The Audio Critic


Thoughts?
lisaandjon
Peter Aczel? he's basically a quack. I used to be a big fan of that rag, until I realized you can't listen to graphs. Graphs can't tell you how you will be moved (or not moved) by the music. He used to recommend decent stuff like Bryston, but now recommends cheap junk made in China. A lot of people have taken his mantra and ran with it. You see most of these types on you tube and other sites. But, then again, most of the big name audio journalists are quacks too.
Back in the 80's, TAC was a very highly respected magazine and Aczel's word could make or break a company. It seems to me his earlier work was very different, as he gushed over certain high-end brands like Rappaport and Cotter. (Who?) Later on, he got into this "all stuff sounds the same" mode, which no hard-core audiophiles want to hear, so he sort of faded out. Whatever anyone thinks of him, he was definitely one of the forefathers of high-end reviewing.
He's local to me in the Philadelphia area...

A friend of mine knows him well, as they live close to one another, and have had to deal with each other professionally. Ten year ago, he told me Peter's an old guy, who cannot hear you during a conversation, and constantly tries to cup his hand around his ear, and asks you to repeat everything. I don't expect the past decade has improved anything. Yep, just the guy I want to get my audio advice from.
eh? what?
A rarity in Audio. A man of absolute integrity. A honest researcher and truth seeker. A breath of fresh air.

When the voodoo priests and snake oil crowd took over Audio, his days were numbered.

The fact that he causes 'audiophiles' to foam at the mouth and howl at the moon is proof that he speaks the truth. Ranks right up there with Julian Hirsch and Len Feldman.

Try to find copies of his magazine and keep them as a reference to be consulted whenever you feel as if you are drowning in BS.

Cheers
Try to find copies of his magazine and keep them as a reference to be consulted whenever you feel as if you are drowning in BS.
I feel like I'm drowning in it right now.
A man of absolute integrity? That may be true. But don't you think the issue is whether he was correct or not, not whether he had integrity or not? There are tons of tweakaphobes and science to the rescue vigilantes who don't have integrity, so what's the diff?
Ranks with Julian(The JOKE) Hirsch? I couldn't have chosen a
better word than, "RANK!" SO- A member of the
everything-sounds-the-same club? There's a real dubious
distinction! I suppose one COULD be deaf, honest AND in
denial.
People have true religious faith based on what they believe in their heart and mind. Audio is a different matter, you can believe in what your ears tell you or what a reviewer tells you. If your ears don't hear a difference, well then I suppose you would be interested in listening to a reviewer that hears like you do. If you DO hear differences you would be interested in reviewers that can articulate best what they hear. I'm not too familiar with Azcel but based on Rokid's comments he doesn't hear differences so I would say that he is irrelevant to me. This isn't to say he isn't a man of integrity, he very well may be.
I suppose, like everything else, we can debate what constitutes "integrity." I for one would not call someone "[a] man of absolute integrity" when that man wrote a rave review of a speaker system (Fourier 1) in the Audio Critic without first disclosing he was one of the owners of the company that made the speaker. I don't doubt that he liked his speaker, but, I doubt that the ethical requirements for disclosing his relationship to the product merely slipped his mind.
Integrity:
1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY
2 : an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS
synonyms see HONESTY
A lot of people have taken his mantra and ran with it. You see most of these types on you tube and other sites.


That would be you, Rok2id. You have a belief too, whether you like it or not. Integrity or not, gold ol' Pete is still a quack. Again, you can't listen to graphs, and using a $250 Chinese made receiver to drive $10k speakers is ludicrous.
The hostility towards Pete is based on ONE issue. Has
nothing to do with reviews or company ownership. He has to
be trashed because his truths, and his courage to state them,
threaten the entire con.

He didn't play right, so he has to be expelled from the
sandbox. If he was not a man of integrity, he could have
been one of the most celebrated gurus at any of the 'high-
end' rags. All he had to do was say, I can hear WIRE, and
All amps have their own unique sound, and humans can hear
that uniqueness.

I am not an 'audiophile' nor an engineer. I have normal
human hearing. My thoughts and questions are as follows:

Wire is the simplest of electrical components. IF, a person
can hear the differences between Wire, shouldn't that
person be able to hear the difference between something
loaded with devices and as complex as an audio amp? of
course they would be able to do that.

THEN, If you can hear wire, shouldn't you be able to hear
the difference between the two channels in a stereo amp?
Lot more stuff there to affect sound than found in wire.
Surely you would be able to hear the difference between
mono blocks. What about amps on the same assembly line,
serial # 1 vs Amp serial #2 ?? The differences there are
surely greater than between two pieces of wire.

My point is, if you can hear wire, you should be able to hear
EVERYTHING!!

Of course you can't. It's called self-delusion. But, you can
make some quick cash, one million, by demonstrating that you
can hear amps and wire. That money has been of the table
forever.

BTW, if you know of someone who has demonstrated he can
hear wire and amps, inform us please. The statement "I
can hear a difference" don't count.

But the reason I even bother is that, I just hate to see a
bunch of loud mouthed know-nothings trash the founders of
this hobby. They were there when it was a real hobby. Guys
built their systems. Ordering a ready made mega buck
stereo component, is not a hobby.

Cheers
The arguments you make are what are referred to as Strawman Arguments, I.e., logical fallacies. For example, if a person can hear the differences in cable or the directionality of wire and someone else can't, the explanation is very simple - there are reasons why a person sometimes can't hear differences. You do realize that many audiophiles DO hear differences in wire, no? The person that can't hear differences either (1) has a problem with his system, (2) has a problem with his hearing, (3) lacks experience in what differences to listen for, or (4) his system is fine but not revealing enough for him to discern the differences. The same argument can be made for just about anything in audio, from CD treatments to Mpingo discs to the Tice Clock to tiny little bowl resonators to the differences between tube amps and solid state amps, you name it.
It must be quite the burden being the only sane person in a world full of delusional people. I must I have deluded myself into thinking that the ethical lapse of Mr.Aczel mattered; I was really against the religion he preached.

It is amazing that he continued to publish so long given that the only message was that it really did not matter and one is wasting money when buying anything but the cheapest stuff out there--that should have been a one-issue publication (the notable exception would be stuff that he has a vested interest in--with that stuff one could really hear the difference).
"I have normal human hearing." Everyone's hearing acuity varies, just as every other of the senses. ie: The palette & tongue must be trained to discern in what region of the World a certain wine's grape was grown. Yet(even if trained); some have a sense of taste, more acute than others. A good man understands his own limitations. Only a fool thinks everyone else is thus limited. One of the most ludicrous statements, in the History of Audio HAS to be, "In controlled double-blind listening tests, no one has ever (yes, "EVER") heard a difference between two amplifiers with high input impedance, low output impedance, flat response, low distortion, and low noise."(YEP: he said that) I say, "One of the most ludicrous," because I still remember Julian Hirsch stating, in Stereo Pee-yoo, "I never listen to live music, but- I have a pretty good idea what it sounds like." Aczel was NOT one of, "the founders of this hobby." He was a speaker builder, a critic and utterly disregardable.
GEoff what you just said is logically consistent but logic alone achieves nothing without facts.

The fact would be that there are differences possible and that any individual may or may not hear it in any particular case. One case means nothing other than two different outcomes with two different people.

Now expand the scope to consider many similar cases, and then at least statistically there is a basis perhaps to draw some conclusion. Still does not prove anything though about any particular case. Only that something expected might be likely or not.
Geoffkait:

I am not saying you, you personally, cannot hear wire. I am not saying any particular individual cannot hear wire. I am saying IF, they can, why don't you/they demonstrate that ability? This whole so-called debate in audio, would and could be ended forever. In 20 minutes tops. Just ONE PERSON has to demonstrate they can hear wire or amps.

No one is OBLIGATED to do so, but I cannot imagine why they would not want to do so. Not to mention the million bucks.

Also, since you can hear wire, it seems a given, that you should be able to hear ANY Component more complex than wire. Can you? Ever owned mono blocks? Did you hear a difference in the two? Can you detect a difference between stereo amp channels? Can you hear a difference between two amps of the same brand and model ?

I would think that a person with the hearing acuity to hear wire should be able to hear all of the above, and more. It also seems to me, that person would be miserable as an audiophile.

Question: When you change wire, why do you do so. Is wire sold stating the changes it will make in your system's sound? If not, how do you know wire to buy? What claims are made by the wire makers? What do you listen for after installing a new wire?

Thanks

Cheers
*****It is amazing that he continued to publish so long given that the only message was that it really did not matter and one is wasting money when buying anything but the cheapest stuff out there-*****

The last review of a power amp I recall seeing in TAC, was on the Parasound A-21. MSRP, $2500 USD. Hardly the cheapest out there. Does he own Parasound also??

He gave it a very positive review. Measurements were outstanding. Build quality excellent. Said it had that "High End" look and feel. How did he say it sounded? It had no sound, just like any other well designed stereo amp.

Sorry. Better luck next time.

Cheers
*****It must be quite the burden being the only sane person in a world full of delusional people.******

Lord Yes!!

Cheers
Avoid noise and distortion and all should sound as good as possible.

Its that simple. Many ways to do it. It takes focus and time mainly.

The rest is largely subjective. But nobody benefits from noise and distortion. Sometimes it is very subtle. Making a change changes that plus other subjective things. Hard to sort through....

Just focus on minimizing noise and distortion and it will all be OK. Need not cost much. However good full range performance on a larger scale will always cost more than on a smaller one.
Mapman wrote,

"GEoff what you just said is logically consistent but logic alone achieves nothing without facts.

The fact would be that there are differences possible and that any individual may or may not hear it in any particular case. One case means nothing other than two different outcomes with two different people.

Now expand the scope to consider many similar cases, and then at least statistically there is a basis perhaps to draw some conclusion. Still does not prove anything though about any particular case. Only that something expected might be likely or not."

Mapman, as the kids say these days, What ev. I suspect intentionally or unintentionally you're over thinking it.
Rock, don't you know that nobody can demonstrate anything? If anybody could there would be no more audio debates as you suggest. This way we'll never run out of things to argue about. There would be no arguments about wire purity, cable geometry, conductor material, dielectric material, fuse direction and alternating current, Mpingo discs, the best material for audio feet, whether CDs are better than cassettes, whether a portable CD player really better than a high end player, is quantum mechanics a hoax? Things of that nature.
Without having ever heard of this guy before, if the facts are as Larryi represents, then that should be all one needs to dismiss his opinion as untrustworthy. Not saying he is right or wrong, but such a person has no credibility. I'm not going to get into the great wire debate but I do have a quibble with Geoffkait's post
You do realize that many audiophiles DO hear differences in wire, no? The person that can't hear differences either (1) has a problem with his system, (2) has a problem with his hearing, (3) lacks experience in what differences to listen for, or (4) his system is fine but not revealing enough for him to discern the differences.
There are at least two other possibilities, Geoff:
1. The person who heard a difference was mistaken.
2. The "test" was flawed.

Before you flame my butt, remember I'm questioning the logic of the argument, not the truth of it. And per my comment above, I would not place any weight on statements made by someone whose ethics/honesty/integrity are as reported.
I don't think Aczel or anyone else ever said that "all wire sounds the same". I believe the statement was that any differences in wires can be attributed to their electrical characteristics of resistance, capacitance and inductance. In other words, wires with the same electrical properties will sound the same. In fact, TAC has a lengthy article on the huge changes in frequency response resulting from cables with different electrical characteristics.

While we're here, Aczel also never said all amplifiers sound the same. He said that amplifiers of similar design, ie, modern solid state, will sound the same when operated below clipping and level-matched to within some percentage of 1 DB.
So a 100-watt SS Bryston and an 8-watt 300B SET will not sound the same, even by Aczel's rationale.

At least that's how I remember it.
@Chayro: "While we're here, Aczel also never said all amplifiers sound the same".....maybe not verbatim! Copy/paste this in your search bar, for the article from which I quoted: (http://www.biline.ca/audio_critic/critic1.htm) His first three points, in this article; I agree with completely. From there; he's driven himself off a cliff.
Regarding Mr. Aczel's credibility as a reviewer, it is perhaps noteworthy that over the years there were in effect two Peter Aczel's. There was the Peter Aczel who published "The Audio Critic" prior to its nearly seven year hiatus between early 1981 and late 1987 (that period closely coinciding with the existence of the Fourier Systems speaker company, of which he was President and part owner). And then there was the metamorphosed Peter Aczel who resumed publication of "The Audio Critic" following that period.

During that second period, as noted above by Mr. Rodman, Aczel fervently maintained that all amplifiers meeting certain basic criteria sound identical. And much of what he had to say in each of his issues was devoted to attacking the high end community and its publications.

Prior to that hiatus, however, his reviews were typified by statements such as the following, which I've extracted at random from a couple of his issues:
[The Amber Series 70 amplifier] has a nice, solid bottom; a midrange that lacks the ultimate transparency obtainable at much higher prices but is open and musical nonetheless; and a clearly etched top end that doesn't harden or smear even when the program material has a wide dynamic range and is rich in high-frequency energy.
(Volume 2, Number 3, Spring through Fall 1980)

[The Bedini Model 45/45 amplifier] is supposed to be a scaled-up version of the Model 25/25, with everything essentially the same except the bigger power supply. Well, there's one other thing that isn't the same in our opinion, and that's the sound. The Model 45/45 isn't even unequivocally superior to a good sample of the Hafler DH-200, at one third the price, let alone the smaller Bedini or the JVC. Where the Model 25/25 is utterly smooth and edgeless, the 45/45 exhibits that characteristic little transistory zing and hardening, and its midrange transparency and delineation of high-frequency detail are merely good, not great.
(Volume 2, Number 2, Summer/Fall/Year-End 1979)
Regarding the conflict of interest with the Fourier company, what Larry said is essentially correct. In fairness, though, the first TAC issue published following the long hiatus, and following the demise of Fourier systems, included a lengthy and very detailed recounting by Mr. Aczel of his side of the story. He maintained, among other things, that when the Fourier I review was written, about two months prior to publication, the company was in the very early stages of being formed, and at that point:
... there was no working capital to speak of and no idea who would end up owning the company by coming up with the capital. Thus the disclosures made in the article regarding the involvement of "The Audio Critic" and its Editor in the Fourier project were as complete and forthright as the few established facts of the case permitted."
One more thing worth noting about the Fourier I speaker, in relation to Mr. Aczel's credibility as a reviewer: Just a few months after its introduction the design he had so raved about underwent major modification, including substitution of a different midrange driver and a different tweeter. The stated reason being that "some driver-related problems that had eluded our attention in the laboratory made its interface with certain rooms unpredictable." (Issue 10, Fall/Year End 1987). If I recall correctly, btw, "The Sensible Sound," not exactly the most hypercritical of audio publications, had panned the original version of the speaker in their review.

Also, fwiw, I auditioned the revised version of the speaker at Lyric's store in White Plains, NY, I believe in early 1983. I recall it as being a decent performer, but not one that particularly excited me.

Aczel was no doubt an extremely gifted, intelligent, and persuasive writer. As I recall his day job was in the advertising business. He was a reviewer that I WANTED to like and respect. Ultimately, though, between the attitude and beliefs he manifested in his later period, his total inconsistency pre-hiatus vs. post hiatus, and the unsettling Fourier saga, I found it impossible to do so.

Regards,
-- Al
The last review of a power amp I recall seeing in TAC, was on the Parasound A-21. MSRP, $2500 USD. Hardly the cheapest out there. Does he own Parasound also??

He gave it a very positive review.

But not without the typical Aczel caveats and a jab at 'Stereophile';

"Yes, all well-engineered amplifiers sound the same"

"I know there are some of you out there who just cannot listen to low-priced mass-market audio components (Pioneer, yecch!) no matter how they sound. It goes against your grain and you don’t want to know about it. To you I heartily recommend the Parasound Halo A 21 because it will satisfy your high-end cravings without bankrupting you."

"Longtime readers of The Audio Critic know the drill that comes at this point: I repeat, for the nth time, that all amplifiers having high input impedance, low output impedance, flat frequency response, low distortion, and low noise floor sound exactly the same when operated at matched levels and not clipped. (Those who are unable to stomach this simple truth, proved over and over again in double-blind listening tests, should stick with Stereophile.)"

Now, if that isn't a mantra, I dunno what is...and the cult following of Aczel repeat that mantra...over and over and over again!
Rodman - "no one has ever (yes, ever!) heard a difference between two amplifiers with high input impedance, low output impedance..low distortion..."

Aczel is saying is that amplifiers of similar design will sound similar. I believe, although I'm not sure, that modern SS amps have high input impedance and low output impedance. I believe that SET amplifiers do not have these characteristics. He considers SETs to be an idiotic design, but that's another issue.
Never heard of the guy.

Guess I wasn't missing much.
As to the Fourier issue, as I recall, and I am willing to be corrected on this, Aczel believed that most speakers were riddled with fundamental errors that a "C+ student in engineering" would never make. He was of the opinion that a speaker designed without these flaws would sound better than anything out there and he became involved with Fourier to help design such a speaker.

Again, to the best of my recollection, I knew that Aczel was involved with Fourier when he reviewed that speaker and that he was just saying "I told you so". But many others seem to remember it differently.
GEof,

Maybe. Kids know best sometimes.

Then again someone else once said "Thinking is the best way to travel".
Mapman, touché. Lol
@ Chayro- He didn't say, "similar." He said,
"NO one has EVER HEARD a difference...." and yet,
even he heard differences in solid state amps, and made
recommendations based on such, quite often. And then; Dave's
post contains one of his quotes, "all amplifiers having high
input impedance, low output impedance, flat frequency
response, low distortion, and low noise floor sound exactly
the same." Regarding wire: all someone needs is Rat Shack?
"Tubes are for boobs?" Like I said, "utterly
disregardable."
Sounds like he was a good example of a pseudo skeptic, just better known than some.
Exactly. And he's a hypocrite calling audiophiles "tweako cultists" when he is a cult leader himself. He's a god to die-hard objectivists who repeat his mantras over and over again. The whole thing is a sham. Then again, some subjectivist reviewers do go over the top calling $10k and up components as bargains. Compared to $50k components, but not in itself.