"Most important." That was the phrase I used when I e-mailed the members of Stereophile's extended family of reviewers and writers to ask for suggestions when I began to compile this list. I didn't want to be more specific because I wanted to cast the net as wide as possible. But there are many factors that make an audio component "important": design innovation, sound quality, sales figures, influence on other designers, influence on the evolving market, influence on system synergy.
And I used to think our annual "Records To Die For" issue was difficult. Whew! When it came down to choosing the 40 most influential rock/pop, jazz, and classical records of the past 40 years, during which this magazine has been the most honest and enjoyable source of high-end audio journalism, my initial list contained more than 200 choices. A painful paring-down process ensued, with input from every member of the Stereophile staff.
When it comes to delivering audio/video programming to the home, there's no substitute for bandwidth. Typically measured in megahertz (MHz) for analog signals or megabits per second (Mbps) for digital datastreams, the amount of bandwidth your system can access determines how much programming you can receive and at what level of quality.
The inspiration for this project came from Stereophile's Gretchen Grogan and Erich Vollmer of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Music Festivals are perhaps the healthiest aspect of classical music making, allowing ad hoc ensembles to chart the farthest reaches of the repertoire, as well as retracing the familiar ground of the great works. Why not, they thought, capture a representative selection of works performed at the 1995 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival? This would not only document some of the great performances to be heard, but also allow music lovers everywhere to participate in what has increasingly been recognized as one of the US's best summer music festivals.
A musical highlight for us at Stereophile in 1995 was the opportunity to record several concerts at the world-famous Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. The result was a Stereophile CD, Festival (STPH007-2), which features the original chamber version of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, Darius Milhaud's jazz-inspired La création du monde, and the premiere recording of the 1995 Festival commission, Tomiko Kohjiba's The Transmigration of the Soul (see Stereophile, January 1996, Vol.19 No.1, p.132). We were pleased, therefore, to be asked back by the Festival in 1996. Once again we have produced a CD of live recordings, Serenade (STPH009-2), which features chamber works by Mozart, Brahms, and Dvorák.
Back in the spring of 1990, Stereophile introduced its first Test CD, featuring a mixture of test signals and musical tracks recorded by the magazine's editors and writers. Even as we were working on that first disc, however, we had plans to produce a second disc which would expand on the usefulness of the first and feature a more varied selection of music. The result was our Test CD 2, released in May 1992.
Since 1992, Stereophile has named a select few audio components its "Products of the Year." In doing so, we recognize those components that have proved capable of giving musical pleasure beyond the formal review period.
What're they all about, these so-called Products of the Year? Why do we put so much time and energy into the voting? Why compile a list of all the products we've reported on in Stereophile over the last 12 months, putting little checkmarks and stars and numbers and other irreverent doodles and dashes beside their already silly names? Certainly all this hullabaloo isn't for our health. It's not even fun. It doesn't promote that strange, weird, and wonderful tingling feeling way down in the toes. It doesn't taste good. And chicks don't really dig it. So: Why?
This Is The Perfect Time—the time of year we love most. Madison Avenue's confounding street signs are suddenly dressed in green and red wreaths, the city's weary scaffolding blinks happily with golden light, the ordinary clamor of traffic and jackhammers is magically transformed into jingle bells and drummer boys. There is music everywhere and nothing to get in our way: A look down the avenue in either direction throws open a window to all that is past and all that is to come.
Well, ladies and gents, it's been a long year. As I write this, on an unusually humid and hazy October morning, I'm still feeling the lingering effects of my beloved Mets' sudden and tragic collapse from the top of the National League East. I sat there, at Flushing Meadows' Shea Stadium, covered in peanut shells and with tears in my hazel eyes as the scoreboard went cruelly blank and Coldplay's "The Scientist" wept over the stadium loudspeakers. It was brutal.