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

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John Atkinson's picture
Statistics

mrplankton2u wrote:
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"...

I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but this word "explosion" needs examination, as it implies Stereophile's choice of what products to review is significantly weighted toward cables, etc. (I won't even begin to address advertising - the "Chinese Wall" that exists between advertising and editorial departments works in both directions - the advertising staff have no influence on the magazine's content but neither do the editorial staff have any influence on what advertising appears in the magazine.)

As it so happens, Stereophile's "Recommended Components - Collector's Edition" hit newsstands last week, which comprises mini-reviews of every product we have reviewed and recommended since October 2002. It includes:

370 tonearms, turntables, phono cartridges
240 digital disc players and digital processors
400 amplifiers and preamplifiers
380 loudspeakers and subwoofers
104 headphones and headphone-related products
204 miscellaneous products like FM tuners, room acoustic treatments, stands and racks, power-line accessories, signal processors etc.

And 137 interconnects and speaker cables.

So the so-called "explosion" of cable reviews in Stereophile is actually 8% of the total.

Tweaks of various kinds are not broken out separately, but a quick look at the Collectors's Edition suggests that there is not many. So let's say that 10% of the products Stereophile reviews are things that enrage you, mrplankton2u, GeorgeHolland, and JohnnyR. This hardly seems to support your case that  "SNAKE OIL IS GOOD FOR STEREOPHILE AS LONG AS IT HELPS PAY THE BILLS."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

mrplankton2u's picture
Your anger isn't warranted.

Atkinson said:

"I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but this word "explosion" needs examination, as it implies Stereophile's choice of what products to review is significantly weighted toward cables, etc"

Yes, words have meaning . And if you look at the word I used - explosion of "COMMENTARY", you wouldn't have had a reason to go off on a tangent using words like "TROLL" to describe people in this thread who whether you believe it or not - have a legitimate gripe with what the magazine is doing and its NEGATIVE impact on the industry. "COMMENTARY" is not the equivalent of "REVIEW". Anyone who can read has noticed that in numerous press reports and reviews, deference has been given to which cables are being used and the significant SONIC impact they have produced.  A cursory look at just about every single recent RMAF blurb backs this up. This is commentary. And the accolades frequently heaped on these "questionable" products ($100,000 speaker cables!) are a reflection of Stereophile's commercial and editorial values. As you tried and failed to suggest about me earlier regarding Stereophile's obvious loss of readership in recent years (over the past decade), you are certainly entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. The facts I and others have been alluding to are indisputable - written clearly in print for all to see. And they establish clearly that Stereophile has supported and helped flourish a market segment that is at best of questionable integrity and at worst - a complete fraud.I know I do not speak alone. I know of more than a dozen professionals with a long time association in the industry  (more than 20 years) that feel the same way - many whom have spoken out publicly about it. You can label people who criticize or raise valid concerns as being "trolls". In doing so, you just further alienate those who feel as we do and thus solidify further your reputation in their mind.

John Atkinson's picture
Trolls

mrplankton2u wrote:
I know of more than a dozen professionals with a long time association in the industry (more than 20 years) that feel the same way - many whom have spoken out publicly about it. You can label people who criticize or raise valid concerns as being "trolls".

No I don't label such people that way. I am specifically calling _you_, and others like GeorgeHolland and JohnnyR, trolls, both for your continued posting of negativity and noise, and your apparent inability to comprehend or respect others' points of view. And then there is your refusal to understand why, as you don't read the magazine either as a subscriber or as a newsstand purchaser,  anyone here should pay attention to your rants. That, sir, is the behavior of an attention-seeking troll.

This hobby is about sharing our passion for recorded music. Your only passion, mrplankton2u, seems to be for the sound of your own voice. :-)

I wrote this "As We See It" essay to pay tribute to the many talented people I have been privileged to work alongside for the past 26 years and past 311 issues. That you, and JohnnyR and GeorgeHolland, seem bent on disrespecting those people with your trolls is more than a little sad, it is pathetic. You have all said what you have to say multiple times in the comments sections of multiple articles. Surely it is time for all three of you to STFU?

And regarding your data dredging:

mrplankton2u wrote:
Anyone who can read has noticed that in numerous press reports and reviews, deference has been given to which cables are being used...

Our policy for show reports is to note _all_ the products being used in a room that we are reporting on. It matters to our readers. This is not "deference" (to use your loaded term), it is simply responsible journalism, as much as it seems to upset you.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!

Cry and throw a tantrum some more Atkinson. Anyone that disagrees with Fearless Leader is labled a troll. Anyone that dares bring up YOUR shortcomings is labled a troll. Anyone that questions your failures is labled a troll................and so forth and so on. You sound like  broken record of EXCUSES. Hey I thought you had a 60 hour work week and don't have TIME for other activities so why are YOU on here EVERYDAY?  XD pretty pathetic when you get caught in yet another LIE but then you've had years of practice as editor of Stereophile.

 i think it's time YOU STFU and get busy doing some REAL testing for a change.

GeorgeHolland's picture
Very Rude JA

"No I don't label such people that way. I am specifically calling _you_, and others like GeorgeHolland and JohnnyR, trolls, both for your continued posting of negativity and noise, and your apparent inability to comprehend or respect others' points of view."

You should practice your own advice. Calling those that have a different opinion "trolls" just shows the lengths you will go to try to discredit well thought out points

."Surely it is time for all three of you to STFU?"

There it is then, I would think a so called professional like yourself would not use such terrible language. Have you run out of ideas or as JohnnyR calls them "excuses" and have to resort to being crude? [edited twice by John Atkinson]

Regadude's picture
Miserable brats

I think that Mr Atkinson has been very patient and generous with the likes of JohnnyR, George Holland and Plankton. I would have booted your arses off of this site a long time ago. You three complain and bitch as if the people of Stereophile had just killed your dog! 

You have MORE than made your point; you don't like Stereophile, Stereophile is no good, etc. We have all heard your complaints, countless times. 

Now that your message has been heard, there is no point for you three to stay here and suffer. Go read some other magazine that you do like. 

John Atkinson's picture
No More Comments, please

I will let you have the final word, RegaDude. I do not wish to ban anyone for contributing to Stereophile.com. However, as postings have, in my opinion, devolved to the level of noise, any further comments to this thread will be deleted without notice

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

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