This page is in part supported by the sponsors whose banners are displayed below

Shit happens. Mentioning it can mean wallowing, dishing or complaining. In this case, it's meant to avoid reruns. What happened is that a maker delivered his product from a regional dealer. I made certain criticisms as to appearance and features, then the product was set up, performed as anticipated and the maker left for the review process to conclude. I subsequently published page two of the preview with product shots and further technical details. This also included a 2-paragraph recap of the cosmetic and functional criticisms. Two days later, the maker contacted me by e-mail. He asked me to pull page 2 and let him address the items before resubmitting the product. I explained how this violates our policies but that he could use the manufacturer's reply to announce planned revisions. To that he responded that the speakers were his property to do with as he pleased. He now wanted them back immediately and no longer wished to proceed with the review. He hoped to settle this cancellation amicably without involving legal action as a last resort.

That was a first. In seven years, common review etiquette as well as what we have published on How We Review and How To Get Reviewed had every maker prepared to roll with the punches as well as in the applause of whatever final published findings would be. None had opted out before to fix certain shortcomings off the record; nor threatened legal action if we didn't comply. What to do?

As soon as you bend a rule to accommodate one exception, it becomes very difficult to apply the same rule fairly afterwards. And it is an established convention here and elsewhere that once a product crosses the threshold into a reviewer's hands, the only rationale to cancel the review is if the product is discontinued due to a sudden unforeseen unavailability of vital parts; if the maker is going out of business; if he doesn't own the rights to the design and is openly challenged and/or sued by a competitor because of it. The only reason to let a manufacturer resubmit product after delivery is if it arrived broken or malfunctions thereafter. As I understand them, these are the very basic 'rules 'n' regs' of this aspect of the business.

In this instance, other factors muddied the picture. Reviews are 'free advertising' and 'promotional material'. Finishing a review on a maker whose attitude and behavior one wishes not to promote creates an issue. Then there are the very real costs which even frivolous litigation consumes very quickly. We'd been down that road with Phil Jones once before. In short, any business without a legal department and associated fund must carefully weigh the consequences.

While facing possible litigation, what upside was there concluding this review against the expressed desire of the maker? From my few days with the fully preconditioned pair, I already knew it to be a quality product that performed well. This would become a quite positive review tempered only somewhat by my cosmetic and functional criticisms versus the not inconsiderable sticker. Was I prepared to 'endorse' this maker with such a review, then face possible legal fees to pay for the privilege? Not really.

For €15,000/pr, this speaker's back did not look finished to me. Others might disagree. My opinion certainly does not invalidate the product nor would it have interfered with rendering fair judgment on its sonic performance.

Conversely, one must differentiate between a free review for a broad audience and a paid-for consultation off the record. A formal review implies open disclosure of all findings, warts included. A consultation is for the client's eyes only but paid for. This maker wanted to quietly address obvious issues, then resubmit the 'consulted and improved' version without having it mentioned. In the formal review context he'd chosen, that's not appropriate. The proper course of action was what I offered: a manufacturer's reply to explain and announce revisions.

On principle, I also wasn't quite prepared to throw away the work I'd already put into this assignment (which also entailed scheduling to make room for this product and postpone the arrival of others). To have the manufacturer demand it was quite disrespectful of my professional time. So what to do? I eventually decided to leave the preview as written; add a small introduction explaining its unfinished status; then link to it only from the Letters/Feedback section where one reader had commented on the cancellation within hours of its announcement to merit a formal response in that section.

This link is accompanied by the e-mail exchanges that led to the cancellation. Readers can thus decide for themselves. It is not available anywhere in our formal archives however since it is not a performance review but just an introduction. This scenario is far from a perfect solution but the situation, at least to my mind, really precluded one. The manufacturer had solicited our review. The speaker in question had been sold and reviewed before just as submitted. While in my house, the maker had reacted to my criticisms surprisingly non-committal. There was no indication that subsequent alterations would address the issues. And since these issues are not apparent from his website photos or descriptions, they had to be mentioned to let prospective buyers decide whether they were deal breakers or not.

When shit happens (as it invariably will), we can take it personal or not. In this case, I did feel put out. I also felt taken advantage of since this incident arose only because of the preview. Had I published the review in its entirety after the listening impressions, all of this would have been avoided. Clutching the personal, I should feel compelled now to insist on a legally binding written agreement whereby manufacturers submitting review loaners commit to not interfering with the process nor invoking the law if they're displeased with our findings before any of us commit word one to hard drive.

Yet as the first incident of its kind in seven years, I would make far too much of it if all the other mature and reasonable product suppliers were penalized for it with needless red tape. I still don't quite know what to make of this incident. Naiveté? Incapacity of taking constructive criticism? In the end, it matters not. Right or wrong, this gent made his decision and I made mine. Hopefully each party learned a lesson. Sharing it, I hope others will as well.