++++StereoPhile Class A components+++++

Any of you guys who have listened to more components than I have, or maybe anyone who has been in the industry: I see a lot of posts mentioning "stereophile class A " etc, so I assume this recommendation carries a lot of weight. (After purchasing my Audio PHysic Virgo II's, I saw that they were class A in stereophile, so I felt like I agreed with what they were saying.) Are the reviews completely independent? With the vast array of components out there, can they really cover all of them? Do you guys really agree with the class A and B thing? Thanks for the perspective....Mark
NO, i don't agree with most of what their ratings have to say and / or how equipment is ranked. Having said that, i'm waiting for Musical Fidelity to start making speakers. After all, why wouldn't they ? We already know that they would surely warrant a "Class A" rating, even if they broke within the first 24 hours of operation. Sean
Hi Mark,

Use the Stereophile ratings as a guide....not as an absolute. Also be aware that they only rank items they have reviewed in the present incarnation. They also drop from the list after some time has passed since the review.

Reviewers have good and bad days just like us. Campanies that advertise (or do not) will get more or less attention, though Stereophile will deny that. Read the review, not just the class A or B rating.

Ask about equipment on this forum but again use it as a guide, not an absolute.

Good luck... and I agree the Virgo's are great speakers especially in their price range.
When you absolutely, positively have to know, then whenever possible go listen for yourself. There is some dreadful highly touted equipment out there.

A friend is always reading reviews to me and convinced something new is the hottest. Sometimes yes, sometimes definitely not. It's all a game.
About all that can truly be said for this "grading" system is that it is unlikely (not impossible) that a seriously flawed component would be given a "Class A" or "B" ranking. BUT: This is really saying extremely little, because the distinctions being made by audiophiles at this level are not about gross questions of competence, they are about relatively slight matters of personal preference and system synergy. With luck, a reader can basically hope to, over time, gain enough familiarity with any reviewer's preferences and language to estimate a degree of trust in respect to that reviewer's opinions having even a somewhat predictable correlation with their own perceptions and preferences, something made wildly difficult from square one just by virture of the fact that there exist limitless system variations within our crucially system-dependent world. But the letter grading system, inherently flawed from the start, has only become more and more meaningless as the years have gone by and the top-rated components have seemingly exponentially multiplied.

Are the reviews and reviewers completely independent? Technically, probably yes - the reviews and reviewers are not operating on a strictly predetermined basis like professional wrestling, or forcibly coerced into their conclusions. But that is not the same as being able to say the deck is not loaded, or that the reviews should be seen as always authoritative. It's called "subjective reviewing" for a reason, and that's the way (highly subjective) most audiophiles seem to prefer it. The opinions rendered in conventional high end reviewing, while their authors may feel they are honestly reflective of what they heard, typically leave so many uncontrolled and dependent variables, fail to to achieve any semblence of comprehensive comparision, are so vulnerable to unconscious bias, are so potentially compromised in integrity by manufacturer influence and benevolence, and are so formulaic in their means of operation and communication, that even with the purest of reviewer intentions - and accounting for the aforementioned overriding factors of listener personal preference and infinite system variability - most cannot be looked at as carrying much more than benign curiousity and entertainment value at best (with the more worthwhile ones maybe throwing in a bit of technical or historical educational value).

This is mostly all OK for the sophisticated reader - especially since in truth any notions of 'real objectivity' are actually unattainable even as theoretical ideals (and furthermore would be fundamentally irrelevent) anyway. But for the novice review reader, you will very likely be swayed by what the 'pros' write, so you can only hope that it will prove to be in the generally correct (for you) direction.
Class "A" for electronic components - is not a rating - it means that equpment operates only in linear mode with the least distortion, Class "AB" and Class "C" are much more efficient and don't cause as much heat but generate crossover or switching noise added to the signal.
Just my 5 cents.
Once upon a time, Stereophile reviewed the Wilson Witt speaker, gave it a "high" Class B rating. Wilson reacted like a little girl, personally set up the speakers at the editor's room, and lo and behold, they were reconsidered as Class A. That did it for me. Of course, a new $8,000 speaker that received a Class B rating was the kiss of death, considering the Audio Physic Virgo was Class A - can't tell those apart from Sound-Lab A-1's, can you? (sarcasm, not a knock on AP) - at half the price.

So, to me, if two editors disagree on a Class A, which is supposed to be a rating that is clear and unambiguous as far as sound goes, then it's not Class A - even by THEIR standard. How can anyone expect to take the reviewer seriously if the editor over rules him? No, I do not take those ratings seriously anymore. But I did when the magazine was the size of a paperback - even though it rated my Thiel 3.6's as Class B, which was an honest rating with respect to the kilobuck speakers available. Nowadays it seems anything held down by gravity qualifies for Class A.
Zaikesman, I am impressed with your command of language. It is almost "Ciceronian" in style. I love it! For my own personal edification, tell me if you have a background in English and/or Latin.
What does this have to do with audio? NIHIL! But what the heck! I am curious. Today, such prose is rare.

..."Reviewers have good and bad days just like us."(Johnj)..

I would have to disagree with this statment! Reviewers, if you read their reviews, have products for review for WEEKS, EVEN MONTHS!!!...not a day! And they all have reference systems whith which to make competent comparisons, and know EXACLTY WHAT A PRODUCT IS LIKELY CAPABLE OF! I would never buy that a review just simply got it wrong with all their experience! But I can understand "selling soap" and or "incentives"!...as a business man myself.
Perspective is always good while reading reviews in magazines, respected or not. So that in mind, it's always good to keep the perspective that "the mighty dollar" is where the people running the magazine's perspective is!...and probably most anyone else who's in business..duh!
Since it's just a dumb catagory-thing in the end, who's to say what's what!?! YOu read it for entertainment, and don't take it like it's "God's spoken word!"
I can indeed whole heartedly concure that there's been a ton of misplaced items in the ratings list that Stereophile puts up and, for that matter, the ratings that HT magazine posts! (Hint, notice that Def Tech's get rated as state of the art in every way all the time!...then see all the ad's for Def Tech in the same magazine!!!) ...Hey, I wonder if Sadam Hussein was a manufacture of audio gear, would his gear ever have gotten a Class B rating from his own country man's magazines...?! Hummmmm...maybe different incentives there, ey?
Never the less, It's safe to say that we audiophiles have a right to make a fuss about anything we want in our great hobby. We can do what we want in our forums, with our gear, and all associated mediums. But then again, another perspective is that audiophiles in general tend to be the most critical and picky people alive! So if we want to gripe about our fav gear not getting recognition, then fine. And if we want to complain, because we trusted the mag we give our money to to "tell it like it is", and they let us down when the product get's home, because we are IN A HURRY to have the end-all or best audio gear possible for our money, then fine! It's a free country where I live anyway!...and we can excercise our oppinions(thank God) accordingly.
Still, if anyone thinks that there are absolutes with people, other than that PEOPLE HAVE AGENDAS, and it's money that makes the world go around in the business world, then it's time to reconsider! Patience, time, trial and error, diligence, and a little knowledge and application can go a long way in achieving anything mostly! It's not so different if someone's trying to put together a truely fine audio system either...you're just not going to get it by simply reading a review or some ratings, or doing this stuff for a few day's out of your life! It's all good though...
All I can say is that I do not agree with the S-Phile in many ways.I think they show favoritism to some and then are not fair with others,Kind of like mood swings.I have seen them almost or did distroy the company that made my speakers with out due process after the designer asked to come out to see what was wrong .They went ahead and bashed the Co. after that.
My cousin went by their review of Phillips CD player in the late 80's then tested Sony against it and found their opinion did not hold up with fact,He sold all his mags and never looked back.
People should judge for themselves vased on their own experience and how things work in their system.
In the end your the one who should judge not a mag.You'll get better results from this BB and AA's then any mag I believe.

BTW my speaker Co, was hailed by everyone else besides S-Phile,but they are the leading Audio Mag on the planet so Cos. get squashed if they get a bad review if they are not firmly established and can take the weight of a bad review.
Zoya, that kind of 'Class A' or 'B' (operational class of an amplifier, an electrical engineering term not having anything to do with subjectively 'letter-grading' a component's sound in a review) is obviously not what the thread-head's question pertains to. Since so many have gotten these terms confused around here in the past, it's probably best not to go into that quagmire yet again here when it's not been put in play, or at least not without making the distinction explicitly clear...

Gs5556, I think you might agree that poor old Stereophile irrevocably blundered long ago, in putting their little heirarchy in harm's way right from the outset by employing the A, B, C, D, E designations for the rankings - thereby immediately reminding absolutely everybody of their grade-school report-card ratings, where the lower rankings signified unacceptable-to-below-average performance. They've been vainly fighting this perception ever since, trying to remind us with each "Recommended Components" issue that ALL the rankings qualify as recommendations - just ones of varying degrees and qualifications. Natch, the manufacturers picked up on the audiophile public's casual inference about anything less than an "A" as a 'grade' for an expensive piece of audio gear, and combined with the magazine's hypocritical policy of runaway grade inflation and grading definitions which blatantly belie their application, the result has been as destructive to honesty and integrity as it was pathetically predictable...
My main objection to the Recommended List is that it does not really represent components believed by all the staff of the magazine (or even a majority) to be worthy of inclusion, but what a reviewer thinks should be tossed into a given category from what he reviewed. As a result, it is not a true comparative rating of these components. I believed that the staff got together at least and debated the merits of including or excluding any given component. The notion of dropping a component still in production because it has not been auditioned in a while is strange to me, even more so considering how the ratings are arrived at. The one thing to say in favour of Stereophile's ratings is that the price of the component is not the main yardstick by which components are rated like is the case in TAS. Then again, audiophiles will then proceed to make their own sub-categories, usually based on the price of the component. How many audiophiles would hold the position that, for example, Bryston 7B STs at $5,260 a pair are the equal of Boulder 2050s at $59,000 a pair or that Infinity Prelude MTS at $10,000 a pair are the equal of Dynaudio Evidence Temptations at $85,000 or that a pair of Paradigm Reference 100 v2s at $2,400 a pair are the equal of the Kharma Midi-Grand Ceramique 1.0 at $32,500 a pair. Each of these pairs of components are on the same step of the ladder. I could multiply the examples, but you get my drift. TAS, on the other hand, follows much more closely, the great audiophile myth that money correlates directly and almost always with sound quality; leaving aside the whole question of enjoyment. I'm simply too cheap to get much enjoyment out of buying a component costing 10 to 14 times the price of another component. Aside from snob appeal or the pride of ownership to put a more positive spin on this, the small differences in such components, hailed by the true believers as HUGE, simply are not worth it. How many concerts can you attend for the $75,000 difference between the Dynaudios and Infinitys? If money is no concern to you, you are truly blessed. Most other audiophiles have other preoccupations apart from canned music. The Stereophile list then becomes a wonderful instrument to sort out what your money can buy and what is deserving of a serious audition. Reviews of expensive equipment is great entertainment, but the bulk of what folks can buy, even if they are committed audiophiles, is to be found in more reasonably priced products. I always feel for the person (often enough the dealer who brought the product in his store to wow the customers) who is advertising a pair of $85 K speakers or $50 K mono blocks (now replaced in that manufacturers line by something that performs as well as the discontinued product for a MSRP half of the previous model) for an extended period at less than half the original asking price. When does reality enter the picture? The Stereophile list would be sorely missed if it disappeared. This can't stop all manner of criticism though. Bottom line, an audiophile is first and foremost a person who knows better, at least in his own mind, than other people. There are two types of fools: those who listen to the advice of everyone and those who listen to the advice of no one. Using the list, I normally tend to err on the side of the great principle of the conservation of one's capital. he fact that products at a decent price are to be found in Class A of hte list is all right with me.
It would be interesting to see a listing of all the components reviewed by S'phile that would qualify for the Recommend Components list (ie, reviewed in the last three years, etc.) that are not on the RC list. I would guess that it's not very many. Coupled with the grade inflation others have noted, the list seems basically useless except as an index to where you can find previous reviews.
Regardless of a component being on a "Recommended" list or given a "Class A" or "Class B" rating, does it work in your room? Does it match your system?

Most of the problems I see with friends and other audiophiles is that they are trying so hard to place highly regarded pieces of equipment into systems that do not benefit. Quite often I see people committed to speakers that are too big for their listening room or that they spend $1000's trying to find an amplifier that will drive them well.

One friend has a custom-made 11 wpc Class A tube amp that drives Tannoy dual-concentric 15" speakers from the 60's and his system sounds better than most $100,000 plus systems and he has ALL the power he needs.

The guideline should be: what works for you and your room, and you can only tell when you try it out and listen to it. The reviews help, but they should not be considered the final word.
First thing to remember about the S-pile RCL is that virtually everything they review makes the list. In other words, it is a list of what the magazine chooses to review for whatever reason--and remember that this decision is made BEFORE the product is reviewed.

For another take, see:

You get better advices here in this Audiogon Forum than any other magazines out there......

I mean advices from audiophiles with no business interest......
Hey Jeff - Thanks for the kind words. I actually make myself wince when I read that stuff I tend to write late at night. It's impenetrable and pretentious by the light of day. I guess I do it because doing it entertains me, but I don't like reading it myself, and so shouldn't write that way out of consideration for others.

Anyway, to answer your questions, no and no. I'm not even a college grad, and didn't study language or writing beyond the 101 level when I was there. If I had, I probably wouldn't write as densely as I do, finding some more elegant and economical way of getting my points across. I'm considering keeping a copy of Strunk & White next to my computer and slapping myself with it every time I compose a run-on sentence or haul out a $2 word when a ten-center would've done the job just as well. I appreciate your reminding me of this by making me blush in public; good writing isn't supposed to call attention to the writer at the expense of clear communication. Still, I'm glad to know that not everyone shares my opinion of my bleary-eyed blather's insufferability. Happy listening, Zaikesman.
I use the guides in S'phile, and Ab Sound, etc as an informal guide if I am looking for something. A place to form some ideas of where to begin. Then I have to see if any dealers in my area (100 miles) carry the equipment. What do others say about it on the internet. How long has the equipment manufacturer been around. What else have they made that has been heralded as 'good'.
Some equipment manufacturers seem to not want their stuff reviewed, and consideration of those items is more complicated. (and if there are only four dealers in the U.S. and the stuff is made in Paraguay by a new company founded by an eccentric Tibetian monk I never heard of... it may fall off my short list of stuff to look for...)
the recomendations of the traditional mags have less to do with music than ever before...they're kind of like playboy...great pictures...mediocre commentary.

What is wrong with "stuff that is made in "Paraguay" by a new company founded by an eccentric Tibetian monk You never heard..." "Tibetian" monk haven't heard of you either!

Here's my problem with the ratings: "Editor's Note: Class A Loudspeakers are sufficiently idiosyncratic and differ enough from one another that prospective customers should read Stereophile's original reviews in their entirety for descriptions of the sounds."

What does this tell you? The reviewers don't know what speakers are supposed to do. As one reviewer who does know what he's talking about said: "There is something on the recording. Reproducing it correctly can produce only one result. This "different perspective" is a way for audiophile reviewers to conceal the obvious fact(just compare Stereophile's measurements to the reviewers
comments) that audiophile reviewers mostly have no clue as to what things ought to sound like."

To my mind, first class speakers shouldnt make sounds of their own. I'm fairly easy with respect to speakers, I think. There are a few that I think sound ok at their price points, some I think sound very good. But there have been some Class A rated speakers that are unlistenable.

Ultimately, the rating system is worthless, except in generating demand for the products.
Read Audiogon not Stereophile!
Stereophile's rating system is helpful in shortening your list of equipment to audition. I have noticed (along with everyone else) some class rating "expansion". A few (okay, maybe it is several) of the Class A rated items would have been Class B a few years ago. When you are spending the big bucks, hopefully most people will have a tendency to listen to the equipment and decide for themselves.
Paulwp: That's a great observation you've made. While i never really paid attention to that in Stereophile, i have used a similar line of thought on various salespeople at Best Buy regarding Blose products. For instance, i'll ask them if they think that Blose products are built to sound "as accurate as possible" or if they have "a family sound that the designers think is musical". While they usually look at me as if i'm from Mars, they can finally understand what i mean after further explanation. Once we've reached that point, i then get them to listen to each of the different Blose products side by side, one after another. Their displays allow one to do this at the push of a button. In case you've never done this, each model sounds markedly different from one another.

Once they have been "shown the light" and see what i'm talking about first hand, they can then FULLY understand what i was getting at. One model is no more "accurate" than the other, nor do they have a familiar sound from one model to the next. They all sound like junk in different ways and are selling based on hype and reputation only. Once the salespeople realize these facts, they may have a harder time peddling this type of "low-fi" garbage. That is, if they have a conscience....

It's just part of the war on "audio junk" that i wage while working undercover as a plain-clothed civilian. At the same time, it is a small step towards helping to educate someone that is in a position to educate someone else. I'm hoping for the trickle-down effect : ) Sean
Mmowry: How could the R.C. list help anyone in "...shortening your list of equipment to audition"?

>Fact: Stereophile 'recommends' virtually every piece of gear they review.

>Fact: Stereophile can only review a fraction of the gear made.

>Fact: Among what they do review, they can only do extremely little head-to-head comparing.

>Fact: Even if a piece you're interested in does get reviewed - be it positively or negatively (and as we all know, it's almost never the latter) - the review cannot possibly tell you anything about what *you* will think of its sound in *your* system.

The only way I can see that a magazine review could rule out auditioning a piece of gear is simply by providing some of the same sort of general information about a component's operation and configuration that is usually available on the manufacturer's website, or maybe if you dislike the results of certain lab measurements (though this can be debatable without gathering correlative sonic evidence, i.e. auditioning). But as far as sound goes, at best a review can only be looked at as being one piece of information that you can add to whatever else you're able to glean about a component's reputation before auditioning it. Maybe reviews can be helpful in identifying pieces of gear you'd be interested in auditioning, but I don't honestly think that mag reviews should be used to rule out auditioning anything (and the R.C. list and letter-grade ranking tell you even less than the review proper). For every time I've agreed with a reviewer's assessment, I've had differing opinions on enough gear over the years to know better. This is intrinsic to the pusuit of personal truth and taste, and is not an indictment of reviewing per se, but just a fact of life and a perfectly understandable one. IMO, we should take the mags for what they're worth and don't let anything they proclaim define our horizons without any corraborating evidence, preferrably from our own ears.
Paulwp: The real problem with the disclaimer that prefaces the "A"-rated speakers is that if Stereophile sees fit to include such there, and they were really being honest about it, then they should go ahead and include the same thing everywhere in the rankings. Which they won't do because it would in effect nullify the whole idea of capsule review summaries and catch-all letter grades - and quite rightly so, if they were intent on pretending that these are somehow authoritative. Obviously, the truth is that nothing should be taken as gospel without reading the original review - and then that shouldn't be taken as gospel! Whether the piece in question is a $30K pair of speakers or a $300 set of cables. Upshot: The "A"-rated speakers disclaimer is archaic and wrongheaded, and if they are going to persist with R.C. at all, then the disclaimer should be removed and capsule review summaries included, same as with any other type of gear. Stereophile greatly overestimates their own importance if they can kid themselves into seriously thinking that anyone would actually drop big bux on some speakers - or anything else - because of a blurb in R.C., so let's please drop the pretentious act of seeming so worried for us poor audiophiles' easy impressionability.

But your objection is, to me, essentially meaningless until the day arrives that someone can prove they've produced a perfect component. Barring that, saying that reviewers (and by extension, manufacturers) don't 'know' what gear is 'supposed' to do, because their only possible job is to identify (or produce) sonically flawless gear, is empty sophistry. Of course there is no such gear, and there never will be, but there will always be imperfection and questions of perception and preference, which is why there will always be an audience for subjective reviewing (even if you may not be among it). Criticizing and knowing the limitations of subjective reviewing is one thing, and we should all be cognizant about it, but promoting uselessly unrealistic expectations by way of condemning the whole enterprise is another, and one with which I cannot agree, even if a lot of 'professinal' reviewing is done in a disappointing way.
I wouldn't trust Steropiles "Ratings".
First, they haven't reviewed everything.
I've heard set-ups including the high-priced so-called Class"A" components, and they sound crappy. Very prestigious, but Crappy!
There are obviously Excellent products out there that deserve more attention, but Stereophile doesn't get them. Why?
I've heard from people in the business that it can cost a lot of money to get a Class "A" rating. There are excellent products that we read about here on Audiogon that have had good reviews elsewhere but NOT in Stereophile. The price was too high for the maufacturer to get a review there, so Sterophile doesn't get that component for review. That's why they are losing credibility in the industry.
You wrote: "I've heard from people in the business that it can cost a lot of money to get a Class "A" rating..... The price was too high for the maufacturer to get a review there, so Sterophile doesn't get that component for review."

Speaking as someone who has, in fact, recommended Class A for some components and not for others, this is an old canard for which no proof has ever been offered.
In so much as people's hearing differs--Their likes and dislikes--Their experience as listners differs--The rest of their equipment and the room--the amount of care in set-up,all differ. I doubt it would that difficult to substitute a class B product, within a given system, and get better sound than it had with the class A product it replaced.
Golden Ears, Kr4 presumably knows you have no proof of your claims because there is none that could be had, and I strongly suspect the same thing. So please tell us: Who exactly "in the industry" has purported to tell you what the going price is to 'buy' a Stereophile "Class A" ranking (something which, in your next sentence, you confuse with 'buying' any review at all)? And if there were such a quid pro quo, and it was so prohibitively exhorbitant as you imply, then how could you explain the proliferation of "Class A"-rated components over the past several years, even during lean times for segments of the industry? Or the occasional "B" or "C" rankings sometimes given to products made by financially healthy companies, who would have every incentive to simply pay up for the higher ranking if that were all it took? There are enough real pitfalls to criticize about the mag reviewing game without having to make up incredible and unsupported stories of massive corruption and blatant fraud. As I've written around here before, if that were all that was wrong with 'professional' reviewing the way it's commonly practiced, then fixing the situation would be a lot simpler than reality tells it to be.
good advertisers=good revues..its true in any industry where advertising is critical for one party and good copy is critical for the other........there is no santa claus....buy with your ears,not someone elses...especially whe its your money being spent,not theirs.
1) In addition to what jrd says, that would be good EXPENSIVE ads for good reviews. (in addition to other things)
2) Oh ya, and I'm not going to mention names, for the same reason that it is whispered in the industry; no one wants to commit suicide or get black-balled and lose their chance at a less expensive, possible Class 'B' or 'C' rating later. That's not a contradiction either. Eventually, even though it may scare the hell out them (and their bank account) a smaller company may well deal with the devil, just to get the attention.
3) The economy didn't hurt the big companies with the deep pockets and the expensive ads who always get great reviews and ratings. (not as much as it hurts the little guys who can't afford the...ahem...marketing)
4) I repeat the first ting I said, lest we get further side-tracked.......just because a really expensive product has a Class 'A' rating, it does not mean it is the best. There are a lot of products out there that sound a lot better for far less money. Buy with your ears, not your eyes!
You wrote: "good advertisers=good revues."

Again, if you have any proof that there is such a quid pro quo relationship, please let us know. I am not asking for anecdotes or any simple statistical study, just an agreement in writing or a verbal one to which one of the two primary parties will attest.

As a reviewer, I have no idea who advertises nor do I care.
Zaikesman - sorry for the delay in responding to your post. I was merely responding to how I use Stereophile's recommended components list. There are other factors that influence my buying decisions, but I do use Stereophile's recommended components to help shorten the list of components I audition. Pretty much every piece of equipment I own is or has been included in their recommended components list at some point over the past ten years or so. I would be in serious denial if I did not admit that Stereophile has influenced my buying decisions (fortunately, I feel positively). I even happen to own a couple of components recommended by Sam Tellig. You know, the guy who is in Musical Fidelity's back pocket. Or, is he the devil? I cannot seem to keep the two straight.

Happy Easter, everyone.
Golden_ears, it is not my intent to minimize or deny the insidiously cozy nature of the mag/manufacturer relationship, but to paraphrase the late Dave Thomas, the beef is still missing from the particular burger you're asking us to swallow. I do use my ears - and my eyes - which tell me you've got nothing but a lot of hot air to offer here. I suggest that you use your common sense - or is the next thing you'll be telling us that the UN and the 'Trilateral Commission' are brokering Stereophile's review deals? Armchair conspiracy-theorizing is a cheap commodity, but your brand of evidence-free insinuation just makes reasonable concerns about the review mill and its real effects on marketing in the high end industry that much easier for the main players to dismiss with a wink and a nudge.
Sorry, it was not my companies that were involved, and I'm not at liberty to name them and get them in trouble by giving details.
If there are reviewers on this site and people claiming to be reviewers, they should be fully identifying themselves and who they work for in their bios.

Back to the point (again), Mythtrip's questions, including, "Are the reviews completely independent?"
Answer: No. All reviews are subject to editing by someone higher up in the chain.....for whatever reason.
As long as we have at least one member of Stereophile reading this... : )

I have more respect for a few specific reviewers than i do for others. Some are more willing to divulge information than others. Having said that, most of that information has to be garnered via CAREFUL discernment. To those writers / reviewers, i say THANK YOU for at least trying to "sneak" the truth out. I have to believe that walking the tightrope that's suspended between the manufacturer and consumer requires more than just a little balance. This is not to mention making the Editor happy at the same time.

As to a question that i have, it seems as if more and more gear that is sent in for review is defective or breaks down during the review period. While my thoughts about this may be different since they are based on the fact that i work in the electronics repair / modification industry, why doesn't product reliability / QA ( Quality Assurance ) carry more weight in the ranking of a product ?

Quite honestly, a product that can't hold up to normal shipping and is damaged in transport is either poorly designed, poorly built or not very well packed, etc... With the money that we pay for these products and the profit margins involved, i would think that manufacturers could afford a little more foam and / or an extra box just to make sure things aren't "beaten to death" in transit.

Besides that, a product that fails during normal use, especially more than once in a review or warranty period, is a faulty design as far as i'm concerned. With the lethal voltages inside some tube based gear, safety now becomes a far greater issue here.

On top of that, I find it rather "difficult" to believe that a reviewer would write such a glowing review about a product IF they had to step through the same "flaming hoops" that most consumers deal with when equipment failure arises. After all, having to cover shipping expenses and the "down-time" incurred during such situations can be a REAL damper on your opinion of a product. On top of that, putting the reviewer through the "hassle" of having to deal with such a situation might make for a more realistic assessment of "customer service" from some of these manufacturers also.

As such, have you folks given any thought to this ? If so, what are your plans for future reviews where such a situation is encountered ? Please remember than not all end users have a dealer within walking distance, nor do all dealers supply loaners, etc... In some cases, the dealer wants nothing to do with warranty claims as it is up to the manufacturer to stand behind their product. Sean
Good point Sean.
I've seen such reviews, where the designer actually went to the reviewer's house to repair, or -ahem- "upgrade" the component to a "higher" level.
Actually, if a player breaks down more than once on the reviewer, (or if it is not a good product) there are two opinions on what should happen:
- terminate the review process and send the designer back to the drawing board
- publish the results....but that would kinda' mean. It could kill a company off and effectively prohibit him from correcting the problem and having a good shot at making a living from selling a better quality product later.
It's not really a magazine's job to kill somebody, just to tell us if a product is worth auditioning. (even though we would really like to be warned)
I think you guys are missing some rather huge points with the Stereopile or other professional reviewers worth: Many of them have credentials which let one appreciate that they do in fact know what a particular track should sound like, as they where either in the studio behind the mastering board or even playing an instrument on their demo material used to review new gear with. I respect the reviewers with these credentials more then I do any Joe Blow who comes to this or any other audio site with their prep-school vocabulary and fat bank accounts from their silver spoon background, which can fool themselves and others into believing that they are somehow in the know. A further fact is that pro reviewers get to play with more gear in a month that even neurotic audiophiles will play with in a year, if not their lifetimes for most. We need "experts," without these professionals there would be nothing but subjective and ego driven conjecture (some of which we see here above), there probably wouldn't even be a hobby as the average audiophile just doen't have the time, money or energy to do for themselves what pro reviewers do for them. I'm not saying one should take the reviews as gospel, nor should one disregard personal tastes for "correctness" or a neutral presentation, but to brush off the worth of pro reviews and rakings is pretty short sighted, me thinks....
Socrates, some "pro" reviewers know what they write about, some don't. Just sticking with Stereophile, John Atkinson, for example, certainly knows his subject. Others are "pros" only because they are fun to read and somehow someone has paid them for what they have written, not because they have any relevant knowledge. There are more and more of these guys now, especially with the ezines.

Stereophile has in the last few years adopted an unfortunately misleading editorial policy with regard to its recommended list. They used to say that a recommendation required measurements or at least full reviews. Recently they have said that the recommendation of two writers is sufficient, and yet they include components in the recommended list that only "Sam Tellig" has reviewed. Even if you add someone else who has heard and recommends these components, all you add is another incompetent opinion. Why do I say that? Well, I am reminded every April and October of what he said in his review of the Kimber Silver Streak interconnect: "It's secret? Only the signal-carrying portion of the braid is silver - the returns are copper." If Kimber figured out how to get the signal to behave in that fashion, that is certainly still a secret.
Golden_ears wrote: "Actually, if a player breaks down more than once on the reviewer, (or if it is not a good product) there are two opinions on what should happen: - terminate the review process and send the designer back to the drawing board - publish the results....but that would kinda' mean."

You do not state which opinion is yours but the latter is Stereophile's policy. All failures, adjustments, returns and replacements are to be fully reported. Termination of the review process would deprive the reader of that valuable information. Don't you agree?
I have to agree with Kal, Sean - Stereophile has bored me to tears many times, as they must do on such occasions, with their detailed accounts of equipment failure and what it took to repair/circumvent the situation. Obviously, there's no way for the reader to know for sure that all of the reported incidents equal all the actual incidents, but given the extent of what's been printed in the mag through the years, there's really no reason for anyone to doubt that they're reporting everything worth mentioning.

As far as the manufacturer personally coming to a reviewer's home to make a fix - or to provide the even more common rendering of set-up assistance - you can legitimately argue those questions both ways, but I can understand the magazine's affirmative policy on this activity as a practical matter, and again, the evidence would seem to indicate that they always disclose such assistance to the reader. But: Does this practice run the risk of unduly influencing the reviewer's opinions (for either better or worse)? I think it certainly can, or at the very least it raises questions of appearances. The most effective way around that issue would probably be the termination of the whole manufacturer gear loan policy - something which could carry many advantages in theory, but which in practice the mags have always claimed they can't afford to do. Whether or not one believes that this claim always rings true - what with the advent of Audiogon among other factors - is another topic.

However, I have a very hard time understanding Stereophile's and the others' condoning of the practice of manufacturers wining and dining reviewers, separate checks or no, you-pay-this-time I-pay-next-time included. It's already impossible to prevent reviewers from being long-time acquaintances of various industry players (and reviewers ought to recuse themselves from covering gear manufactured by such 'friends') - the least the mags could do is draw the line on reviewers junketing around the world to be entertained by company heads. They could send non-reviewing reporters to cover stories on companies and factories, and limit the reviewers to the more impersonal interactions they maintain are necessary to conduct fair and informative reviews.
Yeah. They should lock us in: No trips and no visitors. ;-)
Well, as long as your family and friends aren't in the hi-fi manufacturing biz, I don't think we need go quite that far... ;^)
Kr4: "Termination of the review process would deprive the reader of that valuable information. Don't you agree?"

Sure, as long as that reporting applies to everybody that supplies product for review.
Kr4 who are you?
Look at the first 2 letters of Kr4's screen name, compare them with the subject of the thread.......;)
In the interest of disclosure, I asked Kr4 to identify him/herself. I have no business interest in this interesting and frustrating hobby. I imagine that a Stereopile reviewer may not be able to disclose for corporate reasons. I appreciate this since Art Dudleys' political commentary has been reigned in. You take the good with the bad, or conversely. Art in this months Sterophile touched on this -ongoing personal and business relationships. Just human nature.

We don't need complex statistical analysis or a smokin' gun. We simply peruse ads and reviews. KR often reviews pro gear without advertisements. Read critically. Sean
"I imagine that a Stereopile reviewer may not be able to disclose for corporate reasons."

I do not know what, specifically, this refers to.

Kal (who has no relatives in the audio business)
KR... I actually have something nice to say... Man must
be Stereophile bash month here or something. Looks like a tough gig being a professional reviewer :-)

Anyway about a year ago I was looking for some new amplification and came across one of your reviews while
researching a specific product. Well to make a long story
short every review about this product was very favorable
and I did buy the product. And no guys its not a MF product.

After owning the amp for a year now and seeing this thread I went back and read your review again. I have to tell you It was/is dead nuts on. It is "exactly" what you said it is. Your review was the most cautiously "subjective" out of a alot of really "glowing" reviews about the product but I think you really nailed it.

So it turns out the product is a "class A" and I couldn't
be happier with it.. And have no plans of changing it.
Oh and I also have some speakers that made the list that sound pretty awesome too :-) but thats another story.

So even though I didn't base my buying decisions on the rankings.. I have to agree with the rankings in my case.

Anyway thanks for steering me in the right direction. I
think im one of the happiest people here... and thats exactly what this whole thing is supposed to be about isnt it?

"Kal (who has no relatives in the audio business)"
Hmmm....interesting choice of words....?