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Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

RIP Sound & Vision: The end (?) of an era

Posted on July 22, 2013 at 4:25 PM

A couple of months ago, Source Interlink Media purchased Sound & Vision magazine. This probably meant next to nothing to most of you, but was actually fairly dramatic news within the A/V publishing industry because Source Interlink Media also happens to own another enthusiast pub known as Home Theater.


At the time of the sale, many people – myself included – speculated that there was just no way that they would keep both properties as separate and equal. They cover almost identical areas, frequently review the same products, cater to the same readers and advertisers, and having redundancy is not something publishers generally strive for these days. What seemed obvious was that these two properties would either be merged into one Sound and Home Theater or just have one scrapped altogether. However, the Sound & Vision editorial staff kept up a brave face and said that it would be business as usual, full steam ahead…


Well, this past Friday night I received a rather terse email confirming that the other shoe had indeed finally fallen…


From what I have been able to gather, the Sound & Vision editorial staff is out and both S&V and Home Theater are being rolled into one single publication – retaining the Sound & Vision nameplate – to be helmed under the editorial leadership of Rob Sabin, who had been Home Theater Magazine’s editor-in-chief. Rob is basically hoping to make one new super-awesome book by retaining the best aspects of the two properties. I think Rob is a great choice for the task, and I look forward to seeing the first issue.


As of this moment, I’m not really sure what this means for myself and the other excellent writers that made up Sound & Vision. I’ve spoken with Rob and he is hoping to use as much of the combined writing talent as possible. In truth, this will mean one less publication, so it will be less work for a lot of people.


However, I’d like to take a moment to say a thank you and farewell to the old Sound & Vision


I started writing for Sound & Vision back in 1999 by handling a series of features – long features – on distributed audio and video and automation. I remember having to turn in these lengthy outlines for each story; outlines that ran several pages and took hours to work up. That writing lead into product reviews – my first being Harmony’s original remote control, the 768 back in 2003 – which then lead into my regular monthly The Custom Installer column, which also began in 2003. I don’t have an exact count on the columns, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve written somewhere around 100.


Today, I am fortunate enough to write for several publications – Residential Systems, Digital Trends, Theo’s Roundtable to name a few – but Sound & Vision was the one that opened a lot of doors for me that otherwise probably still wouldn’t be opened, and I am extremely grateful for that. Beyond the writing opportunities, being a part of the S&V team introduced me to some wonderful companies and PR people, many of whom I now count as friends.


Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to work with some very talented writers and editors, many of whom know far more about writing, audio, video and electronics than I could ever hope to. In this category I put (internationally bestselling author) Geoff Morrison and The Brent Butterworth, two of the finest A/V scribes you are likely to encounter. Either of them could make reading a catalog of exacting bolt specifications fascinating. Being on the same team with Geoff and Brent is like being part of a dynasty.


Ken Pohlmann, is an actual professor of audio, and happens to be a personal hero of my business partner, Allen. I can’t tell you how many times over the years that former Pohlmann students have come up to me and ask that I please tell Ken how much he meant to them. Ken was clearly the kind of professor that made an impact, and his writing was often visionary. I believe that Ken and I have the longest running columns in Sound & Vision, and to have my work next to his each month elevates me to a point that I don’t deserve.


Bob Ankosko, was Editor-in-Chief when I wrote my first piece for Sound & Vision, and I thank him for taking a chance on an unproven writer and for letting me be Sound & Vision’s voice-of-custom installation for so many years. I also thank him for supplying his credit card when Kaleidescape wanted a $30,000 personal guarantee before letting me be one of the very first reviewers to take a crack at their new movie server system.


Al Griffin is a fantastic video reviewer and writer in his own right, but he was also the reviews editor and keeper of my column for the last few years. I appreciated how Al always helped to make my writing sharper and better, with pointed questions or nips-and-tucks that made my copy read better.


Mike Gaughn was features editor and he let me do some truly awesome stories. Because of Mike’s willingness to run things outside the traditional “just A/V” space, I was able to have some amazing, truly once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity experiences. Things like repeated trips to Lucas Ranch. Or being given a $300,000 Aston Martin for a weekend. Or spending a night aboard an aircraft carrier and leaving via a catapult launch. A simple thank you just isn’t enough, but thank you, Mike. We did some awesome stuff together.


If there are two bits of silver lining to this development they are thus…


Rob Sabin – “the Robfather” – gave me my start as a professional writer. Back around 1996, I flipped open a Home Theater magazine and saw Rob’s name listed on the masthead. I called him out of the blue and left a message on his voice mail pitching a story idea. Rob got back to me and agreed to take a look at my story idea – reviewing the best audio moments of Dolby Digital Laserdisc films; my sample review was Heat. While that story idea didn’t work out, Rob liked my writing enough to call me back several weeks later and pitched me on writing another story for him. This one on the pros and cons of buying gear through mail order. (Now that I am in the business of selling electronics, I have since reversed my position on this piece...) He liked my piece and then had me write a second story on designing a dedicated media room. When Rob left Home Theater and moved to Sound & Vision back in the late ‘90s, he gave my name to Bob Ankosko as someone who might be of use. Rob is overly generous and modest about the credit that I like to heap on him, but I am convinced that I likely wouldn’t have a writing career if it weren’t for him. Not many people are willing to take a chance on someone, and Rob opened the door enough for me to squeeze my way in. That I now have the opportunity to crawl back under Rob’s wing is highly appealing to me, and I am excited to see his vision for this new magazine.


Additionally, this might also mean that I will now be working *with* The Darryl Wilkinson instead of against him. (Or, probably more accurately, him against me.) And all I can say to that is, hang on, world… You could be in for a bumpy ride!


So, Sound & Vision is dead. Long live Sound & Vision!

Categories: July 2013, On Writing

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1 Comment

Reply Michael
8:28 PM on July 28, 2013 
That's kind of sad news - I've been a digital subscriber to both publications for a number of years, and have enjoyed their individual styles of coverage of A/V topics, even when that coverage has been duplicated. Whilst I'm sure the new, unified publication will be great, it will mean I've one less mag to pull up on the iPad when I'm looking to fill in some time in a somewhat productive way. I also wonder what Zinio will do with dual subscribers like me...