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RFTech65
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Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

November's review of the Zanden Model 5000/2000 D/A converter and transport four-box system makes my head hurt.

I'm seeing what amounts to a positive subjective review by
Mikey Fremer for thie 45,000 dollar DOG of a system, with
him glossing over flaws that would have had him or other
reviewers ranting and raving about how BAD they would be if
it were many other products.

JA's technical review listed so many flaws and examples of
simply BAD design and engineering that I literally got bored
when I set out to count up the many flaws mentioned.

Why can't you just come right out and admit that this 45,000
dollar pile of four boxes is simply junk that only manages
to do a passable job in the midrange, and be done with it?

Mikey makes "allowances" for fuzzy treble, missing-in-action deep bass, and then manages to fall all over himself praising the overall sonic character of this poorly engineered mutt in the same article. This, coming from a guy who picks nits over the subtle differences in the sound of one type of belt driving a turntable vs. another type, or different record mats?

This is tough for a rational guy like me to take.

Suddenly I'm forced to conclude that the ONLY way to pick
a CD player is to pick the one that you like the looks of
and which gives you the greatest pride of ownership. If
such a substandard dog can get a glowing review from Mikey and get its ass handed to it by JA in the same interview, clearly there's no further need to maintain the pretense that specifications matter in terms of sonic performance, or perhaps another way to think of it is that some people hear the harmonic distortion and think it sounds good as it warms up the sound. And I note that in one test, the Zanden achieved a THD + noise value "ridiculously high at 25.4%" to quote JA's technical review.

One man's "tube warmth" is another man's harmonic distortion.

I want my equipment to REPRODUCE the signal that's on the disc, not subject it to many additional flaws of its own.

Stereophile, for me, you lost a lot of credibility with this one. I suggest that you should, in the future, attempt to reconcile the subjective review with the technical evaluation and then consider carefully whether or not you even want to publish the review.

This should be one of those that wasn't published. I think
nobody who read it is going to want a Zander and it sure
didn't help your reputation, either.

RFTech65

Jeff Wong
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

Isn't it better to reveal the info (both good and bad) rather than suppress it as you suggest? It seems to me that publishing the review does more for Stereophile's credibility than suppressing the article. If it were to get out that the magazine suppressed the review just because the player didn't measure well (going against the full disclosure policy that demonstrates things are on the up and up), it would give ammo to all the trolls that take pot shots at the integrity of the magazine.

Reviews just serve as a guide -- the prospective buyer must make the final decision after listening for himself. The technical part of the review happened to be useful to you... you know not to bother to audition this product based on what you learned about it. The measurements carried more weight for you. Someone else might choose to try out the player based on the review because he or she values another aspect of playback.

RFTech65
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

I'd be more inclined to believe that nobody who read the entire review including the technical evaluation would be favorably inclined to even give the unit a serious audition.

That radically non-flat frequency response, missing-in-action bass, and astonishing 25.4% distortion measurement should be enough to steer most sensible listeners well away.

I think that reviews should be cross checked. Let the listening reviewer read the technical evaluation, and the technical evaluator listen to the unit for a while, and then let them add to their previous comments given their additional experiences. Publish that.

RFTech65

Jeff Wong
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

Read this...

Keeping those things separate prevents knowing the measurements from influencing the subjective review; it's far better that the two worlds only meet at publication time. A follow-up can provide the perspective you suggest.

Buddha
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

Hi, RFTech65,

I am in Jeff's camp on this. I don't see how it would lessen my opinion of Stereophile.

On the other hand, if you were to say it lessened your esteem for the reviewer, well, that's fair.

The magazine, especially JA, handled this perfectly, over-all.

The unit is a "prominent" piece of gear, so a review is in order.

The fact that they sent Stereophile a broken peice of equipment is important to know. Just think how they might treat a regular piece-of-crap customer if they can't get an intact piece to the industry's major consumer magazine. That's important for me to know.

JA's evaluation was the real meat of the piece. That part could have even stood up to exansion and further analysis.

A magazine that compares and contrats between the reviewer's experience and JA's evaluation should be applauded.

The reviewer, not to flame, should be a little embarrassed and contrite. His follow-up was way too predictable and perfunctory and CYA.

I'm also wondering if there may be a little of what I call "Wine Spectator" Syndrome in place.

In Wine Spectator magazine, if a wine is limited to way too few cases of production to ever hit the shelves and is cost prohibitive as well, that is the wine that typically gets a stratospheric score.

Yeah, perhaps it's all that, but it also becomes impossible to check it out and find out if the reviewer is FOS on the rating. If I can never get my hands on said wine, then the reviewer remains safe by saving his best ratings for those wines I'll never get my hands on.

Lately, some of that has been happening in Hi Fi. I'm not likely to challenge anyone's review of a 100K turntable, 15K interconnect, or 43K CD player. When these units routinely get tossed into new "A+" categories, who am I to question?

That being said, Analog Corner is full of approachable gear, so I don't mean all this as being of the opinion that Mike Fremer isn't a good reviewer. Maybe he's susceptible, as I maight be, to being romanced by the "Robert Redford" gear and gets a little start crossed with reviews of broken CD players.

Jeff Wong
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

BTW, RFTech65 - Welcome to the forum!

Yiangos
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

Welcome to the forum RFTech65
I am not sure if Jeff and Buddha said this in different words but whatever the measurments,if a piece of equipment sounds good to my ears,then it is good.What actually worries me,is how can anyone be 100% sure the ultra expensive cd player,or whatever else for that matter,he/she just bought is actually performing at 100% of how it is meant to perform,if manufacturers,especially hi-end ones,do not have strict quality control.

tandy
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

Hi Rf, and welcome.

I think I agree with Jeff on this one.

One thing I personally follow is.

If it specs good, it can sound either good or bad. If it specs bad, it cannot sound optimum.

commsysman
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

It seems to me that in reviewing a unit at that price point, the reviewer should simply take the attitude that there is only one question to be answered: Does this unit surpass everything else on the market; is it the new standard? That should be the point on which the article starts and concludes.

-9db at 24 HZ??? -3db at 65 HZ?? If I pay 40 grand for a CD player, it had better be ZERO db down at 24 HZ (and play SACD, too). My AYRE seems to do that for 6 grand and its sound is to die for. I do not see how a unit with such poor bass response can even be considered ACCEPTABLE as a high-end product, let alone praised.

From what JA found in his comparison to the Levinson, it can't reproduce organ pedal notes or large drums, and it distorts at high frequancies, but picky picky picky...it's only $40,000, after all. I guess I'll buy one, and if I need to reproduce anything but mid-range, I'll still have my AYRE for those recordings.

It seems to me that there is something that should have been said, namely: if the bass response is that rolled off, that can only be a deliberate decision by the designer. That would indicate that the designer felt that the unit is going to do ugly things at those frequencies if they are not intentionally suppressed. What the hell kind of engineering is that in a $1000 unit, let alone $40,000???

"at high levels, the Zanden just sounded more FUZZY"????
Wow, that sounds like the SONY FD-3030 I bought in 1984 for $300 at FEDCO. Sounds like real progress, there. ROFL!!!!!

It seems to me that dcs is Stereophile's de facto standard at this price level now, and the units should have been put side-by-side and compared extensively. I somehow think that the Zanden would have suffered in the comparison, if it was fair and thorough.

Lamont Sanford
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

The magazine is never going to come right out and say something is junk. That would be stupid. It would be like shooting an actual or potential advertiser in the foot. It would be like sending out a message to their customers that the magazine may come out and state their system is junk. You have to read between the lines to get the message. You seem to have done just that but built some sort of resentment as a result. Get over it. In fact, your entire argument is moot. You only reiterated that the article actually revealed the flaws.

CECE
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

When the designer is quaoted as to claim an OBSOLETE Philips chip is teh best sounding he thinks, and uses it in a $43K piece of crap....that would get me worried, this guy is not in touch. If it was the best sounding why did Philips bother moving on , developing SACD better DAC chips etc. Gee, why did they bother to make better optical drives, cheaper and better. Zander is stuck in 1990, and trying to convince some gullibale lover of distortion, this is what REPRODUCTION is, add lotsa DISTORTION and call it "musical". MF reviews are useless. I'm sure he also thought his $80K and $100K TT's are teh best sounding, those reviews are useless, he also hears demagnetized PLASTIC. If not for JA, StereoPhile would be also useless. Specs matter, fiction writers like MF sure know how to fill the pages with useless text. $3K CD player, it can't do other discs, is a 3 piece dumb unit. And it gets natioanl exposure in the magazine...yet other brands go un noticed, that actually offer performance and VALUE. Maybe MF wants to take SteroPhile to where MF's former Tracking Angle went, ...maybe MF should get real, and call a spade a spade, and a piece of junk what it is. come clean too, on demagnetizing PLASTIC. 25% distorion he thinks sounds good, no bass etc, yet he hears an improvement in demagnetizing PLASTIC, yeah, like he ain't making stuff up...get real. Might as well reveiw dog leashes and the effects on how it makes one dog sit better than the other leash. Can I get his job, I want to be a fiction writer....JA is the only one who saves the magazine with some sense.

nunhgrader
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

I think the review gives you enough facts and subjective opinion(s) to help you (the reader) understand the reviewer's observations AND JA's measurements so that you could form your own opinion. If someone was in the market for this unit, I'm sure they would try the unit before buying (they had better for 45k!).

I do understand the feeling that this unit may not be worth 45k however, imho neither the reviewer's nor Stereophile's credibility should be called into question for less-than-perfect specs/ extreme pricing. For less than the price of a new cd, we get to read several well written reviews and we are exposed to new, interesting products. Credible - your decision (and mine). Am I entertained, educated, and excited when I read the mag - definitely .

Welcome to the forums!

cyclebrain
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

So what you guys are saying is that you would prefer that all reviews were in agreement? Differing opinions are bad?

Monty
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

It's pretty darn hard to get any more transparent than Stereophile's process of reviewing equipment. If this sort of thing lessens your opinion of the magazine, I would only ask that you count on your fingers how many other media outlets offer such an open window into the inner workings and procedures of their organization.

As for MF, he's running a pretty decent surplus in his goodwill bank account and is probably bothered by this sort of thing more than he should be. I once listened to my system for 30 minutes before realizing I had my interconnects reversed. It probably would have taken me longer to start asking myself what in the Hell is going on had it not been for a recording I was very familiar with suddenly having instruments appear on the wrong side of the stage.

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and put the milk in the fridge after realizing you just stuck it in the pantry.

gdg
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

I think this just illustrates the point I made in an earlier post. The subjective evalution of audio equipment based arbitrarily on personal "preference" is sheer and utter nonsense. The ONLY standard involving perception (rather than measurememt) should be the acurate reproduction of live acoustic instruments. Just as importantly, for such an evaluationt to have any merit the evaluator MUST, as a fundamental prerequisite, have STRONG familiarity with the sound of said instruments. Evaluation based on purely subjective "preference" can only lead into a mental maze where all sense of relative direction and bearing is meaningless. IMHO this has been the unrecognized, and ever worsening, folly of the "audiophile" community for the last 10-20 years.

CECE
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

Mickey hears "residual" magnetism in plastic, and hears how good distortion sounds....now that's a useful set of ears. He was hearing how $45K should sound, and his abiltys are in doubt. And of course he has a $100K TT that sounds better than anything else. He also hears the $100K tag, not necessarilly it's sound. RockPort was the best at only $80K..before that Simon Yorke.....hmmmmm. What a useful reviewer. As useful as the "Tracking Angle" was....I think my 12-13 year old Philips CDC936 changer uses that best sounding TDA chip from Philips....Can i sell it at auction for thousand$? It now has a brand new optical pickup, CDM 12.1 Philips..concisdered to be the best sounding optical pickup wasn't it? No it can't be it was on sale for $18. Yup, the entire laser assy, brand new. What one did the Zander use...If ya tried ya couldn't find $1,000 in parts in that thing. With every result MF gives, there should be a test charting of his ears response from an audiologist. Mapingo discs, where are they now? Resurected as Ayre blocks? Different growth circles, different scam.

CECE
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

More J.A. less Mickey reviews. J.A. sticks to realitys, M.F. is in a world of nonsense. M.F. has to have a hearing defect. M.F. is enamored by the pricey toys, no matter how BAD they are. Measurements matter, John A. proves it everytime. good ears along with reality MEASURMENTS bring true value to a review. Leave out teh magic wires, blocks, blue tack,vacuum wires, air wires. The SCIENCE of audio cannot negate PHYSICS, no matter how colorful and delightful the ads are. Just like Jap aduio of teh 70's with lotsa lights and blinking crap, they still sounded bad. 21st century BS is just on a grander scale. Let's test M.F. and see if he can really hear the difference between his $100K spinning platter on a friggin' motor to an equally over priced(though, relativly mortal in this situation, $10K VPI. But then when you hear about $15K worth of useless wires, that's even more absurd. High end is doing itlsef in, HTIB for $500. Offers more abiltys and functions, and probably more enjoyment than anything that a $100K TT can ever do. Think of teh technology inside those HTIB, processors, switching, etc, rather remarkable actually.

Lamont Sanford
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Re: Zanden 5000 review damages S-Phile's credibility in my book.

Well, that is the just the invisible hand of supply and demand. Stereophile attempts to balance between scientific testing and keeping Stereophile a going concern. If you want a pure scientific review than start a weblog on the subject. Give the company a break. Overall, the product received a bad review. What do you want? A picture of the reviewer dumping a shit on the product? In other words, learn the "company language". You're intelligent enough to accomplish that basic skill.

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