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Letters to the editor: Videos vs. words

  • It seems our Chord Qutest, ALLO DigiOne Signature and KEF LSX video reviews really pushed back the email floodgates. What follows is a selection of missives from Darko.Audio readers around the world arriving in the past few weeks.

    Dominik H:

    Hi John,

    Thank you for your review of Qutest. Actually, I have learned about Chord products thanks to your previous reviews and went along the way using Mojo and then Hugo2 for my setup during the last 12 months.

    A year ago I was all into hi-end headphones and portable DAC/amps, but then I realized I prefer convenience over absolute sound quality and ended up owning and using B&W PX’s over Audeze’s and Apple AirPods over Westone UM Pro’s. But Chord products stuck with me as they have provided a clarity I always dreamed of and never present in stereo products I have listened to.

    I agree with you that man has to be careful matching all components. Last year I have owned Rotel RA-1592 amp with B&W 805s (and before that it was Rotel RA-04SE with CM5s, I was really into both brands I suppose) and out of curiosity I hooked up Mojo as external DAC and was astonished how much it was revealing compared to AKM chip found in Rotel’s digital section of RA-1592. Actually, at that point, I was thinking that such openness and tidiness at the same time was reserved for open planar headphones such as Audezes only – what a major paradigm shift it was for me!

    Then I have bought Hugo2 which was even more opening (eye-opening for amazement it gave me, and ear-opening for sound quality). It has worked great with headphones but was a bit over the top for trebles played back through B&W 805’s sharp tweeters. I have realized it was Rotel’s analytical sound signature „fault”, so I decided I need to go full hi-end with the amp. I have changed RA-1592 for Moon’s 600i integrated and overall sound became pristine, delightful in a way I have always imagined and wanted.

    I would stick to Hugo2, but during summer heat waves I have discovered that its temperature protection system was switching off the device too often. It was protecting batteries of course, even when Hugo2 was in desktop mode, but it was a major drawback for me and I wanted a more standalone product for better cable organization, etc. My hi-fi dealer was kind enough to agree to change Hugo2 to Qutest and when I got it, now I have an audio system that makes me feel that I don’t need to search any longer for better, best, absolute sound quality or signature if you will.

    I completely understand why you are so enthusiastic about this product too. Funny thing is that after watching your review, I have realized that it was your work as reviewer which had inspired me to search for improvement for my RA-1592/805s setup from last year and also a big eye-opener that standalone room audio system can deliver more interesting and insightful yet still pleasing playback that headphone system.

    And comparing Qutest sound to fine-dining – what a great way to describe its qualities in one short sentence!

    Thank you for this and please keep up the good work you do!


    Mark S:

    Hi John…would like to thank you for the tip (regarding Schiit Wyrd) which for me, on a budget and using a moderately priced system, has slotted in very nicely indeed.

    I too enjoy electronic music and had a great time in the late 80s early 90s being part of a resurgent v.special time.

    Here are some tunes for you by way of a thank you 🙂 Hope they sound good on your stereo:

    Aztec Mystic – Jaguar.
    Electric Soul – X2
    Anthony Shakir – Travellers-MRSK remix
    Derrick May – The dance
    Model 500 – Night drive-time,space,transmat
    Model 500 – Electric night
    Jean Agoriia – Orion
    F.U.S.E. – A new day
    Drexciya – The plankton organisation
    Paco Osuna – Sleeping

    They are mainly Detroit…but just happen to be on a playlist I am listening to. All can be found on Spotify.

    Like your standpoint (with no snobbery). Keep up the good work!

    Regards. Mark.

    Me:

    Thanks, Mark. I never really got too deep into the Detroit stuff but I really like that F.U.S.E. album (Dimension Intrusion) and some of Robert Hood’s releases.


    Michael K:

    Hallo John Darko,

    I like your style of reviews and your music taste. That´s rarely found these days… Autechre NTS Sessions…:-)

    I am just streaming with the new My Volumio Cloud service that´s directly streaming from Tidal or Qobuz and it sounds great. And its a big difference with all other services out there because my good old Raspberry Pi 1 is streaming directly high res from Tidal without any additional server like Roon Core or Logitech Squeezelite. I think that could be interesting for a review…..

    Best regards and greetings to Berlin,

    Michael


    Mike L:

    The podcast is great! You guys make a really good team. There ain’t much out there for audiophile podcasts. ######## calls his little YouTube marketing campaign a podcast, but it isn’t. You guys have a genuinely compelling conversation going. Keep it up!


    Martin V:

    Hi John,

    Of all the video reviews I have seen I think you do it the best, in that you keep them to a reasonable length, reference real music and cut it well.

    I have to say that I still prefer the written word, as I can read the review while listening to music, esp. music that you reference.

    Mentioning music, could you include a paragraph in writing detailing what music you are using? I ended up shunting the video back and forth to get the detail so I could look it up on Qobuz.

    I noticed that on your index that you rank the Hugo 2 above the Qutest, although that wasn’t the feel I got from the video?

    Cheers,

    Martin

    Me:

    Hey Martin

    Glad you did what we do with the videos. They are a real labour of love.

    In both the YouTube description box AND the Darko.Audio article there are links to Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz playlists of the music contained in the video.

    As for the DAC index ranking, it’s a value thing. In bold, italics and in red at the top of the Darko DAC Index page, it reads: “Here lies tabulated value for money judgments based on sound quality and feature set. In other words, the following are listed according to a subjective value quotient and not just their absolute sonic performance.”

    Moving up from Qutest to the Hugo 2 price wise we note maybe a 10% drop in SQ but….BUT!…..we pick up transportability, remote-controlled digital pre-amp functionality and a first-class headphone amp.

    John

    Martin V:

    [On playlists] Doh!! Hits himself on the forehead.

    [On DAC Index explanation] That is interesting. I read it as a straightforward ranking of musical excellence; I will go and re-read the page.


    James D:

    John.

    I used to check your site regularly for new reviews and the opinion pieces by Srajan. Please bring back the written content. There seems to be less and less. And while there may be an audience for videos at the risk of sounding like a snob I’ll say they remind me (videos in general not yours specific) of reality tv or worse unboxing videos which are as useful and interesting as reviews that go on for paragraphs describing the physical characteristics of a product as if there wasn’t a much more informative photo next to the text. Or worse yet reiterating the manual.

    I think I along w others I know like to read reviews while doing some non-critical listening even exploring new music that is referenced in the review. This is just not possible w a video. Also while you do alright on the video it was your writing that was supremely communicative and I felt you did a very accurate job describing the sonic characteristics of the component. I am not trying just to complain I’m sure there are those who enjoy watching videos but I feel your writing was so very good and far superior to the videos it has been disappointing to find myself check your site far less often.

    I’m sure you keep track of how many people watch/read the pieces and you wouldn’t make such a change unless it was warranted by more visitors which leads to more advertising so I will assume I’m in the minority w my opinion. I know that letters to the editor to revive some discontinued content are very wishful thinking so I’ll just say you are a very good writer I myself have a talent I squandered because it is hard to make a living w it w out finding a niche if you are bringing audiophilia to more people w videos than I suppose it could be a good thing.

    Me:

    Hey James

    I take your point and I can definitely see where you are coming from.

    The audiophile world is a bit of ghetto. You only have to visit an audio show to realise that 90% of manufacturers don’t want (or don’t know how) to reach a wider audience. The majority seem happy selling to an ever-ageing customer base. On a personal level, and to quote Morrissey, “The music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life”. And I’m 46. So imagine how the average 30-yr-old feels.

    As it stands right now, I see the audio community as more in need of growth and a shot of youth than it is in need of another reviewer splitting hairs on two kinds of awesome across 2000 words. Words that many of Darko.Audio’s existing readers struggle to (or skim) read. I know this because of an increasing number of readers asking questions that are already addressed in the review. When this is pointed out, the response is usually a “Whoops LOL my bad”.

    As a written word reviewer I am one in a thousand. As a YouTuber making pro-shot videos about high-end audio gear, I am a rarer beast. With video, I can make concepts more relatable, more easily digestible, communicate music choices in smarter ways and, with those key factors combined, reach a wider audience.

    Then there are the visitor numbers that speak for themselves. After only 6 months of dedicated video production, my YouTube Channel attracts as many views per month (250,000) as the website itself – and that took 8 years to get there. I’ll say more about this in an upcoming editorial.

    I agree with you about unboxing videos though. They are BS.

    Best to you,

    John

    James D:

    My tastes in music have changed over the years but what has probably been of influence is the quality of my Hi-Fi gear. When I was younger, for instance, the only jazz I liked was Big Band. Now I also love small groups too – Ben Webster, Count Basie, Sweets Edison to name a few. But I am only a few years younger than you and I love music from my youth: Violent Femmes, Nirvana etc. also rock from before that: The Stooges, The Band, The Rolling Stones (from before the eighties) and a great reverence for all Bob Dylan work w the exception of the most recent old blue eyes crooner shit.

    And I like more current music: dr dog, Low, Cut Connie, King Gizzard (who I discovered from your site a few years ago) but w the exception of the most recent bootleg series from Bob Dylan (More Blood More Tracks) some recent great Neil young (not recently recorded though) the Cowboy Junkies the white stripes Natalie Merchant and most stuff from Daptone modern music sounds like shit. It is horribly recorded and when you have high-quality playback gear the sensation I get from something w outstanding recording is amazing. Would I pay money to see these jazz trio or quartets live? Probably not. Do I pay to see the Detroit Cobras for instance? Yes. But the Eagles, Nils Lofgren is trash live or w great [sic] Hi-Fi show music mostly sucks.

    I have recently upgraded a few things in my set up and my DAC fell way behind a vinyl set up worth almost 10k retail. I only listen to digital now to see if I should invest in an album. And the pressing / mastering and cutting make a huge difference.

    I work as a contractor but part time in a Hi-Fi shop as a salesman primarily for my personal benefit of gear at cost. Not that we always have the brands I want but I’ve made some other relationships through the years. So I can tell you that about half the people coming into the shop are younger than me by 10 years. And they want turntables — our biggest seller.

    It is the older people who want to get rid of the separates and get something smaller that I primarily sell Naim Atoms to. And other quasi-lifestyle products w smaller stand mount speakers that for the most part have the bass extension of yesterday’s floor standers. Now if the kids coming in for turntables really care about the sound quality or it’s the hipster thing to have one I’m not quite sure. I do believe I sell more based on looks or reviews they read than any time they actually spent listening to different products as people are more interested in a new shiny product or a retro 70s products appearance than they are w what in the shop sounds best for the money.

    But I understand what you’re doing and you do a good job. I’m happy to hear you have a YouTube site that is doing well. I did know about your podcasts and have enjoyed listening while I work. And I applaud your insistence on auditioning in one’s own space. As the room is such a large factor. I recently got a pair of Devore O’93 and in the shop I bought them heard w many different electronic about equal value to mine (pass xa25 and Primaluna dialogue pre w Radiotechnique 12au7s and a turntable set up that retails almost double mine (close to 20k) in my room the O’93 sound even better than the shop w better source and far fancier cables.

    So I have tried to write a few reviews and I know it is not easy. And even harder for me to make it short enough to not be boring yet still concise (from my stupid long emails to say very little you probably could have guessed this). A lot of work doing a/b comparisons which is one of your strong points your comparisons are not only apt I find them accurate and even when I’m not familiar w either piece I feel I have an idea of both their sounds so even if you are one of thousands you are very good better than the most of those thousands at writing reviews and probably writing in general. So if your business grows exponentially from the videos I can see no downside for you.

    For me, I miss your reviews that stood out as Srajan’s do in a sea of mediocre and often thoroughly boring reviews. (Just a side note although we like some similar music and that does help in relating audio qualities in a review I think me and Srajan most likely don’t own a single album that matches but when I read his reviews I can usually understand what he writes and if he cites a specific track I use tidal to at that moment cue it up and listen for a full understanding of his observations). Keep up the good work, John.


    Monish S.

    Hey John!

    Hope all is well. I just came through your videos after watching the KEF LSX review, which my friend Ben, from KEF, had posted. After surfing your channel I also stumbled across the Analog Bubblebath poster and to top it off, the BOC t-shirt in the Kii Three video.

    The only reason I wrote this was the shock of similar interests as living in a dry place like Kuwait you don’t find any, so I was a little overwhelmed with the audiophile+musical mutuality.

    I actually work as a buyer for the largest retail consumer electronics store in Kuwait and am sort of responsible for creating the Hi-fi market in the country. We carry all the biggest brands, with KEF and Bowers driving the market.

    Anyhow, we’ll be getting the new LSX sometime soon and I’ll be taking one out for a review myself. Your review was truly insightful and it’ll definitely help me gain momentum with this unit for which I’m actually quite excited. Well done with the review, and you’ve just found yourself a new subscriber! I’ll be checking in for more reviews and check whatever else is on your channel, which is very informative and insightful. Hope you have a great day man! Sorry for the long post but just couldn’t help contain the excitement, haha.

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter

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