As We See It

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J. Gordon Holt  |  Feb 16, 2016  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1962  |  5 comments
When the Record Industry Association of America adopted its standard disc playback equalization curve in 1954, hi-fi enthusiasts heaved a sigh of relief and bade fond farewell to years of confusion, doubt and virtual pandemonium. Before the RIAA curve there were six "standard" curves in use, and since nobody seemed to know who was using what, getting flat response from a disc was often more a matter of luck than anything else. The adoption of the RIAA standard playback curve heralded an end to all this.
John Darko  |  Jan 27, 2016  |  5 comments
How many advertisements for hi-fi or head-fi hardware do you see on your morning commute? Two? Three? If you live in Los Angeles, Sydney, or Paris, most likely it'll be zero.

Not so in Tokyo, where commuters, tourists, and shoppers moving through the Shinjuku or Shibuya subway stations will find it almost impossible to ignore Sony's latest advertising campaign, which colorfully announces a new range of affordable portable audio players (né Walkmans). Inside, banners suspended from the cars' ceilings promote Panasonic's latest headphones and shoebox-sized stereo system. Many of the bigger Japanese manufacturers treat audio gear as a mainstream concern.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jan 21, 2016  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1962  |  18 comments
Considering the amount of careful research, cautious theorizing and wild speculation that have been lavished on the amplifier power question, we should expect to be considerably closer to the answer in 1962 than we were five years ago. This does not seem to be the case.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 15, 2015  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2016  |  101 comments
My spirits sank as I read the comments on Stereophile's Facebook page. In the November issue, we had published reviews of UpTone Audio's USB Regen device by Kalman Rubinson, Michael Lavorgna, and myself. Michael and Kal had enthused about the positive effect the USB Regen had made, but I could detect no measurable difference. On Facebook, Dan Madden had written, "I think a device like this would need a blind listening test to verify that a listener could hear the difference in a statistically measurable way, in a very high percentage of times."
J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 08, 2015  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1963  |  16 comments
Two letters from readers (see below) started us thinking again about something we've mulled at, off and on, for the past year or so: Does today's high-fidelity equipment, for all its vastly improved performance, actually sound that much better than the best of the early components?
J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 18, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1969  |  18 comments
Four-channel stereo is here, but for how long? By the time this gets in print, it is extremely unlikely that any of our readers will have escaped being told that 4-channel stereo is here. "Two channels brought us direction," the announcements trumpet. "Now, four channels bring us dimension." Now, for the first time in the history of hi-fi, modern technology can bring us hall acoustics in stereo, to surround us with the sense of spaciousness that we hear in the concert hall.
Robert Schryer  |  Nov 18, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2015  |  43 comments
It never fails. Browse Stereophile's Facebook page, scroll through the comments to an article that refers to life as an audiophile, and splat—appearing like bird droppings on your glistening screen are anti-audiophile wisecracks pointing out exactly how far off the "normal" track our hobby has derailed. Occasionally, I catch myself in mid-sentence, already replying to one of these droppings, the gist of my intended message invariably being: "If you're an anti-audiophile, what are you doing using up what life you have left reading a webpage devoted to a hobby you don't get? Shouldn't you be hanging out with your own friends?" Then, realizing that I'm wasting my time.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 12, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1966  |  0 comments
When we first heard rumors that Shure Brothers was about to unleash something called "trackability" on the audio world, our reaction was mainly one of indifference. We already had loudspeakers with listenability, tape recorders with portability, and amplifiers with stability and dependability. Trackability, we figured, was just another clever sales gimmick; a catchy word that the advertising department had thought up to describe what everyone wanted in a pickup.
Richard Lehnert  |  Oct 20, 2015  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2015  |  35 comments
"There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind," Duke Ellington is famously supposed to have said. But that doesn't tell us how to recognize "good music," and it doesn't define good. Nor will this essay. Many have described the music of, say, Mozart or J.S. Bach with such phrases as the music of heaven or the mind of God or—especially Bach's music—that it embodies the basic structure of the universe/existence/reality. I've said such things myself.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Sep 22, 2015  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2015  |  38 comments
I began working as a salesman of high-end audio gear in 1978. I was 29, and, as I recall, a healthy percentage of my customers were about my age. Most of the top high-end designers and entrepreneurs, too, were young: John Curl, Dan D'Agostino, Jon Dahlquist, Ray Kimber, Mark Levinson, Bill Low, Mike Moffat, Nelson Pass, Peter Snell, Bob Stuart, Jim Thiel, Ivor Tiefenbrun, A.J. van den Hul, Richard Vandersteen, Harry Weisfeld, David Wilson. The fact is, high-end audio's Golden Age—the late 1970s to the mid-1980s—was largely fueled by the under-40 set, and most high-end journalists were fellow baby boomers. Now we're all oldsters, with just a smattering of under-fortysomethings. That's about to change.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 15, 2015  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1971  |  9 comments
In the 1952 edition of the Radiotron Designer's Handbook, long recognized as the "bible" of the industry, the permissible level of IM distortion for a high-fidelity amplifier was given as 3%, with the alternate figure of 2% being cited as a "rather extreme" specification. We wonder what the author of that statement would think of today's solid-state amplifiers with their measured IM of 0.01% and less. And we wonder what he would think about the fact that these super-amplifiers still have audible distortion.
Ken Micallef  |  Aug 25, 2015  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2015  |  59 comments
Photo © Kipnis Studios 2015

Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Reddit? Social media has done much to bring together people of every interest imaginable to share their fascinations, desires, and, occasionally, delusions. From fans of frogs (FrogStomp) and proponents of clean public toilets (Benjyo Soujer) to a group that challenged an Iranian cleric's statement that women's flimsy attire causes earthquakes (Boobquake), social media is a global town square in which anyone with a keyboard and an attitude has an equal voice.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 11, 2015  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1971  |  19 comments
Until about nine months ago, in the fall of 1970, FM radio station WFLN, Philadelphia, was just another one of that dying breed: the classical FM station. Like its counterparts in the few remaining classical-radio cities, it provides the major part of the high-fidelity listener's radio diet, and also like most similar classical stations, its fidelity was nothing to brag about.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 04, 2015  |  First Published: May 01, 1974  |  1 comments
How would you feel after paying $2000 for super-stereo system, you learned that genuinely high-fidelity recordings of many excellent classical musical performances were not available to you? Could you excuse it with a shrug and the philosophical observation that nothing's perfect but things will get better as the state of the recording art improves? Okay then, what if you learned that truly high-fidelity recordings of these performances, that would sound very much like the real thing if reproduced through your super system, are available to millions of other people but not to you? Would you begin to feel just a little bit slighted, or maybe even irritated?
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 21, 2015  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2015  |  33 comments
Most of us have experienced the proverbial curveball that comes out of nowhere to smack us right in the head. My most recent such encounter was pitched by Stereophile contributor Steve Guttenberg.

Steve's whammy arrived amid an e-mail exchange among Stereophile writers concerning a rather clueless column in another publication on the dearth of women audiophiles. After asking how many female audiophiles each of us knew, Steve G. defined what he meant by audiophile: "a person who frets over their system, agonizes over choices, loves gear, and sometimes music. You know, the kind of person who reads Stereophile or The Abso!ute Sound. Merely owning a nice stereo doesn't make you an audiophile. Owning a Leica doesn't make you a photographer. You have to be at least a little obsessed."

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