The end of an era - John Atkinson steps down as editor of Stereophile magazine

Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
Though I am not a fan of Stereophile magazine's subjective nonsense, I have been a big fan of John Atkinson's equipment reviews, especially his speaker reviews, for decades, and it's the only reason I read their web site and previously the hardcopy magazine. It looks like he'll still be measuring equipment and publishing reviews, and if he does I'll still be reading.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/stereophile-next-generation
 
GrimSurfer

GrimSurfer

Senior Audioholic
Agree. I read JA's test results before reading the subjective stuff. Saves me a lot of time by skipping the gear that doesn't measure up to its specs.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Staff member
I pretty much only look at Stereophile for John Atkinson's measurements. How a piece of audio gear leaves a subjective impression with one reviewer can leave a very different impression with someone else, so there isn't anything concrete in that sort of writing. Microphones and measurement software, on the other hand, don't have mood swings, and don't hold opinions on how certain recordings should sound.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Ninja
Has he been editor since J Gordon Holt left? That is a long time in that industry. I used to subscribe in the early to mid late 80s but finally decided I didn't need it anymore. I'd buy an occasional issue later but Stereophile was not readily available at many outlets. Anyway he had a great run and I did enjoy many of his reviews and other articles.
 
GrimSurfer

GrimSurfer

Senior Audioholic
Well, it may measure up to it just the specs may be poor to begin with :)
Honestly bad gear is still honest and, usually priced accordingly. Dishonestly bad gear is typically audiophile $hit, so it's nice to be warned from the start instead of having to read why $hit can taste like chocolate ice cream if one tries hard enough.
o_O
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
Though I am not a fan of Stereophile magazine's subjective nonsense, I have been a big fan of John Atkinson's equipment reviews, especially his speaker reviews, for decades, and it's the only reason I read their web site and previously the hardcopy magazine. It looks like he'll still be measuring equipment and publishing reviews, and if he does I'll still be reading.
Atkinson's greatest contribution is the large number of loudspeaker measurements he performed, while using the same or similar methods. Together they form a database that allows useful comparisons among different speakers.

I also think Atkinson's worst contribution was his willingness to pull punches verbally. His measurement graphics may have showed flaws in speakers he tested, but he failed to adequately explain them in his written comments, leaving them obscure to most readers. Only readers who were experienced in reading measurement graphics could fully understand those flaws.

I often felt I needed a lawyer to help me fully understand what he wrote.
 
GrimSurfer

GrimSurfer

Senior Audioholic
Atkinson's greatest contribution is the large number of loudspeaker measurements he performed, while using the same or similar methods. Together they form a database that allows useful comparisons among different speakers.

I also think Atkinson's worst contribution was his willingness to pull punches verbally. His measurement graphics may have showed flaws in speakers he tested, but he failed to adequately explain them in his written comments, leaving them obscure to most readers. Only readers who were experienced in reading measurement graphics could fully understand those flaws.

I often felt I needed a lawyer to help me fully understand what he wrote.
Agree. He still posts the data though... which allows a knowledgable reader to interpret his text accordingly.

While these may be written errors of omission, they're a far sight better than errors of commission.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Ninja
I actually liked the reviews of Anthony H Cordseman the best. Enjoyed his writing style. And don't forget Sam Tellig the Audio Cheapskate. Nice reviews on some stuff we might actually be able to afford.:)
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
While these may be written errors of omission, they're a far sight better than errors of commission.
I don't believe they were errors of omission at all. They were skillful efforts to avoid directly mentioning flaws in speakers from manufacturers who were also paid advertisers in that magazine. Those skillful efforts may be what kept him employed at Stereophile for so long.
 
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GrimSurfer

GrimSurfer

Senior Audioholic
I don't believe they were errors of omission at all. They were skillful efforts to avoid directly mentioning flaws in speakers from manufacturers who were also paid advertisers in that magazine.
Then crimes of omission... except he'd include the test data.

My aim isn't to defend JA. Nor is it to put him on a pedestal. But clearly, he's a cut above a great many reviewers and may be one of the best one can expect in these days of corporatism.

This serves to reinforce the need to understand how tests are done, what they mean, and what they indicate. 'Cause if one of the best doesn't spell it out, a reader must take a certain responsibility for not getting hoodwinked.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
Atkinson's greatest contribution is the large number of loudspeaker measurements he performed, while using the same or similar methods. Together they form a database that allows useful comparisons among different speakers.

I also think Atkinson's worst contribution was his willingness to pull punches verbally. His measurement graphics may have showed flaws in speakers he tested, but he failed to adequately explain them in his written comments, leaving them obscure to most readers. Only readers who were experienced in reading measurement graphics could fully understand those flaws.

I often felt I needed a lawyer to help me fully understand what he wrote.
I disagree. JA's worst contributions was when he was repeating the magazine marketing lines about audible differences between cables, and his wine review-like descriptions of amps and other electronics. I see his point of view; he values business success over scientific purity. His more rational competitors, like Peter Aczel's The Audio Critic, were hobbies compared to the big business of Stereophile.

And being married to a lawyer, I don't think there are many lawyers who could help you interpret JA's reviews, at least not of the hundreds I've met. More like Dennis Murphy.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
I actually liked the reviews of Anthony H Cordseman the best. Enjoyed his writing style. And don't forget Sam Tellig the Audio Cheapskate. Nice reviews on some stuff we might actually be able to afford.:)
AHC was one of the BS artists who wrote about night and day differences between solid state amps. He should stick to policy think tanks. You can still read his stuff in The Absolute Sound, if you can keep your lunch down.
 
Out-Of-Phase

Out-Of-Phase

Audioholic General
Yes, the late Peter Aczel. I only wish I would have come across his magazine back in the days of my audiophile foolishness. I would have saved a lot of money and gained a lot of wisdom at the same time.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Ninja
AHC was one of the BS artists who wrote about night and day differences between solid state amps. He should stick to policy think tanks. You can still read his stuff in The Absolute Sound, if you can keep your lunch down.
Not that I agree with his views but the guy could write. I remember one of his reviews (stories) of the Infinity Reference series back in the 80s. Back then I wanted to believe so I have fond memories. And yeah I can keep my lunch down so I might have to check his musings on TAS. Sam Tellig was a different animal at least he tried to be objective.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
I pretty much only look at Stereophile for John Atkinson's measurements. How a piece of audio gear leaves a subjective impression with one reviewer can leave a very different impression with someone else, so there isn't anything concrete in that sort of writing. Microphones and measurement software, on the other hand, don't have mood swings, and don't hold opinions on how certain recordings should sound.
Yeah, me too. You can tell where the thing being tested actually interested JA, because he put more effort into interpretation and analysis of the measurements. That made for the best reading in the entire magazine.
 
<eargiant

<eargiant

Senior Audioholic
I pretty much only look at Stereophile for John Atkinson's measurements. How a piece of audio gear leaves a subjective impression with one reviewer can leave a very different impression with someone else, so there isn't anything concrete in that sort of writing. Microphones and measurement software, on the other hand, don't have mood swings, and don't hold opinions on how certain recordings should sound.
Let's not forget John Atkinson's Golden Rules:

* No one measurement tells the whole story. What you hear always depends on more than one measurement.​
* Performing a measurement involves subjective choices.​
* All measurements tell lies.​
* Measurements can tell you how a speaker sounds- they don't tell you how good it sounds! The educated ear is the only reliable judge of quality.​
* No matter how good the measurements, if you don't enjoy the music, something is wrong!​
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
I disagree. JA's worst contributions was when he was repeating the magazine marketing lines about audible differences between cables, and his wine review-like descriptions of amps and other electronics. I see his point of view; he values business success over scientific purity. His more rational competitors, like Peter Aczel's The Audio Critic, were hobbies compared to the big business of Stereophile.
I never read those contributions. I guess I only read the measurement sections of speaker reviews if I was interested in how a particular speaker performed. That usually was long after they were published.

I guess I agree that those types of articles you mentioned would be worse that what I pointed out. But I still maintain that what he failed to say about what I thought were flawed speakers is consistent with his valuing business success over scientific accuracy.
And being married to a lawyer, I don't think there are many lawyers who could help you interpret JA's reviews, at least not of the hundreds I've met. More like Dennis Murphy.
Agreed. I do know a lawyer or two who are skillful at recognizing what hasn't been said, things that if they were said would lead to completely different conclusions.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Ninja
So back to my original reply here - does anybody remember J Gordon Holt the founder of Stereophile? He was pretty much the antithesis of Julian Hirsch of Stereo Review. I sort of found a middle ground in the old Audio magazines. Man so much nostalgia.
 
Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic General
Though I am not a fan of Stereophile magazine's subjective nonsense, I have been a big fan of John Atkinson's equipment reviews, especially his speaker reviews, for decades, and it's the only reason I read their web site and previously the hardcopy magazine. It looks like he'll still be measuring equipment and publishing reviews, and if he does I'll still be reading.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/stereophile-next-generation
Good! Time for that snake oil salesman to go sit down somewhere.
 
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