Now On Newsstands: Stereophile, Vol.34 No.2

The February 2011 issue of Stereophile is now on newsstands. You want it, you need it, you love it. A quick look at what’s inside:

In “As We See It,” John Atkinson welcomes our readers to the new and improved, and applauds the many outstanding hi-fi dealers across the nation who help spread the passion for high-quality recorded music.

In “Letters,” I get ripped to shreds over my horrible taste in everything and my general lack of worth. The author of the letter (name withheld, unsurprisingly) had a clear case of the “No Pussy Blues.” He should take Grinderman 2 and call me in the morning.

In “Industry Update,” Paul Messenger reports from the Home Entertainment Show in Manchester, England, while Jason Victor Serinus brings us the hottest news from San Francisco’s Burning Amp Festival.

In “Sam’s Space,” Sam Tellig takes us to Soissons, one of the oldest cities in France, and shares his enthusiasm for Triangle’s limited-edition 30th Anniversaire Comète loudspeaker.

In “Analog Corner,” Mikey Fremer reports from last November’s Audio Engineering Society Convention in San Francisco, and tells us all about the slick-looking Thorens TD 309 Tri-Balance turntable with the Audio-Technica AT 95B and Nagaoka MP-500 phono cartridges.

In “Listening,” Art Dudley brings us “Lovability, Part 1,” a love story dedicated to the rare Garrard 301 turntable.

In “The Entry Level,” I disassemble my old hi-fi, piece together a much more affordable replacement, and enjoy an exquisite program of music, including Archie Shepp and Horace Parlan’s Trouble In Mind, Bruckner’s String Quintet, Four Tet’s There Is Love in You, Mark McGuire’s Living With Yourself, and January’s “Recording of the Month,” the Sun City Girls’ Funeral Mariachi.

In “Fifth Element,” John Marks falls for the Vivid B-1 loudspeaker and praises Polyphonic Dialogues, a new disc of music from the 2L label, featuring work by Dmitri Shostakovich and Rodion Shchedrin performed by pianist Joachim Kwetzinsky.

In “Book Reviews,” David Lander discusses Robin D.G. Kelley’s outstanding new look at Thelonious Monk, The Life and Times of an American Original.

In “Records to Die For,” our great annual music feature, each of our editors pick two special pieces of music and explain why those albums are important. Because forum member Jazzfan is so witty, forum member Jazzfan thinks the feature should be called "Records to Die From." Haw. (We’re not really talking about death here. It’s just a figure of speech. You know: an expression.)

Meanwhile, the February issue also contains high-quality, in-depth reviews of several worthy products: Art Dudley listens to the latest Wilson Audio Sophia loudspeaker; Jon Iverson monkeys around with the latest HRT Music Streamer; Wes Phillips shakes his booty (and his Brooklyn apartment) with the mighty Luxman B-1000f monoblock power amplifier; Brian Damkroger is mightily impressed by Ron Sutherland’s new 20/20 phono preamplifier; Bob Reina revisits the Epos M5 loudspeaker and compares it with the company’s new M5i; I pay close attention to the Simaudio Moon i3.3’s phono section; and, finally, John Atkinson reevaluates the highly regarded NuForce CDP-8 CD player.

February’s “Recording of the Month” is the latest release from Barry Diament’s Soundkeeper Recordings, Equinox, by Markus Schwartz & Lakou Brooklyn.

In “Manufacturers’ Comments,” we hear from Thorens, Wharfedale, Sutherland Engineering, Epos, and Simaudio.

In “Audio Mart,” we have ads for Viagra and Vermont Teddy Bear. (Ooh la la.)

In “Aural Robert,” Robert Baird comes to terms with his unquenchable thirst for more and more and more physical media.

And in music, as in life, as in hi-fi, we are unduly blessed.

Erick Lichte's picture
One of the prettier covers in a while, I think.
Stephen Scharf's picture

Yes, folks, it's another quarter, and time for another Wilson aritcle. This is the *fourth* Wilson article since September, 2009:

Sophia again Feb 2011
Sasha July 2010
Sophia 2 Feb 2010
Maxx 3 Sept 2009

At this rate we can expect another two by the end of the year.

An approximate average of one every four months...looks like Stereophile is still making up for the time when Wilson pulled it's advertising because of what it deemed to be an unfavorable comment that was made in a review or column a while back.

Still no review of the Dynaudio Contour S3.4....hope springs eternal.

John Atkinson's picture
"looks like Stereophile is still making up for the time when Wilson pulled it's advertising because of what it deemed to be an unfavorable comment that was made in a review or column a while back."

Not at all. We don't care whether manufacturers advertise or not when choosing what we should review. We featured the Sasha and the Sophia 3 because we think these are two of the most significant models to come from Wilson, given that they are better-sounding and -measuring than their predecessors and (relatively) affordable.

And you can hardly accuse Stereophile of ignoring Dynaudio.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tmsorosk's picture

As long as there are ads , there will be reviews .

I guess I'll get a good scolding from J.A. now .

John Atkinson's picture
"As long as there are ads, there will be reviews."

In the broadest possible sense you are correct, as the price paid by subscribers for the magazine is no way high enough to cover our costs. No ads doesn't just mean no reviews, it means no magazine.

But in a specific sense regarding any quid pro quo, ie, review coverage in return for ads, the last time I looked at the statistics, in a 12-month period, around 47% of published reviews were of products from advertisers, 53% from nonadvertisers. So no. there is no correlation.

"I guess I'll get a good scolding from J.A. now."

I must admit I am tired of this untruth being dragged out willy-nilly to explain anything we do with which a reader disagrees.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Stephen Scharf's picture

John, I believe you when you say that whether or not a manufacturer advertises with Stereophile does not influence what you decide to review from an editorial standpoint. But, you miss the point of my original post, which is that with respect to Wilson, the data shows that Wilson products get reviewed at a frequency that is appreciably higher than a majority of the other brands that you review. So the Sophia 3 is a significant product to come from Wilson. So what? So was the Sophia 2, the Sasha, and the Maxx3 and they all got covered as soon as they came out; the Sophia 3 is an iteration of a product reviewed less than a year ago. The data indicates that you review what are iterations of existing Wilson products with a frequency of every four months rather that reviewing products you've never reviewed before (which is why I keep bringing up the Dyn Contour S3.4). The same thing happens at TAS with Magico.

How about perhaps consider reviewing a product that you've never reviewed, like the Dynaudio Contour S3.4, or the Evolution Acoustics MMiniTwo, the GamuT S-9, or the new Sony SS-AR1s instead of another review of what is an *iteration* of a yet another Wilson you have reviewed multiple times in the past?

I can see the cover now: Next month in Stereophile: The New Beyond the Return of the Son of the Wilson Alexandria X2!

tmsorosk's picture

John , I think most of us see and understand your position and angst . But I hope you can also see things from a long time readers stand point . When I see an ad from a company that has not recently advertised in Stereophile and wonder why , my question is usually answered a few pages later when I read a review , and a good one of that same product , the two seem to go hand in hand . Not every time but a lot .Thats an observation not an accusation . If you could tell us about some of the dogs you good folks run into it might give things some prospective .

In it for the long run

John Atkinson's picture
"When I see an ad from a company that has not recently advertised in Stereophile and wonder why , my question is usually answered a few pages later when I read a review , and a good one of that same product , the two seem to go hand in hand . Not every time but a lot .Thats an observation not an accusation ."

I'm sorry, tmsorosk, but it _is_ an accusation. You mention issues when an ad and a review seem to go together, but how about the Wilson reviews we published when that company _wasn't_ advertising?

"If you could tell us about some of the dogs you good folks run into it might give things some prospective ."

And with respect, _again_ you are disregarding things that don't fit into your hypothesis. Bluebird Music, Totem, Bryston have all been regular advertisers in Stereophile; all 3 got reviews in Stereophile that were negative in recent issues. How do you explain that?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Stephen Mejias's picture
I have a few questions, and I would love to hear answers from the readers: Do you ever wonder why certain manufacturers do not advertise in Stereophile?

I ask because we get a lot of questions regarding why we cover certain brands, relating our coverage to those brands' ad dollars in our pages, but we rarely -- if ever -- receive questions about why certain brands don't advertise.

Do readers ever stop and wonder if a negative review -- or even a lukewarm review -- is cause for a manufacturer to drop their advertising?

Do readers ever think to themselves: Stereophile gave this brand a bad review. I bet this brand will now cancel their advertising.?

Do you think that we would care, ultimately, if a brand decided to drop their advertising due to anything less than a rave review?

tmsorosk's picture

Hello John , and Stephen .
I would first like to apologize to J.A. for the above accusation about ad's that may correspond with reviews , it was meant as an observation , something that you can't help but notice after 195 issues , yes I counted them .
To answer Stephens question , " Do readers ever stop and wonder if a negative review -- or a lukewarm review -- is cause for a manufacturer to drop their advertising ? " Yes I recently started a blog on A.A. about the Bryston thing , that J.A. was kind enough to answer . I questioned Brystons ethics about canceling advertising after many years of good relations and reviews , over one so so review . Some of us are on your side , even if you don't think so .
So why don't certain brands advertise ?

Tim Soroski
Reader ' Stereophile

Stephen Mejias's picture
Tim, I'm having trouble appreciating your observation. The claim you're making -- that there is a direct correlation between our editorial decisions and manufacturers' ad dollars -- is serious. If it were true that we based our editorial decisions on manufacturers' ad dollars -- that is, if it were true that manufacturers could buy positive reviews in Stereophile -- there should be no reason for anyone to read Stereophile. If it were true, I wouldn't work for Stereophile. You see what I'm saying? It's an extremely big deal.

It's very easy to come up with an observation and find evidence to support that observation. Judging by our recent weather, I could say that it's going to snow in Manhattan for the rest of the year. But if you really wanted to look into this, you might take those 195 issues and form an analysis comparing the brands we reviewed to the brands who advertised in those issues. I bet you'd be surprised.

So why don't certain brands advertise? I'm sure there are as many reasons for this as there are for why we review what we do. Some brands don't have the money; others simply choose not to spend the money; some prefer to get their products reviewed in Stereophile, where the review has the most impact and credibility, but buy ad space in other publications, where the ad space is cheaper; and so on.

What I find interesting and confounding is that people often question our ethics, but seem to rarely question the business ethics of advertisers: For instance, you see an ad in Stereophile. In that same issue, you see a positive review of a product by the same manufacturer. You think to yourself, "Stereophile obviously gave them a good review because they advertised."

But does it ever occur to you that the opposite is, in fact, true -- that the manufacturer decided to advertise in that issue because they knew they were getting a positive review?

Erick Lichte's picture

Since I've been at Stereophile for only a year and a half, let's look at the equipment I've reviewed, see how the review was initiated and if my review was positive or negative. Perhaps this will serve as an interesting, though unscientific sampling-

Musical Fidelity 550k Superchargers. The follow-up to Mikey's review was suggested to me by JA and I gave it a rather negative review. I've anecdotally heard I even killed this product, but don’t know if this is true.

Rogue M180 monoblocks. I reviewed them because friends had the M150’s and I thought they rocked and were good value. They subsequently got a positive review.

Kilpsch Palladium P-17B speakers. I reviewed these based on Wes Phillip’s review of the big Palladium floorstanders and wanted to try out what looked like a promising horn design. I gave it a positive review with a few provisos.

Totem Forest Loudspeakers. I reviewed these speakers at John Atkinson’s request because, though they were a current model, they were going to be eliminated from Recommended Components because they had not been auditioned in the last five years and would, by the rules set forth at Stereophile, be removed from the list. My impressions of these speakers were perhaps not as positive as the two previous reviews in Stereophile and I drew the ire of Vince Bruzzese who was befuddled by my “amateur reaction” to his speakers and commented on how my review “redefines (his) perspective of Stereophile.” You tell me if this was a positive review or not!

Pass Labs XA 30.5. I reviewed this because I owned the Aleph 3 and the XA 30.5 was the next generation of Pass Labs 30 watt per channel amp and JA wanted a second opinion. My review was positive.

Manley Stingray iTube. I reviewed this based on my own interest in the product with a bit of consultation with JA. My review was positive but highlighted some of the shortcomings of the low powered amp and its slightly forward tonal balance.

Centrance Dacport. I reviewed this as a followup at JA’s request to see if it could be well used as a DAC preamp in a big rig instead of being used as a headphone amp. My review was positive.

SimAudio i3.3 . I reviewed this at the suggestion of JA and because I was the reviewer going through cycle of integrated amps. My review of this was mixed.

Mystere ia21. I reviewed this because I heard it at CES 2010 and thought it sounded great, looked well-built and was a great price. My review was very positive.

I have absolutely no idea who, on the list above, is an advertiser, was an advertiser, wants to be an advertiser or cancelled being an advertiser. I just don’t care and am not part of ANY conversations with advertisers. I live in Minnesota and am not part of any conversations with the magazine’s colleagues who sell advertising, although I am Facebook friends with Rosemarie Torcivia. I don’t even look at the advertising in Stereophile unless it’s the pretty girls in the Vincent Audio ads.

Though I run my ideas for a review by JA before I initiate it, he has never said that I could not review a product for any reason. When JA has suggested a review to me, the tone has been one of suggestion, not assignment. Usually JA has tapped me to do a review because a certain product makes sense for the pricepoint of products I currently review, they might work with my system, I have some experience that might be illuminating as I review a certain product or JA feels there is a special product out there that may be falling through the collective nets of the Contributing Editors and he want to make sure someone writes about it. We have never talked about advertisers, nor have I even been aware of a correlation between a product JA suggests and print ads – but again, I don’t really pay attention.

This has been my honest experience at Stereophile. I can’t see ANY correlation between how my reviews are initiated, whether they are positive or negative, and if the company advertises. Can you?

tmsorosk's picture

Isn't it three years.
Good post though Erick .

Erick Lichte's picture
I started reviewing equipment for Stereophile in the Summer of 2009. Alhough I've had a longer relationship with the magazine, as I've worked with JA on making records since 2001. Before the Summer of 2009, I wrote the odd article for the magazine(emphasis on the word "odd") but no equipment reviews.
tmsorosk's picture

Erick... I was referring to the length of time equipment remains on the recommended components list .

tom collins's picture

i liked the reviews of the wilson products. i feel they were a valid use of space because they were products that were just redesigned. in the case of the sasha, a very major revision. personally, i almost liked the sophia 2 when i heard it to consider it for a future purchase. i will be very interested to hear the version 3. i thought the sasha still had the wilson bass hump however.
however, i am now ready for some additional dynaudio reviews as well. i heard those special 25s recently and they blew a much larger, more expensive set of speakers right out of the room.