Home  Hi-Fi Audio Reviews  Audiophile Shows Partner Mags  News     

  High-End High-Performance Audiophile Review Magazine & Hi-Fi Audio Equipment Reviews

  High-Performance Audio Reviews
  Music News, Show Reports, And More!

  Celebrating 29 Years Of Service To Music Lovers

Enjoy the Music.com

The Absolute Sound

The Absolute Sound      March 2023

 

From The Editor
Long-Term Equipment Loan To A Reviewer: A Win-Win For Everyone
Robert Harley looks at the practical and ethical considerations of longterm equipment loans from manufacturers to reviewers.
Editorial By Robert Harley

 

The Absolute Sound March 2023

 

  In this issue's Letters column, reader Henry Kleeman expresses concern over the magazine's policy regarding long-term equipment loans from manufacturers to reviewers. He writes: "I have always thought that the ‘extended loan' of high-end gear to reviewers is the dirty little secret of the audio-reviewing community. I'm hard pressed to understand how it doesn't create, at the very least, an appearance of a conflict of interest. If Company B has graciously given a reviewer its new state-of-the-art, half-million-dollar, ultimate speaker on an ‘extended loan' (so the reviewer can incorporate the speakers into his reference system), how does that reviewer then approach a review of Company B's new $50,000 speaker?"

I fully understand Mr. Kleeman's perception that a reviewer would feel beholden to a manufacturer who had lent the reviewer an expensive piece of equipment for an extended period. But that perception doesn't comport with the reality of how such loans work or the benefit the manufacturer derives from the arrangement. Moreover, long-term equipment loans are essential to writing the most accurate and insightful reviews, present no conflict of interest, and serve the best interests of everyone — readers, reviewers, the magazine, manufacturers, and the industry has a whole.

I'll start with the practical reality of reviewing very-high-end products. Most of us at The Absolute Sound who review very expensive equipment cannot afford to buy the reference-level components that are necessary for evaluating the product under review. For example, I'm about to review the new $133,000 Rockport Orion loudspeaker. To discern the Orion's capabilities fully and accurately, it must be judged in a system of commensurate quality, including sources, amplification, cables, equipment racks, power conditioning, and accessories. Those components should be as neutral and transparent as possible so that the loudspeaker's characteristics can be fully revealed, untainted by colorations from the rest of the system. Because I'm the editor of a small niche magazine and not a hedge-fund manager, providing such a system of superlative components is possible only through long-term loans.

It's not enough that the associated components be of commensurate quality to the product under review; the reviewer must also be thoroughly familiar with the sound of the reference system. Inserting a new product into a highly transparent reference system whose characteristics are known intimately by the reviewer is the gold standard for writing an accurate and insightful review. Anything less is a compromise. A reference system is the reviewer's test bed; the better the quality of the system and the more stable it is over time, the more accurate the reviews of products evaluated in that system. Without long-term loans, reviewers must either evaluate expensive products in systems they can afford (i.e., that are not up to the sonic standard of the product under review) or change the entire playback system with each new product evaluation.

 

The Absolute Sound March 2023

 

But doesn't the long-term product loan create a conflict of interest as Mr. Kleeman suggests? No, because the reality of long-term loans is very different than what Mr. Kleeman imagines it is. The assumption is that the reviewer is beholden to the manufacturer providing the loan, when it is the manufacturer who benefits more from the loan. In fact, manufacturers are disappointed (and sometimes angry) when a reviewer returns a product — see my editorial "How Could He Betray Us?" in Issue 334, which precipitated Mr. Kleeman's letter. The benefit to the manufacturer from having his product chosen for inclusion in the reviewer's reference system far outweighs the cost of leaving a review sample with the reviewer for an extended period.

Reviewers, at least those who write for a prominent publication, can select just about any product they want for long-term loan; it is not bestowed upon them by the manufacturer. Many products flow through a reviewer's system; only the crème de la crème remain as references. The inclusion of a product in a reviewer's reference system—chosen purely on the basis of performance — is the ultimate praise, conferring significant prestige and commercial advantage on the manufacturer. Consequently, reviewers owe the manufacturer nothing for the loan.

This arrangement also benefits readers by identifying those products that are truly exceptional. If you see a product listed in the reviewer's "Associated Components" section, you can be sure that that product is the finest example in that product category the reviewer has encountered. Another benefit to readers is less tangible — the reviewer's long experience with great sound and how that experience affects his standards. If you are considering buying a product (of any price) that you've just read about in a review, would you feel more secure in the reviewer's judgment if that reviewer had spent decades listening to the very best products the industry has created or if the reviewer's experience with state-of-the-art audio was limited to brief auditions in unknown environments?

For this system to work, we adhere to the iron-clad rule that the review sample must eventually be returned to the manufacturer. Although the reviewer may use a product for several years, it belongs to the manufacturer.

While it may appear at first glance that long-term loans create a potentially unhealthy relationship between reviewers and manufacturers, the reality is that these loans are a win-win for everyone.

 

 

— Robert Harley

 

 

 

The Absolute Sound
Subscribe To The Absolute Sound Magazine
Click here to subscribe to The Absolute Sound magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

Quick Links


Premium Audio Review Magazine
High-End Audiophile Equipment Reviews

 

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc
Superior Audio Gear Reviews

 

 


Show Reports
HIGH END Munich 2024
AXPONA 2024 Show Report
Montreal Audiofest 2024 Report

Southwest Audio Fest 2024
Florida Intl. Audio Expo 2024
Capital Audiofest 2023 Report
Toronto Audiofest 2023 Report
UK Audio Show 2023 Report
Pacific Audio Fest 2023 Report
T.H.E. Show 2023 Report
Australian Hi-Fi Show 2023 Report
...More Show Reports

 

Videos
Our Featured Videos

 


Industry & Music News

High-Performance Audio & Music News

 

Partner Print Magazines
audioXpress
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine

 

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

 

 

 

     

Home   |   Hi-Fi Audio Reviews   |   News   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us

 

All contents copyright©  1995 - 2024  Enjoy the Music.com®
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.