American Mass-Market Magazines

By Alan Nourie; Barbara Nourie | Go to book overview
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William H. White, 1969-1974; Caroline Stevens, 1974-1976; Jim Hoffman, 1976-1977; Dalma Heyn, 1977-1980; Hank Herman, 1980-1988; Dianne Partie Lange, 1988-present.



Mary Beth Allen


High Fidelity was the first magazine in America to address the interest of readers who did not exist prior to the 1940s--the audiophiles, the lovers of both music itself and the lavish and accurate reproduction of music in the home. Though recorded music of all genres already had a long and commercially successful history before High Fidelity was conceived, the notion of "high fidelity" did not achieve popularity until the late 1940s--roughly contiguous with the introduction of the long-playing record. Though there were special- interest magazines devoted solely to sound reproduction or music, it was High Fidelity that first brought together these two formerly disparate worlds in a skillful and appealing balance.

High Fidelity was the brainchild of publisher Milton B. Sleeper and editor Charles Fowler. 1 Radiocom (later Audiocom), Sleeper's publishing company, had already produced a series of magazines directed at the radio hobbyist, under constantly varying titles (Communication Engineering, FM, FM Radio Electronics, FM and Television, etc.). High Fidelity's first issue, which appeared in April of 1951, employed the same mixture of attention to both audio equipment and recorded music that the magazine still offers today. However, most of the early issues contained an evident "do-it-yourself" slant (unsurprising in view of the "hobbyist" predilections of Sleeper and Fowler). The audio components pictured in advertisements have a curiously "unfinished" look: amplifiers bristling with exposed vacuum tubes, turntables without bases, and speakers devoid of enclosures. Articles discussing home installation and construction of audio equipment cabinetry are common.

Over the next few years, serious music gradually received more emphasis. The magazine's original subtitle, Devoted to the Interests of Audio-philes, was changed to The Magazine for Music Listeners after one year, and cover illustrations devoted to music (i.e., portraits of composers) became more frequent; the space devoted to record reviews continually expanded. The magazine's immediate success warranted swift increases in publication frequency; originally a quarterly, High Fidelity began a bimonthly schedule with volume 2, number 2 (September-October 1952), finally becoming a monthly with volume 4, number 1 ( March 1954).


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