I think that people forget the fact that it takes an awefully long time to write a review. If the product is really bad, there is no motivation to spend a lot of time just to say it "sucks".
You have to admit, as one who might read and depend on these reviews, it sure would be nice to read something along the lines that this is an overpriced DAC that is no better than DAC's costing much less and you'd be better served looking there. This as opposed to lengthy muses that say the opposite. And yes, acknowledging the obvious, after checking out your profile, I see you have a great deal of gear and have put forth much good faith effort writing "valid" reviews and yes, I'm respectfully taking these points into consideration as I write.
There is another point that people miss: the performance of many DACs can be very dependant on the quality of the transport and the power filtration. When used in an "ideal" environment, most decently built DACs will fall somewhere in between the good and exceptional. That is why it is important for the reader to scan any review for the particular strengths of the DAC.
Which is a point I've written about, standardizing testing procedures. What constitutes a valid reference system (the middle ground), in regard to a particular quality/price point of a DAC? Do you have to have a half dozen standardized reference systems in which to insert the DAC, based on a logarithmic evaluation scale (or remove and replace any other piece of equipment) so as to consistently draw "valid" comparisons? Sans standardized reference systems for consistency, a patchwork system, based upon available gear can't determine how a piece of gear is going sound when installed in another person's patchwork system. Lack of standardization equals subjective evaluations.
Also, the reviewer should be as objective as possible and let the reader draw his own conclusion. Depending on personal preferences and someone's set-up, the word "warmth" could be perceived as either positive or negative. If someone feels that his system is cold and lifeless, he might be tempted by a "warm" sounding DAC. If their system is neutral and natural sounding, the word "warmth" could be perceived as potentially bringing "bloat" or too much "warmth" in a system. The example I provided is just a simplistic one to illustrate why remaining objective is important (please don't quote me on it).
Not going quote you but how does one deal with reviews and a lack of a standardized reference system to base their determinations on?
Regarding the "giant killer", there are 2 factors that could make a DAC for somebody. A subjective factor which depend on personal musical preferences and a objective factor which depend on the "objective" (and repeatable) performance of a given DAC. I believe that a "giant killer" shouldn't be deduced from a review but from studying the internals of a given DAC. When you compare the internals of (good) chinese made DACs with many western brands, there is huge gap in the quality of components being used. I personally would never buy a $1000 that uses less than $100 worth of components even if the reviewer tells me it is better than $5000 DAC. If that is the case, it is just an illustration that the $1000 is overpriced and that the $5000 is a rip-off (or that the reviewer is wrong in his assessment).
Agreeing with you, how's an ignorant to know? And how many times do you have to read about independent upgrade mods being done that greatly improves the sound quality. All for less than a hundred dollars in parts and bam, instant DAC that sound like an Amp costing thousands more? It seems so basic and easy, yet manufactures regularly short change their gear over less than a hundred dollars in parts. Doesn't sound like manufactures are really trying or know as much as they claim they do. If these DAC designers were as good as they say, then the guys here wouldn't be so easily kicking their butts with so called simple modifications.
When looking at the current production of DACs, there are a lot of overpriced DACs which make statement like "this DAC perform like DACs costing 3 times more" rather easy, especially if the reviewer doesn't give specific references.
And a Bozo, who looks like me comes along and is suppose to buy, sit down, return, buy again and try all the possibilities?
Note1: all the above is intended for people who have noticed differences between DACs. For those who think all DACs sound the same, they should just discard what I wrote above ... since everything is supposed to sound the same anyway.
Note2: the above also assumes that the reviewer is giving an honest opinion about the product under review. Obviously, in some cases there might biases that skew the outcome of the review.
FWIW, to some, it all sounds the same yet at no time am I saying anything sounds the same. And at no time am I trying to slight the reviewers as I'm simply challenging the validity of their observations where the rubber meets the road, the sales counter. I have no reason to believe that anybody is trying to deceive me. And since I do use the information reviewers leave behind, it would be silly of me to malign all those who thoughtfully take their time to write their efforts down in the form of a usable review. All the while I'm reading these much needed/wanted/appreciated reviews, I'm feeling like I'm innocently being led down a primrose path somewhere and I'm going end up paying, far too much for far too little and end up feeling foolish when I could have had a V8.
"You paid how much?!"
(It's said that ignorance is bliss but what's not said is, ignorance also has it's downside. I'll take "Blissful" for a thousand Alex.)
(And although a guy, as I write my muse, remember, I have made a commitment, based upon many, many varied reasons in no particular order; looks, quality of parts, manufacture's reputation, varied comments by reviewers, product's feature set, style of engineering, stated budgetary price point, competition's product mix, ease of availability, etc., etc., etc.)
Edited by beeman458 - 9/22/10 at 4:11pm