Are you too old to be an audiophile?

DISCLAIMER: This is not meant to be offensive in anyway, just something I've always been curious about and thought it would make for some interesting responses.

One of the things about audiophiles I've always wondered is how they reconcile their age, and the scientific fact that their hearing isn't what it used to be, with their belief they can can hear all the nuances of high end gear, and even the cables. As we age we lose our ability to hear mainly in the higher frequencies. You know that high pitched sound older CRT televisions and some recessed lighting can make? No? Neither do my parents.
At 81 I obviously can't hear the higher frequencies. The nice thing is that you (I) don't miss them. And thank heaven I can't hear most of them, as in the ones you cite. I can still detect cable differences (real ones) and can spot inverted and non-inverted polarity within seconds, so all is not lost :-)
The equipment is a menas to an end...that end being MUSIC. Music is all that matters.
I'm 66 and there are times I miss what someone says if they're speaking softly but at the same time I can hear the differences between pc, ic easily. Perhaps we loose something in regards to volume but not in definition, tonal accuracy .
Fortunately, the music lives in the midrange. Excellent midrange acuity extends until death, a throw back to the hunter/gatherer days. As far as the loss of high freqency acuity goes, it has been shown that older listeners accomodate to the diminished high freqencies as a reference.

Additionally, if you look at most music on a scope, you will see that there is very little of musical value in the top octave. Oh yes, there is "sheen" and "air" but not really tone. This is really a non-ussue.
I will be 70 and can't hear above 14k. But there is notmuch info above 14k anyway. I can still hear a lot of differences my younger friends cannot. Maybe I have learned in all these years how to listen
The main thing to remember about aging, and I'm 70, is that what really matters is how does the music sound to YOU. I was in construction all my life, can't hear above 12Khz, and yet I enjoy the music as well as I always did. Or so I think! Everything in life is a compromise eventually, so I often wonder at what point the high-end gear goes bye-bye, and listening to music on mid-fi gear is satisfactory?
Everything is relative - ie. You go to the Symphony take in a stunning performance, if your 18 or your 81 it does not make a diference, you hear it your way, if truely great it will move you. Same way with your system, a great piece of music will move you, if you are 18 or if your 81, the reference is the same.
Audiophile and the quality of LISTENING does not depend entirely on the flat frequency response from 20hz to 20khz.
Plenty of Golden ears have damaged hearing, and can still hear better than most folks with perfect hearing.
Being an Audiophile does not mean HEARING, it means LISTENING.
Yes, until all listeners, age five to ninety, provide a certified hearing test done by an audiologist that their hearing is functioning at 20hz to 20khz. Until that is in place, all will be labeled 'wanabe's, and not taken seriously, but they will be permitted to 'listen'. Only those with this audiophile certification will be permitted to write reviews of equipment. Call it practicing with a license. That way we all will know that they can actual 'hear', as opposed to what they think they hear. I am in the process of setting myself up as the 'authority' and will be receiving your hearing test and issuing certificates, all of which will be expensive, as this is the 'hi end'.

Who cares about the sound or the music, anyway!

I just like expensive and exotic electronic devices and reading and writing about them.

There is alot more to audio and music than hearing that last one or two Kh . As you get older you learn how to appreciate things that you couldn't when you were younger . My hearing may be down a bit but my enjoyment and love of music is up ten fold .
I don't think you ever get too old to tell someone else what they listen to sucks. Isn't that the real audiophile hobby? ;-)
the hobby is about what one buys, not what one hears. you don't have to be an audiophile to be passionate about music.
I am a 58 y/o audiophile, have poor hearing, always have, yet I enjoy my system. When I hear someone sit down and play a piano or any instrument, that is my base line hearing of what a real piano sounds like to me.

Now when I listen to different stereo equipment, cables, tubes, I can hear differences (soundstage, depth, imaging, coloration, etc...) I can tell what equipment, doing A/B comparison, sounds the most like my base line hearing of a real piano. Isn't that what itÂ’s all about?
The "scientific fact" that my/our hearing isn't what it used to be is actually fairly complex. Some relatively young persons have degraded hearing in consequence of prolonged or frequent exposure to rock concerts, jack hammers, and so on. Genetic differences, pathogens, and a variety of other factors and circumstances may also account for hearing differences. So the aging process -- still imperfectly understood -- is not the only variable (or set of variables)that ought to be considered insofar as "hearing" is concerned. And, as some of the posts suggest, the matter of "enjoyment" is even more complex (and, I think, hopeful).
According to Merriam-Webster's definition: "Audiophile: a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction".

Merriam-Webster says it's all about enthusiasm. That specifically doesn't say anything about actual audio acuity/Golden Ears (nor about a whole lotta other stuff... ;~).

I do kinda wonder - what did you really expect for responses? Do you consider yourself an audiophile? And do you know how much audio acuity you've lost since you were ~17 and how has that affected you as a potential audiophile? You didn't live your formative years w/ earphones jammed in and cranked up, did you?

Since we're here on AudiogoN I'd sure hope you receive many enthusiastic responses. For many/most, this hobby almost by definition ain't about being rational so probably enthusiasm is the next best alternative...
The "nuances of high end gear" do not exist exclusively in frequencies above 14K. Dynamic contrasts exist at all freqs.

You lose some abilities when you age and you gain others.

I would rather have the ability to "get" 100% of the 90% I can hear verses 70% of the 100% I was able.
Not meaning to divert from main topic here but an observation of mine: I'm sixty-ish and find it interesting when listening to music that anytime I pull the edges/lobes of my ears outward a bit my audible perception of high frequency sound improves. My unscientific explanation for this is that by pulling my ears outward I'm increasing the surface area of my ear that catches the sound waves. Interesting though that no improvement is heard in low frequencies from doing this. Note: this is with my ears well irrigated from wax. Opinions welcome scientific or otherwise.
1. Hearing merely begins at the ears. It is a brain process. The sustained interest older audiophiles have devoted to the hobby results in knowledge and expertise that ENHANCES the brain process of hearing. This fact more than makes up for older listeners' diminished frequency perception. I suspect this is what Elizabeth was alluding to when she said that there's an important difference between hearing and listening.

2. Perhaps older audiophiles would be at a significant disadvantage if technical listening were reducible to hearing frequency response. Thankfully, it is not. In addition to hearing frequency response, there is also hearing transient response, harmonic accuracy, resolution, soundstaging, PRaT, dynamics, coherence, etc.. Diminished high frequency perception might have some effect on the perception of each of those characteristics, but NONE of them is reducible to frequency response.

3. In addition to the TECHNICAL characteristics just mentioned, the appreciation of music is most importantly a matter of listening to its AESTHETIC characteristics: its beauty, emotion, interpretation, authenticity, imagery, etc.. The appreciation of those aesthetic characteristics is largely learned through experience. That would give older listeners another potential advantage over younger ones.

IMO, frequency response is one of the most over-valued characteristics among a particular segment of audiophiles. Likewise for frequency perception.

Not that I hold any more stock in their opinions than I do for any other person with two ears and a heart and soul who happens to love music, but apparently some hold the staff of the audio rags in somewhat elevated esteem. I wonder the age of some of the senior writers and editors there. And what about the manufacturers of some of the most revered gear...why don't you go ask Nelson Pass to "reconcile his age"? I know at least two audiophiles who are deaf in one ear so they do not hear soundstaging cues, one I've known personally for over three decades. Both have made some of the most astute and sensitive assessments of how a playback system sounds that were dead-on to my own feelings about the same (obviously soundstaging was not included). I met a guy at a headphone meet recently who was mostly deaf and listened to headphones at 100++ db levels in order to enjoy the music he loved. Though the differences he heard were not as pertinent to me with my average hearing, who am I to question his profound enjoyment and enthusiasm for the hobby. Who am I to question someone elses enjoyment of music, or what sounds best to them? Sure, discussions can be interesting and may make one reflect differently on what they are hearing, or try something new out and compare. I've quoted a post before that rings true to me, and I'll paraphrase here - ultimately the recreation of a musical event is an illusion that takes place in ones brain via the stimulus provided to the various sensory systems involved and filtered through experience so individual as to never find a match in the entire population of this planet. Who are we to question someone else's experience of that illusion? It's their illusion, going on in their brain...not in ours. How is one illusion better than another and how would you ever possibly know that, to compare the two illusions...and why does it even matter? The enjoyment of music and of the reproduction thereof is entirely subjective. We are not machines spewing out graphs on paper. There are other very good points above, and there are resources online and at your local audiologist if you really want to test your hearing. Last time I checked last year I could not hear past 16khz at age 50. What does that matter really? I have not a clue. How did Beethoven reconcile composing his last symphony when he couldn't even hear the music except in his own mind? Not really the same question, but perhaps illustrates my question to you - what's the point?
could some one define audiophile ?

does it mean equipment obsession, sound quality obsession, or a love of music ?

if any of the above connotes being an audiophile, such a state is independent of age.

it's all a matter of interests.

being old does not mean abandoning hobbies.

in fact i think more audiophiles are over 40 than under 40.

and i bet more audiophiles are over 60 than under 30.

i think being an audiophile is more likely an older person's pursuit than a younger person's interest.
could some one define audiophile ?

I'll give it a go from my own perspective. Someone who is interested in enhancing their enjoyment of reproduced music by optimizing the chain of devices and related variables that have an effect on how that music occurs to them.
Hope not. I'll keep trying to be one at 56.
an older audiophile's high freq hearing loss is compenstated for by their higher hifi IQ.
Audiophile and the quality of LISTENING does not depend entirely on the flat frequency response from 20hz to 20khz.
Plenty of Golden ears have damaged hearing, and can still hear better than most folks with perfect hearing.
Being an Audiophile does not mean HEARING, it means LISTENING.

Excellent statements. Couldn't agree more.

Perhaps we loose something in regards to volume but not in definition, tonal accuracy .


The "nuances of high end gear" do not exist exclusively in frequencies above 14K. Dynamic contrasts exist at all freqs.

Thank you.

Dopogue, Mofimadness well said too!

I wanted to post last (Saturday) night but all I had was my iPod and for whatever reason it wouldn't let me. So I am glad to see some of the opinions posted.

I have always wondered why people always pointed to the higher frequencies where these "nuances" seem to exclusively exist.

How about soundstage height, width, depth? Or bass extension, or subtleties at lower volumes blah, blah, blah?

You get my point.

Humor, correct?:)


I will get back to you after I nap.
Thank you Bryon and Elizabeth for excellent posts. I am constantly amazed at how many audiophiles will yabber on about the quality of this or that tube, or the difference between this tweeter and that one, but then cannot tell the difference between a violin and a viola, or a trombone and a french horn. One of my all-time favorite stories, though, is about an "audiophile" I encountered in a high-end audio boutique who was ranting and raving to the sales guy (a friend who I knew had a very good ear) about the speed accuracy being "way off" on a certain turntable my friend was demonstrating for him. While I do not have true perfect pitch, it is close enough, and I came to my sales friend's defense, insisting that the table was at the correct speed. After my friend proved to him I was correct by actually measuring it, I then had him put on a different recording of the same piece that had been playing (Bach, but I forget now which piece exactly) with an early music group playing at Baroque pitch. Sure enough, the guy didn't even notice the pitch difference, which was of course considerable, as the pitch used on the recording I picked out is A415, which is fairly standard for Baroque pitch, and is at least 25 Hz below the modern pitch (I say at least because modern pitch has now crept up to A442 in most places here in the US). That dude has never been back to that store ever since. Good times...
I am finding the dicussion here well reasoned and seasoned with experience. However, I will politely disagree with the majority here. I do not feel that hearing loss is negligible in the establishment of systems. Any compromise is a strike against setting up the best rig.

One does not begin a search for the best by downplaying potentially critical factors which may inhibit success. I have built enough rigs to know that its not just the big changes but the minor differences which may spell the difference between a glorious sounding rig and a merely acceptable sounding one.

I also have seen enough to know that there is widespread hearing difficulty in the audiophile community. This is inherent to the age of those engaging in the hobby, as well as a recognized phenomenon as a result of lifestyle choices - loud concerts, loud motorcycles, loud work environments, etc.

The consequences of such hearing loss can be seen in such things as persons adamantly claiming cables make no difference. When I see someone who has tried different cables and still insists they make no difference, I automatically conclude that they have hearing loss. Even worse, when an audiophile states that different amps make no difference; serious hearing deficiency.

I mean no offence to anyone here, and I can certainly appreciate the beneficial influence of experience in pursuit of one's best sound. However, a compromise is a compromise, which ever way you state it. Compromises have adverse effects on the outcome, be it budgetarily, WAF influence or diminished hearing.

Farjamed, I'm with you on this particular thought. There is a real/distinct difference between musical experience and hearing acuity. I shook my head in agreement when you mentioned the CRT. I have one sconce in my listening room which buzzes with an insect-like high pitched sound which is so subtle but drives me nuts! It is the filament of the incandescent bulb at a certain level on my lighting system. I can hear it from about 14 feet away and often I turn the sconces off and use only the can lighting because it bothers me.

I have had wonderful audiophiles in my room who have very strong opinions of what sounds best, but they have had hearing loss due to being in live bands, working in loud factories, etc. They simply can't hear things the same way someone without impairment can. Any way you cut it, their ears are not as capable in establishing rigs. They may work hard to make up for it, but it's a factor.

I have learned to weigh the advice of people in regard to establishing systems based on the evidence that they may have hearing loss. I do not discount their advice, but I do factor in what I know about their hearing, which can help to discern why they make their selections of gear.

It is entirely possible I will have a different opinion when I am in my 70's. You know how it is; if we didn't have driver's license tests everyone's sight would miraculously be perfect enabling them to drive their car. in the same way it seems incredible that everyone's hearing seems to be so good that they can build the best systems. ;)

Sorry, but that begs credibility. I do believe there are concrete steps which can be taken to achieve what I consider to be the essentials of an outstanding system. Hearing loss is a tremendous impediment to success. This assumes there are better and worse sounding systems in an absolute sense. Obviously many will disagree with that premise. I proceed, however, from that premise and seek to build in clearly defined improvements to systems, having experienced that to my ears music is far more enjoyable as a relaxing pasttime when the system is taken to a much higher level of performance.

I realize that my perspective is likely not popular, and it may incur some intense disapproval. Nevertheless, I believe it is correct.

For those with hearing challenges this all might be a moot point; after all, if you can't hear it, so be it. You enjoy what you can hear, and "it's about the music," etc. Perhaps this paritally explains why that phrase appears so often in threads. If there's a lot of hobbyists who have hearing difficulties then it would make sense that they conclude the search for the ultimate rig is a futile effort with compromised hearing.

However, for someone who's trying to gain advice from others, it can be a significant concern.
if there are better systems in an absolute sense, there exists a best system. if there exists a best system , it must satisfy certain criteria.

the criteria established are arbitrary , because they cannot be proven true or false.

rather , by definition they are opinions.

the only thing that is absolute is that which can be mathematically proven.

so doug, your logic is invalid. remember, music is an aesthetic medium, not mathematics or boolean logic. aesthetics are based upon taste.

is there a best painting, or best book or best movie ? i think not, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and quality of sound is purely dependent upon the listener. you cannot argue otherwise such that your arguments represent knowledge and hence certainty.

there is no certainty associated with the statements you have made, only probability.
Doug, when you mature, you'll know better.
WOW! SO many responses. And seemingly no hostility either. Thanks!

I totally agree that it's all about the enjoyment of the music and how you perceive it, and that most of the music lies in the midrange and not in the extreme upper frequencies. I also agree that its about LISTENING and not just HEARING, but obviously compromised hearing must degrade the ability to accurately judge a system from a neutral perspective. For example, if you can't hear about 14khz then adjusting an EQ all the way up or down above tat point makes no difference to you, but may be driving others crazy!
but obviously compromised hearing must degrade the ability to accurately judge a system from a neutral perspective.

I'm not sure I get this. What's the point. Who needs to judge a system from a neutral perspective? Do any of us listen from a neutral perspective? What would a neutral perspective be judging a system based upon and how does that bear any relation to how any one of us may actually enjoy (or not) that system? That's like suggesting some culinary dish be judged from a "neutral" perspective...really, how do you do that and what is the point?

I often get the feeling from this sort of slant on the hobby, that it's some kind of contest and there will be prizes awarded at some point. Who's gonna' win the shiny new George Foreman Grill this year?! I can't wait to find out.
@Jax2 The point is that people read reviews of equipment, they come on to Audiogon and ask people's opinions of gear.. People/Reviewers respond in such detail about how certain speakers, amps, preamps, cables, etc sound to them. How accurate or useful can this information be if their hearing is compromised.

Audiophiles want to talk about how they can hear the difference in a cable. How much positioning, room treatments, stands, etc, etc, etc, can make a difference in sound, yet most here seem to be arguing that their ability to HEAR doesn't matter. IRONIC?
Dopogue, I was thinking the same. Doug, how old are you? If we were to take your stance one step farther we should all give up in our early twenties 'cuz we all know it is nothing but downhill from there. ;-)
Dopogue, Dan_ed, I appreciate your input.

I am 48, have been building two channel audio systems since my early 20's, so for about 25 plus years. I have built dozens upon dozens of HiFi systems in that time. Would my argument carry more weight if I was 63, or perhaps 71? To some, perhaps, but not in principle.

My argument is not one based on age and experience but physical ability. I'll point out again that my agenda in taking this position is not to attack individuals who are older and have hearing loss. If a person were hearing compromised in their teens would we suggest that this would be an advantage in setting up a system? Of course not. But somehow, because we want to protect the more aged (those with the big bucks in this hobby) we pretend that hearing compromises are a non-issue. Since when does experience in listening to music translate into making hearing difficulties magically disappear or over time be of no hindrnace to achieving a better result.

If anyone wants to follow Mrt into his quagmire of audio relativism go right ahead. Distinguishing better and best systems is an easy thing to do; in fact we do this naturally as we hear them. At shows we nearly automatically categorize and rate different rigs, ending up with our personal list of favorite/best systems.
Of course this is not in an absolute sense, but it is our ranking, and that's what counts when we lay down our money. But it's funny how many people end up agreeing on what constitutes the best sound. To suggest that because there is no "perfect" system somewhere hearing loss is a non-issue is a non-sequitur. This is why I have said more than once that Mrt obufscates matters rather than contributing practical help. He loves to sit and philosophize; well, that doesn't get one a better rig! I DO firmly believe that achieving a better result with a system enhances one's enjoyment of the music and love for it. So, I'm automatically going to be on guard for anything which inhibits that goal.

I thought of another age related example - arthritis. I have been a jogger for about that same amount of time, about 25 years. Over the past three or four years there are more pronounced aches in my body related to exercise. Is this the beginning of arthritis? I do not know. Whether arthritis or not are these aches an advantage to my running? Certainly not. Do they magically disappear? No. Do they hinder me from running as fast as I used to? When I time myself the answer is yes.

The effect has been incremental; I've added about 30 seconds of time to each mile. When I'm jogging it seems like virtually no difference, but in absolute terms the performance has suffered. If I were a young guy like Farjamed would I want to learn pacing from a guy with arthritis (a natural progression; who's blaming anyone for arthritis or hearing loss?), who can't run at the same pace as they used to? Or would he prefer a man who is arthritis-free and can run faster? (Again, an imperfect analogy, but it does illustrate the potential deleterious impact of a physical limitation). Perhaps an older man without arthritis in good condition would make for a wonderful running partner; someone with experience and no physical impediment.

It's not logical to suggest the young runner will get the same results no matter which running partner he chooses. Perhaps an older more experienced runner has incredible passion and his arthritic condition should be ignored. That is the argument of those debating me. Runners know there's a million ways to run, and that there's no "perfect" running, but there IS poor running/training and better running. People shooting for being the best in running do not take a laissez-faire attitude about the mechanics and training involved in running.

I do not take a laissez-faire attutude about building audio systems. There are things which enhance and things which inhibit making the best rigs, and no amount of wishful thinking changes it. I do not spend a lot of time worrying over such things, but when the topic is brought up it needs to be accepted for what it is, a problem to be overcome. I do wear earplugs when playing raquetball, and both foam earplugs and a set of head muffs when running the lawn tractor. I do not want to invite hearing damage, and I strongly suggest to Farjamed and other younger audiophiles that they actively protect their hearing if they want to ward off environmentally induced hearing loss.

In a similar fashion to the example of arthritis negatively impacting the running, hearing loss has a real world consequences. Am I saying that it makes establishing rigs with better sound more difficult? Yes. (Again, if you want to flounder in a sea of uncertainty with questions such as, 'What's better sound?' feel free). Go to a show and you'll know what better sound is in one day or one weekend.

Part of the problem inherent in this discussion is the ignorance of most audiophiles that they think there is far less room to advance the rig than there really is. On the spectrum of systems far too many sit around the medium quality mark and are fooled into thinking they have true top end sound. My point is important simply on the premise that if someone can't hear well they might not be motivated to move into the category of top end sound. That may not be too much of an issue for them, but it IS an issue if they are presuming to be teaching others what great sound is like!

I could have made my illustration of running with arthritis even stronger with an exaple of a young person with juvenile arthritis; similar condition independent of age. I think of one young woman who battled it from nearly the cradle, who progressed from wheelchair to crutches to free walking - after several surgeries. Outstanding lady; tremendous example of determination and choosing to take a positive attitude in the face of physical challenges. She is now a marvelous school teacher! :)
You miss one very important fact, Doug. You don't have any experience with anything at any age over 48. Get there and then come back and tell us how things are. ;-)
@Jax2 The point is that people read reviews of equipment, they come on to Audiogon and ask people's opinions of gear.. People/Reviewers respond in such detail about how certain speakers, amps, preamps, cables, etc sound to them. How accurate or useful can this information be if their hearing is compromised.

Audiophiles want to talk about how they can hear the difference in a cable. How much positioning, room treatments, stands, etc, etc, etc, can make a difference in sound, yet most here seem to be arguing that their ability to HEAR doesn't matter. IRONIC?

Whether reviews come from someone here, a reviewer, or a reliable friend who you have a track history with, any and all of that should be a point of departure to varying degrees and ultimately you should make your own choices and base those choices on your own direct experience and not someone else's. At least for me, it is far more rewarding in that way. I don't come here to take convert peoples opinions to a shopping list. I do enjoy the discussion though, and especially enjoy talking about music and getting recommendations there.

Aside from that, you did not really answer my question to you: What's the point of a "neutral perspective" since not any one of us listens from one? You might interpret something as sounding "warm" while someone else may say its "cool and analytical" to them, regardless of whether that component falls into some arbitrary idea of what is "neutral". You could establish "neutral" by measuring response with machines but none of us actually are machines and machines do not have emotions and experience and all the infinite complexities and imperfections that make us human. So I ask you; what's the point, even in the context of a discussion about how human beings experience this stuff? It goes to the argument of some "Absolute" or universal goal that all audiophiles should be striving for. Pardon me, but I believe that's total cow pie talk. If it were so the options would have narrowed down long ago and there would be a far sharper focus on the same kind of sound and design goals. This is far from the truth. Many different people = all kinds of tastes = all kinds of options = all kinds of ways of expressing and interpreting zeros and ones or the movement of a stylus on vinyl. Bring your music to one of the shows and take it from room to room and tell me what "neutral" is. My bet is if you do that and ten others do it you'll all come back with varying opinions. And that's all any of these discussions are about; opinions. Sad as it may be, there will be no George Foreman Grill prize awarded for the person who is the most rightest, bestest audiophile here. I hope no one was holding their breath on that one.
Listening to Television is not the same as listening to music. I suspect that even when there is some hearing loss, people are still able to feel the emotional impact of the music they are lsitening to. It is about the music, isn't it?
That's right. It's all pointless. There is no use in worrying about life, you won't survive it anyway.
Yes! I should be 25 instead of 55!
I got back into audio about three years ago. I'm 67 years young and wear hearing aids. I'm amazed and happy that I can hear more than I thought I could. Last year I had my audiologist program one of three channels without noise filtering or compression. He couldn't understand why I wanted to do this. So I used the analogy of the MP3 music file. He still didn't get it. Any way he reluctantly made the adjustment. Because of that adjustment I'm able to hear more music. Every audiologist I've encountered don't know a dam thing about adjusting hearing aids for listing to music. They always assume I'll being listening at to high a SPL.

Despite wearing aids I'm able to discern changes in my system when I apply a tweak, change cables, crystals etc. The main reason I'm able to discern these changes is as Elizabeth said I "listen". Unfortunately many people assume because I wear aids I don't hear well enough to really appreciate music. And when I tell them I'm a audiophile the response is, "a what". When I attempt to explain the joy I experience from this great hobby they look back and forth from my face to my hearing aids with a disbelieving look. So I no longer bother, I don't have time to waste; I have too much music to LISTEN to.
@Douglas you seem to be the only person here who sees the point I am trying to make. Totally agree with your analysis just don't have to patience to express it as eloquently as you have. As I said originally I am not trying to offend anyone or say my hearing is perfect or better or any of that. Was just curious if people realized the truth about aging and how they viewed that in regards to being an audiophile.

@jax There is no point. It was a disucssion for the sake of discussion. I don't see what part of "if you can't hear above 14hz then adjusting an eq all the way up or down above this makes no difference to you but droves others crazy" you don't understand. If you don't see any point in it then don't participate in this discussion. Simple as that. Your hearing is flawed, or not, and doesn't matter either way.
most music is in the mid range region. a loss of acuity above 14k, doesn't affect your ability to hear differences between 1k and 3k.

its the harmonics that occur above 14k , not the fundamental.
@jax There is no point. It was a disucssion for the sake of discussion. I don't see what part of "if you can't hear above 14hz then adjusting an eq all the way up or down above this makes no difference to you but droves others crazy" you don't understand. If you don't see any point in it then don't participate in this discussion. Simple as that. Your hearing is flawed, or not, and doesn't matter either way.

Ummm, sorry, but you lost me there. I don't use an equalizer at all. I was not referring to that part of your statement, which seemed to be only an example you were setting forth. I said that I see no point in having a neutral standard for the reasons I've already stated, it is not that I don't see a point in participating in this discussion (or else I would not be). I questioned why you find such a concept advantageous (beyond your illustration of using and equalizer, which I'd guess that most folks in these forums do not). It's like trying to establish a neutral standard for criticizing movies or food or's entirely subjective and you're better off learning something about the tastes of the individuals making the criticism, how they might relate to your own, and then, even still, use it as a point of departure...a guide perhaps. If reproduction of the music in the upper frequencies is very important to you, then it might be worthwhile to find others who share that priority to seek out their opinions (which I would still use only as a suggestion to investigate on your own). I noticed in another forum I participate in that a good many of the members of the forum have very different tastes in music than I do. I have, more often than not, found also that their priorities in what components make that music they love really work for them is not necessarily the best solution for the music I prefer to listen to, but there are a few in that forum who do share similar musical tastes and I have found their preferences are actually closer to my own in the gear that works for them. That's the closest I've been able to come to some sort of more 'reliable' kind of approach to filtering out various criticism. There are so many infinitely complex things about how each of us respond to music, and to virtually everything else in life, that to try to classify it, graph it, stuff it neatly into little cubicles and quantify it, seems a bit silly to me.
Farjamed, I don't doubt that you don't mean to offend anyone. However, just re-read your question and ask yourself if it could have been phrased in a better way.

Are you too old
Are you too deaf
Are you too stupid
Are you too poor

See what I mean? I'm not offended, but I do think this is a topic that is hard to take seriously. It sounds more like some of you guys who are just starting to realize that you are getting older are starting to worry. Most people are much more interested in what their health will be, or what sex will be like. ;-)

There are other reasons why one would set up a system differently as they get older. Like using the knowledge about what they prefer that has been acquired by the years of experience listening to hi-end equipment. It could be that their tastes have changed and so voice things a little differently.

I'm also left with the question what do to blame when you hear some twenty-something's system that is utter crap?
If there is an absolute definition of audio perfection, I suppose the answer in my case is yes. However, equipment performance measurements are usually dismissed in these forums as being unable to really describe how equipment sounds or which piece is better.

I have often seen the pursuit of audio equipment perfection framed in the concept of "sounds like live music." This is a relative standard, and even if what live music sounds like to my ears changes over time, I can apply the same frame of reference to my system as my ears age. So, my system still approaches the sound of live music TO ME, regardless of my hearing frequency loss.

I know I have high frequency hearing loss, so I do not attempt to tell other people what equipment sounds like. I do wonder if my system sounds terrible to others, but don't care too much since it sounds good to me and does not annoy my wife.
The live music standard is like any other, entirely relative as you've said. What live music sounds like to you may not be what it sounds like to me. It's like the difference of what a given wine might taste like to you and how it might taste to someone else. I have a very limited tolerance for the mediocrity of some of the live music presentations I've attended - either the venue itself, or more likely the mixing/amplification. This tolerance seems to be getting less and less as I get older and as my system has improved. In fact I find listening to my system more engaging than many live presentations of the same music...certainly more intimate. Certainly there are many exceptions too.
04-12-11: Douglas_schroeder
In a similar fashion to the example of arthritis negatively impacting the running, hearing loss has a real world consequences.

You make some good observations, Douglas, but I'm not sure I reach the same conclusions you do. Maybe I'm unclear about your view on what is, IMO, the critical question of this thread...

For audiophiles, what is the average peak age of technical listening?

By "technical listening," I mean something like: the ability to discriminate differences in resolution, frequency response, transient response, harmonic accuracy, dynamic range, imaging, soundstaging, PRaT, coherence, and so on. The contrast to *technical* listening is *aesthetic* listening, which is something like: the ability to discriminate differences in interpretation, emotion, authenticity, imagery, beauty, and so on.

I say "average peak age" because some audiophiles probably peak later than others, just like marathoners. But still it may be possible to generalize about an age range of peak performance for audiophiles, just as we can generalize about the age range of peak performance for marathoners.

With that in mind, I suspect that, for audiophiles, the average peak age of technical listening lies somewhere in the broad range between 35 and 60. Some reasons I suspect that...

1. While fluid intelligence starts to decrease at around the age of 25, crystallized intelligence increases up until the mid to late 60's. I believe that technical listening is mostly *acquired* knowledge and expertise, and hence a form of crystallized intelligence, which increases with age. When fluid and crystallized intelligence are averaged together, the average peak age is somewhere between 35 and 60, which is the range I have speculated for the average peak performance of technical listening. Admittedly, this is a guess.

2. While age correlates with intellectual and artistic *productivity*, it does NOT correlate with intellectual or artistic *quality*, as judged by the ages at which intellectual and artistic masterworks are produced. In other words, as people age, they do less, but they don't do it less well. The studies that demonstrate this include the works of classical composers, FWIW.

3. As everyone knows, age related hearing loss is principally a consequence of damage to the hairs/cells of the ear, typically resulting in diminished high frequency perception. But the perception of an audio system's frequency response is only one element of technical listening. Technical listening is also a matter of the perception of an audio system's transient response, resolution, harmonic accuracy, dynamic range, imaging, soundstaging, PRaT, coherence, and so on. There is little reason to believe that age-related hearing loss results in a significant diminishment of the ability to discriminate those characteristics. Hence I believe that the bulk of technical listening remains largely unaffected by age-related hearing loss. The reason, I suspect, is that technical listening isn't principally something that happens "in the ears." It's principally something that happens in the brain.

For these reasons, and others I haven't mentioned, I believe that, for audiophiles, the average peak age of technical listening is older than some posters on this thread seem to suggest.


P.S. FWIW, I am younger than 40.

Re live music, I believe the Absolute Sound about 30 years ago used to frame the reference as live, unamplified music.

Certainly some live music sounds terrible.

However, even terrible live music usually has an immediacy and impact which is lacking in many audio systems.