As We See It

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John Marks Posted: Jun 30, 2011 Published: Jul 01, 2011 0 comments
When people feel passionately about something—whether books, golf, auto racing, dog breeding, or music—there is an understandable impulse to create rankings, hierarchies, and lists. Such lists can be helpful. I am quite likely to read someone's list of The 100 Most Important Jazz Recordings, or of The 100 Greatest Novels in the English Language. Engaging with such rankings and lists has several benefits. First, we all like to see our prejudices validated. When I discover that someone else is also a fan of Ralph Vaughan Williams's An Oxford Elegy, or of Herbert Howells's Master Tallis's Testament, I feel a warm glow of kinship, and feel that my respect for that person reflects well on me. (We are all human, after all.)
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 08, 2011 0 comments
"Blondy watched this proud, drum-tight personality fidget past him on the street and began projecting; he couldn't help it: an unfinished degree in journalism, concerned married sisters in New Jersey or Connecticut (but probably New Jersey), weights but no cardio, aggrieved blind dates, Cigar Aficionado and Stereophile, takeout menus, acres of porn." —from "Lucky Alan," by Jonathan Lethem; The New Yorker, March 19, 2007

When did being interested in hi-fi lose its cool? When did it become antisocial? One minute hi-fi was hanging with Hef center-stage in a groovy bachelor pad, and the next thing you know it's a prop used to describe someone who "walked in a fiery aura of loneliness," as Lethem described it. I ask because I'm genuinely concerned. Some of my best friends are audiophiles. But it seems that if you want to be anything related to music, the last thing you want to be is an audiophile.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 06, 2011 17 comments
It's one of those good news/bad news stories: more people are listening to music than ever before, but the major record labels are in dire straits. Some of the reasons for the record industry's malaise are easy to spot—teenagers and grandmas grooving to music-streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and MOG, or ripping each other's CDs—but the music industry's problems run deeper than lost sales. Digital audio mortally wounded recorded music's creative mojo in 1982, and the record industry never fully recovered.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 01, 2011 Published: Mar 30, 2011 3 comments
On January 5, 2011, I was flying to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (footnote 1). On January 5, 1914, Henry Ford announced that he would pay a minimum of $5 to eligible employees who worked an eight-hour day. (At that time, a good wage was $2.50 for a workday of 10 hours.) Ford was not being altruistic; he wanted to motivate his employees both to become more productive and to stay loyal to their employer. And there were strings attached: A Ford employee "must show himself to be sober, saving, steady, industrious and must satisfy . . . staff that his money will not be wasted in riotous living." But Ford also wanted his workers to be able to afford the products they made. It was Ford's action, I believe, that triggered the rise of the American middle class, and it was that middle class's combination of disposable income and increased leisure time that fueled the growth of high-end audio.
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Jim Austin Posted: Mar 07, 2011 42 comments
For a field based on science, high-end audio has a relationship with its parent discipline that is regrettably complex. Even as they enjoy science's technological fruits, many audiophiles reject the very methods—scientific testing—that made possible audio in the home. That seems strange to me.
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John Atkinson Posted: Feb 14, 2011 3 comments
I began writing these words on December 1, 2010, 13 years to the day that the magazine's website, www.stereophile.com, emerged from the digital darkness. That first, 1997 edition of our website was to a large extent the brainchild of one man, webmonkey Jon Iverson, who ever since has overseen its design and growth.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 19, 2011 0 comments
There's something happening here, and what it is is exactly clear. It's a revolution of sorts—a new paradigm for the High End. Despite pessimistic proclamations of the impending death of high-end audio, an unprecedented number of new high-end consumer shows have emerged in North America. Filling the gap left by the demise of Stereophile's Home Entertainment Show in 2007, these seven (!) shows—two new in 2011, two in expanded versions following successful launches in 2010—are reaching out to people of all ages, sexes, and format preferences.
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John Marks Posted: Dec 10, 2010 4 comments

There is something about the performance of music that is in the nature of a spectator sport. By this I do not mean big-arena stagecraft and lights and fireworks and dance routines. I mean the actual making of the music.

To see Eric Johnson's fingers flying over his Fender Stratocaster as he hits "Cliffs of Dover" out of the park one more time is to enjoy something that is every bit as much an athletic performance and a spectator sport as baseball is. There is a thrill to watching people do difficult things exceptionally well, things that most of us can only take random sidelong swipes at.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Nov 15, 2010 0 comments
"Is it live or is it recorded?"
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Oct 11, 2010 1 comments
"Stanley, see this? This is this. This ain't something else. This is this."—Michael, inThe Deer Hunter
Stephen Mejias Posted: Sep 13, 2010 0 comments
The cover is cracked. It is time to rip it off, look directly at the inner workings, and begin to fix things for ourselves.—Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
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John Marks Posted: Aug 09, 2010 2 comments
Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898), the Prime Minister of Prussia who brought about the unification of Germany, was not a nice man. But he was no dummy, either. One of his most prophetic remarks was in response to a journalist's question about what Bismarck thought to be the single most decisive factor in modern history: "The fact that the North Americans speak English."
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jul 30, 2010 Published: Dec 30, 1980 1 comments
A very popular myth among the audio unwashed—and one still perpetuated by the pop hi-fi writers—is that nothing is to be gained by paying more than $1000 for a stereo system (footnote 1). Members of the general public, including masses of people who enjoy live, unamplified music, have the impression that more money simply buys one wider and wider frequency range, and defend their $500 "compact" systems with the lame excuse that their ears aren't all that good, and who needs to hear what bats hear anyway? This is no doubt a soothing emollient for one's disinclination to invest more money in audio gear, but it is a supreme self-deception.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jul 11, 2010 0 comments
A funny thing happened at the symphony the other night. A concert by the great Berlin Philharmonic sounded like lousy hi-fi.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2010 0 comments
"Reviewed in the box!" is what Stereophile's founder, the late J. Gordon Holt, used to call it. You might think you're reading a review, but the realization slowly dawns that there's nothing in the text that could not have been gleaned from the manufacturer's brochure, nothing to indicate that the writer had even opened the box the product came in. When I read a review in another publication or online, I judge it by doing what I recommend Stereophile's readers do when they read this magazine: I look for the nugget I didn't already know, the facet I wasn't expecting, the concluding jewel I couldn't have predicted without ever having tried the component myself. Sadly, all too often too many of what are promoted as "reviews" on the Web are merely descriptions.

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