A significant part of my job at Mix is writing product reviews, so I thought you might find it enlightening to know how I go about it. While I’m speaking for myself here, I would guess that other product reviewers in this field take a relatively similar approach.
Once I get a review product installed on my computer or connected up in my studio, I will start by learning how to use it. Sounds simple. I’ll read the manual, watch tutorial videos and try to get some context about the product before forming opinions.
If I am not sure who the company is targeting, I will contact them to get their “spin” on who they intend to use the product. I never want to review a product based on the wrong assumptions about the manufacturer’s design or target audience.
Next, I’ll use the product as much as I can. If it’s practical, I’ll work it into projects that I’m doing. If not, I’ll create test projects where I can put it through its paces.
After I’ve used it enough to feel like I’ve got a good handle on what it can and can’t do, I’ll start writing. Often, I’ll end up doing a lot of additional testing as I’m writing, to clarify an issue I’ve run into.
Some of the main aspects I evaluate are:
- User interface. How easy or difficult is this product to use? Is it intuitive, or do you have to refer to the manual regularly?
- Manual and support resources. Is the manual well-written? In the case of software, is it accessible from within the application or plug-in? Are there useful tutorial videos on the company website, or are there only marketing videos?
- Product quality. If it’s a product that processes audio in some way, how does it sound? Is the sound quality as good or better than its competitors? If it’s hardware, is it well-built or flimsy? Can you clearly read its meters and knob markings?
- Originality. Many products are derivative. One company will come up with a successful idea, and others will copy it to some extent. While being original isn’t necessary for me to rate a product highly, if it breaks new ground, that’s always a plus.
- Does it live up to its promise? All companies are going to hype their products; it’s part of the marketing process. That said, if a product promises something that it isn’t able to deliver, that’s a big negative.
- Bang for the buck. Does the product offer a good value considering its price range? If it’s a $150 audio interface, I’m not going to hold it to the standard of a much more expensive one. I want to be as fair as possible to the manufacturers or software developers. I’m not going to pull punches if I discover a problem, but I’ll make sure I’m comparing apples to apples before writing about it.
That said, no review is entirely objective. My background and experience in the world of music production is going to inform how I view a product. That’s part of the reason for reading a professional review as opposed to a customer review. You want the opinion of someone who has expertise in the field and has experience with similar products.
How you use the information is up to you. Just like with a movie reviewer, you may find individual product reviewers that you tend to agree with a lot and others that you don’t. If so, you’ll pay attention to the former more than the latter, which is how it should be.
I hope this post will provide you with some useful context when you read my reviews.