Diaries of a Gear Reviewer: The White Noise of Online Reviews Is Deafening

How do you find a review you can trust?   08-Aug-13

Diaries of a Gear Reviewer: The White Noise of Online Reviews Is Deafening

Guitar reviewer and gear enthusiast Rich Beech discusses the increasingly crowded market of the online review, and how this forces everyone to up their game...

The first item I ever reviewed was a rather complicated bit of kit, the Eventide PitchFactor, a brilliant pedal and one that I thoroughly recommend if you have a spare wad of cash lying around.

At that time, I wouldn't have termed myself a 'professional' guitarist by any stretch of the imagination, I worked as a studio engineer and producer, but I did often end up playing guitar on other people's recordings if they needed some extra instrumentation.

I would not say that my technical ability was limited though, I was just a bit out of practice. For about 10 years I had practiced for at least five hours a day, but I became disillusioned with the technical aspect of guitar playing and became far more interested in soundscapes and composition. This was ultimately what led to me becoming a studio engineer and producer.

But anyway, I loved reviewing the PitchFactor, I didn't have to play anything flashy (playing-wise) in the review and I felt at the time like I did a decent job (considering it was the first time I'd ever had a camera pointed at my face).

But fast forward to present day, and I would by lying if I said I hadn't felt a pressure to improve my playing abilities for the purpose of reviews.

The thing I loved about Sonic State, even before I started working with Nick and the gang, was that their video reviews were so in depth, they showed the synth, the pedal, the amp or the guitar from every possible angle and demonstrated its full sonic capabilities.

We are the Sonic State, that's what we care about here - sound!

So this was my mantra, every time a new piece of gear arrives for review, I want to know it inside-out, I want to know it as well as the guys at the company that built it.

And I find it gratifying and humbling that there are people who tune into my reviews and trust my opinion, I met a chap in a train station recently who recognised my ugly mug and told me that he had bought a Kemper Profiling Amp after watching my review. That's a cool feeling (and, you're welcome, Kemper)!

But I also find it terrifying that there are guys and girls out there who are probably among the best players in the world right now, who also review equipment and guitars in the same in-depth manner. That's the glory of YouTube, anybody can upload a review, and many of the best players do.

It's these guitarists who really push me forward and force me to try and become a better guitarist, I'll never match their skill, I've practiced enough hours in my life now to know that improvements in my guitar playing will be made through extending my knowledge and my range of styles, rather than improving my speed, I am not a fast player, and I don't want to be.

A handful of lessons with Tom Quayle opened up my eyes to approaching improv in a completely different way, and that has really given me a new lease of life with my playing. Cheers Tom!

But for every person out there who is a great guitarist, and who can shoot a brilliant review with decent recording equipment (audio and visual), there are a whole host of guitarists who contribute to the white noise of the internet by posting bad reviews made on their low-res webcam.

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5 Comments... Comments are closed while we transition to Disqus

Connor    Said...

I may be a synth enthusiast, but I am definitely one of the people that likes to HEAR the capabilities of a synth and not hear someone talk about it. Though if I can get both, that's great too, which Sonic State usually does, thankfully.

08-Aug-13 01:11 PM

S R Dhain    Said...

Very true. Ive put up a demo in the past of my system 100, with a view to carry on and develop my style into some sort of mini review scenario. When i realised the amount of work that goes into it, in terms of editing, and even working to some sort of brief ( it's got to have a coherant structure, eg:- intro, main features, and so on), i thought "nah, i'll leave it to nick and the guys". Sonic state are THE place for new gear reviews as far as im concerned. The level of detail, pace, and most importantly INFORMED OPINION during and at the end of the reviews, is par excellence. With regards to older stuff, there's already a plethora of older synth videos out there, so plenty to choose from in that regard.

14-Aug-13 11:04 AM

Ted    Said...

For me, the technical playing comes secondary to the infotainment of a good review.

A really good guitarist (or keyboard player, etc.) can make any piece of gear seem wonderful. It feeds the notion that if I just had this gear, I'd be better and have more fun.

There's always a level of mistrust I have when I see a professional-lever player review gear, especially if they are connected to a gear store. They always praise it with a small token downside. The real issues are glossed over, up to you to discover once you've bought it.

I get more value from seeing a less pro review, with a playing style closer to my talentless strumming and keymashing. At least I know what it will sound like in reality.

Sonic State provides deep reviews and I don't feel they are pushing any sales goal. Maybe that Boss Pedal review earlier this year was a bit much, but the opinions seemed honest.

17-Aug-13 09:39 AM

brian from usa    Said...

Don't worry Rich, you're not the worst. I'm far worse than you!

I agree about the proliferation of "reviews" that don't really review and "demos' that don't really demonstrate.

Twenty years ago I wrote tech articles on synthesizer gear and today sporadically post on forums about gear and software that I use. I always worry that I'm not really getting across the information I want to pass on.

Today on the net I surf for info on gear and find lots of web pages that provide no real info at all! I suppose that's inevitable when there's no gatekeeping...editors, publishers, etc. When anyone can post their opinion eventually it does become white noise. The worst is when you get wildy divergent opinions...it's the holy grail vs. it's the worst turd ever foisted on the public...and no way to know what the background and perspective of the "reviewer" is.

SonicState has been steadily improving over the years in both content and polish of the videos. BTW I miss Shorn Rah, his videos were always fun to watch. Keep up the good work, guys.

19-Aug-13 06:13 AM

mark    Said...

You can say someone who is a better player will be more authoritative I suppose. But you can also question whether they're just being opinionated. And I'm always watching out for any hint that they're being PAID to review a product which eliminates any credibility in my mind. I prefer straight demos without ANY discussion whether they like it or not. I've also found time and time again the sound coming from a Youtube video is no way to judge a product. Just my .02

21-Aug-13 11:26 PM

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