The Guru speaks: Ian White

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?
Professional Writer? LOL! Clearly you've never seen our paychecks.

3. Review superlatives often give the impression of "huge gains". How do you reconcile years of "huge gains"?
Are they still that big? I think when I first started, I was more impressed. Having been to far too many shows, a few factories, and listened to a lot of equipment...the differences are not as "huge" anymore. There are few really "jaw dropping" components out there.

4. Is the sound often simply different and not better?
Yes and No. Certain components really reproduce a smidgen of the emotion behind the performance a lot more convincingly.

5. Do you have a clear metal image of great sound or does it require constant renewal? Are you in AB hell?
AB hell exists during every show. After about two days, everything sounds like a Bose.

5a. How long does it take before your know how good a product is?
One week.

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"?
While one wants to hear every last little thing that a component does better/worse/differently, the reality is that a component either moves you or it doesn't. Something could be brilliantly made and executed, but does nothing for you. I'll admit that I listen far too loudly. I also don't cure if I can hear the traffic outside of the recording studio.

7. What to you think is that "special something" is that makes some systems sound so good?
Vitality without a sense of exaggeration. The reason why I can't stand the Wilson speakers is that they make certain instruments sound four times their size. I've never seen a piano that was 20' wide.

8. How much of the process is collaborative versus on your own?
95% on my own, but I will ask the lady of the lake if she likes the styling and sound.

9. The constant evaluations and power listening must be very hard. How do you keep it fresh?
Watch a lot of movies and eat dim sum.

11. Someone recently said, "All SS amps not driven to clip sound the same". Do all SS amps sound the same?
Hell no. As much as I prefer tubes, I've heard some wretched tube gear.

12. Which components are peaking in the sense that you no longer have to spend a lot to get great sound?

13. When you get cornered at a party, what is the question asked most often?
1. When is Israel going to nuke Iran?
2. Did I really bag Rachel Weisz?
3. Did I make money off of my numerous Krispy Kreme plugs?

14. How much should we envy Sea Cliff, really?
That's a good one. Very rich.

15. What is the best listening experience you have ever had (other than live)?
Scary as this sounds - Apogee Stages driven by older Classe gear (must have been in the 80s), Revel system driven by Levinson at CES in 99. Jim Saxon and I both crapped our pants.

16. Without blaming engineers, where do you think the most loss in sound quality occurs, live to listener?

17. Have you ever been wowed by a $500-$1000 system?
More so than by some $20,000 rigs. Quasi DIY types.

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

19. Will we ever find the Holy Grail in sound reproduction?
Not unless Sinatra and Sam Cooke can be brought back from the dead. No.

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

21. What does the future hold for audio?
Multi-Channel with more channels that we will ever need.

Ian White writes for, thank you!

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Copyright Peter Jay Smith 2005 Return to