The Music Goes Round & Round Page 2

John Atkinson: But that's why people buy magazines with reviews—they want to purchase the "best," absolute, not just the best for them

Ivor Tiefenbrun: We live in an age when everyone is saying "Tell me who to marry!," "Tell me what to buy!," "Tell me what to do!" To me it doesn't matter what the person buys; what matters is that they chose whatever it is. That's what the component audio business is all about. And what I've always tried to do is get the retailer to demonstrate the product so that the customer can exercise his own judgment, and know why he's bought whatever he's bought.

The idea that turntables can sound different is something that people still find hard to handle—it is quite a new concept because it's only been around about 100 years. When we said turntables sound different, we never said ours was better than everybody else's (but we knew it was); what we said was that a turntable should be judged like a loudspeaker, it should be chosen on the same basis. We demonstrated that there was a difference. In a sense we had discovered that two plus two equals four. Anyone who thought knew that anyway. But in an industry full of loonies, that gave us a monopoly of the truth. The result is that instead of saying, "That's obvious, that's sensible, anyone can add up two and two, not just Linn"—everyone reacted against it.

The issue is reviews, however, and to me a review should be factual. Here's a product, we'll judge it by what the manufacturer says about it. Then we'll report on how it sounded. Take car reviews—they check out what the manufacturer has done, then they drive it and say how it felt. Now that's quite interesting. It assesses in a critical way what the manufacturer's claims are and then it tells you what the reviewer thinks. But when you confuse the two and the reviewer tries to be some kind of guru, and makes statements that he's not competent to make . . .

Riendau: The way a review should come out is not "Ivor is crazy and all the other people are nice"; it should create an excitement around the products, make people want to go and listen. A guy could go to the store and ask the dealer to set up the turntables, and if our job were done properly, Oracle could be properly set up, and . . .

Tiefenbrun: The marketplace decides.

Riendau: Long-term you're right, but after The Absolute Sound review [of the SOTA], I had many people who called or walked into my dealers to ask if they stocked SOTA, and before the dealer could say "No, but we do have Oracle," the guy was off. That's the kind of shit that happens with these reviews.

Charlie Brennan: I don't think we're against a product getting a good review, but even if the guy reads a review that says the SOTA is the best thing since time immemorial, he should have the chance to compare it with something else.

Tiefenbrun: If a guy comes in and wants to buy a turntable, say he wants to buy a Linn, then we say "Give the guy a dem." The object is not to sell the turntable, the object is that the customer should know why he bought what he bought. Because if you don't do that, then the whole business gets eroded. You might as well sell it by mail order. A lot of people want that, in a sense; they don't want any doubt cast on their decision.

Brennan: People don't want to exercise judgment; it's a dangerous thing to introduce. They want to have their minds made up, they don't want to test drive a car. By and large, they want to buy Car & Driver, read "This is the one to buy," and go away and buy it.

The conversation returned to the specifics of AHC's review.

Tiefenbrun: This is the kind of thing that drives me to distraction: [reads] "The fact that Linn Sondek's advertising has made a British cult out of buying a comparatively high-priced Linn turntable—even for comparatively low-priced components—has no justification other than profits for Linn." The guy is trying to make a statement over a wide spectrum, he is trying to make the definitive judgment on turntables. What really irritates me is that the writer is trying to write the last article on turntables. If there were never going to be another, then it would be worth looking at the global picture, but as it is likely that in the next couple of days there will be another article on turntables, I don't see that it's valid.

Another thing: [reads] "There is no change in the character of the sound from the outside to the inside of the groove, as often happens on turntables . . . that lack an effective clamping system"—especially if you play a record! Now whether or not you have a clamp is a complex issue—it is part of the whole design of the turntable—but the change between the inside and outside of a record is a function of the geometry of the record, not of a clamp. The grooves on the inside are smaller in diameter than the ones on the outside, and no clamp in the world will change that effect. Anyone who actually looked at a record would know that. This outrageous statement devalues anything else the man has to say.

Brennan: It also introduces a language that is meaningless. People read that stuff and it seems simple enough to understand—"Ah yes, I must use a clamp to avoid the change from the outer to the inner grooves!"—it is a simple idea.