As We See It

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J. Gordon Holt Posted: Mar 15, 2016 Published: Jul 01, 1968 1 comments
While we were preparing our list of specifications for our perfectionist's tape recorder discussed elsewhere in this issue, we suddenly came to a screeching halt at the spec which started "Scrape flutter less than . . ."

What, we wondered, was the scrape flutter percentage in a recorder in which scrape flutter is audible? Would it be 0.5%? Or 1%? Or even 5%? We perused the readily available literature, and were informed that "scrape flutter is caused by the tape's tendency to move past the heads in a series of tiny jerks in stead of in a smooth gliding motion." We were also told that scrape flutter is due to friction between the tape and the head surfaces, plus the slight elasticity of the tape that allows it to stretch slightly before being dragged along by another silly millimeter, and that it sounds like a rough edge riding on all signal frequencies between about 3kHz and 8kHz.

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John Atkinson Posted: Feb 23, 2016 Published: Mar 01, 2016 13 comments
One of the benefits of belonging to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a subscription to their monthly magazine, IEEE Spectrum. Superbly written and edited, this journal keeps me up to date on emerging technology, and entertains me with things like reprints, on the final page, of vintage advertisements. Their January 2016 issue, for example, featured an ad from December 1920, promoting the Victor Talking Machine Company's Victrola: "By all means get a Victrola this Christmas, but be sure it is a Victrola and not some other instrument made in imitation. $25 to $1500. Victor dealers everywhere."
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Feb 16, 2016 Published: Dec 01, 1962 5 comments
When the Record Industry Association of America adopted its standard disc playback equalization curve in 1954, hi-fi enthusiasts heaved a sigh of relief and bade fond farewell to years of confusion, doubt and virtual pandemonium. Before the RIAA curve there were six "standard" curves in use, and since nobody seemed to know who was using what, getting flat response from a disc was often more a matter of luck than anything else. The adoption of the RIAA standard playback curve heralded an end to all this.
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John Darko Posted: Jan 27, 2016 5 comments
How many advertisements for hi-fi or head-fi hardware do you see on your morning commute? Two? Three? If you live in Los Angeles, Sydney, or Paris, most likely it'll be zero.

Not so in Tokyo, where commuters, tourists, and shoppers moving through the Shinjuku or Shibuya subway stations will find it almost impossible to ignore Sony's latest advertising campaign, which colorfully announces a new range of affordable portable audio players (né Walkmans). Inside, banners suspended from the cars' ceilings promote Panasonic's latest headphones and shoebox-sized stereo system. Many of the bigger Japanese manufacturers treat audio gear as a mainstream concern.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jan 21, 2016 Published: Nov 01, 1962 18 comments
Considering the amount of careful research, cautious theorizing and wild speculation that have been lavished on the amplifier power question, we should expect to be considerably closer to the answer in 1962 than we were five years ago. This does not seem to be the case.
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John Atkinson Posted: Dec 15, 2015 Published: Jan 01, 2016 101 comments
My spirits sank as I read the comments on Stereophile's Facebook page. In the November issue, we had published reviews of UpTone Audio's USB Regen device by Kalman Rubinson, Michael Lavorgna, and myself. Michael and Kal had enthused about the positive effect the USB Regen had made, but I could detect no measurable difference. On Facebook, Dan Madden had written, "I think a device like this would need a blind listening test to verify that a listener could hear the difference in a statistically measurable way, in a very high percentage of times."
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Dec 08, 2015 Published: Jan 01, 1963 16 comments
Two letters from readers (see below) started us thinking again about something we've mulled at, off and on, for the past year or so: Does today's high-fidelity equipment, for all its vastly improved performance, actually sound that much better than the best of the early components?
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Nov 18, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1969 18 comments
Four-channel stereo is here, but for how long? By the time this gets in print, it is extremely unlikely that any of our readers will have escaped being told that 4-channel stereo is here. "Two channels brought us direction," the announcements trumpet. "Now, four channels bring us dimension." Now, for the first time in the history of hi-fi, modern technology can bring us hall acoustics in stereo, to surround us with the sense of spaciousness that we hear in the concert hall.
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Robert Schryer Posted: Nov 18, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 2015 43 comments
It never fails. Browse Stereophile's Facebook page, scroll through the comments to an article that refers to life as an audiophile, and splat—appearing like bird droppings on your glistening screen are anti-audiophile wisecracks pointing out exactly how far off the "normal" track our hobby has derailed. Occasionally, I catch myself in mid-sentence, already replying to one of these droppings, the gist of my intended message invariably being: "If you're an anti-audiophile, what are you doing using up what life you have left reading a webpage devoted to a hobby you don't get? Shouldn't you be hanging out with your own friends?" Then, realizing that I'm wasting my time.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Nov 12, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1966 0 comments
When we first heard rumors that Shure Brothers was about to unleash something called "trackability" on the audio world, our reaction was mainly one of indifference. We already had loudspeakers with listenability, tape recorders with portability, and amplifiers with stability and dependability. Trackability, we figured, was just another clever sales gimmick; a catchy word that the advertising department had thought up to describe what everyone wanted in a pickup.
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Richard Lehnert Posted: Oct 20, 2015 Published: Nov 01, 2015 35 comments
"There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind," Duke Ellington is famously supposed to have said. But that doesn't tell us how to recognize "good music," and it doesn't define good. Nor will this essay. Many have described the music of, say, Mozart or J.S. Bach with such phrases as the music of heaven or the mind of God or—especially Bach's music—that it embodies the basic structure of the universe/existence/reality. I've said such things myself.
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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 22, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 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 Published: Sep 01, 2015 59 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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