At least if you want an electric car you drive around for a few weeks and see everyone driving either a Nissan Leaf or BMW i3, and the decision is largely made. It’s not like you can knock on people’s doors and ask what hifi they’ve got, and even if you did most wouldn’t have a hifi.
If we agree that a bad review looks like a sensible diplomatic mission par excellence and still is full of praise, then I’d say e.g. this is a bad review.
At least it names the limitations of the gear reviewed quite clearly. As I owned this phono amp myself for some time (among others with good Telefunken NOS tubes in it), I know its strengths and weaknesses as Fremer described them. Just that the weaknesses were quite a bit stronger imo than he described them in a full range setup (not so much in a monitor setup). IMO this phono amp is a sound machine with thick, not well controlled bass, hardly reasonable transient response and recessed highs and anything but a hint of neutral, however it can be pleasing and do some magic in several setups and can be real fun with several recordings. It’s an amp for a rather bright setup (or parts of it). He clearly names all this in a review full of praise.
Reviewers have to walk such a thin line. On one hand they want to write truthful reviews that are honest to what they think. On the other hand they have a manufacture who just built and paid to have an item sent to them as a demo and who would not be happy to get a 2 out of 5 stars for their efforts. And that manufacture may be paying for advertising in that publication making it a thinner line to walk. More often what I think happens is that if it is that bad they simply return it to the manufacture and we just never hear about it.
“. . As much as anything, what you’re buying is the design expertise of Tim de Paravicini, whose experience and knowledge in building very expensive products has now resulted in one of the best-balanced, highest-performing, under-$1000 hi-fi components I’ve heard.”
If that’s a bad review …
I don’t think there had been an audio component in longer continuous production. 1969 to 2019 and I bought the replacement EAR Phonobox! Sounded fine last night with Coltrane '58.
I liked it myself at the time…we’re talking on a high demand level. No gear ever reviewed is anywhere near „unlistenability“, not even hard to listen to, and this is definitely not. And its strength definitely is its balance in a setup where you place an under 1k phono amp or in a slightly bright or dry setup imo.
I just say that (except the high praise at the end) you probably won’t read much „worse“ reviews in terms of naming shortcomings than here. Certainly this is still a great review.
Gear with such limitations but no strengths isn’t reviewed. I heard this multiple times from reviewers…if they think a gear sounds weak generally, they don’t review it. Not exactly like that, but quite similar with music reviews. If the one editor doesn’t like a CD, another one reviews it who does (with exceptions).
Reviewers and manufacturers/distributors are symbiotic.
Playing vintage jazz (especially when non-audiophile masterings are used) with it imo definitely shows its strength…those recordings often need exactly what the EAR gives. The new one might be still good in its strengths but improved otherwise.
Just read the final statement about this other 1k phono amp reviewed. I guess I wouldn’t prefer it to the EAR. It has no weaknesses mentioned, but the strengths mentioned don’t point to a very „musical“ experience.
If you will, this is a „better“ review of some kind, but if read correctly, of a probably „worse“ gear.
I guess if you read 5 other reviews of 1k phono amps, you will find all similar rave reviews and have to extract the really valuable information like a gold miner.
Well, I’m not sure this review rises (or sinks) to the level of negativity the OP hopes for, but I do find this to be a good example of what I consider to be balanced reviewing. The Mola Mola Kaluga monoblocks have been near universally praised in every other review I’ve read. In the end, Mono and Stereo renders a rather poor verdict on the Kaluga class D amps (12,000 euro a pair.) The verdict is rendered with genteel language but it is hardly flattering.
Personally, I don’t find the paucity of overtly negative reviews in the audio press automatically sets off red flags as to reviewer’s ethical standards. There’s only so much space available in a publication, readers have a finite attention span, and a publisher has to decide what ends they serve within said limitations. Seems little gained wasting reader’s time and publisher’s pages reviewing the odd bit of gear that is a poor effort. It bothers me not if I have to read between the lines to parse criticism of a product. As Jazznut mentions, publishers and manufacturers have a symbiotic relationship. Whether in marriage or business, nuanced criticism in proper context is better received than blunt negativity.
Gramophone is scrupulously honest. I read a poor review last night of Biber’s Mystery Sonatas (Martinson). With cameras and cars everything gets reviewed, so there’s no hiding. I suppose that there is so much audio and a relatively limited number of full reviews, a really bad product can be “overlooked”. I was checking out the Mackintosh MP100 phono amp. Hardly any reviews. Does that mean it’s not any good?
Curiously I referenced that review when I got a lashing for my comments on Fremer’s review of the M1200. This review referred to Fremer’s dislike of Class D and it criticises the Mola Mola amp for lack of realism due to poor microdynamics. That’s exactly what Fremer gave the M1200 a Grade C, compared to a Grade A for macrodynamics. This can be related to the power supply. The review also criticised the Devialet, it was a bit lacking in 2015 but was significantly improved in 2016.
This is certainly the most honest review I can recall, but not sure if it is correct.
Unfortunately not at all…we know that we can’t conclude from one rule (bad products are usually not reviewed) to the other (a product not reviewed (yet) is bad).
The safest way to get something out of reviews is to read between the lines of hopefully a few of them done for the same product, or to pick reviewers we personally have a hint of a clue how they work and think.
All this still doesn’t help much yet to identify synergies or non-synergies with the own setup.
For many the best to get satisfied is to listen to a recommendation of someone trusted or to buy a complete line of a trusted brand.
That is truly terrible. The thing is effectively broken and cost $40,000.
The irony is that it should never have got into the magazine as it failed to meet Stereophile’s requirement for having 5 USA dealers…