Home Theater Review – Lexicon BD-30 Fallout
As many of you are aware, the recent podcast and Audioholics article uncovered that the $3,500 Lexicon BD-30 essentially is a $500 Oppo BDP-83 with a pretty case. What also occurred is that another publication – Home Theater Review.com – published a review of the Lexicon before we got a chance to test our review sample. What was most unfortunate (for them) is that the reviewer not only did not use any objective tests of the Lexicon, but also claimed to have compared it to the upgraded BDP-83SE. The reaction of the public to this review after the Audioholics exposé was… well… energetic to say the least.
Let me start by saying that this is pretty much going to be my last word on this topic. I’ll probably mention it on the podcast from time to time but I’ll not beat this dead horse any more than is absolutely necessary (and this, I feel, is necessary).
As someone who has had what seemed to be the full wrath of the Internet masses fall down upon him for a review, I know what it feels like. I empathize with the writer of the review and staff of HTR. But the fact remains that the entire event was handled poorly. Sure this may be a Monday morning quarterback evaluation but that can’t be helped.
Their review was released (according to the date stamp on the site) on January 11th to not much fanfare. A few comments on the 15th and that was about it. Unfortunately, on the same day (15th of January, 2010) Audioholics released its review. As you might expect, all hell broke loose. AV enthusiasts all over the web read the Audioholics review and, en masse, Googled “Lexicon BD-30 Review.” Of course, they landed on the HTR site where they read not only a highly subjective review, but one that specifically compared the Lexicon to the Oppo BD-83SE claiming that the Lexicon was superior based on build quality, loudness of the drive, and better subjective video performance.
Yeah… you can imagine the response.
Anonymous (and even non-anonymous) commenting on the Internet can get vitriolic – there is no doubt. And the commenters were relentless. It was akin to a feeding frenzy. They insulted the reviewer, the magazine, the magazine’s mom… pretty much everyone. The quality of the publication was called into question, sweeping generalizations of the overall trustworthiness of the reviews were made and generally everyone got worked up.
Sounds like a normal day on the Internet to me.
But what happened next was the real problem. Rather than address the obvious inaccuracies in the review and either correct or retract, the editorial staff went on a crusade of deletions and editing. I’ve had more than one listener point this out to me. Now, there are some perfectly valid reasons for editing the comments of another. The fact is that it is your website and not, as many people tend to believe, a public place where freedom of speech applies. The owner of the site pays for the site and thus has the right to do whatever he/she wants. Just like if someone came to your house and started cursing and threatening and you called the police and/or threw them out, a website owner has the right to censor whatever they want.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t a douche.
On the flip side, I pay for this website and I have the right to do what I want. Ironically, I had a the very webpage open when I learned that comments were being deleted. I hit save and refresh. All the comments were gone. Wow, that’s pretty extreme. I figured I wasn’t the only one that did that and found this site. While the site is a little illegible, I’ve got a transcript of that webpage reformatted here (warning, link is to a word doc). In the first column are all the comments pretty much unedited, with the second column after a round of deletions and edits. Now, if you go to the review page you’ll see that comments have been disabled because of “unprofessional and non-productive “flames” and or personal attacks.”
While there were plenty of flames and personal attacks, I’m not really sure where “unprofessional” comes in unless he assumed that all the comments were coming from other professionals in the industry (they could be, I don’t know). If he was suggesting they were unprofessional full-time flamers… well, they seemed pretty good to me and I wouldn’t call them unprofessional at all. What I object to is the idea that any of these people were in any way “ordered” or “directed” by Audioholics or AV Rant to attack HTR. We didn’t even know about the review until one of our listeners posted about it on the podcast thread. Plus, honestly, we’ve got better things to do (like actually open the gear we receive) than read subjective “reviews.” I can’t speak for Gene or Clint but I actively avoid reading any reviews of gear that I even THINK I’ll review so as to not taint my opinion before the fact.
Jerry, the owner of HTR, at one point suggests that Audioholics is not a publication because we have a store. Well, aside from the obvious, we were a publication long before we had a store. The store is run by partners that make decisions completely independent of us. If you contact us about the store, we end up directing you to one of them. We, at best, make suggestions as to what goes in or gets taken out of the store. If we review a product from the store, we don’t give it a good review because it is in the store – they take it out of the store if it gets a bad review.
Lastly, let’s talk about the editing and deleting of the comments on the thread. Frankly, I understand the desire – my finger has hovered over the delete and/or ban button on more than one occasion. But that only ever makes things worse. At some point HTR became aware of our review. At first, they seemed content to ignore it. But as the comments came in faster and harder, they started getting defensive. At first they deleted select comments (according to reports) and did wholesale editing of the Audioholics name out of posts (apparently because they thought we were spamming them which is ridiculous since we have 4x’s the traffic they do). Next, they deleted wholesale all the comments on the article but left the comments open. That was, in a word, stupid. Now, not only did you delete people’s comments, but you let them comment again about how you did just that. Let’s just say that at that point, things got ugly.
What should have happened? Well, let’s look at the facts:
I’ve written quite a bit about about the different testing methodologies. The review methodology is flawed – we know that. No one will argue that, by definition, subjective opinion is just that – an opinion. Opinions are subject to change. Obviously the reviewer was swayed by the aluminum case, fancy name, and high price tag.
Comparison to Oppo
According to the review, the reviewer bought an Oppo BDP-83SE for the express purposes of comparing to the Lexicon. Now, understand that the 83SE is the upgraded version of the 83. It costs $400 more than the 83 and has an upgraded power supply and analogue audio outputs plus a few other bells and whistles. This is NOT what was in the Lexicon. The base unit, the BDP-83, is the unaltered (from what we can tell) guts of the Lexicon BD-30. So not only was the conclusion that the Lexicon was different (much less superior) than the Oppo BDP-83SE incorrect, the Lexicon is, at its heart, an inferior version. In case you are wondering, no, the SE version still shouldn’t have passed THX certification.
Reasons for Superiority
According to the review the Lexicon was superior based on build quality, loudness of the drive, and better subjective video performance. Well, it was bigger (the case needed to be bigger to slip the Oppo inside), the drive noise may have been better dampened by the extra thickness of the case, but the video performance… well… there we have a problem. From the review, “Lexicon had a more natural contrast and color palette than the Oppo.” Umm… no it didn’t. At least there is nothing in any of our testing to suggest that it did.
While I hate to do this, I really have to question whether or not an actual comparison was done. It seems to me that he comments about the comparison are so general that they really could have been made without having an actual Oppo in the room. The quality of the buttons could have been gleaned by looking at picture, the build quality from the specs. The “natural contrast and color palette” is sufficiently vague that it can’t really be argued with as long as you can’t prove it’s the same device. On the video side, the Oppo BDP-83SE and the Lexicon should be the same. So even vague statements can be challenged. In this case, either the reviewer was tricked by his mind and biases, or he never did the comparison. Either way, the whole thing is fishy.
What They Should Have Done
Sure, again, this is Monday morning quarterbacking but it needs to be done. There are a few things they could have done:
This is probably the hardest of the four. Going back and changing the review and taking out the reference to Oppo would have needed to be handled delicately. I might have done the whole strikethrough thing with a short explanation that further testing is being done and hoping that Lexicon finally releases some sort of statement that insists that they’ve made changes to their player. If they do that (I don’t think they will), the strikethrough could be removed.
Redoing the review from the ground up is a possibility but sort of pointless. It is, as far as anyone can tell, an Oppo so what are you going to do? We didn’t really re-review it either. We just published the same ratings as the Oppo and changed the value rating to 1/2 (we’d have given it a 0 but our system can’t handle that).
Just get rid of it. Just 404 the page. If anyone asks, it never happened. Have the reviewer write under a pseudonym for a while. Just forgetaboutit.
4) Retract With Explanation
This is probably what I would have done. Instead of ending up on a dead page, better to change the text of the review to some apology splash page. Leave the comments intact and let the same people who were attacking you defend your decision to stick to your principles. Something along these lines would have worked:
Recently, it has come to light that the Lexicon BD-30 is most likely just a rebadged Oppo-BDP-83 player. While the Oppo makes a fine player, the cosmetic differences alone do not justify the significant price difference between the two. Lexicon has maintained they have made substantive changes to the Oppo platform. We, and others, are conducting extensive tests to ascertain what, if any, differences exist. We will republish a revised version of this review when such tests are completed.
We, along with many others, have had great experiences with Lexicon products and expect to do so in the future. As our readers know, our reviews are more subjective in nature and thus can be prone to error. We regret that some of the conclusions reached in the original review seem to be inaccurate. We hope that you understand that our commitment is to not only informing our readers’ buying decisions, but to maintain the highest level of ethical standards.
Sure, some would still be slamming them but more than a few would gloss over the obvious BS because of their own bias’ in favor of HTR. But, you know, wholesale deletion and dictator-like censorship is a way to go too.