From A Subjective History of the Observational Audio Press
"I can't be sure just why The Absolute Sound proved so popular, but I'll offer a few ideas. First of all, they brought a wider variety of voices and broader coverage of components to the table than Stereophile. Second, their definitive tone and purple prose probably appealed to the type of elitist rich guys who buy expensive audio equipment and want to read about it. Their new vocabulary, terms like harmonic envelope, yin and yang, air, transparency, and image focus, specificity and dimensionality (all different) added an air of mystification. Third, they were much more music-oriented than the more techie Stereophile. This passion for music made their equipment reviews more interesting, and meant they covered more interesting music. Fourth, despite the often ponderous writing, TAS offered a more intellectually invigorated environment than Stereophile, one that featured contributions from manufacturers and several excellent writers. Fifth, their location in New York (Stereophile started in Philadelphia, then moved to Albuquerque and later Santa Fe) put them at the center of things, and allowed them to brag about Carnegie Hall, and so on, and keep on top of trends both musical and audio. Sixth, TAS was closely tied with favored manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, which meant they had access to the most expensive gear on long-term loan. Thus Pearson could declare from Olympus what was the absolute best, issue after issue, which gave TAS a certain rhetorical legitimacy. And lastly, TAS had a more accessible look...

The big change for Stereophile came in 1987, when John Atkinson came from England to be the new editor. Its scope of coverage and its editorial voice became more diverse. Stereophile's biannual Recommended Components, once the view of Holt alone, expanded and transformed into the 200 ton gorilla of the industry. Atkinson synthesized all that had come before in audio journalism-a serious interest in engineering and measurement, some influence from the Linn/Naim philosophy, a love for soundstaging, and a taste for rock and blues as well as classical, making him the perfect baby boomer editor. TAS was less interesting than it had been, while Stereophile had become more appealing to its audience. In the decade from 1985 to 1995, it was Stereophile that was in tune with the audio zeitgeist, championing minimonitor speakers and high-end digital. By the early 90s Stereophile was implying that the best digital (which meant a $13,000 Digital to Analog Converter, or DAC) matched high-end analog. Digital saved the record industry, and it saved the high end audio industry too (or perhaps rising disposable income for the rich saved both), and Stereophile was more in touch with the DAC-of-the-month wars and décor-friendly speakers than The Absolute Sound."

To read more, buy issue one.