Hello folks, this is the beginning of an interview series were we will give you the inside information on all our favorite reviewers. Since there are so many competent review sites out there we will try to focus on a few of the best in each niche. First on the starting grid is Audioholics with Gene DellaSala, President/Owner. Audioholics has been around since the end of 1998 and is currently the largest audited Audio and Video review site with over 1 million monthly readers.


Question:
When you started out what were your biggest challenges and how big ambitions did you have for the site?

Answer:
The biggest challenge I had when I launched Audioholics was getting manufacturers to notice my website and send me products for review.  I was a one man show at the time doing all of the editorial content and relying on a friend to do my web development on a part time basis. 

I started Audioholics as a hobby site to express my views of the nonsense I discovered in the industry with hopes of debunking and demystifying it while at the same time offering a level of detail in product reviews not typically found in the major publications.  I never expected to grow it to what it has become today, but always dreamed of a day where I could pursue this dream job full time.  My dream came true nearly 4 years ago thanks to the help of my supporting wife, my Editor in Chief Clint DeBoer and a lot of hard work. We haven’t looked back since.
 
Question:
What was the first product you reviewed?
 
Answer:
I think I reviewed some tower speakers which can be found in our Speaker Face Off I article.  I had to actually sneak into the local hi-fi shops to do this and pretend to be an interested customer so the salesman would allow me to spend enough time to make an assessment of the products.
  
The Aragon Soundstage and 8008×5 Separates solution was the first official product sent to me for review.  The owner at the time, Tony Federici actually flew down and assisted in the setup.  It was quite a great experience and was one of the breaking points that lead to other manufacturers such as Yamaha, Denon, etc to submit products for review.
 

Question:
Has the manufacturers changed their view of how to communicate and interact with review sites such as Audioholics during the years, and if so how?
 
Answer:
Yes at first they were cautious.  I was labeled as a “loose cannon” since I was developing a reputation for trashing products and debunking myths. 

I was making few friends in the industry at first but establishing a loyal fan base that was continually growing each year until eventually we couldn’t be ignored.  Once manufacturers recognized the level of detail and analysis I put forth in my reviews and how I constructively gave them feedback in hopes of making their products better, they became cautiously optimistic. 
 
As the site progressed, I hired on help and stumbled upon Clint DeBoer who initially was my new web developer but later took a liking to this field and eventually became our Editor in Chief.  We implemented a peer review policy not just for grammar and fact checking but to ensure we always keep a balanced perspective while not needlessly trashing products. 
 
As a result of our success, we are now at the point where manufacturers solicit us for product reviews or beta testing, and typically give us the first samples of new products prior to other publications reviewing them, including the print magazines.  They know coming into a review that we will be fair but critical and most appreciate the feedback we give them which usually results in product updates or improvements to successor products.
 
 
Question:
Can you describe what makes your review process unique and why it’s worth reading Audioholics reviews before buying.
 
Answer:
One of the unique things about Audioholics is that Audioholics is owned and operated by a degreed engineer.  More specifically, I am an Electrical Engineer with vast design experience in the telecom industry.  You rarely find tech companies, let alone home theater publications whose top execs are technical in nature.  Most of my staff are either degreed engineers or well versed in the field prior to writing for us.  As a result, both myself and my staff pay careful attention to ensure our reviews have accurate information and comprehensive objective measurements and analysis.  We write our reviews from the prospective of an installer looking for calibration and setup tips and for consumers looking for the bottom line in how the products perform.
 
Question:
What do you think are important factors for a good reviewer?

Answer:
A reviewer needs to understand not only how the product functions but for what market it’s designed for.  It is equally important for a reviewer to be humble and NEVER assume they know more than the manufacturer does about their own product. When in doubt, ask for help and don’t jump to wrong conclusions.

A proper perspective of the product under review must be maintained; else you can miss the desired application and audience for that product.  At the same time, it’s important for a reviewer to walk you through the products operation and performance.  We like to take stuff apart to see the guts inside.  I’ve always done this and I expect our reviewers to do this (when practical) as well.
 
 
Question: 
What separates a good review from a not so good one, and who is the audience for your reviews?

Answer:
Properly defining a product and its purpose in the marketplace is critical for writing a good review.  If one holds the same scrutiny for a satellite subwoofer system than they do for a high end monster sized tower speaker system, then they are setting themselves up for disappointment while also not recognizing the engineering brilliance in the product which has a specific design purpose.  

More often than not I see cursory reviews of products that read more like press releases and I feel that’s really a disservice to consumers.  People crave good information, not rewritten press releases from the manufacturers. In fact, the late Tony Federici wrote an article on this very topic that I suggest reading:

Our audience varies depending on the type of products we review which encompass HTIB systems to flagship audiophile products and DIY products for the more hardcore and handy audiophiles that frequent our site.

Question:
How do you select what products to review?
 
Answer:
We try to weed out what we feel to be dud products such as the esoteric stuff.  There is no sense in reviewing stuff that isn’t designed with at least basic rational engineering principles.  Nor does it make sense to review products that have little to no distribution, especially in the USA which nearly 65% of our readers reside.  We typically review a good mix of the big brands everyone is familiar with as well as the audio and video-phile products people aspire to own. 

Question: 
What is your policy in regards to receive free product for reviewing purpose?

Answer
We don’t.  If at the end of a review, the reviewer wishes to buy the product, we attempt to work out an accommodation deal with manufacturers.  Occasionally manufacturers don’t want product back and in such cases we either give them away in forum contests or donate them.
 
Question:
Can you pick 3 products that you have reviewed that really stood out in terms of innovation and performance and that wasn’t just an incremental update from some previous generation?

Answer 
The Denon AVR-5308CI has an amazing array of video processing features while also being a very competent performer in the audio department.  
 
The APS H-10 power conditioner which offers power conditioning, voltage regulation and UL agency approvals for under $500.  At the time it came out, there were no similar products under $1k with all these features.   
Carada Masquerade Masking System – cheapest masking system by about $2500 or more

Question:
Looking at the new technologies that’s around the corner what excites you the most?

Answer
Hmm, if I were a videophile, I’d probably say OLED in 7 years… ultra-thin LCD in the next 2-3, or  paper thin displays that hang on a wall like wall paper, but since I am an audiophile at heart, I will stick to what I love best – audio.   Getting Blu-ray discs with master audio in the mainstream is something I am quite charged up about.  I am hoping for a bigger adoption of this technology than what we saw with DVD-A or SACD.   We all have great audio gear at our disposal, now its time for the software to catch up.

Question
What would be your suggestion for someone looking to put together a complete home cinema system. How should they spend their money to get the best bang for the buck?

Answer
It really depends on what their goals are.  If they are more towards the audio equation, then more of the budget should be placed on the speaker system.  If they lean more towards video, then the display should be the top priority followed by the source.  Though one absolute exists for both types, NEVER over budget on exotic cables!

We actually have a section of our site dedicated to Buying Guidelines:
 http://www.audioholics.com/buying-guides/
 
and how to best appropriate your funds depending on your goals:

http://www.audioholics.com/buying-guides/how-to-shop/ask-dr-a-the-budget-dance

Question:
Finally, what do you think about review aggregator sites such as TestFreaks?

Answer: 
I think they are useful, especially when they pool all of the relevant related sites pertaining to the products people are searching.  It’s important for consumers to read more than just one reviewers opinion on a product so a site like yours is a great place for that.

For more information please visit www.audioholics.com