Who Are You?

In the four years since our last readership survey, Stereophile's circulation has grown by one third, from 45,000 to over 60,000 (footnote 1). We thought it time, therefore, to commission new numbers, from specialists Mediamark Research Inc. (footnote 2). Table 1 shows the demographic breakdown of the magazine's readers. While the launch of CD did bring more women into the audiophile fold almost 10 years ago, the proportion of Stereophile's female readers has not changed since 1988, at just over 1% (footnote 3). At one of the panel sessions at the 1992 High End Hi-Fi Show in Los Angeles, a man in the audience asked why high-end audio was so testosterone-bound when women were just as interested in music as men? The answers given by some of the many women at the show ranged from the fact that women only earn 47 cents on the dollar compared with men to conjecture that women are turned off by the hobby's tweak aspect. Certainly dealer Andrew Singer felt last October (footnote 4) that the high-end industry is hobbling itself by ignoring half the US's population.

Table 1 About You

Annual Income of Household   Percent over
$200,000 or more4.8%  
$125,000–$199,999 10.1% 4.8%
$100,000–$124,999 11.1% 14.9%
$75,000–$99,999 15.6% 26.0%
$60,000–$74,999 14.2% 41.6%
$50,000–$59,999 10.3% 55.8%
$35,000–$49,999 17.5% 66.1%
$25,000–$34,999 9.2% 83.6%
$15000–$24.999 4.3% 92.8%
Less than $15,000 2.9% 97.1%

Average = $80,700, Median $66,000


Postgraduate degree 32.7%
Postgraduate study without degree 9,9%
Graduated from 4-year college 24.1%
Some college 26.0%

When it comes to the age range of the magazine's readers, again nothing major has changed since 1988, babyboomers making up the bulk of the readership, just as they do the magazine's staff. Since the earlier survey, however, we have acquired slightly more readers at the older end of the age scale, the above–50 group swelling from 15% to 21%, and the mean age increasing from 39 to just over 41.

The older you are, the more disposable income you have, and the average household income has also increased since 1988. One in four Stereophile readers has a household income of $100,000 and upward, compared with 11.5% four years ago. (For reference, Mediamark's statistics for US adults as a whole indicate that just 4.4% fall into this category.) 55.8% earn $50,000 or more compared with 47.4% in 1988, or 25.6% of US adults. This influx of high-income audiophiles raises the average household income from $58,900 to $80,700, with the median income—that which splits the population into equal halves—now $66,000. The fine statistical print reveals that 78% of Stereophile readers own their own homes, while nearly 72% hold professional or managerial positions compared with 26.8% for all US adults. As might be expected from their career profile, Stereophile readers are well-educated, 42.6% having studied for or obtained a postgraduate degree.

Table 2: About Your System

What is the appproximate total value of your hi-fi equipment Percent Over
More than $25,000 5.6%  
$15,000–$24,999 10.0% 5.6%
$10,000–$14,999 13.4% 15.6%
$7,500–$9,999 10.5% 29.0%
$5,000–$7,499 20.9% 39.5%
$2,500–$4,999 30.0% 60.4%
Lessthan$2,500 9.6% 90.4/

Average value = $9,100

What components have you bought within the last 12 months?

Interconnect cable 34.3%
Loudspeaker cable 31.5%
Any in-car component 24.3%
Loudspeakers 23.8%
CD player 23.6%
Power amplifier 19.5%
Preamplifier 15.4%
Cabinet, rack, stand 15.4%
VCR 15.2%
TV Monitor 11.2%
Antenna 9.2%
Cassette recorder 7.9%
Pickup cartridge 7.8%
Headphones 7.3%
FM tuner 6.2%
Turntable 5.4%
Video camera/camcorder 5.4%
Laserdisc player 5.0%
Receiver 4.7%
Tonearm 4.1%
Surround-sound processor 3.7%
DigitaI processor 3.5%
Integrated amplifier 2.3%
Projection TV (>=35") 2.3%
Digital recorder (DAT) 2.2%
Microphone 1.9%
Equalizer 0.9%

How much do you plan to spend on hi Ii equipment in the next 12 months

(if planning to buy)   Percent over
More than $5,000 7.7%  
$2,500–$4,999 16.6% 7.7%
$1,000–2,499 34.5% 24.3%
$500–$999 23.5% 58.8%
Less than $500 17.7% 82.3%

What factors do you think important when reaching a buying decision

Sound quality 80.5%
Manufacturer's reputation 14.2%
Price 9.6%
Quality of construction 9.4%
Reputation of dealer 4.4%
Design 3.7%
Other (warranty, brand, etc.) 13.2%

It comes as no surprise that people who read Stereophile buy a lot of hi-fi equipment. The first list in Table 2 shows how much readers have invested in sound-reproduction components. Whereas 49.7% of 1988 readers had systems worth more $5000 or more, with an average value of $7125, 60.4% of 1992 readers have systems worth $5000 or more, resulting in an average value of $9100 and a median value of $6300. Certainly I feel justified in including high-priced components in our "Equipment Reports" section, but as James Rock points out on pages 33 and 35, Stereophile doesn't forget those readers who are temporarily strapped for funds. Even given our love for megabuck equipment, we still review more components costing less than $1000 than any other US magazine except Stereo Review, and then only just. I suspect that the real complaint is that there is no magazine doing as thorough a reviewing job as Stereophile that concentrates on inexpensive equipment.

Our readers were heavy frequenters of specialist retailers in 1991, buying 15,000 pairs of loudspeakers, 14,500 CD players, 12,000 power amplifiers, and 9500 preamplifiers (footnote 5). And one in three bought interconnects and speaker cables within the last 12 months. More than four out of five readers intended to buy a piece of hi-fi equipment within the next 12 months, with an average planned expenditure of $2154, giving a total amount to be spent on hi-fi gear in 1992 of nearly $110 million. Stereophile's readers also invest heavily in video and in-car systems, with half of them indicating that they planned to spend, on average, $1300 on video components in the next year. But don't worry. I know that while you may buy video gear, you don't want to read about it in Stereophile!

And sound quality is the predominant factor in their hi-fi purchasing decisions—as it should be!—being almost 9 times as important as price. Note, however, the low ranking given to "design." Advertisers who get hung up on talking about the technical story behind their products' fascias please take note.

Table 3: About Your Music
What is your musical taste?

Classical 78.1%
   Symphonies & concertos 73.0%
   Chamber music 42.6%
   Choral/vocal 28.0%
   Opera 21.8%
Jazz 67.6%
Rock 67.2%
   Medium rock 54.5%
   Soft rock 37.5%
   Hard rock 30.1%
New Age 38.0%
Broadway, Soundtrack 29.3%
Folk 27.9%
Nostalgia 27.4%
   1960s 24.2%
   1950s 12.6%
   1940s 8.2%
Country 26.0%
New Wave 18.7%
Ethnic 15.6%
Dance music 14.3%
Gospel 6.6%
Urban contemporary (rap) 6.0%
Other 10.8%

What types of recordings did you personally buy in the last 12 months?

Medium Percent who bought Average bought Total bought
CDs 93.0% 57 3,236,000
LPs 39.2% 60 1,436,000
Precorded cassettes 25.5% 11 171,000
Blank cassettes 58.9% 29 1,043,000

The musical tastes in Table 3 were compiled by asking the survey's respondents what categories of recorded music they had purchased in the last 12 months. The love of classical music comes as no surprise, and rock and jazz are not far behind. But who would have suspected that 6% of our readers would enjoy rap? Or that one quarter were into country?

Stereophile readers spend, on average, 11 hours a week listening to their systems (down from 15 hours in 1988, however), and, like the magazine's contributors, are voracious record consumers. All but 1.5% bought some form of recorded music in the 12 months leading up to the survey. With an average of 57 CDs purchased by 93% of readers and 60 LPs by 39%, this gives the astonishing figures of 3.24 million CDs and 1.44 million LPs bought by the magazine's readers every year!

Table 4: About Stereophile
How long have you been reading Stereophile?

Less than 1 year 22.4%
l year 11.3%
2 years 17.0%
3 years 12.4%
4 years 10.2%
5 years 10.1%
6–9years 11.1%
10 years or more 5.6%
Average = 3.6 years

What other magazines do you read?

Publication Percent of readers who subscribe Percent who formerly subscribed
Audio 37.9% 23.8%
Stereo Review 36.0% 28.7%
The Abso!uteSound 16.2% 10.5%
CD Review 12.2% 7.6%
Video 8.0% 4.8%
Video Review 6.3% 5.8%
Speaker Builder 5.0% 5.0%
Rolling Stone 4.2% 9.2%
Audio Amateur 3.6% 3.4%
Audio/Video Interiors 2.9% 1.3%
Hi-Fi Heretic 2.6% 2.0%
The $ensible $ound 2.5% 3.6%
Fanfare 2.2% 1.0%
Glass Audio 1.9% 1.0%
IAR Hotline 1.9% 1.3%
Car Audio & Electronics 1.6% 0.1%
The Audio Critic 1.5% 4.2%
Car Stereo Review 1.3% 2.3%
High Performance Review 1.3% 3.1%
Gramophone 1.2% 2.0%
Hi-Fi News & Record Review 1.2% 3.6%
American Record Guide 1.0% 0.9%
Schwann Opus 0.9% 0.9%
Audiophile/Hi-Fl Answers 0.7% 0.4%
Schwann Spectrum 0.3% 0.6%
Any of the above 67.6% 58.2%

What magazine do you rank first in interest and value in providing information about hi-fl equipment?

Publication Ranked first Ranked second
Stereophile 69.0% 21.9%
The Abso!ute Sound 11.4% 33.1%
Stereo Review 10.0% 10.1%
Audio 6.1% 27.4%
CD Review 2.8% 5.0%
Audio/Video Interiors 0.2% 1.5%

Even though Stereophile's circulation has grown, when Table 4 is compared with the equivalent table in the 1988 survey, its readers appear to be loyal, with nearly 50% having read the magazine for three or more years. Maybe our "Letters" column allows them to let off steam! And to the 3400 or so people who have been enjoying (I assume) what we have to say for 10 or more years—Thank You!

And another thank you for ranking Stereophile so far ahead of everyone else when it comes to providing information about hi-fi components. Perhaps this is why the second list in Table 4 reveals there to be only a relatively small overlap between Stereophile and any one of its competitors, even though two-thirds of you do regularly subscribe to at least one other title. Although I haven't extracted these statistics in the tables, Sam Tellig, J. Gordon Holt, and I still appear to be the most popular of the magazine's writers, closely followed by Larry Archibald, Robert Harley, Dick Olsher, Lewis Lipnick, and Thomas J. Norton. And there is no mistaking what you like in Stereophile: reports and opinions on hi-fi hardware. Equipment reviews, "Recommended Components," and "Sam's Space" are the most popular features, though I am gratified to see Richard Lehnert's "Record Reviews" section right up there too.

Finally, having just returned from Stereophile's High End Hi-Fi Show in Los Angeles, I'm now tallying the "Best Sound at the Show" forms. The winner of the promised trip to Santa Fe is Bryan Thorpe, of Upland, CA.—John Atkinson

Footnote 1: Stereophile's ABC-audited circulation for the second six months of 1991 was 61,047. [For the second six months of 2009, it was 73,810.]

Footnote 2: 1000 postage-paid survey forms were mailed in the summer of 1991 to a random sampling of the magazine's subscribers on an every-"nth"-name basis, with 702 returned. This high response is extremely unusual, noted Mediamark.

Footnote 3: The detailed results of the 1988 Stereophile survey were listed in Vol.11 No.10, October 1988.

Footnote 4: "Dispatches From the Front," Vol.14 No.10, October 1991.

Footnote 5: Numbers extrapolated from the magazine's audited circulation of 61,047 and the 702 returned survey forms.