Who The ____ Are You, and How On Earth Did You Get In Here?

"Once in awhile, even a blind pig finds an acorn."

I'll never forget when I first heard that expression. I was just starting my consumer electronics journalism career, writing for a car audio enthusiast magazine, a city slicker from New York interviewing a down-home Southern boy about a high-end install he'd done in his old Acura. I asked him how he'd managed to win all these big car stereo competition trophies, and he let loose that platitude as a way of saying, "well, if you work hard enough and just keep stumbling around, eventually you can't help but get lucky."

I've borrowed that a few times through the years, and I'm mindful of it now as I take the helm at Home Theater, a magazine I first worked at as a senior editor more than a decade ago. I couldn't be more excited or feel more fortunate. That Home Theater is still being published after all these years and continues to have a passionate, dedicated audience is homage to some of the talented editors-in-chief who came before me, among them Brent Butterworth, Maureen Jenson, and most recently Shane Buettner. Let's also give credit to the lieutenants and colonels — all the other staff editors and contributors — who once brought or still bring their love of A/V, their insights, and their technical expertise to Home Theater's pages. Magazine issues are a collaboration, and I've toiled on enough of them to know that a magazine's staff, not the editor, is its heart and soul. You all know who you are, and you share my thanks for allowing me to inherit a strong publication whose readers care deeply.

I won't bore you with all the historical details, but if you're a Home Theater or hometheater.com reader you have a right to know a bit about me. I started as an audiophile who landed an editorial assistant job at one of the small high-end audio magazines back in the 80s, then spent a good number of years honing my craft at a series of consumer electronics trade and newsstand publications. Along the way I have reported on format wars — way too many in my view — and gushed publicly as a reviewer about breakthrough products that have changed forever the way we enjoy our entertainment. In the last couple of years, I've been running my own small custom install business, gaining useful insight on how thrilling, yet frustrating, it is for both the average consumer and even enthusiasts to use our industry's products. Suffice to say I feel your pain, though that's the topic of a future blog.

So where are we headed now? That is partly up to you. As the editor of the magazine, it's my job to keep my eye on the future trends and call it as I see it, and make sure we bring the highest level of expertise and detail to all our test reports. That won't change — our product reviews will remain the essence of the magazine — and I am committed to not dumbing them down or diverting our product focus far from our core home theater interests: A/V electronics, speakers, and displays.

But this is not a one-dimensional hobby, and I'm curious to know what else you'd like to see in the magazine or here on hometheater.com going forward. Is there more commentary or reporting you'd like to see on technical or industry-related topics? How-to articles to help you build and tweak your dream system or theater? More shopping tips? What technologies would you like to understand better and have us delve into more deeply? And with editorial print pages being at a premium, how can we use the website, our computer/iPad edition, and future mobile phone/iPad apps to enhance your Home Theater experience? Please help me shape your magazine by sharing your comments below or by emailing me at editor@hometheater.com.

As I said, every once in awhile even a blind pig finds an acorn, and, with your assistance and feedback, this is one acorn we can plant and make grow.

matt's picture

Welcome aboard!

There has been an explosion of subwoofers out there that are sold directly from the manufacturer on the internet. It is hard to make a call on these products when you can't hear them. You have to depend on forums and digging though equal parts bias, arrogance, and ignorance to make a buying decision. I did so recently on an Epic Empire. I'm thrilled with the performance per dollar of this product.

I would like to see a subwoofer comparo with known staple brands like Velodyne, Paradigm, JL Audio, ect and internet legends like SVS, Epik, Seaton, HSU, CHT, Rhthmik, Outlaw, ect.

I love reading about 300k theaters and 30k speakers. I also like reading about the newest Ferrari, but end up buying a Toyota. I would like to see some real world articles that would help the average consumer make an informed buying decision.

K.Reid's picture

Rob...looking forward to the direction you will take this magazine. I have been a subscriber for over 15 years. I would like to see a subwoofer shootout among the best of the best as the prior post mentioned. I believe I read in a recent issue that this would be difficult. However, if memory serves me correctly, HT did this before many, many moons ago. A comprehensive subwoofer shootout is long overdue. Velodyne, Revel, JL Audio, M&K, SVS Sound, Aerial Acoustics, B&W, JM Focal, REL and Paradigm, Wison Audio and Definitive Technology. It is time.

It could be a great article, perhaps spread out over 2 issues introducing what a true subwoofer is and how it differentiates from all the so called "satellite/subwoofer" systems we see so much today. I envision commentary on placement in a room, room correction, equalization and types of subwoofers (bandpass, bass reflex, acoustic suspension, push pull, isobaric, etc). What are they? how do they differ? Perhaps some cut away computer generated images of each configuration. Can a speaker really claim to be a "true" subwoofer if it cannot reach 20hz +-3db?

I also miss the physical feel of the magazine when it used to be larger in size and felt more substantial to the hand such as issues back in 2007. I hope you aren't going to make too many staffing changes as I really like reading articles from TJN, Mark F., Mike Fr., Scott W., Kim Wilson, Fred M., Daryl W., Mike N. and all the others.

Please keep the heart and soul of our magazine in place. We will be reading with a critical eye and looking forward to seeing what you will do. Good luck to you as you take over Shane's position since he has moved on to Audioquest.

Rob Sabin's picture
My thanks to you both for your welcome and comments. Regarding staff, I'm fortunate that Shane surrounded himself with what I see as a gifted slate of reviewers and writers; you'll continue to see them all in our pages going forward, along with some new voices I hope to invite to our stable in the coming months. Regarding subs: getting truly loud, musical, defined bass is among the thorniest problems most enthusiasts face with their system and we get a fair number of requests for guidance on standalone subwoofers. We have two reviews in the works right now for upcoming issues, and we'll keep doing these one-offs, though the idea of a group review (or two) is intriguing. It can be done, though subs are so sensitive to their room environment that any test of a sub has to be viewed in the context of how it sounded in the reviewer's room. That said, I've always believed some generalizations can be made about different subs compared in the same room. You can't necessarily declare "this is the best sub" because of the acoustic variables. However, a sealed-cabinet design with a small woofer that sounds tight and tuneful in a particular room but doesn't go real low in frequency response before dropping off will probably act much the same way when placed in the ideal spot in a different room; likewise for a ported design of the same woofer size that may go low and loud but never quite sound as tight and responsive as the sealed-cabinet model. The idea of some kind of roundup is even more interesting today thanks to some innovation in woofer design in the last few years that drives better performance out of small boxes, and the recent advent of H-PAS technology by Atlantic Technology (see Tom Norton's review of the AT-1 tower speaker) suggests there will be more to talk about on the bass front as we move forward.
EWL5's picture

Rob, congrats and best of luck on your new job!

I'd personally like to see reviews on external video processors. I realize this is a niche market and most people are probably satisfied with whatever processing comes from their AVR or display but a number of us have dedicated home theaters and missing that "miracle device" that makes most video look better.

On another note, has HomeTheaterMag ever thought about compiling a demo disc that has typical movie scenes that put a video processor through torture tests (not synthetic like DVE: HD basics or HQV Benchmark)? Normally the same movie and scenes are referenced during reviews from product to product so it would make it easier for the consumer to test on their own (and for your testers if they don't have such a disc already). I know publications like Stereophile, Absolute Sound, and studios like Telarc do something like this for audio with their sampler discs. Just a thought.

K.Reid's picture

Thanks for the reply, Rob. I agree that a round up would be great and would not necessarily need to show which "true" subwoofer is best. Some generalizations can be made in a round up. The in depth article could show the differences in how true sub bass is attained and the different approaches manufacturers take. Questions readers might be interested in knowing are how manufacturers are getting deep bass from subwoofers with small cabinets with smaller drivers vs. large cabinets, large woofers with substantial magnet structures). Does the old adage "no replacement for displacement" still hold true with today's technology (i.e what advantage, if any, does a JL Audio F212 give you over a Definitive Technology Supercube 1?). Structured correctly, an in depth article could be a great read.

H-Pas from Atlantic Technology is a great example of new bass technology and I enjoyed reading TJN's educational article. He explained how the technology works in layman's terms that I could understand.

I am relieved that we readers can expect articles to continue from the great writers HT has on staff. I look forward to what lies ahead on the horizon for HT.

figuredmaple's picture

Hi Rob,
Just wanted to welcome you, and look forward to the new content on this site.
I rely on Home Theater's reviews when making purchases.
Currently I am in the market for a new receiver, and a couple TVs in the 55" and 65" size.
I am looking forward to seeing news and specs on the new Pioneer Elite, Denon, and Onkyo receivers, which I understand should be released in the next few months. But before I buy and consider certain models, I always need to see a complete, critical review from Home Theater. Maybe a shootout would be in order of models in the $1K-$2K range? Also, news on if Onkyo has repaired the overheating issue with their receivers would be great.
Regarding TVs, as I'm sure you're aware, everyone is waiting for a model that performs as well as the previous Elite plasma models, particularly black levels and colors, and now with better energy efficiency. Hopefully Panasonic's issues with diminished blacks have been solved.
Be sure to keep the rating system, and continue mentioning the positive and negative performance aspects of products in their reviews.
All the best!

gEExr's picture

Congratulations on your new job. My one specific request is that whenever there is a review on CD playes/amplifiers/receivers, please ask the reviewer to use nice floorstanding speakers. Mediocre-to-good speakers like Paradigm monitors do not really do a justice to the components. When I heard these speakers, I was dumbfounded as how can a reviewer at HT use them for evaluating audio source components!

Also, I believe that a number of significant pages are wasted on Blu-ray movie reviews. As a user, I would be interested in knowing the quality of the blu-rays, but I don't necessarily need to know "movie review". Most of the time, people already now the plot/quality of the movie.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

If you're looking for reviews of Blu-ray releases that focus on the quality of the audio and video more than the quality of the movie, check out the reviews on HT's sibling site, UltimateAVmag.com:


We're also starting to post reviews of 3D Blu-rays:


In addition, we publish items called Ultimate Demos, which identify specific scenes in certain titles that are truly outstanding in picture and/or sound quality, making them perfect for showing off your home-theater system:


walthardy's picture

Welcome Rob!
I look forward to the insight you will bring to your new job. I have been arround for a few days myself and I agree with a needed subwoofer comparison, personally I like REL. What I think will add a new twist is an article outlining an ol school home theater, that is putting together proven components of the 90s, up til 2010 and see how they have withstood the march of time both technically and value-wise. A lot of us, are looking to build a nice home theater using proven, previously loved components. What do you think? PS I like the blind pig story.

Seth Gatewood's picture


Glad to see a true AV aficionado of whom I (guess I'm glad I) know, editing one of the best AV magazines.

Rob, I thoroughly look forward to your many posts and contributions to Home Theater Magazine. These guys are lucky to have you!

Rob Sabin's picture
My sincere thanks to everyone who dropped comments here, as well as the many who emailed me directly. It's great to hear from you and get your input. Some thoughts: -- Standalone video processors have indeed become more superfluous in recent years as the scaling in display devices and receivers has dramatically improved. That said, with budget 1080p projectors delivering such a punch for so little money, there's something to be said for adding a dedicated standalone box that delivers extra performance and functionality (such as a color management system for adjusting all the primaries and secondaries independently) that, for hopefully not too much money, can take a good value projector and bring it to another level that makes the combo worth more than the sum of the parts. Something we should take a look at... -- $1k-$2k receivers? Definitely a sweet spot for our readership, and lots of new models coming in. Keep posted...
Rob Sabin's picture
Oh, and not to get into a joust here, but a quick note to gEExr: I'd love for you to hear a top end Paradigm Reference floorstanding system backed by excellent room-correcting electronics (perhaps from sister company Anthem) and see if you feel the same way. These speakers are among the best out there, and actually a steal given what some high end speakers cost. And in the experience of many audiophiles (read the reviews), they are EXTREMELY revealing of the software, source components, and electronics behind them. Don't infer from the fact that Paradigm has successfully marketed some good-sounding budget systems that their topline products are less than state-of-the-art. In fact, if you want to know what this company is capable of from an engineering/sonics standpoint, read our upcoming review by Shane Buettner of the Reference Signature Sub2 subwoofer coming up in our June issue. Six 10-inch woofers in a triangulated cabinet backed by 4,500 watts of RMS power (provided you care enough to hook it up to 240 volt service; otherwise, 3000 watts from 120v will have to do). They mate this with a bass-centric version of Anthem's room correction software. Just reading the review made me queasy...
EWL5's picture

Rob, I think gEExr took exception to a certain reviewer using Paradigm bookshelf speakers (my guess would be the Reference Studio 20's) as his reference speakers during reviews instead of floorstanders. In other words, gEExr has no qualm with Paradigm itself but with the size of the speakers in the reviewer's system as there is a perception that a full range speaker will do a better job for critical listening.

Rob Sabin's picture
Ah, my apologies to gEExr if I mistook the comment, although the Reference monitors, even the little guys, can sound very good indeed and prove very revealing provided they are PROPERLY mated with a good sub. That said, this opens the age old debate about whether a mid-size LCR or bookshelf speaker with a sub can equal or outperform a floorstander within the floorstander's frequency range. Some would say that although the very tricky and critical mating of the sub is eliminated with the tower others would suggest that the freedom to position the sub in its own optimized location results in equal or better performance. Good subject for a future blog...