A Babel, a Babble . . .

Twice a year, Stereophile brings some of its writers out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss the compilation of the magazine's "Recommended Components" listing, the most recent of which appeared in the October issue. Following a comment from Will Hammond, John Atkinson's collaborator on the recent amplifier blind listening tests, that the magazine's readers would love to eavesdrop on the conversations that take place on these occasions, it seemed a good idea to tape (footnote 1) some of the discussions and publish the transcript as this month's "As We See It" (footnote 2). Accordingly, Lewis Lipnick, Gary A. Galo, Robert Harley, Thomas J. Norton, Guy Lemcoe, Richard Lehnert, Dick Olsher, Peter Mitchell, Robert Deutsch, J. Gordon Holt, Larry Greenhill, John Atkinson, and Arnis Balgalvis all gathered in LA's palatial listening room one August Saturday. JA set the ball rolling by asking the assembled writers where they thought Stereophile had been, where it was, and where they thought it should be going, particularly in view of Robert Harley joining the magazine as Technical Editor.

J. Gordon Holt: Stereophile is obviously in the driver's seat as far as high-end audio is concerned. As to where it's going, I'm not at all certain about that. I think the magazine ought to be exercising a little more leadership in the field rather than just taking the role of reporting what's going on—reporting every view that comes in without comment. It ought to be taking editorial stands on things. For instance, saying "We approve of this; we disapprove of this." If there is such a thing as magazine policy on some things, you [JA] should be making these statements. In "As We See It."

Peter Mitchell: I think Stereophile has always had a unique position in that there are two categories of magazines around it. You have the mainstream magazines which are devoted to measurements and not adequately to sound, and then you have the high-end magazines like The Abso!ute Sound, where the reviewers talk about what they hear and then speculate incompetently on what might cause what they hear. At Stereophile, at least, the discussions of what you hear have generally been accompanied by a technically competent commentary, where there has been any. There has been no outrageous mythmaking. And I am overjoyed at the new venture that Stereophile is launching, essentially to really try to start nailing down some of the correlations between measurements and subjective sound. I think this is an area where Stereophile's leadership will really make it the important magazine in the field in the next decade.

John Atkinson: But something that a writer who isn't here, Sam Tellig, said to me a couple weeks back, should be borne in mind. "Too many graphs!" he thundered. Is this aspect of the magazine driving some readers away?

Thomas J. Norton: I think some of our readers may take that attitude. They don't want it to become Audio—not that I think it ever will. But this is a perception you get when you see a lot of graphs in a magazine without reading the text. We do have to be very careful in that direction.

Lewis Lipnick: This is interesting. Now, I probably come to things from a slightly different viewpoint from a lot of writers because I try to remain, as far as possible, totally subjective. However, I agree with the objective point of view also because while you can say, "I hear this, I hear that," the reader then can say "Well, yeah, but you've got to qualify that a little bit." I know a couple of reviews that I've done, where I heard some problem which was then correlated objectively. Now you might turn off some people, but you can't try to be something for everyone. It doesn't work that way. No matter what you do, someone's going to bitch. And if they're gonna bitch, let 'em bitch.

Holt: I wonder whether we should compartmentalize the magazine a little bit more. Maybe the main review section would be mostly subjective and so forth and so on, and then there'd be a technical section further in the back, for people who want to pursue the reviews in greater depth. In the main report, you would say, "For instance, the harmonic distortion analysis would suggest that so and so." But you don't have to show the curves there. You just refer to them and give the information later on in a separate section which covers all the tests.

Footnote 1: The recording was made in stereo using a pair of AKG D190E cardioid mics, an EAR tube microphone preamplifier, and the Nakamichi 1000 R-DAT recorder reviewed by Robert Harley elsewhere in this issue. Our thanks to Anne Peacocke for tackling the thankless task of transcribing the tape.

Footnote 2: A note on the editing of the transcript: I conformed to Stereophile's usual style with interviews, which is to remove the "ums," "ers," and "you knows"—all the verbal throat-clearing and thinking-time noise that generally clutters and obscures spoken English—and to excise the occasional repetition and irrelevance. I did this both in order to bring the length of the transcript down to a publishable length and to improve its intelligibility. Significant omissions (in terms of length) are indicated with ellipses (...), and where something was not clear, the editorial interjection is contained in square brackets. Apart from such slight massaging, I guarantee that this transcript is a true reflection of what was said by the participants.