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How we test and rate products at Louder

How we test
(Image credit: Future/Scott Munro)

Here at Louder, we write reviews and create buyer’s guides to help you with your purchasing decisions on a wide range of music-related items.

Collectively, our staff have worked in music for decades and we have expert knowledge on a variety of products, tech, music genres and more. When you read one of our reviews, you can be assured it has been written with an independent voice, while our buyer’s guides are created to bring you what we agree are some of the best products available in their field.

Our product reviews are tested in the same way you would use them – at home, in a recording studio or outdoors – to bring you the authentic experience of just what a product delivers in a real world environment.

Whether judging a product for review or compiling a buyer’s guide, we contrast and compare against the competition so you can make an informed purchasing decision. Our reviews also contain at least two alternative options to give you more choice on a similar product.

Similarly, our album and live reviews are written by experts and enthusiasts. Our team of music writers have decades of experience between them. Many have written not just for our sister magazines Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog, but for NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Q, Select, Vox, Rolling Stone, Mojo, Uncut, Kerrang and more. Music reviews are subjective, and opinions will always vary, but we make sure to give new albums to people who are fans of the band, because only they can judge whether the album lives up to expectations. 

Here at Louder, we do not take money for reviews. And while some products are sent to us specifically for review purposes, we will always give you our expert and completely impartial thoughts without any outside pressure.

Louder is also backed by Future Publishing, one of the world’s largest publishers both online and in print – and a trusted voice in the industry.

Visit Louder's About Us page to learn more.

How we score products

Best earplugs for concerts: Vibes Hi-Fidelity

(Image credit: Future/James Farmer)

Louder scores all our reviews on a five-star scale and this gives a brief snapshot of what we think on the product in question at a glance.:

One star: Avoid this product. There are much better options available.

Two stars: Below average, but the product does have some merits.

Three stars: Average: Nothing especially stands out, but a purchase should still be considered.

Four stars: A top quality product that shines across the board and comes highly recommended.

Five stars: The best around and well worth buying.

What we look for

We also take the following criteria into account where applicable when reviewing:

For and Against: An at-a-glance look at are the pros and cons of the item.

Design: How does the product look and feel? Does its look match expectations and the financial outlay?

Features: What bells and whistles does a product have, are they needed, and how well do they work?

Sound: When reviewing audio devices such as turntables, speakers and headphones, we dive into the sound quality by listening to a variety of tracks across several genres to give a broad experience.

Value for money: We make a point of questioning the value of the products we review and we'll say if we think the item in question is too expensive or great value.

Alternatives: We list at least two alternative options on every review which are priced similarly.

Meet our reviewers

First up is Steve May, a home entertainment technology specialist who has worked for a number of UK websites and magazines over the years. Steve started his career as a music journalist at legendary weekly publication Sounds. Paul Dimery, meanwhile, has spent the last eight years writing about tech and gadgets and brings a wealth of knowledge to the products he reviews.

Chris Barnes is the music division's eCommerce editor and not only has he a breadth of knowledge about rock and metal, but he knows his music tech inside out. Chris is also a keen drummer and is our go-to expert for all things noisy involving sticks. Louder's eCommerce editor Scott Munro has worked across magazines, newspapers and websites in a variety of roles since the early 90s and knows all about music technology and is always on the lookout for quality headphones.

Bolstering the core team are a variety of music experts who all bring their expertise to reviews and product round-ups.