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Position: Editor-in-Chief

Publisher: Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity

Type of publication: ONLINE PORTAL
Founded: 1994



ave you ever wondered who was first? I mean, who came up with the idea of having a web-based audio magazine? This interview will give you the answer to this question. Perhaps for many of you it will be the first contact with "Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity". I suspect, however, that many of us have been reading the articles of this American on-line portal (magazine) for quite some time.

I first came in contact with it some seventeen or eighteen years ago, when I worked at Audioholic, a Polish distributor of McIntosh, Velodyne, VTL, etc. As part of my responsibilities, I checked publications about the brands we distributed and if necessary, I translated parts of those. I used mainly printed magazines: "Stereophile", "The Absolute Sound", "Sound & Vision", "Hi-Fi News", Hi-Fi Choice "etc.

Looking for information, however, I came across two publications on the Internet that quickly drew me in, and the idea of writing about audio on the Net intrigued me; these were: the Canadian "Soundstage" and the American„SECRETS OF HOME THEATER AND HIGH FIDELITY”. The latter was so interesting to me because theymade their own measurements of DVD players and projectors, verifying producers' promises. And in the world of video, measurements are very well correlated with what you see.

The editors were not afraid to point out errors, for example with the "de-interleaving" technique. What's more - the producers, also the biggest ones, did not take offense and tried to correct their mistakes, guided by the tips and suggestions included in the "Secrets ..." tests. Do I have to add that when three years later, when I founded "High Fidelity", I tried to explain the graphic guy what is the "on-line magazine" I did it using this particular example? - I do not think so ...

Although a lot of time has passed since then, the Internet has changed from the place of entertainment into the largest marketing, social and political machine in the history of mankind, the magazine is still the same: it still offers a high quality.

I had a chance to talk to its founder and chief editor, Mr JOHN E. JOHNSON.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: Could you tell something about you, your career etc.
JOHN E. JOHNSON: I have two hobbies. One is high-end audio, and the other is photography. I started in photography when I was six years old. My mother gave me a Kodak Brownie camera, and she paid for my film and developing. In those days, film was about 50 cents a roll and developing was also about 50 cents, for black and white. Color was a little more than twice that amount. I am still a very active photographer, and my concentration is on infra-red photographs of large gardens.

I got into audio when I was fourteen years old, building a one-transistor radio from a kit. Then I obtained my ham radio license, call letters KN7MQK, but I could only afford to build a 15 watt transmitter from old TV parts. I could not afford to build or buy a receiver.

When I was twenty, and in college at the University of Washington, I built a turntable from a children's record player parts. I bought a 35 watt/channel stereo amplifier, which used tubes. I built my speakers from simple full range drivers and plywood for the enclosures. My entire stereo system cost a total of about $200.

I entered graduate school in 1968, and I saved enough money to purchase a Marantz 2270 receiver and KLH monitor speakers. I had a Dual turntable and a Radio Shack phono cartridge. I graduated with a PhD in Interdisciplinary Neurosciences, and in the first years of the 1970's, I worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA – Ames Research Center), near Sunnyvale, California, and in the latter half of the 1970's, I had a position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Baltimore, Maryland. I eventually also had a joint position at Johns Hopkins University. We moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, and my full time job was being a scientific journal Editor-in-Chief.

How did you come up with an idea for a web-based magazine?
I had originally planned for the magazine to be a print publication, but the distributors wanted 50%, and the printers wanted a fortune for the color. At that same time, the Internet was on the cover of all the news magazines, and I decided that was the best route for me to take

Were there any other on-line publication in US or Canada?
At the time I started publishing Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, there were no competing publications on the Internet. Secrets was the first such publication.

When was that?
I started Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity in 1994 – it was the first Internet magazine dedicated to high-end audio. When I was buying the domain name there were only 5,000 website on the Internet. The magazine was an immediate success and has been growing since then.

Are you happy about how it turned out?
Yes, that was a very good decision, as publishing on the Internet was immediate rather than having to wait for pages to be printed on paper and distributed. Also, typos and other errors could be corrected. Overall, the Internet was the best thing to happen to publishing since the invention of the printing press.

What was the goal such publication?
The goal of Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity is to inform audio and video aficionados about new products that have arrived in the marketplace and let them know if those products perform as advertised. Maybe even better than advertised!

How do you test components – I mean – what is your philosophy of the review, product, methodology etc.?
We review products as thoroughly as we can. Sometimes the review includes bench tests, but not always.

What I am finding is that now that we are well into the 21st century, high-end audio products have very good specifications, and they usually meet them because high-quality circuits are commonly available due to engineers having found what works over many years of experimentation. It's very good for consumers. The bottom line though, is always what the product sounds like rather than what the bench tests reveal.

Can you point strengths and weakness of on-line publications? Printed ones?
The strengths of on-line publications are three: First, it is a lot less expensive to publish on-line Secondly, it is much faster to publish on-line Third is that mistakes can be corrected with on-line articles. The weakness is that you need a computer to view on-line publications.

Do you still read printed audio/video magazines?
I read printed magazines regularly. It is very easy to read them while having lunch or relaxing in the afternoon. I don't need a computer screen to read them.

What you think about paying for content – or it should be for free?
Paying for content is fine, as long as the content is high quality. If it is not professionally created, then it should be for free,

Tell us about your audio (video) system.
Here is a list of my audio/video equipment:

| Lab 1 (Home Theater)

  • OPPO BDP-105 - Blu-ray Player – Wireless Networked
  • OPPO UDP-205 Universal 3D Blu-ray Player – Wireless Networked
  • Cables: Wireworld, Mogami

| Lab 2 (Two-Channel Audio with Digital and Analog Sources)

  • Cables: Wireworld, Mogami

| Lab 3 (two-channel audio)

  • Magnepan 20.7 Planar Magnetic Full-Range Speakers
  • HiFiMAN HE1000 Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • OPPO PM-1 Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • OPPO HA-1 Headphone Amplifier
  • Cables: Wireworld, Mogami


  • YOSUKE ASADA | “Net Audio”, “Analog” HERE, JAPAN, chief editor
  • DANIEL BREZINA | HIFI-VOICE.COM, CZECH, editor-in-chief (Šéfredaktor), see HERE
  • EDGAR KRAMER | „Audio Esoterica”, AUSTRALIA, editor-in-chief, see HERE
  • MICHAEL LAVORGNA, „AudioStream”, USA, editor-in-chief, see HERE
  • MICHAEL LANG, “Stereo”, GERMANY, managing editor (Geschäftsführender Redakteur), see HERE
  • SRIDHAR VOOTLA, “”, INDIA, journalist, see HERE
  • SCOT HULL, “Part-Time Audiophile”, USA, editor-in-chief, see HERE
  • ART DUDLEY, “Stereophile”, USA, editor-at-large, see HERE
  • HELMUT HACK, “Image Hi-Fi”, GERMANY, managing editor, see HERE
  • DIRK SOMMER, „”, GERMANY, chief editor, see HERE
  • MARJA & HENK, „”, SWITZERLAND, journalists, see HERE
  • CHRIS CONNAKER, “Computer Audiophile”, USA, founder/chief editor, see HERE
  • MATEJ ISAK, "Mono & Stereo”, chief editor/owner, SLOVENIA/AUSTRIA; see HERE
  • Dr. DAVID W. ROBINSON, "Positive Feedback Online", USA, chief editor/co-owner; see HERE
  • JEFF DORGAY, “TONEAudio”, USA, publisher; see HERE
  • CAI BROCKMANN, “FIDELITY”, GERMANY, chief editor; see HERE
  • STEVEN R. ROCHLIN, “Enjoy the”, USA, chief editor; see HERE
  • STEPHEN MEJIAS, “Stereophile”, USA, assistant editor; see HERE
  • MARTIN COLLOMS, “HIFICRITIC”, GREAT BRITAIN, publisher and editor; see HERE
  • KEN KESSLER, “Hi-Fi News & Record Review”, GREAT BRITAIN, senior contributing editor; see HERE
  • MICHAEL FREMER, “Stereophile”, USA, senior contributing editor; see HERE
  • SRAJAN EBAEN, “”, SWITZERLAND, chief editor; see HERE