Are audiophiles crazy?


Don't take offense to this post if you identify as an "audiophile." I would say I'm an audio enthusiast, but not an audiophile. 

To me, audiophiles are people who pride themselves in achieving the best possible sound quality. Terms like dynamics, punch, and smoothness are just the tip of the iceberg. The audiophile is usually interested in achieving subjectively better sound. How they go about chasing this is actually counter-intuitive. They go out and buy expensive speakers, flagship headphones, high-end amplifiers, and perhaps even real 20K-40K+  studio monitors. All the while, wanting to hear music the way it was recorded. But be forewarned - More accurate does not always mean "better sounding." 

When they play their favorite music, to their dismay, it doesn't sound good enough. So they drop 10 to 15 grand on cables - which shouldn't make an audible difference anyway. But that new cable made everything sound warm and mellow. Now they're kind of happy. At this point, the audiophile is an "expert" basically a Sound Engineer, but only in his own mind (imagination). Every few months, upgrades are made on the main system - even if that means not having enough money for [insert important family obligations here]. Some believe they have the best systems in the world and even brag about it. I have met folks like this and I'd rather not be around them...more money than sense.

No matter how much I have, I always try my best to be humble and polite when in the company of other people.

Skeptical, passionate, and curious, they go out of their way to experience all of the wonderful snake-oil that audio manufacturers have to offer. After many years, they still can't pinpoint what they want their systems to sound like. In other words, what would be an ideal Harman target response curve for all of the genres of music they listen to? It becomes an almost never-ending quest for perfection - which is unattainable in a subjective way. You can have a system that is 99% accurate for Pro audio work - But you can never have a perfect system that everyone you know will enjoy. Invite all of your friends and a few family members - let them listen to your best system and ask for honest opinions.

I find joy in knowing some of them will spend thousands of dollars on "upgrades" that won't matter. I laugh about it. And I suppose this is good for the economy - with the inflation on consumer goods always on the rise, it's nice to know we have a bunch of dedicated folks like audiophiles; who can part with their money so easily. They make great customers but terrible salespeople. Too many I've met in real life can't make convincing arguments to prove things they believe in.

Tell me about your experience with them, or if you were a hardcore audiophile. I have busted tons of myths in real life - let alone online forums...and eventually was praised for it. Again, I think this is a fantastic community; so I enjoy sharing my thoughts here on audiogon :)

Lastly, I have this quote to share - which I think sums up the struggle with audio reviews/impressions/viewpoints etc: 

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

- Arthur Schopenhauer, Philosopher

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The first half of that post was just excruciating to read....maybe it got better?
Agreed silly and pointless. (no offense) Who or what doesn't the OP like? People's opinions that are, "subjective?" People who are is selling, buying or listening to audio not up to the OP's standards? 
Audiophiles come in many different types with different values. But most are bent on achieving the most pleasing sound reproduction possible. I have been one for 50 years and always humorously considered it a disease. My partner jokes about there being two currencies: regular dollars and audio dollars... $1 dollar = $100 audio dollars... Charmin TP... too expensive! $5,000 for a set of interconnects a good deal.
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Some audiophiles are obsessed with equipment, some sonic details, some cost effective sound, some the magic of live music. Personally I have reached for the best possible system by buying one component and then working to upgrade and match the quality across my system, then really enjoy it for five to ten years, then reach up and upgrade another level (rule of thumb.. double the price and you get a wow level improvement). I would enlarge my music selection and read about equipment in between upgrade cycles. Great to do on airplanes... buying CDs in Japan or Scotland the local stuff. Then as my income rose, I could go up another level. My tastes changed over time as my early desire for more bass expanded to encompass all aspects of reproducing music.
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Overall, the most enjoyable time is between upgrades... just really enjoying the music. It relaxes me, opens my mind to deeper thought. Increases the enjoyment in my life. I was a corporate executive for most of my career... very stressful, lots of international travel, lots of conflict. Sitting quietly and being immersed in the experience is simply amazing. Ten years ago I got season tickets to the Symphony... 7th row center. I have been able to tune my system such that if I closed my eyes I could not tell whether I was at the symphony or at home (assuming a good recording in an hall with similar acoustics). So, while a disease, it can be a real constructive and rewarding one.
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For all practical purposes I am the only one that has listened to my system. However, I do know a couple of aspiring audiophiles whom I am trying to guide through the process of learning about what they really want out of a system and putting one together with the minimum mis-steps. Audio systems are system... with move variables than you can shake a stick at. So it most be a pursuit of passion to be successful and rewarding. Since achieving high levels of performance is expensive, the upgrade process can be stressful. Some people are well adjusted many are not, in general public and as audiophiles... are there more alcoholics or audiophiles? ... which ends up prematurely dying? Personally, bicycling, mountaineering, photography, SCUBA diving, and audio have pleasantly balanced my life with work.

+1 ghdprentice
Nice post showing experience, wisdom, balance, etc. Like you, I have consistently worked over decades to improve the listening experience. You are correct about your generalization regarding gear at double the cost; higher end components are that much better generally. 

Regarding alcoholics, sadly addictions tend to be grouped, which compounds the damage. It is common to see individuals imbalanced in several respects. i.e. it would not be surprising to encounter a slightly above average percentage of audiophiles who are also alcoholics. Drinking seems to be a necessity for some listeners, as if that enhances the experience (it doesn't, but dulls the senses). Combine lugubrious music with too much imbibing and it becomes a depressive activity, a pathetic way to lurch toward the grave. 

You seem to have found joy in activities that stimulate the mind and body. You will likely enjoy my upcoming review of a new speaker from a fledgling manufacturer to appear in the future at Dagogo.com, designed and built by one of those Renaissance men who has a keen mind and skills.   
Good one Doug. Interesting thesis. One of the audio dealers I used to know was an ex heroine addict... a very hard core one. However then kicked the habit and was working as an electrical engineer and high end audio dealer from his home. If you knew him you would see he had taken the addiction from drugs to audio. I think most of us are relentless pursuers of perfection and the ultimate experience. I do that in all things. Achievement produces an incredible feeling of appreciation. Like climbing a mountain or riding a bicycle 200 miles in a day, or rafting the Grand Canyon. Not every one climbs mountains... pursues audio with great passion... hmm, or alcohol. I would look for a study, but I doubt there is one... would be interesting to know the associated personality traits and maladies associated with it..