How I do My Reviews – The 13th Note Way!
Reviews are for guiding people into HiFi purchases (or for shortlisting) whilst keeping it engaging and entertaining for those who like to keep in the know too. I mainly now post video reviews, as YouTube is the most popular forum for reviews, so please use my website as a catalogue of my video reviews to search my content.
Whether you are an Audiophile or want information about a product, my attitude is that you don’t need specialist knowledge. Getting great audio is a non exclusive pursuit to be enjoyed by all! This is my steer on audio products – I’m interested in what they do, how they look, and how they sound. In other words reviews based on my actual experiences, not what should happen by technicalities. I don’t get bogged down in the technological minutiae so often burdened by HiFi reviews, but rather try and explain in lay terms.
“audiophile” or “audio lover”
noun : a person who is very interested in and enthusiastic about equipment for playing recorded sound, and its quality.
Cambridge English Dictionary
The Ten Golden Rules I Follow with my Reviews;
1. No Self Indulgence
Most Audiophiles are into HiFi because of the music and this colours the whole purpose for being into audio. My tastes are as wide as Electronic to Classical and you won’t always find the usual ‘audiophile’ music suspects being played from my music library. So for me HiFi is not a self indulgent pursuit of owning HiFi gear for the sake of it.
2. Credibility and Balance to your needs.
One main aim is to give fair, credible and balanced HiFi reviews with integrity which attempts to tread the line in the middle for manufacturers and consumers alike. In the context of any loan products given by brands or distributors etc, if I deem them not competitive then in fairness to supporting companies, I don’t review them on YouTube, and they are simply returned and collected by brands. I don’t ever pay for postage costs for loan products.
As I get some of my income from brand sponsorships (on top of small YouTube income), then I make it clear now that if viewers want my views about what products I would buy against others and which I think is best, taking account of all my views, then I ask those viewers to support me on Patreon/Paypal/YouTube super thanks. This is where I post private embedded Patreon only additional video content (for each video) about my preferences and the finer division between what I deem the ‘better’ products. This doesn’t mean I post any lesser service to my YouTube audience, depending on what you are after, it is just I cannot be expected to shoulder all the risk when YouTube viewers would otherwise take my preferences and information of uncompetitive products and then do not financially support me. I think doing it this way, it is clear I am being very transparent as to how I review and those who want access to all my views can continue to receive them, and it doesn’t change my initial aim of 13th Note to be honest and credible. My Patreon is also very low cost too. It is also the case that a large part of YouTube watches for entertainment only and this model of giving more to those viewers who in turn give to me, is commonplace and accepted on Patreon for audio reviewers at present.
My sponsorships are clear from my website banners and anyone can see these, so far as knowing which companies are currently sponsoring me. Also brands may feature ads in my videos, and where videos are unpaid and unsponsored – they are indicated as such which is obviously as at the date of the video and may change, whereupon website ads or sponsored video ads will then appear. I also state in the description of YouTube videos when brands donate products.
3. Reviews Should be Engaging and Enthusiastic!
Time permitting, I try and present in a amusing well scripted style that is engaging and creative and uses wit and analogy. Not the dry way of some reviews ; I liken it to trying to be more ‘new Top Gear’ than ‘old Top Gear’. Why can’t HiFi reviews have humour too!!??
4. Reviews Can be Objective
Reviews are not just subjective but can have an element of objectivity too ; objective consensus, and objectivity through comparison as well……, so I always try and review on the basis of what I think most will like and I convey my enthusiasm for products in my videos accordingly.
5. My Reviews are Comparison based Always
I make comparisons to set products apart to sell the USP of products to give you, the viewer, the best idea of who they are for, and the brand to separate them from competition. I don’t get into woolly language and I try to be as specific as I can.
6. I Keep Technical Language to a Minimum
Most of us are not HiFi technicians, designers or electronics engineers. If a product has the features and functionality, it looks good and sounds tremendous, this is all we need to know! Roger Federer doesn’t need to know the minutiae of why his technique is good, if it gets him results.
I’m generally not interested in a debate about whether the technical features should in theory make a product better or not. That said, I can postulate though. For every technician who believes in one technical viewpoint there will be another with an opposing view. So I try and not keep reviews academic and whilst it may be the brands forte in testing and manufacture, I believe most consumers just want to know how products work and perform. For this reason it’s better to keep the review on track of how the product operates and performs in the real world.
If it becomes more about the technology, then the review becomes self indulgent as audio is to be enjoyed by all. Again I reiterate it’s non exclusive and enjoying faithfully reproduced audio is for the masses and I don’t want to be a restrictive HiFi bore. So the point is I don’t want to *analyse the passion out of why I do this*, which I think happens as the review becomes overly technical – reason number 1. It would be like analysing the chemical content of food as to why it tastes good!
7. Non Pretentious Relaxed Reviews
This is from one review I read ; ““Listening to the 16-bit/44.1kHz TIDAL version of Dane Agnes Obel’s haunting 2016 album Citizen of Glass through this digital to analogue converter saw her mastery of the keys hanging delicately in 3D space while her voice arched upwards and over the ghostly accompanying bass, string arrangements and backup singers whose modulated voices fleshed out a sonic palette coloured with shades of a darkened and bruised sky which captured the moody winter feel of cuts like ‘Familiar.’”
Sorry, you won’t find that here! It doesn’t convey how the product sounds and is pretentious and over indulgent. My take is that you want to know the main sound quality traits of a product (always presented in the review). You won’t read through one of my reviews to be presented with pretentious language that doesn’t inform you about the main sound quality traits. I want to get to the products feature set and sonic Unique Selling Points. As regards sonic traits, a review that can be copied and pasted onto the next and is too generic, is the bain and boredom of reading audio reviews because it doesn’t pin down on the components character. Aaaggghhhh!
I’m a “music first” Audiophile. I use my HiFi to listen to music faithfully reproduced, rather than using faithfully reproduced music, to listen to my HiFi! Again no self indulgence. I will select lossless music no matter its quality as the HiFi is serving the music, not the other way around. Lest we forget!
8. I don’t Undertake Measurements
I don’t do this, not least I don’t have the measuring gear and it’s complicated again. I reiterate that I review based on my experiences as I like playing with the gear, gadgetry and being a journo voice about Audio and seeking out good products, and also the creative side of making audio videos. I have long since built up an audio system I am happy with so I have these other reasons to review, which I think gives reviewing sustainability. Also measurements are not the whole story in predicting how a HiFi is going to sound or perform. I don’t believe in thinking that measurements dictate what I should or shouldn’t derive from a product. I believe it’s based on what the product does and how it performs in the real world.
9. Home Listening Tests
Unless I say so, I always conduct listening tests in my home environment. The room is known to have a huge influence on the sound of audio, so we need to keep that the same. For the same reasons of isolating sonic qualities, if I’m testing HiFi separates I always remove one item at a time but keeping the rest of the system the same, or one I’m very used too at least. You’d be surprised that many reviews don’t get conducted on this basis.
I have no issue comparing when products are not in situ, if I am confident of their character and have lived with those products long enough. It is important all my experiences are reflected when I review or at least as many as possible.
10. I Post Videos Mainly
Sometimes I write written reviews but most of my content is now by video on YouTube as it is the most popular forum now for HiFi and audio reviews.
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