Are audio reviews and tests valid?

June 12, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

20 comments on “Are audio reviews and tests valid?”

  1. I notice more and more equipment reviews that morph into basically music reviews. Pretty much worthless because most of the music they talk about, I wouldn’t listen to without a gun to my head. I guess that goes to your point of finding commonality with a reviewer(s).
    I still do like to see measurements included (as in Stereophile). When a piece doesn’t hold up to what’s claimed, I wonder about the overall quality of the design and/or execution.
    In the end , it comes down to the same thing as always. You have to experience it for yourself. Harder to do these days with the lack of brick and mortar stores.

    1. Almost 7 years ago, I read a review in Sound And Vission about a pare of Dayton Audio B-652 Air bookshelf speakers.
      I read this review in September of 2015.
      The following month, I got on the phone with someone at Parts Express, and ordered myself, two pares of them.
      As soon as I got those speakers in my hands, I hooked them up to my Eastern Electric M-520 intigrated tube amplifier.
      Needless to say, the review didn’t do them any jesstus.
      And so, I learned to take most reviews of audio equipment with a grain of Sault, and forget about them.

  2. Great to learn that you love Italian Opera, Paul! I often feel a little lonely as an opera lover and it is an issue for me in reading reviews of audio equipment because opera can sound pretty bad on some audio equipment and I have yet to meet the audio reviewer who prefers to listen to opera. So I think the most important opinion would have to come from using one’s own ears. Sadly, the days of the local audio store in every town are long gone so other methods must take their place. Still, I always think reviews are a good place to start.

  3. Reviews can only assist the serious home-audio buyer to assemble a short-
    list of gear that has to be listened to before a purchase can be made.

  4. The “reviews “ I have read in the remaining audio magazines available are pathetic! If the readers have noticed the articles are usually spiced up with “space occupying “ verbal growths that attempt to evoke humor so as to divert the reader from poor analysis.
    And people read them and quote them
    As being authoritative!

  5. Hi Paul. I am in complete agreement with you on the subjective aspect of “like/dislike”. However there ARE certain objective points to be noted. For example, dynamics, resolution etc. I would find it very difficult to accept a “reviewer” preferring compression. I is very difficult to explain how one can be objective and subjective at the same time.

    To get back to your food/taste analogy, Two – or more guys – will concur on, say a whiskey being ‘too peaty’ with the like and dislike being for exactly the same reason! I love it, its so peaty, I hate it, its so peaty!

    For whatever it is worth, I have been involved with audio and all its aspects for a very long time from the “mono” days.

  6. This post sure proves that we’re all different. As much as I’m a fan of your post, I would rather have someone pull the trigger on the gun to my head rather than listen to any Opera. As for the ( Audiophiliac) reviews, I think he considers an audiophile as a lover of music, not just gear. I always make note of his music choices, and check them out later. That’s the beauty of streaming. I’ve discovered a lot of great content I had never heard.

  7. Paul before you were a vegetarian did you not enjoy a Whopper or Big Mac? You might not have turned into a vegetarian because you didn’t like the taste of a T bone steak or a Cheeseburger. 🙂

    1. Joe, I was a junk food junkie before I converted, though I was never much of a fan of the two you mentioned. There were a few local burger places that made quite a bit better burgers with fresh ingredients like lettuce and tomato.

      My biggest junk food sins were committed at Jack in the box where their deep fried taco was my favorite for lunch.

      My conversion process was a slow one: stop beef, eat only birds and fish with the occasional pork chop. Then quit pork. Then quit birds and ate only fish. Fish was the hardest to let go.

      I will say that on every occasion of quitting, after the initial withdrawal period (usually about 90 days), my energy levels shot up. Now as a long-time vegetarian my energy levels and mental health (and physical health) have never been better.

      1. I love meat and when I tried to become a veggie I felt weak and sick. Always felt hungry. Meats and potatoes were the only solution. I eat a lot of bread too. I agree Whoppers and Big macs are not the best burgers. Quarter pounders at McD’s are even a tastier and a better quality beef. I love animals which is why I hate that I love meat. When I hear there is a dog meat industry it makes me sick and very sad and angry. I just signed a petition on Facebook to make dog meat illegal. Horsemeat should also be illegal. Perhaps Pig meat too. Any animals that have a close bonding relationship with humans should not be eaten by humans. I’m looking forward to the day when all meat can be grown in a laboratory so the slaughtering by humans can end.

        1. Well, like I say, it takes a bit of slow weaning. It’s kind of like heroin (I guess). Don’t just stop eating meat. Stop, for example beef. Let that settle in for maybe a year. Slowly, but surely.

          Thanks for caring.

  8. Save yourself time, money, frustration, and long reading lists of descriptive words such as Black and Blue Backgrounds, Green shadows with glimpses of Purple haze, Clear effortless sound with clarity that must be heard to believe. The tweeters were as soft as whipped cream with a sprinkle of honey. There is a magazine out there that has the best picks of the year. Class A B and C. Most of us will not bother with A and B unless you have endless supply of $. What HI Fi is a good place to get reviews but many are biased towards home theater. Many years ago I purchased a pair of infinity SM 152. They sounded great at the store and were very efficient. However after I had them for a while it seemed like $ 700.00 was not well spent. One of the woofers blew. Once I took them apart I could see why. Tiny magnets on the woofer and not a lot of attention to detail on the X overs.
    Internet is a good place to start also but it true what Paul said you have to know your reviewer that may take some time so many will do their research on a product and take a chance. The good thing is there are some companies out there that allow you to do a 30 day test on a product and decide for yourself. There aren’t many but there are a few. One of these days I may get one of those fancy power regenerators when they are on special

  9. Great article Paul, thank you. When I put my system together I read several reviews on the equipment to try to ascertain some consistency among the reviewer‘s. For the most part there was agreement.

    Great to hear you’re a fan of opera. I’m currently playing in an orchestra performing Mozart’s marriage of Figaro.

  10. I follow several audio review and manufacturer sites for the educational and entertainment value that they provide. I have noted that, initially, some reviewers appear to be objective and forthright but, after some time in the business, they seem to become less so as time passes and they become more dependent upon manufacturers/distributers.

    Subjective opinions vary, that’s why we like reproducable meaurements.

  11. I’ll try to make this short. In 77 I bought the Crown dc300 amp, 150ic preamp, Klipsch Lascala speakers. I wanted McIntosh but I used the amp and speakers for PA for band I was in. McIntosh was too delicate to lug around. This was also my home stereo paired to a Dual 1225 table and various tape machines, receivers through the years. My hearing has suffered from playing live music in bar bands and industrial jobs. My upper freq’s are shot. I recently bought my first component for a new home stereo. A McIntosh amp I read reviews about, never heard. I’ll buy the preamp when I can afford it next year. I’m a geezer now but when I read reviews about even XLR speaker cords and the clarity they afford, much less the reviewed components themselves, who has such pampered hearing? Now the brands I’ll buy have a proven age respected track record because I don’t have the hearing I did 50 years ago. And I’m sorry but I don’t believe many reviewers are hearing or not hearing all they say. If they’re human over 40 how can they? I think all reviews should be based on a double blindfolded test and we’ll see how a $20,000 turntable sounds compared to a $500 one. But this cranky old geezer says if you like it and it feeds your ego and sounds good to you, by all means get it. Your the one who’ll be listening to it.

  12. The reviewer’s room, their gear used, power conditioners used, tweaks used, power cords and cables, and on and on. Meaning their opinion is just that and no more, it is what they hear in their room and gear. Mine, your gear, and rooms are 100% different, making the review useless for your system. All they can say is that it sounded good, and fair in their system. In realty the Apsolute Sound is a slogan, no more, the best sound is the sound each of us like when we finally put our systems together or when you change a piece of gear to make the system more to our liking. In 40 years in this hobby I can say when you hit the good is good point you hit the home run, then you spice your system as you feel is correct for your own musical enjoyment.

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