The Moment of Truth

Well, it's that time. The time of reckoning, the moment of truth. It's renewal time.

Most of you have noticed the hyphenated numbers on your address labels, and most of you guessed what they were: Expiration codes. If your label has a 1-12 number on it (or no hyphenated code at all), the next issue of The Stereophile, Issue Number 12 [published in September 1966—Ed.], will be the last one that will arrive on your present subscription.

Statistically, you 1-12'ers comprise almost a half of our total circulation, so your decision at this point will very likely determine the future, or lack thereof, of the magazine.

So, please consider: By the time issue Number 12 arrives, your modest outlay for a subscription will have bought you 216 solid magazine-size pages of audio reading. That's 3.7 cents per page (or 2.8 cents if you paid our initial rate of $6). In those pages, we've published—twice under threat of lawsuit—information about equipment and records that was unavailable from any other publication, and we have tried our best to provide data that would be of value to the audio enthusiast who wants really natural sound in his home.

In response to your letters, we have dropped some departments, added others, and made some changes in our editorial approach. By Issue Number 12, we will have tested almost 80 high-fidelity components, and reported our findings in terms that left no room for misunderstanding about how good (or bad) we felt them to be.

Although we have had some problems (to put it mildly) in getting the magazine out regularly, we feel we have done the best we could with the finances on hand, and have, we believe, succeeded in fulfilling our original promise to give you a consumer-oriented audio publication containing factual audio information free from advertising pressure.

Unfortunately, we have had considerable advertising pressure, of a different kind. Many readers, and some manufacturers, have been urging us to take ads, and we must admit that we're so fed up with living on the edge of poverty that we've considered doing this. "You can be just as honest with ads as without them," we are told, but we aren't all that confident that we could. As soon as we were in a position where hi-fi ad revenues made the difference between the success and failure of the magazine, we aren't sure we could help but let that realization influence our equipment reports to some degree. So, we've decided to stick with our original no-advertising policy, but in so doing we are forced to place the burden of our support on you, the reader, and specifically, the reader whose subscription is up for renewal.

To put it bluntly, our renewal rate—that is, the percentage of readers who re-subscribe when their subs expire—is going to determine whether this magazine continues or folds. If you've enjoyed and benefited from what you've read, if you feel it's worthwhile to have at least one audio publication that reflects the consumer's point of view, then please show it in the one way that can enable us to continue. Send in your renewal check now. Don't depend on other subscribers to carry us. To paraphrase Smoky the Bear: "Only you can prevent our demise!"

What About the Music?
Quite a number of Stereophile readers wrote to register strong nay votes against our decision to abandon our record review coverage, arguing (rightly) that high fidelity without music is meaningless. We agree, and we've decided to reinstate some sort of brief emphasis-on-sound-type record coverage, starting with this issue.

We must, however, repeat something we've pointed out several times in the past: namely, that The Stereophile should be only part of a high-fidelity enthusiast's reading. We supply information about the technicalia of sound reproduction that no other magazine does, and we devote practically all our space to this material simply because nobody else is inclined to.

But without musical information, about records and musicians, all the technical data in the world is of little value. For this reason, Stereophile readers are strongly urged to subscribe to at least one magazine that emphasizes the musical aspects of audio. Of the existing ones, our personal choice would be the American Record Guide, which also publishes one or two unusually outspoken equipment reports in each issue. Of the other two contenders, High Fidelity is weak in audio coverage but excellent in the music department, particularly in opera, while HiFi/Stereo Review has, in our opinion, the best balance between music and audio report age. It is also the more readable of the two (footnote 1).

For the hobbyist who wants even more audio reading, there's Audio magazine for the advanced audiophile, or Audiofan for the beginner and the moderately knowledgeable. Audiofan, a new publication, is informative on a general level, but carries no equipment reports at all.—J. Gordon Holt

Footnote 1: High Fidelity was acquired by the then-publisher of Stereo Review in 1989, which in turn was merged with Video at the end of 1998 to create Sound&Vision, the first issue of which was published in February 1999. Audio magazine was acquired by the publisher of Stereo Review in 1979 but was killed in 2000. (Audio's February 2000 issue was its last.) Sound&Vision was acquired by Stereophile's publisher in 2013, who subsequently merged it with Home Theater magazine. In a twist of fate, the entire back-issue archive of Stereo Review and Audio now resides alongside that of Stereophile in a filing cabinet outside my office.—John Atkinson

monetschemist's picture

... when I subscribed to the digital edition! Funny timing.

I find it interesting to hear that TEN owns the rights to all the Stereo Review back issues. I'm wondering when we'll be reading old Julian Hirsch posts on this site...

Actually when I think of it I believe they had pretty decent record reviews. But maybe my memory is a bit rose-tinted.

hollowman's picture

I wish would add more classic Audio mags (i.e, after 1962: )
Online mag sources like Google Magazine or Issuu have virtually no audio content.
I would pay a respective amount for FULL true-PDF archive of Audio magazine.
BTW...some Stereo Review content is avail. on this relatively new source: