News & Opinion

Most Reviews Aren’t Objective – And You Shouldn’t Care!

I am likely to raise a few eyebrows when I say that most reviews aren’t objective and you shouldn’t care! Wait a second, aren’t I a reviewer? Am I telling you that all of my reviews and most of the ones out there aren’t “objective”? You betcha, and you shouldn’t care. Let’s discuss.

What Do I Mean?


Based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

In a world where reviewers use terms like “warm”, “bright”, and “lack top-end energy” (I took those directly from speaker reviews), it’s obvious that reviewers can be subjective. Those terms, by themselves, are subjective. It shouldn’t be surprising that most reviews are subjective by nature.

Furthermore, subjective is open to interpretation. Let’s go back to my example of a speaker sounding warm. What exactly does that sound like? If I had to explain what that sounded like, I would describe it as diffuse, with the high-end softened and muted. Someone else could explain it in a completely different way. In my mind, a “warm” sound seems inaccurate, and not ideal. Another person may not feel the same way. Who is right?

Reviews Aren’t Objective?


Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts. Not dependent on the mind for existence; actual.

Let’s back that up a bit. The first part of that definition is misleading. By me saying that most reviews aren’t objective, it makes you think that all reviewers are influenced by external factors. Even possible pressure from the manufacturers to get a good review. That is not the “objective” I am referring to.

What I am talking about is fact-based, rooted-in-science types of objective tests and measurements. There are entire websites that base their recommendations for speakers or TVs on objectively measured outputs and compare them against one another. For example, an LED TV measures 1200 nits of output, while an OLED TV measures 750 nits of output. Objectively (they might claim), the LED is better because it measures higher. Right? Not so fast!

The real problem with objective measurements is which do you compare. In the above example, every flat panel TV on the planet will outperform nearly every consumer-level projector available at any price. Do you really think that the bargain basement TV will look better than a $25k JVC projector? If you use only brightness to compare, then you would!

Objective measurements are only one part of the equation, not the answer! Objective measurements can tell me a lot about something, but not how it will perform in my room. Plus there are variables like my eyesight and my hearing that could impact how good something sounds or looks to me.

Should I Stay Away From Subjective Reviews?

You could, but you would eliminate 99% of reviews out there. A skilled writer can blend objective tests and measurements alongside subjective verbiage and give you a more complete picture of a product. For example, I can easily state that a speaker is objectively capable of playing tones from 40Hz to 20kHz. I could take many more measurements to demonstrate that below 80Hz the speaker isn’t very controlled or even. Or I can subjectively say that I can hear it’s muddy or bloated, which are both subjective opinions, but backed by my experience.

I would suggest that you want to hear the personal opinion of someone who has extensive experience in reviewing certain products. These reviewers will be able to cut through the chaff and let you know if the product sounds good, or works well. Take my example of the LED vs OLED example. A good reviewer can explain that objectively the LED has brighter output but can explain why it subjectively doesn’t look better and the OLED is the proper choice.

I would even suggest that you stay away from reviews that are purely objective or purely subjective. Buying a product because a reviewer measured its output and said “it should sound good“, without ever listening to it is insane. The same goes with a reviewer who uses only subjective opinions and doesn’t actually test to see if there is any objective validity to a claim. The first thing my editor taught me to do when testing speakers is to run a sweep. Can it do what it claims (objective) and how does it sound to you (subjective)?

When Objective Clashes With Subjective

There are lots of times when objective and subjective clash. Have you ever set up your dual subwoofers correctly, only to feel that they are quieter? That’s a subjective opinion right there. I can almost guarantee that if you dial in your subwoofers correctly, you will have measurably better, more even bass that rumbles your sofa. Yet, you preferred the previous setup where you could feel bass in your chest. That’s fine. It means that you like that bump in the 35-40Hz range and add that.

Let’s get ready to be subjeeeective!

This reasoning is exactly why I often give subjective reviews a passing grade while being overly critical of purely objective ones. Just because something is objectively better on one metric doesn’t always translate to how it performs in real life. The best examples I can use are speakers. A speaker measurement can tell me how low or high it will play, and how hard it will be to drive. It doesn’t tell me if it is shrill, or if the cabinets vibrate, or if it distorts. It for sure will not tell me how it will sound in my room with my gear!

This clash can create a dilemma for the reviewer. We can get something has some great measurments (on paper), but not want to recommend it. I go back to my example of comparing AV receivers. Just because an AV receiver has niche features or looks better on paper, it is not actually a better product.

Our Take

I stand by my assertion that most reviews aren’t objective and you shouldn’t care! If we bought everything based completely on objective measurements, we would be poor indeed. A good reviewer will use their experience and common sense when providing a review. That reviewer will be able to objectively point out the positive and negative, temper them with real-life experience, and explain why that probably doesn’t matter.

Remember, just because something measures objectively better on a couple of metrics doesn’t make it better for you!

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