How To Write Manufacturers' Comments Page 2

•Perhaps the classic way of responding to criticisms of some aspect of a component's sound is by acknowledging the validity of the criticism and then noting that the problem has been fixed in the latest version of the product. While you're at it, you might as well throw in a comment praising the reviewer's perspicacity in having identified this problem. "How astute of the reviewer to note that the midrange is slightly recessed, hiding, as it were, behind the treble! We, too, have noted this minor anomaly in initial samples of the Music Monitor R2D2, and have adjusted the crossover accordingly. Now the midrange is precisely aligned with the rest of the range." However, this approach should not be used too often, or readers may start to notice a pattern.

• The second classic way of responding to a less-than-positive review is by what we might call the Accuracy Defense. Played well, the Accuracy Defense can be deadly. "In designing the Utter Transparency Class F Dual-Chassis Monoblocks, our aim was a product that is accurate rather than one that just sounds 'nice.' The fact that the reviewer prefers certain competing products to our Class F Dual-Chassis Monoblocks indicates that he prefers euphonic colorations to true accuracy. Music is not 'nice' or 'pleasant'."

• Yet another tried-and-true defense is Blame the Supplier: "Unbeknownst to us, the manufacturer of the capacitors we use in the crossover substituted ceramics for polypropylenes." A slight variation of this defense is Blame the Staff: "The person who normally assembles our crossovers was sick, and, unbeknownst to us, the temporary help substituted ceramic capacitors for polypropylenes." Keep in mind that these defenses won't be effective unless you add "As it happens, of the thousands of pairs of speakers we've manufactured, the pair sent to the reviewer were the only ones to suffer from this problem."

• The use of denial, in the psychoanalytic sense, is sometimes an effective strategy: simply act as if a negative review is really a positive one. If the review ends with "Overall, this is the worst-sounding turntable I've ever tested," respond with "Thank you for taking the time to evaluate our attempt at advancing the state of the art in turntable design." You'll come across like a class act, and the reader may want to investigate the product further, if only to find out whether it's really as bad as the reviewer said.

• If the reviewer has made an obvious error in the physical or technical description of the product, this provides a golden opportunity to attack his credibility, but it must be done with subtlety. Don't say, "The reviewer describes the volume control as having 32 detents; in fact, it has 33. How can we take seriously the opinion of a person who can't even count?" Say, instead, "The volume control has 33 detents, one full detent more than the reviewer claims. Also, in our listening room, we find that this preamplifier has none of the 'toffee coloration' that the reviewer refers to."

• Responding to a positive review is a lot easier than responding to a negative one, but it does involve traps for the unwary manufacturer. Picking out and refuting minor negative comments in a generally glowing review draws attention to the negative aspects of the review and may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. What you must avoid is comments like "Although we agree with the reviewer that our $119 Wee Woofers are competitive with subwoofers costing up to $2500, we object to his description of the Wee Woofers' Genuine Vinyl Walnut (GVW) covering as 'looking suspiciously like plastic.' Production of the GVW material involves state-of-the-art technology, and we challenge the reviewer to tell the difference between GVW and walnut veneer under double-blind conditions."

• If the review is an unqualified rave, it's fine to express in print how pleased you are, but avoid the temptation to praise to the skies the reviewer's ears, honesty, musical taste, etc. Don't say "What makes the endeavor of working unendingly to advance the frontiers of audio worthwhile is the knowledge that our efforts are appreciated by this intellectual giant, this person of impeccable taste who is sensitive not only to the most subtle points of musical interpretation but also to the technical means by which we have transcended existing standards within the world of audio." Again, while all of this may be true, it seems just a bit self-serving, makes the reader wonder if the reviewer has a "special relationship" with the manufacturer, and, not to be forgotten, is a turn-off to other reviewers who may be evaluating your products in the future.

• Some manufacturers try to get in a comment every time one of their products is mentioned, even if it's only in the review of a competing product or in a Consumer Electronics Show report. This is a mistake: it gives the impression that you're desperate for attention and overly eager to use the free publicity that "Manufacturers' Comments" offers. Others affect an attitude of aloofness, seldom commenting on reviews, and then only in an extremely terse way. This, too, is a mistake: there is an opportunity for free publicity here, and a chance to tell your side of the story.

• Finally, any manufacturer who wishes to comment on these guidelines or on the author's sanity, honesty, musical taste, etc. is welcome to do so. Mark the envelope "Manufacturers' Comments."


dbowker's picture

One of my favorite sections too, and mostly for the unintended humor you just outlined. Given that you are such an intellectual giant with truly impeccable tastes that are beyond reproach, I can only conclude the obvious explanation: great minds think alike.