Think Pieces

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Herb Reichert  |  Oct 29, 2019  |  17 comments
"The crying rain like a trumpet sang
And asked for no applause.
"—Bob Dylan, "Lay Down Your Weary Tune"

I remember as a toddler sitting in the kitchen on a highchair, watching my mother smoke a cigarette, apply red lipstick, and tune a turquoise table radio from one news station to another. Between the strange, nattering voices, the radio emitted a sharp hissing sound. That's my first memory of human voices coming from a little box.

Sasha Matson  |  Sep 17, 2019  |  7 comments
In Alfred Hitchcock's great film Vertigo, filmed in San Francisco in 1957, the protagonist, Scottie, played by James Stewart, becomes obsessed with Madeleine, played by Kim Novak. Scottie, a retired detective, suffers from a disabling case of acrophobia, which becomes a critical if tenuous plot point.
Ken Micallef  |  Sep 05, 2019  |  21 comments
Like most older teens growing up in the South in the late 1970s, I had two poles of rock and roll heroes: The Allman Brothers Band and ZZ Top on one side, Yes and King Crimson on the other.
Robert Schryer  |  Jul 23, 2019  |  31 comments
Dear Newbie: Welcome to the wonderful world of hi-fi! If you're besotted with a desire for audio gear that can make your recorded music sound better than you've ever heard it, you've come to the right place.

And at just the right time: Not only is there an unprecedented amount of sanely priced, excellent-sounding audio gear on the market; there's this thing happening between us right here and now—the fact that you're reading a letter I wrote especially for you.

Isaac Markowitz  |  Jan 24, 2019  |  17 comments
I've just returned home from one of the greatest concerts of my life, and felt absolutely compelled to share my thoughts with you. Yo-Yo Ma performed all six of J.S. Bach's Cello Suites, from memory, over a mesmerizing two-and-a-half hours at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in Morrison, Colorado. It was a truly special experience.
Jim Austin  |  Dec 04, 2018  |  17 comments
If there's one thing audiophiles agree on, it's that snake oil is bad—even if they can't agree about what snake oil actually is.

In audio, snake oil means fake science or fake technology—anything that's claimed to improve the sound of a system but that looks like an obvious rip-off. For some people, expensive speaker cables and interconnects are snake oil. A few objectivists consider AC power treatments snake oil: most modern audio components, after all, can correct for AC line-voltage flaws and reject "ripple" in a power supply's output. A handful of hard-core objectivists maintain that every new digital technology since the advent of the Compact Disc is snake oil.

Peter W. Mitchell  |  Jul 05, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1991  |  5 comments
When you graduate from mass-market hi-fi to high-end audio, one of the first things you notice is that audiophile gear dispenses with the gadgets and gimmicks that clutter up the front panels of most stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers. The dominant philosophy in mass-market design is that features sell products: the more functions a product has, the more desirable it will seem in the store. High-end designers, on the other hand, prefer the KISS approach: Keep It Simple, Stupid!
Martin Colloms  |  Jun 29, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  9 comments
It has been said that the high-end audio industry has a weakness which perversely has also helped to maintain its growth. The evolutionary process whereby designs are improved, upgraded, and supplanted at regular intervals keeps everyone interested, and of course affords reviewers useful employment. On the other hand, once a purchase has been made there may be resentment on the part of owners who find that, by the time their choice has become established and awarded sufficient review recommendation, a product upgrade is already in the pipeline.
Jim Austin  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  33 comments
Although I've never tried one, I think "lifestyle" audio systems are a bit of a joke. My in-laws' decade-old Bose Wave Radio sounds good for what it is, although its obvious flaws—boomy, undefined lower mids masquerading as bass, a frustrating lack of sonic and musical resolution, etc.—become grating fairly quickly. These days, there are far more accomplished and expensive lifestyle systems out there, but because I haven't tried them I won't comment on them, except to say that I'm not really interested.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jan 21, 2016  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1962  |  18 comments
Considering the amount of careful research, cautious theorizing and wild speculation that have been lavished on the amplifier power question, we should expect to be considerably closer to the answer in 1962 than we were five years ago. This does not seem to be the case.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 12, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1979  |  4 comments
Long-time Stereophile readers May be dismayed by what appears to be our unfettered satisfaction with some of the recent crop of new components. Aren't we, after all, dedicated to the pursuit of perfection? Do we really feel that some products are all that close to it? The answer to both questions is "Yes."
John Atkinson  |  Jan 04, 2015  |  5 comments
A comment by "cgh" in an online reprint of a Stereophile review caught my attention: "The [1990s] were probably the last real decade that we could reasonably bend the truth. Everything since is verifiable electronically."

Everything?

Bob Katz  |  Dec 22, 2014  |  25 comments
In the 2014 November issue, my good friend Steve Guttenberg ("Communication Breakdown") got his facts mostly right: It's true that most listeners (including myself) accept far more distortion today than we did years ago. Many people have never heard a great stereo system—all they've heard are overdriven boom boxes, cheap stereos, and portable systems, and that's what they expect systems and music to sound like. And distortion is part of the sonic language of such musical genres as hip-hop, rap, and alternative rock.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 21, 2014  |  First Published: May 01, 2005  |  10 comments
This essay first appeared in the May 2005 Stereophile eNewsletter. But as the opinions and comments are still relevant in 2014 and in some ways the phenomenon of over-compression in recorded music (footnote 1) is just as bad, I thought it worth republishing.—John Atkinson

I write these words mere hours after returning home from Home Entertainment 2005, the Show cosponsored by Stereophile magazine that took place from April 28 through May 1 at the Manhattan Hilton. A full report will appear in the August 2005 issue of the magazine.

John Atkinson  |  Nov 19, 2013  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2005  |  85 comments
When I became Stereophile's editor in 1986, the median age of the magazine's readership was the same age as I was then, 38; ie, half the readers were younger than 38, half older. According to our most recent reader survey, the median reader age is now 48, meaning that in the intervening 19 years, that median reader has aged at half the rate of the rest of us. A nice trick. But older that reader certainly has become, which has led to cries of doom from some quarters of the audio industry.

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