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How do reviewers make a living or how I learned to stop worrying and dismiss reviews

  1. candlejack
    The question is simple: how do professional audio reviewers put food on the table and why should I trust them?

    I am just another audio enthusiast, mostly a consumer of information on this forum, but I've also tried to contribute when I had the opportunity. Writing even a single post's worth of thoughtful impressions and adding some pictures takes considerable amount of time. Between family, work and actually enjoying the hobby, there isn't much time left for such contributions.

    Enter the "professional audio reviewer." These are the people who might have "contributor" rank on Head-Fi, or a blog or a website and produce reviews for seemingly every new major product release.

    Based on what I just wrote above, I cannot imagine these people have time for a regular job on top of all the review work they do. So how do they generate income? Simple answer would be: they get paid by the manufacturers, either directly or indirectly. But most claim that they are not in any way affiliated with the companies whose products they review.

    Even if it's not a question of money, there is access. They get access to all the new gear (for review purposes) before anyone else, and while it's not as fun to listen to something in an analytical way as it is to do it for your personal enjoyment, it's still crucial to their relevance so they are incentivised to stay on the manufacturer's good side.

    Something's got to give... Or maybe I'm missing something basic, like they get donations from users (paypal, patreon, etc.) or they generate income from advertisement on their websites/blogs.

    I keep trying to find an explanation that makes them out to be truly objective, unbiased, selfless information providers, but I can't seem to make it work. Reading their reviews doesn't help either. Every negative seems to get a positive spin and nothing ever ends up as really "not recommended" or "a bad product."

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
    SilverEars and CrocodileDundee like this.
  2. Whazzzup
    None. Trust no one, everyone. Money makes no difference and all the difference. The posters who post the most are the best and the worst. Enjoy head fi.
  3. Slaphead
    Professional reviewers serve a basic purpose in terms of marketing - we wouldn't know about a lot of kit unless they review it, which is why a lot of audio manufacturers send their kit to reviewers - bear in mind that often the manufacturer often sends kit with no requirement for return, or the manufacturer is an advertiser with the publication the reviewer works for

    As to the value of the reviews, well I can quite honestly say that it's very hit and miss - I only agree with a proportion of the reviews of kit that I have, and I mostly disagree where the reviewer has been overly kind to a bit of kit, often supplied by an advertiser, that ultimately turned out to be basically dog defecation.

    So, by all means read the reviews, use them to draw a shortlist, but never buy purely on the basis of reviews. Listen first.
  4. Redcarmoose
    Nothing is better than a demo. The internet gets it’s pixels waisted trying to make something which is subjective........not subjective.

    At times the best reviews simply get you an idea to try something, nothing more nothing less. If someone puts their money in the mail then they are not doing it right.
    CrocodileDundee likes this.
  5. CrocodileDundee
    Agree that the internet became a big cheap marketing place (cheaper to use an "influencer", than have your own marketing campaign). But is not all lost, if it is a serious reviewer it can be legit, sometimes if already follow the reviewer steps is noticeable when is a paid review or not, just by the words and way of write/talk. And that's not a bad thing, for some it is a job, like any advertising company. Us, including myself, just need to learn how to filter the hype and opinion. I found the best way for that is audition the products myself and compare opinions as maximum as possible and on future reviews I can "translate" the words to what I experienced before.

    Let's look on the bright side, even with some frustrating buys, we would never learn about so many companies and products and would never challenge the costs of the famous brands. Who would imagine pay <1k for a good planar headphone 5-10 years ago? Or a multi BA IEM?

    Thanks the reviewers for spending time putting together your opinion. But be careful with the words, no need to write a Shakespeare's poem to try to impress.
  6. Rockwell75
    The trick is to take nothing in isolation and take everything with a grain of salt. I came to Head-Fi at the beginning of this year while searching for a pair of IEMs to buy. I quickly zoned in on Campfire Audio as they are a brand that is easy for me to demo where I live. I read everything and anything I could find online-- threads here, youtube reviews, reddit, other audio forums-- before making a purchase. While it's true that a lot of pro reviews are sugar coated I found that most of them contain some bits of worthwhile information. Similarly different threads tended to amplify hype or manufacture controversy. Relying on any one element of the information or website found on the internet would make it very difficult to obtain useful information, however I found that after taking everything in and weighing it out thoughtfully it is possible to get a passably accurate picture of a product. All of that said nothing can take the place of actually trying something for yourself-- which isn't possible for a lot of people in a lot of cases. My recommendation to anyone researching online is to take in everything from a variety of sources and weigh it all out.
    ExpatinJapan likes this.
  7. Wyville
    From all the reviewers I know, not two of them have the same motivation and the vast majority have regular jobs, they just put in a lot of hours after work (maybe sneak in a listen while working, or checking forums/emails on their phone).

    Strictly for myself, I love writing and this hobby is something I got into out of an interest in using music as a way to help me manage my ADHD. Exploring the psychology and physiology of music, signatures, etc., is something I was doing anyway and it only seemed to make sense to write some of it down in my first review. After that I kept on writing because I enjoy it.

    How do you stay objective while writing reviews? It is not really that difficult because honest feedback to the manufacturer is important for the manufacturer as well. Personally I do present negatives in a constructive, or sometimes funny way, but that is simply because I consider that the best way. I do not do hyperbole negative criticism because I do not consider it constructive. What then of a bad product? I simply don't waste my time on it and send it back where it came from.

    It can be difficult to deal with manufacturers and I often enjoy doing reviews simply based on items I have borrowed from friends, or work with a brick and mortar store to help support them by using their demo units for reviews, but it is really helpful to get review samples for comparisons. What I do is something I know a few other reviewers do as well, and that is view the review samples as being on a long-term loan. Any manufacturer can at any time ask me for their samples back, no questions asked. Also really important is to stay sensible because some manufacturers do implicitly try to exert pressure. They can do that with me as much as they want, I don't care and they will only get my honest opinion. That's the deal. If they are not happy, then they can work with someone else. Those manufacturers that I do feel are trying to put on a little pressure are also put on notice in the back of my mind and I set clear boundaries they should not cross, if they do, I will send back their gear and refuse future reviews.

    Those things have to do with personal integrity and that integrity is really important for a sustainable reviewing career/hobby. Equally, manufacturers who are dedicated to making quality products do appreciate a solid review including any criticism.

    Like with anything else there are always going to be bad apples and there are always going to be people who make mistakes quite innocently, reviewing is not easy to do well and there is a learning curve. I always urge people to read several reviews and especially reviews by people with different styles because that can lead to interesting insights. Most importantly, never see a review as something truly "objective", it isn't. It is not a science and we can't make it scientific either because at the end of the day, music is a subjective experience and we can't sensibly separate the technology from the psychology.
  8. SilverEars
    I don't read useless reviews, only my ears I trust. And only people I know to be trustable, I'll hear them out. Other than that, if you're a reviewer, you need to prove and earn my trust.

    If you've been in this hobby long enough, you have to figure out who or what FORUM is trustworthy or a marketing mess. Within this mess, you simply hear the product which is the best way. Most gullable thing to do is trust reviews from reviewers you haven't figured out yet.

    It's easy to figure out shills with some common sense.

    Last edited: May 14, 2019
    candlejack likes this.

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