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Why Home Theater Magazine is worthless drivel

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#1 of 44 OFFLINE   RicP



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Posted February 11 2002 - 08:03 PM

I've known this for quite sometime, but occasionally they make it so easy that it's laughable. I acquired a subscription to Home Theater free as part of a promotion and I can hardly wait until April for it to run out. This magazine is doubtlessly the worst drivel in the marketplace and Stereophile Guide to Home Theater outclasses it in virtually every aspect. The March 2002 issue though hammers the point home that Home Theater magazine thinks its readers are morons. If you have access to the March 2002 issue, read the first two letters to the editor and Mike Wood's thoroughly ridiculous answers. In the first one, his answer as to why DVDs all have a wide dynamic range is "Recording engineers and film directors are mostly deaf" In the second one, a reader asks why Home Theater magazine never prints a bad review -- which is true -- and Mike Wood's evasive answer actually contains the truth -- if you read between the lines. Mr. Wood spouts some nonsense about how they only review 4% of all released equipment so therefore it is statistically possible for them to never review a bad piece -- which is complete bunk. But the truth is revealed when Mr. Wood tries to be slick and state that they actually do print bad reviews -- funny Mike, I've never seen one. Mike Wood says, "We do, of course, [print bad reviews] and I have a list of angry manufacturers who no longer advertise with us to prove it." So right there in black & white, Mike Wood admits that Home Theater magazine writes reviews to cater to their advertisers and not in the interest of informing their readers -- who they apparently think are as dumb as the gear they review. Here's hoping they go out of business soon and spare the Home Theater world more of their worthless drivel.

#2 of 44 OFFLINE   Jason Harbaugh

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Posted February 11 2002 - 08:35 PM

It is sad that magazines like HTM have to be 'nice' in their reviews just so they don't lose advertisers so they can continue to print a magazine that continues to do reviews. Basic catch-22. It also hurts us, the consumer if a bad product gets a favorable review and based on that review people buy it and going by the sales the manufacture thinks they actually made a good product and continue to make the same mistakes in later generations of that product. Now we have an inferior product from that company time and time again. Now if that same product got exposed as a very bad product by the reviewer and people saw this and didn't buy it then the manufacture would actually have to go back and look at why it got a bad review and actually fix the problem with the next generation. Then we, the consumer would continue to get quality products because the bad has been pointed out for all to see. Ahhh, the dream of the perfect world.

#3 of 44 OFFLINE   Tom Ryan

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Posted February 11 2002 - 09:02 PM


Mike Wood says, "We do, of course, [print bad reviews] and I have a list of angry manufacturers who no longer advertise with us to prove it."

So right there in black & white, Mike Wood admits that Home Theater magazine writes reviews to cater to their advertisers and not in the interest of informing their readers -- who they apparently think are as dumb as the gear they review.


This magazine sounds lame, but I don't get why that quote proves that the magazine caters to advertisers. Wouldn't it seem that they DON'T cater to advertisers if they continue to print bad reviews even when the advertisers abandon them? It's all a moot point if they don't print any bad reviews, like you said, but all that quote would prove then is that he's lying.


#4 of 44 OFFLINE   RicP



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Posted February 11 2002 - 09:12 PM

Tom, the point is that HTM does not print bad reviews, Mike's comment notwithstanding. He makes a blanket comment about how they print bad reviews and have lost advertisers...yet I do not see a single bad review in the 11 issues I have, and others have claimed to never have seen one. So you're left with two possibilities 1) They never printed a bad review and Mike Wood is full of it. 2) They Used to, but lost advertisers, so they no longer print bad reviews. In the last 11 issues there isn't one, so what does that tell you?

#5 of 44 OFFLINE   Jason_Els



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Posted February 11 2002 - 09:52 PM

I saw a "bad" review of a Bose Acoustimass system a few years ago. I never saw one after that and gave up my subscription when Brent left and Maureen stepped in. One of the reasons I dropped it was the flippant-to-downright rude responses Mike Wood gave to people who wrote in. Wood is an ass and Maureen didn't do a thing to improve the situation. Their DVD reviews are a joke too. Only thing that I really liked was Heather's art direction which made everything look good but it wasn't enough to pay for a subscription. It's a pity. Was a good rag for a while. SGHT is vastly superior but I like Widescreen Review and Sound and Vision better. Thanks! Jason
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#6 of 44 OFFLINE   JeremySt



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Posted February 11 2002 - 10:04 PM

I agree, the HTM sucks, and has actually been surpassed by Sound and Vision (the former kings of crap IMHO) I emailed Mike Wood once a while ago, complaining about his review of the DVD quality of THE MATRIX where he said something like "the picture has a green hue, so it is not demo-worthy" He emailed me back, definding his position, but I was having none of it. Basically, HTM has sucked sice Brent Butterworth left. WSR is the only mag I read anymore, although I might ocasionallly page throught Stereophile's editorials.

#7 of 44 OFFLINE   Bill Balcziak

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Posted February 11 2002 - 10:11 PM

I remember many years ago the same sort of "why do you only give positive reviews" question was asked of Julian Hersh of Stereo Review. His answer? In effect, he said SR only gave positive reviews because they chose only to review superior equipment. By avoiding poor equipment, they could focus their attention on the products that consumers would more likely purchase. Now on the face of it, that makes some sense. But you have to suspend your disbelief that Stereo Review was anything but a shill for manufacturers, which it most certainly was. Anybody who doesn't see through the transparent, cozy relationship between the mags and the mfgrs is in denial or just plain naive.

#8 of 44 OFFLINE   JoeDeM


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Posted February 12 2002 - 07:49 AM

I havn't bought one in a long time, I find that there isn't enough content in them to justify the cost, besides I can usally get them at the local library when ever I want. I prefer real reviews by real people, that's why I like forums, you get to hear from people that actually have the stuff, and use it every day.

#9 of 44 OFFLINE   Todd Hochard

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Posted February 12 2002 - 08:12 AM

I quit reading HT Mag when most of the reviewers starting using "kicks ass" as their best description of how a piece of equipment performs.

I still subscribe to WSR, but the staff's somewhat arrogant tone (Gary Reber's, definitely Richard Hardesty's before he left, and Greg Rogers) is getting to be a bit dry.

Why can't I find a solid review, without the pompous "I know more about AV than anyone" routine?

Oh wait, I can- here and AVS.Posted Image

I may drop all rags altogether. It's old news by the time it's printed, anyway.

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#10 of 44 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted February 12 2002 - 09:23 AM

Remember also that Mike Wood--who is the magazine's most expert-level staffer--dissed what he called those "Internet home theater forums" when advising a letter writer to rely on professional reviewers for sound equipment advice. Funny, I thought: "That's what the people of Home Theater Forum think of Home Theater magazine." Its editorial direction is adrift, and I don't get a sense of expertise from the person at the magazine's helm. The best home theater-relater publications are: * Widescreen Review and The Perfect Vision, each for different reasons; the former for its unparalleled understanding of the equipment and the field, the latter for its superior film writing and high-level journalism. These magazines are the state-of-the-publication-art for their own individual reasons. * Stereophile Guide to Home Theater runs a close second to the magazines occupying first place, and sometimes equals them. * Sound & Vision, though aimed at the "beginner's" segment of the demographic field, often contains worthwhile features and reviews. It does seem beholden unto its advertisers sometimes, much as its predecessor, Stereo Review, did. And I sure could do with fewer of those articles on the basics ("how to calibrate your TV," "shopping for receivers," etc., etc.). Its DVD reviews, though, are useful. * Then there's everybody else. I cannot stand those magazines that cater to the ultra-rich and portray their super-elaborate home cinema "bijous." I'd much, much rather see features on real-world home-theater solutions and systems, not the professionally installed playthings of the super-rich, who don't even know what kind of equipment they own. And Home Theater, due to its current editor's background, caters to this crowd. The DVD reviews are useless. So why do I continue to buy the rag? To stay informed--though I feel much more informed after spending two or three hours here at HTF.

#11 of 44 OFFLINE   BrentPollard


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Posted February 12 2002 - 10:10 AM

They sure got purty pitchers tho.Posted Image

#12 of 44 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:44 AM

i subscribe to s&v, sght and a/v interiors. i haven't seen a negative review in any of them since i started. often you can read between the lines, but they'll *never* completely trash any product. i don't think anyone can reasonably expect them to outright debunk a product. obviously, they need to pay their bills... reviews are good to learn about a product, what the specs are and any innovative features that are coming out. that's about it...if you read more into it then you're probably asking for trouble. i hope most people know that's "how it works"...i guarantee any ht enthusiast already does. it's the people who take the reviews as gospel that are going to be in trouble.

#13 of 44 OFFLINE   Bruce Hedtke

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Posted February 12 2002 - 05:11 PM


"Recording engineers and film directors are mostly deaf"


I still can't figure out if that was supposed to be sarcasm on Woods' part or if he was serious. Either way, it was pretty lame. The letter writer asked a reasonable question and that was Woods' reply? Maybe the guy should get a clue and realize people write asking for advice on HT, not so he can demonstrate his wit, or lack thereof. Further down the reply, he tells the reader about a setting in a reciever that can help with the dynamic range. Well, why didn't you say that right out and can the sarcasm? I got a notice with my last issue saying it was my "Second To Last Issue". I almost felt like writing telling them to cancel the rest of my subscription Posted Image

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#14 of 44 OFFLINE   Rob W

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Posted February 12 2002 - 06:03 PM

Actually, film directors do seem to have a higher pain threshhold when listening to sound than mere mortals do. Many years ago during my incarnation as a theatre manager I managed a downtown Toronto movie theatre that was a screening venue for the Toronto Film Festival. Then, as now, the majority of films that were screened were introduced by their directors and other creative personnel. Without fail, after a film had been on screen for a minute or two the director would step outside the auditorium and request that we turn up the volume. We would comply so the director could hear every nuance of his precious masterpiece. Most directors would watch about ten minutes and then move on to a press interview or some other function. And also without fail, ten or fifteen minutes after the volume increase would begin the small but steady stream of patrons asking us to please LOWER the sound levels.

#15 of 44 OFFLINE   Elbert Lee

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Posted February 12 2002 - 09:27 PM

Every once in a while, I come accross a post regarding how bad one or more of the publications are. I agree that HTM is the worst. It is great for extreme newbies and assumes that its subscribers don't learn anything after a year of reading their magazine. Their REVIEWS are a joke. The first LONG paragraph is always devoted to some irrelavent analogy: "Everyone once in a while, one feels the need to purchase a snow plow and replace their old trusty snow plow...... This new xxx receiver can BE that snow plow".... Then it goes on to describe its features. I don't mind this part, but it doesn't leave much room for a comprehensive review. Finally, the evaluation always focuses on the positives and mentions any negative as an afterthought. It never places the product in the contexts of its competitors. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to avoid letting the same reviewer write about two similarly competing products. Example: $2500+ flagship receivers - A guy who reviews the Yamaha RXV-1 in one issue is Definitely not the one who checks out the Denon AVR 5800, or Onkyo. C'mon !!! how are these evaluations supposed to help the reviewer in any way?!?!?! It's hard to see any consisteny and continuity in their reviews because each person ends up reviewing a different type of product each time and they have no frame of reference in which to base their evaluations. Finally - regardless how bad a product is, HTM will always conclude by putting a positive spin on it : "If you're into a the market for a $5000 projector, and don't mind fan noise, bleeding reds, but like a decent picture, and an amazingling user friendly remote, you should defintely check XXXX out". How 'bout they take a stand and say this: NOTHING and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING beats XXXX for under $5000, including ZZZYYYY and HHHH that cost almost $1000 more". Or, " This product is near the bottom rung of performers in thie price range. If I had to blow $$$$ on a receiver, I would much rather check out XXX YYYY or ZZZZ Mr. Butterworth never answered my inquiry as to why they deliver such uncomprehensive reviews and the situation only worsened since his departure. Elbert

#16 of 44 OFFLINE   Brian Harnish

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Posted February 12 2002 - 09:35 PM

Hmmm...perhaps I should cancel my new subscription to Home Theater Magazine. I never realized it was *that* bad.

#17 of 44 OFFLINE   Mike H

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Posted February 13 2002 - 12:08 AM

I hate them all. I've purchased Home theater mag and Widescreen review recently. I've read at least one issue of probably every HT mag in producation. WSR isn't as bad as Home Theater mag, but I didn't like the two issues I got. It could have been because the first issue had half the pages missing. I grabbed it before getting on a plane back to Oregon from Canada. I did talk to WSR and they were nice enough to send out a replacement. Even with the replacement pages I don't feel I missed much. Both WSR issues were okay, but they seemed to be so "blah". I get better information from the plethora of home theater websites and forums. Home Theater Mag is the paper version of "The Fast & the Furious". Very little good information, with eye candy thrown about. Mike

#18 of 44 OFFLINE   DanR


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Posted February 13 2002 - 09:06 AM

Yep, I cancelled this rag back about 4 years ago or so. Shortly thereafter, Brent Butterworth left the magazine. That said, SGHT ain't what it used to be either. Thank god they got rid of Maureen and put TJN in charge. Widescreen Review is the last one left for enthusiasts like us. Regards, Dan

#19 of 44 OFFLINE   chris c

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Posted February 13 2002 - 09:22 AM

None of these magazines serve a useful purpose with the advent of internet publications (free) and forums such as this. Seriously, if you want a hard-copy pictures of pretty gear, email the manufacturers for free product brochures.

#20 of 44 OFFLINE   Brian-W



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Posted February 13 2002 - 09:28 AM

Does anyone even read magazines anymore? I hate to say print is dead, but information is more plentiful and available much quicker in the 'net as well as these forums.

But if I was going to bitch, I'd say my biggest complaints about Home Theater Mag are:

    [*] Constantly printing 'newbie' letters on "how to hook up a VCR" etc. is not only boring, but it's redundant. It's like they recycle the same letters and responses yearly.[*] The reviews are never as detailed as Stereophile or Widescreen. The seem/feel 'rushed'.[*] while I don't mind advertising (hey, I need to learn about new toys), but there isn't any substance to the magazine. And even when Brent Butterworth was there, I still thought the magazine was lacking.[*] Stereophile needs to dispense with that stupid article about a couples custom home theater and how jacked up it is. This story has dragged on almost three years (or feels like it). I hate the condescending newbie attitude in the article.

So far, Widescreen Review is the only magazine I've kept my subscription to because it has substance (even if biased).

* No longer looking for Hi-Vision Laserdiscs *
(I buried that format)


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