As We See It

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 22, 2015 38 comments
I began working as a salesman of high-end audio gear in 1978. I was 29, and, as I recall, a healthy percentage of my customers were about my age. Most of the top high-end designers and entrepreneurs, too, were young: John Curl, Dan D'Agostino, Jon Dahlquist, Ray Kimber, Mark Levinson, Bill Low, Mike Moffat, Nelson Pass, Peter Snell, Bob Stuart, Jim Thiel, Ivor Tiefenbrun, A.J. van den Hul, Richard Vandersteen, Harry Weisfeld, David Wilson. The fact is, high-end audio's Golden Age—the late 1970s to the mid-1980s—was largely fueled by the under-40 set, and most high-end journalists were fellow baby boomers. Now we're all oldsters, with just a smattering of under-fortysomethings. That's about to change.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 15, 2015 Published: Mar 01, 1971 9 comments
In the 1952 edition of the Radiotron Designer's Handbook, long recognized as the "bible" of the industry, the permissible level of IM distortion for a high-fidelity amplifier was given as 3%, with the alternate figure of 2% being cited as a "rather extreme" specification. We wonder what the author of that statement would think of today's solid-state amplifiers with their measured IM of 0.01% and less. And we wonder what he would think about the fact that these super-amplifiers still have audible distortion.
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Ken Micallef Posted: Aug 25, 2015 58 comments
Photo © Kipnis Studios 2015

Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Reddit? Social media has done much to bring together people of every interest imaginable to share their fascinations, desires, and, occasionally, delusions. From fans of frogs (FrogStomp) and proponents of clean public toilets (Benjyo Soujer) to a group that challenged an Iranian cleric's statement that women's flimsy attire causes earthquakes (Boobquake), social media is a global town square in which anyone with a keyboard and an attitude has an equal voice.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Aug 11, 2015 Published: Jul 01, 1971 19 comments
Until about nine months ago, in the fall of 1970, FM radio station WFLN, Philadelphia, was just another one of that dying breed: the classical FM station. Like its counterparts in the few remaining classical-radio cities, it provides the major part of the high-fidelity listener's radio diet, and also like most similar classical stations, its fidelity was nothing to brag about.
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J. Gordon Holt Posted: Aug 04, 2015 Published: May 01, 1974 1 comments
How would you feel after paying $2000 for super-stereo system, you learned that genuinely high-fidelity recordings of many excellent classical musical performances were not available to you? Could you excuse it with a shrug and the philosophical observation that nothing's perfect but things will get better as the state of the recording art improves? Okay then, what if you learned that truly high-fidelity recordings of these performances, that would sound very much like the real thing if reproduced through your super system, are available to millions of other people but not to you? Would you begin to feel just a little bit slighted, or maybe even irritated?
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jul 21, 2015 32 comments
Most of us have experienced the proverbial curveball that comes out of nowhere to smack us right in the head. My most recent such encounter was pitched by Stereophile contributor Steve Guttenberg.

Steve's whammy arrived amid an e-mail exchange among Stereophile writers concerning a rather clueless column in another publication on the dearth of women audiophiles. After asking how many female audiophiles each of us knew, Steve G. defined what he meant by audiophile: "a person who frets over their system, agonizes over choices, loves gear, and sometimes music. You know, the kind of person who reads Stereophile or The Abso!ute Sound. Merely owning a nice stereo doesn't make you an audiophile. Owning a Leica doesn't make you a photographer. You have to be at least a little obsessed."

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 14, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1973 11 comments
A recent experience with two excellent loudspeaker systems and two of the top power amplifiers raised a question that has been cropping up more and more frequently these days: When one component sounds more toppish or more bassy than another, which one is really flat and which isn't?

The question arose this time in connection with some listening tests on a pair of FMI 80 speakers and a pair of IMF Monitor III speakers, using Audio Research Dual 75 and Crown DC-300A power amplifiers.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 08, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 1974 5 comments
Some years ago, we attended a hi-fi show in New York City where one of the exhibitors was RCA Victor. Their presence there would have been forgotten were it not for the fact that their exhibit, featuring their own discs played on their own line of phonographs, was producing some of the filthiest sound at the entire show. And that, in the proverbial nutshell, is why you never see reports in Stereophile on equipment made by RCA, Philco or General Electric.
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Robert Schryer Posted: Jun 23, 2015 14 comments
A decade ago, my mother, on noticing a copy of Stereophile on my kitchen counter, asked me, "Are you still into that sound stuff?" Her tone had a touch of exasperation.

"Geez, Mom. I've been an audiophile for 15 years. This isn't a phase I'm going to outgrow."

Instead of motherly empathy, I got a slight smirk and a retort: "But it's always the same thing."

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 16, 2015 Published: Aug 01, 1975 6 comments
The summer of 1975 will be remembered by us, with no fondness whatsoever, as The Time the Roof Fell In. Or the Murphy Months, or the Period of the Plague Upon Our House.

Ye Editor can recall from the days of WWII hearing and reading about the depredations of some mischievous sprites called Gremlins, who would cause aircraft hatchcovers to jam and control cables to get hung up at the worst possible moment, but I don't think I ever really did believe in Gremlins. I think I sensed somehow that the mishaps attributed to their malevolent machinations were too capricious to be the work of thinking, calculating little spirits. But I was not clever enough to put my finger on what was going on. That had to wait for a gentleman named something-or-other Murphy, who was (to my knowledge) the first person to put a tag on it, and to formulate a basic law about it. The tag was "the perversity of inanimate objects," and the law was "If anything can possibly go wrong, it will."

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Jack Hannold Posted: Jun 09, 2015 Published: Mar 01, 1977 0 comments
Editor's Note: We are reprinting this 38 year-old "As We See It" essay because if you substitute the words "WiFi" and "cellphone" for "Citizen's Band" and "CB Radio," you will realize that not much has changed in the decades since, with our audio systems still awash in a bath of RFI.—John Atkinson

Although Citizen's Band radio may hold little interest for perfectionist audiophiles, there is a good chance that it may intrude upon our activities in some disastrous ways if we, and the audio industry in general, sit back and ignore what has been going on behind the scenes in Washington, DC.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 28, 2015 Published: Aug 01, 1976 3 comments
Editor's Note: In Stereophile's second decade of publication, things were starting to unravel, with long gaps between each issue. There were just seven issues published between January 1974 and January 1978. The late Harry Pearson has gone on record that he founded The Absolute Sound in 1973 part because he was tired of waiting for the next issue of Stereophile to reach his mailbox. In this "As We See It" essay from the "Surface Noise" issue in August 1976, founder J. Gordon Holt owns up to it appearing 8 months late!
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John Marks Posted: May 21, 2015 5 comments
The day before I began writing this, John Atkinson posted on Stereophile's website a chart from Nielsen Soundscan showing the ski-jump–like path CD sales have been on since 2004. In 2004, total sales were 651 million units; in 2014, 141 million units. All that is lacking from that impactful visual to make the ski-jump analogy perfect is the little uptick at the end to launch the skier into free air. Those numbers look to me like a total decline in sales of 78%. Ouch.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 14, 2015 Published: Sep 01, 1975 5 comments
While we will not pretend for a moment that the millennium of high fidelity has arrived, we are finally having to face up to a fact that has been staring us in the face and nudging us in the ribs increasingly rudely of late: The state of the art of sound reproduction has gotten to be pretty damned sophisticated. Perfection is just as unattainable as it was almost 100 years ago when Thomas Edison was diddling with different diaphragm materials on his phonograph because some sounded better than others.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 15, 2015 Published: May 01, 2015 109 comments
I write this in a Seattle coffee bar—my flight home to New York has been canceled due to a snowstorm. As I try to put down these thoughts, I'm listening to the high-resolution masters of the April issue's "Recording of the Month," Sasha Matson's jazz opera Cooperstown, on my Pono player using Ultimate Ears UE18 in-ear monitors. I was in Seattle for Music Matters 10, held by retailer Definitive Audio, and this was my first road trip with the Pono since I reviewed it for the April issue. (Bruce Botnick and Charles Hansen comment on that review elsewhere in this issue.)


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