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Magazine: "TONEAudio"

Position: publisher

Published since: 2005

Publication frequency:
nearly monthly, 10 issues each year

Country: USA

tel.: 360-573-3919 | fax: 360-573-6893
e-mail: | Facebook:


Interviewer: WOJCIECH PACUŁA | Photos: Jeff Dorgay

Published: 1. November 2012, No. 102

TONEAudio, published by Jeff Dorgay with considerable help from his wife, American, web-only magazine is the best looking audio magazine I know. Only single issues of Japanese quarterly Stereo Sound can offer similar quality. Although the magazine is relatively young as it started in 2005 (a year later than High Fidelity), it has now become one of the highest recognized audio magazines in the world.
I liked its form since its first issue; I loved the photographs, the format, the drawings, and the square covers. I can say without any shame that the non-standard format of “High Fidelity” cover – incidentally, also square – is a direct result of my fascination. The whole magazine had been published in a square shape until issue no. 27 from February 2010, rectangular-shaped, with a most amusing cover on which a woman cries out (in a balloon) “OMG! We're Not Square Anymore!” As you can see, the magazine publishers can’t be accused of the lack of humor or a lack of taste.
I didn’t need to ask Jeff why the change. Just about the same time Jeff started collaboration with Zinio, a large publishing company that distributes digital magazines, books, etc. that can downloaded to many portable devices, tablets and computers. „The Absolute Audiophile” from Italy has also been published through Zinio. I wrote reviews for its first three issues that were published but the magazine “forgot” to pay me and our collaboration ended. For a magazine to be distributed through Zinio it needs to be prepared exactly the same way as for printing, in a PDF or similar format.
However, “TONEAudio” hasn’t abandoned audiophiles to their own – all issues have been publically available and one only needs to pay for the “Premium” high-resolution versions. For some time, between issue no. 29 and 34, both versions were free, and let me say that the high-res version looked simply insane! Nothing lasts forever though and the magazine recently stopped collaboration with Zinio and has only been available in a classic version.
It goes without saying that I was as happy as a child at the thought of talking to and interviewing Jeff Dorgay, the magazine’s founder, co-owner and publisher. Here’s what I learnt…

Wojciech Pacuła: For a start, tell me please how did you start an audio magazine? What I mean is when, where, who...

Jeff Dorgay: I've been thinking about my own hi-fi magazine, since I was a teenager, but TONEAudio began as an idea when I moved to the Pacific Northwest in the summer of 2003. Officially we launched our first issue at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) in 2005.

Why did you do that, what did you need it for?

I was writing for about 15 camera magazines at the time and The Absolute Sound as well. It was like having 16 girlfriends, all wanting something else! A lot of fun, but tough to keep it all straight after a while. Writing for TAS after reading it for the past 30 years was fantastic, but I knew it would be budget integrateds forever, I was never going to get access to great gear there, so I started thinking about just going for it.
With almost 600 camera reviews under the belt, I didn't think it would be that tough, as I had been a commercial photographer all my life and my wife Jean (who is the designer of TONEAudio) was a great art director, so I felt we had the basic building blocks "in house."

How did you decide about the format of your magazine? Most if not all internet based magazines are published as regular web pages while you decided to publish TONEAudio in the PDF format.

Having spent the prior 20 years in print advertising and magazine production for other clients, we both could see that print was on the way out. But the main reason we became a PDF magazine was so that we could set advertising rates well below what the print magazines had to charge. It meant we could be an addition to most companies' advertising/marketing budgets, that we would not be predators to the print magazines. I didn't want to take business away from them, I wanted to help expand the audience.

Your magazine looks exactly like print magazines (OK, actually better than most of them…); where did you get the money for it? It must be VERY expensive to prepare and published such great looking magazine, right?

We worked for nothing for the first two years. Just as I was about to quit TAS, because I felt it would not be ethical to start my own magazine while working for them, Wayne Garcia fired me, telling me my writing was “not up to TAS' high standards.” Ironically, a few of my camera reviews were picked up by the New York Times that week, so I thought it was a sign that it was time to make the move. It ended up being the best move.
We chose the PDF format, because we wanted it to look like a great print magazine, just without cutting down the trees to do it. I think it helped people make the transition a lot easier. Even today many websites are tough to navigate, and ultimately people lose interest. But in the "issue" format, it's easy to store it on your computer, laptop or tablet and read it in bits as you would a paper magazine.

How did you find right people for your magazine?

In the beginning, I called a few friends that I had worked with for years on other magazines and they were happy to get on board. After that, they all found us. Our staff is really the key to our success. I've got some great writers here.

Do you think that printed magazines will become extinct?

I think they will become extinct when they can no longer sell enough advertising to support the printing and mailing cost. Now that it's getting easier and less expensive for online magazines to add interactive and video content to the mix, it will be tougher for print magazines to keep up with that as well. But the nice thing about a print magazine is that you don't have to shut it off 20 minutes before landing, or upgrade the software, so I think print will be with us for some time. As someone who earned their living in print for a long time, I'd certainly be sad to see them go.

What web magazines can learn from print magazines one and vice versa?

There's really only one lesson for all of us – CONTENT. As Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres always tells me, "if you have compelling content, people will read you, no matter what you're printed on." In this case, it's probably an iPad instead of a paper magazine.

What are the strengths of web based magazines? And their weaknesses?

The strongest point of a web based magazine is the ability to deliver content quicker than a print magazine, and the ability to get world wide distribution a lot faster. I think the weakness of online back when we started was that online did not have the perception of value and prestige as print, but as the audience gets younger, that is changing. Now with the iPad, Kindle Fire, Android and other tablets, you can read an online magazine anywhere you would read a print magazine.
I find it a lot easier to find more information about a particular product with an online magazine, because if you are reading a print magazine, you have to put it down, fire up your laptop and try and find what you want. With an online publication, you just open a new browser window and find the necessary info.

How did you come up with the name TONEAudio?

My wife will tell you I love to name things. I like titles that are all encompassing, so TONE was perfect, it meant light and dark, loud and soft, even a tint or coloration - all things that apply to audio AND music.

However we found a magazine in Australia named TONE, so we changed the name to TONEAudio.

Please tell me something about yourself.

I've spent my life immersed in music and have met all of my closest friends as a result of music and hi-fi. TONEAudio combines all of the things I'm interested in, audio, music and other fun things: Cars, cameras, watches, great things to eat and drink, etc. Nothing has changed today, I work on TONE from the time I get up until the time I go to bed, I'm always listening to music, fiddling with gear or attending live music. It's a dream come true. The late Dick Clark said that if you do what you love for a living, it's no longer a job.

What do you aim for with TA?

A million readers.

How should a reader approach your magazine's reviews?

I think you should try and get as much information as you can from a review, whether it's ours or anyone else's. I see a good review as something that describes the product well enough that you want to go to your local dealer or hifi show and investigate for yourself to see if you like it as well. If we've described a component accurately enough that after an audition, you purchase it and enjoy it, then we've done our job - we've helped you to improve your system. That is my goal with all of our reviews.

What do you listen to for pleasure, at home?

That changes every day, every hour. There isn't much music I don't like.

Could you list 10 albums you’d recommend to High Fidelity readers as must listens?

Not really, I listen to so much, as in the question above, it changes all the time. By the end of the day, I'd think of 100 more! But I would suggest just trying 10 albums you've never heard of, no matter what they are. Get as far away of listening to the "audiophile standards" as you can.

What is the future of our audio hobby; is there any future?

I hope so, or we're all out of a job! But seriously, as long as people love music, they will need something to play it on. Whether it has the form it does now, we'll see about that.

Is streaming the future if audio?

For some people. I don't know if it's as popular as the media and message boards think it is. It's 50/50 for me. I have a lot of albums, yet I have 9300 CD's on my Sooloos music server (Meridian Digital Media Systems, see HERE - ed.). And I've kept ALL of the discs as a backup of last resort. I think the streaming experience has to be painless to be intriguing. We're not quite there yet, but it's getting better all the time.

How about CD players then?

Same as above. I certainly know a lot of people that don't want to be bothered with ripping, tagging and cataloging, but that's not a large enough representative sample to be accurate. On a recent trip to the Naim factory, they were certainly building a lot of CD players! In my system, contrary to popular opinion, a disc still sounds better when played through the transport of my dCS Paganini than it does played from a server or even a computer running Amarra or Pure Music. I've tried most of them, yet playing the disc still wins the day. But I love the convenience of having so much music at my fingertips, so it is very valid. I probably listen to 70% of the music I hear every day via the Sooloos. Even more as we get closer to deadline!

Have you noticed reel-to-reel movement? What do you think about that?

I think it's crazy, but that being said, I have a Revox A77, B77 and a Studer B67! I love the format and love the sound. A big pair of reels spinning is a wonderful thing. (See HERE and HERE - ed.). But with no meaningful software available, I think it will remain strictly for the hardcore enthusiast. I love what the Tape Project guys are doing, but they are handicapped by the prices they have to charge to be viable. And I'm just not paying $500 for The Staple Singers Greatest Hits.

Could you tell me a few words about audio magazines in the US? And how they differ from European magazines?

I don't see that much difference really, other than they tend to cover the gear that is more regionally available. Now automotive magazines, that's a different story!

Thank you very much.

Pleasure :)


Main system consists of:
- ARC REF 5SE preamplifier and Robert Koda K-10
- ARC REF Phono 2SE phono stage, Pass XP-25 phono stage, Qualia Indigo phono and Simaudio MOON 810LP
- BAT VK-60SE monoblocks, Pass Labs XA-200.5 monoblocks

- AVID Acutus REF SP w/Triplanar and Lyra Atlas
- AVID Acutus REF SP w/SME V or 309 and Lyra Kleos
- Zu modded SL-1200
- Stock Thorens TD-124/SME 3009/Ortofon VMS 20mk. II
- AVID Volvere SP/SME 309/Grado Statment 1
- AVID Volvere SP/Funk Firm FXR/Rega Apheta

- dCS Paganini (four box stack, Vivaldi on the way)
- Sooloos Control 15 server (RedBook files only)
- Aurender S10 server (High res files only)

- Nakamichi Dragon
- Nakamichi 700II
- Revox A77 and B77, both high speed, 1/2 track
- Studer B67, 1/2 track

GamuT S9 speakers

- GIK Room treatments
- Running Springs Dmitri, Maxim and Haley PLC's (each on dedicated 20A lines)
- Cardas Clear and AudioQuest Sky cable
- Running Springs Mongoose power cords


Linn LP-12/Shure V15, AVID Volvere SP/SME V, Ortofon Cadenza Bronze VPI Classic 1, Lyra Kleos Mono (2nd VPI Classic at the factory being fitted for an Eminent Technologies ET 2.5 Carbon Fiber arm. AMG V-12 w/Sumiko Palo Santos waiting for me to install a turntable shelf! Both rooms are next to each other, so I just run a second set of interconnects from the analog outputs of the dCS stack, so the Paganini is a reference component for both systems. Auditioning the Light Harmonic for possible use in room two.
Speakers are Acoustat 1+1 with in wall JL Fathom sub, alternating with Dynaudio Confidence C1 II. This room is much smaller (13 x 16) and is used primarily for smaller speakers. Full compliment of GIK room treatments here as well, with excellent results.
Monk Audio Phono takes care of a couple of tables, and the ARC REF Phono 2 (not SE model in this room) handles the AVID and the AMG.