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RMAF 2013 show reports survey

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 by Mike

This is sort of a survey of show reports out there. There are others, but the other ones I was able to find seemed to be either random, really short, or just silly ‘feel-good’ reports, or, well, they seemed to be one of those three kinds [YMMV. I didn’t find them all. Didn’t look for them all, just the ones that I go to. Might have missed some good ones.].

Our Ultimist RMAF 2013 report [in progress, *sigh*] is a fierce advocate for the industry and all of its gear. It is even a more fierce advocate for gear that Ultimist sells. This does not require any lying about how magical, lovely, great, awesome things sound but instead vigorously attempts to describe how, why and where everything perfectly fits into the audiophile universe [yes. yes. I know. I *said* it was in progress :-) ].

Our RMAF 2013 report on the Audio Federation blog here is, as always, concerned with the ultimate listening experiences. Annoying aspects of the sound means being distracted from having an ultimate listening experience. We don’t like that. Here we are always exploring brave new worlds of music reproduction, seeking out new lifelike sounding gear, and new civilized ways of talking about sound; boldly perusing the ultimate music experiences that have never been [or not near as often as we all would like] experienced before.

JV’s show report over at AVGuide / TAS / The Absolute Sound / HiFi+ is very closely aligned [how close? read here] with what we heard at the show (with the caveat that we all have our personal preferences that come out in the reports a wee bit). This makes me feel a little like we are not living up to our underground publication status :-)

But, seriously, we are not relativists. Each room has one and only one sound, whether one likes it, loves it, … or not. Show reports should endeavor to accurately report about that sound so well that a person reading the description should be able to determine whether they would like it, love it, … or not. Our reports are no where near good enough yet - but someday…

The Stereophile RMAF 2013 report as is usual has all the information about the names of things and what they cost. Invaluable [and though they make mistakes, they correct them quickly].

Lately, though, Jason Victor Serinus over at Stereophile has started adding more negative comments for many rooms. However, he really fails to differentiate between rooms that committed several atrocities as opposed to those that committed atrocities only rarely. Strangely, the few rooms where he wants to give the Nobel Peace Prize to should really be brought up before the Haig on War Crimes charges. There should also be a rule that one should describe in the same level of detail what was actually right about the rooms, if anything [and if there is nothing, you could do what we do and say nuthin’. Nothing!], as well as what was wrong [I also have a problem with being able to do this consistently. I’m trying to do better!].

The AudioCircle RMAF 2013 show report does not rate things based on sound so much as but uses a kind of social litmus test involving similarly subjective attributes like how cool the gear looks, how cool the exhibitors are, and how cool the room vibe is. Not to be a jibe, these measures are much more closely aligned with marketplace success than the actual sound of the room [to our way of thinking, this is unfortunate]. So, although they cloak the whole thing in audiophile buzzwords, that is not where this report has value. This report is really probably the most important show report for people in the industry to read.

The Dagogo RMAF 2013 Report, this one by Jack Roberts, was one of those reports where someone wanders through what they think are the coolest rooms at the show, finding something nice to say about each room. [This report did remind us that the Coincident room this year did sound quite good. Oops. Added. And thanks]. These kinds of reports kind of reflect what a ordinary everyday audiophile does and sees at a show. So from that perspective it is a good reminder for some of us who have been to too many shows, and it is good for those who want to know kind of what it is like to wander kind of aimlessly though a show [which is what we did for the first few shows until we got frustrated with missing those special ‘wildly hyped’ rooms that everybody said were so great after the show. They weren’t by the way - but we didn’t know that until we started going to all the rooms and making sure we heard them for ourselves. Still regret missing HP’s room at the Alexis Park when he had his big Alons there].

Clement in the Stereotimes RMAF 2013 report takes a lot of photos of the exhibitors [as well as gear] and that is its own kind of fun if you are a people watcher [and who ain’t?]. Funny, he thought the smaller Volti room ran a poor second to the big Volti Vittora speaker room as did we [as opposed to some feel-good reports where you can read that they liked it just as much].

Audio Matters RMAF 2013 show report is written by a young audiophile who has a number of ageist comments to make during his report [but a lot of his generation seem to have similar issues with older folk, that they are superior beings just by the virtue of the newer release date of their smartphone, so what’s new. See, two can play at this game ;-) ]. For me, it is nice to read an outsider’s perspective. Don’t agree with much of what he says, but that doesn’t matter, to me, as much as getting some insight into what it is like for a young person to attend these shows.

Then we have the friendly insider’s report at Part-time Audiophile RMAF 2013 show report. Most professional show reporters try and maintain some distance between themselves and everyone else, otherwise it is too easy to start playing favorites, or feeling sorry for your friends, and in general not wanting to harm the friendship by reporting what their room or gear really sounded like. The Part-time Audiophile report tries to walk that line of trying to say perceptive things about the sound but still be part of the ‘good old boy [and girl] crowd’ of exhibitors. Their show report then is really a ‘feel good’ show report done really well.

Audio Shark’s RMAF 2013 show report is exactly like what you might hear from one of your audiophile friends at supper during a show. Liked some rooms. Not some others. A very personal interpretation of what the show was like for them. [agree that Emerald Physics rooms often sound more like music than most, but I think they actually sounded better, more even top to bottom, more of a whole, in previous years at RMAF (yeah, and back when they cost half as much. As did just about everything else in high-end audio, to be fair).].

So, that’s that. A lot of fun stuff to read, peruse, ignore, whatever…. ;-)

Perspectives on positive equipment reviews

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 by Mike

There is some heated debate among book reviewers / book critics about whether there are way too many positive reviews in comparison with critical reviews. Sound familiar?

Here is a summary of some of the points of view of various people:

book reviews debate

I found most of it to be quite relevant and an interesting perspective on equipment reviews, except that high-end audio reviewers, and high-end audio magazines, have MUCH more financial incentive to publish positive reviews than do book critics [even though our reviewers do not get quoted in the New York Times… ever :-) ].

It may just go to show that to a large extent the culture of a niche - whether books or high-end audio or movies or computers or whatever - dictates the percentage of positive reviews versus negative reviews. That even if we, in high-end audio, held reviewers and magazines to a higher standard, so that they had absolutely no financial incentive to publish a positive review - we would still most likely end up with near the same percentage [what is it? 95%+?] of positive reviews.

Why Some Equipment Gets Reviewed and Others Not

Friday, April 1st, 2011 by Mike

This is meant to be just a dispassionate enumeration of the ways that I have observed that the press decides to review a piece of high-end audio equipment (or room at a show). Not saying whether any of this is good or bad; in this world, in this economy.

1. The manufacturer or exhibitor is a heavy advertiser in a magazine [getting this contentious reason out of the way up front]. A certain percentage of reviewers at a magazine will naturally feel appreciative that their mag is being supported by these folks.and write a few kind words

2. Wining and dining [often mass quantities at a show :-) ]. A certain percentage of reviewers will naturally feel appreciative of the wonderful food, beverages, cigars, etc. and write a few kind words

3. Being treated as if they were the most important and wonderful person in the world [i.e. the exhibitor or manufacturer is a good sales person]. A certain percentage of reviewers will naturally feel appreciative of the respect being given and write a few kind words

4. An individual reviewer likes the manufacturer, exhibitor, or their products and/or likes what they hear [Reviewer as Champion - perhaps the most ethical reason]

5. Tradition - this manufacturer/exhibitor always gets a few words

6. Equipment on ‘perpetual loan’ [aka free]. Write a few kind words and keep the equipment for an extended period. Feature it periodically in your reviews and show reports and keep it longer. Tried and true, baby.

Ways That Do Not Attract Reviews (if none of the above are working)

1. Being nice, kind and cheerful [these exhibitors abound at shows - nary a review to be seen]

2. Being the most expensive [Where are the top Goldmund, the top Transroter (or ClearAudio) table’s reviews, etc. etc. etc. not to mention how many expensive rooms at shows are ignored. Is this the Triumph of the Mediocre - read any Stereophile letters page about the demand for ‘affordable’ gear reviews - or the manufacturers wanting to keep a mystique around their statement-level products and so avoiding reviews? Don’t know.]

3. Having the best sound [this is kind of weird, I know, but it is a truism. So much equipment out there provides good value at the price and is completely ignored. Having no special ‘aura’ of potential mass amounts of advertising dollars nor forthcoming with the food, wine and treats, and/or free equipment - and no ‘champion’ #4 above - means virtual invisibility].

Things That Do Not Prohibit Getting a Positive Review

1. Sounding worse than its peers

2. Periodically catching on fire [No, I will not divulge, except to say it ain’t nothing we sell… thank goodness]

3. Being outrageously more expensive in the U.S. than elsewhere [this is actually relatively rare in this global economy, but not unknown, and with some popular brands to boot]


As you can see, a manufacturer/exhibitor can take one of a few perhaps dubiously ethical and definitely somewhat costly approaches to get noticed… or hope and pray for a reviewer, hopefully prolific, to like them and what they do and be their free, unfettered champion.

For the purposes of this post, prolific posters on forums behave just like reviewers.


A Hybrid Review Approach…

Monday, November 9th, 2009 by Mike

… mixing the subjective and objective…

Essentially it uses a subjective analysis of objective aspects of the sound of a component.

Even more essentially, the listener gives it the old ‘college try’ and guestimates how good a component is in several pre-determined and STANDARDIZED categories.

See, if the categories are well-chosen and are standardized, and a number from 1 to 10, say, is assigned, then components can be compared.

Anyway, in the most recent Spintricity article:

Towards a Hybrid Subjective Objective Review Process

… we attempt to come up with some categories that we, at least, use here [tho in the past we have not been so disciplined as to assign a number to score a component’s performance in each category]

The idea is to create a list that we can print out and then enter or circle a number of something so that the review process can be raised up out of the muck and mire.

Press as the Public Relations Arm of Industry

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 by Mike

There are a lot of pieces and parts of the show report - kind of sprinkled in amongst almost 2000 photos - and even I forget where I said what.

But one of the themes this year was influenced by a ‘Cranky Geeks’ episode (online or special TiVo download) that crystallized, for me, the problem with most reviews in our industry. Although Cranky Geeks was talking about the software industry - it applied equally well to ours [and the Washington Press Core as well, but let’s not go there].

That is that the press is serving as the Public Relations arm of the Industry. The corporations. They take press releases [well, in high-end audio, we don’t need no stinking press releases - so our reviewers have to do more work], massage it, and spit it back out as a review.

Thinking about this off and on during the last few weeks as I do the kind of laborious task of juggling CES photos, I think that there are telltale signs of reviews that are really just PR - that really just server as pages for the industry to link to, to serve as an incentive for the industry to donate free equipment to get more of, a safe place to advertise on.

And those signs are that it reads like PR.

PR, like your prototypical salesperson, never, ever, ever say anything bad about what they are selling. Nothing that can even be *slightly* construed as negative about the piece of equipment.

Now reviewers are famous for putting in clues that seem like they maybe might be a hint at what they really think about the component.

But, think about it. All components have a sound and have issues. .

So most reviews are like describing a car crash by saying over and over again how great the car was - and about what songs were playing in the car at the time of the crash.

Anyway, I grew up respecting the press as being honorable, reporting what was really happening, very often DIFFERENT from what the official spin was about the events. Now it is all in support of making more money. Not making waves.

And the only reviewer who I have any confidence in that they actually write real reviews is Mike Fremer.

Sure, he ignores his prejudices, and ignores how badly his poor sad room affects the sound, and ignores the fact that much of his system equipment is flawed and affects what his results are going to be. So he ain’t perfect [and he has some anger management issues - or at least, he should learn to count to ten before posting. I know. I know. Many people want me to count to a billion before posting]. But I think he is the best we got. [Which is saying a lot about the state of the press industry here, huh?]. And I think he has been getting better.

HP hasn’t written a real review for years and years. Art Dudly, Srajan are runners up - and they may be just as good as Mike, but I just don’t read enough of their reviews, especially of equipment that I am familiar with that have easily agreed-upon issues.

As far as the other reviewers go, as far as I have time to read their copy - uh, well, there is really no reason for me to go farther.

I haven’t met Mr. Fremer, nor Art Dudley and have no specific desire to do so [I emailed once or twice with Fremer about 6 years ago]. I have met Srajan at shows when he used to go to shows here in the U.S. [and he is the only member of the press that acknowledges we exist - all the others try hard to ignore us because we encroach on their (abandoned, as this post testifies) domain] but he doesn’t review stuff I am familiar with - and I instead mostly end up reading his editorials.

Anyway, to wrap this up - it is not like reviewers, in general, are any more a**holes than the rest of us - in fact, of the few I see at shows, most of them are just like the rest of us. It is just that I see the responsibilities of being a reporter differently than they do.

Audiophile 101 - Reviewers

Sunday, February 4th, 2007 by Mike

Reviews of audio equipment are compromised because reviewers are compromised. They cannot be trusted.

Both print and online magazines are compromised because one never knows if they are writing positive reviews in response to advertising dollars, or trying to solicit new sources of advertising dollars. One thing is proven, that bad reviews chase away advertising dollars.

Online magazines are compromised further by the fact that reviews are ‘linked to’ by the manufacturers of the equipment that was positively reviewed, increasing the magazines popularity with search engines, which attracts more traffic, which allows them to raise their advertising rates.

Reviewers also are compromised by:

1) Having to conform to the stated policies of the magazine they work for

2) If they do not write positive reviews, manufacturers will not want to lend them equipment for the next review

Dealers who write reviews are also comprimised because no one ever knows if they are saying something in order to try generate more sales.

Individuals, which includes reviews at the above mentioned magazines and dealers, are firther compromised because:

1) One doesn’t know if they are an idiot or not

2) One doesn’t know if they are a shill or not [for those that don’t know, and apparaently some do not, a shill is someone who pretends to be an individual but really works for a dealer or manufacturer]

3) One doesn’t know if they are just conforming to the natural human tendancy to praise the equipment they currently own [and disparage that which they no longer own].

4) One doesn’t know if they are just trying to praise, or disparage, a piece equipment because they like, or do not like, its particular manufacturer.


The point is that all reviewers, and therefore all reviews, are compromised.

They can’t be trusted!

Or can they?

What we can trust is that some reviewers care about their reputation. How they see others see them, and want others to see them.

What we have is:


Both institutions (like magazines and dealers) and individuals (reviewers at those magazines) have reputations - good or bad, or just plain weird.

The argument here is that you CAN TRUST People, and Organizations to more or less behave and write reviews in accordance with their view of their reputation, based on how important that rep is to their personal views of themselves, to their personal self-worth.


Take, for another example, TV news reporters.

Edward R. Murrow - apparently [sorry, before my time] had a reputation based on his dedication to telling the Truth.

Some popular networks, and their reporters, have a reputation based on the consistant ridiculing of other’s political ideologies. They can be ‘trusted’ to report in a way that always conforms to this reputation they and their organzation have.

Some reporters whole reputation is built around their ability to get the next scoop, the next Big Story, not having anything to do with the truth, necessarily.


So, back to audio,

We have some magazines whose reputation is built on all the published reviews being positive (Positive Feedback [see this recent castigation of non-positive reviews], Inner Ear)

We have some whose reputation is closer to that of Murrow, but which is distorted by what they judge to be ‘truth, but in a responsible manner’ (Stereophile, 6moons). [Here we start entering the domain of serious reporting ethics, the necessity of having to report news without ever having ALL the facts - something too serious for this post, or this website].

[The Absolute Sound and HiFi+ seem to have a mix, there being so obvious, to me, reputation associated with the magazines as a whole, except that of this plurality of reviewers with different types of reputations].

Then you got the ‘Malcontents’, as Inner Ear called them this month [are we malcontents? I hope so :-) ]. These peoples reputation vary, sometimes being just ways to publically express their need for anger management, or remedial logic 101, classes. Our rep, as I see it, is that we try to shed light on the very high end in a ruthlessly honest, but inclusive, manner - in a way that seeks ways to explain the what, how and why that the high-end is not just some morass of similar sounding components all rated ‘A+’.

You also got your netizens, who consistantly praise their own equipment as being the very, very best the world has ever seen, and disparage everyone else’s as either ‘been there done that’, or ‘being privy to a special network of only the best audiophiles [i.e. not you! :-) ], I have heard that your gear sucks in comparision to my gear’. Their reputation, as they see it themselves, is built upon some variation of everyone thinking that they have the best equipment in the world.


The point is, they are all behaving in accordance to what they want their reputation to be.

Some people care about their own reputation. Some not so much. The ones that care the most seem to be the more consistant reviewers: Mike Fremer, J.A., Srajan for examples.

But it is not a given that their reviews are ‘better’, or worse, than that of other reviewers. It is just that some reviews can be trsuted to be written to be within the context of the individual reviewer’s, and their organization’s, reputation.


The final point, finally, is that everything DOES sound good and everything DOES sound bad.

Everything sounds good to reviewers who are not all that critical of each single aspect of the sound something produces, whose rep is based on welcoming nearly all components into the wonderful world of high-end audio.

Everything sounds bad to reviewers whose rep is based on being very critical of the sound a component produces, always comparing it to what it ‘could be’, if someone had just put a little more effort into its design and manufacturing.

HiFi+ Roy Gregory’s Meridian DSP8000 loudspeaker review

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006 by Mike

Roy Gregory did a nice long review of the big Meridian speakers.

It was a fairly well-balanced review - but he forgot to mention two of the major shortcomings of these speakers (although he does mention that they lack ‘intimacy and immediacy’).

First, the plusses [in my opinion, which more or less agrees with Mr. Gregory - read the review for yourself for details]:

The look nice, they can play loud, are easy to setup [for basic CD/DVD-driven systems], and they minimize cable riot (amp and DAC are inside the speaker).

Then the minuses [also in my opinion]:

They lack the ability to render anything other than simple harmonics and they cannot produce a correctly shaped note in the dynamic domain - which is to say that they sound like they are making a lot of square waves [they also collapse into a wall-of-sound at high volumes].

These speakers are targetted to the Home Theater market, where everyone seems to expect that the sound will likely suck, and if it ’sucks less’, they got a winner - it is like some kind of nostalgia thing, I don’t know.

Perhaps Mr. Gregory felt that mentioning the ‘intimacy and immediacy’ and publically questioning whether an audiophile would be happy with these (saying yes, probably, particularly if they would otherwise get tangled up in upgrade hell with all the choices other speakers allow their owners) were enough ‘clues’ that these speakers have a certain market, and are not a ‘please everybody’ kind of product.

Personally, we both had Meridian CD players. a long time ago, that were better sounding than the competition because they were warmer(!) sounding - this was in the days of 16bit and 20bit DACs. Then they veered off into Technical Wizardy Over Musicality Land and left us behind.

If only, if only they, or someone else, built some digital active speakers that sounded really, really good to your typical audiophile type listener. In these days of outboard loudspeaker crossovers, most of the lines we carry are going in the other direction- instead of putting everything in the speaker, they are taking more and more of it out and putting it into yet more boxes. :-)

But seriously, how many people (aka non-audiophiles) are going to want to mess with all the components that are required these days to setup a good sounding system? They have enough trouble just hooking up their new TiVo.

Then again, people who can setup their basic home theater 5.1 or 7.1 system with all of *its* options will think 2-channel is a piece of cake.

Hmmmm… perhaps is the inevitable merging of the two - seemingly what is required to get good sound AND video these days - which is confrontational and daunting.

Then add music servers… stir and bake for several hundred hours on low and take a few asprin.

I guess the point is, which seems to have been lost by this writer during this meandering post, is that the Meridian speaker’s claim to fame, as I see it, is that it is easy to setup and easy on the eyes - i.e. things that have to do with lifestyle and convenience and minimizing day-to-day fuss and bother and NOT much to do with high-end high fidelity audio.

Funny, high-end audio, in general, pays little attention to these lifestyle aspects of product design …. probably to its detriment. Kind of like all of high-end audio these days being like a old 911 Porsche, a very high performance drive - just don’t try to use the radio, or air conditioner, or automatic windows…

I know, I know, a lot of guys and gals LIKE it that way. :-)

But what if, Lamm for instance, added a remote control for their preamp in a way that was not detrimental to the sound

- and perhaps Nordost made Valhalla 100% transparent VISUALLY [it is close now, but 100%? … we would have to watchout we don’t trip over it…],

- and what if ALL manufacturers hired an Industrrial Design consultant or two to spruce up the looks…

- and what if they also hired Human Interface engineers to make sure their products were very usuable and that the workflows to set them up were easy on the noggin…

…Oh! and what if they were all members of a AAA-like organization that came over if you called them with a ’system emergency’ and helped you perform major system mods, diagnose problems, Move Heavy Equipment(!), …[Hmmmmm… maybe there should just be a Audio ‘Geeks On Call’?]

The point REALLY is how to make the crown jewels of high-end audio, and our audio passion in general, be more inclusive of those who are not technologically savvy, and who don’t want to be [or who are and don’t want to admit it to anybody :-) ]..

The Reviewer’s Preferences

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006 by Mike

[Neli wants me to verify that everyone understands these descriptions are, necessarily, characerchers, very short descriptions of what are real people - real people who cannot be described by one sentence, or a million. OK. Now I can tell Neli that everyone understands this, ….right? :-) ]

Each reviewer has preferences.

Because they have limited funds they only have limited access to a wide variety of equipment which arrives serially - i.e. they may have had both Lamm amplifiers and Wilson speakers in their listening room - but probably not at the same time. And it would be difficult for them to consciously schedule to have them both at the same time in order to hear them at the same time. So they kind of just hear a lot of components in a hodge-podge random order. One or two at a time. In their existing system, whatever that may be.

So what this means is that although reviewers have access over time to a lot of equipment - their system building is often a long and somewhat random winding road, and they typically do not have a lot of experience with consciously building a system that suits their taste, living with it for awhile, then making a better system, living with THAT for awhile, etc..

[This is unlike the dew dealers who collect best of breed equipment and can freely mix and match to create their Wonder Systems - and unlike many audiophiles who also try lots of various pieces of equipment, although most audiophiles still focus on ONE PIECE of equipment that will finally DO IT - instead of a SYSTEM that will do it - probably because they read too many reviews… which rarely focus on the fact that it TAKE A SYSTEM to sound good].

They also, almost across the board, stay in whatever house they have lived in since they were a child (kidding) and whatever compromised listening room they found pre-existing in that house.

Mike Fremer - Stereophile

MF has reputedly a very small room with severe bass resonance issues. He prefers a very detailed and very neutral sound with tight, detailed bass. His system consists of permanent residences the Musical Fidelity electronics and Wilson Maxx II speakers.
This is all one needs to know in order to predict what Mike will like or not like. He gravitates between preferring of-a-kind equipment (like SME turntables, Rockport speakers) and equipment way over on the other side that balances his system (like Zanden digital and Sonus Faber speakers). He probably will only BUY of-a-kind equipment: neutral to cold, very detailed sounding gear.

Srajan Ebean - 6moons

Srajan just moved - and I believe he has his pick of several rooms to put music in. So his rooms do not suck. He prefers equipment that is reasonably priced, first and foremost, which is fairly dynamic, and eschews sophistication - prefers real but puts up with an ‘affected’ sound - a sound that entertains him. Enjoyable.

His system at one time consisted of Avantgarde Duo horns and, to balance these very forward, harmonic-free speakers and laid back, somewhat dull sounding front end. Equipment he reviewed went into this system with very predictable outcomes [Speakers had to be quite dynamic and not too revealing of the flaws upstream. Components had to be warm and not too detailed or neutral or the speakers would show off their inherent coolness and over-aggressiveness].

He now has the more or less reasonably priced Zu Audio speakers, last I checked - which are a heart pure Enjoyment with some good dynamic capability. These speakers do not like a sophisticated front end (shows off their flaws) and their owner will probably prefer a tube amp or a laid back solid-state amplification.

Srajan will prefer equipment with good value that is enjoyable, and has decent dynamic capabilities, or is interesting intellectually. He will pan equipment that is seemingly too expensive, or detailed, Sophisticated, or boring (from a reviewer’s point of view).
HP - Absolute Sound

HP has quite small rooms at Sea Cliff - ones that he has learned to make the most of.

HP likes a BIG SOUND. His systems are somewhat of a balancing act, much like Srajan. Big, open sounding, dynamic, not very sophisticated speakers (ALON/NOLA, Pipedreams, Wisdom way back when) are paired with amps that are excellent (ASL, Edge), but do not intrude on the overall character of the speaker, with cables that are neutral and not used as tuning devices (Nordost Valhalla), and a very high-quality source (the old Burmester $60K transport and DAC pair, Emmlabs CDSD and DCC2, and the best turntables when he can get them - ignore the Clearaudio, it is just a stand-in).

HP more than any reviewer, consciously builds a system around speakers he likes. Just like we do, and maybe one or two other dealers, and a lot of the audiophiles who consciously build their systems to achieve the sound they want. [Even if you do not have, cannot afford, the speakers you want today - you can think ahead and improve your current system, today, with less expensive equipment - like powercords, vibration control, cables - with a eye on how it will work with your system tomorrow, when you CAN put the speakers you want into your system].

JV - Absolute Sound

JV’s room is kind of unbalanced, last picture I saw, with a door in the front wall. Not aware of any other particular problems.

As mentioned last post - for many years JV’s system sucked, like most reviewer’s systems, but then he got a Walker and then, after the ridiculous underpowered Tenor amp / Rockport speaker love affair, heard the Tenor OTL on the Kharma 3.2 speaker. This is one of those GREAT systems. Finally, a reviewer with a real state-of-the-art system - and one that will fit in ordinary sized rooms to boot.

JV prefers - interesting sounds. Of all reviewers, I think he gets bored the easiest. This is why I think he kind of careens from one relatively good sounding piece of equipment to another, perhaps not as good sounding piece of equipment - because the new piece sounds interesting and DIFFERENT and is entertaining.

So, JV will like things that do not suck and that are interesting sonically. Otherwise he is hard to predict.


All of these reviewers must publish in order to put food on the table. They will in general say good things about something in order to not ruffle feathers.

None of these reviewers pays any attention to vibration control, except perhaps JV who has a Walker Audio rack and Srajan who has a Grand Prix Monaco rack.

I think only MF pays attention to powercords. HP just experienced his first diamond tweeter a few months ago.

Most reviewers, and these are no exception, are quite a bit behind the experience curve of most network-savvy audiophiles who have some extra cash to burn.

But I like these guys and we will follow closely and comment on what they have to say.

Reviewing the Reviewers

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006 by Mike

We are going to start another category…

In this category we are going to discuss some of the reviews that are being published, and discuss them in the context of the reviewer’s tastes, systems, and rooms.

This will not be critical, or nasty, or flame ridden…

It will try to put some of what many people read into a larger context, as we see it anyway.

Since I am the one writing this (I try to talk Neli into posting on the Blog until she starts waving divorce papers in my face [not really - but I bet you know EXACTLY what I mean]) I am going to limit this proess to just a few of MY favorite reviewers:

HP, Jonathan Valin, Mike Fremer, and Srajan at 6moons.

Why are these guys my favorites?

Maybe because they are so powerful they can say what they want (but not so powerful they can say it the way they want to - a steady paycheck [how nice it is!] is a difficult thing to throw away).

MF buys his own equipment and, although erratic and idiosyncratic, he does let the truth slip out once in awhile.

JV has seen the light after the Walker Tenor Kharma experience and now knows what good sound is. What willllllll he do?

HP because he is HP.

Srajan because he is tryoing so hard to do the right thing.

However, none of these people put their reviews into the context of what the rest of their system is doing to color their interpretation of what they hear. Their bright sounding amp on a revealing speaker? That speaker is too bright. A reasonably priced laid back system on a revealing speaker - what do you know: that speaker is too laid back.

We’ll ignore Art Dudley - mostly because I think he is very open about his likes and dislikes - is probably the best reviewer because of it - and, well, there isn’t much to explain about his reviews.

Marja & Henk at 6moons have done some good reviews, IMHO - but I have read too little of their stuff…

Danny Kaye has retired… or graduated… or escaped… whatever you want to call it.

What a good reviewer SHOULD do is be self-conscious [well, first they have to be conscious, but let’s say that is a given], they should keep wondering if they have it right, keep wondering if they have the gist of what is going on with the component, the system, the music. They should keep trying to explore what it is that makes people like music - what makes them like some sounds and not others - what causes cyclical pressure waves to somehow communicate the great ideas and the nature of the human condition to all peoples of all generations.

Just like a good dealer.

If they start talking about how it “has a flux capacitor and therefore has to sound great”, or “it has 6.5 gigawatts of charm, these measurments can’t be beat, this is and will always be the best” then turn the page, hop into your Delorian, and try out the sequel.

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