HiFi Reviewing is Objective

In this article I look at why HiFi Reviewing is Objective. It goes like this…A contact from a well known streaming business believes that HiFi reviewing and assessment of HiFi is just subjective. His attitude is a HiFi review is for purposes of a shortlist to appraise products yourself at a dealer as to features and sonics – I agree on the first part but disagree a dealer is always best for shortlisting. The dealer often holds few brands, simply through economies of scale and supply chain issues – they can only sell so many. The good ones are great, the bad ones just want highest price and will use the validation from marketing as to what is *best*. Also how can you hope to find the best out there – that is if you want too – if two respective dealers hold respective brands?

He doesn’t know what the sonic USP of his firms products are across either a range of HiFi and/or tested against other products. I think that’s unfathomable for a sales manager of a brand of streaming products to not know what his firms products do, or what the brand ideal is and what they attempt to achieve sonically. I too examined why I think benchmarks are important in reviewing HiFi here.

His attitude is also that you can’t say this DAC or amp, or pair of speakers, does this or that sonically in an objective sense because again it’s the subjective view of the person buying. But this is just not true…. my analogy to the Chord Hugo TT2 and PS Audio DirectStream DACs shows that they are quite different from one another. With the DirectStream being relaxed and smooth and vinyl like and the Chord being dynamic, incisive and intonated. These are these products USP’s. That’s what you buy them for. Of course along with feature set and looks and relative importance of these ingredients.

need for product comparisons
HiFi Reviewing is Objective

Sonically, it helps the manufacturers differentiate the products and offer something unique – it helps the customer buy what they want too. These sonic differentiations can be made of all products and they are not subjective ones. In their comparative sense they are Objective with a capital O. They are also Objective, not just from a comparative sense – but because big groups of people reach similar consensus. Look online to see what people are saying….and it’s not like we can say that across different systems, one will do something different sonically to another. Common sense above anything says they will all make their mark and blend into the HiFi as a combination of the kit in that system. They are still imposing an objective mark. So too, lots of this kit is being tested across many systems by me – speakers, headphones, and when they leave a similar mark, what to any notion of subjectiveness? Is that really possible!?? I’m not hearing massively different between HiFi on what they do!

But at the same time he doesn’t believe in making comparisons to other products, he feels it’s OK for a review not to mention any other products. Again he thinks it’s down to the subjective view of the buyer anyway, for that not to matter. But we’ve already established comparative objectivity and through consensus groups.

What this all adds up to is that, by implication, he basically believes the review is worthless to the extent of any notion of giving customers choice and steering them to the products they want because of his view reviews are all subjective anyway and customers think they are subjective too.

But I’ve established they aren’t with benchmarks and need for product comparison to this USP end, for him and customers. What he fails to recognise too is that I don’t make judgements just on what I like, but that comparing two products sonically – do they offer similar performance across different sonic traits – one might have exquisite midrange, the other soundstage. It’s about you and what you want, and taking out preference, if say two DACs perform very similarly in performance terms (Chord Qutest v RME ADI-2 DAC) but to slightly different sonic traits, why shouldn’t you as the customer know about it? Also I personally prefer the Chord sound to the PS Audio, but these two DACs mentioned are of equal quality to give them equal credence across tastes. And what is equal quality – well I think that’s pretty obvious. A dCS Bartok is similar to a Chord DAVE, a Chord Qutest is similar in sonic performance to an RME ADI-2, albeit the RME is cheaper. This often, isn’t rocket science. We aren’t comparing wine here as connoisseurs. So long as it hits standards comparable to others at a similar price within taste/preference bounds, or hopefully better, it’s doing its job. A lot of what people talk about as being *better* in HiFi is essentially preference. That’s essentially what a HiFi review is for, in a nutshell. I can’t review a HiFi component if, hypothetically, it was the only one in the world – a comparison must be involved.

HiFi Reviewing is Objective

There is no point buying one thing if it’s not what you want and it doesn’t offer the feature set and sonic qualities you want. Also to get the balance you want in your audiophile HiFi. You’ll be annoyed and disgruntled. Why was I sold that and it didn’t meet my sonic needs? Will I come back to buy more of that brand?

Also if he doesn’t know what his firms products sonic USP is, then you can be sure that you won’t too, especially if he uses reviewers who don’t make comparisons as is commonplace. It engenders lack of enthusiasm and lack of passion for why he is doing this, for he doesn’t know what the products he sells achieves. In other words it must, by implication, just be a sales game. I’m a HiFi enthusiast – I love the sound that faithfully reproduced audio gives – but there has to be some element of fairness to the customer. Surely?

Running the HiFi industry into the ground because of just wanting your cash and not selling the virtues of their products is extremely unfortunate to those passionate about what audio does. Their is often no excitement and get up and go about the reasons why audiophiles must surely do this and buy this firms products – about the music and what such music, faithfully reproduced through those companies product, achieves. It is also a huge lost opportunity for him to promote the product on its USP. What could be more appealing to this end than music – a universal human enjoyment. It’s just a sales game and drained of excitement and broadening the industry. How it achieves it and what it does? That’s what a concern of being an Audiophile with a capital A, is about. He has just lost his way perhaps.

This level of trying to get a sale this way, is for me as a consumer, verging on the dishonest. It’s appropriating your money for the sake of chance where no *prospective* buyer of a particular product often properly knows what that product does against another of the main competing products in a market. The relative USP’s and relative performance levels . I’m doing this all day long and want you to know that, I think manufacturers want you to know that too – certainly the best forward thinking product orientated ones that put music and audio to the top of what their products are about. They have ever reason to sell that, they are confident what they achieve and that they stand out. Why can’t he think that way too? As sure as eggs is eggs it does somewhat denigrate the products sold. What do you think – is HiFi Reviewing Objective ?

Editorial comment

I asked for comment from this manufacturers sales manager, but none was forthcoming in response to these points.


So long as the review is fair and honest and not derogatory, which mine always are (see here), a review is to be given as an appraisal and honest opinion too. That is why we are asked to do this. If you don’t in your hearts hearty, then you cease to be a reviewer.

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HiFi Reviewing is Objective

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Written by Simon Price

I'm music lover who shares experiences of faithfully reproduced audio in an ENGAGING way with HIGH VIDEO PRODUCTION VALUES. I enjoy and make reviews as I love audio gadgets, being a voice on audio and producing creative videos that ultimately benefit the industry and new participation. I keep technicalities easy, as I believe great audio serves music and music is inclusive and to be enjoyed by all!

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