Reading Reviewers

There are plenty of audio blogs. If they write well enough, and start writing “knowledgeable” reviews, a mag may just hire them…for compensation. Any reader of the audio magazines still extant, cannot escape the sense that if a person is writing equipment reviews for a living, they must know something. That is somewhat right and somewhat wrong. I have to think that any given hobbyist who can write a complete sentence is likely to tap out his/her opinion about great sound.

One catch-any given reviewer may have painfully limited experience and exposure. I once bought a pair of Coincident Troubadors from a guy who had praised them in a review in an audio magazine. He had raved about the speakers in the magazine and did so over the phone. As I probed just a little further however, I discovered these speakers were his third pair of speakers ever. Hmmm, an audio reviewer, a person of “authority” the proud owner of three sets of speakers, none priced above $1,500, crowing about these weird little speakers. They were decent, but flawed.

Secondly, reviewers work for others. Seasoned readers may remember Jack English, a reviewer for Stereophile some years ago. My own sense of his writing, his background and opinions was that he was sharp and knowledgeable, knew what he was talking about, and effectively described a product’s qualities, since, I actually purchased a few of the products he raved about and found them to be what he said they were. He is not longer writing for that mag, as of about 1999, maybe he’s retired, but it seemed a sudden departure with no explanation that I can recall and then the “feel” of reviews seemed to shift. Certain products seemed to get lots of great accolades and ads for their products were everywhere. You know where I”m going with this. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that maybe a guy like Jack English wouldn’t play that game.

I stopped reading these reviews about then. I started trusting certain insider folk, people in the business who are music-loving hobbyists at heart. People in the biz can get comped just about any equipment they might desire, so when you ask them what they have at home, what they actually own, you get some pretty good ideas what they think is pretty fine. Mark O’brien of Rogue Audio isn’t trying to coax me into some speaker brand when he tells me what he has in his living room. He’s heard his gear on a lot of fine speakers, so what does he own?

And of course, I started trusting my own ears more. I almost called my business “Your Own Ears Audio”. Problem was, lots of people who sit down in front of an audio system haven’t done it that much, or only at their house mostly, in their one room, with their own system. Or, they don’t have a system at all and they come and see me.

The thing I’ve learned is that one’s hearing gets better as it is used for critical purposes. Tune in one of those hunting shows on TV. Ever notice how the guide sees the prey about a half hour before the “hunter” does. Same thing. He is out there every day, using his eyes to make discernments that are subtle, not obvious. If you drive for a living, you’re a better driver than I am, just for starters. Even if you hate it. Now, if you love to drive and drive for a living, and get a new car every two years…I’m sure I could learn from you.

So, here at Archive Audio, I’m a guy who has been goofy about audio for about 30 years, and since I do this from my home and have 10 systems set up at all times, and I like all my little places to sit and relax, I’m a little like that hunting guide…it doesn’t take me long to pinpoint something breathing in the bushes across the meadow…so to speak.

Experience is a great teacher and so I thought showing a comprehensive list of all the speakers I have ever owned might give some grounding to some of this opining I’m doing-like that old hunter, these represent my field experience.
I’m not talking about speakers in boxes in my warehouse. I ‘m talking about speakers I have owned and listened to over decades, in systems, at my house as a music-loving, critical-listening hobbyist.