40 Years of Stereophile: What Happened When Page 2

1973: In October, tired of waiting for the next issue of The Stereophile to arrive in his mailbox, Harry Pearson launches the first issue of The Abso!ute Sound, to be based on an editorial philosophy of judging audio components by listening to them.

1975: Apparently out of design inspiration, J. Gordon Holt prints a typewritten contents list on the cover of Vol.3 No.9 (Issue No.33), dated "Summer (2) 1975."

1976: John Atkinson abandons his career, such as it is, as a professional bass guitarist, and joins the English magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review as news editor. Deputy editor Paul Messenger (in 2002 Stereophile's UK correspondent) starts a column in HFN/RR called "Subjective Sounds," in which audio components are judged by listening to them. PM lends JA a copy of an "underground" magazine he had been sent by an American reader, The Stereophile.

1977: Stereophile's Vol.3 concludes with the 76-page Issue No.36 ("Spring 1977"), which features the first four-color cover: an illustration of Lorin Maazel conducting the Cleveland Orchestra for Telarc's first direct-to-disc recording. The leadoff equipment report is the BBC LS3/5A loudspeaker, and "Recommended Components" consists of a list followed by literally hundreds of footnotes. A four-issue subscription now costs $12.

Vol.4 No.1, Issue No.37, drops The from the magazine's name, and for the first time a price—$3.00—appears on the cover. This issue, celebrating 15 years of publication, is the first to include ads from manufacturers: featured are AGI, Audionics of Oregon, db Systems, Dynaco, H&H International (importer of JR Loudspeakers), Infinity, and M&K (footnote 1).

1978: "We Did It!" proclaims J. Gordon about finally meeting Stereophile's declared publishing schedule, among other things, but then ensures this will not become a tradition by relocating with Polly from Pennsylvania to Santa Fe in the New Mexico mountains.

1979: Vol.4 No.4 (Issue No.40), the first issue to be published in Santa Fe, features 72 pages and returns to printing the table of contents on the cover. With the exception of Issue No.46, which features the Quad ESL-63 cradled by Ross Walker on the cover, this practice persists for the next nine issues and three years. The cover price is $3, rises to $6 with Issue No.42, then falls to $2 with Issue No.43. The staff list features a Larry Archibald as "Assistant Tester & Technician."

JGH had heard of audiophile-and-auto-mechanic Larry Archibald from Alan Hill, inventor of the Hill Plasmatronics loudspeaker, and invites him over "for a little bit of din-din." The relationship blossoms to include bridge-playing and speaker-moving.

1982: Vol.5 No.1's editorial leader, titled "Changes of Everything," announces that Larry Archibald has purchased Stereophile from J. Gordon Holt, but that JGH will stay on as Editor and Chief Tester. Issue No.47 is 32 pages long, and there are just 3200 subscribers, but the announced frequency of publication is now 10 times/year. An annual subscription costs $20. Vol.5 No.2 (Issue No.48) sees a rise in newsstand price to $2.50 and is the first to feature the writings of the magazine's longtime tube maven, Dick Olsher.

In October '82, John Atkinson becomes editor-in-chief of Hi-Fi News & Record Review in England, the Compact Disc is launched in Japan, and HFN/RR starts its own hi-fi show.

1983: The CD is launched in the US and Europe in March, triggering the third and longest-lasting hi-fi boom. Vol.5 No.10 (Issue No.56) is cover-dated "January/February," meaning that Larry Archibald has missed his goal of publishing 10 Stereophiles in his first year by just one issue. This issue features J. Gordon Holt's review of the Sony CDP-101 CD player, in which he nails his audiophile colors firmly to the digital mast: "There is no doubt in my mind that this development will ultimately be seen as the best news serious music listeners have had since the advent of the LP."

As significant in our world as the introduction of the CD is in the wider one is the first appearance, in Vol.5 No.10, of Sam Tellig's "Audio Cheapskate" column. Sam begins his Stereophile career with a survey of moving-magnet phono cartridges, quickly becomes our most popular writer, and remains so to this day. But the magazine also benefits over the next 15 years from the circulation-promotion expertise of Sam's real-life alter ego, Tom Gillett.

A minor event in June '83, but a portent for the future, is John Atkinson's meeting Larry Archibald for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, and subsequently having dinner at a Greek restaurant with J. Gordon Holt (and J. Peter Moncrieff of International Audio Review Hotline).

The August issue (Vol.6 No.3) sees the cover price rise again to $3, reflecting the typical issue size of 72 pages, while the circulation is officially declared to be 12,000. By the final issue of 1983, Vol.6 No.6, the circulation has risen to 15,000 but the subscription rate is reduced to $18 and the publication frequency is officially changed to a more realistic eight issues per year. For the first time in its life, Stereophile will publish the number of issues each year that it has said it will. And from now, on all covers are in color.

Footnote 1: Jonas Miller was the M of M&K, and the K, Ken Kreisel, started out at Jonas Miller's store; Music and Sound morphed into a manufacturer and was renamed Camelot Technology, and is still run by Music and Sound's Mel Schilling; and Paul Heath Audio still seems to be alive in Chicago.—Larry Archibald