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

MattHooper

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I find What Hi-Fi to be the worst of the worst audio rags.

Just junky. And they push the anthropomorphizing of the gear to the limits "The X speakers remained steadfast in the face of this piece of music, neither shrinking away in shame, nor engaging in audio braggadocio"....kind of stuff. Truly just "content filler" writing.
 

antcollinet

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remained steadfast in the face of this piece of music, neither shrinking away in shame, nor engaging in audio braggadocio
Good god - have they really written like that.

just verbal dribblings.
 

Prowler_88

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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'.

Some evidence for that? They are as far as I'm aware, not at all linked (apart from maybe advertising). For what it's worth I've always had very good service from RS; they stock a good range of kit and are usually open to me taking stuff home to test. Would have picked up my WiiM amp from them but Amazon got the stock in quicker.

As a late teen in the early 2000s I loved What HiFi and lapped up everything they said. Spent more on HDMI cables than speakers; full indoctrination was achieved. Nowadays I understand how I was swayed by the superlatives and other word salad wonders they came up with. I still like to audition equipment - in particular speakers - as even something that measures relatively poorly may be my preference, such as the Triangle BR03s. I like reading objective measurements and comments on those to use as a base, but at the end of the day if what's in my living room has got weird resonances or a wonky frequency responses and I'm happy with it, that's all that matters.

Occasionally I dip back into What HiFi just for a laugh as the language gets ever more flowery.
 

Ze Frog

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Some evidence for that? They are as far as I'm aware, not at all linked (apart from maybe advertising). For what it's worth I've always had very good service from RS; they stock a good range of kit and are usually open to me taking stuff home to test. Would have picked up my WiiM amp from them but Amazon got the stock in quicker.

As a late teen in the early 2000s I loved What HiFi and lapped up everything they said. Spent more on HDMI cables than speakers; full indoctrination was achieved. Nowadays I understand how I was swayed by the superlatives and other word salad wonders they came up with. I still like to audition equipment - in particular speakers - as even something that measures relatively poorly may be my preference, such as the Triangle BR03s. I like reading objective measurements and comments on those to use as a base, but at the end of the day if what's in my living room has got weird resonances or a wonky frequency responses and I'm happy with it, that's all that matters.

Occasionally I dip back into What HiFi just for a laugh as the language gets ever more flowery.
Allegedly the owner is linked to both, I have no proof beyond hearsay, however I'm inclined to believe it's possibly correct as they do seem to unfavourably amp up products of which Richer Sounds. To be honest in this day and age, many companies are interwined by owners that have also control the reviews or media surrounding such things. It's good for business and far beyond the audio world this kind of practice is extremely commonplace.

Plus also like you say with the superfluous marketing spiel, since the rise of social media this is the thing these days. We live in a world of questionable information on so many fronts now. If what Hi-fi made at least some kind of effort, like what Amir and Erin do, at least there would be actual fact and reference. Don't get me wrong, I'm not all about ruler flat perse, but when someone is just firing off a load of fancy discriptor's etc, technically anyone could 'review' a product and write a review without even listening to say an amp or pair of speakers. We live in a world now stuff that measures horrendously, like really bad and people swear by it and go all out to defend because of human psychology whereby we all justify something to ourselves even if subconsciously. A lot of people, the majority will hear what a 'reviewer' has influenced them to believe it actually sounds like. We live in very strange times, and people are extremely easily lead and manipulated, advertising and other areas of society are cashing in on this more than ever before.
 
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Prowler_88

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Allegedly the owner is linked to both, I have no proof beyond hearsay, however I'm inclined to believe it's possibly correct as they do seem to unfavourably amp up products of which Richer Sounds. To be honest in this day and age, many companies are interwined by owners that have also control the reviews or media surrounding such things. It's good for business and far beyond the audio world this kind of practice is extremely commonplace.

Plus also like you say with the superfluous marketing spiel, since the rise of social media this is the thing these days. We live in a world of questionable information on so many fronts now. If what Hi-fi made at least some kind of effort, like what Amir and Erin do, at least there would be actual fact and reference. Don't get me wrong, I'm not all about ruler flat perse, but when someone is just firing off a load of fancy discriptor's etc, technically anyone could 'review' a product and write a review without even listening to say an amp or pair of speakers. We live in a world now stuff that measures horrendously, like really bad and people swear by it and go all out to defend because of human psychology whereby we all justify something to ourselves even if subconsciously. A lot of people, the majority will hear what a 'reviewer' has influenced them to believe it actually sounds like. We live in very strange times, and people are extremely easily lead and manipulated, advertising and other areas of society are cashing in on this more than ever before.
Indeed we do live in strange times. It seems that easier to access to information an informed populace does not make.

Not sure what equipment you're referring to re: What HiFi amping up Richer Sounds products? Richer are a retailer / distributor and don't make their own kit. The only equipment I can think of would be Cambridge Audio who were previously part owned by Julian Richer (audio Partnership) and are still distributed by Richer in the UK, but they are not linked to What HiFi. They also tend to measure reasonably well (updated CXA81 review here for example) and are well reviewed elsewhere.

Anyways - I think we can all agree that What HiFi are only good for the laughs!
 

jooc

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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?

I think we could allow that describing certain types of distortion in a subjective way could be valuable - as long as we realize that's what we're doing.

For example, hearing a second harmonic through good speakers in certain circumstances can make the listener enjoy the piece more than if it wasn't there. Essentially what they're responding to positively is distortion, but it's a real response - they weren't tricked into it, they're describing a real preference.

If that magazine provides that it could be considered useful.
 
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GGroch

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......For example, hearing a second harmonic through good speakers in certain circumstances can make the listener enjoy the piece more than if it wasn't there. Essentially what they're responding to positively is distortion, but it's a real response - they weren't tricked into it, they're describing a real preference.....
Interesting point. Under some circumstances distortion could be pleasing.

But consider; since What-HiFi never measures distortion they (and you) would have no way to determine when or if this occurs. We can read the reviewer had a pleasurable response, but since their auditions are never blind and never tied to measurement the pleasure could also be caused by a compelling tech story, a hand rubbed carnauba wax finish, or a gratuity the vendor paid for the review. So, not useful I think.
 

HarmonicTHD

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I think we could allow that describing certain types of distortion in a subjective way could be valuable - as long as we realize that's what we're doing.

For example, hearing a second harmonic through good speakers in certain circumstances can make the listener enjoy the piece more than if it wasn't there. Essentially what they're responding to positively is distortion, but it's a real response - they weren't tricked into it, they're describing a real preference.

If that magazine provides that it could be considered useful.
I am not convinced. I want the artist to add all the distortion they think is needed to make their art enjoyable and not have some indeterminate electronic adding it. And even if, I just take my DAW and do it, at least I can switch it off and add it in a quantifiable manner.

Are there any studies / facts showing that additional audible distortion is indeed preferred or just audiophile hearsay (mainly from the tube and vinyl crowd)?

The whole topic was also discussed extensively here
Thread 'Do we crave distortion?'
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/do-we-crave-distortion.45978/
 
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GGroch

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Erin in his Audio Corner just posted a fascinating/hilarious video that discusses use of What-HiFi type terms to subjectively describe sound. The link goes to his rant, but if you back it up you can view a sound wheel that scientific audiophiles in the past created to try to standardize terms. Apropos to this thread; he takes on a British accent for the exercise, I think Erin may have discovered their process.

Click to watch
 

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jooc

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Interesting point. Under some circumstances distortion could be pleasing.

But consider; since What-HiFi never measures distortion they (and you) would have no way to determine when or if this occurs. We can read the reviewer had a pleasurable response, but since their auditions are never blind and never tied to measurement the pleasure could also be caused by a compelling tech story, a hand rubbed carnauba wax finish, or a gratuity the vendor paid for the review. So, not useful I think.

Agreed, and my main complaint is it's an arbitrary description that can vary from reviewer to reviewer. It would be most valuable if it was the same magical reviewer who could put together a wonderful word salad that corresponded directly to the underlying measurements, and they could tie the subjective experience to the measurements consistently even between products.
 

daniboun

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All this pompous and dystirambic lexicon is nothing but poetry intended to unburden our wallets.....
 
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