Disappointing audition after great review

Ok, so I read the hi fi mags, in print and on line. I recently read a glowing review of speakers retailing in excess of $10,000. Then I found a dealer with the speakers on display. After listening I came away thinking what wa stat reviewer thinking? Also recently I tried a pair of headphones. Read a glowing review which touted its sonic quality and noted although they were heavy, they were comfortable to wear, even for hours. So I tried those headphones. After 5 minutes I could not wait to get them off.

Makes me wonder- are the reviews little more than shill ads? Sometime I think so.

On the other hand, there is one long time reviewer who seems to hear pretty much what I do. What he likes I like.

What's been your experience?
To headphones I understand because they're like shoes. You can't be sure up till you wear. Ear shells and ear drums are all different.
To speakers, I was disappointed listening to Joseph RM33 offered for sale as dealer demo for $7500. To me they sounded worse than Polk from Best buy $200 so I couldn't even offer that much for'em
Everyone has different listening biases...and rooms and equipment and ears.

That's why you should always try to demo gear in your own environment.
A question in which you fail to identify the component to which you refer is worthless.
I cannot comment on headphones but the sound of any speaker is almost totally dependent on the room's acoustics and the speaker and listener positioning within the room. It is hard to make definitive differentiations between different speakers in different rooms..................unless one set of the speakers is defective.
Lots of reasons why what a reviewer states may not be the same thing as what you experience.

That's why you should take any review, good or bad, with a grain or two of salt and in the end you can only trust your own ears.

In general, the media these days seems almost always biased one way or another and in many cases incompetent and completely unable to report or analyze anything correctly.

Why should audio "journalists" be any different?
Once upon a time a popular reviewer concluded that my (major high-end brand of) reference amplifiers didn't reproduce a musical rendition of the material he played on his system. This review to this day has thrown a long shadow over the worthiness of this product. OK, everyone has an opinion, right? but this guy isn't just "anyone". I and i am, well, nobody. Nonetheless, I have had these
amps for some time now and they get out of the way of the signal you feed them as well as ANYTHING i have heard either tube or transistor. AND these are my 5th set of amplifiers so far. although i have been repeatedly tempted to "go in another direction", nothing i put on my stereo sounds
less than stellar, and i have been in this hobby for over 25 years, been to lots of audio stores, demos, and even some shows. Nothing sounds EXACTLY like a live jazz group or an orchestra concert, but often i am so drawn into the music (at home), that the Illusion of the final few veils has been lifted. The imperfections (i.e. acoustics) of my living space are far greater than the limitations of my components.
Sometimes I wish i could squish that reviewer's head like a grape (just for fun). Oh well, it's just that much less i care what he or many others think when writing down their "professional viewpoint" or whatever. Another example (glaring i think from reading so many divergent views) regards Magico speakers. Exquisite attention to the most minute details is spent in their design and construction. Group-A thinks they are the best of the best, while others find them to have a lifeless quality...??!! No, i personally have not auditioned them. But i have heard a number of different B&W speakers and they do not suck in the least (though some here in the forums think they are terrible sounding speakers...??).
Even a "now-ancient" pair of Matrix-801's do not suck, although i have heard speakers since then that do some things better (they also cost three times as much). In fact one of the best sounds i have heard in the past was a blue note jazz album played on 801's using Pass Aleph amplifiers.
Don't believe the reviews. Look at the specs, check out how the product is made, compare prices all you want. But forget about what "Joe Schmo" says he heard. And "borrow" copies of audio magazines if you can avoid paying money for them. I gave mine away so my friends could read the ads....
I was hoping that French_fries was going to conclude with a recommendation that you audition yourself regardless of what you read. That really is the bottom line.
That ML53 review apparently has long legs.

But my original post was the flip side- wonderful review and totally disappointing audition.

I respect Kr4's comments but I wonder if those same comments also makes any speaker review almost useless to anyone other than the reviewer.
Good point, Zavato. However, one advantage that reviewers
have, aside from long experience, is the facility to
compare speakers (or anything else) under the same and,
hopefully, optimized conditions.
An audiophile takes twenty years to get a system to sound right. What chance does a dealer have?

Lifted from a recent Legacy speaker ad: "Room resonances and reflections make up the majority of what reaches your ears".

IF this is TRUE then most speaker reviews, at least, would have little value considering that listening environments are so different.

So the only way a speaker review would be somewhat valid is if one possesses a very similar listening room and system. This doesn't even take into account variations in hearing acuity.

The reviewer may not be a SHILL at all, although perhaps some are, and the speaker may actually have sounded excellent under their particular circumstances. Whereas the same speaker may sound only mediocre under totally different circumstances.
Kr4- I understand your point and you're correct- you as a reviewer have consistency on your side and hopefully a well sorted room. But again, a speaker that excels in your environment may not in mine. However, my experience is that very good speakers seldom sound poor even with led than optimal setup.

And BTW, still enjoy my F30's
Reviews work just like mass media and media broadcasts what's written on paper. Facts don't matter at all. Naive those who did not get it yet.
Having worked in audio stores and had the opportunity to compare a lot of gear, it is true that exposure to a lot of different gear is an asset but most likely two differnt people will still likely draw two different conclusions when it comes to these things, even if perfectly honest and unbiased. So there you go. Salt anyone?
Audio review magazines are nothing more than ads. The reviews themselves are extended advertisements. Get them for the pictures and the general entertainment value... but viewing a "review' as something you can use to discern what to buy is not very reasonable. All you can get is what things cost, what they look like and a little on their specs... other than that, the review gives you nothing. Audition at home and make your decisions there.
It's so subjective--I have a modest but well-researched system that really hits the spot for me. But most non-audiophiles who hear it seem to be not so impressed. And some days it doesn't even grab me in a strong way. So there's a lot to consider in the human element.
If I listened to reviewers, I wouldn't like half the music and movies I like. People who write reviews cannot help but compare their subjects to the movies, music, books, etc, that they themselves have liked. Audio reviewers are prone to biases, as well, as are we all. Reviewers in any category are trying to make a living, usually as writers, who need to offer insight and turn a catchy phrase. I like reading reviewers more for their writing talent than their judgments.
I would differentiate. I would not trust much any speaker review by anyone for the reasons mentioned above, though some reviews might be very accurate.
As for the electronics, well, it depends on who writes and how well you can read between lines. They cannot say everything they think but some find a way of doing it indirectly. I cannot say everything I think professionally either, even indirectly. Let's be understanding.
It is not always possible to audition in your room, sometimes you have to take your best guess. Audiophiles should have a good sense and intuition not to make many mistakes.
In my case, my own bias helps me. As an example, I will never consider VPI, Basis, Linn, Rega etc. turntables, but I will consider Nottingham, Simon Yorke, Origin Live, Customized Technics SP10-MKIII or Walker. No idea of German tables, many must be good perhaps.
For what it's worth, i was able to attend an audio show many years ago, and spent the whole three days looking and listening to various systems. One room really REALLY impressed me, and as i looked around, several anxious attendees were waiting to sit in the center front row seat (as was I). The speakers were Sonus Faber Extrema's, Copland and Audio Research SS electronics, an SME 30 turntable, and some fairly inexpensive wires. AC Jobim and other vinyl records were being played, and the sound was exceptionally relaxed and just plain "lovely". Later I shopped around for the SF speakers but even used they were going for $10K or more, way over my budget. A few more years went by and along came Eggleston Andra speakers at a local dealer with the same tweeter SF used, but with bass down to 19Hz. After months of deliberation, I finally bought the demo pair, and when i got them into my own system they sounded absolutely phenomenal- what i had expected but even a bit more so, plus i had all the time in the world to see what they could do long term. It's a damn expensive hobby and the average person would certainly think i was INSANE for buying speakers that cost 5 figures. But i "knew" at this point what I liked and what sacrifices i would have to make to hear music this accurately and with startling realism.
there are many ways to find out for yourselves what level of quality you are willing to obtain and at what cost, but at least make a trip to a store or someone's house that knows how to put a great system together. Then you have an idea and a goal to attain, whether for now or some years from now.
After 25 or more years i can say that the newest gear that comes out has little affect on me, although a server with a thousand albums on it would certainly be very convenient. But the fundamental purpose- getting a piano to sound like it's in front of you for example, has already been reached to my ears.
Now my primary goal is this- I just want to continue finding new music to play on my system.
P.S.- BTW, the Egglestons were considered so exceptional at one time in the stereo magazines, but now you never hear anything about them. What does that mean? All the other speakers that have been reviewed since then are "so great, and this and that" (for even more money, gobs more money). But, If you already have a pair, the answer should be "so what?..."
I had an argument with Ken Kessler many years ago because he thought the dull, rounded, laid back, and bass heavy sound of Aragon power amps was preferable to a lively, transparent, dynamic, and, if I may, brighter sound. I could not, for the life of me, put myself in his shoes. It was unlistenable. This was in England, and we came to the conclusion that Americans preferred bass heavy sound rather than a Quad ESL midland transparency. De gustibus non est disputandum!
A critic is a writer with a license to exaggerate.

A audio reviewer can be a lot of things, some good, some bad.

what gear are you talking about?

We all have experienced this act- for me it was Aereal Speakers (not the 10T nor 20T) models. It did not live up to the hype, IMO.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
Zavato - Did the audio store have the amp paired with suitable components/speaker/leads?

I was auditioning an amp/DAC combo, and after hearing a pretty run of the mill reproduction of my audition tracks, I asked they use their very best cables and some really good speakers in order to allow me to hear the amp and not the effects of the original less capable cables and speakers.

It sounded much better, but still left me wanting. But at least I felt assured the other components were not impeding or colouring the performance of the amp.

Wanna laugh? - Same guy had $35k Avantgarde speakers hooked up out of phase - and he just kept asking, "how do you like them?"

He was quite embarrassed when I told him - LOL

And it's not the fist time that's happened to me either :-(

Much like your own experience, a review of another amp/DAC combo in the same week had me wondering if the reviewer had actually tried the onboard DAC, because what I heard was pretty poor compared to what the review reported.

When I purchased my current speakers, after an initial audition, which impressed me very much, I actually took my amp, Speaker cables and Power cable to the store - :-)

This particular store was one of the few that make the effort to ensure connected components and cables are compatible.

So, I am more of the opinion that the stores are actually more at fault than the reviewers.


When I went to RMAF in October, after listening for an extended period I was disappointed with the Focal Sopra 2s as well. It's a reminder that we hear differently and me not liking them doesn't invalidate someone else loving them. I've seen negative comments about my Aerial 7Ts, but it hasn't changed my opinion of them. As a matter of fact, going to RMAF has given me a new respect for Aerial 7Ts. With every speaker we must not forget, we are listening to a system, not just speakers.
Anyone who buys kit on the basis of a review, deserves all they get, but I am sure 99% of people don't do that. They are a general guide to what you should consider auditioning yourself. I can think of a number of items I acquired that way, all of which were a success, in my view and that is all that counts. The Ayre QB9 DAC, Audio Research Ref 75, Modwright 36.5 pre, for example. What is the magazine I trust most, HiFi Plus? but that is still only, to look for an audition.

Following up on comments how much speakers are room dependent, absolutely true, but what you don't see discussed, is how much Speakers vary in their "fussiness". I can think of a number of models you can pretty well plonk down in your usual speaker position and get pretty good sound. Not perfect, but they don't seem to need weeks moving by inches and angst, to get right. I am sure others would disagree, but I would include Wilson Duette speakers here.
All lovers of well reproduced music should make it mandatory to seek out the mega-buck and mega-raved about items. That way THEY get to hear with THEIR OWN EARS what others are either raving about or just what level of attainment comes with spending sometimes absurd amounts of money.

I will guarantee that in a fair proportion of those auditions, whether through the utter incompetence of the dealer( in setting-up/ combinations of equipment/ lousy rooms) or even when all of those variable are properly attended to, you will be disappointed by the resulting sound/ music reproduction quality.

I like auditioning equipment totally because it reveals that most of the high-end is 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. I usually put the end result down to poor combinations of equipment and dealers who have tin ears and wouldn't know good sound if it ran them over.

Not all auditions result in that, but you will find for yourself that the bad ones do outweigh the great ones.
Theophile, nice post, but isn't there some subjectivity involved? I know from checking out fine musical instruments that some might be obviously superior quality but just not my cup of tea while another is right up my alley.
Less we forget, how the various gear + speakers will sound in our own listening spaces (rooms). This is the ultimate deciding factor. Better than any advice nor review.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!