I grew up reading Stereo Review all through the 1970's and 80's. Learned a lot reading Stereo Review. Learned a lot about amps, speakers, all the different components. Thought the world of them. Really looked up to some of them like Julian Hirsch.
It wasn't until well into the 1990's building my first real high end system in my dream room, now reading Stereophile, that I began to understand what a disservice Stereo Review had been. They taught us all that wire was wire, and if it measured good it was good. Looking around today I see just how much harm these ideas are doing even now.
So sad to say in the long run it was a very mixed bag.
My dad had a subscription back when it was HiFi Stereo Review. If he had a subscription to a prehistoric "HiFi Review," I don't remember seeing one. By the time I was about 11, I was reading them voraciously. Rex Reed wrote for the rag and his record reviews were incisive, clever and just wonderful. Julian Hirsch, on the other hand, was just too measurement oriented. He wasn't bold enough to actually offer subjective opinions. I think it was Harry Pearson who once lampooned a Hirsch-Houck review with the line, "Of all the components I've reviewed, this has definitely been one of them." In any event, my first encounter with an Absolute Sound was a revelation. In short order I was haunting every news stand within 20 miles to find them.
Better off with IAR.
"...Of all the components I've reviewed, this has definitely been one of them..."
If you are looking for a 45-50 wpc receiver with a silver face plate and wood side panels this is one of your choices.
stereo review -- we all read it back then
we were innocent naive and stupid
I read this magazine from the late 80's until the end.
"I grew up reading Stereo Review all through the 1970’s and 80’s. Learned a lot reading Stereo Review. Learned a lot about amps, speakers, all the different components. Thought the world of them. Really looked up to some of them like Julian Hirsch."
My experience pretty much mirrors that of millercarbon. One day in the late 80’s, I stumbled into a local shop that had a strange (to me) used equipment section with brands I had never heard of: Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Acoustat, etc. I was off to the races and never looked back.
Yeah, definitely a mixed bag. Looking back, one of the few things I still like is the way their music reviews would rate the performance and recording. It got you thinking yes indeed these are two distinctly different things. Not talking about their taste in music or any of that, just the fact they were getting you thinking about the difference.
This kind of makes up for the misinformation about wire and measurements. Oh and another problem, what middlemass mentioned, you could read Stereo Review and never have any idea there was anything out there but the big names. Then go into a shop and find all this strange stuff you never heard of before. Well they have a magazine to sell and ad copy space to sell but you would think they might do a better job informing the readers. Then again maybe not. Stereophile is hardly any different in this regard.
Well, maybe. Then again maybe not. Haven't seen a copy of any print audiophile mag in so many years I can't even remember!
"Haven't seen a copy of any print audiophile mag in so many years I can't even remember!"
These days, you may find them in the magazine section of Barnes & Noble. Stereophile The Absolute Sound, and a couple more from United Kingdom. I do not think that newspaper stands carry them anymore.
MillCarb -- I still have prince perscriptions to both Stereopile & Absoluto Soundo and I just love 'em. True, I was immensely offended when they went from a Readers Digest mini-mag format to full-on glossies, but I can't throw them out. Too entertaining. Too pretty. The wife is appalled how they pile up in our living quarters.
Never said they are all out of print. Just I haven't seen them. Sheesh. Not like I have time to go looking. I have you all to entertain, practically a full time job all by itself.
They were a magazine that catered to the mass market hi fi of the day and your basic components but the issue was that everything was good and sounded the same as long as it measured well because julian hirsch was sued by bose and lost so he was never really honest after 1968 and it changed the face of the magazine after 1968 and pretty much any bad review never happening again.
Just like my current subscriptions to "Stereophile" and "Absolute Sound", I used to look forward to "Stereo Review" and "Audio" to arrive in my mailbox. I particularly looked forward to the Annual Equipment Directory from "Audio" that arrived every October. I still have the ones from the 80's and 90's that I use to check the true MSRP and specs of vintage products I'm considering here on Audiogon, and other websites.
Playboy and Stereo Review, both jaw dropping and entertaining.
HA, ha, ha. BOSE! What a joke that was.
Gee, I need to see more ads of tall, white guys in Buddy Holley glasses and white lab coats telling me how good bose 901's were. They were the joke of the industry, remain so, and to this day, simply seeing the word bose makes me cringe.
A foolish company of fools whose products are the worst of the worst and always will be.
Yeah, they sued JH, but they were wrong then and are still the industry joke as far as I am concerned.
As for SR, it was fine for the times, but clearly advertiser-driven. Reminds me of politicians, but I digress.
SR was fine as far as it went. It was only when Stereophile and then AS came on the scene that the general public began to see the situation as it was.with ALL the popular mags back then, NOT JUST SR. Sure, there was some attempt by the UK mags to be more discerning, but those days all these mags were basically informative about a growing post-war industry rather than a Consumer Reports-style mag. And hey, I love CR, but don't get me started on THEIR reviews of audio gear...good grief! They now stick to cars and appliances and consumer advocacy, which is their sweet spot.
A good question is: Who among us still has a system they put together from the old Stereo Review days that they still like and listen to? Joe
Pretty sure it was Consumer Reports who was sued successfully by Bose for their review of the Bose 901, with the review stating the obvious that images were distorted. Most sound at concerts is not reflected... This resulted in CR adopting linear “sones” to represent loudspeaker “accuracy” in terms of percentage rating when fed sine wave spectra sweeps. Loudspeakers with extended bass response got killed by this analysis as the big area under the reference sone volume curve that resulted from slow roll off in loudspeaker response would lower their score. The sheer incompetence of stereo equipment review at CR soured me on their trustworthiness to review anything.
But Julian Hirsch was in his own category for misunderstanding what affected the sound of electronics. It has been commented on by others that he could not hear very well. His rough dismissal of TID and SID at the time was a true disservice to the audio community. The truth was he was limited by what he could measure, and dismissed that which he could not.
As for my audio development while I was still in high school, Thank God for J. Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson and their respective magazines. And for patient and friendly salesman at local stereo shops (none other than Bill Thalmann sold me my second pair of Advents while I was still in high school!).
I bought my first system because it was highly recommended by Stereo Review. It was a Sansui AU 717 amp, a TU 717 tuner & a Sansui cassette player. Speakers were Technics SB 8000. Damn I miss it.
I do miss the annual “Directory”.
I was a subscriber of SR in the ’60s and early ’70s. Julian Hirsch, whose column was featured in every issue, did a great disservice to the budding audiophile community of the ’60s by repeatedly promoting solid state amplification over vacuum tube electronics because the latter measured better. We know those measurements were largely meaningless. He downplayed the importance of cabling which we know to be false and he frequently repeated the mantra that amplifiers that measure the same sound the same.
I cannot think of any contribution he made to the audiophile community which in retrospect, has withstood the test of time.
The question I have in retrospect is, did he ever really listen to music or did he just sit behind his bench and make measurements. I think the latter.
It was about 1960 when I first saw and listened to a hi fi system (yes, it was mono) that a friends father had put together. I was 12 years old and I was hooked, so the next time I passed by a news stand I spotted HiFi Review, spent my hard earned pennies and took it home. Picked it up every month from then on, and continued when it became HiFi/Stereo Review and finally Stereo Review.
A good introduction to a life long pastime, but time and experience have both enlightened me. I've heard that Julian Hirsch was a really nice guy, but in the context of Mr. Hirsch's work at the magazine he was a hack. I vividly remember being conned by his review of the Acoustic Research "The Amp". I was so impressed by this review that I went out and bought one. I was very young and did not listen to the wise advice from others and purchased it without being able to take it home and listen to it in the environment in which it would be used. BIG MISTAKE. This thing was horrible! Thank goodness I kept the Fisher 500 that it was going to replace. I tried "The Amp" for about two weeks before selling it at a loss.
Julian Hirsch must have been tone deaf at the least. I really don't want to speak ill of the dead - they're not around to defend themselves - but I'd like to know if it was Stereo Review or Consumer Reports who was sued by Bose. I seem to remember reading Hirsch's review of the 901 in SR and it didn't seem that bad - certainly not bad enough to trigger a lawsuit. But then again, I'm 75 yrs. old and my memory might not be as good as it once was.
Ah Stereo Review. Prior to that my only access to available Hi-Fi was Telefunken radio and the Lafayette radio catalogs. The year I purchased my first "Audiophile type" system in 1973 I was in Lafayette Electronics main store in Syosset NY. I had saved up for two years and was purchasing the upgraded version of what my friend had. His was no longer available. The turntable I purchased (DUAL 1229) was instead of The Garrard 40A. The salesperson upsold me from a 40B. "You will see the DUAL in Stereo Review" said the salesman . He even gave me a copy to take with me.
Just like music History it reflected the time in which it was written. It was a good introduction.
Stereo Review, Audio and High Fidelity were all the magazines from that era that I enjoyed reading. Audio annual was great for listing all the current gear with price and specs . I still have about 20 of them.
@JKNOVAK, i still have my bose 901 series 2 from old school! even though many bash bose, i still enjoy listening to them! with my mcintosh mc602 powering them, they sound pretty good at a high listening level!!
Millercarbon is on point. They had me using lamp cord on my speakers and thinking that the 12ga Monster Cable I was using on my sub was over kill! Does anyone remember the small format Publication Listener Magazine? Art Dudley was the editor and Michael Fremer was the music editor. I really enjoyed reading that little magazine.
Hirsch had me so brainwashed I was acting just like the PITA tin-eared snake-oilers we have around here today. Only with one big difference- I have always been willing to try and see for myself. So one day someone said shot-gun is better. Well, I had extra wire so easy enough to prove this is BS and so I hooked em up - and was surprised to find it was indeed better!
Not much. No way it was worth 2X to get 1.05X. But it was better. So I had to accept this reality and change my mind.
Sad to say a lot who have been lied to find it very hard to change their minds. That is the crime. And yes they are complicit. But Hirsch and Stereo Review get the blame because they should have known better.
I was with my dad at the local stereo store when he bought his 901's. Yeah, imaging wasn't exactly precise in the living room where he set them up, but man they could blast the dB's. Me and my high school girlfriend had many a deafening makeout session. When Dad moved on to Tannoys, I ended up with the 901's. Cutting to the chase, I entered a whole new world of audio-dom when I bought a pair of KEF Corellis.
Lawsuit from Bose was against consumer reports because of a specific subjective comment that the sound moved around the room. Initial judgement was for Bose. Reversed by appellate court.’ Cr was flawed in there speaker rating based audio measurements of a musical signal in an an echo ic chamber. However I won’t buy an appliance, tv, or auto without reading their reviews that are unbiased by advertising.
Unbiased, maybe. Uninformed, definitely. I too was a big believer in CR. Until I started noticing reviews about things I happened to know a lot about. Every single time it turned out they totally missed the point of the product. After a while it got to where I wouldn’t trust them to rate a toaster. Nowadays with it being so easy to find actual end user reviews there is zero point in reading them at all.
Except maybe for entertainment value. Testing a Pontiac the same as a Porsche. Hilarious.
the MX-110z, 240 an Idler Dual TT w a V15 and big Bozaks showed up in 1965..... who needed to read ?
Sensible Sound, now that was a publication breakthrough
i trust their [CR] car reviews. their beer reviews were pretty on-the-mark as well. their audio reviews OTOH needed some re-thinking IMHO based on how well they rated the bose acoustimass, same applies to SR. granted, i have several bose products [AWMS, wave radio, lifestyle 30, cinemate SR-1, NC headphones] and they are suitable in their realms [well-recorded pop music, anything less well-recorded is intolerable through their equipment with the exception of the SR-1 and wave radio which were probably the best-sounding (overall) of the things they ever made]. their headphones sound veiled, however.
in 1980 i had a college professor [also an audiophile] who told me it was his considered opinion that julian hirsch had to be deaf. i didn't quite grok this at the time [i was a teenager of limited experience] but it makes sense to me now. he heard "numbers" more than he heard the music, in a general sense.
"i trust their [CR] car reviews,,,"
At the time of Lexus/Toyota unintentional acceleration deadly fiasco, Consumer Report still had some Toyota on the cover as "The Best", maybe "most reliable". In any case, they gave high marks, and certainly influenced a number of purchases, to the car that ended up being a disaster in full meaning of that word.
At some point, their review discouraged buyers from one car just to name it the best the following year. Without any model change. Same car. I bought it and all my friends said I was wrong because "didn’t you see what Consumer Report says". A few months later, I had "the best".
I am with millercarbon on this one. I would not check their reviews of a toaster or a screwdriver. For whatever reason, their reviews miss every point I could be interested in and are not trustworthy for my needs.
"Unbiased reviews" and "no advertisements" was also debatable. At that time, it had higher percentage of advertising pages than Stereophile, or whatever audio magazine I had. I counted them. True, Consumer Report advertisements were for their own money-making services.
"A foolish company of fools..."
Given their sales, diverse portfolio of interesting products (some not audio related), and overall acceptance of what they make, they may not be that foolish.
"TU 717 tuner"
I have one and, a few years ago, I bought another one for someone. Neither of them ever opened and had any work done of them. Both still work flawlessly, including lights. Maybe Stereo Review was better than Consumer Report at recommending well-performing and reliable products.
"Testing a Pontiac the same as a Porsche. Hilarious."
Around 2008, or 2009, Pontiac G8 GXP (manual, not automatic version) was anything but hilarious even when compared to Porsche of that time. You could even put passengers and luggage in.
the TU717 was the best thing they made...and we sold many of those into a market 50 miles from decent FM programming ( Cleveburg or Toledo )
we were a dealer ( Audio Connection in Ohio )
Audionics of Oregon outsold the other stuff 10:1... IF the customer..listened....
pontiac aztek baby... walter-white-mobile for the meth king ... BAD ASS! 🤣🤣🤣🤣
I've been on the same path that others here have trod. Used to read Stereo Review and then discovered Stereophile Magazine and my eyes were opened and my wallet was emptied.
Stereo Review wasn't bad, but Stereophile has really gone downhill. I have yet to see any of my equipment reviewed in their mag.The reccomended products never seem to change much from year to year.They seem to have their favorites .
For the beginner, Stereo Review was a good primer. Of course, it's main purpose was to sell ads, and to get freebies for the testers. I even blame them for the newer measurements manufactorers started using, "Power at 100cps, one channel driven", rather than full range with extreme frequency rolloff db's, etc. I don't remember their ever writing about damping factor or interactions of amps with the motor effects of moving speaker drivers.
I read SR from the late '70s to the end-of-the-line. But along the way, I figured out that when it came to audio, subjectivity rules, at least in the buyer/user side of the house (though not for mfr/designer). I wasn't getting anywhere when I followed numbers & stats; but when I started following my ears, all the good stuff started to happen.
(of course it also took buckets of $$$ -- even buying used)
I had a subscription to Stereo Review mostly for the album reviews. I especially liked reading the reviews by Lester Bangs. I enjoyed the articles on the music business, and remember one feature they did on bootleg albums.
As for the constant berating of Julian Hirsch in audio forums? Get a life. He approached reviewing equipment as an engineer not as a listener or music critic. Once you understood his bias you should have been smart enough to parse the information into what was useful for you, If you couldn’t and thought Hirsch was some kind of technical god - that’s on you for being that naive and not learning by reading what he wrote and then listening for yourself and making up your own mind.
I used to laugh out loud at some of the things he said and thought he might secretly be a gag writer in disguise. Nonetheless, some of what he said made sense and you just filtered out the drivel and retained the useful pieces of information.
I think Bob Carver proving he could make a solid-state amp sound exactly like a Conrad Johnson tube amp was at least as entertaining as anything else that happened in the mid-1980s.
Back in the time audio was really beginning to be more popular and mainstream and Stereo Review, High Fidelity and Audio were the leading magazines in the U.S., there was a revolution occurring in the industry. In the 50's and 60's was the progression from predominantly monaural to stereo in both source and reproduction, the introduction and widespread adoption of acoustic suspension speakers and the move from tubes to solid state gear. All of these factors played off each other - acoustic suspension speakers were power hungry, stereo required twice as many channels - contributing to the popularity of solid state amplification. In partial defense of the reviewers of the time, such as Julian Hirsch, most transistor amps also featured much lower distortion figures than tube amps and that is reflected in the evaluations. In terms of subjective evaluations, in many of the reviews of electronics in Stereo Review early on there wasn't one. The entire review was measurements, performed by Hirsch-Houck Laboratories. Speaker reviews were an exception, but as Stereo Review's Technical Editor Larry Klein wrote in the August, 1969 issue, the subjective evaluations of speakers were an amalgam of the opinions of him, Julian Hirsch and Gladden Houck.
I absolutely devoured every issue of Stereo Review, High Fidelity and Audio back then (as well as any other audio magazine I could find). Both for the equipment reviews and the music reviews. Of the three, I Iiked Audio the best because they always had a subjective section along with the measurements. But a huge advantage for us audiophiles (we weren't called that then) at that time was that there were a lot of audio stores around, so we could rely much more on our own ears and much less on reviews. I worked part-time at a Lafayette Radio and Electronics but, when I wasn't there or at school, I spent more time hanging out in stereo stores or with other audio friends than doing anything else.
So I don't really feel that Julian Hirsch really did a disservice. His and other reviewers really have to be viewed in the context of the times and context and intent of the publication.
CR is very good for all things vis a vis frequency of repair. And even if you disagree with their ratings criteria, they are more accurate for features as well. Also, I recall that Hirsch did hear a difference on one particularly bad CD player, hence proving that not all CD players were equal.
Agreed with you about CR and frequency of repair and some other securely quantifiable measures. I also have few reservations about the measurements they have classically used on loudspeakers their empirical validity. I think their measurement expertise is way up there. My reservations have always been about the weight they give to their measurements in their rankings. Even way back when I would look at their ratings and rankings and think to myself - wow, I've listened to speaker X that is given a score of 93 and also speaker Y that has an 87 and Y sounds a heck of a lot better to me. And yes, later on, Hirsch-Houck Laboratories did begin got include subjective evaluations in their reports on equipment other than speakers. I pretty much agreed with them only a little more than I agreed with CR. These days, unfortunately, the opportunity to visit multiple audio stores to listen to a variety of gear is pretty much gone.