A few months ago it started with a well known YouTuber exclaiming that bad reviews don’t exist, not least he gives products back if he doesn’t like them, and so too, he explains he is a positive guy. Aren’t we all, we don’t spend thousands of hours promoting good HiFi products for reasons other than being enthusiasts, and doing the good of brands we like and rate and being into making great videos too. Making a living from HiFi reviews is extremely hard, so you have to be in it for reasons other than money, at least I am.
Another well known reviewer presents a blog from his Patreon page to exclaim that he doesn’t do bad reviews and that those who do so, are trying to get attention, that he turns up every day, finds out about good products in advance, and that anything other is to attempt to bypass his effort path and process. Despite this we note from his website and YouTube channel that he has recently published a bad review, where he criticizes a British DAC for being bright.
And then of recent we get yet another such article. The writer of the blog explains that he selects the gear, a nod to my point about prior due diligence, but that this means of doing so avoids the possibility of coming across bad gear. In many many years he states, ‘pretty much’, he has only had one bad product. Maybe his words ‘pretty much’ is a sideline to my view, but he doesn’t define what a bad product is but draws a conclusion on the idea of lots of bad products being out there as against his experience. Also that preferences at price is determinant of what’s good, implying there can never be any objectivity in marking out good products.
Watch my video as to why negative reviews are necessary sometimes:
I would have to agree on his first point. I’ve always said it’s probably something like 95% of products are competitive – it’s just common sense, right, the competitiveness of consumer electronics, common components and the capability of electronics design at any given point in time and price. On the second point of no bad products, the obvious flaw is where is the line drawn? Is a Robin Reliant a good car simply because someone prefers, likes or buys it? That’s the position he seems to take. But bigger than that the argument is self serving to fly in the face of all common sense of us consumers, having ALL had experiences of bad products.
I raised in my article about the need for product comparisons in reviews here. It is simply the case, a product cannot be good in isolation – it can be good with other products, but there is a need for product comparison to make a case for products being equally good, or worse, so you know where he stands. No comparison then how do you trust the review as no stall has been set out. I reiterate that I find myself explaining the differences most of the time, it’s not that one product is always inferior over another – mostly! But the issue for me is, if a brand doesn’t want my opinion but just wants and expects a good review published, with no exceptions, then that brand will be doing so at the cost of my independence, integrity and values, and with no respect for me and the integrity that doing this brings to honest and ethical sales. It once amused me when a Korean manufacturer of network streamers, exclaimed before he had sent the product ; ‘once you’ve done the fantastic review of our product please let us know’, which showed no understanding for the mistrust in HiFi and my point of view, or what I am doing.
There exists the slim possibility that I won’t like a product, but I have done my due diligence too, I have reviewed similar products, I have spoken to other people who review HiFi who I trust, I’ve read the valuable trustworthy reviews such as my friend David of Small Room Audio, all before I contact that brand for a loaner (and I make all this clear to them). The relationship hopefully goes into sponsorship but only if I like the brand consistently – and that by the way is why HiFi reviewing is so hard, because lots of effort is needed in doing multiple video reviews before sponsorship, which if you want to stand out with great video content, and YouTube is where people consume content online nowadays, as Mark Zuckerberg said in his recent Meta Announcement, it takes a considerable amount of time.
There can be absolutely no other way to review products, since it is obvious that if every review is positive, no comparisons are made, then no regard could be had to the remote possibility of products being inferior – I am talking about products that for example are four times the price of others, but have similar sonic performance, then I would expect nobody to have any trust in my reviews. No trust, a Deal or No Deal? Well…. it must mean the latter, or at least to a very large proportion of people who I think are put off by these reviews with the temperature taken by me everyday in YouTube comments. This type of reviewer is being disingenuous and is not helping you.
It also erodes trust in reviews being for the consumer, it places HiFi about just sales that a large number of skeptical intelligent people who aren’t going to believe the reviews, will justifiably have. Also it is sad because it denigrates the good products being good when they really are and it means the brands who consistently have products that perform well above the competition, where a consumer buys from competitors based on un-trusty ‘always good’ reviews, looses out.
And these aren’t really products that have a semblance of being good just because a person has bought it or likes it. It’s essentially being sold something through a review that perhaps gullible people might believe, which anyone should be extremely uneasy about.
As to the blogger taking a view he only selects the best products, what happens when a brand sends a product he has no experience of, that is to be placed well below the competition. The obvious inference is he will be saying it is good for himself and the brand, yet each time this happens the peg of trust is yet again driven deeper into the ground for consumers. He will know he is doing this to consumer detriment. The review wants to be fair, it wants to explain the differences, it wants to be bold where the products are really out of kilter, and it warrants to let the great products thrive and shine, allow prices to come down and proper price driven competition to exist.
This isn’t an article designed to disparage other reviewers for my benefit. My intention is to publish reviews when the benefit to brands, consumers, and myself align. That’s no doubt many other good and fair reviewers aim but when bad products are exclaimed to never exist in advance, then it can never be the aim to be fair. To someone trying to instill confidence, which is one reason I started doing HiFi reviews, and often agonizing over the content and tone of the review, to see another reviewer so blatantly take a position that it isn’t ever about the consumer in this way, makes me despair. I find it hard to understand that any brand would like that view put out there, which also motivates the article from this trust perspective. This is ALL the reason I’m writing this article. I am too a HiFi buyer and I despise this type of “promotion”.
If a brand wants a good review all the time, then the bad one (which one hopes doesn’t happen from my perspective and theirs) is the cost of their other products, which perform well, being put out as good, not only for upgrading existing customers, but newbies too. If brands don’t want to take the risk, don’t use reviews, do all the promotion yourself – but then it won’t be ‘independent’. Consumers know what is going on. It means confident good performing brands have no issue, it helps suss-out the ones who are low on confidence. If a large number of people don’t believe the review, as my poll showed of ‘do you trust HiFi reviewers’, then it doesn’t strike me enough of a good reason to keep exclaiming the products are always good, with no caveats, with the aim of gaining sales ALL the time. It’s destructive and not going to build confidence and sales, it’s dodgy and underhand and I hate it and I wouldn’t want it if I sold and made HiFi. Speaking to a good number of brands who are confident in their products, they hate it too, and particularly those who got in this to really make a change to audio.