Question: Why Aren’t There More Negative Reviews?

This question necessarily assumes there are bad products that do not get reviewed. I’m going to have to answer a question with a question—who, in their right mind, would design, manufacture, and sell bad hifi? Of course this happens all the time in the pharma, investment, and defense industries, but hifi?

Unfortunately, this assumption doesn’t end with “bad hifi.” That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If we dig down deeper we find. . .paranoia—bad products are a rip-off so we have to be vigilant so as not to get scammed. Measure, measure, measure, A/B, A/B, A/B, ABX, ABX, ABX. Our senses are evil, they deceive us.

I have news for ya—the thing about hifi is we use it to listen to, and enjoy, music. If you don’t like what you hear, return it. If you like what you hear, enjoy.

The moral of the story being, skip the paranoia and jump right to enjoyment. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Question: Why Aren’t There More Negative Reviews? Share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. A similar though occurred to me years ago when reading CD music reviews — only in reverse. There was limited space for music reviews in the magazines and it was a bit irritating to have the limited bandwidth taken up with a negative review. OK, so I won’t buy it, but that didn’t help me to know what to explore and buy.

  2. Isn’t this due to the way magazines and sites get ahold of the gear they review? They depend on manufactures to send them new items to review and if an item gets torn apart there’s always the risk, the manufacturers might stop sending them their equipment.
    You have to learn to read between the lines. A couple of hifi magazines here in Germany assign a sound score to each product and no matter how much an item gets praised, just take a look at this score and you have a rough idea how well it does compared to the competition.

    Ideally a reviewer would just buy all the equipment but would we then ever stand a chance of reading about Grande Utopia or Alexia speakers?

    • I can only speak for myself, but the scenario you propose doesn’t make sense to me for a few reasons. First off, the most important thing for any reviewer is reputation. If we were to give a positive review to something that does not deserve it, our reputation would suffer. Both with readers, which is our primary concern, as well as with other manufacturers. It is a true lose, lose.

      Secondly, again speaking only from my experience, the most negative review I’ve ever written, wherein I said I cannot recommend that anyone purchase this product, the manufacturer was certainly not happy but they ended up sending me a revised version of the product for review. One takeaway from this is to recognize that some people, most of the people I’ve met in the industry, are interested in making good products.

      Lastly, why would I, or anyone else, want to continue reviewing products from a company who a) makes a bad product, and b) tries to hold a reviewer hostage? There is no shortage of gear out there, more than anyone can ever review so there’s simply no reason to even entertain entering into the kind of relationship you suggest.

      Buying review gear is simply not possible for any number of reasons. Of course the costs are prohibitive and once the review is written, where would all this gear go?

  3. I think it is because on a basic level, most HiFi gear sounds fairly decent (and most gear is VERY similar if you look past the cosmetics) We are long past the stage where mainstream stuff sounds bad (perhaps some speakers still fall in this category?). I have cheap T amps, classic SS amps, pretty exotic SET and PP amps and they all pass basic muster. That said, we are chasing sound that is beyond “fairly decent”. I think reviewers are not always communicating what gear has that special magic that sets it apart from a field of qualified contenders. And of course, sonics have to be considered within the context of value. This just adds to the difficulty in assessing positive vs negative review outcomes because we all have different subjective assessments of value.

  4. Reviewers tend to choose gear for review that they find interesting. If they don’t understand it or don’t agree with the need for such a device they’ll probably not bother to review it. I don’t think reviewers want to write bad reviews. But a good reviewer will point out areas where the product does not live up to stated claims or category norms. I think the hardest aspect of reviewing is evaluating the value of any given product. Everyone values different aspects of performance and functionality. Some are willing to pay double or triple for incremental improvements, while others find that endless upgrade obsession to be tiresome. In this regard readers often have favorite reviewers who reflect their own sensibilities. As much as reviewers don’t want to write bad reviews, it is readers who don’t want to read bad reviews

    • Thank you sharing your thoughts Greg. I found my head nodding “yes” in agreement all the way through. Nicely said!

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