Stereophile Magazine


New member
Username: Themillsarealive

Post Number: 1
Registered: Oct-14
Hello Ecoustics! Sorry if this is in the wrong place but I'm new here...I've been reading Stereophile 2014 fall recommended components online and saw a few reviews that interest me: Constellation Centaur mono-blocks, Simaudio Moon Evolution 850P, TARA Labs Zero Evolution cables, Magico Q5 speakers... I am very impressed by what the reviewers had to say about these components. I admit that I cannot afford any of these, and already have a pretty decent system (Cary Audio, B&W) but I love to discuss high-end products with fellow audiophiles. Probably my way of "getting a fix" without be able to afford very high end, as well as hearing other opinions on high-level equipment. I also want to commend Stereophile magazine as I've been reading that magazine for years, and am always impressed by what they have to say!

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1380
Registered: May-05
Welcome Paul,

I'm afraid the forum has slowed considerably over the years. We're really much better at answering specific questions that banter. But, if you get folks started on a component they're heard or want to hear, off we go. Personally, I live in the audio desert so I have to leave town to hear decent audiophile level components. So, I'm not your guy. Good luck.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17998
Registered: May-04

Paul, welcome to the forum. I'm afraid I can't share your enthusiasm for Stereophile magazine, nor most of the rest of the herd when it comes to subjective reviewers. The concept of getting your fix from someone you don't know, who is working with components you don't know by way of using musical/audio priorities which have not been explained to the reader is a fool's errand IMO. You are not familiar with the room's acoustic environment in which the reviewer operates in most cases and they certainly aren't the same as you would apply to a similar component. How then can you get a "fix" from such unknown sources. I would say that's a bit like buying your "stuff" off an unfamiliar dealer in a part of town you never visit.

Apart from my personal disagreements with numerous members of the Stereophile reviewing staff, the magazine has deteriorated down to the point where live music is no longer the standard to which reproduced music is held. Live music is seldom mentioned in most reviews and, therefore, is virtually never sen as the beginning of piecing together a high quality reproduction system. The contemporary reader of such BS has the idea that live music doesn't matter, only the equipment of the month. A hifi (and old word no longer familiar to most modern day "audiophiles" which implied there was an attempt to create audio components with a 'high fidelity' to the real thing - music) should sound like a good hifi, not like music being performed in front of the listener. The old fashioned concepts of being transported in time to the original event or having the performers brought into your listening space has long been forgotten by the newest batch of reviewers. Audio components are being reviewed in the vacuum of themself and not as a faithful reproducer of another art form.

I say all this as someone who has watched the subjective review world travel from the earliest days of J.G. Holt (the founding father of Stereophile) to the latest incarnation of John Atkinson's hand picked puppets. I have boxes and boxes of audio magazines in my closets dating back to the early 1970's. I doubt most readers or reviewers involved in the industry today are even aware of Holt's glossary of terms used in subjective reviewing. It is their own meaning of words such as "warm", "bright", "palpable", etc that is of concern to them. It's become a language that is only relevant to the reader themself and whether they are speaking in the same language as another reader is not important to them.

Reviews today, after discussing how many friends were required to unbox the equipment under review and mentioning their spouse was listening from another room, come down to comparing the output of one component against two or three other components and noting the second by second variations between how each portrays a moment in the entire listening experience. When audio reviews are all about this component being more "woody" than another component at precisely 1:35 into track three of a recording you don't own and don't know and that is meant to suffice as a review, the subjective review industry has grown too fat to support its own weight IMO. When personal relationships are allowed to intrude on editorial content, there is little chance anything will change in the near future for the business of audio reviewing.

Most importantly, IMO, when reading such BS is seen as getting your next buzz about equipment rather than being excited about the music the equipment is intended to bring you, the reader has bought into the idea the equipment is far, far more important than the performance and the performers. The cart and its appearance, therefore, has become the most important part of getting to the show. When the reader is sent off to compare components by selecting the smallest section of a complete performance just to hear the "woodiness" exhibited at 1:35 into track three of any disc, they - the reader - has lost sight of what the high end audio community once held as its reason for being.

My advice, if you're at all interested, is to forget the magazines and forget the reviews and the reviewers. 95% of them know no more than 95% of their readers when it comes to high fidelity and audio. Spend your money and your time investing in the performers who bring music into the world. Go hear live music as often as possible and you won't spend nearly as much money or time getting your fix from a collection of boxes with stupid looking cables running between them.

Here are a few words from Holt, expressed, I assume, as he became fully aware the monster he had created with all good intentions was growing beyond his ability to control its direction and morphing into something he no longer recognized;

In case you are unaware of the fact, Holt spent more than four decades at Stereophile; from the first by mail only issue and into the reign of JA as editor in chief and Stereophile being consumed by a profit first and foremost conglomerate of other mindless drivel presented as this month's way to improve your life without really thinking. Before he passed away he left his now fully grown child (which he no longer recognized) and began writing for TAS, the chief competitor for Stereophile since the 1970's. Many of us saw that as the total repudiation of all that Stereophile - the industry as a whole - had become under JA's guidance and influence.

No doubt Stereophile has become a juggernaut on the audio side of the publishing business. Equipment designers pay attention to what is being said in the magazine and they build their products accordingly. This has been true for Stereophile and TAS for decades. Equipment designers have come to understand just what is required from their designs to provide another "fix" to the reader. Sad to say, it is not about high fidelity to the original event. Unfortunately, IMO, both publications have shortsightedly driven the high end audio industry into a deep ditch from which it is unlikely to survive as music continues its progression towards becoming sonic wallpaper which is seen as a commodity rather than an art form.

I do wish I still shared some of your enthusiasm for the content of today's magazines but I can actually get the same "fix" from reading any number of reviews I pull from any number of those boxes of magazines I have in my closets. Reading about how veils were lifted, windows thrown wide open and ultimate transparency achieved when the review is from 1983 makes it very difficult to comprehend just what is being advanced in today's market.


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