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mrlowry
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An open letter to John Atkinson

In his May 2008 review of Paradigm Reference Studio/20 Robert Reina states the following,

dbowker
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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

A truly disturbing revelation... You really can't get much lower than Hana Montana- and don't give me that "oh, my kid just left it in the player" crap! For SHAME!

What's next? Kal Rubinson using broadcasts of American Idol to evaluate his surround sound? How about reviewers using their kid's XBoxes as source material? "Halo sounded lush and ambient" on my Wilson Watts and $14,000 interconnects..."

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

Not to defend reviewing such material but keep in mind that there is a "rock/pop" category in the Record Reviews section. Maybe they should have a "Kiddie pop" or "Bubblegum Pop" list. Afterall, us old folks aren't going to live forever and the magazine needs to attract a wider audience to sustain itself.

P.S. I haven't received the lastest issue but there was a "flyer" stuck behind the handle of my front door but it blew away before I could get to it.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

To be fair, there is two separate issues here.
The first part pertains to just the reproductive accuracy of the system, independent of the public opinion of the source material.
The second part has to do with the artistic ability of the source material independent of the reproduction accuracy of the source material.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
To be fair, there is two separate issues here.
The first part pertains to just the reproductive accuracy of the system, independent of the public opinion of the source material.
The second part has to do with the artistic ability of the source material independent of the reproduction accuracy of the source material.

Are these issues really as independent as they seem? If reproduction ACCURACY were the only concern, then Atkinson's lab measurement sidebars would be all that you'd need to review a product. No, clearly, the reviewers' subjective preferences are also part of what people want to see in Stereophile--so if the equipment reviewers are auditioning equipment with music that I consider trashy such as [insert your own choice here], why would I expect that their subjective reactions to audio equipment would match mine and help me pick equipment that I'd like as well as they did?

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

A reviewers' credibility should NOT be based on our having the same taste in music as him/her. And the reviewer did not even say that he liked hannah montana, he just described how that and other recordings sounded on the eqpt.

I think they generally do a very good job of using and naming a VARIETY of music in their evaluations.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:

Are these issues really as independent as they seem? If reproduction ACCURACY were the only concern, then Atkinson's lab measurement sidebars would be all that you'd need to review a product.


You are assumming that reproduction accuracy is solely based on measurements and not any other subjective factors.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
You are assumming that reproduction accuracy is solely based on measurements and not any other subjective factors.

No, I'm not making that assumption. But I'm saying that I wouldn't rely on the subjective reactions to audio equipment made by a reviewer with musical tastes completely different than mine. Two people may have very different standards for "reproductive accuracy."

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
In his May 2008 review of Paradigm Reference Studio/20 Robert Reina states the following,
dbowker
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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


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A reviewers' credibility should NOT be based on our having the same taste in music as him/her. And the reviewer did not even say that he liked hannah montana, he just described how that and other recordings sounded on the eqpt.

I think they generally do a very good job of using and naming a VARIETY of music in their evaluations.

Obviously the post was meant in fun, but I have to say that I'm going to have a hard time knowing what to think if I am completely unfamiliar with a reviewers genre of choice of music. If the source material sucks, I have to wonder how credible their equipment opinion is going to be. When a reviewer sites almost all organ music and (to me) relatively obscure vocal oriented classical, I usually am left feeling like I don't know what I read. If on the other hand at least one album from their list during review is something I own it's extremely helpful in matching their words to my interpretation.

I'm all the more glad the JA's policy is to let reviewers choose what they use during evals because hearing about the same 25 audiophile recordings would get old real quick.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

Yes, my post was meant completely in fun. Even about the size of the issue. People only complain about about the small size of a magazine that they love. At a little over $1 an issue for subscribers I consider Stereophile a phenomenal bargain.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


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I'm all the more glad the JA's policy is to let reviewers choose what they use during evals because hearing about the same 25 audiophile recordings would get old real quick.

I don't know what was going on behind the scenes, but Gordon's original article doesn't say anything about audiophile recordings per se, but rather recordings of acoustical instruments (see the article title). While he used classical recordings as an example to argue his point, his concern was really acoustical vs. electronic - the idea being "How does one know what an electronic instrument is supposed to sound like?". I thought Gordon's point was logical and well expressed. I also thought the follow-up was simply a strawman - distorting his position to one of classical vs. non-classical, and further distorted in this thread to one of audiophile vs. non-audiophile recordings.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


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I also thought the follow-up was simply a strawman - distorting his position to one of classical vs. non-classical...

Gordon's views on the value of acoustic musics for judging audio components were clear -- see www.stereophile.com/features/109/index3.html , for example. I strongly believe that he was and is wrong in this respect. If a Kraftwerk piece allows you to hear what is wrong, say, with a speaker's enclosure and the Ode to Joy doesn't, then it behoves the reviewer to use Kraftwerk not Beethoven, philosophical arguments be damned.

But you are wrong to say that that Gordon position was distorted into a classical-vs-non-classical strawman. Gordon demanded of then-music editor Richard Lehnert at a late 1980s writers' conference that Stereophile cease reviewing recordings of jazz or rock music. Gordon felt -- and still does feel -- that such musics are antithetical to the philosophy underlying high-fidelity audio reproduction. In Gordon's opinion, music's culmination was the Romantic orchestral literature, basically Beethoven thru Mahler, with Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams included, and that reproducing this music with the utmost fidelity was what mattered.

As by that time I was the magazine's editor and Gordon wasn't, his demand was rejected. And a good thing too!

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


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If a Kraftwerk piece allows you to hear what is wrong, say, with a speaker's enclosure and the Ode to Joy doesn't, then it behoves the reviewer to use Kraftwerk not Beethoven, philosophical arguments be damned.

I think that's a good, solid counterargument to Gordon's position.


Quote:
But you are wrong to say that that Gordon position was distorted into a classical-vs-non-classical strawman.

I am going only by what he wrote here and your response here. Your very first paragraph contains this:

"First, when he talks about the use of nonclassical music in equipment reviewing

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

I'm a huge Led Zeppelin fan. But unless I was with Jimmy Page in the studio when he recorded "Whole Lotta Love" or I know exactly the guitar he used, where the switches and knobs on that guitar were set, what foot pedal(s) he used, where the adjustments on said foot pedal(s) were, what amp he was using, and where all of it's switches and knobs were set I have a tough time telling what it SHOULD sound like. Never mind knowing the what the studio acoustics contributed or what was done in the mixing and mastering process.

Personally I do feel that acoustic music is better at diagnosing the sonics of a component simply because the listener has had a chance to hear it in real life. I've always felt that if a component could reproduce the tonality of acoustic instruments accurately, their reproduction of the tonality of electronic instruments must inherently be accurate. However, I would agree that if a trained listener had heard a recording of non-acoustic instruments on a system that is known to be extremely accurate because of it's performance with recordings of acoustic instruments in real space enough times that they could then use that recording with some authority.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

Good Post mrlowry

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

An open post to J.A.
I demand that you unsubscribe and remove from this forum anyone that disagrees with your views.
See, I can be unreasonable too.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

I'd bet that more people know what an electric guitar sounds like live than a string quartet (sad? maybe, but probably true today). And either, when recorded, have many variables. Most classical albums I own aren't live or even in a hall, but a studio. Same with pretty much all jazz too.

But still- you KNOW when it sounds right. You also know when the recording sucks and that wouldn't exactly be your normal choice for eval. It's all going to come down to a combination of experience with live versions and studio translations when you evaluate equipment.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
I demand that you unsubscribe and remove from this forum anyone that disagrees with your views.

As I have publicly discussed on this forum my reluctance to ban anyone, regardless of whether they agree with my views or not, I respectfully suggest that you are over-reaching here.


Quote:
See, I can be unreasonable too.

Who was being unreasonable? If you are referring to my decision _not_ to drop Stereophile's coverage of non-classical recordings, I believe that decision eminently reasonable.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:

Quote:
...you are wrong to say that that Gordon position was distorted into a classical-vs-non-classical strawman.

I am going only by what he wrote here and your response here.

Of course, But Gordon's views on the merit of non-classical music were and are well-known among his colleagues. I felt that they were germane to this discussion.


Quote:
Any description of what went on behind the scenes will be one-sided here, because Gordon is not here to give his side of the story. This is not meant as a personal comment, but just reflects human nature.

I certainly don't think I am misrepresenting Gordon's feelings. But I don't have a problem with your skepticism.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

I would think that most of us have compiled our systems based on how they have made OUR musical preferences sound best. I have three systems in the house and I would not play bass heavy, rock music on my Triangle Cometes and think that I was hearing it all, which may or may not be a bad thing.

Most of us change components and speakers in our systems because we can, and that we feel what we own can be improved upon. These changes should allow us to hear more of what we each want to hear and think is important. Mr. Holt's predisposition to classical music is fine FOR HIM, but does little to tell me about a speaker systems ability to reproduce Diane Krall and her beautiful grand piano sound, or Bob James, David Benoit, Warren Bernhardt, Michel Camillo, Rene Rosnes, JA's piano recordings, and many others I try enjoy hearing. This would include various symphonic works that sound good on all my systems.

Those of you in the system class of say, Mr. Clifton and his Triangle Magellans would be able to enjoy more AND hear more defects in recordings than I would. Your hearing is probably much better than my 60 year old ears that have taken quite a bit of abuse on military firing ranges.

I very rarely disagree with Mr. Holt, whom I respect greatly, but one size does not fit all in clothes, shoes, mates, or musical choices for equipment evaluations.

JA and his staff do a great job in a truly confusing business that often can't even get out of its own way for betterment of us all. Sony, get out of the way and let SACD thrive. Do not suck all the life out of it now that you have won the BlueRay/DVD-HD battle.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

Less Classical, more Blues... then we can all get to know the roots of all Rock and Roll. I agree that i know teh sound of live electric guitar and B-3 Hammond than anything classical. Maybe an occasional LIVE ELECTRIC VIOLIN is pretty slick actually. There is readily audible tone differences between Les Paul, Gretsch, Fender. Easily audible also at home. I have not heard any much live piano though, so my Horrowitz SACD is the only references I have. If your home system has a Gibson Les Paul sounding just like a Gretsch or Fender, your system sucks, it's so easy, we don't need no stinkin' classics to be used for that observation. I haven't listend closely enough to be able to brand teh cymbals used on different drum sets. Why is classical music the only stuff that can show the abiltys or inablitlys of a system? Like everyone who likes classical music knows every instruments differences, more BS. Like they all know how a Steinway sounds over a Yamaha or Chickering. Or they know which violin is playing, ...riiiight. It's just an attempt to put on the SNOOT factor. Lousy recordings of classics still suck like lousy recordings of anything else. Like G.H. knew the exact sound of every acoustic guitar or horns. Was G.H. a musican that he used for reference? It's actually to make it sound like a live 3-5 piece BLUES band is playing at home than trying to fool yourself that some 100 piece orchestra is in the same place, the brain logic kicks in, and says nope.....so G.H. was just plain WRONG. So John, more Blues, small group stuff than classical....besides stuff like SRV, Lonnie Brooks, Tinsley Ellis, wakes the mind and soul, classics don't have that impact and emotion on me. Aa solo piano recording might give the illusion, but not 100 pieces in my house, don't think so. So how could that possibly be any point of reference.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
I fully admit that this policy leads readers down some unusual paths and might even be found scary in that could expose them to music that they might not have considered worthy of being played on a high-end audio system.


I hate it when I learn of music that I would not otherwise know.

Any recorded music you know well can be a reference. If you know how the recording sounds on various systems - and what weaknesses and strengths it reveals - it's a great reference.

I find unamplified acoustic music the most demanding - I don't think a single system exists that can truly reproduce the sound of an unamplified instrument or voice performing in a real space.

However this does not invalidate a rock recording or other amplified music as an excellent reference for those that know this music well.

I firmly believe that a good system can reproduce all types of music well. (Of course, if a system cannot reproduce something the music demands - like very low frequencies - it may not be the best choice for the music. Yet, the system should do a great job with those frequencies it can handle.)

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
I firmly believe that a good system can reproduce all types of music well. (Of course, if a system cannot reproduce something the music demands - like very low frequencies - it may not be the best choice for the music. Yet, the system should do a great job with those frequencies it can handle.)

I couldn't agree more, a truly neutral system should be able to reproduce everything from Miles Davis, to Mozart, to Megadeth equally well.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

"Gordon demanded of then-music editor Richard Lehnert at a late 1980s writers' conference that Stereophile cease reviewing recordings of jazz or rock music. Gordon felt -- and still does feel -- that such musics are antithetical to the philosophy underlying high-fidelity audio reproduction. In Gordon's opinion, music's culmination was the Romantic orchestral literature, basically Beethoven thru Mahler, with Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams included, and that reproducing this music with the utmost fidelity was what mattered."

It seems that Gordon's objections to anything non-classical extended beyond using non-classical music for purposes of evaluating audio components to being opposed to any non-classical music even for listening pleasure. If his bias was strictly against using non-classical music to evaluate audio components, then why direct Richard Lehnert not to review non-classical music in the review section, the ultimate purpose for which I would have assumed to be to direct readers to good music, regardless of whether that music was useful to evaluate audio components. Is Gordon's record collection limited strictly to classical music?

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


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Is Gordon's record collection limited strictly to classical music?

Sadly, I haven't been to Gordon's place to do some shared listening in more than 15 years. But yes, at least at that time his record collection was predominantly orchestral classical. And he also has an enormous collection of live classical recordings that he has made of his local orchestra in Boulder. Music has always played a very important role in Gordon's life. But it is fair to say that his tastes are narrower than, for example, my own.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:

Quote:
See, I can be unreasonable too.

Who was being unreasonable? If you are referring to my decision _not_ to drop Stereophile's coverage of non-classical recordings, I believe that decision eminently reasonable.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

My unreasonable comment was directed at those out there that demand the removal of views that differs from theirs.
You J.A. do not fit in to this group.
Actually you show surprising restaint with us here.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

Gordon Holt needs to experience some LIVE Buddy Guy or Lonnie Brooks, and then he will wake up!!!! Or some Leslie West, or Robin Trower......he needs a new perspective on live sounds. Cus a constant diet of slow, slow classics with no energy or great wailing on some guitar and drums to keep ya going, results in a very boring musical experience. www.mattoree.com Also for the NYC ers..Matt will be appearing at Lion's Den Apr 29 Tuesday 214 Sullivan Street, check him out...you will be blown away.....he's GREAT!!!! The entire band is.

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson


Quote:
My unreasonable comment was directed at those out there that demand the removal of views that differs from theirs. You J.A. do not fit in to this group.

My misunderstanding. Apologies.


Quote:
Actually you show surprising restraint with us here.

It's aways a good idea, observed more often in the breach, it would appear from the recent "Charts and Graphs..." thread, to read a proposed angry posting aloud in front of a mirror. Only if you don't then feel stupid should you post it!

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: An open letter to John Atkinson

A good practice, John.

A corollary is whether you can make the argument in all seriousness without cracking a smile - the straight face test.

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