Last week Peter Aczel announced his official retirement from “publishing” Audio Critic magazine. Many audiophiles were surprised by this announcement since they had assumed that he had passed away years ago.
But Aczel’s influence on our hobby cannot be denied. He was the original objectivist troll. Aczel was easily the most vocal and prominent advocate of “If it can’t be measured it doesn’t exist” school of audio journalism. Because of this philosophy he amassed a veritable “hit list” of publications whose reviews he found unacceptable. Obviously the contents of The Absolute Sound and Stereophile were often the subjects in his “debunking.” And as time went on Audio Critic became less about sound or audio and more about personal vendettas masquerading as technical fact checking.
When you look at the contents of Audio Critic as a whole and compare it to the publications that Azcel despised, you can’t help but notice the difference in tone and perspective. Audio Critic had a negativistic and self-righteous tenor that pervaded all its contents. The AC’s editorial assumption was that manufacturers and their running dogs, the reviewers, were in collusion to steal audiophiles’ money. And one man’s paranoid fantasy turned into an industry-wide vendetta still fostered by objectivists throughout the Internet.
In one particular way Aczel was similar to Stereophile’s founder, J. Gordon Holt. Both were not especially savvy businessmen. But Holt’s publication was bailed out by Larry Archibald, who was a good businessman, while Aczel never found anyone who felt his publication was worth resurrecting. And when cash flow is tight sometimes money goes where it wasn’t supposed to go and publication dates slip, slip, slip, away. So it was with Audio Critic.
Also the problem of credibility as a result of Aczel’s rave review of the Fourier 1 speaker, which he designed, didn’t help matters. Sure, he mentioned that he had a hand in the design, but why not let one of his other writers do that review? Why, indeed…
With the slow and now final death of Audio Critic objectivists have lost one of their original literary shock troops, but through Internet they have found new cyber-bridges to inhabit. And Peter Aczel’s legacy of negativity, doubt, disingenuousness, and generally lousy vibes will continue for many years to come.