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Audio Reviews and Marketing

by October 16, 2007
Dibs on his golden ears!

Dibs on his golden ears!

Ok people, you all know more stories than you can count about speakers, cables, tweaks and other items that are 100% hype and 0% benefit. We've all stood there staring at our screens in disbelief as marketing drivel pours out of a poster's keyboard disguised as their "opinion." We've all had to deal with the uncomfortable situation of having a friend tell you how much they spent on cables at their local big box store when you know you could have gotten them the same performance for a quarter (or less) the money. We've all been there. It wasn't a week ago that we were lampooning $7,000 speaker cables and nary a week goes by without some derogatory mention of overpriced cubed speakers in one of our articles or reviews. But let's put the cards on the table as this beating around the bush doesn't seem to be getting to people: I'm sick and tired of blatantly false marketing claims and loquacious "reviewers" who think they can hear a mosquito fart. They shouldn't even be able to call themselves "reviewers," they're more like re-spewers, parroting whatever the manufacturer feeds them colored only by their own semi-delusional "perceptions" (if they can even be called that).

Audioholics has been a bastion of truth in a sea of lies for a long time. That's why we all read this publication (I started off a reader just like you). Other sources touch on the truth and sometimes actually stand up for it, but no one else has taken on a whole industry segment with the doggedness that Audioholics took on the cable manufacturers. While there are still (inexplicably) $7,000 speaker cables being sold, there are plenty of people (and more every day) that have learned the error of their ways. But that's not stopping the marketing machine and audio re-spewers is it?

Here's a couple of quotes from a few different manufacturer's websites:

About an omni-directional speaker - "By projecting a 360 degree field [they] are able to create such a defined and alive center image that an additional center speaker is just not needed. Most receivers are preset for 4.1; hit a switch and you're ready to go!"

Which receivers would these be? I haven't seen a receiver preset for 4.1 in like 5 years. So after you "hit a switch" you will probably be saying, "where's the dialogue?"

"Some people feel that the cables sound better when the cables are aligned with the directional arrows with the “direction” of the signal. It is important to remember that the audio signal is fundamentally AC and thus the electrons are moving both forward and backward. The final word on this subject is that [we] recommend hooking up the cables following the directional arrows. This recommendation is based on the simple principle of controlling as many variables as possible."

Oh My GOD! Did you see that? They almost let a little truth out! But the fact is that they drew arrows on their cables. Unless they think arrows make their cables look cool, they did it for a reason. Of course, the "variable" that they are controlling for is "audiophool."

"Omni speakers are a rarity in high performance audio, simply because they are much more difficult to design."

No, they are a rarity because they are stupid and suck. Of course, almost all outdoor and "hidden" speakers (made to look like lamps and such) utilize this technology but I'm sure you're not putting your $1400 a pair in the same league with those speakers.

"In entry level systems, merely by replacing a stock power cord with our inexpensive [power cable] can bring an amazing improvement to your system."

Personally, I'm amazed that someone would pay over a $100 for your "inexpensive" power cable when they have a perfectly good one that came with their component.

About a set of speakers - "Featured on Fox's hit TV show House!"

Oh, whoopee! Well if they were on House they must be good! Should I just watch House and purchase everything he owns? Is that the new hallmark for quality?

"This product treats a problem long ignored in the hi-fi industry, that is, the build up of static charges on the surface of the loudspeaker, signal and power cables."

Um…. What? Is that like the long ignored problem of mole men sneaking into my dryer and stealing my socks?

About a CD mat - "By reducing microphonic vibrations at the disc/clamp interface, [it] delivers amazing mid/upper detail resolution, powerful bass, great timbre. Reveals subtle nuance and details, some of which may have been previously unheard or unheard in their true timbre."

The thing that always confuses me is if a simple mat, dot, or chip can make such an "amazing" difference, why don't CD makers add that to a CD? Or CD player manufacturers provide them with their products? If the difference is so noticeable, couldn't Sony or Denon sell more CD players by packaging in these products?

"Typical tweeters suffer from a tiny sound stage and beaming problems. Only [our omni-directional] tweeter bypasses beaming and shares the sound with everyone in the room."

Like all those wacky people sitting behind the speaker.

Oh, but it doesn't stop there. Let's hear what some "reviewers" have to say:

"For instance, it is a rare cable indeed that is tonally and harmonically rich but at the same time transparent, uncolored and accurate"

They are only "rare" if you are used to using poorly constructed or damaged cables. But you go with your bad self.

"…all previous silver cables that I have heard had a mild to significant spotlighting of the upper midrange and high frequencies; this sounded like a resonance or ringing in the actual wire itself—or in the geometry of the cables."

Rest assured the cables under review didn't have this problem.

"Simply put these are very danceable cables. Music playing through them results in the proverbial foot-tapping scene with the need or desire to get up and move."

You know music does that to me regardless of what cables it was played through. Why have you listened to music for so long if it wasn't "danceable" until now?

"I was a bit disappointed with its sonics in balanced operation. The sound was very musical, but not exceptionally detailed. It also had limited depth perspective and was a tad polite."

What the hell is he talking about? Can't guess? A CD player. I personally prefer polite CD players as I find drivers on the roads around here to fulfill my "rudeness" quotient quite handily. And I've never heard of a pair of glasses accessory for a CD player but give Machina Dynamica a few weeks to get some out. Clear that "limited depth perspective" right up.

"I had what I can only describe as multiple out-of-body experiences during my listening sessions with the [speakers]. It was as if I had been taken to the Amazonian jungle, smoked some hallucinogenic plants with the local shamans, and had been transported to another reality."

Are you sure you weren't? 'Cause that sounds a little crazy. Maybe he'll come to his senses later on in the review…

"Time absolutely stopped, and the experience was nearly orgasmic. Everything sounded extraordinarily real. The music had an organic feel, a sense of continuity and wholeness, a complete coherency, perfect pitch definition, perfect solidity, shocking transients, explosive dynamics, and a soundstage that swept the room."

Nope. I kept waiting for him to say, "And everything was so greeeeeeeen!" Seriously, music doesn’t do this to you when you are listening to it live, why should playing it through outrageously expensive speakers suddenly give you a "nearly orgasmic" experience? And what exactly does "extraordinarily real" mean? Is that like "blacker than black?"

It won't take you long to turn up hundreds of more quotes like these. This sort of marketing and re-spewing will be the death of audio when the general public learns about all the BS these people are peddling off as The Truth™. Suddenly the public as a whole will start to care and when they do that, they'll get mad. VERY mad. The rebellion will be legendary. Suddenly, you won't be able to sell a speaker for over $200 dollars or a DVD player over $50 as they will collectively be viewed as a rip off. Manufacturers will be forced to lower their manufacturing costs in order to stay afloat creating an entire generation of mediocre to crappy speakers. Innovation will be stifled, quality will be non-existent, and the dark ages of speakers will be upon us.

There is an upside: they make Audioholics look good. Some people read those re-spews and the claims on the manufacturers' websites and start to believe it. They get slowly sucked in. Eventually, one of two things will happen, either they will make a purchase and be turned to the darkside forever or they will come across Audioholics, read one of our reviews, and say to themselves, "I knew those other reviews sounded a little hokey! This is what I've been looking for!" Once someone spends $5000 on a power cord, you're going to have a heck of a time convincing them that the free one was just as good. They'll hear a difference no matter what you say. But if we can get them before they do that, they can be saved from that insane and insanely expensive path.

We constantly try to stay away from sounding like the above quotes and distance ourselves from manufacturers that make claims similar to the ones above. Not so much because we are independently wealthy (we aren't) but because people that crazy might be contagious. And that's not the kind of crazy you want to contract. We don't mind a little, "Wow, I know this is expensive but it is really cool," crazy but the only thing we want to have a "nearly orgasmic" experience with is our spouse. Plus, when the revolution comes, we want to be leading the charge.


Seth=L posts on October 20, 2007 20:58
Hypocrite, post: 321823
Thanks for helping me make my point. What companies are they talking about? They don't tell us! Mirage are fine speakers. At least you'll remember my user name.
Thanks for helping you make what point, that your logic is fallible?

If you read on, you will realize that he was not referring to to Mirage in the first place.
Hypocrite posts on October 20, 2007 19:51
Seth=L, post: 320590
You do realize that your user name, not Tom's, is Hypocrite…right? No one said that Mirage didn't make good speakers for the money. The design is unnecessary however.

Great article by the way Tom, I think you should have done a podcast of it with Dina. I think she would have been taken aback by all that.

I noticed earlier on in the TV show “House M.D.” that he had some rather high end looking speakers, but later in the series he had a Panasonic HTIAB thing. What where the speakers he had?

Thanks for helping me make my point. What companies are they talking about? They don't tell us! Mirage are fine speakers. At least you'll remember my user name.
Audioholics posts on October 19, 2007 09:43
We're also readying an icon-based system for our article types that will further help reduce any confusion over what is a review and what's a simple extended factoid (First Look) about a new or interesting product.

That's good feedback.
birdonthebeach posts on October 19, 2007 09:04
kwadswor, post: 321348
I'm somewhat hesitant to point this out, but have you read your own articles? In the past month I've seen at least half a dozen “First Look” articles that do nothing more than regurgitate the spec sheet/press release from the manufacturer.

I'm not trying to be too critical - I like the web page overall. I'm just trying to point out that when criticizing other reviewers you have to take a look at yourself too.

Glad you brought this up so we can clarify. A “First Look” is essentially a news item - in no way is supposed to be a review. Our reviews will say REVIEW in the title.

A First Look is way of keeping our readers up to date on product announcements and news. This is an important distinction. Our goal here is to provide you with not only unbiased and comprehensive reviews, but also daily coverage of products and news in our industry.
kwadswor posts on October 19, 2007 08:20
I'm somewhat hesitant to point this out, but have you read your own articles? In the past month I've seen at least half a dozen “First Look” articles that do nothing more than regurgitate the spec sheet/press release from the manufacturer.

I'm not trying to be too critical - I like the web page overall. I'm just trying to point out that when criticizing other reviewers you have to take a look at yourself too.
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About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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