Why I Didn't Write That Audio Equipment Review

Last week I called up a manufacturer and cancelled a review. I haven't always had that "luxury." But, sometimes you have to say "no," both for reader's and the manufacturer's sake... 

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Back in my past I once wrote for a publication that had an "ironclad" policy - if I received a product slated for review in that publication I HAD to review it, regardless of how good or bad it was. The policy allowed for defective product (get another review sample), but didn't specify whether the defect had to be mentioned in the course of the review...some reviews did, and others did not... 

While this policy does allow a publication to keep its street cred up to snuff. It does not insure a level playing field for all manufacturers. If a newly minted audio firm sent in their gear for review, hoping for that golden ring of recommendation, they could just as easily wind up with a dead company from one bad review...I've seen it happen more than once. 

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Since I write reviews for several different publications, sometimes I really don't know who a review will be placed with, and who it will be most appropriate for, until I receive the component and have put it through its paces. Also, timing plays a big part in my review choices. The Cary DMS-500, which I reviewed for Home Theater Review (soon to go live), was not ready for a full review when I received it, but after several firmware updates it was, so then I reviewed it. Occasionally a cool product is not really right for any of my other regular outlets but still worthy of your attention, then I write a review for Audiophile Review

So, what would make me pass on a review of a product that I have received? Several reasons, but the most important one is if I feel I can't properly review the component. Sometimes that is because I can't get it perform properly in my listening environment - that's usually a loudspeaker that just doesn't work in my room. It happens. Very few rooms, outside of well-designed purpose-built listening rooms, permit any and all speaker designs to all perform optimally. 

AR-defectiv3aa.jpgDuring the last several years I have gotten several digital products that didn't make the cut. One was a wonderful sounding DAC that had this bad habit of occasionally sputtering out random noise. Shipping damage was the claimed culprit. The distributor chose not to repair and resend, which was probably a good idea. 

This "room doesn't work" issue can also be applied to earphones - sometimes I come across an earphone design where I can't get a proper fit. If I can't, after trying all the alternatives get a good occluded fit, I don't review the earphones. That's basically what happened with the earphones I passed on reviewing - they were wireless in-ears that I could not use in active situations because the left ear enclosure would not stay seated correctly for more than a minute or so without slipping and needing adjustment. None of the supplied tips worked any better at delivering a good fit, and since the whole point of wireless in-ears is so you can use them in active situations, the poor fit was strike one, two, and three... 

AR-defective6aa.jpgAfter being an audio journalist for as many years as I have, my own street cred isn't of much concern to me. In my humble opinion writing a "bad review" just to "keep the edge" is more an exercise in ego than one of consumer support. There are so many great new products from solid companies that consumers have multiple good choices in every product category. So why, pray tell, should ink (or electrons) be wasted on the mediocre ones? And lately finding genuinely BAD products is as hard as finding perfect ones... 

I try not to write "good reviews" or "bad reviews" but reviews that outline a products strengths and weaknesses in a way so that the reader can decide for themselves, based on their own requirements and tastes, whether a component would be appropriate for them. And sometimes I come upon a product that either I can't review because it won't perform properly, or is not a good match for my room, ears, or my way of using a component to the point that I can't or won't review it. 

So, that's why I rejected those earphones...

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