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 Stephen 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

Share | |
Comments
thomasrhee's picture
Stereophile has lost it's way...

There used to be a time that I was an avid reader (and subscriber) to Stereophile (as well as The Absolute Sound).  IMO, Stereophile has become just what JGH detested in all of the other audio magazines.  It is philosophically no different than Stereo Review, Audio, Hi Fidelity, etc.. from years ago.  It has become an ad driven magazine with nothing more than a lot of drivel in return for ad dollars.

Maybe one day Stereophile will find it's way back to what the magazine's original ways... until then...

JohnnyR's picture
No Hope For Them........

,,,,,,as long as Fearless Leader is in charge. What I find amusing is JA thinking Stereophile will be around for another 50 years. Heck the high end will be lucky to survive another 10, let alone a subjective review based magazine that panders to the weak minded and gullible,

Regadude's picture
Wrong...

Wrong on all counts Johnny...

John Atkinson's picture
Re: Wrong. . .

Regadude wrote:
Wrong on all counts Johnny...

Amen to that thought, Regadude. It makes you wonder why JohnnyR reads this site, he has so little empathy with its content. :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture
Mr Atkinson, you keep warning

Mr Atkinson, you keep warning JohnnyR about posting insulting posts but then ignore and even praise Regadude? Double standards everywhere on here I see. By the way this site is a public site so anyone is free to read it or does that concept go over your head like doing some real testing? Either subject everyone to your "rules" or no one. I suppose those that live with their heads in the sand never see the future coming. I can promise that Stereophile will not be around in 50 years and thinking it will just shows your inability to look forward and adapt. The high end will flounder and perish because of their foolish ways and I say good ridance to stupid people like that.

John Atkinson's picture
Re: A Double Standard

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Mr Atkinson, you keep warning JohnnyR about posting insulting posts but then ignore and even praise Regadude? Double standards everywhere on here I see.

Following my warnings on October 31 and November 1, in the comments to Ariel Bitran's "Enter the Void of Cygnus X-1: A Vinyl vs. CD Comparison (Kinda)" blog, that I had enough of flame wars and that I would start deleting postings without warning, I have so far deleted abusive posts from JohnnyR, RegaDude, and yourself. So no, I don't think I am operating a double standard.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
By the way this site is a public site so anyone is free to read it or does that concept go over your head. . .

I am merely wondering why JohnnyR, in particular, even posts here. Unlike skeptics like you and mrplankton2u, who have posted some relevant, on-topic comments, JohnnyR doesn't post anything other than content-free noise. He is like a Lutheran who keeps posting on a Catholic site his opinion that transubstantiation is a myth :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

 

 

GeorgeHolland's picture
I think you just don't like

I think you just don't like him because he made it personal. He does and has brought up good points which I keep repeating but I guess your own bias makes that hard to see.

Regadude's picture
Whatever...

I am rolling my eyes upwards to this comment of yours George... no

GeorgeHolland's picture
Do I care what you think

Do I care what you think anymore? The comment was aimed at Mr Atkinson not you but al usual you think I want your opinion about eveything I post. I don't.

mrplankton2u's picture
Feels Good To Drink Your Own Koolaid - Huh?

The current state of the audio press is a microcosm of the press in general - corporate entities placing profit and survival far above any other potential "function" as disseminator of objective, accurate information to the information consumer. People have noticed.

http://www.high-endaudio.com/magaz.html#Intro

 

And circulation is down significantly in recent years. That hasn't stopped a steady stream of excuses from those responsible for Stereophile's content. We've heard the stupid claims that interest in the 70,000 circulation magazine rivals that of another of Source Interlink's products - the 1.3 million circulation Motor Trend. This is a clear indication as to how factually challenged folks at Stereophile are and how willing they are to ignore the writing on the wall.

 

JohhnyR reads Stereophile because it is one of the few trade magazines still left standing - not because it is any kind of bastion of virtuosity in the audio equipment review industry. It's simply a matter of choosing CNN versus Fox - the lesser of available evils. Yes the information is seriously slanted and of questionable value - but it's better than a blank screen. It just means you have to do more to read between the lines to understand what's really going on.

John Atkinson's picture
Koolaid?

mrplankton2u wrote:
And circulation is down significantly in recent years.

You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Here's how the audited circulation of Stereophile has varied over the past 5 years:

2012 (first 6 months): 71,969

2011: 71,900

2010: 72,293

2009: 71,192

2008: 74,843

2007: 74,609

This is what I meant by stable. Yes, it went down slightly in 2009, but even Stereophile is not immune to the recession, please note. But in the past 3 years, while circulation has fluctuated slightly, it has plateau'd, ie, is stable. And please note that Stereophile's circulation is 3x that of our closest competitor and greater than the combined circulations of The Absolute Sound, HiFi+, HiFi News, and HiFi Choice.

mrplankton2u wrote:
We've heard the stupid claims that interest in the 70,000 circulation magazine rivals that of another of Source Interlink's products - the 1.3 million circulation Motor Trend.

Not from me or from anyone else associated with Stereophile. What I have said is that as a percentage of overall circulation, Stereophile's Zinio and Apple Newsstand editions are higher than those of Motor Trend. A direct comparison of the actual circulations of the two magazines is meaningless, given the very different audiences they serve.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

mrplankton2u's picture
C'mon John - cherry picking again?

Stereophile paid circulation:

 

2000    91,384

2001    84,987

2002    82,932

2003    81,668

- fast forward to 2012  - 72,000

 

The math says 20% decline roughly over the past decade in a period in which disposable income at the top 5 percent has risen dramatically. So you have a magazine that continually courts speaker cable companies marketing "products" costing in the tens of thousands of dollars while the apparent market interest continues to shrink over that ten year period. It's obvious what's been happening and as I've warned repeatedly, the continued implosion of the audiophile market will ultimately result in commercial irrelevance and extinction. To paraphrase and contradict a well known phrase in popular culture - "GREED (unbridled) IS NOT ALWAYS GOOD".

John Atkinson's picture
Thank you for making my point

mrplankton2u wrote:
Stereophile paid circulation:

2000    91,384

2001    84,987

2002    82,932

2003    81,668

- fast forward to 2012  - 72,000

When I said "stable," I thought it obvious that I was referring to recent years, ie:

2012 (first 6 months): 71,969

2011: 71,900

2010: 72,293

2009: 71,192

2008: 74,843

2007: 74,609

The high circulation in 2000 was due to the 1990s being a boom period for everyone, but particularly for the middle classes, who are high-end audio's primary customers. The reduction in middle class disposable income through the Bush 43 presidency is well-documented; see, for example, www.stereophile.com/content/upward-price-spiral.

If you are going to pick an arbitrary starting point to make your case that Stereophile's circulation has "significantly" declined, then why not start in 1982, when JGH sold the magazine, when it was <3000? Or when I took over editing the magazine from Gordon, when it was around 25,000? 

mrplankton2u wrote:
you have a magazine that continually courts speaker cable companies marketing "products" costing in the tens of thousands of dollars while the apparent market interest continues to shrink over that ten year period.

And you accuse me of cherry-picking data? Reviews of expensive cables are few and far between in Stereophile. In fact, Stephen Mejias in recent months has been writing about affordable cables, starting with what is available at RadioShack.

As I said, you are entitled to your own opinions, as wrong-headed as I feel they might be, but not to your own facts.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Jeff0000's picture
JA's point

I would think that the excellent and free Stereophile web site (there are over 90,000 users in the forums area alone) has also played a role in the lower paid circulation numbers as well as the general trend toward becoming a more paperless society. 

I don't know what it is exactly, but I, for one, do enjoy holding a printed publication in my hands over electronic media.

Additionally, the printed publication has the distinct advantage of not having to put up with the likes of Johnny R, Mrplankton2u and GeorgeHolland as they cavil on without facts or useful purpose.

Keep up the excellent work!

Jeff 

GeorgeHolland's picture
90,000 users on the forum? I

90,000 users on the forum? I see maybe 100 at most even using it and not even that many posting on a regular basis.

John Atkinson's picture
Re: 90,000 users on the forum

GeorgeHolland wrote:
I see maybe 100 at most even using it and not even that many posting on a regular basis.

While only a relatively small number of visitors post to our forum or comment on stories like this, our audited traffic to www.stereophile.com as a whole is of the order of 300,000 unique visitors generating 3 million page views each month.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture
Everyone Likes to Gawk..........

........at the trian wreck that is Stereophile. The educated read it to have a good laugh like I do.

Regadude's picture
Everyone likes

Maybe people like to gawk at your insane posts little Johnny. Now that is a train wreck!

John Atkinson's picture
Please stop

Both of you, RegaDude and JohnnyR, please stop the public bickering.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture
I'm Not Bickering..........

.......I post my opinons about a TOPIC and Regadude comes along to troll my posts. Seems simple enough to me.

JohnnyR's picture
Hers'a FACT for you Atkinson.........

.........you are Mr Excuse tried and true.

soulful.terrain's picture
Congratulation!

 

 Congratulations to Stereophile and ALL the staff on all years of service to the audiophile community. You guys do all the heavy lifting for us neophytes. ;-)

If it weren't for Stereophile, I would venture to say..I probably wouldn't have gotten into audio in the first place. A huge thanks to JA and Jonathan Scull primarily.

Mark

John Atkinson's picture
Re: Congratulation!

soulful.terrain wrote:
A huge thanks to JA and Jonathan Scull primarily.

Thanks.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

TENJOU TENGE's picture
GeorgeHolland or dog

I saw  Holland first post and his reply to Tmsorosk. Why we this hobby always has people with dog habit running around?

 

 

 

GeorgeHolland's picture
?????? please use better

?????? please use better english so I may understand what you are saying?

MrGneiss's picture
Congrats on 50 years of a Rad

Congrats on 50 years of a Rad magazine!! :-)

JohnnyR's picture
My Opinion

Congrats on 50 years of a RAG magazine!! :-)
There I fixed the typo you made.

mrplankton2u's picture
Reality Check

John Atkinson says in comments that follow the original post:

 

"The high circulation (of Stereophile) in 2000 was due to the 1990s being a boom period for everyone, but particularly for the middle classes, who are high-end audio's primary customers. "

 

With that ridiculous post, you now have a clear answer as to why Stereophile has backed itself into a corner and lost 20% of its readership over the past decade. Anyone who thinks high end audio's primary customers are "middle class" buyers is grotesquely out of touch. The balance of affordable versus ridiculously over priced products has clearly shifted in the pages of Stereophile. There is not now nor will there ever be a legitimate basis for supporting an industry that takes $20 speaker cables and resellls them for thousands of dollars. The blame for the prevalence of these snake oil products at trade shows around the world can be laid squarely at the feet of those who contribute to magazines like Stereophile. When it becomes rational to promote systems with $60,000 speakers connected to $100,000 cables,, there is a complete break down of credibility and objectivity. In that context of anything goes, it is very likely that the "high end" industry as we know it is going to go - the way of the Dodo bird.

mrplankton2u's picture
Not Your Dad's Stereophile

According to John Atkinson - Stereophiles "Editor-in-Chief", Stereophile has a proud heritage of "telling it like it is". In that spirit, I will do the same.

 

Above, Atkinson is quoted as saying:

 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!"

 

What does "report what an audio component sounds like" really mean? Can we take those words at face value, or is Atkinson going to pull a shape shifter move  -trying  to suggest something akin to "it depends on what the word "is" means"...??

 

The above sentence suggests to me and to most rational people (I hope) that the magazine's #1 priority is to listen to and report what components sound like - in other words - answering the simple question -what is the impact of a component on the sound that is heard. 

 

Fast forward to 2012, where Stereophile Editor-in -Chief attempts to answer for the explosion of advertising and commentary within the magazine's pages relating to expensive "tweak" products and accessories like "high tech" cables, "footers",  and "isolators" - PARTICULARLY WHERE SAID "TWEAK" PRODUCTS ARE NOT OBJECTIVELY TESTED IN ANY WAY:

 

 

John Atkinson wrote:

I have said before that some of these tweaks actually have an effect, apparnetly repeatable, on the listener's perception, not the audio system. Measurement of a physical parameter is thus irrelevant.

 

So now, Stereophile and Atkinson believe its ok for Stereophile to promote products through "reviews" and advertising that do not impact the sound but inexplicably impact the listener's state of mind.

 

TRANSLATION - SNAKE OIL IS GOOD FOR STEREOPHILE AS LONG AS IT HELPS PAY THE BILLS.

 

Yes, John - in 50 years, Stereophile has come a long way in serving the needs of an ever shrinking community of people suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and massive insecurity. Thank you for your service to such a vital and vibrant community!

JohnnyR's picture
Here Here!

It obviously isn't "hear hear" anymore xD Atkinson thinks that certain voodoo snake oil products affect the listener but not the system but "can't"  or in my opinion WON'T bother to test that ridiculous hypothesis. He loves throwing out conjectures for years at a time but gets stubborn about actual testing.

"TRANSLATION - SNAKE OIL IS GOOD FOR STEREOPHILE AS LONG AS IT HELPS PAY THE BILLS."

Oh that's been obvious to intelligent peple for years now. Money matters way beyond the truth. I think that should be carved on Atkinson's tombstone as a nice memorial. Remember that Atkinson is NEVER wrong anf NEVER will be. His "superior" education and experience wins out over all. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Site Map / Direct Links