Most Honest Audio Magazine?

I subscribe to Stereophile and I really enjoy reading it but something happened last year that made me raise an eyebrow as to the authenticity of their intentions. Remember the review of the B&W Nautilus 805's? The original reviewer raved about them and rated them "Class A Restricted Low Frequency". Shortly thereafter they demoted the same speaker down to "Class B Restricted Low Frequency". This really hurt the magazine's credibility in my eyes. My first conclusion was that they didn't want to upset the other manufacturers who produced "Class A" products at far higher prices. Shouldn't a trade journal give credit to the truly remarkable products especially when they are produced for relatively decent prices? It's unfortunate that the advertising dollars of the megabuck manufacturers bullied a stellar product into receiving a less than stellar final rating. I'm wondering if this hasn't happened before. I've since heard from some of my audio buddies that corruption does indeed exist in the audio press; everything from reviewers being related to manufacturers to reviewers being offered products for a song (pun intended). Please share your thoughts and experiences when it comes to audio magazines and let me know which ones you'd rate best and worst. Putting together a great system is hard enough without having to sift through the sometimes suspicious advice of those publications who purport to advance the hobby.
Check out Martin DeWulf's Bound for Sound.
With reference to which audio magazines are most honest, I find it difficult to rate any one magazine more honest than another. It is more important that the writer accurately conveys the virtues or shortcomings of a product being reviewed. While there have been many talented writers in audio journals, that is not to say they always accurately describe the benefits or shortcomings of products reviewed. I have subscribed to Stereophile for about 15 years and have seen the priorities stay basically the same. The writing is as it always has been, that is to say there are good writers that demonstrate credibility by their reviews of a product and there are others that overstate the quality/value of a product. I can't say I have read too many really bad reviews, the latest being on a line conditioner a few months ago by Scull (a nebulous confusing writer, IMO) The Nautilus 805 is an example of a product being overstated IMO. While certainly a good product in the eyes of many, I have listened to this speaker on several different occasions with excellent electronics and am baffled at how this product can be rated so highly. I am not alone on these impressions. It does indeed make one raise his eyebrows. What did this writer hear that I didn't I ask myself. Stereophile has ultimately become something they always professed they never would be, a tool for manufacturers' to get positive exposure for their product. But it didn't happen yesterday, it has been going on for quite some time. Most products in high end audio are not bad sonically but there are many poor values with reference to price performance. I do not see ANY magazines really expose this to the degree it should be. It would be suicide to do so but it would REALLY benefit the readers, a real balancing act. I have found the best medium for finding out the real value products in audio is the internet and the buzz created by such products will spur still greater innovation and value. Ultimately the magazines are in business and their ultimate interest is survival, the common denominator of all. So MY answer is THERE IS NO ONE MAGAZINE MORE HONEST THAN THE NEXT, most just spin that they are. "If you just fool some of the people most of the time that's all it takes baby"
Nice post Mr tubegroover.Nailed it all.OK,now we know this,I think we have to read between the lines.I remember when Chip Stern did his first,for the mag.The product was Messa Barron.He loved it.I think it was JA who did a follow up side bar,and figured he was very easy to please.(read terminally deaf).I borrowed one twice,it is so so at best.BUT without the follow up side bar,I think a lot of people could have been misled.Also, the last, honest review I've read.Ocasionally I see 80 grand to evaluate a 2 thousand dollar piece,and 4 grand to do a 5 thousand piece,you think they do that on purpose??
I have to agree with Tubegroover that there is no magazine that is demonstrably more honest than any other. I find, however, that TAS is much better written than any of the other magazines out there. Every other month or so, I receive both magazines at the same time, and it becomes extremely obvious how much better a magazine The Abso!ute sound is. As far as honesty goes, I believe that TAS is as honest as any other. Not that this proves anything definitively, but they often make clear that their reviewing standards (which they hold to be extremely sacred) are very objective.
All the mags are biased to some degree but I think Stereophile has gone to shit. Check out recent columns by Sam Tellig as an example. Last month he raves about several models of Triangle speaker and guess what there is a first time full page ad for Tianagle speakers. Several months earlier Sam raved about CJ amps from his pals at Audio Outlet and guess what a few pages over there is a first time full page ad palced by Audio Outlet featuring you guessed it -CJ amps. There are less obvious examples of journalism for hire in Stereophile but it is obvious that Petersen Publishing knows what where the bread is buttered. Take out a full page ad in slipping audio rag and Sam will write you up real good.
I have to agree with the majority of the other respondents. There is no one perfect audio magazine. I do feel however, that the TAS is now superior to Stereophile, which is now a mere shadow of it's former self. After all the reading and comparing you still have to listen, for yourself, and go with your own instincts. Regards, AEW
You don't have to read a review article to know what "class" Stereophile is going to put a product in. All that you need to look at is the price. Class A speakers cost $10,000 and up. Class AAA home theater preamps cost $8000 and up. I read review articles to get detailed information on features and functions so that I don't waste my time looking at products that can't do what I want them to do and then I let my ears be the judge in my own system.
For your information I just heard about a Italian brand who wants to start selling high end in USA, They asked S´phile if they would do a review of one of their products. They was answered that this was perhaps possible but advertising in a couple of issues in advance would surley help their case of getting a review.
I agree with most of the sentiments above. I find that the British Mags tend to be less hyped than the American ones, in particular HFN&RR. However, they obviously favor British gear, alot of which is inferior to North American stuff. American audio hype is particularly exemplified by the reviews of Martin Colloms who reviews mostly for HFN&RR, but does ocassional ones for STEREOPHILE. Notice how dispassionate/unemotional he is in the former, whereas he is suddenly more impassioned in the latter (most uncharecteristic for a Brit of his sensibilities!). In the end, I think we come to "trust" a few reviewers whose listening tastes we think we share and who have shown reasonable reviewing consistency over time. Overall, TAS has been the best (but, by no means, exemplary). Remember, if audio-journals do not pander to their advertisers, their revenues get strangled! So, they have to tread a tightrope between keeping their sponsors (advertisers) and not alienating their subscribers. Just part of the games people normally play!
I agree with everyone so far. The biggest problem I have with Stereophile is Jonathan Scull. Can't this guy ever review anything that isn't 10X more expensive than what the rest of us use? The one exception was the power conditioner he reviewed. It was only $995. Was this the reason he thought it was crap? I have no experience with it, but those who do feel it to be a great product. Previously, he reviewed a set of Accuphase monoblocks. He liked them, but felt the need to recommend they be used with the multi-kilobuck power conditioner. Believe me, if I'm paying $20 - $30K for an amp, it better need nothing else. J - 10, you need to reevaluate your review list. How about mixing in something like a Musical Fidelity, Vandersteen, or PSB product once in a while? That said, I still get ripe with anticipation every month waiting for the next issue to arrive in the mail.
TAS is OK but Listener Mag beats them all. It's a fun read too!
For lower end Audiophile equipment, I find the British magazine Hi-Fi Choice by far the best. They do blind testing with a panel of reviewers coupled with later hand on testing. They include most of the comments good and bad by all involved. Do not confuse Hi-Fi Choice magazine with What HiFi. What HiFi is very inconsistent with there reviews. They have never heard an NAD and some other brand's products that are less than 5 stars, which leads me to believe they are paid off.
The best two i have found are Bound for Sound no advertising in this Mag.A lot of the big boys are afraid of this magazine.The other one is out of Canada.UHF very informative will call a piece of crap crap .review a good cross section of equipment.Very little adds from MFG most are from High End dealers.Stereophile is the biggest piece of #$^$%$# that exists.Every review is full of shit and when was the last time you saw them review something that was not advertized in their Magazine.
Sterophile reviews now carry that same thread of reasoning that PBS has been allowed to adopt while remaining "commercial free"--- this is not an ad but here is our name, address, phone # and oh yeah exactly what we do while we 'support this station', I have always tried to read between the lines about equipment reviews, if you do it long enough with the same reviewer you can get a sense of what is what, but when Chip Stern lauded the VAC Avatar and the bench decreed it as obviously having something defective going on in a major way, I was surprised that Chip never followed up, and a drummer to boot, you just can't trust anybody including me who bought not only the VAC Avatar (SE), but a used 24/96 Alpha and CL-20 as transport, a la Chip in his review, and now with an all silver and gold cable path, I am glad I did.
Forget the rags mentioned above, even TAS, they all stink. Their purpose is to make you fell insecure so you will spend more $$ upgrading your systems on and on and on. They exist for the manufacturers. How do you think Audio Reserach became so popular and profitable; wasn't A.R. HP's personal choice for amps and preamps? Listen to your ears. Read Vacuum Tube Valley, Glass Audio or SpeakerBuilder to understand why equipment sounds the way it does. Also read Walt Benders short quips in Audio Mart, this man knows what it has been all about.
In particular, I want to comment on Stereophile. The quality of the magazine has continually declined in the past 5 years, despite John Atkinson's continued claims of neutrality & objectivity. Certainly for those of us into classical music, the decline is disgusting. Notice the swinging door of reviewers on staff? Not to offend anyone's particular musical tastes, but reproducing a live, acoustical symphony orchestra is the most daunting challenge to any piece of equipment, & should be the standard by which to measure sonic accuracy, NOT Nine Inch Nails or some other heavy metal group. Most of these reviewers are laughable & pathetic. Pompous individuals who have proclaimed themselves authorities. And, as has already been stated by others in this thread, how often do you see a negative review of anything? Many of you know what garbage some of what is reviewed really is, or mediocre at best. The best advice is to listen to a wide range of opinions, & hopefully have some dealerships with some honesty -- & the BEST advice I can give you, is: Learn what questions to ask & ask many, & read between the lines of the responses you get. Then go from there. It's not an easy road to find the truth in this hobby.
I just read Listener for the first time.Not Bad.Give it a read if you can find it.
Listener Magazine email address: They say $30. for a USA subscription, $40. Canada, but I paid $17.97 on a promotional offer. I like it for $17.97. It's an every other month mag.. So far, they've reviewed quite a bit of "non-mainstream" gear, which I guess is OK as Stereophile and TAS hit the more expensive mainstream stuff. As Stereophile has gone rapidly downhill, my favorite has become TAS though. But IMHO no magazine review should be taken too literally-- the reviews are just a reviewers opinion (and may be influenced by advertising as others have suggested above) of a piece of gear in THEIR system, in THEIR room(s)-- I think most already know this. October was THE month for Audio Magazine's Annual Equipment Guide-- I'm going to miss it:-(. Cheers. Craig
I feel that TAS is passing up Stereophile as well. I too have seen SP's quality decline. They still have some excellent reviews, but a few of their reviewers I find pompous, trivial and irritating. J-10 specifically. I also wish that they had a more unified approach to their reviews. It seems like the reviewers don't collaborate on reviews. Maybe they do, but you don't see it in print. On TAS, I am finding a good deal more humility and practicality in their approach. They are hitting the more common price point equipment - the 1000-5000 a piece components the people actually buy. I also like their approach of 'recommended systems' for a given price point OR listening environment. I have found that a good deal of an equipment's quality is determined by the listening environment. A huge room verses a small room. In contrast, Stereophile seems to be hung up on 7 foot tall, 350lb speakers powered by $20,000 amps. Then they rapidly go from that extreme to Yamaha PC speakers. Just to show what good guys they are.
I do not know what makes audio equipment tick, nor do I particularly care, so I don't care for that aspect in the review. Years back I had a two year subscription to Stereophile, I basically looked at the pictures. Their reviews are 55 pages long and in jibberish that makes no sense to me nor that I cared about; I would read the Conclusion sections. About a month ago I picked up a issue of The Absolute Sound, it was the first time I actually enjoyed a Audio magazine. I felt the reviews were short and to the point. I did notice that TAS would mention things they didn't like, S'phile is so political it is sickning, they have always been that way. I recently aquired a issue of S'phile from Jan. '84, they tested three cassette decks, do you think they could come out plainly and pick a winner, not a chance! I wouldn't mind trying a issue of The Listener.
Bound for sound is the most honest. His reviews are months and years before the other mags. Stays away from reviewing the big dogs like Krell Levinson etc. which get reviewed to death. He lets smaller manufactures a shot. not afraid to trash a lousey component... tough rating standards... though not uniformly applied IMO
I want to retract my negative comment about Jonathan Scull. He's not that pompous - his sense of quasi-satirical humor just makes him appear that way. He does write some pretty good reviews. I just re-read his excellent review of the SCD-1. I felt bad.
I second (or third or forth) recommendations of Bound for Sound. For the record, their URL is There is also an interesting site that reviews reviewers at TAS beats Sterophile. Listener is OK. Audio had some excellent non-review articles that will be missed.
Mags are only useful if you take all opinions with a grain of salt. Some reviewers have an agenda, some are more interested in cleaver writing and some are either deaf or stupid. One reviewer has an unusualy small room and reviews large full-range speakers. An other encourages Rotel to improve certain technical aspects so they can "take on the big guys", but this mag is known for its position that all amps (of the same power rating} sound the same. Still its good to know whats out there, and if anyone is listening, I like good photos. And I dont mind ads. OK, there is alot of information out there and I do enjoy reading just about all of them. But dont stake your paycheck on one review.
*At least they can spell clever.
Basically Blkadr has it right. All subjective evaluations are just that. Subjective. What virtually anyone hears is highly circumstantial and dependant upon the influential conditions of the moment. Numerous tests have demonstrated that even a visual aspect (Brand name) is significant and sometimes even dominant in its influence. Since reviewers are human, they are also subjective and fairly unique in their experieces and preferences. Objective evaluation is more consistent but for most, will be deferred to the simple quality of taste. If you like it, you like it. Relating perceived "good sound" to accurate measurements is a learning process which can require hundreds or even thousands of man- hours of critical listening. So many esteemed reveiwers do have that basis for valid opinion. However, it's obvious that even that can be an unreliable reference for his fellow reviewer...or the consumer seeking validation for an expensive decision. Some can be well-satisfied with even the most basic of music reproduction. Others are never happy. I, at various times, have been in each category. My advice; if you like it, buy it. But listen to a lot of equipment before commiting and buy the least expensive which satisfies you. And most of all. Enjoy!
I vote for Bound for Sound.
I used to be enamored with Absolute sound. During the late 80s, early 90s Pearson and company ran a great mag. Objective, straightforward, and at times hard hitting. Last month they ran a letter I wrote and to my surprise they revised enough of it to somehow eliminate the essence of my issue. Sentences were moved or completely removed, certain words or phrases relocated. Total crap. I do not know who makes the editing decisions, but I never imagined that letters were under their totalitarian, political- agenda run rein.
TAS is enjoyable and accurate. stereophile is full of jargon and seldom as accurate as it purports to be.
Hi-Fi Choice is, in my opinion, a brutally honest mag!! Even their latest front cover delivers healthy doses of criticism for on Musical Fidelity and Arcam gear - this from a British mag! On the other hand, they have been comfortable issuing recommendations on even Sony and Kenwood gear (I know - kind of scary!), but they simply print what they hear. However, some caveats - they only seem to review mid to low end stuff, and they do serve the british market, so one has to interpret their reviews carefully (british gear generally costs a lot more here in the US and vice versa). They had a lot of reviews published on the web recently (the website seems to have disappeared now - can't find it anymore). I was shopping for a CD player and read every review - guess what - they practically slammed every CD player in one way or another - so refreshing.
Hey Canadianguy, you started this thread because you were skeptical of Stereophile's downgrade of B&W 805's. I also hate it when they do that (but not quite as much as when some Wall Street guy with too much influence downgrades a favorite stock and it tanks!). Stereophile awarded their "Product of the Year" to Dunlavy SC/IV speakers in 1994, but their latest issue downgraded them from class A to B because John Atkinson says they are a little too bright for his taste. I don't think this makes them dishonest, just very arbitrary and fickle.
Outlier: I also enjoy Hi-Fi Choice and generally agree with their points on the gear that I am familiar with and own. The "old reviews" are now back on their web site, just scroll down a ways on the home page. The owner of Musical Fidelity is a pill from what I gather having read a few interviews. The magazine shows great/proffessional restraint.
I absolutely enjoy reading TAS while Stereophile gives me the creeps. The only thing I wish is that TAS shared more information about the products they review, such as the measurements they obviously take, rather than trying to preserve the legend of their "golden ears".
Gee, nobody mentioned The Audio Critic!
as long as the bread and butter for that publisher comes from hi-end audio manufacturers,in the way of full page color advertisements and other costly marketing propaganda, honesty won't be #1's about money AUDIOPHILES.
Honesty does not come into it. Altruism does not exist. They are all businesses or have an agenda. As a review mag you need to make some kind of trade-off between being credible so that you get read, and supporting your advertisers so that you can get money for being read. Sadly the most successful press organisations have proved the addage that "nobody ever lost money underestimating their audience". It is nothing to do with honesty. Some mags are just deluded enough to place more emphasis on credibility than they should. My comments relate most accurately to the larger businesses where the only moral thing to do is maximise returns to shareholders. It is a little different with the smaller concerns where the owner is directly involved and cares also about his (or her) personal credibility, independent of its worth to the company. But this just alters the nature of the trade-off. I occasionally read the mags, and have done so for decades - but I do so mainly because they are good reads, secondly because they may give some pointers about which products I should make an effort to read, and occasionally the reviewers let go of some good setup tips. Call me a cynic - you will not be the first.
Money makes the world go round .....

even for TAS now. Since they changed their format and had financial problems I say : forget it.
I ve read them for more than 10 years now, I will cancel it.
Too boring.
A discussion about this magazine is a waste of time.
Listener is very competent in so much honest than possible.
Vacuum Tube Valley is really excellent, they go their own way.
In my< opinion the really best is a new one from Great Britain: Hifi +
These guys are really independent ( They have their own systems .....)
Redkiwi, "honesty" DOES come into it in the sense that magazine writers must be able to support the opinions they expound whilst at the same time being able to relate same to a reference system. Try UHF Magazine out of Montreal...every new reader seems to like their direct comments and explainations. The only drawback is that they lean a little too much to the European gear...then it is nice to learn about that stuff too!
hummmm! Most Honest Audio Magazine. Is that not an Oxymoron?
I enjoy going to the local bookstore and looking at them all. I am glad there are many audio rags published because that gives a lot of pictures to look at. But when it comes to shelling out cash for it, I am a little reserved. I have bought some of each when it has a review or article that is interesting. The English mags are very biased against American equipment. Stereopile is infected with the "Julian Hursch" virus.(is that the way it is spelled?) I get tired of ListenerÂ’s "we are so much not like Stereopile) attitude.
And I still have 2 years on my TAS subscription and still enjoy it. But let's face it. These magazines would not exist without the advertisers dollars. We have seen more then a few rebel mags go down in glorious "we will not submit to your filthy money flames". And my guilty pleasure is, I don't waste any time grabbing the new Stereopile (when it magically shows up in my mailbox) and going through the whole thing at once. I don't read the whole thing through anymore but I still enjoy it and give up the overly inflated price. So I guess that I am guilty and I am part of the problem and not part of the fix. Dale
If you live in the tweak kingdom you will be happy with most magazines. If you are an engineer, or demand that all claims be proven you will be served better by Audio Critic. In the end, just enjoy the music, show off your new stereo, and enjoy the music. Music is after all the point isn't it?
Like most of the posts above, I have a general skepticism of these magazines. With that said, I think some are better (TAS) than others.

For me, though, the key is finding reviewers with like-minded ears and sensibilities as you (I can't relate to HP's sense of value). This is a courting process and takes time. My votes for most reliable writers are Robert Greene (TAS), Neil Gader (TAS) and Paul Seydor (TAS). They aren't pundits of myth and folklore or manufacturer reps, and they call a spade a spade without the incredible arrogance that is typical of their peer group.

While this post may seem irrelivant to some, I think it's important. Forums like this can influence magazines - so can sales rates.

One closing thought. I've tried to stay positive here, but I just have to say it. Something smells at Stereophile! I'm discontinuing my subsription becuase I just can't trust them (although I enjoy the music reviews).
Dds_hifi you are right about Stereophile: When Michael Fremer & Lisa Astor jump ship they are "Done Like Dinner" as Wendel Clark (retired Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player) once quipped.
I think Stereophile will be around a long time, with or without MF and LA, especially if they keep their subscription price at $1/issue. I think their credibility would go way up if they ditched Jonathon Scull, and if they could broaden their choice of manufacturers to review. I think they've more than covered Cary and Musical Fidelity for the time being. -Kirk
Audio Critic... this mag was recommended to me by Don Morrison. This is the only mag he reads. Don believes in it so much he actually sent me two copies for free. If you haven't heard of Don check out his website
Anyhow, Audio Critic measures everything they get their hands on. Their conclusions (not opinions) of a products performance are based on science. The editor finally found a publisher (after 20+ years) that will let will let him write based on his morals, not the advertisers influence. Now that its published on a grander scale its available everywhere. This is an entirely different audio publication.
Now I have to go find an electronics book to figure out what all their measurements mean.
Positive Feedback is a great mag as well, when they decide to put out an issue.
there isnt any ONE mag that can be trusted. read several and the different points of view become meaningful. i dont think they all have to arrive at the same conclusion to be credible.
tas has had my respect and support for the longest and will to the end. stereophile has proven to be the most variable of late although im not thinking of cancelling soon as are the knee jerk reactionaries every other month!
in tas, its comforting to know that reg is a math prof at ucla, isnt anti digital, and still plays LPs on his disc centering nak tt.
i for one am a died in the wool vinylphile (7k) who also likes his CDs and would be happy if sacd wins the war.
the concept of sensible sound is good except they are too focussed on ava and shure equip.
audio critic? duh!? as jay lenos character 'mr. brain' would say: 'IDIOT!'.
rip audio. bert whyte was one of the first i ever heard evaluate a monitor sized (small) spkr with a krell amp, followed by many others. what a loss!
give us back fi and audio adventure.
thats not all of them, but my significant cross section.
all that said, i just dont want to have people think ive hidden behind another name, im known on all the other forums as hifitommy. ill get around to having gon change this one day.
The three most powerful mags, Tommy, that mostly set the standard for the entire (*2nd Golden Era) of high end (72 thru 84)were:
The Absolute Sound
The Audio Critic
Peter Aczel may deny that he hears differences in gear today, but in the 77-81 era of his mag, his ears were certified golden. Perhaps a better judge of loudspeaker quality than any other reviewer. Unfortunately he lost his hearing..........Frank