un-becoming an audiophile

Yes, the title is what is sounds like.

I remember long ago, as a boy, I used to be able to enjoy music without picking apart a track. is the bass tight? is the midrange clear and life-like? is the treble resolution spot on? What about imaging/sound stage?

Most people have this very same superpower - not being an audiophile. They can play a song from the worst earbuds, laptop speakers, or even computer speakers - and enjoy the music; even sing along. They aren’t thinking about "how it sounds" or scrutinizing the audio quality. Actually, they couldn’t care less. They can spend their time on other life pursuits and don’t feel a need to invest big money (or much money at all) in the hi-fi hobby.

Any psychologists or scientists in the building? (please no Amir @amir_asr ) since you are neither! ...despite the word "science" being in your domain name - audio science review.

Please, I beg you. Help me get away from this hobby.

Imagine - being able to enjoy all of your favourite music - while still achieving that dopamine rush, along with serotonin, and even oxytocin - the bonding hormone, which can be released while listening to songs with deep emotional messages, or love songs.

We’re very much like food critics or chefs in a sense. We want the best of something (in this case, audio) I’m sure michelin star chefs face the same thing in their own right...can’t enoy or even eat the food unless it’s up to a certain standard.

When we audiophiles want to listen to music, we often play it on a resolving system, so as to partake in a a "high-end" listening experience. We often pick apart music and fault the audio components in our system, cables etc. All of this takes away from the experience of enjoying music as a form of art/entertainment. It has been said that some famous artists don’t even own a high-end audio system.

I gained a great deal of wisdom of from the documentary - Greek Audiophile. In it, we have audiophiles from all walks of life. Their families think they’re crazy for spending all this money on audio. They say it sounds "nice" or "real" but still can’t justify it.

I think it’s all in the brain. If we can reset our brains (or me at least) I can still enjoy music without needing a great system for it.

- Jack



It all depends on what scratches your itch. I got into hi-fi in a pretty serious way in the early ’70s, have had very good systems since that time and the opportunity to hear many, many more over the years. One aspect of the "hobby" is improving sonics. Nothing wrong with that-- in fact, if you devote the time and attention necessary, you can wind up with a pretty good sounding system, depending on set up and room. But that’s only one part of it--looking for the next acquisition, the next incremental improvement, comparisons among different pieces of gear or approaches. (I’m leaving the hard core DIY builders out of this for now).

In this context, the music is grist for the machinery-- used largely to assess sonic outcomes.

The same can be said for the pursuit of "the best" pressing; I know people in record collecting who are buying for sonics and some incremental difference in vinyl formulation, using the same metal work, may justify an outlay for yet another copy of an audiophile warhorse that everybody has and knows. There are collectors of the obscure, the valuable, ’78s, whatever, but I’m trying to keep this mainstream to what much of the audiophile market encounters.

I went off on a lark a dozen or so years ago, coinciding with my retirement, to curate the many thousands of records I had accumulated since the ’70s. It was an education. I replaced some copies, got rid of others and opened myself up to a whole world of other music that had not drawn my attention-- post bop jazz, that fits somewhere short of "free" jazz and includes soul, funk and other elements, often under the rubric of "spiritual" jazz. This eventually became a highly collectible area and less fun because of the prices. (Condition is always an issue).

I then had an epiphany- a lot of what I like about this pursuit has to do with the story behind the recording- how it was made, who the players were, what technology was used to make it. This is in some ways an intellectual pursuit but it is adding immensely to my enjoyment.

You can have more than one "goal" in this hobby- I do--I’m less about acquiring new gear for the sake of climbing higher on the mountain- my vantage point is pretty good where it is. I still buy records but have slowed down given the inflation of the used record market in the last few years. I will buy a rare record on occasion simply because I want it, but I buy them to play, not simply as some sort of "investment." (I don’t consider much of this stuff today to be an investment at the high mark ups in today’s market).

You are the one who decides what is important to you and how you want to spend your time. I was recently fascinated by the story of Joe Bussard, who collected old blues records- he did it purely for enjoyment and had a great collection of extremely rare records. He passed away recently and those records will be sold.

To me, it’s all a learning experience. I’ve gone through periods of my life where I didn’t have the time to pursue this stuff and other times where I was extremely active. I guess part of it is changes you go through as a person-- you evolve, so it isn’t surprising that your views and approach to this pursuit should change and evolve as you do.

To me, the ultimate engagement is making music. I don’t consider myself to be more than adequate these days on keyboards and play guitar more for fun than any serious effort to get "better"-- but there is huge joy in that even as a rank amateur.

Keep changing, keep thinking, keep evolving-- it’s the only way we stay vital. And it should be fun. If you aren’t having some fun, take a pause. That’s been part of the process for me as well.

Hey, a few minutes ago I was on my back porch, merrily sawing away on the best of my three fiddles (none of which, BTW, are the least bit high-end). Letting my fingers do the walking, to borrow an old cliche. What can I say? Music just makes me happy.

@grislybutter I was simply asking if $3500 was meant as an example of a little or a lot. 

For new retail, that is about my minimum for something I want to listen to for a long time. It would only be half that for used gear. 

@whart thanks for suggesting those key treasures of “ Spiritual Jazz “ what seems as a decade ago…. I know a guy @sbank  you should Know…. And again thanks for connecting me with Max…. Lord of great pressings….

oh the list is long…. But wait….. I’ve got to fit the mold of lonely…

”ain’t nobody loves me cept my Momma… and she could be Jiiving too “…