As We See It

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 19, 2016 4 comments
I'm at Dan D'Agostino's house listening to his triamped Apogee full-range ribbon speakers. It's 1985. His listening room is immense, easily 30' by 45', and we're rocking out to Led Zeppelin and Bonzo Dog Band records. The sound is light-years better than anything I've heard—dynamic as hell, beyond vivid, and the soundstage has infinite depth—and Dan's obviously loving that I'm blown away by his system. We get to talking. He has three pairs of Krell KMA-160 monoblocks and Reference KRS preamps for me. Thanks, I say, but how can I get them home? No problem—Dan has a van.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Oct 04, 2016 Published: Dec 01, 1970 5 comments
Thanks to two developments and a promise, the compact cassette has finally become, as they say, a force to be reckoned with.

Development one, perhaps the most significant factor in the changing picture, is the ready availability of B-type Dolby devices (which are single-band Dolbys, acting only on hiss frequencies). Advent makes two that can be used with any tape machine, cassette or otherwise, while Fisher, Advent, and Harman-Kardon (as of this moment) are producing cassette recorders with built-in Dolby-B. No doubt there will be others by the time this gets in print.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Sep 20, 2016 17 comments
What do Prince, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Gato Barbieri, Phife Dawg, Frank Sinatra Jr., Keith Emerson (Emerson Lake & Palmer), Dan Hicks (Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks), Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson (Jefferson Airplane), Glenn Frey (Eagles), Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople), pianist Paul Bley, bassist Rob Wasserman, sopranos Susan Chilcott, Phyllis Curtin, and Denise Duval, countertenor Brian Asawa, composers Steven Edward Stucky and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and conductors Pierre Boulez, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gilbert Kaplan, Gregg Smith, and Royston Nash have in common? Besides the fact that all were musicians who made multiple recordings and who died in 2016, their recorded legacies rarely, if ever, get airplay at dealerships or audio shows.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 13, 2016 Published: Dec 01, 1968 3 comments
Editor's Note: 40 years before it became a reality, J. Gordon Holt predicts music streaming and predicts the Compact Cassette will become the dominant prerecorded music medium.

Traditionally, the New Year is the time when editors light their pipes, tilt their chairs back, fold their hands and shut their eyes, and make bold predictions about The Future. It is said that prognostications are always risky, because events have a nasty habit of making fools of those who prognosticate. It has been our observation, though, that the only prognosticators who are remembered are those who were proven right, so we are going to do some fearless limb-climbing about something that is coming to worry increasing numbers of stereophiles: Namely, which of all the current recording media is going to become The Standard for home use, and which are going to be left stranded on the shoals of obsolescence?

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 06, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1965 2 comments
Well, it's that time. The time of reckoning, the moment of truth. It's renewal time.

Most of you have noticed the hyphenated numbers on your address labels, and most of you guessed what they were: Expiration codes. If your label has a 1-12 number on it (or no hyphenated code at all), the next issue of The Stereophile, Issue Number 12 [published in September 1966—Ed.], will be the last one that will arrive on your present subscription.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 16, 2016 11 comments
A recording engineer's choices of microphones to record singers, guitars, horns, bass, drums—or an entire orchestra—are absolutely crucial. Those very subjective choices are, in large part, what separate the best recordings from the also-rans. When I contacted some of the best engineers in the business to talk about mikes, I got an earful. I was told that mikes have a more profound impact on reproduced sound than does any other link in the recording chain. Yes, the acoustic of the recording venue also plays a huge role, and post-session mixing and mastering can of course improve or ruin the sound—but the choice of mikes is absolutely crucial.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Aug 09, 2016 Published: Dec 12, 1963 4 comments
By the time you read this in late 1963 (probably a month after it is written, judging by the speed with which the US mails speed second-class matter on its appointed rounds), Capitol Records will have announced the first bit of really good news for the high-fidelity perfectionist in years: the release of imported disc pressings—taped, cut, and stamped in Europe. London has been importing for years—all the Londons you buy are pressed by Decca in England. But this will be the first opportunity we will have of sampling the products of some of London's overseas competitors.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Aug 04, 2016 Published: Jun 01, 1970 6 comments
Editor's Note: Approaching its ninth year of publication in 1970, the advertisement-free Stereophile was failing as a business. There was just one issue published between December 1968 and June 1970, the date when J. Gordon Holt published this plea in response to the reaction to the increased subscription price: first to $4 for four issues, equivalent to $25 in 2016, then to $5 ($31). The response from subscribers to his plea was not positive enough to enable the magazine to continue publishing—Gordon could publish just two more issues in the next two years before Stereophile had to accept advertising, first from dealers in October 1972 and from manufacturers in December 1977.Ed.

Our recent price increase at the end of 1969 elicited numerous letters telling us the magazine was exhorbitant at $4 a subscription and is outrageous at $5, and supporting their contention with comparisons between the price per page of the Stereophile and one or another of the commercial hi-fi magazines. We will answer this once, here and now, and then let the matter drop.

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Robert Schryer Posted: Jul 14, 2016 8 comments
Once in a blue moon, I'm asked this question: How much should I spend on an audiophile rig? It's usually asked by someone with no real interest in buying an audiophile rig, but who's fishing, for giggles, for the exorbitant figure that is the presumed going rate for joining our hobby. Sometimes, when the mood strikes, I'll bang out a randomly absurd number—"$80,000!"—then lean back to observe the fallout. Nine times out of ten, that fallout consists of a head shake and a snicker, as if to say, "You guys are nuts!" But on those occasions when honesty seems the best policy, my short answer to the how-much question, regardless of the buyer's financial means, is the same: As little as possible.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 28, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1967 0 comments
By the time you read this, in the fall of 1967, the "Dolby system" will probably be old hat to you. Every other audio publication has been describing it, discussing it, and hailing it as the greatest invention since sex.

We've seen that kind of press ballyhoo before, about such significant advances as the Edsel, the 16-rpm LP and the "thin-profile" loudspeaker, so our first inclination was to be a wee bit skeptical of the Dolby. It seemed too good to be true.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 14, 2016 Published: Jul 01, 2016 12 comments
Last January, in Las Vegas, a record 170,000 people attended the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. Most of them neither saw nor heard a trace of high-end audio gear. Not only was all mention of what CES calls "high performance audio" absent from the show's official Attendee Guide, but the hallways of the Venetian Tower, which in past CESes were filled with high-end manufacturers, dealers, and distributors, were anything but crowded.
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Art Dudley Posted: May 17, 2016 Published: Jun 01, 2016 17 comments
Note: All dialogue quoted verbatim from e-mail exchanges to which I am privy; the stage directions are imaginary.

Dramatis Personae:

bill, director of marketing for PS Audio

randy, amateur reviewer for a commercial audiophile website

dick, professional reviewer for an established audio magazine (not Stereophile)

J. Gordon Holt Posted: May 03, 2016 Published: Dec 01, 1964 4 comments
Well, the New York Hi-Fi wingding has come and gone once again, and now is the time when audio editors dutifully adopt the role of oracle, divining the future of high fidelity, and generally sketching out The Big Picture for those of us too blind to see the graffiti on the wall. So, who are we to shirk our duty? Herewith, The Stereophile's audio observations and predictions for 1965.
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 21, 2016 Published: May 01, 2016 41 comments
I was in a strange mood last January when I posted this on Facebook: "Do speaker designers strive for accuracy, or for a 'sound' they think potential buyers want?" I doubted that any designer with two working ears would even attempt to design speakers that merely measured well—there must be at least some subjectivity in their process. I also assumed that few designers would go on record about where they stand on the accuracy question, so I was thrilled when Elac Americas' speaker designer, Andrew Jones, responded...
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Apr 12, 2016 Published: Dec 01, 1966 0 comments
Editor's Note from 1974: As you can read in the following "As We See It," the last issue of Vol.1 No.12 (cover dated "Spring 1966") was perhaps not as "strong" as it might have been. If we had been doing things according to Proper Business Practice, we should have held back our best articles and our gutsiest reports until that issue, as a high-powered incentive for our subscribers to renew their subs. We didn't. There were better articles and a greater variety of topics covered in earlier issues, but Issue 12 was significant in that it set the pattern of topic emphasis, and the balance of reports versus other editorial material, that was to continue more or less unchanged for the next 7 years.