Capturing the state of Computer Audio is like trying to describe a river with a bucket of water, to paraphrase Alan Watts. Computer Audio is in flux, evolving as we speak. Computer-based hi-fi offers some of the finest seats in your home for the enjoyment of music— today.
AudioStream’s mission is to dive in without getting carried away by the endless flow of technology. Our main focus lies in identifying those products and services that simply let us play and enjoy our music just as we’ve been doing for over a century combined with a heretofore unimagined ease of distribution and a near-endless potential for musical discovery.
AudioStream will provide a clear path and guide through each branch of the Computer Audio journey without losing sight of the final destination— the enjoyment of music.
Whether you are looking to enhance and optimize music playback from your computer, move to a purpose-built music server or streamer, or distribute music throughout your home with our without wires, AudioStream offers a critical view into a rapidly expanding world of solutions.
Here's our approach to the hi-fi hobby in a nutshell:The experience of enjoying listening to music is the ultimate goal of our hi-fi hobby.At the end of the day, or even at the beginning, the experience and enjoyment of music lies at the heart of our hobby. Perhaps I should say "my" hobby since there are people who appear to have a different point of view. Nonetheless, we are of the opinion that listening to music is a necessary luxury—we are fortunate to have the time and resources to devote to music—and we are also of the opinion that there's no better way to determine what we enjoy listening to than through listening.
Every review whose concern is describing experience is by its nature subjective. The value we see in hi-fi reviews is ideally their ability to help guide the reader toward things of interest and away from things of little or no interest. Of course this sharing of experience is a dialog between reader and writer so even here there is plenty of room for interpretation. The point being, our reviews are not mandates. What they represent are our listening impressions over time, communicated as clearly as our words can muster.
The added value of doing this for a living pertains to the simple fact that we get to listen and compare much more gear in our listening room than the average hobbyist has the time or means to devote to this pursuit. Over time, this experience as well as the feedback we receive, has a cumulative effect that ideally informs future reviews.
We also have access to the people behind the products, something I view as an integral aspect of the value we have to offer. The Industry Voice blog is the place where these people can communicate directly to our readers.
Editorial & Advertising
If you view our Contact page, you'll see a section titled "Advertising" under which our Publisher, Keith Pray, and his staff are listed. Keith and his team are responsible for all advertising among the sites and magazines that comprise the Home Tech Group (see the page footer for a list of sites), which is part of the larger corporate entity TEN: The Enthusiast Network. The company publishes more than 50 magazines including Stereophile, Motor Trend, Hot Rod, and Surfer and over 60 websites. The total TEN audience is 149M.
My job within the company, as you can see on the same Contact page, is Editor of AudioStream (I also write a column for Stereophile magazine titled "Audio Streams"). As Editor, it is my job to serve our readers as I see fit. You can see the results of my decisions every and any day by simply reading the site.
In terms of reviews, I decide what I review and when, as does Steve Plaskin. There is no communication or influence from anyone in the company regarding editorial content, which includes reviews. The only time that anyone besides Steve or I become aware of the content of a review is either when the manufacture or manufacturer's representative is provided an advance copy for fact check purposes or after the review has been published.
Since advertising is not my responsibility, I am only aware of advertisers when I see ads appear on AudioStream. I have no knowledge of the details relating to advertising campaigns so their coming and going is only known to me when I see them come and go. There is no communication between Keith and his group and I regarding reviews or advertising. In our company, these are very clearly separate jobs.
Measurements & Tests
While a few magazines and websites offer accompanying measurements for some reviews, it is certainly the exception rather than the rule. This is the case mainly for two reasons; providing accurate and meaningful measurements requires an investment in equipment or in an outside testing facility, and the ability to interpret and provide meaningful descriptions of measurement results is an acquired skill. AudioStream is not in a position to make these required investments. In other words, we would provide measurements if we could.
Some readers would like us to perform some variation of blind testing to support our reviews. Our position on this subject is very straight forward—taking part in any kind of blind listening test necessarily creates an unnatural condition, one that we never encounter when listening to music for pleasure. This is not to say that science doesn't matter or that blind testing is not a valid approach to remove perceptual bias. However listening tests of hi-fi gear at best tell you about the listening capabilities of the people taking the test under those specific testing conditions. At their worst, listening tests mask real sonic differences.
We welcome and encourage comments. When commenting on AudioStream, try to imagine we're at my home having a face-to-face conversation over your beverage of choice. That really should be all that needs to be said in terms of 'Rules'.The RulesUnfortunately that's not all that needs to be said. We expect comments to be respectful and relevant to the topic at hand. While this would seem to be a given, it is not always the case. In those rare instances where someone is not respectful or on topic, they will either receive a warning or their account will be blocked. The decision as to which course of action is most appropriate is determined on a case by case basis. In either case, the offending comment will be edited or deleted.
1. Criticism is welcome as long as it's directed at the content of the review, post, or comment. We have a zero tolerance policy for a lack of civility, disrespectful comments, personal attacks, and thread crapping.
We also ask that all members of the industry include their full name and industry affiliation as a signature line in every comment.
Greatest & Favorite Bits
AudioStream has two categories of Recommended Components; Greatest Bits and Favorite Bits. The difference between the two is best described by describing the Favorite Bits category, which are our personal favorites; gear we found that pleases our personal preferences the most. Greatest Bits, on the other hand, is a designation for gear that performs on a level we find worthy of recommendation.
In each case, a recommendation is no substitute for reading a review since a review holds the reasons for the recommendation.
Music Comes First
This is not the same as saying "It's all about the music". Music comes first because without music, hi-fi would not exist. Of course this also means that without hi-fi, music exists.
We bookend each week with music recommendations; every Monday we post a Lovely Recordings and every Friday we post a Download of the Week. "Lovely Recordings" is a reader submitted column (see details on how to participate (please)) while the "Download of the Week" is the Editor's choice.
Since this is a hobby based on personal preference, there is no one best for everyone, there is a best for everyone: The best hi-fi is the one that's used to discover and enjoy music most often. Our goal is to help you find yours.