Confessions of a Skeptical Audiophile: Why I Don’t Trust Reviews & Why I Still Watch Them

Reviewing the reviewers.
Reviewing the reviewers.

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I treat reviews like gossip columns for gearheads.

This is submitted by an anonymous contributor. If you wish to send your own stories about headphones, audio gear, music, or your life as an audiophile, feel free to contact us!

Living far from any brick-and-mortar audio gear stores, I’ve come to rely a lot on online reviews. But, over time, I’ve developed a love-hate affair with the audiophile reviewer community.

On the one hand, I value the knowledge and new perspectives these reviewers share. Their infectious passion has led me to discover some of my favorite audio equipment.

Yet, as I’ve gained more experience, I’ve become very aware of the issues plaguing them. These problems make me question how reliable and unbiased many reviews are.

It even reached the point where the more I read and watched them, the more difficult it became to trust them fully.

The Problems With Audiophile Reviews

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key issues:

Conflicts of interest

One of the most glaring problems in the audiophile review sphere is the prevalence of conflicts of interest.

It’s hard to ignore the financial incentives tied to many reviews. Affiliate links, sponsorships, manufacturer collaborations – you name it.

Even if a reviewer genuinely tries to be fair, these connections make you wonder if you can trust them.

Take Joshua Valour, for instance. Just like many, I became a fan of his high-quality YouTube productions. I thought that maybe the effort he’s giving to his videos is reflective of his effort in learning about and reviewing the gear.

But as his channel grew and sponsorships rolled in, there has been a noticeable change that a lot of viewers, including me, couldn’t help but notice.

Earlier criticisms of products seemed to disappear from later reviews with affiliate links. It’s natural to wonder if making money is becoming more important than truly loving the gear.

Can we really be surprised the some reviewers are only in it for the money?
Can we really be surprised the some reviewers are only in it for the money?

The push for consumption

Another frustrating part of the audiophile review world is the relentless push for consumption.

It feels like there’s always a “new and improved” piece of gear to want, with reviewers always telling us to upgrade.

Where are the voices saying it’s okay to be happy with what we have or suggesting we take it slow with upgrades?

What’s more, the community seems to favor more expensive gear.

Lachlan Fennen of Passion for Sound is a good example of this. His reviews of pricey audio cables have been accused of misleading buyers, spreading the idea that higher prices always mean better sound.

This kind of talk can lead to some serious overspending among his audience.

Inconsistency and subjectivity

The wild differences across reviews can be really frustrating. One reviewer will love a product, while another hates it.

Sure, audio preferences are personal, based on our unique hearing, music tastes, and what kind of sound we like. But this lack of agreement can be maddening when you’re trying to make a smart purchase.

The ongoing debate over using measurements and graphs to judge sound quality adds to the confusion. Some people swear by purely objective data, while others say graphs can’t capture the full listening experience.

So, we’re basically stuck in the middle, not sure who’s telling the truth and who’s not.

Occasionally doubtful technical knowledge

It’s painfully clear that not every reviewer has taken the time to really understand how audio reproduction and headphones work.

The controversy around Tech Reviewer Alex Bracetti’s review of the EarFun EH100 shows this knowledge gap in action.

Despite calling the earbuds “perfect for audiophiles,” Bracetti made the basic mistake of wearing them incorrectly.

The earbuds couldn’t seem to be placed in the ear canal deep enough suggesting a wrong ear tip size. (From: Tom’s Guide)
The earbuds couldn’t seem to be placed in the ear canal deep enough suggesting a wrong ear tip size. (From: Tom’s Guide)

This obvious error not only makes you question if you can trust this specific reviewer. It also highlights a bigger issue: how many other reviewers are out there spreading misinformation that’s less obvious to spot?

It’s enough to make any audio enthusiast lose sleep.

Why I Still Watch and Read Reviews

Even though I’m skeptical, I can’t seem to quit watching and reading reviews completely.

I think they’re still useful for finding new products and understanding what’s out there. And I’ll always be grateful for how reviews have shown me gear that I might have missed otherwise.

But I still have to get around the issues.

That’s why I’ve learned to approach reviews with a critical eye. Instead of putting all my eggs in one reviewer’s basket, I’ve learned to look for patterns and consistencies across multiple sources.

Plus, I’ve made a list of trustworthy voices. These people are mostly those who buy their own gear or have consistent reference equipment. This gives them a stable base for comparisons, unlike reviewers who rely solely on loaned equipment.

By following reviewers who know their reference systems well, I can better understand their opinions and see how they match up with what I like.

Trusting Your Own Judgment

Remember that it's you who's gonna use the gear, not the reviewers.
Remember that it’s you who’s gonna use the gear, not the reviewers.

At the end of the day, I’ve come to trust my own ears above all else.

While reviews can guide and inform, nothing beats trying things out yourself.

So, whenever I can, I look for chances to test gear myself, whether at audio shows, local shops (when I can find them), or through generous friends who share the hobby.

Time and again, I’ve found that what I think often differs from what reviewers say, reminding me that this hobby is very personal.

I’ve also learned to take time to understand what I like – whether I prefer a warm, detailed, or balanced sound. This helps me better interpret reviewers’ opinions and find products I’m more likely to enjoy. It’s been key to making smarter purchases and being happier with my audio setup.

This way, I can better interpret reviewers’ opinions and zero in on products likely to resonate with me. It’s something that has been key to making smarter purchases and finding greater satisfaction in my audio setup.

Ultimately, my relationship with audiophile reviewers is one of cautious engagement.

I value what they add to our shared passion while being very aware of their limits and possible biases. I watch reviews to learn more and keep up with what’s happening in the industry, but always with a healthy dose of doubt.

Now, I see reviews as a tool, not gospel.

I make sure to never lose sight of what truly matters – what I like, based on my personal experiences and biases.

Besides, it’s my money I’ll be spending and no one else is these gears except me, anyway.

💬 Conversation: 1 comment

  1. What a perfect opinion of the state of affairs – especially the conflicts of interest. Even if one receives an item for free to keep and can review how they want, there’s an incentive to review favorably so that they can continue to receive free gear.

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