As We See It

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Jim Austin  |  Nov 12, 2019  |  10 comments
"There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind . . . the only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds."—Duke Ellington

Before I became Stereophile's editor—when I still had time for such things—I would occasionally pack up a camera and some lenses, get in my truck, and drive, usually south, in pursuit of good images and sounds. I'd spend a couple of weeks on the road, stopping to take pictures whenever I came across a picturesque town or valley or an abandoned drive-in theater. I'd try to end the day in some city or town that was likely to have live music. A couple of times on every trip, I'd find myself approaching an especially musical place: Clarksdale. Memphis. New Orleans.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 15, 2019  |  39 comments
One of my biggest surprises since I became the editor of Stereophile—and so started focusing more on all things audiophile—is how often I find myself thinking about the ethics of this hobby. This is unusual for me: I dislike moralism and prefer aesthetics to ethics.
Jim Austin  |  Sep 17, 2019  |  26 comments
Yup, you're in a strange position, all right. You're in love with a girl who is no more.—Haruki Murakami

The quote above, from Haruki Murakami's novel Kafka on the Shore, is addressed to Kafka, a 15-year-old boy who has fallen in love with the teenage ghost of an older woman. The woman is still alive, but ever since the death of her lover many years before, she has existed separate from her spirit. Falling in love with ghosts is something I've done often, starting at about Kafka's age.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 15, 2019  |  22 comments
If you're a music fan—and if you're reading this, you probably are—you've heard this already: On June 11, the New York Times Magazine published an investigative report about a 2008 fire that destroyed a vault at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

Workers were repairing a roof on an oft-reused movie set, heating asphalt tiles with a blowtorch. Protocol required the repairmen to stick around for one hour until the asphalt had cooled, to guard against fire. But shortly after they left, a fire broke out. Hundreds of firefighters fought it, pulling water from the lake once inhabited by The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Jim Austin  |  Jul 16, 2019  |  2 comments
By the time you read this, Munich's High End 2019 will be a distant memory. Yet as I write this, having just returned from Munich, the experience is fresh in my mind. It's the most compelling audio topic I can think of, crying out for commentary.

Munich is to audiophiles—to this one at least—what New York's 5th Avenue is to Black Friday shoppers. It's the audiophile version of flying through a canyon with a wing suit on. It's a giant rush, audio cocaine.

Jim Austin  |  Jun 18, 2019  |  77 comments
Stereophile's first change in editorial leadership in 33 years calls for a restatement of the magazine's core principles.

Stereophile was founded in 1962 by J. Gordon Holt, on the premise that the best way to review an audio component is to listen to it. Following Holt as editor, John Atkinson turned that premise into a viable concern—a real magazine—and, in 1989, added a regular suite of measurements to Stereophile's otherwise subjective mix.

John Atkinson  |  May 07, 2019  |  22 comments
John Atkinson (left) and Larry Archibald (right) remininisce about JA joining Stereophile in 1986. (Photo: Larry Greenhill)

It was the summer of 1976. My career as a professional musician was not panning out as I had hoped. I'd played bass guitar on quite a few singles and three albums, and toured with erstwhile teen singing sensation Helen Shapiro—but I was better at playing than I was at getting paid. My then wife, Maree, showed me a classified ad in the British newspaper The Guardian: the magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review was looking for an assistant editor.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 18, 2019  |  85 comments
When we launched Stereophile's website at the end of 1997, we decided that we would not reprint the magazine's most popular features, including the biannual "Recommended Components" listings and Michael Fremer's monthly "Analog Corner" column. We were concerned that doing so would cannibalize magazine sales. As it turned out, we were wrong—and so the latest "Recommended Components" is available on our free-access website day-and-date with the publication of the April and October issues in which it appears. And starting with Mikey's very first "Analog Corner," from July 1995, I have been posting his column on our AnalogPlanet.com website.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 12, 2019  |  51 comments
The dichotomy between what is measured and what is heard has resurfaced in recent months. Jon Iverson discussed it in his "As We See It" in our December 2018 issue, and I followed up on the subject in my January 2019 "As We See It." These further thoughts were triggered by an e-mail exchange I had last December with Stereophile's longtime copyeditor, Richard Lehnert.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 12, 2019  |  32 comments
With this year's Consumer Electronics Show behind us, readers of our on-line show reports know the sad truth: that the largest industry-only technology show in North America attracted even fewer "high-performance" audio exhibits in 2019 than it did in 2018. The phrase "CES is dead" is now a mantra, and no one should be surprised if this year's poor showing proves to be the final nail in CES's coffin as far as high-end audio is concerned.
Robert Schryer  |  Jan 15, 2019  |  22 comments
It happened 30 years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday: My best friend's brother's friend showed me his record player—an AR turntable equipped with an SME 3009 Mk.III tonearm and a Shure V15 Type V-MR cartridge—and offered to sell it to me at a price that, until that moment, I would never have considered spending for a complete system. "It's audiophile gear," he said with a knowing smile.

Audiophile? The word sounded exotic—and grown-up.

John Atkinson  |  Dec 18, 2018  |  34 comments
It was January 1986. Stereophile's then publisher, Larry Archibald, and I were driving in his diesel 'Benz sedan from Las Vegas to Santa Fe. We had shaken hands at the just-concluded Consumer Electronics Show on my replacing J. Gordon Holt as the magazine's editor, and now, during the 750-mile drive, we mapped out the strategy to take what was then an "underground," digest-format, somewhat irregularly published magazine to the position of dominance in audio publishing it still enjoys.
Jon Iverson  |  Nov 19, 2018  |  79 comments
I recently experienced an alarming audiophile episode. John Atkinson wanted to send me BorderPatrol's Digital to Analogue Converter SE, so that I could write the Follow-Up published in the November issue. But he wouldn't tell me anything about Herb Reichert's original review of the product, which had not yet been published. Instead, he said, cryptically, "If this is a 'great' DAC, I'll have to hang up my measurements." I took this to mean Herb liked it, but JA's test rig did not.

Sure, why not? Go ahead and send me the DAC, I thought. I'd love to hear what something covered in audio fur sounds like.

John Atkinson  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  63 comments
"At what price does a high-end product cease to exist for the 'normal' audiophile?" This question, which I asked in the February 2017 issue, was a follow-up to one I'd asked in our April 2011 issue: "If all someone is offered is a $150,000 pair of speakers . . . that person will walk away from this hobby, or build his or her system by buying only used equipment. Either consumer choice turns the price spiral into a death spiral for manufacturers."
Art Dudley  |  Sep 11, 2018  |  36 comments
"No one's buying music anymore: They're renting it."—John Atkinson, keynote speech, AXPONA 2018

Streaming music isn't new. US companies have been doing it since the 1920s, when it was discovered that multiplexing—the then-new practice of combining multiple signals over a single conductor—could be used to send live or recorded music over public power lines. The first of those companies was Muzak LLC.

File that away.

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