What does it take to qualify as a reviewer?

Posted in this thread earlier;
some participants said they are reviewers.

One said;

"I myself was once asked if I would be interested in reviewing for one of the publications mentioned above, by its editor. I wasn't, but also declined because I didn't feel that I was qualified: not as an audiophile, nor technically, nor as a writer."

Another said:

"let us consider what might "qualify" someone as a reviewer. Would it be an EE degree, years of experience in audio, experience as a dealer in audio, knowing many manufacturers, being wealthy enough to not be bought to give a good review to get the component at a good price, being articulate, hearing well in tests, etc.?"

And he goes on to make some other interesting remarks in the same post, in my opinion anyway.

Out of respect to the OP and not to further divert the thread from its' original theme, I began this thread.

So, what qualifications, experience, education, characteristics etc., do you believe one should possess and needs to be a reviewer?

It would be interesting to hear from everyone for I myself haven't really thought about it and can't offer an answer. Perhaps others ideas could help us form an opinion.


Hyperbole, exaggeration, contradiction, inconsistency, cables more expensive than 98% of all subscribers systems, and a love for this insane nerdy hobby we all are a part of on some level.
Seriously, some basic understanding of music, how it sounds live, reproduced, both musical and electronic backgrounds and the ability to wax eloquence when reviewing/writing....O and lets not forget, the ability to have fun, and more fun being evaluated by readers.
You need to hang out at all the audio shows. You need to be a good schmoozer.
you need to remember EVERYBODY who is anybody in audio.
You have to kiss the right ass.
Then you have to be able to write a reasonable sentence.
And know what a paragraph is.
Beyond that, just be in the right place at the right time, and suddenly, you're a reviewer.
You need to want to write, and reviewing audio is just a thing you can do writing about!!!
You can start your own website and write stuff.
Or your buddies who did start an audio review website can put your reviews in thier site.
you can write reviews for all the sites like Audiogon, and Audio Asylum endlessly until you get noticed by one of the big review places..

Talent needed: can write a sentence, a paragraph. and have ears, and a place to do the reviews.
(If one lives in a box under a bridge, i do not think reviewing is for them.)
I agree with most of what Elizabeth mentions. But- It is apparent that, in many cases, ears were NOT a prerequisite.
Trying to be serious here, I'd say a GOOD reviewer would have, first of all, broad exposure to the great variety of manufacturers and designs that exist. That's a corollary of the problem with much advice given in online forums, you usually don't know how much or what background someone posting an opinion really has. Second, they'd have enough industry insider knowledge and technical expertise that they'd not recommend that readers go and buy some poorly designed product marketed by an under capitalized company bound to go belly up in the near future. Perhaps a bit of understanding about marketing and business would help in evaluation of products. After all, some very small operations have made great gear and been in business for many years and other upstarts with big budgets and grand ambitions have failed. Of course, writing skills would be a great help. Having an analytical mind that understand the basics of logic and that has developed reasoning skills balanced with the capacity for intense emotional involvement with music helps as well. As to "not having ears," I'd just chalk that up to the fact we are all different and respond to different aspects of music reproduction. Plus, it's impossible to use a piece of equipment in all possible contexts. Can a reviewer write an objective, dispassionate, and analytical review of a product that would accurately describe all performance parameters and equipment/room interactions?
I agree with all the above particularly Photon46's criteria and would add the ability to accurately and consistently articulate and describe difference between components and sonic characteristics of components in a language that can be understood by all. The key thing is that the taste of the reviewer is not nearly as important as describing what he hears. I always felt the late JG Holt was the best of all reviewers I have read in that aspect. Of course he met all the other criteria as well, writing skills, technical understanding and certainly experience with a wide range of components over years of listening.
if you want to review for stereophile, you need to be the biggest bullshit artist that you can be, need to be able to always give a good review at the end no matter if you find flaws in it, and you need to justify the piece as being the best that you have heard in your system, even if your system has changed dramatically since you last reviewed something similar. Make sure you have a thesaurus handy to modify words that are simple to emphasize your review.
What does it take to qualify as a reviewer?

Since your question was asked in seriousness, I'll give a serious anwer rather than a "tongue in cheek" response.

In an ideal world to qualify as a reviewer one should:

1. Be a music lover
2. Have good hearing
3. Have years of experience hearing, owning, and using audio gear ranging from average consumer level to the high end
4. Be a competent writer
5. Possess some technical knowledge of audio equipment: how it is built, the circuitry, build quality, as well as the language, jargon, and lexion of audio
6. Know the industry inside and out
7. Have a committment to objectivity in a very subjective field
8. Have a sense of humor
9. Be an advocate for the consumer-audiophiles (I said this is the ideal world!)
Most car salesmen have the skills to be audio reviewers !!!!!
to add to Foster's list

to attend live concerts on a regular basis would help

IMO of course...
I think Rbstehno got it with "need to be able to always give a good review at the end no matter if you find flaws in it." I mean, how many times have we finished a review with a few mentioned "limitations" of the component only to end at the last paragraph with some unequivocal recommendation that this is a "great deal," or an "I could live with it in my system," blah blah...? It seems disingenuous on the part of the reviewer. But afterall, reviews should be read for entertainment value. In the end the only, and often impracticle way to assess, is via up close and personal listening...in your own system.
you must be able to write good fiction. i.e. describe differences in equipment that do not exist. you must never violate the most important rules, if it cost more, it's better. and if the item gives great value for the money i.e. POLK, EMOTIVA, HARMAN KARDON etc.... it must be totally destoryed, or at best ignored. Hell, in this day and age with spell checkers and all, anyone without conscience can do the job.
>>09-06-11: Tpreaves
Most car salesmen have the skills to be audio reviewers !!!!!<<

That's an insult to car salesmen everywhere.
IMHO, Rbstehno, Stevecham and Tpreaves have got it right, although most of the qualities Elizabeth mentions are also required. And yes, I consider that a serious answer to the question. There are, in my view, few bigger mistakes in this hobby than taking reviewers, or the magazines they appear in, seriously. These are entertainment writers -- there is often useful information to be gleaned from the reviews they write, but their equipment evaluations are mostly hyperbole. Read and enjoy, by all means (I read two of the periodicals regularly, and another two when I can stomach them), but don't think for a minute you're getting objective information.
accuracy of perception and aural acuity are key ingredients.

if you can accurately describe ehat you hear and write well, that should be sufficient.
It's entertainment and nothing more.

Look at a cross section of the "reviewers" we read (well you read, not me); bearded old fat men, failed college professors, preachers, and midgets are only some of the cast of characters.

It would be a great reality show.

"Audio Reviewer Survivor"

10 reviewers flown to a tropical island. They read their articles to each other 24/7. Only breaks for meals and bathroom allowed. No hygiene permitted although some of them have mastered this already.

Last person listening wins.

Coming to pay per view soon.
Being corrupt, as you find that only by getting in bed with manufacturers, get you actually make a living doing such.
Great thread!
I resent the remark about used car salesman, but to each his own opinion.
I do agree with about 95% of the answers & would add an ego the size of Kansas.
09-06-11: Audiofeil
>>09-06-11: Tpreaves
Most car salesmen have the skills to be audio reviewers !!!!!<<
That's an insult to car salesmen everywhere.

09-06-11: Paladin
Great thread!
I resent the remark about used car salesman, but to each his own opinion.
I do agree with about 95% of the answers & would add an ego the size of Kansas.

You guys are right, reviewers don't have to smile at you while they're lying to you!!!!
a good aural memory is a plus

funny how live music (especially horns) is so bright and lively compared to hi fi
Ears. Just ears.

No, I'm serious. When I was asked to participate in review sessions, I agreed of course. The first or second time I showed up, the magazine editor took pains to mention that no special qualifications were necessary.

Over the noise of my deflating ego, I could hear him say that the whole point of hi-fi was that anyone could hear what the magazine people heard. If that were not the case, then it would be true that this is an elitist hobby, only suitable for a tiny subset of the population.

So I have to say that what it takes is ears, plus you need to be passing by the publication's offices when they're draggin' folks in off the street.
Most needed reviewer quality:

Never say anything directly bad about any gear. Rather damn it with faint praise while being able to defend the notion that the sonic pithing it delivers can be palatable in the correct room.
You need a room, high school writing skills, lips that dont mind the taste of ass and an ego that insists your actually honest and ethical even when everyone knows you strayed from it. Then you just need to sell yourself out and support your audio habbit with quid pro coe deals.
Be it midgets, preachers, failed salesman balding or not among others Bill mentioned all in all its not a bad racket if you can sleep at night.
According to the majority here, simply put, it takes a lack of integrity. pathetic...
Hi everyone!

Thanks to all who've written so far. Appreciate everyones opinion.

Some strong, colorful responses!


Clarification please.

Pathetic because of the majorities observation of a lack of integrity, or that so many feel this way?

Speaking of which, if many have such ill feelings toward reviewers, how do you go about researching components and deciding which you'd like to audition/purchase? Not all of us have access to brick and mortar stores or word of mouth from friends. We might say forums or for sale/auction sites but aren't we still reading something written by a reviewer researching to gain some perspective?

We have to start somewhere. In that case isn't there value in their writings? Whether or not we like their style, feel they're unbiased, vague in their findings, are knowledgable or worse lack integrity?

Not all can fall into the same mold. You know, one bad apple....

Not defending either, figure if reviewers want to rebut some of the posts here let them do it!

Curious about your process. Look forward to continued discussion.
the best, most reliable reviews come for people who have actually purchased the item and currently has it in his / her system. I look to sites like Amazon and Crutchfield etc.... Real people with real world systems. Audiogon members are not good sources of reviews, because most of them have an agenda and personal bias.
1) Good writer
2) Good ears
3) experience with audio
4) desire to keep up with new developments
5) a basic technical background to be able to distinguish a sound technical approach from gibberish
6) be as unbiased as possible

At least in theory, this is how it should work.

Of course we all know the real world seldom reflects theory exactly.
"Look at a cross section of the "reviewers" we read (well you read, not me); bearded old fat men, failed college professors, preachers, and midgets are only some of the cast of characters."


Really? Really?

I guess they use a taller chair when auditioning.

No Brad Pitt-like guys reviewing audio, huh?

Or Angelina Jolie types?

That might be good for sales!
A reviewer simply needs an opinion and an audience to express it to. A good reviewer needs some of the skills already listed.
I don't get the difference between people on Amazon, Crutchfield and this site. All of the above site reviews are done by people that have the equipment in their system, they all have an agenda, and they all have a bias. What makes any of them different from the other. Is it because the ones you choose to agree with share your same narrow views?
my views are many things, but narrow ain't one of them.
"I don't get the difference between people on Amazon, Crutchfield and this site."

People on this site on average are more OCD when it comes to audio than people on those sites.

For better or for worse....

Also those sites track cumulative average ratings for products across many reviews, which is a good thing in terms of being able to identify useful trends and patterns.

Audiogon does not track any metrics regarding reviews or any other qualitative aspect of the gear featured. Synthesis by users is harder and more subjective. The only metrics available are average sale prices of used gear (for a fee).

THis is a very static site. It must be doing well because it has not changed or evolved much that I can see over teh several years that I have noticed. Almost every other commercial site on teh internet does evolve, change and improve. Audiogon is a very interesting beast! Much like the high end gear featured on it.
Mapman, I agree with what you are saying about how the other sites do a great job of tracking overall rankings. Audio Review is another site that does this. I also agree that the people on this site are more OCD about their gear. My point was, why would a person disregard a written review by a member that they don't know here, but accept the written review of someone they don't know on a different site? Or vice versa? What makes the opinion of one any more valid than the other? The only thing I can think of is a preconceived bias. I know that when I research gear, I use as many sources of info as I can find. That includes the reviews on the above listed sites as well as professional reviews. I also know that when reading a professional review, I have to read between the lines. The reasons for that are spelled out pretty well in this thread. I also go listen to as much of the gear as I can at shows and experiment with my own system.