I've been a subscriber for a number of years and I've noticed that most of your writers (Sam Tellig in particular among others) hobnob with equipment manufacturers. In fact, these relationships seem rather close. The writers and manufacturers hang out together, the writers get wined and dined (especially Sam, not that I'm necessarily picking on Sam. Wes Phillips was hanging with Tyll Hertsen of Headroom Corp recently and John Atkinson recorded Anthony Michaelson of Musical Fidelity) and get taken on trips, among other perks.
I wonder that given such seemingly close, personal relationships with manufacturers if it's possible to write an objective review. After all, if I'm charged with writing a review of a product that a friend of mine produces, I would feel very uncomfortable writing anything negative about the product. I would try to smooth and gloss over the negative and accentuate the positive with the best intentions.
Do you consider this to be a non-issue or do you think that developing personal relationships between writers and manufacturers should be discouraged as a matter of policy at Stereophile?