On reviewing

Speaker reviews:

The DIY speaker events were last October and I went to two, Dayton and DC. I have a new speaker I have been working on, and honestly, it sounds pretty good. It is the first one I really want to publish the crossover and design. At both shows many people commented how good they sounded and many suggested mine were best in show. On the judging forms, I got high praise except for one person who wrote "chesty in the lower mids". Now, this speaker is not perfect, but it is not chesty.

So about a month later, someone is looking for a MMT and I suggest mine. He looks at the DIY results and says no way due to the one bad comment. Now if I were doing this for money and had only a few products, this one comment from a reviewer would put me under. And I don't even know if this guy has ears or not!

Another interesting thing I find in reviews is the at the reviews get tougher with better gear. For example, we get a really cheaply made speaker and it gets a lot of praise. When we judge a really good speaker we tend to note really minor problems. People who don't know this often think the cheaper speakers out shine the more expensive ones, but the good speakers are actually a lot better. I think this sliding scale carries to the professional reviewers. They know you must judge a $200 against $200 speaker. But sometimes this does not come out in the review. So sometimes we mistakenly think the $200 Polk is almost as good as the Dynaudio. P

Lists, lists, lists: Most influential whatevers . . .

Since everyone is into lists this year, my top ten most influential mass produced audio products. Many of these are not components. Buy hey, it is my game and I make the rules:

1. Marantz 2270 - not the first or last word in receivers, but was in every decent audio store in the country. Created more "audio lust" than almost any other unit and spawned more audiophiles than anything else. It sounds good, too.

2. Maggies. I still remember hearing them for the first time. Just sounded sooo different. Opened the door to thinking about better systems.

3. The decent turntable. I don't have to give a brand here as they were all about he same. I think it was around 1984 when all of a sudden anyone could afford a decent belt drive TT. Decent arms and platters. I am talking about the ones that did not stack and drop the LPs. Sure there were good TTs before this (I had a Rek-o-Kut, or Rumble-kut as I called it), but this was when anyone could afford a decent one. Rumble was way down, tracking weight was way down, speed was right. Odd that was the same time CDs came out.

4. As long as we are talking dinosaurs, the Sure V15 III cartridge. I never owned one as I could not afford it. But after the decent TTs came out, suddenly the cartridge mattered. It seem to recall this was advertised all over the place. How many times do you hear phono cartridge ads on the radio today?

5. The AR5a and Dynaco A25 speakers. Products that pushed people toward better sound and were affordable. They have that nice rock-n-roll sound that brought the night club home. Today they sound pretty boxy to me but the bass is nice.

6. Cassette decks. People forget that before cassettes, there was no practical home recording system. You had reel-to-reel but that was 200 times the cost. Cassettes brought your LPs into your car and you could take them to friend's homes without worrying about wrecking your LP. You could mix tracks for the first time. I remember the early decks sounded horrid and the price of cassettes kept you from mass recording. I would record on the same tape over and over. The Marantz decks were junk and the Sony decks were the only ones that sounded decent. I know you think I am going to add the CD down below as another milestone, but I am not. Not because it is not influential, but because it did not change the way we thought. Cassettes were a more important change than CDs.

7. Fisher "Studio Standard". This stuff was total junk. The reason this was important is that it brought transistor-based electronics to the mass market. Suddenly we had cheap SS amps, tuners and readouts all over the place. I think this line killed tubes in the 70s and at that time, it seemed like a good idea. I would buy it cheap at flea markets with a button broken or knob missing. They are all in the same garbage dump as all those Chevy Vegas and Ford Pintos.

8. The Radio Shack tube tester. The big one they used to have in the stores. This was influential because it made me (and millions of others) never want tubes again. You see, tubes went bad all the time. The tube tester never worked and you never knew if you were replacing the broken tube. So a trip to the RS tube tester was a weekly event and then I would spend my allowance on a tube that never fixed the problem. Tubes, yuck. I can still smell the stench.

9. The sub woofer. Changed everything. Now we can build/buy a good bookshelf speaker and still get the bottom two octaves. Good speakers are cheaper. Good bass happens.

10. Digital radio tuners. Most people forget how annoying trying to get your radio to stay on station. In the olden days, most radios did not have tuning meters and we would readjust our tuners every few minutes. In a car, the radio seemed always to be out of tune. If you had tube gear (even in your car), the station would drift every few minutes. Digital tuners fixed all that and solved the broken mechanical tuning buttons problem.

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Copyright Peter Jay Smith 2004 Return to helarc.com