The Value Propo­si­tion

Sound & Vision - - LETTERS -

I am re­spond­ing to reader Greg Fran­cis who wrote in the De­cem­ber is­sue (Let­ters, “Where’s the Value?”) about the last page of Sound & Vi­sion be­ing de­voted to items that are way over­priced and only used as brag­ging pieces to the rich who throw money away.

I ac­tu­ally look for­ward to see­ing the items on the last page—just to see them. Yes, these items, and the even more ex­pen­sive items you cover, need to be cov­ered as well! They are or can be a part of home theater, and many of us like to see what else is out there, even if we will only be look­ing at them and imag­in­ing if they can achieve $30K+ worth of per­for­mance or are sim­ply de­signed to pro­vide the rich with brag­ging rights. In­ci­den­tally, I like the last page as well as the movie re­views that lead up to it. You turn me onto films I’ve never heard of be­fore, which I then check out!

Chris Trox­ler Via e-mail

Re­gard­ing let­ter-writer Greg Fran­cis, I dis­agree with just about ev­ery­thing he says. First, I’d like to know about the sur­vey he car­ried out to en­able him to say “I know I speak for most of your read­ers ...” He most def­i­nitely does not speak for me, and I am not a rich per­son who hires min­ions to do my Sound & Vi­sion bid­ding. I am a re­tired 70-year-old on a rel­a­tively mod­est in­come. I thor­oughly re­search my hi-fi pur­chases (in­clud­ing via S&V) to make

my de­ci­sions. Can I af­ford items that ap­pear on the last page of S&V? Prob­a­bly not. But I do have dreams. I do have as­pi­ra­tions. Maybe one day I will be able to af­ford the mega-speak­ers on the last page. But in the mean­time, I very much en­joy read­ing about them.

So, please don’t rain on my pa­rade, Greg

(and Mr. Edi­tor). And, if it re­ally both­ers you that much, ig­nore it and turn the page to see some­thing a lit­tle cheaper on the back cover.

Robin Smith Lenoir City, TN

To sum­ma­rize, Greg’s let­ter took us to task for fea­tur­ing what he felt are a few too many high­priced as­pi­ra­tional prod­ucts in the mag­a­zine that don’t ad­here to real-world bud­gets. He pointed par­tic­u­larly at our clos­ing Pre­miere De­sign fea­ture as a wasted page, sug­gest­ing that these types of prod­ucts are sold pri­mar­ily to wealthy one-per­centers who don’t read Sound & Vi­sion and rely on in­stall­ers (“min­ions,” in his words) to se­lect and buy these prod­ucts for them. He was also par­tic­u­larly an­noyed at our grant­ing a $31,000 Par­a­digm speaker sys­tem a five-star Value rat­ing in our re­view. I ex­plained the prac­tice of fea­tur­ing as­pi­ra­tional prod­ucts as be­ing a part of the hobby, and the five-star Value rat­ing as be­ing de­fen­si­ble against the even more breath­tak­ingly ex­pen­sive mega-priced speak­ers the Paradigms are in­tended to com­pete against.

I’m grat­i­fied to see some read­ers tak­ing the other side of the ar­gu­ment here, but I did and do think Greg has a rea­son­able gripe. I’ll ad­mit that there are times when we have a good, long run on what seems like an end­less string of fancy high-end gear, and that things can start to feel a lit­tle lop­sided. Truth­fully, select­ing the equip­ment that goes into our test well is a lot less rig­or­ous and planned than it might seem. It starts with us see­ing prod­ucts at trade shows or press in­tro­duc­tions, or get­ting pitched by pub­lic re­la­tions reps about our in­ter­est in re­view­ing this or that. Some­times we chase an item that isn’t avail­able yet for a par­tic­u­lar is­sue, some­times some­one phones up and says they have a sam­ple of the XYZ Too-Smart Stream­ing Am­pli­fier Fry Cooker combo or what­ever. If I think it’s some­thing that might be of in­ter­est, whether be­cause it looks like a great value or it’s su­per high per­for­mance or just too cool-look­ing for its own good, we’ll as­sign it to a re­viewer and bring it in. De­pend­ing on when it ar­rives and how quickly our re­viewer can ex­e­cute, it’ll ei­ther make it into the is­sue we’ve ini­tially planned for it or get pushed to a later is­sue, or maybe just to our web­site. We do try to make sure ev­ery is­sue has a mix of dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories: a video prod­uct (ide­ally a dis­play, but maybe a Blu-ray player), some piece of au­dio elec­tron­ics (an AVR, in­te­grated amp, or power amp, typ­i­cally), and some sort of home theater speaker sys­tem or stereo pair of in­ter­est (ide­ally a min­i­mum 5.1 home theater kit or sound­bar). To this we’ll mix in the an­cil­lary life­style or other prod­ucts, things like head­phones or wire­less/ desk­top speak­ers or an ac­ces­sory prod­uct. Most of our is­sues also have an edi­to­rial theme that may sway the bal­ance; July/Au­gust is out­door A/V, Septem­ber is our speaker is­sue, and Novem­ber is AVRs, for ex­am­ple. With all this go­ing on, it’s not al­ways easy to en­sure we have an even mix of price points in any given is­sue. None­the­less, it all bal­ances out over time. As I was com­pil­ing our Top Picks of the Year list for 2017, I was sur­prised at how many af­ford­ably priced prod­ucts we tested that made our Value cat­e­gory.

One more thing: Our Pre­miere De­sign page, which old Home Theater read­ers might re­call from as far back as the mid-1990s, is in­tended to high­light prod­ucts with par­tic­u­larly com­pelling in­dus­trial or tech­ni­cal de­sign, ir­re­spec­tive of price. More of­ten than not, these carry a high price tag, but we’ve also fea­tured less ex­pen­sive prod­ucts that are both vis­ually strik­ing and/or tech­ni­cally in­ter­est­ing. Case in point is this month’s write-up on the Sennheiser Am­beo Smart Head­set, which costs all of $300.—RS

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