The Guru speaks: Rob Doorack

Professional Reviewer Questions

1. Without giving the standard "weakest link" or "synergy" answer, what would you as the most important component?

2. How did you cross over from hobbyist to professional writer?
My friend Art Dudley asked me to write something for Hi Fi Heretic

3. Review superlatives often give the impression of "huge gains". How do you reconcile years of "huge gains"? Are they still that big?
You'd have to ask someone who used that term. I never did. Some components did make big improvements but I don't concede your premise that there have been years of "huge gains."

4. Is the sound often simply different and not better?
Of course.

5. Do you have a clear metal image of great sound or does it require constant renewal? Are you in AB hell?
Anybody who reviews audio equipment should attend concerts frequently.

5a. How long does it take before your know how good a product is?
Sometimes it was immediately obvious, in other cases it took a lot of auditioning to know.

6. What are your audition strong points and weak points, i.e., what problems do you find most difficult to pick up in listening tests? What do you "hate to admit"?
I never hesitated to admit my weaknesses - I did so explicitly in an early issue of Listener. I don't have much of an ear for subtle frequency response aberrations.

7. What to you think is that "special something" is that makes some systems sound so good?
I have no idea. If I knew I'd sell my knowledge.

8. How much of the process is collaborative versus on your own?
I did a bunch of group reviews in collaboration with other Listener writers so those were definitely team efforts. Most of the time it was me by myself though.

9. The constant evaluations and power listening must be very hard. How do you keep it fresh?
I was getting burned out on reviewing by the time Listener was killed by it's corporate owner so I don't have an answer for this. I don't know how some guys have managed to do it with enthusiasm for decades.

10. What are some of the secret terms you use to lets us know the component really is not as good as it could be?
I didn't have any "secret terms." If something was disappointing I never hesitated to say so. An example was the Roksan Xerxes X which arrived with a serious manufacturing defect and then broke while I had it.

11. Someone recently said, "All SS amps not driven to clip sound the same". Do all SS amps sound the same?

12. Which components are peaking in the sense that you no longer have to spend a lot to get great sound?
I don't know if any one category is "peaking." Peaking implies that the zenith has been reached. I don't think that's true at all.

13. When you get cornered at a party, what is the question asked most often?
"How much does all that stuff cost?"

14. How much should we envy Sea Cliff, really?
Envy? Not at all. Ask anyone who heard the $360K clone of Pearson's reference system that was demonstrated at the Stereophile show a few years ago. It was simply awful - perhaps the most lifeless and vapid audio system I've ever heard.

15. What is the best listening experience you have ever had (other than live)?
I'd say it was one of three events: a triamped pair of Naim DBLs at Accent On Music in Mount Kisco, NY, hearing one of JC Morrisson's SET amps driving Harvey Rosenberg's Westminster Royals, or the gigantic Klangfilm Bionors at last May's Stereophile show.

16. Without blaming engineers, where do you think the most loss in sound quality occurs, live to listener?
I don't know, there are a lot of places in the recording chain for the sound to get screwed up.

17. Have you ever been wowed by a $500-$1000 system?
I wouldn't say wowed, but I've heard a few $1K rigs that I thought were superb value for the money. I have been wowed by some systems in the $3 - $5K range.

18. How much in analog is really the "Zen" of analog versus true accuracy of reproduction?
What is the "Zen of analog?"

19. Will we ever find the Holy Grail in sound reproduction?
It's impossible to predict what reproduced music will sound like in 100 years.

20. So, which is it, tubes or SS?

21. What does the future hold for audio?
For the average consumer, I'd guess music on demand almost anywhere via wireless Internet.

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Copyright: Peter J. Smith 2005 Return to