Boy Toys and Industry Poop

Uh Oh.

I accidentally read a paragraph or two in a review a few minutes ago.

Accidentally because I know it is just trash, and life is too short to waste on reading trash when there are such wonderful content out there to experience and enjoy. But it mentioned a few a cables that I am familiar with, on a system I am familiar with, and it caught my eye.

Essentially several magazines, and their reviewers, feel that it is their duty to say whatever they can to promote the current product under review, regardless of the obvious (to a casual observer not trying to pump up the industry thinking it will just wither away and die otherwise) and complete lack of ethics, moral integrity, basic sense of honesty, and compassion for the people who read their trash.

Perhaps the obviousness of the lies in some of these types of reviews indicates that it is their complete and utter incompetence [and that of their editors]. Don’t really care and I do not see as how it matters. The result is the same. Utter confusion by people trying to learn what sounds like what and choose what to buy.

[Perhaps I should explain. While searching for a price I found this review. Skipping all that fluff in the top 90%, I came to the data I needed. What I also found was the declaration that his $60K system, populated with components that I am familiar, with good resolution to less than average resolution, had the most resolution of any system, at any price, that he, or his friends have heard, now that it uses the cables under review. This is a ‘reputable’ magazine and the review is by one of their more ‘reputable reviewers’.

This is like a principal reviewer at Road & Track declaring that he and all his friends agree that his Practical Nissan Sentra, with the $1K each tires under review, are not only way better handling than the $3K tires most people regarded as top-of-the line, but that his 626 now has the best handling of any car they have ever driven – at any price.

Problem is that most people reading that high-end audio review are not as familiar with his equipment as they are with the Sentra versus, say, Porsche. They may not know that this guy goes to shows and has heard many systems of very high resolution. They do not know that the editor of the magazine knows all the same things I do, but lets this kind of review in their magazine all the time.

So what happens when your average reader, a potential audiophile, finally finds all this stuff out? They will think our entire industry is populated with charlatans and that high-end audio must be nothing but high-tech snake oil.]

Reading reviews to select your components is no better than throwing a pair of loaded dice, throwing a dart in the ocean, or saying you want to only get components that start with the letter ‘A’ [which hardly reduces the choices at all, does it? :-) … (about half of the brands out there start with the word ‘audio’. Well, it sure SEEMS that way, anyway)].

And I propose that THIS is what is causing the shrinkage of our industry. People who want to spend a minimal amount of time selecting equipment and maximal amount of time listening to it – end up buying something that ends up not at all pleasing to their sensibilities, nor their spouses nor their friends. And these people tell THEIR friends, and they tell THEIR friends. And buying high-end audio gear ends up being a big joke.

Boy Toy systems, by definition [since we are the ones going to do the defining] are large systems designed from the get go to produce massive bass, a very loud midrange and, sometimes, some large amount of what sounds like detail in the showroom. They are also usually designed to transfer a significant amount of cash from one person [aka buyer] to another [aka seller].

That’s it.

This is NOT about systems designed to produce music at life-like scale and dynamics. However this is what Boy Toy system marketing staff would have us believe we are buying.

What are some obvious differences between the two?

As we have been talking about for several months now, micro-dynamics is one indicator, a major indicator, of a systems ability to generate the subtle details that communicate everything from emotion to the difference between an electric guitar and piano.

No micro-dynamics? Then you are just hearing a very, very large and expensive clock radio [no not boom boxes. Boom boxes sound better than a lot of these systems do].

Why do manufacturers make such large clock radios?

Because it is easier to throw together lots of big drivers, heavy cabinets, machine a thick aluminum chassis, solder together lots of MOSFETS or tubes, and stick a megabuck price tag on it that it is to design and manufacture something that actually works well. So, manufacturers being people, lazy bums like myself, there are an awful lot of these kinds of products on the market.

Why do reviewers say nothing, and often actively promote such equipment?

To some extent I think it is inertia and path of least resistance. “Everybody else is saying good things about the Y speakers with the S amps, so it will just be easier if I say the same thing”. Some of it is that reviewers get good to great deals from many of these types of manufacturers if they say something good [aka corruption. It is a reason why many other manufacturers avoid reviews like the plague; i.e. you are known by the company you keep]. There is a lot of pressure on reviewers to not say anything bad about anything [as we know from personal experience here on the blog] BUT an honest diligent reviewer doesn’t ever have to say anything bad – they COULD just describe the purpose of a piece of equipment, what it sounds like, and how it is different than its closest competitors.

Why do people buy this equipment?

Because they are inundated with all this money-backed misinformation [yes, JUST like politics] including co-promotion deals between speaker manufacturers and amp manufactures, and with the reviewers of course, and finally there are testimonials from honest owners who THINK their system sounds great because their dealer told them so and they never ever got to hear what a real Practical or Drug-like system sounds like.

So, essentially, the industry is screwed until another person like HP comes along [who has a large system that is indeed designed to be listened to – based on testimonials and just looking at what he uses, but who has kind of run out of energy this last decade or so (just read something he wrote 10 or 15 years ago)] who can transform people’s idea of what we should all be caring about when it comes to designing a system. At one time it was all about measurements. Then it was about how maybe we should use our ears a little and if it did not sound anything like real-life music [aka the absolute sound] then maybe we should not buy it, no matter how well it measures.

Until that time, we will try and create an oasis here for people to talk about building [often, but not always, large and expensive over-the-top] systems that are designed to be listened to and enjoyed in ways that significantly impact our lives in a very positive manner.

But expect some disconnects if you venture out and read some of the ‘mainstream’ industry poop. Argh. I keep hoping it is going to get better.