Trains of thought


Triangulation. I’m on a train form Frankfurt to Berlin, after which I’ll head to Munich. This train travel route will form a triangle across Germany.

Here’s reader karastav commenting on previous post, Words On A Wing.

“I read Srajan’s review on 6moons, but waited for yours before placing my order for Vinnie Rossi’s LIO.”

karastav points to something crucial. The savvy audiophile reader won’t just pitch his tent at a single reviewer’s door; he’ll look to others and triangulate from there. Comparing and contrasting two or three reviews provides the reader with deeper, broader insight.

And providing the reader with insight is pivotal to this webmag’s modus operandi. My aim with each review is to go beyond the information provided by the manufacturer. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: the core of my (self-assigned) job description is to discuss how something sounds more than it is to bring down the gavel. And to best do that I must draw on comparative data points: A vs. B; A vs. C.

Don’t believe this is important? In the comments section of a review where comparisons are light on, you won’t be more than a couple of feet from a reader asking, “How do they compare to X?”.

Last month I purchased a pair of Sennheiser HD650. With so many great headphones here, one might ask why? The answer lies with AudioQuest’s forthcoming NightHawk headphones. To describe how Skylar Gray’s handiwork sounds I’ll need to lean on the HD650 for context – it’s one of the world’s most well-known open backed headphones. Providing a third price-point-‘proximate data point will be MrSpeakers Alpha Dog.


Those pointing to the Alpha’s closed nature will probably ask why not Dan Clark’s Mad Dog? Simple: I sold ‘em to fund the HD650. Helping me drive this point home, one prospective buyer asked, “Out of interest, how do you think the Mad Dog compares with HD600 for electronic music?”

Just as readers triangulate the opinions of their preferred writers so must those writers triangulate sonic characteristics from the equipment to hand.

Readers demand comparisons – they want to know how A compares to B more than whether or not the reviewer likes what s/he hears.

However, even a reviewer revealing personal preference is mired in difficulty. The commentator who falls for everything stands for nothing. Better to ask, “Who is this for?”

Loudspeakers like the Rogers 65th Anniversary LS3/5a have a lively lower-treble – they’d better suit someone already in possession of softer, warmer amplification. On the other hand, KEF’s LS50 will temper steelier-sounding upstream components.

With a solid readership established it’s tempting for a publisher to feed the beast at all costs. Maintain daily visitor numbers or risk seeing a downturn.

Of course, a review loaded with comparisons takes longer to prepare and pen than one that isn’t. If a detailing of the product followed by a few listening notes and a conclusion were all that was required of me, I’d be far more prolific.

However, I’d also be short-changing the reader. And readers aren’t stupid. They’d bounce in…and then bounce out just as quickly. An engaged readership doesn’t do this — its bounce rate is much lower. DAR’s bounce rate as measured by Google currently sits at around 2%. That tells me a lot of what I need to know: that Google points to DAR and DAR is fulfilling readers’ needs.

Size isn’t everything.


Want to know what type of article brings the boys to the yard? Show coverage. For good ole website hits, nothing else comes close. In the context of providing the reader with sonic appraisal, not possible at shows for obvious reasons, that’s irony writ large. A show report is all tease and no climax whereas a thorough product review will hopefully wrap a fully body massage with a happy ending. Too much? #sorrynotsorry.

Show report titillation is short-lived for both reader and publisher. Interest begins to fade after a week or two. Long-term satisfaction on both sides of the fence comes from reviews and – to a lesser extent – news items. The latter’s longevity largely depends on the linguistic proximity to the originating press release.

It pleases me immensely that DAR’s most popular posts are all reviews. AudioQuest’s Dragonfly, OPPO HA-2 and the Chord Hugo – to call out three – with the single most popular post in DAR history being a detailing of three budget amplifiers for the KEF LS50. If that doesn’t speak to the potency of triangulation through comparison, I don’t know what does.

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. Exactly.
    Srajan is great because he has reference points (he keeps certain gear that sets a bar) and it does not matter if it is a few hundred dollar amp (miniwatt/Clones or hitting 5 digits with the soundkaos Wave 40) and when it is time to move on because something better comes along he does.
    Where you fit in to the triangulation is that the gear is worth the coin. I value your opinion because you can appreciate that 10,000$ component, but if their is something cheaper (i.e. MMG Maggies) that gets you close it trumps all.
    For me my third point is communicating with people who actually bought the gear and are satisfied (this time around audio circle and Dawid – Polish reviewer – awesome by the way, just one article for 6moons).
    I have just purchased the Boenicke W5se and Vinnie Rossi LIO (10,000 euro) unseen and unheard because of this triangulation. Waiting for delivery.
    This is also why I was able to sell my last system to finance the new system for close to cost (for used items I actually turned a profit) because I bought well – thanks to Jeff Day, Srajan, TNT audio, Vinyl Asylum and Audigon. This is why I also know down the road my 10,000 investment will be no problem to sell for 5,000, so really it is a 5,000 investment for a system to enjoy for the next 10 years.
    I live in Estonia and envy those that can audition equipment, for me it is reviewers that I have to depend on. You have earned my trust and I thank you.

    • You’re a living, breathing example of reader-reviewer triangulation in action! Well played, sir. 🙂

  2. Talking of the little Oppo, I gave the HA-2 a fairly thorough audition the other day and could detect no significant improvement in SQ over the iPhone5.
    Playing ‘Babylon Sisters’ (lossless rip) and switching feed from Oppo to phone with the same IEM’s, the most I may have discerned was a little less treble ‘glare’ from the Oppo but I’m not even sure about that.
    I was rather disappointed as I wanted the Oppo to blow me away and as it was the only one in the shop (Perth WA), I was ready to snap it up. What next…?

    • Really? OK. That’s interesting – as you can tell from my commentary, I thought it improved even on the Sony ZX-1. I do happen to think that Apple make the best sounding smartphones out there.

      • Really. I almost don’t trust my own judgement, though; 58 year old ears, etc, etc, but I so wanted to be bowled over.
        I should add that I also took my iPod classic 160Gb with me and couldn’t get anything out of the Oppo running from 30 pin into the HA-2. I then used a 3.5mm to 3.5mmm and connected the iPod to the Oppo that way – result!
        I played lossless classical rips and downloads through the Oppo and DID sense a more ‘refined’ sound; less glare on strings and perhaps a greater soundstage but again difficult to readily detect.
        However, I suppose I had bypassd the Oppo’s DAC and was feeding it an analogue signal which was then amplified by the HA-2 and that seems to be little on the pointless side.
        I swear, when I win Lotto, I’m ordering a Chord Hugo and that’s the end of it.

  3. I remember I saw the HD650 somewhere on this site. Glad that you decided to get a pair.
    They are indeed a well known reference for many, or should I say a well known and available headphone for comparison purposes…Oh and the price is realistic for a pair of good headphones. All of a sudden they are too “inexpensive” to compete with the the new range of ” Best high-fidelity headphones”, yet they do so much right! Looking forward to some comparisons indeed!