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Understanding Equipment Reviews

from Rick McCallum on November 30, 2018
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Understanding Equipment Reviews

Navigating the vast array of amateur radio equipment today is one of the most difficult tasks for hams young and old. We are inundated with new products, enamored of once great ones and in a complete quandary as to what to use in the shack. How do I know this? The proliferation of equipment reviews.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am an insatiable reader of reviews. Who isn’t? I mean really. Even you old code-knowing bull-extras must admit that you don’t understand the technical information published with new equipment. Oh I see you sitting there all sage looking and stuff when they mention that the FM sensitivity is (BW: 15 kHz at 12dB SINAD) is 0.32ìV @ 54 mHz but you can’t fool me. You have no clue what that means. Oh, you have your wife fooled about this, alright. I get that. “But HONEY!” you say…“How can I not buy it? The FM sensitivity is….well let me write it down so you can see it more clearly (BW: 15 kHz at 12dB SINAD) is 0.32ìV @ 54 mHz! So you see honey it is really important that I get this IC-7851. And look at the upside…..It is only $14,000.00 and Myrtle’s husband just paid $38,000.00 for a bass boat! And he doesn’t even let her drive it…and you can get your license and use this radio anytime you like…and even with the tower and antenna this radio ‘needs’ it STILL won’t come up to what even a smaller bass boat than Myrtle’s husband’s boat would cost….and…well... Honey, if you really want a bass boat like Myrtle’s I could go for that instead. We could get one instead of the new radio. And it would be something we could do together. Every weekend you could put on a bikini and ride on the seat up front and we could clean the fish together and you could cook on the boat and help me load it on the trailer behind our new boat-towing truck…..and…” No. You can’t fool me. You have no clue what those numbers mean. What you do know is that you are dying to practice the complacency in your voice when you say, nonchalantly….”rig here is an IC-7851...” and you immediately become known as ….“that is Bill. He is the president (for life) of the radio club. He has an Icom-7851….. you modestly smile from across the room.”

Well anyway. Reviews.

Reviews are valuable before any purchase. They give you the opportunity to see what other hams have to say about the equipment you are about to purchase. Always honest and objective, your fellow hams will never steer you wrong; true Elmers to the man (or woman as the case may be.)

There are several kinds of reviews and we will look at each one of them in turn. Before we do however it is important to understand the five point scoring system typically used in reviews. Here is what those numbers mean.

FIVE

Five is the highest score a piece of equipment can get. This is the transcendent item that each ham should have. It means that there is nothing better in its category and (we must also consider) for the price. Price is very important to keep in mind when seeing a five rating. This must be why the Tempo 2020, (yes I have trashed this overcomplicated Chinese puzzle of a radio before)… a radio which is one of the most frustrating pieces of…ah…equipment that has ever urged its considerable bulk onto the amateur radio stage and which people will literally pay you to haul away if they can just keep the power cord to sell to another unsuspecting ham who read the reviews that….wait for it…rate it higher than the $3300.00 TenTec Orion or the even more expensive and sophisticated Icom 7610. And maybe it would be a good choice if the bleeding cord did not bring the cost of the Tempo up to that of the other two……Anyway…

Five is also important to the reviewer for validation. It goes something like this: I bought this. I am smart and knowledgeable. I even know code. Others rated it 5. It has to be good.

Finally 5 is for Collins. If you try to enter anything less than 5 for a Collins radio the posts are likely to be deleted by the moderator because the reviewer is obviously deranged. Any reviewer who to rates Collins equipment under 5 is just an iconoclastic hard-nose who could not afford one when it was new and who wants to trash it just to get up the noses of the hams who could afford it. He/she is in all likelihood a no-code extra who works mainly, shudder, phone.

FOUR and THREE

Four and Three are the two honest ratings. A reviewer who gives something a four or a three is really thinking about the equipment. It goes without saying that most equipment really is about average or slightly above average. These are the reviews that usually make the most sense. That is why they are totally useless and is why we are thoroughly upset when we read them. What am I to learn from a review that tells me that the equipment I am lusting after is just...well…fine? Can you imagine buying a golf club that advertises that you will hit the ball just about the same as you always have but this one is newer and prettier? Do you want to read that the Global Eliminator Premier Magnum 201S/AT that you just paid $6000.00 for is….well….according to some guy in Georgia, “very nice”?

Now there is a big difference between 3 and 4. (You knew there would be.) Four means that the item was not disappointing. 3 means that someone who saw The 32-bit high speed floating decimal point DSP, TMRPS220C6727B (maximum 2800 MIPS/ 2100 MFLOPS) made by “Merican Instruments in the USA by ‘Mercans did not stop his neighbor’s aquarium heater from blowing away that Clipperton Island station and he would have to go ahead and talk to his neighbor and give him a piece of his mind about his noisemaker, like he has been meaning to for seven years if he could only catch the guy at home because he travels a lot wrestling on TV and he just keeps missing him. Three also means that Yaesu put a rebate on the radio a week after he bought it.

TWO

Ratings of Two are reserved for those items whose instruction manuals could not be read by a team of German engineers, Japanese technical writers and Egyptian scribes. These reviews are almost always posted by hams who do not have a 12 year old boy in the household. Two is never given by someone who has actually read the manual in the presence of the radio. This is key. Most manuals are read on the cra…that is to say read in the toil……what I mean to say is not read while actually operating the radio.

Two might also mean that the reviewer bought the item used and it arrived with a scratch on it. Or that it did not make his code faster. Or after 11 years the battery died. My favorite “two” review was written by a guy who subsequently tried to sell the radio on the same site where he posted the ‘two’ review. His ad was, shall we just say, somewhat divergent from his review.

ONE AND ZERO

Somebody at the factory did not call the reviewer back or he got dropped into voice mail. These ratings also apply to new equipment that was damaged in shipping. Other reasons for a one rating are late delivery, shipping fees, missing screws, Paypal problems and communists/lib’rals. How about the guy who gave a new Icom 7800 a zero? Why? Because it was broken. Did he send it in for repair? No. He couldn’t make it work, or it had a fault from the factory so it was the worst possible radio. If he still has it I hereby offer him $100.00 for it and I will come get it and take the abomination off his hands before it gets his dog preg…I mean causes a problem.

Now that we understand these ratings we can actually start to look at the reviews themselves. My first inclination was to simply mention some of the things we have all experienced but I think a more organized approach is called for. For this reason I am going to start with the big Kahuna… HF Transceivers.

REVIEWING HF TRANSCEIVERS

This is where it all starts. Without a good transceiver we are just aging know-it-alls annoyingly drumming our fingers on the table. At least the code types are. What better way to choose a transceiver than to carefully read the reviews that other hams offer? (Well. Actually trying out the rig is better but what good is that advice in an article about reviews?)

The first thing you should know about transceivers is that all of them are very important to their owners. They get a 5 for the same reason that a cranky ugly step child does. It may not be much but it is mine, I got it on purpose and I’m darned well going love it.

There is an often quoted review site (named after a famous forest) that posts highly technical reviews about transceivers. I am just as sure that they know exactly what they are talking about as I am sure that the rest of us really, don’t. My guess is that very few of us get much further than the ranking of the machine on that site. It has a great deal of very technical information available for us. I am sure it is very edifying to read and understand this information. If I had a child I would want him/her to read it. But when I show it to my very smart XYL her eyes glaze over just a bit faster than mine do. Also Mr. Sherwood. When your footnotes go through the entire alphabet and get up to .af again you are not being thorough, you are being unkind.

Some of my favorite transceiver reviews are posted by what I can only refer to as the ‘eager beaver’. How many times have I read a very thoughtful and fact-filled review only to get to the last line, which reads, “and as soon as I can afford it I am going to buy one and actually try it”. Oh for God’s sake man. You should not tease people like that. You posted a review and you have never used the radio? You should write a sex manual. I actually saw a transceiver review which went into great detail about a particular transmitter’s AGC overshoot and its effect on amplifiers and then said, “…and that is why I am not ever going to buy this transceiver or an amplifier”. Will someone please hit this guy with a wet sock for me?

Some reviewers are engineer types. They stack their pencils up according to height and know every feature of the transceiver backward and forward. Then they post a 1200 word tome getting into such details as the cabinet height and what menu item setting the clock is. Thanks for that. If I wanted to read the manual I’d go to the bath….well who reads manuals anyway? Manuals? Really? Why do you think that that guy who writes those handy mini-manuals, whoever he is, drives a Porsche and lives on a mega yacht with a fallen Hooters girl named Bitsy?

While we are here I guess it is time to put a stop to another familiar take-off point. Don’t we all love the reviews which begin, “I have been a ham for over 112 years…” We all understand and respect your experience but I have to say that if I was about to have a medical procedure and the surgeon wheeling himself into the OR greeted me with, “Hi. My name is doctor Methuselah. I have been a surgeon for over 90 years and I will be doing your colonoscopy today young fellow” I would fly out of the room and not stop running until I hit McDonalds. (Most of you know what I mean about the McDonalds reference. If you don’t you will when you turn 50.) If your Elmer was Heinrich Rudolf Hertz you have bragging rights on me for sure but here is the thing. Some people have one year of experience and some people have 20 years of experience but most people have one year of experience twenty times. Ok? You have experience. You know how to use those beeping key thingies. Got it.

I honestly love the review I read for a modern transceiver that read, “I have been a ham for over 60 years and have only had three transceivers. I can tell you this Yaesu xxxx is the very best one I have ever had. I am going to keep it for the rest of my life”. I learned a whole lot from that. On the flipside I really have to give credit to the guy who posted this review. I am paraphrasing.

“ I am a new ham and this is my first radio. I really love it and I have talked to a lot of people on it. It sounds really good. It took some study and practice to learn how to use it. I think you should get one and then concentrate on talking to a lot of people too.” No stuff. I think this is the most truthful review ever posted. Not only that, but I find the enthusiasm shown by this ham heartwarming. I almost bought a radio like his to remind myself of what I love about this hobby in the first place. Perhaps I relearned more about amateur radio from that review than from all of the others I have ever read.

OK. So they almost had to beat the breath back into me (I was laughing so hard) when I read this about a top-end Kenwood. “I previously gave this transceiver a 3 because the front-end was so weak. I want to revise my review and give it a 5. I replaced my G5RV Mini with a 3 element Mosley and the radio came alive”. That ranks right up there with “the SWR on this transceiver is terrible. I can’t get it under 5 to 1 so I am giving it a 3.”

Why is it that every other reviewer’s “other rig” is a Yaesu 9000MP, and Icom 7850 or a Flex 9631.56 (or whatever they are up to this week.) . We have all seen it. It goes something like this. “I have an Icom 7851, a Kenwood 990S and a Flex 6700 but I find myself coming back to the ole’ TS-120.” I have just one serious question for this reviewer. Sir. What in the name of all that is holy is wrong with you? You bought $25,000.00 worth of radios and didn’t notice that they had a great many buttons, levers and twisty thingies on them? OK. The venerable TS-120 has ‘raised’ a few generations of hams. But if you have all of those other rigs and can’t resist the 120’s smell of pledge and aging electrolytic you need to box those mega rigs up and send them to me. I will read the manuals (Or at least the rich guy’s perfume infused mini guides) and put them to good use. It would be OK to say that you liked using it for its simplicity but be honest. Compared to those other rigs, it sorta’ bites. (Not the Tempo’s major biteage mind you.) It is completely analog, granted, but it goes from off to noisy-sucky mode almost immediately. There is something to be said for that. I had one as did the majority of us lest we look down our noses but the question hanging in the air is……Rating of 5? There was a reason you gave it to the new guy in the radio club and it wasn’t because it was the best transceiver, ever.

Now I just have to ask you. Really folks. Be honest. Can you really tell the difference in sensitivity between an Icom 756 Pro and an Icom 756 Pro II? And that begs the question. Why did you replace your Pro (which you rated 5 six months ago) with a Pro II which you are rating 5 today. OK. We get that you bought Microsoft when it was $10 a share but did you really need a new radio? Well that is a dumb question on my part I guess. Who among us does not need a new radio every few weeks?

Rating transceivers is the most fun for sure. It is also where you hear the most nonsense. You can take this from me, and I think I speak for all of us when I say, we do not have a clue what third-order-pre-injection intermodulation is. (Or if it is even a real thing but I just got some of you, didn’t I? You know who you are. You just Googled it didn’t you? Fess up.) So come on folks. Give us what we want. Tell us we are going to love it. Tell us it is so sensitive that it can separate two stations both on 14.300. Tell us that it will work Pitcairn, record our QSO’s, pet the cat and give us DX Century club on 6 meters. Remember the most important thing you must keep in mind when you write a transceiver review is this…If we, your gentle readers, didn’t already want it we wouldn’t be reading the review.

Amplifiers

The first thing to remember is that there are two kinds of amplifiers. Ameritron and the others. Ameritron makes (if I remember correctly) exactly 2732 different kinds of Amplifiers. (Next month’s new product releases are not out yet.) All of the others make about 6. One of the cool things about MFJ amplifiers (other than the fact that they work really well for less than the price of a Jaguar) is that if you read the advertising in their catalog you know pretty much all you need to know to buy one. All of the others make claims like the league of superheroes and justice. “Buy this Omega 45,000 and you will be able to work dead popes like never before. It can transmit RTTY at 3000 watts, on the international calling frequency, until the FCC comes knocking.“

It is important that we use real word examples so I commend to you this one. “Before I decided to buy an ACOM 1000 I operated a couple of other amplifiers like the Ameritron AL-811, Heathkit SB-200 and Yaesu FL-2100Z.” Boy you sure put that Acom to the test. You compared it to an amplifier that costs new 1/5 of what the ACOM costs new and the other two? The Yaesu could have been used to announce Willie Mays rookie season….and the Heathkit? Well there are two kinds of 200’s. The kind that are made by Heathkit and assembled by some guy named Earl and the kind that are made by Harbach by jacking up a Heathkit case and putting new guts under it. So this review was analogous to this one: “I compared the Bentley Turbo S Salon to the Plymouth and the Desoto and like the Bentley better.” Fascinating. I am glad you shared that with us.

All amplifier reviews must start out with the phrase, “this AMP puts out a full___xxxx_watts. Good for it. As I said in a previous article, and this is a key point, if your amplifier does not put out its rated power it is broken. Do not review it because it is broken. Of course you have checked to make sure it is attached to an antenna, on the correct frequency, getting enough juice from the exciter…..etc. You did. Right? Start again.

I actually stopped a bad review from happening one time. A ‘friend’ called me to tell me that the Amer…that is to say, unnamed amplifier he had just bought at a hamfest did not work, I believe he said, it was not worth a tinker’s something. He was going to get right on eHam and tell everyone about this mighty fine…..that is to say, amp. I was surprised because the amp was an old favorite of mine and one I knew to be pretty much bullet proof. I asked him the usual questions and come to find out he had even taken the tube out and tried it in his other amp. It worked fine. I was just about to tell him to send it back to MF…I mean the factory when he paused and said, “this amp was a pain in the behind from the start. I had to cut the “foreign” plug off and wire a new one just to get it to plug into the wall”. And I learned about reviews from that. I wish he had sent it back for repair. I imagine the good folks at Stark….uh.. the factory could use a laugh.

Another thing to think about when reading Amplifier reviews is this. Very few hams know what PEP actually means. I did read a review that said, “The PEP in this amp is not good at all on SSB.” Sigh.

Moving on. I totally get that you are more proud of the Eimac tube in your amplifier than you are of your daughter who got her ankle monitor cut off early for good behavior but seriously Mr. Reviewer. We did not really need to know the brand of the tube. I also take exception to your referring to some tubes as “Chicom”. I know it will upset some of my gentle readers to say it but if the tube works it works. That is pretty much the deal. (I have about 3000 tubes and love them all equally. Well there is this one little magic eye hottie…..)

I was about to launch into antennas when it occurred to me that I would be heading for the rocks if I do. Besides, the little counter just hit 3400 words. So just a couple of comments about antennas.

If, during an A/B test your shorty dipole outperforms your three element Yagi, you should install a rotor, not rate it zero. If you have a rotor turn the antenna 90 degrees and tell us what happened. (Then you should go look up the tower. The reflector is the long one.) If all of these things are correct then take a hack saw to your tower.

Before you write a review please understand this. Nobody understands gain. You are just as qualified as the antenna manufacturers to claim that your antenna has gain. How much is completely up to you. In order to sound knowledgeable be sure to pick either DBI or DBD. Either one will do. Nobody understands them either and you are just guessing anyway. If you want bonus points be sure to mention an isotropic radiator. That will knock them dead. Just don’t do what one fine reviewer did and claim that you have one.

Well. That is a short take on reviews. We can cover some more if y’all like. Please keep writing them. I love reading them and they are a real service. Don’t go reading mine. I will just claim that I had been drinking at the time anyway.

Copyright Rick McCallum

Member Comments:
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Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by VE7VJ on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Very entertaining read. Thank You.

Like many of us, I look through the reviews on Eham here and elsewhere when considering a new piece of kit. I tend to skim over the 5s, look at the 3,4 & 2s and really should also skip the 1s and 0s but some are so entertaining. Just this week I read two fellows rating their antennas low. The first pumped 150W through a 100w max antenna. The other broke his and tried some half baked repair. Since the antenna in each case was then not working properly it rated low as obviously being of a poor design.

 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by G3RZP on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
An equipment review to me means precisely nothing if it does not have measured results; For a receiver, sensitivity, 3rd order intercept point, 2nd order intercept point, gain compression blocking point, selectivity, reciprocal mixing, AF distortion and IMD, and signal to noise improvement ratio, internal spurious responses (whistles) and external spurious responses ( discrete responses to external signals not on the tune frequency), frequency coverage and stability with temperature and supply voltage variation, and a review of the ergonomics.

For a transmitter, output power, IMD products up to at least 9th order these days, unwanted outputs in the spurious domain, in channel distortion, phase and wide band noise, keying characteristics, frequency and output power stability with temperature and supply voltage variation, and a review of the ergonomics.

In other words, a full lab evaluation.....the fact that Joe liked it but Bill didn't is pretty meaningless, except perhaps for the ergonomics.

Having a predicted MTBF would be nice, but that takes far too long to do for amateur equipment.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KJ4DGE on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Actually you are spot on. Thanks for the info, some of which made me spit coffee laughing!
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K0TNT on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Fabulous article. Has to be an Eham Classis, published every year just in time for Christmas.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K0UA on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Yep, know what you mean. I have read a lot of reviews that leave me screaming at the moron of a reviewer.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KF4HR on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Nope. Not too many know what "0.32ìV" means.

 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KD7YVV on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
To me, when I read a review, I want to know what
a person likes and dislikes about a piece of equipment.
If I want specs, I can go on the manufacturer's website
and look them up. The old Kenwood TS-430 I have,
I wouldn't trade it for the latest radio out.
Why? Because it works, it's simpler than most radios
manufactured today, doesn't need firmware or software
to run, and just plain works.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by NI0K on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks very much for your article! I'm not really sure how you manage to talk with your tongue in your cheek so far. I have always enjoyed this kind of writing and please bring us more.
 
It's funny - because it's true!  
by N8AUC on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
You not only hit the nail squarely on the head, you drove it clean through the board. Reading reviews is sometimes helpful, and sometimes you just laugh so hard you spew coffee out your nose. I really get a kick out of the guys whose review sounds like they got a diploma out of a cracker jack box, and you can just tell they did it with a straight face.

Let's face it. Almost no one on this site, or any other, has sufficient test equipment to properly review a radio. Oh I know there are a few who do, but they are in the vast minority. This is why the ARRL lab reviews are so useful. But once you get past the point where the radio in question is demonstrated to pretty much meet it's advertised specs, the only thing that matters really, is are the people buying them encountering a lot of stupid unforeseen problems? Like the old Icom 703 radios where if you looked at it funny you could blow the finals? Remember that? Early FT-817s had that kind of problem too. That's what I read the reviews to find out. Because if something is even slightly amiss, you can count on a ham to whine about it.

MTBF ratings? The margins on ham gear are so thin, no manufacturer is going to spend the time or money to test for that. They MIGHT make an attempt to calculate an estimate for it. But in my 40+ years of hamming, I've never seen that specified for a piece of ham equipment.

Bottom line, the article was hilarious! Mainly because it hit pretty close to home. Keep up the good work!

73 de N8AUC
Eric

 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K9MHZ on November 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I’ll read most, and try to piece together an idea of the item. But if a review includes: “magical”,”really takes me back”,”the warm glow of those tubes reminds me of...” then the next review immediately gets clicked.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K6OFG on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Loved it. Reminds me of Patrick McManus and his stories of camping. A bit of truth goes a long way to enhance humor.
Steve,
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K6CRC on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Great story!
I want to puke when a reviewer says 'I would have given it better than a 2 if it had another UHF connector!', despite the data sheet, product description ARRL review, and every promo picture clearly shows ONE connector.
Or
'Compared to my friends fully loaded $5000 K3S, this rig is a waste of my $900.

Then again, I need to know that nearly EVERY antenna purchased from MFJ/Cushcraft/Hustler needs to have holes re-drilled and missing parts ordered, as someone forgot to put them in the box. Thanks to THOSE reviewers.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KJ4DGE on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
MTBF use to be very important with hard disk drives. But a radio? Most radios today outlive their owners if they are treated properly. Again really enjoyed the article as not too many of those here are actually fun to read. Thanks!
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by ALPHONSE on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Kind of a weird thing to write here since I consider the reviews on these pages to be the most helpful of all.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by N9AOP on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The best review that I remember is from a fellow that reviewed a TFD. He gave all that info about how they are essentially dummy loads but he never owned one. Also, if you get bored reading the reviews and want some entertainment, go hang around a seedy used car lot for a while. I have seen the best salesmen pour on the BS and actually sell a beater for big $.
Art
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by WD9IDV on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
More importantly, when you purchase a big dollar radio is that they sometimes give you a coffee mug like Icom does. I was going to give the Icom 4 stars....but that damn coffee mug elevates the rating to 5 stars.

Let's not forget the lack of microphone that Kenwood purposely leaves out their expensive transceivers.
5 stars....No microphone.
One star less for that review too.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by W2KG on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Actually, in my opinion the most entertaining reviews are the antenna reviews. I find them to be welcome forays into ham radio’s collective creative imagination.
 
The Best Reviews  
by WD9IDV on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The best reviews are written by people who don't own the equipment being reviewed. Or by people who just unboxed their "toys".

They go something like this....
Just unboxed my new radio. Its great! Performs as expected. 5 stars.

Or, It is a piece of trash...totally garbage.
I'm glad I don't own one.
 
RE: The Best Reviews  
by AA4PB on December 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
This is the best antenna I've ever used. (did I mention, it is the only antenna I've ever used). :)
 
RE: The Best Reviews  
by N9AOP on December 2, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
4PB, thats why Gotham antennas got such good reviews back in the day.
Art
 
RE: The Best Reviews  
by K9MHZ on December 2, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
^^^ Oh man, there's a memory. Bought one, and received an aluminum pole and a coil. Magical.

Wonder if Isotron antennas are still around. Space Age, high tech, magical.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by W9YW on December 3, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I'm a lucky guy. I've been doing reviews for 30yrs, if in the computer industry. The most effective reviews are when you know your target audience. Guys buying an FT-450D have no context about a Flex 6XXX. Although they do roughly the same thing, the ride to the destination is completely different.

There is a target ham that I use as a model. He's cheap like me. Probably is on the radio more than me. Has little patience for stuff that doesn't work. Like me, he likes fishing weak signals out of the noise, when it's convenient to him and not the shape of the atmosphere at that moment. Persnickety.

He knows the difference between dbi, dbm, and an auto accident. Has a clue about antenna radiance theory and knows his dipole is not a yagi or a log periodic or a double magloop twisted screwdriver zep.

Fine. I write my reviews for him. I've horsetraded a lot of gear to find what I like. It's not what you like, unless you're like me. That's why context is so important. The guy that has 60yrs and just three receivers under his belt is a loyal fan, and not motivated to change stuff, and figures out a way to make his gear work for his needs. Fine.

I sometimes have three HF tranceivers in a year. Right now it's a Kenwood TS570D, purchased on eHam. Lovely. It is 180degrees different from the Anan10E that I purchased a while back. One is a solid state nicely done HF rig with AT and some buttons. The other has no buttons whatsoever, no knobs, unless you add a panadapter and all one's interactions are strictly via a mouse.

Both do HF (the Anan10E adds 6). 100W and a matcher on the Kenwood is very handy, although the Anan10E with its miserly 8W will dutifully try to match 3:1 until it just tells you to walk off a cliff by chattering its output relay.

Some people are very good at articulating the good and bad. USER reviews will have user context, and engineer's reviews are more exacting, but may or may not have a USER's best intentions in mind, because as you cite, they DID read the expletives deleted documentation, horrific as it was, if it existed at all.

Nonetheless, five sincere user reviews are worth a dozen engineer reviews unless engineers are also users and can relay what they're seeing, compare it to stuff users know, and make them understand key points. Understand is the key word.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K5ZR on December 3, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Hilarious.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K0IZ on December 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I rate this article as a 2. Might be higher after I read it...
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KW6LA on December 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
This is the best antenna I've ever used. (did I mention, it is the only antenna I've ever used ~

LOL- good one !!
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KW6LA on December 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
This is the best antenna I've ever used. (did I mention, it is the only antenna I've ever used ~

LOL- good one !!
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by WE6C on December 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I think if you put up a new to you antenna, you should not review or evaluate it for at least 6 months. Like the author says, if it doesn't work as it should, it may be broken.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by VK2NZA on December 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I'm marking it down to 3 stars because this HF transceiver doesn't do 2 and 70cm.
Disappointing really.....REALLY???
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by N0GV on December 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Well, I'm glad to see that I can ignore your call sign in the reviews..... Some of us actually do understand all the specs on a radio, can and do design and build amplifiers and antennas. That said, the difference between a 756 Pro and a 756 Pro II is significant. One is deaf and the other just cant hear... when there is near frequency intermod inside of 10kHz away....
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by VA3VF on December 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
My 'favorite' reviews go like this. Satire mode ON:

"New Yaecomwood FTICTS-90000

1 Star, because half a star is not possible, and I don't want to be unkind by giving it a zero.

First my qualifications:
A ham since I was in my mother's womb. Also an EE with 150 years experience. Designed ICBMs back in WW I as a co-op student.

I don't own the radio, but how can Yaecomwood not include <insert feature>. Also, one needs to be a PhD to update the firmware. What were they thinking. I'm a Hallicrafters ham. I'll never buy a Yaecomwood again."

Satire mode OFF.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KJ7WT on December 7, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Totally loved this review! I'm giving it a '5' because of the free coffee mug and sticker I'll get in two months.
(Update!) I'm changing my review to a '2.5', because I laughed so much I pulled a groin muscle. Reviewers should make an effort to limit their humor to avoid this kind of problem.
I have been a ham for 49 years (sort of - much of that time I wasn't actually operating...) and I've owned three transceivers (and still do!) and my antenna (homebrew off-center fed 40m dipole) is the best one I've owned, so I'm giving it a '5', too, and it is for sale on qrt.com right now...
Anyhow, thanks much for the reality check - it made my day!
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by VA3VF on December 7, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"is the best one I've owned, so I'm giving it a '5', too, and it is for sale on qrt.com right now... "

Funny you mention this. I'm still kicking myself for not having screen captured it, as most people will not believe it:

1) Guy places an ad on eHam. Best piece of gear since the creation of the universe, or so it sounded like.

2) The stuff is sold.

3) Guy place a review on eHam of the stuff he just sold. It was the worst piece of junk he ever had. Could not get rid of it fast enough.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by W6YFX on December 7, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I DO read a lot of reviews, and I want to thank you for this enlightening expose. I had a difficult time getting through some parts because I had to keep wiping the tears from my eyes from laughing so hard. SO true!

I do tend to scan to the reviews rated “1” or “2” though because I am genuinely interested in possible design issues or manufacturing defects. I will also accept a low rating of the manufacturer for poor customer support. All too often though, as you indicated, I find people trashing a product for reasons having nothing to do with product quality or performance.

VERY enjoyable article.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by WB0FDJ on December 8, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
This is the funniest thing I've read since forever!

Several months ago I decided to put up a new antenna. Went to the reviews to check it out. I have to admit it was really, uh, interesting. One guy was saying he wasn't sure about this antenna because when he put down to many radials (obviously this is a vertical we're talking about) his SWR went up. So he removed the radials. I found out I can laugh and cry at the same time. Thanks for the article!!
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by WD8JMM on December 10, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I very much enjoyed the article, and it is uncanny how true your observations are. I think it's human nature to seek the approval of your peers when making a decision, so I'm thankful that this site (and others) provide reviews which I can look over when making a purchase decision. That said, one of the things I find lacking in most equipment reviews is a little background on the reviewer. I'm not talking about how long you've been licensed, or which engineering degree you hold, I want to know how you're using the radio. If you're going to review the new kenyaecom xd-89000 at home, on your pristine test bench/clean room/dedicated shack, your experience might differ somewhat from the ham who takes the same rig on a camping trip in the Aleutian Islands, in the winter, without a tent. I'd like to know the conditions under which the rig was operated for your evaluation - that matters more to me than the specifications, which I can read about on the website.

Thank you!

Alex, WD8JMM
 
Didn't seem like 3500+ words  
by KC3MIO on December 12, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Your post was witty and spot on.

After 55 years of being Not a Ham, measured from when I first became interested in my teens, I decided to become one. I am not sure exactly why, but I picked up the Technician license manual and passed the test in November. After a trip to HRO to look at equipment and ask questions, it was suggested that I buy the General license manual and I studied it and took the test on 12/1 and passed it.

So here I am, with a license but no station. My wife (or XYL as customary) has offered to buy me gear for Christmas so I have been doing some research and the reviews at eHam have been a great resource, but Rick's article sobered me up a bit. It's too easy to fall in love with a piece of equipment and find confirmation in the glowing reviews. And the numerical ratings - graded on a curve and often ignoring cost and value.

I studied economics in college and two things have stuck with me: tradeoffs and diminishing returns. There is no perfect transceiver/antenna etc, but there are pros and cons. Also, beyond a certain point, you can spend more and more and get less and less. I enjoy a $12 bottle of wine, but is the $50 or $100 bottle 4-8 times better? I have often been disappointed with pricier wines. You can buy a basic brand new car for around $20K and it does the job, in comfort and safety. The Oligarch 3.0 which goes for $1.4 MM (if you could buy it, but you can't because the production run of 200 has already been snapped up by the plutocrats) does the same but how much better is it? A faster, more luxurious set of wheels, but it has the same basic functions.

I always look at the bad reviews to see if there is any common defect with the product I am considering. Sometimes a unit gets a bad rating because the customer service was rude or unhelpful. But if a significant number of products break quickly, that's a real red flag.

I have decided (after consultation with XYL) that my budget for a transceiver is around $1K +/- $300. I see that the priciest unit on HRO is around $12K, so there's a lot of room for spending more money. But I figure that I can get what I want in my price range if I stick to what my basic needs are and make sure that the options I want do not require additional expenditures.

I know people who just like to buy things, even things they barely use. Our neighbors had renters who suddenly left and when they went to clean up, they found, among other junk, 20+ brand new bras with the price tags still on them. Maybe you can't have too many bras.

I find the research that I do before a purchase is big part of the fun and reviews do help. Thanks to the reviewers at eHam and thanks to Rick for the post.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by AA4MB on December 16, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Wow. This was seriously funny. Glad I wasn’t drinking anything or I’d have done a movie spew all over my operating position.

I too find the overly technical reviews here to be, for the most part, quite redundant. I check out Rob Sherwood’s site and also QST for a review of any transceiver when i want to see the hard specs for example. Nobody doing a down to the 10th of a dB review will do it any better, IMHO. No, I’m in it for the practical ‘stuff’ that I will actually see and experience when operating the rig. If someone finds a quirk on the first night they unpack a rig and it annoys them ... but after 6 months they are then foaming at the mouth about it, I’d like to know that. Ditto on not getting overly hung up on someone’s ‘qualifications’ before they write a review. If you want to tell me you’ve used a buttload of different rigs before this one, that’s fine ... at least I have sort of a baseline for comparison. And yes, give it awhile before you get disgusted with any rig and pass judgments, as long as it can make QSOs. My $.02. Your review’s mileage may vary.

- AA4MB, Matt
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K6BRN on December 19, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I'll be rolling on the floor for days after this one. A cynic after my own heart! MORE! MORE!

Brian - K6BRN
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by W2EM on December 24, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Great article. I've had a lot of the same thoughts throughout the years.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by DJ0IP on January 1, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Rick;

The reason you did not understand the Sherwood Reviews is because you only focused on his chart and Chinese footnotes.

If you want to understand more, please read Sherwood's entire review of each radio.

All of his reviews in the past 15 years are posted on my web site, here:
http://www.dj0ip.de/sherwood-forest/sherwood-xcvr-tests/

There you will find a lot more "plain English" describing the radios.

73
Rick, DJ0IP
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by N5XJT on January 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Your comments about the Tempo 2020 IMHO are completely off base. Have owned two of these since the late 80's without serious issues. Operated regularly they work great for years and the finals last forever. I have found that many do not understand this radio or know how to operate it and you most likely fit that category. Most of your comments and reviews reflect lack of knowledge combined with a need to make useless commentary.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by KC7MF on January 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
@N5XJT

Well that was a totally unnecessary and rude post.

The vast majority of people here have a sense of humor. My suggestion to you is that you refrain from reading attempts at humor. It appears it is not something with which you are comfortable.


Enjoy your 2020. I am sure it is near and dear to your heart.

Thank you to all of the people who posted about this little article. I am glad you liked it. Perhaps it is time to launch into contesting. That should get the fur flying. ;)
 
I'm going to print and keep it on my radio desk.  
by K7NG on January 5, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
It's getting harder to find good humor these days. This article is a champ.
I especially like the term 'biteage'... I'm going to use it regularly from now on.
Oh by the way, I got myself a new amp for Xmas, but I'm giving it a '0' in the reviews section because it has to have 240V and my shack isn't wired for 240V. You'd think the manufacturer would have warned people more than having that in the specs and twice in the description.

I also note that some people seem to have had their humor gland surgically removed.

73 & Happy 2019
K7NG
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by VE3WGO on January 5, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I just have to chuckle and shake my head when I read reviews about some equipment that arrived with old software but it just needed to have a new USB cable and new software installed,... it is a real pain to program the memories but after you have tried it a few times you get the hang of it,... this is the third one the reviewer bought and all of them have had terrible displays and assembly quality,... battery life is really short and the charger just needed to have a new connector soldered on,... and the instructions were awful and not even available in English online,... but the radio only cost $39 so in spite of all these problems, the reviewer bought 2 more and gave it a 5.
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by VE3WGO on January 6, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Rick, DJ0IP,

You have a nice website! I see you also showed Sherwood's test results table. Since Rob Sherwood and you both have said that focusing on only one parameter is not the best way to get the whole picture, it would be good if his or your list were sortable by any column that the reader wants to.

I tried to import his list into excel where sorting is easy, but I could not get the formatting to work properly as a list with a single radio per line.

Any ideas or possibilities for future column sorting?

73, Ed
 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by N9LCD on January 7, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
A most entertaining and informative article.

I read reviews from down up looking for common complaints. Most 4 or 5 star reviews are to vague to be useful or reference gear that I have no idea about.
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by N7NSL on January 14, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
All right again! I'm going to give you a 1 out of 5 for your review of reviews. It was to long - I have a short attention span - and there were some punctuation issues. Except for that I'd of given you a 5 out of 5.

One of my favorite reviews was when some Ham(?) went to his local HRO and sat in front of a new radio. He thought that the VFO knob was too small and left without even trying the gadget out. He gave it a 1 out of 5.

Sigh!
 
Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by W1TXT on January 18, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I try to read and watch all reviews about any equipment I might be interested in. An ongoing concern I have is that some people entering reviews on eham may not even own or have used equipment they're reviewing. If I look at their QRZ page and don't see many hits and no pictures, I wonder. These reviews are immediately ignored - whether good or bad.

 
RE: Understanding Equipment Reviews  
by K1XS on January 20, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
If you think radio reviews are interesting, try reading the product reviews on Amazon. My favorite is a 5 star with a comment “haven’t used it yet but it looks good”.
 
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