Other than music, why are you an audiophile?


I would hope that the first reason why anyone is an audiophile is that they love music. I’m going to assume we all have that in common. So the question is: Other than music, why are you an audiophile?

I’ve had an interest in audio and hifi for twenty years, but it took me a long time, and a fair amount of introspection, to come up with a good answer. My answer is personal. It may not be true of anyone else. Here it is:

Other than music, I’m interested in audio because I’m fascinated by EMERGENCE. The concept of ‘emergence’ has been around for at least a century. It has been used by philosophers and scientists to mean a whole that is “greater than the sum of its parts.” More technically, emergence is a relation between system-level characteristics and component-level characteristics. A system’s characteristics EMERGE from the characteristics of its components when…

(1) The system’s characteristics are DIFFERENT IN KIND from the characteristics of its components.

(2) The system’s characteristics are CAUSED BY the characteristics of its components.

(3) The system’s characteristics are DIFFICULT TO PREDICT from the characteristics of its components.

What does this have to do with audio? Everything. In an audio system…

(1a) The musical characteristics of an audio system are DIFFERENT IN KIND from the electrical/mechanical/acoustical characteristics of its components.

(2a) The musical characteristics of an audio system are CAUSED BY the electrical/mechanical/acoustical characteristics of its components.

(3a) The musical characteristics of an audio system are DIFFICULT TO PREDICT from the electrical/mechanical/acoustical characteristics of its components.

Hence, the musical characteristics of an audio system EMERGE from the electrical/mechanical/acoustical characteristics of its components. In other words, an audio system, taken as a whole, seems “greater than the sum of its parts.”

To me, the phenomenon of emergence differentiates audio, as a hobby, from many (but not all) other hobbies, where emergence does not happen. To me, the phenomenon of emergence is what makes hifi seem like magic, in that something beautiful and emotional emerges out of something mechanical and electrical. And that is why, other than a love a music, I am an audiophile.

Anyone else?
bryoncunningham
Because the music sounds better.
Buying vinyl.
I like to second guess myself. In other words, I am always saying what is the next step to make this better? Finally, I have perfectionist tendencies which is absolutely a losing proposition in the real world. However, when the stars align and your system creates the magic it seems worthwhile.
I've always enjoyed Experimentation...... but audio Experimentation doesn't destroy brain cells or risk exposure to communicable disease... ;-)
Hi Bryon,

As I might expect, coming from you, that's an interesting and creative philosophical perspective.

In my own case, I'd simply say that being an audiophile is a natural and logical fit, given that I am both an appreciator of classical music (and, to a lesser extent, other forms of music as well), and someone who has been fascinated by electronics since childhood (and is an electrical engineer by academic training and by profession).

The field of audio is an uncommon fusion of art (in the broadest sense) and science, both of which I happen to be an enthusiast about.

Best regards,
-- Al
You omitted that they can be considerably less than the sum of their parts if you aren't careful. I have been assembling audio systems and selling them since graduate school, first unofficially and then as a factory dealer. I do it because it is a challenge and an art. I have two friends who have components I sold them over 30 years ago, they are still happy with them. The challenge is to find out what kind of a sound someone wants, the art is to find a way to get as much of it as possible in a system within their budget. Forget about making money, flipping burgers is probably a better bet. The reward is in setting up a system that someone really enjoys.
Because I'm gay and attracted to old, bald guys.
I am an audiophile cuz it's cool. I have a lot of freinds who are like, "wow, your an audiophile, that's so cool man. You must be real cool". and chicks, chicks dig it when I talk tubes and power cords. Their like, "wow, tubes and power cables".

But the main reason is the music, getting in that smokey jazz club, sitting back and chillin out. Bliss.
I'm an audiophile for the sex...there I admit it. My system is a straight up aphrodisiac....women see it and their clothes just fall off....it's magic. Yeah baby!
When everything clicks, its the closest thing to time travel.
BTW… is being bald a prerequisite? If so I’ll turn in my card.

Otherwise…

No wife.

No dog.

No boat.

No neighbors.

Don't drive. So I Can't race anymore.

Can't fly.

Don’t drink.

Don’t gamble.

Gave up on sex.

Cheifly because I've got nothing to do and all day to do it.

So I immerse and emerge. Otherwise I'd drown.
Thanks for the idea of emergence. That is very appropriate. For me it is for the music and the challange of assembling a system paying attention to the law of diminishing returns. I have also always liked the glow and the smell of electronics. Also I have heard harsh shrill bright bad sound and good sound sounds better.
In the olden days to hear music one had to attend a musical event. Now we can simply insert a CD or play a record. I would agree that it, when done right, is the closest thing to time travel.
Thanks for the philosophy.
John
Drives my wife crazy.
because music has to sound!
Besides providing a good listening experience, there is much to know and learn, especially if you re-enter the vinyl world after a long absence, and didn't know much when you left it. If you've gotten used to a quality listening experience with digital, jumping back into vinyl is a shock, as it doesn't come by just plugging stuff in and turning it on. It's taken me years to get analog to sound like I thought it should, but I love it now.

The variety of paths one can take in audio is nearly unlimited, and results can be surprisingly good whether you spend mega-bucks, or go with what your budget can alliow. Then there is the DIY aspect, one I'm particularly enjoying now, so it's just a great hobby, but you meet the main goal of getting to listen to well-reproduced music at the same time. What could be better?

Sorry to interrupt the jocular mood in this thread, but 'ya gotta do what 'ya gotta do.

Regards,
Dan
Some people like to fondle knobs! 8^)
Because if you're not independently wealthy, almost everything in life is a compromise.
Audio is your chance to audition, ask for advice from like minded individuals, and find that system that just clicks for you in all aspects of the music.
You get to create an environment in your listening room that makes you happy.
Non-Believers don't understand this, that's OK.
couldn't cut it in mixed martial arts

also once as a kid, i accidentally shocked myself while playing around with a phonograph and,well, it kind of just happened, really!
I have three reasons:
1) I like to tinker with stuff. When I was a kid it was bikes and toys and broken vacuum cleaners. Then it was cars. Then computers and software. Now it's audio gear. There is something satisfying about piecing together a working system, and tweaking it to make it better.

2) Every time I upgrade my system, it gives me a reason to go back through my entire music collection. Hearing something new in music I've loved for years is like discovering it all over again.

3) I like to buy stuff. Being basically a big kid, it's fun to get cool new gizmos delivered to my front door.
I hate having money lying around.
Not for the women. It is interesting to spend Sat afternoons at audio stores with guys who used to be in the Audio Video squad in high school.
And I'd just end buying a second Porsche but for this hobby.
Sound obviously. That's the ultimate goal. Price per pound, you get a lot more with a lot less. I could care less about technological advances in audio. I don't think that audio sounds much better than it did 30 years ago. I think that people get too carried away with tweaks and upgrades. Granted you have to do them, but for cryin' out loud, where's the end of the road? It is nice however to reap the rewards of used gear. I read on the forum the other day a question someone posted, wondering why people switched from a certain $68k speaker to a certain $107k pair of speakers. I think once you've reached that point with audio and you can still point out imperfections in sound, you've gotten nowhere. That's just my personal opinion and it could change if I hit the Mega Millions tonight. If I do, I'm going to reply to that guys post.
I have been fascinated with this hobby since I played around with my Uncle's Pioneer Quadraphonic receiver in the early 70's. Music is my thing because I played instruments growing up. I am also an engineer and so I like the technical side of it and the satisfaction of successfully improving the sound.

I'm not totally buying into this emergence concept. I work with and design systems. So I will say this: Components working together make up a system, but the system characteristics can be described mathematically and predicted beforehand based on the behavior of the components and how they interact. When the results do not match prediction, then some complexity or variable has been overlooked, that's all. We can experiment with parts and guess at the empirical results and suggest some incalculable response has been achieved, but that is like assuming that someone who solves a Rubicks Cube has just performed some type of magic.
I'm not totally buying into this emergence concept. I work with and design systems. So I will say this: Components working together make up a system, but the system characteristics can be described mathematically and predicted beforehand based on the behavior of the components and how they interact. When the results do not match prediction, then some complexity or variable has been overlooked, that's all.

You are quite right that, for MANY types of systems, system characteristics can be reliably predicted from component characteristics. These types of systems tend to be either aggregative or mechanistic. A representative example would be a mechanical system like an car engine.

But for SOME types of systems, system characteristics cannot be reliably predicted from component characteristics, at least with the current state of science. These systems tend to be either highly holistic or highly complex. A representative example would be a biological system like an ecosystem.

In other words, some systems are more likely to support emergent characteristics than others. For ones that do, like ecosystems or economic systems, it is notoriously difficult to predict system characteristics from component characteristics. In theory, it is possible to predict the system characteristics of even highly holistic and highly complex systems. In fact, some progress has been made in the last two decades with the mathematical modeling of these types of systems. But we are still a long, long way from being able to reliably predict the behavior of highly holistic/complex systems by studying the characteristics of their components.

What follows from this is that emergence, as a phenomenon, is largely in the eye of the beholder. That is to say, it is largely a consequence of the cognitive and perceptual limitations of persons. If we had the mind of God, nothing would appear emergent. But since we don't, some system characteristics APPEAR emergent that are altogether within the scope of physical laws. This is why, in the OP, I used phrases like "an audio system, taken as a whole, SEEMS greater than the sum of its parts" and "the phenomenon of emergence is what makes hifi SEEM like magic."

Of course, I wasn't suggesting that hifi is magic. I was suggesting that sometimes hifi SEEMS like magic, because the musical characteristics of an audio system are the result of the holistic/complex interaction of the electrical/mechanical/acoustical characteristics of the system's components. As such, they can be difficult to predict. Certainly for the average audiophile, they are often difficult to predict. But even for the designer of audio components, I would imagine that they are often difficult to predict. Otherwise, designers would not need to rely as heavily as they do on listening tests. In any case, the difficulty predicting the musical characteristics of an audio system from the characteristics of its components is what makes hifi sometimes SEEM like magic. And to me, that is part of what makes hifi special.
Hi Bryon - for me, it is all about the music. The technology can be interesting in and of itself, I suppose, but I am really only interested in understanding enough about that in order to help determine why I like the sound of one type of component over another, or one brand over another, for example. Like a few others who have already responded, I also believe that the newer technologies in audio have not necessarily been improvements.

As a professional orchestral musician, I very rarely have the opportunity to play what I choose to - I must perform what is put in front of me the vast majority of the time. So this hobby helps to keep me sane - I can come home and listen to whatever I want to. Another advantage of having a high quality system for me is that when I listen to things for study purposes, I can hear whatever I am listening for better than I could before.

Another thing that really fascinates my about this hobby is whenever I have the opportunity to listen to the same recordings on different systems, and hearing the sometimes large differences created by doing so. The variety that can be had in this way is always entertaining. Or listening to two different masterings of the same recording over the same system.

Record collecting is a big reason a couple of musician friends of mine got into the hobby, and that is fun too, though I am not so much of a hard core collector as they are. For me it is more about the fun of listening to different interpretations of a work rather than trying to find every single recording of it available.
There is no other reason but the music.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke
it's about the quest to achieve accuracy of timbre. the quest is more important than the conquest. we humans have a need to achieve something. thus, configuring components so as to realize minimal deviations from timbral accuracy is what motivates me. it is not about the music aat all. i can listen to a radio for the music its about the beauty of the sound of an instrument. the music is irrelevant.
I was borne in it. My father had a recording studio and made and played and sang making his own music. One hit he recorded was Summer in the city by the lovin spoonfull. He was not part of the group just the studio services. I scarfed a Dynaco ST-70, bought two Electrovoice 15 inch Wolverines ($35 each) with 16 ohm taps , built base reflex enclosures with plywood and styrofoam ( no other drivers ) and played Deep purple and the like at the age of 16.I had a stack of Albums about 18 inches which is a lot at 16. Every nickle of yard cutting went into music. Life was good. He had a two track studio with an Ampex 352, etc bought in Nashville TN where he worked in a Studio when he was ten.
i have a sick obsession with brushed aluminum metal boxes with knobs, switches, light up meters, and protruding rack handles, and lots of expensive wires going out the back. I love spending stupid money on this stuff ! lol
Mmmmmmmmm, brushed aluminum...

and pretty lights, too, preferably light blue!
Other than being able to optimally enjoy music, which is number one reason, I am sensitive to and therefore agitated by unnatural sounding music - too heavy bass, sloppy or fuzzy bass, muffled mids, zingy or tizzy highs, cymbals that don't sound like brass, ringing piano, etc. When I hear music, even if it is faint, my brain will focus on it and I cannot ignore it. There is no such thing as background music for me - its all foreground, regardless of content or volume. Therefore, when I wish to listen to music I want it to be as real and natural as possible. Needs high(er) end gear to accomplish this.
Because there's no going back? I have been building up my system over the last year and it has really sensitized me to audio performance differences. I just spent a week at my mother-in-law and was gritting my teeth at the harsh consumer grade digital sound that I was hearing. The moment when I was able to listen to my main rig after the return home was precious - the sound caressed my ears.

Life often involves compromises and backwards steps but there's no reason for that bitter lesson to extend to sound reproduction.
It's a lot like sex...once you try it, there's never enough, and you're constantly looking for something better. Until you meet your soulmate.
Interesting post. By your definition I am definitely no audiophile. I am only interested in reproducing music to the highest practical standard. I have no desire to create anything other than what is on the track. Anything that "emerges" and which should not be there is not something to be treasured - it is distortion and should be eliminated, if possible. My respect goes to the music and the recording, in that order.

To use an analogy, the stereo and room acoustic treatments while painstaking are simply like the hospital equipment in a delivery ward - they are there to look after Mum and to make the best possible delivery of the Baby.

Music is the baby!

The gear simply takes care of the delivery...
I love music, of course, but I'm an audiophile because I also love the equipment responsible for the reproduction of music.

Generally speaking though, I like all high end or luxury products. Fine mechanical watches, high quality cameras and lenses, art, furniture, ect. I like the craftsmenship, I like the tech, I like supporting the small companies that are run by people passionate about their industry (I don't care if it's DA converters or a painters brush). I like the feel of luxury materials instead of mass market plastics. Not that I can afford to populate my life with top of the line products, but audio equipment I do feel is a worthwhile investment.

The frugal side of me is totally willing to buy something that cost more initially but doesn't need to be replaced 5 times over the course of it's life. When I was younger, the thought of spending $600 on a tripod was ridiculous, but when the first $40 unit broke, and was replaced with a $100 one that lasted a little longer, then a $150 one which wasn't quite right either, and so on up to the $600 one By then I'd spent $1000 on tripod(s) chasing the one I should have got in the first place. It's just cheaper and more enjoyable to have the best from the start.
Hi Shadorne - Thanks for your contribution. A few brief words of clarification: I wasn't trying to define what it is to be an audiophile, which is why I mentioned in the OP that "My answer is personal. It may not be true of anyone else."

Also, I wasn't trying to suggest that the emergent musical characteristics of an audio system are alterations to "what is on the track," at least not in the sense in which I believe you intended it. In my view, emergent musical characteristics are not the same thing as distortions, colorations, or inaccuracies. To be sure, emergent musical characteristics are DIFFERENT IN KIND from the mechanical/electrical/acoustical characteristics from which they emerge, but that does not in itself make them inaccuracies, provided that the INFORMATION about the music that the emergent characteristics contain is preserved throughout the process of transduction.
Byron,

Sorry but everything that ain't on the recording is inaccurate. Anything extra that emerges may sound as sweet as heaven but I am not interested in this kind of sugar-coating. I am not that audiophile type I guess but I can certainly understand and respect/appreciate what you are trying to achieve. There many audiophiles that love the Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions but it leaves me cold, unfortunately for me I guess.
Anything extra that emerges may sound as sweet as heaven but I am not interested in this kind of sugar-coating.

I too am not very interested in "sugar coating." You may recall my recent thread, "How do you judge your system's neutrality?" in which I was an outspoken advocate of the value of neutrality, where neutrality was understood as the absence of colorations, and colorations were understood as audible inaccuracies. So, in other words, I am not an advocate of inaccuracies, even when they are euphonic inaccuracies, or "sugar coating." We are in agreement about that.

With that in mind, the emergent musical characteristics I was referring to in the OP are not "anything extra" in any sense that impugns the accuracy of an audio system. They are emergent, simply because they are (1) different in kind from the components' characteristics; (2) caused by the components' characteristics; and (3) difficult to predict from the components' characteristics.

Perhaps it appears that I am suggesting that emergent musical characteristics are "something extra" because I pointed out that they are DIFFERENT IN KIND from the component characteristics from which they emerge. But that is not because "something extra" has been added to the musical information. It is simply because they are the product of TRANSDUCTION, the conversion of one type of energy to another. That is quite an uncontroversial thing to say, and something of which I am sure you are aware. So I suspect we are in agreement here as well.
Abucktwoeighty:

Does that make those on the upgrade merry-go-round promiscuous, or just "Studs"? ;-)
they are emergent, simply because they are (1) different in kind from the components' characteristics; (2) caused by the components' characteristics; and (3) difficult to predict from the components' characteristics.

And this would be because the equipment or equipment matching or the room setup is inadequate.

If everything worked perfectly then it would all sound the same. The problem is that most equipment is not designed to reproduce accurately what is on the recording. It is a dogs breakfast out there. You say you don't like "sugar-coating" but that is what you get from 99% of gear. The sweetness sells. The truth does not.
Well, it is the music first for me, but since you asked...

Without such a hobby (an obsession?), the era we live in at the beginning of the rise of the machines would never happen. And I want to participate.

;-)
they are emergent, simply because they are (1) different in kind from the components' characteristics; (2) caused by the components' characteristics; and (3) difficult to predict from the components' characteristics.

And this would be because the equipment or equipment matching or the room setup is inadequate.

No. The issue of whether or not a system characteristic is emergent is altogether INDEPENDENT of whether or not a system is accurate.

Perhaps I have not been clear enough about what I mean by 'emergence.' I don't want to derail the focus of this thread, so I will simply suggest that, if you have any interest in the topic, you google search 'emergence.' You will find an array of articles and books about emergence written by philosophers and scientists, including an article I wrote in the journal Philosophy of Science entitled "The Reemergence of Emergence."
Aggielaw, I think it could be either, depending on who's point of view. I had a good friend who was very promiscuous, and many women said he was a slut, not a stud. So would such an audiophile be an audiostud, or an audioslut?
Philosophy of Science entitled "The Reemergence of Emergence."

Ah a fellow Physicist - me too. I enjoy that theoretical stuff - pure physics. I am a little rusty but I still try to keep my oar in - string theory etc.
Ponderous, abucktwoeighty, ponderous... ;)