Objectivist and Subjectivist Audio Meets Hegelian Logic

AR-Hegel4a.jpgThis morning I read another post on a Facebook audio group lambasting subjective reviews where the reviewer attempts to describe what he heard. Instead the poster championed "objective" reviews that list specifications and features without sonic any descriptions included. Back in the bad old days, before J. Gordon Holt's first issue of Stereophile, all reviews were "objective" - no reviews had any sonic descriptions whatsoever...only specifications and features. Subjective audio journalism was J. Gordon Holt's reaction to this lack of useful information found in all these "just the facts" objective reviews.

This is a classic example of the first and second stage of the Hegelian logical process. "Objective" fact-only reviews were the original "thesis." Conversely, "subjective" reviews were their opposite or antithesis of these "objective" ones. Obviously if we follow this to a Hegelian conclusion there should be a synthesis of these two opposing concepts, which are reviews that contain factual information as well as a subjective view of the product. Anything else, in my humble opinion, will be lacking an essential element.

AR-Hegel2a.jpgVery often you can find most of what would be contained in the specifications section of a "old-school" review on a manufacturer's website, so including it in a review is largely redundant. And while it has been shown that on occasion a manufacturer will doctor their numbers so that they look better (such as adding a plus or minus 3 dB to a spec) I have to wonder about whether double-checking a manufacturer's numbers is really the best use of a reviewer's time. 

On the other hand, I've seen more and more "reviews" by amateur reviewers that make sweeping statements about the sonic characteristics of a component based on what appears to the reader to have little basis in demonstrable fact. Sweeping statements such as "the best ever" and "blows away the competition" do little to amplify a writer's credibility, especially when they have no track record of previous work. At times these reviews seem more like semi-religious tracts than audio reviews...

AR-Hegel5a.jpgAt their extremes I find that completely objective or subjective reviews have little value. I can read specs for myself, and if need be, do my own measurements. I also like to form my own subjective opinions, so I don't really need to know that "the bass was tremendous..." on a particular cut. If I know the cut, I knew this already. What I need to know is WHAT MAKES THIS COMPONENT DIFFERENT OR SPECIAL? Everything else is just padding...

Having a hearing test attached to a reviewer's review won't help the review or the reviewer's credibility if the body of the review follows one of the two previously elaborated Hegelian extremes. Also, I have known individuals with well-documented hearing deficiencies whose ability to hear into a mix was far superior to someone with "perfect" hearing who does not know how to listen...experience does count...

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The thing that I find most egregious about all this carping about reviews is that in every case the primary point of the post isn't to clarify or elucidate, but to cast shade on other reviews and reviewer's methodologies. And this helps who? Only the poster's ego...

Why not just post in nice bold type, "MY IDEAS ARE THE BEST - BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE!!" That would get the point across in a more credible and honest manner... but until folks realize that doing a better job is more important than saying you do a better job, we will see a regular stream of these kinds of posts and articles claiming that their reviews (or critiques of reviews) are superior because, well, they just ARE...

And people wonder why we don't have a tsunami of newcomers getting turned on to "high-end" audio... 

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