No, your not missing anything. You are dead right! Speaker/amp/room combo is the most important and can make or break a system.
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Yep, but it isn't practical to have several pairs of speakers with the same room acoustics - esecially when dealing with 200+ lb speakers.
But then you can go farther and dispute the fact that an amp review should be tried with several preamps, several sources, several cables, several rooms, and several reviewers. So then, do they really need to try out more than one pair of speakers? haha
My simple answer is that I read magazine reviews for entertainment. If I really want to know how something sounds, I buy it and try it in my own system. That's the best kind of answer for me.
The three responses above confront the issue well. Audio products are designed and voiced with a system of specific components. Assessing any piece of electronics or transducer without realizing the importance of system matching, I find not only unfair, but unproductive.
I have read threads from very knowledgeable 'philes making what they term "true comparisons" of items (from cartridges to amps to speakers), by vitrue of inserting component B into "identical system" of component A. Otherwise stated, amp A vs. amp B in a system which amp A performs well in. Findings may prove amp B lacks some refinement or musicality and susequently, is deemed an inferior product.
Paraphrasing Aball, any and all products may improve or worsen within the company of strangers. That is why I continue to extract the utmost from the system I own, tweaking until no more red can be squeezed from the turnip.
Well -- all the reviewers I know buy their own gear, plus many of them are married and their spouses may not like to see three pairs of different types of speakers in the listening room.
Personally, I have two 2-channel systems set up in two different rooms with different components and when I think there may be an equipment bias issue, I sometimes put the review component into each system to see how the results compare. Not all reviewers have that luxury, however.
As Aball notes, there are just too many combinations of components, wires, and speakers for any reviewer to try them all. We do the best we can with the gear that is available to us.
And I notice that Aball himself has done three amp reviews here, for Audiogon, and it appears that he used those amps with only one set of speakers. Whadayaknow!
I would agree somewhat. Using one set of speakers that you are familiar with will enable you to discern differences in amplifiers more readily. Especially if the speakers have a quality of being revealing - such as the Thiels - and are considered to be at the upper end of the spectrum.
A reviewer is trying to give a reading on only the amplifier; to attempt a comparison to other amplifiers (FWIW). Whether an amp is of lower or higher quality, it's characteristics will be evident thru a good pair of speakers - then you can assess the reviewer's comments and the amp's measurements as to how it may pertain to your system. After all, if you buy the amp, the final determination as to whether to keep it will be on the basis of how it sounds in your system and not the reviewer's comments (hopefully).
I would also say that if an amp "sounds terrible" with other speakers: is it the fault of the amp or the speakers?
Gs5556 makes some good points. I have one of my systems set up to be as revealing as possible for testing electronics. You really need a linear, low-distortion, wide-range system to hear what electronic components are doing (or not doing). I mean, you can't comment on dynamic contrasts if your system is dynamically constricted, and you can't comment on bass quality or treble quality if your system does not have adequate resolution at the frequency extremes, and so forth.
Lots of folks don't even know what their amps really sound like because there are so many other limiting factors in their chain of components...
Well they'd have to try the amp with several speakers, different room sizes, different preamps, different interconnects, different recordings, different racks they sit on, etc.
At some point you just have to take reviews as guidance. That's why you should listen for yourself before you buy.
As my system evolved, I noticed that my equipment may have different synergy but still seems to have the same characteristics no matter what you match it with.
An even more annoying habit in HiFi Plus, is to occasionally not list partnering equipment at all. You really don't know where you are then. I am sure we only use reviews as a guide to audition, but I have to admit to second hand unauditioned purchases on the basis of reviews. I am sure I deserve all the trouble I should get, but so far, I have'nt had any, just dumb luck I suppose. Seriously it is sometimes worth the risk second hand, as you can sell without too much loss.
To return to amp reviews and speakers, most reviewers keep a few speakers to hand, the problem comes in swapping the 200lb behomoths needed to test out the big SS monoblocks. Should we expect reviewers to suffer injury on our behalf? Why not, its a pretty good life otherwise.. Personally, I use low power amps(Viva Solista 18 Watts and Lavardin IT 50watts), I am interested in just how inefficient a speaker they can drive. Something you often can't glean from a review.