Magazine Review Objectivity

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Cire, Aug 29, 2002.

  1. Cire

    Cire Stunt Coordinator

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    i don't know if this is the proper forum for this but anyway, i'll shoot..
    based on your experiences, what can you say about the accuracy or objectivity or reliability of reviews published by some big publications such as Home Entertainment, What Hifi, Sound and Vision, etc?
    just asking... [​IMG] i find this quite important especially to the uninitiated who might be mislead, if ever..
     
  2. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

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    Begin opinion zone--

    I'm more apt to trust the test numbers they post along with any descriptions of method. I do not trust most of the subjective opinions pro or con which unfortunately make up the majority of the write-up. Some characterizations of sound quality have to be made of course and many times can be quite helpful.

    On the subject of test data, all of these review sources have differing standards for their measurements...for instance, power levels at certain THD. If they would test either to the manufacturers spec. or to a universal spec such as 0.1% then things would be a lot clearer. People should be able to clearly see any difference between 2 channel and Multi-channel power. And when it exists, the reviewer should draw attention to the fact instead of glossing it over.

    By the same token, everyone should know that all amps are capable of a good deal more power once the fidelity firewall has been broken. Rising power with rising THD should be quantified. Which is why my favorite publication for these things is Home Theater Magazine. The simple chart they utilize for these measurements has yet to be equaled in terms of useful info IMO.

    End opinion zone---
     
  3. Bill Lucas

    Bill Lucas Supporting Actor

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    I'd put the objectivity of reviewers right up there with the objectivity of owners. In fact, I'd say owners are worse. Just look at a history of the posts on this forum. It's littered with "mine is better because I bought it" posts. [​IMG]
     
  4. Tim Baldwin

    Tim Baldwin Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree with Bill. Just like movie reveiwers, I try to "calibrate" the equipment reviewers against my own tastes and experiences. Once I've heard their opinions on movies I've seen I know how to judge future reviews. Unfortunately, the late Gene Siskel was about the only movie critic with whom I consistently agreed, and I've not found any writer for one of the big boys I can completely "trust" (though I don't have a really large body of common experience against which to judge).
     
  5. Mark Davenport

    Mark Davenport Stunt Coordinator

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    all the numbers in the world don't mean a damn thing once you actually listen to something. I'll take a number of subjective reviews of a product to determine similarities between them over numbers any day.
     
  6. GordonL

    GordonL Supporting Actor

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    I agree with Bill also. It especially irks me when people attempt to rank equipment in the same general price class on subjective qualities, posting as if their opinions somehow make it fact.
     
  7. Brian Corr

    Brian Corr Supporting Actor

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    Damn, I agree with Bill too!
     
  8. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Admin Note: I added the words Magazine Review to the subject to better reflect the original posters question. [​IMG]
     
  9. David Berry

    David Berry Stunt Coordinator

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    I've just started to read the book by Robert Harley, "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio", and in it he includes a subchapter on How to Read Magazine Reviews and also on Sonic Descriptions and their Meanings. When reading magazine reviews, it is very important to read critically. What I mean to say is don't just skim the review and read the conclusion, but be on the lookout for words or phrases slipped in, such as forward, warm, full, dry, bleached, grainy, etc. These words are full of implications/meaning.

    It is my belief that most magazine reviewers are objective, but they let their opinion be known based upon their critical listening of the specific product by critically reading their review.
     
  10. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    I agree with Bill as well. Many in this forum will not even ask any relative questions before recommending whatever they have. It is unfortunate.

    As for the mags, I trust some, and don't trust others. I dont read sound and vision anymore but when I did (and even Stereo Review) it became obvious thay they will not give any product a bad review. Instead they tailor their recomendations to the point were they are useless.
    "well if your budget is $500 and you only have 3 cubic feet of space and you are looking for a product manf in canada than this would be a great choice"

    Stereophile on the other hand has no problem letting you know their real opinion. I like Stereophile, and TAS.

    I also think that David Berry's statement holds a lot of water with almost all mags.

    -rob
     
  11. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    I'd go with the owners. Most of them are mature enough
    that they won't gloss over a piece of audio gear's shortcomings just because they bought it, and the one's that do are usually found out pretty quickly when others
    buy the same thing.
    However, the magazines are a different story. Notice how
    they never seem to be the ones who find the faults, it's
    always the actual owners? Notice how most of them never seem to dislike anything enough to give it even a marginal
    review? It's always ("75%") or "better?" Notice how they
    constantly use sale manipulation phrases like,
    "Performs like units costing many times it's price?"
    Or, "I liked it so much, I bought one for myself" or "I only wish I could have afforded to add it to my system?"
    These are classic sales techniques used by people in
    audio equipment stores.
    Magazines are in business to sell advertising and as such
    especially in an environment of today when ad revenue for
    magazines is way down.
    Are magazines able to differentiate between two products?
    Sometimes, they will offer a mild comparison, carefully worded to make both units seem like they are worth buying.
    Are all magazine reviews not worth anything? Not all.
    Equipment being what it is today, the reviews tend to reflect the equipment's high reliability more than anything
    else. If they say an Arcam preamp is high quality, we
    can pretty much be assured it is, simply because we already
    know that. But if they review an Integra receiver that
    puts out only 1/3 of it's claimed watts per channel
    and still give it a glowing review, you have to wonder what
    their actual motivation is; To inform or to sell?

    The last article I read that actually said a unit was bad
    was a review of an APEX DVD player.
     
  12. Karl Englebright

    Karl Englebright Stunt Coordinator

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  13. randy bessinger

    randy bessinger Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree with Bob Dylan. I think the quote is "Don't follow leaders-watch the parking meters" In this context, be careful of subjective "experts" reviews.
     
  14. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    I have found during the last 20 years I have been involved with the hobby that certain periodicals are reliably non-biased such as:
    1. Stereophile
    2. The Absolute Sound
    3. The Perfect Vision
    4. Stereophile Guide to Home Theater
    5. HiFi Plus (UK)
    You have to read enough reviews by each person to understand whether their reasoning is good or not. I find Robert Harley to be very good as is John Atkinson, both editors. I also like Wayne Garcia, Tom Norton on HT, and recent Jon Valin.
    I avoid completely mainstream rags like Sound & Vision or anything else widely distributed. They have too much of an agenda and are afraid to criticize.
    Overall, though, subjective reviews are an extremely important part (not all of course) of my equipment evaluation. The best method is try it yourself at home. My local dealer will let me try almost anything at home in my very own system.
    Nothing beats that! [​IMG]
     
  15. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

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    "But if they review an Integra receiver that
    puts out only 1/3 of it's claimed watts per channel
    and still give it a glowing review, you have to wonder what
    their actual motivation is; To inform or to sell?"

    Precisely, Richard. And to all those who have posted in the following vein...exactly what good are all those SUBTLE and INFORMED comments and descriptions when such a basic and fundamental product deficiency exists? Oh yes, that's right...I forgot, it's GOOD TO PAY THAT KIND OF MONEY FOR THAT KIND OF PERFORMANCE BECAUSE AFTER ALL, I LISTENED TO IT AND I DIDN'T NOTICE ANYTHING. Kind of like the useless attitude and commentary from Cheap Home Theater on the new Onkyo's...to paraphrase..."they filled our room with sound". Gee, that's useful...excuse me but a Boombox can fill a room with sound.

    Give me the numbers first anyday. That way I can start the evaluation process by sorting out whose lying and who isn't. Guess who doesn't get my money after that.
     
  16. randy bessinger

    randy bessinger Stunt Coordinator

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    I think most magazines have an agenda. It is too increase subscribers and readers. That being said, I can only think of one or two that really criticize and they aren't very popular. It seems to me that most of the magazines reviewed products seem to wind up on the latest recommended components list. I saw some numbers recently and it seems to indicate that very few of Steophile's recommendations didn't end up on the recommended list.
     
  17. Bob Marker

    Bob Marker Stunt Coordinator

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    Although I think Sound & Vision is a good magazine, The Audio Critic is, IMO, far and away the most reliable source of equipment reviews. Unlike most others I am familiar with, TAC often writes luke warm or downright negative reviews, sometimes including high priced equipment. Also, their use of blind listening comparisons to confirm real differences (or lack thereof)among audio components is, I think, commendable.

    I used to subscribe to Stereophile and The Absolute Sound but gradually come to the conclusion that much (not all) of the equipment reviews and other information contained in these magazines were, at best, useless, and , at worst, just plain wrong and misleading.

    Bob
     
  18. DanielM

    DanielM Stunt Coordinator

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    how could a magazine such as stereophile or tas give a product a poor review?? they dont make money on subscriptions, they make money on adverts if they were to anger a manufacture they would lose the $$$$$$..stereophile used to be an underground rag and could be relied upon back when J.G.H was running it but those days are long gone
     
  19. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  20. ThomasL

    ThomasL Supporting Actor

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    Being a relative newbie to home theater magazines, I've been reading a few issues of Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, S&V, and Home Theater Magazine this year. I don't think I've read a review where something got poor marks or a "not recommended" tag. I also noticed that Stereophile Guide to HT and HT Mag are published by the same company. To me, they do seem to be very similar - I even noticed in one month's issues that the same identical letter to the editor was published in both. They also tend to review pricier equipment than S&V but I would say that Stereophile Guide to HT is a little more technical in their writing/reviews. Overall, personally, I like S&V the best even though nothing gets low marks - mainly because they review equipment I may actually buy and I like the technical info they give in their television reviews.

    As for overall trust, I take magazine reviews like any other 3rd party source of information - I add it to the pile of info on whatever it is I'm learning about but I don't make it the make or break item when making a decision on something.

    cheers,


    --tom
     

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