"Why no bad reviews?" -- Twittering Lavorgna

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Eno_Fan, Nov 23, 2021.

  1. chervokas

    chervokas Senior Member

    It's all journalism, just because it's not political or financial or "hard" news doesn't make it not journalism. The question is what's the nature of these publications' practice of journalism. All journalism enterprises -- whether they're general interest, specialty interest or trade interest -- face the same challenges of balancing financial and editorial considerations and most in the US are supported by advertising. While the pressures that all journalism enterprises can be more stark in trade and specialty publishing, where organizations are depending on the same entities for information and access and for revenue through advertising, vs. general interest news ventures, the challenges are basically the same in kind. If these publications want to consider themselves not journalism and are unconcerned with these dilemmas, that's fine. There's nothing preventing them from doing that. But it does impact the way people will respond to what they publish. I do think many of the publications DO concern themselves with these matters, others are much more hobbyist, DIY enterprises. I just think any or all of them who are making an editorial decision to never publish a negative review are making an ethical and credibility mistake.
  2. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    It's certainly possible, but every situation is unique and there are probably reasons why in your case your organization managed to pull it off. From what I can tell about the high end audio press is that there might be literally zero examples of a publication that operates as you suggest they should - though I haven't come close to doing a thorough search, and I never will. But if there are any, they are in a small minority.

    So I still believe that, if this is really so important to people, a move to a reader/viewer paid model is the only way to go. It doesn't guarantee anything, but you have to remove the biggest obstacle to operating with integrity, if operating with integrity is the end goal. This would be like expecting the government to be responsible with money. They never were and they never will be. Organizations won't operate with as much integrity as we'd like them to if they are constantly being pulled in the other direction.

    But I agree wholeheartedly with @brucej4 - I simply don't think of the audiophile press when I think of journalism. They might fit within the definition of the word, but the differences between the audio press as we know it today and something like Consumer Reports couldn't be more vast.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2021
    jonwoody likes this.
  3. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    And this is the reason I stopped subscribing to them.
  4. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    Fascinating discussion guys. Yeah, I think the ideals of journalism have unfortunately gone missing in the audiophile press. Recently, I borrowed this quote from Tom Stoppard in one of my posts:

    The whole notion of journalism being an institution whose fundamental purpose is to educate and inform and even, one might say, elevate, has altered under commercial pressure, perhaps, into a different kind of purpose, which is to divert and distract and entertain.

    Those ideals to educate, inform and elevate do not appear to me to be in operation on sites like Lavorgna's for example. What can the man truly educate us in? Other than repeating basic specs sheets and manufacturer news releases, there's no real "information" on those Lavorgna posts the few times I've visited. If we look through the pages of TAS, Hi-Fi+, Stereophile, it's also hard to not be disappointed by not seeing these ideals, or even putting the reader first when it comes to serious discussions of value.

    I've stopped seeing the magazines as journalism a long time ago. They're basically glossy advertising space front to back with the occasional information tidbits which we could glean online already from informed hobbyists, already much more experienced and capable than magazine writers.

    As for "no negative reviews", this is ridiculous. Even if we have a positive affinity to the sound of something or positive objective data to show, there's almost always something we can show to help readers recognize relative weaknesses. For example, recently I looked/listened to the Topping D90SE. As much as I enjoyed the objective performance, it was good to show that this is not what I would pick for DSD playback if that's important to you, and that if you play at 192kHz+, there were relative distortion deficits (perhaps bugs in the firmware). IMO, these are the kinds of "nitpick" things I would love to see in magazines, along the lines of investigative journalism, writers willing to go the extra mile to inform audiophiles interested in "perfectionist audio".

    IMO, the whole MQA debacle is a beautiful (and sad) example of the failure of the current mainstream press and their inability to truly put readers/audiophiles first.
    timind and Melvin like this.
  5. jonwoody

    jonwoody Tragically Unhip

    Washington DC
    It's odd but I completely agree with both @chervokas and @Dream On either you both make good points or I'm highly suggestible. Or both. ;)
  6. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Senior Member

    Sherwood, OR, USA
    When I read Stereophile or The Absolute Sound or any other similar review publications I don't want to read bad reviews or complaints about poor sound or gear that doesn't quite sound good. I want to read about aspirational gear, attainable gear that sounds good and read about why it sounds good. I want to read about gear and opinions that give me positive energy about audio. I want to read columns that give me ideas of what to do rather than tell me what sucks and what not to do. I don't want to read about negative reviews in publications like that. There are other places to go for when I want a dose of reality that some gear have some faults that you need to be aware of.

    There are audio reviewers on blogs and YouTube that do publish content on a more rapid schedule. They can do a quick negative assessment of some gear to inform their audience that something has some sonic issues. A quick mini-review that describes the issue without being too negative (for example mentioning that a new headphone has some treble ringing issues that young people sensitive to treble issues like that should be aware of). Then next week have an awesome review of some new gear that is awesome and all full of positive vibes about the audio hobby because the gear is that good and awesome. But Sterophile and The Absolute Sound and similar monthly or quarterly publications can't do that. I don't want to read a monthly publication where one month they tell me about a headphone that isn't good and then I wait for the next month where they tell me that a headphone amp sounds kinda flat and then the next month where they tell me that a DAC has rather flat imaging but impressive dynamics and then tell me about a headphone that sounds kinda mushy. Why would I read a publication like that? A professionally run publication run by people with experience and good taste would weed out all that bad stuff and tell me about the good stuff.

    I learn a lot more by reading about what is good and what gear has good synergy. I don't get much useful info reading about what sucks.

    My experience is that people who go on and on about what sucks are not able to give any advice about what is awesome. And can rarely identify what is awesome as being awesome when they hear it.

    The best system and gear advice I've gotten has been from people who are primarily subjective and know how to listen and what to listen for. People who focus on what is good in audio and how to attain that. Those are the kinds of things I want to read about. That's the kind of advice I'm after.

    I don't want to read about what gear is bad and why it's bad. That doesn't help me. I wasn't going to buy the bad gear anyways. So why read about it.
    Hanks3, metaldetektor, LeeS and 3 others like this.
  7. Mr.Sign

    Mr.Sign Forum Resident

    That sums it up, I do agree completly. Music and HiFi is a pleasure for me and helps to distract from the often not so amusing reality. I enjoy reading mostly printed magazines to enrich my hobby. I do not regard them as guides to buy something, perhaps it gives ideas what to audition, that´s it.
    jonwoody likes this.
  8. Whoopycat

    Whoopycat Forum Resident

    Des Moines
    I think any audio reviewer, either in print, on the web, or on YouTube, would bristle at being labelled a journalist. They are all hobbyists like the rest of us. They change gear, they get excited about gear, they discover new gear, everything we do. They're just better at writing and talking about it. Except for Jason Victor Serinus.

    There are negative reviews, they just require a bit of work to dig up. Check out Jeff Day's recent review of the Leben CS300F. I think even Jeff would admit he is a Leben fanboy, and his review is not exactly glowing. First off, he mentions a 600 hour break in. Now, we could debate break in forever, but I'd say most of us are not going to wait 600 hours to get decent sound from a product, especially spending $4k. I know for sure I'd throw in the towel around the 200 hour mark. Later, he mentions his MFSL pressing of Abraxas did not sound good on it. He tries to blame the mastering, but really have you ever heard a bad mastering of Abraxas on vinyl or digital? I'm not sure one exists.

    This echoes my experience with the Leben CS300XS. For playing acoustic music, you can hardly do better, sounds exactly as Jeff describes the 300F. If you want to play rock on it, you are taking the amp out of its comfort zone, and it can sound unpleasant at a louder volume, and I get the vibe Jeff likes to play his big Altecs loud. Does that make the 300F a "bad" product? Not necessarily, it just has its limitations.
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  9. tIANcI

    tIANcI Wondering when the hifi madness will end

    Yes … it’s just a hobby. How some forget that. :laugh:
    Mr.Sign likes this.
  10. hvbias

    hvbias Midrange magic

    I remember when I was a Stereophile subscriber the Zanden 5000 DAC was something that Fremer raved about (and I followed his writing on vinyl reissues) but the measurements made it look like it wasn't functioning properly or broken. I was on a big R2R / TDA1541 kick back then trying to find something that sounded like vinyl after getting burned out on the dime a dozen SDM DACs that were coming out with rave reviews every month, but I had to draw the line, that would have been an extremely expensive purchase mistake.

    Edit: if anyone is a Headfi'er, I remember when Tyll Hertsens (he had "The Ears" to steal a phrase from our host) abruptly decided to retire from Inner Fidelity, one of the biggest losses to the hobby. His were reviews you could trust and he gave the full gamut of what was excellent and what wasn't. The next guy Rafi something turned it into a cork sniffing bougey rag but according to some others the company that bought out Stereophile, Inner Fidelity, etc made significantly more in ad revenue with him.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
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  11. DancingSea

    DancingSea Forum Resident

    Maui, Hawaii
    Consumer Reports is a consumer advocacy organization that accepts no advertising. Stereophile and the rest are essentially industry advocacy organizations that accept advertising.

    Consumer Reports is able to pull it off because they deal with a broad swath of products, including cars. This allows them to have a large enough paying audience to yield financial independence, and thus genuinely non bias reviews.

    Stereophile (et al) cannot survive under the Consumer Reports model. They need to be in bed with the industry to a certain degree.

    Imagine what sort of readership it would take to allow Stereophile to operate independently. To be able to buy all that expensive gear and then skewer some of it. It’s not so much about journalistic integrity, but rather about the ways and means.

    So be it, that’s the nature of the beast. We all know the situation.

    The moral of the story is to perhaps use the biased review industry for ideas and always buy with a return policy.

    Consumer Reports will never shift its lens onto our audiophile world, mostly because we are all nuts to need such elaborate systems to simply enjoy music.

    We don’t need advocacy. We need therapy :wave:
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
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  12. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    And the audiophile sphere would ignore them even if they did do reviews of high-end audio equipment. Just like how car nuts ignored Consumer Reports when they spent decades constantly berating enthusiast vehicles like sports cars and off-roaders as noisy, uncomfortable, and unreliable. This was plainly obvious when the Corvette and Jeep Wrangler consistently got the lowest scores in their tests but the highest owner satisfaction ratings.

    That finally started to turn around about 10-15 years ago when they started hiring some automotive enthusiasts who recognized that there is more to a car or truck than just being a transportation appliance. They still review vehicles independently and (mostly) unbiased, but their ratings now rightfully place greater emphasis on subjective aspects like driving enjoyment, as well as objective aspects like fuel economy and reliability.
    DancingSea likes this.
  13. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    I agree. As I said to chervokas, every publication has it's own unique set of circumstances, and the ones you've outlined for CR enable it to operate independently and with journalistic integrity.

    How many people would it take? Hard to say. 10,000 subscribers willing to pay $10 per month would be $1,200,000 in revenue per year. That'll buy a lot of gear, as long as you don't buy too many $50,000 amps. There certainly are people on this forum who like to complain about the state of audio reviews. But are there 10,000 people in the entire world who want reviews that are completely above board that they'd be willing to pay a measly $10 per month? That's highly doubtful. :laugh:

    On a side note, we used to subscribe to CR but cancelled long ago. I dunno. How much do I need to read about the reliability of vacuum cleaners, or TV's, or washing machines? Maybe I've had good luck. Never had one of these things fail on me prematurely. I stick to respected brands and try to pass on unnecessary features. For instance, I may need to buy a new washer and dryer soon (mine are 14 years old). I'll consider brands like Maytag and Whirlpool, and pass on LG and Samsung. The former two have been making these things for decades (I'm aware they are the same company now), and my impression is there is a lot of tech in the machines from LG and Samsung that could fail and that I don't need to get clothes clean. I know they likely all make tech-heavy models nowadays though. And I might be wrong about LG's and Samsung's reliability as it's a complete assumption on my part. I'll research it more but I am almost certainly going to opt for Whirlpool.
    DancingSea likes this.
  14. LeeS

    LeeS Music Fan

    A lot of small audiophile companies did exist.
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  15. LeeS

    LeeS Music Fan

    We have to accept manufacturer advertising to exist. That's our business model. No publication can exist in a niche like high end audio based purely on subscription revenue. But taking advertising money doesn't bias our reviews or any content. Our writers call them as they see them.

    We get arrows for not selecting specific gear to review...we get arrows on positive reviews because the language was not positive enough in the manufacturer's minds...we get arrows for liking MQA and other new technologies...it doesn't matter to us.

    I have to manage manufacturers calling me often to complain or desire certain treatment. And our sales team calls them wanting ad revenue. But the editorial section of TAS/hifi+ and the sales team are run 100% independently.

    It's the only way to have objective reviews and content of value to our readers.
    Blue Devil, tIANcI, timind and 2 others like this.
  16. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    Shill is probably too harsh of a term.
    Bottom line is that bad reviews or mentioning ANYTHING negative or polarizing about a product- even if glaringly obvious- is simply bad for business.
  17. DancingSea

    DancingSea Forum Resident

    Maui, Hawaii
    Fair enough.

    Then from a magazine perspective, what’s the real reason why there are rarely negative reviews? It is difficult to accept the whole “we only review good stuff” or “advertising and reviews are independent“ argument as being anything but a distraction for more pressing financial issues.

    For me, I understand there are financial realities that bind the fates of both publication and manufacturer. So why not just state as much? Why not just be straight about that part of it?

    You could say “TAS would love to have Consumer Reports like autonomy, but such a thing is not financially feasible. Yes, TAS has a symbiotic relationship with manufacturers and we do our best to walk a healthy line between journalistic integrity and financial realities, but because we are unable to be truly independent it is not possible for us to provide a Consumer Reports or Frontline type experience.”

    I’d be totally fine with a straight answer like that. What bugs me more than potential review conflicts of interest are the rather absurd hoops reviewers dance through in an effort to pretend those conflicts of interest don’t exist.

    They do exist. TAS & Stereophile know it. The readers know it. So why not simply own it?
    HIRES_FAN and timind like this.
  18. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Senior Member

    Sherwood, OR, USA
    Consumer Reports is really bad at audio gear reviews. They don't know how to do it. They do it wrong. And end up with absurd results and recommendations.

    Their way of ranking products against other products is the wrong way to pick audio gear. Audio gear reviews should not be done as a horse race where the review lines up 10 pieces of gear and picks a winner at the end of the review. That is very unfair to the gear that comes in 2nd or 3rd. And is a really ignorant way to pick audio gear.

    The Consumer Reports method of building an audio system would be the equivalent of going to the Stereophile recommended components list. Saying "I want a class A level system". And just picking random gear out that is class A. Put it all together in a system and you'd have a Stereophile class A system. The system will sound like a complete mismatch. But hey, it's all class A level gear that got great reviews. It would be the same at Consumer Reports. Pick their best amp, best DAC, best speakers, and hey you've got the Consumer Reports best audio system.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
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  19. jonwoody

    jonwoody Tragically Unhip

    Washington DC

    I appreciate your response and perspective Lee, lots of folks seem to think they know what goes on behind the scene at Hifi mags here and obviously have no clue.
    Blue Devil and LeeS like this.
  20. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    There are a lot of opinions on this thread, but it doesn’t seem like many (or any) people read his article. He simply says that he curates his reviews based on gear that he’s interested in, whether he heard it at a show, heard other gear by the same manufacturer, or through word of mouth. Since the gear he reviews is something he wants to hear, it essentially negates the possibility of a bad review.

    In other words, he doesn’t have bad reviews because he doesn’t review stuff that sucks.
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  21. Eno_Fan

    Eno_Fan Staring into the abyss: Brockman BIF, Pilbara WA Thread Starter

    Izieu, France
    In contrast, you have read his article but are reasoning fallaciously and "simply" cutting him slack in stating that "...Since the gear he reviews is something he wants to hear, it essentially negates the possibility of a bad review. What cereal-packet logic is this? The only time that "wanting to hear something" ensures that it doesn't "suck" is when one is predisposed to approve it. That is not unbiased assessment -- or the job of a 'reviewer'.
  22. DrZhivago

    DrZhivago Hedonist

    Brisbane Australia
    I don't really care. I read audio mags for fun and love of this hobby. Can't afford the most of what Stereophile reviews anyway.
    Mr.Sign likes this.
  23. SteveFord

    SteveFord Forum Resident

    Shnecksville PA
    They're mostly for entertainment: what's new, what's exciting, that's strange looking, here's a $60,000 cartridge HA!
    that kind of stuff.
  24. chervokas

    chervokas Senior Member

    It's a vanity press enterprise, a blog. He's found a why to get access to high end gear he likes and to listen to and to collect a little money for it. It's not an enterprise with the mission to provide readers information they need to know, it's a blog with a mission to give him the opportunity to listen to and write about hifi gear he already knows he likes. I have to agree with the other posters who are wondering, if you don't like it, just don't read it. Honestly, I'd never heard of this blog until today, and other than looking at the about section in response to this thread, I don't anticipate visiting it again or looking at any other pages of it.
    nosliw likes this.
  25. chervokas

    chervokas Senior Member

    Oh, I do. I want to know what gear to avoid, what manufacturers to avoid maybe, what kinds of problem one might run into with what kinds of design elements and choices someone might have made, how well or poorly manufactured a piece of gear is. I'm really looking for transferrable information that can be of use to me -- so what are the elements of this piece and its design that make it sound the way it does and work with other equipment the way it does, and what doesn't work too. So that even if I'm not in the market for that specific $16,000 amplifier, I can still learn something useful and interesting from the review.

    Reading about the very marginal differences someone images they can perceive in bass punchiness or "musicality" between two basically perfect top notch pieces of gear I can't afford is both a crashing bore, one review bleeds into the other, and it's not useful in anyway to me. I don't learn anything useful, meaningful or transferable to my own circumstances from it.
    jonwoody, Tlay, nosliw and 1 other person like this.

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