TAS new look-the end is near?

Picked up the latest copy of The Absolute Sound a couple of days ago and something just aint right. First I noticed the cover has changed. Gone is the dignified layout- White boardered in a contrasing color. Changed is the subtitle from "The High End Journal of Audio and Music" to "Stereo - Multichannel Audio - Music" ! Flipping through I find bold red printed highlighted quotes between paragraphs in some of the reviews. Then I came accross pages 18-19. FUTURE TAS big orange letters, pictures and arrows and captions and it hit me. Stereo Review! Audio! But not TAS! Even the paper stock seems cheaper. I remember when the cool little "underground" mag grew to full size. Oh well at least the print and pics were bigger. But now the "journal" looks like any mag, no character. Shorter reviews, less critical comment, more watered down praise. Now this! What happened to this sharp edged journal? Does this distub anyone else? PS- if the must change their look they should check out HI-FI+ (GB).
Its been a RAG for sometime.The old values it was founded on are long gone.
Did you notice that Robert Harley has taken over as editor from Harry Pearson? Harley has an article discussing this. Pearson will continue to write his "work shop" and occasional reviews.

I have been a subscriber since issue 13. This may be the end of an era, which is a bit sad.
My understanding is they were losing a LOT of money with the old style, even after their initial changes from journal size to the larger format. They're doing what Stereophile did (and what Pearson decried, but in his defense I don't think this was his decision to make) in an effort to increase their circulation. Can't say I necessarily like it (unless their content remains critical and relatively unbiased), but they're not running a charity for us, ya know.
Couldn't agree more. You might want to look at two prior threads:

1. What was it about Fi magazine?


2. The Absolute Sound Review of Sony SCD-XA777ES???

These were threads I had done a few weeks ago..when I
was about to get rid of some old Fi mags..and in looking them over became a little melancholy.,..then,.. wham... I received the new TAS.. Damn, I thought Mr. Dell was going to save TAS, not ruin it.
Interesting. I picked one up on the newstand the other day and noticed the difference. But for me it was, "hmmm.... maybe I should consider this mag now." I always discarded their monthly 'free issue' promo's as I found HP's Holy-er than anybody else on the planet attitude, akin to the abrasive treble in a CD player that otherwise had a rich lucious sound. A lot to like, but just couldn't bring myself to buy it.

Right on Rcprince! If they aren't profitable, they aren't there. And If we the readers aren't smart enough to read between the lines or are too lazy to listen to the equipment and decide for ourselves, then we deserve what we get. (for better or worse)
RCprince, you are so right. This is a business and has to be run like a business. I've been reading TAS for decades wondering all the while how it could survive as HP's playpen. The answer is obvious. I hope I'm not the only one wishing Harley and crew a lot of luck.
It all seems inevitable with the high end mags. You can no longer expect a three year subsciption to be fulfilled because either they go under, downsize, or change in such a way that you really have nothing to read about. Home theater has been a big culprit of the demise in a sense that people have to spend the same amount on 5 or 6 speakers as we use to spend on two thus our 2 channel mags become Stereo Review at best and even that couldn't survive. If Ultimate Audio merged with Stereophile and TAS we would have a great mag once again. Dealers and companies cannot afford to advertise in several mags and hang on. We thus have less advertising or they go off to the HT mags for more exposure and we find Denon and Sony as the mainstays of our mags instead of some of the higher end companies.
I bet that JA is happy that Harley left Stereophile for more than one reason now : ) Sean
Ljqj - I must be the ultimate example of what you're saying about gambling on subscriptions. When I had picked up a few issues of FI and liked it well enough to bite, I bought a two year subscription, looking foward to a welcome break from Stereophile's hegemony. They then promptly went under, and I never received an issue - or my money back! A thought: With Audio just a memory, and a technically competent new editor at the helm, TAS might do well to become the other high-end rag that performs test measurements (maybe they could even employ a former Audio tester or two). I haven't seen the new issue, but I can understand the need to scrap the "journal" image. I had let my subscription run out last year before the editorial shake-up, but I think it's time for me to check 'em out again. Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike TAS v.2 (or actually enjoy Audio, for that matter, or feel overly charitable toward Stereophile), but HP was spinning out of control for sure, and a few of the others also needed bringing down out of the ether. (Now if I can only get some of those ex-FI'ers around TAS to belatedly honor that bum subscription I paid them for....)
I agree about putting some of the folks from Audio to work. I liked some of the features of that mag ( Auricle and the testing procedures ) but also thought that it had deteriorated to a shell of what it formerly was. Sean
I don't know that what TAS has done is all that awful. They're trying to survive in a niche market, after all. It wasn't going to last as a temple to the ego of (all genuflect) The HP. And, when you think about it, is having reviewers that can only write what advertisers want all that much worse than having reviewers that can only write what The HP wants? Granted his standards are high, it still introduces a bias that I, for one, do not want.
Can't speak for anyone else, but audio and the related magazines is, for me, entertainment and enjoyment. What was it about Fi Magazine? It was fun and entertaining. Certainly ones hopes for a modicum of accuracy and objectivity in a magazine, but as mentioned above a little reading between the lines can go a long way. I read these rags for a rough draft of what's out there and what 1 person (reviewer) thinks about said product at a given time with given associated equipment. It would be naive to purchase a product based solely on a review. It may function as springboard for further investigation of a product or adjuvant info for decision making. But technical measurements notwithstanding, this is a very subjective hobby as far as what one hears, reviewers inclusive. So I read them to gain some information and the enjoyment. If I want a cerebral workout and objective science I'll read Nature or Science, far pricier than any audio mag, but as is so often the case, you get what you pay for. And I'll read S'phile, TAS etc for the sheer enjoyment and entertainment, knowing full well I'll most likely get out of it what I put in it, in dollars and sense.
what about Stereophile? the last issue had, what, 3 equipment reviews and the page count was way down. What's happening there?
Having read this month's issue, I hope TAS can stay afloat. They have far more equipment reviews and, of more interest to me, record reviews than Stereophile (my biggest disappointment with S-phile, they used to have a lot of record reviews, now they look like the late Audio in that area), and pretty good quality people writing for them. Circulation numbers and advertisers, though, will have to increase for them to stay alive, no matter how good the content. The Incredible Shrinking Stereophile is purely a factor of advertising pages, as Atkinson has made clear in prior issues.

I recognize all the anti-HP sentiment expressed above, as I used to really feel that way too. Then I started reading some of the earlier issues and getting a flavor for the fact that this really was his journal as he learned about the equipment, and it made his writing a lot more palatable to me. His articles still could get me boiling at times, as could his style, as I think he came off appearing as knowing more than he really did. But you know, even when I might think he or one of the TAS writers was a pompous you-know-what, I would still be stimulated by what was said to read it thoroughly, and give some additional thought to how I was listening, what I was listening for and what to listen to. Never really got that feeling about many of the recent Stereophile writings. I will genuinely miss that, if it comes to pass.
At least the last issue of AudioXpress was good.

Sincerely, I remain
Good points, rcprince, I'll try to be more tolerant. I really do not like the man's supercilious attitude, as though he, and he alone, had ears. That being said, TAS is the only current mag that I find myself reading through from kivver to kivver. Stereophile is good for about an hour whereas TAS lasts me a whole Sunday afternoon.
One of the most entertaining things about TAS was the attitude, the snobbery and the inane feud with Stereophile. The way they took themselves so seriously was part of the attraction for me. Im not saying that it was correct, just that it was more fun. Anyone who make choices and opinions based only on a rags recommendations needs aroma therapy. I understand that to stay alive they might have to appeal to a broader audience, Im just saying its a little sad.
Blkadr, I used to love that too, the snobbery and the exquisite rudeness, besides, lest we forget, HP not only taught the most of us what to listen for, he also gave us a language to express it in and Bishopwill, his superciliousness at least was brought across with embullient verbosity and caustic wit. Its a shame, the man's been Dell-ified and tamed.
As long as I can subscribe for a buck an issue, I'll read them all, whatever direction they take. Pure entertainment, very little buying guidance for me.

It's not HP's attitude or ego that get to me, it's his ridiculous writing style that gets me boiling. He clearly knows a lot, clearly has a gigantic ego, etc. etc., but that just all comes with the package a lot of times - he's definitely pushed the "art" forward in interesting ways. But he fancies himself some fabulous writer which ends up yielding a verbosity that can become unbearable. Never say something in 10 words if you can find a way to use 50 seems to be his motto.

The only time his attitude really gets to me is when he tries to convey how much "work" it is to get all this bazillion $$$ equipment to sound right. He doesn't exactly sound joyous about any of it.

Still, the audio world is a better place with TAS in it - past, present or future form. As I said, I'll gladly read it (and other mags) if they're only a buck an issue. -Kirk

When you have been in this thing as long as HP its like anything else that was once a love and passion - it becomes a job. It's still a passion but just how excited and what can you say about something like an amplifier that you haven't already said a thousand times about the latest amplifier.
TAS is still the best mag overall IMO, and has been so through its many, many ups and downs, notwithstanding some still competition from Fi, aeons ago. I have every issue of TAS (as well as Fi, Sounds Like... - anybody remember Jeff Goggins foray into publishing? Where is HE now? - Audio Adventure, TAV, etc.), and most of S'phile -- and TAS remains a reference, frequently pulled out and consulted, each re-read providing new insights previously missed, while S''phile and all the rest stay on the shelf for the most part, quick snacks compared to TAS' feasts. I agree that one of the truly annoying things about TAS is/was the never-ending parade of dropped hints: "Oh, what we COULD tell you if we really wanted!" Hints about backstage controversies, promises of revelations about un-named wonderous products that never appeared and future updates that never made it into print...there was a lack of continuity, even over series of issues, and the reasons for these lacunae were rarely stated. BUT HP's writing has always been a draw for me; he obviously delights in words as much as he does music, and I'm happy that he's been able to share so much of his passions while still remaining a very private person. Can we really imagine what it's like to BE HP? Waking in the morning and patting the latest amp du jour on the way to brush his teeth? Having a video system that makes the cineplex obsolete? Multiple systems, all of them arguably SOTA, with a set-uptron to take care of the tedious details like cleaning connectors and aligning cartridges? Envious? Ubetcha!!! :-)

I wonder what behind-the-scenes machinations (if any -- I'd not like to posit a coup where none exists) led to Harley's elevation? Did HP get kicked upstairs, as it were, willingly? What would (will) a post-HP TAS look like? Harley should have a chance -- but at the outset, I have to say that I have never gotten the sense that RH has a guiding vision a la HP or JGH, that he's a dryish technocrat and not an inspired, passionate leader. Well, no one really thought GWB was a leader either, so who knows? But the chances of our ever knowing the true story are dim.... It's like a family argument about which we are kept in the dark, like children -- although WE are part of the family too!
I am inespeptic, frasmatic and compunctious to think I have caused any paracombobulations.
So say you, Blkdr!

Anyway, I am horrrified at the latest TAS iteration...a start down into that audio magazine black hole.

there's no THERE THERE anymore.
Do you mean that TAS is beginning to lose continuousness? Perhaps it will then lose pompositiousness, as well.
Well they have to try to change as we all do and make improvements (hopefully). Keeping balance and staying in business is nowadays a tricky form of art.....
The best of this issue mentioned for me is the big record review section, that´s very refreshing in the heavy equipment tendency of the magazines in general.

Good for the music!!!!!!!!
I'm a new subscriber to TAS, and have to say I really
enjoyed my first two issues. Prior to this I had been a
subscriber to Audio before it folded; and have been a
Stereophile subscriber since mid-1995.
Quite frankly, I was delighted to see a negative review
of a Cambridge Soundworks speaker in the last issue. When
was the last time you saw that in Stereophile? But mostly
I read both publications for information about new CDs and
equipment coming into the market.
As several people have already mentioned in their posts,
magazine publishing is a business - and TAS is no exception
if they plan to stay afloat. And I feel it should be
mentioned that the current business climate for magazines of
all types is quite difficult. Page counts and advertising
dollars are way down in virtually all types of publications.
I receive at least ten trade magazines each month - I'm in
the television industry - and the number of pages and ads
is a tiny fraction of what it was 12 to 15 months ago. This
is deffinately a time when good business sense is essential
for any magazine to stay alive.
Unless I missed it among the numerous posts here, there is no direct reference to a comparison between what happened (somewhat gradually) to J. Gordon Holt at Stereophile after Larry Archibald bought it and what appears to be happening (somewhat more rapidly) to Harry Pearson. Each of these gentlemen founded their publications with a particular and personal point of view and over a period of time were forced to make compromises-advertising for one!-but even then they were unable to maintain the financial viability of these enterprises. I subscribed to and/or purchased both magazines over many years largely because of those personal, if sometimes irritating (especially Mr. Pearson) visions and quirks. I gave up on Stereophile as a subscriber at least 5 years ago (Probably about the time Jonathan Scull began to loom large-no pun intended-in the scheme of things there) and on TAS perhaps 3 years ago when its appearance became sporadic. I currently don't buy the former at all, but have probably purchased at the newsstand every TAS issue since its resurgence. In fact I was about to subscribe to the latter again until Robert Harley emerged as Editor-in-Chief. And now the new look! These events, and my (purely personal) speculation that HP is, by whomever's choice, on his way out, have put that plan on hold.

And, yes, I know I referred above to Mr. Pearson as irritating, but, in spite of his verbosity, pomposity, arrogance, and at times outright meanspirited-ness,(Although he has clearly been operating under some restraints since he was forced to give up control.), but the man is entertaining and often thought-provoking. I for one will hate to see him go if that is indeed what is going to happen.
Suretyguy, I couldn't agree with you more. Pearson is a personality in the tue old sense of the world, not one of those run of the mill types, who though intelligent, will adroitly adapt themselves to anything and call it political correctness out of pure lack of guts. If he is still true to his character, I doubt that he will take to the restraints imposed on him for very long. I will be sad to see him go, because we all owe him much, last not least the language we use to describe what we hear.
We also owe him "Lyrita", "Living Stereo", "Living Presence", A wonderful Super Disc list, The ability to spot greatness almost as quickly as the Asian audiophiles. The publication was immensely satisfying for at least until the first 60 issues or so. The original format, whereby 3 reviewers all gave thier view on a unit under test, was the way it should have stayed. The downfall of these mags is commercialism. When the editor in chief (HP), only concerns himself with $60+k Burmiester cd player/transports,and stops recognition of high performance real world products,(and or comments on such), an "ivory tower" perception is observed by the longtime subscriber. Most high end mags have lost thier way since the 90s. HP needs to start over. He could look to issues 1 thru 10 of TAS to see how it should be done.........Frank
"HP needs to start over"? Hmmmmm...I wonder if he has an exclusivity contract with the current TAS management for his audio musings? Or might he be 'permitted' to start a small-format publication, or even a newsletter, NO ads :-), and build up a subscriber base the old-fashioned way? Maybe even a password-protected subscription web site? I love the idea of bringing back some of the directness and simplicity of TAS and S'phile in their salad days! Of course, neither he, nor we, can recreate our own innocence....