The Definition of An Audiophile

My definition of an Audiophile is a person who seeks the recreation/reproduction of music in their home based on a live event.

The purpose of this thread is to gain an understanding of why the majority of people on this forum only compare components to each other. I don’t understand the terms of one amplifier sounding more musical than another. How about the “cold and sterile” attribute often attributed to Halcro amplifiers. The description “tube sounding” description sometimes applied to a solid-state amp is another example.

Whatever happened to a comparison of an actual live event? I consider myself an Audiophile; as well as, I presume, everybody else who frequents this website. How many of you so called Audiophiles have ever been to a decent live event. I’m not talking about your local Civic Center jam packed with 30,000 screaming punks smoking pot, no offense; I used to be one some time ago. How about a concert in a acoustically correct hall with minimal amplification?

The ultimate goal is unadulterated recorded music from the artist to your ears in the privacy of your home. As we all know every electronic component from the front-end source to the speaker adds some form of signature to the recording. The phrase “the best amplifier is the one that adds the least amount of unwanted distortion or noise to a signal” is a very good description. So when I read a thread on a comparison of a particular amplifier that sounds tube like or more musical then another this only mean one thing; the amplifiers are adding unwanted noise!!

Comparisons of “cold and sterile” are based on someone’s reference, most likely, to a tube amplifier or one that sounds tube like with it’s rounded off music transients to avoid the presumed solid state harshness. Have any of you Audiophiles ever thought that the “cold and sterile” attribute just might be the amplifier with the least amount of added distortion or noise to the original source?

How about the next time someone thinks about asking for advice on the qualities of a particular brand compared to another go to a live event before asking the question. That also goes for all you experts, with all the experience of multiple brand ownership and auditioning ready to give the advice. When you’re at this live event ask yourself this question; does the music sound tube like, cold and sterile, or does it sound like the real thing?
Audiophile=More cents than sense.
First of all, you CAN NOT recreate concert hall or any live event and the whole experience between 4 walls.......close to it??? maybe.
It is just impossible. We get it. But I don't see anything wrong in trying to get the ilusion of similar experience.

In my book, "Audiophile" is like a man with hart thorn apart between his true love(music) and his lover( gear).
So, it is like they say.........complicated. :(€<
I regularily attend live unamplified concerts, both large and small scale. I'm constantly reminded that the home audio system can never be anything more of less than a pale replica of the live event. Why waste time and money on a goal of achieving what is unobtainable. Settling for a sound that you like, a sound that reminds you most of what you would like to hear live, is enuf, IMHO. I've long since concluded that most folk who use the 'live music' as a goal don't get out much. :-)
My reference has been live music(acoustic and amplified)as a sound tech for the past 30+ years. Rest assured: You have opened a can of worms with this thread. Live music is absolutely not "cold and sterile" unless terribly mal-adjusted by the sound tech, or performed in a very poor acoustic(YES- I've witnessed both). Everyone's goal is not the same as yours or mine though, and their references, preferences and opinions will be as varied as their tastes. Whatever I think of their idea of music reproduction: What makes them happy in their listening rooms is strictly their own business. Further it remains their right to consider themselves an "audiophile", regardless of how ludicrous you or I feel the application may be in their case. That's just a matter of semantics.
This question or more properly negative diatribe has been written so many times I am surprised that the moderaters didn't immediately spit it back at you .
As for your problem about people making a hobby of listening to their music for their own enjoyment, in their homes anytime they wish versus going to a live concert is idiotic. Why are you so angered that we like to discuss the equipment we use, it is what many of us like to discuss. I am sure you can find some other sites which are concerned about and discuss, live events only. Go there and enjoy it.
The listeners whatever you want to call them are hoping to find the music reproduction equipment which they are endlessly trying to make better, ivesting time energy reading about is what this site is about. BTW it sound really good has always meant as much like live music as possible is a given . Incredible as it may well be, I guess you are too dim witted to know that.
The term Audiophile means music lover.
Most of this site is about that the fact that the term is applied to you by fairly disinterested "outsiders" if listen a lot and of course if the equioment sounds good is just a fact. I know that I never call myself that.I don't care at all if people call me this or that so if it bothers you don't use the term.
It's a just a bit difficult getting into fabulous acoustic event everyday. Do you think we should abandon our interest in the gear people try so hard to put together into system and discuss it makes us happy or at least entertaing is simple for you to fix, stop troubling yourself. Just stop reading thia and get yourself to live event instead.
We like our audio gear, most find it fascinating. If you don't who gives a shit.
An audiophile is someone who assembles a stereo system with care and then attempts to better it as a hobby.
Robr45 - your succinct definition is as clear and sensible as any I've ever heard. That's pretty much the heart of the matter.
Audio-phile: comes from latin AUDIRE which means hear and the greek PHILOS which means friend.

1. Someone with a passion for sound reproduction who presents an obsessive-compulsive behavior generally leading to a loss of contact with spouse amd family.

2. An individual who passes an incredible time to tweek his audio components with a mix of technology, incantations and sometimes voodoo rituals. (see above for the consequences).
Goldorak- She left and never really said why(at least that could hear). Thank you so much for the closure!
I never said it was possible to re-create perfect live music in someone's home or that it was a goal of mine to do just that. I also did not say that live acoustic music was "cold and sterile".

I did say I don't understand the terms more musical and cold and sterile when comparing amps to each other. Music is music as it is produced by the artist. If an amp sounds more musical than another I can only conclude that this particular amp is adding something to the original signal above and beyond the original recording.

Audiophiles are always portrayed and stereotyped as being more into their gear than the music. That's simply not the case on my behalf and I would venture to say most of the people who frequent this forum. The dictionary definition is very close to mine; I actually referenced it before I started the original post.

I know what live acoustic unamplified music is like. It bothers me that the human race will never even get close to reproducing it in a recorded format. We could easily get a little closer if the music wasn't compressed as much when initially recorded.
An audiophile is someone who will sit and listen to an album or two for just the music. It's a simple definition, covers my interest in music from my first humble rig as a kid to my kilobucks system now, and really. How many people do this? Very few. Most just listen to music in the background...
I know what live acoustic unamplified music is like. It bothers me that the human race will never even get close to reproducing it in a recorded format.


Patience grasshopper, patience. We (the human race) are MUCH better at reproducing live acoustic unamplified music then we were 100 years ago. I believe that 100 years from now we will make MUCH more progress. Sure, you and I may not be around to hear it, we are simply passing through time in an age of instant gratification, but when you step back and look at the larger picture, we are getting closer in leaps and bounds.

Audiophile = Obsessive Compulsive personality + interest in stereo equipment + interest in recorded music.

In that order.

hi audia:

newbee is a wise person. further, all components are colored. it may take some time to discover the character of a component, but none are perfect. since components are not perfect, stereo systems are not perfect.

relax and stop worrying about what an audiophile is, try to assemble some components and enjoy the music.

i suppose an acceptable connotation of audiophile is the appreciation of music and enjoyment of the reproduction of the sound of instruments.

someone who enjoys music but has no concern about sound would not be an audiophile. someone who is not concerned about music but only cares about sound would not be an audiophile acccording to the above concept.
An audiophile is someone who assembles a stereo system with care and then attempts to better it as a hobby.

Robr45 - That's pretty much it. Nothing more need be said. Relative to some of the conversation here I would add that the actual "improvements" are entirely relative to the individual. Absolutes are a carrot on the end of a stick.

Regarding comparisons to live music (which I also enjoy on a regular basis) - I cannot think of a single recording I have that I actually heard performed live in the venue in which it was recorded so I'm not sure how I'd compare it to the live version. Also, I understand that "aural memory" in human beings is not very good at all (I seem to recall reading that on more than one occasion). As far as what a system does to recreate the music, how it sounds or how it distorts the music; ultimately if I like the way it sounds in my room I don't give a tinker's cuss how close it comes to someone else's version of what it ought to sound like, or what distortions are at play. If I enjoy it and it engages me on an ongoing basis, well, that's what matters to me. What matters to someone else may be entirely different (which is why I don't believe in absolutes).

I think folks in these forums compare components to other components because that's what is available to us to bring the music into our homes. I don't know many folks who could afford to bring in live musicians to play at their whim whenever they feel in the mood. So weighing a Pass Labs against paying Lucinda Williams to come into your living room and perform seems pretty pointless. There's a guy who lives across the lake from me in Redmond, WA who probably could afford it, but I think he arguably puts his money to better uses. I'm told he has quite an array of entertainment systems though.

Well, even though "nothing more need be said," I've gone and said something more anyway.
If an amp sounds more musical than another I can only conclude that this particular amp is adding something to the original signal above and beyond the original recording.

You are missing the point of the term "musical". It refers exactly to the opposite of what you think it does. Live unamplified music is the ideal form that we try to mimic with our stereo systems. Calling a system "more musical" often means that it more closely approximates the natural sound heard live. Calling a system "cold and sterile" means that it does not sound natural like live- usually because it strips away the natural harmonic information that should be present and/or adds electronic artifacts to the sound.

Good live unamplified sound is effortlessly dynamic, open, harmonically rich, and free of artifice. Stereo systems tend to restrict dynamics, reduce resolution, and add all kinds of electronic artifacts that get woven into the music and make it hard, sharp, thin, bright, etc... Human hearing is very sensitive to all of these omissions and commissions. Calling something musical usually implies omitting less of what should be there and avoiding more of what shouldn't
Audiophile - one who collects & covets audio media & gear
thank you for being a true linguist I love that stuff really.
I do have to add another component to part one of your defintion. It should IMHO include using much of their income disposable or indisposable on part 2 of your definition.
Audia- I have calmed down but it took me 5 years to finally put together a system which I love everytime I use it. It was a compulsive task all because I knew how far off the mark it was from the real thing. I would add though and echo the belief that no music reproduction set up ever sounds like live music. My wife and I buy season tickets the Philadelphia Philharmonic she played violin as a semi pro and was a child prodigy. She couldn't care what it is played on. The pieces are so ingrained in her "aural" whatever that it sounds to her like the concerts she played in a practised mind numbing times.
As for the descriptions . There is no technical guide book it really requires listening with an audiogroup as I do, comparing what one person means by musical compared with others and then my own experience. BTW I find that term used too often to represent sound that isn't harsh, unfortunately if it is used without reference to high defition space etc. leaves you with dull almost low quality sound . If want to stir the pot. BBut warm is easy to recognize cold should not represent a challenge airy etc.
I taught wine tasting if you think this jargon is silly listen to what wine reviewers use. Just keep slogging away through the murk.
Finally you are right an absolute outrage is occuring with regard to how people listen to music. They are turning away from playing out loud. I don't believe you can even start to really enjoy all of what reproduced music can do without playing it outside of your body. That is the way it was made in the first place.
i prefer to be a who recognizes that the distribution and redistribution of stereo stuff is just that..nothing more. it can be fun, and it can be frustrating. i'm also a music collector, which has no connection to being a stereo-type or an audiophile.
Audia, I haven't read all of the above, however your original post speaks truly to my heart. I also believe that the true audiophile should compare the sound of his system to the real thing as he perceives it and that he should try to emulate it in the best way his ears, his better half and his pocketbook allow. I also realize, that this is a quest, which will necessarily fall short, but that does not really matter, because you can enjoy as well as learn tremendously along the way. Not only the sound at home is an elusive thing, but also the sound in concert halls is of high variance, depending on the hall and where your seat is. But that does not really matter, because the "gestalt" of live music, if heard in many different locations will imprint itself in your brain and will be easily available if you try to compare it to music systems at home. What bliss if it sometimes comes close.
I am an old man now, but I have pursued this hobby for all of my adult life and the best part of it has been the efforts, often only by small steps and not expensive at all to bring it closer to what I percieved to be the real thing. I have thus learned, that by experimenting, I could get musical information hidden in the software, which I never thought possible to retrieve and this in systems which I really did like. So I never stopped to be curious, although I've always enjoyed what I had, however without batting an eyelid left behind me, whenever I found something better. Hence I am a bit suspicious of those opinions, which tell us to be content with what we like. What cloakes itself with wisdom and contentedness may well be also looked at as complacency, mediocrity and unwillingness to learn and go further. I suppose those, who feel audiophilia is a passion in the pursuit of the holy grail, will look at it this way and the general dealership will most probably support this view. This can certainly be folly and destructive, because the danger of addiction with all its pitfalls may very well be close at hand. So finally, I would say wisdom and contentment with what you have should have its proper place after all. But at the same time, I feel we should be curious and open for improvement and be ready to learn. As with all things in life, finding the right balance between conflicting opposites is the important thing as well as having a goal greater than ourself ( in our case our perception of live music ) to keep ourself and our hobby alive with all the wonderful exitement a new discovery may bring. What it all boils down to basically to my mind is to deeply enjoy what you have but at the same time be open for improvement. For this you need a higher goal and to my definition of an audiophile this is his perception of live music.
I don't understand the use of live events as the benchmark for the perfect system as what is being played through the system is most likely not a live event. Very few of the recordings in my collection are live recordings. They are studio productions with various amounts of processing. I don't expect to ever hear the "live" event through my system no matter how good it is.
One implication I get from your description is that one must listen primarily to classical music to be an audiophile. Is this correct? A quick look at my system will confirm that I am no audiophile and if a deep appreciation of classical music is required for admittance to the audiophile club then I probably won't get in.
it is fulfillment from the knowledge and understanding of music and its reproduction. It can be a very personal experience, and a very special club where only the listener need be present to enjoy its membership.
Thanks for all of your responses, be it critical or not.

I understand some people don't have the opportunity to view a live performance on a regular basis; that's fine. But when you view an outstanding concert it makes me sad that no matter how good a system you could ever build it will never compare.

The main thing I miss is the dynamic spectacular percussion presented in a live event. Part of the reason of that loss of reality, I believe, is due to the recording compression. I'm not a recording engineer, but I don't understand why a live recording has to be compressed so much. Is there someone out there that can tell me why recordings are compressed? I have never heard any recorded music that didn't have any compression. I don't listen to much classical; I only have one classical recording. Are there some classical recordings that are more true to the actual event? Does it come down to a limit in recording technology, or is it something else?
Audia- Here's a decent little treatise that mirrors my opinion on the subject of compression, and will save me a lot of typing: (

deeply enjoy what you have but at the same time be open for improvement

I found the description of your life long quest to be very well composed, passionate, and much like my own. Thanks for putting it into words for all of us.
Thanks for your kind words!

You make a good point, but perhaps there is a misunderstanding here, as well as a lack of a proper definition of what I, as well as many others of the audiophile brood, understand as "live music". This certainly need not be classical, I just took this as an example. It could be any kind of live music, though I personally find, that if you want to emulate the sound of live unplugged guitars, a live event very heavily amplified by all sorts of electronics on stage as well as being fed through several speakers, though it can sound great if on disk at home, would not be a good example. What I would see as a benchmark by which all systems should be measured is the sound of live instruments or voices. This can be any kind of instrument, any kind of music from classical to pop, world music, whatever kind. What matters, if you wish to use the sound of real instruments in a real space, no matter if in a concert or a studio, say an unplugged guitar or the sound of a kick drum as a benchmark for the performance of a similar instrument played by your system, is that you have a distinct memory of the live event(s) for your critical evaluation.
To me, an audiophile is a person who loves live music and tries to emulate and enjoy his love of music in his own home to the best of his possibilities. Whatt kind of music he prefers does not matter.
You are quite right on the other hand in pointing out to us, that most of our software is not from a live event and is highly processed in most cases. Sometimes, though not in all cases, processing in the studio can help, that the facsimile of the real thing comes closer to sound "real", sound more "live"than it would have without being processed. Hence it is quite clear that a record which an audiophile happily might describe as coming close to sounding like "real live music", will certainly not only be thanks to his set up, but also thanks to the long process of recording the event in the studio, processing it and finally, say in the case of vinyl, pressing the record. As we all know, we need next to a decent rig good software, when we want to show off with our system and I believe that we need an absolute, if we want to compare the sound of one rig with the sound of another. The absolute, though necessarily still not at all free of subjectivism would be the "gestalt" of live music, as we know and have experienced it.
Audia(et al)- Here's something you may find useful in your search for good (Minimally compressed)digital software: ( Peruse the rest of the pages for some valuable industry insights.
Please forgive me for I am fairly new to this hobby and probably don't get it !
But I have never tried ,or even considered , to produce the live event in my home . It just has never crossed my mind !
I do however try to produce a pleasing rendition of the tunes that I enjoy . I do not try to achieve what is quite
unachievable . I do not have any interest in tweaking or just plain fiddling with something that isn't broken . I am a firm believer in the old addage 'if it ain't broke , don't fix it' !

For me , the hobby is music enjoyment not equipment enjoyment . I equate this to my earlier auto hobby . There were those that were always tuning , fixing and just plain fiddling with their cars . And then there were those of use that were out driving our cars !

I do not subscribe to your defintion of an 'audiophile' and I would bet that you don't subscribe to mine !
I seek equipment that makes the music more satisfying to me .
I am 'moved' by music . I find that I do enjoy some coloration . I like warmth , I like PRaT , I like detail and most of all I like my music to have body or life . This is what determines my equipment choices .

Sometimes I close my eyes , relax and yes even fall asleep ! And sometimes I am bobbing my head , tapping my feet , playing air guitar or just dancing !
Music does things 'for' me and 'to' me . 'It' is the reason !

Different strokes for different folks !
Sometimes I close my eyes , relax and yes even fall asleep ! And sometimes I am bobbing my head , tapping my feet , playing air guitar or just dancing !
Music does things 'for' me and 'to' me . 'It' is the reason !

Saki70 (Threads | Answers)

Amen, brother. Me, too.

In fact, if I'm able to nod off after twenty minutes or so, I know my system is performing at a very high level, which is allowing my mind to relax.
Saki, we're much closer than you think. I also seek equipment that makes the music satisfying for me and I would just as happily repeat Tvad's quote of your beautiful words, because I do very much the same. For me it is about music, not equipment. Equipment is nothing but a means to an end. The idea that I would continually fiddle with my rig would be an absolute nightmare to me. That is not what my definition of audiophila is about. It's about music and the love for it. Live music is a benchmark nothing else. I try to come as close as I can within my possibilities, but I don't obsess about it. That would be nuts, because, as you rightly say, it is not possible anyway. I do however need some sort of approximation to an absolute to compare and evaluate equipment or rigs to and that happens to be what I call the gestalt of live music as I remember it and am accustomed to. Since I'm curious I do compare sometimes, but 99% of my time devoted to this hobby is just plain listening and generally happy enjoyment just as you've put it so well. I love music, not machines, but since I love music and would have it the way I like it best, I will sometimes twiddle with machines, compare machines, discard and save for machines, but only as a means, not as an end. Hope I'm clear now.
Cheers and happy untwiddly listening,
I heard/saw Cassandra Wilson in concert at Boston's Symphony Hall a few years ago. The sound was quite sublime. I have seen well over 100 concerts (all genres) in many different places - this one sounded the best. Interestingly enough, it was not as loud as most shows I have been to. But the clarity and depth was astounding. I am sure that the Hall, known for its world class acoustics, was the reason for this. Of course the musicians were also world class but it was the Hall that made the difference. It would not be possible to duplicate this in a home. However, I have also had several listening experiences in my home that have left me just as satisfied as that concert did. It certainly should not make anyone "sad" because a live music experience is "better" than a home experience. Just enjoy them all and hope that more come your way.
Thanks for the excellent links
Audia- My pleasure. Enjoy your music!
If I want live music I can have my family perform, record play this back through speakers you will see how even the best systems fall flat when trying to recreat the dynamic range and impact of real unamplified music in a real space. The only systems that are even close to reproducing this dynamic range so it sounds real are giant horn systems. All conventional loudspeakers I have design or tested so, compress the dynamics. To me dynamic range frequincy responce and ease at hi-spl are all needed if one realy wants to try to reproduce a bit of live sound out of a audiosystem. If not your pissin in the wind so to speak...
You know guys, what you get with a nice sounding piece of audio gear is to help to translate or transmit an emotion. What the artist or the producer wanted to transmit.

If not, somebody has to explain to me why a few teardrops always run down my face while I listen Bettye Lavette singing "Talking old soldiers" from the CD "The scene of the crime"

There are no misteries, only emotions.
You are so right, Jesusa0, but it is still a mystery that music can do that to you, to me, to all of us who love music!

JohnK, Yea, most of the time you'll get your pants wet in the stiff breeze, but sometimes you don't, you come a bit closer, maybe just by shifting an interconnect. Such moments are satisfying, believe me.... (:
this one is easy.

get rid of the audio part and focus on "ophile"
webster says: -ophile occurs in words which refer to someone who has a very strong liking for people or things of a particular kind.

in our world its music. and that is broad.
you could be a huge fan of all sorts of music...and listen to dreadful mp3's on your iPod ...and be an audiophile due to the priority you put on that activity.

Me, I love it all. playing it, hearing it, seeing it, the hardware...., everything.
that makes me an audiophile.
its not about how much of a financial investment one has.

does the ipoder w/his 128kbps MP3s enjoy their music any more/less than someone w/a $30k turntable ?
Its true, there are many people here with carts worth more than many modest stereo systems. but that doestn' make them an audiophile.
but it does make me jealous.

as for reproducing live music. it can certainly be done. I record lots of bands. two track ambient from the audience with high-end gear. Soundfield stereo mics, schoeps..etc. you name it...iv'e used it.
I try to re-create it in my house. And after witnessing the real event and then listening to the capture I made...sometimes *but certainly not every time*, it gets nailed and the entire 3-dimensional experience is faithfully recreated in my living room.

your ears may vary. But until you actually go out and hear/see it...record it yourself ...and build a system that you consider "reference" having the ability to spit back exactly what you feed it in terms of presentation (soundstage) and impact...., you are just speculating.

I do it weekly. therefore I feel like I know what I am talking about in regards to my own efforts. I would not presume to say the same thing about anyone else.
It is extremely personal and subjective.
Nickspicks- KUDOS: A man after my own heart. I couldn't have stated it any better(though I've tried)!
As long as there have been humans, there has been music. This says to me that music is not entertainment (although it certainly is entertaining): it is essential.

Some of my earliest memories are that of sitting in front of an ancient 78 player, playing a stack of 78s. I was probably 3 at the time. My home was always filled with music as I was growing up, fed by a tiny 3-tube stereo combo, with which I was fascinated.

Other audiophiles and I do compare notes on equipment- there is a desire to get as close to the music as possible. I have used live performance as a measure- since all performance spaces and recordings are different, I had musicians play live in my house so that I could use direct mic feeds as part of the reference process.

Not finding what I wanted in the state of the art at the time, I started building my own circuits, which I have been doing ever since.

Its funny, I play bass, keyboards ( also and flute; in orchestras, jazz, blues and rock bands, yet still the desire to surround myself with music persists. I enjoy all aspects of the art of playback, the quality of the packaging, the placement of music in the space of the recording, the strengths of the musicians and the weaknesses too.

Equipment comparisons wind up being common, but like a car, motorbike or camera, much depends on where you go/what you do with it, and it always better when the equipment isn't hindering the experience.
"always better when the equipment isn't hindering the experience."

This sets the right accent, I feel. Thanks Ralph!