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gkc
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Re: if I were JA,

Alex, it depends on how you define the "playing field," which is precisely my point. If you mean this phrase to include all electronic and acoustic devices that attempt to turn software into music, then of course the "playing field" is not "pristine." There is, indeed, "much crap." My point was, why bother?

If you mean, as I do, that there are literally thousands of contenders, now as opposed to then, for the best sound possible according to the current state of the art, then why bother with the crap?

That is what I meant. 30-40 years ago you had a difficult time counting to ten, when it came to identifying the state of the art. Now, the list seems infinite. If the "A" list is too large to exhaust nowadays, why bother with the crap? I don't recall having said or even implied that the playing field is pristine in absolute terms. There is always crap. Check out the white van and your local Best Buy. But, again, why bother with it, when technological advances and competition have enlarged the list of available contenders to such an extent that no one publication could exhaust such a list.

The obvious analogy would be to compare candidates for review with candidates for entrance at a university. Seats are limited. Why deliberately admit idiots when genius goes a-begging? Why, as JA noted in another context, publicly exclude an inferior product (thus bashing it by implication), when all you really have to do is ignore it and concentrate on the best available candidates?

The playing field is always contaminated. What has changed during my lifetime is the relative abundance of contenders for the best sound. It will always be possible to descend to the sewer, if you somehow have forgotten the smell of shit. But why bother?

As I said, so much good stuff, so little time...

bifcake
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Re: if I were JA,


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Yep, that's exactly what I want. Barring that, pick a component arbitrarily without a preview and then do a review.

For that, JA would have to hire me full time with commensurate compensation. Not very likely.

Kal

Why would JA have to hire you full time? You do X number of reviews, you'll do the same number of reviews. The only difference will be that the components you review will be picked out of a hat. How's the paradigm changed?

Kal Rubinson
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Re: if I were JA,


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Why would JA have to hire you full time? You do X number of reviews, you'll do the same number of reviews. The only difference will be that the components you review will be picked out of a hat. How's the paradigm changed?

I won't do it. The largest part of the reward for reviewing/writing is the pleasure of getting my hands (and ears) on almost anything that I, as a card-carrying audiophile, might lust after or, even, have a curiosity about.

If I had to spend substantial time/effort with, at best, a number of disappointing products, the current arrangement would not be adequate because it would be more like work.

Kal

bifcake
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Re: if I were JA,

Pfffttt... dude, stop being a primadonna!

Perhaps I'm missing something here. What is the arrangement by which writers contribute to Stereophile? Perhaps this is where I should have started to get a better understandings of why things are the way they are. How do you apply to be a writer? What is the criteria for becoming one and how does the compensation package work (you don't have to give me actual numbers, just whether you get paid by article, by word, etc.)

Is writing what you do for a living or do you have a regular job?

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Re: if I were JA,


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Pfffttt... dude, stop being a primadonna!

Perhaps I'm missing something here. What is the arrangement by which writers contribute to Stereophile? Perhaps this is where I should have started to get a better understandings of why things are the way they are. How do you apply to be a writer? What is the criteria for becoming one and how does the compensation package work (you don't have to give me actual numbers, just whether you get paid by article, by word, etc.)

Is writing what you do for a living or do you have a regular job?

As I recall, Stereo Sporintg news reported that Kal initially signed as Stereophile's first round draft choice out of NYU.

He received a six million dollar signing bonus, which he used to rebuild Major Steve Austin.

The subsequent TV deal netted him a substantial multiple of that amount, and in addition to his eight figure Stereophile salary, Kal has parlayed that into a global empire with interests in audio, scientific instrumentation, arms....and legs.

Kal is the Chuck Norris of audio, dude. He does this as an avocation, not a vocation.

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Re: if I were JA,


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As I recall, Stereo Sporintg news reported that Kal initially signed as Stereophile's first round draft choice out of NYU.

He received a six million dollar signing bonus, which he used to rebuild Major Steve Austin.

The subsequent TV deal netted him a substantial multiple of that amount, and in addition to his eight figure Stereophile salary, Kal has parlayed that into a global empire with interests in audio, scientific instrumentation, arms....and legs.

Kal is the Chuck Norris of audio, dude. He does this as an avocation, not a vocation.

I bet you have his rookie card. Classic!

Kal Rubinson
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Re: if I were JA,


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Pfffttt... dude, stop being a primadonna!

I've heard that from my wife.


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Is writing what you do for a living or do you have a regular job?

I will answer only this last question. I have a day job that pays the bills. So does the majority of Stereophile writers.

Kal

Kal Rubinson
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Re: if I were JA,


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As I recall, Stereo Sporintg news reported that Kal initially signed as Stereophile's first round draft choice out of NYU.

He received a six million dollar signing bonus, which he used to rebuild Major Steve Austin.

The subsequent TV deal netted him a substantial multiple of that amount, and in addition to his eight figure Stereophile salary, Kal has parlayed that into a global empire with interests in audio, scientific instrumentation, arms....and legs.

Kal is the Chuck Norris of audio, dude. He does this as an avocation, not a vocation.

In the interests of complete accuracy, I never attended or played for NYU (although my children did). I have been secretly funded by NYUMC for decades in support of my clandestine audio operations.

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Re: if I were JA,


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The largest part of the reward for reviewing/writing is the pleasure of getting my hands (and ears) on almost anything that I, as a card-carrying audiophile, might lust after or, even, have a curiosity about.


Which are exactly the reviews that I want to read.

I expect Stereophile's editorial staff to vet the available products, applying their expertise and knowledge. I want those which are potentially best to be throughly listened to and tested.

I also want them to learn about products that have received a great deal of enthusiast interest - such as the Oppo and the PlayStation - to be carefully considered and written about.

They do this admirably.

jamesgarvin
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Re: if I were JA,

"If there are no negative reviews, then one gets the impression, as Art Dudley has discovered on Audio Asylum forums, that the magazine is all about "happy face"."

"Negative reviews keeps manufacturers in check. At this point, the manufacturers take little if any risk by submitting a review sample."

I weigh in here using an example of a component near and dear to my heart. JA and I went round and round on here and on the Asylum relative to the non-appearance of the Gallo Reference 3.1 review, after Wes Philips intimated that a review would be forthcoming. Although it took us a long to get to the end of the road, Gallo never sent the review sample. Apparently, Gallo is selling all the speakers they can sell, and so a positive review would not sell more speakers, but a negative review could quash their sales figures.

It is this last part that I would like to focus on. Gallo submitted review samples to at least four audio/video publications, all of which wrote glowing reviews. So why not Stereophile? I posit that of all the audio/video magazines that conduct reviews, Stereophile is the only one, to my knowledge, other than maybe the Sensible Sound, that performs in depth measurements, and so even if a component is given a subjective clean bill of health, it must still undergo testing, and JA generally provides his opinions of the product's technical measurements. A manufacturer has, in effect, two tests for a unqualified recommendation.

If Gallo knows that his speaker will receive an unqualified rave, as you suggest, why submit not the review sample? I suspect that the reason the other publications received review samples, and he did not submit one to Stereophile, is precisely because he knows that Stereophile's testing is the most rigorous, and if he is likely to receive a negative review from any publication, it will be Stereophile.

What I would like to see, and what John Marks has done on occasion on the Asylum, is to provide examples of those companies that either have refused requests for review samples, or failed to respond to requests. I acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons for not submitting a review sample, but a manufacturer can provide the reason, which could be included in the notice, allowing the reader to decide the reason for failing to tender a sample. I, as a reader and consumer, do find relevance to knowing which companies refuse to submit samples, because, I think more often than not, they are fearful of not controlling the circumstances under which their products are used and heard. Much like what happens in my home. The only difference is that I bought the thing, waited for that "break-in" time, and, of course, that "break-in" time has taken me beyond the time I can return the product to the dealer or manufacturer. This has not happened to me, but the possibility of it leads to me draw some conclusions about those companies that do not submit samples.

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Re: if I were JA,


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Is writing what you do for a living or do you have a regular job?

The following writers are full-time employees of Stereophile: John Atkinson, Stephen Mejias, Robert Baird.

The following are full-time freelancers who mainly write for Stereophile: Sam Tellig, Art Dudley, Michael Fremer, Wes Phillips.

The following are full-time freelancers who do some writing for Stereophile: Keith Howard, Paul Messenger, Jason Serinus.

Everyone else has a day job, but that doesn't mean their contributions are worth any less or are any less valued.

What matters most to me as editor is the enthusiasm and passion they bring to their writing.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

bifcake
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Re: if I were JA,

Thanks John.

Do you have control over the freelancers you employ? In other words, who decides what gets reviewed? Who decides which writers review which components? Do the writers have a say in the decision making process? What happens if a writer refuses to review a particular component?

KBK
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Re: if I were JA,


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Check out the white van and your local Best Buy.

Just yesterday I got 'White Vanned' in the Best Buy Parking Lot.

If you've seen the Steve Martin Film 'The Jerk', you'll know what scene I parodied,when it told them, "Sir, you are talking to a Loudspeaker Designer!

And your damn Van is the wrong color! It's supposed to be White!

And leave town now, as I'm recording your plate and calling the police,as you are selling in someone else's commercial property, and without a license, too boot! Leave town, now!"

Hopefully I saved a few folks from buying some crap speakers.

CECE
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Re: if I were JA,

Some of the best Steaks and frozen foods come from white vans....didn't you ever get a surplus frozen steaks white van......too many steaks leftover from a canceled order.

CECE
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Re: if I were JA,

When does Alex O. come on board of Stereophile writership. His reviews are clear, concise, and accurate. The ALEX REPORT.....sounds like a good idea.

bifcake
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Re: if I were JA,


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When does Alex O. come on board of Stereophile writership. His reviews are clear, concise, and accurate. The ALEX REPORT.....sounds like a good idea.

I will only accept on the same primadonna terms as Kal. Since there's a Kalmadonna, no reason not have an Almadonna.

Kal Rubinson
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Re: if I were JA,


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I will only accept on the same primadonna terms as Kal. Since there's a Kalmadonna, no reason not have an Almadonna.

The terms of my sweetheart deal preclude the hiring of anyone else on the same terms.

Kal

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Re: if I were JA,


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Do you have control over the freelancers you employ? In other words, who decides what gets reviewed? Who decides which writers review which components? Do the writers have a say in the decision making process?

Of course they do. As I said, what matters most to me as editor is the enthusiasm and passion my team of writers brings to their writing. I therefore want to match the products being reviewed to a writer who a) will be able to empathize with the designer's goals; b) will have enough experience of that particular subset of the audiophile world to be able to judge whether those goals have been reached; and c) will have sufficiently wide enough experience of audio as a whole to be able to put those goals in an overall perspective.

Each member of my team brings an unique perspective and combination of experiences, so I believe that an appropriate match can be found for almost every product we choose to review. I come up with a shortlist of products I feel the magazine should review; each writer comes up with his own shortlist he personally wants to write about; the match between writer and product is decided in a series of ongoing conversations that is extremely effective despite its apparent informality.

But what drives the ultimate decision is that the writer _want_ to write about the product. Readers want to read writing that has passion. But if the writer doesn't believe a particular design approach or product category is valid, then how can he write a fair assessment? How can his writing have any passion at all?

The concept of a team of passionless robots handing down value judgments may work for Consumer Reports -- personally, I don't think it does even there -- but it most certainly doesn't work for a specialty publication. I don't see that there is any other way to proceed. I don't see the point of forcing, say, Kal Rubinson to review SET amps and horns, Art Dudley to review surround-sound components, Wes Phillips to review analog sources, or John Marks to write only about computer audio. The reviews would be less passionate, less comprehensive, less informed, and less informative.


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What happens if a writer refuses to review a particular component?

It is not uncommon for writers to ask not to review a particular component, for any number of reasons. I respect that request and ask another of the team.

Look ALexO, you still seem to trying to insist that the way Stereophile's reviews are organized does not best serve the magazine's readers. I disagree and I see no reason to abandon an editing philosophy that has served me personally for more than a quarter century and, I believe, has served the best interests of the readers of the magazines I have edited -- Hi-Fi News and Stereophile -- for the same length of time. If you don't want to accept that my policy has merit, then I must question why do you read Stereophile in the first place?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

vladoslav
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Re: if I were JA,


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The concept of a team of passionless robots handing down value judgments may work for Consumer Reports -- personally, I don't think it does even there -- but it most certainly doesn't work for a specialty publication. I don't see that there is any other way to proceed.

From this point of view the way of choosing gear for review is justified. I wouldn't question this procedure any longer.

But I still have an itch, why this BellCanto.....

bifcake
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Re: if I were JA,


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Look ALexO, you still seem to trying to insist that the way Stereophile's reviews are organized does not best serve the magazine's readers. I disagree and I see no reason to abandon an editing philosophy that has served me personally for more than a quarter century and, I believe, has served the best interests of the readers of the magazines I have edited -- Hi-Fi News and Stereophile -- for the same length of time. If you don't want to accept that my policy has merit, then I must question why do you read Stereophile in the first place?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Hi John,

I read Stereophile because I enjoy it. I enjoy it for the reasons you outlined above: the writers bring passion to their writing. I must have given an impression that I think that Stereophile's policies and reviews have no value. That's not what I meant to say. We're talking about tweaking, not throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Do I think that reviews should be more critical? Yes.
Do I think that a more arbitrary component selection process should be in place? Sure.
Do I think that a more definitive presentation would be helpful (i.e. A component is good, B component is bad)? Absolutely

However, having said that, Stereophile works. It's a good magazine. I've been a subscriber for over 10 years. Yes, I would like to see changes that I think would make the magazine even better, but keep those changes in perspective.

You make it sound like an all or nothing deal and it isn't. It also seems to me that you feel you found a perfect winning formula and there is no room for any minor adjustments. From my perspective, these are minor adjustments, which I feel at least merit a discussion and consideration.

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Re: if I were JA,


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having said that, Stereophile works. It's a good magazine. I've been a subscriber for over 10 years.

Thank you for those years of support, AlexO.


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Yes, I would like to see changes that I think would make the magazine even better, but keep those changes in perspective.

Okay.


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You make it sound like an all or nothing deal and it isn't.

With respect, as I said in my previous message, what you are proposing is not a slight adjustment but a complete rejection of how I currently administer the magazine's review section. That is why I am behaving as though it were an all or nothing deal. To me, it is.


Quote:
It also seems to me that you feel you found a perfect winning formula and there is no room for any minor adjustments. From my perspective, these are minor adjustments, which I feel at least merit a discussion and consideration.

They have been discussed, have been considered, not just now but at many times in the past, and have been rejected. For the reasons you have been given in this thread.

I am not dissing you AlexO, but I do disagree with you. I don't think that forcing my review team to arbitrarily select components for review without any preselection process would benefit the readers. My experience has been that the negative reviews we publish -- and they do exist; see Larry Greenhill's recent report on the Escalante Fremont, for example -- are not popular. Readers in general appear to want to be informed about products that sound great, not those that under-achieve.

I also think that adopting your strategy would destroy much of what makes Stereophile worth reading, in that the writers' enthusiasm would be necessarily diluted. I don't believe that that loss of enthusiasm would benefit the magazine.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

CECE
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Re: if I were JA,

Only 10 years....come on, that's a mere hair on the back of a monkee. I have been subscribing and reading since JGH did Dynaco Reviews in the tiny format pamphlet design. Where are those archives anyway, I wanna see my Aphrodites Child 666 Album writeup, that I sugested to the music dude at teh time...even before teh Internet, I was making noise!!! About how they only did clasic reviews, this was like 1971 or so...He loved Aphroites Child 666 That was pre Vangelis name for Vangelis, before he went solo, and did movie themes.

bifcake
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Re: if I were JA,

Hi John,

Thanks for that reply. I understand your viewpoint now. There was a disconnect because I didn't quite understand how the internal workings of Stereophile functioned and your goals vis-a-vis your writing staff. So, fair enough. I will not propose changes, it was presumptuous of me to do so.

Looking at the Escalante Freemont review, it seems as though the negatives were glossed over. Granted, you said that you could not recommend this speaker, but the subjective review is much more ambiguous. I felt as though I had to read between the lines. As a reader, I would have preferred a very clear statement: "This product is bad" or "This product is not hi-fi".

In any event, I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Perhaps I don't emphasize this enough, but I do like the magazine and I like the job that you do. You do many things well and perhaps I should stress that a lot more in my posts.

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Re: if I were JA,


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Thanks for that reply. I understand your viewpoint now. There was a disconnect because I didn't quite understand how the internal workings of Stereophile functioned and your goals vis-a-vis your writing staff. So, fair enough. I will not propose changes, it was presumptuous of me to do so.

No problem with proposing changes, AlexO. I appreciate you doing so, it all goes into the mill. But some changes are more fundamental than others.


Quote:
I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Perhaps I don't emphasize this enough, but I do like the magazine and I like the job that you do. You do many things well and perhaps I should stress that a lot more in my posts.

Thanks. Inevitably, there will be more feedback about where we fail than where we succeed. I appreciate the time you took to post your opinions.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: if I were JA,


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But I still have an itch, why this BellCanto.....

If I remember correctly the Bel Canto was first mentioned in Stereophiles excellent online coverage of the last CES, where WP stated both he and Stephen liked what they heard at the show and had requested the review sample. I have been eagerly awaiting the review as I think it offers the simplicity and utility that is in much demand in todays marketplace. I had hopes it would give the Bryston integrated w/dac a run for the money. Thanks Stereophile!

RG

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Re: if I were JA,


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As a reader, I would have preferred a very clear statement: "This product is bad" or "This product is not hi-fi".

As a reader of the mag, and as a person in the business- I don't want to ever see any magazine or person do such a thing to someone else.

There is no call for such behaviour. It would be just plain bad for everyone involved. Manufacturers are not in the audio business because they hate music and people-quite the contrary. It's too small of a world for black and white evaluations. The world itself is not black and white. I'm sorry alexO, that one was, way off. You might note that that this particular question was not answered.

Another point is that magazines who spend their time painting the world in black and white soon loose the vast majority of their readers, the vast majority of advertisers and loose the support of the industry. For all the right reasons.

I suspect your opinion is only due to not having fully fleshed out the entire thought process, from all the available sides of the issues. You have to see it from all sides-then it becomes quite clear there is only one path-the middle one.

gkc
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Re: if I were JA,

I agree, KBK. Just tell us how it sounded when you heard it, and how you had it set up. Tell us what your mental reference is. Tell us how it treated your different and favorite tunes.

We can infer the rest.

This thread has brought out more than a few absolutists. There are no absolutes in art. And sound reproduction is an art. Art recognizes neither numbers nor abstract simplicities. It just flows. Or it doesn't. All a great reviewer has to do is tell us the circumstances. We'll make the damning or praising judgments. After all, it IS our money.

This is an interesting coincidence. I just read JA's 1992 review of the Westlake speakers, highlighted on the home page. This is why Stereophile is the reference among audio analysts. JA and his crew don't generalize, and they listen. And they tell us what they hear.

The final blanket judgment is beyond their reach. And they know it. Just tell me what you heard, and tell me the probabilities of its being able to perform reliably over time.

Some things you don't have to hit with a club. The listening experience is one of those things.

Happy tunes, all.

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