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What Hi-Fi's Amp Reviews: A Basket of Unmeasurables?

krabapple

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5d97a5026fa74.image.jpg


Syms was a modest NYC-area discount clothes store chain whose signature features were wide selection and a very transparent markdown policy.

"An educated consumer is out best customer" was its memorable slogan in the 1970s; some here might recall the commercials featuring owner Sy Syms reciting it.

Syms went public in 1983, which allowed it to expand, at first to 11 stores.

At which point (stock) market forces were in play; Sy Syms lost control of his company; quality dropped, and it went bankrupt in 2011.



And now, back to audio and silly consummers.
 
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Frank2

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I don't think you need to understand the graphs to read the excellent reviews here. Just the remarks made in the graphs and the conclusion gives way more and way more objective information than a What HIFI review.
I wonder if they always play the same tracks when reviewing an amplifier. If not we can easily explain the different descriptions given in the OP, they probably are related to the chosen tracks and have nothing to do with the amp...
 

Short38

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Any reference to Sy Sims and Syms ads makes my day.

On a more serious set of notes.

One of the very best aspects of ASR and Amirm’s reviews is that when he offers notes about listening tests, he uses a stable set of reference recordings. The only other reviewer I’m familiar with who does this at least some of the time is John Atkinson who references recordings he has engineered. Otherwise the comments in the listening test section of reviews is incomprehensible monkey babble.

When thinking about amplifier reviews, if I read any of the following I run:

Hot to the touch
Any physical hum
Any power supply noise
Channel mismatch
Output specs not met
Shutdown during testing
House circuit upgrade required
….
 

kemmler3D

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nothing more than thinly veiled marketing.
It's not that thinly veiled... if you didn't know anything about audio, but you had some skepticism about the journalistic integrity of reviewers who only publish good reviews of things, you'd probably be able to figure out what was going on there. It's far from just the audio world that has a sketchy relationship between reviewer and advertiser, the video gaming world is notorious for it.
 

Mart68

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From my extensive library, 'WTF' February 1990 edition:



There was only one reason to buy this magazine - it had the 8 page 'Hyper-Fi' advert with a ton of Jap bin-end at one third retail:



Their legacy is still around on forums when you see someone saying something like 'Will compete with XXX in the £2K to £3K price bracket' that style of nonsense talk was learned straight from the pages of WTF

Everything was 'Price brackets' with WTF.

Nowadays it's just full of television reviews so not even worth the bother of browsing it in well known lending libraries like WH Smith (and then sticking it back on the rack).

I remember when you couldn't get near the hi-fi mag rack in WH Smith there was that many browsers. Now we don't even have WH Smith.
 

antcollinet

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From my extensive library, 'WTF' February 1990 edition:



There was only one reason to buy this magazine - it had the 8 page 'Hyper-Fi' advert with a ton of Jap bin-end at one third retail:



The legacy is still around on forums when you see someone saying something like 'Will compete with XXX in the £2K to £3K price bracket' that style of nonsense talk was learned straight from the pages of WTF

Everything was 'Price brackets' with WTF. Nowadays it's just full of television reviews so not even worth the bother of browsing it in well known lending libraries like WH Smith and then sticking it back on the rack.

I remember when you couldn't get near the hi-fi mag rack in WH Smith there was that many browsers. Now we don't even have WH Smith.
I remember that mag browsing.

Vast improvement when my local library stocked what I was interested in.

Now my local library gives me access to a bazillion magazines on line - including what hifi - on devices using an app, or in a browser on desktop:

Screenshot 2023-07-22 at 11.17.04.png
 

Mart68

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I remember that mag browsing.

Vast improvement when my local library stocked what I was interested in.

Now my local library gives me access to a bazillion magazines on line - including what hifi - on devices using an app, or in a browser on desktop:

View attachment 300737
I know, I have hundreds of mags going back to the 1980s piled up in various places around the house, now all totally redundant.

Still think it was more fun to have to trek into town and fight your way through the throng around the magazine racks.

It's all too easy these days.
 

fpitas

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Do you mean his expensive book on speaker design, High Performance Loudspeakers? I have not read it, but If so that would be disappointing.
Yes, I think that was the title. I was just getting into audio at that point. The book was so ridiculous it put me off audio for years.
 

roog

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Yes, I think that was the title. I was just getting into audio at that point. The book was so ridiculous it put me off audio for years.
I was led to understand that he used to design hifi loudspeakers, hence I assumed that his book might offer decent incite into design technique.
 

Jaimo

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A few things I learned over the years from Twat Hi-Fi…

1. British products are always superior.
2. The more money you spend the better the sound.
3. Manufacturers that advertise in their Mag make excellent products.
4. Manufacturers who don’t advertise with them make poor sounding junk.
5. Products with measurable deficiencies and poor “kitchen table” engineering but are made in the UK sound better in comparative shootouts.
6. A good ear is superior to the best measurement systems.
7. As an untrained listener, you should always trust your ears (and eyes!).
8. BADA dealers are a trustworthy bunch and give good advice.
9. Technical specifications are not an indicator or sound quality.
10. British products are always superior.

Thank you Amir and ASR community for helping me see the light and for increasing my wallet size.
 

Short38

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I like the use of the term “composure”. But that may just me. Somehow it took me to the “most beautiful music in the world” compilations.
 

Descartes

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I was going to post that they really kick our butt in traffic but seems like the gap has reduced:

View attachment 299563

Still, they are way ahead of us. The fact that totally unreliable, word salad reviews get so much traffic than us should motivate us all to do more to right the audio ship....
The average person looks at the pretty pictures and the verbiage, for the most part buying on features and looks!
 

Skeeter

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If you pay What HiFi some money for advertising, they will bestow some nice words on your product.

Snake oil nonsense period.
 

fpitas

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I was led to understand that he used to design hifi loudspeakers, hence I assumed that his book might offer decent incite into design technique.
It was a farrago of nonsense. He seemed to think there was one proper speaker: a 2-way with a 6" woofer and a 1" dome tweeter. He of course offered no particular reason for that, except I suppose he likes them.
 

fpitas

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I was led to understand that he used to design hifi loudspeakers, hence I assumed that his book might offer decent incite into design technique.
If you want a competent book on speaker design, a good one is Dickason's Loudspeaker Design Cookbook.

 

Multicore

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The British Audio Magazine What Hi-Fi has published since 1976 and has a loyal following. They are a through-the-looking-glass counterpoint to ASR in that they do no measurements. Instead, they do systematic rigorous listening to each product they review.

Here is a list of all of the Amplifier Characteristics What-HiFi has used to describe audio performance in its six 2023 Amplifier Evaluation Verdicts:
- Musically Cohesive and Dynamically Capable
- Excellent Detail Resolution
- Impressive Punch
- Sonic Composure and Organization
- Sonic Clarity and Control
- Dynamic Contrasts could be stronger, as could Rhythmic Drive
- Agile and Articulate Presentation
-Immaculate with Rhythms
-Wonderfully Musical Insight and Uncluttered
-Expressive Dynamics
- Needs Careful Partnering
- Astonishingly Revealing
- Terrific Timing and Agility
- Some might want a more muscular sound.

My question: do these amplifier characteristics actually exist? I have seen few or none of these terms used in reviews here. Do Amir's objective measurements confirm or contradict any of them? Or, with a nod to Ms. Clinton, is this a basket of unmeasurables?

I can see how "Punch" and "Dynamically Capable" could be related to peak power ratings. I have a hard time figuring out the rest. Are they imaginary?
Did you compile this list @GGroch ? If so, thank you! It's wonderful.

Could these be useful when you need to choose an amp? Doubtful. But I think we can put the What Hi-Fi lingo to work in other ways.

How about in music notation? Published sheet music sometimes comes with a more-or-less cryptic notes from the composer that the interpreter has to figure out. For example with Allegro con brio I need to consider the difference with and without brio and how to use the image of a certain British automobile. Brouwer's simple etude 13 left hand torture says Movido. Shrug. Sometimes I think these notes are more useful to inspire people to come up with different ideas rather than to be specific.

Try it!

Needs Careful Partnering would be for a piece for piano and 4 hands, I suppose.

Terrific Timing and Agility is surely for a virtuoso etude.

In my own music I give a lot of attention to sound and I gotta say, some of these What Hi-Fi verdicts are positively inspiring. Sonic Composure and Organization could be my next album title.

You get the idea? I don't wanna use them all up for you. This is rich souce material.
 

Ze Frog

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To be fair What Hi-fi isn't a review site, it's part of the sales arm of Richer Sounds. Anything they stock gets a good 'review' or an open ended 'review' using terms like 'customers may want something more muscular' and 'needs careful partnering equipment'.
 

Ze Frog

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why do you insist that no CONSUMERS can understand measurements?

Everyone here is a CONSUMER, a tiny few are also DESIGNERS, of audio gear.

And you've had two years here to get a sense of what measurements mean.
But the measurements are really simple to understand, it's not complicated. I think a lot on people it's not they wouldn't understand them, it's that largely the industry hides them and rely on influencers on YouTube and other platforms masquerading as 'reviewers' and publications that are literally telling them what they want to hear. To be fair this is a problem with so many things since the advent of the internet, so much fakery and manipulation, hell even once respected organisations like MSM have resorted to click bait and shock tactics to claw views. What Amir does here with measurements, and Erin is effectively provide actual facts and a more reasonable take, just like how independent news is starting to finally get people to see the light. We all go through a stage of nativity, but people usually snap out of it, and when they do they can find better options.
 
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