Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby analogplanet » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:33 pm

We've been through this in private. Sad to see it made public with such vitriol. What was A+ that many years ago does not necessarily mean it still qualifies or that the new product qualifies.

As I told Harry, it's very possible that the TURNTABLE is an A+ and when it's available as a separate product I'd be happy to revisit it despite the nonsense and anger shown here, which is very disappointing to me.

However, as I also told Harry the arm that comes with the HW-40 is NOT Class A+. It is not even close to A+. I know that not from guessing, but from comparing the arm that came with the Avenger with the SAT CF1-09. I have the high resolution recordings.

It is not even close. The SAT arm is Class A+.

I also told Harry that in my opinion, for Class A+ a turntable must have vacuum hold-down. That's my OPINION and based on experience I'm sticking with it. Harry replied that the ring he employs never breaks. The vacuum hold down on my Continuum has never broken in 14 years of heavy use. I have never had an issue with vacuum hold down on any reviewed turntable either and the benefits of it are clear. I won't go into them here.

As for Arthur Salvatore, he knows nothing about magazine publishing but spins some pretty stupid paranoid conspiracies. and he appears to know about the same about audio reviewing and about audio. He seems incapable of stating his opinions without adding defensive spins and attacks upon others.

I will say this: I have NEVER been influenced by advertisers or advertising in my reviews.No one at TAS or Stereophile has EVER changed what I've written or asked me to, for the sake of an advertiser.

I remember once being accused of that and of Stereophile also been accused of that.

This was at a time when VPI got a very prestigious award from Stereophile yet VPI had at the time NEVER ADVERTISED IN STEREOPHILE!

When I brought that up to the particular person who accused me and Stereophile of being corrupt, his response was "Well, you want VPI to advertise in Stereophile, so you put them on the cover and gave them an award". So what I must tell such an imbecile is not fit for this forum.

As for the tape/turntable comparison. We all know tape machines sound different and tape electronics especially sound different so I'm not sure that result is necessarily dispositive of "accuracy". It's interesting though.

As for Class A, Class A+, Class B, Class C etc. I HATE THESE ARBITRARY RATINGS but readers love it. When readers ask me to help them assemble a system of "all Class A components" I tell them I could put together a better system with a mix of components from all of the classes. And that an all Class A system is no guarantee of greatness or even goodness.

I gave the Tech DAS Air Force One Premium (minus arm) an A+. I gave the Air Force Two an A rating. I have the Air Force III a Class A rating too. All well deserved in my opinion. Then came the Air Force V a far less expensive but still excellent product with vacuum hold down and an air bearing platter. What should I give it for a "class" rating? If I give it an "A" (which had it been reviewed not in context of the other models, it would deserve), that kind of cheapens the value of the other A ratings. After all if the $19,500 turntable is "Class A" why should anyone (who is foolishly guided by these ratings) buy the $60,000 TechDAS table when he or she could get a different "Class A" TechDAS for $19,500.

SO I put the Air Force V in Class B. And when I did that I didn't know what other products would be in Class B. So then the magazine comes out and what's right above the Air Force V in Class B? A VERY INEXPENSIVE VPI TURNTABLE, THAT THOUGH GOOD, DID NOT BELONG IN CLASS B.

Of course Harry and Mat were probably happy to see a TechDAS for $19,500 listed directly below a $1600 VPI, as absurd as that was (and it was ABSURD), but you can be sure TechDAS was REALLY PISSED OFF AT ME.... kind of the way Harry is pissed off at me.

So as far as I'm concerned, if I'm pissing everybody off (but the readers), I must be doing something right. And I'm quite confident that I am.

So in conclusion: it's very possible the HW-40 turntable is Class A+. The arm is not. When the 'table is available as separate product I'd be happy to review it as such and though I still think vacuum hold down is necessary for A+, if with the same arm and cartridge the VPI DD performs Class A+ I'd give it such a rating.

One thing this all proves, is that just because I'm friends with someone doesn't guarantee an ass-kissing review. There are reviewers like that.

And despite this, I still consider HW and MW friends.....but when I put on my reviewer hat, friendship doesn't enter into the job. My only friends then are the readers. And that's why I've been successful doing this for 25 years at Stereophile and people around the world take my reviews seriously.

AND THAT INCLUDES REVIEWS OF VPI PRODUCTS! I'VE GOT THE EMAILS FROM READERS WHO HAVE BOUGHT VPI PRODUCTS AFTER READING MY REVIEWS AND THAT INCLUDES HW 40s.
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby analogplanet » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:36 pm

Mat wrote:The frustration also comes when we flat out see contradictions that make no sense. To stick with the example, Stereophile identified the Classic Direct as a Class A+ product. Fast forward 5-6 years... the Classic Direct magically disappears since it has been "too long" when there are products that have been there much longer. The HW-40 which is identified as "better in every way . . . than the Classic Direct." and is knocked down to Class A... something doesn't add up, besides the fact we haven't advertised in awhile. :|


Products don't disappear by "magic". They (not I) have a time formula. What products have been there "much longer"? The Classic Direct is made "only" Class A because it includes an arm, whose performance has been surpassed as the state of the art improves.

There's no "magic" or malign motives involved in any of this.
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby analogplanet » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:37 pm

Golear wrote:I think Arthur Salvatore (AS) went into great detail about how worthless the Stereophile rating system is.

Here are a few links:
http://www.high-endaudio.com/magaz.html
http://www.high-endaudio.com/reviewers.html

Its not that they can't do it, or that they don't know how to do a proper review. It's that the realities of the magazine industry don't allow for it.


The insinuations you make are disgusting. They are not based on knowledge. You don't know the realities. So stick to whatever it is that you do know something about.
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby analogplanet » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:40 pm

Golear wrote:
Harry wrote:Bottom line is the HW-40 sounds closer to the master tape on the Ampex ATR-102 than any other table we make with a stability and smoothness plus very wide dynamic range that is so easy for tape to reproduce. That being said the HR-X, Avenger, TNT are very very close, we are splitting hairs but that is what we do.

HW


That's a meaningful way to compare equipment. But how does one compare it to something else, like a Clearaudio? Magazines used to do that, and the manufacturers would invariably comment that the set-up must have been incorrect. They might say... "We use the Ampex ATR-102 with the Dikembe mod". And they'd have a point.

As far as the current magazines are concerned (and ever since the early days of Stereophile, IAR and The Absolute Sound) is that (many) magazines and reviewers pander to the manufacturers. The magazines get advertising revenue and the reviewers get gear for free or at very friendly prices. And this can come to hundreds of thousands of $. For example, Johnathan Valin got 17m of Nordost cable. If it was Nordost Odin, that would be $272,000. Not sure if that is correct, but I just did a quick lookup on the price of Odin. And then a "friend" cut it up and sold 1m lengths on Audiogon (or some such site). When the scandal blew up, Nordost said it was their policy never to ask for the return of cables given to reviewers. That's a tidy side income. It could even be the primary income. (Do they need to split the profit with the magazine?)

How can Nordost do this? Obviously, they have a very big markup. So their cost is nothing close to $272,000. May be it's a few hundred $.

I think the blame has to be placed on the manufacturers, like Nordost. They are the ones who provide gear to reviewers, and they are the ones who buy adverts. Manufacturers must insist on the return of all review equipment. The reviewers must gain nothing (other than the use of the gear for a certain amount of time.). What if the reviewer wants to buy it? Return the review sample to the manufacturer, then the reviewer can contact a dealer, like the rest of us.

(When a reviewer writes "I liked it so much that, yes by golly, I bought it and it has become my reference!" how do we know that it wasn't at a "very special price"?)

The magazines can receive adverts from magazines... but the magazines have to show what revenue they earned from each manufacturer. This is pretty easy to work out, but make it explicit for the reader. If one manufacturer accounts for a huge chunk of the revenue, that can be a factor. For example, it was obvious that Microsoft was running huge adverts in "PC Magazine". This would be important to know, for example, when PC Magazine did a comparison of Microsoft MS-DOS with Digital Research DR-DOS. Magazines should turn down offers of megabuck advertising from a manufacturer lest they lose their independence.

If there's a conflict of interest between the reviewer and the manufacturer, then say so openly. HP once said that he would not review Wilson speakers because Dave Wilson was a close friend. (It's also a convenient way out if HP really hated the sound of Wilson speakers.) Readers aren't dumb.

And finally, it's up to us, the audiophile community to demand more from the magazines and from the reviewers. Just stop visiting the websites, and refuse to read the reviews. Or do so, but just take what they write as press releases or marketing material. I haven't read Fremer's review of the HW-40 and don't intend to.

In order for me to take Fremer's review of the HW-40 seriously, he'd have to publish a review that says that one device is terrible/horrible/a joke, and the reasons for that. I would then try to hear it, and if I agreed, then I'd take Fremer seriously. And if he says something is good, then I'd want to hear it and make up my own mind, too. So on the balance, the review doesn't really help or hurt my decision. It's not a factor. (Here's one from me: The Einstein phono stage is terrible. Soundstage is flat as a pancake. No depth. You should still hear it though - it might work wonders in your system.)

What can a magazine do, then? Hi-fi is a complicated field. Tell me about set-up - what to watch out for. Warn me that the original Linn Sondek LP-12 can't run at 45 rpm. How does it like Stillpoints LPI? What's the effect if you put Stillpoints under the turntable? How fussy is it about the type of stand that it is on. Warn me that the motor block on a current VPI can be noisy and might need some kind of isolation under it. Can you place it close to a subwoofer? (In the case of a Linn, no. In the case of a Goldmund, I think you can put it ON the subwoofer and it will be fine). Don't come up with a judgement, just write about the experience.

And magazines can teach. For example, HP deserves credit for popularizing the concept of "soundstage". Ivor Tiefenbrun (of Linn) said there was no such thing. And in the early days, it was HP and The Absolute Sound in the US vs the British magazines (which followed the Linn line). HP should have stuck to that. He did say, years later, that the battle over soundstage was won, and that The Absolute Sound should try to raise the bar. He wrote about a whole slew of new concepts like "gestalt" and "continuousness". (Does anyone know which issue that was?). It was a work-in-progress, as these terms would have to be explored and pinned down. HP called on the other reviewers to write reviews based on these terms. Alas, they ignored him, and then The Perfect Vision distracted HP, and then HP got sick.... So we're stuck where we are now. Magazines serve up drivel because they don't know what to write about. Now that digital has been defeated, it's up to us to come up with the next frontier.

There's the whole field of cleaning LPs, too. And I've learned more about that from this forum than any of the magazines.

How about turntable set-up? Yes, we can buy some fancy LP set up gear. But we can also do every one of those tests with a $300 oscilloscope and a $50 LP. It's probably better, because the oscilloscope can be calibrated to a much higher degree. A "measurement guy" told me, "First you measure for open circuit, then you measure for short circuit, then you measure across a calibrated resistor, then plug all that into the equation....".

And magazines can cover mods. I think there can be very good discussions about solder, caps, resistors, circuit mods, etc. Arthur Salvatore's system doesn't have a volume control.... And they can talk about their rooms, and how to treat them.

It is driven by discovery. For example, scientists are scrambling to explain "Dark Matter" and "Dark Energy". In the same way, what if someone could hear something that they had never heard before, from a certain piece of equipment? Describe it, and let the word out.... (Here's one: forget about 300B and new old stock premium 12AX7 tubes. Russian tubes are better than anything available in the West. They run hot and they wear out more often but they're ridiculously cheap, so just buy 50 of them. US manufacturers haven't switched over/they're milking their existing designs ...so you'd have to DIY, or work with people to make custom gear.)

A healthy audio press is also of value, to the greats of the industry, like HW. What, exactly, was the HW-19? Years from now, a young whipper-snapper would find out that it is a true classic. Ditto for Arnie Nudell's speakers. And William Zane Johnson's amps (if you find an Audio Research SP-3, grab it and then mod it like crazy).

How to do all this? Return to the model that was followed by The Absolute Sound, early on. Subscription only. Few if any adverts. Equipment sourced anonymously. No interaction between reviewers and manufacturers. It's hard to do this, of course. What's to stop a reviewer from contacting the manufacturer and working out a side deal? May be every review should be commented on by the Editor. Or Editors. Or HW (except for VPI gear).

EDIT: The last line in my post was, "Or may be the identity of the reviewers should be secret". I think that's incorrect. There shouldn't be any secrecy.


YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO EITHER COME UP WITH PROOF OF CORRUPTION OR PANDERING OR WHATEVER, OR STFU!
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby analogplanet » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:53 pm

1) None of the manufacturers below are either "underfunded" or "garage operations". That is really low, HW

2) The Caliburn (which I bought at a normal accommodation price) remained so long at A+ because it was manufactured and available at least until 2013 and at that time I thought it was A+

3) We agree that "long term loans" are an issue and that at the very least reviewers should divulge such arrangements.

4) The Air Force One Premium was a seriously upgraded turntable and not the same turntable at a higher price, which is your insinuation.

%) Yes, you are retired and you can say thing as you see them, but at our age, we need to have our vision checked every so often (lol)



Harry wrote:I'mm retired so I can say things as I see them.

The Recommended Components list is a disgrace to consumers who actually have to spend money on this gear not get super accommodations or indefinite loans from underfunded or garage manufacturers. The interesting part was for most of that time the Continuum was not being made so why was it included??
NONE OF THE MANUFACTURERS LISTED BELOW ARE "UNDERFUNDED" OR "GARAGE MANUFACTURERS". As for "indefinite loans". I'm against that. As for

***The Japanese Tech Das was deleted then came back to A+ with a new version for $150,000 with no tonearm because Mickey says it is now better for a 50% increase in price.
***The HW-40 Anniversary direct drive gets reviewed by Mickey and it is called better in every way than the Classic Direct for half the price and drops out of Class A+. WTF!!!!

2015 Class A+ - Continuum Caliburn - $200K
- VPI Classic Direct - $30K
2015 Fall Class A+ - Continuum Caliburn - $200K
- VPI Classic Direct - $30K
2016 Class A+ - Tech Das - $105K no arm
- VPI Classic Direct - $30K
2016 Fall Class A+ - Tech Das - $105K no arm
- VPI Classic Direct - $30K
2017 Class A+ - Tech Das - $105K no arm
- VPI Classic Direct - $30K
2017 Fall Class A+ - Tech Das - $105K no arm
- VPI Classic Direct - $30K
2018 Class A+ - Tech Das - $105K no arm
- VPI Classic Direct - $30K
2018 Fall Class A+ - Tech Das - $105K no arm
- VPI Classic Direct - 30K
2019 Class A+ - VPI Classic Direct - 30K
2019 Fall Class A+ - VPI Classic Direct - 30K
2020 Class A+ - Tech Das Premium - $150K no arm

I am really disgusted with this outcome. I challenge anyone to bring a Tec Das over, we will use the same arm on both, the same cartridge on both, and lets see which one sounds more like the master tape of Take 5 on my Ampex ATR-102. Better yet, one is more than 10 times the price of the other, it should not be close but it will be and I will lay odds the HW-40 wins.

HW
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby Golear » Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:09 pm

Another reason can be that the A+ items need to unobtainable. It has to be aspirational. It has to be completely unrealistic. That's why each car magazine will run the "Lamborghini vs Ferrari, which is best?" article once a year. So Mat, just come up with a "HW-40A", which will go for $150,000, and you're in.

This is part of marketing. A speaker maker told me that they came up with a particular speaker that was about 2m tall, incredibly impressive-looking and seriously, they didn't bother about the sound. It just had every one of their drivers in one package. It was something they'd just bring to shows. When they did, people asked if it was for sale. And they said, "No", which, of course, is exactly what should be said to people who wanted something that no one else had - never mind the sound. So the manufacturer got orders and made them. No I'm not talking about the Wilson Master Chronosonic. The speaker name started with an O.
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby Mat » Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:29 pm

In the middle of a whirlwind ATM so haven't read the responses yet but came on to approve and tip my hat to MF for hoping on here and responding. That is something you don't see any publication. 8-)
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby tom collins » Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:14 pm

I remember before class A+ a time when the "lowly" $6,000 super scoutmaster rim drive was a Class A, right next to the mega tables. Just pointing this out, not trying to start anything. It is a subjective hobby. I still believe the mags have value because, as we lose brick and mortar stores, this is the only way we can learn about most items. While I can never afford most of the new gear they review, some of the tech does trickle down and eventually everything is used, some of it I can afford.
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby Mat » Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:37 pm

Also to throw another thing in there since Stereophile is getting a bit of the brunt of this at the moment. In the history of VPI, Stereophile has always been good with us in that respect and have NOT been "pay to play". Here we are arguing with MF and he was at both our weddings :D

It is a fine balance because on one hand the publications, like Sterophile, are the only exposure some people get to having an idea of what something might sound like. On the other end of the coin the question is if that representation is coming across the most accurate and appropriate way. I don't always agree with MF, and I do disagree about the HW-40's placement but there is still the greater good of all us trying to provide informative and accurate information for the customers.

With that being said, HW and MF can keep the sparing going if they want since they both are always respectful and stick to the points they value as meaningful and Mikey I hope to see more of you on here I'm sure there are other threads and folks on here who would like to have you join the conversation 8-)

FTW seeing a conversation between HW and MF is a lot more uplifting than focusing too hard on what is going on out there in the world ATM. :P
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Re: Are Audio magazine rating worth anything?

Postby Golear » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:31 pm

Who is analogplanet? Is it Michael Fremer?

Does anyone know why he got fired from The Absolute Sound? HP alluded to something scandalous but didn't offer any details. I believe the phrase used, in print, was "bordering on malpractice". Or have I mixed him up with someone else? Or was HP talking about another reviewer in TAS....?

Fremer then popped up at Stereophile.

I'll have to refresh my memory. I wish every issue was posted online, or in a library. I would dearly like to track down that article where HP introduced the new terms. If the above is incorrect, Michael, then I unconditionally withdraw it, and offer my apologies. If it wasn't you, then who was HP talking about?

By the way, Michael (and I hope you don't mind my familiarity, but I like to be on first name basis with all my F buddies)... here's the other problem. You take two contradictory Forms of Argument.

Form 1: I'm an expert, and I pronounce this item as Class A / Class B (etc.). [Absolutism]
Form 2: Yeah, well the Class rating system sucks, I don't like it. But I just go along with it. And yeah sure there are problems with some things that reviewers do (but not me!). But hey! It's an imperfect world and it's just my opinion... so we're good right? [Relativism]

Opening with (1) and then transitioning to (2) is a neat trick. If done well, then what you say under (1) slips under our radar. (Politicians do that all the time.)

But you can't straddle both sides. If you choose (1) then your methodology has to be perfect. And you can't just say "You must believe me because there's no proof of pandering or corruption". We cannot have the mere appearance of it. And no, there's no presumptive benefit of the doubt. I don't have to believe you. So you can't go with (1). So we're left with (2). And if we're left with (2) then we have to wind the tape back and erase everything that was said early on under (1). So if you open with (1) then you have to stick with (1) all the way through. So which is it?

And Michael, you don't have to just go along with it. You can refuse to participate in it.

That's my understanding of the matter.
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