John Atkinson to Receive the LAOCAS Founder's Award

The Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society (LAOCAS) has chosen John Atkinson, former editor-in-chief and now technical editor of Stereophile, as the winner of its 29th annual Founder's Award. The award comes 57 years after JA1 began making recordings on his first tape recorder and 46 years since he began working at a hi-fi magazine, as an editorial assistant at British magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review.

John's career has been illustrious and varied. Due to his self-described "schizophrenic nature," he was passionately drawn to music but excelled academically in science. John said goodbye to formal instrumental study and went the science route, earning a B. Sc. in physics and chemistry from the University of London and post-grad certification as a high school science teacher. He then began working in a government research lab, where he made his own transistors.

Around the same time, he began performing in bands. One gig was as a member of the short-lived British folk-rock band Back Alley Choir, on whose sole, eponymous album, released in 1972, he played bass and sang. Another band, led by Matthew Ellis, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in the summer of 1972, which inspired John to abandon his scientific career. When the band manager ran off with the recording's advance and record-release plans vaporized, JA was out of a job.

The Obie Clayton Band (L–R): John Atkinson, Michael Cox, Alan Eden

After that, John spent four years touring with "teen singing sensation" Helen Shapiro while doing other gigs. "The album I was most proud of was Obie Clayton," by the three-person Obie Clayton band (see photo), engineered by Jerry Boys of later Buena Vista Social Club fame, released in 1975 on DJM Records. The album was a "Porky's Prime Cut" and you can listen to one track below:

[Play the Obie Clayton Band's "Blues for Beginners]

"For the album, which was recorded at Cornwall's Sawmills Studio .... I played bass guitar and multitracked clarinet and violins and also contributed some backing vocals."

In September 1976, JA1 became an editorial assistant at British magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review. "I continued with my career as a professional musician for 18 months after joining Hi-Fi News," John said. "It was the summer of '78, when I was playing matinees and weekend evenings in a vaudeville show, that I decided to stop. I was sitting in the music pit, looking down at the music and looking up at the stage, when it hit me that you learn about music and improve your playing when you play with musicians who are better than you, [who] drag you up closer to their level." That wasn't happening, so he decided to move on. In 1982, John became Hi-Fi News's editor-in-chief. By the end of 1985, he had almost doubled the magazine's circulation. Larry Archibald, Stereophile's owner and publisher, snatched him away to succeed Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt as editor.

Under John's leadership, Stereophile's circulation increased from around 20,000 to a peak of 92,000 15 years later. In April 2019—390 issues later—he became the magazine's technical editor and handed over editor-in-chief duties to Jim Austin, dubbed JA2.

John has measured more than 900 loudspeakers, 600 amplification components, and 400 digital products with a standardized test regime that has become an industry benchmark. A longstanding member of the Audio Engineering Society, in 2011 John accepted an invitation from the Technical Council of the AES to present the prestigious Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecture at its 131st Convention in New York.

In addition to his editing and testing achievements, John has produced, engineered, mastered, or played on more than 40 commercially released recordings. His part in engineering and mastering the Portland State Chamber Choir's Translations (Naxos) helped make the album a Gramophone magazine Critic's Choice in 2020.

LAOCAS, which has more than 2700 members, has previously issued awards to a host of audio luminaries. As LAOCAS President Allen Taylor told Stereophile, "Every recipient has decades of experience in both equipment and music listening. It's not just about a bunch of experience. This awards help pull people together. They're the society's way to give back."

John's trophy, which is produced by the same company that casts the Oscar, will be awarded at LAOCAS's 29th Annual Gala in Los Angeles on December 4, 2022. "It will be presented to me by Michael Fremer," John said. "Since he's so good at impersonation, he'll probably sound more like me than I do."

January 2023: The video of first, JA being roasted by Michael Fremer, then of JA's acceptance speech, is now posted on YouTube:

Herb Reichert's picture

Congratulations John.

I am forever grateful for the opportunity you gave me. And all that you've taught me.

Thank you.


remlab's picture

..that Mr Atkinson is one of the great icons of the audio world.

pbarach's picture

I have learned so much from your articles and reviews.

AudioBang's picture

I appreciate all your years of service in educating, providing perspective and especially your sincerity. Best regards always...

bdiament's picture

Congratulations John!

I've been enjoying your writings since the Hi-Fi News days, through all you've done at Stereophile, and look forward to continuing to do so with your future work.

Best regards,
Soundkeeper Recordings

Michael Fremer's picture

It will be my pleasure to present John with the award as he did for me a few years ago. I will work on my impression so it's sharp next December!

Anton's picture

About fugging time!

No one more deserving.

Maybe if it weren't for those shoes in the Obie Clayton pic it may have happened sooner?


John Atkinson's picture
Anton wrote:
About fugging time! No one more deserving.

Thank you.

Anton wrote:
Maybe if it weren't for those shoes in the Obie Clayton pic it may have happened sooner?

Platform-sole shoes were mandatory footwear in the mid-1970s!

BTW: The Obie Clayton Band's lead singer/guitarist/keyboard player Michael Cox passed away in 2009 but not before writing a best-selling mystery novel—see

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Julie Mullins's picture

Congratulations, John! Well deserved. Although we've only worked together for a relatively short time, you've taught me a lot. I always enjoy our exchanges and appreciate your taking the time to answer questions. Thank you for being so kind to me right from the start—even before we worked together.

windansea's picture

Mr. Atkinson is in the Pantheon forever.

Metalhead's picture

Congratulations and well deserved Sir.

Always enjoyed your writing and the testing and reporting on the gear when under test.

However, they need to scotch that band picture and find the one where you look like your a double of Mr. Entwistle

In any event well deserved.

prerich45's picture

Bravo Zulu - Well Done and congrats!!!!

rschryer's picture

Congratulations, John. There is no recipient more deserving.

Have a great time at the gala.

Lorenzo-Italia's picture

Congratulations Sir John, truly deserved.

You set the benchmark in HiFi gear Measurements for decades.
One point (to me) is still missing in your professional career: to choose and appoint your "successor". Don't rush, until you run Melissa on any speaker and turn on your A.P. on any DAC/Amp we are totally fine.

with deep respect and heartfelt thankfulness
my Best Regards

LarryMagoo's picture

I always love to read the tech part of a review by John as it sometimes does not jive with the listening results.

Plus I had no idea he plays 4 String Bass!! No wonder he like bottom end!!

Lazer's picture

Is it still gonna be presented by Mikey?

John Atkinson's picture
Lazer wrote:
Is it still gonna be presented by Mikey?

As far as I am aware.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Doctor Fine's picture

Holt, Hirsch, Pearson, Hafler---ATKINSON.
Anybody else?
Must be satisfying to know how much you improved your chosen profession.
I certainly benefitted from your scribbling.
Way to go, John, hasn't it been a great ride?