From the very start, UHF had a clear point of view. That point of view determines the sort of articles it publishes, but also the way that equipment tests are done.
- The most important aspect of high fidelity is the faithful reproduction of musical values (melody, rhythm, harmony, etc.), which must come before the reproduction of purely sonic aspects (bass, treble, liquidity, "air," etc.).
- Those aspects cannot be judged in a quick "A-B" test, nor in such variants as the "A-B-X" test. Such tests prove little, and indeed they are in violation of the scientific range rule: a system under test must be tested within the parameters within which it was designed to operate. Because a system is designed for the specific purpose of giving pleasure through transmission of musical emotion, it must be tested in that way.
- There is little point in making improvements in a system whose source is deficient. The best loudspeaker cannot reduce distortion caused by the source, nor can it replace detail the source was unable to resolve. A terrific source heard through a ghetto blaster will sound better than a ghetto blaster plugged into the world's best amplifier and speakers.
- Notwithstanding what is often written elsewhere, current sources (CD players, turntables, etc.) are a long way from perfect, and they do not all sound the same, even if you stuff cotton in your ears. The same is true of amplifiers and other components.
- Current 16-bit digital is not fully adequate for high fidelity. On the other hand, if it were as awful as its harshest critics claim, then it would be true that all CD players sound alike. And then there would be no point trying to build a better one. That said, the LP sounds a lot better than its critics claim, and the equipment for playing it just keeps on getting better. Is digital with more data superior? Absolutely. Is online music near CD quality? Don't get us started!
- It is inevitable that judgements of equipment by different people will not be identical, just as judgements of wines or art are not identical. There is, however, a certain convergence...not unanimity but a consensus. If opinions are all over the place, there is something wrong.
That philosophy determines the way UHF's equipment tests are done. Our method is unique, but we believe it yields the best possible results. Here is how it works.
- Unlike any other magazine, we maintain three very high quality reference system for listening tests. They are used for all tests, without exception.
- The original Alpha system is installed in a specially-built room with extraordinary acoustics. "Normal" people don't have a room like this, but then they mostly don't have the sort of system we have either. The newer Omega system is in a much larger room, to allow testing of big speakers, for example. The Kappa system is a home theatre setup.
- Listening tests are done not by just one person, but by a panel, typically of three people. The panelists can discuss the results after each disc auditioned. Dissension is not discouraged. Indeed, each review (which reflects the group consensus if there is one) is followed by a section titled Crosstalk, in which each panelist sums up his or her opinion, and may even disagree with the majority.
- We do not go out of our way to look for bad stuff we can bash (we could spend all our time doing only that), but we don't spare anybody who deserves to get whapped.
[BACK HOME] [THE REFERENCE SYSTEM] [THE UHF STORY]