Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reviewing the reviews

The Daily Audiophile (see link on the right) is running a survey at the moment asking people which of the main audio mags/sites they trust for reviews. Sadly A$$Audio is not listed but most of the others you'll know. Interestingly, 6Moons is proving very popular in early voting. In my own experience, I'd not say it is so easy to trust an entire publication, but certain reviewers within them. Over the years I've learned to calibrate what I hear with what others say and then I begin to get an idea which reviewers hear music as I do. As a result, I don't trust or distrust any of the major mags but I don't place much faith in several of the regular columnists within them. Either they hear things I don't, or they continually say the same things about products I find to differ in my system (or in one case, to continually push products from the same company or importer). No point naming names in that regard but those whose opinions I've learned to place more faith in include Kal Rubinson at S'phile and Wayne Garcia and Sue Kraft at TAS, only because I've heard some of the products they liked and found I liked them for similar reasons. Oddly, I respect greatly the work of Robert Harley but I don't assume the we will like the same products, since I've even visited a store he wrote about once, claiming it had great sound in all demo rooms, an experience I found not to be so when I went, even when hearing similar gear.

All this goes to say that writing audio reviews that convey a true understanding of a product's sound is largely impossible and you have to spend the time hearing and calibrating to learn the vocabulary that conveys most information for you. In that regard, while I like 6Moons, I would not 'trust' their reviews yet.


Mark Wieman said...

Great observations. I also tend to trust individuals vs. publications, but I probably pay more attention to the difference than most readers. Getting to know the idiosyncrasies of individual reviewers took me a long time. Comparing my experience to theirs took even longer.

The poll is definitely too simplistic (in terms of the question and the choices) to tell us much, but I am also surprised that 6moons is the leading vote getter. I would have guessed Stereophile.

P.S. Sorry I didn't include more publications. Next time I'll make it more exhaustive!

Mark Wieman
Daily Audiophile

PatrickD said...

Thanks Mark -- the list is pretty inclusive, it's a surprise to be reminded how many such publications now deal with audio reviews, which adds to the problem of making sense of it all. To that end, I think the Daily Audiophile is a boon, I'm a regular reader.

Yep, it takes time to learn what the reviews are really saying, especially sine a lot of them don't actually say very much.