Pre qualifying in action

"Dear Srajan, how are you? My name is xxx, owner of xxx. I'm interested to get my new xxx reviewed. 6moons reviewed our first music server back in 2015. We are now a few generations further along and have made huge improvements in digital audio playback. I would really like to present my product to a professional reviewer so that potential customers can read an honest review of our product. Thank you in advance."

"Thanks for the inquiry. Marja & Henk who did the original review passed away. They weren't bothered by WiFi so could happily review servers that rely on WiFi tablets for navigation and library access. Our household is WiFi allergic. That radiation gives me and my wife instant headaches so we hardwire everything and don't even use cellphones except in the car and for emergencies. For music it means CAT8a connections to the router, then accessing Qobuz Sublime via browser windows on my desktop Win10/64 PC or 27" fully loaded iMac in the main system. I listen to 99% local files which I own. Streaming I use primarily to identify music I want to buy so mainly on the desktop. That means USB not RJ45. I use USB bridges as isolators between computer and DAC. The one in the main system powers from super capacitors and includes an SD card reader and associated OS so I can play back magnetically and without moving parts to bypass the iMac altogether. And even that runs via Audirvana to spin down its FusionDrive by caching playlists in 32GB of RAM.

"I've reviewed a number of upscale music servers up to €10K and still haven't heard compelling reasons to upgrade my current solution. Why go from a 27" ultra-rez display as I have now to a smaller iPad only to pollute our digs with microwave radiation? I've also not really heard sonic advantages for music servers over my current PC/iMac ⇒ USB bridge ⇒ DAC solutions. On my desktop, the DAC even reclocks the bridge via a masterclock BNC connection. Long story short, I'm probably not the right guy to review an expensive music server. But perhaps yours is different and includes a way to use it without relying on WiFi tablets? In that case perhaps I could do it. But again, I'd be a hard sell since until now, I've not heard a so-called 'audiophile' server that really was sonically superior and didn't suffer user limitations. I also don't use Roon. I've tried it but again nothing convinced me to adopt it over what I have. I also don't have other writers which specialize in music servers. M&H could focus on them because of their IT background. I'm more of a hardcore disbeliever of this component category so a really hard sell."

Why look over my private email exchange? To understand why not all solicitations become reviews. Other reasons could be size, weight and price. I might be unable to manhandle loaners, not have a sufficiently large room, appropriate ancillaries or enough experience with a certain price range. What if it's yet another 5¼" passive two-way monitor? Will it add anything meaningful to the growing database of our archives? If I used the same time and effort to instead review a cost-effective GaNFet class D challenger in an as yet sparsely populated sub category, wouldn't that be more meaningful? In this case, personal ambivalence and general mehness about his component type were mandatory confessions to be made upfront. If he still wished to proceed because he was convinced that his kit could overwrite all my hesitations, our game would set up fair and square. None of it is rocket science. Just so, readers oblivious to the full picture may overlook certain wrinkles.

In this instance, xxx proved game to grab my skittish bull by its horns. "Indeed, the first review was done by Marja & Henk. I understand your WiFi allergy. I'm also very sensitive to that. Good news, you don't need a tablet or WiFi to operate our music server. That can be done from your hardwired Mac. There's also zero wireless hardware inside. Roon is not essential either just optional. In fact I no longer use it myself. There's our own software to play music from SSD, Qobuz/Tidal or NAS. Not only is the musicality better, the stability of our player is far better. That said, the Roon interface looks nice and I understand why it appeals to many. To be honest, I'm disappointed to hear that you're a hardcore disbeliever of this component category. On the other hand, your reply triggered me. It convinced me even more that you need to review the xxx." With the lay of the land which the device would parachute into clear, so was my response. "I'm always open to broadening my horizons and learning something new. If your server eschews wireless hardware and doesn't rely on tablets or Roon, my main misgivings would be neatly circumvented." That's how certain solicitations can turn into reviews despite initial arguments to the contrary. It's no different than a customer deciding between three or four different things. He wants the seller to sell him or her. Convince us!

"The xxx can be fully operated from your iMac. There's no need to download specific apps to your tablet. Of course my streamer can be fully operated from a tablet if one wants but that isn't required. I'm surprised how many people use a computer—like you would and I do—to operate the xxx. I think many manufacturers of music server/streamers underestimate this. I hope the xxx will surprise you in terms of usage and musicality. I have full confidence in my product. But I do have two conditions. I will bring the xxx myself and install it in your system. This is not something I normally do—although I did with M&H—but given that you're a bit on the skeptical side of these kind of products, I'd like to keep full control over delivery and installation. While I'm there I can also demonstrate the device and tell you some things about it. And in case the whole experience turns into a complete disaster (little sarcasm), I want to have the right to withdraw the review from being published."

"I'm afraid that both conditions are deal breakers. The whole point of a plug'n'play component pre-configured at the factory is ease of setup. Readers want to know about that experience through me as a buyer by proxy, no special treatment implied. Plus, our household deliberately isn't vaccinated so we're not entertaining visitors. And to those who say they're vaxed, I know of many who've had all the shots and boosters and already are on their third Covid bout so we're unconvinced. The same goes for unpublishing reviews. That's one of the things readers suspect happens a lot elsewhere. And fairaudio.de for example did make it policy to not waste their time on gear that doesn't deserve it, something they obviously can only determine once they've taken receipt and started listening. I've made it policy from the very beginning that entering a review is a firm commitment from both parties. No matter what happens, it's seen through. That's the only way to assure readers that what they read on 6moons isn't selectively vetted for just raves. Also, if a manufacturer doesn't trust me enough to do a thoroughly professional review but entertains the notion of a complete disaster, I wouldn't accept the assignment in the first place. That's the wrong setup. Finally, my work has real value. It's why you approached me in the first place. Writing a comprehensive review only to delete it again would be the height of disrespect and a complete waste of my time." That's how some reviews don't happen which otherwise could have. Does real confidence have such conditions? As it turned out, xxx had true confidence to waive all conditions. That's how reviews happen again. Sometimes they're simply preceded by a little dance. It's usually off the record but an important part of the pre-review process. It's to insure that both parties feel comfortable by knowing what to expect; and agree on the fine print. Before one plays any match, it's vital to know the rules of engagement!