Dear John – I love what you and your team do. Do you have a Patreon?
Yes. 2020’s Coronavirus pandemic brought about its necessity. You can join here.
What’s that music at 1:36 in your video?
For each video, we publish associated playlists for Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz. This is now a Patreon perk.
Is Darko.Audio just you — or are other people involved?
The majority of articles are penned by me with occasional contributions from Srajan Ebaen (of 6moons) and others: Michael Lavorgna (of Twittering Machines), John Grandberg and Phil Wright. Srajan’s splendid series of ‘KIH’ (“Keep It Honest”) editorials are listed here.
How do I tell them apart?
News announcements are NOT lifted lock-stock as copy-paste from press releases – not even close. With an editorial voice providing additional context they sometimes read like reviews. But they’re not.
Separating news and reviews is easy when you know what to look for: 1) the absence of sound quality assessment; 2) the presence of manufacturer-supplied photos. These both indicate a news item.
It’s a different story for reviews. With review loaners in the immediate possession of the reviewer, all pics are shot in situ. They not only show the product au naturel, a long way from a photo studio’s airbrush but also reveal the supporting cast of associated gear, the room or space in which it was listened to and – perhaps most obvious of all – evidence that the review wasn’t fabricated from thin air.
What else can I expect from a Darko.Audio review?
Reviews are written from a consumer perspective – subjective listening – with the aim of unearthing how something sounds (and the emotional response it solicits) and delivering the results in an entertaining way.
One process fundamental to the Darko.Audio review M.O. is comparative listening. “What does X sound like?” moves to “How does X compare to Y?” – it’s the most commonly asked question by readers of any hifi website.
Then there’s context. Expect to see a range of ancillary products that cater to more modestly-sized listening rooms and budgets. Reviews are conducted in real-world living spaces, much like your own.
We also ask “Who is it for?” – a question that sometimes necessitates musings on the product’s market placement, its industrial design, implications for your listening/living space, current hardware setup and your wallet. A $200 DAC might be life-changing for someone stepping up from their laptop’s headphone socket but far from satisfactory for a listener already rocking a $20K multi-box solution. Flipping it around, $10k floorstanders might seem ridiculous to a listener happy with their $300 standmounts.
What won’t I see in your reviews?
1) Measurements. We don’t have the budget to undertake them, the majority of readers don’t know how to interpret them and a community consensus on what measurements tell us about sound quality has yet to emerge. Ask any manufacturer and they will tell you that measurements stop them from making mistakes but on overall sound quality, those same graphs and charts only put them in front of the goal. Whether they score or not – and where/how the ball lands in the back of the net – must be determined by listening tests.
2) Reviewer clichés. “Competes with products two or three times the price” is a no-no unless the competing hardware is called out explicitly. And does the audiophile world need yet another dose of, “Listening to Norah Jones, I was immediately struck by a sense of…”. No, it does not.
Talking of which…
What kind of music do you listen to whilst conducting reviews?
You won’t find any Diana Krall, Jazz at the Pawnshop or Nils Lofgren ’round here. No classical either. Instead, Darko.Audio aspires to bridge the disconnect between contemporary music covered by Pitchfork, Mojo and Resident Advisor and modern audio equipment.
For some real-world examples, check out the Spotify playlist “Enough With The Diana Krall already” here.
Electronic music also gets its fair share of airtime during the product review cycle. Check out our posts themed around “Electronica For Audiophiles” here, here, here and here. 2016’s ‘303 edition’ can be found here. 2017 Bandcamp edition here. And another one, Part 7, here.
Enough of the doof-doof. Why don’t you review gear with proper music?
Maybe you don’t mean to sound like a music snob but electronic music and indie/alt-rock IS proper music. So too is hip-hop and rap. And funk and soul. And metal. Not everyone in the audiophile world is trying to maximise their listening experience with classical, jazz, blues or opera. I am talking to people who know their Sigur Ros from their Supergrass, their Bowie from their Black Dog, their American Music Club from their Aphex Twin.
What’s the showcase section all about?
This is where factory tours, press events and show reports get filed. Covering the goings-on at audio shows is an important part of the audio world’s news cycle. Each year you can expect to see coverage of the likes of CES, Munich HighEnd, Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, T.H.E. Show Newport Beach and (sometimes) the Australian Audio and AV Show.
Some of the lesser-known Tokyo events get pixel space on Darko.Audio now too, specifically the Fujiya Avic Tokyo Headphone Festival and e-earphone’s Portable Audio Fest.
Walking the floors of these hotels and exhibition centres assists with flagging new product announcements, earmarking items for future review coverage and threading the needle through emerging trends. Video coverage is used to convey the show’s atmosphere and conduct interviews with exhibitors.
Please note: unfamiliar surroundings, music or a combination of both keeps sound quality judgments at shows on a super-short leash. Show reports are the sizzle and not the steak. They’re about the what, the why and the how much.
Have you heard product Y? Can I get your opinion on it?
In the first instance, please use the search box here on Darko.Audio. If you find no review, I’ve not heard it and therefore, regrettably, I cannot offer a reliable opinion.
My search results for product Y returned an article but it doesn’t have much in the way of sound quality commentary – what gives?
That’s probably a news item or a show report.
How do I tell the difference?
News items feature manufacturer-supplied photos and don’t contain sound quality commentary because I’ve yet to hear the product at home. Reviews feature sound quality commentary and self-shot photos. Show reports are somewhere in between: they don’t contain sound quality commentary but they do feature self-shot photos.
U wot m8?
OK. I’ll make it easier: each article is tagged as ‘news’, ‘showcase’ or ‘review’ directly above the headline. Whilst you’re there, take note of the article’s author as some reviews are penned by guest contributors.
Gotcha. Yeah, it’s a news item. Will you comment on its sound quality anyway?
I’m sure you understand that it’s impossible for me to comment on something I’ve yet to hear at home. A show report doesn’t mean I’ve heard it. It just means that product Y and I were in the same (hotel) room for 20 minutes.
So I should wait for the review then?
Yes, please. That’s assuming a review is on the roadmap. I don’t review everything announced as a news item. If the product in question isn’t on the roadmap, a review won’t be forthcoming.
How come you haven’t reviewed anything from brand A?
There’s only one of me (and a handful of guest contributors). We must pick and choose our review subjects carefully. In a year’s worth of new product announcements, we have time to cover only a handful. We choose products that interest us the most. It’s also worth noting that I don’t have access to every piece of hi-fi gear on the planet. Far from it: I only have media contacts for a small percentage of the world’s hi-fi manufacturers.
Why aren’t you using product Z any longer?
Because I’m a reviewer and the review of product Z is done and dusted. It might make a guest appearance in another review but most likely it’s already back with the manufacturer.
I saw/read your review on product X. How does it compare to Y?
If that comparison isn’t in the review, I didn’t do it. Each review is time-limited and tough choices have to be made. Most of the time those choices are made for me by the gear that I have on hand. Sometimes you’ll get the comparison you want to see. A lot of times you won’t. Why? Because Product Y is already back with the manufacturer. I only get to keep review units for so long.
Can you give me your thoughts on X vs. Y anyway?
Sorry to be blunt but no. In conducting reviews, I don’t do quickfire A/B comparisons. I listen to X for a week. Then Y for a few days. If I’m going to do that for another pair of products, I should publish the results for everyone to read, not just you. However, I don’t have a week to spare and, besides, as you know, the review of X is finished. That and I’m already deep into listening for the next review.
Between you and I, what’s your ‘real’ opinion on Y?
If you’ve read/seen my review on Y, you already have my ‘real’ opinion.
I’m trying to get this feature to work but it won’t play ball – can you help me?
Sorry – I am unable to offer technical support on the products that I review. Please contact your dealer or the manufacturer.
I’m looking for a DAC/streamer/amp to match the rest of my system — what should I buy?
I’m flattered that you would ask but I don’t know you, your taste in hi-fi gear, your music taste or what kind of sound pleases you the most. That makes it impossible for me to make suitable recommendations.
I have a shortlist of three units – X, Y and Z. Which one should I buy?
Again, this decision falls to you and your tastes, not mine. Helping you along the way is a job for your local dealer, not me. I’m a reviewer, not a private audio consultant.
Oh – listen to you, Mr Rockstar! Sounds like someone’s gotten too big for his boots!
Not at all. To understand your tastes in hi-fi and music and to do so remotely would take many hours (and many emails). Many hours that I simply don’t have. I work for 6.5 days/week on Darko.Audio; time that is more equitably spent creating review content that every Darko.Audio reader/viewer can enjoy. The opportunity cost of our videos’ high production values (that benefit the many) is fielding follow-up questions (that benefit the few).
Think of it this way: you’re not being charged to access this site’s reviews, show reports, editorials, news announcements or videos. You get to see the results of me and my team’s findings for the price of being served an ad or three. I’d say that was more than fair. And like I said, I’m a content maker and publisher, not a buying consultant.
How come you seem to like every product that you review?
Of all the products coming to market each year, I have review time for less than one percent. I’ll say that again: less than once percent. I do extensive research on a product before requesting a review sample. Why would I waste my time on something that I’m not going to like all that much? EDIT: Also, I dont.
Why have you disabled comments on Instagram and YouTube?
YouTube? The short answer: racist, sexist and abusive comments mean moderation must be turned on. That moderation eats one full day of work per video published. That’s just not the best use of my time when I could use those same 8 -10 hours to make more video content. Read the long answer here.
Instagram? Because I get too many comments asking for opinions on gear I’ve not heard or comparisons I haven’t conducted. One of the biggest misconceptions about my job is that I’ve heard everything out there when, in fact, I only get to hear a small percentage – we’re talking single digits – of products coming to market each year. It’s super flattering that people seek out my opinion but no matter how many times I explain the limited nature of my work, the questions just keep on coming.
Ok. So why not just ignore the comments you don’t want to reply to?
Better to show zero comments than ignored comments because experience tells me commenters get pissy when their comment is ignored. I’ve no interest in being anyone’s psychologist or emotional punchbag.
So how do we know if you’ve heard something or not?
This is where we came in: in the first instance, you should do a search on the site. If a review exists, I’ve heard it. If it doesn’t exist, I haven’t. Simple, innit? If the comparison is in that review, I’ve done it. If it isn’t, I haven’t.
Lastly — what are the metal cylinders I see placed on some of your gear?
Simple. They are €9 doorstops!
WAIT. Your website is not displaying properly on my device. What should I do?
In the first, instance you should clear your browser cache. This website’s layout and features are frequently updated and new stuff will only show up once the cache has been cleared.
How do I email you with feedback or a question?
Use the form below — but please remember the golden rule of e-mail engagement: private audio consultancy is not possible. I don’t know you: and not knowing your taste in sound, aesthetics or your financial circumstances makes gear recommendations impossible. Search your feelings: you know it to be true.
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