What’s new at The Abso!ute Sound? Me!

If I was being honest with myself, I’d have to say that I’m not particularly witty or clever. I’m only a fair-to-middlin’ writer, if you call what I do here “writing” — and most folks don’t. Ahem. Anyway, when I got the note from Robert Harley, the editor of The Absolute Sound, asking if I’d like to join the team as a contributor, I was pretty much convinced that I was being punked. “Hello … it’s TAS calling ….” Yeah, was not expecting that … but my hope is that perhaps I can be forgiven if my first reaction was: “bullshit!”

Yep, there’s my self-esteem for you, in action. No, seriously though — TAS is huge, and they’ve been around forever. Okay, maybe not forever, but they are going to be celebrating 40 years of print in a couple of months, so it might as well have been forever.

Anyway, so after a day of “no way”, I got a chance to chat with Mr Editor, and suffice it to say that either the gent on the phone was a brilliant impostor or that I am now a writer for TAS. Either way, it’s been a fun week and I can’t express how flabbergasted — and flattered — I am. My first assignment will be an interesting one (well, I think it’s interesting): I’ll be writing a multi-part column around system building. I have this pair of loudspeakers, you see, and not a lot to pair with them …. I’ll also be pitching in on the odd audio show and, of course, writing reviews.

This site will remain, and continue, to be an outlet for my nervous energy and I plan to keep plugging away in this little corner until my fingers fall off. I suppose it’s possible that someday, someone will buy me up and send me on my way, but until then — or the Lotto Fairy or that dude on the pale horse shows up — I’ll be here.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Keep an eye out for me?

About Scot Hull 1062 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.


  1. Best of luck and well deserved! Don’t ever forget, however, that they hired you because they fear you. Lastly, remember Harry Truman’s words “I never gave anybody hell. I just told the truth and they think it’s hell.” I’m feeling smugly confident you can navigate past the lawyers while doing your thing, and we’ll see the truth. We understand the art form that is yours.

  2. From what I understand of the Palantir and how it works…..it depends less on your peering in than it does on the the quality of others who own one and also looking in…….Maybe that’s the problem. Yours may not be broken at all.

    Peter Ledermann/Soundsmith

  3. I am old enough to remember Jullian Hirsh of Hirsch-Houk Labs; in fact, not just old enough, but actually worked in his basment lab in high school with his son Steve. Steve was in a band that I mananged, so I spent lots of time over at the Hirsch residence. Julian was one of the finest audio engineers around in the day, and his reviews are legendary. As it turns out, I am about to inherit his lifetime of work. 10 filing cabinets worth.

    I arrived one day to see Steve and Julian answered the door – in tears. He had just gotten off the phone with his lawyer, and when I asked if he was OK, he said ” NO – I am not. I will be lucky if I escape with my family and the shirt on my back. I will never write another bad review. The gear goes back in the box with not so much as a note, back to the manufacturer. ”

    That was a turning point in audio history and reviews as far as I am concerned. The litigious nature of this world will not allow a truthful technical review without major threat.

    Reviewers are between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they need to be truthful, but not to the point where they destroy what’s left of the industry, which is dying; please note that audio engineers are NOT being replaced, nor are the over 55 year old audiophiles. We have lost two generations of audiophiles who never were. Not to mention what has become of American Audio, a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I watched it being decimated in the 60’s and 70’s by the Japanese, who cleverly took over. Now, it is dying again, due to aging buyers, lost engineers and no place for new ones to go to be mentored, and most horribly, by American dealers themselves who are not interested in working for a sale, but selling only what the customer is most familiar with or who is able to advertise the most. Nothing to do with sound quality or performance mind you. Audio?? What’s that?

    Am I bitter?? No, not really. It is an evolution and devolution simultaneously. And almost inevitable. What’s left has partially been saved by Apple – after all, they supported 2 channel, and the minimal interest in analog and 2 channel is partly due to the iPod.

    So, where does Scot come in?? – Scot gets this. He has gotten me, for which I am VERY grateful, because short of Dr. Tony Cordesman, Fremer, Philip Holmes, and a few others, no one has. Not to blow my own horn, but if I can be overlooked with the uniqueness of what Soundsmith does, WHO ELSE in the US has been also overlooked and not supported by the press?? Everyone, by degree. My possibly myopic perspective. I am open to correction. I don’t get out much.

    So, here’s the thing. Scot understands all of the above. Why? He’s SMART, real smart. I know – I have sat across from him on more than one occasion, which is ALWAYS a pleasure. He thinks, he hears you, he listens, he digests. Then he writes – so well, you don’t want to stop reading.

    Please, no one tell me we don’t desperately need him. Anyone willing to stick a few fingers in the dyke is welcome, as far as I am concerned.

    So head on up Scot. Go with a deep understanding of where we are, how we got here, and do what you can to save what’s left of my chosen and beloved field of endeavor, because the sun is setting fast.

    Peter Ledermann/Soundsmith.

    • Thanks, Peter. I’m touched — and you are far too kind.

      It’s funny you mention nature litigious of today’s industry — I remember my first threat of lawsuit quite vividly, and yes, the impression will no doubt remain that way. Bright, like the glint of sun off of something sharp. Interestingly, the shield of the First Amendment is only available if you’re willing to pay a lawyer to defend it for you. And even then, there are restrictions.

      So, yes, the industry has changed. Times have changed. And I truly believe that audio’s high-end will endure. However, what that might look like … sadly, my Palantir has been erratic of late.

      Part-Time Audiophile will continue here, pretty much unchanged as far as I can tell. The gig with TAS is yet another part-time endeavor, another brick in a road that maybe-possibly could lead … somewhere else. But still, a part-time gig. Like the vast majority of audio writers, I’ll be retaining a day job for the foreseeable future.

  4. I’ll add my congrats if only because it seems you’re pursuing your dream successfully.

    I do tend to somewhat agree with Dave’s comments above with the exception of Magnepan, as I believe their advertising budget is very minimal.

    Back to the matter at hand, your call-up to the big time, hopefully this will have a bigger impact on TAS than the other way around. Even if the only change is more pictures in their shows coverage it will be a win.

  5. Interesting. I’m curious how this will shake out. Let’s just say the reputation of TAS is not what it once was. I’m not going to get into the HP thing, but TAS, like Stereophile (arguably moreso, actually) follows the supposed “if it’s not great, we don’t review it” rule. Never mind that simply not discussing any less than stellar component ever does a major disservice to the reader, it provides an awfully convenient excuse for gushing over everything that does make it to the page, particular if that component happens to come from a major ad provider. Companies that put up the cash for a cover story, and the accompanying “New King Of Speakers!!!” or “New King Of Amps!!!” or “The Best In the World???” screaming headline will have their products RAVED about. Always, end of story.

    Aside from that, there’s the second important rule of reviewing at TAS and to a lesser extent Stereophile, always, ALWAYS avoid comparisons, because man do companies hate those. If you must compare anything, do your best to avoid naming any of those competitors. Simply say “X sounds as good as (amps, speakers, etc) 3 times its price!” that way you can pretend to provide some sort of useful information will still managing to CYA and avoid any potential rubs with advertisers or “partners.”

    TAS in particular produces TONS of “Top 5 this for under $XXXX” which ALWAYS just happen to include the same 4 or 5 names, all of which happen to be huge companies with big fat ad budgets. You’ll never see somebody like Tekton or Salk in a list of Top 5 speakers under $2K for example, but you will always see 1. Paradigm 2. PSB 3. Magnepan.

    The yearly Editors Choice list at TAS and the Stereophile buyers guides are both mostly rather pathetic lists of favoritism for “partners” but the one advantage for the reader that mags like Stereophile or Hifi News and RR have that TAS doesn’t have is measurements. JA’s Audio Precision doesn’t lie. If a speaker has an undamped cabinet that rings like a bell or an amp has distortion figures that shoot to the moon with loads below 4 Ohm, JA’s report will let you know about it, even if the review is an unqualified rave. TAS simply raves.

    • Not to defend TAS or any other magazine, but don’t Odyssey Audio and Fritz Frequencies both have products that are in the “recommended” list? It’s true, I haven’t seen Tekton or Salk in that list, but is that the result of a conspiracy, or could it be that there are only so many writers able to write just so many reviews flailing about in a “target-rich” environment?

      That said, there is politics in any endeavor, especially a derivative one. If TAS or any outlet routinely bashed product, they’d quickly find themselves without content to publish (no one would send them product) or money (no one would pay for advertising) to publish with. That’s a fact, and AFAIK, no one is denying it.

      But TAS and Stereophile both have published damning reviews — and lately. They make quite a stink when they come out! But as I’ve stated before, I think bashing a product is lazy writing. It’s easy to be negative. I don’t find value in it. I’d far prefer to see where a product stands or falls relative to its peers, and that kind of comparison is pretty routine — it simply isn’t the focus of the review. Look, here’s the thing — good writing is more art than science. And like art, it really ought not to be mistaken for that which it isn’t … “the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” A bit harsh, but Anton Ego has the heart of it.

      And while I do enjoy the comparison of TAS and it’s failings to Stereophile and it’s measurements, I do respectfully submit that the latter isn’t the one that was interested in my (admittedly feeble) contributions.

  6. Well,……FINALLY……..the mountain comes to Mohammed……I’s so glad they finally listened to me. It WAS my phone call that did it, right???

    Reading your articles is the closest thing to not being able to just have one potato chip.

    BEST WISHES ALWAYS…….you biggest fan,

    Will you be gracing Axpona and thereby classing the place up ??? We will be hidden at the end of a long, dark hallway…..audio scavenger hunt. Buy you a beer or two….easy.

    Peter Ledermann/Soundsmith

    • Thanks, Peter! And yes, I’ll be there … but as for classing up the joint, well, that will probably not be in the cards.

    • It’s beginning to sound (more) like a joke: how many part-time jobs do you have to work before you have a full-time gig? Apparently, it’s more than this ….

  7. It’s about time you got paid by the word! I think TAS is best audio publication when it comes to maintaining standards of journalistic and ethical integrity. Mr. Harley is a very serious editor and writer. I suspect you have a great education ahead of you. Congratulations on the well-deserved honor!

  8. This is great news, Scot. I like seeing people follow their passions and get recognized for it. This is one such example. Good luck with your new endeavor!

  9. Congrates! TAS How I have even more reason to wait for a new issue. System building is a great subject. I would like to read a Dear Abbey like column. People write in with system questions and TAS staff makes suggestion for there next move. So many ways to go, could spark a lot of talk.

  10. Can someone explain this apparent feud going on between the staffs of different publications? Who is feuding? Why? There are always these vague references and allusions all over the internet and even within print magazines themselves. Those not in the know are curious.

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