40 Years of Stereophile: What Happened When Page 4
1989: Vol.12 No.1 includes the sad news that J. Gordon Holt is taking a sabbatical and leaving Santa Fe, both in order to take care of his estranged wife, who is dying from cancer in Boulder, Colorado. Gordon remains on salary, but something has to be done, and an ad is published for a full-time technical editor. Erstwhile recording engineer Robert Harley accordingly joins the staff in May, and as technical editor is charged with developing a measurement program to support the subjective reviews. The other two finalists in our search, Guy Lemcoe and Barry Willis, both become regular contributors, and, more than 13 years later, Barry still writes the lion's share of our "Industry Update" items. That summer, Stereophile acquires an Audio Precision System One for measuring amplifiers, and, in the fall, a DRA Labs MLSSA system for measuring speakers.
The Hi-Fi Show takes place in March, in San Mateo, just south of San Francisco, and JA and Will Hammond subject large numbers of audiophiles to enjoyable blind amplifier tests. One of the subjects scoring statistically significant identification of the amplifiers under test is a San Luis Obispo audio dealer named Jon Iverson, destined to play an important role in the Stereophile story eight years later.
June sees JA, RL, LA, and Water Lily Acoustics' Kavi Alexander recording music for flute and piano on the USC campus in Los Angeles. The resulting LP, mastered by Tim de Paravicini, is released on the Stereophile label in September. It goes on to sell 3250 copies on vinyl and 6750 on CD—not bad for a recital of obscure chamber works by Prokofiev, Schumann, Reinecke, and Griffes. June also sees the folding of the venerable High Fidelity magazine.
The Stereophile year ends with a full-time staff of 15, a circulation knocking on the door of 50,000, an issue once again featuring an Infinity speaker on the cover as well as Ralph—now an elder statesman of the canine world but sporting a Santa Claus cap—and four issues (January, June, October, December) each breaking the scales at 276 pages!
1990: February sees the release of our first Test CD, in April the Hi-Fi Show returns to New York, and in June Robert Harley's title changes to consulting technical editor, the role of full-time technical editor passing to Thomas J. Norton. 1990's New York Show sees the first meeting of the Board of Governors of the Academy for the Advancement of High-End Audio, inspired by Harry Pearson of The Abso!ute Sound.
The year ends with circulation having reached 58,000. The October issue is the record-breaker, at 324 pages.
1991: There is no Hi-Fi Show in '91, but the first edition of our annual "Records To Die For" feature appears in the January issue. The same issue's "Letters" pages feature a contribution on passive preamps from a writer who will set the magazine's pages on fire when he joins our equipment-review team in April: Corey Greenberg. Eleven years later, Corey may be spending his days demonstrating electronic toys on NBC's Today morning TV show (after a stint editing Audio), but in 1991 Stereophile is fortunate indeed to benefit from the first public flowering of his writing talent. Our second LP, featuring Canadian pianist Robert Silverman—with whom we will go on to enjoy a long relationship—performing solo Brahms works and again recorded by Kavi Alexander, is released in February. The magazine's spiritual mascot, Ralph the Christmas Dog, passes away in September.
Circulation surpasses 68,000 in 1991; the January, April, June, and October issues each equal the previous year's record size of 324 pages.
1992: Our 30th-anniversary year begins with an essay by Robert Harley examining at length the philosophy underlying why the quality of audio components should be judged by listening to them, and ends with our first "Product of the Year" vote, the winner being the Mark Levinson Reference No.30 D/A processor.
In between, the Stereophile Show—renamed HI-FI '92—returns to Los Angeles, and Stereophile, Inc. expands its base of operations by purchasing the venerable Schwann guides to recordings and publishing a Chinese-language edition in Taiwan. Mark Fisher joins the company's full-time staff as publisher and to oversee the Schwann and overseas operations. Test CD 2 is released in May, Jack English joins the review team, and we celebrate 30 unbroken years of publication with a banquet for the audio industry at Chicago's Intercontinental Hotel.
The largest issues are January, April, and October at 340 pages each, we have 25 full-time employees, and circulation peaks at 87,000.