Jun 11, 2016

What makes a good product review?

Hello Massdrop!
I always feel a great responsibility when I share my thoughts on something that I own or have heard. My desire is to help others, share, & contribute back to the community in a fair/productive way that adds to the collective knowledge.
After starting with a review or two, my audiophile journey led me to organizing meets so that people could try things out for themselves. (Okay, here's my work on one review waaay back in 2011: http://www.head-fi.org/t/553669/monster-challenge-review-turbine-pro-coppers-mobile-warning)
We can't always try everything we are interested in, so what we are able to read online can be quite important. I'm very appreciative of the people who help point me in the right direction for better listening through their reviews and impressions. There can be a lot of work involved when listening for others and trying to test for the combinations and scenarios that others can run into.
But what is the best way to share experience and help others?
QUESTION: What does a good review look like?
What's the best structure/format? (Should a review start with a short summary…or refrain from spoiling the ending? Should there be a rating system such as "x out of 10"?)
What do you think makes a good review???
Oh, and thanks for sharing. :)
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My format for reviewing any sort of product is a bottom line first (since there's a lot of people out there with short attention spans). Then I go into the details of why I rated the product as such, listing pros and cons.

Example Product
5/10 <Insert short summary sentence here>

<Go into detailed explanation here.>
I feel that a good review covers a variety of aspects of the product, from packaging, to build quality, comfort, and of course, sound. I enjoy reviews that are coherent and not just a slew of information haphazardly spewed onto the page without any clear direction. Including graphs and measurements gives you a basic visual indication of what to expect and to be wary of (ex. peaks that many are sensitive to), but to me its the reviewer's comments and feedback that make all the difference.

Personally, I am not at all a fan of rating systems; i.e. 7/10, 4/5 stars, etc. Readers put so much focus into that final score, disregarding the reviewers experiences and feedback located within the review. Video game sites are a great place to view that sort of reaction. A game gets a 7.5 out of 10 and readers disregard it as a waste of time and money when in reality it's a quality product and gobs of fun, but slightly flawed. It's also a challenge to decide what will take off a star, or half a point, or whatever your rating system runs on because its just so subjective. Like Armaegis I'm somewhat skeptical of reviews, especially on sites like Amazon or AliExpress. They're often so drastically skewed towards one opinion or another (love it or hate it) without anything in between, and lack the sort of details that give you an impression of what the product is actually like to own and use on a routine basis. I try to find someone with similar tastes and follow their reviews if possible. Mind you, I have odd tastes and love quite a few earphones that are considered subpar (Sony XBA-2 and NarMoo W1M to name a couple).

I still consider myself pretty green when it comes to this hobby so when I review I like to spend at minimum two weeks with a product. The first week goes towards using them as as my primary earphone or headphone. That allows me to get a good handle on what they are like to live with. Are they comfortable? Does they display odd quirks that were not readily apparent during the initial unboxing? Do I actually want to spend all that time listening to them or am I forcing myself to because I must? Once I've become accustomed to the sort of experience I would expect to have as an owner, then I start listening critically, taking notes, comparing to other products in my collection, and thinking about what sort of overall feedback I'll give.

I'm also a huge fan of images in reviews. They add quite a bit to the experience giving me a visual indication of the overall fit, finish, and build quality. I'm also a sucker for a pretty face, heh. When I'm not in the midst of reviewing something, I often have 4-5 earphones with me at any time. When one is in use, I'm enjoying the unique design queues of the rest.

So what all this rambling comes down to is;
1. I like the review to be laid out in a logical and neat manner, separating each aspect of the review into it's own distinct section.
2. Images are a must for me to be able to piece together everything I've read and to fully understand the writer's experiences.
3. A review must have both positives and negatives, even if the reviewer truthfully thinks the product is essentially perfect. To me it shows serious thought about the product and that the reviewer is considering the experiences their readers may have it theirs is the review that spawn a purchase.

If you made it this far, congratulations. Here is a picture of the Havi B3 Pro 1.

I find that the longer I spend in the audiophile hobby, the more cynical I become of reviews (especially when half the review seems to be an excuse to show off photography skills and making the product *look* good).

When I look up reviews on a site that has a rating system (like Amazon), I always start with the middle to find those who try to present all sides. I then filter through the good and bad reviews looking for the same arguments shared by those in the middle, and how their experiences differed to warrant the change in rating.

I used to post more on headfi, but have been a bit disillusioned with their rigged rating system there.

To me there's no real formula for a good review. Me personally, I write mine a bit like high-school-essay or science paper format. Start with an intro and state the main points (or a straight up TL;DR) and my relevant gear/experiences. Follow with the body and main analyses. Cap it off with a summary because some people only read the ending and didn't see my tldr at the beginning. Then I shove a whole bunch of pictures into the second post because I'm not going to be fancy and format my review to look like a gorram advertisement.

When I post impressions, I try most of the time to give it in relation to another product so people can draw a valid comparison. I have enough experience and confidence in my abilities to know what I'm saying, but not many people actually know my reference points so describing audio to strangers is really a shot in the dark for most. On the rare occasion that I recommend equipment that I have have not heard, I will preface the statement that I have only read or heard about it, or I am echoing the sentiments of a friend who's judement not only do I trust, but we in fact have shared experiences on similar gear so I know our reference points are the valid.
I think a great view consists of a detailed insight from a user perspective. This would highlight day to day activities involving the product and its usefulness. Quirks and unique traits should also be noted that may not come up in a product description. Finally, a personal opinion and thoughts reflecting the reviewer's overall conclusion.

We can all read the product manuals and product advertisements, but it's the things that the manufacturer can't provide for us that is typically desired information.
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