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  • What Makes for a A Good Audio Reviewer?

    Number one thing from an editor's perspective is someone who can write and hear. Unfortunately that's easier said than done. In too many cases, the reviewer can hear and can't write or vice versa.

    In my book, one of the most important things that a reviewer should bring to the table, that is besides some experience hearing live music, is as much experience as possible hearing different brands of equipment in their own system. That way the reviewer has an adequate baseline by which to evaluate gear rather than falling into the school of the best is the latest thing they've heard.
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
    -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

  • #2
    Myles - It helps to be a good storyteller, after all, a review is a story. A little humor doesn't hurt. After all, the best American writer was one Samuel Langhorne Clemens and he usually had a humorous bent.

    And maybe a bit different viewpoint too. Why don't you let me borrow those Kaguras for a couple of weeks, I'd be happy to report back how they stack up against a $1,500 stereo amplifier.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Rust View Post
      Myles - It helps to be a good storyteller, after all, a review is a story. A little humor doesn't hurt. After all, the best American writer was one Samuel Langhorne Clemens and he usually had a humorous bent.
      Absolutely. That comes with experience too.

      And maybe a bit different viewpoint too. Why don't you let me borrow those Kaguras for a couple of weeks, I'd be happy to report back how they stack up against a $1,500 stereo amplifier.
      LOL....
      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
      -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think that besides having a vision, what differentiated Harry Pearson from other reviewers was his ability to hear so much equipment in his system.
        Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
        Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
        ________________________________________

        -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
        -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
        -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
        -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
        -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
        -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
        -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
        -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
        -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
        -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

        Comment


        • mkuller
          mkuller commented
          Editing a comment
          Good topic! I think the gift HP brought to reviewing was his insight - to tap into the what he heard on a subconscious level which put things in a different perspective and his ability to then communicate them to the reader. For example, he coined the term "soundstage" which seems so obvious today. But when you think about how complex the process is of realizing it is actually a thing you hear and are aware of as it changes with different equipment, then describing it with a single term, it is obvious he thought differently (like the Apple ad). The same with many other terms he came up with and much of his writing in general.

      • #5
        IMO/IME the best reviewers don't do negative reviews, at least, rarely (we are all human). The only bad review I saw from hp was when he got challenged by Harvey Rosenburg about a amp review that didn't happen. The challenge occurred in a letter to the editor. Harry described his experience with the amp (a Futterman OTL, which had a spectacular failure in his home) in detail in his reply although he had never written a review on the amp prior, despite the amp being at his home. IMO, given the way Harvey confronted Harry, Harry handled it in a pretty classy way.

        Its been my experience that when a negative review shows up, there is almost always some sort of politics in the backstory that made the review a conflict of interest. I can name plenty of examples!

        Comment


        • #6
          Myles - HP, well his command of the English language both written and oral was certainly masterful in the context of all things audio. He was certainly a colorful individual yet not flamboyant. A soft spoken yet authoritative curmudgeon. His exit from his magazine always left me wondering. Was the final straw the repudiation of his dismissive commentary on the Ortofon A-90 versus his favorite, the Clearaudio Goldfinger by another writer on top of his health issues? In the end, I just miss his style, which he had in spades.

          While long duration review of a component in a single system gives more than a little insight into the synergy of that particular component in that particular system I don't think that quite goes far enough even though that may be the only practical way to do so. For instance, I would find it intriguing to hear about the Kaguras (or any amplifier for that matter) with two or three very dissimilar speakers. Maybe a planar, or an electrostatic, Will it elevate the performance of a modest speaker or merely expose the shortcomings, or maybe a little of both? Varied context.

          Harvey Rosenburg. What can I say. If anyone in the audio world was an over the top character, it was him. A guy who loved triodes, Indian motorcycles, Strats and women can't be all bad.

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by atmasphere View Post
            IMO/IME the best reviewers don't do negative reviews, at least, rarely (we are all human). The only bad review I saw from hp was when he got challenged by Harvey Rosenburg about a amp review that didn't happen. The challenge occurred in a letter to the editor. Harry described his experience with the amp (a Futterman OTL, which had a spectacular failure in his home) in detail in his reply although he had never written a review on the amp prior, despite the amp being at his home. IMO, given the way Harvey confronted Harry, Harry handled it in a pretty classy way.

            Its been my experience that when a negative review shows up, there is almost always some sort of politics in the backstory that made the review a conflict of interest. I can name plenty of examples!
            Actually HP trashed stuff pretty regularly if you go back to issues 1-24 of TAS. Just a few off the top of my head. The famous fight with Levinson. The first solid-state ARC SP5 (?) preamp. The infamous fight with Bud Fried (whom everyone had a fight with) where Bud called HP's speakers PA speakers. HP also trashed quite a few cartridges. I even remember HP trashing the TEAC 3340 R2R for its sound. We can also add the damning by faint praise to that collection.

            But you know, reviewers have X amount of time and magazine's have X amount of space, so why waste time and space when there are many other good products deserving of attention? For the record, I've written negative reviews of equipment (Richard Gray, Koetsu and a few other items) and music and it's no fun, especially when the manufacturers aren't professional. I can assure you there were no politics involved either. 😇And no one wants to touch that manufacturer's product where anything less than an all out rave review is met with unprofessional conduct. Thank goodness that is few and far between. But not unknown.

            On the other hand, one manufacturer many years ago made an excellent point to me. A consumer reads some all out rave review of a Japanese receiver in say Stereo Review. It can so no wrong and has all the proper bells and whistles. Then say the consumer reads some high-end magazine's review of an Atma-sphere amplifier where the reviewer does a thorough job of identifying the product's sound, balances, strengths and weaknesses. What is the consumer to think and which product will they buy? Are we doing a disservice and at worst harm to the industry at large by our review process?

            Lastly, there is that audiophile contingent that feels TAS jumped the shark when HP stopped trashing products eg. People read TAS to see HP trash stuff. But any reviewer worth their salt needs to exhaust every possibility before penning that review. I don't know of any reviewer who takes writing a negative review lightly because a person's or company's livelihood is on the line.
            Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
            Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
            ________________________________________

            -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
            -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
            -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
            -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
            -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
            -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
            -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
            -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
            -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
            -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

            Comment


            • #8
              A reviewer also has to pick equipment for review that is going to work in the context of his/her reference system. You have to pick cartridges that will mate to your arm, arms that will mate to your table, speakers that will mate to your amplifier, and electronics that will mate to your system. For instance, if you have a low output MC cartridge (say less than .3mV output), you shouldn't be reviewing a phono stage with 43dB of gain. So it's just not how much gear flows through your system, it's also important that you match the gear.
              Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

              Comment


              • Garth
                Garth commented
                Editing a comment
                You forgot spelling

              • mkuller
                mkuller commented
                Editing a comment
                Garth, that's the editor's job.

              • MylesBAstor
                MylesBAstor commented
                Editing a comment
                Don't forget those proofreaders! They are worth their weight in gold. Believe me, once you've seen and read a piece many times times how many articles per issues, they all look the same!

            • #9
              To the uninitiated, or less well initiated, a review of very pricey components is often without context. That is, it is outside their experience. It is not compared to anything with which they have knowledge or experience of.

              All too often I try to explain to acquaintances why I spent what is to them an exorbitant sum of money on equipment. !!!"Why, that cost more than my big screen"!!!. Occasionally I get a chance to sit their asses down in my chair and part their hair. Let's just say the demo isn't going to be the usual audiophile demo fare. Lately Lourdes "Royals" seems to work pretty well, it's familiar to them, it's in context. At 110 dB without strain. Once their attention has been gained, then the finer parts may be demonstrated. Such as why this 200 wpc amplifier is better than that fancifully spec'ed receiver from the big box that is not a 285 watt amplifier but actually a 65 wpc amplifer on a good day. That 285 watt figure being obtained by using the short duration peak power into four ohms, one channel driven, times two. Or that sub rated at 30 Hz at -10 dB doesn't really do deep bass all that well.

              They still are unlikely to be fully converted, but at least they have some understanding, something to think about. With most people I know, it still comes down to disposable income. Everyone in a household watches TV, everyone in a household uses a computer/pad/smartphone, everyone does not sit in front of a dedicated system to do dedicated listening. With kids and the dog running about. But just maybe they will, in the future, give a little more consideration to a better alternative.
              Last edited by Rust; 03-08-2016, 05:54 PM.

              Comment


              • mkuller
                mkuller commented
                Editing a comment
                I always describe it to my non-audiophile friends by having them think about someone who is passionate about driving. A Prius will get you from point A to point B but if you love driving you'll want to drive a Porsche. I am passionate about music so this is my Porsche.

            • #10
              The thing I admire most about good audio reviewers is their ability to make interesting and insightful comments about what they hear. Many audiophiles have great ears and can hear the differences between very fine (or not so fine) components but always fall back on cliched or non-descriptive explanations of the sound they are hearing. I reluctantly include myself in that group. I can't tell you how many times I've heard something about a component or system that I'm unable to adequately describe. My hat's off to you Myles and other writers I admire like Art Dudley and Mike Fremer whose words really communicate to me. And thanks always to Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson who gave us a vocabulary for high-end audio.

              Comment


              • #11
                Originally posted by Rust View Post
                To the uninitiated, or less well initiated, a review of very pricey components is often without context. That is, it is outside their experience. It is not compared to anything with which they have knowledge or experience of.

                All too often I try to explain to acquaintances why I spent what is to them an exorbitant sum of money on equipment. !!!"Why, that cost more than my big screen"!!!. Occasionally I get a chance to sit their asses down in my chair and part their hair. Let's just say the demo isn't going to be the usual audiophile demo fare. Lately Lourdes "Royals" seems to work pretty well, it's familiar to them, it's in context. At 110 dB without strain. Once their attention has been gained, then the finer parts may be demonstrated. Such as why this 200 wpc amplifier is better than that fancifully spec'ed receiver from the big box that is not a 285 watt amplifier but actually a 65 wpc amplifer on a good day. That 285 watt figure being obtained by using the short duration peak power into four ohms, one channel driven, times two. Or that sub rated at 30 Hz at -10 dB doesn't really do deep bass all that well.

                They still are unlikely to be fully converted, but at least they have some understanding, something to think about. With most people I know, it still comes down to disposable income. Everyone in a household watches TV, everyone in a household uses a computer/pad/smartphone, everyone does not sit in front of a dedicated system to do dedicated listening. With kids and the dog running about. But just maybe they will, in the future, give a little more consideration to a better alternative.
                Why is it that people can understand owning or even dream of owning an expensive car, boat, yacht, watches, clothes, etc. but not an expensive audio system?
                Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                ________________________________________

                -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                Comment


                • Garth
                  Garth commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Because they had no idea they are even out there and they cost so much

              • #12
                Originally posted by Viva Hifi Scott View Post
                The thing I admire most about good audio reviewers is their ability to make interesting and insightful comments about what they hear. Many audiophiles have great ears and can hear the differences between very fine (or not so fine) components but always fall back on cliched or non-descriptive explanations of the sound they are hearing. I reluctantly include myself in that group. I can't tell you how many times I've heard something about a component or system that I'm unable to adequately describe. My hat's off to you Myles and other writers I admire like Art Dudley and Mike Fremer whose words really communicate to me. And thanks always to Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson who gave us a vocabulary for high-end audio.
                Hi Scott! Nice to see you here!



                Yes, I always aim to paint that picture in the mind's eye! That's where I think using familiar if possible--and obtainable--musical examples is very important. If you go back to TAS's very beginnings, that vocabulary was still a major work-in-progress and musical examples were really not used. It wasn't until issues 10-20 that musical examples first began to appear in TAS reviews. In fact, looking at later issues of TAS with musical examples compared to the first issue is almost like looking at current moves vs. old movies with people smoking. But I think nowadays the issue that reviewers want to invent terms that just really add confusion rather than clarify matters.

                Just as important in my book, however, is enthusiasm for the hobby. A good example is say some NY Times award winning writers. Yes they may have won awards but that a long time ago. Their better days are long gone and what is really left is tired old cynical critics. That's no fun reading.

                But in the end, it's just like playing a musical instrument. Musicians only get better by practicing and audio reviewers only get better by listening. The more you listen, the more familiar one becomes with an audio system and its qualities. And just like Aristotle said:

                “The more you know, the more you know you don't know.”


                It's all over when you say you know it all.
                Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                ________________________________________

                -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                Comment


                • #13
                  Why is it that people can understand owning or even dream of owning an expensive car, boat, yacht, watches, clothes, etc. but not an expensive audio system?
                  To the very great majority the things you mention are status symbols displayed in public to a status symbol sensitive populace. A display of conspicuous consumption to impress others with ones social status.

                  You can't drive your audio system down the street to turn heads. You can't pull up your shirt sleeve to flash it in a lounge. You can't sail it to that newest island hot spot. You can't adjust the audio around your neck and check the creases. Audio, unlike all those other things is essentially a private pursuit. And unlike all those other things, has essentially zero mass media presence.

                  Comment


                  • Garth
                    Garth commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Stamps are the number one hobby so I have been told no flash

                • #14
                  Originally posted by Rust View Post

                  To the very great majority the things you mention are status symbols displayed in public to a status symbol sensitive populace. A display of conspicuous consumption to impress others with ones social status.

                  You can't drive your audio system down the street to turn heads. You can't pull up your shirt sleeve to flash it in a lounge. You can't sail it to that newest island hot spot. You can't adjust the audio around your neck and check the creases. Audio, unlike all those other things is essentially a private pursuit. And unlike all those other things, has essentially zero mass media presence.
                  But I'd argue that high-end audio has over the years had presence in the mass media (Robb Report, NY Magazine and others) and no matter what, because of people like Hans Fantel and Julian Hirsch, always gotten a back handed compliment. While high-end audio is still arguably one of the few entrepreneurial type
                  businesses left, it hasn't done as a good job as it could in promoting itself. AAHEA was supposed to do that in the late '90s and they couldn't agree on anything. Not to mention even at CES, "specialty audio, is treated like a bastard son.

                  For example, these regional audio shows should be wining and dining every newspaper reporter they can to get press coverage in all the big papers!
                  Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                  Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                  ________________________________________

                  -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                  -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                  -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                  -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                  -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                  -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                  -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                  -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                  -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                  -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                  Comment


                  • Garth
                    Garth commented
                    Editing a comment
                    You got Mikey F

                • #15
                  Originally posted by Rust View Post

                  Harvey Rosenburg. What can I say. If anyone in the audio world was an over the top character, it was him. A guy who loved triodes, Indian motorcycles, Strats and women can't be all bad.
                  Harvey was under court order to never write or talk about Indian motorcycles again, after he bilked a few investors and then ran into the people that actually held the legal rights to the marque. I used to run the Indian 841 registry which is how I found that out.

                  @Myles- funny how memory changes things. I had forgotten all about those incidents regarding hp until you brought them up!

                  Comment

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