Stereophile looses Jonathan Scull

General Asylum
FYI, Stereophile looses Jonathan Scull

Posted by Gordon Rankin (M) on March 29, 2002 at 12:39:56
Heard about this yesterday and conformation today from J10 that Primedia (Stereophile's parent company) wanted to slim down it's staff in all magazines let J10 go yesterday.
I have know Jonathan for sometime now and his certain wit will leave Stereophile a little colder than it was before.
Thanks J10 for the bandwith!
J. Gordon Rankin
I really think the time has come to start a new magazine with all the unemployed talent out there. IMHO FI and ULTIMATE AUDIO where two of the best magazines. When new owners take over they only look at the bottom line and quality of content goes down, can you say Stereophile. I hope J-10 lands a job at the Absolute Sound.
Even though I always thought J10 was a little goofy, I did enjoy some of his tweak(s) articles. It's looking grimmer and grimmer for Stereophile-- I mean who's left of the "old gang" that made Stereophile great (for audiophiles). It's rapidly turning into a mainstream "slick"-- for awhile-- then it's the magazine boneyard; all IMHO of course. No Cheers here. Craig
I agree, the magazine is going down hill fast, This should be a wake-up call; Stereohile has been a mainstay for years; I for one am going to get off my butt and e-mail Stereophile, if J-10, so goes my subscription.
Hell, before you know it they'll tell Michael Fremmer analog is dead, and he needs to look elsewhere. YIKES!!
Stereopile is a shell of its former self, so who really cares anyway? 3 reviews a month, and AV equipment figured prominently? The mag is doomed. I looked through a couple old issues last week for some gear I was interested in, a mere 4 year old issue (1997), and there were nearly a DOZEN full-length, in-depth reviews, all of equipment audionuts would be interested in, a mix of amps, preamps, speakers, cables, tables, CDPs, etc...

Now? It is over for the 'pile.

As for the (paid) reviewers, I certainly will shed no tears over not reading Scull anymore, the guy has a tin ear and is impressed by anything with $$$ for the cost, no matter the sound quality, performance, or lineage. We call someone like that an audio jewelry buff, and not an audiophile.

Fi, you do know many of the staff ended up at TAS, yes? I also liked that mag. Now I only subscribe to BFS, Listener, and TAS, and frankly, even TAS is now getting stale.

Oh well.....
I really enjoyed his wit and good humor in the majority of his writing. It is a big loss for Stereophile and I wish J10 all the best. J10 put a resume in at Listener!!!!
Don't know the gent personally but have read some of his articles in the past. He's the dude with the weird listening chair and the French wife if memory serves. In any event, the day of the magazines creating hype and such are gone...if you want to learn from others with truly informed opinions just hang around here for a while. No agendas, just the facts as he/she sees 'em. The future of the hobby is (as Van Halen so aptly put it) "Right Here, Right Now"
I subscribed to Stereopiles for many years, and then began buying occasional copies on the newstand when there was an article that interested me. Count me in the group that thinks it is time to "blow taps" over this once-proud audio mag. With its founder, J. Gordon Holt, now writing for TAS, most of the crew that is left can't overcome the magazine's rapid slide toward mediocrity and mass-market values. I'd love to see Ultimate Audio resurrected.

Anyway, best wishes to Jonathan Scull. I hardly regarded him as an audio heavyweight, but as someone who has been "laid off" some 6 times in the past 20 years, I commiserate with him.

Truth is, fellow 'philes, our hobby is in dire straits and is losing ground to the home theater juggernaut -- despite the fact that there is better equipment, at lower relative cost, than 10 years ago.
I, for one, am said to hear that J-10 may be gone. I enjoyed his articles, especially the tweaks, and appreciate his listening evaluations. I think he has excellent ears. If Stereophile becomes Stereo Review, there will only be TAS. The burden is on JA to keep the audiophile reputation of the magazine afloat for us all.
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I agree that his commentary was a bit thin and that the primary criterion for a positive review was price although, hell's bells, the latter could be said about (all genuflect) The HP, as well. His writing style was enjoyable, though, and he had both wit and the ability to laugh at himself, attributes sadly lacking in the we-take-ourselves-ever-so-seriously audiophile press.

I will miss Scull and his articles, even if I couldn't afford the gear he landed in his pad every month. Since I live in the cultural abyss, the only time I get to hear new gear is CES, other shows, and good mags through the ears of others. Unfortunately, Stereophile is heading the direction of StereoPILE, with the loss of another good set of ears. Dick Olsher, Corey Greenberg (yes, I liked Corey and his "don't take this too serious attitude"), Robert Harley, to name a few of the losses. J-10 needs to call DO and continue to Enjoy the Jallen
No loss,these mags stoped represeting the aveage listner many years ago.They are in bed with the MFGS and deserve the fate they get.
Bound For Sound,Positive Feedback Audiophie Voice,UHF.They still do a good job and are better reads.They also cover stuff the average Joe can actually afford.Not the stuff that The EX Enron Executive's can afford.
Who needs Stereophile anyway when we all have AudiogoN for advice and hands on reviews from a large community of Audiophiles!!

This is the same as the news this week that Maryland Public Television (MPT) is not going to renew Louis Rukeyser's contract. They are going to reshape Wall Street Week for a younger audience with the help of Fortune Maganzine. What a joke. Who will watch the show, when the only thing that resembles the old show is the name. I think MPT really thinks no one will notice and Rukeysers large viewing audience will still tune in. Not me and I doubt anyone else.

Rukeyser has already received a dozen offers from other networks including cable.

Remember the show "Sneak Previews"? It was a movie review program staring Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. More than a decade ago when PBS replaced them, they started their own show which is still on, and the PBS show without them only lasted a year.

I have subscribed to Stereophile since 94 and like you all have witnessed the major changes that have taken place. My best advice to all is to get a copy of the HiFi News....for the money it is the best publication relative to our hobby.
Scull? You mean Mr. Italics? Mr. Large Butt? Ribbon Chair? The sad part is that through attrition, he had actually become one of the more interesting writers they had left, which I mean as a backhanded compliment. You might remember how lots of folks voiced their dismay when he was promoted to Senior Editor. If you ask me, it was Scull who needed an editor! Yet compared to a stodgy sountrack-maven like Greenhill, or a gee-whiz superlatives-monger like Reina, Scull, even with all his excesses, could at least sometimes bring a smile to my face. And I for one was puzzled to say the least when he caught so many accusations for his honestly negative review of the Richard Gray power conditioner, in light of the longstanding charge that the mag and its advertisers were in bed together to produce nothing but raves. He deserves credit for communicating his obvious love of music and audio, for trying to entertain, for employing diverse styles of music in his auditioning, and for never taking himself seriously - despite his predilections for big bucks and purple prose. (Dare I suppose he could still contribute reviews, even if he is not a member of the editorial staff? His predecessor, Wes Phillips, still writes for Stereophile occasionally.) But as one who never quite cottoned to J-10's "tweakage-'n'-leakage" school of reveiwing, I must say that promoting him then or loosing him now is the least of Sterelphile's problems. Recommended Components is a "Class A" bad joke gone stale. The best writing is in the columns and the occasional feature, not the Incredible Shrinking Review Section. Their most technically informative contributors, Dickson and Colloms, are MIA. The long-promised upgrade of the photographic content vanished almost before anyone could see it. Intriguing new products languish unreviewed. The whole thing feels like JA & Co. are just going through the motions, and grudgingly at that. If it wasn't for the borderline amaturishness and mayfly-like endurance often displayed by most of their print and online competition, not to mention the fact that no one else is doing tests since the demise of the late (and unlamented by me) Audio, Stereophile would be in real trouble. If TAS takes advantage of the situation the way they should, it will be (although if the copy-cat tendencies begun in the last issue are any indication, I wouldn't get my hopes up). But at a buck an issue, what can we expect? I think most readers would gladly pay double, if the advertising won't cut it, to get back the old gutbusting Stereophile 12 times a year.
I never considered Scull's articles as merely product reviews. I just liked reading them. He seemed very enthused about every product he reviews, and he also seemed to have a history with every manufacturer or designer of the products he reviewed. This always gived me a behind the scenes feel in addition to just a plain review. I can't say I always agree with his reviews, but, being the ony guy on Stereophile who reviews "cheap" stuff, he WAS a breath of fresh air.
I have been a Stereophile reader since the mid 80's. In that period, I have held a subscription about 50% of the time. My opinions of the magazine are strong, but it is because my love for and expectations of the magazine are strong.

It is obvious the magazine is a shadow of what is was a decade ago. The writers today do not hold up at all against those who have left. I long for the days of intelligent review and commentary from people like Dick Olsher, Jack English, Larry Archibald, Martin Colloms, and even Corey Greenberg. For the vast majority of these people, when I was finished reading their reviews, I actually had a good take on how a component sounded. A lot of people thought I was crazy when I was sorry Wes Philips left, saying he was a paper tiger, yet who replaced him? No one superior.

One does not need to look past Recommended Components to see how far the magazine has fallen. It is the exact opposite of what was created. Like grades at Harvard, the weighting into Class A is much, much too heavy. Whereas there used to be 2 or 3 components which held the distinction of "Best Attainable Sound", the category now stretches several pages. Maybe I am mistaken, but while times are good, they aren't nearly THAT good.

How is it possible for Class A to dwarf Class C? Class C should be the largest category, containing the likes of Conrad Johnson(most of it), Musical Fidelity, Rogue, VTL, etc. Instead, it is basically a bucket for entry level equipment that the magazine has reviewed, and doesn't necessarily hold in such high regard.. Class C used to be not a slap in the face, but the category where most real world equipment fit into. Stuff that 95% of audiophiles owned. Today, it means your component is not very good.

While I am dealing with Class C, its inclusion of the Legend Audio Starlet Integrated is preposterous. It is a fine sounding amplifier, as most people who have heard it will attest. While it is true that I believe if things were the way they should be, this amplifier WOULD be a Class C component, if the Adcom GFP - 750, Bryston 7B - ST, Musical Fidelity A3 power amp, Creek 5350SE, B&W 803 Nautilus, Krell LAT - 1, Revel Peforma M20, and Triangle Celius are all Class A Components, then the Legend should either currently be Class A or Class B.

One thing I have never brought up is how Coincident Loudspeaker Technology has been dealt with by Stereophile. They are an advertiser, and I do not necessarily correlate ad money with golden treatment, unlike a lot of people. Coincident is a facet of my argument. They feature an ad every month, and some of the reviewers even use their products(check Associated Equipment), yet they have never had a product even listed in Recommended Components. Not even Class D. They have reviewed two Coincident speakers, and either one or two of their cables. What is the story here?

While I am on the inexplicable, how about the never to occur review of Legacy? Here is an advertiser that has spent as much as anyone on ad copy in Stereophile. Yet, in the 15 years I have been reading the magazine, seeing them all the while, they have zero reviews to my knowledge. It used to be a discussion topic every other month in the magazine before I took a four year hiatus. And, while I feel their equipment is mediocre at best and should highlight their flaws in review, unless Legacy feared the review(and refused, which I have heard on occasion), one of their speakers should have sat in Recommended components since 1990.

Yes, the magazine has fallen far indeed.

I would like to add that Sam Tellig is my favorite reviewer of the magazine. Which, at this point, embarrasses me to no end. As has been stated, his reviews of the past two years especially have been utter dreck. Please do not forget the Conrad Johnson reviews of a couple of months ago. The CJ rep lavishes Sam with enough expensive steak, London broil, hamburger, wine, and a night on the town to purchase a component. His reviews are now consistently filled with this fluff. My experience usually is that I find myself entertained by his writing, but always needing to reread the review, due to not having a clear picture of the "featured component's" sound, there is nothing there.

Perhaps we should go with a Tellig - like pun, "There's no THERE there."

I am waaaayyy past hearing about his weight, and before that I was even more tired of all the ink given to his wife.

Kalman Rubinson has to be the most boring, uninteresting, uninspiring audio reviewer I have ever come across. I would rather read Julian Hirsch anyday. Unlike after exiting a Tellig review, I find myself exhausted at the end of a Rubinson submission. Painful and tiring. I can't say it's like going to the dentist, it's not. But, it does bring me back to my college days and my chemistry books. Maybe he could ask Ben Stein for advice in how to liven up his demeanor.

Hopefully, Fremer will be the next to go. I have always felt that his inexplicable popularity was solely related to the magazine putting him on vinyl. Otherwise, he would still be a stand up comic.

Jonathan Scull was a lousy reviewer in my opinion. I am on record of stating this several times. Even when he was on top. I will not miss him in the least. I never read a review by him that really gave me what I want; insight. Rather I read about his wife, his chair, and his appreciation for fine wine and fast cars. I always felt he was a kept man. Someone more interested in having the best equipment, and serving the masters it required to get it. Of course, I know none of this to be fact, it was just the cold, clammy feel I always got from his writing. His skill at writing cannot be criticized, but rather his over the top, cloying praise for anything he heard with a price tag of at least $5000.

Fine Tunes featured cheap or free tweaks, yet Scull was always a man who could not bear to live with less than multi - kilobuck equipment. His use for the Cary 300b SEI was solely to power his headphones. Many components that he reviewed wondrously leave me scratching my head as to what good sound they produced. And, I always return to the one instance his superiors had the gall of him reviewing a less than $1000(OK, $995) piece of equipment. He "fixed" them by serving up the only negative review I can remember coming from him. For a component that people I have true respect for hold in high regard.

For me, rather than lament losing Jonathan Scull, I rejoice. Seeing this as either the dawn of the magazine returning to its roots, or maybe Primedia beginning to pry into why Stereophile has become what it has become under John Atkinson.
I'd be interested to know what happens to J-10's stockpile of mega-buck gear now that he's officially not a Stereophile employee. He's managed to keep seemingly everything that passes through his listening room, regularly using 3-4 different ultra expensive digital front ends in evaluating gear. Maybe he's a corporate lawyer on the side or independently wealthy - if he is, more power to him. But nobody in their right mind would actually buy all that, yet somehow he's managed to hang onto it all. Interesting.... -Kirk
I second Zaikesman's words as follows: "He deserves credit for communicating his obvious love
of music and audio, for trying to entertain, for employing
diverse styles of music in his auditioning, and for never
taking himself seriously - despite his predilections for big
bucks and purple prose."

There is no one else besides Stereophile; no print magazine, no online magazine, not even audiogon, that expresses so well the pure love, lust and excitment for the best equipment money and ingenuity can create (well, except maybe Valin over at TAS).
Too bad, what the heck is Jonathan going to do? God forbid he have to actually purchase equipment like the rest of us! Maybe he'll have to go back to double malt scotch or what! move from the fricken loft!

I find him the most pompous of the group, maybe a simple review without the reference to his deep knowledge (sarcastic) of the arts, architecture, literature and the rest would make him a bit more palatable. I find his "utopia" not his Utopias to be a bit more than sterile and edgy, I think the first thing he should be required to do before he writes again is have a full hearing examination to see if he actually has any nerve ends that respond above 15,000 Hz.

O.K. I've been harsh, but the man dug his hole with me, and I for one hope he comes down from his loft a bit in the future. J-10, give me a break!

His Tweaks used to be a real highlight, but the past year or so all he's done is rewritten letters and web postings. I've learned far more from Audiogon and Audio Asylum for free than dear J-10 will ever know.

As for Stereophile, well they just cut there poster child so I guess the future is easier to see now. I have been hoping for my subscription to run out ever since they cut the context in half and doubles the advertising. To bad for me I bought the three year deal. The Absolute Sound has proven again to be the only true audiophile publication. I can only prey they think long and hard before they consider adding Mr. Skull to their writing staff.

As for the real world, keep up the great site Audiogon!

I never liked Jonathan Scull. Others in this thread have provided criticisms of him, most of which I agree with. He is a pompous, spoiled individual, whose pretentious reviews were both sickening and of very poor quality. I didn't feel he was truly serving the readers; rather, he was ass-kissing the manufacturers who provided him with a constant flow of their expensive toys.

I found his prose to be boring, tedious, overwrought, and generally vacuous. He was very careful to avoid making hard comparisons between competing products. It always boiled down to a "matter of flavors" with him. He eschewed negative commentary of any piece, and was careful to minimize the sonic flaws. Further, I think his powers of discernment were limited, as is the case with many so-called professional reviewers.

Stereophile has gone so far downhill, and has so many mediocre reviewers, that it really doesn't matter either way in the end.
I'm definitly not lamenting over the loss.This guy keeps or one would say permantly borrow all the equipment he reviews.If he was like Consumer Reports i would feel that he would be more objective,but when one of the big audio companies throws a bone(ultra expensive} for nothing I would gloat and rave about how good it sound even though it sounds like crap.Just my 2 bits.
All great comments. I have really enjoyed this thread, but "Wow" you guys take this all too seriously. I am into this because it is fun.
I say more power to J10 for being able to live a pampered life, with a great wife, and lots of good food and wine, and get a ton of great stereo equipment in the process. I would think it is a lifestyle that a lot of us could aspire to.
I will have to agree that a lot of recent Stereophile reviews do sometimes lack some substance, but overall, I still enjoy seeing the magazine in the mailbox.
I read Stereophile for entertainment. You want great reviews on equipment, from real world people, just start a thread right here on good ol' Audiogon. All the great equipment that I now own, I got right here. Best place in the world to shop.
Everything has its place. Just my two cents worth.
Thanks Audiogon!
I am somewhat torn about seeing Jonathan leave Stereophile. I can relate to both sides of the argument being presented here.

Having dealt with him directly via email on a few occasions, i found him to be an easy to talk to individual and someone that truly tried to stay in touch with what was happening in the industry. I think that he truly loves this field and this came through in most of his writing. He might not have been the finest reviewer, but he always tried to at least entertain. That is more than i can say for some of the "dried up" and "talent-less" individuals that have come before him and will follow him.

Then again, who wouldn't be overjoyed to play with ( and potentially keep ) the mega dollar gear that he was given to review ? Herein lies part of my major complaint about Stereophile ( and other "glossies" for that matter ). I think that we've all covered this before, so i won't go there on this specific thread. Either way, i see that others have noticed this, so i'm glad that i'm not alone in those thoughts.

As to the "guts" that it took for him to slag the RGPC piece, keep in mind that Stereophile had been getting MAJOR flack on AA for lack of "responsible journalism" and presenting both sides ( good and bad ) of various products. Since J-10 and JA are known to frequent AA and were reading / responding to those comments, was this merely a ploy to silence the uprising ? Did the RGPC product become a handy scapegoat or was J-10 really that dis-satisfied that he felt the need to warn everyone else about it ??? We may never know.

As to his "fine tunes" column, i always got a kick out of it. It's great to see the industries best selling magazine paying attention to what the little guy has to say and has experienced within the confines of his system. Some of us have to remember that not everone is "on-line", so some material is bound to be re-hashed wherever you go in society. This is true of any hobby or field of individual interest.

As i've tried to make clear, the whole J-10 / Stereophile issue is a two sided coin. Do we dispose of bad at the expense of good ? Does the baby go out with the bath water ? Where does one draw the line or know what is REALLY taking place behind the scenes ?

Either way, i hope that JA can pull things back into perspective. Just as TAS is undergoing plastic surgery, i think that Stereophile may be in the process of changing its' looks also. Whether or not it comes out of this potential "make-over" achieving the benefits of surgery like Raquel Welch or the disastrous results of Michael Jackson remains to be seen. For the sake of the entire industry, i hope that it we can once again call Stereophile "OUR" magazine. Sean

PS... Even if you don't subscribe to Stereophile for various reasons, i encourage you to check into other magazines. Not only can this help keep you up to date and expose you to different equipment, it shows support for the industry. I recently bit the bullet for a five year subscription to Bound For Sound. While it's not really a "magazine", it is good enough that i want to read it from front to back in one sitting.

I think Trelja is right on. A review should tell us everything about the component and how it sounds with different components. Scull's reviews told us little and they were often totally absurd. As a manufacturer, I would never trust the fate of my company to one of his "reviews". Price was always the main thing with him. He was not even consistent in his subjectivism. Audio's reviews (especially the speaker ones by the great DB Keale) were shorter, but more informative overall. Internal component photos (German audio mags set the standard) should never be excluded. Stereophile is too lean with photos. I like the close-ups you see in the euro mags.
Now he can move to Phoenix & sell Cadillacs in Sun City, from his ribbon chair.
I dropped my Stereophile subscription after J.Gordon Holt, Steven Stone & Thomas J. Norton etc., moved over to the Dark Side-video....
Wow, Nightdoggy and Danielk141 bring up names of reviewers that I actually learned something from. DB Keele, J Gordon Holt, Steven Stone, and Thomas J Norton. Nightdoggy, you are oh so right in that Keele in the less esoteric 'Audio' was able to put so much more forth than ANYONE today at Stereophile.

As far as Scull being a good guy, easy to talk to, approachable, blah, blah, blah, who cares? His task was to review audio equipment. Being a nice guy is secondary to me. I pay for the magazine to learn about audio equipment. Equipment, which if it piques my interest, I may even audition and ultimately, purchase. I have no use for hearing about a fine Cabernet, the Ribbon Chair, K - 10's moniker for a UPS employee, or stories of his father. I don't care that he was a good writer, or loved what he did. It is all rubbish.

If these are criteria for being an audio reviewer, I can name many people on this site who would make Jonathan Scull a forgotten man in the course of one issue. How about Asa, Brulee, Carl_eber, Garfish, Dekay, Eldragon, Natalie, Sdcampbell, Swampwalker, Tubegroover, etc. These are all people I have actually conversed with, and have proven their real world knowledge and love for audio to me. Most of them are extremely well written. No one of this group could displace Jonathan Scull, John Atkinson, Kalman Rubinson, Michael Fremer? I do not believe it.

If this was a sacrifice, a bloodletting, great. If it wasn't, great. Does anyone besides me hold out faith that the magazine may actually be trying to return to the greatness it used to have?

My only take is that Stereophile has improved itself by parting ways with a reviewer with a penchant for high ticket items, and as has been mentioned, a lot of toys in his loft. I would have respected the man if he reviewed the likes of Cambridge D500/D500 SE and let me know what it sounded like. Price tag being secondary.

If anyone doubts my assertion of how he turned up his nose at approachable equipment reviews; seeing them as his wading through raw sewage, read the Sony SCD-333ES review. The review begins with JA asking Scull to review the player. Well, we all have to take on a job that is beneath us once in a while, eh J - 10?

If anyone can dig up an old copy of a Stereophile review from Dick Olsher, you will see what a proper audio review SHOULD be. You will not read about imported cheese, or hanging beef, but a thorough, in - depth report on the way a component worked, sounded, and fit in with a system. Associated components would be switched around to fully ascertain what a product offered, and what it didn't.

As an example, when was the last time Stereophile featured a review as Dick did of the JMlabs speakers? The awful Focal tweeters he came across in two of their speakers over the course of a year was laid bare in all their wretched glory. If anyone has come across these, you know what I am talking about(also check out any Osborn speaker with a Focal Ti tweeter). It's enough to drive a deaf man out of the room. The reviews got people all up in a huff. The result, Focal immediately made a switch to a different tweeter and modified the crossover network. Focal has spent the past decade getting things to the point where they are actually listenable. Bravo, Dick Olsher.

Can anyone imagine Scull providing this type of service to the industry? The fact that he is able to enjoy his Utopias is a homage to Dr. Olsher.

I remember Steven Stone telling things as they were also. Believe me, I listen to enough equipment to know that there is some real garbage out there. Price is no barometer of musicality in high end audio. I can name $1000 amplifiers that I would take over $5000 amps. Are they that afraid to submit reviews that actually lay out in hard and fast terms the sound of a component? Will they suffer that kind of loss in advertising revenue? I for one, would rather pay what I used to pay for the subscription in return for honesty, integrity, and their winning back my trust.
I for one will be somewhat sad to see J10 leave, while his reviews tended to be elitist (in equipment and tone) at least there was an interesting persona revealed. These are the sorts of characters that leave only to be replaced by milktoast, how unfortunate. What bothers me even more about this increasing blandness is that we (audiophiles) are partially to blame for it. In reading the many letters and commentaries to the audiophile mags over the years I've come to believe that some audiophiles only have disingenuous criticism to give. Every issue of every mag has readers cancelling or threatening to cancel their subscriptions over percieved contributors' wrongheadedness, language, personality traits, credibility, intelligence, etc... It never ends. God, if I agreed with everything written or spoken it would be one dull world.
While I agree it is good to publicize percieved wrongs, public cancelation of one's subscription is ridiculous, self-serving and destructive to the magazine publishing business. If one finds a mag to be anathma just cancel without telling the whole world. I for one would rather see print devoted to self-serving diatribes put to better use (reviews,technical evaluation,etc.). Diatribes are perhaps better placed in forums like this :-) where space is unlimited. How many bunnies does Art Dudley at Listener (consensus seems to place this magazine in high regard) have to give out in every issue. Rabbits do multiply! It has to be at best irritating and more likely downright demoralizing to publish in good faith only to be trampled on over and over. My God, the thickness of one's skin must be nearly a steel shroud. Sometimes I actually pity the poor contributor to audiophile magazines, who needs the aggravation. Is it any wonder we find the 'mainstream' audiophile magazines increasingly sanitized and glossed over.
Certainly there is a case to be made that publishers of 'mainstream' mags are destroying the quality of their product with myopic short-term profit equations, but audiophiles also have themselves to blame in the 'dumbing down' of audiophile publications. Proof of this is found in the circulation numbers of the so called 'quality' audiophile publications. Subscriptions are so ridiculously low that publication is sporadic (I can't even recall recieving the last issue of Positive Feedback), sometimes they quit publishing altogether and we are stuck with paying for goods never recieved. This situation makes it appear there is little or no profit in audiophile publishing. The fickle audiophile simply does not support a quality magazine in numbers great enough to be profitable. Rant and rave if you will but don't be surprised when you find the audiophile publishing world self-censored into oblivion. Sorry if I stepped on some toes, but self-criticism can be of service for good.
The big question (that can't be answered right now) is what was the real motivation for excusing J-10. This thread contains both condemnation as well as support for his contributions over the years - I find myself definitely on the condemnation side. However, somebody has to approve the content before it's printed, don't they? Did J-10 just get bigger than his own shoes and become uncontrollable? If so, then maybe the intent is to bring in contributors who don't go off on all the tangents, who aren't so flowery and who give more hard-core equipment reviews. Maybe there was no other way to get that space under control.

There have been several letters over the past several years suggesting that Stereophile is "riding the fence" between their hardcore audience and the mainstream and that to survive, they're going to have to choose one or the other. I don't think it's quite that dire, but there are some tough choices that would have to be made if they were to go one way or the other. If it's more mainstream that they choose (and appear to be choosing), this forum will be ranting until apathy completely sets in, because we'll never be satisfied.

As a customer, it would appear that there are several writers for Stereophile who set their own agenda. If the magazine wants to retain their elite status, they're going to have to regain the editorial control. Perhaps the J-10 release is the first of at least a few power struggle outcomes. -Kirk

Trelja, i was not defending the quality of J-10's reviews. I simply stated that his love for audio related subjects was pretty great. As such, i basically agree with your summary and have stated so publicly. How do you think i came about talking to J-10 and JA to begin with ? I was bitching about some of the same things that you bring up and even more. I think that the bottom line is that you and i are on the same team, we're just limited by how things come across and are interpreted via the net.

Personally, i'd like to see Audio go back into business with a hand picked staff. Sean
Amen, Sean. I know your position on J - 10 and JA. I agree that Tellig does more than his share of promotion of Cary, Musical Fidelity, Rega, and Triangle. Too high a percentage of his reviews are dedicated to these four companies(also Macintosh and Conrad Johnson). JA is biased toward the companies which comprise Harman International. Seems as if he has always carried a torch for Mark Levinson(the company, not the man) gear.

When something does not smell right, it should be brought up.

I do miss Audio, especially every October. Boy, do I miss the October Audio magazine.

The bottom line is that I would like to see Stereophile get its house in order. I am a subscriber, with no intention of canceling. In fact, whenever my subscription comes up, I will renew. THAT is why I have such a stake in the most important audio magazine going.
Kirk I think your right
This points us directly to JA! I believe Sereophile's problems begin with him, and J-10 was just his side kick. If the owners of Stereophile want to begin a new, start with JA and J-10.

The clear and outright mis-use of Atkinson's power when Dunlavy speakers didn't fit his Recommended Component List was the worst and most blatant I can think of. The idea that a speaker that was "Best Component of the Year" can in two years, after an upgrade fall from Class A restricted to Class B unrestricted after proving it's bass response is all the evidence any of use should need. It's not fraud, but it's close. Just because John Dunlavy publicly humiliated John Atkinson should not be motive to destroy his company. I was shocked when this happened, JA wants so badly to play God, the fact that an $8000 speaker was capable of entering his all mighty Class A unrestricted list was just to much for Mr. Atkinson to take. Instead of re-defining his affiliations with the power companies he suddenly found a flaw in what he claimed to be the best just two years earlier. This was bad, the explanation was worse.

JA must be the next, then it's time to re-build the magazine to the place it was. As long as there remains clear prejudice I for one must think of the great Stereophile as a second tier rag.
Jadem6, although I can't quite yet agree with his call for JA's head, is quite right about the Dunlavy IV classification affair. I would extend his critique to the whole of "Recommended Components" in this way: Unequal treatment is the norm, and the very fact of it delegitimizes the entire "ranking" hierarchy. This problem, BTW, is independent of any possible conflict of interest or "revenge" motive for JA's actions in that particular case. It is illustrated in that instance by the simple fact that JA does not "double-check" with his own ears (and opinions) every component ranked primarily according to its original reviewer's conclusions, or even very many of them. The near-uniqueness of his revisionism in the Dunlavy case only serves to increase the appearance of possible impropriety raised by the circumstances that Jadem6 refers to above. Unequal treatment manifests itself as Standard Operating Procedure when it comes to the ranking of components that are reviewed sans any measurements at all, such as those written up by Sam Tellig. To put it flatly, it is patently unfair to demote or deny one component a recommendation classification earned on purely sonic grounds because of its measurements, when another is recommended just as or more highly based on the same grounds, but without any measurements being taken on it at all. By the same token, some products are "saved" from being dropped off the list through attrition by a reviewer's timely "Followup" (often at the Editor's direction), while many others are allowed to languish and disappear from the biannual listing without an update - clearly unfair. Again, an example of favorable treatment that should be available equally for all, or equally for none, but not unequally for some (and JA surely knows that the eternal disclaimer about a piece's being dropped from "Recommended Components" in this manner not meaning it is "de-recommended" cuts no ice in this regard). The evidence for the insidious phenomenom of "class inflation" has been cited by others (see Trelja above), and JA certainly bears the responsibility for its corrosive effects, not only on Stereophile's reputation, but on the way that products are marketed and sold in the high-end industry. These and other valid points of criticism are also raised by Mssrs. Soholm and Clark in the letters column of the current issue of the magazine. I believe that John Atkinson possesses the werewithal, discernment, and fundamental sense of ethics to correct the state his magazine has drifted into regarding all of the problems enumerated here and in the above posts (including my own previous one), but whether he has the will or the vision to do so is an open question.
Well, I too think Stereophile is going or gone the way of Stereo. To reform, they need to abandon the Recommended Components list and clean up their act. Maybe I read too much of the reviewing the reviewers at but I can see what seems like substantial corruption in most reviewers at Stereophile, some at TAS and Listener, but not Bound For Sound. Ken Kessler is still a good read, but little of the rest of Hi-Fi. Frankly, rather than J-10, I'd like to have seen Fermer get the axe. If he really did email Arthur at High-endaudio, then he embarressed reviewers as a group and showed himself to be far less than a gentleman. If I was his employer, I'd can him forthwith. And I'm a vinyl guy forever. All IMHO.
So long for now to the Robin Leach of the Hi-Fi world. I found his reviews to be entertaining to a point but hardly informative. His reviews were certainly in context of "lifestyles of the rich and famous" something to make you pant and drool with lust to have this equipment. Surely it must sound way better than the pitiful (less than 10000 dollar per item stuff us mortals must listen to but the reviews weren't informative enough to tell us in exactly which ways and by how much improvement you got for your dollar. I'll miss lines such as "bass that makes your pants flap", no mention of what db that took place at but I don't ever experience anything close except in person next to a Top Fuel Nitro car which will also rattle the buttons on your shirt. Maybe he'll end up at TAS.
Rhljazz: Well said. Love your Robin Leach metaphor. I actually heard "bass that makes your pants flap". We'll, actually it was my wife's pants -- in the Merlin room this CES. No kindding. Fine sound. Maybe us mortals can afford that and don't need no leaches, reviewer, manufacturer or otherwise. But Skull was entertaining, as is Robin Leach, sometimes.
Jonathan will be greatly missed at Stereophile. I always enjoyed reading his equipment reviews and articles on tweeks.
I'm with Trelja in that I really would like to see Stereophile succeed long term and return to what made it quite good. I too miss Dick Olsher-- bought my first good tube pre-amp 'cuz of him. Also TJN-- pretty straight laced, but also no nonsense info. Some bitch about K. Rubinson's writing style (dull), but I've found his reviews to be right on regarding several components I know quite well. And yup! I too really miss the Audio October issue. Craig