|The Inner Ear has been around
since September of 1986, though in the beginning and for some
years following it was called The Inner Ear Report. The first
print version was the format of the TV Guide magazine and, I
thought, the format of other reputable audio mags, such as TAS
and ‘Phile. TIER, as it became
known, was a Canadian publication, founded because I am a casual audiophile and
a hard-core music lover — and I had worked in the industry since 1963 (or
was it 64?). My first job in the business was in retail sales for a small boutique
and a short time later, I landed a position with a major retailer. I made manager,
but eventually left and ventured into wholesale and distribution. After having
traveled North America for a few years, I decided to return to retail, specializing
in high-end audio.
A brain aneurism in 1984 resulted in an unexpected benefit: my hearing became
ultra sensitive and my tolerance for mediocre sound (and for those who sold it)
was essentially gone. I quit my job, retailed on my own for a short while and
began writing down my views on the subject of audio. The motivating factor was — still
is — the love for music, which was the original TIER slogan.
Discover high-end — the current slogan/catchphrase — is intended
to alert the audio industry’s consumers that high-end components are the
paradigm on which lower-priced gear is predicated. In other words, I suggest
that one cannot replace quality with cheap(er) imitations. Nevertheless, there
are a few excellent audio components in the mid-price categories and they deserve
a music lover’s attention. It is my intention to check out the ones that “do” music
right and publish my evaluation, as I appreciate good audio regardless of cost.
However, you will not find second-rate audio and/or mass-produced home theatre
components within these pages — they have little entertainment value for
people that appreciate an Oscar Peterson performance or a Mahler symphony.
Readers should know that I rarely compare or judge a component under review against
one I may have in-house. I feel that reviews that introduce comparisons are,
in fact, two reviews in one and often highlight the gear that is not under review.
Comparing components under review with my own gear would be like reviewing my
in-house gear, and readers might assume that I am predisposed to or influenced
by the gear I use. My own audio components are usually loaned to me and change
periodically, thus cannot be regarded as reference. I will, however, compare
components from the same manufacturer and I may on occasion, introduce a familiar
component where it makes sense. Often, it is done so that I can find a synergistic
I am aware, of course, of sonic differences, which I like to equate to the uniqueness
of human voices. And, as it is with voices, one can enjoy many of them, prefer
one to another or outright dislike some that others admire. It is for this reason
that I feel that each component must stand on its own merit, as long as the value
(workmanship, parts quality, sometimes price) is on the same level.
We all know that a system is only as good as its weakest link and, while I
attempt to avoid such a link when I evaluate a component, there will be unpredictable
matters. They include compatibility issues of amps, preamps, speakers, cables,
source components, and even so-called tweaks. I try hard to find system synergy
whenever possible and describe what listeners can expect to hear when a component
is connected within a system.
Audio gear is supposed to be about the reproduction of music — and this
is my main concern. Consequently, I will not focus my attention on audio technology,
although I appreciate its importance. Instead, I pay heed to musical authenticity,
synergy and setup — it is, after all, about the music.
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