The term "High End" needs to die. Long live Hi-Fidelity!

I think if we are going to keep this hobby accessible, and meaning anything we need to get rid of the expression "high end." In particular, lets get rid of the idea that money equals performance.

Lets get rid of the idea that there's an entry point to loving good sound.
Amen, brother! Harry Pearson introduced the term into hi-fi criticism, and it just reeks of elitism and snobbishness. If there were a dictionary of hi-fi terms, there would be a picture of Jonathan Scull next to the term. ;-)
Robert Harley in his book The Complete Guide to High-End Audio devoted the whole of Chapter One to "What is High-End Audio?" in which he makes it clear its about a passion for music and that it refers to performance not price.

Its not a new book. The copyright on the one I'm holding is 1994. Harley didn't invent the term, either.  It was around long before he came along. It had nothing to do with money then. It has nothing to do with money now. 

If you think it does, sorry to say, but you have been misled.

Don't compound the error by misleading others. 
Sorry millercarbon, I agree with erik and bdp24. I know that high end has been around for a long time, but high fidelity is a more accurate description of the hobby, and high end can easily be construed as snobbish, but even if it isn't, it is much less descriptive than high fidelity. And by the way, the term high fidelity came first anyway.
J. Gordon Holt himself found the term objectionable, preferring to use High Performance. What I did not yet know when I saw the term in the early issues of The Absolute Sound, was that the term was already in use in other types of consumer goods---furniture, clothing, kitchen appliances, etc. It's use implied high prices, that's literally what the term meant. 

It's use implied high prices, that's literally what the term meant.



Agreed. So it is by no means exclusive to the audio hobby.
Agreed Erik High Fidelity!
I kind of agree especially with the snob aspect, but...the trouble with "hi-fidelity" is there is no comparison implied. Literally anything can be called hi-fidelity, and has been over the years. Hi-fidelity compared to...a piece of chewing gum? On the other hand "high end" implies a favourable comparison to other lesser grade audio gear. You can’t really call something high end if it's in the lower half of all quality levels. I do like hi-fidelity though. It’s nice.

@whostolethebatmobile, yes some form of distinction of accuracy needs to be found but ‘High End’ is obviously flawed (despite what Robert Harley may have written) as it usually suggests that high price equates to high performance.

That is just not true.

Perhaps it’s time to return to meaningful and relevant data and measurements, such as the ones that the designers and engineers themselves use.

Sure it risks us being manipulated or being ‘blinded by science’ but what other sure way of moving forwards is there?
Why let a word knock one around when one can grow up instead?

Why push one's solitary and personal opinion upon others.. as if they have to eat it- and then they reflect it back -- in order to validate the self?

20 years of isolation of persons in social media has brought us to this point...

You'll be waiting a long time, as the isolation of self and individual applied and integrated social media has killed the act and motion of humanity's social fabric.

functional social fabric requires being in the same space and breathing the same air, smelling it, the works. rubbing elbows, seeing the motions, hearing the voice, all if it. Nothing less will do. Millions of years of evolution brought you to that point.

You can't change that in the comparatively microseconds that the internet has been around.

Forums, and the definition... are a communication almost fully without meaning or context.

So we yell louder and get angrier, our sonar pinging harder and harder, but nothing comes back.

In the case of Facebook and google, they get be to the the inter-layer handler, the coloring of the moment and the message.  Danger Will Robinson, danger. See it for what it is.

So we keep having these threads that mean jack and go nowhere.

Each new one more virulent than the last.

Go outside, meet music and audio fans in person. Otherwise you are arguing with the mirror and nothing else.

Human beings require social fabric in order to function correctly.

And this ain't social fabric.  Information? sure. Data? Sure. Social fabric? Not a chance.

Says Ken, who has been aware of the coming mess we are living in now....since the late 80's and early 90's when I moved onto the beginnings of the internet and watched it form - helped it form.
So, Eric (and all)....

you’ll probably get one guy who seems to type some words that are with you. Since we can only get about 10% of the necessary social fabric coming through via the typed word, and we fill in the rest, as it comes from’ll never really know.

There’s a very high chance you’ll both be wrong about the other’s actual meaning in the given proffered text. Just on the one single set of words alone. Never mind the next set of words. Error after cascading error.

The other 99% will attempt to promulgate and push forward their own interpretation -- and zero will be achieved. Isolated boxes individually screaming.

Just like the hundred or thousand other threads that came before it.

Trying again won’t fix that.

Shifting one’s understanding of what exactly is going on, might alleviate it. A little bit. One person at a time. Maybe.

Importantly, since you yourself and anyone reading this is also in an isolated box, it is very likely a case of much ado about nothing.

Same for all the other threads that exist as an argument. Every last one of them. The crying child in the crib is abandoned as the internet cannot provide.

The lesson, the cascade of logic..where it takes you to.. is: leave the escalation and the emotions at home. NEVER bring them to the web. Otherwise you’ve lost before you begin.

Controversial threads are by definition, a meat grinder. A endless kaleidoscope of never ending impossible to stop meat grinding.

Never start them. Never contribute. As... if you do, all you do is toss yourself (and others) into a meat grinder. For nothing.
Hi Fi, Mid Fi, Lo Fi, what’s the diff? 😳
People in general need (instinct?) to categorize everything into neat little boxes. In our culture high end equates to expensive. The same occurs with "high-fidelity" .. hi-fi, mid-fi, low-fi. It's what we do.
@geoffkait  .. I must have been writing when you posted. Yeah, no difference.
Coinkydink!! You owe me a coke!
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I totally agree Eric. I too have always thought of the term "hi end" to be pretentious and elitist much like the guy that coined the term.  
 Isolated boxes individually screaming. 
So it's Hollywood Squares, and Max Headroom, mixed in with the Brady Bunch opener, and that shampoo commercial where someone tells someone, who tells someone, and so on, all done through the mind of Stephen King on a bad day.

I like it.

All the best,

Another term JGH used (as did I believe Dick Olsher, his protégé) was Perfectionist Audio. That term suggests the goal (the perfect reproduction of musical recordings, unachievable of course), regardless of the price it takes to get there.

HP and his TAS staff focused on and mostly reviewed only components that were considered to be advancing the State-Of-The-Art. ARC were actually not THAT expensive in the early and mid-70’s; it was Mark Levinson who, it seems to me, instigated the upward spiral in pricing, and the image of Audiophiles as the kind of people who want to own only the best of anything, including, of course, hi-fi gear.

I was at Sound Systems in Palo Alto in 1971, there to hear the entry-level speakers by the new speaker company Infinity, the Model 1001. I at one point in the time I was there that day heard another customer ask the owner of SS what car he owned. The owner’s chest puffed up, and he loudly proclaimed a Mercedes Benz 280 something (I think it was). He looked around the room, to make sure everyone was duly impressed. Sickening.

When hi-fi shops started calling themselves Audio Salons, I had had enough.

Hi @teo_audio :

You bring up a number of general issues related to rhetoric and persuasion. Let me reply obliquely.

Yes, I'm a bit of a troll, but often I do so with purpose, and I think it's valuable. My purpose is, often, to make our choices explicit. To help us break free of the constraints of language and culture and make each direction a personal one done with open eyes.

I really can't convince anyone to use "high end" or "high fidelity." But I can expose all of us to the idea that these are different, and to be free of the peer pressure involved in our buying and listening habits.  Being your own iconoclast can be liberating as well as save you a lot of money in the pursuit of musical enjoyment.



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     Good post with some good points!

     The internet and forums has changed the way we interact with one another. Humans are by instinct social animals and we've been striving to interact and communicate with one another since Felix grunted at Oscar concerning the tidiness of the cave.
     It's now evolved to Erik asking other members of a niche internet virtual tribe based on common interest whether the use of the common grunt of "high end" is restricting the future size of our virtual tribe.  Relatively meaningless in the scope of human concerns?  Absolutely.  Will result in numerous responding posts advocating variants of agreement and disagreement within a limited range?  Typically, yes.  Much ado about nothing?  You bet. 
    While I do consider your "isolated boxes screaming" as an apt  description of some of this new human interaction on the internet, I  consider those interactions entertaining but more a waste of time than anything harmful.  However, I do have concern for some other niche internet virtual tribe internet sites based on politics that are accurately described  as 'echo chambers', with homogeneous viewpoints reinforced by repetition, a lack of opposing viewpoints and devoid of any constraints such as facts, reason and truthfulness.  I consider these human interactions also a waste of time but with the distinguishing characteristic of having more harmful consequences.
     I actually consider the terms 'audiophile' and 'high-end' as exclusionary, elitist and a bit snobby.  I prefer calling myself an audio/video enthusiast but admit I'm guilty of being a bit persnickety and using the terms high-end, hi-end, high quality and high performance while knowing that high fidelity is a perfectly good substitute, high faithfulness describes our shared goal fairly well. I agree that being less exclusionary, elitist, snobby, snooty and persnickety  is a good way to roll and encourage more meaningful human interaction.

Anybody remember the Canadian magazine Ultra High Fidelity? I used to buy it regularly at Tower. Alas, now both gone! And I left behind my collection of back issues when I moved down south.
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  While I do consider your "isolated boxes screaming" as an apt description of some of this new human interaction on the internet, I consider those interactions entertaining but more a waste of time than anything harmful. However, I do have concern for some other niche internet virtual tribe internet sites based on politics that are accurately described as 'echo chambers', with homogeneous viewpoints reinforced by repetition, a lack of opposing viewpoints and devoid of any constraints such as facts, reason and truthfulness. I consider these human interactions also a waste of time but with the distinguishing characteristic of having more harmful consequences.
Very well stated. Saying that, it's very easy to see the trend spread to other areas of life, like say, audio forums. Some no longer want to interact with others so much as dominate others. And they use the same means at their disposal as when they frequent those other sites.

Being here, awhile, it was very easy to note the gradual progression over time.

All the best,

It is completely meaningless what you decide to call this hobby. Calling it something else will make no difference and shouldnt. Totally subjective.
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I always figured "high end" meant or implied equipment that you couldn't afford. I finally have equipment I clearly can't afford, so this is no time to get rid of the term, while I'm enjoying having "high end" stuff at long last. Let a guy have a little fun first.

AAH...the poets are busy tonight. High Fidelity, High End, Audiophile, and all others are just adjectives to describe what each person wants to identify the subject of sound reproduction. Each of those terms have a different meaning to a lot of people....
If I had almost unlimited funds to spend on a system I would probably do it. If I could buy a new Lamborghini I would do it even the speed limit is only 55mph.
Everybody has their own objective for buying audio equipment. Hopefully, for seeking the setup that sounds best to our ears. But, trying to define terms that describe what audio is, for the most part, is useless.
There can never be any end to this discussion. SUBJECTIVE!

Hi End Enthusiast: Someone who buys faithfully created music to brag about their audio ststem.

Hi Fidelity Enthusiast: Someone who assembles a system to faithfully reproduce the music they love.
Alright, here's my "get off my lawn" gripe today.  Day after day, post after post, I see rampant misuse of "its" and "it's."

Not only here, but in e-mails, on the web, in the newspaper.

It's really easy.  "it's" = "it is."  "its" is the possessive form.

That dog is licking its wounds.

I'm going to wait until it's cooler outside.

Let's get more literate - please.

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The comments: “I think its capitalism at its finest. Not only that but the market is shrinking and manufactures need to increase their prices to make a living getting by. That, and greed.” Are totally off base and just foolish.
Technology keeps improving things and usually the price increases as well. Have you heard of the trickle down effect? A lot of the Uber expensive components/technologies are often found in the companies lower cost components over time. 
We need people to think outside the box to try new ideas that take advantage of current technologies so we can improve over what is out today. 
Mad for greed, the more expensive the component, the less you are going to sell so when you have to recover costs on a new product that is going to be outside the reach of the majority, it will cost more.
You will never see a Bugatti go for the same price as a Toyota, this isn’t greed, it’s reality

The heart of the original proposition, I think, was to consider that money does not always equal best quality.  Since I'm getting close to meeting my maker, I had the opportunity in the 50's and 60's to build amps out of various magazines--and found that a very good quality could be had for very cheap if you were a bit of an engineer. I went on to become a physicist, but never lost my love for designing and building my own amps.  For a while in the 90's I tried to share DIY kits and ideas via forums, but found that the heyday of home engineers had passed.  I had enough money back then to spend on the "high-end" stuff, nevertheless found it fairly easy to build something for a 1/10 or 1/100 of the price that was the equal or better in sound quality.  Naturally, because of the ease in building them I gravitated toward tube designs.  

It would be nice to see a real resurgence of DIY movement--it could certainly give the super expensive stuff a second option.  Consider for a minute a "Macintosh" type power mono-block, built in China for less than $200-$300 and sold in America for $3000-$5000, or $15,000-$30,000 with the right marketing and name recognition.  It may have some bells and whistles that are hard to add as a DIY, but then most of them are not needed if you are the user and can control your environment.  

Well, I'm pretty much out of date with everything today, but it is fun to ramble.  Thanks for listening.

In the thread entitled (I believe it was) "Audiophile Or Music Lover?" a while back, I noticed a fair number of posters identified as music lovers first, their audiophile leanings being as in service to the music. Sure, hi-fi can be thrilling, but a system’s primary responsibility is to better reproduce the quality of the music itself, not merely it’s sound. That was and is Linn’s entire sales pitch.

It’s a funny dichotomy: music is sound, but sound isn’t necessarily music (no offense, lovers of Serial and other modern Classical "music" ;-) . I call the room I have my system in the music room, not the audio room.

I just love music and to enjoy it well in my home I have to learn something about the equipment, in order to get the best value for what I spend. I am curious about how different types of components and speakers sound though, but that is nearing its end. You have to get through the equipment to get to the music. I just let my subscription to Absolute Sound expire and will not be renewing. I got tired of all the high price equipment, descriptions of components and their sound that seemed like reviewers were describing the most beautiful thing on earth or the most wonderful experience they ever had. It’s a piece of equipment, not a beautiful human being! It’s silly really, to me anyway. I still subscribe to Stereophile but will let that expire also. At least it has measurements and comparison type reviews, but much of the equipment is too expensive and would turn newcomers off as well. Audiophile? No. Music lover. Yes. 
As a newbie, I love these comments “Audiophile? No. Music lover. Yes.”  I don’t know if I will hang around once I have updated my system, but what I have enjoyed is “what are you playing tonight “ threads and some of the more subjective reviews. I want to find out what others enjoy in their equipment and I quickly am learning that is different from a price tag, because what we enjoy is different. Soundstage is really important to me. And I just bought speakers I love, but when we were listening to speakers in the stores my wife and I heard speakers worth 10x what we bought, and the labs could tell us the more expensive speakers had an extra kw here or amp there than the less expensive speakers didn’t, but this is subjective, I enjoyed the less expensive sound better. This is about joy not dollars. Wayne 
 Eric, You might be the "Pope" of Audiogon!
I don’t get it.  I don’t get all this theorizing and debate about what to call and how to characterize our hobby.  One of the things that my years as a hobbyist has shown me is that some hobbyists seem uncomfortable with the simple fact that this hobby does, in fact and inevitably, contain an element of elitism (look up the definition).  NOT exclusion; anyone and everyone is free to pursue the hobby in a way that aspires to be superior (elite) in the end result.  Exactly what is wrong with this?  Nothing, in my book.  Why not embrace the fact that we seek the superior?  Another thing that is obvious is that while some knuckleheads do, in fact, assume that high price means high sonic quality, the astute and highly respected reviewers (HP, JGH) and hobbyists don’t and did not; a bargain is usually celebrated.

I like the term “High End” and I find nothing exclusionary in its (😉) meaning.  I like it, if any one term must be chosen; certainly more than “High Fidelity”.  The term High Fidelity is too broad and too subjective.  The term High End connotes or describes the obvious: the upper (high) end of the broader category High Fidelity.  As far as the knuckleheads go, I won’t worry about that; they exist in any endeavor.
@viridian:  "Its a travesty!"
That one really did make me laugh out loud.
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I think High End is a great term and will live forever.
If using scientific instruments to measure things such as distortion, S/N ratio, and a lot of other specs used to present products as superior to others then that's scientific. Sure, a $20K plus system would probably sound better in the same room as one costing $1K. Maybe or maybe not.

I don't think the human ear is capable of discerning minute differences if the main goal is to learn what sounds best to the type of music listened to. Kudos to those who can afford very expensive equipment. But, the question of High End vs High Fidelity has an answer that can't ever be answered.

When i was a kid there was a magazine called Audio....which I absorbed during the late 70’s and early 80’s.......Was an unbelievably "inviting" magazine with a great format and feel. I learned a lot from it and it supplied me with a knowledge base with which I could pursue what would become a lifelong passion....Also had the absolute pleasure of listening to some VERY Hi-Fi systems when I was in Singapore....The boutique Hi-Fi store listening rooms there were astounding.... I know what a $500k system sounds like.

Hi-Fi is what you make it.....It is more than the sum of the system’s parts.

I now have a system that sounds fantastic but didn’t cost a fortune....thanks to all the high end snobbery...... Will never stop learning and improving....

Audio magazine was great, the only U.S.A. "news stand" hi-fi mag during the 70's and beyond I had any use for. Being somewhat of an Anglophile, I like that the U.K. had a number of them.
Audio magazine was great, the only U.S.A. "news stand" hi-fi mag during the 70's and beyond I had any use for ...
Audio was a great magazine and had an excellent staff, including Edward Tatnall Canby, Joseph Giovanelli and Bert White. Later, Dick Heyser and Tony Cordesman. Editor Gene Pitts now edits The Audiophile Voice. White was exceptionally good and very much on the leading edge of subjective audio reviewing - the very opposite of the Julian Hirsch/Stereo Review model. Even then, he slayed a few of the classic audio canards - such as that all bass is mono - and he helped expose the poor engineering and marketing behind early quad audio. He also made his own recordings and encouraged others to do the same. (Of course, few audiophiles do make their own recordings, and that often explains their enduring dissatisfaction and confusion about what at audio system can do.)
But changing the word won’t eliminate the snobs!
The term also associates with the 70s. Panel speakers and (the slow) return of tubes. In short, backwards technology.

Yes, solid-state had problems. But if more people tried to figure it out (like Quad and Pass), instead of going the easy-path of retro, audio would have advanced much faster than it did.

Horns too were not perfect. But why go backwards with flimsy membranes, that radiated all over the room ? Panels are not truly-directional as many believe.

Pearson hurt us even more, with his (totally) anti-science magazine. More known for his editorials, tiffs with reader’s letters and pictures of New York than hard audio-science.

Audio is advancing faster today because we keep moving further and further away from the 70s....
@jonnie22, a plausible argument but are you sure that,

“Audio is advancing faster today because we keep moving further and further away from the 70s....”?

I would argue that it’s more of a merry go round. What comes around.. goes around. I don’t believe that there can be any advance until the recording industry decides that recording fidelity matters.

Currently there is no indication that fidelity matters more today than it did back in the fifties. Recordings today benefit or suffer from far more jiggery poker than they ever did back in the days of those wonderful ‘50s Capitol recordings. Fidelity is not even an issue today, it’s all about effect.

So you can play your mainstream music on any million dollar system you want but all you’ll hear better are what effects were used.

For most purposes, as things stand, chasing audio fidelity is a fools errand. True mainstream audiophile quality recordings are desperately thin on the ground, as any visitor to a show will readily discover.