September 8, 2005

In This eNewsletter:
• In This eNewsletter: Stereophile's Website Redesigned, by Jon Iverson
• This Month's Strangest Audio URLs, from Wes Phillips
• Rick Rosen, RIP, by Wes Phillips

Stereophile's Website Redesigned, by Jon Iverson

It's been a while since the Stereophile website was freshened up. Probably too long. So this time we decided to start from scratch and combine the stack of reader suggestions we've received with the thousands of articles and other features already online to create something that we hope scratches your audiophile itch better than ever.

Stereophile Forums: With all of the excellent audio forums already out there, we thought long and hard about what we could offer that would add to an audiophile's daily web tour. Editor John Atkinson and forum moderators Stephen Mejias (hardware) and Robert Baird (software) invite you to check out their handiwork and join in with Stereophile's editors and fellow audiophiles.

Dealer Locator: You've read the review, now where can you listen to the product? Our Dealer Locator sorts A/V dealers in the US by zip code, type of dealer, type of products carried, and manufacturer. There are already over 3000 dealers in the system, and we are adding new ones and updating the listings daily. Though we've just begun to fill in all of the holes, the Dealer Locator will continue to grow over the next several months to provide the Internet's most comprehensive way to find new high-end audio gear. Try it out, suggest some additions, and send us info on your local dealers and favorite products.

New Archive Categories: You're looking for a tubed preamp review, but those listings for solid-state products keep getting in the way? We hear you and have re-sorted Stereophile's thousands of online articles and reviews into targeted categories. Direct links to all categories are in the right column of every page, and the lists can be sorted alphabetically by manufacturer, by issue date, or by most recently added to the database.

New Look: Along with the new content and community features, we also tried to address reader comments about site navigation and page load times. We've reduced the number of sponsor ads per page and lightened Stereophile's online look. We hope you like it, and we are always looking for new suggestions. Send your comments to

Old Favorites: Popular features from the old site have been maintained, such as the Vote! polling section (approaching 500 individual polls with comments available for your information and amusement!) and the A/V Links Database, which sports thousands of audio-related links. And, of course, we'll keep adding new reviews and features to the thousands of articles already online, and update our News Desk with audio-related stories every week.

Coming Soon: More stuff is in the works, and several new features will be added to the site before the end of the year. Expect to see some thought-provoking audio blogs show up first, followed by a raft of new music content.

Mark Levinson
Mark Levinson, established in 1972, is a world-renowned manufacturer of the finest stereo and multi-channel electronics. Products range from awe-inspiring monaural power amplifiers to the industry benchmark CD processor. For more information on all Mark Levinson products, please visit
From Wes Phillips

Gives a whole new meaning to "Pet Sounds."

API's Les Edelberg says, "Take your music on the road!"

Just what we need —noisy clothing:

Simaudio Ltd.
Simaudio Ltd., celebrating 25 years of excellence, manufactures state-of-the-art components for both 2-channel and home-theater systems. Maintaining a world-class reputation, we continually push the performance envelope to the next level with each new product. Visit us at
Rick Rosen, RIP, by Wes Phillips

He's gone . . .

I arrived early to the Greenwich Village Funeral Home for the memorial service for Rick Rosen. The main room was filled to overflowing with Rick's friends and family, so I stood next to VTL's Luke Manley at the rear of an auxiliary room, which was also full. After the service, Luke walked over to sign the visitors' ledger. When he returned, he told me to look down the hall that stretched behind us. There were just as many people back there as there were in front of us—people who couldn't see, or possibly even hear, what was being said in the main room, but all of us compelled to be there with other people who loved Rick.

Now he's gone . . .

It was a gathering of tribes, in a way. I recognized the hi-fi people, but there were also bicyclists, skateboarders, computer programmers, cigar aficionados, and the group that encompassed these and all the other groups: people to whom Rick had been kind.

I didn't know Rick all that well, but if you knew Rick only through his writing at Stereophile or on The Audiophile Network, you know he had a quick wit and wrote like an angel. What you probably don't know is what a thoughtful friend he could be. All of us at his memorial knew this side of Rick, yet none of us really knew it until this moment, as we heard story after story of his kindness—stories that Rick would have never told anyone else.

We heard from Howard Smith, who lived in the apartment beneath Rick's first office. When Howard was in the hospital, Rick was there every day. One day, Howard complained that the IV lines he was attached to wouldn't allow him to change his shirt or take a bath. Rick refused to accept the hospital staff's assertion that nothing could be done and came back the next day with several of Howard's favorite T-shirts—Rick had retrieved them from Howard's apartment, picked them apart at the seams, and had a tailor install Velcro strips so Howard could put them on and off without disturbing his medication drip.

If true kindness is what you do when no one else is watching, Rick Rosen may be the kindest person I ever met.

Chris Sommovigo of cable manufacturer Stereovox and distribution company Signals told us that Rick would call him on his cell phone in the wee hours when he knew that Chris was driving overnight from Atlanta to New York. "I figured you needed some company," Rick would say. "Where are you now?"

It wasn't an idle question. A minute later, Rick would have MapQuested Chris's location. Then he'd say, "Get off at the next exit and take a left. The diner there is open all night and I hear they have good coffee."

Lord he's gone . . .

Rick was always hearing about places that had good coffee, good sausages, good bourbon, good sushi—good stuff. Other people rely on; Rick's friends knew that all they had to do was call him.

Rick's connoisseurship wasn't confined to five-star restaurants. He liked diners, greasy spoons, dives, and [gasp] chain restaurants. At the service, we heard stories about Rick's love of vintage cognacs and sushi and single-cask bourbons, but also about his intense excitement at Taco Bell's opening its first franchise in the five boroughs, and his delight at eating "taste-free shrimp" in a Red Lobster on Long Island.

When I first met Rick, he asked where I lived. "There's a place on your corner that makes the best Jamaican beef patties in town," he said. He was right—all the taxi drivers knew it, and day or night, there was never a time when there wasn't a yellow Crown Vic double-parked outside. How did someone who lived on Union Square know that?

It was because Rick had to try new stuff.

Kal Rubinson had a linguistic insight into Rick. "When you talked about anything with Rick, his response was 'I really want to try that' or 'I really want to do that,'" Kal said. "The emphasis was never on the 'I' or the thing, it was always on the doing."

Kal had another story that was so Rick. One summer, when Kal's wife was out of town, Rick came over for a boys' night out. They listened to music, quaffed a few drams, smoked a cigar or two, then went out in search of provender. Passing a barbecue restaurant with an "all-you-can-eat" ribs special, Rick was overwhelmed with 'cue lust.

The special was specific—it was all you could eat of only one of the four kinds of ribs they served—so Rick's first goal was to charm the waitress into letting him and Kal have as much as they wanted of all four. Successful at that, he then had to try all four—and then had to check again (and again) to confirm his rib hierarchy. That was just a single meal out with Rick, but it's emblematic of his approach to everything. He had to try every combination possible—and then try them again.

Rick craved new experiences. Other writers approached John Atkinson with ideas about writing audio reviews, but Rick came up with "Rick Visits . . . ," a series of interviews in which he talked with music makers about how important hi-fi was to the way they approached their craft. Any magazine can print equipment reports, but to be able to publish one of Rick's gems? That, John declares, was a no-brainer.

To paraphrase Handel, "But look what he did with it!" Rick's copy would arrive at Stereophile—usually exactly on the deadline—and we'd all talk about it for days. It was clean to the point that we'd frequently despair of finding even one or two excess words. This was never a problem on the level of pure craft—Rick had that in spades—but rather in production. In desktop publishing, when you flow text into columns, even the tightest prose can produce widows and orphans: words or phrases at the beginning or end of a paragraph that stick out at the tops or bottoms of columns. When that happened in a "Rick Visits," we had a problem: His lapidary prose made it awfully difficult to trim even a single word. Let hacks like me handle the reviews—let Rick get the real artists to open up and say stuff you never could have read anywhere else.

Rick didn't really want to write gear reviews. Rick was a loyal friend, and his loyalties extended to inanimate objects. He once asked me, "Don't you hate having to disconnect your reference system all the time?" Well, yes, but it goes with the territory, I said. His response was emphatic: "I'd hate that."

I thought about that when Rick and I were talking about bicycles. "I thought I was going to do a lot of single-track riding, but I'm more focused on pure road cycling now. I would have assembled a different gruppo if I'd realized that earlier." So why not get a different bike now that your focus has changed? "I don't want to be one of those guys who keeps changing bikes all the time. I only had one bike in my whole life before this and I don't want to keep changing all the time."

That was bikes. Imagine how loyal Rick was to people.

He's gone, gone . . .

As John Atkinson put it, "Rick operated on a 'need to know' basis." Everyone who knew Rick recognized his phone greeting. "Hey," was all he'd say—or have to say. "The maximum information using the minimum amount of resources," JA said. That's the signature of a good coder, of course.

Rick also liked having secrets. He borrowed a Manley A/D converter from JA without telling him why he needed it. When Rick returned it, JA said, "So how'd it go?"

"Alright," Rick said. And that's all he said. He was probably helping another friend. It's typical that, if we ever find out about it, it won't be from him.

Like a steam locomotive, rollin' down the track
He's gone, gone, nothin's gonna bring him back . . . He's gone

I've been quoting from the Grateful Dead's "He's Gone" throughout this remembrance—although I remember Rick once commenting that he wasn't a fan. Even that was typical of Rick. If he was enthusiastic about something, he'd say, "I really like that!" If he wasn't, he'd say, "I don't get that." If you said "I don't get that" about something Rick loved, he'd do his best to show you why he loved it. Most of the time, he'd succeed.

I've been carrying on a mental conversation with Rick about this. You see, Rick, I went to one of the first concerts the Dead gave after Pigpen died, and your memorial service reminded me of that. There were a lot of people at both who didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The Dead began noodling around with "He's Gone." I don't think it was even a song then—just basic elements that later coalesced into the song. It joined us together and made us all feel better.

Rick, you joined all of us together, too. And coming together to remember you made us feel better. There were tears, but there was a lot of laughter as well. The sadness won't ever disappear, but for years to come, whenever two of your friends get together, someone is bound to start a story with, "Remember the time Rick . . . " And then there will be laughter.

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