"But I Thought You Were My Friend!" Letters

A letter in response appeared in Vol.14 No.12, December 1991

But I thought you were my friend!
Robert Harley's "But I thought you were my friend!" article ("As We See It," September 1991) raises some interesting points. As a supplier of hi-fi equipment, I fall into the category of manufacturer vis-à-vis reviews.

Generally speaking, I am friendly with the press. Some of my favorite people even work for your august magazine. Sam Tellig (an old friend) has often taken pot shots at my products, and Corey Greenberg (friendship pending) even had the audacity to give a less than stunning review of the Revolver Turntable. Did I get annoyed with them? Of course I did. But not to the extent that I ignored them or stopped talking to them. Their opinions (and that's really all they are) are different from mine. They are entitled to express them. Of course, writing for a popular magazine gives them somewhat exaggerated power.

Robert Harley draws an imprecise parallel between a reviewer and a baseball umpire who "call[s] 'em as they see 'em." In baseball there is (presumably) only one umpire. In hi-fi there are as many umpires as there are reviewers. And they all have different opinions from one another. I have often seen products receive both good and bad reviews. The reviewer's job is a hard one. He tries to be objective, but what happens if the manufacturer's sonic ideals are totally different from the reviewer's? What if the manufacturer thinks that musicality is the most important feature and makes low-powered amps that sound good in a small space but can't fill the reviewer's large room? Does that make the sound bad? Obviously a good reviewer would listen to it in a smaller room if one is available. Often it isn't.

What if he has been living with a superb top-of-the-line system for six months and then has to review an inexpensive one? How objective can this umpire be? We all have our prejudices. An intelligent person recognizes them and makes allowances. Some reviewers do and some don't.

When I thanked Robert Harley two years ago for giving the Creek 4140s2 amp an excellent review, was I pandering to him? On the contrary, I was thanking him for understanding and correctly expressing the merits of the amp as I saw them. Good reviews help sell product. Bad reviews (as long as they spell my name correctly) also help sell product. The manufacturer who lives or dies by the review does not have a good product in the first place.

I do agree with Robert Harley that many manufacturers treat reviewers with false friendship. It's hard not to when reviewers wield such power. I have found that most of them seem to respond best to a healthy measure of derision. They do (as Robert points out) receive far too much artificial respect.

A hi-fi product must stand on its own merits and not on the opinions of a few individuals who may or may not like it.

As I write this, Robert Harley is reviewing one of my products, a Creek 6060 integrated amp. I know my comments will have no effect on the review.
---Roy Hall Music Hall, Great Neck, NY