Here's an actual paragraph from Steve Guttenberg's review of the Cowon Plenue M:
At first glance Steve's reliance on past-tense be verbs conjured up a dead Plenue M in my brain. But after nodding through his review, I realised that Associated Press-ese is just his way. So is the use of meaningless phrases such as "fully present and transparent". If you're having trouble faulting that phrase, imagine what absent, opaque guitars would sound like. Or, try sussing the impact fully has on present.
A trip back to Mrs. Peabody's grade three class role call might help.
Mrs. Peabody: "David P?"
David P: "Present."
Mrs. Peabody: "Marsha W?"
Marsha W: "Present."
Mrs. Peabody: "Steve G?"
Steve G: "Fully present!"
"Steve, you little joker, you!" says Mrs. Peabody.
"But miss, I swear it's true, I'm fully present."
Mrs. Peabody slaps her attendance sheet into her lap and nudges her reading glasses to the tip of an annoyed, and wrinkling nose. She blushes. The desks are closed and empty; that is, except for one, the one in which sits little, beaming Steve G. A lone leaf skitters against the lockers. Wind whistles behind a flapping curtain.
"Why, I'll be!" says Mrs. Peabody. "They aren't fully present, are they?"
"No ma'am!" beams little Steve G.
I hope that did the trick.
But before we go too far, what does transparent even mean? Like Mrs. Peabody's invisible class, is it just short form for 'there in spirit'? Or does it describe the degree to which certain acoustic properties of the guitar hit the eardrum, sans distortion, noise, or bullshit?
I can guarantee one thing: neither little nor big Steve G have any idea.
Fortunately, Steve knows the words resolution and bass. Because apparently, the Hifiman HM-901 is better at one and has a touch more oomph of the other. Which may make sense. Soomal has documented the HM-901 breaking the 16-bit roof. And with the exception of stereo separation, they have done the same for the iPhone 6. And while benchmarking test signals does not determine how something sounds, it does determine how well a device can reproduce a certain frequency, how a device performs under stress, the degree to which noise impedes signal integrity, and so on, which is a far better identifier of resolving power and bass quality than a reviewer's platitude. And to the person about to quip that better-measuring sounds more digital, or fake, you had better be listening to this thing. High-resolution digital playback hardware has one job to do: playback high-resolution music. The closer it adheres to the original recording, the better. The rest is is subjective.
Archimago went further, testing the iPhone 6's playback of both 16-bit and 24-bit test signals.
Of the iPhone 6 performance, Archimago writes:
Archimago acknowledges specific problems, e.g. ringing, and analyses data to determine the performance of which a device is capable. Then he does his subjective thing.
Of course, the audience Steve G and Archimago command are different. And to be honest, I didn't read every word of Archimago's iPhone 6 review. But even so, Steve's half-page is like an interrupted work nap: flustered and noncommittal. It begins dissing the playback quality of smartphones, but not once addresses any scrutable metric. It is fluff, droll, rubbish.
Which is unfortunate for Cowon, who appear to have put great effort into Plenue M. It is entirely possible that the M outperforms both the HM-901 and the Apple iPhone 6. It is newer and filled with great parts. I'd be surprised if it performed worse.
But Steve's 'reviews' dog-ear products at price point. Plenue M goes for ~200$ USD less than the Hifiman. The guidelines governing his writing are platitudes at best, not fully present at worst.