Fremer lays an Ostrich egg...

From the start, let us say i am a little biased. i read with particular interest the review about the Levinson 53 Amplifiers in the current Stereophile, amps i currently own of course. i also have a Levinson 326S preamp, an EMM Lab CDP, and Von Schweikert VR9SE speakers, all linked up with transparent wire.
my previous amps btw were Levinson 33H mono's which i loved.
According to Mikey, the amps basically suck. no life. no harmonics. uninvolving. flat. they measure great for the most part, except for some anomilies outside of stuff the human ear can detect anyway. they are put together nicely too. But... they have a (dreaded) switch-mode power supply which i get the distinct impression MF decided ahead of time was going to screw up the sound. and so it did (i guess- who really knows what goes on in his head?) so every OTHER sentence in the review emphasizes transparency and dead quiet, neutral sound while the "meat" of the article states the amplifier doesn't have "heart and soul". the Absolute Sound did not reach the same conclusion, but did intimate the amps had an austere quality.
AND THIS is MY review- the ML#53's are not for everybody. they are DEAD NEUTRAL. they are DYNAMIC. DETAILED. my system COOKS when i put on a really good recording of a really good performance. if however the signal lacks in significant areas then I HAVE TO EXTRACT THE MUSIC out of the sound my speakers are making. if i love the performance this is easy for me to do. if i don't care that much about the CD, then it gets sold or just not played that much. other good attributes- the amps never get HOT, they are not impossible to move around (with a little help), they have protection circuitry that kicks in whenever the power goes out. AND FINALLY there is a pair of speakers they won't power up somewhere on the planet. i would like
to see them so i can warn people not to match them up. this could take awhile however.
it floored me when Fremer sold his SF Amati Homage speakers and got Watt Puppy 7's instead. He couldn't say enough good things about the Sonus Fabers, and yet he traded them for a much more analytical sounding speaker, probably for the super-detailed, super focused sound. His reviews of $$,$$$ phono stages are hilarious- what a set of ears he possesses!
when it comes to VPI turntables, he disliked the Aries but LOVED the less-accomplished Scoutmaster. I would guess the Classic-3 is pretty good as well, but i have 0.01% confidence
in M.Fremers' opinion of it. BUT i would welcome anyone ELSE'S professional opinion. At $6,000 it's not an inexpensive investment. add an SDS and a cartridge (and a record cleaning machine) and you're looking at $8500. If in fact VPI (and SO MANY OTHER TURNTABLES) have long engineered an OUTBOARD MOTOR UNIT to isolate noise and enhance the sound, wouldn't you want to know EXACTLY what the deal is with the Classic line? i sure would, and i am a HUGE fan of SOME of VPI's products and i own several.
OTOH, i am a mere peon, peasant, ignorant on the subject of SOTA Analog, and whatever other descripion you might want to label me with. But i think i can say my opinions are consistent and follow a logical pattern.
trying to detect that quality from M.F.'s writings is difficult and at times impossible. and yes, even laughable. i myself have owned (over a long period of time) Levinson, Krell, S. Faber, Pass, and Rowland amplifiers and listened to them in my own home. the ML#53's are very accomplished amps and represent some of the best solid state available, cleaner and faster than the ML-33H's that Stereophile liked so much. Yes they are probably better suited for classical and jazz, and hi-rez recordings are invaluable to bring out the best in them.
but they do not "sound flat and uninvolving". amps don't generally do that anyway- speakers do. Put on a Rachel Podger SACD on Pentatone of Mozart and/or Haydn (or Julia Fisher) and bathe in the warmth of
the sound flowing out of your speakers. Everyone (including ordinary people with ordinary hearing) who have heard my system thinks it sounds "really nice". That's good enough for me. I also think it sounds "really nice".
And i can be pretty picky.
I agree with Mapman and Tpreaves above. Why do you care what some reviewer says about your amps? Remember, this is the guy who claimed that the Harmonic Technology Cyber Light Cables were the most significant improvement he had ever heard in his life and they turned out to be so full of harmonic distortion and sonic issues that John Atkinson deemed them to be broken. Funny that that issue quietly went away. And reviewers have different systems and listening bias, obviously. The important thing is that you like how your amps sound. Period.
Although I think the OP is overly offended about one (1) reviewer's opinion*, we should still thank him for generating an interesting thread that lead to a discussion raising some interesting questions about what we should expect from our systems.

Especially the question of whether the source material should serve the system or vice versa. Personally, I would find a system whose characteristics precluded me from enjoying more than say 5% of the source material I've assembled over the decades to be pretty much unsuitable.

*If it makes the OP feel better, last year another reviewer from the same publication couldn't laud the 53s enough:
I'm in with the in crowd... Sometimes people want their opinions validated. Or their taste in cars, wine or audio equipment, etc. Nothing wrong with that. I have disagreements with some of the salespeople at my favorite audio store many times. I know my background, in electronics and music. I have heard people speak volumes about particular speakers only to listen for myself and find them really bad. Same for amps. I still find most Krell amps to be overly bright. However, this is my musical opinion. I still tell people to go listen for themselves. or better, take it home and install it in their personal system and listen for themselves. If you know what you like and you hear it in your system, then you are "there". Doesn't matter what others think. However, it is difficult to read a reviewer blast the equipment you purchased. That is just the game that is played. I strongly disagree with Stereophile's philosophy regarding their best lists. It is based solely on what they reviewed lately. Regardless of whether a piece of equipment is still in production. This to me makes no sense. To validate their publication, in my opinion, they should keep equipment in their lists until it is no longer in production if they reviewed it previously. Taking it out of their list because it has not been recently reviewed is disingenuous at the least. But, remember, magazines like this try hard to run the industry by forcing manufacturers to submit equipment for review and to keep coming out with newer and better equipment (even though most times they aren't) just so they can get their equipment reviewed or in that particular magazine. My opinion? find what you like and enjoy life.

This morning I was reading my treasured copies of The Audio Critic. The previous post reminds me of Peter. I read the Audio Critic from time to time to cleanse my mind of all the pollution it can pick up on this site.

The OP:
The OP needs to remind himself that the purpose of an amp is to make small electrical signals into bigger electrical signals. Thats all. If your amp or any amp is doing anything else, like sucking air out of music, or being dry or acting like an amusing little amp, and all other such nonsense, then you have a faulty piece of equipment and you should return it for repair or a refund. The comments of Mr Fermer are not true simply because amps CANNOT do what he says yours are doing. Go online and read the Audio Critic, your mind may need cleaning or degaussing or whatever. You stay here long enough you will be sucked in without realizing it. The Critic has a few choice words for the gang at the rag in question.
Chadeffect, well said. Kalman's analogy

["Class-D amplifiers are to the High End what electric cars are to the auto industry. Everyone acknowledges the advantages of the technology in terms of efficiency and ecological benevolence, but so far, neither has captured the souls of aficionados who demand cutting-edge sound regardless of the cost, wheather in dollars or degrees."] Kalman Rubinson.

I'm a class D fan and am currently using Hypex nCore 400 kits powering my studio monitors. At the same time I'm using a pair of tetrodes in my main system.

The nCores were less than $1400 delivered and I've never spent over $5000 retail for my other class D choices. While the ML 53's have an impressive design and build does the effort warrant their $50,000 cost? I haven't a clue.

In my studio nothing come close to what class D offers in transparency and bass definition. I've come to realize that these attributes are not my preferred choice for overall everyday listening. I find the improvement Bruno has brought to this technology extremely encouraging.


thank you. I am just debating using the Hypex nCore for my near field studio monitors. Could I PM you on your thoughts? I don't want to derail this thread.

Part of me cannot be bothered to run in and get used to yet another set of active monitors.
I've taken exception to what reviewers have said. I think it's safe to say we all have. Only once have I felt the need to write about how I felt (keeping it sane) and the reviewer included my take on it in the review, demonstrating that we all hear things differently.

He didn't have to do it but I was quite pleased, and flattered that he did.

French_fries, have you tried to contact Mr. Fremer? I'm sure, by now, that it's too late but next time, give it a try.

All the best,
I would like to hear the new amp offerings from Harman before making any judgements, but I cant help believe that the MLevision line has just become an insane overpriced toy
for people that need to have a certain brand name in the living room. I have seen the newer ML amps with the tops of, and cant believe how much they charge for what appears to be a very skimpy amp - the amp is mostly an empty box with very few parts inside and nothing looks too awesome.
But, who knows, maybe it sounds good. But 50K Good ???
"I read the Audio Critic from time to time to cleanse my mind of all the pollution it can pick up on this site."

That said, you could always opt not to come back again.

There you go French_fries, P59 has given you something to hang your hat on, especially when you consider the reviewer had the ultimate reference in the form of having mixed the live event along with JA. Henry Ford II famously said "never complain, never explain". I'm reminded of this whenever I've had to defend myself in front of my wife; guilty or not you lose ground the minute you open your mouth, LOL. Enjoy your amps.

Why so much hoopla about Fremer's review? He does not have magic ears that supersedes andyone's opinion on this board. I have seen this guy several times at audiofests. What he considers good music/recording/sound befuddles me. I would never buy anything based on his review. Reviewers are not idols, although many manufactures treat them as such because they rely on reviews to sell their products. Take Fremer's for what it really is. Entertainment. Nothing more and nothing less. Enjoy your music.
Yea, who cares what I write? I just write what I hear. I could give a shit what anyone thinks of what I write or of what are my opinions. They are my opinions and that's all they are. Take 'em or leave 'em.

If you like your M-L amps GOOD FOR YOU. I didn't like them. GOOD FOR ME.

If TAS's reviewer liked it, GOOD FOR HIM. You should buy what YOU like, not what I like.

I don't profess to be the sole authority on this subject or any other subject, nor do I write that way (though "methinks" some others do).

Go listen for yourself and if you like these amps BUY THEM. The offended party says they are "dead neutral." I agree with part of what he wrote: I found them basically DEAD.

And the charge that I pre-decided my opinion based on the switch mode power supply is pure unadulterated BULLSHIT.

So really, please stop your whining. If you are really sooo happy with them you really shouldn't care what I wrote or what I thought.
Yes Dracule, I agree with you! I do not have magic ears and have never claimed to having them. In fact I find the whole concept of "golden ears" REPULSIVE.

However what I consider good music is considered good music by MANY and what I consider good sounding recordings are considered good sounding recordings by MANY.

But listen Count Drekula: if you are going to make such a charge against me, how about having the BALLS to name some of that "awful" music I like and how about naming some of the "awful" sounding recordings I think sound good?

And how about laying on to us YOUR superior musical tastes?
BTW, I sold the Sonus Fabers after moving to a new home. They didn't work in my new room... so state your opinions yes, but don't be a total D.B. attacking me for EVERYTHING.
i can understand that the op would be unhappy about a reviewer dissing/devaluing his very expensive amp. what i'm puzzled by is the other posters objecting to a reviewer publishing a negative review--esp. since stereophile is oft accused of being a mere cheerleader for their advertiser's products, i'd think their readers would want them to show some critical balls.
that said, i did read the issue in question and noted that they're getting kinda snarky of late--there were actually a few products that they were less than enthusiastic about. whether that represents a new commitment to critical integrity, a new publishing philosophy or something else i know not.
maybe time to use mr valin as you reference. he love many amp similar to ml. he say soulution best ever. then technical brain. now he love constellation. if you wait long enough he will love your ml too. then you be happy
I think Stereophile lost a lot of credibility among many audiophiles in the past couple of decades with their laundry list of recommended components with bewildering categories - A, A+, A++ ;). May be they're trying to go back to JGH days, when the reviews actually meant something to a lot of audiophiles.
Thanks for such an entertaining thread of contradictions and non-insults. Glad to know I'm "irrelevant" and of course Stereophile "only publishes positive reviews" and then when it publishes a negative one, people get so upset. I am not a "guru" and have NEVER represented myself as such. Nor do I have "golden ears." I'm a guy who sits in his basement listening to stuff and reporting what I hear. Whether or not I like something does not matter at all. Some of YOU are the ones who take all of this way too seriously. I don't. I didn't like the sound of those M-L amps, nor did anyone else who came over for a listen. If you like them then FINE. Why is this such a big deal? I'll tell you why: because some of you give me WAY too much credit and then you get MAD when I don't agree with YOU. I'm just stating an opinion. Stop making such a big deal out of it. And I do agree with one poster: take what i write as ENTERTAINMENT. It's informed entertainment but it's still ENTERTAINMENT. That said I know how many people I've helped guide to audio satisfaction and you don't. It's plenty. And not necessarily with gear I like. Some of you will never get that, but whatever...

-Michael Fremer
I think the difference between the OP's view and Michael Fremer's view of the amps may be their speakers. VS VR9SE (OP) vs Wilson Audio Maxx 3s (Michael) as well as their different systems in general.
I find it refreshing to read a negative review in one of these magazines. Presumably, the OP auditioned this very expensive amp in his system. He must have liked it or he would not have bought it. Isn't that all that matters?

I do like the title of this thread.
"If you are really sooo happy with them you really should`nt care what I wrote or what I thought"
Sometimes these threads are more entertaining than Monday Night Football. Where else can you attack a "public figure" and then he stands up and defends himself. All we are missing is the popcorn.
I was happy to read a negative review. It was refreshing. If I was in the market for 50k worth of amps or any dollar figure for that matter i want to know who likes it, who doesn't and why. I want this information before even listen for the first time. I'll never buy anything before its reviewed with the exception of the iPad mini being delivered today :)
Gotta say I admire Mr. Fremer for posting here even if he does seem a bit...well...excited!

And I will say that if the 53s produce the same smooth but not particularly dynamic sound I've encountered with several other ML amps, then I too would likely find them a bit bland and uninvolving per MY musical tastes.
There were actually two negative reviews in the magazine, both attributed to "class D'ish" or non-standard topologies. Interesting.
Grooves, Thanks for joining the discussion. As I mentioned above, I found your review very refreshing and balanced. Thanks. I particularly enjoy your writings about all things vinyl. I view them as yet another experienced opinion about components that I might want to seek our for audition.

Speaking of which, do you have any plans to review the new SME 30/12 or V-12 tonearm? Sorry to highjack the thread, French Fries.
If I was spending anywhere near 40K for amps, they sure as hell better sound like real music in my rig.

Thanks Mikey for having the cojones to tell it like it is!
I wish more reviewers would say what they really feel about components with in their systems, good or bad.
MF, thanks for saying what you really feel. Refreshing!
To many reviews are sugar coated to appease the manufactures.
Reasons for which we all can surmise.

As stated what has already been said, let your own ears be the judge & if you have the experience (ears), trust yourself with your purchase. If you spent that kind of jack & need approval from a reviewer or anyone else, well.. you know where I'm going with this!!
If they work in your system that's all that should matter.

I like to read reviews for what they are, summaries of one persons experience with that piece with in their system & associated equipment. If I'm in the market for a piece of gear, the reviews are a nice place to start a base for my informative search, but my view is what ultimately counts. MF has great experience & some fine equ.. Some I personally like & other not so much. I feel he does a respectable job as a reviewer. I don't always agree with some of his reviews based on my personal experience with a piece, but I like to hear what someone with his experience has to say.

BTW, I have heard the 53's in a store setting & happen to agree with him, they sounded broken, yes like shit!
Mark Levinson Is not the Co. it used to be, IMHO of course!
****....for having the cojones....****

Unlike those who appear to be scurrying and hiding, now that the person who they felt the need to inpugn and question re his professionalism has defended himself.
To the OP.
I haven't read every post but I ask, would you like your amp more if Fremer praised it or do you like it less because Fremer panned it ?? It really doesn't matter what Mikey thinks (although he is entitled to his opinions and gets paid for them) it's your amp and only your opinion should matter to you.
The quandary the OP finds himself in is this: You live by the gurus, you die by the gurus, just like a lot of people in high-end audio. They can't pick and chose. When he said Their $50,000 speakers where great, they belived him. They use his reviews to justify their gear to themselves and others. Now that he says a piece of high-end sucks, they are like deer in the headlights. What do we do now? Does he now have veto power over our purchases? I say, in for a penney, in for a pound. Either you buy into the high-end official line or you don't. Now would seem to be a good time for you to jump ship and go back to common sense. NO AMP on God's green earth is worth $40,000!! Thank Fermer for opening your eyes and move on.
"i am a twisted psychopath who goes around short-circuiting SET amplifiers for kicks."

Now this was funny!
When it comes to reviewers, my tastes coincide more with tube guys like Dick Olsher or Jack English, when he was around. I've rarely agreed with Mikey's tastes in electronics but wouldn't fault him for what he likes any more than I would someone who prefers SS over tubes; how can that be?

Given the choice between those dufuses at TAS(Harley, Valin, Garcia), or Mikey, I'm of the opinion that Mikey's evaluations are probably closer to the truth than some are willing to admit. Whether I agree with him or not, his reviews of vinyl/analog gear are normally entertaining and quite informative.

For those who criticize Mikey's taste in music, which seems to me, is quite varied, I've attended CES for many years and have often been in rooms where he pops in to hear one of his recordings played on an exhibitors system. Almost always, I and my friends enjoy what we hear and... it's played at a sensible level. I've also been in rooms where Valin or Garcia pop in and it's usually just the opposite. Not only do we often not like the music, but Valin cranks it up so loud that people start scattering like rats on a sinking ship; I'm not exaggerating! I honestly think the guy's going deaf.

As for the M-L review, I've heard enough of that brand to form my own opinion; I've always been underwhelmed so I'm guessing Mikey wasn't too far off the mark.
Well said Grooves. I think you covered it ! Sounds to me the ML's don't stack up to the $50k billing....sigh
I've been reading hi-fi and record reviews for... a long time. When M. Fremer popped into the thread and claimed that his writing is intended as 'entertainment' (albeit of the 'informed' variety), my first reaction was to say "Hey, wait a minute. You've got a journalistic responsibility to get it right. People hang onto your words, a bad review can kill a product, or make one... how can you take your task so lightly?"
But, after thinking about it for a while.... I think he's right. Here's why:
1. I'm more interested in learning what I can when I read these magazines- a glowing review, using all the magic audiophile words, doesn't really give me much information. I'm more interested in the process by which the reviewer tries to get at what the component does and does not do well than any ultimate and all encompassing conclusion about whether it is an A+ or C- in that reviewer's estimation.
2. All of the subjective evaluations are system dependent to a greater or lesser degree. Yes, you can suss out particular characteristics of a given component by listening to it in a variety of set-ups, but unless that review covers your precise system, in a room of pretty much the exact acoustic character of yours, it's all extrapolation- hints, insights, maybe some questions, but no firm conclusions. I doubt any of us would buy an expensive piece of gear based solely on a professional reviewer's opinion, regardless of how good that review or reviewer is. And of course, that doesn't take into account program material, let alone each listener's own biases (including but not limited to the reviewer himself).
3. Reviews can be voyeuristic to a degree- let's see what he/she (there aren't many 'shes' in this business) says about a component I own. And if you don't own it, it can be fun to read, just for the pleasure of learning a little about the component and one person's experience with it- somebody that knows their way around equipment and knows how to write clearly enough to make it worthwhile to read.
4. There are some bad writers out there, and some shallow reviewers- I don't consider M. Fremer to be one of them. I think he struggles with the process, and I like the fact that he focuses on analog equipment.
Fremer did not pay me to say this. I don't even know the man.
I notice the OP has left the building. I suspect deep down he knows the amp is not as great as it should be. Those kind of amps don't sing. They dissect and maybe that review touched a nerve?

I'm glad Mr. Fremer piped up. Good for you Mr. fremer!
thanks to the explanations from Mr. Fremer we now know tha the word review is a Mistake. It isn't a review, it is a Product Placement, a Product Introduction or a "Opinion from Mr. Fremer about this and that".
the Magazines betray all their readers for a long time when they didn't publish reviews, they publish opinions.
No Problem, when a reader likes the opinion from Fremer (or others) about this and that, he can buy those itms. Who cares. Or for example, when Syntax prefers black faceplates because they sound better and this is his opinion, go ahead. Love him. When Mr. Fremer thinks, the ML is DEAD he is right. But that is not an opinion, that is fact. But on the other side he "likes" the Boulder 2008 Phonostage and that one is really D-E-A-D. A pain to listen to. Only bearable when someone offers money. My opinion? Or FACT? But probably there are differences for him about DEAD and D-E-A-D, specially in "opinions" from others.
So, let's go back to the core: Everyone deserves the Product he owns.:-)
Do keep in mind not everyone that read hifi magazines are experienced hobbyists like most of you are. When one buys a wrong amp based on a review, it is not entertainment. Believe it or not, some of us don't know better so we turn to hifi magazines for advice, after all it's not too out of the line to assume that that's what they are for. People tend to forget how overwhelming it can be for an inexperienced person to start build a system. For god's sake, majority in our population do not have an idea what a phono stage means.

It's just not as simple as "entertainment". People do pay for the magazines and they are entitled to a little "help" or "review" they seek to make an informed decision.
Rfogel8 and Whart, nice posts and perspective.
Rfogel8, ditto the Valin volume preference,Yikes!I can`t stay in the room,no way.
Chadeffect, some amps sing and others dissect, that`s an excellent distinction and so true.
Can you imagine what would happen if Lynn or Magneplanar or Audio Research was panned in the magazine. I think folks we would have a major riot on our hands.
Sorry, Syntax but you are wrong, WRONG, W-R-O-N-G!!! All reviews are subjective, opinion pieces. Be it hardware, software, print, film, video, music, painting, theater, sculpture, whatever. By definition. The only facts that you find in the reviews are the prices, dimensions, running time, cast, color, dates, etc. Then there are the measurements that for example JA prints in the sidebars. Those are objective within the limits of the equipment and techniques he uses but there are other ways to make some of those measurements. When you get to the discussions of the sonic character of a piece of hi-fi gear or the writing of a novel or the performance of an actor or musician it is ALL OPINION. Unless of course the reviewer (and you, apparently) has/have a direct line to the TRUTH.

So I say buck up, OP. If you like it that's all that matters. And I say good on MF for piping up!!! That's what makes this forum so interesting. You get manufacturers, designers, dealers, reviewers and users all able to interact on an equal basis. And to Kzhtoo- I understand your dilemma; it used to be easier when bricks and mortar stores were more prevalent. Not sure what the answer to your problem is; unfortunately as a society we are addicted to the lowest price, no matter what the other costs are.

I am SOOO pleased that His Master's Voice has chipped in with his Very Talented View of my comments (and others). Let me say from the outset that anyone who helps people optimize the workings of a modern high-tech record player with that teensie needle supposedly transferring music from the vinyl micro-bumps to a pair of speakers deserves a great deal of credit. records sound good and they are an important catagory in high-end audio, and are likely to remain so for quite some time (IMO). I used to be proficient at setting up a Thorens since it came with all the tools i needed anyway. but i would not be
that comfortable handling a $1000+ cartridge and a Triplanar arm, on some table that
looks like the Starship Enterprise, so hats off to Mr. Fremer for his expert guidance.
(and for Elusive Disc for that matter as well.)
OKAY, SO I keep TRYING to explain why i opened up this discussion, NOT to tell everyone what sounds good or bad or "i don't know". but Hell, in 2011 Stereophile reviewed the new M.Levinson 532H stereo amplifier and found it to be wonderful and said it was unequivocally a Class A product. this amp costs 1/5 as much ($8500) as the Reference 53 amplifiers, a piece i have owned now for over 6 months. my previous amps were ML-33H's, a well respected amp for many years now, and i felt the 53's represented a significant improvement. prior to the 33H's i had a pair of ROWLAND monoblocks, and the 33H's were so much more dynamic and alive in their presentation it was a real eye-opener. but i never lost my love for the Rowlands just the same, although they are admittedly quite different sounding.
I won't bore anyone further with the many other amps i have had in my system for years and learned how noise/distortion becomes less and less of a problem with better designs and better parts. With the 53's they have a very vivid, dynamic, and open presentation, very clean, and IMHO no discernable artifacts, grain, or other distractions.
I do find that better recordings become enticingly close to reality, and as i have found some outstanding performances as well the whole system perks up nicely and gets out of the way that much more. But even if you don't happen to like them or the guts inside that
has "inherent limitations", that doesn't make them that much better or worse than doezens of other excellent-sounding solid state amplifiers that are ALSO trying to walk the line between sounding mechanical on one extreme vs tubey on the other. If Sterophile found the 33H's were hard to review because they "didn't have a sound of their own", the LEAST you could say, and SHOULD SAY, is that the 53's were an attempt by Levinson to keep to that theme while lowering the noise floor even more, and getting rid of the anvil-like weight of the 33's and delivering even MORE power to speakers requiring it. If you feel they are too dry for your tastes, that's fine.
but the gist of the review would completely discourage anyone from wanting to go hear them, and seocondly leave the readers wondering if the entire design is faulty in some way.
Harmon states emphatically that they conducted numerous exhaustive listening tests until they felt that they had acheived the best product they could make. this amplifier wasn't just designed on a piece of paper, and then built according to some theoretical goal. I can clearly hear that they made a better amplifier. So If the #532H sounds so good, why didn't they just stop there? i am sorry, but when 1 + 3 = -2 then i have to weigh in and offer an alternative view.
I have subscribed to Stereophile for a long time now, and i find it very entertaining and it does introduce me to what's out there. i am a computer-audio dunce (still) and would like to put hi-rez files into my system somehow, but i feel it should be just as easy as playing a record or a cd. but Stereophle can make some really dumb remarks, come up with some less-than-believable contents, and i don't even look at Recommended Components anymore, which makes two issues a year mostly a waste of time and paper.
And i wish they would hand over reviews of the "best of the best" components to someone else for a change, and also someone who has a REALLY GREAT ROOM to review them in. and Mr. Fremer, if you are reading this, unless a component represents a threat to the health and safety of the owner, END EVERY REVIEW with "go audition this product for yourself to see if its performance appeals to you." The dismissive remarks you made about the ML- 53's make me wonder if you were suffering from a severe head cold (ah chooo!).
Understanding And Enjoying Audio Reviews

We'll be the first to admit that reading audio reviews can be a daunting task. Do you find yourself wondering, "What are they talking about?" or "I never heard THAT --- am I missing something?"

I'll explain them to you in plain English, and in no time at all, YOU'LL be an expert as well.

When they say...
(They mean ...)

In spite of the measurement anomalies, this speaker is clearly a state-of-the-art product.
( It didn't SOUND broken when we gave it our top rating )

It was definitely borderline Class A.
( It isn't that good, but it's sooo expensive, and they're letting me keep it --- G-d I feel So cheap! )

Better than amps costing three times as much.
( I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I like the amp )

Light years ahead of the competition
( The competition won't give us a review sample )

Despite it's slight problems at the extremes, the products strong point was it's rendition of the all-important midrange.
( This thing has no bass and treble that actually hurts! )

We hire only the best writers.
( We'll hire any audiophile who recognizes a pencil two out of three tries )

This is an incomplete but promising design from a talented young designer.
( The product sucks but he has some money left in his advertising budget )

This product had me pulling one record after another from my collection.
( I listened to all five of my records )

The images in the soundstage had that elusive and seductive sense of palatable presence
( I haven't had sex since my wife left me and I'm starting to hallucinate )

This product lacks some of the subtle refinements we've come expect from a designer of this caliber.
( The product stinks but we don't want to piss off this famous manufacturer )

Better than amps costing three times as much
( I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I like the amp )

This preamp is the new reference
( We aint giving it back, and we aint paying' for it either )

"Believe it or not, some of us don't know better so we turn to hifi magazines for advice,"

This is one of the most insightful posts concerning this problem. It explains why the reviewers have so much power. They, the reviewers, all sound very logical and sensible, if you don't have a frame of reference or knowledge base to rely on. To other people they sound like the con men they are. There are other magazines with different points of view. Why not try them? Won't cost you much, and you can always get back in the fold if you wish. What a person needs is not whether this is better than that, but an understanding of what's important, and what is not, in audio equipment. Once you have that, the answer to all questions is plain as day.
All this is showing us is that many audiophiles are confused in a world with too much choice and little support for the products. This is where people feel they need a champion to find the gear of their dreams.

So in a world where you could have the equipment on trial these opinions of reviewers would be mute as you could see for yourself.

Even as a professional with access to a lot of equipment it still takes time to understand what the sound you like is. You have to experience as much as you can for yourself. That alone takes years.

So in the meantime you are screwed unless you have the means to buy and sell as you find what you are looking for
FF: I would assume that disclaimer - to go do an audition for yourself- is implicit in every review.
Kzhtoo: I think relying too heavily on anyone else's opinion, no matter how experienced, in deciding to buy something expensive is probably a mistake, if only for the reason that results are system dependent and depend on your ears.
The difficulty, obviously, is being able to get a home audition. Not easy if you are buying used from Audiogon or in some cases where the manufacturer sells direct. This is obviously where the premium paid to a dealer has value.
I guess I'm not as cynical as some of you. I know that reviewers get accommodations and are often reluctant to give any product an outright 'pan,' but as Syntax in his own, inimitable way put it, you can often read between the lines of any review. My suspicion is there are far more products that get 'good' reviews that eventually don't prove worthy in the long run than products that get unfairly trounced by a professional reviewer.
We often trade advice and tips here too. And much of it can be valuable, not so much on 'what should I buy' or 'is X better than Y' but on user experiences, 'synergies,' troubleshooting and practical set up advice.
Syntax- LOL but of course you didn't address the basic point which is that all reviews are opinions. FWIW, my basic feeling as why there are not more negative reviews published is that there is so much good gear out there, that the mags do not need to review the dreck! Or a cynic might say that the bad reviews never see the light of day.
IMO, the review that MF gave to the ML52's is one of his best ever. For some "unknown reason", when I read a review in any of the high end mags, I get VERY tired of reading the same old drivel about how wonderful the piece under review is and how it compares favorably to mother's milk. Now I'm not saying do not give a piece its due IF it is really a superb representative, BUT if one were to raise the bar a little, I'm fairly certain that ALL pieces of gear that currently exist are lacking in some area or other. It just takes a more discriminating ear and a keen understanding of what the 'REAL' sounds like to be that discriminating.
So when I hear read that MF has heard a certain "issue" with an amp under question, and has the guts to call it as it is...then I say Kudos to MF. Please keep up the good work.
BTW, I too have heard the ML 52's and they did nothing for me either. To the OP, I say if you like what you hear, then YMMV; there is nothing wrong with that.