You are here

Log in or register to post comments
whart
whart's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 12 2006 - 4:38am
Recommended Components- Redux

I have a different gripe and it isn't about price. The list seems to be cobbled together from reviews which span a considerable amount of time; there is no attempt to reconcile the "recommendations" within any given grouping, and the cut and paste approach to the summaries, even those from the same reviewer, makes for glaring inconsistencies-eg, The Brinkman Balance is the best TT Fremer heard, with the exception of the Rockport, but elsewhere in the same category the Caliburn beats the Rockport. Frankly, lists, as such, are generally meaningless given the need to match components, but if the point of making these recommendations is to reflect some distillation of the collective knowledge of the reviewers in one handy place, a little more editorial care should be given. I appreciate that manufacturers use these rankings in promoting their wares, but for the reader/user, the section leaves quite a bit to be desired.

CECE
CECE's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 17 2005 - 8:16am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

The Continum is now $125,00!!! And MF needs to use LAST and wipe and clean and anti satatic, yeah vinyl lives, ya gots to be nuts. And Audi R8 is "only" $109,000 sticker...there is no way ever that a spining platter with amotor could justify this price. An SACD player for $1000 will smoke any pice of vinyl, snap crackle pop...oops, forgot to vacuum my records and use some cream that was out in teh 70's....oh, forgot to Destatic it...yeah, sounds like real logic to play records, and use a TT that clips ya for $125,000. The Audi comes with a sound system to and an enviormental control system, leather a place to sit...$125,000 TT. It's the ole' marketing strategy, just price it into the absurd, and someone will think it's good. So how can i possibly use a VPI with a JMW arm that is only a few thousand? VPI must be junk? Orrrr, the decimal place is way off on that Continum.

quadlover
quadlover's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Apr 7 2007 - 9:58am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

i agree that the way recommended components are listed can always be argued. how can a reader compare a rave review of 8-10 years ago (cat preamp)with current issue review that the reviewer has only listened to for maybe 60 days(anything recommended from the last 2 issues)? since there is an annual records to die for issue, how about having an equipment to die for listing that the reviewers have heard listing, irregardless of price, every couple of years? also how about an occasional description of reviewers listening rooms and listening biases? what about an audio hall of fame for equipment that advanced audio for its time and stands the test of time? examples are quad electrostats, mcintosh & marantz tubes, vandersteen speakers, linn turntable, and many more. i agree with dup that the high end prices are getting beyond ridiculous. can you imagine high end audio building computers, cameras, printers, or, god forbid, cars?

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 15 hours ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

Sure, but if the Audi was hand made and only 10-20 per year were made how much would it be? Over a million clams easy. Does that mean the Continuum is worth it just cause it has zero economy of scale? Not in my opinion, but it's silly to compare a mass market car with a hand made niche market TT. Compare it to a Rolls maybe.

NOT true about any SACD player smoking any TT though. I have an older model Well-Tempered TT and I'd put it up to a $1000 SACD any time (and have). Yes- the sound nearly identical in subjective terms. I hear practically not surface noise anyway and don't use any fancy liquids or special cleaners nor a vacuum.

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 15 hours ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux


Quote:
can you imagine high end audio building computers, cameras, printers, or, god forbid, cars?

There are examples like that (heard of Bentley, Rolls Royce, Masarati, Leica?). Silicon Graphics (SGI) was/is an ultra high-end maker of incredibly power niche market computers. Also practically hand made (for computers anyway). 10 years ago at their peak you'd get an entry level system for 15k at a time when PCs were about 2k. Their really good systems were more like 150k, just like the Continuum TT. They did not last obviously because of an explosion of consumer level 3D graphics chips and true economy of scale. They exist (I think) as only a ghost of what they were, building cluster super computers.

CECE
CECE's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 17 2005 - 8:16am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

VW chairman Piech yeaers ago calls it democrization of safety...when ABS first arrived it was a multi thousand dollar OPTION, he said now it cost under $200 to install ABS in all VW models!!! Just cus some company makes it, and they are inefficient at doing it, does that mean it's better? Noooo, it means they didn't learn how to produce top quality for less costs, and be more efficient at it! GE learned that decades ago, VW owns Bugatti, Bentley, Lamborghini, guess what, they are all divs learning from mass production how to be more efficient. Bugatti Veryon are made slow only 50 a year, that's why they are overpriced at $1.2 Million while even R8 are "limited" production" compared to assy of A6 models but tehn even RS6 are slower, but they all benefit from mass prodcution suppliers etc. Those specail models couldn't survive without teh bigg VW owning them and making them better, using mass produced models. too bad Ford or GM can't do it, they bought luxury brands now selling it, cus', if it ain't German it ain't a car. Skoda and Seat also mass brands owned by VW...it helps make the special limited production models available...Continum will fade away, it's such a limited no need product. Fad's come and go. And i thought VPI was grosly overpriced, but tehy survive cus they make soem mortal priced units, well mortal compared to totaly nonsens...Even Merceds survives cus' of teh mass produced models, Bentley was also almost history, it too is a VW company...it uses W12-18 engiens like Bugatti uses W18 all VW designs...mass production allows it too happen. Ford said so 100 years ago, one thing teh old man got right. Being expense doesn't mean better, it means poor purchaing of supplys, inefficient producction, high costs that are reduced by better mfg techics. With computer machine tools anything precision can be made, it's not such a luxury for teh righ, ....CNC machines can make anything and make it perfect, there is no reason for $125,000 price tag, just profit and marketing...it's a spinning platter with a rubber band and motor...all readily avaialbe componetns, could you really hear teh difference? Between a VPI and a Continum, if you didn't LOOK at what was playing, come on.....

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 15 hours ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

I kind of think we are agreeing--- It's all about making efficient use of planning and production. Some things will cost more no matter how efficient obviously, but the crazy prices probably reflect a company's decision to keep it in batch production and if a consumer thinks it worth it to pay 20 times the price for 10% more of the "experience", well that's what the free market is all about. I just don't get why everyone in audio circles gets so up in arms about it. If it's too expensive don't buy. Screaming about won't make it go away!

I just read about it (maybe) and move on. Usually I think it's crazy for the money too, but I don't really care if someone else wants to mortgage their for it if they think it will make them happy.

whart
whart's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 12 2006 - 4:38am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

Not to hi-jack a thread I started, but we seemed to take a strong turn here toward pricing issues of so-called "high-end" components. I have views about this, too, but the 'other' thread regarding the Recommended Components list addresses that; my complaint, as indicated at the outset of this thread, was not about pricing (which I suppose the magazines may be accused of contributing to), but instead, about the editorial 'content' of the Recommended Components section. And, just to be clear, I am not arguing about the inclusion of one component over another, but that the entire section seems to be a sort of incoherent cut and paste of past reviews which does not reflect any effort to create a definitive list of recommendations, and in fact relies on reviews which are obviously outdated.Does anyone have any views on that?

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 15 hours ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux


Quote:
...the entire section seems to be a sort of incoherent cut and paste of past reviews which does not reflect any effort to create a definitive list of recommendations, and in fact relies on reviews which are obviously outdated.Does anyone have any views on that?

I completely agree- not a lot of new content this time around. And you're right about reviews just being stuck in there without relation to each other. Like how'd the Creek 4140SE stay when the Creek Destiny ALSO is in Class A. The Destiny is twice the price I think and a big step ahead by every account. Yet both are in the same class. Shouldn't the 4140SE account for this and go into class B or something? Many other similar examples like this could be sited. Generally I do like the rec. components issue and it's been helpful to me over the years, but I have to say this issue started giving me this annoyed feeling of being taken for granted.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

I may completely off base here, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but as I recall, the recommended components list used to require more of a concensus of reviwers rather than a rave from one person.

Being on the list was sort of an "endorsement" from the staff of the magazine, rather than an index of recently reviewed gear in general.

This may have been feasible back in the day when everybody was in Santa Fe, perhaps, but it did seem back then that making the list meant more.

Now, it seems every review leads to placement somewhere on the list, which dilutes its impact...IMHO.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

Well, we don't all get around a table anymore, though that would be cool. Each January and July, JA sends an e-mail out to the reviewers. The e-mail includes a long list of just about everything we've reviewed over the previous six months, along with who reviewed it and in which issue it appeared.

John reminds the writers that only components that have been reviewed in the magazine are eligible to appear in the "Recommended Components" list. If reviewers are very much impressed with a component that they will soon be reviewing, they can, however, include it in our class "K."

John then asks that the reviewers let him know in what class components they have experience with should appear, and stresses that they offer additional comments regarding the existing list.

John collects all the comments. Meanwhile, I compose the blurbs by re-reading the reviews and gathering the bits which I feel are most relevant, keeping in mind a word limit of about 100. I try to describe the thing, note any special characteristics (a very big or small loudspeaker, a very heavy or light amplifier, SET amplification, horn speaker, class D amplification, etc.), summarize the reviewer's idea of its sound, and sometimes mention JA's measurements. I get these back to JA, and he edits in any additional comments.

Take, for instance, the entry for the HeadRoom Total BitHead headphone amplifier, reviewed by Michael Fremer:

A black plastic box weighing about 5.5oz with its four AAA batteries, the Total BitHead measures just about the same as a standard-size iPod, uses Burr-Brown OPA4743 quad op-amp chips, and features two inputs: a 1/8

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 months 1 week ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

Stephen, you make it sound so quick and easy.

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 15 hours ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

It's not that the descriptions in isolation aren't useful, it's just that they don't relate to each other well at all. I think I counted at least 8 examples of two components, by the same manufacturer, with wide differences in price being in the same Class rating. I'm mean, what gives here? How can so many components ALL be in the same categories yet in totally different price ranges- it just doesn't make sense. I'd rather see less recommended or more differentiation. It's like in every category there needs to be a big reassignment of ratings to make them at all relevant to each other. Otherwise all you get for the whole exercise is: "Well, they all sound just dandy, but some cost more and they are Extra Dandy." In other magazines, when a list of The Best is complied, part of the process is getting everyone together in some way. Conference calls? Video conference? Flights can't be that much once or twice year, and I bet you'd have a MUCH better list that truly was meaningful.

Again, I've always found the list as a helpful starting point, but I also have years of personal listening experience, know many of the brands already, worked at a high-end store and thus just need a few helpful hints to point me in the right direction. A newbie would be really lost if he just dove into the Rec. Components issue hoping to get educated.

pbarach
pbarach's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 6 days ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 3:10am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux


Quote:
It's not that the descriptions in isolation aren't useful, it's just that they don't relate to each other well at all. I think I counted at least 8 examples of two components, by the same manufacturer, with wide differences in price being in the same Class rating. I'm mean, what gives here? How can so many components ALL be in the same categories yet in totally different price ranges- it just doesn't make sense.

If the ratings are valid and reliable, then the situation you describe would mean that spending more doesn't necessarily get you the better component, even among the products of a single manufacturer.

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 15 hours ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

If the ratings are valid and reliable, then the situation you describe would mean that spending more doesn't necessarily get you the better component, even among the products of a single manufacturer.

You're right, but that is exactly what I think is being called into question. If they are valid then maybe each item needs a more granular score. Class A would be like a grade, from 90-100, Class B from 80-89, etc. Then if two components were a different price and from the same manufacturer perhaps you'd see Item 1 is Class B (82), Item 2 is Class B (89). Just a thought, although I'm guessing the whole system needs a bigger overhaul than that...

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux


Quote:
How can so many components ALL be in the same categories yet in totally different price ranges- it just doesn't make sense.

Part of the answer is that our ratings are largely based on the reviewer's judgement of the components' sound quality, which doesn't always correlate with price. In instances where we feel a component performs much better than can be expected from its price, we note it with "$$$."

I'll take a close look at this, and see if we should make some changes.

DBZ
DBZ's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 19 2007 - 3:54pm
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

I appreciate the effort. If nothing else, the Recommended Components is a nice summary of relatively recent reviews in Stereophile, organized by type of equipment. That helps a lot if you're shopping for something.

But no matter how the "grading" is done, it would be silly for a buyer to place too much weight on that. A listener could easily prefer a class B component to a class A component, for example. Ultimately, you have to check things out for yourself. Particularly true with speakers, IMO.

Would be nice if reviewers could more often compare components of a similar class head to head. For example, we've now got rave reviews of the Rega Apollo and the Marantz SA-8001, which cost about the same. But we don't know which one of them the reviewers would prefer if they listened to both in the same system.

whart
whart's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 12 2006 - 4:38am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

At the risk of sounding like I'm bitching, rather than offering constructive criticism, Stephen's description of the process makes it sound more like: "Recommended Components by individual reviewers at different times without taking into account other equipment by the same manufacturer." I guess that's a pretty long banner for the magazine cover.
It should reflect consensus- and despite the appearance of a 'guide' to components, it does not have to have 30 different components in each category, let alone each class.
While good ol' whatsisname has his quirks, and never does undertake the further investigations and reviews he promises, his attempts to summarize the state of the high-end periodically not only describe equipment, per se, but also the learning and listening process associated with new equipment, or equipment combinations that elevate the state of the art and shed some perspective on how we listen to reproduced music.
Perhaps that is not the objective of the Recommended Components list, but it does suggest that it reflects some advance thought in making a recommendation on behalf of the magazine, not the individual reviewers, and it sounds like it is nothing more than a patchwork of blurbs from various reviews over time. Which was my point. Not saying it would be easy, either, but maybe you guys (are there any girls?) should sit around the proverbial table a couple times a year, or even once a year. I suspect, though, that part of what drives this list is the manufacturer's opportunity to badge its product advertisements with " Stereophile Recommended Component- Class __." Sorry to be cynical.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Recommended Components- Redux


Quote:
I suspect, though, that part of what drives this list is the manufacturer's opportunity to badge its product advertisements with " Stereophile Recommended Component- Class __." Sorry to be cynical.

This is absolutely wrong. Our editorial content is created for the readers.

dcstep
dcstep's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2007 - 4:59pm
Re: Recommended Components- Redux


Quote:
...It should reflect consensus- and despite the appearance of a 'guide' to components, it does not have to have 30 different components in each category, let alone each class.
While good ol' whatsisname has his quirks, ...

I think that expecting a consensus would be unrealistic and limit the usefulness of the exercise. After all, we come to know the reviewers and their quirks. I, for one, add my past experience with the reviewer into reading between the lines of his review(s).

I began reading audio mags back in the 1960s (Audio, Stereo Review) and got into "high end" mags (Audio Critic -- low brow, but an "interesting" read) in the mid-1970s. You learn the personality of the publication and the individual reviewers within the magazine.

We don't expect a consensus about music reviews (do we?) so why would we expect it for equipment. Yes, my approach requires an "experienced" reader, but I don't think there's any shortcut. Yes, newbies will come along and just check the list and order their components. Worse things could happen. That same thing happens with cars, houses, entertainers, etc. Sad, but true.

Dave

PatrickD
PatrickD's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 26 2007 - 7:37pm
Re: Recommended Components- Redux

I am still confused though -- MF raved about the Focal Electra 37BE with the concluding phrase: "I can't imagine a better $11,000 candidate than the Focal Electra 1037 Be", yet it comes in as Class B while the similarly priced Merlin and a much cheaper Vandersteen Quattro make it to Class A. All were reviewed by Mikey so there is a basis for comparison here. Did other reviewers weigh in and shift the resulting view??

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading