Don't select a component because of a Class A rating. I personally heard many Class A components I wouldn't buy.
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"As always, people in the 'audio know' confuse price with the 'better' word. One has nothing to do with the other. Don't even mention the word 'worth' as that is a very subjective judgement and is wholly depending on each persons bank balance. "
If that's the case they than how do you explain the original post? 2 turntables made by the same company, with 1 costing 3x the other yet they still end up in the A category?
Forums can be funny insofar as they always:
a. have people saying something costing £100 sounds better than something costing £4000 - yet the reviewer never does a proper shootout against the said hypothetical component;
b. magazine opinions are always seen as very biased. To some extent I agree with this - but most people on forums review things that they have bought.
Of the Class A components, I have heard the Brinkmanns and the DPS. Oddly enough I made the mistake of not buying a DPS when they first came out as it had no magazine reviewer approval. Instead of going by the class rating, see which reviewers like what you like, and use them ass a guide to 'voicing' ass opposed to class rating. For instance Roy Gregory likes a kind of high resolution neutrality, whereas Art Dudley has a preference of PRAT
Performance ratings are just that, performance, not price. there are different ways of getting to a Class A performance, some very expensive, some not so much. If a small manufacturer tried to replicate the electronics of a high end japanese direct drive from the late seventies, the cost would be exorbitant, just because of the miniscule scale of sales these days. that cost would be spread over few units. But a manufacturer using a simple belt drive with an excellent bearing, heavy dampened platter and plinth might get equal performance results for much less cost. Both would have Class A performance, they just achieve that result in different ways. the cost relates to the method used, not the performance achieved.
This discussion is getting redundant, but Manitunc, in this case the direct-drive that got a class A rating is (I think) cheaper than the belt-drive one from the same manufacturer (Brinkmann). I would agree with your statement as a generality, however.
I like the way Gammajo put it. And in fact S'phile is fairly forthcoming in this fact: they only rate that which they have reviewed. Even they would agree that there could be (and always is) great stuff out there that has no chance of a high rating, or any rating, in S'phile, because they have not and never will review it.
As a corrollary to this practice, they often delete a component from the listings if they have not reviewed it in several years. (The cynical would say that their failure to re-review has to do with the failure of the product's maker to buy advertising, but I am not saying that.) For example, I believe they have lately deleted the Triplanar tonearm, which was once an A rated piece.
I've heard some class A items, and have had mixed feelings. Some have been wonderful and other were just expensive. What I don't understand is if A is supposed to be the best without any practical consideration why should their be such a wide variance between the sonic character between different A items. To me Stereophile A means a pricey item at least one writer thought was quite good. Witness a $350,000 amp that was listed as an A several years back despite some problems
Trust your ears, or at least find a reviewer who you find has similar tastes and sensibilities to yours.
Stereophile has a preamble to their ratings list which states that they only review and rate items which are generally available to the public, usually meaning that they have a dealership presence, not just factory direct or mail order. they have made some exceptions, but usually state so up front. Their policy is that they dont want to rate something that is vaporware, or unlikely to be found by their readership for evaluation purposes. that leaves out a lot of cottage manufacturers. Also, they only rate what a manufacturer supplies them with. they do not go out an buy these items themselves. So if a manufacturer does want to supply a unit, it doesnt get reviewed. At least they restrict their ratings to that which one of their reviewers has actually listened to, not just what some internet guru has proclaimed the best. I imagine putting together the ratings is quite a monumental task, but as they also point out, its just a starting point. Listening is always necessary to make an informed decision. And as you get into the Class A components, they are all worthy an get the basics right. The differences at that level are minor, whereas the difference between a class D, which is also deemed worthy, to a Class B is more substantial.
The only Class A items I own are my vinyl front end, and thats only because they were once Class A. I think my Sota Cosmos IV is still Class A, but not my Oracle Delphi V.
The big advantage of Stereophile and Absolute Sound is that they are actually able to listen to equipment that most of us dont have the opportunity to listen, much less compare. It just gives one a starting point, to pare down a list to something manageable or to keep up with current thoughts on building components. The only parts I really read are vinyl related, as well as MF and AD's columns. I have little interest in digital.
"NEVER" is pretty definitive. I trusted Valin on the Magico Mini 2 and Airtight Supreme cartridge, at least enough to go listen to them before I bought them. His reviews were well written and described pretty much what I hear from those two components. OTOH, I disagree with him about the Pass Class A amps. Reviews are just one opinion and can often be helpful in identifying components for a potential audition. Those class A lists, though, are something else.
Rsf, I was wondering why you made the statement "never trust Valin". Now you say he's been "dishonest". I personally think he has too much influence on the ratings, only because he is probably their best pure writer. Flowery adjectives pepper every review he writes, and the phrase "tone colors" drives me nuts. But, when and where was he ever "dishonest"?
What is wrong with the credibilty of a person contributing HERE regarding the sound of a given component as long as we know A.that person has been in the hobby for 5 years or more (although 15-20 would be even better) and B. they have owned and listened to the piece in question for 6 months or more, in a creditble system in a room with at least "average" acoustics. by that i mean NOT a 10 x 10 bedroom or den, or a 30x40 foot meeting hall. I would submit that such a person has invested the time and money to get to a place where they are really enjoying what they're hearing, and they are NOT part of a commercial for Wilson or any other company with an abundance of advertisements in a given publication. IF we can agree on these standards, then i challenge anyone to question that person's sincerity.
Professional reviewers certainly do have some insights on technical features of components and get to interview manufacturers, take factory tours, go to CES, etc., so that is definitely valuable. and 95% of them write really REALLY well so i have no qualms about that. but they jump around from one product to another and you can't really see, other than price, just WHY they are so enthusiastic about certain components, and why they almost always conclude that you "get what you pay for". Take the Wilson XLF speakers for example. no question they are excellent speakers, but for $10,000 you can also buy "excellent" speakers (like the Aerial Acoustics 7T for example). Go ahead, crank the Aerials up, they can fill up your room without the slightest hint of strain. so can a myriad of other speaker systems costing as little as $5,000.
Do you really need a $200K speaker, or would you be better off going to concerts, or finding a friend who could expose you to different genre's or new composers (there are SO MANY to discover).
When are WE going to get together and enlighten one another rather than argue over which reviewer has their "stuff" together? when that day comes, we will have a reliable database of meaningful insights of which components are truly wonderful sounding and which manufacturers are doing their best work and providing the best service.
"When are WE going to get together and enlighten one another rather than argue over which reviewer has their "stuff" together? when that day comes, we will have a reliable database of meaningful insights of which components are truly wonderful sounding and which manufacturers are doing their best work and providing the best service."
Do you really think that? Most of these threads are of the type you wish for, not aimed at slandering reviewers, yet in the end one is always left with a collection of subjective opinions. Interesting to be sure, but not always so enlightening. In the end, you've got to make up your own mind based on your own listening experiences. Which is fine with me. The rest is "fun, always".
Getting back to the original topic - stereophile class a ratings aren't too bad, but place the grading relative to the reviewer and their preferences.
ie. a class A component for one reviewer who likes a warm sound, may well be a class C for another reviewer who likes a cooler system sound. Most reviwers place according to their prejudices, they may try and say otherwise, and of course some components float everyones' boat whereas others such as NAIM or KONDO polarise listeners
I can tell you of a time Valin was completely unprofessional regarding reviewing my product called the Vibraplane. He received the unit and within hrs called me saying it was the next best thing other than sliced bread! He wrote a remarkable review but after I requested payment (below cost) he never paid so we had the unit picked up. Surprise surprise when the review never came out in TAS.
The biggest problem I have with those compilations in Stereophile is that
they are based on a range of individual reviews, some of which are dated,
and don't represent actual comparisons of equipment, so any one category
can represent a variety of equipment evaluations by different reviewers at
different times that really don't really represent a comprehensive,
Far more informative, to the extent I'm going to rely on a professional
review (which is a separate question),would be a shoot out among, say, 4
or 5 preamps in a controlled environment (recognizing that there would
have to be changes in the 'reference system' to accomodate necessary
synergies, and a sort of roundtable review, by a panel of reviewers present
in the same room, using the same set-up(s)). Obviously, that's far too time
consuming for a magazine to do on a regular basis (though at times, it has
been done). I recall a shoot out HiFi+ did a number of years ago with then
top level line stages which, in the comparison remarks, were in my
estimation, pretty informative, since I owned one of the pieces at the time,
and the remarks were pretty close to my longer term experience in using
the one piece.
As M. Fremer said in another thread here, it's 'informed entertainment.'
Perhaps like reading a 'best movies' or 'best books' of the year, recognizing
that some of the reviews are from earlier years.