Product reviews are arguably EM's most popular articles, and we publish a lot of them. In 2004, we published 134 reviews, not counting product roundups that included evaluations. In the average issue, we publish between 9 and 12 of these stories. But this month we decided to clear out the backlog, so I chose some shorter features, reshuffled the columns a bit, and made room for — count 'em — 17 reviews! I don't know whether that's a record for EM, but it's certainly a wealth of product coverage. That's in addition to the many products we've included in our annual holiday gift guide (“All Things Great But Small,” on p. 36). If you are a gear and software junkie, this issue will feed your habit in a big way.
We can't review all of the products that we would like to, so each month, Senior Editor Gino Robair, with input from me and our other editors, carefully selects the products we think are particularly important, interesting, and useful for personal-studio owners. Gino shepherds the reviewers through the entire process and stays on top of questions that arise.
Even with a capable shepherd like Gino, though, it's hard to get reviews in print immediately after the product ships, and still meet our quality standards. For starters, we don't review beta software or hardware prototypes, so we can't begin our research until we get the final, shipping product. In addition, all of our reviews are practical field-tests, and we expect authors to use the products extensively and on real projects to the greatest extent possible. Sometimes we allow extra time to investigate a thorny problem or resolve a controversy, and we occasionally find out about an imminent software update that is worth waiting for.
Once in a while, especially with microphones, we receive products that are damaged in ways that aren't immediately obvious, and when we detect a problem, we have to wait for a replacement. That's one reason we always request pairs of mics for review. (We also want to test consistency.)
To top it off, we're gear and software junkies, too, and we can't resist assigning as many reviews as we can fit in each issue. In fact, we usually go overboard and assign more reviews than will fit, and when things go smoothly, and no reviews are delayed, that results in a backlog. The upshot is that we aren't always the first magazine to review a particular product. We aren't necessarily happy about that, but we'd rather be late and do a top-quality job than hurry and miss something important or publish a superficial review.
This year, we decided to give you a special holiday gift by jamming absolutely every possible product review into this December issue. And of course, we are already refilling the review hopper for 2005, because we have no lack of promising products to cover. So we will be ready to rock with a big, fresh batch of reviews in the coming year.
Have a happy, healthy holiday season!