As We See It

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Robert Schryer  |  Mar 22, 2016  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2016  |  14 comments
It's one of audiophiledom's eternal questions: What can we do to draw more music lovers into the audiophile fold?

Of the proposals bandied about on audio forums, two seem predominant: a) sell stuff more people can afford, and b) sit your neighbor or the cable guy in front of your stereo, cross your fingers, and let 'er rip—the theory behind b) being that the experience will be so epic as to transform the reluctant participant into an audiophile butterfly. As if.

John Atkinson  |  Feb 23, 2016  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2016  |  13 comments
One of the benefits of belonging to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a subscription to their monthly magazine, IEEE Spectrum. Superbly written and edited, this journal keeps me up to date on emerging technology, and entertains me with things like reprints, on the final page, of vintage advertisements. Their January 2016 issue, for example, featured an ad from December 1920, promoting the Victor Talking Machine Company's Victrola: "By all means get a Victrola this Christmas, but be sure it is a Victrola and not some other instrument made in imitation. $25 to $1500. Victor dealers everywhere."
John Darko  |  Jan 27, 2016  |  5 comments
How many advertisements for hi-fi or head-fi hardware do you see on your morning commute? Two? Three? If you live in Los Angeles, Sydney, or Paris, most likely it'll be zero.

Not so in Tokyo, where commuters, tourists, and shoppers moving through the Shinjuku or Shibuya subway stations will find it almost impossible to ignore Sony's latest advertising campaign, which colorfully announces a new range of affordable portable audio players (né Walkmans). Inside, banners suspended from the cars' ceilings promote Panasonic's latest headphones and shoebox-sized stereo system. Many of the bigger Japanese manufacturers treat audio gear as a mainstream concern.

John Atkinson  |  Dec 15, 2015  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2016  |  101 comments
My spirits sank as I read the comments on Stereophile's Facebook page. In the November issue, we had published reviews of UpTone Audio's USB Regen device by Kalman Rubinson, Michael Lavorgna, and myself. Michael and Kal had enthused about the positive effect the USB Regen had made, but I could detect no measurable difference. On Facebook, Dan Madden had written, "I think a device like this would need a blind listening test to verify that a listener could hear the difference in a statistically measurable way, in a very high percentage of times."
Robert Schryer  |  Nov 18, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2015  |  43 comments
It never fails. Browse Stereophile's Facebook page, scroll through the comments to an article that refers to life as an audiophile, and splat—appearing like bird droppings on your glistening screen are anti-audiophile wisecracks pointing out exactly how far off the "normal" track our hobby has derailed. Occasionally, I catch myself in mid-sentence, already replying to one of these droppings, the gist of my intended message invariably being: "If you're an anti-audiophile, what are you doing using up what life you have left reading a webpage devoted to a hobby you don't get? Shouldn't you be hanging out with your own friends?" Then, realizing that I'm wasting my time.
Richard Lehnert  |  Oct 20, 2015  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2015  |  35 comments
"There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind," Duke Ellington is famously supposed to have said. But that doesn't tell us how to recognize "good music," and it doesn't define good. Nor will this essay. Many have described the music of, say, Mozart or J.S. Bach with such phrases as the music of heaven or the mind of God or—especially Bach's music—that it embodies the basic structure of the universe/existence/reality. I've said such things myself.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Sep 22, 2015  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2015  |  38 comments
I began working as a salesman of high-end audio gear in 1978. I was 29, and, as I recall, a healthy percentage of my customers were about my age. Most of the top high-end designers and entrepreneurs, too, were young: John Curl, Dan D'Agostino, Jon Dahlquist, Ray Kimber, Mark Levinson, Bill Low, Mike Moffat, Nelson Pass, Peter Snell, Bob Stuart, Jim Thiel, Ivor Tiefenbrun, A.J. van den Hul, Richard Vandersteen, Harry Weisfeld, David Wilson. The fact is, high-end audio's Golden Age—the late 1970s to the mid-1980s—was largely fueled by the under-40 set, and most high-end journalists were fellow baby boomers. Now we're all oldsters, with just a smattering of under-fortysomethings. That's about to change.
Ken Micallef  |  Aug 25, 2015  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2015  |  59 comments
Photo © Kipnis Studios 2015

Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Reddit? Social media has done much to bring together people of every interest imaginable to share their fascinations, desires, and, occasionally, delusions. From fans of frogs (FrogStomp) and proponents of clean public toilets (Benjyo Soujer) to a group that challenged an Iranian cleric's statement that women's flimsy attire causes earthquakes (Boobquake), social media is a global town square in which anyone with a keyboard and an attitude has an equal voice.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 21, 2015  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2015  |  33 comments
Most of us have experienced the proverbial curveball that comes out of nowhere to smack us right in the head. My most recent such encounter was pitched by Stereophile contributor Steve Guttenberg.

Steve's whammy arrived amid an e-mail exchange among Stereophile writers concerning a rather clueless column in another publication on the dearth of women audiophiles. After asking how many female audiophiles each of us knew, Steve G. defined what he meant by audiophile: "a person who frets over their system, agonizes over choices, loves gear, and sometimes music. You know, the kind of person who reads Stereophile or The Abso!ute Sound. Merely owning a nice stereo doesn't make you an audiophile. Owning a Leica doesn't make you a photographer. You have to be at least a little obsessed."

Robert Schryer  |  Jun 23, 2015  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2015  |  15 comments
A decade ago, my mother, on noticing a copy of Stereophile on my kitchen counter, asked me, "Are you still into that sound stuff?" Her tone had a touch of exasperation.

"Geez, Mom. I've been an audiophile for 15 years. This isn't a phase I'm going to outgrow."

Instead of motherly empathy, I got a slight smirk and a retort: "But it's always the same thing."

John Marks  |  May 21, 2015  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2015  |  5 comments
The day before I began writing this, John Atkinson posted on Stereophile's website a chart from Nielsen Soundscan showing the ski-jump–like path CD sales have been on since 2004. In 2004, total sales were 651 million units; in 2014, 141 million units. All that is lacking from that impactful visual to make the ski-jump analogy perfect is the little uptick at the end to launch the skier into free air. Those numbers look to me like a total decline in sales of 78%. Ouch.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2015  |  First Published: May 01, 2015  |  109 comments
I write this in a Seattle coffee bar—my flight home to New York has been canceled due to a snowstorm. As I try to put down these thoughts, I'm listening to the high-resolution masters of the April issue's "Recording of the Month," Sasha Matson's jazz opera Cooperstown, on my Pono player using Ultimate Ears UE18 in-ear monitors. I was in Seattle for Music Matters 10, held by retailer Definitive Audio, and this was my first road trip with the Pono since I reviewed it for the April issue. (Bruce Botnick and Charles Hansen comment on that review elsewhere in this issue.)
Steve Guttenberg  |  Mar 16, 2015  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2015  |  61 comments
I've known a lot of folks with impressive LP and CD collections who were perfectly content with the sound of the crappiest of hi-fis. This diverse group has included recording engineers, musicians, and owners of record stores. Loving music isn't the same thing as caring about the sound of music, and maybe, in some alternate universe, those folks would-have-been, could-have-been audiophiles. But in this universe, they didn't, and I'm not sure why.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 24, 2015  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2015  |  31 comments
To put it mildly, Jack Vad (second row in photo, orange shirt) was dismayed. The Grammy Award–winning media producer and chief engineer for the San Francisco Symphony had just returned from the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, and was trying to make sense of his experiences there. When he'd carried his latest recordings, which I think are superbly recorded, into rooms at the show and asked if he could play them, exhibitors were anything but enthusiastic.
Robert Schryer  |  Jan 28, 2015  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2015  |  5 comments
Audiophilia nervosa. It's a running gag with a mean streak. As audiophiles, we know its effects intimately. We know how it can turn what was once a source of pleasure and pride—listening to good music over a good sound system—into an irritating itch that can't be scratched.

The UrbanDictionary.com defines audiophilia nervosa (AN) as "the anxiety resulting from the never-ending quest to obtain the ultimate performance from one's stereo system by means of employing state-of-the-art components, cables, and the use of certain 'tweaks.' Although the goal is supposedly to achieve maximum appreciation of the music, those afflicted with this condition are merely obsessed with their electronics."

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