To Jeff Fritz,
I am a long-time audiophile who enjoys reading your posts on Ultra Audio. The other day, I read your article on speakers over $15k. I spent the last year focusing on the electronics in my system, but may be in the speaker market in that price range over the coming year. I haven't heard some/many of these, but totally agree with your views on several that I have. I heard Rockport Technologies Aviors at RMAF and thought they were the best-sounding speakers at the show last year (eager to hear them again in a more controlled environment along with the Atria.), and although I could never afford the Q7s, they were spectacular when I heard them in a very good room.
But I have one question (maybe a mild complaint) that I wanted to get your take on. In that article you state:
"Regarding one company that touts special wiring within their speakers, I discovered, when replacing a bad driver, that they use the cheapest Monster Cable available. When replacing a bad driver in a speaker from a different company -- a speaker whose drive-units were supposed to be bespoke -- I found Madisound labels under the company’s own labels. (Madisound is a reseller of DIY and OEM drivers.) I’ve also seen drivers that were supposed to be manufactured in-house sitting on display tables at a Consumer Electronics Show, being sold by the OEM that actually makes them. And, perhaps most egregious: I’ve visited several large speaker-making factories that, despite their impressive machine shops and finishing areas, do no acoustical testing of the assembled loudspeaker. None. Nada. Doesn’t happen. Scared yet?"
So, my question is: Why do you (and other audio writers) hold back on naming names here? Being coy about it accomplishes nothing for your main audience -- other audiophiles -- other than to frustrate us. What is lost by naming them? If they are engaging in this, then why not simply state your observations and facts and let them answer or defend their choices. This happens in other consumer-goods industries and I don't understand why audio "journalists" have such a reluctance (other than the obvious explanation of access to gear or ad revenue) to be forthright. Not "naming names" only perpetuates the common perception that all audio writers are on the take, are not really "journalists," and are really just a glorified part of most companies' marketing budget.
I don't mean to be overly critical, but reading "hints" at practices that most discerning audio consumers would find objectionable, but no one being willing to actually be clear to the reader about what is going on is very frustrating. Thanks for your views, your work, and any comments on this.
All the best,
Yours is a fair letter. There is an explanation. But first, I'll state that we at the SoundStage! Network have been extremely vocal about the products that we think aren’t very good. You can read articles like "Gorgeous Hardware Costing Almost $100,000, but What the Hell Is Inside?," "CES Madness: Sonus Faber and Neodio," "Total Joke: Perfect8's Pricing," "F’ing Up a Legend?," and the list goes on. I don’t think you'll find anywhere near that level of candor anyplace else when it comes to the audio press. And you don't have to hunt around Ultra Audio much to see that I would prefer Ascendo or Magico speakers to Wilsons or Avalons any day of the week. I'm not trying to be defensive here, but simply pointing out that I (and we) have been extremely candid about what we think is good, not so good, and a total rip off. There are many more examples I could give you but I'd be hyperlinking for the next hour.
I know your question was regarding my article, however, so I'll address that specifically. The "What I'd Buy" series was conceived to give you an inside look at what I would buy, and nothing else. The paragraph you quoted simply gives you some of the reasoning that fuels my quest for properly engineered and expertly built and tested products. It wasn't meant to "out" anyone. Doing so would require a thorough bit of documentation in order to fully support "naming names" and that was outside of the scope of my article. But rest assured that we will continue to be honest and candid, but only in the appropriate forums for that type of discussion. . . . Jeff Fritz