Monday, August 20, 2018

Time to give up on TAS

I've been a subscriber for over 20 years and have the back issues to prove it in my basement. There's no doubt it's a beautifully produced magazine with wonderful photography which I happily browse  and consider too good to throw out when done. But the time has come to recognize that for me at least, the content is no longer there.

I took a look at the last year or so of issues as I got ready to consign them downstairs and, on a whim, took a page count. More than 50% of every issue is an advert, which probably does not surprise anyone, after all it is how they can run a mag of this production quality at a profit. But of the slightly less than half that is given over to content, even this has a recycled quality to it. You know some expensive product will get a dominant position and rave review; that MQA will be advocated, blind-testing devalued, and pricing rarely critically evaluated. I also get that this is part of the process. But what has stretched my patience is the rest.

The regular content now has too many show reviews, with too much cookie-cutter coverage that is too late to matter.  And in these reports I get to read again and again how difficult it is to cover the show, how Jonathan Valin gets to check out the ultra expensive speakers, that show conditions are not great, that the first day is a sonic mess in  most rooms, but the usual suspects get to be 'best of show' anyway.  Rinse and repeat, adding other writers for other product niches but generally sticking to script.

And if it's not shows, we get historical and memorial pieces, apparently lifted from the TAS glossy books produced and sold at great expense a few years back (yes, I paid good money for two vols), repackaged now in the monthly issues which honor the greats of the industry (not only re-using content but presumably keeping certain industrial participants sweet on the mag too).

Sure I wish there was a bit more on music, fewer 'awards', and yes, I also wish some more effort was made to compare 'systems' at price points using audiences (not just reviewers) with no stake in the products to give their reactions. And yes, I wish there was greater acknowledgement of the challenges facing interested consumers in really hearing and evaluating the products covered in the mag (but that's true of all mags where being told to 'go hear for yourself' serves no real purpose other than to protect the writer's opinion). What bugs me further are cartridge reviews without compliance details (matters a lot to me in my rig) and those mega-buck cable reviews where the company press-release is repackaged as part of the review ('croy-alloy proprietary windings' indeed).

Anyway, without malice, and with no little regret, I shall not be renewing my subscription and thus I bid farewell to a reading habit of decades. It's mostly been a lot of fun but life moves on. Anyone want my back issues?