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Are there any bad reviews of audiophile gear from the usual suspects? By the usual suspects, I mean:

 

The Absolute Sound

Stereophile

Six Moons

et. al.

 

I mean, I am sure we are living in a golden age of audio, but it's not all good, is it? I went to a shop with the intent of hearing a speaker that is currently getting rave reviews all over the place as a "punches above its weight, true high end for intro prices, fill in your cliche here..." Said speakers were connected to McIntosh gear, each piece of which was probably worth more than my whole stereo. I was seriously underwhelmed by these speakers. I did this session with friends and we got to talking about the fact that you really can't find a bad review. What then is the point of the "audio press?"

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I've certainly never seen one - I also think that nearly everything reviewed each year makes it into the buyers guide.

Flac audio (MBP) to miniDSP 10x10 running REW and active crossovers to ADCOM GFA 555 and 2 QSC GX5's (Tri Amped). Using Paradigm Studio 100 V.2 Speakers modded for the Active Crossover and stereo Velodyne HGS12 subwoofers.

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What then is the point of the "audio press?

 

The same as the point of the New York Times: to sell an audience to advertisers to generate advertising revenue.

 

If you want reviews that don't have such influence, you need to look at something like Consumer's Reports.

 

Then look what happened when they said something critical about Bose. It went to the Supreme Ct. before they prevailed. This lesson is not lost.

 

Stereophool sent me a free copy of their magazine, and in a separate envelope, an offer to subscribe for a year for $7. Since I don't have a dental office waiting room, I recycled both. They aren't trying to make money with subscription fees.

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The same as the point of the New York Times: to sell an audience to advertisers to generate advertising revenue.

 

+1. Personally I buy these magazines to keep abreast of new products. The only good advice I have read from audio-gear magazines was when they wrote something about the music they use for testing. Sometimes it is possible to detect that the reviewer considers a product bad by noticing that he (or she but it is more often he, I don't know why) is ever so slightly less enthusiastic than usual. But this is very difficult to detect as to do so one needs to be very familiar with each reviewer's tone...

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Is anyone out there checking Atkinson's measurements? I will occasionally glance at those for an interesting product (or to laugh at SET amps), but I wouldn't be surprised if they were not done effectively.

Flac audio (MBP) to miniDSP 10x10 running REW and active crossovers to ADCOM GFA 555 and 2 QSC GX5's (Tri Amped). Using Paradigm Studio 100 V.2 Speakers modded for the Active Crossover and stereo Velodyne HGS12 subwoofers.

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Hi Guys - All very good points.

 

One thing that is missing from this discussion is the fact that reviews can pro dive information unavailable to most potential customers. For example, DLNA Renderer X can't play gapless FLAC files without compression levels between 4 and 6. This is usually discovered through trial and error by a reviewer. The chances of a dealer knowing this information before reading the review are slim to none. This information isn't even known by the manufacturers much of the time. I don't blame either for not knowing everything because it's nearly impossible to test every combination a customer may possibly use.

 

Anyway, this is one example of why reviews may be helpful beyond the traditional specs and opinion paragraphs.

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Is anyone out there checking Atkinson's measurements? I will occasionally glance at those for an interesting product (or to laugh at SET amps), but I wouldn't be surprised if they were not done effectively.

John's DAC measurements are top notch. His work is frequently checked by the best engineers in the industry. He does correct mistakes when made.

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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The difference is that the NY Times has a strict set of ethics rule for product reviewers. You get the product, you review it and you immediately return it. Want to own it, you have to buy it at retail. Have investments, they are in a blind trust so if you have stock in a company who makes a product you're reviewing, Some sort of a services being reviewed, the reviewer or the Times pay.

I'm not so sure all of these are followed to the T. Plus, does it make a difference? The Tesla review was a disaster full of half-truths.

 

P.S. The NYT is my favorite news publication. I've looked up to its writing quality for years.

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Agreed, Stereophile's measurements are great, I like that section a lot. I am curious why other publications don't measure too, I know the AP equipment must be expensive but anyway.

1. PC - Mola Mola Makua - Apollon NC800SL - Thiel CS3.7
2. LG 77C1 - Marantz SR7005 - Apollon NCMP6200 - Monitor Audio PL100+PLC150+C265 - SVS SB-3000
3. RME ADI-2 DAC FS - Audeze LCDi3 - Neumann KH 80 DSP
4. TempoTec Sonata E44 - Moondrop Aria
5. Meizu HiFi DAC - Moondrop Chu

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Are there any bad reviews of audiophile gear from the usual suspects? By the usual suspects, I mean:

 

The Absolute Sound

Stereophile

Six Moons

et. al.

 

Don't read the first two, but there has been bad reviews on 6moons from time to time. If memory serves, they were really down on The Lars and Thrax. And the recent review for Yamamoto A-014 was rather unflattering too, especially in the second part. I have heard many of the equipment mentioned in that portion. Although I do not agree with some of the details, the overall conclusion is actually quite truthful. But the unflattering tone is still unusual, given the kind of praise they heap on Yamamoto in previous reviews.

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Agreed, Stereophile's measurements are great, I like that section a lot. I am curious why other publications don't measure too, I know the AP equipment must be expensive but anyway.

Expense is the major reason. The cost of the equipment and/or the engineer capable of doing the measurements.

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Agreed, Stereophile's measurements are great, I like that section a lot. I am curious why other publications don't measure too, I know the AP equipment must be expensive but anyway.

 

Simply because it's much easier to wax poetic the subjective virtue of a piece of gear than to perform a complex set of measures......which doesn't even scratch the surface of the subjective viewpoint anyways. By countless admission here and many other forums and publications, the subjective viewpoint is that the human ear is the most reliable form of measure. Reviewers and publications know this yet cater to their audience with each producing reviews in a much different manner, but none biting the hand that feeds. You won't see the unbiased reviews like CNet, Engadget, Consumer reports and the like performing reviews on high end, esoteric gear as these are niche' market products not likely to be purchased or even considered by their readers.

 

One could argue that the best reviews would come from forums and owners accounts.....and with most considerations this would be true. Credibility rules the day here with an owned or reviewer predisposed without bias from both an objective and subjective standpoint.......a rare combination within the consumer sect. Last one I came across was NWAVGuy.....who I understand has since gone on to other things.

 

IMO Stereophile would be better suited to presenting the measurements without subjective comments on their personal interpretations. Those not technically proficient enough to fully understand them won't often take the time to do this on their own, but instead simply read the reviewers comments to arrive at a conclusion.

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Simply because it's much easier to wax poetic the subjective virtue of a piece of gear than to perform a complex set of measures......which doesn't even scratch the surface of the subjective viewpoint anyways. By countless admission here and many other forums and publications, the subjective viewpoint is that the human ear is the most reliable form of measure. Reviewers and publications know this yet cater to their audience with each producing reviews in a much different manner, but none biting the hand that feeds. You won't see the unbiased reviews like CNet, Engadget, Consumer reports and the like performing reviews on high end, esoteric gear as these are niche' market products not likely to be purchased or even considered by their readers.

 

One could argue that the best reviews would come from forums and owners accounts.....and with most considerations this would be true. Credibility rules the day here with an owned or reviewer predisposed without bias from both an objective and subjective standpoint.......a rare combination within the consumer sect. Last one I came across was NWAVGuy.....who I understand has since gone on to other things.

 

IMO Stereophile would be better suited to presenting the measurements without subjective comments on their personal interpretations. Those not technically proficient enough to fully understand them won't often take the time to do this on their own, but instead simply read the reviewers comments to arrive at a conclusion.

 

I disagree. It's much easier for me to spend 30 seconds writing a check for the equipment and an engineer to do the testing than it is to spend 100 hours listening, researching, and writing a review. If I could afford the testing equipment and to hire someone to use it I'd do it in a heartbeat.

 

I think you're wearing rose colored glasses when looking at C|Net and Engadget. Engadget is owned by AOL and will publish whatever increases earning for its shareholders. C|Net is owned by CBS. Are you familiar with the CES 2013 controversy where C|NET awarded the Dish Hopper the best of show award only to have the parent company CBS say no way?

 

CNET loses CES awards following Dish Hopper controversy; DVR named 'Best In Show' | The Verge

 

 

User reviews are a great thing, I agree. One downside to these is the user usually reviews components he has purchased. In most instances this user has a bias toward the product and would never say he made an expensive mistake by purchasing DAC X. Sure it happens, but there's no free lunch.

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Hi-Fi News in the UK also publishes measurements with its reviews.

 

Because they rate relative sound quality of products it is very easy to see which products are 'bad'.

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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I disagree. It's much easier for me to spend 30 seconds writing a check for the equipment and an engineer to do the testing than it is to spend 100 hours listening, researching, and writing a review. If I could afford the testing equipment and to hire someone to use it I'd do it in a heartbeat.

 

I think you're wearing rose colored glasses when looking at C|Net and Engadget. Engadget is owned by AOL and will publish whatever increases earning for its shareholders. C|Net is owned by CBS. Are you familiar with the CES 2013 controversy where C|NET awarded the Dish Hopper the best of show award only to have the parent company CBS say no way?

 

CNET loses CES awards following Dish Hopper controversy; DVR named 'Best In Show' | The Verge

 

 

User reviews are a great thing, I agree. One downside to these is the user usually reviews components he has purchased. In most instances this user has a bias toward the product and would never say he made an expensive mistake by purchasing DAC X. Sure it happens, but there's no free lunch.

 

With respect, I'll simply accept our differences on the subject. Nothing to be gained for either of us.

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To the OP's question, yes, I have read a handful of negative reviews of products in Stereophile over the last year or so. Without going back and checking, just off the top of my head, in the January 2014 edition, they really took issue with the shoddy workmanship found in the Coffman Labs G1-A preamplifier, including up close photos of the kindergarten quality build (the internal construction is a pathetic disaster). Coffman Labs is not happy about it.

 

The other one that springs to mind is the review of the Mark Levinson No.53 monoblock power amplifer. And I can't recall the name of the speaker, but it was a budget bookshelf made by a company owned or distributed by Roy Hall and Sam Tellig made fun of it.

 

To be very clear- I am not defending the Stereophile, and as a long-time subscriber I am aware of the high percentage of positive reviews but Stereophile has been doing a better job as of late (relatively speaking). I am at work so I can't check at the moment but I can update this thread with the few other negative Stereophile reviews if anyone is interested.

Speakers: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen/URendu | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus/Lampizator Golden Gate | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | Revel B112 subs  

Headphones: Lampizator Golden Atlantic/Holo Spring 3 KTE | Blue Circle Audio SBT pre|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman HE-1000SE/Arya Stealth/Audeze LCD-4z

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From time to time Stereophile answers that they tend to review positively the dozens of equipements they review each year because they ask for samples only of those products that somehow attracted their interest such as equipement they liked at audio shows. Something like that.

1. PC - Mola Mola Makua - Apollon NC800SL - Thiel CS3.7
2. LG 77C1 - Marantz SR7005 - Apollon NCMP6200 - Monitor Audio PL100+PLC150+C265 - SVS SB-3000
3. RME ADI-2 DAC FS - Audeze LCDi3 - Neumann KH 80 DSP
4. TempoTec Sonata E44 - Moondrop Aria
5. Meizu HiFi DAC - Moondrop Chu

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What then is the point of the "audio press?"

 

Ever hear about Kruschev coming to Washington DC for a summit with Nixon? The presidential limo was a 1959 Cadillac. Those had rocketship styling and the largest tailfins ever put on a car. The tail lights looked like small missiles atop the fins. Thinking they might be missiles to protect the American leader Kruschev asked, "what do those do?" Without realizing what his viewpoint was Nixon replied," Those sell Cadillacs."

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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From time to time Stereophile answers that they tend to review positively the dozens of equipements they review each year because they ask for samples only of those products that somehow attracted their interest such as equipement they liked at audio shows. Something like that.
Yup. At shows or stores or based on prior experience with similar products.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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Well, most equipment gets positive reviews because they tend to review good equipment. Just about all of it sounds good, some sounds better. What do I look for in the reviews? They do sometimes compare the subject of the review to other pieces of similar equipment, at least informally. That helps me understand the product better.

 

I also use the reviews to find out about equipment I don't know about. I found out about the maker of my present amp from a review in the AS. Reviews can also tell what features an item has or doesn't have. I often choose/eliminate a piece from consideration b/c the review tells me whether it "ticks all the boxes" I have in mind or not.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Stereophile's reviews are rarely negative because they don't want to waste valuable space and time reviewing stuff that they think will not be up to par and therefore of not much value to the readers, or so they say. I've read various statements similar to that in their magazine over the years.

 

However, they do compare products, particularly speakers in specific prices ranges. They'll compare aspects of their sound, midrange, presence, bass, weaknesses or lack there of, etc. This, in a sense, brings negativity into the picture. For example, if speaker A at $500 extends clean bass to 50 hz while speaker B at the same price reaches only 65 hz, well we have an implied negative. I find comparative reviews like that particularly useful and interesting.

 

Chris

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Hi Guys - All very good points.

 

This is usually discovered through trial and error by a reviewer. The chances of a dealer knowing this information before reading the review are slim to none.

 

The relationship between a good manufacturer and their dealers is tighter than some may think and a product is sometimes put through it's paces hard before it is released to the public. If a dealer has a limited selection of lines they frequently can actually know tricks and features about a product that never come up in a review.

David

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Wow- this thread is heavily critical from people I did not expect. For example, Stereophile publishes test results for every piece of gear they formally review. As well as manufacturer comments about the review, and often followups to the review with yet more details. That on top of publishing what a reviewer thinks about the sound, fit and finish, and use of the device.

 

And yes, why would a reviewer spend precious limited time reviewing something that they are not interested in or that they are fairly positive will review badly?

 

But even in that space, they have a couple guys that cover the low end stuff of interest. They covered and throughly reviewed $129/pair speakers for heaven's sake. The cost of just measuring those things was at least 3x the cost of the speakers!

 

And - they do have to make money you know. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with that. A great deal of the criticisms thrown their way in this thread are silly IMNSHO.

 

A better question would be how and to what degree Stereophile, TAS, CA, and related publication are serving to replace brick and morter dealers as the primary source of reference and advice for most audiophiles?

 

Remember, computers are about as natural a tool to use for research for many of us as a library book. But many audiophiles have not entered the realm of using a computer as their primary source of music reproduction. Or rather, they do not think of a CD player as a computer, and may never have been to a place like CA,

and find using a web browser to be a novel experimce.

 

How do the magazines like Stereophile appear to them? Think about that before you answer quickly, remembering that resources like CA may be closed to many of them.

 

Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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My only criticism of stereophile's review process in how they interpret the measures. I've seen this personally multiple times where there's a 6db resonant spike in the main part of the frequency response and the reviewer will go on to say something like ' a relatively smooth frequency response'. Relative to what? Mount Everest? Lol.

 

Their backs were certainly up against the wall with that little Pioneer Andrew Jones bookshelf speaker though. User reviews across the world rave about the value of those little boxes....

 

.....other than above, Stereophile BY FAR does the best job in the business for reviews.

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My only criticism of stereophile's review process in how they interpret the measures. I've seen this personally multiple times where there's a 6db resonant spike in the main part of the frequency response and the reviewer will go on to say something like ' a relatively smooth frequency response'. Relative to what? Mount Everest? Lol.

 

I think there is a simple answer to that. The reviewer never sees any of the measurements before completing his comments. Thus, those comments are entirely subjective and only JA's comments in the associated measurements section are informed by the data.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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