It usually goes something like this.
Reviewer requests a component to look at. Manufacturer sends the device, reviewer listens casually for 2-3 weeks to acclimatize. Followed by a similar period of analytical listening – assessing it, comparing it, trying different ancillaries. Reviewer writes up article, submits for editing. After a few iterations the article is published. For Darko and HiFi Starters, add in doing the original photography.
If writer and publisher are one and the same then things get a bit easier. A ‘full’ review is still an extended process though. It’s a luxury that enables the reviewer to form an in-depth view, but it does limit the ground you can cover.
It’s also far removed from the real world where even a proper shop demo can be an extravagance these days. Particularly for inexpensive gear. Online shopping may offer extended return periods, but how many people take advantage of them? And we all make those impulse purchases don’t we – glass of wine, comfy sofa, tablet at the ready. It’s just too easy! Oh and don’t forget HiFi Shows; they wouldn’t have sales desks if people didn’t buy there.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that HiFi Starters is going to try some additional approaches to reviews. Ones that reflect real-life. Reviews that may not be the definitive statement (none are) but that still add to the reader’s understanding of a product. In reality you should always read around a product anyway, taking in different people’s experiences with it. Don’t rely on one individual’s view, no matter how persausive it might be (a view that Darko shares).
The first foray is approaching fast. A shop demo has been booked at Woolacotts in Wadebridge, Cornwall (see header photo above). I have 2 hours to decide whether £550 is better spent on Monitor Audio’s Bronze 200 floorstanders or Silver 50 standmounts. Big-bad-bass versus accuracy is how I broadly think it will play out; we shall see. The knowledgeable Jamie from Woolacotts has suggested the Musical Fidelity M2si amplifier & Pro-ject S2 Streamer as supporting cast. It should be a fun afternoon; Wadebridge is a lovely seaside town and the Woolacotts crew are great (shout out for their Cornwall HiFi Show on 7/8th October, I’ll be there on Friday).
If the shop review is successful we’ll do more. Also on the cards are shorter review periods, the first being the new Elac ConneX DCB41 powered speakers that have just arrived for a mere week’s stay. I’m already assessing the similar Q Acoustics M20, so can run them side by side. Ideal. We’ll also try to borrow components from shops over a weekend (how I used to buy things earlier in my HiFi journey).
Case studies aren’t really reviews per se, but we’ll be toting kit along to willing victims volunteers for them to consider. Sam – in the middle of the header photo on our home page – is lined up. Doctor, musician, all round good egg. We’ll be seeing how he can take his system to the next level. Harry too. He’s a 14 year old HiFi noob who got the bug recently when listening to my own main system (his parents are friends). His eyes lit up when I handed him the remote and told him to turn it up loud; he’d never heard System Of A Down sound so visceral (his jazz-musician dad’s face was a picture!) To start he’ll be trying the Q Acoustics M20 speakers when I’ve finished with them.
And finally, HiFi shows aren’t the place for in-depth assessments. They can provide good input though, helping to whittle down the shortlist, throwing up new options to consider. Roll on the UK Audio Show in early October for our first set of show reports.
Being transparent, yes part of the reason we’re doing this is to keep up with the demand for product reviews. The ‘traditional’ approach won’t support it. It’s also about widening the scope of what we bring to your attention though. And, trying to mimic what you the reader go through when choosing new equipment. Ultimately we’re being pragmatic rather than dogmatic, one of HiFi Starters’ key beliefs. As always let us know what you think please (firstname.lastname@example.org). Other approaches are available 🙂