50 Years of Stereophile!

Fifty years ago this month, Vol.1 No.1, Issue No.1 of The Stereophile, published, edited, and mostly written by J. Gordon Holt out of Wallingford, Pennsylvania, hit the newsstands. Gordon had worked for two major audio magazines, High Fidelity and HiFi/Stereo Review (later renamed Stereo Review), and had been disgusted by those magazines' pandering to advertisers. Not only was The Stereophile going to tell it like it was, it was going to judge audio components by listening to them—a heretical idea in those days of meters and measurements. "Dammit," said Gordon, who died in 2009, "if nobody else will report what an audio component sounds like, I'll do it myself!"

The magazine you hold in your hands is issue number 394; unusually, there have been only two editors in Stereophile's 50 years: J. Gordon Holt, who put together the first 82 issues, and me, responsible for Issue 83, August 1986, onward.

But Stereophile has always been a team effort. That team includes Natalie Brown Baca, who has been in charge of the magazine's appearance for almost all of the issues we have published since fall 1995; Eric Swanson, who has shot almost all the cover photographs since January 1994; Pip Tannenbaum, who puts the magazine together in Adobe InDesign and has been with the magazine, on and off, since the October 1997 issue; music editor Robert Baird, who celebrated his first 16 years with the magazine in September; webmaster Jon Iverson, who on December 1 celebrates his first 15 years of producing www.stereophile.com; assistant editor, columnist, and popular blogger Stephen Mejias, who in this issue contributes his first full equipment report, of the VPI Traveler turntable (p.66); editorial assistant Ariel Bitran, who celebrated his first anniversary this year, and brings a Generation Y sensibility to our content; Richard Lehnert, who has copyedited almost every word you have read in Stereophile since July 1985, and was the magazine's first music editor; Art Dudley, who celebrated his first decade as the magazine's Editor-at-Large at the beginning of this year; erstwhile Audio Cheapskate Sam Tellig, who has provoked and prodded readers and manufacturers alike since July 1984; Michael Fremer, whose "Analog Corner" column has promoted the sonic benefits of LPs since July 1995; and John Marks and Kalman Rubinson, who have contributed regular columns to the magazine since, respectively, May 2001 and June 2003.

There has also been longevity on Stereophile's business side: Publisher Keith Pray has been with the magazine since 1999, and advertising representative Laura LoVecchio since 1988. Nor is that to forget the newest members of the team, sales coordinator Rosemarie Torcivia and advertising manager Ed DiBenedetto. I will also use this opportunity to thank our most recent classified-advertising sales manager, my sister-in-law, Helené Stoner, who, sadly, passed away in August.

And I haven't forgotten the huge contributions made to Stereophile over the past five decades by our writers and reviewers—not only the present team of Jim Austin, Brian Damkroger, Robert Deutsch, Larry Greenhill, Steve Guttenberg, Fred Kaplan, David Lander, Erick Lichte, Paul Messenger, Wes Phillips, Robert J. Reina, Markus Sauer, and Jason Victor Serinus, but those who have moved on to other ventures: Lisa Astor, Arnis Balgalvis, Christopher Breunig, Lonnie Brownell, Martin Colloms, Anthony H. Cordesman, Shannon Dickson, Alan Edelstein, Jack English, Corey Greenberg, Robert Harley, Muse Kastanovich, Ken Kessler, Guy Lemcoe, Lewis Lipnick, the late Peter W. Mitchell, Thomas J. Norton, Russ Novak, Dick Olsher, George Reisch, the late Rick Rosen, Don Scott, Jonathan Scull, Bill Sommerwerck, Chip Stern, Steven Stone, Peter van Willensward, the late Steven W. Watkinson, Kristen Weitz, and Barry Willis. And on the music side, Tom Conrad, Robert Levine, Fred Mills, and John Swenson deserve a special shout-out.

My thanks to all who have contributed to our first half century of success, but especially to my friend and business partner, Larry Archibald, who owned Stereophile from 1982 to 1998.

Ten years ago we published a 40th-anniversary article that gave a year-by-year account of Stereophile's evolution and growth. Since then, there have been many more changes, some of them evolutionary: 2011 saw the introduction of an electronic edition from online publisher Zinio, followed earlier this year by an Apple Newsstand edition and a free "Recommended Components" iPad app. Other changes have been revolutionary—in the past 18 months we've launched three sister websites: InnerFidelity, edited by Tyll Hertsens and devoted to personal listening; AudioStream, edited by Michael Lavorgna and devoted to getting the best from computer audio; and the self-explanatory AnalogPlanet, edited by Michael Fremer.

And some have involved the world outside of audio. In 2004, we moved from our office close to Manhattan's Union Square to new digs on Madison Avenue, close to Grand Central Terminal. In November 2002, Stereophile was owned by Primedia, who had purchased EMAP's US-based magazines in August 2001, and thus became the second-largest magazine publisher in the US. In June 2007, Primedia, weighed down by debt, announced that it was selling all of its consumer magazines to Source Interlink Companies, a major distributor of magazines and DVDs. However, Source Interlink, a publicly owned company, was heavily leveraged, and went into voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009, emerging a month later as a privately held corporation with much-reduced debt, and with its magazines—including Stereophile, Home Theater, Shutterbug, Motor Trend, and Automobile—now published by a subsidiary, Source Interlink Media LLC.

Yes, there have been many changes over the past 50 years, but Stereophile's core mission remains what it was in 1962: report on how an audio component sounds without the reviewer's final value judgment being based on anything other than that sound quality. Please lift your glasses to the next 50 years—as long as people are listening to recorded music, there will be a Stereophile to help them get the best from it!—John Atkinson

370lbgorilla's picture

Stereophile in my opinion, is only a shell of its former self.  Over the years it has become just one of many magazines/sites that panders to audio manufacturers, and is a far cry from the hard-hitting, warts-n-all, type publication that it once was.

I can't remember the last time a product was actually criticized severely within the pages of Stereophile.  Oh sure, there is the formula you have fine-tuned to the point of being impotent, amongst your reviewers that will temper the otherwise glowing rave that almost every piece of gear and every loudspeaker you review seems to garner.  It goes something like this... this is the absolute greatest piece of equipment you could ever imagine and I am totally blown away by it!!!.... but I do have to criticize the fact that there was some dust on the rear of the enclosure and a spelling mistake on page 12 of the manual.  So be warned!

Give me a break.  To compare what you guys are putting out today, to the vision and integrity that J. Gordon Holt had (and stood for) is nothing short of blasphemy.

I gave up my subscription to Stereophile years ago and haven't looked back.  There are far better choices both in print, and online, for the audio enthusiast to read in order to get a solid, impartial, and warts-n-all honest view of high-end audio and the hobby of audio as a whole.

The only thing this post has done for me (and probably has done for so many reading this) is make me feel a little sad, and long for the days when Stereophile actually stood for something in audio.

I do spend time on your site but sadly it isn't for the audio reviews themselves, but for the nice pictures that allow me to see product I might not otherwise see.  So to me, you've become the Stereo Review of audio.  I used to subscribe to that magazine simply because it was so inexpensive and provided the basic information on pieces of gear, along with nice pictures.  I never once considered it a valid source of information for deciding whether or not a piece of gear was worth buying or not.

If you ever stop being the magazine that recommends every single piece of gear it reviews, and starts giving its readers honest, and deserving "real" criticism, then I will subscribe to the printed magazine once again. 

Until then, thanks for the free content, because that is all I'm prepared to pay for it.

GeorgeHolland's picture

Amen to that. It's just become a meaningless magazine that likes everything and allows silly snake oil products to be "reviewed" by, lets face it, not the last word in technicaly educated people. Just because they throw in some speaker measurements doesn't excuse the rest of the subjective pandering to cable, power cord and tweeks that do nothing in my opinion.

Glotz's picture

Your words are utter tripe.

tmsorosk's picture

I take it you gentlemen read the mag that you are able to form such a strong opinion?

              " power cord and tweeks that do nothing "

     You can't hear the difference a good power cord makes ?

     There's been plenty of changes, but many have been positive. Stereophile has shared in molding my systems, and to that I must say thanks. I've purchased more pieces of audio equipment than I can recall, many were recommended in the pages of Stereophile, I honestly can't recall a single time where I felt a review mislead me. That alone makes it worthwhile to me.

Happy 50th




GeorgeHolland's picture

"You can't hear the difference a good power cord makes ?"


THIS is what is wrong with today's Stereophile readers. Thank you for being a prime example of the uneducated gullible audiophile pesona. Understand I'm not being insulting, just being accurate. Yes I have read Stereophile, you think we just come on here and point out the faults without knowing about it?

 "I've purchased more pieces of audio equipment than I can recall, many were recommended in the pages of Stereophile,"

Well congratulations on owning so many necessary pieces of audio equipment. Sounds like you need to see someone about this compulsive buying disorder?

"I honestly can't recall a single time where I felt a review mislead me."

Hmmmmm then you must have bought some of the exotic snake oil products also like resonating bowls, rainbow foil and blocks of wood?

mrplankton2u's picture



The "Editor in Chief" said above:

"Stereophile's core mission remains what it was in 1962: report on how an audio component sounds without the reviewer's final value judgment being based on anything other than that sound quality"


The actual evidence contained in the magazine and on this site suggests the opposite. For example, in the following cable "review":




the "reviewer" said:


"The MITs also seemed to open up the spaces between images more than other cables, and to move the boundaries of the soundstage a bit farther outward."


The "review" contained no measurements, no specifications - absolutely nothing concrete or scientifically based that could be independently verified. In other words, the entire "review" was pure BS. As with all of these types of "reviews", there isn't even an attempt at explaining how an aspect of the product actually influences "soundstage boundaries" or "spaces between images". The "reviewer" simply asserts that it does. Is it the plastic jacketing that does this? Is it the black box that comes with the product? Nope. Nothing. Nada.


This isn't a review. It's pure, unadulterated snake oil at its best. I can't speak for the "integrity" of Stereophile's past. But I most certainly can say it is seriously lacking in many respects today. 




tmsorosk's picture


After being involved in audio and music for fourty years, and having more than one residence and system and being a bit of a collector, would you not expect a person to have owned many pieces of fine audio equipment ?

   " understand I'm not being insulting, just being accurate "

Well , you sound insulting and irate , please try to relax and enjoy this fine hobby and this fine audio publication as I have . Whatever personal problems your experiencing will pass . I sincerely hope you have a better day tomorrow.

GeorgeHolland's picture

If it's so fine, then it should have lasted longer? Collector? oh one of those that listen to their equipment rather than the music. I got it now.

jgossman's picture

The urge to criticize. Some people just can't help it.  But some humility is in order.  How well do YOU do when asked to work with 20 or so people to put out a generally well recieved product - every month and for 50(!) years.  Stop being ninnies.

And not to put to fine a point on it, but have you heard a TRUELY bad piece of audio equipment, made by one of the major 10-20 audio perveyors in the last 5-10 years?  From 500 to 50,000 clams, it's a really great time to be an audiophile.  Maybe the reason for so many glowing reviews is that as audio has moved from an art to a well studied science (and don't you ninnies doubt, there's ALOT of science in modern tube and SS design), with just a bit of art in "voicing" components to the percieved audience, is because the stuff is mostly very good.

Congrats, Stereophile.

John Atkinson's picture

jgossman wrote:
And not to put to fine a point on it, but have you heard a TRUELY bad piece of audio equipment, made by one of the major 10-20 audio perveyors in the last 5-10 years?  From 500 to 50,000 clams, it's a really great time to be an audiophile.

Yes it is!

jgossman wrote:
Maybe the reason for so many glowing reviews is that as audio has moved from an art to a well studied science (and don't you ninnies doubt, there's ALOT of science in modern tube and SS design), with just a bit of art in "voicing" components to the percieved audience, is because the stuff is mostly very good.

That is an excellent point. There is also the fact that, as I explained in my October 2004 "As We See It" - www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/1004awsi/index.html - "Given that we can only scratch the surface of the universe of products offered audiophiles, the goal of our reviews is not to try to review a representative selection of all the audio components that exist. Instead, we do our best to preselect components for coverage that have the best chance of performing well. (Once the review process is underway, however, a full description of a product's performance is published, warts and all.)"

The more we succeed at this goal, the more it seems to enrage those who don't actually read the magazine.

jgossman wrote:
Congrats, Stereophile.

Thank you. It just saddens me that people who don't read the magazine nevertheless feel that their uninformed opinions matter as much as yours. So it goes.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture

JA you never cease to amaze me at how you manage to say so little yet take up so much space writing it.

"Thank you. It just saddens me that people who don't read the magazine nevertheless feel that their uninformed opinions matter as much as yours. So it goes"

Don't read the magazine? Uninformed opinions? That in itself says more about you than the readers and the "uninformed". Once again you ignore valid points and concentrate on back patting the sheep who line up to get fed your vapid "reviews".

So now it's a science instead of an art? Didn't you just give a lecture at RMAF where you stated that recording is an art and not a science? I guess recording is voodoo while building a resonating bowl is a science?  Funny stuff, but that's always you JA, never admitting to doing anything wrong and defending yourself to the bitter end regardless of the evidence.

JohnnyR's picture

Talk about sucking up, So if the equipment made today is so perfect, why does JA bother to run those extensive tests on amps and speakers? You are saying why bother to test or listen at all if everyone makes perfect components.Okay that's official now folks, no need for testing or reviewing by Stereophile, close down the printing presses and sell that testing equipment and turn off the lights before you leave.

Duhhhhhhhh you think we don't know that it takes science and the real world physics to design and biuld a component? It's Stereophile reviewers that claim it's an art all the time when it comes to cables and tweeks and snake oil products that still get glowing reviews on here month after month. Stop being a ninny yourself.

mrplankton2u's picture

I would add that it's becoming increasingly clear that Mr Atkinson - Stereophile's "Editor-in-Chief" (some might argue, self annointed Commander-in-Chief) is refusing to address the obvious problems and complaints about the snake oil published in Stereophile that he and others have been trying to pass off as "reviews". 


John Atkinson is clearly guilty of this He has been questioned over and over again as to the different standards Stereophile uses to "review" product. He refuses to directly address the discrepancies - instead questioning how "informed" the people are who are challenging his credibility and that of Stereophile. 

As a designer/builder of speakers, I would never agree to a review of anything I build by Stereophile because Stereophile can't be trusted to be objective and honest. Stereophile is clearly beholden to its advertisers who rely on it to help peddle a good deal of snake oil. The claim of 50 years of honorable, authentic service to the audiophile community is becoming a joke - unless of course, you happen to like worshipping snake oil.

JR_Audio's picture


Congratulations to Stereophile and to John Atkinson and his team for all this great work and effort. Stereophile is for me one of the most informative and with knowledge written Hifi magazine.

All these destructive and negative comments in the last weeks, for example pointing to nearly every RMAF post, are making me sick. If those posters think they could do it better, they should do it.

It does take an immense amount of work and passion, to do all the writings, reporting from shows, testing, listening and measuring HiFi products and I respect this a lot.

So go ahead Stereophile and I am looking forward reading every new issue.

Best Regards


JohnnyR's picture

......LOTS better. Care to fund our endeavour? You surely have loads of spare cash lying around. Thanks in advance. You do know that The Audio Critic did just that for years and years, albeit with a horrible track record of getting their issues out on time. It's one of the most honorable audio magazines ever produced along with the old Audio Magazine. Too bad that the gullible seem to want a flashy glossy magazine chock full of adverts and snake oil reviews but then again that's why they are called gullible.

Steve Eddy's picture

"Drop the 'the,' just... Stereophile."?




John Atkinson's picture

Steve Eddy wrote:
So who was the Sean Parker who suggested "Drop the 'the,' just... Stereophile."?

That was J. Gordon Holt, who dropped "The" from the magazine's name in Vol.4 No.1, Issue No.37. Conspiracy theorists should note that this issue, published in December 1977, was the first to include ads from manufacturers.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture

.......are conspiracy theorists now? *chuckle*  Good one, don't quit your day job, whatever that might really be.

Steve Eddy's picture

Thanks, John!


Poor Audiophile's picture

It's either how bad the mag is(which includes how dishonest JA & the reviewers are)  or how stupid people are for using tweaks, or whatever!

I always laugh at rants like " double blind testing is used on new medicines so they should be used for audio equipment"- huh?! Oh yeah. It's "science". Should I bow down?

To me the bottom line is: if you don't like the mag, don't read it. If you don't like certain equipment or tweaks or whatever, don't buy them! Also, it's none of your business if I do!! MYOB as to how other people spend their money & time!!!

If I want your opinion I'll ask for it!!! If I want to spend my hard earned money on something, that's my choice! I laugh at the really expensive equipment, however, if some folks want to spend their money on that, that's up to them.

Overall I like the mag & this site & appreciate all the hard work that goes into both! While I do know a bit about electronics, some of the technical stuff goes over my head, but that's ok as there is still lots to enjoy! 

BTW, I'm not ashamed to admit I subscribed to SR for several years starting when I was in HS(1977). I learned a fair amount from them. However, Stereophile is NOT like them!!

JohnnyR's picture

So you laugh at DBTs? Ever taken one? How about a simple SBT?  NO? How about just having a friend switch out cables and you guess which is which?  Hmmmmmm I'm guessing you never did that either. Yeah who needs pesky science muddling up your brain when you can let Stereophile decide for you.

My my you are a bit touchy about someone even crticising the sacred cow called Stereophile.You don't seem to have any problem bowing down to that golden idol though.

When you post something online, like you just did, you open yourself to other's opinions so stop being so demanding sheesh.

Yeah Stereophile sure isn't like a lot of things, you got that right.

mrplankton2u's picture

This is not "gang up on Stereophile day". Stereophile has done some things well - it's speaker reviews on average have been accurate. But that credibility is seriously undermined when it publishes "reviews" on other types of questionable products that are nothing more than BS. You obviously think this hurts no one. On the contrary, if you look at any manufacturer exhibiting products at various trade shows, every exhibit includes ridiculously priced cables, power conditioners, and the like Those that dare exhibit without this trash get lousy or no press from trade reviewers like Stereophile or worse yet, they get ridiculed for presenting equipment with "crappy cables" or cheap electronics. Whether you realize it or not, this has a serious detrimental effect on the small "high end" business. It supplants the merit system with the belief and con game system. It encourages more payola for favorable press and acts as a dissincentive for companies that believe in doing things the hard way - advancement and improvement through hard work. Yes, fools will buy the junk and people like you will laugh. But the negative impact regarding what is rewarded and what is shunned in the industry is no laughing matter. Inevitably, prices go up without any guarantee that what you're getting for your money is commensurate with the cost.  And that's a prescription for an imploding business model which is what we've been seeing now for years.

anonymous2013's picture

congrat  on the years I had the pleasure of talking to Holt a few times.

I wish I had years 1 thru 10 in my hand to read here at the stereo casa.

careful with the negarive comments on posting

your profiles will disappear and comments evaporate into thin air.

JA and the corp staff monitor comments and delete profiles and comments

they dont like  "its in our power to do so...."


reminds me of the reviews where the have slammed perfectly good equipment

John Atkinson's picture

anonymous2013 wrote:
congrat  on the years I had the pleasure of talking to Holt a few times.

I wish I had years 1 thru 10 in my hand to read here at the stereo casa.

Thank you. It was an privilege not only to be able to take over from Gordon in 1986 but also to work beside him for the next 13 years.

anonymous2013 wrote:
careful with the negarive comments on posting

your profiles will disappear and comments evaporate into thin air.

Not without warning, please note.

anonymous2013 wrote:
JA and the corp staff monitor comments and delete profiles and comments

Again, we don't delete profiles without public warnings. With comments, we operate a liberal policy, but we don't tolerate libelous or racist postings and other hate speech.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

anonymous2013's picture






John Atkinson's picture

anonymous2013 wrote:

Unless it's a spammer, we do contact all posters whose accounts we decide to delete. My apologies if we did so without warning you. When was your previous account deleted? There were some glitches when we switched to the current content management system in November 2010.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

anonymous2013's picture

by the way JA  my previous posts comments and profile were quite funny in a trollish way and nothing as mean spiritied as many of the posts seem to be in this article.

I wish I had saved them (and now will begin to do so  I did not know you should save your posts and comments for fear of deletion)

I wish I had saved them because I had actually said a lot of good stuff!! 

bascially I think you have done a good job over the years. ( I have boxes of old issues in the closest)  I went to my first Stereo Shows in 1973 or 1974. 

we are in the golden age of being an audiophile because all the cadillac very high price equipment you have reviewed over all the past 30 years is now available on craigs list and audiophile for a dollar and a song. (and usually still in good working order)

by the way I was a (pdf) subscrier a year or so ago and had to contact the office repeatedly about the order then I renewed and that order was mixed up and I had to contact the office 4 or 5 times about that and It was never fixed and I just had my credit card cancel your order since you would'could not fix it.

I have suggesed before and here again
Old Archive Items.  dont publish the 20 year articles on the front page of the blog
the blog and news should only be current items.  great you have 2 or 4 old old articles you want people to see.  dont publish them on the blog as news. make a blog entry to archives and say  hey guys we have republished the following 2 or 4 articles. I and many get tired of all the re hash re hash of all the old review. I could care less about a review of a 20 year old levinson product (unless I have found one on craigs list for $300 and want to read up on it.)  (then I do want to find that article by searching the archives)

since you are not interested much in old low price audiophile equipment I am thinking of starting blog where people all over usa can publish and share current audiophile finds .  (*   hey guys just found this on craigs list  Vandersteen 2CE series 2 used okla city $240  see link )

I am 58 and strangely enought like classical opera jazz and TRANCE and Electronica  I am surprised you dont talk  about or review music like they play on www.somafm.com (my favorite radio station)  My channels Tags Trip Trance and the famous  SPACE STATION SOMA. 

i GUESS THIS should be a letter to the editor rather than a reply to a comment.
I think you should have a regular huge letter to the editor column here on the websiite.   then a lot of the really bad trolls (not me) could post there in that column
and keep the comments on products and blog columns like this more civil

i AM THE guy that found the robert johnson 78s mention in the robert johnson write up by (hartley?)


Ariel Bitran's picture

what was your username?

when was it deleted?

this seems like an error. We only delete spam accounts. If we delete a user account, it is only after much deliberation and communication with the user.

jgossman's picture

If anyone realizes there is absolutely nothing keeping them in a community they so obviously abhorre.  

mrplankton2u's picture

There is nothing wrong with members of a "community" acknowledging that a subset of the community is a joke. Moreover, the subset that is a joke has no more legitimate claim to ownership/control of the "community" than the rest of the community. As long as illegitimacy continues in the "community", it will be a target of those who believe in some level of honesty or integrity. So get used to it. Fight back with facts or evidence if you have them. But if all you have are personal attacks to offer in support of the ridiculous, you can expect personal attacks in kind.

: )


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