Sometimes it is easy to throw meat to a hungry crowd just to get a response. Fox News has a 24-hour cycle of doing just that. A former poster at CNET.com sort of did the same thing in the realm of consumer electronics. But it was the recent New York Time review of the legendary Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn that really got me thinking. Much like The Times' cheeky if not brutal review of Guy Fieri's Times Square eatery, there are few punches pulled with this tourist-trap joint. The restaurant reviewer goes for the jugular and without apologies. I am not sure what the expectations for a Guy Fieri restaurant are in terms of reputation or cost, but Peter Luger is a longstanding New York City institution complete with $250 porterhouse steaks (to be shared unless you are one hell of a carnivore), literal sawdust on the floor, a cash-only policy (unless they extend you credit), and a whole lot of unneeded attitude for a dead-cow-themed restaurant.
People flocked to Peter Luger for decades as an emporium of the clogged artery and pending aneurysm. Today, this establishment gets literally zero stars from the New York Times, and my foodie friends lined up to email me the review, despite the fact that I live 3,000 miles away and don't eat red meat as much (if at all) anymore. Still, it was good for a chuckle.
It got me thinking, though. Does a review that comes out, guns-a-blazin', with the obvious goal of taking down a legendary establishment (product or restaurant) lend more credibility to the overall publication? To be clear, I think the new Peter Luger review is quite fair. There is no way I would ever eat there when there are dozens upon dozens of restaurants that serve better food, have far superior service, actually take my chosen credit card, and aren't clichéd. But taking down Peter Luger honestly with such viciousness, while fun to read, just seems kinda pointless, unless perhaps the people who've already written the restaurant off as a pointless tourist trap just need validation.
When it comes to specialty consumer electronics, it is increasingly hard to find products that fit into the Peter Luger mold: highly lauded hot-sellers that actually stink when you get right down to it. Today's $500 AV receiver is simply a modern marvel of technology. What's to complain about? Certainly, you can get a better receiver by spending more, and we'll always do our best to tell you exactly what you're getting for your dollar. But some people only have $500 to spend, and we're not going to trash the products in their budget range just because there's something better for a few hundred more. Granted, if a product in this class fails to live up to its direct competition, we'll tell you that. But that doesn't mean we're going to get nasty about it.
I recently reviewed the $239/pair Polk S10 satellite speakers. They are mind-bogglingly good when you consider the fit-and-finish, the woodwork, the driver compliment, and the overall sound. Are they for everybody? Nope, not even close, but they are simply incredible performers for what they are, especially when you consider how far the small speaker category has come in the past decade.
Simply put, specialty AV gear (even the cheap stuff) really delivers more today in terms of value and performance than ever before. The high-end gear continues to chase the Nth degree of performance, and that is exactly what it is supposed to do. How do you beat up a high-end company whose stated goal is to make the finest audio component that they can without concern for cost? I guess if it comes up with Peter Luger-level performance, lousy service, and a brand living off of their reputation, they would have earned their very-less-than-five-star ratings. Simply put, this so rarely happens in our business/hobby/passion.
On May 15, 2018, I took over as the Managing Editor of HomeTheaterReview.com, which added some additional responsibilities to my role as publisher of HomeTheaterReview.com. What this means in practical terms is that it is now my responsible to procure all of the 103 or so components we review in a year (51 feature reviews and 52 quick reviews) and decide who evaluates what. This is no small task, in that there are far more than 103 products worthy of consideration in the marketplace at any given time.
There are products from companies who barely pay attention to us. There are products from companies that will never advertise with us (bastards). There are plenty of products from clients who do advertise with us (and thank goodness, because they keep the lights on). There are other various products that are highly sought-after by the review staff. There are products from burgeoning categories that need attention, like home automation, acoustics, seating, etc. There are components from categories that are becoming less relevant but are still fan favorites, such as vinyl and/or silver disc players. Taking all of those factors into consideration the 103 times per year I can say "yes" to a review is a hell of a challenge.
What I am uncomfortable with is the idea of going out our way to seek the worst products in the 28 categories that we cover here at HomeTheaterReview.com, but perhaps that should be a consideration? Should we look for a few products that are substandard but perhaps come from lofty brands? Is ignoring them enough, or do you have to throw a few sacrifices into the volcano? I'd like to think this isn't necessary, but what say you, readers?
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