40 Years of Stereophile: What Happened When
1930: Justin Gordon Holt is born in North Carolina. His family moves to Melbourne, Australia in 1935, and returns to the US in 1947.
1948: CBS's Dr. Peter Goldmark demonstrates the (mono) microgroove LP; Audio Engineering magazine is launched, later to split into Audio magazine and the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society; John Atkinson is born in England; J. Gordon Holt records his high-school band with one of the first tape recorders, a Brush Soundmirror BK401. (One of his 1948 recordings is later featured on Stereophile's first Test CD.)
1950: Sales of war-surplus electronic components trigger the first, small hi-fi boom, with "Radio Row," on the site of the future World Trade Center in Manhattan, offering dream fuel to the kids who will grow up to invent high-end audio.
1955: J. Gordon Holt joins High Fidelity and Audiocraft magazines, both based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, as audio editor. Around this time, he also contributes a column called "Sound and the Query" to Hi Fi/Stereo Review (now Sound & Vision).
1956: Hi-Fi News magazine starts publication in England, with its June issue. The first stereo LPs are introduced.
1960: J. Gordon Holt leaves High Fidelity to join Weathers Industries, manufacturer of high-end phono cartridges, as Technical Information Person. He finds this frustrating, for there seems little point in Weathers making better products than anyone else if none of the magazines that test them can tell the difference.
1962: Vol.1 No.1, Issue No.1, of The Stereophile, published and edited by J. Gordon Holt out of Wallingford, Pennsylvania, hits the newsstands in October. Gordon's declared editorial policy is to judge audio components by listening to them—a heretical idea in those days of meters and measurements. "Dammit," said Gordon, "if nobody else will report what an audio component sounds like, I'll do it myself!"
Full-size at 8½" by 11" and stapled, the magazine's 20 pages are free from advertising and feature a review of the Weathers cartridge and an article by "Lucius Wordburger" (JGH, of course) on how to write an ad. The declared publishing schedule is bimonthly. There is no cover price, but a subscription costs $6 for 12 issues ie, ostensibly two years' worth.
For the next 16 years, the only Stereophile staffers are Gordon and his wife, Polly, who also contributed record reviews under the nom-de-plume Margaret Graham. (Polly's maiden name was Norton, as in the Charles Eliot Norton lecture series at Harvard—a member of a very famous Cambridge family and a "very smart woman," remembers Larry Archibald.)
1963: Vol.1 No.5, cover-dated "May-June 1963," features the first "Recommended Components." Fifty-two products are listed, using the same rating system of Classes A through D still used today. Philips introduces the Compact Cassette as a convenient dictation medium.
1964: In August, Vol.1 No.8 is notable both in being the first issue to feature what will much later come to be called a "home theater" component on its cover, and to include the first of a number of attacks JGH will make on RCA's Dynagroove technology, whereby LP sound quality is deliberately degraded to make it more compatible with cheap players.
1966: Vol.2 No.3, cover-dated "Winter (4)," is devoted to a constructional article on a tube amplifier written by Edward T. Dell, who will later found The Audio Amateur magazine (now AudioXpress). Ed is later featured on the cover of Vol.2 No.9 wearing quadraphonic headphones (though he only has two ears).
1967: The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of the first significant non-classical LPs to be released in stereo, helping trigger the second boom in hi-fi component sales, in which the major Japanese brands dominate the mass market.
1968: Vol.2 No.8, Issue No.20, cover-dated "Spring (1)," is still staple-bound, but is the first of the digest-sized issues that will persist for the next 25 years.
1971: Vol.2 No.12, cover-dated "1-71 Spring (1)" and 36 pages long, closes out Vol.2, with 24 issues published in nine years—rather fewer than was anticipated. A subscription is $1 cheaper than it was in 1962, though now the reader gets only four issues for his $5.
1972: Vol.3 No.3 of The Stereophile is the first issue to feature advertising, but only from dealers. The first advertisers are Jonas Miller of Beverly Hills, California; Music & Sound of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania; Paoli High Fidelity Consultants of Paoli, Pennsylvania; and Paul Heath Audio of Rochester, New York.
Surround sound is launched, in the form of Quadraphonic LPs. Despite a massive push from both hardware and software companies, competing and incompatible formats lead to a massive lack of interest from consumers.