Random Thoughts & Recommended Components

"All great editors are men able to see how stories, episodes, and personalities flow and merge one into the other to reproduce the pattern of a world that only their own inner eye perceives.—Henry Robinson Luce, Founder, Time and Life magazines

I fell over the Luce job description around the time I became Editor of the UK's Hi-Fi News & Record Review in 1982. But as true as I believe it to be (other than the dated sexism), to put together a publication is a team effort. The Stereophile you hold in your hand involved the joint efforts of almost 70 talented, hardworking people to produce, not even counting those at our printers, distributors, and subscription fulfillment house. My thanks to each and every one of them!

And also in this largest-ever issue of Stereophile—356 pages!—you can find our largest-ever "Recommended Components." If you want to know what is the best-sounding D/A converter for under $1000, you'll find the answer in "Recommended Components." If you want to put together a shortlist of loudspeakers to audition in the $2000–$3000 region, this is where you'll find pocket descriptions of possible contenders.

Those used to the logical presentation of the current listing—component, price, description, issue(s) in which review(s) appeared—would find the "Recommended Components" of the 1960s and '70s daunting. Stereophile's Founder and its Editor for its first 25 years, J. Gordon Holt, just used to list component names, each one followed by a string of numbers referring to a separate list of footnotes on a subsequent page. Though it was cumbersome to consult, Gordon's "Recommended Components" represented one man's choices—in those days, JGH wrote almost all of the equipment reviews.

Since 1986, however, this gigantic listing has also been a team effort. Its starting point is the approximately 125 reviews and Follow-Ups that we've published since the last appearance of "Recommended Components." I fax the list of contenders to all the magazine's hardware writers for their input. I ask them whether they still stand by their findings, whether they've had further experience of a product they've reviewed, whether they've used a component reviewed by another writer and have something to add, and to indicate what Class they think is appropriate for each contender. An important point that is forgotten by many readers is that, with the exception of accessories and cables, only components that have been formally reviewed in the magazine are eligible to be included in "Recommended Components" (not that they necessarily will be included). This way, casual opinions on components gained under noncritical circumstances—like at a Show, for example—don't outweigh the carefully considered published opinions.

Meanwhile, Managing Editor Polly Summar and Editorial Assistant Vince Roybal check the price of every product that might possibly be included. A couple of weeks later, for what would have been the nineteenth time since I joined the magazine's staff in May 1986, I would have sat down to study the mountain of faxed responses and original reviews and write a 100-word capsule for each new entry. I am glad to announce that this arduous task has passed to the broad shoulders of the magazine's new Equipment Reports Editor, Wes Phillips.

However, the tasks of updating existing entries, incorporating WP's carefully considered text, deciding what to keep and what to drop, and weighing sometimes conflicting opinions to decide in which class to put each successful contender—all of that remains my responsibility. If I got it right in your eyes (see "Letters"), I'm pleased to have my verdicts ratified. If I got it wrong, well...write and tell me!

Once the master list has been compiled, the copy editing skills of Kristen Weitz and Richard Lehnert are let loose on it, followed by the Desk-Top Publishing skills of Production Manager Martha Payne and the members of her team, then the design talent of our new Art Director, Natalie Brown. Just about everyone so far mentioned proofs the laid-out pages and, when every word has been read about seven times and all typos—we hope—corrected, our printer is sent a Syquest disk carrying the fruits of all that labor. My thanks to everyone involved—it don't come easy!

Jerry Garcia, 1942–1995

So, Jerry's gone—see Carl Baugher's brief tribute in this issue. I only managed to see the Grateful Dead live in concert once, at London's Rainbow Theater in 1981, but the experience was staggering. And thanks to the band's liberal policy on taping, I captured it binaurally on a Sony TC-D5 portable cassette deck, using the same pair of omnidirectional microphones with which I recorded the Formula 1 track on Stereophile's Test CD 3.

A curious thought assails me: What music in 2095 will have survived as the pinnacle of late 20th-century music-making? The show music of Bernstein? The symphonies of Hohvaness, Diamond, or Corigliano? The minimalism of Reich, Glass, or Pärt? The iconoclastic and eclectic music of Frank Zappa? The jazz of the Marsalis brothers?

Or could it be the huge recorded legacy of the Dead? Jazz is a music where the musician needs all of music theory at the fingertips in order to decide what the next note should be. And the one area where the Grateful Dead surpassed all others was in the art of group improvisation. To attend a Dead concert was to realize that what seemed to be the entire breadth of Western music-making (if not quite always the depth) was available for immediate recall by Jerry's band o' men. I assume the band will continue, though personally, I don't see how they can. But thank goodness for the tapes! And watch for Elizabeth's Cohen's appreciation in the December Stereophile.—John Atkinson