The weakest link in all professional audio equipment reviews aside from the room size/setup variable (and the obnoxious airing of dubious political opinions that seems quite prevalent among aging and bitter writers in certain publications) is the choice of source material with which critical evaluation is performed. A seemingly simple task such as comparing and contrasting two phono preamplifiers is complicated not only by the electrical design and build of each preamp, but also by the music played through each. As I understand it, the "straight wire with gain" design concept should mean that in gear designed to be true to the original signal, there should be much more similarity in comparisons than there is difference. My own experience is showing this not to be the case. If you bother to read reviews, pay close attention to what the reviewer likes to listen to. If you are unfamiliar with -or worse yet hate- the reviewer's taste in music, you should regard his conclusions warily. The differences I noted between the preamp in the 444ES and the NAD/Audio Technica combo could themselves be differentiated depending on what type of recording I was listening to- genre, technology, recording space, and so on.