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Most trusted audio reviews online

Discussion in 'Hi Fi Systems & Separates' started by theogulland, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. theogulland

    theogulland Member

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    Hi all

    I am currently in the process of buying a DAC and I have been looking around the web for reviews etc before I go out and demo.

    I know WHAT HiFI have a good reputation, and often I see good speaker reviews on techradar.

    I was just wondering what other online review sites you would use to help your buying process?

    Many thanks

    Theo
  2. sergiup

    sergiup Active Member

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    Well... I'll be a little controversial here, but What HiFi aren't really regarded as being that reputable - although I'll admit that overall they are good to form a first opinion. It depends what you're looking for - for head/earphones, head-fi.org have a rather large archive of reviews, user reviews, and a pretty large active community. For anything else, it's (in my opinion of course) always a good idea to find as many reviews as you can and just read them (including end users'!), and try to extract the truth. Everyone's biased to some extent and will most likely have a different opinion to some degree.

    Once you've drawn up a shortlist, the best idea is almost always to hear those items in your own setup and see which you prefer. Audio experiences are quite personal, there's no magic bullet and absolute best.
  3. tvmcp

    tvmcp Member

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    I don't trust What Hifi at all, I think they lean favourably towards those companies that have the most advertising, playing up anything good, and playing down any bad points.

    Having used their advice years ago to demo kit, I found their opinion worthless, as the kit they recommended sounded really tinny compared to kit they didn't recommend.

    It wasn't long after this I noticed how many adverts were from the manufacturers they hyped up.
  4. Welwynnick

    Welwynnick Active Member

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    Was it WhatHifi themselves who said they have a good reputation?

    I don't know anyone else who thinks they do.

    Nick
  5. Doomlord_uk

    Doomlord_uk Member

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    What Experts? is the tabloid of the hifi press. However, you're not looking for a broadsheet, you're looking for a peer-reviewd scientific journal. And that's as far as I'm taking that metaphor.

    The problem with the reviewing industry, pretty well all of it, is that it's entirely based on subjective evaluation which is beyond useless. It perpetuates a whole host of audio myths accordingly, all of which act to cause you to overspend on one of the least innovative technology sectors known to mankind. Thirdly, a lot of it is influenced, however subtly or indirectly, by the need for advertising revenues. And fourthly, a lot of it is now trapped in the very mould of ignorance it originally created - in other words, reviewers, who have for so long led public opinion and expectations, now find themselves beholden to write to those same expectations and conventional wisdom. Manufacturers too find themselves marketing to false expectations. The whole thing is an awful mess, and the end result for the innocent and/or serious consumer is a vacuum of serious discussion and analysis and an almost absolute dearth of useful objective data - you mostly have little more than manufacturer-published spec-sheets, most of which are quite inadequate in any objective way (understandably, of course...).

    Fortunately, perhaps the biggest and most pervasive myth is that your spending should be predicated on "sound quality". In reality, there is no such thing - so just forget about it. What's left are specifications and hard data - hopefully independently measured and verified, thought mostly you are stuck with whatever the manufacturers care to share with you. OK, so I said sound quality is a myth - and it is - but there are factors that do affect what you hear and it would repay you to learn to understand what they are - if you care. You might just want to have a good-looking system in your living space (you choose everything else that goes in there with regard to the way it looks, how people feel about it etc and your hifi/av system should be NO different) that also meets your requirements (that's what spec sheets are for, identifying the functionality you desire). So what are those factors? One, speakers have obviously different sounds - different frequency responses, different levels of power compression, different dispersion characteristics, etc. Two, your room will greatly affect how you perceive the sound, particularly room modes (resonances) will affect the bass, and reflections and absorption will affect what you hear higher up the frequency range. Matching speakers to rooms is an art and it's fair to say that trying out a few different speakers is a good idea! Thirdly, is the science of hearing - how you hear, how your brain processes that and how your conscious mind is presented with a model of what's out there as a result. Few people have any understanding of that...

    Oh, and one more myth that REALLY needs to be mentioned - that humans have unlimited hearing resolution. We absolutely do NOT!!! There is a threshold of hearing, defined in various aspects, that determines what is audible and what is not. If someone tries to sell you something based on a phenomenon you know you can't hear, they're blowing smoke up your ass (perhaps innocently, so reserve your judgment...).

    So... first of all, determine what you want to do (which sources, how loud, how conveniently), and where (one room, multiple rooms, all around the house, outdoors, mobile), and what restrictions your listening enviroment (decor, space, WAF) impose and go draw up a shortlist of components that, based on the known functionality and specs, meet those requirements. Obviously your budget is another limiting factor! Now you can start to whittle down to what you will eventually buy. Just remember - ignore the big audio myths when making your decisions.

    This process of course is always more difficult than it sounds, partly because of sheer choice (don't underestimate aesthetics or WAF as a final decision maker, all else being equal!) and partly because useful data is either hard to find or non-existant or can't be verified. But... that's tough. If I had your budget to spend, then I sure wish I had your problems :)

    IOW - reviews are largely worthless, and must be understood for what they are - subjective opinion. There are certainly reviewers who understand that and make this clear to their audience, but most do not, assuming an air of authority they simply do not - and cannot - possess. Caveat lector!!

    Still, even the most egregiously offensive reviews can sometimes be useful - mentioning little snippets of info, or just competing products you hadn't heard of, or unexpected incompatibilities that happen to be useful to know... in that regard, trudging through the mire of subjective opinions we call reviews can none-the-less be profitable for the occasional little nuggets of actual information that can be dug up. Think of it as being like truffle-hunting - a pig digging its snout through **** all day for the occasional tasty bite :)
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  6. belloire

    belloire Member

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  7. vidjo

    vidjo Member

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    Well said that man Doomlord. There has been millions of words of junk written about The Emperors New Clothes over the years.
    As a retired engineer involved with audio equipment since I was at school, I find that many words printed are not worth the paper they are written on.
    Back in the 60's my then boss commented on some new amplifiers, from Japan, that had a frequency response from 5Hz to 100,000Hz. Most British amps were quoting 30-20,000Hz. His comment was along the lines of "The wider you open the window, the more the muck blows in". They certainly didn't sound better.
    As to reviews, well what do you think? Several magazines suggested they were 'much' better than all we had before, buy it simply wasn't true.
    A sales rep from a magazine came in one day to collect the monthly advertising copy and said he had been asked to write a review on a cassette deck. He then proceeded to ask what eq and bias switches were for. Clearly he hadn't a clue but thousands would have though as he had written the review he 'should' know what he was talking about but he was as thick as two short planks.
  8. Rich Marshall

    Rich Marshall Active Member

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    Russell Williams.
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  9. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard Well-Known Member

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    Two long time sources I trust for review are -

    Stereophile Magazine -

    Home Page | Stereophile.com

    Home Theater Magazine -

    Home Page | Home Theater

    These are magazines based in the USA, but they do reasonably long term Listening tests, then test the equipment in the laboratory to get the exact specs. It still gets down to the opinion of the reviewer, but we trust that it is a knowledgeable opinion given the amount of equipment they get to listen to.

    In the UK, you might give HiFi Choice a look.

    Hi-Fi Choice Magazine

    I've pick up a few of their Magazines and they seem to do reasonably unbiased reviews of equipment.

    And of course, countless Audio Forums besides this one. Here you can get the opinion of actually users. Though do keep in mind, we all have our own biases and preferences. But in general, none of us have anything to sell or any way to profit from our advise.

    Steve/bluewizard
  10. alexs2

    alexs2 Senior Moderator

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    I might use things like HiFi News and a couple of others to help me both find new products and shortlist a few,but there's nothing in them aside from that which I would use.

    I think they only way that works for me is to make a list,and actually try the products,in my own home preferably,before buying.
  11. ampsmad

    ampsmad Member

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    None, they are just peoples opinions which may be different to yours. It's best just to demo yourself.
  12. larkone

    larkone Active Member

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    Magazines - both paper and online survive on advertising revenue, they will either give positive reviews or report on the availability of a product, they will avoid dissing any product. That would be suicidal not just because of lost revenue from the manufacturer they gave a bad review to but it will make the other advertisers nervous as well. I know as I am a shareholder in my wife's publishing company.
  13. Don Dadda

    Don Dadda Active Member

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    That's how i used them when i was looking and now, unless i have to make a long journey by train or plane for something to read ( or have a good laugh), i don't buy them any more.

    Couldn't agree more.

    Yep! Nuff Said.

    I like that :laugh::laugh:
  14. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard Well-Known Member

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    First most magazines are not reviewing crappy dime store/discount store systems. Most are priced out of the reach of most average people. So, with equipment this good, what is there to criticize?

    But, with in the context of very good, very expensive equipment, they typically do give both the positive and negative. And, they try to review within the context of the price. So, they don't expect £200/pr Diamond 10.1 to be the equal of Dynaudio Focus 160's for £1800/pr.

    Yes, their opinion is just an opinion, but they listen to a full range of very expensive equipment from around the world. That have massively more experience than the average Audiophile, and as such, that gives them a unique perspective.

    Steve/bluewizard
  15. larkone

    larkone Active Member

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    That would be true in an ideal world but it isn't an ideal world. These forums are evidence of that. Look at the number of times a product is reviewed and given a good rating but when it hits the market causes buyers to vent their frustration on these forums with features that don't work as they should.

    Is this because of the reviewers lack of experience or is it because they quietly skip over the faults and avoid mentioning them for some other reason. I don't doubt their experience as their position as an audio magazine reviewer gives them access to a range of kit for comparison that end users could never have. There must be another reason and trust me there is. When the Arcam AVR600 first came out the reviews were nothing but wonderful. I find it strange that the reviewers never seemed to experience or mention the early firmware issues that owners reported extensively on these forums that would have been so obvious when they were testing the kit. Reviews of the latest streaming kit from the major manufacturers are another good example of kit that can have missing features or software faults and omissions that fail to get mentioned in the reviews. Then there is the whole cable reviewing issue.

    Magazines are driven by their advertising revenue, if they weren't they would not survive and that should always be a consideration when deciding on the validity of a review otherwise you really are just fooling yourself.
  16. lindsayt

    lindsayt Member

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    I think that the best reviews can be found in online hi-fi forums. Use Google to find them. The most useful reviews are often the ones with negative comments in them. You do need a certain amount of common sense in spotting the bedazzled fanboy reviews from the knowledgeable experienced balanced reviews. IE separating the people who know what they're talking about from the people that don't.

    Magazine reviews are OK. The trouble is they often don't mention negative aspects, or only mention them in the most veiled of terms.
  17. Doomlord_uk

    Doomlord_uk Member

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  18. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard Well-Known Member

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    First that original Stereophile Article was from 1994. And they are discussing the controversy in STEREOPHILE Magazine with all the negative feedback and criticism. They seem to be willing to have an open dialog on the issue.

    Audio Magazines are one source, forum are another source, friends and family another, spending your Saturday wandering Audio Store trying to lay ears on everything you can is another source of knowledge and information. Use them all.

    And yes each has it flaws and each has its advantages. Just because you occasionally get a bit of overly enthusastic snake oil from a source, doesn't totally discredit that source. We can all be swayed by a pretty face or an intriguing concept or an ingrained desire to gain just a bit more improvement in our system. We are human.

    But being human doesn't discredit everything we say for all time.

    Steve/bluewizard
  19. Doomlord_uk

    Doomlord_uk Member

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    Yes, I'm aware it's a 19yo article... and I'm aware they gave pretty open coverage (as far as I know) to the responses they got, and as I recall Stereophile was never afraid to publish the endless litany of "cancel my sub" letters they received, so kudos. But they still published the article in the first instance. And for years afterwards they've continued to publish bogus reviews and articles, and carry advertising of bogus products... It's one of those magazines that goes overboard on style of presentation and you have to be VERY wary of how indredibly well-dressed reviews can be. My real reason for liking Stereophile was that it tended to publish far more comprehensive MEASUREMENT DATA than British magazines, and of course it also covered equipment not exported here, which was always interesting too.
  20. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard Well-Known Member

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    Recently, Stereophile published an Advert from a company that makes what are essentially regarded as White Van speakers. As soon as they were made aware of the nature of this company, they stopped taking advertising from them, and discussed the issue in the Letters to the Editor column., and probably in their discussion forums.

    Keep in mind, there reviews on what would be consider misc. accessories are kept to a minimum. They concentrate on speakers, amps, streamers, and electronic support devices like DACs. Rarely do you see snake oil gimmicks and those are more editorial reviews than true product reviews. The 'snake oil' reviews are still of interest to the readers, and stimulate discussion in the magazine and on their website about the veracity of these types of devices.

    You don't kill the goose just because it has one feather out of place.

    You can find several reviews of familiar products (B&W, Monitor Audio, Wharfedale, etc...) on the Stereophile site. Try reading a few and deciding for yourself whether thy are objective or not.

    Steve/bluewizard
  21. daytona600

    daytona600 Member

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    use reviews as a guide or short list , then choose a dac with your ears. WHF is the sunday sport of hifi magazines

    some really excellent Hifi stuff is by smaller companies that can,t afford the reviews or marketing

    ie on Dacs metrum , mytek , blue circle , bersford etc
  22. CJROSS

    CJROSS Active Member

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    All reviews of kit be it from magazines, dealers, even enthusiastic owners of the kit you are interested in are no use at all until you can get the kit into your room, your system and set up to your preferences, if the kit cannot function as you require after these parameters are known then you need to swap it out.

    Oh and What Hifi are the worst propagators of nonsense when it comes to reviews .... for a clue go and read their USB cable reviews .....
  23. Doomlord_uk

    Doomlord_uk Member

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    I haven't read Stereophile in *years* now, but if I checked, I bet they HAVEN'T withdrawn their cable reviews... so yeah, anyone on their staff who's reviewed (or endorsed) a cable and said anything other than 'just buy the ratshack equivalent and save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars' is on my ****-list. You either have integrity - or you don't. It's that simple.
  24. Welwynnick

    Welwynnick Active Member

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    I do agree with a lot of that, the audio and video media have a lot to answer for, but not this:
    Doomlord, surely you jest?

    What could matter more than sound quality?

    Nick :)
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  25. Doomlord_uk

    Doomlord_uk Member

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    I jest not. I'm quite serious. "sound quality" is the mythical property that lets anyone justify any claim because it's utterly unverifiable and indeed quite undefinable. Want to sell a £10,000 CD player? The ONLY way you can do that is by extolling it's "sound quality" - along with an unhealthy dollop of flattery 'only for the very best systems/most discerning customers'. It's nice to know that for just £10k you can buy a pair of golden ears. In the world of cosmetic surgery that's quite cheap, AND you can sell your 'investment' if you ever needed to.

    Sound quality is a myth, and a poisonous one.
  26. Welwynnick

    Welwynnick Active Member

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    OK, but suppose you chose equipment based on specs and measurements alone.

    What happens when some thing measures better but sounds worse?

    How do you chose?
  27. Doomlord_uk

    Doomlord_uk Member

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    Why would that ever happen? :confused:

    If something measures well, that means it's doing what it's designed to do, so I guess if it still sounds 'bad' then it's a bad design. But that's a contradictory situation - if it's a bad design it won't measure well.
  28. Welwynnick

    Welwynnick Active Member

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    Because we measure the wrong things, I suppose.
  29. Doomlord_uk

    Doomlord_uk Member

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    Perhaps - I would agree that the information we're supplied with is often inadequate and indeed is often missing altogether. However, I would think that we know how to make the relevant measurements - the industry just needs to have the courage to go back to a measurements-based marketing paradigm. We would all benefit from it, and even if - or when - it becomes clear that any of a couple of dozen different products on the market all do the same (right) thing, there should still be room for market differentiation through innovation and style. Plenty of other markets work that way, why should hifi be any different?

    It really is all about the music, and we're nowhere close to running out of it, and with modern technology we've more ways to enjoy more music of more different kinds than ever. Nothing is worse than applying the shackles of 1930s thinking on our hobby and industry. The sooner we abandon concepts of 'stereo only' and 'sound quality' the sooner we can ask questions like 'how can we record and reproduce the soundfield of that concert?'. Case in point, electronic dance music act The Chemical Brothers were one of the first to use 3D sound-field effects at their concerts - a real and legitimate part of their performance and artistic creation - that cannot exist in stereo. If weren't so hide-bound by stereo thinking, how many of us would be seriously trying to enjoy real immersion into our favourite live performances by now? We need surround sound for that but as our industry is rife with snobbery, everyone says no to it. And we lose out, because we're told that 'stereo' is the only way to enjoy music. We can't have immersive sound because "the sound quality" isn't good enough. Can you see the problem now?
  30. tvmcp

    tvmcp Member

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    I just use my ears, I can tell when something sounds good.

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