SBAF free advertising for Massdrop?

Discussion in 'Random Thoughts' started by brencho, Jun 12, 2018 at 12:15 PM.

  1. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Well I would have never bought the Massdrop Plus if it wasn't for the reviews of shotgunshane, MuppetFace and Vansen. Otherwise a $300 first time IEM would have been too high a risk.

    However without pre-release reviews, I don't see Massdrop collaborations happening in the first place, or at least not without a substantial price increase. Their business model has always been to collect payment and then manufacture the numbers to fill out the orders. You need to have a minimal amount of people join, otherwise it's just not worth it. For known products(ATH-M50, JDS O2) this is not an issue. For their collaborations, I don't see anything wrong with getting a few trusted ears to give it a listen to let people know it's not crap, at least for the first run.

    I don't know if there's an easy solution to the review-industrial complex, but I wouldn't want the high value Massdrop products to disappear either. Maybe they should be giving people the option to buy in-stock instant gratification items for +30% while still running the group buy for people willing to wait. They have started to offer additional perks for people part of the first run, which helps encourage purchases for a new product. Anyway, I understand the issues brencho brings up, but this will likely just push pre-release reviews to HF and other places.
     
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  2. Pilsnerpunk

    Pilsnerpunk Friend

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    I don't really get the outrage, but I see all businesses as being somewhat evil and robotic, so I don't see Massdrop's sins here as being that terrible. If this site or it's members want compensation for their work they should ask for it or not participate.

    Will's laissez faire attitude towards headphone communities and forums is at least at least a little bit bullshit because the word Massdrop was as verboten as changstar or SBAF on Head-fi before they became a sponsor or advertiser or whatever they are over there.
     
  3. barelyincollege

    barelyincollege Nice Pit Bull

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    As an aside, an official Massdrop sponsorship isn't ideal, but IMO, making a decision because of a perceived need to preserve SBAF's reputation within the non-SBAF community would be far worse.
     
  4. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Fair enough! :D

    Indeed. By the time the massdrop product ships, it's no longer possible to buy it. Until the next time, if there is one. Or used.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 11:29 AM
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  5. dmckean44

    dmckean44 In a Sherwood S6040CP relationship

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    I've never actually even bought an audio product from Massdrop because of this, just a knife and some socks.
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    They won't. There's still HF. The SBAF members can still work within the confines of HF to assist Massdrop with product development.

    Jude is smarter than me. He picked up on it way faster that Massdrop should be paying him tribute. Good for Jude. Jude can probably increase the sponsor fee for Massdrop now that SBAF is not participating in the coordinated product launch press releases - HF now has the exclusive. I'm still recommending Massdrop products in instances where I feel they are a good fit. I'm not as bad as Jude.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 12:34 PM
  7. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    While this site can be very critical about a range of products, I've never once seen a critical review or extended impression of a product made by MOT that posts here (other than the LH Wave fiasco and criticism). It seems friendship or personal relationship trumps objectivity. For example, CA made the great Andro but by many accounts many of their other IEMs are underwhelming, especially at their price points. Underwhelming reviews of these other products however are not published at length and criticism is fairly muted whereas extended Andro impressions numerous and praise effusive. It's almost like publication bias where only positive reviews/findings are published.

    With HF you know that most reviews have a couple of points added just for basic "my new gear is the bestest" OR "I'm getting a bunch of free gear in return for promotional reviews" review inflation. I switched from HF to here because I felt reviews here were more credible. The ratio of bad:eek:k:good was closer to 1/3:1/3:1/3 here, as you suspect it should be. However the apparent MOT bias is distorting those ratios and in my opinion making the site less useful.
     
  8. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    The way I look at it, perhaps SBAF is not the gateway to the masses (I recognize that only enthusiasts will seek us out), but we are a pretty good pool of experienced ears to do R&D and get feedbacks for certain MD products. Just like how Marv mentioned that during the prototyping phase of the MCTH, he had some inputs on how it should sound like.

    Maybe that's what @Will meant? Or am I reading too much into it...? But in that case, I think SBAF is still important to MD, just not in the way that we're seeing it (for advertisement). It should be noted, though, that on RDAC's page, @Hands' impressions are mentioned and SBAF is also name-dropped. If @Torq only posted here, then that'd mean two SBAF impressions posted on that page. So maybe that's why SBAF can be seen as an advertisement venue.

    Either way, I think SBAF is still a pretty important venue for feedbacks for MD. RDAC's launch coinciding with impressions coming out may have been due to an unintended systemic method of coordination, i.e.: it just happened that way due to the press embargo being lifted and reviewers just posted their impressions immediately after that.

    Moving forward, I'd agree with @purr1n that we could just simply have those available for view to the public only when users have actually received their units. I'd argue that the closed friends circle should still be able to view any impression at any time as long as it's been posted, thus incentivizing people to try and become more engaged in the community, plus it helps with transparency (as in everybody knows how, when, or why a piece of gear shows up, and not just because someone is a secret MD agent).
     
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  9. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    I can sum this up from my point of view: stuffs that I don't like don't really get me to listen to them at length, so of course I wouldn't have much detail in my impressions of them.

    It's simple: if I don't like it, that's that, I have no incentive to try and listen to it at length, then write down the deficiencies just so somebody else will have to read 8 paragraphs of how I don't like the piece of gear, or how I think the vendor/manufacturer/MOT should burn in hell.

    Not sure about others, but I know some folks here are like me. Life is too short to spend on shitty gears.

    >>>>>

    Edit: I'd say... this site is most useful for me because:

    1. I don't read negative reviews and then create some negative bias against a piece of gear before I listen to it. I get to form my own opinions on why I don't like it.
    2. Similar to the above manner, I read positive reviews and already form some kind of positive bias toward a piece of gear before I listen to it. I get to see why it's good based on ears that I trust, and then I get to explore why it's not so good for myself.

    Works out better that way for me. Bad gears fall into the "unknown" category (unless it's so bad, like price to performance ratio is ridiculous) for the most part, and I get to explore them without another person's bias getting in the way, unless I know that most folks like something and I should definitely try it (boost the chance that I should give to a piece of gear, doesn't make it an insta-buy).

    In machine learning and A.I., this is also the preferred way to do learning, by the way. You shouldn't completely dismiss something just because it's been rejected multiple times in past learning paths.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 2:23 PM
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  10. sfoclt

    sfoclt Friend

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    I liked MD better when it was genuinely drops for requested products, not just another crowdfunding platform to "borrow" money from suckers who don't know how to or can't defend themselves the way a genuine lender would.
     
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  11. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Not the reviewer we need but the reviewer we deserve.

    2C748FFA-A2BB-4B59-8D5D-FE79CB70BAF6.jpeg
     
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  12. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    From your description, it sounds like reviews serve no real purpose for you other than comparing your perception of sound with someone else's. You're going to try everything anyway, or at least choose gear randomly, and so reviews can only bias your hearing but not inform your purchasing.

    For me and I suspect others (maybe most?), reviews inform purchasing decisions. I read a lot of reviews before making a purchase, hoping to reduce the risk that I won't like my purchase. When reviews are all pretty positive, it becomes more difficult to make these informed, lower risk purchasing decisions. If indeed only good kit is reviewed then maybe they are still useful: here's the good gear and a description of the sound to see if it might fit your tastes. But again, there is a possible bias with the over-reviewing of MOT gear. We don't know if this is because other hear wasn't good enough to be worth reviewing or if its gear that got a chance (and perhaps an unconsciously biased review) based on favoritism.

    Anyway it's no one's duty to help us make better purchasing decisions, and perhaps we're taking this all a bit too seriously.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 3:13 PM
  13. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Yeah, that's what it is in a nutshell. I read reviews to inform me mostly of what to try, not what to buy.

    When I buy something to try it out, then return it afterwards, or at worst, sell it back at some small amount of loss, it's just me "trying" something out in the end. Very few gears end up staying with me, actually.

    And as I said, I wouldn't want to write 8 paragraphs or start a new thread on why I don't like something, so you're somewhat right that this will inevitably create a positive bias, but that's why I said that this should only inform you of the good stuffs, and the stuffs that are not mentioned should be regarded as either bad or unknown. It's pretty simple, actually.

    The other side of it is... if something is truly good, then it'll most likely end up being owned by people for an extended period of time, and then obviously there will be more impressions of it over time. Bad stuffs either get returned or sold, so you just wouldn't see long-term reviews of them.

    Again, life is too short to spend on bad gears. I'll occasionally try out unknown gears (and I seldom try some gears that are considered "bad") but for the most part, I just can't be bothered to tell you guys the 100 or so IEMs I have tried that are bad. That just takes too much time and effort.

    Just like with modding (for those who follow my mods), I'll only selectively post what I consider to be good these days. Otherwise it's kinda pointless (and tedious) having to document things that I think sound bad because I have honestly tried a lot... (you'll sometimes be surprised how much I try to mod a piece of gear).

    In short: look at the good stuffs as a guide, but if you don't see something mentioned, assume it's either bad or unknown. Again, I think that's pretty simple.
     
  14. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    The challenge then becomes differentiating what is bad from what is unknown. Really positive reviews can generate a little bit of a contagion effect leading to other gear deserving gear being un/under reviewed. At the risk of continuing to take this way too seriously, it would be useful to know what gear reviewers have tried so that you could distinguish the unknown from the bad. It might even create a niche for reviewers to discover untried stuff.
     
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  15. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    While I don't expect to change minds and am largely happy to just go with the SBAF flow and the will of the masters, I'm not in total agreement with what I perceive as the general sentiment of this thread. Seeing as I'm heavily involved in SBAF and have worked with Massdrop several times, I feel compelled to share my own thoughts and experiences on the whole matter. (Because, yes, I do have a pathological need for love and attention.)

    I think this is an issue that requires long-term, deliberate discussion, and not one in which we should raise our pitchforks quickly. That sort of approach could lead to sub-optimal decisions in what is clearly an important matter regardless of where you stand relative to the fence.

    Then again, I'm not the one tasked with running this site, nor am I an admin. So, you know...my opinion may very well be shit. Keep that in mind throughout all I'm about to say.

    On Massdrop and Reviews

    I've never had any illusions as to what I've been doing with Massdrop and how I've tried to help them out, press release style, when A) offered to assist with a product (development feedback and/or final review) that B) I think is actually good.

    Yes, I am absolutely used as free advertisement, in a sense, to help drive possible buyers, but that's the whole reason I write reviews for anything whether or not the company engaged me. I want to help people find good products and stay away from bad ones. Never have I felt I've been taken advantage of. If I think Massdrop has delivered products in that criteria, I'm happy to help them out. I've even reviewed some of their stuff as part of a community-driven loaner tour.

    Yeah, they have a blitz-like marketing approach when it comes down to their reviews. That seems to be the norm in most cases I can think of outside of audio, with the flood gates opening for product or media reviews in a rapid-fire style. Sometimes this happens before the public has access to a product, but usually once it's available. Maybe all the soft launch GPU releases over the years have hardened my skin?

    I think the main differences here are: 1) Massdrop operates with a group buy model, which obviously means the first round will have delayed shipping and 2) more heavily utilizes a breadth of community reviewers across a relatively small group of sites instead of hitting one reviewer for each of the million review sites online. I have no qualms reviewing a product that is still months away with this sort of business model. Massdrop needs those initial purchases to get the ball rolling, and folks need reliable guidance to minimize risk in an inherently more risky purchasing scenario.

    And it's obvious Massdrop is targeting people they feel will like or appreciate their product as well as have the ability to engage a wide audience of possible customers. I'm sure CEE TEE purposely did not ask me to review their universal IEM, the one that's priced around $300, because he already knew I strongly disliked the timbre of multi-driver BA IEMs. Now, I still think my opinion is a valuable data point for customers shopping around, but I understand why I'd be left out of testing and reviewing such a product. They're trying to work a successful marketing model. That's how these things go.

    There's no secret sauce as to why the reviews come out in a rapid-fire style, with a relatively small pool of reviewers, and why the reviews are usually positive. It's just carefully crafted, strategic PR. That should be readily apparent. (And a lot of these collaboration products are generally pretty good, so that too could explain why the reviews are usually good. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the answer. Also, don't forget to read carefully...you might find more nitpicks and criticisms in reviews than you saw at first glance, or at least strong warnings that a product might not be for everyone.)

    On Massdrop's Products and Goals in Relation to the Industry as a Whole

    Now, I would feel more cautious about this if I wasn't as optimistic about what Massdrop is doing. Seriously, chatting with CEE TEE at RMAF about his goals for the hobby left me feeling energized in a way this industry rarely does. And I'd be more skeptical if Massdrop hadn't already put out some seriously good stuff that doesn't break the bank.

    Look at how many people enjoyed (and still do) their TH-X00s, K7XXs, or the MCTH. Don't forget they made the HD650 often accessible for $200 in a time when Sennheiser wants to push the HD660S. Oh, and now you can pair your $200 HD650 with a sweet DAC and amp for relatively low cost? That used to be fucking impossible to find a set of components to recommend for a stack like that at that price, but now Massdrop is expanding great, inexpensive options along with companies like Schiit.

    If they can keep that goodness rolling with guys like CEE TEE on board, that could be awesome for the hobby and industry as a whole. (Seriously, if I could get something as good as the HD6XX, Vali 2 or MCTH, and the Mimby at that price point back when I got involved with this hobby in 2008? I'd shit my pants in hindsight.)

    I'd like to circle back to a quick comment I made previously. This whole industry has largely left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I know you all feel it too. There's a reason why SBAF exists. I wrote about it a few years back for my Innerfidelity Big Sound 2015 article. I've written about it since. You've all written about it many times.

    So, when CEE TEE or Will hit me up (almost always CEE TEE) and want me to provide feedback on an in-development product, you bet I'm excited to help. And it's led to some products the market desperately needs (good, inexpensive, easy to recommend - not enough options here). Even if I'm not solicited for product development feedback, I'm still happy to check out what they're about to deliver. And it all boils down to them actually giving me some sort of hope that maybe things will be OK, that maybe the sorts of tastes, concerns, and voices at places like SBAF aren't going unheard.

    They're not the only company that does it. There's a reason so many of us are fond of Schiit. And a lot of us root for guys like Zach with ZMF. I know a lot of us have publicly poo-pooed MrSpeakers in the past, but also admit we'd be happy to be more regularly involved with him to help the his business, the hobby, and industry as a whole. We started to see that with the Aeon Flow Open, and that feels like a pretty positive step to me even to this day.

    I guess I'm not quick to want to lash out to Massdrop because of this. But, yeah, I get it. You've all voice legitimate concerns, and I hope we can find a way to address them without going off the deep end and losing perspective of the state of the industry as a whole or making quick, emotional decisions.

    On Monetary Issues and Solutions

    Now, as for sponsorship? I have my doubts. Again, SBAF to me is SBAF for a reason. I don't want us turning into Head-Fi. While I have yet to see a dime from SBAF (A-OK with me), I don't like the idea of having to ask people for money if they want me to review their products or provide special treatment. If we say, "We won't review your products until they're actually available and after we purchase them for ourselves unless you pay up," that starts to remind me of the strong arm behavior I've seen at Head-Fi. (And, yes, I have heard some horror stories from those trying to get their foot in the door about how they basically got strong armed out by Jude, the mods, and other companies until they paid up.)

    Side note: I am less concerned about free gear from companies, because gear still isn't money. Free gear has never stopped me from saying bad things about a product. I'm also less concerned about getting paid from a parent company, so long as I feel the writer can separate themselves from the product's company. I'll touch on that a bit more later.

    On the other hand, I already said I don't run the site. I'm not even an admin. So it's easy for me to say things like this when I know guys like Marv are legitimately stressed about this place frequently. I think Marv and other admins deserve some form of compensation beyond just keeping the lights on at SBAF. This shit ain't easy for them! I probably look like a dancing jester saying all this as an, in comparison, armchair SBAFer.

    And I know we can't always count on donations, random ads, and that subscriptions in this day and age are lame.

    What's the solution to this? Hell if I know. I'm cautious about adopting Head-Fi-like models of any kind, don't want to dropkick companies I think are doing some actual good, and yet know we probably can't rely on more passive models. It's a tough situation, and I want to tread carefully and plan thoughtfully.

    If nothing else, I think any money from possible sponsors should bar anyone receiving compensation, to run the site or to buy them a beer, from writing about the product...at least initially in full review style. Later on, posting here and there, that might work. I'm just trying think of ways to minimize conflicts of interest and corruption without preventing free speech, especially if someone is truly excited about a new product. (This is one reason I like that I don't get money from SBAF, and anything I have posted or will post on IF is coming from a distant, parent company.)

    Maybe we can get some help from Massdrop without resorting to corrupt tactics and muddying the waters with additional bias. It's a tough line to tread, and, again, one I think should not be coupled with snap decisions in a clearly emotionally-driven thread.

    On Loaners and Deeper Community Involvement

    I do fully agree that we'd be better off if Massdrop additionally provided loaners to go around the SBAF community. They did provide with the ZDT Jr! That seems like a pretty fair, easy win we should work towards with them.

    My only addition to that would be that we only keep loaners open to those with an established Friend status, with known tastes, and that can provide reference points to other gear. Otherwise, things just get messy.

    On Personal Biases and Shortcomings

    Of course, I have my own biases. We all do. Yeah, it makes me feel good that someone wants to solicit my feedback on product development or review something. I've spent a lot of time in this hobby, though minuscule compared to some of you, and it's invigorating when it builds to a point where you feel you can make a difference! When someone directly thanks me for helping them find something they love, that makes me feel awesome. And I feel awesome when someone in the community helps me find stuff I love as well. Same thing for when I bitch and moan about the industry, and someone comes along saying, "You want to test out and review something I think might address that?" Heck yeah I do!

    I'm not saying I'm more deserving than anyone else, and there's a reason I love this community so much (so many of you post such good shit!), but I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't tickle the feel-good receptors in my brain to be involved in these sorts of activities.

    Sure, getting free gear every once and a while is fun too. Still, it's not cash. While I say free gear won't bias me, and I try my best to make sure it doesn't, it probably does to some degree. I appreciate that many of you trust me regardless, and I do what I can to keep delivering on that.

    Same thing for working with guys like CEE TEE on products. It's easier to get a bit soft when you feel the community is being engaged on some level when the industry as a whole is in pretty poor condition. When you kick and scream about what's wrong in Hi-FI, it's easy to be harsh. When someone finally extends that hand, you want to be a bit nicer, even if just because they seem to be trying to address your concerns and meet your needs in a sea of poop.


    There you have it, my brain dump on the matter. I'm biased and enjoy working with the Massdrop guys when they involve me, so take it for what it's worth. Still, it's my perspective nonetheless, and one that feels true to myself.
     
  16. dmckean44

    dmckean44 In a Sherwood S6040CP relationship

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    This is the part that makes us look like huge shills though. The EC ZDT Jr. is a good example of it, the reviews were so glowing that we got a loaner going and then the negative reviews came immediately. There were so many the loaner units were sent back to you to verify they were ok.

    I think SBAF should take some sort of control over things if they're going to use us for this purpose.
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    @Hands: Putting some boundaries around what vendors can or cannot do in SBAF will not prevent development of product for Massdrop with SBAF's help. @CEE TEE is free to send you or me or anyone else pre-release or pre-production gear to get feedback. Massdrop can still benefit from this. Any vendor can take advantage of this. If Massdrop wants the Cadillac option to use this platform for press releases, which does take a bit more of my time (Julie can make the embargoed posts visible at the right time for me going forward, but like any sane human being, she wants to be paid), then they can purchase that privilege. You would also be free to be part of Massdrop's product press release vehicle on HF. There is no prohibition against members doing that.

    Also keep in mind that I do not feel I need to set boundaries with Schiit. @schiit gets it. Jason's never asked me to write a single review or them, used SBAF as a press release too, etc. Also, he has indicated to me several times that he would like to sponsor SBAF, something that I have not taken him up on yet. That is called class. And Schiit is a medium sized company too, not a large one.

    @Bill-P: There will be no secret part of the forum where pre-release gear is discussed. I'd rather we treat pre-release gear like pre-production gear which is usually discussed via SMS and not anywhere on the boards.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 5:08 PM
  18. Ringingears

    Ringingears Honorary BFF

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    Whatever is decided, I agree with @Hands that we shouldn’t make any major decisions while we are working through the emotional end of this, or are stressed out with other stuff IRL. I’ll suggest it again. I think we need to take the weekend off. Let everyone clear their minds and/or let their bodies heal. I’m just feeling like I’m at work, and up against a deadline to make a decision. And I’m just some old fart hoser with dumbass jokes. Not Marvey or Admin. Just worried about rushing into changes too fast.
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Too late. I already made a major decision. I slept on it too. My decision was thoughful as it put no restrictions on product development collobration efforts of SBAF members with Massdrop. It also put no restrictions on members' activity outside of SBAF, on HF, or whereever else.
     
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  20. brencho

    brencho Good Friend (Moderator)

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    Well, the way I see it, that's massdrops problem. The goal of this site isn't to drive sales but rather to appreciate audio related stuff and review and understand gear, etc etc. Those missions can still be accomplished, I could care less if a drop is over cause 1) used market floods worth MD shit and 2) popular drops happen over and over like that bad tom cruise movie, or the amazing bill Murray one.

    Case in point is that most of us geezers still depend upon decade old sennheisers and shit. MD relies on FOTM/FOMO emotions.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 5:31 PM

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