I’ve been after some new speakers for a while, so like most people I scoured the internet for reviews, both professional and forums.
Now I know to treat forum comments with scepticism, We don’t know the Hi Fi history or credentials of the person commenting, and we can be pretty sure they haven’t had access to the breadth of equipment a professional journalist has. Often its ‘I brought this and its great’ comments!
I was slightly more trusting of professional reviews. However my opinion is changing! After all, These journalists have to stay in the manufacturers good books to ensure when the next new Kit arrives they are sent if for review and can sell more print. Dont believe me, just checkout the What Hi Fi reviews, everything has 4or 5 stars, its impossible that every piece of equipment is that good! what they seem to have done is come up with a very subtle code to try and let us know if things are a bit rubbish.
I brought my speakers based on the reviews (Lock down and all that), and yes they are a bit rubbish! so I went back and re read the reviews, and I now have a better understanding of the code. here’s the explanation!
They are not the most detailed speakers in their price range = You might as well stick your head in a bucket
They don’t go as low as their competitors = You might as well stick your head in a metal bucket
There was a noticeable off axis drop off in tweeter response = Off axis you cant hear it, on axis they will tear your eardrums off
The Imaging is slightly behind the speakers = They are so unresponsive and slow you might as well play music through a cup and string.
Care should be take with matching electronics to get the best out of these speakers = They only sound good with 10K’s worth of exotic amplification, your Denon wont cut it!
They really sing at high volume = at low volume they sound like a bee in a beer glass, best you turn them up until your ears bleed.
In general, I believe you exaggerate. I get that it is for comical effect, but still. I am also curious about which speakers they are.
Regarding this, take into account that they may choose not to publish a review if it’s poor. I.e., reviews that get published are not necessarily a complete set of all reviews that were performed, nor necessarily a representative sample.
Regarding what hi fi. No point having a 5 star scale if they only use the top 2. May as well be a one star scale. I a m too cynical to believe low scores are reserved for equipment they chose not to publish.
I understand what you are saying, but, anyone that wants to stay competitive will price their products accordingly and i imagine any manufacturer that is producing 1 or 2 star products won’t last long enough to stay in the game. Hence why so many 4 or 5 star products, everything is graded on value. Also remember that just because the speakers didn’t work for you and your room doesn’t mean they didn’t sound ok somewhere else.
I tried moving my speakers to the other side of the room recently and they sounded awful in comparison.
I must admit, what hifi are particularly bad for this positive review BS… everything i read seems to get an amazing review.
Especially Naim gear! (Although probably warranted.)
I like to buy the products that seem to get a positive review from everyone that tests it.
Thats why i went for the Atom.
Definitely an interesting topic though.
I feel some youtube reviewers are also bad for this. Sometimes i get the feeling that their reviews are aimed at keeping the channel alive rather than actually providing a critical review.
I wish more took the approach of Hans Beekhuyzen. Top Bloke! Excellent reviews!
Have to say I think personal taste comes into speaker choice perhaps more than any other component. I once had a 90 min demo comparing ATC SCM19s driven by 250DR with the active version. A customer who happened to be in the shop sat with me throughout and at the end I strongly favoured the actives and he equally strongly preferred the passive setup. Same room, same music, same front end (272), just individual taste. So my personal rule is to audition first preferably at home, or buy used so they can be sold on with little loss.
But, but I broke my own rule in lockdown last year — Atom with Neat Iotas for the office. Fortunately, that worked out well. Hope yours comes on song.
And i only have myself to blame i didn’t have to buy them! But they were 2nd hand and not silly money. Its my responsibility alone
As you say always better to audition ideally in your home.
My frustration is really focussed on the reviews where criticism is so disguised. And the praise shouted so loudly its difficult to form a balanced view. When i look back at the reviews of the speakers i have its all there but the negatives are very subtly communicated.
Purposely not mentioning the make if speakers as this is more about the reviews!
Of all system components speakers make the biggest difference to overall character of the sound, and different speakers can sound very different indeed, even in quite exalted price brackets. It is therefor always a risk to buy a speaker without hearing, except perhaps on the basis of description of the sound with reference to something known to the individual.
However, the OP certainly has a point that reviews are not much real guide as to what a speaker sounds like, and high ratings for all simply highlights that fact. Personally the only reviews I find of value are comparative ones, where the descriptions do often tend to give better insight - particularly so if one is familiar with one or more of the comparisons. In terms of shortlisting for audition I think reviews can assist, but only if one reads as much as possible between the lines, including what is not said. For myself I would always also seek to see measurements to provide another part of the picture (but also scrutinising what information is available about the way the measurements were made). Measurements won’t tell me that a speaker will sound good, but they may tell me I am unlikely to like and so no point wasting time auditioning.
“Dear hi-fi magazine,
I’d like to spend £100’s / £1000’s per month advertising my wonderful hi-fi equipment in your magazine.
However, if you publish any bad reviews of my equipment, I’ll stop my advertising budget with you immediately.
Yours, hi-fi maker.”
OK, the above might be somewhat sceptical of me but, I guess it happens…
If you want really good reviews i’d suggest looking at the following YouTube Channels: Zerofidelity and a British Audiophile. These are unbiased and contain enough information to see if the speaker is something you might be happy with and which will suit your needs.
I also think that most written reviews in magazines are quite uninformative and i try to avoid them.