Peer Review of the Reviewers: Critique/Praise Audiophile Reviewers

Discussion in 'Leaderboard, Overboard, and Deals' started by kapanak, Oct 31, 2015.

  1. kapanak

    kapanak Canucklehead - Friend

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    Since nobody else was going to start this, here it is.

    Please be civil. Do not insult individuals, but be critical.

    There are far too many glowing praising reviews out there now. It has to stop, and it begins with pointing out who on what platform/site is being far too generous to every piece of gear. Do not simply name people, even if it is common knowledge. Give an example of their reviews, and point out what's wrong with it. That way, it has more weight.

    Name your favourite too if you wish.





    I shall start this off with saying that every single reviewer writing on www.headphone.guru is far too positive. The reviews rarely ever compare to other gear, and talk about tracks that most people probably have never heard. If you want the most subjective, shill reviews out there, go to this site. They have good Google search ranking too for product searches, and given the site URL, they get lots of views too, unfortunately.

    The worst of the bunch is Frank Iacone. I suspect he cannot even hear much of what he listens to, and just being able to hear anything is a bliss to him. Here is an example for the Alpha Prime: http://headphone.guru/alpha-prime/ which reads more like an advertisement piece than a review. I could have gotten 80% of that from the MrSpeakers site too. Or this one: http://headphone.guru/preview/ which is even worse, and I get no substance about the Ether out of that. Of course, I have nothing against MrSpeakers products, but Frank's reviews tell me nothing.

    He does have his uses though. He gets invited to a lot of factory tours and takes lots of photos you wouldn't get to see elsewhere. For example: http://headphone.guru/a-day-full-of-schiit/
     
  2. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    I have the (dis)pleasure of seeing Frank at every head-fi meet that I go to. He's just like how he is in his reviews, except even more pushy in person. The last meet that I went to, which was in May(?), he kept insisting that I listen to the Alpha Primes even though I really didn't want to. I pretty much agree with what you say about him. His reviews don't really contribute much to the hobby except to mislead people into thinking that everything that he reviews is awesome.
     
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  3. Griffon

    Griffon Portable prince - Friend

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    Any reviewer who talks about cable transcendence is practically a joke.

    On the other note, I personally do not trust MacedonianHero. Yeah he's a reviewer of headphone.guru, but I don't know which one reviewer he is. He sounded waaaaaay too hyped about some new, high-priced products (i.e. his hype in the HF Layla&Angie thread until SGS broke the hype train), and his review of T1v1 was too positive.
     
  4. JewBear

    JewBear Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    The only reviewer I trust anymore is Tyll from innerfidelity. The key is to understand that if he doesn't review something it means he didn't like it at all. But when he does review something he is honest.
     
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  5. mkozlows

    mkozlows Friend

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    Reviewers that I have noticed, and about whom I have opinions:

    1. Tyll Hertsens. I don't agree with Hertsens about everything, of course, but he's exactly what an audio reviewer should be. He contextualizes products properly, he explains the magnitude of difference that any product will make, he measures and tries to explain how his subjective impressions match up to the measurements, he's neither a hype-monster nor a grouchy old man who refuses to admit that anything is better than the stuff he listened to when he was 19.

    His recent Big Sound series is one of the best series of essays/reviews out there, representing a ton of work and giving useful and meaningful results. About my only complaint is that I wish he would review things he dislikes; I understand why he doesn't, but the audio industry in general is really missing a tradition of non-performative critical reviews, and Hertsens is the guy to change that. The gold standard.

    2. Steve Guttenberg. He runs CNET's Audiophiliac column and audio reviews. Due to the nature of his medium, he's often working in a gadget-blogger mode, creating listicles and galleries and clickbait questions and 101-style stuff. I'm actually super-okay with that; I think that the audiophile/head-fi world needs more of that kind of casual-reader exposure. But the downside of that is that his reviews tend to be shallow and uninformative.

    Consider this review of the JDS Element. He spends a lot of time talking about how different headphones sound, makes a glancing comparison of this to another headphone amp, and then compares it to Schiit stuff only by noting that it's a DAC/amp in a single box without any reference to sound or other differences that might be relevant.

    But really, I think the worst you can say about Guttenberg is that he's writing to his audience. His review of the HE-400s usefully compares it to other headphones in its price range that people might be considering. For someone who might have read a Wirecutter review and clicked around and found this, it's a totally appropriate and useful review. Hertsen's HE-400s review is enormously better for the knowledgeable reader, but might overwhelm someone who's just looking for a buyer's guide.

    3. Michael Lavorgna. Sigh. As great a site as Inner Fidelity is, on the bottom of every page is a link to its sister properties, one of which is Audio Stream, which is basically an ongoing garbage fire under Michael Lavorgna's editorship. His review of Ethernet cables is a classic of the "goddammit audiophiles" genre, with plenty of uncritical copy-pasting of manufacturers' nonsensical magic claims. Lavorgna routinely assigns reviewers to USB cables with predictably dire results -- Steven Plaskin reviews a $3500 USB cable and bravely determines that it's better than a $2000 cable, which is in turn better than a $1000 cable.

    You read Hertsens, and you come away thinking that yeah, blind A/B testing is a useful tool, but it should just be one tool in a reviewer's toolbox and it's reasonable to include sighted listening results in what you say. And then you read Lavorgna, and you want to demand that every reviewer out there complete a statistically valid ABX test on anything they want to write up. The biggest argument in favor of hard-core objectivism is that it would get rid of fraudulent trash like this.

    And it's not like believing in magic is Lavorgna's only problem; he (along with Plaskin) is also a laughably uncritical reviewer. Look at Audiostream's DAC reviews. They give their "Greatest Bits" wall-of-fame designation to a disgustingly large number of the things they review. The totaldac d1-tube-mk2, Lampizator The Lite 7, Audeze Deckard, LH Labs Geek Pulse, MSB Premium Quad USB module, Cary Audio DAC-200ts, NAD C510, Wavelength Audio Quotient, Mytek Manhattan, Exogal Comet, Resonessence Invicta Mirus, and that's just the first page.

    They have literally 20 DACs above $3K on their "greatest bits" roundup. Let us for the moment imagine that these 20 DACs are all totally excellent, as indeed they damn well ought to be for that money. Even then, surely they aren't all equally awesome. Surely one of the half-dozen $5K DACs is better than the other ones, and ought to be the sole recommendation at that price range. And isn't it maybe possible, in some way, that one of the $3K ones is every bit as good as a $20K one, which would keep the $20K one off the list entirely? (That this seems never to have occurred to Lavorgna is backed up by the "Class A" (aka >$3K), "Class B" organization of the list, which does not permit of the idea that an inexpensive DAC might ever better an expensive one -- which is exactly what you'd expect to see if DACs had no real differences and it's all just as magical as Ethernet cables. See what I mean when I say that people like Lavorgna practically breed objectivism?)

    If Audio Stream replaced all its writing with simply republishing press releases, it would actually be better than it is, so yeah: Lavorgna gets my vote for the worst of the worst.
     
  6. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Brilliant. You are now top of my list of favourite reviewer reviewers!

    You could write a great article on the state of the whole hifi Industry. Oh, wait... you just did! :bow:
     
  7. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I'd like to add that I think John Atkinson is one of the better reviewers, and not just because he posts measurements. His reviews tend to have good comparisons to other gear that keep things grounded. Some of the other folks at Stereophile....not so much.

    He does have the tendency to use that mitigated British-speak that you need to read between the lines in order to get the implied meaning.
     
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  8. Bina

    Bina MOT - Shanling

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    I sometimes post reviews of IEMs on local czech website and I was dealing with same problem. When I get bad product, I simply have no desire to work for long time on full review with proper grammar, photos and good structure. So now I'm trying to just post shorter reviews on local forum, that sums up why this product sucks and nobody should buy it. More hardcore members of community will get to it, it will show up on google search.
     
  9. keanex

    keanex Martian Bounty Hunter - Friend

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    "So while lossless audio compression (FLAC or Apple Lossless for example) can be "expanded" to produce an exact digital duplicate of the original audio stream, that's not necessarily the same thing as sounding exactly like an uncompressed WAV file or a CD. To my ears lossless files add a glare or edge to the music and flatten the soundstage. Please don't misunderstand, I think FLAC or Apple Lossless sound perfectly fine, just not on par with a CD, when played on a high-end audio system." - Steve Gutenberg

    I don't trust Steve Gutenberg for an opinion on anything audio related.

    I don't read much reviews anymore, but I tend to read Tyll's articles and I appreciate Asr's reviews, especially the Ad2000 one that caused me to buy my eventual favorite Headphone.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015
  10. TMoney

    TMoney Shits on SBAF over at Head-Case to be cool

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    This may not be a popular opinion around these parts, but Jude is a decent reviewer.

    He is positive about everything so you have to have your "BS" filter on full power, but on the whole he has heard just about everything and can put things in perspective. I respect his experience.

    He obviously ranks well below Tyll (the gold standard), but I'd put him ahead of a heck of a lot of the other hacks who review headphone gear.
     
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  11. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    I will add something here as I spoke to Warren at RMAF and he said Jude gets a ton of stuff to listen to (can't argue that every video he shoots seems to have tons of equipment all over the place). However, you will notice that he doesn't post reviews for everything instead you see maybe a few reviews here or there. Warren says that what Jude reviews is something he personally likes and thinks it's worth talking about.

    Not everyone may agree here but I can see this being somewhat true based on how many posts where he actually discusses his thoughts (whether they are true or not based on your own opinions).
     
  12. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    Jude's obviously not deaf or totally misguided which is more than you can say for some reviewers. With Jude it's all about presentation and focus. He's a true master at the art of spotlighting positive attributes while ignoring or padding down any negative ones. Striving to be that reviewer that the marketing guys will want to work with. Quark would be proud; the man's got the lobes for business.

    [​IMG]
     
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  13. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    Steve Guttenberg I would say is someone I personally wouldn't recommend listening to as a reviewer (especially the more educated audience). He reviews things in broad strokes and doesn't add any advanced thought into his reviews that would cater to the more educated audience. A perfect example is his review of the Fiio X5 which can be found below:

    http://www.cnet.com/news/fiio-x5-2nd-gen-more-affordable-than-astell-kern-cheapest/

    He takes about 1/3 of his article to discuss the specifications then goes on to compare the X5 to the Sony NWZ-A17 which he seems to go into detail about (the Sony is $100 cheaper) for some reason. The thing I don't like here is he specifically names AK cheapest model (this case the Jr) in his article headline yet does most of his comparisons against the Sony. This article is so misleading. When he finally gets to the Jr he only mentions the bass in specifics. Truly just a lackluster review and making the Fiio X5 sound like you must own it. I have personally listened to the X5 and the JR does circles in every category against the X5 (the bass is tight, accurate and punchy, neutrality is spot on, and the sound stage is very impressive. One thing Guttenberg doesn't mention is that this player competes with the players that are priced double and triple of it's price range within the AK line). Guttenberg goes on to say it depends on quality of the recording which is somewhat of an advanced analysis but will go over non educated audiophiles heads (I kind of feel he mentioned this to try to convince audiophiles he does think of them while writing his reviews).
     
  14. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Tyll is someone I would trust with my firstborn.

    I really like ZeoPanteros and his YouTube reviews.

    https://m.youtube.com/user/ZeosReviews

    They are funny and honest and he typically reviews headphones that are in a more affordable range.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015
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  15. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    My problem with Zeos is that he's not really discerning of what comes across his desk. Anything that makes sound gets a positive review from him. And he tends to have a selection bias of cheap gear that is readily available on Amazon. Affiliate linking unsuspecting newbs that are looking for a $50 headphone amp is his main source of income.

    At one point he referred to the Grado GS1000 as his reference headphone over HD800, LCD, HFM, etc.....
     
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  16. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    One thing I don't mind as much as I used to is the tendency for reviewers to give a positive review for everything. I think the most important part of a reviewers job is to bring attention to products that are good. Negative reviews are just wasted space that could be used to showcase something unknown. The exception I think is when the item in question is such a big part of the mainstream that it needs commentary, like Beats or the iPod.

    While I agree that Steve Gutenberg may not be the best, its because of him that I even know about Schiit or Bottlehead. Plus most criticisms are about his CNET articles but his deeper articles he writes for Sound and Vision are quite good.
     
  17. Ninja Pirate

    Ninja Pirate Friend

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    Not a huge fan of sites like Headfonia, Headfonics (some of their reviewers), 6moons, Whathifi (lol), Gutenberg, and a number of others.

    When did reviews become more of a product showcase than, well, a review. There's just far too much positive feedback and not enough actual critical analysis of products these days. It's also annoying when reviewers state things like Product X has the best bass/mids/treble/plankton/blah without every giving any comparisons to other similar products. Lack of comparisons makes it hard to get a read for a product when you don't have any frame of reference to base the review on especially when most reviewers don't state their personal preferences/biases.

    I'm sure a lot of that has to deal with keeping vendors happy/sending you shit. But come on, nothing is perfect and I think any 'professional reviewer' owes the consumer a fair analysis showcasing both the good and bad.

    These days I mostly rely on reviews/impressions from the community like the ones here.
     
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  18. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    You obviously haven't seen his review for the Beyedynamic T90 which he detested. His review for the HE-560 wasn't exactly positive as he said you get the same sound from the HE-400i for a fraction of the price.
     
  19. Ninja Pirate

    Ninja Pirate Friend

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    I like Zeos as a reviewer since he's pretty entertaining but the content is a bit lacking and his and my sound preferences don't seem to align very well.

    As far as youtube reviewers go, I gotta say Lachlan probably takes the cake for me. He seems pretty open about his preferences and the content is well presented and pretty fair.
     
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  20. imackler

    imackler Key Lime Pie Infected Aberdeen Wings Spy

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    I've read either dismissive comments about Fiio products or reviews of unparalled praise, w/ every new generation supplanting the previous, but has anyone read quality reviews about Fiio? Id like to read some...
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015

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