In the wake of a certain review, we have received the following disturbing e-mail (names and model numbers and specific terms withheld):

"Dear Mr. Ebaen,

I read your ... review of the xxx with great interest as I have been recently requested by an owner and my current employer to audition and otherwise verify the circuit of several xxx designs. I am educated as an Electrical and Mechanical Engineer specializing in and consulting for residential and commercial low voltage switching applications. I have been an audio enthusiast and hobbyist for some 36 years and find great pleasure in designing and building my own audio components, including loudspeakers, amplification and phonographic reproduction bits.

My current employer brought it to my attention that he suspected that the very latest xxx products were not, in fact, original designs. He stated with absolute certainty that earlier designs were exact copies of the xxx design which was published in the xxx. I was later able to verify this myself with a circuit analysis and comparison to the xxx circuit. As my employer had implicated, the xxx and xxx were copies. He was aware that the later products had undergone a "redesign" and was eager to verify that changes had been implemented which would render his suspicions valid or otherwise. He acquired the xxx, xxx and xxx with the sole purpose of disassembly and verification of the circuit designs.

Upon inspection of all three of these products, I found a very similar
circuit to the one previously used. I am unaware that any agreement has been reached between the original circuit designer or the xxx and the principals at xxx for the use of this circuit. I feel it imperative that you be made aware of this fact and other factual errors in your posted review. xxx has specified that this design is xxx when it is, in fact, xxx and a very basic xxx design. The three units I inspected were all specified as having expensive circuit upgrades which were only present on the xxx. I will not venture to imply that there was theft involved but a close inspection revealed none of the $xxx worth of upgrades to the xxx and several hundred dollars more to the xxx model. My employer is currently searching for the claimed xxx mentioned in your review.

I would strongly encourage you to have a qualified engineer inspect the
xxx provided to you for review to verify my claims. I can forward detailed pictures of the xxx I have inspected showing exact similarities between the xxx and xxx designs. I can also forward a schematic of all three designs detailing the xxx and xxx claims.

I feel it important to verify such information and hope you would take the
time to authenticate and substantiate claims made by manufacturers of products you review. I look forward to your response and am available for telephone follow-up if needed."

The reason I call this letter disturbing isn't because of what it implies but that it should have been sent to us. Plainly, a court of law or arbitration service is the only proper institution to handle and attempt to settle any such disputes and insinuations. The sender of this letter should be ashamed for attempting to further his cause or the cause of his employer by getting us involved as innocent bystanders. We are a subjective audio review publication - that's it. We don't employ and pay for outside technical consultants. If we did -- and SoundStage! does with Bascom King as does Stereophile with their own in-house personnel -- we certainly wouldn't abuse the time and skills of our employees or contractors to serve an outside agenda that is unrelated to our job of rendering subjective performance judgment and educated value opinions on submitted hardware and software.

One would have thought this to be patently obvious, no? Alas, because of this letter and one prior incident that involved patent ownership claims in the wake of corporate management changes within a company that had dispatched review samples, we have just amended our Reminders To The Manufacturers essay with the following paragraph:

  • Lastly, we do not get involved in copyright or patent disputes or hire outside engineers to analyze circuits. We rely on the manufacturers to provide us with information about their designs and how they work. We will always assume that once they dispatch a product under their brand name for a formal review, we're in receipt of their rightful design and physical product and thus always return products to the party which sent them. If other firms or individuals claim otherwise, by alleging ownership of the actual product or intellectual or brand name property rights, we will not become a forum for such disputes as has recently been attempted. That domain is for the lawyers and independent engineers who are specifically hired and handsomely paid to conduct any litigative or exploratory fact gathering missions. Only if we are presented with a legally settled court document that accords intellectual or physical ownership rights to a party other than what was stated in our review will we amend such review information to reflect this formally awarded judgment. However, we will not cancel or delete such reviews but merely amend the relevant information in a manner that let's the reader know about any changes, why we implemented them and what kind of proof we received to feel duty bound to make said changes.

Let me recapitulate this in completely unambiguous terms. We will not now or ever be drawn into any such disputes. We have neither the time, inclination nor responsibility (implied or assumed) to become arbitrators or participants in any kind of settlement between manufacturers or private parties. Any type of future attempts will result in a brief reply that directs the sender to the URL of this short statement. Any subsequent correspondences on the same issue will be regarded as junk mail and not at all responded to - period. Parties interested in public coverage of press releases or statements about pending, ongoing or awarded litigations, patents, allegations and associated matters already have access to proper outlets with those audio publications that run dedicated Press Room or News features. We do not. Additionally, we elect to restrict our selective industry features coverage to positive rather than negative aspects and stories about this little speciality industry we endeavor to be a constructive rather than destructive part of. Now where's my Port? I need to wash out a really bad taste in my mouth tooth-sweet. Cheers. Here's to the sunny side of life and great tunes!