Collective letter s to Stereophile

Why Stereophile magazine reviews (favors) only certain manufacturers? Mostly are already big corporations and established themselves in audio arena. Cary (almost every amp reviewed)Krell even get spotlight for the first speakers they ever made, that's FAIR! Mark Levinson and CJ same Musical Fidelity, B&W every single speaker, so as Revel and Dunlavy and Thiel to a certain degree but still in the spotlight. Ocasionaly one or two obscure companies make debut on the pages (usually scapegoats for the bad reviews). Where are the loudspeaker companies, here in the North America, that already established themselves as competative and superb performers? Meadowlark Audio, Coincident, Talon, AVALON, Tyler, Nova etc..! How about Spendor, Herbeth, Living Voice from UK, JM from France and many many more that do not even get mentioned?

Your take on this? Thanks!
I could not agree more!!
Why don't you start your own magazine and review these items. The reality is that Stereophile gets to choose who they want to review. Who says that it should be democratic?
This is a naive assumption. You can learn far more here on the Gon.
With all due respect, who cares about the rags anyway? They have their agendas and your best interest somehow doesn't fit in. Listen to the folks here on AudioGon who paid good money out of their pocket for their gear and have no vested interest. Save your money spent on the "golden eared mags", read up on truly passionate and impartial views, and buy more music. Enjoy, Jeff
I'll play devil's advocate. Perhaps Stereophile prefers to review products from established manufacturers with wide distribution and the resources to follow up with customer service. The magazine has more appeal if it can lead consumers to products that are readibly availabe and have parts and service readibly available rather than the contrary. It would make sense to reward those companies with a good track record. These manufacturers have an established following waiting for reviews of thier latest products. Besides, well established companies who have had previous good reviews probably have the biggest advertising budget. The manufacturers and the magazines have a symbiotic relationship that co-depends on each others success. If the magazines truly wanted to help the consumer, they would keep gear on hand that it's readership typicaly owns (Stereophile has taken readers surveys), note manufacturers reliabilty and service record as well as expected resale value. The magazines would make special note of appropriate technical and sonic compatibilities. The magazines would compare the items of comparable value vis a vis possible new and used alternatives. While the last suggestion is fraught with diffuculty it is not impossible as most of us who use Audiogon do this all the time.
I think they are creating some kind of monopoly or at less prevent free competition in the market. Clearly, if a product from a new company didn't get exposure/review or intentionally unfavourable review in an audio magazine. Nobody will buy it and the new company will fall very fast. At the end, only a handful of manufacturers will share a large portion of the market share. Which is exactly what happening now. Both the manufacturer and the magazine are the in the same side. Favourable reviews(even though the product under review is no good at all) means more sale, more money and then more and bigger ad in the magazine. I think the government should look into this kind of unethical practices.
Check out and you will find out why this happen.
I basically agree with your comments but you should remove Dunlavy from your list of "preferred companies". Believe me, there is a LOT of "funny" circumstances around what took place with the SC-IV. Besides that, how many Dunlavy products have been reviewed compared to Musical Fidelity, Harmon International, etc ??? I only know of the SC IV off the top of my head and they demoted that one as it is. Sean
I too would love to see a wider range of equipment reviewed, especially stuff that's hot in the market. Why, for example, no review of some of the better one-box cd players by Audiomeca, Audio Aero, or EMC (and I don't mean a crummy Tellig review)? On the other hand, the magazine is extremely resource limited -- it's getting thinner and thinner due to lack of advertising, as most consumers are now into home theater. Also, Stereophile may avoid reviewing equipment made by small companies with limited distribution, because a bad review could put the company under, and a good review could do the same if the company can't keep up with the demand created, thereby angering prospective buyers.
I also agree with all points made.That is the main reason I bought a computer to get real info from real people.Once I went online I stopped buying rags like the Magazine mentioned any many others like it. Thorman
Hi all,
I would like to point your attention to the situation where a component is dropped from the recommended list with the explanation "Has not been reviewed in a long time OR no follow-up performed".
Whose fault is this? Can't Stereophile go out and purchase the component to do a follow-up? I feel the real reason is that manufacturer probably asked for component to be returned after a lengthy "borrowing" period OR manufacturer refused to provide a FREE "long term loan" (basically gifting it to the reviewer). I recall the case of Sam Tellig selling one of the McIntosh amps (which may have been gifted or sold for pennies on dollar to him) and then while he is reviewing another later amp from McIntosh he manages to wangle another unit (of amp he sold) from McIntosh. No wonder that the subsequent review of amp was so complimenatry. BTW, the above incident was quite recent, in last year or so. Anyway, I only read rge S'phile to get specs of units, industry news and the blubbering attempts by Atkinson to defend his stable of reviewers. Note especially JA standard responses like - I too have heard component A in similar conditions as (fill reviewer name here) and feel that so and so was right on in his assessment! BTW, last issue had 3 speakers with average price of almost 30,000 - the economy must be doing better than I thought if the market for these is healthy!
Hi Jeff, I have been thinking about the "impartiality" of A/V website participants you mentioned in your post, and lately and I am beginning to think that it is an illusion. A reviewer sees so much equipment that I believe they are not as impressionable as an audiophile who just purchased his latest high end piece. I have been active at A/V websites for a long time now, and have noticed a sort of "buyers pride" bias, myself included. I think it is only natural, but I remember vocally supporting products I had purchased many years ago, that today I see as quite decent, but not superb at all. As my listening skills evolve and my experience with different brands grows I have become less inclined to think my current opinion is the last word. I have carefully tested around 10-15 brands of cables and settled on many Acoustic Zen and Harmonic Technology cables and have recommended them many times. Including 30 years of working professionally in music writing, producing, performing and teaching, this is a fair amount of cables tried to warrant a reasonably fair opinion, but if I were a professional reviewer I would want to have tried at least 5 times that amount before offering my opinion. The better reviewers have that kind of experience and then some. Over the years I have bought more than a few items that Stereophile and SGHT has recommended. Three quarters of them of them I was near buying and the review was the extra support I needed to risk spending my money. The products I bought, (off the top of my head), Yamaha DXP-A1, Denon AVR-5700, B&W 805's, H. Tech cables, REL sub, B&K pre-pro, Pioneer DVD 37A, Sony DVP-9000ES, Toshiba HDTV, were by and large everything the reviewers said they were. So I would have to give Stereophile at least a "95" in consistency. I found the letters section in this months issue to be a fantastic read, informed, eloquent, passionate, insightful, controversial and uncensored, that I must conclude that a good editor makes a big difference. Could Stereophile make an effort to try reviewing some different and deserving brands, sure, but as Larry stated it can have a negative effect on companies not quite ready for the big time. If more people became interested in the high end audio market, Stereophile's advertising income would increase, their review budget would grow, and we would see a wider variety of reviews, including more of the items mentioned here. It must be a difficult balancing act for an editor to decide what gets reviewed or not. On one hand as a consumer I hope to see comparisons of the latest products (like say.. a review of two or three multi-format players coming out soon, hint, hint) and on the other hand I like to be informed of new things I'm unaware of. I think the real question is how to get more people interested in hearing very good sound at home. I think it also needs to be acknowledged that many of us DO care about Stereophile, and want to see the magazine continue to offer insight and advice especially in these confusing times from the consumer's perspective. Besides, the ads are fun to look at. Hard to stop the drool on occasion isn't it?
Seems to me if you want to read a lot of new reviews, the current S-pile is not for you. (If you want some technical analysis of what is reviewed, it's one of the only games in town.)

On the other hand, there are a gazillion items on their Recommended Components list, so if you want to make your purchasing or auditioning decisions on the basis of glowing magazine reviews, their archive is a treasure trove.
Upgrade, MANY of those "loaner" components are never returned or returned WAY, WAY later. I've read reviews where a reviewer broke out an amp for comparison to what he was currently writing about. As it turns out, the amp that he "took out of storage" was a unit that he had reviewed WELL OVER A YEAR PRIOR !!! As such, who is going to "badmouth" a product or manufacturer that basically gives you "free" gear to use "indefinitely" ??? Besides that, what manufacturer is going to have the guts to "burn bridges" and literally demand a product back from a reviewer that might just "fix them" next time around ???

There is a lot of "complimentary hand washing" take place in this field and it's not only taking place at Stereophile ( believe me, TAS has MORE than its fair share too ). So long as one hand keeps the other clean and neither one of them "rats" on the other, you'll RARELY see anything but a complimentary review. Between that and the "advertising revenue game", most of the glossy mags are nothing more than entertainment at this point in time.

While i have little respect for many "reviewers" ( on a business level, nothing personal ), i will publicly state that i think that John Marks is "ethical". Whether or not you or i agree with his opinions and preferences may be a whole 'nother ball of wax. I also think that John Atkinson is "trying", but is kind of stuck between a rock and hard place. Fremer should stick to vinyl based products as that is what he does best. Sean
I'm not for or against here, but it is important to remember that Stereophile is in BUSINESS. Their goal is to make money. People buy their magazines and they make cash that way. They influence because readers let them. As far as them reviewing only certain products, this may be true, but it is also important to point out that they wouldn't want to review a piece of equipment that is only available at 2 or 3 dealers in the US. They want their readers to be able to hear the components they review. Which is why most of their stuff reviewed has more than 10 dealers. I think most people just want to point blame. The fact is, if you yourself (speaking to everyone) start a magazine not everyone will like what you are doing either. You can't please everyone, nor should you try. I have come a long way since five years ago when I started, and I will continue to read stereophile because I can learn about new products that way. Sure the internet is great, but I also want something physical to look at. If you don't like it, cancel your subscription. Obviously someone likes it or Stereophile wouldn't keep arriving in our mailboxes each month. LIke I said, I'm not for or against. Just pointing out things I believe to be true.
Who cares what Stereophile reviews the magazine is a joke now.
I know the subject is like "beating the dead horse", but i will correct myself in mentioning Thiel, Dunlavy as one of the favorite reviewed products. I will also include Vandersteen, that also had lukewarm reception, not just from the Stereophile, but from TAS also. On the another hand, does anybody truly believe that Meadowlark, Coincident or Silverline i forgot to mention, would shot their doors if hundreds of customers swarm them with the orders to purchase their products? I do not think so.
I wouldn't call the magazine a joke just because they don't cater to you Meby. For a show of hands, I care what stereophile reviews. I'm interested in the hobby so anyone that writes about it, I want to read it.
Some insightful comments, some that are pathetic and stupid. Speaking personally, not counting cables, I own (meaning I BOUGHT) everything in my system except what I am currently reviewing--and I have the DCS stuff here for a few extra months while I complete another review.

. I don't keep a roomful of "loaner" equipment and how wonderful it is to be lumped in with those who may do this by the more thoughtless and foolish posters on Audiogon! I love the poster who called Stereophile a "joke" but couldn't be bothered to elaborate.

And consider this: since I can buy anything out there at wholesale (one of the perks of this job, which no-doubt some of you will hold against me), the only reason I own something and use it in my system is because I LIKE IT.

Frankly, I don't pay attention to the advertising in Stereophile and it has no effect on what I write. I laugh every time I see one of the handful of cynical idiots here, who post their conspiratorial conjectures. I think back to those posts and to seeing the VPI TNT on the cover of Stereophile and awarded product of the year a few years back, when in fact VPI has NEVER advertised in Stereophile, and is hardly alone in being honored and reviewed without advertising. Most of the people posting these "advertising drives reviews" posts have never taken the time to correlate the two because if they had, they'd find out how wrong they are. But, hey, why let facts get in the way of prejudice?

Frequently a company begins to advertise after getting some good coverage. And that's no guarantee of continued good coverage. I am accused of writing frequently about Musical Fidelity. I plead guilty. They make great products that are reasonably priced. Last time I checked that's precisely what audiophiles are looking for. I've also given NEGATIVE reviews to Musical Fidelity products, but why let facts get in the way conspiracy theories!
So little time, and so many products. I agree with you Grooves, but I would also like to see more variety products reviewed in your mag.
For the record, "Grooves" is Michael Fremer of Stereophile. He is responding to this thread through a link that i provided in a discussion that was taking place over at AA.

Mike, as far as your comment about "negative reviews of MF gear" goes, what product was this and what issue was this printed in ? I think that we may have different ideas about what a "negative review" consists of.

As to "getting lumped in with" reviewers that "hang onto" gear for extended periods of time, that was a generic comment that i made applying to those in the industry in general. I know that some reviewers are more ethical / timely than others. As a side note though, the suggestions that i made over in AA regarding Stereophile and other audio rags following a set procedure in terms of the reviewing process might go a LONG way towards smoothing ruffled feathers AND making the subscribers happy. Sean
OP wrote: Meadowlark Audio, Coincident, Talon, AVALON, Tyler, Nova etc..! How about Spendor, Herbeth, Living Voice from UK, JM from France and many many more that do not even get mentioned?"

Of the 10 brands specifically mentioned, I can recall, from casual memory, at least 4 that have been reviewed. Also, of the 10, at least 3 have not responded to my inquiries about a review. There are many reasons why a product is not reviewed and some of these have to do with manufacturer's decisions (or lack, thereof).
I am not sure why Fremer didn't use the handle has previously used on this forum, but if he is going to officially be "Grooves" around here, that's fine.

I actually have to give Stereophile a hand on some recent reviews they have published. First, is the current Audes Jazz loudspeaker review by Kalman Rubinson. Excellent work by Kal, a reviewer I have not always found interesting in the past. The others are most of what Art Dudley has put out in the past few months. What a breath of fresh air! It's nice to have multiple opinions on analog equipment. Stereophile should never have one writer be the only person who reviews a particular class of equipment. I mean, think about it, if any of us were "the whatever guy" there would be just as many people who disagree with our opinions as not. Having a balance is definitely a good thing.

If Sam Tellig ever thinks of doing something else, they have a super writer in Art ready and able to step right into his shoes.

One thing I wonder about is why Sam Tellig has written about the Sony SACD player for months on end now without an "official review" which he hinted at previously.

And a question, is Paul Bolin actually Jonathan Scull???
Joe: I agree that Kal's writing style is different than some of the other writers that we are used to reading in Stereophile. Having said that, i think that Kal tries to convey specific ideas more than he worries about making his words "float off the page", etc... It is always nice when you can find someone that can do both "convey" AND "entertain". Unfortunately, most that are good at "entertaining" aren't quite as good at "conveying" hard-core data and vice-versa. You have to remember, Kal is a Professor and he probably writes in the same manner that he teaches i.e. "just the facts".

As to your comments about having multiple people reviewing similar types of equipment, try taking a look at this Stereophile based thread over on AA. Pay close attention to my responses to "Grooves" as i say much the same thing that you do here.

I find it interesting that Mr Fremer, Kal and John Marks have all responded to this Agon / AA thread, but we've not heard a peep from the "head honcho". I would really love to hear his thoughts on the suggestions that i've made as to how to stream-line and "clean up" the reviewing process. I'm not holding my breath though... Sean
I find it interesting that several responses to this thread and to others have commended Audiogon for offering consumers the opportunity to give their non-biased reviews of their equipment. One post above reads, "Listen to the folks here on AudioGon who paid good money out of their pocket for their gear and have no vested interest."

I can't help but wonder, however, if those reviews are truly non-biased or without a vested interest. I find that there is a natural and understandable tendency for a buyer to support the gear that he or she has purchased. We do not like to believe that we may have made a mistake. Or, if we recognize that we made a mistake, we may not want to undercut the market value of our own equipment with a negative post, just when we are contemplating putting that equipment up for resale on Audiogon. In any event, like manufacturers, like distributors, like retailers, like the magazines, we all have a vested interest of some sort. I do not believe, however, that this in and of itself makes a review invalid. Every review by its nature is biased, whether of financial bias or simply based on the life experiences of the reviewer. The trick is to recognize the limitations as well as the value of every review.
I find it amusing that 'Grooves' chooses a path of righteous indignation when customers complain, rather than listening and responding thoughtfully. Way to go, Sport, put another nail in that Stereophile coffin!
Mprime: Cut Mike some slack. He came over here after getting worked up in another thread. As such, i'm sure that he was not "thinking elegantly". It's easy to spew "less than polite" responses when someone stepped on your "tallywhacker" : ) Sean

Clearly, there are some harmonics I'm missing. While I examined the AA thread, my take was that it was a dogpile on you. Why you'd defend 'Grooves' is lost on me. So instead, I'll state it clearly, from my perspective.

These Sphile guys are confused on who their customer is. They may think it to be JA, but, in fact, it is us: the consumer. Hence, the credibility of their distribution outlet - whether they like it or not - reflects on them as content providers. Plainly said, Sphile has a *serious* credibility gap. In forums such as these, they have a chance to listen to a lead user group and adapt, or not, at their peril. At the end of the day, such online forums represent the future look of their distribution channel. They might want to consider this - especialy when they attack people of proven crediblity (such as yourself) on these forums.

Enough, I preach.


Lee: While it might have ended up being a "dogpile" on me, i'm not crying foul. Let's just say i opened up all the cages and expected something like that to happen : )

As far as why i "stuck up" for Mikey, i think we all know what it's like when people are on your back, you're agitated and even more crap is dumped on you and your co-horts. It's easy to get pissed and respond accordingly.

As to your other comments, i agree 100%. I've tried to pass on ideas to JA directly and i know that others have posted similar thoughts to those that i expressed in public forums, yet it seems to fall on deaf ears. To top it off, we all know that EVERY writer and the editor have seen the hordes of threads / complaints about lack of diversity of products / brand name coverage, especially from specific parties. What do we get ? ST delivers yet another helping of "Triangle Pie". Really makes you wonder if he's doing this for spite just to get our goat or if he doesn't know how to contact anyone else to obtain other brands for review.

Other than that, i thought this issue was quite diverse in brands and types of products covered. Unfortunately, the price bracket on most everything was still pretty well up there ( $2000 for speaker cables and one pair of interconnects ), but at least there was no Musical Fidelity in this issue. Instead, we ended up with Audio Advisor's replacement for MF, which is now Perreaux : ) Sean

Thank you for the link to AA. I read the discussion involving Michael Fremer and John Marks, among others, and found it interesting. Although, I have to admit that I did not see anything too controversial or enlightening there. I also didn't feel you were being piled on. I've seen much worse in these parts.

One observation I do have is that in these audio forums, the Stereophile personnel do seem to have a chip on their shoulder. I am not sure the reason, one would have to believe that they are as chipper in real life as any of us. But, they tend to come off with a mean spiritidness that I don't fully understand. It could be a defensiveness borne out of so many in the forums taking shots at them in particular, and the magazine in general.

Another trend I see is that often they quote a previous poster's words, and expound on that to an extreme. No one did that more than J10 in that thread here a few months ago. I got more e - mail about that thread than any other I have been involved in, including the controversial "TRELJA in New York" reports on the 2001 and 2002 Stereophile NYC HiFI Shows. The consensus was almost universal that people found Scull to be psychotic and maybe his personality was the reason for him no longer being affiliated with the magazine.

Conversely, I find that most of us here on Audiogon make an honest effort to share their own insight into an issue, rather than focusing on what has been previously stated. Of course, we do have our run - ins and we are also guilty of this on occasion.

What has been developing in me over the course of the past few months is the feeling that there is certainly something special at work here on Audiogon. Perhaps this being a hobby for us and not a job factors into things. In a recent thread, I commented that despite my love of cooking, the ONLY hobby that competes with audio in my life, and the opportunity to pursue it as a career, I have never done so. The reason being I would never want a love tainted by work. Work has the potential to poison love. Money can have the same result.

I am left the feeling that most members honestly enjoy music, equipment, and the interaction with others who share the hobby. There is a genuineness in the discussion that goes on here. Could that be a reason that over the long term, honest friendships are forged?

I realize this post is going too far off on a self - congratulatory tone.

Back to Stereophile, I have never been of the opinion that the writers or reviews of the magazine have been a reflection of advertising. But clearly, in these times, many people do.

Perhaps the way the magazine is run these days factors into this. It may be more of a one man decision making process, whereas before it might have been a several person venture.

Thinking about all of this over this rainy weekend, I dug up an older issue of Stereophile. It was one of the Recommended Components issues of 1994. I wanted to see if I could discern any difference between now and then.

I think that I was most struck by the discourse in rating components. Recommended Components seems to be one of the major sore spots that most people have with Stereophile. The other is the preponderance of reviews of certain companies' products(the distributor of Triangle and others, Cary, Musical Fidelity, Harman International). Both things probably work hand in hand.

In 1994, there seemed to be more opinions involved in rating a component. Actual disagreement took place. My observation of today gives me the impression that far fewer people and discussion are involved the process. I could be wrong...

I also do not think it's a stretch to say that the components are rated higher. Class C was a larger category previously, and represented real world equipment. Today, it seems to be more of a knock. Class B was what most of us who stretched for equipment wanted to achieve. And, Class A was equipment that only the very rich or hard, hard core bought. I doubt a $2000 power amplifier could ever attain a Class A rating then, even if money was cheaper then.

Class A+ has always made me uncomfortable, but that's just me.

As a subscriber, I appreciate the low price of the magazine. No, it could not be done without advertising. But, is there any more advertising now then there used to be? No, in fact, I believe there is less now. And, since I am under the impression that Stereophile has a 1:1 correlation between pages of advertising and pages of print, that would explain why the magazine is so much smaller than it was 10 years ago.

Reading the AA thread, I agree with many of the points you raise, Sean. The person who bench tests the equipment should not be the one who reviews it, more opinions should be polled before a rating is given, etc.

Again, I do feel that Art Dudley has ratcheted up the magazine since his inclusion.

Time will tell how the magazine fares over the next couple of years.