Audiophile reviewers and disclosure.

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Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

A word of warning before you read this, if by any chance you review audiophile gear keep in mind that I’m probably not writing about you.
With that out of the way, I’m totally against people who say they are reviewers or make review blogs just to get free samples or even money for their opinions.

In fact this post came to be because I started to notice a pretty awful trend on so called headphone reviewers, most of them do it because they receive free stuff which they get to keep after their reviews.
Bloggers know it’s wrong and the companies who supply them often make a blind eye, because it brings them more customers already primed by word-to-mouth hype.
In fact this kind of marketing strategies were one of the reasons the FTC made US bloggers disclose any kind of endorsements or free samples.

No wonder we never read truly negative reviews on some audiophile sites or blogs.
Those writers refuse to review bad products because it would ruin their relationship with the merchant who’s giving them free samples! Sad but true.
Sure some bloggers will disclose they are receiving free gear but it’s all for nothing if they are reviewing just to receive the gear, thus they lack the main thing any reviewer amateur or professional needs above all, integrity.

I totally understand the rush of receiving new stuff on the doorstep, but these writers are literally selling their opinion to the lowest bidder.
Because of them most who are serious about their work or hobby are faced with the sad reality of being pressured by those very same companies for positive reviews. After all if one reviewer sells out everyone else will surely will!

I totally suck as a reviewer and I lack the necessary wine tasting vocabulary most use on their articles, but I do strive for honesty on my opinions.
For example in my KZ earphones guide I disclosed this:

– All earphones are bought with my money from various online shops.
– I’m not endorsed by KZ in any way nor do I want to be. 

I can fairly bash any KZ earphone I bought because of this, It’s my money and I’ll give my blunt opinion on the gear. Until now I never gave a negative opinion on any KZ product, but I don’t know what the future holds.

In this niche everyone has their fair share of blame for the problem.   
Some reviewers are addicted to free stuff and sadly some consumers need to confirm their purchases with positive reviews.
Reviewers are very important to the current consumer society but they are also accountable for their words.
It’s up to each one of us to understand what’s bullshit and what’s not.

On the Sony NW-WM1Z Walkman.

Most guardians of the galaxy Walkman fans know the Sony TPS-L2 was released in 1979, in fact we (yes, yours truly included) celebrate this Japanese icon anniversary on 1 of July. Sadly this year I’m a bit late for the party, so to make up for my delay I want to share my opinion on the hefty price tag of the Sony NW-WM1Z Walkman, which was something that was nagging me for some time now.
For the ones who think I’ll be bashing right and left, sorry but you are out of luck, I’m a Sony Walkman fan.

The Sony NW-WM1Z Gold edition that goes for almost 3000€ on Amazon (July 2017) is one amazing piece of engineering at least on paper.
I never had a chance to actually hear or hold one, thus I won’t write about the sound quality of the product but knowing Sony I’m sure it’s Hi-Fi enough.

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Sony NW-WM1Z photo belongs to Sony Corporation.

I want to point that even if I think the price is batshit crazy, I totally understand why a company like Sony actually made this player.
Besides of course the marketing for their 70th anniversary, Sony built it because there’s a market niche who will pay crazy amounts of money for this kind of digital audio players.
Yes, some enthusiasts will buy a 3000€ Walkman because they truly believe sonic nirvana is right around the corner.
Sure some people will purchase this Walkman because it’s a status symbol, but I think the enthusiasts just want the best quality on the market and they’ll go to great lengths for it. Sony was the one who taught people how to use a Walkman during the 80’s, so they know there’s an audience for this kind of product, after all if my memory doesn’t fail me consumers always reacted nicely to other Walkman anniversary editions.

Sony since the TPS-L2 model always injected on their flagship models every know-how they had on portable High-Fidelity and that’s something every enthusiast must respect. Sure sometimes Sony jumps the shark and their marketing teams just look like they want to make a easy buck out of enthusiasts. Akio Morita must be turning on his grave for that one, for he always had a massive respect for Sony costumers.

Looking at the hardware and research they obviously pour on this over-engineered golden monolith. One can only imagine what great things they could have achieved earlier if they didn’t focus so much in their proprietary audio compression format ATRAC and weren’t so stubborn about not supporting MP3 thus allowing the iPod and other MP3 players to dethrone the Walkman.
Now with the portable music players market share devastated by smartphones, Sony must also face heavy competition from cheap and not so cheap Chinese brands and other established Japanese and South Korean companies who jumped on the Hi-Res bandwagon.

In the end all of this competition will be great for enthusiasts and it’s quite welcomed in a market dominated by smartphones.
It would be a nice idea if Sony made a special edition of the TPS-L2 Walkman for their 75th anniversary, I would buy it for sure.

China, the new audiophile superpower.

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Photo by WillSpirit SBLN on Unsplash

I could write a full article about the massive Chinese audiophile community, but I won’t go there for the sake of my sanity. Lets just say they are very enthusiastic about Hi-Fi.
In one point I think most occidental audiophiles agree, the Chinese are very serious about their Hi-Fi and they have the power of numbers on their side.
Those numbers are in fact their biggest strength when it comes to demand accessible high quality High-Fidelity gear, and Chinese companies are more than happy to deliver the goods usually at the expense of quality and originality.

During the 80’s Japan was in the forefront of everything Hi-Fi and the American and European companies struggled with the fierce Japanese competition.
That came to be because the occidental companies lacked courage to release new radical products on the market. Sure some companies had great products but their fear to fail on their shareholders crippled their imagination.
Today ironically that very same problem plagues Sony, a company that in the 80’s was the perfect example of a Japanese giant with amazing research and development (R&D), factories, distribution and marketing.
Japanese Hi-Fi companies like Sony had great quality assurance (QA) when they entered the international markets, mostly because they had very aggressive competition towards them and also because it’s was expensive to send the parts overseas to service the products.
Sure some Japanese companies built factories in the US and Europe but quality was and still is their best weapon to fight competition. That attention to detail and quality still stands today, as “Made in Japan” still means high quality workmanship, QA and a heavy price tag.

The problem with quality is that you have to pay for it, that premium even if well received by most audiophiles is the weak point of companies that need to uphold their brand name, after all it would be beyond awful if a batch of Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic headphones failed unexpectedly after 6 months.
When buying a product from a established Hi-Fi company the consumer pays R&D, production, distribution, marketing and of course QA, this is to name a few because it’s a complex subject which I didn’t study too deep.
With all that system in place for the established Hi-Fi makers, it’s normal that Chinese companies are now in a position to actually compete with cheaper prices because:
They can literally copy designs without legal issues and have the equipment and materials available, because most established companies make their stuff in China, thus no R&D.
Production is cheap for various social-economic reasons I won’t explain here.
Distribution is supported by the government and various local and international commercial agreements. Chinese companies help each other at least from my point of view, but as in all things I can be wrong.
Marketing is not really necessary because word-of-month between enthusiasts is enough, in fact word-of-mouth is so strong it can actually inflate the prices of products praised by the community.
QA focus in making the product work at a short term, because after all most of these Chinese companies don’t really worry about servicing their cheap gear,  they can always send a replacement unit.
Sure not all Chinese Hi-Fi companies are like the above, but let’s be sincere most of them are and they face no competition besides their own.

Having a massive enthusiast base and small companies that only need to worry on the short term makes China the new audiophile superpower.
The large community gives their opinion about the gear and factories almost in real time adapt to their requests. Very few established companies can actually do that and in my opinion some of them should actually start taking notes from their Chinese competition.

I still believe Chinese brands will have a hard time competing against established higher priced gear, after a certain price point enthusiasts will bash any company that doesn’t do serious QA on their products, plus legal problems will arise as soon as some companies setup offices outside China.

I must admit it’s a great time to be a audiophile, thanks to the Chinese enthusiasts and companies anyone in the world can enjoy a good song.

 

ZS5 added to my Knowledge Zenith guide.

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KZ ZS5

I updated the KZ earphones guide with the new ZS5 model.
I’m not a reviewer so my opinion is a blunt one. If the KS5 fits your ears go buy them.

KS5 
– Currently the best KZ IEMs I own. Sure there is some hype on the community about these, because after all we are talking about a 2 dynamic driver + 2 balanced armature IEM for less than 30€.
– Their sound has all the good vibes of the KZ IE8, plus one amazing bass that doesn’t overtake the music even if you are hearing metal. They are detailed and very fun to hear but they can cause some fatigue in the long run with some types of music.
– Noise isolation is decent but the fitting inside the ear is not for everyone, some adjustments need to be made for a comfortable fit and even so they can hurt a little in long listening sessions. In terms of comfort these IEMs are not for people with small ears.
– The shells are mode of plastic, they are sturdy enough but not amazing.
– Detachable stock cable is ok but I prefer the silver cable for some comfort around the ears.

Read more at KZ earphones guide.

Crazy collector prices in ebay and other strange occurrences.

Since my last article about the history of Beyerdynamic I had very little free time for writing, after all this is a personal blog and I work night shifts, so inspiration is not really around the corner.
On a very personal level some important things happened or are happening right now, so these days my mind isn’t really on this blog. I suppose the only good side of not making money from my writing is not actually having a schedule to follow, I write when I’m in the mood and that’s about it.
This is the part where I should promise making more updates and all that Jazz, but I’ll not make promises I can’t keep. I will on the other hand promise that I’ll try to share more photos of my compact disc and book collection just for kicks. After all vinyl enthusiasts do it all the time so why can’t compact disc collectors do the same.

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Franklin’s Indians

As for those collections, these last weeks were positively inspiring and quite expensive to be
completely sincere.
My music collection is slowly growing thanks to some online purchases on Ebay and CDON. Albums by Laura Pausini, Jimi Hendrix and the first three scores from the Indiana Jones movies are now in my possession. I’m still waiting for two Laura Pausini live albums and two studio ones by Meat Loaf.
In the book department and thanks to Ebay, I finally bought some books by David Hepworth, Akio Morita and Michael J. Fox, most of them are used but I don’t mind at all.
I also bought two pretty amazing books from other places, one is called “Franklin’s Indians” and the other is “Jazz Covers“, both books are excellent in my opinion. “Franklin’s Indians is about one of my favorite motorcycle brands. As for “Jazz Covers” it’s a very visual book about the covers of Jazz vinyl albums, it’s one of those book which is perfect for the vinyl audiophile. On a curious collector note, I paid 7€ for the Indian book, an amazing deal because these go for more than 30€ new and on amazon.com some try to sell them for more than $200!

Now let’s talk about Ebay and the reason for the strange title you read above.
Sellers these days are getting quite absurd for the money they request for old Sony Walkmans, some not working at all. I won’t even try to explain my anger when I see the price some ask for a original blue colored Sony TPS-L2 Walkman, more absurd is the fact some Marvel collectors actually buy it for insane prices just because it was in a movie! This arrived to the point of some people painting historical models that resemble the L2 just to sell them for more cash, disgusting I know but some Ebay sellers are completely bonkers.
That’s also a pretty good reason why I think the director of Guardians of the Galaxy trolled those sellers and collectors with a certain Microsoft flop, besides the joke that was intended on the movie of course.

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Sony TPS-L2

Anyway most vintage cassette Walkmans sold on Ebay these days are very expensive and sadly most were pieces of entry level gear at the time they were released so I don’t get the hype behind the sellers raising their prices.
Not all were entry models to be fair, some Walkmans were top of the line and I totally understand the higher prices for those, the TPS-L2 was a great machine for it’s time but the hype behind the pricing is totally unnecessary from my point of view. Sure we are not obliged to buy such a thing but sometimes I wish Sony would release a new L2 just to troll these people.

Ebay is a curious place full of strange occurrences.
I don’t buy really expensive stuff there but I often can’t believe the “no return” policy of some sellers, some of which don’t even take detailed photographs of their items or explain their current state. They go as far as to say that it’s the buyer who should make the questions, lazy unprofessional bastards!
Items marked “as is” or “not tested” only show the seller doesn’t really care about who buys the item, what’s important is to sell it to make a profit.  My favorite one is the “as new” in the description, when it doesn’t have all the accessories of a new item.
Ebay has all some fault in the current state of things, but sellers and buyers are also to blame. If people refused to buy bullshit, I’m sure many sellers would update their way of doing things.
Then there’s shipping, some sellers abuse the shipping option and increase their prices. Some will say it’s all part of the game but I prefer to call it bullshit fraud.

Not all things are bad on Ebay but some very strange occurrences do happen from time to time. As for me I’m glad I can buy stuff there, it saved me hundreds of Euros in a very short time.
That’s all for now and see you soon if things go as planned.