I'm not sure if this should really go into General Rants'n'Raves, but here goes.
I originally posted a version of this as a comment in Stephen Mejias' blog.
At the beginning of the Recommended Components list is the following disclaimer:
Carefully read our descriptions here, the original reviews, and (heaven forbid) reviews in other magazines to put together a short list of components to choose from. Evaluate your room, your source material and front-end(s), your speakers, and your tastes. With luck, you may come up with a selection to audition at your favorite dealer(s). "Recommended Components" will not tell you what to buy any more than Consumer Reports would presume to tell you whom to marry!
I've been reading this disclaimer, or a version of it, since the early 80's when the audio bug first got me. I have also seen many arguments about the merits of the Recommended Components list. But I think it's time to have a closer look at the intellectual consistency behind the Recommended Components disclaimer.
One of the great advantages of the internet these days is that nearly everything is archived somewhere out there on the Wacky World Web. And thanks to the efforts of the staff at Stereophile, so are the equipment reviews. Regardless of the Recommended Components disclaimer, in the pre-Internet era, the Recommended Components issues might be justified as a convenient summary of recent reviews, much like an abstract book for a conference. But if Stereophile really stood by their advice that there is no substitute for reading the original review, they should just drop the Recommended Components issue completely. Readers don't need the summaries anymore, as they can just look up complete reviews on the Stereophile website. It's like saying, "Here's this information we're going to publish, but we really don't want you to be reading this."
The argument has been made that the Recommended Components issue sells very well -- somewhat of a "ends justifies the means" argument. Best-selling issues or not, the point still stands that if the best way for readers to put together a short list of audio components is to read the complete, original, unabridged review of the component, then by publishing the Recommended Components issue, then Stereophile really isn't doing anyone any favors. Instead, they are only enabling bad behavior in the name of newsstand sales.