Wrong direction?

The few "threads" back, a young man was inquiring about class "A" amp. And of course, most of the responses were in regard to class "A" amplifier, also understood by myself as such. Later, the same individual mentioned if able to "...find amp like that, he would further look for class "A" speakers!" Class A speakers? Well, i was wondering what could that be?...For a second i realized that he is referring to a Stereophile grading of the audio equipment! While i have and will be guilty of buying the audio products, unheard, i sure didn't base my decisions on one reviewer opinion or another! Stereophile sale doubles, and sometimes triples during the months of October, and April. "Recommended components" run those months. And the biggest offender, i think, is What HIFI, which reminds of audio "Swap Meet" periodical, with their little flags of "Best buy", or "component of choice" etc, etc...! Stereophile rates their components in class A, B, C and on.... Let see,... between class A and B, what was the determine factor to place the certain product to one or another? Room, cables...mood? So many variables, and controlled and uncontrolled events to "make or brake" one company, or sway one potential customer from buying the pre-amp, that he thought and felt was the ONE. But just changing his mind to purchase another, which was graded one STAR higher! I think, the magazines would be doing the consumer a favor, if those ratings and grading are eliminated. Let the consumer to decide! Especially audio components.
Dragon: Many people feel the same way about the Acadamy Awards, the Grammy's, etc.. Some people can walk into a wine shop and select an excellent bottle of wine without memorizing Robert Parker's or The Wine Spectator reviews. Some people can walk into a Hi-fi shop and select excellent equipment by its sonic atributes. Some people cannot and must rely on the scores to feel that they are getting either value or a trophy for their money spent.
Excellent points Dragon. I remember reading quotes in Stereophile regarding how price factored in to the equation. I even think it may be in the description of the scale. Something about Class C being "affordable"(I could be misquoting them on some level.)... Which to me is flat out WRONG! If Product A($599) sounds superior to Product B($25000) doesn't it deserve a higher rating??? And now that we are in the dark days(Jonathan Scull), class would be more related to cost than ever before. Dick Olsher called a spade a spade, regardless of price or marque. Scull will review something for twenty grand and rave until he has utterly embarassed himself. But have him review something for $799(and those are less than few and far between - even for his cables), and he will wonder how any company could market such dreck.
You are right Joe! And most of the reviewers(including Scull) are fifth-rate writers, whose talent fell several notches short of their bloated image of themself.
So I take it you didn't vote for Jonathan Scull on the "Best Reveiwer" thread?
Trelja- I haven't followed Stereophile in a while, but I think the qualification of Class C being affordable was more like it would could include affordable pieces that still bring some high end attributes, not that affordable gear only went into Class C. However, based on some of the other comments on this thread, maybe its not that way anymore. When you're buying over the net and you don't have lots of other hobbiest friends whose gear you can listen to, this should help you find a starting place for purchases. I for one do not feel comfortable going into a showroom, auditioning lots of items, then heading home to purchase on net, so I have to rely on these ratings and the advise of others I meet here and elsewhere.
I also question the bias of those opinions. You are right. It is an highly sbjective feild. I also wonder if there are fluctuation in grading because how much adertising that company bought. Sometime the equipment is given to the reveiwer and sometimes its loaned to them. I know I would think higher of a product if it was given to me.
I agree that the way things are rated by some mags is not in the best interest of the consumer. While i'm not sure if any mag does do this, why don't they have specific categories ( tonal balance, soundstage, detail, etc ) and then score them by scaled points in each individual category? While those that are clueless would still tune into the "final score", others could look at how the component does in specific categories to see which aspects were most important to them. From there, you could then see how well the rest of the product was balanced and fit your needs by looking at the individual scores in each category. This way, you could get a very specific feel for the product as broken down by category with the same standards followed for each review. Does this make sense ? Is anybody doing something like this ? Sean >
When I wrote the above post, I did not think of the fact that the selection of my Musical Fidelity amplifier was based on a review by Hi-Fi Choice. I could not audition the amp locally and had the option of returning the amp less shipping within 30 days for a full refund. It worked out OK as I like the amp more than the SS designs within the same price range that I auditioned at the area shops. But, I have auditioned a little SS integrated amp made by Magnum of England twice recently, and though I do not feel that it (the Magnum) stands up technically to the MF that I own, I prefer the sound of the Magnum with my speakers. It is more more musical, and I cannot get the sound out of my head. The Magnum by the way received a review less favorable than that of the MF by the same publication, Hi-Fi Choice. Go figure.
Totally agree with swampwalker. Magazine 'ratings' should only be a starting point for our quest. I don't think any one of us have enough time / opportunity to audition each and every equipment out there. So, these ratings and reviews - taken with a grain of salt - gives us a short(er) list.
one thing, among many, about stereophile ratings that really bugs me is: they refer only to the products they choose to review. (i know, in many instances these "choices" are really based on what manufactures beg them to review; in other instances the reviewed products are those most heavily advertised--perfect case in point is the current honker "speaker of the year," whose manufactuter has bought 2-page spreads for many months. my, my, what a surprise!) other, unreviewed products that may be, and frequently are, equal to those in class "a" are left off the list or, what a deal, relagated to class "k." how many times have you seen somebody advertise "stereophile CLASS K!!!" face it, tho, if it weren't for these ratings, stereophile would be out of business. something that may happen soon anyway.
Stereophile is in my opinion already dead.I havent read a good issue in many months.As far as the "list" goes,cornfedboy hit it right on the head.What surprises me is Stereophile seems to be so blatently obvious about it.
I think that everyone here has contributed something worthwhile. I did not mean to imply that an affordable piece is automatically relegated to Class C. But I do feel, it has to do something strong to pull itself out of that rating. Where as something with an exotic level price tag has to do the same to pull itself out of Class A. That being said, I still feel that Stereophile is the most important magazine of our hobby. Enough that I plan on keeping my subscription indefinitely(hey, at $1/month it is a great deal). And yes, I do agree that the magazine is really poor these days. The worst I can remember(in more than 10 years of reading). Please now allow me to make a point regarding Dragon's thread. The ratings should serve only as a guide. It is a fool indeed who uses the ratings as a road map. I can easily assemble a system from Class C components that will sound better than one of Class A components put together in a poor way.
Wrong direction?? Enuff said that reviewers are affected by many things. Basically these groups of experienced reviewers can give a starting point to audition new equipment. More importantly these reviews and rating entertain us. Sure we complain about reviewers that are affected by outside influence or great products that don't recieve any attention. For me that is as much fun as reading their opinions. Every once in a while a couple of them are funny. Lets face it, auditioning is where anyone with sense should make a purchasing decision. Reading is where we gain knowledge(hopefully) or at least get entertained. The part I like the best about reviews is a less experienced person telling me how highly ranked his reciever or speakers are. Then asking me how my equipment ranked(since he hasn't heard of most of it). I wish we could make it manditory all magazines had a percentile ranking or such(more instances to let reviews make idiots of themselves). Not that I don't respect some reviewers and their opinions, but everyone is affected by things now and then. Heck I'm the first to admit I can at times make a real idiot of myself. I just don't publish it. My $0.02. Happy LISTENING!....LR
TAS is definitely coming up. I agree that Stereophile has gone down since many of it's great reviewers have left. I also think the remaining majority are still very good- Mike Fremer, Sam Tellig, robert reina etc. It's still the most important magazine, perhaps because of the ratings. Those ratings dramatically affect the saleability of a used product. For someone like me who is trying to learn about audio by owning and listening to products, I need to have a certain level of 'guarantee' that something will hold its value. For better or worse, it's much easier to sell a $3000 audio component with their 'blessing' of a class A rating. One interesting thing I have found is that the products they rate 'B' tend to be more interesting. Products that have sonic flaws, but also some extreme characteristic that makes them special. My old sonic frontiers sfm-160 amps were a good example. Yes they had less clarity and a transparency than my vt100 which is why they were a class B. But to compensate for this they had more warmth, considerably more power, and a larger soundstage. A better amp for some people. I thought it amazing that the class B ($5500retail) SFM took 3 months to sell for $1600 on the used market whereas (at the time), the ($5000) vt100m2 sold in a few days for 3200 ! Admittedly age was a factor. The conrad-johnson mv-50/mv-55 amps are another example. Those amps play midrange vocals better than anything I've ever heard. They capture the emotional content of a recording better than any amp I've heard. Class B vandersteen 3's ? Less clarity than my Class A rated Virgo's, but a sense of power the virgo couldn't match. Much better rock n roll speaker. You could tell they were a full range 110lb speaker ! I really like the fact that stereophile reviews things in all price classes. When I was younger I bought things out of their class C and D lists, and found I had a pretty good stereo. You can enjoy high end at all price points. I think the mid-priced stuff is where all the fun is anyway. The ultra-expensive stuff all sounds the same - gold plated perfect, but with limited personality. Kind of like (some) of it's buyers.
Good post John-- my experience too. My McCormack DNA-2DX amps (I have 2) have never been reviewed by Stereophile. They list for $5000. each, but recently I saw two of them advertised used for $1750. each-- just about made me cry. FWIW, I am content to KNOW that if Stereophile did review this amp it really would be Class A. But, I really don't care as I plan to keep these amps indefinitely (best I've ever heard) and have them converted to mono-blocs. Trust your own ears if you're in it for the long haul. Cheers. Craig
Amen, Garfish. ALWAYS trust your own ears. Just another reason that I lament the passing of the Annual Audio Equipment Guide. To me, at least as useful as the Stereophile ratings. As it let me know what was out there. I could then contact the company(via phone, mail, website, or e-mail), and find a dealer to go see and hear the product. The Stereophile guide, while necessary and quite informative, is incomplete. And I have a problem with the fact that generally the products reviewed by Stereophile are the ones advertised in the magazine. There is so much other great equipment out there. As stated above, the Class B components are often more interesting and engaging than those on the Class A list. Not to mention often more easy to build a long term system around, as they are generally more forgiving/less idiosyncratic.
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Good post Elizabeth. I live out in the boondocks too, so I understand how difficult auditioning can be also. Another good example of a relatively low priced Stph. Class A product is Audible Illusions 3A pre-amp at about $2500. I would be a hypocrite if I said I didn't use Stereophile's rating system as a GUIDE. It has a lot of value to me, especially for putting together a "short list" of "stuff" to audition. As Trelja noted, I also miss Audio Mags. Annual Equipment Guide for this reason. Actually, with the possible exception of speakers, I have concluded that "in store auditions" are almost worthless to me. I need to audition the product in MY system in MY room. This opinion is not popular with retailers (brick and mortar), but it is a fact of life to many audio enthusiasts. I look for stores that will do home auditions via mail order. Progressive Audio in Columbus, Ohio has a good policy on this and they are good to deal with. Of course used equipment via i-net is the latest way of reasonably doing in-home auditions, and also saving a few bucks. I think the i-net is going to fundamentally change high end audio. Still, Eldragon's point is well taken. Cheers. Craig.
So Elizabeth you went with the Class "A" Adcom. Tell us, what are your impressions? Is Stereophile right in giving this pre-amp its esteemed highest rating? Inquiring minds want to know!
Off the thread: Garfish, I have had the same experience with store versus home demos. Curiously enough all of the electronics have sounded better at home (due to being properly set up with isolation feet and platforms) and only a few speakers have sounded worse (mismatch with my amp most likely). I also don't happen to have another 20 or so speakers positioned around our living room, to suck up the sound of the speakers that are being played. Anyway, I live in LA with plenty of shops to audition at (but not all brands are available by any means), and still need to home demo products as well. It's good to hear that there are other businesses around (other than Audio Advisor with a good but limited selection) that offer home demo service.
FWIW, the audio mag annual equipment list has been picked up, to an extent, by sound & vision a/k/a "deaf & blind." there are some interesting pissed-off posts re: the new list at aa, since deaf & blind has reportedly refused to incude any analog equipment! BTW, elizabeth: interesting post; the word, tho, is spelled "schmuck." tho i don't think thou art 1. ;>) can't imagine how difficult it must be to live so far from quality audio stores. out here in denver, we're in audio heaven.
Stereophile? Why, I only look at the pictures, of course! [:)] Charlie
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I found the same volume and anemia related experience with my 750. I do feel that it's active mode is more class A than b- or C+. Using Virgos and Pass Amps, I A/B'd with my $4000 active Pass Preamp, and it has '95%' of the sound quality in passive mode and '90%' in active. An audiophile friend heard the same thing.
Cornfedboy--- thanks for the tip that Sound and Vision (deaf & blind) is picking up the Equipment Buyers Guide of the late Audio Mag.-- that would be the only reason to carry a subscription, IMO-- except that a sub. is only about $10. Do you happen to know what issue THE GUIDE is planned for? Thanks. Craig.
garfish: according to a post on aa, the "sound & vision equipment guide 2001" was on the newstands as of 10/18/00. haven't looked for it myself. cheers!