As We See It

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Jim Austin  |  Mar 17, 2020  |  11 comments
Some Stereophile readers will surely remember—some may even have in their collections—Christian Marclay's 1985 vinyl release Record Without a Cover, surely one of the oddest records ever, right up there with the dying-rabbit record and the seven-inch single that's tinted yellow by the band's actual urine.
Jim Austin  |  Feb 20, 2020  |  29 comments
In the 1980s, the CD nearly pushed the LP to extinction. Nearly. For all the claims of "Perfect Sound Forever," the main thing offered by the CD was convenience.

Then, in the mid-1990s, the MP3 and the Internet made it easy to extract and distribute the information encoded on a CD. Secret websites raced to be the first to distribute free MP3s of new recordings, sometimes even before they were released. This went on for years, undermining record-company profits, before Napster came along and gave the record industry a high-value lawsuit target: no more suing widows and small children.

Jim Austin  |  Jan 14, 2020  |  4 comments
My first exposure to current-mode phono preamplification was maybe a dozen years ago, when such products were new. The one I received, though nicely packaged, was not ready for prime time. I never smelled smoke, but I never heard sound, either: If it wasn't DOA, it was at a minimum DSAA—Dead Soon After Arrival.
Jim Austin  |  Dec 18, 2019  |  35 comments
Subjectivist audiophiles have long maintained that long-term listening is necessary to assess the quality and character of an audio component. Scientific testing methodologies such as ABX, which require quick and conscious evaluation of a change in the sound, have long struck many of us as insufficient, seeming to miss much that affects our enjoyment of music.
Jim Austin  |  Nov 12, 2019  |  23 comments
"There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind . . . the only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds."—Duke Ellington

Before I became Stereophile's editor—when I still had time for such things—I would occasionally pack up a camera and some lenses, get in my truck, and drive, usually south, in pursuit of good images and sounds. I'd spend a couple of weeks on the road, stopping to take pictures whenever I came across a picturesque town or valley or an abandoned drive-in theater. I'd try to end the day in some city or town that was likely to have live music. A couple of times on every trip, I'd find myself approaching an especially musical place: Clarksdale. Memphis. New Orleans.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 15, 2019  |  39 comments
One of my biggest surprises since I became the editor of Stereophile—and so started focusing more on all things audiophile—is how often I find myself thinking about the ethics of this hobby. This is unusual for me: I dislike moralism and prefer aesthetics to ethics.
Jim Austin  |  Sep 17, 2019  |  26 comments
Yup, you're in a strange position, all right. You're in love with a girl who is no more.—Haruki Murakami

The quote above, from Haruki Murakami's novel Kafka on the Shore, is addressed to Kafka, a 15-year-old boy who has fallen in love with the teenage ghost of an older woman. The woman is still alive, but ever since the death of her lover many years before, she has existed separate from her spirit. Falling in love with ghosts is something I've done often, starting at about Kafka's age.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 15, 2019  |  22 comments
If you're a music fan—and if you're reading this, you probably are—you've heard this already: On June 11, the New York Times Magazine published an investigative report about a 2008 fire that destroyed a vault at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

Workers were repairing a roof on an oft-reused movie set, heating asphalt tiles with a blowtorch. Protocol required the repairmen to stick around for one hour until the asphalt had cooled, to guard against fire. But shortly after they left, a fire broke out. Hundreds of firefighters fought it, pulling water from the lake once inhabited by The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Jim Austin  |  Jul 16, 2019  |  2 comments
By the time you read this, Munich's High End 2019 will be a distant memory. Yet as I write this, having just returned from Munich, the experience is fresh in my mind. It's the most compelling audio topic I can think of, crying out for commentary.

Munich is to audiophiles—to this one at least—what New York's 5th Avenue is to Black Friday shoppers. It's the audiophile version of flying through a canyon with a wing suit on. It's a giant rush, audio cocaine.

Jim Austin  |  Jun 18, 2019  |  77 comments
Stereophile's first change in editorial leadership in 33 years calls for a restatement of the magazine's core principles.

Stereophile was founded in 1962 by J. Gordon Holt, on the premise that the best way to review an audio component is to listen to it. Following Holt as editor, John Atkinson turned that premise into a viable concern—a real magazine—and, in 1989, added a regular suite of measurements to Stereophile's otherwise subjective mix.

John Atkinson  |  May 07, 2019  |  22 comments
John Atkinson (left) and Larry Archibald (right) remininisce about JA joining Stereophile in 1986. (Photo: Larry Greenhill)

It was the summer of 1976. My career as a professional musician was not panning out as I had hoped. I'd played bass guitar on quite a few singles and three albums, and toured with erstwhile teen singing sensation Helen Shapiro—but I was better at playing than I was at getting paid. My then wife, Maree, showed me a classified ad in the British newspaper The Guardian: the magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review was looking for an assistant editor.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 18, 2019  |  85 comments
When we launched Stereophile's website at the end of 1997, we decided that we would not reprint the magazine's most popular features, including the biannual "Recommended Components" listings and Michael Fremer's monthly "Analog Corner" column. We were concerned that doing so would cannibalize magazine sales. As it turned out, we were wrong—and so the latest "Recommended Components" is available on our free-access website day-and-date with the publication of the April and October issues in which it appears. And starting with Mikey's very first "Analog Corner," from July 1995, I have been posting his column on our AnalogPlanet.com website.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 12, 2019  |  51 comments
The dichotomy between what is measured and what is heard has resurfaced in recent months. Jon Iverson discussed it in his "As We See It" in our December 2018 issue, and I followed up on the subject in my January 2019 "As We See It." These further thoughts were triggered by an e-mail exchange I had last December with Stereophile's longtime copyeditor, Richard Lehnert.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 12, 2019  |  32 comments
With this year's Consumer Electronics Show behind us, readers of our on-line show reports know the sad truth: that the largest industry-only technology show in North America attracted even fewer "high-performance" audio exhibits in 2019 than it did in 2018. The phrase "CES is dead" is now a mantra, and no one should be surprised if this year's poor showing proves to be the final nail in CES's coffin as far as high-end audio is concerned.
Robert Schryer  |  Jan 15, 2019  |  22 comments
It happened 30 years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday: My best friend's brother's friend showed me his record player—an AR turntable equipped with an SME 3009 Mk.III tonearm and a Shure V15 Type V-MR cartridge—and offered to sell it to me at a price that, until that moment, I would never have considered spending for a complete system. "It's audiophile gear," he said with a knowing smile.

Audiophile? The word sounded exotic—and grown-up.

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