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What I hate about HiFi web sites & magazines


jeffca
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Absolute #1:

Equipment reviews with no test data

While I have no doubt that most of the people who write for HiFi sites & mags have heard some really great equipment and some of them know truly great sound when they hear it, I'm really tired of the "Sounds Great To Me" school of reviewing. While numerical & graphical data can't relate all of the sound quality of a product, they can shed a great deal of light on why it sounds as is does. Also, it can, more importantly, expose shortcomings in the equipment's performance. Or do you believe that every company marketing equipment to us is telling the truth and all of their products meet or surpass their specs?

 

#2:

Attributing analog qualities to digital components

Before anyone gets too nuts, I'm talking about anything prior to the DAC. Before to the DAC, everything is code. Transports, hard drives, interfaces and all digital cables have no sound quality because they don't pass audio; they pass computer code. As long as they transmit the data contiguously and in a timely manner, everything is as perfect as can be. If not, then there is trouble. Data integrity is the only thing important with this stuff.

 

#3:

Power Cords

How crappy does the power supply in a component have to be so that it makes a big difference in its sound? No answer is required (it's a rhetorical question). Don't get me wrong. I think quality power conditioning is decent part of wringing the most you can out of a system, but asserting that a power cord wil transform your listening experience is idiotic on multiple levels. Passing 60hz AC through a few feet of wire is not a big deal at all. What is important is that the power cord transmit the electricity with the least possible stray EMF and be constructed from durable, high quality components. That I'll pay for.

 

I disavow the expertise of any alledged journalist or publication that is a proponent of this type of lunacy.

 

#4:

Passive Loudspeakers

While I won't deny that their are fantastic passive loudspeakers, any speaker can be improved by getting rid of the caps, resistors and coils and going active. I've owned Paradigm Reference Active's (discontinued because they were ahead of their time and weren't big sellers) and can atest to their superiority (50-20,000hz, +-1db... nice, eh?). Since Paradigm halted production, actives have become a bit more popular in HiFi and ubiquitous in pro audio (you know, places where audio quality is truly important like studios?).

Paying way over $3,000 for Wilson, B&W, KEF or any other brand for passive speakers is a bit like buying vinyl LP's. Unfortunately, most speaker companies don't give you an active option. They're running with the old paradigm (no pun intended) and no one from the HiFi community is sounding a peep. For the studio, you can't find much in the way of passive speakers.

Ever heard a B&W 801? Ever heard an 801 with the crossover bypassed and a Lake Contour digital crossover with 3 Bryston amps? Great becomes much greater.

The downside is that you can't really do this well going on the cheap (sub-$500).

Me? I'm so over passive speakers that I'm building my own actives to replace my Paradigms. Nobody is really making what I want.

 

Well, I could go on, but it's late and I haven't eaten supper yet.

 

Cheers,

jeff

 

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jeffca -

 

Rule #8 on the Hydrogenaudio Forum is no statements about how something sounds w/o empirical testing backup (like double blind ABX).

 

Hydro members have been banned for repeated vilations of this rule.

 

Mike M

 

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.. it much more fun to have tfarney or Ashley (or others) engage such folks than to have a standing rule like that. Thank heaven that we don't. And thank heaven that we have people here that are committed to purity. Hydrogen Audio is ... well, let's just say 'dry'. I'm sure that from time to time, Chris would like to have such a rule here at CA though.

 

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http://www.theaudiocritic.com/downloads/article_1.pdf

 

Purifying to simply accept all that as fundamental truth. Sort of like an audiophile colonic. Most of us will read that then go right back to our normal high fat search for the next exotic tweak.

 

You know the old X-Files Mulder's "I WANT TO BELIEVE" flying saucer poster? We should have one of those with a really beautiful boutique interconnect in it. On a silk pillow. There's a lot of things we talk about here you could put in that poster. We could start with an M-Audio Transit.

 

Rand

 

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.. you're starting at somewhere near the bottom of the list aren't you (M Audio Transit)? By the way, Welcome to Computer Audiophile - from me... That, (starting at the bottom) isn't a bad thing though. Many would find that doing so would be a major improvement over the CDP solution that they have now.

 

I really do not want to participate in the controversial parts of the audiophile 'debate'. The minutia involved in that debate has never proven to be either relevant or necessary for hearing great sound for me. I've been 'purified' and have no need for the 'fat'. Unless we are talking about bacon fat - that is quite a different matter. ..... I DO believe. It all is really very simple. That is how I'm wired.

 

Thank you for caring - markr

 

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I was particularly bemused by Martin Colloms in the late 90s, early 00s. He gave components a numerical score without specifying that the scale was, how he arrived at it, or what it meant. Or if he did, I missed that issue. That was around the time I realised all the good, engineering-based reviewers seem to have disappeared.

 

I don't think any magazine or website these days (certainly in the UK) can afford the sort of group testing necessary to sort out whether similar components really sound dissimilar to any significant extent. All the tests that did it seem to date from some years ago and have been conveniently put aside. They do what sells advertising, after all.

 

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.. you're starting at somewhere near the bottom of the list aren't you (M Audio Transit)?

 

Starting low but just about any hardware we discuss can go there. The Transit has been rightfully suggested as a great, inexpensive place to start by a prominent CA forum member that sells a very nice product with a much better Wolfson-based DAC circuit, but he's also said the Transit sounds as good as the best DACs to him. (I honestly have a lot of respect for that guy.) The Transit is a great poster subject because some WANT TO BELIEVE it's as good as anything and others WANT TO BELIEVE it's a piece of rubbish.

 

It probably helps to be an old X-Files fan to see the humor... Taking into consideration that some people in the CA forum (like you?) rationalize audiophile hardware based on an educated, solid understanding of how electronics and sound reproduction actually works. They likely think anyone needing something beyond what's logically necessary is like believing in space aliens and their UFO spacecraft. (Freakin' nuts?!) I still think it's okay in spite of that possible "irrational behavior" because I support free enterprise and I expect most people that will spend hundreds or thousands on interconnects are usually happy with their purchases.

 

I don't want to participate in the debates either but I appreciate them because sometimes something interesting or enlightening comes from them. They've certainly helped me make a few decisions about what's necessary to keep my system balanced for the level of quality I can afford... which isn't very high but is certainly very nice for a frugal but serious audiophile quality system.

 

Rand - (likes bacon too)

 

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I do understand how electronics (digital and analogue) and sound reproduction work. There is nothing, absolutely nothing unsound about the M Audio transit. In fact, they sound quite good! - I hope I didn't offend you, I was looking for an opening statement there and may not have done it very gracefully. If you know what Pro Tools is and how it is connected to M Audio, then you understand that those two, combined, help to produce a huge portion of the music that we all listen to.

 

Reproducing that music is a different and less complicated matter for the most part. Of course production equipment does the job of that quite well. How else could one hear if what they recorded is up to snuff for a release to the public?

 

I too don't care if folks feel the need to spend huge amounts on interconnects and the like if it makes them happy. ... As long as it isn't interfering with their ability to cope with their needs in life that is. More power to them. More power to ME, actually - I'd love to be able to afford a quiet country place and just keep the same simple (and solid) interconnects, etc. that I have now.....

 

On the "debates": I WANT TO BELIEVE that they gave me more than just an occasional burst of verbiage, but they didn't. They didn't really give me any enlightenment either, unless it was enlightenment about the person who was posting. Maybe, just maybe though, they gave others like you something tangible to take with them. I'll miss them for that.

 

Gotta go! I'm going chupacabra hunting tonight.

 

- markr

There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary and those who don't.

 

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Can I find an active stand mount or desktop monitor with a built in single ended triode or pentode based tube amp? Can I tweak the sound by changing speaker wire or interconnect, or amp, etc, etc? Active monitors have their place and so do passive monitors. Audio, whether computer based, CD based, or Vinyl based is as much a subjective art form as it is a science. To say "this" is better than "that" in this game is like saying apples are better than oranges. I like active monitors for their "all in one" tidiness and convenience, but I like separate components for their endless flexibility. Concerning reviewers without electronic measuring equipment: A good reference system, and an experienced set of ears go a lot further than a room full of test equipment in capturing the essence of how an audio component sounds, and that is what most readers are after. If it sounds good it is good.

 

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Can I find an active stand mount or desktop monitor with a built in single ended triode or pentode based tube amp? Can I tweak the sound by changing speaker wire or interconnect, or amp, etc, etc? Active monitors have their place and so do passive monitors. Audio, whether computer based, CD based, or Vinyl based is as much a subjective art form as it is a science. To say "this" is better than "that" in this game is like saying apples are better than oranges. I like active monitors for their "all in one" tidiness and convenience, but I like separate components for their endless flexibility. Concerning reviewers without electronic measuring equipment: A good reference system, and an experienced set of ears go a lot further than a room full of test equipment in capturing the essence of how an audio component sounds, and that is what most readers are after. If it sounds good it is good.

 

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To me, a magazine or website review is the beginning of the process. I've read many a letter in a hifi magazine of people commenting how they've taken CD player X, amplifier Y and speakers Z, all highly rated in their own right by the magazine, and been dissapointed with the result. This is where demonstrations and a good dealer come in.

 

If you take a review on face value, then buy off the Internet, often you'll be disappointed. That's why it's so important (IMO) for us to support as far as possible local dealers. They maybe be more expensive than buying online but their acilities are invaluable. Unfortunately a good dealer is a dying breed and as is often commented here inflexible when it comes to computer audio.

 

Also I think personal tastes come into choosing any audio systems. What's best: Naim 500 series pre/power with a Bryston DAC and B&W 800 series speakers or a Meridian 861 and DSP8000 speakers? Both highly rated in their own right but whch will *I* prefer. The only way to tell is with a demonstration. Of maybe when I walk into the dealer they'll suggest I try Leema amplification and a Weiss Minerva with a pair of Focal Electra speakers and I'll be in audio nirvana.

 

Anyway my twopenth worth ...

Eloise.

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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>"A good reference system, and an experienced set of ears go a lot further than a room full of test equipment"

 

It's the reviewer's reference and he/she is used to it. If it's not the most accurate he/she is simply telling you a preference when the new component comes in. Furthermore if the reference system isn't accurate (flat freq response, adequately powered, matched to room) from start to finish and has been tuned by matching components, any new bit of kit will throw it out of whack. Result: new component is criticised or commented u[on for undue emphasis or loss in some aspect.

 

I like an experienced listener to be writing but I prefer them to also know the engineering and be able to use the test equipment otherwise there is no real reference point. One UK magazine ran a review where at the end of it the reviewer admitted he'd just got his ears syringed and how much better everything sounded. How many pages of verbiage had he wasted before he realised he needed to have that done?

 

When the review starts to sound like an upmarket restaurant review, you know it's not about the equipment any more.

 

btw, ref tubes and active monitors - as actives generally crop up in a studio environment, I doubt you'll find speakers with built in tube amps. Some manufacturers do sell speakers with external x/overs which you can then upgrade to powered x/overs and use your own choice of amplifiers. I can't think

 

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^ All very good points.

 

Although, to be fair to reviewers in general, whether they are writing about equipment, a live performance, an abum, book or food, they are themselves in the entertainment industry as well as trying to report 'the facts'. Personally I'm not sure how much better informed I would be if a review consisted of nothing but measurements, I certainly wouldn't be very entertained and I doubt if I would have gained any insights. Think of sports reports for comparison, for example: You get the unarguable (well almost) facts right at the top of the story when you see the score, but you need a bit more to form an impression of the game.

 

I get this a lot when it comes to album reviews - if the reviewer is an articulate writer, it's quite possible that I will decide to follow up on a negative review because I think my preferences will be different from the critic's. And vice versa.

 

Incidentally, I read "Furthermore if the reference system isn't accurate (flat freq response, adequately powered, matched to room) from start to finish and has been tuned by matching components" and immediately thought that could be the title of the most explosive, heated, controversial topic ever. Do you think such a system exists? Does god have a hifi in heaven for those days when the angelic chorus has a bit of a hangover? :)

 

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There are things that we can measure that we can't hear - we're just meat sacks, and our ears are not all that great as instruments, and there is considerable variance in how well we hear. And some of us are very clever at creating electronic measuring instruments.

 

There are things that we can measure that we can hear.

 

There may be things we can hear that we haven't yet learned to measure.

 

There are things that we think we can hear that may not be there at all.

 

Reviews are perhaps most useful when they report things that we can measure that we can also hear. The idea is that a piece of equipment that has better numbers for those things will result in a better listening experience for pretty much anyone.

 

Facts in reviews are good. Most impressions are not really useful. Some might be, like "the display on the unit is clear and bright". I don't really need some measurement of that, the impression tells me what I need to know. "Open" and "expansive" and "better soundstage" are pretty subjective impressions - I can't really have much confidence that I would have the same experience as the reviewer with the same equipment.

 

Should you confine your purchasing decisions to such things? Nope. You should buy what makes you happy. That may include things that you can hear that we don't yet know how to measure, and (perhaps more likely) things that you think you can hear that may not be there. It doesn't matter, as long as you aren't spending money you don't have on things that aren't really doing you any good.

 

Thus we should remember to be gentle with one another, for who among us knows better what will make another happy?

 

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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keep coming.

 

M-Audio transit? Ooh, make sure Ash doesnt see that lol!

 

I hope we dont get any silly rules here about empirical evidence. Where is the problem with the idea that if something sounds good to me im going to listen to it?!

 

Now, i agree that measurements are capable of telling us we cannot hear things sometimes*, but they can also be seen a different way; just because they say something good about a product sometimes, does not mean i hear that difference (something measures a zero for judder? Well whoopee! Ya cant hear it anyway)...Ahem.

 

*There are things we experience sometimes which are only later explained by science - indeed that is the way with much of what we know of the world, like with black sheep.

 

Stating this fact, however, somehow makes me an unscientific, subjectivist oaf.

 

Or, what WoodsDweller said. Perfec'!

 

Um...should point out i have omly just found out about THAT situation, since my original post. I was in no way trying to be provocative with regrd to it by mentioning you-know-who.

 

Sorry Chris.

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Disclosure time first: I have worked for hi-fi magazines and websites.

 

The answers to all four complaints comes down to two words:

 

The Readers

 

I have worked on magazines that measure. I have worked on ones that don't. The ones that don't sell product. The ones that do, don't. That holds irrespective of product, price, quality of review or measurements.

 

When I worked on magazines that measure, most readers use the measurements to draw wild conclusions that make no more or less sense than the most noodly subjective psychobabble. Is it really worth rejecting a DAC over half a femtosecond's worth of jitter? Can you really hear the 1dB dip at 18kHz that separates one speaker from another?

 

Trying to educate readers with features explaining the subject tend not to work, either. They just get skipped over by those who really should be reading them and get read over and over again by those who already know that stuff. Having run a regular introductory 'standing matter' feature about what to look for in the spec sheet in products, we finally stopped hearing 'how many watts in that speaker?'. Instead we heard 'how many watts per channel in that speaker?'

 

Hi-fi enthusiasts also love the stuff you clearly don't. I have run demonstrations where every single component in the system is new; sometimes wholly new technology and the single largest question asked is... what cables are you using? I've also run a demonstration using a pair of active loudspeakers, called for more responsibility in reviewing and more rational, empirical thought on the part of both reviews and readers. The end result in each case was emails asking for me to be sacked.

 

And they keep buying record players, too.

 

If I had a time machine, I could go back to about 1979 and tell Jean Hiraga to STFU. And maybe a lot of this would simply go away. Unfortunately, you can't get this particular genie back in the bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

vel, Zaphod\'s chust zis guy, you know.

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In Germany we have several magazines dealing with HiFi or HighEnd. Just yesterday I bought the newest edition of the magazine "Stereoplay" - it included tests about the new Sennheiser headphone, a test of the "new" Playstation 3, active loudspeaker tests and some other things. Per mail I get the sister magazine "Audio" monthly.

 

But right now I´m considering the possibility of not buying these magazines anymore. Reason: I grew very suspicious upon reading the Playstation 3 article. For sure, Sony improved the hardware a lot since initial release but they dropped the SACD feature. And the "Stereoplay" mentioned this only once at the end of a sentence that until that point described improvements like lower heat dissipation or lower fan noise. Normally, the "Stereoplay" is a supporter of SACD, so I began to wonder.

 

Especially interesting is that Sony will announce some major & global change with its Playstation 3 this week (most certainly this will be a strong price-drop), coinciding nicely with this article and the described "improvements" within. The overall style of the articles in both "Stereoplay" & "Audio" magazines have changed - getting more hollow, sounding an awful lot like advertising. Maybe it has to do with the recent sale of this magazines to another publishing house, I don´t know. But I´m beginning to lose hope.

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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I'd take that Audio Critic 'Ten Biggest Lies in Audio' with a healthy pinch of salt. While I personally agree with a lot of what he says (especially about bi-wiring), are you sure there isn't an agenda poking through? After all, Peter Aczel's not exactly one of the White Hats:

 

Perhaps Lie #1 should be 'Write a rave review about the Fourier loudspeaker, while conveniently forgetting to disclose that you had a 50% stake in the company'

 

Lie #2 might then be 'When outed by high-end manufacturers and reviewers over this, go underground for a few years then start a single-handed campaign to discredit said high-end manufacturers and reviewers'

 

Then, Lie #3 could be 'Allegedly take your subscribers money while going on that seven-year hiatus, using the cash to fund said loudspeaker company'

 

This was all pretty well documented at the time... except in The Audio Critic for some strange reason. To me, this undermines his credibility as the voice of 'Accountability in audio journalism'.

 

vel, Zaphod\'s chust zis guy, you know.

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review to a speaker which they have a 50% stake in, then found that company afterwards?

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Here's a (not so) short history of Peter Azcel and The Audio Critic:

 

Peter Azcel was initially a subjective reviewer. One of the most subjective of the subjectivists, in fact. Some of the products he loved in early reviews of his - the Electrocompaniet 25/25 power amp, for example - were subjectively great but objectively so-so and would never pass muster in his later years.

 

Azcel subsequently became involved in the Fourier loudspeaker company. He held a financial share (said to be a 50% stake) in the company's interests and then wrote a glowing review of the company's loudspeaker. The fact that he had financial interest in the company was not disclosed in the review itself. Azcel's support for the Fourier was unique, as other reviewers disliked the design.

 

When Azcel's financial interests in the Fourier design were finally exposed, he was discredited and dropped out of the magazine business for some years, allegedly taking subscription money to continue to invest in the Fourier loudspeaker company. The Fourier loudspeaker company subsequently closed, and Azcel re-started The Audio Critic, having undergone a dramatic transformation to objective-only reviews and a complete dismissal of anything he appeared to hold in his former life. Whether this Road to Damascus event is some kind of vendetta against the industry that discredited him, or a genuine discovery that he spent the first years of his reviewing life in a delusional state... I could not possibly comment.

 

Now, none of the above undermines the force of his argument, but it does question his motives in making the argument in the first place.

 

vel, Zaphod\'s chust zis guy, you know.

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Just for the record - and i hesitate to even say it - i have no knowledge of him at all prior to yesterday. I just thought it read like there was a problem with the space-time continuum.

 

Thanks for clearing that up tho!

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Stereophile is a great source of "burble" i.e. mindless descriptive prose...take this gem from a discussion over the relative merits of computer servers or the Ayre CD player ..."Wes said "The Ayre had a tad more shimmer in the upper registers, a slightly more physical presence"

 

Does your server have shimmer?

 

yours, with physical presence,tog

 

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