The expectation for people with money is that they will be given a bit of respect in a buying process because they have disposable cash to spend on the luxury, that is, Audiophile HiFi. The problem is this isn’t the case with most manufacturers. Here is why……
A PR Agent called Tim ‘Nice but Dim’ has for some time known reviewers, John ‘Cullen but Sullen’ and Piers ‘Nothing between the ears’, so he will give them all the samples. They are industry buddies, they perhaps shared the same Slough HiFi magazine offices as fellow employees way back when, when paper faxes were the norm. But the thing is, times have changed and we aren’t in the 80’s anymore. Relationship pandering reciprocity is open to the forces of the internet where amateur pundit/enthusiast information sharing is a vigour that diminishes the value of the age old HiFi reviewers content. Where ‘Cullen but Sullen’ can no longer assert, with the same confidence and reader backing, that a product has no downsides, in an opposite way to consumers online can and do. Certainly it helps not a jot if he makes no comparison to any other product, but hails it best in class, or gives it an award, as we often see. Like a motor journalist would give a Ford Focus an award when no mention is made of a similar Vauxhall Astra or BMW 1 series? Really? It wouldn’t happen – You’d trust it and believe them?
And on and on and on….
But what then occurs is that the manufacturer takes that review and plasters it over their internet site. Places it about their reception. Really? It’s not particularly well written, it uses no wit or analogy to make the product about music or entertainment, which the HiFi serves. It might have the backing of a big audience to that writers website or status within the industry, but it’s written in what looks like half an hour or an hour, with little thought and passion. Staid as well. There is no forethought about what might make it better – Nice but Dim hasn’t chatted with Cullen but Sullen about what could boost it for the audience, or indeed make it more believable. They are buddies and they go their own way in what they do.
At the same time, an audience has no belief in products where no comparisons are made. Certainly when a reviewer asserts best in class and never mentions competitors to the ‘best in class‘. Like the website example I always give, where the reviewer/manager calls a product best in class but admits to me privately in a messenger chat, he has made no other comparisons and to say so, is, in his words “a means to an end” (of advertising income). This is what we, as Audiophile consumers, are up against. Yet with no compunction whatsoever, that manufacturer will still plaster that review on their website, not even questioning it’s veracity in the eyes of consumers, as I did, with no mention of other products.
What is often easy to gauge when you write reviews is how these reviewers cut corners, because you can see their little minds ticking away. How certain points come across. I urge you to be cautious and be aware too and think of the reasoning as to why they might be commenting as they do. Be inquisitive and doubting. In this example of the made up ‘best in class’ review, my thoughts as to what the reviewer was doing were vindicated. I suspect this is the tip of the iceberg considering many of the review people who work in it.
I call this failure to see what the market wants by relationship pandering, where people each go on their merry ways, organizational failure. Where the willingness to please another doesn’t please the end user, but affects that user. Badly too. I’ve seen this time and time again in the Audiophile HiFi industry. I don’t like it… I don’t want it as a consumer. I reject it. I think it’s dishonest and in fact these matters cross the line into a failed market that is probably a trading standards issue because these types of examples mislead the consumer. It’s basically departing you of your cash in believing a product is good because someone else gets paid. Quite frankly appalling, unscrupulous and shocking when you find out it goes on…
But the manufacturer allows this and because it benefits them in sales, they have no scope to want to change. It would be something if I ran a HiFi company, that I would be shivering in my boots about, for worry of some kind of scandal that could seriously damage the organizations reputation. The manufacturer has little control over the PR agent – like the one who let the PR agent change the content of my review when I am independent. Again it’s protecting relationships. There are no service level agreements to how a review should be conducted, or any pre determined methodologies of ensuring they come across as honest and credible. Which means the review can help to sell the product for what it mainly does – its USP – and without being a one fits all product, which nobody believes (or should believe) when they read that crap.
And it works with the dealer too. Manufacturers are often unwilling to haul up a dealer who fails to return calls of an end customer because of organizational failure. Or indeed remonstrate with a shop who tells consumers brand X product has never gone wrong, only for Mr unsuspecting (me!), who was about to buy, seeing the same model/brand blowing up speakers on some chat forum the week prior with the same dealer involved. I informed the shop’s owner and was dutifully ignored, and the manufacturer were not interested to call it wrong too. At the same time the shop gets another manufacturers ‘dealer of the year’ award.
But if no-one cares?
And if no-one cares, don’t these people think this is damaging and that efforts to address some of these issues, must surely be a PR nightmare. Maybe not in a small market where the customer is not king and you are expected to ‘take what you get’.
I find this sad and groups like Clarity ought to address these things and inject honesty into the industry since this has to widen the scope of HiFi and please more people. As it stands the industry isn’t helping themselves if they don’t tackle these poor aspects.
He who does something through another, does it himself. That’s the law of agency. So what all this means then is these manufacturers by using poor and unscrupulous reviewers and dealers in this way, are treating you, their prospective customers, as simpletons. They are abusing you too.
If anything, people who can afford this type of HiFi are not poorly educated people. They are doctors, lawyers, business owners, retirees on great pensions. Also intelligent hard working people that do everyday jobs, or those that save up. I suppose you have to be to understand the complexity of audio. But my point is, in an industry where the customer is intelligent, why treat them as a muppet to ;
- A review not being comparison based to enable relative performance to be gauged, but being ‘best in class’. Just how can anyone go along with this?
- A review implying a product is best or very good ALL OF THE TIME, without any semblance of criticism, when justified, in a fair way. Where a review means ‘critical appraisal’ but no criticism, again when justified, is EVER going on in many publications.
- Words such as ‘this streamer is much better then the industry norm’ but what are those other norms and why and how? Don’t you think this comment is a flippant one, one construed as ‘a phantom, an apparition, second cousin to Harvey the rabbit’, pulled out of thin air and not substantiated. I do because when you ask these people they can’t substantiate the point. There is no intelligence to realise people will question it, if it’s not supported, given the low trust in HiFi reviewers.
- Using words like ‘it neither adds or subtracts’ leads you into believing the writer feels the product ‘is average’?
- Reviewers that always play to expense means better, when not always the case, because to say otherwise destroys the promotion for their client.
- Vague descriptives on sound quality that you keep on seeing again and again.
- I could go on and these are just but a few illustrations…
Surely it’s counter productive and intuitive and remember when many HiFi reviewers start doing this, you aren’t helping yourself Mr Manufacturer. Much better to have them sell the positives, weaknesses as positives, or if they think the product is poor, to say so. Swings and roundabouts on reviews. The reason? Because more people will believe you when the products ARE good. The more do that, the more you set the products apart and the more you sell. I just don’t understand the reticence to do this. It’s unbelievable and a kind of self protectionist approach to damage HiFi.
What also amuses me is that you can see patterns with the way the firm brings out a review. They will use reviewer A with one model, reviewer B with another. It might be speakers in a range, so they use the less well known reviewer for the smaller bookshelf speaker, then the floor-stander goes to the more established industry guy. But every time, you see absolutely no criticism at all in the product from these set reviewers – on price, value for money, features, specs, or whatever. There has to be something to be slightly critical of if the product overall is very good. Just a soupçon, and the fact there isn’t is a massive clue as to what is really going on. I wouldn’t so much mind if they didn’t criticize a product if they criticized one elsewhere, but they don’t at all.
On this basis, you’d expect regular readers to form opinions about the reliability of the review and magazine/site, so in whose interests does such rubbish support? It’s counter productive for you the consumer, and you the manufacturer. All it shows, is that Audiophile HiFi consumers are looked at as simpletons by most manufacturers, PR Agents and distributors. Assuming, if like me, you recognize, what is really going on.
As ever, my advice is never buy anything based on these magazines and online sites without trying yourself – preferably at home in your acoustic environment always, and always do a little bit of the comparative dog work yourself to gauge whether the opinions are BS or true. Be aware of sites that turn out press releases with no commentary, as clickbait, so will only be doing self promotion in reviews. You owe it to yourself, with the amount you are spending, to do the due diligence!