July 5, 2010

Excuse Me, We are Hifi Reviewers, Not Audio Critics!

The Audio Critic? We are NOT! I often feel the word critic is too harsh any way.

I bumped in to one of our regular readers not too long ago, during one of my dealer visits. When being introduced as one of the contributors for Hifi-Unlimited, our dear reader had commented that we are too kind and complimentary with our hifi reviews. He is in the opinion that we only write the good things about an equipment. He said he'd be more interested to read about the bad, bad stuff that goes wrong in a hifi equipment. He did not wanna mention his name, but I thank him for his honesty anyway. With that encounter, I feel we need to clarify our position, and the equipment review process that takes place on this blog.

We normally get an equipment to be reviewed, either because we are curious about it or a dealer thinks that we'll like it and suggest we try it out. We always take great pains to try and detail the review process, i.e. the equipment being used in the system chain, positioning(for speakers), cables used and so forth. In the review, we will also try to point out as much as possible, the user interface experience of a piece of hifi equipment, however this is time sensitive, as sometimes with very short dead lines given by dealers we have no choice but to cut to the chase and go straight to the sound report(which is the most important thing in a hifi review). In other words, we just play with the basic features and will not get the chance to explore the said equipment features fully.

When we write about the sound of a piece of equipment, it is usually influenced in no small degree, by our room acoustics and resident equipment. These factors can make or break an equipment's sound report. However, almost 90% hifi equipment today are fairly neutral and system matching synergy becomes less of an issue. There are still some hifi equipment which are still system critical when it comes to matching, but I can say that those occasion does not happen all the time. We will write in detail about the sonic character of the equipment in question, sometimes even suggest probable soul mates for them too. We may even compare the equipment on review to it's peers in the market. However, I would also caution that our reviews are just that reviews. Our readers cannot substitute an audition(better if at home), with a review, any review conducted by any body else, and that includes us.

The completed equipment review is sent to the dealers(only on request basis, which most dealers have chosen to waive) for final approval of posting. The rules here are simple, when we submit a review for approval, it is either allowed to be published wholly and un modified for contents, or not to publish at all. That means the dealer of the said equipment under review cannot request to modify a line or two in the review prior to posting. That would mean compromising our integrity, which we are not too keen to do. How ever, I am happy to note that most Malaysian dealers are very open minded and trust us enough not to take up the pre posting scrutiny option. So far only two dealers have requested that we withheld reviews on a few occasions.

In short, here's what we can tell you about the equipment under review.

1) The review conditions.
2) The short term user experience perspective.
3) The subjective sound character of the equipment in the context of our room and resident equipment.
4) Our feelings towards the equipment in the context of it's market position today.
5) The retail price and dealer contacts.

However, here's what we can't tell you in a review.

1) The internal build quality, unless we are allowed to peep under the hood. So all build quality impressions are based on external feel and appearance only.
2) Long term user perspective, unless we get to live with an equipment for at least three months or longer periods of time.
3) Equipment long term reliability, and service ability, unless we experienced failure during the review period.
4) An equipment's long term pre-owned value. That depends on the market success rate of the equipment, reputation of brand, plus demand and supply situation of the market at the time of transaction.
5) Guarantee that the equipment under review will sound good with your system. There's no guarantees in this world any more, is there? Perhaps only product warranties!
6) Most measurements required to make our reviews objective based.

That's why we review audio equipment, not critic. I also think we are not in a position to critic. Should one feel that we are not serving their audiophile needs, than they can always look at the following places to feed their hunger for critiques, just like the reader of ours I've met at the dealers.

1) http://www.theaudiocritic.com/

2) http://www.high-endaudio.com/

3) http://www.hificritic.com/

Note: 1) & 3) are subscription based only web zines with no advertisement revenues. 2) is a place for a former hifi dealer to rant about the industry's injustices(from the writer's point of view at least, but never the less very interesting read), and some of his favorite or most over rated hifi equipments(again from his perspective).

Lastly, based on our blog analytics, we know our readers likes to read about hifi equipment reviews mostly. Our readers spent between 3-4 minutes every other day to read our latest postings.

With that we are thank full that our readers gives us a few minutes of their time every other day for our hifi tit bits. Now is that a treat or what? He!He!

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