Manufacturer Meets Audio Reviewer: Not your Average Love Story

Boy meets girl.
Boy and girl fall in love.
Boy and girl live happily ever after.

This is the traditional fairytale romance we've all been spoon-fed from birth. You know, Disney, unicorns, white picket fences, medieval castles, Ryan Gosling, etc, etc. There are many variations, but each one essentially tells the same story.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, reality often falls quite short of fairytale, and very rarely is one story identical to the next. Modern romance is often more like this:

Boy meets girl (one of many) online.
Boy asks girl out on a date.
Girl graciously accepts boy's invitation.
Girl enters the date hopefully, but realistically, and without any preconceived notions.
Boy, on the other hand, enters the date with a single desire: to get laid (footnote 1).

The cycle of dates perpetuates. Some end in physical intimacy (to varying degrees), while others do not. The ones that do not may be revisited in the future (with varying outcomes), or not at all (also to varying degrees). There are infinite possibilities.

The outcome is not as important as the chain of events leading up to the outcome. And the chain of events is not as important as the inexplicable inner complexities of the female mind. Her decision to participate, or not, in intimate physical acts with the boy can be attributed to: her current state of romantic affairs; her predisposition towards blondes rather than brunettes; her indescribable desire for "more"; and so on and so forth. Will the world ever really know?

Let's apply everything we learned above to the fascinating industry of hi-fi reviews. Following this primitive logic, Boy = Manufacturer or PR Rep; Girl = Reviewer (footnote 2); Physical Intimacy (to varying degrees) = Review (also to varying degrees); and Date = Wining and Dining.

Let me address a few things:

  • The boy could be a perfect gentleman: the splitting image of James Dean, the prized bachelor of the century, the perfect lover written into the world by Jane Austen herself. Sadly, that could still mean nothing to the girl.

  • The dinners could all be at Michelin 3-starred restaurants with all of her favorite foods. The girl wants to be impressed. She wants to fall in love, to be swept off her feet, to ride off into the sunset with her Prince Charming. She appreciates the meals, the attention, and the chivalry. But that doesn't guarantee that she'll sleep with him.

  • And even if the date does go well, hell!—even if the next 500 dates go well, even that doesn't guarantee that she'll love him unconditionally forever.

Let's take it one step deeper, throw back a shot of whisky (neat, please), and briefly assume the persona of Fight Club's Chuck Palahniuk at his crudest. [Plot Twist!] Ready? Okay.

  • If a manufacturer will stop at nothing for a positive review, what is that equivalent to in our former analogy? Worst-case scenario: the manufacturer is a violator or the reviewer is a prostitute. Best-case scenario: the review is falsely contrived and fools no one. (If you can believe it, I'm generally a decent human being, but I'm busy being Palahniuk right now, and so should you.)

  • If a manufacturer expects every reviewer in the world to produce a positive review and can't take "no" or a slightly critical review for an answer, he's a weak, misogynistic, self-centered pig. None of us are beautiful, unique snowflakes, okay?

Perhaps you, reader, think this may be an exaggeration. But it is not, for two core principles lie beneath it all:

1) A manufacturer's top priority should always be in creating the best product possible for the consumer. Yes, even if that means receiving the occasional less-than-stellar, brutally honest review—or no mention at all.

And 2) A reviewer's main allegiance should always lie with the readers (footnote 3). No, not the advertisers, not the manufacturers, and not even the chivalrous Michelin-starred-restaurant-takers.

Hi-Fi reviewing certainly has the potential to be as beautiful as true love. Modern romance, too, has the potential to be as simple as a traditional fairy-tale romance. All it requires is an ethical gentleman who understands his limitations, and a classy woman who understands her worth. Let's try to keep it that way.

Epilogue: I am not yet a reviewer, nor do I pretend to understand what it's like to be one. The general concept is inspired by a few first-hand interactions, but the rest are just my humble musings from various "behind-the-scenes" witnessings.—Jana Dagdagan

Footnote 1: This is not to say that the boy is not a gentleman. He very well could be. Regardless of how chivalrous he is, the boy in this scenario is still fixated on the end game. Keep reading.

Footnote 2: Oh, the irony.

Footnote 3: Without readers, our entire industry would collapse. Thus, it makes perfect sense that readers are the body. Readers must be respected with total honesty. Breaching the trust of a reader is as fatal as breaching the rights of a fellow human being. It is, indeed, that serious.

Bill Leebens's picture


Herb Reichert's picture

Incredibly nice piece of writing Jana. And Bill, the phrase "Asylum boys" has a nice ring to it - I may have to steal it.

Venere's picture

I suspect most reviewers (of all kinds, not just audio equipment) start off with an idealistic attitude and good intentions, but over the years become somewhat jaded and cynical due to the unavoidable "business" end of the job, and the pressure that manufacturers can exert on their media "friends". Using your romance analogy, it's sort of like the evolution from the excitement of young love to the cynicism of the twice divorced doctor visiting his divorce attorney to iron out the details of his third divorce or his latest pre-nup agreement. But hey, keep that honeymoon feeling as long as you can. I noticed you said you weren't a reviewer yet. You are off to a good start, make it happen.

tgibbs's picture

But my experience as a reviewer with the vast majority of manufacturers ends with me going home alone and jerking off -- and moving on to the next review subject! Building any kind of relationship with a manufacturer is a slippery slope, indeed.


Eoldschool's picture

In my opinion, reviewers have a responsibility to be ethical and honest. The other way is only self-serving at best. I'm excited that you chose the honest and ethical path and you see things so clearly. Keep that clarity going Jana, resist temptation of the one night stand or the weakness to the dazzler type, the audio industry/hobby needs people like you! I could tell you were this way from your very first article!
At the end of the day what we all should keep in mind is that reviews and such are just opinions (outside of any scientific measurements and other tangible facts that may or may not be mentioned). The bottom line, the only thing that really matters are our individual needs and ears. Reviews are meant to be rough guides and not more than that.
What can I say, except that I am loving it and very appreciative!

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

What is the role of the reviewer? What is the purpose of the review? Who benefits? Who does not? All very interesting questions. But will they be the same answers for every permutation of the equation?

For example, is there only one role for a reviewer?

Will there be only one party harmed by a good/bad/false/"overly true" review?

Is "bias" bad? If not, what does that say about the publisher or reviewer or the end-product? If so, where does bias arise, and how many steps are required to address it, and who's responsibility is this, and what does it mean when those steps are satisfied -- or not?

All interesting questions, and yes, there's a bit of a rabbit-hole here. But complexity lurks happily under the guise of simplicity -- and is that an issue?

Venere's picture

While these "relationships" in reality might not be as clear-cut as Jana would like them to be, I don't think they are nearly as complicated as you make them out to be. At the risk of being naïve, the role of each party in this process is pretty well defined if they are both ethical and honest. The manufacturer builds the best product they are capable of; if they are proud enough of the results to seek other opinions, they submit the product to a magazine of website for review; and the reviewer writes and honest and unbiased review of his or her own OPINION of how the product fares against it's competition. While deviation from that process may be commonplace, it's not what the readers expect or deserve, it's not "fair" practice, and it shouldn't be considered acceptable by any of the parties involved. Seems reasonably simple to me.

Anton's picture

When Stereophile readers were faced with a previous flood of monthly reviews of Musical Fidelity products, this very topic came up. JA replied that there was a paucity of manufacturers who would go to the time and effort to offer/provide review material. Hence, the preponderance of Musical Fidelity reviews.

The view from this current entry makes it seem as if there are a veritable plethora of breathless suitors trying to get reviewers to 'swipe right.'

There must be cycles to all of this.

Then, putting this blog entry in context with Art's recent tale of unethical review practices by other periodicals and it makes me wonder 'what up' to see these overlapping opinions pop into the zeitgeist of Stereophile's stable like this.

Any dish for us?

Venere's picture

Coincidence? I think not. BTW, while I enjoy reading many audio review publications, I learned long ago that all these folks OPINIONS (whether ethically arrived at or not) may or may not jive with my own likes and dislikes. I rarely read a bad review of anything, and I often read rave reviews of products that I don't particularly like or products that sound wildly different. They can't all be wonderful. No review can replace the potential buyers own listening sessions and conclusions since each of us has our own priorities, biases, and perhaps even differences in our personal hearing or listening habits. Anyone who places the opinions of a reviewer above their own judgement is likely to be disappointed in the long run.

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

I've written about this all before, so not to belabor a point, but when you take a audio review to be an entry in Consumer Reports, or a passage in the Bible, you're asking for trouble. If, rather, you take a review as a movie write up in the weekend section of the NYT, things get more interesting.

The ultimate judge isn't going to be "someone else", regardless of that other's status or history. No review ought to, or can, take the place of personal experience. Similarly, just because a reviewer loves or hates in their review, it doesn't necessarily follow that you (or anyone) will.

There are, for example, connoisseurs that shudder at the thought of a tonality of a 211 vacuum tube, others whose soul shrinks at the lack of bass in a 2A3, others that say that the mid-range of the 301b is so enthralling that all other sins must be forgiven, and still others that find all three forgoing groups (overlapping or not) completely insane.

It's like saying "Pinot Noir forever!" at a Cabernet convention, and not expecting a riot -- or doing the same at a bourbon tasting and expecting something other than quizzical looks or outright derision.

This is art -- or, more specifically, art criticism. There is just no reasonable expectation that we all will like the same things. Else, why is there ever variation?

Where things go kattywompus is when money gets involved.

It's not quite so simple as to say that the artist creates and the critic critiques. In the case of audio at least, livelihoods are at stake. Which tends to make some folks quite twitchy.

A. Hourst's picture

Part-time, I don’t know why it’s that much important for you to relate audio with other form of arts (or yourself with art critics), but it’s clear from here that you miss the point. The main goal of audio is to replicate a sonic event with as much fidelity as possible. Boring but true. Bryston engineering ain’t Picasso… Audio is not an expression medium but a transmission tool. The biggest lie of the audio reviewing community have been to convince themselves, and their readers, that they belong to some sort of art-appreciation culture, similar to wine “connoisseurs” and other fancy people with good taste. A Jadis tube amp is art… yeah right. No wonder why audiophiles crave for the kind of pedantic recognition other snobbish artistic field receive: the less you’ve got, the more you want. This confusion serves nobody, and is maintained by reviewers who are lacking in humility...

Anton's picture

So, for a studio recording, what are we replicating?

I presume you would say, "The master tape."

Then, what is the final arbiter of replicating that master tape, and how do we know when we are best replicating it?

That's a wonderful topic! I don't have a 'written in stone' answer.

Also, I hear people say that they want to recreate the original live experience in the listening room. But, if one wasn't there, how does one know? And, how does one know if the master tape even contains the information necessary for this desired recreation?

I don't think we all share the same goal, and we certainly can't be at all certain we are attaining what the second word of our hobby calls for - fidelity.

I am settling for whatever the sound is that, for me, gives me the most plausible and pleasing subjective sensation of experiencing a recording.

I love your post, I think we can't yet aspire to your ultimate goal. So, we each pick our favored way of coming up short.

A. Hourst's picture

There is a fundamental distinction to be made between creation and reproduction, and I think the line is blurred in the mind of many people. To which extent the reproduction is faithful is the subsequent, consequential question. The only fact that the vocabulary is different : "fidelity" "accuracy" "linear" "distortion" should lead us to the inherent nature of audio (each point toward a reference), which is more science than art.

Anton's picture

I can see your point, but so many other factors get in the way that I think we end up with science and art at the same time.

Design decisions have to be made that affect performance and price where "art" and a designer's "vision" have to come into play. How to manage cabinet resonance, how to generate frequency response and dispersion, how a product is able to drive different speaker loads, how to anticipate room interactions, what to give up in order to get back on some parameters, how to arrive at a price point, how to avoid unpleasant harmonic generation, how much power to provide, how to best track an LP groove, etc...

I think there is a lot of art and personal philosophy to go with all the science of design.

I can absolutely see your "science" description, and that is absolutely necessary to engineer good products, but then art comes into play when we are faced with balancing all the trade offs.

So, I am sticking with "both!" as my answer!

In all likelihood, we probably agree around 98%, however!

A. Hourst's picture

Science doesn't mean "there's only one way of doing things". I think science can be similar to art, because both involves intuition and creativity. But audio is a very well understood field of science and I think that the association of audio and art that many people are pushing, these days, is not innocent at all. They want you to believe that we can't, or shouldn't, rigorously test audio devices. They want us to consider audio reviews like "movie write up in the weekend section of the NYT".

Anton's picture

I think we only differ in that I call the "intuition and creativity" part a way of being artful.

Also, I think some editorializing of a piece of gear's measurable attributes as a bit of art, too.

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

Oddly, the very idea that there is "one main goal of the audio" is borrowed (paraphrased) from a particular audio reviewer. Even more interestingly, that reviewer has a peculiar and distinct history with a different magazine. For the record, "Ultimate Fidelity" is also a notion that I happen to disagree with. But it doesn't matter if you agree or disagree -- that's moot -- but also, and contrary to your statement, that is almost entirely the point. Unlike Consumer Reports, there is no one-best-answer in reviews/reviewers -- Instead, there are many. My take is that the "best way" to handle that diversity is to find the reviewer that best aligns to you and your needs/interests.

Side point -- the fact that you are here, commenting on this thread instead of a similar thread over on that other magazine, tells us that this diversity of approach means something to you.

The whole humility thing falls here, in this reviewer selection process. As does humor, specs/charts, photos, or whatever. That is, it's about finding the set of providers/reviewers that give you whatever it is that turns your crank. Again, no right or wrong here -- and assuming that there is a right or wrong is not only confused, it shows a remarkable lack of ... humility.

But to separate your threads -- as I hoped was fairly clear, I was talking about "audio reviewing" not "audio". Painting is art. Making high-end audiophile amps, arguably, is also art (else, why are we not shopping at Best Buy again?). Writing about painting is art-crit. Likewise, writing about audiophile gear. Failing to understand the relationship between creator and creation (to use some highfalutin words) is a great way to get hung up on interesting, but not necessarily relevant, issues.

A. Hourst's picture

Part-time, a fairly fresh student from the electronic engineering school can design an amplifier that will be undistinguishable, in a blind test, from any other amplifier that doesn’t alter the sound (or even one that does, for that matter). And that includes mega-buck realisations from the “high end”. You can’t say that about an art student in relation to, say, Rembrandt… I think this summarize the question.

Speaking of humility, audio reviewers have failed to recognize that electronics and other equipment with very similar performance numbers (distortion under the threshold of audibility for example), before we can speak of their “sound”, have to be listened blind to ensure that a difference can be heard to begin with. That’s accountability and honesty in audio reviewing, and it should come before glossy descriptions of sound. I think that saying that “audio gear is art” is a lame justification for not doing so.

Who spoke of “right” or “wrong”? I was talking about an objective reference, which is the source. If that doesn’t turn your crank and you need ketchup on your steak, go for it… but don’t tell me you’re into fidelity.

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

Blind test? As an arbiter of truth? That seems perilous. But if you want that, the suggestion I was making was: go find the reviewers that do that. Asking all writers to do that is like saying all cars ought to be a Ford Taurus, or be candy-apple red, or use all-season-tires. To which we can say, "boring."

I will offer that fetishizing "objectivity" is even more problematic than embracing diversity. Whose objectivity? Which measurements? In what environments? The fact is, humans are really bad oscilloscopes. So, where lies truth when we cannot even agree on what the results might mean (semantics), much less, what the tools are (metaphysics), or how they might even be "best used" (epistemology)?

Given that there's no such thing as an idealized agent (my ears are not yours, and my experiences are not yours, and my preferences are not yours, ad infinitum), it's unclear what overgeneralization might mean. We all know that every room is different. That every listener is different. That every experience by every experiencer is different. And no, these are not just trivial differences. But when all we have are plots and curves, why does that make it better than knowing that Art Dudley really likes steak overcooked, that John Atkinson only eats steak with sauce, that Jason Sirenus prefers flavor over texture, that that Michael Fremer doesn't even eat steak at all? Are they unqualified to eat steak? Or, better still, tell you about that experience in words or terms or with illustrations or analogies that they find apt or moving or on-point? I wanted to know about the experience of steak. The fact that the steak was 8.3 oz, was dry aged, or came from a grass-fed cow, or is a Grade A cut -- all that's interesting. But that was all on the spec sheet. None of that tells me the one thing I was curious about: did they like it?

The point is that "fidelity" is only one goal. Might be yours. If so, great. But assuming that it is everyone's is going to mislead you.

A. Hourst's picture

"None of that tells me the one thing I was curious about: did they like it?"
First thing to know is "does it make a difference to your ear". Before making a judgment of value you must be able to prove you can hear it. Basic epistemologic principle (you will like it). Hence blind listening tests. I don't ask everybody to do it, I am criticizing the pseudo-justifications against it.

About objectivity. Take a glass-maker analogy. If you put a sheet of glass in front of the Mona Lisa, you want it to be perfectly transparent, because the piece of art isn’t the glass itself but the painting behind. Now it is possible to make art with glass, just visit a cathedral in Europe. But you won’t put stained-glass in front of a painting, unless you want to change its meaning... In audio there exist “one main goal”, it is to be as transparent as possible. The piece of gear shouldn’t interpret what it’s being fed. That's not fetichism, that's a guiding principle.

To say that everybody's ear is different and blathering about the fact that we all have preferences is to duck the issue.

John Atkinson's picture
A. Hourst wrote:
A fairly fresh student from the electronic engineering school can design an amplifier that will be undistinguishable, in a blind test, from any other amplifier that doesn’t alter the sound (or even one that does, for that matter).

This zombie belief continues to raise its head, decades after blind testing of amplifiers of amplifiers found audible differences. Check out my essay at to see what I think of the "prove it with a blind test" cult.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

A. Hourst's picture

“My essay”. Speak of self-referencing…
All I can see from “your essay” is that it’s very important for you to be able to look at the nameplate before you make judgment (sneaking at the nameplate probably allows you to “prove a negative”, or enable you to produce “valid results” without becoming “a lengthy and time-consuming affair”, etc. etc.). I can see that you’ve put a lot of effort into your rationalizations. Your theory about how the test procedure could adversely influence the sensibility of the listener because of stress reminds me of those charlatans who couldn’t reach people from the afterlife because there was “bad spirits” in the room…
I didn’t say “all amplifiers sound the same”. Read again.
It’s a joy to read you, Mr. Atkinson. You’re truly on to some serious stuff. You should step in more often.

ChrisS's picture

Who in the entire industry of audio manufacturing and reviewing does blind testing?

ChrisS's picture

...students" with their "un"distinguishable amplifiers? Why aren't there any of these amplifiers touted in WalMart or Radio Shack?

Why are there no Henry Fords or Model Ts in audio?

ChrisS's picture

What you believe about the "sound" of audio and what you propose for audio reviewing exists nowhere in the entire audio industry.

A. Hourst's picture

My pleasure.

ChrisS's picture

"PSB makes some darned nice speakers..."

"B&W makes a darned fine speaker, too..."

"You can learn a lot from blind tests, but not everything..."

The conclusions from this one session? There are none.

Has The Absolute Sound, Playback, or HiFi+ done any blind testing before or since this session in 2012? Has PSB?

Again, what are the conclusions? And, who does this to review headphones?

Oh yes, you are welcome...

ChrisS's picture

Really? There's nothing that looks like sliced bread here!

ChrisS's picture

...Blind Testing on the internet should tell you why blind testing (especially, double blind) is not done in Audio Reviewing.

WELquest's picture

I'm fond of noting that the difference between good and bad hi-fi is how long it takes before the inevitable onset of fatigue. Another way to phrase that is that it is not engineering but artistry which determines whether the difference between audio perfection and audio reality favors enjoying music, or gets in the way of enjoying music. Those who don't recognize the choices that must be made in an imperfect world usually make the less useful product. William Low/AudioQuest

Anton's picture

This post about reviewers and manufacturers is a little ironically hetero-normative for a blog entry that uses a picture of James Dean as it's icon for "Boy meets girl, Boy and girl fall in love, Boy and girl live happily ever after premise."

Maybe you could post a pic of Rock Hudson, instead.


Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Thank you.

John Atkinson's picture
Anton wrote:
This post about reviewers and manufacturers is a little ironically hetero-normative . . .

Well, d'uh. All Stereophile's contributors write from their own perspective. As Jana is a straight woman, that's her perspective. However, my wife wishes, from her perspective, that Jana's piece had been illustrated with a photo of Colin Firth as Mr. D'Arcy

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Anton's picture

JA, my post was a James Dean joke.

I don't mind if someone writes from his/her own perspective, and I have spoken up in favor of that in the past.

I just thought it was funny that she'd post a pic of a gay man with the caption of "Boy meets girl, etc..."

I don't care if she posts a pic of Eric Clapton to start an entry about famous piano players, either. But, I may joke about it.


On the plus side, I should just count my blessings that Robert Baird didn't roll in and start disparaging James Dean because Dean was popular.

michaelavorgna's picture supporting the narrative. The fact of the matter is, James Dean was one handsome man. Even if he wasn't interested in having sex with women, women were interested in having sex with him. Illusion meet reality.

Anton's picture

But, in that case, the author's descriptions of the potential outcomes of the events in question will never lead to a happy ending.

michaelavorgna's picture


dalethorn's picture

There are many possible happy endings, for those who have a little imagination.

John Atkinson's picture
michaelavorgna wrote:
The fact of the matter is, James Dean was one handsome man. Even if he wasn't interested in having sex with women, women were interested in having sex with him.

As I understand it, James Dean was interested in having sex with men and women . . . I read a while back that he had a sustained affair with Geraldine Page and at the time of his death he was dating an Ursula Andrews.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

michaelavorgna's picture

Even better!

Anton's picture

Who'd a thunk we'd drift from corruption in audio reviewing to discussing James Dean's beards?

That is the power of audiophilia.


I have to drive to Santa Barbara frequently to transport the kid to school and I like to stop at James Dean Memorial Junction and say hello and try to recreate what happened.

Just a series of unfortunate events that day.

I also have visited Dealey Plaza several times and can state definitively that Oswald acted alone.

On the darker side, we had a family friend who tried to sneak around Area 51 and was found dead in the middle of a sandy area with no footprints around the body - his, or anyone else's. His camera was open and the film missing. The government ruled it a suicide.

jimtavegia's picture

Sadly, On-Line dating often goes worse than on-line writing. Those are brave folks.

dalethorn's picture

I followed this well during the lead-up, i.e. Scott Adams tells the story bluntly in The Dilbert Future: "When we're in a meeting sitting across the table from you (you being attractive etc.), whatever you're thinking about, we're thinking of having sex with you."

But then the article went from reality to fantasy, to say that a mfr's top priority should be the product and the reviewer's top priority the readers. That's like saying "When we get married and have a kid, we will totally dedicate ourselves to raising the kid right, with perfect discipline, with the right friends (and not just the most easily available), using nearly all of our discretionary time to teach our kid all the things she/he needs to know to perform at his/her maximum potential."

Jim Smith's picture

When I was the North American distributor for Avantgarde Acoustics from 2000-2005, I had encounters with very well known reviewers. I took for granted the ethical guys (yes, that would include Stereophile), but I was shocked at the quid pro quo expectations of some mags and reviewers. It wasn't pretty, nor did it smell nice.

I'll never forget it, and to this day, I try not to read the opinions & comments from those folks.

christophervalle's picture

...what Stereophile will do to accommodate a female writer. A strained analogy, written awkwardly and exhaustingly, perpetrated by someone who is "not yet a reviewer, nor do I pretend to understand what it's like to be one." You certainly did pretend, but that is certainly not my point.

• This piece belongs in the drivel bucket
• This industry is so completely male dominated that
they will flip sideways to accommodate a female presence

Jana, if your photo hadn't been published with your first piece or if you looked like Hillary Clinton, the feedback would have been drastically different.

Anton's picture

Dude, if she looked like Hillary Clinton that would have simply demonstrated that she looks like the industry standard male audio reviewer.

I don't buy your premise. As beautiful as Stephen Mejias was (is,) that never seemed to temper anyone's appreciation for his work. His work, Jana's work - they all stand alone quite nicely apart from any visual asthetic. We are after all, more about sound in this hobby!

Eoldschool's picture

I think Jana made it clear enough in her first piece that it’s not about gender. It’s about music and audio which really is not gender specific. Just because one doesn’t understand what she said is no reason to attack.
To use the logic of the original comment above and take it to its conclusion one would be led to believe that women should not even be musicians, “that’s man’s work”. Sillier still would be to agree that there ought to be separate amps, preamps, speakers, turntables, DACs, CD players, etc. for women and separate ones for men.
As for Jana talking about some reviewers or not being one yet, etc. First of all, while one needs experience as a reviewer to know exactly what it’s like to be one, it is not that far a logical leap to know intuitively the ethical aspects and what the job means. It also so happens that I get the sense that Jana knows what she is talking about in those respects as I have held the same standards ideals of honesty and integrity for years. I’m not a reviewer, but I do know what is required, what the ethical standards are that must be upheld and I also happen to know a reviewer who is very ethical, honest and doesn’t play games. I also happen to know of a few other reviewers of the opposite ilk that I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them.

I think almost anyone of average intelligence knows BS when they see it. So it's not a stretch to assume that a lot of readers already know the score when reading any review. Those that take any professional review to heart as the final word and make purchases based on that are in for some real disappointment one way or the other.

Just judging by what pieces I have read from her so far, I think I can confidently state that Jana is no dummy. In fact, if I were a betting man, I’d venture to guess that she may be smarter than all of us.

Bottom line, the truth is that music is the most important thing, period, end of story and should be the core common thread among all of us humans regardless of gender, race, etc. I think that is Jana’s underlying message as well throughout her writings aside from the fact that she flat out states it in earlier articles.

The way I'm seeing it, that's all.

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

This is the kind of comment where any reasonable person has to wonder why you bothered. You actually had to go out of your way -- and for what -- just so that you could be a dick? You contributed a random mansplainin' vomit that you somehow believe qualifies as a valid opinion. But it's stunning that, because you bothered, is probably indicative that you actually felt that it was worth your time to offer it, and even more stunning, that your view is worth responding to.

Fine. So let me do that for you.

Christopher, you are what's wrong with forums. With the high-end audio industry that I really hope you are not a part of. With men generally.

You are an embarrassment. Your mom ought to be ashamed. Hell, I am ashamed for her.

christophervalle's picture

I didn't attack anyone. I didn't call anyone names. I criticized a piece of writing that I found wanting in all respects, and made an observation about women in this particularly male field and how they are treated. (And there have been numerous instances just like this one.)

Smell the glove, buddy.

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

If you had stopped with "I think this piece was shit", maybe you wouldn't have exposed your wildly rampant sexist bias.

But then you didn't. You followed up with an ad hominem attack. A blatantly sexist one.

And here you are, doubling down. Still not helping.

When you're in a hole, sometimes it helps to stop digging.

michaelavorgna's picture

...if you included a picture of yourself (wink).

Ya know, to divert attention from the fact that your comments are repellent.

rt66indierock's picture


Let’s start with footnote 3. You don’t have enough readers. Stereophile has about 35,000 subscribers with household income over $100,000. In 2013 there were about 22 million tax returns filed with gross income of $100,000 or more in the US. A recent poll by Strategy Analytics indicates about 12% of Americans listen to music though a component system. This would be about 2.6 million people who filed tax returns with income of $100,000 or more. Stereophile is reaching just over 1% of these people. Not enough to sustain an industry. And consistent with comments from manufactures that the high end market isn’t big enough to survive without mainstream products.

Unfortunately Hi-Fi reviewing can’t match true love. All a reviewer can do provide enough information to consider testing a product further and be an entertaining read. And of course try not to write anything that will be used against you. Like the part-time audiophile’s cricket test or a current favorite of mine that the only way to distinguish great wire is to listen to recorded orchestral music. Which I interpret as don’t listen to recorded orchestral music, celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday, the release of Blonde on Blonde, Pet Sounds, save the $7,500 cost of the wire and plan next month’s trip to see The Flatlander’s, happy stuff maybe even musical love.

True love musically is listening to your all-time favorite radio station over the air driving up Highway 1 in central California or listening to the Grateful Dead live at the Crystal Ballroom February 1969 on reel to reel. Music first, last and always. People seem to forget their stereo is a project that either meets their objectives or it doesn’t. A reviewer can assist with the time, cost, scope and quality of this project but each person must be their own project manager. This is hardly the stuff of true love.

As for James Dean, a prototypical bad boy not much else I can say.

Allen Fant's picture

I rather enjoy Jana's writing and look forward to her next piece.
I feel it is fair to say that the girl is interested in an end-result as well (getting laid). Nothing wrong with this at all in 2016.

Golden Ears's picture

I have audio as a hobby. I enjoy music and delight in the pleasure I can bring to a room. I was a high end DJ at one point ( yes such a thing exists) .

I have worked various shows working a room for a speaker manufacturer. Last Newport Show Stereophile said the speakers were one of the best 3 affordable ones at the show.

As a DJ I encounter lots of attractive women. And sometimes the best way to relate to a hyper attractive woman is to just treat them like a regular person. A gorgeous girl actually gets annoyed with seeming normal men stammer and stutter.

So when Stereophiles associate editor walked into my room, the manufacturer I was working for saw that and it might as well have been Sophia Loren to a teenage boy. That's how this particular manufacture responds to upper level reviewers. And that is why this piece for me is so funny because in good comedy there is always truth.

And there are reviewers who don't prostitute themselves, and the are reviewers who seem to think everything is nice. But I think many of us I the industry got into this industry not for the music ( because if we did we would have LP and CD collections costing 100 times more than the gear we own) but in part for the gear and the quality of music played back through a high quality system.

As a tuner, I'm sort of the make up artist and fashion photographer . ( being a hetero male it seems odd to admit that ) . I take a speaker with potential ( good frequency response, imaging, detail, and smoothness) , pair it with the right make up ( cables, amps ) , pose it ( position the speakers in the room- PERFECTLY , something it seems many other rooms struggle with) AND THEN WAIT for the dance to start.

Reviewers , as I found out, Have dating profiles. Some like tubes, some like solid state, some don't care about the bottom octave , etc.

And the manufacturer is trying to guess which reviewer would like his speaker the best to try to pursue a particular reviewer.

So when, after say 6 hi-FI shows of meeting reviewers in elevators a significant reviewer stumbles into the manufacturers room ( I only say stumbles because at the Newport Show the hospitality room is well stocked with free booze) .. The manufacturer acts like a supermodel walked into his dorm room. Because...well at shows its like a Warped version of a super expensive boarding school where every kids room has a $150,000 sound system. I went to a boarding school in Connecticut 1979-1981 and EVERY KID had an audio system that could rock the house. My roommate and I had about $20,000 of gear , reel to reel tape, 3 turntables , JBL 4351 custom studio monitors with (4) 15" woofers , 3 Bryston 4bs, Infinity RSM. But the hifi shows are even crazier.

I, at audio shows , when seeing a reviewer walk in the room, take a different tact . I try to treat them like any other person wandering in the room EXCEPT that I give them the center seat because to do otherwise would be disrespectful of their time.

And like the make up artist, I am supremely pleased with myself when the reviewer comments on the sound of the room. Because to me - it's a not an ORGY of stereo gear like the attendees at shows are drawn to. For me, it's a fashion show competition, to try to make up and pose my speakers better than any other room and the other 400+ Guys with one of audio measuring tools I can't afford. I just have my ears and I don't trust the data that I get from a lot of measurement tools because more often than not it is misleading and doesn't solve the issue.

At times I'm a matchmaker. This manufacturer speakers are sort of like wall flowers at a dance. They have great crossovers ( like a good personality?) but the dress the speakers are wearing is straight out of the 80's , remember the Oak cabinets? Well these are about as plain Jane box speakers as you can get. The WAF is pretty much ZERO. SO a top reviewer like JV who is used to seeing gorgeous finishes on speakers and exotic cabinets, probably would walk right by our room. The manufacturer isn't going to be at Newport 2016 or any shows this year so I can say this safely.

So what the heck gets a make up artist ( speaker positioner room tuner like me) giddy? The fashion designers that are true trend setters. Tim de Paravinci walked into the room last year , of course when I wasn't there...and when the turntable motor was off speed due to break in. I had snagged a Master tape and studio reel to reel ATR machine. And there was Tim dP messing with my 912 preamp trying to massage better sound out of a phono cartridge set up in a turntable I had abandoned because of the motor which finally died 2 hours later.

Sometimes I think the reviewer is the horny teen boy trying to get the manufacturer to put out on the first date. Not the other way around. Because I think reviewers got into it for the discounts and free gear and endless stream of first dates.

The manufacture also sits around waiting for a call back. I try as a make up artist and photographer to suggest a better wardrobe, maybe some lingerie that you can see- maybe lift your skirt a bit more ? ( we have crossover components sitting on tables in our room at every show) . I tell him, maybe you should have more models at lower prices , a teaser kiss perhaps ?

Maybe this is a lesbian relationship ?

How would I know as a hetero guy who uses his audio system like a proverbial dildo for women? Now that I have DEFINITELY offended the sensibilities of EVERYONE. I can say that what everyone is after is just good aural sex with their eyes closed.

... if you didn't know if it was tubes, solid state, planers, dynamic speakers, horns, plasma tweeters, guy or girl and just Turned off the lights closed your eyes and sat back Without prederilictions you might just have that elusive Eargasm you read about in a review.

But for many at the audio shows its like a massive NYC 1980's dance club, so much eye candy, so much to see, that you run from room to room giving fleeting glances to so many sparkling things and never getting to know anyone well enough that you end up going home alone back to the same girl you have been dating since highschool.