Monday, February 15, 2010

Head-Fier Beware

If you are into headphone audio and you want to get complete, honest, and unbiased information, you should probably avoid the forums. They are driven mainly by their paid sponsor marketers, and if you mention or recommend things like Hotaudio gear there, you very likely will be harassed and banned. That is what they did to me, and I have recently found out that they have also done it to the owner of Hotaudio in the past.

I'm writing this blog to give people who are unaware an idea of the kind of thing the Head-Fi forum is known to do to you just for mentioning Hotaudio gear there, especially when it competes favorably with gear from their sponsors. They ruthlessly attacked me for it, called me a "shill," reduced my PM mailbox from the standard 125 to 50 just to harass me, and finally just banned me. All for talking about a Hotaudio product no differently than they talk about all their mass-produced sponsor products they shill for over there.

They will typically have 10, 20, 30-page threads on mass-produced junk like the uDAC -- before the product is even available to buy. The sponsor gives a head-fi member the product in advance to shill for them, and they drum up interest among the more impressionable members that way, getting people worked up and talking about it, often before it's even available. It's not uncommon for threads like that to go on for 50 or more pages. The uDAC thread is now over 80 pages. That's a lot of shilling!

They will talk about and recommend entry-level, budget gear like the uDAC in every other thread, but strangely enough they don't call that "shilling." That's because that gear is from a paid sponsor. But they will call you "aggressive" for simply MENTIONING a product that you have heard from a place like Hotaudio, when the entire time they are aggressively pushing that other gear on the forum in every other post.

If you mention a Hotaudio DAC in the uDAC thread, they will say you "ruined the thread" with your "shilling." But they mention their uDAC in post after post all over the forum, even though it's not even half as good as products like the DAC-Extasy. They have also mentioned all kinds of other DACs in the uDAC thread, like the DacMagic, Keces Dacs, Pico Dac, and others. How come they don't call that "shilling?" How come they don't say that has "ruined the thread?" Only when someone mentions the Hotaudio product do they say that it's "shilling" that has "ruined the thread." It's very bizarre. You have to wonder what planet some of these people are living on, where it's okay for them to mention anything they want at any time, but no one can mention Hotaudio basically EVER.

And it's the same in any thread. If someone is looking for a good DAC, for example, and someone recommends a uDAC, or any other DAC, that is perfectly fine with them. You can do that all day long. But if you so much as mention the Hotaudio DAC-Extasy even once, they will attack you ruthlessly for "shilling." It's so funny to observe - they make up all kinds of reasons why they don't want the Hotaudio product as soon as you mention it ("it's not as portable as the uDAC" - when it's basically the same size; "it's not in my budget" -- while they consider DACs other people have mentioned that are the same price), and then they attack you for "aggressively shilling" for Hotaudio, when all you did was recommend a DAC, just like anyone else did. The one you recommended just happened to be from Hotaudio.

For the record, the DAC-Extasy is a hand-made, silver-soldered, wolfson-based DAC that sounds fantastic -- why on earth wouldn't I recommend that? Why wouldn't anyone recommend it? It sounds awesome - of course I would recommend that. But the fanboys there can't stand that, because it competes with the sponsors' products that they have been duped into shilling for. So they start attacking.

Anyone can see how lopsided and biased that is. The "aggressive" thing is marketing a product to gullible fanboys for 10-20 pages before it's even available to buy, or mentioning the uDAC in every other thread. That's what's aggressive. Most of the fanboys there don't seem to be bright enough to understand that they have been roped in by these marketing tactics and are shilling for products like the uDAC, and yet they ruthlessly attack anyone who so much as mentions Hotaudio gear that sounds better. It's like Alice in Wonderland.

Below is the post I made that started the whole thing - the post they call "the aggressive way you mention Hotaudio." Anyone in the actual, common-sense world of reality instead of the Twilight Zone world of the Head-Fi fanboys can see there is nothing in the least "aggressive" about the post at all. The idea that it is in some way "aggressive" is totally ludicrous. The post was made in response to someone who was asking about buying the PH100 amp, and asked if anyone had any other suggestions:
Having owned the MDR-V4s, which are very similar to the MDR-V6, and owning a PH100, I can give you some suggestions.

For about the same money or sometimes less, the Hotaudio Thunderbolt Max is imo an overall better sounding amp than the PH100.

If you want a similar sounding headphone to the MDR-V6 but a step up, try the Alessandro MS-1s. Great bang for the buck headphones.

Pair those up with a good DAC or CD player and that is a very killer rig.

gl :)

That's it. That's the entire post. As you can see, I even mentioned the MS-1 headphones there, and no one ever said anything about that. I have recommended those headphones in numerous threads at Head-fi, and not once did anyone EVER say anything about "shilling" for Alessandro. They only say something is "shilling" when you're mentioning or recommending a Hotaudio product.

If they had just left it there, that's probably as far as it would have gone. Just a simple statement: "I've heard both, and in my opinion, the Hotaudio amp sounds better." What in god's name is so horrendously wrong about that? From the standpoint of a reasonable person, nothing. But that's not good enough for them - they just can't leave it alone. Someone has said that a Hotaudio product sounds better than their "fanboy" product, and they just can't stand that. So that's when they go on the attack.

You can read how their attacks progressed from there by reading it for yourself on the forum:

-- unless the head-fi mods and admins are so dishonest they start deleting the posts. I would not put it past them - apparently they even read your PMs there. But I have saved all of those posts, and I might post them with commentary later. The long and short of it is that they relentlessly attacked me, they called me a "shill" just for mentioning Hotaudio products the way they mention everything else, and ultimately the mods ended up banning ME. Yes, it is surreal.

I had over 1500 posts there, and only a very small fraction of those ever mentioned Hotaudio -- the vast majority had nothing to do with any of those products at all. I had really contributed a lot of my time to Head-fi, giving as unbiased and objective information as possible. Numerous times I recommended KSC75 headphones, MS-1 headphones, PX100 headphones, PK3 earbuds, the Sansa Clip, the Audiotailor Jade amp, the V-DAC, HD600s, DT880s, and on and on and on -- even the uDAC a few times -- always trying to make a useful recommendation to suit the person's situation and needs. Not once did anyone ever called me a "shill" for mentioning any of those products, ever. But Head-fi is so biased against Hotaudio that n00bs with even fewer than 100 posts (like this suspicious angle_shooter character, more on him below) chime in to call me a "shill" simply for mentioning a Hotaudio product, and the mods ban me instead of them. The bottom line appears to be that they just can't have anyone talking up products that compete with their sponsors' products.

Pretty pathetic, as anyone can read for themselves at the forum. The attacks from the head-fi n00bs finally culminated in one of them posting a huge, bandwidth robbing picture to insult me, and the mod did nothing about that. He left the picture up, while deleting the post I made to defend myself from the attacks. And then I got banned. For what? For daring to mention a Hotaudio product.

So there you have it. That's how they operate at Head-fi. Anyone comparing Hotaudio gear favorably to their gear is attacked, harassed, and ultimately banned. Unless they've removed it to try to hide the truth, you can see the whole exchange with your own eyes at the forum. And if they ever do remove it, I'll just post it here.

Isn't it interesting how all those people who were personally attacking me were never banned? Telling me to "take my meds," posting insulting pictures, attacking me at every turn. They don't say that to someone who mentions Little Dot, or Woo, or Headamp. Only the guy who is saying positive stuff about Hotaudio gear is harassed and banned. They even say negative thing after negative thing about the Hotaudio gear that they have never even heard and they are not banned. One guy bashing the Hotaudio amp in favor of the PH100 admitted he had also never even heard the PH100! But there he is, slamming me and the Hotaudio amp left and right, and he is not banned for that.

Very interesting, isn't it?

The other guy in that thread -- "angle_shooter," who just joined the forum a few weeks ago (who is this guy really?) -- actually followed me around the forum, chiming in on practically any thread where I mentioned a Hotaudio product just to bash me. That was after he relentlessly PMed me for "information" on the PH100 amp and then a Hotaudio amp, literally a dozen or so PMs back and forth, where I spent a good deal of my time over a couple of weeks answering him very patiently and thoroughly. Then he turns around and attacks me at every turn. Very classy, huh?

Right after that is when my PM mailbox got reduced from 125 to 50 overnight -- what a strange coincidence. It seems that even if you recommend Hotaudio gear in
private messages you get persecuted and harassed for it. I suspect this angle_shooter is an alias account for someone affiliated with the forum somehow - there are numerous clues for that - but regardless, if you search the forum you can see him popping up all over the place where I have posted about Hotaudio gear just to bash me and try to attack my credibility, most notably in that thread and the uDAC thread.

Edit: Yes, this "angle_shooter" guy is very suspicious, indeed. His join date is only a little over a month ago - most of which time he's been repeatedly PMing me and following me around to discredit me - and I notice today that even after I've been banned he continues to chime in about me, this time saying I am some other poster based on some speculations he basically just makes up out of thin air. I posted myself that my PM mailbox had been reduced, in this thread:

Anyone could have read that, but this guy appears to be so
obsessed with me that he will try to come up with anything in the attempt to attack my credibility. You have to ask yourself why a regular, ordinary user would go to that much trouble just to discredit someone when he has no vested interest in it at all -- or does he? Lol.

So that's how it appears to work over at Head-fi. They try to pretend it's some kind of "objective" serious audio forum, but it's really just a huge advertising-driven marketing forum that exists to shill the products of the advertisers -- just look at all the ads they have there -- while anyone who mentions competing Hotaudio gear gets viciously attacked and banned. Anyone can read it for themselves - just go to the PH100 thread I linked to above and see for yourself. If they delete any more of it, I can just post it here later.

I've also analyzed and exposed how some of the big sponsors market to the fanboys there, without the fanboys even knowing how they're being manipulated. It will make an interesting case study in marketing. That will be the next exposé, and I'm sure they'll like that even less!