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Ever seen a truly negative speaker review?


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#1 of 39 OFFLINE   DerekF

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Posted November 14 2002 - 11:41 AM

Like many here, I have done exhaustive research for myself and friends to assist in making speaker purchases...but one thing has started to bug me, and I thought it might make for an interesting forum discussion:

When it comes to mid-hi priced speakers, I have never seen a truly negative speaker review in a professional publication!

I've read things like, "not as smooth sounding as a few others in its price range", "I found the highs a bit harsh, requiring some work with the treble setting," and "68/100" but never anything really, truly negative.

Can they all be that good? I've seen reviews for other consumer products where they totally lambaste the manufacturer for poor decisions, but I've never seen it with speakers...have you?

Am I the only one here who would get a kick out of a review that inverted the clichéd "performing as well as speakers ten times its price" with "At $8,000 per pair, these speakers sound as good as the $800 Brand Xs on my bookshelf. If you really have $8,000 burning a hole in your pocket, buy the Brand Xs, and buy your wife something from Tiffany's--at the end of the day, you'll be more satisfied that your money was well spent."

...just curious,

Derek

Note: For the above, I consider mid-hi priced to be Paradigm Monitor, Psb Image, Klipsch RIII, etc. and above.

#2 of 39 OFFLINE   steve mm

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Posted November 14 2002 - 12:21 PM

yes check out what hifi magazine you can find them at barns and noble it is a no bs publication to bad it is a uk mag

#3 of 39 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming

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Posted November 14 2002 - 01:41 PM

allow me to quote something from What HiFi:-
Quote:
The bass, though powerful, has a plodding, unnatural quality that deprives all but the crudest basslines of the accuracy and articulation needed to drive the music. The midrange is thin and unconvincing, and detail is not sufficient. The treble performance is similar: lively and thrilling, but lacking subtlety


negative enough? FWIW, this is from their review of the Mission m53.

[Edit: spelling]

#4 of 39 OFFLINE   Evan S

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Posted November 14 2002 - 02:19 PM

I saw a review once that absolutely tore into the Cambridge Soundworks Newton 500's. They said the bass was overpowering the rest of the speaker and the sound was totally muddy. They said for the price you could find much better value (amongst other things). I'm giving the Cliff Notes version here. Trust me, the regular review was far from flattering.
searching for that elusive, "perfect" sound.

#5 of 39 OFFLINE   DerekF

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Posted November 14 2002 - 03:10 PM

I'll have to check out What HiFi--I've only ever given it a cursory news-stand flip-thru.

I enjoy reading reviews that are reflective of the product being tested, rather than the advertising revenue generated by the manufacturer--and it sounds as though What HiFi doesn't pull too many punches...

#6 of 39 OFFLINE   Mike Sloan

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Posted November 14 2002 - 04:04 PM

Evan S,

Was that review on the Newton T500's on a forum. I have only read glowing reviews in national publications:

"The Newton T-500 Series home theater speakers are phenomenal. In fact, to date they are the best speakers we have had the opportunity to test out. In fact, they were so good we awarded them with our most prestigious honor, the Reviewboard Select Award...By Mark Adams
I am biased...I own a pair and in some respects I think they sound better than my B&W 803's! Who would have thought CSW would make a great speaker....I sure didn't until I had FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE!
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain.

#7 of 39 OFFLINE   Stephen Dodds

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Posted November 14 2002 - 09:50 PM

In general the UK mags (What Hi-Fi, Hi-Fi Choice, Hi-Fi News) are much tougher than US mags.

Steve

#8 of 39 OFFLINE   Chris Tsutsui

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Posted November 14 2002 - 10:40 PM

The few counter examples above still don't convince me that most main stream magazines don't write sponsor driven reviews.

Think about it, why would a high end audio manufacturer pay big bucks to advertise in a magazine that tears their speakers apart and promotes other brands?

I know there are examples as mentioned above as I've read a few myself. However, I completely agree with Derek in that a "majority" of reviews in big selling magazines don't have much credibility with the reviews anymore. It's just absurd when I read a review with nothing but meaningless specifications that compare several products saying that they are all good performers.

Then I see why as I flip through the magazine and realize that every other page is a full page add.

BTW, I don't mean ALL articles and reviews are bad as I've read some good ones by audiophiles as well.


#9 of 39 OFFLINE   Evan S

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Posted November 15 2002 - 01:33 AM

Mike, it was a couple months back. I was at Barnes and Noble and was flipping through a bunch of HT mags. I cannot for the life of me recall which magazine it was, but it was a print review and it was not flattering of the Newtons. The reason I remember it is that my experience has been the same as yours. Most reviews I see of these speakers are quite favorable, especially the bookshelf models and I was quite surprised. Maybe I can do a search on Ecoustics and see if I can find it.
searching for that elusive, "perfect" sound.

#10 of 39 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted November 15 2002 - 01:59 AM

Maybe one doesn't see bad reviews because no one tests the-ahem-right speakers.

Without naming names, what about the ones with cabinets constructed of that .5" flaky particle board stuff; 8" woofers with corrugated paper surrounds, & using dinky 10oz. magnets and weak 3/4" voice coils; tweeters using cheap 3" paper cones w/ 2oz. magnets (believe it or not, there are some good ones. Back in the 60s/70s Bozak, KLH and Advent used these & sounded excellent. And my 1984 "Baby" Advents used one-enjoyed them for 14 years!); midranges with no subenclosure so the woofer's pressure waves turn them into miniature (& bad!) passive radiators. Sometimes they don't even have a crossover. And grilles permanently mounted in place to hide all this "engineering".

Bad speakers ARE out there. But as with your septic tank, they're something that no one likes to talk about Posted Image...........Posted Image

LJ

#11 of 39 OFFLINE   randy bessinger

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Posted November 15 2002 - 02:45 AM

The Audio Critic has had some relatively bad reviews on speakers-some of which have been highly rated. The problem is that listening to speakers is pretty subjective and as soon as someone says something negative, someone else comes unglued.

#12 of 39 OFFLINE   Mike Sloan

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Posted November 15 2002 - 03:00 AM

Evan S,
I used to think that CSW speakers were a step up from Bose..at best...then a remarkable thing happened...I listened to them!
A few moths ago I decided to finish an existing Home theater project we had going (in a dedicated room) and also put an additional system in a game room. I was intrigued by all the positive comments regarding the speakers sold on the Internet. At one point, we had 7 different pairs of speakers crammed into our living room for auditioning. A local Home theater store was also nice enough to loan me a few speakers for audition, as well. The speakers under consideration were Axiom M80Ti towers, Rocket 750's, Newton T-500's, DefTech BP3000's, Polk LSi25's, B&W 803's (which I already owned) and the B&W 802's. Now before the fireworks start...the B&W 802's were in a league of their own and I did purchase them. The 803's I owned previously. For you Rocket fans...the 750's I had to audition were one of the Beta models, and as such, did not have the crossover mod which mellowed the tweeter...they were too bright. A shame, because everyone fell in love with them at first sight. The only reason the Newtons were in the group is CSW was running a promotion and offered free shipping both ways...no risk! We auditioned the above speakers over a 2 week period. My Brother-in-Law (a "self" proclaimed audiophile...another story) flew in from Tucson to help out! Over the two weeks we spent alot of time listening to all different types of music and movies. The end result revealed no duds. I would have been happy with any of them...but when compared side-by-side, there was a quality, a sweetness to the mid-range sound of the T-500's that was undeniable. Every session came to the same conclusion with the majority of individuals involved. Even my wife (who hated the size and look of the T500's) commented that they were the most "fun" to listen to. Now I will admit the build quality was,certainly, not up to the B&W's or event the rockets...so longevity may be an issue that crops up in the future. The bass was hard to control and took some positioning and tweaking to bring under control. That said...now that I have lived with them for some time...I prefer them to my 803's for sheer listening pleasure! Are they is accurate and pristine in their rendering of source material...probably not....but they are more fun to listen to! It's a remarkable thing to listen...
Posted Image
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain.

#13 of 39 OFFLINE   Michael Varacin

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Posted November 15 2002 - 03:00 AM

Chris is right. Magazines don't publish bad reviews to keep advertisers happy. It's as simple as that. Why bite the hand that feeds them?

I was an engineer for a while in the mountain bike industry. It's even more obvious there. Never has a bad review been published in an American magazine.

I will say that the UK magazines in any industry I follow, home theater, biking, and motor sports, are light years ahead of any American magazine. They are far more technical and actually have useful information. American magazines are filled with suck up articles and adds. It's pathetic, really.

Maybe they think us Americans are uneducated and just like looking at pictures.

#14 of 39 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted November 15 2002 - 04:12 AM

I like looking at these pictures:
http://www.bobbyshre...m/infinity.html

My first real experience with high quality speakers-a pair of these: http://www.aqua-ozon...inity/sweet.jpg

LJ

#15 of 39 OFFLINE   Joe Burger

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Posted November 15 2002 - 05:44 AM

Years back Stereophile published a horrible review of some velodyne speakers. So bad that Velodyne pulled all advertising from the magazine.

#16 of 39 OFFLINE   Wayne McRae

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Posted November 15 2002 - 06:21 AM

"then a remarkable thing happened...I listened to them! Wow, what a mind blowing statement! I couldn't agree more. Some people are so busy listening to other peoples opinions it skews what they really want. I read the same article from What HiFi that Yee-Ming quoted about the Mission speakers 2 days before I made my purchase.After 3 weeks of demo's listening to, Mission,Paradigm,Energy,PSB,Def-Tech and Mirage, I bought the M51 bookshelve by Mission. Why did I buy these even after reading the article? Because they sounded the best to ME, playing the type of music I listen to the most. Speakers are so subjectionable, that if you don't listen using your own ears, your doing yourself a major diservice.

#17 of 39 OFFLINE   KeithR

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Posted November 15 2002 - 06:33 AM

You have to read in between the lines these days...the stereophile/tas writers will provide constructive criticism, but from the tone of the article you can always tell if someone was less than thrilled

#18 of 39 OFFLINE   Rich Stone

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Posted November 15 2002 - 06:42 AM

Bad reviews are few and far between and you must (as previously mentioned "read between the lines". One example of a negative review I remember clearly was in Stereophile around 1990 of the Polk RTA11 - the reviewer was clearly and unambiguously negative about this speaker. The Polk RTA11TL came out shortly thereafter with a new tweeter, cabinet mods, and "diffraction spoiler". A result of the review? Who knows, but after months of carefull listening I bought a pair of 11TLs. I still miss them to this day.

As always the proof is in the listening...

#19 of 39 OFFLINE   Evan S

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Posted November 15 2002 - 09:55 AM

Mike, I have no problem with CSW speakers. In fact, I bought one of their Sat/Sub systems for my mom. I think they are very good quality for a reasonable price. The original poster simply asked if people had read negative reviews of speakers and I told him I had. I have nothing against the Newton 500s. In fact, I have never heard them. But I did see a very unflattering review, so I know that not all publications are completely partial.
searching for that elusive, "perfect" sound.

#20 of 39 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming

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Posted November 17 2002 - 07:57 PM

Wayne: interesting outcome. I'd be the first to agree that ultimately, it's your ears and what your ears tell you that counts, but I note that you bought the m51 bookshelf speakers, not the m53 floorstanders. perhaps the m51s don't suffer the problems that the m53s have?

just to carry the analogy a bit further, What HiFi has previously been very positive with the Mission 780 and 782, but less so of the 781 and 783 -- in both latter cases, the bass was said to be a bit muddy. perhaps all we can conclude from this is that when Mission tries to build more extension into their speakers, it gets muddy? (although they also heavily criticised the midrange and tweeters of the m53, which should be the same or similar in the m51...)