Before we answer the How, the even more important question you should ask is: Why do we review?
We review because we're enthusiasts. We're passionate about audio and music. This field is our hobby and a very important part of our lives and style. There's no university or college that teaches audio reviewing. There are no formal credentials, degrees, licenses or certifications. Audio reviewers are self-made. Their ability, credibility and reputation rises and falls solely based on their written work and their observable and implied conduct in the industry they work in.

Because of the clear lack of formal centers of learning or education in this particular endeavor, audio writers -- unless they've been formally trained in technical or creative writing elsewhere -- are a mixture of self-taught perseverance, self-generated resourcefulness plus Editorial grooming. The basis for the prerequisite self-taught foundation tends to be one's peers, those published writers one admires and strives to emulate. The eventual polish and skills one acquires are a function of experience (learning by doing) and Editorial input. At our publication, nobody but the Editor/owner has any financial stakes or monetary interest in the publication nor receives any cash compensation. If you were to define a professional by his or her getting paid, the cadre of 6moons writers is not composed of professional writers but rather, represents an enthusiast gathering of passionate amateurs. Our only material recompense is access to audio components at what is called industry accommodation pricing (usually at dealer cost).

This is identical to paying dealer invoice on a vehicle if you work for a car dealership; getting merchandise discounts if you work for a department store; or enjoying free meals if you work at a restaurant. If a writer wishes to purchase a component whose maker is interested in an ad spot, the magazine may -- partially or fully and at the discretion of its owner -- trade ads for equipment to reward the writer for his or her support.

This arrangement maintains the enthusiast's core of why we're doing what we're doing. We're music lovers and gear heads. When amateurs turn pro, this self-perpetuating motivation often shifts from 'for the sheer fun of it' to salary-based considerations that kill off the original spark. The strict professionalism 6moons does adhere to has far more to do with the how than the why - except for the Editor/owner, each writer pursues a full-time career elsewhere and contributes reviews and/or columns for the publication in their spare time. What motivates us to write is hobbyist passion. That really explains much about the next question:

How do we review?
Two years after our initial launch in June of 2002, the balance between manufacturers soliciting us for reviews vs. us soliciting them is 70/30. Manufacturers either contact the publisher with a review request or a particular writer they admire or find particularly suitable for their product. In the first case, the publisher will decide whether to personally handle this assignment, turn it over to the entire group, a select portion of the group or one specific writer deemed most appropriate because of experience, room size and ancillary equipment. In either case, the manufacturer's request for a review does not equate to automatic acceptance. No writer at 6moons is ever coerced into reviewing something he or she has no interest in!

If a manufacturer contacts a specific writer directly, the writer contacts the publisher to obtain authorization for the assignment. Such authorizations will usually be granted if the writer and the proposed component seem matched in terms of exposure, experience, room size and ancillary equipment and if the magazine owner hasn't blacklisted the manufacturer for known impropriety, poor customer service or other issues that would preclude publishing support of the product or its maker.

If a writer contacted directly has no interest in the proposed assignment, the publisher will attempt to find a replacement. Conversely, any equipment reviewer for 6moons can express an interest in a particular review assignment to the publisher who will then attempt to procure the respective hardware loaners (if the manufacturer is interested in a review) or authorize the writer to pursue this matter directly with the maker. 6moons writers may not initiate review solicitations with manufacturers without obtaining prior authorization from the publisher. Disregard of this simple mandate results in immediate dismissal!

6moons' general review guideline is one of 90-day turnarounds from receipt of product to publication of the review. Because our writers lead professional lives in other fields, this and illness could occasionally induce unforeseen delays but the implied commitment after acceptance of an assignment is governed by this 3-month time period. After delivery of the review gear, the writer will send a confirmation receipt e-mail to the manufacturer and also inform the maker and the magazine publisher if the product fails to work properly or indicates suboptimal functioning. If the product fails to work initially or later in the review period, the manufacturer will be asked to repair and resubmit the same unit. If the manufacturer fails to address the issue, the review (even if incomplete) will be published.

Throughout the review period, the writer is encouraged to contact the manufacturer for technical, usage or setup information as he or she deems necessary to evaluate the equipment comprehensively and as intended. Prior to publication, the manufacturer receives a URL link for fact-checking and to submit a manufacturer's comment if desired. After publication, the writer contacts the manufacturer with a request for a call-tag or shipper account number to return the loaner gear. The reviewer (minus shipper issues) assumes personal responsibility to return the review gear in the same condition as received and is liable for personal damage if the manufacturer issues a repair bill. If the reviewer wishes to purchase the equipment, he expresses this interest via e-mail, copies the Editor/owner on this exchange and then fulfills the financial obligations in accord with the manufacturer's stipulations.

Such purchases are always and only for personal use. They may not be resold during whatever time period the manufacturer specifies. If the reviewer wishes to sell such a component after that period has expired (usually 1 year), he or she may not sell industry accommodations at any personal profit. Disregard of proper conduct as it pertains to industry accommodations will result in a writer's immediate termination.

Occasionally, a reviewer may express interest in prolonging a review loan past the publication date for the express purpose of subsequent comparisons. Authorization is contingent on the manufacturer's approval/interest and the publisher's consent. The manufacturer may revoke such long-term loans at any time and ask the writer to return the product immediately.

At other times when the writer requests a calltag, a manufacturer may elect to offer the reviewer to hang on to the gear indefinitely if it will continue to be used in the reference system. Such unsolicited post-review bestowals are entirely at the manufacturer's discretion, may not be initiated by the writer and tend to occur nearly exclusively with cables. The implied understanding is one of mutual benefit - the writer upgrades or expands his arsenal of reviewing tools, the manufacturer obtains ongoing visiblity in future reviews. Should the writer discontinue use of such product in the future, he or she is to return it to its maker.

The very important pre-review process
In collaboration with the Editor/owner and fellow reviewers of this or other publications, every 6moons writer considering acceptance of a review assignment is expected to perform due diligence to determine whether a product is deemed worthy of the considerable personal investment of time and energy necessary to formally review it. This due diligence is a function of prior exposure at tradeshows, dealerships and friends as well as technology and company research. It is our attempt to weed out potentially recommendable products from those who are not prior to the actual review process. For obvious reasons, this cannot be a fail proof process. It does help however to minimize the chances that we request or accept review submissions which will fail miserably at fulfilling our expectations based on competition and price. Once a component has been formally accepted and delivered for review, the writer's findings on it will be published. Should the manufacturer disagree with these findings, 6moons offers a follow-up opportunity with another writer who may or may not second the findings of the first reviewer. This is the only instance in which 6moons makes a commitment to a review regardless of reviewer interest.

Our writers know that to facilitate such 2nd-opinion options, they revoke their right of refusal which they otherwise enjoy as a matter of principle. In general and if we have done our pre-review job properly, you should expect more or less positive reviews. Accepting or deliberately requesting products we know to be inferior would be tantamount to killing the very fire that motivates us to write about audio in the first place: A passion and desire to share the enjoyable and recommendable aspects of our hobby and how they enhance and enrich our lives.

Manufacturers in pre-development stages interested in professional feedback and consultation for planned projects may contact the Editor/owner or any other writer deemed particularly knowledgeable for this purpose. Such consultations will be paid for, the exact terms thereof between the consultant and manufacturer and likely involving the signing of a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Such consulting work means that the consultant cannot thereafter review this product. Non-disclosure of the acceptance of consulting assignments with the publisher will result in immediate termination!

In summary
We trust that the above explains our basic review policies. As regards style, we believe that audio reviewing should be entertaining and educational (in that particular sequence) and thus call ourselves a publication "for music lovers and audiophiles who love to read". We endeavor to cover all aspects of this hobby to the best of our abilities and our staff's personal biases, experience levels and countries of residence deliberately reflect the necessary variety to accommodate this ambition. Our reviewer bios will introduce you to each writer and help you discover where he or she is coming from, what they value and what they listen for. In the end, the purpose of our little venture is to share our joy and passion for this field and pass on discoveries, tips, insights and thought-provoking essays to help you get more out of this hobby; stay in touch with trends; or feel compelled to investigate it as a very first step if you don't already consider yourself a music lover and audiophile.

The core consideration
More than a third of our lives are spent at work. If we don't enjoy what we do, we will have wasted 20-30 years by the time we pass on. Our overriding credo at 6moons thus is to write because we love to. Every writer determines how often to contribute and when to take sabbaticals to maintain a healthy balance between 6moons and family and professional life. Any writer is free to leave at any time and for any reason or to write for any other similar publications in parallel. We're a rather informal and eclectic bunch of folks who share one overriding commitment: While we're an active part of this team and enjoy the privileges associated with it, we pour our whole heart and soul into our personal contributions. After all, if you don't do it for the money -- and we don't -- nothing else will give you the satisfaction that makes it worth your while.

If you are a manufacturer interested in a review or a writer interested in joining our team, e-mail our Editor/Publisher at [email protected]. Prospective writers are advised that the idea of writing to professional standards and the actual handling of deadlines and publication-ready copy are what separates theory from practice and the poseurs from the can-dos. You shouldn't even enter this field if you have to ask how or believe that it's a fun way to make a quick buck. Fun it can be - great fun indeed. But the bucking part is the questionable one. However, that doesn't prevent any of us here or our colleagues at other publications from doing it anyway. Like love, the doing is its own reward...