If I "had" to choose ONLY one, it would be The Absolute Sound without question. I actually still get all of the three you mention, but I am planning on NOT renewing my sub to Sound & Vision...it's gotten kinda lame.
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Ill add my vote for Hi-Fi Plus, although hearing here for the first time that Roy Gregory is now working for Nordost, in what capacity I have no idea, this may change my vote as he really is the main reason I like that magazine so much. I have recently allowed my subscriptions to The Absolute Sound, and Stereophile to lapse, just can't justify the expense in these uncertain economic times. The only other subscription I will be renewing, other than Hi-Fi+ is a small but excellent Canadian publication by the name of UHF.
Stereophile would be my choice. I have been an off and on subscriber since the early 90s, much better read back then, but still the one I prefer. In fact I will definitely not renew my AS subscription next time around.
Of course with all of this stuff pretty much on line I wonder why I get any of them.
Stereophile. Ten years ago it would have been TAS, but they have gone sadly downhill under RH's leadership (he is one of the better reviewers despite being a boring writer, but is in over his head as managing editor). A sad, sorry shadow of its former self as it has moved steadily in the direction of the old Fi, which I hated (YMMV). TAS increasingly resembles a book of advertorials. No rigor, no point of view, insufficient editorial integrity. Would you also like to hear what I don't like about it?
funny, you talk about economic times, yet HiFi+ is so expensive compared to the others.....they also lost Jason Hector, who's reviews I liked very much. Plus, they just don't review products that interest me.
I'd stick with stereophile, mainly for Art Dudley and Mikey Fremer. Sometimes they're a bit off, but I like to see what they're getting into.
I receive them all especially as the renewal price is usually less than $10/year for each, though I must admit, all the print mags IMHO are failing, Stereophile marks to an audience that is dying and for the most part doesn't buy much, S&V has re-formatted itself out of the market, Home Theater is well, basically worthless, and TAS tries to stay current but fails.....
That said they all still come to me, I like HiFi+, but as a UK mag it is expensive, and often features gear unavailable in the states making it frustrating....
Stereophile is the one I dropped!
It reads more like they are being paid by the very equipment manufacturers who they are supposed to be reviewing.
(Amazing how most of the equipment that they review is from manufacturers who also advertise in their magazine. Funny how that works, huh?!)
My two least favorite reviewers are Mike Fremer, (a lazy reviewer, IMHO), and Art Dudley, (whose naive political statements are a complete turn-off). I prefer reading reviews from more intelligent reviewers.
My favorite magazine is/was HiFi+, (I have not bought one in a couple of years), but now that Roy Gregory is gone, I am not sure how well that bodes for that magazine either, to be honest.
My two cents worth anyway.
I have subscriptions to Stereophile and TAS. For the most part, I agree with Kurt's assessment, except that I do like Art Dudley and use to subscribe to Listener. For years, I would have chosen Stereophile, but now I prefer TAS. I find that Stereophile is shrinking by the minute. Their reviews of new recordings has just about disappeared and no matter what piece of equipment they review, it gets a high recommendation. Maybe one day, I will be one of those subscribers that writes a vicious letter to tell Atkinson that I am canceling my subscription.
It seems like every year I drop one and pick up another. It generally takes me about a year to become bored with a magazine and begin looking for some fresh perspective, and each has its + and -'s.
This year it was drop the Absolute Sound and pick up Stereophile. For $11/year in this economy it is a no brainer.
I like HiFi+ too, but contrary to everyone else, am thrilled Roy Gregory is gone. He was always interesting, but sooo pleased with himself. My favourite was a review of some mega speakers. The quote was to the effect, I moved them 5mm and everything snapped into place. If I moved them to the next room, I would hear a difference, but 5mm?
I have to admit a personal prejudice. I wrote a letter to the effect that differential pricing between countries was particularly iniquitous and he published an abusive 3 page reply in the magazine. No right of reply to me of course.
In general + is no better than the other magazines, when it comes down to it, it is the advertisers, distributors that pay the bills and whose interests the magazines favour.
Thats why I like Bound for Sound and HiFiCritic, but the latter is so very expensive. No adverts, it shows who really pays the bills, advertisers.
Incidentally, has anyone read Arhur Salvatores views on reviewers and copies of his correspondence with Michael Fremer. Wonderfully abusive and threatening, on both sides.
UHF magazine. No question! Its the only magazine that appears to keep a consistent reference system for every component review. All other magazines have different reviewers with different systems, so its not really possible to obtain a true side by side comparrison of similar components. Furthermore, each listening test is performed simultaneously by about three or four people who each give their opinion. Whenever possible, they conduct blind tests so that they won't be influenced by really fancy band names or prices. Finally, the guy who puts the magazine together is a great writer!
Lately I like TAS over Sterophile mostly because TAS seems to include more music reviews. I can't get into TAS's on-line Playback, especially after looking at a computer monitor all day at work. I love HiFi+ but I've got a feeling TAS and HiFi+ might start leaning on each other too much, like they did in their reviews of the the Focal Utopia's.