"Where's the Real Magazine?"

The affair started quietly enough, with the following exchange that appeared in Stereophile's January 2001 "Letters" section, following my decision to put the Digital Audio Labs CardDeluxe high-end PC soundcard on the cover of our September 2000 issue:

201awsi.jpgWhere's the real magazine?
Editor: Could you please send me the real September 2000 Stereophile? I received Stereo Review instead. It's kind of puzzling, because it did say "Stereophile" on the cover, but inside it was definitely Stereo Review. I know because of the ads from Cambridge, Denon, Infinity, JVC, and Kenwood—you know, the mass-produced department- and discount-store products that are in Class X of "Recommended Components." (Class X is for the mid-fi components recommended for people who don't like music but have to fill empty spaces in their TV wall units. Of course, I've probably offended people who own these products.)

Is this the kind of advertising we should expect in Stereophile in the future? Is Stereophile going to become just another Stereo Review?—Dennis Widman, Edmonds, WA, dcwidman@aol.com

With some audio magazines closing (Audio in particular) and others transmogrifying into "convergence" books (Stereo Review, for example), I am pleased to say, Mr. Widman, that Stereophile's stability and longevity are being recognized as virtues by manufacturers of mainstream audio electronics. Long may this continue, as it guarantees me the resources I need as the magazine's editor to keep publishing a Stereophile chock-full of high-end audio news, reviews, and articles.

Stereophile's mission was, is, and will be to promote music reproduction in the home with the highest possible fidelity and quality on all and every medium to which audiophiles have access—even using computer soundcards and in surround sound! By contrast, Stereo Review's mission...well, who knew what they were trying to achieve? No, Mr. Widman, Stereophile will not turn into Stereo Review.—JA

Letters, February 2001, Vol.24 No.2

But my subsequent decision to put the Denon AVR-4800 surround receiver on the December 2000 Stereophile's cover triggered the following letters, all of which were published in the February 2001 issue. I responded to them in the same issue's "As We See It" essay":

Editor: Okay, okay, I'll "upgrade" to surround sound. Please ask Michael Fremer to recommend some Dolby Digital- and DTS-encoded LPs.—Peter Roberts, proberts@rocketmail.com

Not so discrete
Editor: A surround receiver on the cover of Stereophile? Mein Gott!—Thomas J. Norton, Editor, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, Los Angeles, CA, nortont@emapusa.com

Editor: I have been a Stereophile subscriber for many years. Do not lower yourself again to feature a cheap one-box surround unit again on your front page, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the publication. After all, don't you have a home-theater mag for that shit?

You also picked a fine issue to do this. Duh! I guess you had to end the year with a dud, not a bang!—Disappointed Bob Laurie, bdevore@ij.net

Editor: Your feature of a surround receiver on the front cover of Stereophile is unforgivable. There is no shortage of magazines, either print or online, that review home-theater products. In fact, you already have a magazine, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, that specializes in reviewing these products.

I have nothing against home theater, and, in fact, am a retailer who sells it. However, it belongs little more in your magazine than speedboats belong in a magazine that reviews fishing boats. I and other audiophiles have relied on Stereophile for reliable reviews of high-quality music-reproduction gear. Perhaps The Abso!ute Sound is what I need to advertise in and subscribe to instead.

If a mid-fi surround receiver on your cover is a trial balloon for merging your two magazines together, consider it shot down.—John Weires, Audio Video Logic, sales@audiovideologic.com

We have no intention of merging Stereophile and Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, Mr. Weires. The Guide serves those who are interested in re-creating movies in the home, and Stereophile serves those for whom reproduced music is the overwhelming passion.

But I did feel it useful for Stereophile's readers to find out how a typical high-quality receiver fared when judged as a music-reproduction device, particularly with the advent of surround playback for music reproduction (see this issue's "As We See It"). That we chose an appropriate cover subject is suggested by the fact that in a website poll in early December 2000, the Denon AVR-4800 was nominated by a number of readers as their product of 2000.—JA