Goodbye & Hello

It was the summer of 2000. We had closed Stereophile's office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the City Different in the Land of Enchantment, where the magazine had been headquartered since 1978, and moved lock, stock, and audio systems to New York City. Other than myself, the only full-time staff to move to New York were music editor Robert Baird and advertising sales representative Laura LoVecchio, so I was faced with hiring a new editorial team. My new managing editor, Nerissa Dominguez-Vales, and production manager Pip Tannenbaum had been hired before the move, but once I got to New York, I needed an editorial assistant.

Stephen Mejias became that assistant in August 2000, at the age of 21; his first task was to send hundreds of faxes to manufacturers, to check the prices and availability of the products to be listed in the October 2000 edition of our "Recommended Components." Stephen kept his head down, his mouth shut, and his ears open for the next five years, after which he suggested that he contribute a blog to the magazine's website. Promoted to assistant editor in 2008, he suggested that he contribute, beginning with our January 2011 issue, a monthly column that would cover entry-level components and systems. His blog, his "The Entry Level" column, and his contributions have played a significant role in this magazine's continuing success.

That role couldn't help but be noticed elsewhere. Stephen was made an offer he couldn't refuse—by high-end audio manufacturer AudioQuest, to become their vice president of communications—and left us at the end of March; "The Entry Level" in this issue (p.33) and his Follow-Up review of the KEF LS50 loudspeaker (p.119) are his final reports on audio hardware to appear in Stereophile (though I didn't feel it a conflict of interest for him to continue to contribute reviews of the music those young people say they like).

Ariel Bitran (left), in action at Williamsburg's Goodbye Blue Monday Club.

Coincidentally, our editorial assistant for the past three years, Ariel Bitran, left in January to start a company addressing social-media marketing; and in March, our longtime art director, Natalie Brown-Baca, and our almost-as-longtime production manager, Pip Tannenbaum, also left us. So I take this opportunity to offer a hearty Thank You to Stephen, Ariel, Natalie, and Pip for all they have done for Stereophile. The magazine and its readers will always be in their debt.

Natalie Brown-Baca, pictured outside Source Interlink's El Segundo office near LAX, after presenting to management her redesign ideas that made their debut in our January 2012 issue.

Like Natalie Brown-Baca, Pip Tannenbaum originally worked for Stereophile in Santa Fe in the late 1990s, then rejoined us in the summer of 2000 in New York.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

This issue is the first to be designed by our new art director, Jeremy Moyler, who will be bringing a fresh look to Stereophile over the next few months. Jeremy joins us from our Source Interlink Media stablemates American Idol Magazine, Popular Plates, Law of Attraction, and, most recently, European Car. It is also the second our new production manager Christina Poncé has worked on.

And while I don't have a plug-in replacement for Stephen's unique writings, I'm pleased to announce that, beginning with our July issue, Michael Lavorgna, editor of our sister website AudioStream.com, will be contributing a new column—to be called, naturally, "Audio Streams." Returning to the magazine and contributing reviews of affordable loudspeakers will be Thomas J. Norton, who was one of our two technical editors in the 1990s. And with the August 2014 issue, the iconoclastic Herb Reichert, who described himself as "a visual artist who loves music" in his March 2014 "As We See It," also joins our team of equipment reviewers.

So yes—while there have been changes behind the scenes, what won't change is Stereophile's ethos of putting the desires and needs of its readers first—the Stereophile Way.

I began my 29th year of editing this magazine on May 1, 2014 and, as always, "I watch the ripples change their size / But never leave the stream / Of warm impermanence" (David Bowie, "Changes.")—John Atkinson

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COMMENTS
Bill Leebens's picture

Change is always difficult, particular for old curmudgeons like us. Stephen will be missed; his is a clear and distinct voice, free of ego, always gracious and appreciative. I've never heard anyone speak ill of him, and in the audio world--that's practically a singularity.

Good to have Michael, Herb and TJN on board--best to all!

burnspbesq's picture

Have always enjoyed your column and blog posts.

Don't know whether you and Ms. Little will be moving to OC to be near AQ's corporate HQ in Irvine, but if you are we will be happy to welcome you, and hope you'll be a regular presence at LAOCAS meetings and SoCal Head-Fi meets.

Stephen Mejias's picture
Thank you so much. Ms. Little and I will be staying in Jersey City, New Jersey, but I'll be making regular trips to the west coast, including a visit for the upcoming Newport Beach T.H.E. Show.
Stephen Mejias's picture
Gosh. Look at me -- all young and skinny and psychedelic! I remember walking into 110 Fifth Avenue that first time, interviewing with John Atkinson and Stereophile's former managing editor, Nerissa Dominguez-Vales. Who knew then that my life would change so dramatically? I'll be forever grateful for the fun, the music, the education, and the friendships. Fortunately, I'll get to continue those friendships through my new position with AudioQuest. And I'm sure that Stereophile will continue to do great and wonderful things. Rock on. I love you guys. Thanks for everything.
ChrisS's picture

Just goes to show that "Stereophile" draws a lot of talented people!

"So long farewell, auf weidersehen goodbye..."

And thanks!

stasis05's picture

I always loved reading Stephen's "The Entry Level," and I will honestly miss it. Stephen, you're a great writer. It was always nice to read about hi-fi gear I could *almost* afford, and as a fellow 20/30-something getting into hi-fi, I always appreciated your perspective. Best of luck at AudioQuest!

mmole's picture

First, all the best to Stephen. He was always refreshing to chat with for a few minutes at the NYC shows and was a diligent and enthusiastic email correspondent. And, I'm happy to report, he finally did get the joke of the front and back covers of that Wilderness Road album.

However, I am now a bit troubled by the over-whelmingly positive review Stephen wrote of the AudioQuest Dragonfly v1.2 that appeared in the March issue (vol. 37, no.3). Under the circumstances, it's a shame that it appeared in the very same month as Stephen's departure for the very same manufacturer.

eugovector's picture

The Dragonfly should be the least of your concerns. I'm waiting to hear Stephen's new thoughts on the Diamond HDMI cable.

John Atkinson's picture
mmole wrote:
I am now a bit troubled by the over-whelmingly positive review Stephen wrote of the AudioQuest Dragonfly v1.2 that appeared in the March issue (vol. 37, no.3). Under the circumstances, it's a shame that it appeared in the very same month as Stephen's departure for the very same manufacturer.

It's in the timing. Stephen wrote his Dragonfly review in December 2013 but the job offer, out of the blue, from AudioQuest, was in mid-January 2014. (Dates corrected thanks to Peter Noerbaeck's eagle eyes.)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dalethorn's picture

Well, they loved his review and understanding of the product, so they did the wise thing and hired him.

Glotz's picture

Gonna miss Ariel and Stephen fo' sure!

But TJN is back! WOOOOO HOOOOOO!

brianupnorth's picture

Stephen, best of luck with the new job, will miss updates on the cats and your friends.

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

Us 99% "affordophiles" appreciated your reasonable gear reviews. Thanks, and good luck! (Maybe you can help that "high-end" company continue to develop first class affordable gear.)

Catch22's picture

And welcome back TJN!!!
Will TJN be doing the measurements on some of the gear or will JA continue this roll?

John Atkinson's picture
Catch22 wrote:
Will TJN be doing the measurements on some of the gear or will JA continue this role?

No, TJN will not be doing measurements for Stereophile. (Back in the 1990s, Tom used to do the amplifier measurements for me.) And to put others' minds at rest, Tom will continue to contribute to Sound & Vision.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

K.Reid's picture

Though I love this mag in its entirety. The loss of Mr. Mejias as a young writer in the mag is rattling and substantial....to the power of 10.

Well, Shane Buettner will have another recruit to spread the latest and greatest on cables and that lovely dragonfly DAC. The Entry Level is my favorite column....as well as Stephen's writing prowess.

John, you really need to get another young writer in the mag who 20 and 30 something crowd can identify with. This was one of the reasons people love Stephen's column. If not, there is a not insubstantial risk of losing this demographic of readers. Make haste please. Will the gifted TJN still write select audio and video reviews for sound and vision? Or is the tie cut altogether? Many readers were ticked off when S&V supplanted home theater mag, but to see TJN leave would be a devastating loss for S&V - Though I know that the other contributors are highly competent. Again, TJN's writing is simply superb showing great organization and clarity of thought. Your gain and hopefully not S&V's (and its eader's) loss.

Stephen, all the best to you. We had an in depth conversation at the New York audio show a couple times and I always appreciate your insight and youthful, fresh take on entry audio gear and great music.

My, my, my...times are a chang'in.

K.

BradleyP's picture

Knock'em dead Stephen! I'll miss your personable equipment reviews. I hope you can upgrade your audio rig soon on that new AQ salary...and buy a zillion LPs to go with it.

ZooAchtiv's picture

For introducing hi-fi to a whole new generation - and bringing countless others back I to the frey.

For that, I thank you.

yaka24's picture

Good Luck Stephen! I really enjoy your writing. I also agree Stereophile needs to find someone to fill this void now.

Rob G's picture

I predict the magazine will soon fold with the loss of so much talent.

Not really, but I'm sure it will be different and take some getting used to. I will miss Stephen's work directly and I'm sure Ariel, Natalie and Pip's work indirectly.

Thank you for making the magazine what it was and is, and best of luck in your new endeavors!

Ariel Bitran's picture

Hello John!
Thank you for the wonderful years!
I am a lucky man to have been at Stereophile.
My social media business is launched, and I am also now the co-owner of a 300-person music venue in Bushwick, Brooklyn (www.palisadesbk.com).
I have never felt more comfortable and excited with the future before me, and i have my years at Stereophile under your guidance and the vigilance of our readers to thank.
See you on the stage.

jimtavegia's picture

All of the folks who have left will be missed for sure, but it appears JA is ready with a new team fill the tank, change the tires, and be back on the track quickly, kind of a Nascar thing here in the south. Sounds like reviews and insights will be in good hands. Looking forward to new things.

corrective_unconscious's picture

To hire Henry Rollins, Jack White, Neil Young and Bob Mould to write an audio column in rotation. (Assuming none of the four would want a monthly gig in a print publication.)

In other words, old, white guys like your subscribers, but whom no one is going to complain about on that basis.

TigerSoul's picture

Hey, those ladies have probably learned a thing or two about audio just by hanging around with young Stephen in his JC flat, spinning records and drinking wine. You should see if they're available.

Red Wine Audio's picture

All the best to Stephen and Ariel with their new plans!

I vote for Scot Hull (parttimeaudiophile) to take Stephen's place. He's young, has build up a good following on his site, has excellent show reports, etc.

boulderskies's picture

I am happy for Stephen. He's a gifted writer with the rare attributes of succinctness and dry sense of humor. I wish you much success, Stephen. I will follow you at Audioquest. When you're a big success, don't forget the cats...

I also see this as a wake up call for Stereophile. The Entry Level was the one ray of energy and humor in what's become progressively more dusty and stodgy - like the attic in your grandparents home. Not that that's a bad place-but it could use some light and air. Open a window!

Scott

mjalazard's picture

Stephen, you will be greatly missed!
I hope to see you @ Newport Beach.
Good Luck
Mike
NFS Audio

synth's picture

Well someone had to say it.

John Atkinson's picture
Jonathan Scull has a successful career running a PR company these days, but yes, his writings were a strength of the magazine a decade ago.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

59mga's picture

Actually I can't, it was so long ago...Stephen and I exchanged a few e-mails regarding Latin music. Much to my surprise, a week or so later, I received a compilation disc from Stephen of said music. Thank you Stephen...I still have that vinyl replica cd.

Students at the university, where I work, took interest in the music and began exploring the style. Next came The Entry Level and more of the students, with whom I interact, took note of the fact that Stereophile was a publication with an interest in something they might afford...not just "audio nirvana".

You've done more, than you realize, to encourage the interest of flegdling audiophiles.

Best of luck to you, Stephan.

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