you have to be kidding

Elliot Goldman -- Tue, 01/11/2011 - 12:22

With great interest I read  audio distributor/ part time audiologist  Kevin Suffari’s letter asserting that HP has lost his hearing.
Coming from a man who business lies in distributing amplifiers and phono stages from ASR Audiosysteme that is indeed surprising.
ASR’s website is replete with numerous references to HP’s  ringing endorsements of the products Mr. Suffari  distributes.
ASR products have received Product of the Year and Golden Ear Awards from HP. Mr. Suffari should demand that ASR’s Freidrich Schafer disavow them immediately.
I  suggest that Mr. Suffari demand that ASR remove from their website those apparently worthless quotes and references to HP’s glowing reviews.
I also marvel at his medical diagnosis in absentia and without his listening to the Ortofon cartridge in HP’s system or to all of the other compared cartridges that HP surveyed in his report .
This analysis resulted in what I will call hereafter Suffari’s equation, taking it’s place alongside the work  of other  giants such as Newton, Gauss, and Euclid to name just a few .
Suffari’s equation restated is:
I like cartridge + HP no like cartridge  =   HP cannot hear.
However, my equation is:
HP is, well HP + Kevin Suffari is an ass   =    HP can hear and Kevin Suffari is still an ass.

jax4736 -- Tue, 01/11/2011 - 12:35

Not only that, but some other letters to the editor were baffling, like the person who preferred lossy DVD presentation to a high end two channel rig (loved Harley's response), and also the person who thought LP was terrible (I only have digital sources, but have heard good LP playback on a high end system).
Definitely some interesting letters in the new issue.

Elliot Goldman -- Wed, 01/12/2011 - 15:00

Who is Kevin Saffari and why is he kissing JV's butt and defaming HP?
I have heard that ASR stuff and did HP not say kind things about it?
Did he loose his ability to hear then as well Kevin?

gb -- Sat, 01/15/2011 - 13:34

 Taken logically,  it IS possible that HP's hearing acuity is not what it was. HOWEVER, it was apparently enough to detect that Scaena's loudspeakers had a flaw, which Scaena took seriously enough to reverse the directions of two capacitors, (if that's the right part. I do remember the Scaena review clearly, but just can't remember which part Scaena changed after HP complained). I would say that's pretty accurate hearing. Whether or not HP's hearing is what it was 10 years ago, I would be an idiot to guess at, but I certainly trust that he hears what he hears.

All that aside, the way Mr. Saffari worded his letter is unfortunate. He did not hear HP's cartridge, in HP's system on a speaker that JV just named as the "Best of Show." And given that JV, in his own words, has been ambivalent about Scaena (well, actually the Pipedreams, but the woofers are similar in that they are both ashcan shaped) at shows, while HP has not, this would indicate the Scaena's are right up there with the best speakers around (or, lets be exact: best at a SHOW).  This would normally allow an experienced reviewer, which none of us would argue HP is not (I mean, really, Wilma Cozart Fine HERSELF (I love writing that word "HERSELF": it's like saying GOD) had enormous respect for HP's hearing, seems to belie Mr. Saffari's arguments.  I don't always care for HP's cartridge reviews, although I used to. He tends to like "lean" sounding cartridges (e.g., the Carnegie, Spectral, earlier Clearaudios and others), while I prefer something with a little more meat on its bones, even if it isn't the "airiest"-sounding cartridge, but then, it took me many, many, many years to come to that conclusion, after running screaming to my dealer,after, no doubt reading the latest issue of TAS,  "GET ME HP'S LATEST LOVE -- NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!"  and my dealer saying, deadpan, "oh, you mean the _____________ (insert HP's latest love (cartridge here))??? Yes, we already have one on order for you. It'll be a few weeks. We'll call you..."

What I absolutely DON'T LIKE about Mr. Saffari's letter is his assumption (and many others) of terms HP uses, such as "translucency". So many people still do not understand the word "continuous" which they would have had they ever had a Jadis Defy 7 or the 500 model. Or Avalons. OR, Avalons, WITH a Defy 7 WITH a Convergent preamp (circa 1993). Mr. Saffari assumes Mr. Pearson means "a tube-like glow". WHAT?!?!?!? Hasn't HP always clarified he doesn't like a tube-like "glow" in components????? Unlikely he changed his mind with age. More likely he means such inner detail that it is lit up from withIN the soundstage as opposed to just hearing the "front" part of the instrument. I would be guessing here, but I assume it more like having spotlights on the floor shooting upwards, as though on a stage, lighting an actor's face in a 3D type of way, but, in this case, around each instrument, or more aptly put, as though the instrument has a spotlight withIN it (think of Tinkerbell's glow) that makes the instrument not "dark", but "lit" from the inside (which would, presumably, indicate the specificity of the instrument is more apparent, but that's only MY guess). I have to say, I grinned, when, only 3 sentences later, Mr. Saffari used the term "continuous listening." I think a better word would have been constant, unless he means he listened 24/7 for 3 months straight. And if he did that, his own conclusions would be suspect, since, after 48 hours with no sleep, we can start hearing things that aren't there (an amusing pun, I think).

Whether or not Mr. Saffari is right in saying that it retrieves details lost to other cartridges  including the only-for-the-rich Clearaudio cartridge in that group, I cannot say, not having heard either cartridge. But I also wonder if Mr. Saffari has heard the Clearaudio or not, and, even then a well set-up one. I mean, you can't  assess what you haven't heard. 

I think it would only be fair to say that HP doesn't, as he said in response to a letter of mine, many years ago, do a "checklist" of virtues, a la AHC, and could conceivably NOT have said the A90 retrives more detail than ANY other cartridge. He (HP) tends to focus on what he likes -- but ONLY for that ONE review he is writing RIGHT THEN. He will review amps, and mention ambience retrieval in one review, but completely ignore another amp's ambience-retrieval capabilities in another review, which is what makes him seem inconsistent in his writing. I mean, it's easy to read old reviews, and see that he mentions soundstaging (when it's spectacular, a la the Lector CD player), but not mention it while writing about other CD players. It can - and does - happen. One has to read between the lines. In which case, Mr. Saffari may be right that the A90 retrieves more sheer "detail" than most cartridges. That doesn't mean it's the most consonant with life itself (i.e. "live"), which I would prefer over simple sheer detail. One makes one's choices in these mattters

It galls me when people guess at the vocabulary of a writer, but then, TAS used to have a common vocabulary, which they no longer do, making it easy for a writer to say "'s the BEST..." when what he/she means is it's the "BEST" according to their personal preferences (the subjective part, NOT the objective part). One has only to read the DCS review to now find out that the Bryston PDA-1 dac is "muted" at the top (sigh). I can only thanks the GODS I didn't buy it, in retrospect. (Only kidding here.)

I wish people would ASK questions before coming to conclusions. This applies to ANY conversation between creatures of the same species -- presumably human. It's minimally intelligent to ask a question before reaching a conclusion, a failing of so many  these days...

Ded Frag -- Sun, 01/16/2011 - 06:21

 The entire question is easily solved. Publish audio reviewers clinical hearing test results along with reviews. End of debate.

Atul Kanagat -- Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:10

I wsish it were that simple. Recent advances in neuroscience call into question our assumptions of the effective audio band in the frequency domain. We know that the brain receives ultra high frequencies (above 20 kHz)in the presence of the fundamental tone. All our assumptions have been based on the response curve of the eardrum but ignores the possibility of receiving signals sent to the brain via other sensors, bone induction perhaps or skin receptors. Additionally, we now know that the brain is plastic, and can compensate or even relocate the position in the brain that handles the processing of the signal.

So it is entirely possible that as the eardrum ages and loses its high frequency response characteristics, the brain could compensate to some extent to allow the listener to "hear" frequencies above the measured eardrum response.

I experienced HP's listening acuity a couple of years ago when I asked him to evaluate a loudspeaker I thought was exceptional. Hp quickly isolated on a rise at about 7 kHz that we subsequently confirmed through measurements; he did this without measurements and picked up something that several other experienced listeners failed to detect. IMHO, his listening power is as formidable as it ever was.


Ded Frag -- Tue, 01/18/2011 - 14:10

Understood but I'd still like to see audio reviewers clinical hearing tests published along with reviews. Only a pipe dream I know but we can but hope.

Atul Kanagat -- Wed, 01/19/2011 - 10:19

My point is that reviewer's hearing tests may be meaningless in light of new understanding of the ear- brain system. Just because you can measure something,doesn't make it relevant.

zead -- Tue, 01/18/2011 - 17:30

      Let me first state that i've loved reading HP and we'll continue reading HP! having said that however, i think what needs to be highlighted and never seems too - is the fact that this whole audio experience is a subjective experience and so just as Saffari is somewhat _________ in his letter, a lot of folks are also wrong in their God-Like approach to reviewers of audio. We really need to rethink this Absolute Paradigm in audio; because as a matter-of-factly, it is a joke. No pun intended. i really would like to applaud JV for having the guts to talk about the spectrum of listening tastes - which many have decried; but then again truth has a slow way about becoming the prevailing wisdom. Enjoy your equipment! it's all about what sounds good to you!

TD160 -- Wed, 01/19/2011 - 03:33

HP on YouTube :

Elliot Goldman -- Wed, 01/19/2011 - 10:31

HP tried to set a standard and a set of standards for discussing and evaluating Audio Components. He devised a language, which is and has evolved, that we speak and use to discuss the merits and failings of these products. We do not have a set of measurements that define the listening experience accurately because if we did there would be no need for this column, magazines or reviewers.
Too many readers want a definite answer, black or white, on a specific question or product however they do not exist in a void. I want to express that audio is a system not a piece. The system is the total of all the gear used and the room and the installation and set up of the gear. If we try to break this down to find absolutes they don't always work.
It is however blatantly ignorant of people like Mr. Suffari to use the reviews to sell his product on one hand and then to criticize when he does not agree on the other.
I know HP for a very long time. I have listened with him many times and I have found in my experience that Harry is an incredible listener and also knows his music very well. He does listen live frequently and takes his reviews extremely seriously. Is he perfect? unfallable? never wrong? I doubt it but guys he CAN hear and hear very well.
I found the letter that was published insulting and without givinng HP a chance to respond the letter should NEVER have been published. I doubt Mr. Harley would publish a letter like that about himself without a response!

Ded Frag -- Sat, 01/22/2011 - 14:19

 Well put but the subjective/ objective divide is too simplistic. Sensible design and evaluation of audio equipment needs to include subjective listening skills along with empirical measurement. Using only one or the other is a recipe for confusion and would hamper reviewers & designers'  unnecessarily . Although I appreciate anyone's assertion they agree with HP's evaluations it's still possible both listeners, for instance, have rolled off sensitivity in the upper hearing regions that, say, has them preferring moving coils with a tilted upper treble that compensates for such hearing deficiencies. So, you will never talk may out of wanting to see reviewers clinical hearing tests published along with equipment reviews. I'm well aware this well never happen.
On a slightly different subject I'd like to draw attention to HP's greatest work, the heroic attempt to formulate a consistent vocabulary for decribing what we hear from audio equipment. I can't remember ever having read a list of defined terms used to describe subjective observations of audio gear other than HP's.

Jonathan Valin -- Thu, 01/20/2011 - 03:50

The way I see it, the question isn't (or shouldn't be) about Harry's "hearing acuity" (or mine). After all, I'm on record saying that I heard pretty much what HP heard when I auditioned the A90, meaning that if HP's hearing is screwed up then so is mine. The question, in so far as there is a question, isn't (or shouldn't be) about hearing; it is (or should be) about our judgment of what we heard.

Yes, I did interpret what I heard via the Ortofon MC A90 quite differently than Harry did (and so, I gather, did Mr. Saffari, which, along with conveying his angry sense of an injustice being done to a product he loves, was really, I thought, the point of his letter); however, unlike Mr. Saffari, I also freely conceded that other reasonable folks might hear the A90 the way Harry did (and indeed one member of my own listening panel did hear it that way—or, at least, closer to that way).
That reasonable people may reasonably differ about the sonic merits of any given product is scarcely new. In fact, it is almost always the case with hi-fi components (and just about everything else that involves a judgment call). But I agree with Brion that such differences should not lead to insults (on either side). I was as respectful as I know how to be to HP in my comment—not just because he is my mentor in writing about hi-fi and my longtime colleague on TAS (and, for a time, on Fi) and, well, HP, but because I could hear what he heard even if I didn't agree with his assessment of what we heard (and I didn’t).

Second, on the issue of a common reviewer vocabulary, I think most hi-fi writers still share many words and concepts (the majority invented by Gordon and Harry)—to the extent that few readers have a problem understanding what we mean when we write our reviews. But if Brion's point is that we all no longer hew exclusively to Harry's lexicon—to "yin" and "yang" and "translucency," etc.—that is true, although I'm far from convinced this is a bad thing. Words are a writer's most precious possession (practically his only possession), since they express how he thinks and feels, and while all writers can and do find words and concepts that are valuable and useful in the writing of others, no one writer can or should expect to monopolize another writer's means of expression. I don’t think Harry would want that, and I know that Robert doesn’t.
Finally, by what pretzel-twists of logic could anyone conclude that Robert or I deliberately set out to impugn HP’s hearing? Why in the world would I have written my comment on the A90 in the way I wrote it—almost contorting myself like a balloon animal in order to avoid offending my mentor—and why would Robert (who is the most decent, honorable, and professional man I’ve ever worked with) have printed that comment as I wrote it, if either of us intended Harry harm? I mean, it’s patently ridiculous.
We printed the letter from Mr. Saffari because we print readers' letters in the Letters section—we didn’t write the letter or commission its writing (as some have done) or condone what was written. We have printed many (unexpurgated) letters critical of writers or articles in TAS, including articles written by Robert and me. Harry himself, when he was publisher of TAS, printed many critical letters, including letters that were critical of his own work (and often absurdly abusive). There is absolutely nothing new about this. Harry has never set himself above criticism, and neither have we. What is new, in this instance, and unfortunate is that Harry wasn’t given the opportunity to reply to the Saffari letter in the issue in which the letter was published. Robert and I aren’t 100% sure how this happened. All we can say—and it is no excuse—is that during the crush of work at deadline and immediately in advance of RMAF the ball was dropped. However, HP will be given the chance to reply to Mr. Saffari at length in Issue 212 (or whenever he chooses). 


Elliot Goldman -- Thu, 01/20/2011 - 12:32

Dear Jon,
I do not know Mr. Suffari and so I do not want to make statements about him personally. I have been a reader of the magazine and a friend of HP since the earliest days. I want to thank you for qualifying the point was and giving an explanation. Mr. Suffari has the right to his opinions.The fact that IMHO he went after a friend and an incredibly talented writer and reviewer without any comment from RH or the opportunity for Harry to respond I thought was unfair. To  be honest I also felt it was  really unprofessional. I own a business and I would never let someone go after a member of my team without me getting involved. I hope that this was an oversite and again thansk for the clarification.

gb -- Sat, 01/22/2011 - 11:59

I'm glad you  chimed in. I want to clear up my own vocabulary.
When I say that the vocabulary is no longer universal among TAS' reviewers, I mean that, without references to certain pieces of music, one can no longer "see" in one's mind what a particular component sounds like. I see the word "smooth" used frequently as an example. However,  "smooth" usually, if I read the writers right, means nothing jumps out at you in the upper midrange/lower treble. It can also mean a lack of dynamics in that area of the frequency, which is a tradeoff, as you well know, since, as Harry put it, it is one of the crucial areas of reproduction if the component is to reproduce  music that seems "true-to-life."
I can never quite tell anymore about that, unless it's you writing the review. But more importantly is the lack of reference to how instruments sound in real life, as TAS once did. It's all fine and well to "expand" the vocabulary, but then the writer, to make himself known to the readers, should give an analogy -- at least once -- so that we can then know in the future what he/she means by that. This simply doesn't happen. Who among you discusses a components ability to reproduce the spaces between instruments, instead of mere "depth"? Nearly no one. One has to read between the lines, which is not, to me, an indicator of a writer capable of  creating a picture for the reader, as once was the case. It's not just a matter of it being frustrating, it's more like having a bad teacher, who doesn't enlighten you. This is  a far step away from simply "expanding." One cannot expand without explaining a concept FIRST. One expands AFTER elucidating a concept so the student/reader  KNOWS the framework of the concept.
I hope that was clearer.

Ded Frag -- Sat, 01/22/2011 - 14:24

"It's not just a matter of it being frustrating, it's more like having a bad teacher, who doesn't enlighten you. This is a far step away from simply "expanding." One cannot expand without explaining a concept FIRST. One expands AFTER elucidating a concept so the student/reader KNOWS the framework of the concept."
AMEN ! ! ! ! !

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