What Does It Take to be an Audiophile?


What are the defining characteristics of an audiophile? The term gets used a lot, but there seem to be a lot of different meanings as it gets used and it often leaves me wondering exactly who is being referred to by the term. So, which of the following characteristics are most important and which are least (including irrelevant) with respect to being a card-carrying audiophile:

Amount of time per week (or month) spent listening to music.

Amount of time per week (or month) spent exclusively listening to music on a dedicated "high-end" system.

Cost of the person's system. Would this be as a ratio of yearly income, an absolute amount or some other measure?

An attained skill level at listening differentiation in the music recreation process.

Size of the person's software library.

Appreciation of certain forms of music. Is it possible to be an audiophile who listens to 90% classic rock and the rest heavy metal?

Attendance of live music performance.

Ability to play an instrument personally

Amount of time spent on equipment research and experimentation in the pursuit of better music recreation.

Amount of space dedicated to the pursuit of music recreation in the person's home.

I'm sure there are others - I'd love to hear them, as well as your opinions on which of the above are the most important, which are unimportant. There are many threads where I think a more common understanding of this term would aid the conversation. -Kirk

kthomas
Good question. In my opinion: The amount of time per week (or month) spent exclusively listening to music on a dedicated "high-end" system, including an attained skill level at listening differentiation in the music recreation process and for many the amount of time spent on equipment research and experimentation in the pursuit of better music recreation.
I don't think there are any equations that would say whether or not you are or are not an audiophile. I think a quote from "the Matrix" sums it up: "It's kind of like being in love, no one can tell you if you are or you aren't, but YOU know it, through and through."
Passion, compassion, your own sense of self,.....and cash..
Yeah, it's like trying to define art. Good luck. I suppose a loose definition that describes my personal experience of our hobby would somehow involve the characteristic of appreciating differences in sonic quality. To me, actual time spent listening or researching isn't essential. We run across this problem in trying to define mental illness, or any particular mental illness. It usually turns out to be impossible to accurately delineate either necessary or sufficient symptoms in any construct, be it depression, schizophrenia, or audiophilia. I personally think it's because the constructs are just that, only models we use to describe phenomena which aren't really there. I'd love to hear what people think about this construct though.

Abstract7, great quote. I just love that darn movie. I think it represented cinematic excellence. Of course, many SELF-DEFINED movie 'experts' (cinemaphiles?) think it's junk...
Hi Kirk; I just looked up "audiophile" in Webster's New World Dictionary, which is used by the Associated Press. An audiophile is "a devotee of high fidelity sound production, as from recordings". There is no synonym. Interestingly, the definition says nothing about music, but I think maybe that's implied. However, this definition does seem to exclude any consideration of live music.

I would score high on just about all the factors you mention above, but I think maybe the "official" definition is too limiting for me, ie I want to be a "music lover" too. And yes you can be an "audiophile" who listens to just Classic Rock and Heavy Metal, IMO, eg last night I was listening to Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at high volume through a $40K system and it was great.

To me it's about my favorite music played through as good a system as I can put together, and that doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive. But I think it must probably be conceded that high-end audio is generally expensive. Cheers. Craig
Have money (spare cash) and be a little crazy. Either single or have an understanding spouse is also a plus.
Is being into "high end audio" the same as being an audiophile? I think there's a subtle but important difference, ie "high end", to me, suggests strieving for the best quality music playback system one can afford, whereas bing an "audiophile" may be more akin to being a "music lover"?-- without obsessing over the latest and greatest gear, or maybe the audiophile is both? Cheers. Craig.
One I heard was when your music collection costs more than you audio system (this is assuming you've got a significant chunk of change in the latter).
Ezmeralda: I just purchased 100+ MHS LP's (mint never played) today for $20 (which means that I have a long way to go:-).
It is a disease for which there is no cure, only palliative measures consisting of constant upgrades and collections of trinkets which sometimes inexplicably improve the listening experience may be applied. Another measure is total disregard of sane and balanced purchasing habits.

There must be a 12 step program out there somewhere.
Dekay, please tell us where you go shopping for deals like that.(And are there any left???)
The hobby really is one that's hard to put your finger on. There are several things that strike me; a love of music and a critical ear to differentiate what sounds involving, an underlying need to tinker with hardware (cars fall into this category too, in fact anything electronic or mechanical can benefit from tweaking IMO), and disposable income. Finally, the ability and willingness to be considered eccentric at best. We are viewed as bizarre and overspend on our hobby by 99.9% of the population, LOTS of folks think I'm outta my mind. I probably could use a good tune-up by a shrink with a sense of adventure and/or humour. It's been mentioned many times before, there are worse vices.
Craig - You hit on one of the things that prompted my questions in the first place - is being into "hi-end audio" synonomous with being an audiophile? I think they're related but not equivalent.

For me personally, being an audiophile means having a strong appreciation of the (re)creation of high-quality music. This would include both live events as well as music from an audio system. It doesn't mean that you won't listen to or enjoy any system less than the best, but it does imply that you're aware of the differences of the sound of music and value a higher-quality, higher-fidelity sound. I think this appreciation lends itself to regularly seeking out a high-quality music event, whether it's a live performance or recreation through an audio system, to the extent that listening to the music is the activity, not a supporting activity

Music is an art form, and as such, what is "good" and what is "bad" is highly subjective. Whether the recreation of, say, a violin playing is "good" or "bad" is somewhat more objective. The lengths an individual is willing to go to hear "good" music (re)created in a "good" manner is a significant measure of their audiophile-ness. -Kirk

Caring, interest and affection for music in my life at the highest level I can achieve in understanding, listening and reproduction. Music, both recordings and performances are very important to me and my home audio is exceptionally important as it brings beauty inot our lives.
HiWaves: I ran across them in thrift shop (in the Valley North of Hollywood) that I happened into just a few minutes before closing. They usually charge $1 per album, and though it is a charity, I offered $50 for the entire collection, which was then agreed upon (most of their classical selection has been there for years untouched and these were new arrivals). The clerk had just closed out the credit card terminal and did not want to run my debit card, so asked how much cash I had on me (which was $21). She said "just give me the $20 and enjoy the music". The down side was/is that lifting the boxes into the car triggered a major migraine and we also do not have a turntable/phono preamp to play them with and it will be quite a while before I will be able to put this together. The upside is that they have all been stored with the paper liners inserted correctly and 98% of the jackets all have plastic sleeves. The ones that I have inspected so far all have the dust swirl patterns that I associate with fresh vinyl. I am not familiar with MHS (other than owning a few of their CD's) and just figured, at the time, that I would sell enough of them to recoup the $50 (now $20) and then see if I liked the rest when we add vinyl to the system. The majority of them are from a wide range of catalog numbers, mostly ranging from the 500's through the 4300's. Other than the price/cost, are these considered to be decent performances and recordings on a whole? From a scrap of paper that I found with the batch I suspect that the albums were once the property of a hotel and probably sat in a club room along with books that were never read.
Celtic 66, your response mirrors what I planned on answering to this thread: being an audiophile involves frequent (even incessant) irresponsible purchases of equipment and tweaks that are not necessary but are nevertheless essential. The whole practice/pursuit/pleasure/pain of this hobby reminds me of what I've read and seen on movies and TV shows about addicts of other various kinds, such as of alcohol, drugs, gambling, or eating. There is an obsessive quality to this hobby that could conceivably lead to ruin.
Sc53, I agree with you, but no matter HOW much you buy in audio, there's always a re-sale value. I'm not sure that it's possible to urinate in a cup and try to sell THAT back to your local crack dealer. And I KNOW that Denny's won't trade you cash for...you know. So no matter HOW deep you are into this hobby, you can always recoup SOMETHING (you can't say that for the guys stuck sitting with priceline.com stock, now can you?)