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Journalism or public relations?

Discussion in 'audio' started by paskinn, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Alan why not try and gain back some credibility by actually putting audio myths to the test, you know like you promised you would on your first week on the job then patently failed to deliver over the next 12 months...

    Or maybe do something to help out those fledging brands in audio, the small guys just scraping by based on ingenuity and service quality, rather than those making it big and leaving a mark of your monthly advertising budget.

    Honestly just think what what you could do for the UK hifi industry if you covered one small brand each issue. Go on do it for the UK, let's make Britain Great again...
  2. adamdea

    adamdea pfm Member

    I've read this five times and I enjoyed it more every time.

    Nevertheless you do have my sympathies Alan. I have always enjoyed your writings on this and other forums, and I understand that it must be very difficult working in an industry which depends increasingly on a declining number of increasingly insane enthusiasts.

    I hope you won't be offended by this but I genuinely think you might be onto something here: I find your strikingly, if obviously selectively, candid writing on forums much more interesting than your magazine writing because it is more heartfelt and intellectually honest. I think it might be of wider interest too because lots of people can sympathise with the grind of having to do things you hate for a job you slipped into years ago.

    I think that there may be scope for a book in it. I'd read it.
  3. louballoo

    louballoo Banned

    Yes, Alan do it! The book that exposes all. What do reviewers talk about amongst themselves when they are at the bar? We need to hear the worst, the scandals and the depravity..............

  4. Alan Sircom

    Alan Sircom I dü werds, me

    That's a very good question. I think foo happens as a result of downturns, rather than the other way round. The whole move to subjectivism came as a result of companies in the 1970s seeing potential hi-fi buyers place TVs, then VCRs above hi-fi as their priority purchases.

    Peter Belt would have been just some tin-foil-hatted loony, were it not for a market where most prospective new hi-fi buyers were making do with music centres and Walkman clones, and traditional hi-fi was pushed farther down the want list by games consoles and the first personal computers. It happened specifically in the UK, because anyone who was not Linn, Naim or Rega was finding it hard to be even seen by enthusiasts.

    The current race to the top, and its concomitant obsession with cables, tables and power products is predicated on the iPod wiping out the market for more down-to-earth products, especially in the UK and US. Outside of music replay, hi-fi is inevitably damaged by the rise of a gadget-obsessed new buyer, who would look at a slow-moving, non-portable, wired in set of devices with the same distain as we might look at someone trying to sell a coal-fired refrigerator.

    Even in our little world, when you compare the specs on a wired-in Squeezebox and the wireless 'talking noisy box' (to quite Ray McCooney) of Sonos, the Squeezebox should have the upper hand, but it's Sonos that gets the TV advertising.

    We shout to be heard above all the noise, and that can seem loud because we all stand too close. 40 years ago, CES was all about audio. Now, the only people who cover the audio section of CES are specialist audio media. Some of that we brought on ourselves, but even those who don't play the foo game in any manner (you won't find less foo-oriented audio brands than PSB or NAD, for example) fail to get a look-in. Not a damn thing.
  5. Alan Sircom

    Alan Sircom I dü werds, me

    John Q Public's default stance on hi-fi is 'oh, do they still make that?'
  6. Alan Sircom

    Alan Sircom I dü werds, me

    I wouldn't call it grovelling. I would call it saying it as I found it. I have two HiCaps and one SuperNait. I did not like the sound of what one of the HiCaps did to the SuperNait. I preferred what other HiCap did to the SuperNait. It made the SuperNait more appealing to those of a less-Naim bent.

    Would you prefer me to lie about what I found?
  7. positive_energy

    positive_energy pfm Member

    I was referring to the article as a whole. You try and give the impression of being objective/critical, with minor comments like the above about a non-DR hicap, but overall the article is just a big PR/propaganda piece for the Naim DR. I found the entire article a blatant piece of propaganda to be honest. Strong on one sided opinions and completely lacking in any substance. Just a lot of rhetoric.
  8. Purité Audio

    Purité Audio Trade: Purite Audio

    I think we would all prefer you to tell the truth ,all the time, however financially unbeneficial it might be.
  9. sideshowbob

    sideshowbob 47 Lab Rat

    I'm not sure retail journalism has ever been very far from PR, even in the glory days of magazine circulations. Alan is far from the worst offender, mind you.
  10. Elephantears

    Elephantears Trunkated Aesthete

    Since this thread is a little Sircom-centric... For what it's worth, Alan has done a couple of reviews of things I own, such as the Unico Pre/Dm, and they are accurate and detailed, with good use of musical examples. He obviously took time with them and, short of tube-rolling neurosis, took time to try them in various different combinations. Certainly a massive step up from What HiFi's context free blatant marketing. But then not as detailed as 6moons.

    My problem with the magazines is not the proximity to PR, its that reviews don't have enough space for comparative context. I suspect there aren't that many really crap products, but there are some really crap combinations of products, and what I want from the magazines is a more detailed education on system matching/context etc.
  11. Joe Hutch

    Joe Hutch Mate of the bloke

    Indeed not. I recall a music journalist (who I guess had best remain nameless) praising to the skies a particular album, which others thought mediocre at best.

    Years later he disclosed that he had been ordered by the record company to write a rave review, on pain of being barred any further access to the band in question (and the free drugs that went with that access) if he failed to do so.
  12. stevec67

    stevec67 pfm Member

    Where did it all go wrong? I think it went wrong because sound repro pulled itself up by its bootstraps. I have a Sansa clip, it cost something trivial like £30 and it's great. Why do I need a huge, bulky hifi that's hardly any better?

    At the same time there's other stuff going on, games, computers etc.

    Where next for the industry? I'd like to see a mid-price Brennan type thing, a home iPod if you will, with decent speakers. The key is that it's easy to use and needs no computer skills, and it's easy to load up your Cds in lossless format, then access them easily. I know these things exist somewhere but if I as a hifi enthusiast don't know what they are or where to get them, they have failed already.
  13. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    Good idea. Perhaps the odd piece on something that isn't being advertised elsewhere in the mag, just in the review.
  14. Alan Sircom

    Alan Sircom I dü werds, me

    Of course I have. But, precisely to whom should I be honest? What about those customers who want to know whether they should buy a set of Nordost or Crystal or ZenSati power cords, at roughly £10,000 a pop? Telling them "it's all the bleedin' same" is not an option because that just leads to an ex-reader. Worse, it leads to an ex-reader who goes somewhere like AudioAficionado.com and tells the core readers of the magazine that it is 'soft' on cables and therefore, 'deaf'. Which means your credibility among those who are your enthusiast readers is undermined.

    So, if you think cables are "all the bleedin' same" you keep your council.

    For all the enmity you and yours have toward the magazine, our biggest potential loss of readers right now is coming from my stance on hi-res. I still maintain that you are paying a premium for microphone thermal noise and - at best - a more careful mastering process. I know a lot of manufacturers of DACs who (privately) agree with me... but have to continue to develop their products from 24/96 to 24/192 to 32/384 to DSD-over-USB because the audiophiles (who, let's face it, buy our stuff) will not accept anything less. This is a sham, especially as there is a better campaign to be had (something like "brick-wall mastering is worse than brick-wall filtering", but more pithy). However, the upshot of the excellent exposé of the hi-res game by Hi-Fi News did not cause an army of hi-res-loving audiophiles demanding more from their hi-res, it caused some of them to consider Hi-Fi News 'hostile' to hi-res.

    We have to be the promoters of the audio industry because no-one else is doing that. It would be absolutely fantastic if the audio industry was large enough to be able to afford a truly independent voice. Like they used to be, before the business got really, really small.

    As it stands, I published three negative reviews out of about 130 last year, and at CES I was already finding brands no longer willing to submit products for review because the magazine was 'not playing the game'.
  15. Alan Sircom

    Alan Sircom I dü werds, me

    This is very true. The portable side of audio is excellent. However, it's commonly considered reader poison, in an enthusiast-led magazine. We run them, because it's hopefully the way to future readers. We have to be careful because it's also the way to remove existing readers.
  16. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    This is my main issue.

    FWIW I consider Stereophile to be the market-leader as it usually provides some proper measurements to back-up the usual subjective appraisal, e.g. it is far more than just some random bloke's opinion (which you can get just as well from teh internets IMO, and question them too).

    I have the current Stereophile issue sitting next to me as it fell through the door yesterday. Inside there is a review of the Spendor S3/5R2, a little speaker I'm sure I'd love and one that would be right at the top of my list were I looking to buy such a thing, so I'll use it as an example. The review is very positive, though most are, so hard to draw anything from that. The measurements are sensible, informed and genuinely useful, e.g. I can view the frequency response, the impedance and phase plots etc, so full marks there - with this information I could make an educated guess as to whether any amp I was interested in could drive them happily, and to be honest that's why I buy Stereophile - this is worth far more to me than either reviewer opinion or manufacturer generated PR-spin. Where the review fails to my mind is it does not contrast and compare the R2 to any of it's forerunners, e.g. I have no idea from this review if it is considered a step forward or a step back from it's predecessor, even though Stereophile have reviewed multiple speakers of this linage over the years. I'd also like to know how it faired against LS3/5As, as that is effectively the speaker the first S3/5 replaced and is still considered a benchmark by many. I'm sure this is of far more interest than how it compares to any current alternate, possibly with the exception of the Harbeth HL P3ESR or Stirling LS3/5AV2 as these are also sealed-box LS3/5A derivatives. All that is actually mentioned as a comparative product are some Dynaudios, Monitor Audios and Epos, all of which being ported, are a whole other thing to my mind.

    I'm not aiming to be too critical here, the measurements alone are worth the price of admission as that's all too often simply not available elsewhere, e.g. find me a speaker manufacturer that actually publishes impedance and phase angle, yet this is essential information if one is a tube amp owner looking for a suitable pair of speakers. I could just have easily used phono carts as my example, as again measurements tell a lot, though annoyingly these are usually covered in the personality 'columns' at the front of the magazine and seldom provide such hard data. I'd love to see accurate measurement of compliance, assessment of tip alignment etc etc.
  17. josst

    josst pfm Member

    Some problems:

    1. A lack of context or frame of reference: unless you've heard a reviewer's system you have no idea where they're coming from in terms of what their reference for an enjoyable music system is and whether it accords with your own

    2. Aside from some 'group tests' for more relatively modest priced gear there is very little discrimination. Pretty much everything is favourably reviewed.

    3. The descriptive language of reviews trots out the same old cliches over and over again - example 'the system was fast and detailed'. WTF does that mean?
  18. Joe Hutch

    Joe Hutch Mate of the bloke

    To be fair, I'd struggle to describe the sound of any system or piece of equipment without resorting to the usual cliches, or adding loads of jokes to make up the word count.
  19. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect pfm Member

    Technology. The cheap stuff is good enough for most people.

    I've been amazed how decent a Logitech 2.1 powered speaker system sounds for about £100.

    Low margin of course.

  20. JemHayward

    JemHayward pfm Member

    I used to subscribe to HiFi+ and used to buy HFNRR most months. Changes in my system made me realise that some of the things I were reading really made little sense in the context of what I was listening to, hearing and the tacit assumption that things that were very expensive were inherently superior to less expensive items suddenly seemed just wrong. I suppose it was the arrival of the MDAC and the realisation that it was clearly superior to my original system that was worth considerably more money. I also enjoyed the music reviews, but the quality and quantity of them in both magazines diminished... Sad really, as I got a lot of enjoyment out of them in the past, its a bit like losing your faith!

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