Honest Audiophile Review Process
Often I get asked about my review process, whether or not I have dedicated music that I listen to, certain gear, burn-in and measurements. I do have a review process that I follow for each and every product. Several years ago I posted a video on YouTube that documented my review process. This is a very old video, beware of the cringe quality.
https://youtu.be/UkSnoZZNyYc?si=39ZEn41-Uf5O7By2 Over the years, the processes mentioned in the video have been adjusted and tweaked. Even though the basics are the same some of the little things have been removed and others added. I thought it would be helpful to revisit my review process.
So here is the Step-by-Step Honest Audiophile review process.
When it comes to researching products to review and to see what is being hyped around the community, I venture over to several of the different forums, websites and YouTube. I don't post near as often as I used to but I do occasionally plunk down a comment in a thread. I try to respond promptly to any direct messages or tagged comments. I mostly view those forums to get a feel for the latest, hot topics and to get a feel for how the community is reacting to various products of interest.
I don't go searching out impressions and/or reviews about a product that I have in-house for a review that I am not already settled on my opinion or a product that I am planning on reviewing; more on that later.
I watch videos on various audiophile topics from all sorts of content creators and take the same approach as with websites and forums.
In these moments I am just looking around to see what is happening and get a general feel about stuff.
2. Gear/Product Arrival/Product Departure
I get contacted by manufacturers, vendors and viewers via email and social media requesting if I am interested in gear to review. I also get recommendations of various topics to talk about as well.
I decline all offers for a paid video or written format post. Even though I have affiliate links with some vendors and manufacturers I do not base my willingness to review a product because I have or don't have an affiliate link. I choose gear to review based on my personal interest and also on whether or not I believe my viewers will want to see a review of the product. All decisions for the channel content are my own; I am not influenced by any outside source to do a specific video or written post.
Upon agreement for gear to be provided for a review, whether it be gifted, loaned or purchased; I advise of the estimated length of review process and that I will keep them all informed of the timeline.
So the gear has arrived, what do I do next? Open it up of course! I take a lot of pictures of the package and the contents while opening up for the first time. This is done so that if there is damage or missing pieces it is documented to protect all parties involved. Also taking pictures helps to show how to repackage and what was included when returning the product.
During this time, I may or may not post pictures on social media to show off what I have received. I examine the product and overall just enjoy the exciting moment of getting new gear to review.
4. First Listen/First Impressions
Next up is the impressions from a first listen. For every first listen; I use the Mytek Liberty DAC ii and Mytek Liberty THX HPA unless it is a stand-alone source product that I received.
If it is a stand-alone amplifier, I will connect it to the Mytek Liberty DAC ii.
If it is a stand-alone DAC, I will connect it to the Mytek Liberty THX HPA.
If it is a USB-C dongle, I will use the CTM Da Vinci X to listen.
Headphones of choice will vary depending on the output power but my reference headphones are the Audeze LCD-5.
This is when I plug in the cables and randomly select a song from Audirvana Studio. The amount of time spent listening varies with devices, how much time I have to listen at the moment or if I am enjoying or not enjoying the product. Normal first listens are about ten-fifteen minutes but can be shorter or longer.
First impression notes may be provided on my private Discord server or to close friends on social media after I have listened to the device, not all products get this treatment.
I try to stay away from reading and watching others opinions of the product as I don't want to be influenced by an outside source until I have my own opinions formulated.
Now we get into the controversial segment of the review process, burn-in or break-in. Whether or not you believe in burn-in or break-in it is done for all my reviews for consistency. Personally I don't put a whole lot of credence into whether or not this process alters the sonic reproduction on all products but I do believe that it has on some.
For consistency in reviews, all new gear is put through this process. For loaned gear that has been played prior for a significant time, this process is bypassed. The process is that the headphone or IEM is played for approximately 8 hours a day with random music at normal 65db-75db listening volume for a week. Anywhere between 40-55 hours of playtime with me popping the gear on randomly for a listen, just to make sure that nothing catastrophic is happening and to listen for any changes audibly since my first listen.
For source gear burn-in, the amount of play time is the same but I will use random headphones or IEM while playing at normal listening levels.
I may or may not continue for the full week if it is obvious the product isn't going to reflect any changes. I may extend the process if I feel the product needs more time.
6. Listening Process
After a week of burn-in has occurred I start to really listen to the product. I listen to various playlists that I have compiled for bass, mids, treble, tone, soundstage, etc.
During this time I will try out all the different tips, pads, cables and source pairings. I always give stock tips, pads and cables ample time to impress as I strive to review the product in stock form as much as possible. If I do use a 3rd party tip, pad, cable, etc. I will note the differences so I remember to mention them in the review.
This process will take about two to three weeks, some products take a bit longer, some not so long.
7. Final Listening Process/Comparisons
After I feel that I have a solid grip of the sonic capabilities of a product, I will start putting together my final thoughts. I listen to my reference tracks on all the various sources that I have at my disposal but most of the focus is with the Mytek Liberty DAC ii and Mytek THX HPA.
This is also the time that I will compare the products that is up for review to other products of similar price and technology. I do vary on that as sometimes gear outperforms or under performs or I don't have a similar product. All comparisons are done in the same listening process.
I scribble down my final thoughts on paper that I will use during my review.
8. Recording Review
The following morning, I wake up early, usually around 4 am. Sometimes reviews are done late in the evening, after 8 pm.
I look up all the pertinent specs for the product and write them down on my final thoughts paper. Then I set up the recording gear and start talking.
I record the review straight through without a script, just my notes. If an error is made, I start over from the beginning. I usually record about 10 attempts before one is satisfactory. I listen to the recording and if I am happy then I start to edit in my links and upload to YouTube. If the recording isn't satisfactory, I start the process over again.
9. Patreon/YouTube Members
After all the editing is done, I upload to YouTube members and Patreon for a first look period. I try to give at least a day or longer but it isn't always that much.
At this time I will update the Gear Tier List ranking grade.
10. Out to the Public
I then release the video to the public on YouTube, usually Tuesday and Friday mornings.
11. Responding to Comments & Reading/Watching Reviews/Opinions
Comments start arriving almost immediately after the video is available for viewing. I attempt to respond to comments as quickly as possible.
This is when I will venture around to websites and forums and see what people are saying about the product. I don't take these opinions to heart and I don't judge my opinions against them, it is more just for curiosity.
12. Product Departure
After the review is public on YouTube, I send a link to the sender thanking them for the opportunity and asking where I should return the product.
If I have an understanding with the sender from previous interactions then I may not ask where to return because it is just known that I keep their products unless otherwise directed.
So that is the twelve steps of a review and why it takes so long for a review to be completed. If you have any questions about the process or would like links to music I use during the process, please comment below.
Please remember to Enjoy the Music and that Honesty is the Best Policy!
I am not a professional sound engineer, producer, musician, or vocalist, etc. I have not done any scientific research, measurements, or in-depth testing of any kind; just my own listening, comparing and internet reading/research. I have limited, real-life experience with recording, mixing and mastering gear. I have been involved since my teenage years with various churches as an amateur sound booth technician.
Please take these thoughts, opinions and reasonings as just that, my honest audiophile thoughts, opinions and reasonings.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TalkDbs @TalkDbs
YouTube membership: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgMj7xJ1SDxGqqxZ5l3g_jg/join
The Honest Audiophile research/review process: https://youtu.be/UkSnoZZNyYc Tierlist:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nRHnsP_4vLg9DlD9kwJ6gQuEQFqhTR0lnrkxXo3AMG8/edit?usp=sharing
Audio Terms/Definitions: https://www.thehonestaudiophile.com/post/the-honest-audiophile-s-terms-and-definitions-guide
Audeze LCD-5: https://www.audeze.com/products/lcd-5
Rosson Audio Design RAD-0: http://www.rossonaudiodesign.com/
Meze Empyrean: https://mezeaudio.com/products/meze-empyrean
Hifiman Ananda: https://hifiman.com/products/detail/290
Sennheiser HD660s: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/hd-660-s
Austrian Audio Hi-X60: https://austrian.audio/headphones/hi-x60/
Audeze LCD 2 Closed: LCD-2 Closed Back (audeze.com)
CTM Da Vinci X: https://cleartunemonitors.com/products/da-vinci-x-universal
Mytek Liberty DAC ii: https://mytek.audio/shop/lbrt-dac-ii-287#attr=
HeadAmp GSX-Mini: https://www.headamp.com/products/gs-x-mini
Tor Audio Roger: https://toraudio.com/main.html#
Schiit Audio BiFrost 2: https://schiit.com/products/bi-frost-1
Massdrop THX AAA 789:
Massdrop THX AAA One Linear: https://drop.com/buy/drop-thx-aaa-one-linear-amplifier?utm_source=linkshare&referer=FTSS2S
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