Whom Can You Trust?
A New Look
After over 7 years and over 1200 articles, you’ve probably noticed that the Real HD-Audio website has a new look and feel. And it wasn’t because I wanted to “upgrade” the site or was unhappy with the previous style. The London Live Word Press theme that I had been using stopped working as expected. A couple readers pointed out that their comments didn’t show up at the bottom of a post and I noticed that the visit count stuck at zero. I tried to fix the problems but things only got worse. An attempt at backing up the site and reinstalling the old theme didn’t work either. I had looked at alternative themes a while back and found ColorMag. I liked it but never had the time or motivation to switch things. But with the existing site failing, it was time. that happened yesterday.
If you find it challenging to navigate the new site or end up in a dead end, I would appreciate your patience while I sort out the details of the new theme. I haven’t spent much time with it and need to sort out a few things. RealHD-Audio will be a work in progress for a while. The images are different sizes, the metadata tags get in the way and I’m sure I’ll run into additional issues. The good news is the visit counter and comments are working. If you have any comments or would like to offer your opinion on the new look, please post a comment below
Who Can You Trust?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the “cozy” relationship between some reviewers, audiophile websites, and the manufacturers that pay for the advertising on those sites or otherwise “sponsor” them. I heard from a number of readers who agreed that finding a trustworthy source of information can be very challenging. They asked what sources or websites I trust and would recommend. So I’ve listed a few of the best sources of information — In no particular order — about high-end audio below:
- Archimago’s Musings is terrific site operated by a very knowledgeable individual. He does terrific, objective commentary on equipment, processes, formats, and is especially good at doing and explaining measurements. Archimago knows BS from real audio enhancements. His criticism of MQA, for example, is spot on and worth reading.
- John Siau, the principal designer and owner of Benchmark Media, is a close friend AND one of the best sources of information on high-end audio. He has shared a great deal of information with me and I count on him for. the straight story when it comes to analog or digital design. Normally, an individual who has products to sell to audiophiles would be suspect. But while John runs a business, he knows that accurate information about high-end audio makes his products attractive and very cost effective. They’re not the cheapest but they are among the very best at any price. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a power amp, when you can get an AHB2 for less than $3000? His articles are well worth your time. Check out application notes at the Benchmark site. And no, I am not compensated by Benchmark or any other company on this list. Benchmark has shared expenses and equipment with me at the AXPONA show.
- Normally, I wouldn’t include any advertising backed websites, but I have a great deal of respect for Chris Connaker, the proprietor at AudiophileStyle.com. Chris walks a very fine line and has managed to call out fake processes and technologies (think MQA again) in spite of the push he gets from the big powerful companies. But seeing the AudioQuest logo and other “high-end” sponsors on his site demonstrate that his site is fundamentally about making a business.
- Gene della Sala of Audioholics.com is another website that is willing to confront the BS that manufacturers regularly spew. I know Gene and applaud his no nonsense videos and reviews.
- I would also include myself, my books, and this site as reliable sources of information. But if you’re a long time reader, you already know this. I’ve been writing for AudiophileReview over the past year and generally endorse the information presented on the site. I respect the new owner and have encouraged him to build a brand that can be counted on for the truth. Although, when I see articles supporting directional and expensive power cords written by a gentleman that has a company that sells them, my hackles get twitchy. In this business, you can’t have it both ways. Either you call out misinformation and fakery or you don’t.
- There are a few individual writers and reviewers working for the big sites that also deserve mention. I enjoy and believe Brent Butterworth when he reviews a piece of equipment. And Amir Majidimehr, the founder of Audio Science Review is a very knowledgeable and honest individual. Ethan Winer, the author of The Audio Expert, is also a reliable source of information.
- Schiit Audio – I do not have any personal experience with the equipment this company designs and produces but I have spoken to the principals and read some of their information…these guys get it.
- Emotiva – I know Dan Laufman, the CEO of this company, and find that his products are well designed and good value for the price. Dan stepped up when I needed 5 speakers in my AXPONA demo room a few years ago and I was amazed at the performance we achieved with speakers that cost less than $1000 per pair — they were on par with the Revel Salon II’s that I had the previous year!
I have been advised against creating a list of websites, people, audio trade show organizers, and companies (and their associated personalities/reviewers) that I do not recommend. There are too many lawyers looking to initiate action on behalf of these companies (I’ve been through a few of these – and thankfully the threats of a suit were avoided.) There are plenty that have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of integrity when it comes to disseminating information about high-end audio equipment, processes, cables, etc. Most reviews, videos, or information they publish, promote, or post are inaccurate, misinformed, technically without merit, or deliberately false. They are primarily interested in the profit they can extract from audiophile consumers instead of providing useful information. Audiophiles deserve accurate information. I can and do tolerate some exaggeration when it comes to promoting products (especially one’s own), but facts and words DO MATTER.
It’s not hard to imagine who or what companies would make this list. If there is no scientific or engineering basis or other legitimate reasons for the claims made by designer cable companies, audiophile accessory makers, reviewers, or crazy expensive equipment manufacturers, avoid them. There are a lot of snake oil salesman in the audiophile marketplace. But we already know that.
The New Book – Progress and an Update
The Kickstarter campaign for A User Guide to Streaming, Downloads & Personal Audio is almost half over. There are 16 days left. The response so far has been very encouraging. My heartfelt thanks to everyone that has made a pledge. Over 200 backers have signed on and we are 75% of the way to the $10,000 goal. As is typical of any campaign, the couple of weeks in the middle of the 30 active period are slower than the opening or the close. Let’s see if we can change that.
I’m asking all of my readers to select a reward, make a pledge, and become a backer of this campaign right away.
I need another 100 backers to visit the KS page, select a reward, and make a pledge. If you haven’t yet secured a copy of the first book, Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound, now would be the perfect time — just before the holidays.
A few backers have written to ask if they will have to wait for delivery of the existing book or the 5 AIX Records downloads. The answer is no. At the conclusion of the campaign on Friday, October 30, 2020 at 8:00 PDT and assuming we’re successful at reaching out goal, I will begin distributing any rewards that include the Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound or the 5 AIX Records downloads from iTrax.com.
I have dedicated more than a decade of my life and millions of dollars in my personal quest to demonstrate what is possible in music recording and reproduction. I’m very proud of the AIX Records catalog. It makes my day when I receive emails like the one below:
“Mark I am blown away!!!! I got your BR sampler yesterday and have played it non stop for 2 days in my media room inviting anyone that wants to listen to 5.1 soundtracks in 24/96. True THX reproduction. Some of the tracks make me weak in the knees. I was going to bring it to a local movie theater and play it and get some sales for you. Is that OK? As you know people pass judgment on Audio when they have never listened to real DVDHD and Blueray 124/96 in full THX is is stunning and my jaw and tongue are still dirty from licking the floor. Great Compilation of some of your best work Very much appreciated. You have been and always will be my reference standard until someones Tops your Skills. The imaging in 5.1 is breath taking. I will pass the word. Cheers and thanks for making me realize what an Audiophile should be!!” Glen
I feel the same way when readers of the first book, write to tell me how much they appreciate the way that I shared some of the things I’ve learned over the past 40 years in high-end audio. From Doug:
“Hi Mark, I just finished your master piece on the truth about the audiophile world. Wow, I have been in that group of music lovers looking for the best sound for 56 years and despite my electrical engineering background have fallen for a few of the “snake-oil” products myself, despite not understanding how they could possible work. I can strongly recommend this down-to-earth fact based book to anyone who loves music and spends the time and expense to build a decent audio system. Our home has a separate stereo space and a home theater 7.2 plus height system which I wish I would have combined the two. I was doubtful of the surround sound music since I had tried the previous formats the past but was never quite satisfied. Beamforming really has my interest for the future – thanks again. I am on the list for your next book.”
Thanks again for your support. Please make a pledge, help spread the news about the campaign, and stay safe in these challenging times!
20 thoughts on “Whom Can You Trust?”
A year ago, I would have agreed with your assessment of Chris Connaker, but not any more. At the beginning of the year, he suddenly changed his stance and banned about a dozen of the more outspoken critics of snake oil, me included, from the site.
Really. I can’t say the I frequent his site. He’s in a tough place. Trying to balance the hucksters like AQ, SR, and others while making sure his nut is met every month. If anyone else has had a similar experience, please let me know. I know Chris and would be willing to reach out to him.
If he wants to run an echo chamber for believers, it’s within his rights to do so. I only mentioned it since I don’t think information presented there can be trusted as long as disagreement is prohibited.
I would agree with that…but it also depends on the manner in which disagreement is expressed.
Funny that the people I trust and trust me all opposed MQA, don’t buy into fancy cables and pay great attention to the room.
Hello Mark. No, you got that wrong. As of 18 February 2020, Connaker created a special little hidey-hole on his site called Objective-Fi, and banished all objective discussion of hi-fi to that little corner. Take a look: https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/58472-new-objective-fi-sub-forum/
He put a spin on it by calling it a place where objective audiophiles can feel safe, but that was not the origin of this at all. This came from subjective audiophiles frustration at being told that their dramatic reviews of DACs are describing effects that cannot technically be possible from the differences in the equipment. It’s entire purpose was so that subjective audiophiles can complain about any kind of objective comment in the forum threads, and get it removed from those threads and moved over into this dark little corner. You can imagine the result, in terms of the quality of discussion available in 99% of the site.
The fact that he tried to put a spin on it like that, tells me that he is ashamed of the true motives for this action. He didn’t want arguments, and the alternative course of action, to banish all subjective reports to a little corner called Subjective-Fi, would’ve been the end of traffic on his site.
AudiophileStyle deserves to be on the Not Recommended list of any audiophile interested in truth.
Grant, you’re not the first to point out that Chris Connaker doesn’t deserve a place on my recommended list. Several people I know and trust have been banned from his site. So perhaps, you and others are right.
Hi Mark, I would add hydrogenaud.io (Hydrogen Audio Forum) to your recommended list.
Check out their TOS #8: https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php/topic,3974.0.html
More detail about TOS#8 : https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php/topic,3974.0.html#post_tos8
Do you know of it? I think it is a great resource for the audiophile who wants the facts without the self-hypnosis.
Grant, thanks. Yes, I have visited and like the tone and information offered at Hydrogen Audio. Thanks.
Thanks for yet another good posting.
The new site looks nice – reading on my iPad.
As for chris Connacker – he was the one, who ‘turned me on’ to music listening from digital sources years ago….learned a lot.
Of course he is a salesman – now more than ever.
However, there are some interesting articles on his site – you just have to read around the ‘B**S**t’.
P.S. I would never make any comments there – has no sense.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks Flemming! I haven’t been to Chris’ site in years. He did establish a very vibrant site but the push back against objective analysis by “so-called” experts was too much for me.
As someone who writes for Chris at AS, I have to push back a bit here. While I didn’t agree with the move to the objective section, the reason for it was the snide comments by some of the members on the pure objective side, over and over and over, getting way too personal. I am not sure why Mans got booted as I didn’t put him in that camp. While I consider myself an objectivist, it really got to be too much and pushed Chris over the edge. I know from speaking with him that he didn’t make his decision without a ton of thought. Not a fan of echo chambers. Maybe one day Chris will reconsider. He is one of the good guys in this business. BTW, ASR is just such an echo chamber IMHO. I was on when it started but really can’t read it much anymore let alone contribute. Life is too short to get upset about audio, even the pure BS stuff.
Another recommended site is the sound science section of the head fi forum. Some knowledgeable people post there.
Gearslutz is ok too
Hi Mark, I hadn’t seen this until someone pointed me to it this evening. Thanks for including me on your list. I’ve never lied or stretched the truth on Audiophile Style. I also don’t write for people to read between the lines. It isn’t my style.
With respect to some of the above comments, I have no problems with people disagreeing with me, my business moves, or my taste in audio. That’s what makes the world go round. I do want readers to know there are at least two sides to every story.
There’s no need to go into the weeds and address every issue. Life is too short to get caught up on drama. We all have enough on our plates that is much more life/death than this stuff. Feel free to call me anytime if you want to discuss.
Joe I’ve been laying low because I don’t believe in what Chris is doing. Nothing has changed in the audiophile world about conflicts. Only the topics.
And people seem to read what I posted, more than a million views in one thread you know well.
Not sure what that means Steve, as I have no interest in MQA, use cables I bought in 1992 and room designed with audio in mind. There will always be BS in audio. I just don’t see a need to get all bent out of shape over it.
Joe, my comment about laying low was a response to your comment about Chris not my general comment. What Mark has discovered about hi-res I knew ten years ago when I researched whether people could hear a difference between hi-res and cd quality in a good listening room. And found no research supporting the notion was repeated. A big red flag for someone like me who research is primary function of my tax practice.
I’ve ruffed a lot feathers with my views on audio formats but nobody seems willing to take me on face to face. I’ll respond to his attacks on me in April. We will see how he reacts.
Concerning your recommendation #7, I just wanna remark that the company is spelled Schiit – double i, single t. Its name sounds a little bit … weird otherwise. 😉
Thanks. You’re right. I should have checked or noticed it when I went to their site.
I trust only myself. I have the knowledge and experience to know what I want, expect to hear, and how to get it. Since no one could satisfy me I had to invent my own. It sounds right to me when properly adjusted. The only one. And it didn’t cost megabucks. That’s what I get for being an engineer and a music lover, not an audiophile.