News & Opinion

The High-End Audio Gear Review Formula


Psst! Hey, buddy! Come over here. Wanna know a secret? Wanna know how you know you are reading a high-end audio gear review? I’ve got the skinny on all the high-end audio gear reviews. They’ve got a formula! Yep! And I know it! For fifty bucks and let you in on it!

The Formula

When you start reading the reviews, you see an easy pattern emerge. It looks a lot like:

  1. Reviewer is completely happy with their system and isn’t interested in adding more gear
  2. Manufacturer contacts reviewer promising their product will be an upgrade
  3. Reviewer reluctantly agrees to review after looking into the “science” of the product
  4. Reviewer integrates product, doesn’t experience upgrade
  5. Manufacturer works with reviewer, reviewer makes some changes to the system (almost always cabling)
  6. Voil√†! Upgrade achieved! The reviewer’s wife/child/dog can even hear the difference as they walk by the listening room!

What the High-End Audio Gear Review Formula Does

When you look closely that the high-end audio gear review formula, it is clear why they use it. They start with being one hundred percent happy with their current gear. This ensures that they don’t alienate the manufacturers of their previous gear. That’s important because they are probably still advertising with the site.

Next, they have problems with the new gear. That’s important for a number of reasons. First, it allows some screen-time for the manufacturer. They want to be shown as being accessible and responsive. It also gives them opportunities to either add more of their gear offerings to the review (more sales for the manufacturer) or for the site to include other products with which they are trying to make marketing deals (likely cable manufacturers).

In the end, the reviewer (and their family) is impressed with the upgrade. But the reviewer is careful to suggest that their old gear was great and that it was only by combining the new product with different cabling/products that the upgrade was achieved. My favorite part is the mental gymnastics it takes for them to justify how the new cables are better without insulting the old cables! This reiterates that their old gear was just fine and that you should totally buy it. But allows the new gear to get a “good” review.

Why Use the Formula

Well, for one, it makes compelling reading. Like any action movie, you know the good guys will win, but it is how they get there that is exciting. With high-end audio gear reviews, you know they will experience a new level of “audio nirvana,” you just don’t know how. These reviews as much tell a story of overcoming the limitations of their gear (read: cables) so that the new product can finally shine! It’s the story of an underdog. An incredibly overpriced underdog that needed extremely expensive cabling to win.

Second, the formula ensures that all parties involved will continue to work with (i.e. advertise) the site. There honestly aren’t all that many high-end audio gear manufacturers out there. The formula ensures that you can keep doing reviews, keep upgrading your systems, without stepping on any toes. Advertising dollars are precious. These sites can’t lose a single advertiser.

Third. It works. I’ve been reading reviews like these for years. YEARS. The formula is so obvious I’m surprised they don’t just start using bullet points. The fact that the formula has barely changed over all these years attests to its efficacy.

Conclusion

When you identify the high-end audio gear formula in a review, does that invalidate the review? Not necessarily. It could just be a new reviewer following a tried and true system. But it should give you pause. Adding gear to your system should NEVER require you to swap out wires unless you are upgrading to a new technology. Speaker cables and analogue cables should do nothing but send through an unadulterated signal. Any review that suggests that the cabling made the difference should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Otherwise, use your judgment. If it sounds too fantastical, it probably is.


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