Home > Tom's Blog > Home Theater Review – Lexicon BD-30 Fallout

Home Theater Review – Lexicon BD-30 Fallout

January 18th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

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.”

Read for yourself.

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:

Subjective Methodology
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.

Comparison
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:

1) Edit
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.

2) Redo
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).

3)Retract Completely
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.

Categories: Tom's Blog Tags:
  1. January 18th, 2010 at 14:05 | #1

    Right on.

  2. January 18th, 2010 at 14:16 | #2

    BTW, it’s “As someone WHO has had what seemed to be the full wrath…” Not “As someone THAT has had what seemed to be the full wrath…”

    Grammar Rob can back me up?

    ;-)

  3. January 18th, 2010 at 14:24 | #3

    Doh! Fixed.

  4. astarkman
    January 18th, 2010 at 15:39 | #4

    This should be a cautionary tale for anyone who is considering the opinions in a subjective review. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened.

    Arthur Salvatore has pointed out that the Shelter 501II phono cartridge, which sold in Japan for the equivalent of $650, was the same as a Crown Jewel SE which sold for $2650. The latter was reviewed Stereophile with a rave. The former was not mentioned in the magazine until 7 years later. Their excuse for the delay was that it didn’t have a US importer.

    Subjective reviews raving about a component are not doing so because of its accuracy but because of its prestige. Buying audio equipment is now analogous to buying a watch. A $5 quartz watch is just as accurate as anything made in Switzerland, but will never be a status symbol.

    Unfortunately this audiophile syndrome seems to have infected the AV market. It was only a matter of time I suppose.

    The worrying thing is that Lexicon would be so bold to try such a ploy. What if they were to change a few passive components and call the results and improvement? This is why your objective testing is so valuable. Keep up the good work! Your site is almost without peers.

    Alan

  5. cynan
    January 18th, 2010 at 16:25 | #5

    When shopping for AV gear or almost anything else, one rule reigns supreme: Caveat emptor.

    In almost any market, there are always at least a few (if not most) entities that get a little too greedy and peddles a product in a fashion that can really be called nothing less than an attempt to gouge their customers.

    The silver lining is that when one such entity (ie, Lexicon) goes a little too far, the media covering that industry will take them to task, as was done by Audioholics (and others). The public outcry that ensues will hopefully make said entity and others considering similar less-than-ethical marketing decisions think twice in future.

  6. bbf
    January 18th, 2010 at 20:44 | #6

    Heh… I noticed that when I first found the HTR review after listening to your podcast that there were no comments, then soon after posting on AVSForum, that some critical comments started showing up. What amazed me was the amateurish replies by the site owner who was bashing audioholics.com without apparently even reading Clint and Gene’s review.

    Tom, have you ever posted a reply to the AVRant comments that you wished you’d hadn’t? What did/would you do if you did that? 1, 3, or 4 (from your post above)

    The temptation must be there to just erase all records of the offending post.

    As an aside, it was interesting how the slashdot comments for the article immediately veered to be more about the Denon $500 CAT5 Ethernet cable than the Lexicon/Oppo issue… let alone the THX certification issue that Gene/Clint find more disturbing.

  7. Rob the Pirate
    January 18th, 2010 at 23:37 | #7

    Twas a well placed broadside. The scuppers be runnin red and me thinks her ensign be struck.

    I agree; tis time to retire to some grog and wenches.

    Bravo Zulu

  8. MDM08033
    January 19th, 2010 at 11:30 | #8

    Please step into the wayback machine to 1999. The $699 Toshiba SD-3108 was badge/case engineered By Faroudja as the $5,495 DV-1000. At least Faroudja had the courtesy to upgrade the quality of the component video connectors to BNC.

    Cheers, Michael

  9. mikemcm
    January 19th, 2010 at 18:20 | #9

    Wonder if I can order a faceplate from Lexicon for a couple hundred and pimp my BDP-83? Nah, it’s more satisfying knowing I already have the gold standard (literally).

    Interesting question raised on another forum that you may want to ask of Oppo: Was Lexicon buying these direct from Oppo with their knowledge, or were they buying them through the retail channel? Wonder if Oppo or Amazon have received any large quantity retail purchases?

    Keep up the good work. Y’all are the the reason I bought the BDP-83 in the first place, because you cut through the cr*p and tell it like it is based on objective evidence and testing….

    Mike

  10. January 20th, 2010 at 06:41 | #10

    Well it kinda got escalated – The HTR site owner started posting on AVSforum continuing with his rant that I was a shill (I posted as “m” in the original HTR comments thread). He also didnt address any of the original points brought up.. and even started dodging a few more questions when they came up there..

    I’ve just put up a challenge to him there.. linking to the AVSforum thread on my website http://www.stabbingpixies.com (where the deleted transcripts are).

    I’m kinda ranting now cos it got personal when he took it outside HTR.

    I hope thats ok _ its AVrant after all :-)

    Cheers,

    m

  11. January 20th, 2010 at 06:44 | #11

    oh – also apologies for the formatting on the site.. which you kinda pointed out Tom. It’s a global thing that screws up the whole site if I change the font.. Obviously the site wasnt designed to hold large volumes of text being as its just to host my band music.

    I decided not to do much about it as the whole point is that the “amateur nature” of my site should counterpoint any integrity challenges HTR want to make.

  12. leeoverstreet
    January 21st, 2010 at 15:46 | #12

    Not to beat a dead southern horse, but…

    Can’t believe “druthers” has been mentioned on two shows without explaining what it means. It *is* a southern term, and is short for “I’d rather.” Say it fast with a southern accent. So when you say “if I had my druthers,” you’re basically saying “If I had what I’d rather have.”

    So there.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to making a $3000 faceplate for my old Emerson rack system.

  13. January 22nd, 2010 at 09:13 | #13

    Lee – Druthers was defined on the first podcast where it was mentioned (Dina’s Druthers) by the good woman herself. It should have been redefined on each subsequent episode however.

    Mike – that’s fine, I totally understand. Formatting aside, congrats on getting it posted before me and getting all the traffic. :)

    bbf – I’ve had people not only on audioholics but here on AV Rant tear into me like no tomorrow. I can’t find the post right now but there was a guy that literally took one of the podcasts and tore it down siting everything I said that he felt was wrong and how I’m an idiot. I neither removed it nor commented about it. If he had dropped a bunch of f-bombs or had just posted, “Tom’s a dumbass” without and corroboration, I might have. But when you take the time to actually listen, and then tell me I’m an idiot, well, I honestly only care that you listen!

  14. January 22nd, 2010 at 09:15 | #14

    Mikemcm – I have no doubt that you could call a metal shop in your area, send them a diagram (or a full sized picture) of exactly what you want, and they could either fabricate it for you by hand or throw it in some sort of machine (the kind you see on American Choppers) for something less that $3000. I’m guessing someone with the right skills, equipment, and moxi could start a business right now doing just that.

You must be logged in to post a comment.
UA-3734235-2