSPs (Very Serious People) who haven't a clue as to what is the matter but pontificate like a deranged pastor.
All the best,
Always amusing to see non-researchers and non-journalists critiquing trade and hobby publications...
The trades and hobby pubs are a business. They make their money selling advertising; singleton copies at the newsstand or online; and subscriptions (both hard copy and online). Content usually consists of either: industry news; trends; techniques; profiles; or reviews.
Typically, critical reviews are within editorial policy when the item receiving coverage is external to the central or "core focus" subject matter of the publication. The Chicago Sun Times, for example, is not primarily focused on (or supported by) the entertainment or hospitality industries. Its on-staff reviewers are thus permitted to submit critical reviews about movies, restaurants, music products, and the like. Likewise, "music products" are not the core focus at Stereophile. As trends have shown, Stereophile has no problem critically reviewing album releases. Shootout format reviews of Expensive Cables, not so much... :-)
Speaking of which, when the reviewed item does apply to the publication's core focus, then products given review coverage will typically be presented in a positive light and in a neutral tone. Negative coverage is usually only done in instances where the reviewed item does something egregious. Otherwise, a "negative review" is denoted via non-coverage. Simply put, stuff that's mediocre or outright sucks doesn't warrant column inches except in unusual or extreme cases. More often than not, reviews are more about finding "hidden gems" (e.g., Sam Tellig's review of the LFD integrated) than it is about "bashing". At the same time, bashing or a "reality check" does happen on occasion (e.g. the recent Totem Forest "C" rating in Stereophile).
A good analogy to the editorial policy at HiFi magazines would be reviews found in Photography Equipment Hobbyist publications. These magazines generate most of their income from photo equipment manufacturers and dealers buying advertising. Products that are given coverage in featured reviews are presented in a positive light almost without exception. Again, stuff that's crud, with rare exception, simply doesn't warrant coverage.
Also, Breitling is a privately held company and as such doesn't release exact unit sales figures. So, how exactly was the Breitling earnings factoid determined?
That, and I highly doubt the comment that a car reviewer earns $180K a year for published reviews. $180K is about what a Managing Editor gets at a nationally distributed monthly. Please feel free to correct me, but more than likely, your neighbor is paid $3000.00 for a published assignment, with each assignment containing ~5 reviews. This would yield an annual salary of $36,000, which is much more in line with current market rates for Staff Writers. Two assignments a month bumps that up to $72,000 a year, which is consistent with current market rates for Senior Writers. (Again, please feel free to correct me).
Disclosure: I have 20+ years working as a staff & freelance journalist. I've been nationally published and have sold over 150 assignments in 19 markets. These days, my primary income source is working as an IT consultant, where I earn my keep conducting Human Factors & Marketing Research. A substantial part of the job entails authoring deliverable reports and presentations.
if hifi is in decline, it means that a quality audio system assembled today is inferior to some other quality audio system from years past. is there any evidence of this.
although i prefer my stacked esl-based syste from the 60's over any of today's systems (no digital then), i wouldn't assert that hifi is in decline, as there would be some system preferred by some audiophiles in comparison to the quad-based system.
so, i see no evidence in the decline of hifi.
i think the introduction of digital in the 80's, created problems, but , if your system is analog based, there should be no problem.
one could make the case that an audio system consisting of high quality analog tapes creates the highest quality of sound, in which case ,if you subscribe to such a hypothesis, one would need to acquire tapes and a tape deck to attain the best sound.
the point is speakers, amps, preamps, and cables are as good as those from the past, which isconsistent with my listening experiences. although i prefer stacked quad esls, it is a preference, and would not say definitively that the original quad is the best speaker ever made.
"(Again, please feel free to correct me)."
Who would be tempted to try! I enjoyed and learned a thing or two from your most comprehensive input, a good thing. It is refreshing to hear from someone with a broader knowledge and insider view of the subject as a whole to put things into a more balanced perspective. So much for those VSPs, eh Nonoise?
First of all I am glad this thread has provoked a response. I very much agree with Robskers ideal.
I used Breitling as an example of luxury product, that to all intents and purposes is completely and utterly irrelevant to the end user, yet attracts a lot of money. Hifi, let alone the high end, is very much perceived, outside HiFi circles as utterly pointless. Yet we have a watch company that thrives and takes money from the type of people that can afford to buy, and ought to be attracted to hi-fi. I used the Breitling example having read an article at the back of HiFi News.
As to the demise of HiFi - let's face it - 'it's hifi but not as we know it'. You don't have the hifi stores packed to the rafters on Tottenham Court Road anymore. It does not attract the mainstream expenditure as a proportion of our income as it once did. In the past most people did not have a Sony Walkmen, and listened to music on a hifi at home. Now the truth is that the majority of people regrettably never listen to music other than through white ear buds, and the closest thing to bass is from their car boot.
HiFi has, by the year, and I've seen it in the last 10 years become more and more of a specialist and marginalised hobby made of small boutique brands. As this continues the products become more and more expensive. Take for example the Vendetta Research phono stage - it was a high end product, and can probably beat the vasst majority of todays phono stages. Index linked, whilst it will not be cheap, it certainly will not cost you the ridiculous sums that some top end phono stages do currently.
If you do pick up an older copy of HiFi News and read a review by MArtin Colloms for instance, he was not scared to be genuinely critical of a product, and likewise clearly explain his position. His magazine called HiFi Critic is much the same in that regard.
Manufacturers, understandably love what they make, but you can't send a product to a magazine, pay the magazine to review a product, and then also expect an uncritical review. It's a ludicrous set up. There is one on-line magazine that won't say boo to a goose, and says everything is the best thing the reviewer has ever heard.
A reviewers job is to provide a critique, a comparison, and relate it to the reader.
Some reviewers start of very well like Roy Gregory did in the early years of HiFi plus, but as time went on, he had to ward off and respond to several letters about his bias in favour of Audiofreaks imported items. Worse still in the reviewers system edition, I have a funny feeling that he had quite a few items from Audiofreaks in it. The list just keeps going on. Alvin Gold in the late 80's and early 90's was never scared of criticizing Linn products for instance - in particular the halo wearing LP12.
Compare this to Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear crew. They may well be 3 middle aged twits, but they can relate products/cars to the buying market. Likewise they have absolutely no fear in actually being openly critical of a product.
Hi-fi is slowly turning into a cottage industry, and this is due to the fact it is simply not attracting customers. Another thing - the 1970's was the 'Golden Age' of hifi - paradoxically it was the time when luxury watches were doing their worst ever as the cheap Timex LCD watches were the thing to buy. Fast forward to now...
Whilst your experience is doubtless courant, it is, nevertheless, descriptive of magazine and journalistic practices to run as a viable business. It explains to some degree why magazines publish what they do, and why - (I say to some degree, because I am sure that there are several other factors that would perhaps take too long to describe).
However, magazines have also been influential over time - such as the storage of vehicles post manufacture that Top Gear highlighted, or fashion magazines such as Vogue that have criticized working practices in clothes manufacture in the developing world.