Plain Talk About the Unmentionable

Editor's Note: On the 52nd anniversary of Stereophile's founding in 1962 by J. Gordon Holt, we are publishing this mea culpa "As We See it" essay from 1981, in which he explains why Vol.4 No.10 was almost six months late in mailing to subscribers. Gordon had relocated from the Philadephia suburbs to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1978, and as he had explained in the April 1978 issue, the move had not gone well. "Much of the equipment necessary for testing got damaged or destroyed in transit," he wrote, adding that "What had promised to be a superb listening room turned out to have some sticky acoustical idiosyncrasies."

Despite Gordon's appeals to readers to renew their subscriptions in the following essay, things continued to go from bad to worse. It came as no surprise, therefore to read an announcement in the very next issue that Gordon had accepted an offer from Larry Archibald to purchase Stereophile. Gordon remained editor for another four and half years and continued as Chief Tester until September 1999, but by 1992 Larry had transformed Stereophile into the position of market dominance it still enjoys.Ed.

Well, (Phew!), we made it—a bit later than anticipated, but we made it nonetheless. We managed to publish three issues out-of-pocket and despite increases in postage and printing costs, which almost kayoed us along the way. We are now only slightly bankrupt, but there's a silver lining! As of this issue, some of your loyal (We hope!) souls out there are up for renewal. The chosen ones are those of you whose mailing label on this issue bears the legend IV-10. We'd like to have a word.

This issue which you are holding in your hot little hands was actually ready to go to the printer the first week of July. Had it done so, it would have been mailed to you around July 25, only about two weeks later than our schedule called for. What held it up? We know it's in bad taste to discuss such matters, but the problem was money—or rather, a shortage of money. Our printer took the uncharitable view that he was not obliged to print this issue until we paid him for the last one. It took a while to scrape up that scratch, plus a few hundred more (say, $900) to mail it.

Don't ask where we got it. Suffice it to say we did nothing illegal. We also, while at it, got enough extra to get out the next issue after this one, but not much more. So, that's where all you IV-10s come in. If all of you renew your lapsed subscriptions now, we'll be home free, over the hump, and finally on our monthly publishing schedule. If some of you renew promptly, we may or may not be able to go monthly immediately, depending on how many of you do come through.

In other words, IV-10s, you can make the difference between whether we're off and running at last, or whether we're going to have another hand-to-mouth struggle with the next few issues. And while you're muttering under your breath (Don't do it; only the English know how to do it properly!), consider this: We helped to bring on these hard times by promising you 2½ issues of our newer, skinnier issues (with the fraction in your favor) for each of the old, fatter issues still due you when we switched to the new format. We were neither legally nor morally obliged to do that; we just thought it would be pretty rotten of us not to do that. So, we are now, quite blatantly, appealing to your undying gratitude when we ask that you renew your sub now. Think of it as a self-fulfilling vote of confidence: Without that confidence, we may prove that your confidence was not justified; with it, it will have been justified. We need not remind you of how much you enjoy your Stereophile when it arrives. Think how nice it will be to see it arriving every four weeks, and being able to pat yourself on the back and say "I helped to make that happen."

And please don't make that all-too-frequent assumption that your renewal won't make any significant difference because there are so many others. If so many others feel likewise, we could still be up the creek without an Evinrude.

Finally, we call your attention to the fact that, as of this issue, our rates have had to be raised—for the first time in three years. The coupon on page 36 gives the new rates. These apply to all new subscriptions now. But since this hike has been sprung on all of you without warning, we are allowing IV-lOs to renew (and present subscribers to extend their subs) at the old prices until November 30, 1981. (Old prices were: $16 for 3rd-Class mailing or $20 for 1st-Class mailing.) This cut-rate offer to those of you who have stuck with us despite everything is our way of saying "Thank you for your patience" while holding out our upturned palm.

Please don't make the mistake of assuming that your renewal won't count all that much because there are so many others. If so many others think likewise, we could still be up the creek without an Evinrude.

News of Our Demise?
In response to some letters printed in the Boston Audio Society Speaker's Issue IX-6/7, be it known that Stereophile is still in business, and that JGH did not move to New Mexico "for his health," but simply wanted to live here.

Instead of publishing rumors, it seems to us that the Speaker's editor could just as well have telephoned us and asked, as did a couple of dozen people who read those letters and their reply.

Coming Up
When we bannered this issue as a "special CES issue," we meant it. It is entirely devoted to the 1981 Summer CES because, if high-end audio continues to decline economically, there may not be another high-end audio CES.

As of the next issue, though, we'll be back to normal, with our lists of Recommended Components, systems, and recordings. Equipment reports will include the fabulous Packburn disc-noise-reduction devices, Sony's new "Esprit" power amps and diamond-cantilever cartridge, an almost-stupendous stereo microphone from AKG, and two genuine sleepers: A $275 loudspeaker kit that rivals the Acoustat Four and clobbers the Sequerra 7, and a circa-$375 stereo power amplifier that gives the large Bedinis a run for the money.

Pax vobiscum.—J. Gordon Holt

Allen Fant's picture

Thanks! for sharing. Missing JGH.

dalethorn's picture

It's interesting to see a simple situation like this, needing only a loan to keep going. Today's audio world hits the Internet with countless articles, promotions, opinions, gimmicks even, and it's a challenge to be open to new things and still be able to steer through all of that.

Anon2's picture

As a person who loves NM, but unable to live there for similar--I'm sure--reasons of economic infeasibility to why Stereophile left, I would implore you to contact politicians in New Mexico (of both major parties). Tell them what it would have taken for Stereophile to remain in New Mexico, or at least what would have raised the feasibility of staying in the state.

New Mexico badly needs guidance and feedback from companies that have left the state. The state is losing ground. It's sad that the former home of Stereophile, and the launching point of the website (another fine audio publication), were both in New Mexico. Today neither is there.

Please help. Please call someone in the state chamber of commerce or in state government.

Nothing would have been better than a visit to Stereophile's Santa Fe editorial offices, followed by a lunch at Tomasita's.

Thanks for the great memories.

John Atkinson's picture
As a person who loves NM, but unable to live there for similar--I'm sure--reasons of economic infeasibility to why Stereophile left, I would implore you to contact politicians in New Mexico (of both major parties). Tell them what it would have taken for Stereophile to remain in New Mexico.

Actually, I would have loved to stay in New Mexico. But it wasn't the state's economics policies that led our leaving, it was the fact that Larry Archibald and I had sold the magazine to Petersen Publishing in June 1998. Petersen had agreed to keep the editorial office in Santa Fe for 3 years. However, by late 1999, it had become apparent that it was not possible to run the magazine in an efficient manner with the management being 2000 miles away in New York. We also lost our business manager, managing editor, and Wes Phillips at that time, leaving just 4 of us in the Santa Fe office. So we relocated to the New York office in June 2000.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile