Have you ever read any hifi forums or the comments section on a hifi review site? I have and let me tell you, it ain’t always pretty.
I’ve found that in both cases, forums and comments, facts can give way to fictional narratives. We’re talking about stories people make up as if they are true and these fictions end up getting repeated over time so they eventually become accepted as being real.
“How much did you pay for it?”
One of my favorites is, “How much did you pay for it?” wherein it is assumed that since reviewers have not paid full retail, or anything at all, for equipment they praise and use, their opinions are worthless. They are skewed by the deal, leading reviewers to lose site of value.
Claptrap! That’s what I have to say about that. Claptrap!
Let’s pretend that you, yes you, are having some form of e-exchange with two people you do not know— MrX and EverythingSucks666—about an integrated amplifier that they each own. It retails for $1500.
MrX has owned his for 2 years and uses it every day. He also spent time comparing it, in his home in the same system, to the last integrated amplifier he owned which retailed for $1000 as well a few others he borrowed from friends. His purchase decision was only made after these in-home, in-system comparisons.
EverythingSucks666 bought the same integrated amp after hearing it at a dealer for about 1/2 hour. It is his first hifi purchase which also included the rest of the system.
MrX did not pay full retail for his. EverythingSucks666 paid full price.
If we apply our fictional narrative to this story, “How much did you pay for it?”, we’re supposed to believe that EverythingSucks666 is the more reliable source of information. To make matters worse, it turns out MrX has written a review for a blog so he cannot be trusted.
Common Retort. “But wait! Reviewers can buy anything at discounted rates and some stuff is discounted more than others. So they buy the better deal and praise it publicly probably because doing so got them the better deal!”
Fact: Anyone can buy anything at discounted rates and these discounted rates vary greatly whether we’re talking demo, used, trade, etc.
If a reviewer’s opinion is not to be trusted simply because they can get a discount, it follows that anyone who buys at a discount cannot be trusted. Or so this logic goes, which is not very far in the light of reason.
Reviewers are people too
I have a secret. Like every reviewer and industry person I know, and I mean know in the I’ve actually met and spoken to them about life sense, I buy the gear I want to buy. Just like (some) other people who are not reviewers. One advantage of being a reviewer is it offers the ability to try out gear in our home (or Barn), in our system before commiting to a purchase. I wouldn’t discount the importance of that.
Industry Accommodation Pricing
It’s called Industry Accommodation Pricing because it’s offered to people in the industry. This includes people who work for manufacturers, at hifi shops, etc. If we try to overlay our fictional narrative on top of this fact, are we supposed to believe that everyone with the ability to purchase gear at Industry Accommodation Pricing buys the best deal and not the stuff they actually want?
“Oh gee. I really really like that one, but this one ends up costing the same and it’s much more expensive so I’m going to buy it even though I don’t like it.”
This may make perfect sense to someone, but there’s no sense to be found in this fictional narrative.
I bet some of you are wondering how much I paid for my hifi. On principle, I pay 20% over retail for everything. Thus making me the most trusted reviewer alive. [footnote 1]
1. I have learned that another reviewer is paying 25% over retail so he is now the most trusted reviewer alive. [footnote 2]
2. I have since learned that another reviewer is claiming she pays 30% over retail. Sigh. I suppose finding the most trusted reviewer alive is like finding the oldest person alive.