The only thing I "expect" is that it is a well matched system. If the system has components that are not known to work together well than I do not trust the reviewers ability to subjectively review a product.
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What I want from a reviewer is a wide expeerience of various componennts. Both expensive and not so expensive.
To me the ideal reviewer would own at least two full two channel systems in different rooms. And have extra components in each available to compare.
that he or she knows the music being used well, and can explain to the reader WHY those music recordings display the items strengths and weakness, and what tho really mean in relation to other equipment choices.
And ifreviewers really did a good jobthey would compare the item to several others in that system. Swapping only the one item, for a variety of others and explain why the one under review was better or worse and why.
I'll expand a bit on your question to talk not only about their systems but also their credentials.
I expect what nobody seems to do:
1. Maintain an inventory of a good solid state amp and a good tube amp of 100 watts or more to give every speaker a good chance (many speakers prefer one over the other), and to let us know how it works with our preferred amp type.
2. Have their own 2 reference speakers so that they catch themselves from falling into love with one particular stylized sound.
3. Check their reference speakers against headphones too, for a third baseline that is also portable and room independent.
4. Listen with their ears and not try to play engineer/designer/physicist (unless they are one) to figure out what it might sound like or why it sounds the way it does - this only gives them prejudice which is almost always unfounded.
5. Not review equipment that is way more expensive than their own product of that type. They need a reference in the same ballpark, and to have experience with others in the same ballpark, as what they are reviewing.
The above would be for starters. There are many other issues of experience, honesty, lack of deep friendships with particular companies, favoritism due to advertisers, familiarity with real music (they all claim it but most don't go to many concerts, many don't go at all), and other things I could list, but we are not going to get even what I list above. Unfortunately, this is a cottage industry at the high end, and the reviewers are just as home brew as most of the designs, with little accountability (actually, none).
In the old days, the reviewers at ABS and Stereophile used to list the records and equipment used to evaluate the equipment, and point out specific areas of the music where the equipment acted in a certain manner different from their reference. that way, you could play the same album and see if you heard the same thing. I thought that was a good way of transfering the reviewers experience to something I could recreate in my home. they seem to have gotten away from that.
ABS especially would have a number of reviewers review the same piece of equipment and have their counterpoint to the main reviewer. I found that to be useful also.
I suppose these days of instant gratification require a quick turnover of equipment to ensure that the latest and greatest gets reviewed and printed ASAP. Perhaps quantity over quality. When ABS and Stereophile were underground mags with fluctuating publishing schedules, they could take their time until they had enough to fill a magazine. Now, with monthly schedules they print what they have to fill the space, and not a lot of followup. But, it must be a more successful business model as the old journal style almost went under. I preferred that old, small book style. Seemed a little more important than the magazine format.
I dont have a problem with the reviewer publishing what the manufacturer states is their theory for the product, so long as we know thats what it is, manufacturer explanation. We can take it or leave it. I dont like when a reviewer just copies the manufacturers brochure to pass off as his own explanation of the science involved. Just tell me what it sounds like, and if it works properly with no quirks. If it takes a month to warm up before it sounds good, say so, and I will pass. If it only works with certain cables, to me, it is a flawed product and I will pass. If it blows up, send it back and move on.
As mentioned, having two systems, in different rooms. One would be a reference system that resulted from many years of listening. The other would be a continual work in progress with testing new components to be compare only against the reference system components sound, not the components themselves.
We can't really know what a reviewer's system sounds like or what their personal tastes are. Given that, I think one of the most valuable parts of a review is when a piece of equipment under review is compared to something else. People in general (including reviewers) are bad judgers of absolutes and much better at making relative comparisons, so when reviewers fail to make comparisons to other equipment I find the review to be of little value no matter what's in their system. And when they further fail to list the equipment in their system it makes it even more useless and frustrating. This happens a lot in TAS and drives me up the wall because they review lots of good stuff. Frequently they list their reference system excluding only the corresponding piece of equipment to what they're reviewing. That strikes me as pure cowardice. Anyway...
"The one oddest thing is when reviewing an item: the first one broke, the second one broke"
That item is now history. Would you buy it knowing that companies QC does not exist? This tells me that manufacturer is not one of the magazines favorite advertisers. If it was a favorite advertiser you would never hear about the defective units. It's kind of like paying for protection. Get it?
Lets face it, a review article is going to net the reviewer maybe something in the $2000 neighborhood. Perhaps more for a regular senior contributor. I doubt that many a reviewer can subsist on those payouts, let alone amass an expensive state of the art system without some serious accommodation pricing and long term loans.
That being said, they do get to hear a lot of stuff and gain experience over time and pick and choose what they want to purchase for themselves. Yeah, a "neutral" system might be better for discerning differences and evaluating components, but it still depends on their familiarity with some kind of a reference (e.g. their own compilation of components). After all, that what each of us does when we hear another audiophile quality system ... we compare it to what we know and what we like.
However, reviewers will necessarily still try to be upbeat. How many reviews will they get if they trash things big time? So as readers, we have to read between the lines a bit. Somewhat forward sounding means it will etch your ears. Somewhat overfull bass means it sounds tubby and bloated and one note boomy. etc, you get the picture.
The best measure outside of hearing a component in your own system is to read a review from severaal sources who invariably have different reference sysems. My point is that if you do read several sources and they concur about certain elements found in reviewing a product it is obviously more credible than reading one reviewer with one system.
That said, I did kind of get used to a particular reviewers system even though it often included elements I myself didn't always love an example being 6 moons.
I would like to see more reviews which make direct comparisons between a recently discontinued product with one that has just replaced it. So if a particular reviewer owns and has a lot of experience with a certain brand, then I would like to see that reviewer compare that brand's newest product with his current reference. This would really help those readers considering a particular upgrade within the same brand.
I think this could have more value than some other reviewer at the same magazine reviewing a brand he has little experience with.
The danger is that such a review might just say, buy the new one because it is newer, better and more expensive.
Well thought out and the reviewer is able to relate why that is.
To me, its more about different and perhaps more attainable ways to achieve really good results than it is anymore about new products sounding better than ever before and BTW perhaps also costing way more as well in order to get it. That's often a bunch of malarky IMHO. Even if it does, its a subjective call to say so, and getting really good sound is nothing new, just more ways to get it than ever and probably also for lower cost than ever before in most cases.
There are many good thoughts I agree with. I think the system except for the piece under review should remain constant.
What I mean is during the review no other components should be changed, only the one component under review.
This way a person can really discern the components impact. That's what you'd do at home. Then if you are comparing another component of the same type you would get a good picture of how the two match up.
"What I mean is during the review no other components should be changed, only the one component under review."
"This way a person can really discern the components impact. That's what you'd do at home. Then if you are comparing another component of the same type you would get a good picture of how the two match up."
All that tells you is how that component reacts to that system. The results could be totally different in your system.
I suspect many reviewers don't have a system themselves, but are using review items to make up the system. Nowone is going to make there first million as a HiFi reviewer and as others have suggested, some of the items reviewed will be beyond their, or any of our means, for that matter.
If you read reviews carefully, many report on using the item with other kit in for review at the same time.
In an ideal world, the item for review will be put in a stable system one at a time, I suspect in most cases, if the reviewer has a system, it will have 2, 3 or more review items in it at any one time. I am not sure how anyone can give a valid opinion, if this is the case.
Fact is that most of them have little deductive reasoning ability, limited experience, limited long term equipment that is really reference quality, and are just as prone to falling in love with a pretty new piece of equipment and manufacturer line of bull as the average audiophile. The number of really good listeners in the review field is very small.
Reminds me of automobile reviewers, one of which is a neighbor. She tells me that to keep the cars coming her way, she must be 90% positive, 10% negative. It is a 'formula' business. She gets to review about 60 cars a year and is a victim of 'creep', being always comparing to the last car reviewed. She does not do 'long term' reviews. Her happiness comes from never actually owning any car. So, she never must put her money where her mouth is. Now that a model for audio reviewers.
If a reviewer is using equipment similar to mine, and if he writes intelligently, I will take more than usual notice of what he or she may say about the equipment under review. But "more than usual notice" is not a lot of notice, for me. I generally read the reviews only to find out what the gear looks like, what inputs and outputs it has, and what other features might be of interest to me, including features of the circuitry, where electronics are concerned, except most reviewers say nothing about circuit design other than to repeat the babble from the manufacturer's promotional literature, which is worthless crap.
I totally agree with your statement.
Yes any observations will be specific to that system. But with a static system you would know that observations were based on a system they are familiar with.
Add something else during the review and that system is no longer the one they are familiar with.