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How not to make friends in the hifi biz.

"I am the founder and owner of X. If interested we would like to start discussing giving you some of our products for review. We think that your site looks beautiful and, should you be interested, think that our products could look good on your pages." And there I thought it was about content, not pretty pictures. We'd been online for 11 long years. X had never once contacted us. What compelled this email now?

"First off I'm old. I'm not computer or web savvy. I have tended to stick to what I thought I knew. Hence the concentration on 'the old ways'. Why now? I've become increasingly disenchanted with the arrogant capricious ignorant press. One of our past stalwart supporters has suddenly decided that they only want to review expensive 'high-end'. Our concept of offering tremendous proper performance at a fair explicable price is now poison to them. It shows up the ludicrous pretentious overpricing of self-styled high end. They put us in another rag which is an utter waste of my time and effort. It has zero effect and influence. In a word, useless.
"Let me give you a specific example. The Zed is a fabulous unit with asynchronous USB, beautiful packaging, peerless technical performance and a competitive price. Xavier gave it a very enthusiastic review, concluding that it was almost equal to the best DACs regardless of price. But that was to a closed circulation of a few hundred. It deserves better. Our old outlet won't do it, the other is a waste of time. Which brings me to amphetamine-injected rattlesnake central. For some reason they just don't like us. Because I had no choice—or so I thought at the time—I gave it to them. They sat on it for four months then gave it four stars. To say I am outraged is a dramatic understatement. The Zed is exactly what Xavier saw. And for $199. Yet they damned it with faint praise. My conclusion was that there's no place for us in the current media. I asked myself and others what could be done. And the answer? Well....duh! I'm so slow. Why not do what I should have done years ago and get X onto the world-wide web? Hence my contact. I can only apologize for my implied and unintended slight of not doing so earlier. It was my ignorance at fault."

Aside from having actual names removed, the above is essentially verbatim. X is a well-known heavily reviewed brand with product up to $30K, hence its own fair share of high-priced stuff. For decades they'd house-trained their domestic and foreign glossies on exactly how to play their version of the high-end game. Now the tides had turned. Today's real action is in headphones, portables and computer fi. Suddenly they accused the very same press of being stuck in 4th gear not wanting to deal with ultra budget kit; of shifting coverage of it to a more suitable sister publication; and then bestowing upon it only 4 out of 5 stars. Quelle horreur. What outrage indeed!

One of our staff responded thus: "Wow. Decades ago when taking my first steps into separates, X were the darlings of our mainstream hifi mags. Their every new product was a 'five-star' front-page cover story. To the uninitiated like myself very impressive until I heard their gear at various shows. Now I was completely underwhelmed. Subsequently I learnt how their boss is a master salesman and very persuasive when it comes to marketing. It's highly enlightening to now see his choice of language and tactics first hand. Whilst flirting with us he's already stipulated that nothing but a five star review will do. Failure to deliver shall indicate an arrogant ignorant capricious reviewer. He appears to be nothing but a two-faced alpha male on the prowl used to having his own way and being unafraid of 'worm-tongue' tactics to get them." Another felt that "already the wording of the second sentence put my radar on alert. The third triggered all subsequent alarms." Yet another had this: "Thanks for sharing. Heck, he surely can't be cranky with ABC. They review all of his stuff from the el cheapo to the ├╝ber $. I don't think any of us are interested anyway. Already way too much coverage not to mention a whiff of the sulphuric. And they change their product line almost weekly."

Those into conspiracy theories will in these 'old ways' see grist for their mill. If these ways have contributed to the status quo—I'd say they have in a big way—continuing with them is surely a royally bad idea. Unless one was pleased with the present state of affairs. I'm not. Hence I politely declined this review invite. Whilst nothing is perfect, there are other ways to go about it without perpetuating the olden ways. X marks that spot. So close this window now...