Pet Peeves

Some things listed here are minor annoyances while others (to paraphrase the late George Carlin) are major psychotic hatreds.

1.) Giving half the facts.   Nearly every headphone and earphone out there lists some frequency range on the packaging and not a one of them also lists the variance.   Listing 20Hz -40kHz without listing +/- 3dB doesn’t tell you squat and if anything is misleading.   Sure the device may be able to play a 20Hz tone, but if it is 50dB below a tone played at 1kHz at the same volume level, then you’ll never hear it.     Don’t print half the facts and mislead people.   Most of those same products if they chose a reasonable variance like +/- 3dB would be more like 80Hz-9kHz which doesn’t look nearly as impressive on paper.

2.) Blaming the device for poor recordings.  90% of popular music is horribly mastered and recorded.  Expecting anything to fix those shortcomings is unrealistic.  There is no device that is going to take a super compressed, dynamic-less track and make it sound like a well mastered uncompressed version.    Good results start with good source material.   Its ok to own a lot of poor recordings and enjoy listening to them, all of us do, just don’t use them to judge gear.

3.) Representing personal preference as factual.   This one is aimed squarely at the basshead crowd.   I have seen way too many reviewers refer to headphones and earphones as bass light when they are in fact simply not bass boosted.  There is a trend in the market right now towards boosting bass and it has lead a lot of people to believe that neutral is actually bass reduced.    Fact is almost nothing produced a tone below 30Hz before the advent of electronic music and even the few things that could produce tones that low were rarely called upon to do so.  When was the last time you heard somebody play a low F on the Hammond organ or hit the low B flat on a tuba?  If they were used at all, it was very rarely.    Digital music has embellished the bass lines of a lot of popular songs and made bass a more prominent feature than it ever was in pre-digital era music.   Again, its ok to like a boost in the bass frequencies, just represent it as a preference and not a factual representation.

4.) You don’t agree with me, so you’re wrong.    This extends well beyond audio, but we will limit the discussion to that.   Even within a population of instruments designed to measure sound waves, there is a thing called variance and all manufactures specify their tolerances in +/- a percentage.   If we cannot expect purpose built instruments to 100% agree with each other, why would we expect the human ear to be any different?   The fact that we don’t agree simply means our hearing is not exactly alike and how our brains interpret that signal adds another degree of variability.  Add to that different preferences and you have a recipe for disagreements.    Does that mean one of us is wrong?  Nope, it just means that within the population variation exists and we may represent opposite ends of that spectrum.  It is possible to disagree and both be correct.

5.) “There is no way it can be worth $X” and the reverse  “There is no way it can sound good if it is below $X”.     While the old adage that you get what you pay for is usually true, sometimes you get a whole lot less than you paid and other times you get more.   Again, statistically speaking there is a bell curve in play and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and most of the time you break even.

6.) Giant Killer and Punches above its weight class.    First off giants are extremely rare creatures so giant killers are by nature even more rare.  This term gets used so often you would think giants were more common than spiders.   Punches above its weight class is also overused to an insane degree.   Boxing has evolved over the years and the expectation of a middleweight fighter today is not the same as it was 50 years ago.   Same goes here,  $50 buys a lot more today than it did a few years ago,  that doesn’t mean that every $50 item punches above its weight class, it means the class has evolved and expectations have changed along with it.

7.) Reviewers cannot be objective because they have to pander to vendors for samples.      Using this same logic, you can argue that everyone is unethical because everyone wants something from someone else.      Impugning someone’s morals and ethics without knowing them is in extremely poor form and paints everyone with a single brush.   Fact is,  maintaining a website, and reviewing things well takes a considerable investment of time, energy, and money and a lot of times the cost of an item doesn’t begin to offset that expenditure.   No one in the review business is in it to get rich off the free samples.  It just ain’t happening.