you are spot on. the mags want to stay in business (and they should want to) and have to find a silver lining in even the most 'ordinary' and the 'most overpriced'. what next, the 5,000 MOST RECOMMENDED COMPONENTS?
17 responses Add your response
"much of today's reviewing is what i would call advocacy reviewing. there are very few instances where reviewers try to strictly inform without influencing.Guilty as charged, at least with respect to my review of the Intuitive Design Summit loudspeakers. I specifically and shamelessly set out to get people to at least AUDITION these if they were in the market for speakers. My only ulterior motive was exuberant bliss (buyer's ANTI-remorse) and fond, awestruck gratitude to Dale Pitcher. No regrets. Never had 'em, never will.
Try to imagine a magazine that offers only negative reviews of equipment the reviewers deem unattractive, bad sounding and of poor value.
There would be no advertising. It would have to survive on subscriptions alone. It would hurt the industry even though it might help some of us avoid making "mistakes." In short order, the reviewers would be subject to the same criticism that overly "positive" reviewers endure. Many would call them on their perceived lack of objectivity. Measurements would only show or emphasize the worst results and performance weaknesses.
I don't want to hijack this thread, but sometimes taking the anti-advocate position can shed valuble light on that which is nominal.
Well, here's my opinion FWIW. Let's take your post a paragraph at a time.
In your first paragraph you state:
"at the risk of being simplistic, i would say there are two broad categories of reviewing--criticism and reporting and the connotations of subjectivity and objectivity."
The two categories are not mutually exclusive. Subjective oriented reviews throw in a few objective measurements. Objective oriented reviews offer some personal opinon. So to that extent it is a bit of a simplistic categorization. However, for the purposes of discussing and contrasting the underlying, preferred approach of each side, I think that it is a fair generalization.
In your second paragraph you state:
"a reviewer can present an opinion of a component,providing evidence from listening, as to its quality relative to other compoents of the same class and then express a preference for that component relative to other components of the same class, often using ornate phrases."
I think that this is well stated as to the approach of the subjectivist oriented reviews. I'm a bit uncomfortable with your use of the phrase "ornate phrases". It sounds somewhat pejorative. "Ornate phrases" reflects, in part, the individual writing style of the author. It gives some character to the review. "Ornate phrases" also reflects the terminology which has developed in the audiophile world. The words and phrases have specific meanings which provide a benchmark in conveying information. Just as oenophiles talk about "nose" and "bouquet" in talking about wine, audiophiles talk about "soundstage" and "image". By the way, in the July, August and September, 1993, issues of Stereophile, there is a three part article written by J. Gordon Holt, in which he discusses subjectivist review terminology. An extensive glossary of subjectivist terms is also provided. It's quite interesting. The subjectivist terms have objective meanings.
In your third paragraph you state:
"alternatively a reviewer can describe his perceptions without using adjectives, not indicating a preference in an attempt to be factual. the idea is not to influence the reader by using words which may have a positive or negative valence associated with them."
As a generality to contrast with the first approach to reviewing, I think this is a reasonable statement. However, I find that even the most objectivist review has an unstated intent to influence. Here is the unstated opinion: "This amp measures the same, therefore has to sound identical, and since it's cheaper, you should buy this one".
Now, in comparing the two general categories of review, I definitely prefer the first, the subjectivist. Here is why. If an objectivist review provides only facts, why would I read it, unless I have no other source of the facts? I can get all the facts and specs I need from the manufacturer's website. A totally objective review serves no purpose if I otherwise have access to the facts. There is no value added in terms of information. Why would I buy it? (Attention advetisers.)It also has no life or personality. It is sterile. It is as interesting as reading a street sign. A subjectivist review, on the other hand, actually takes a stand. It is an opinion. I may like the opinion, or I may not. I may agree with it, or I may not. I may even get quite worked up about it. It arouses passion and subsequent debate and discussion, which is good. It has life and it is interesting. I'll buy it to see what so and so is saying about such and such. (Attention advertisers again.)It allows for a magazine or a review to have character, just as a newspaper has character because of its editorials. If you want to know what the conservative or liberal viewpoint is on a certain issue, you know what newspaper or editorial writers to look to. So too with subjectivist reviews. And just because somebody attempts to directly influence me doesn't mean that they will succeed. Maybe they will or maybe they won't. But they got me thinking and they are forcing me to use my brain to think about the issues. Would you buy a newspaper that had no editorials, if there was another one that did?
In your fourth paragraph you state:
"much of today's reviewing is what i would call advocacy reviewing. there are very few instances where reviewers try to strictly inform without influencing."
I agree with this, but not for the reason that you might have expected. Even though there are two discernible camps, as I stated above, the objectivists try to influence just as much as the subjectivists. It's all advocacy. However, one group do it with a review that's more interesting to read.
i'd like to clarify my use of the term factual.
i meant the perceptions of reviewers without adjectives.
here's an example of expressing a thought two ways.
"there is an elevation of harmonics in the upper mids/lower treble region"
"the component sounds bright"
both relate to a reviewer's perceptions--accurate or not.
the first is a report, the second, at least implicitly attempts to influence.
thus being factual means reporting what you are without using adjectives and without attempting to influence.
thus being factual means reporting what you areI'd suggest that
reporting and reviewing are two separate disciplines.
Your definition of being factual relates to reporting, which is seldom, if
ever the basis of articles about audio electronics, accessories or music.
Reviewing by definition includes the writer's opinion. Can you recall one
review of a film, concert, art show or book which did not include the
author's opinion? Would you read such a report?
Audio reviews contain opinion, and will therefore never be unbiased.
If you ever come across an unbiased audio report, please post a link. I'd
love to read it. It'd be kind of like seeing a Dodo bird...or a flying pig.
I would have to say that your second example of a "review", a factual description without opinion, isn't really a review. If I want product descriptions I'll go to a manufacturers website, but what I, and many others, want is the opinion of an experienced listener.That's a review, and though all reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, I find many of them to be quite helpful.
While I have touched on this in one of your other threads, and with the danger of repeating myself:
Any efforts to establish objective terms are useless in my opinion: Many terms that are used to describe are based on metaphors or analogies. The terms will inevitably carry a connotation that is subjective. So do general terms like "High-End", which will never be well defined for that reason. Even terms like "neutral", "transparent" carry a strong connotation that depends on the reader.
Even if a completely objective description or review, that is solely based on terms that do not carry any connotation whatsoever, would be possible, it would not be satisfactory. In fact, for many things we can discern with our hearing, no objective terms of the form you propose exist.
As a last point, people do generally tend to understand analogies and metaphors better than purely objective (scientific) terms. For example, even in Science, where everything has an accurate description (in the case of Physics the description is usually mathematical), in order to communicate scientific facts and results to a general audience, one uses often imprecise terms like metaphors and analogies that people can understand much easier than Mathematics. Why should audio reviews be any different?
Just my experience and opinion of course...
i may not have completely communicated my point.
a review is a collection of perceptions.
it is at least a report of what a reviewer heard after hours and hours of listening.
there are ways to describe what one hears which are analaogous to a report.
like a scientist who does an experiment and reports findings.
a reviewer has anecdotal evidence to present regarding the sound of a component/stereo system.
if a reviewer says he does not the ring of a telephone with compoent a but does hear the telephone with component b, this is factual reporting based upon the reviewers perception.
such a statement, one could infer is objective without an attempt to influence.
if a reviewer says i heard instrument a behind instrument b--again a perception reprted without an attempt to influence.
finally if a reviewer reports nan inability to tell whether there were 1 or 2 violins on a recording, or whether an instrument was a tenor or alto sax, such information is useful to a potential buyer.
it is this approach which i consider reporting--communicating perceptions, without ornate phrase which are relevant.
Wow. This discussion is Really getting complicated here.
Here is just a short slice of my opinion on this topic.
I feel a certain form of reviewing should be taken as nothing more than pure entertainment, and if it entertains, well that's that. But you can throw credibility out the window.
Do you really think that, regardless of ''reviewing'' styles, a reviewer that is ''wined and dined'' in Europe, on a manufacturer's invitation to visit their company, can be taken with the least bit of credibility ? Sam Tellig (Tom Gillet) and his ''Sam's Space'' in Stereophile comes to mind as a glaring example.
All reviewers are not like this, of course. Nevertheless, objectivity is seriously non-existent when this happens.
Not far behind, the reviewer that ''liked the amp (or whatever) so much that he bought the review sample''. In this case, ''buying the review sample'' is somewhat easier to do than for you and me, as it is usually purchased at ''accomodation pricing'' a well-known unwritten audio-insider law where you buy gear direct from a manufacturer at roughly 50% of retail value (meaning dealer cost) for lesser-know reviewers, and for FREE if you are a reviewer with a strong readership and infuencial power, like Tellig, where I suspect the guy never pays for anything, probably including his toilet paper, if it can be proven that he cleans his interconnects with it and a dab of whooppe oil.
For this reason, I find that in many cases, the only view on reviewing style should be taken in the context of pure entertainement, supported of course with generic techno-detail color commentary. Blah blah blah, and here goes yet ANOTHER gizmo that a reviewer ''could happily live with on a long-term basis'' Taken as entertainement, anything is possible, and everything is in support of this, as long as it hits home, meaning that it gathers attention and starts a buying frenzy on Audiogon or in the hi-fi shops. We are suckers for doing so.
I just feel that it is a bit naive to consider it otherwise, an no more complicated than this. If it grabs your attention and entertains, great. But for me, at least with certain writers, zero credibility, but a fun read still. Please yourself the futility of ''analyzing my paragraps one at a time''. Kepp it simple and fun - and get back to the music ! There's a lot more happening THERE.
this is my last comment on a subject i feel strongly about.
i'll try the restaurant example.
your friend recommends a restaurant. you ask what he ate and describe the taste and discuss the service.
let's say he reports without any opinions.
he states what he ate, the ingredients of the food--spices, sauces, etc. he doesn't use any adjectives.
he discusses the temperature of the food and the time it takes from one course to another.
in short he reports on his experience as if he were an observer.
with this information, i have a shot at making an intelligent decision as to whether to patronize the restaurant.
the same "observer" approach could be used to describe the results of auditioning a component.
a decision to purchase a component requires honest observations without using adjectives. it is enough to say " one instrument appeared to be positioned behind the other and i perceived a sense of space between the instruments".
such a statement is reporting. it converys information. there is no hype, no attempt to influence. if a review were full of statements similar to the above statement, it could be useful and it would qualify as a report, not a criticism.
If I had a friend who reported his restaurant experience by stating the
ingredients of his meal, the temperature of the food, and the time it
took for the waiter to take his order and for the kitchen to deliver his
food to the table, I not only would not try the restaurant, but I'd pass on
any invitation to dinner my friend, Mr. Spock, might extend.
Are you serious with this analogy? What kind of a bland, grey world is it
where life's experiences are simply a series of facts? Are we discussing
the planet Vulcan here?
i think we agree that my restaurant example and your restaurant example represents a factual description of an event.
where we don't agree is what we would like someone to tell us about an experience--audio or otherwise.
aesthetic experiences are highly subjective. if someone says the food was spicy, or the meat was tough, or the sauce was salty--adjectives, adjectives and adjectives.
i might not agree with his perceptio and therefore would not decide against eating in that restaurant.
i say give me the facts and let me decide. giving an opinion
using adjectives doesn't help me if i am looking to buy an amp. i would like to experience evreything. unfortunately, it is not possible. so, if i am going to make a decision based upon someone's experience, other than my own, i need facts, not opinions, descriptions, not sentiment.
don't tell me the wine is sweet. tell me how many grams of sugar per ounce.
the most important opinions to me are my own, not those of others.
it's not a drab, monontonous world comprised of facts. it's information useful for making intelligent decisions.
preferences are idiosyncratic, but facts are more objective.
get two people to eat in a restaurant and you get three opinions.
as jack friday said "give me the facts, maam".
there are two many opinions, virtually no knowledge and not enough facts.
perhaps the best example is someone going to las vegas and telling me it was hot. when asked the temperature, says is 85 degrees. is 85 degrees hot ?, is a teaspoon of sugar in coffee sweet ?
opinions often obfuscate, facts clarify.
Mrtennis, you contradict yourself in your threads.
You ask in this thread for a rich 6922 tube. Please define the word rich without injecting opinion. You are asking for opinion, and yet you now reject opinion as useless for your purposes.
In this thread you asked for a dull, caramel colored CD player. Again, soliciting opinion.
Perhaps you need to identify those quantifiable characteristics that
define a warm 6922 tube, and those that define a warm and colored CD
In my opinion (wha! there's that word again), you seem to be working at
your own cross purposes, and I for one cannot fathom how to answer
your questions, or how to determine if your queries are even genuine.
the subject here is reviewing.
regarding 6922 and a carmel colored cd player, i was remiss in not defining the term.
essentially, given a definition, one could confirm perceptually whether a player experienced by another person, satsified the description of the term "warm" or "caramel colored".
i guess, in the final analysis, one might say that a perception is an opinion in which case, any statement is an opinion as opposed to factual. if that is the case i guess it doesn't matter whether i ask for facts, if every statement is a matter of opinion.
the best i can hope for is unambiguous communication where terms are defined/described and one seeks perceptions which confirm or disconfirm the description offered.
you might still be right by saying a confirmation would still be an opinion in which case you are correct and i'll back off for a while and do more thinking.