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In Reply to: RE: Audio critics should publish their hearing tests posted by RGA on March 23, 2017 at 03:57:45
It was a joke! However, I AM a firm believer in in the concept of "Know thy reviewer". The problem with this re high performance audio is that I also believe too many reviews are ah---"influenced" by the presence of "industry accommodation" pricing many reviewers receive. Makes relative value judgements more difficult. Really a subject for a different thread...if it even warrants further discussion at all.
Edits: 03/23/17Follow Ups:
...as a reviewer you can get industry accommodation pricing on ANY and EVERY piece of audio equipment you want, whether you review it or not.
A rave review doesn't change the price.
So how does that affect the reviewer's judgement?
...If a reviewer raves over a $10K list something-or-other so much that he "purchased the review sample" (for $6K) was the rave over a $10K something or a $5-6K something? Would the review have been so ravey if the reviewer would have to pay the higher list or "street" price? Are reviewers above all this? Or should review consumers account for industry accommodation pricing and adjust value expectations accordingly?
Just an opinion but I believe the high performance audio review industry has lost a lot of credibility in recent years due in part to loss of transparent price vs performance evaluations. Reminds me of the US health care biz...so maybe it's endemic in the current culture and we just accept it.
Steve I can't speak for other reviewers but I can tell you it has cost me more to be a reviewer than I have gotten out of being a reviewer.
But let's take a $10k speaker - the reviewer may get it for around $6k but the first point is no one pays list - if you are an established customer of a dealer and you have a good relationship with a dealer chances are you are able to get most $10k speakers for between $8k-$9k. You will be getting 10-20% off and several dealers have offered me that before I was a reviewer. So the reviewer is getting 20% off what a "good customer" is getting.
BUT the customer is getting a brand new product. The review is buying a "used" product since once the reviewer opens the box and starts playing it it is no longer a new item and can't be sold as a new item.
Second hand items are typically down 40% of retail list - so chances are if you go out and look at second hand $10k list speakers you will pay $6k which is what a reviewer pays. I have directly experienced this where the manufacturer dealer has offered me an item that I can buy for the same or less on the second hand market.
I am a reviewer in Hong Kong and the one thing you may like about it is that there is no reviewer rate - you have to buy the review sample up front. So when I say in my review with the Line Magnetic 219IA, 215CD player and 502CA DAC that I bought the item - I paid the retail price for those items! I also paid full retail price for the KEF LS-50, and I paid what the dealer asked for my Audio Note speakers. Clearly I am not doing this right eh? :)
I'd say the bigger issue is that some reviewers can become a-holes to certain companies if they don't get a big enough discount. They will say to manufacturer ABC "manufacturer XYZ gave me 70% off why do you only give 40%?" and then they will jump ship - start reviewing XYZ and then continuously make snide remarks and broadsides against ABC because ABC didn't play ball and give in to the "demand/bribe".
But you are correct to doubt for "some" reviewers in the sense that they may be choosing stuff because of a "deal" - everyone is looking for a deal. I see so many audiophiles on forums say "should I buy this - I can get a deal on it" or "such and such is 60% so I bought it" to which I always think - if all this stuff is marked down so heavily then it NEVER sold at the original asking price. Something isn't GOOD because it is 70% off. All indications in fact are likely the Opposite.
I never see 50% off sales from Shindo, Audio Note, and other top makers. The reason Speaker X is selling for 70% off at Music Direct is because no one F-ing wanted the piece of crap at 100%. And they can't get rid of the garbage fast enough. But hey "it's a deal".
As my dad always said - " Many people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." They can't get past the sticker price. It doesn't matter if it sounds good - the price is better. I'd rather pay $3,000 for an amp and get something that truly satisfies me than some other amp sells for $6000 but that I can get for $2500. Ooh what a bargain - until you listen and realize that no the $3000 amp that never ever goes on sale and has sold for 25 years and prices rise not fall might actually have something going for it. While that $6000 amp has been filled with a lot of review hot air and in 5 years probably won't be on the market and in the used shop will fetch $1200.
What I would do if I were paying attention to reviews is a three pronged approach
1) read the reviews of reviewers who hear things like you do.
[I am a SET HE guy so I don't read reviews of reviewers who buy high negative feedback Class A/B amplifiers or speakers of the slim line design of several woofers in a tall box with a metal tweeter on top. To me virtually all of these designs are utterly vapid to downright appalling. IMO these reviewers don't know what quality sound is. It doesn't matter if I am right or they are right - it's that they're not right for me.
2)Consensus over time - does the specific product get very good reviews across many magazines and over a long period of time? If the product gets raves from say 8 magazines over and over for 20 years - then gee it just may be a really good product. An example would be Magnepan. I don't care for them but I don't deny them their due. The bottom line is they are definitely worth your time to try. (But see number 1 and number one doesn't love them then chances are you may not love them either).
3)Factoring in number 1 and 2 - you could also find out some tertiary factors such as the typical buyer of the product and perhaps if you know a dealer who is actually trustworthy you can find out the history of trade ins. Ie if you look at the raved about EFG speakers that win a bunch of editor's choice awards or product of the years - how many of them get traded in after three months and for what?
4) A blind test might not be a bad idea either. If the product that your number 1 reviewer bought AND where number 2 has been satisfied AND meets number 3 - AND also wins the blind level matched sessions you have a lot of very good indications that the product is really good. My latest speakers that I bought meet numbers 1,2,3 and 4. And most importantly meet my litmus test when listening for myself.
Interesting perspective on the situation.
An idealistic approach on this would be the Consumers Reports/Comsumers Union model: anonymously purchase samples from real dealers and go from there. CU isn't perfect esp considering their tendency for covert political agendas but they get closer to the ideal. I also realize high performance audio reviewing won't be going this way and may actually be heading the other way (pay-to-play) as web based zines replace print.
...reviews audio equipment, too. Do you find their audio reviews useful?
The audio review magazines are entertainment for a hobby and are struggling to stay in business with the aging population.
...sometimes CR has been useful in the past but they really don't do HiPo audio...at least the last time I looked. And yeah, the remaining print mags (and ezines) are entertaining reads more than anything else these days, at least for me. As such, there are better ways to be entertained so on the cusp of letting my two subs expire.
Agree and i have similar rules . :)
1. I will only look at reviews with objective bench data , well unless you're concerned about packaging, delivery process and customer service , so i wont read a subjective only review without objective measurements, rare exception being Mikey Fremer , i usually get a good laugh and feel for where he is going.
2. No pictures or very little are the worst i do avoid subjective webzines and mags reviews without good pictures , a lot of good pictures would give one a reason to actually take a look just to see the great pictures.
3. I tend to stay away from wide baffle, lossy sounding speakers , so reviews on them means nothing to me really , much worse without measurements ..
4. This objective/subjective process is nothing new or unusual , its the same succesful process regardless of review , take Playboy for eg. They get it , Great pictures , subjective review on personality, education, desires , blah , blah and last but not least , Objective measurements to impress those so inclined...
Your method is perfectly valid - whatever gets you enjoying the music is the main thing. My 4 points are as I say, suggestions.
I continue to listen to speakers and amps that don't fit my general preferences. I am currently evaluating/reviewing some items that don't fit my usual preferences in design and they are hugely impressive and hugely affordable. So affordable that they probably won't get taken seriously enough which is a shame.
...I can tell you from experience that reviewers don't think about accommodation pricing when they are reviewing a piece of equipment.
Any comparisons should be/and are done based on list price.
If a reviewer decides to buy a $10k component at $6k why would he compare it to anything but other $10k components he could get for $6k?
It seems like the only people obsessing over this are the ones who don't get accommodation prices.
And there is nothing else even remotely like healthcare pricing and value.
The usual accommodation is 40% of the list price. So if the speaker is 10k the reviewer will pay $6k. But this is true of all $10k speakers so the reviewer is STILL going to choose his favorite one.
Now some maker may give a reviewer a free one. Not much you can do there. But I doubt that is standard practice. Long term loan is a free one. If the loan is 6 months and they take it back that is different than 5 year loan until the new one comes out. Ask TAS about how long their loans are for.
Well it is a two way street - I have been offered free equipment and turned it down because the price was too high.
I don't want to have to put something in my equipment list or stand by unless I actually stand by it.
I am not going to buy something only because I could get a discount on the item. 4everyoung below indicated that VPI didn't want to give out more "free" turntables. Which suggests that a lot of reviewers got free ones.
And it probably worked given how big VPI is in the field - some manufacturers view giving stuff away as a cost of marketing. In Hong Kong they view it as a bribe.
If the thing is being offered for free - it probably isn't worth having.
Accommodation pricing is a courtesy offered to the entire industry, not just reviewers. For example, an employee of a hifi store may qualify or a tech at a stereo repair shop. It's still up to the manufacturer and they set the price. And they can and do say no.
Audio Research refused to sell me a preamp I was interned in buying. They didn't really have a reason. I have never reviewed or owned any ARC products. Maybe because I was writing for TAS at the time and there was some kind of issue with them that I was unaware of?
And VPI said no because they said they couldn't afford to give away any more free turntables to reviewers. I wanted to buy a turntable not get one free. But I'd love to know who did get all the free VPI turntables. Stand up and be counted.
Both of these instances happened a long time ago so things may have changed now. I never called either back again. The point here being that accommodation pricing is not a guarantee, at least not in my experience. I did purchase a few review samples such as my Coincident speakers and Atma-Sphere preamp and am still happy with both after at least a decade of use.
Please forgive any typos. I haven't had my morning coffee yet.
...such that you couldn't walk into a dealer and purchase whatever it is you wanted OR is it that they wouldn't provide you with factory direct, industry accommodation pricing? Can't see how a dealer could refuse to sell you something unless you really pissed them off in some manner. Not clear from what you wrote.
She wrote: "I wanted to buy a turntable not get one free."
If you don't become the ocean, you'll be seasick everyday ...
- Leonard Cohen
...was the two companies refused to sell equipment to her at industry accommodation pricing.
"Audio Research refused to sell me a preamp I was interned in buying. They didn't really have a reason. I have never reviewed or owned any ARC products. Maybe because I was writing for TAS at the time and there was some kind of issue with them that I was unaware of?
And VPI said no because they said they couldn't afford to give away any more free turntables to reviewers. I wanted to buy a turntable not get one free. But I'd love to know who did get all the free VPI turntables. Stand up and be counted."
In neither paragraph did she state that she was seeking accommodation pricing. Accommodation pricing might have been implied but not clearly...to me at least.
I mention accommodation pricing in both.
Have a great day1
...had you stated instead:
"Audio Research refused to sell me at at accomodation pricing a preamp I was interned in buying. They didn't really have a reason. I have never reviewed or owned any ARC products. Maybe because I was writing for TAS at the time and there was some kind of issue with them that I was unaware of?" etc.
there would be no doubt what was going on.
I guess I'm grammar and style dense.
Who pissed in your Wheaties this morning? lol
I'd love to stay and chat but I'm having a rummage sale in the rain today and need to bring all my old gear back inside.
Have a nice day.
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