Example of a piece o’ crap, useless review

I’ve harped on how crappy and useless many “professional” reviews are because they lack rigor and omit critical information.  This one is from TAS that is a main offender of pumping out shallow/unsupported reviews, but most of the Euro mags among others are guilty of this too IME.  One key giveaway that a review is crap is that after reading it you still have little/no real understanding of what the piece under review actually sounds like or if it’s something you’d like to consider further.  I mean, if a review can’t accomplish those basic elements what use is it?  This review is so shallow it reads like it could’ve been written by someone who never even listened to the review sample and just made it up outta thin air.  In addition to failing on this broad level, here are some other major problems with the review:

- There is no info regarding any shortcomings of this “budget” turntable — everything is positive.  Sounds like it was perfect, ehem.

- There are no comparisons to another product in the same general price category or anything else.

- The reviewer doesn’t even share what equipment is in his reference system so we can at least infer what he may have based his impressions on.

In short, in addition to this review being so bad/useless for all the reasons stated it actually reads more like advertisement for the product than an actual unbiased review.  I can think of nothing worse to say about a review, and sadly many reviews out there are similarly awful for the same reasons.  Sorry for the rant, but especially as a former reviewer this piece of garbage pushed all my buttons and really ticked me off.  What say you?


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Happily i almost never  read reviews anymore...

i just look at this one and i concur with soix... 😊

I don't even read reviews and have another (higher) level of abhorrence for youtube reviews. 

@carlsbad2  Amen to that.  There are a few decent ones that I’ve seen, but the vast majority are just posers who get off on talking into a camera and garnering eyeballs — depth of knowledge/experience and/or quality/depth of content be damned. 

The table in question is the follow up to the Escape.   It's basically an Escape with a nice wood cabinet instead of a resin.   Too bad they didn't elaborate on its performance because if it is anything like my Escape / Origin Live Silver , it should be on your short list in this price range.  

High quality motor made in USA with the excellent Condor motor controller.  Sapphire bearing,, high quality spindle and platter.    Definitely worth a look.  

I totally get how it reads like an ad campaign and not a review but I bet it is a great table. 

I totally get how it reads like an ad campaign and not a review but I bet it is a great table. 

@oddiofyl You know, and that’s exactly the point.  I greatly respect the brand and am genuinely intrigued by the design, which made this even more disappointing as the review gives me absolutely no clue as to why I’d want to pursue it further based on its sound characteristics and capabilities.  Absolutely useless and sad. 

There are lots of people out there that do not have the in depth knowledge of an  "audiophile".  Is it possible you are not the target market for this review, and most others?   The type of review you are looking for might be over the head of the majority of people looking to buy a TT at this price range?  I suspect the folks on this site are in the minority and the audio rags are writing for the majority.  But that's just a thought from someone who does not identify as an Audiophile.  I'm just a simple lover of good music.  Cheers.

It's a beginner looking turntable at an above beginner price, if you equip it like the review sample.  Also, "I did notice that a record brush slows everything down considerably, which was a minor annoyance." That ought not to be happening with the Roadrunner/Condor/Eclipse motor system up and running. Something is off.

That SOTA was one of the few things I have bought sight unseen and was surprised at really how good it was.   I did a little homework, demoed a few locally but I thought the SOTA was the best bang for the buck.    I don’t buy things based on reviews,  I like to “review “ it at home and let my ears decide.  

It is nice to have an idea of what a product’s level of quality and performance is and that’s why I like reviews.   A balance of specs, features, maybe some plots is good 

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Yes, that was a grossly abbreviated… more of a description. Not a review. 

The type of review you are looking for might be over the head of the majority of people looking to buy a TT at this price range?

@bigtwin Uh, what??? This is a $3000 turntable without a tonearm and cartridge. In what world does a product at this level not deserve a full and thorough review? Further, I don’t care if it’s an entry level Pro-Ject turntable or an AudioQuest Dragonfly, any product deserves a better effort than this piece of shite no matter what the level of the reader. This thing is utterly useless to anyone. @ghdprentice nailed it when he called this more of a description than a review. TAS has no shame and they don’t care, they just want to crank out “reviews” with as little work/time as possible to keep those ad dollars rolling in. Why bother with all those pesky product comparisons or listing the equipment in the reference system? Takes too much time!  Just throw it out there half assed ASAP. Waste.

Soix, Did you write a letter to TAS complaining about the quality of this and other reviews they publish?  That would be more effective than blowing off steam here, which is not going to have any effect on them.

the opposite is a review that truly helps you decide. I never heard of Cayin, one used AT-88T on eBay: read this, bought it, couldn't be happier





I agree with most of your remarks about reviewers in general, and agree that this particular review: 1) does read a lot like ad copy, and 2) has no comparator which would be useful to a buyer.  This is not, after all, an entry level or budget table, and if you add the arm cartridge, probably a $5K investment, which might be chicken scratch for some here but probably 5 times more than what most people will spend on audio their entire lives.  And of course no measurements, per TAS policy, which would have been particularly useful given the speed stability issues raised here.

  OTOH…I have heard the SOTA tables, and when he finally does get to describing what records sound like, imo he conveys that it’s strength is Pace, Rhythm, and Timing. SOTA is based in Delevan , Wisconsin, about an hour from where I live.  We have a recently widowed friend who has a summer home there and we have spent a few weekends there, and I’ve wandered into a local audio store a few times, with several SOTA tables on display.  I probably know the SOTA sound better than most other brands as a result, and perhaps that is why I get what he is trying to communicate.  I don’t own SOTA tables but wish them luck in the marketplace 

  In general the reviewer seems to be staying away from the usual audio terms which serves as shorthand between aficionados.  The review in general seems aimed at younger newbies, perhaps a conscious attempt by TAS to capture younger audiences who might view audiophiles of my vintage as old stale and boring.

  It would be interesting to see if that trend continues with TAS and other magazines, to see if they continue to consciously reject the culture and terminology that they helped create and try to lure younger blood.  I don’t intend to read them but I applaud your Watchdog efforts monitoring the B.S. meter

Reviews are full of crap, i.e. you have to dig thru it to get to the earth.

I just re-read the Cayin review I posted above, and I had forgotten my impression then: "it seems he is paid by the word". When I find a review that seems helpful, I read it a second time, skipping the extra and finding the meat of it, like I now remember I had to do with this one.

I am supposing I found other sources to help me decide, but this is the one I remember, probably the opening and closing lines.

I wanted a tube amp with remote volume, it had to sound as good as my Fisher 80z 30wpc mono blocks or I was going to re-sell it. Luckily, happily the Cayin does. I didn't even know Cayin existed.

Soix, Did you write a letter to TAS complaining about the quality of this and other reviews they publish? 

@lewm Yes.  A while back I wrote to them about these issues but not surprisingly didn’t hear back, and obviously nothing changed.  I’ve also spoken to a couple of their reviewers and they both spouted the same company line that product comparisons aren’t useful because it’s unlikely most readers own the exact component used for the comparison.  This is just an absurd rationale used by them to try to excuse themselves from the considerable amount of added work it takes to do comparisons and the inherent accountability that it brings upon a reviewer — much easier/faster to just wax poetic about what you think a product sounds like in a bubble with no check and balance of a comparison.  One of their reviewers said he’d consider doing more product comparisons in the future, but I’ll believe it when I see it and not holding my breath. 


Sorry for the rant, but especially as a former reviewer this piece of garbage pushed all my buttons and really ticked me off.  

Are you often this excitable?

I will read them because I like hearing about new products on the market, but would not buy something without a demo in a store or at a trade show.  To me, the music reviews are the worst.

TAS and Stereophile (to a greater extent) have  been changing their editorial approach in the attempt to attract a younger demographic. Personally, I don't like the writing style of the new crop of journalists. However, at the same time, age is a major existential threat to audio. Just go to any hi-fi show and look at the attendees - predominantly male, over forty and usually a fair bit older than that. The high end depends on people coming from entry/mid level hi-fi, so if younger people are not coming through that is a major concern - and not just for magazine sales.

I agree that this product deserves a better, more comprehensive review and a performance comparison with other TT's in its price range. The review was vague and bordered on a fluff piece, but each reviewer has his own style and ability. TAS has had quite a turnover in its review staff; some you will like, others you will not.

As someone who’s first TAS issue was #4, I am also frustrated by the extremely variable quality of their reviews. Some of the most profound things that a few of their newer reviewers will say is “it made my toe tap.” Ok, at least you didn’t go running from the room. Reviews are more of a description of music played than anything about what the unit sounds like. And lots of inexcusable and amateurish shortcuts- using the pre out jacks of a cheap integrated amp as the sole source of driving a multi thousand dollar amplifier under review is a sorry excuse for reviewing. 

I thought TAS lost their objectiveness with the MQA shilling. It was a sell out. It made me think of Julian Hirsch and his rejection of dynamic measurement (SID and TID).

One final rant- their recommended lists are ridiculous. Very little meat in the categories where most readers are: building sub $40K systems.

Most all reviews are now Infomercials.

@yesiam_a_pirate I actually somewhat disagree with this. There are many publications out there where reviewers are passionate about conveying honest and useful information for readers in their rigorous and thorough reviews. Unfortunately there are also many where profit/attracting eyeballs takes precedence over review quality. The key is to identify the more credible sources/reviewers from the hucksters/posers. Here’s a list off the top of my head, and in no particular order, of publications I read and find provide mostly credible and useful reviews…

- Soundstage, 6 Moons, Part Time Audiophile, Positive Feedback, Enjoy the Music, The Audio Beat, Stereophile


I much prefer comparative reviews. The British What Hi-Fi mag did(does) it. I always enjoyed Car magazine's shootouts of similar class cars.

@soix I disagree with your assessment of the sites you mentioned. I find them little more than advertising media for uber-hi-end equipment and useless, expensive audiophile jewelry. Any site that devotes two thirds of its viewing space to ads (the ones with ads running down the left and right borders) is unlikely to post honest "reviews" for products that subsidize it.

All reviews and reviewers exist to sell product to their followers ... Either through advertisement fees...or dealers looking to make a profit hocking their wares...Pretty simple huh?

@jhnnrrs @aolmrd1241 I can’t speak directly about the other sites, but having written reviews for Soundstage for 17 years I can tell you that all they strive for are thorough and honest reviews, and BTW they have a site dedicated specifically to “budget” gear (Soundstage Access) so they don’t only review “uber high-end” equipment. Over all those years I was never told to write anything other than what I heard, and all of what I wrote always made it to publication without any alterations (other than some light editing) whatsoever. Furthermore, to ensure the reviews were as useful/rigorous as possible all reviews had to contain a relevant comparison section, and if you didn’t have a comparable product on hand or couldn’t get something you didn’t get the review, period, and all the equipment in the reference system used during the review was always fully disclosed at the end of the review. All this put together makes for what I call rigorous and credible reviews that are likely trustworthy and well worth reading and using to help decide which components are worth pursuing further.

After writing and reading reviews for many years it gets pretty easy to tell which reviews are more objective, thorough, and honest and which are more useless, superficial fluff so just dismissing reviews out of hand because the site uses ads will block you from a lot of truly useful and helpful information that is out there. Some basic tells for me is if the reviewer compares the review sample to other product(s) to give some critical perspective on the sound, the reviewer shares any shortcomings/limitations and/or unique sound signatures the product has (they all have them), and the reference system is fully disclosed. There are some good reviews that may miss some of these, but if any of those elements are missing I consider it a red flag and read with a jaded eye. Last, you can kinda tell just by the way the review is written whether it’s by someone who really did the work as opposed to a guy who just throws out a bunch of generic platitudes. Sorry to drone on, but that’s my approach to it and I’d encourage you to seek out those good sites/reviewers rather than throwing out the whole bunch for using advertising or because of some bad apples out there. There is some extremely helpful and informative info out there if you have the time/patience to uncover the gems. Again, FWIW.


Having given it a little more thought.


I would not call it a review. More of a quick note that the table exists and may be worthy of further investigation. An information note.

I flipped through the most recent edition. There are full format reviews (under the heading of xxxx Focus) on a number of the components: Burmeister turntable, Vandersteen speaker, Magico speakers, and some others. These all contain sections on associated equipment, and are in depth. The “reviews” in between in depth Focus reviews look like an attempt to cover more equipment. With the hundreds of components, there would be no way to cover them all in depth. So, it looks like a way to say something about more.


Given true long format reviews typically take six months to do. It is really not that surprising that each issue could only contain a few of these. Do the math. 

Dear siox -- So what do you think of John Mendelsohn's review of Led Zeppelin I in the March 15, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone? Well over a half century ago, I read printed reviews of new albums and audio equipment in an attempt to enhance my music listening enjoyment. Some reviews were informative, some seemed to be page fillers, and some seemed to simply be a platform for reviewer biases. Take a deep breath and exhale. Enjoy the music.

Given true long format reviews typically take six months to do. It is really not that surprising that each issue could only contain a few of these. Do the math.

@ghdprentice I can’t speak for TAS, nor would I care to, but at Soundstage we had three months to complete a review. I used to use the first month for break in and initial impressions and the next two months for critical listening evaluation and writing up the review, and that was sufficient time IME.

Out of curiosity, of the full format reviews how many provided a comparison to a competitive product? I’m gonna guess none and will be shocked if it’s higher than that cause that’s just not how they roll. Much quicker/easier that way although much less informative and useful IMHO.

It’d be nice to see the transfer functions of various cartridges, tonearms, etc. It could be measured, and could provide some clues about what kind of sound to expect. I’ve owned different turntables and cartridges and some of them sounded very different for sure, much more different from each other than comparing different digital devices.

You know, it could be possible to make a device that wiggles the needle in a very precise way, something that’s not a spinning vinyl disc that drags the needle through its grooves. Now imagine if you used a digital source to drive the needle wiggler, and now you hear the music coming through your cartridge, tonearm, and phono stage, with all the associated coloration. You could even get nice thumps coming through the speaker if someone jumped too hard on the floor. The only thing missing would be the rumble from the spinning platter and the wow and flutter from the warped record. But that could all be simulated. This would drastically reduce wear and tear on the needle.

Reviewers almost never give an actual bad review because they know if they do that, manufacturers will stop lending gear for evaluation. Even things that make no objective difference like cables or tuning dots or any of the myriad other things that do nothing get high praise. 

"Transfer functions" of various cartridges, tonearms, etc?  Please define.

Reviewers almost never give an actual bad review 

I somewhat agree, however it is common for reviewers to pick and choose which products to evaluate, often these products are at least average or above- that’s a major reason why fewer negative reviews. The companies chosen are somewhat established so have likely learned lessons on what sells in their market segment.

I wholeheartedly agree @soix  with the “usefulness” or lack thereof some of these reviews.  Comparative analysis to similar products and the reviewer’s audio chain helps us to determine “value” of the product, without such comparisons we have no reference other than if the reviewer subjectively liked the product or not which is useless.  

Often, we have to read between the lines to derive a value judgement.  For instance, in HiFi+ review of the Siltech Classic cables here, the reviewer seemed surprised “…first note on the page was “Why haven’t I used Siltech Cables more often?”  and “net an extremely neutral and exceptionally detailed cable series. The ‘nothing’ part is just how good that sounds beyond that.”   I purchased a few  of these IC as I wanted neutral uneditorizing cables and the price seemed fair and within budget.


Reviewers almost never give an actual bad review because they know if they do that, manufacturers will stop lending gear for evaluation.

@roadcykler Actually that was not my experience. Over 17 years I only wrote one negative review, and I was not opposed to writing more if warranted. The thing is, for a product to make it to the level of getting a review among the thousands of products out there it needs to have some positive and usually even some special buzz about it. So almost every component that gets reviewed has been well vetted by many users and others so bad sounding equipment just never tends to even get reviewed. In short, the system self selects very good sounding gear right from the start. Also, the major manufacturers know what they’re doing, and it’s almost non existent that something they’d release to the public sounds bad. So this is really why you rarely read a bad review.

That said, that’s where the “art” of reading between the lines in reviews becomes important. Unlike the crappy “review” I mentioned in this thread, most good reviews will include a paragraph or two near the end just before the conclusion (that’s where I always put it) where a reviewer will elaborate on any shortcomings/limitations or qualities that he may have alluded to during the review that seem a bit off or things the reader may want to hone in on while listening or comparing to other equipment. THIS IS CRITICAL INFO SO READ IT CAREFULLY! So, while the product overall may be very good, these would be the potential “negatives” that the reviewer feels are important to highlight but they’re not nearly enough to trash the product and throw the baby out with the bath water. This again is why product comparisons are so important because these potentially aberrant qualities can be analyzed on a relative basis versus another known product and provide a very useful perspective on any potential issues. Also, reviewers aren’t all-knowing oracles and what we may think is a shortcoming for our system/tastes may well not be the case for many other potential customers, so better to just point out what we heard objectively and let the reader decide if that’s something they’d still like to explore further. Last, most audio manufacturers are not rich and do what they do for the love of it and many others might be relatively new, and a bad review could literally sink a company. Now, if the product outright sucks so be it although it’s highly unlikely that product would’ve made it to review anyway as mentioned above, but if a product isn’t perfect yet shows some promise as a reviewer you’ve gotta weigh the extent of the shortcomings and if they’re bad enough to potentially put the company out of business. So there are many things to consider as a reviewer. I wasn’t on the business end so can’t speak to manufacturers threatening to not send any more gear if they get a bad review, but I never heard of anything like that although it may happen. Anyway, I hope this sheds a little light on why there are so few negative reviews. It’s really not a conspiracy in my experience.


It is in no one’s best interest to review a bad product. No one. You can be sure a company making terrible sounding gear is not going to be submitting it for review and no reviewer is likely to choose it..


@soix +1

Reading reviews as I have for nearly fifty years I can easily detect a mediocre product… you know… dammed by faint praise.


it is definitely true that there is more content with less depth that has happened over the last ten years over TAS. But there is way more value then midfi and consumer electronics reviews.



Cynical and wrong. There is real information, you simply need to read a lot and be able to read between the lines… about the reviewer and products.

Stereophile for one let it be know a while back that they only review products that they approve of, and do not review poor quality products. Therefore, there would be no bad reviews in the publication. 

Never understood the importance that many Audiophiles place on reviews. I learned early on that Adcom did not live up to the "giant killer" status AHC claimed. After 1 year of ownership the Adcom(545) stack was trading in for Amber(conrad-johnson) gear that I enjoyed for over a decade. Was ready for a system upgrade(late 90's) and was really interested in the ML Aeries i that would be replacing a Magnepan SMGa. Auditioned the ML on various amps and found the budget Yamaha MX 1/CX1 combo was nearly equal to a MAC power/pre at < half the price. Correct me if I'm wrong, the Yamaha CX 1 or MX 1 were never mentioned in the subjective press as value leaders, it was always NAD/Rotel or even B&K etc. Yes, that was 25 years ago but not much has changed considering Stereophile placed a Schitt Freya+ as a Class A preamp ready to take on VAC/BAT or CAT preamps(lol). 

@soix I do not read them anymore. What I hate most is the silly descriptions of how something sounds, the things I what to know are never talked about in depth and I really do not care what esoteric records the reviewer is using. I think the approach you took is valid and your rational appropriate. 

@dayglow I have an Adcom 545 in my workshop system and it has powered 4 Mirage speakers at ridiculous volumes for 30 years under the most adverse conditions you can subject an amp to short of throwing it into the bathtub. Imagine a guy with hearing protectors on running two big machines making mountains of dust with Hendrix blaring at 110 dB so he can hear it over the ear muffs and machines. It also survived a lightning strike that killed a Krell Preamp, all the computers and phones, the garage door ops and the burglar alarm. People wonder why my wife is crazy. 


Cynical is Skeptical and Skeptical means TEST.

TEST is the one that can define right from wrong.

If I have to derive truth from between lines of such reviews, than I have different angle of observation. To me, under such "angle" Commercial Advertisement + Technical Review = Commercial Advertisement.


I liked the reviews HP wrote in the early TAS days. They were always entertaining. I'm not so convinced that the current iteration of that magazine is a worthy successor. 

The irony with audio reviews is that everyone hears differently.  A piece of audio gear that sounds good to one person may not sound good to another. It's a very subjective hobby.  In a perfect world we would be able to listen to audio gear before we decide whether or not to purchase it.  But since that's not always possible we find ourselves relying on audio reviewers who may like a particular sound that does not appeal to everyone.

IMHO,  this is why so many audio enthusiasts spend so much time and money chasing the right system.  

The bottom line is that your own ears should always be the deciding factor in an audio purchase.  As such,  whenever possible you should listen to equipment before you decide to purchase it. 👍


@soix - Really, Part Time Audiophile as an example of good reviews? Their stated policy is to NOT publish a bad review. The puff pieces I’ve read on their site goes far beyond hagiography and would make even the most shameless fan boys blush. No measurements at all. IMHO, that site is the biggest joke of all reviewers.


@ghdprentice - I respectfully disagree that it would be in no ones best interest to publish a bad review. The purpose of using measurements should be to confirm the published specifications are accurate; what we are witnessing now in the absence of verifiable measurements are wild claims by mfrs that defy logic and known principles of physics and electronics without any accountability for stretching the truth,or in some cases, just making things up out of whole cloth. The turntable industry is especially rife with this problem exactly for that reason: no independent measurements. The major magazines apparently have testing capabilities as they do very analytical testing of amps and speakers but for some reason, they take what ever specs the turntable mfrs publish as gospel (they do add a disclaimer such as "according to the mfr, blah blah blah" which they assume gets them off the hook). I think what is needed is to resurrect the Consumer Reports model where the reviewers do a complete tear down of the product to comment on its construction, capabilities and deficiencies including detailed measurements of its performance as well as operational and listening tests.


I doubt that will happen. In the mean time, a major "tell" for me is how a mfr responds to questions about their claims; if they are transparent and engaging, especially if they provide actual measurements, I have more confidence in their specs. If they deflect or hide behind "we only care about how it sounds" or "it’s secret sauce and we can’t tell you" then one has reason to doubt what they say.


Another way to look at it is this: If a mfr publishes a spec and it is reasonable or close to the median for that type of product, it shouldn’t draw suspicion and shouldn’t be difficult to prove if challenged. But when a spec is orders of magnitude better than anything else in its class, it begs for an explanation. A mfr should WELCOME any challenge as a chance to prove it and draw further attention to their ground breaking product. Making outlandish claims then running away from anyone challenging those claims is sure sign that something isn’t right.

I actually enjoyed reading it although I wouldn't call it a review.  TAS shouldn't have marked it as a review on the page.  More of a moment with newly available gear. Not particularly informative except in a home shopping network kind of way. 

I did find it extremely useful, though, in his recommendation of Blind Guardian. As soon as everyone is awake in the house I plan to load up the speakers with that one! 

I lost all respect for TAS about 12 years ago when they posted a 4 part series on digital audio that insisted that copying a FLAC file from one HDD to another degraded quality.  That was among about 25 other conclusions that were laughable then and heresy now. It just showed their editorial standards were low.

The irony with audio reviews is that everyone hears differently.  A piece of audio gear that sounds good to one person may not sound good to another.

@jimmyblues1959 Exactly.  And this is why doing product comparisons in a review is so important.  When a reviewer just shares what he thinks about a product in isolation (as TAS habitually does) we’re only getting his take based on his ears.  But when the product is compared to something else we get a sense of relative differences, which I find adds very important context that can help us as readers form a clearer perspective of the sound of the review product regardless of how the reviewer hears things.  In other words, a comparison acts like a check and balance on the reviewer’s individual opinion and provides for a much more approachable and ultimately more useful review for the reader.  However, if you’ve read a reviewer long enough you get a sense of how he hears so you can compensate somewhat for his biases and still possibly glean some useful information out of the review, but this is still no substitute for doing a legit product comparison IMO.

@lewm wrote:

Also, "I did notice that a record brush slows everything down considerably, which was a minor annoyance." That ought not to be happening with the Roadrunner/Condor/Eclipse motor system up and running. Something is off.


This is misconception on the part of the reviewer.  The Condor/RR corrects for speed drift over time, it cannot adjust for the amount of drag that is applied with a record brush.  All belt drive tables will have this phenomenon due to belt creep.  Even the most powerful direct drive tables will loose speed synch if enough drag is applied.  None of this should happen while the stylus is in the groove.


In fact, one of the techniques that the Condor uses is NOT to apply correction in the presence of "unusual" amounts of drag; if we did, the speed would suddenly shoot up when the record brush is removed and would take longer to come back down to normal.  By not applying correction, the speed will slow while the brush is applied but will quickly return to normal as soon as the brush is removed.