what is the purpose of a stereo system ?

yes this is a philosophical question. i think it is the basis for many disagreements as to what is good sound and is a useful issue to discuss.

here are 6 categories for identifying the purpose of a stereo system:

1)as a window on the source--neutrality (truth)

2)to recreate the sound of music--musicality (beauty)

3)to statisfy one's sonic preferences--idiosyncratic

4)as a status symbol to impress other people--non sonic (psychological)

5)to create a salutary affect, such as lowering blood pressure, relaxation, stimulation etc.--non sonic (physiological)

6)as a catalyst to enhancing another activity--background

some of the disagreements as to component preferences or the sound of stereo systems may result from differing ideas as to what a stereo system should do.

a stereo system which puts one to sleep--a salutary affect may be considered poor quality when viewed as a conveyor of what's on a recording.

i hope this helps to view componets ind stereo systems ina different perspective.
It's different things to different people imho.

My biggest gripe about Audiophiles is the focus on reproduction influences (tweaks,recording production,cables etc etc.)away beyond the actual focal point which should be music.

You only have to read these forums to see the passion, the enthuasiasm, the open minded approach is all related to the equipment.
You simply don't see that focus (by and large)on the music.

My answer is simple (and is personal)a stereo system is only for reproducing music.
The quality of that reproduction is a bonus not the be all and end all.
Admittedly an interesting take on the matter!
I'd disagree with you a bit Ben. My car stereo, "...is only for reproducing music."

My home rig and similarly the pursuit of most of us here derives from all the motivations/needs that Mr. Tennis so thoughtfully laid out for us above.

Incidently, I don't see the crux of your thread as a philosophical one as much as it is a marketing thread. Your outline looks like a classic market segmentation analysis sans the demographic portion.

These are all latent or over "needs" that we all have here adn are trying to satisfy.
Ben...Some people have more than one hobby. Being a music lover does not prohibit a technical interest in electronics and/or loudspeakers, phono pickups, and other audio hardware. I myself live two lives, as an engineer and an artist. This is not uncommon.
To listen to and enjoy music. That's it, nothing more and nothing less. Thinking about it too much can rob music of it's joy and pleasure so be careful.
Eldartford I agree but there is also a very strong trend towards what I describe.

There is nothing wrong with that in itself but it is a hobby for many where the actual passion for music is little less than a by product or a faint memory.

Therefore the purpose of a stereo system is different to different people.
Which is a good thing I suppose.
You can have every bit of enjoyment,surprise,wonder and excitment from a car stereo as you can have from your home stereo............if the music catches your imagination and not the technical quality of the reproduction.
I(s this a trick question or a troll?
Jond, that's like saying I buy a Ferrari to get from Point A to Point B that's it. Nothing more and nothing less. There's a LOT more to it than that.
Ben...I often hear new recordings when I am in my car, and then go home and order them. It was the music I liked, not my stock Honda radio.
I think all 6 points apply to me in varying degrees. As in any of my hobbies and interests the tangible item itself definitely has an allure, but the activity and participation is what brings me happiness.
Music has always been my calming mechanism since I'm a computer programmer with a class 'A' personality. For years I was really proud of my system, but also looked at it as a status symbol.

Now that I'm 52, I've found that my attitude's changed quietly without my really even noticing it. The system I've built now is truly a musical paradise to me. What I now care about is the pleasure I get when I sit down with it.

My pieces aren't widely known, but they are awesome and the synergy between everything is amazing.
Actually Pawlowski6132 I never said that there aren't different levels of quality in sound reproduction. Obviously a Porsche and a Hyundai do the same basic thing, but do it very differently. Similarly a high end system allows you to listen to music on a different level than a boombox, but at the end of the day both systems are simply allowing you to listen to and enjoy music. As with anything there's plenty of nuance, but the basic proposition is still simple.
Jond, I wasn't implying that you thought there were NOT different levels of sound. I'm saying your reduction of the two hobbies: that, "...the basic proposition is still simple." "...at the end of the day both systems are simply allowing yoj to listen to and enjoy music."

I'm saying that's wrong. Not true. At the end of the day high-end systems do MUCH MORE than let people enjoy the music (although it's true for some people). So much so that I think it's apples and oranges.
It's both, the gear and the music, you can't have one without the other. Although this website is strictly a means of buying, selling gear, & other associated items, the underlying common denominator is the love of music. Having a quality stereo system reflects both pride in ownership & having the ability to deliver a musical presentation that is satisfying & enjoyable. John Hillig himself said that coming home to a great sounding stereo system is like finding the proverbial oasis in the desert. Anyway gear is a means to the end & some of us do fall prey to the merry-go-round at times, losing sight of what is important, but eventually we all come back to our senses.
My system is a babe magnet par excellence. Ever since I cryo'd the walls, floor and all the furniture, I just can't keep up with all the propositions I get. The chicks think it's way cool!
Onhwy61, are you serious or being sarcastic? I don't think your system is catching the chicks, it has to be your magnetism & good looks.
Phd, now I have to ask, are you serious?

Actually, the original question deserves a good answer and mine system is designed to make me happy while I listen to music.

Only slightly less serious, I'm old enough to remember the days when Hefner stood in his smoking jacket with a buxom blonde on his arm and the reel to reel prominently displayed in the background. There was a time when hi-fi was sexy, but that was before we started obssessing about cables or whether to couple or decouple. I see it coming any day now, the latest audiophile craze will be tube based phono changer console systems. Teak or walnut?
Fun. To accomplish this, in order of importance: #3>>>>>#2>#1. Others (#4,#5,#6) are irrelevant (for me).
Something to talk about.......
"some of the disagreements as to component preferences or the sound of stereo systems may result from differing ideas as to what a stereo system should do."

I think that there is a tremendous amount of truth in this statement. It's an interesting proposition for discussion.

I also think that the different combinations and permutations of the six categories you suggested, along with other categories that you may not have identified, is significant in accounting for differences from person to person.

FWIW, for me, #2 and #5 are most important.
To hear. It has always been such an effort, and because of my own experiences I wrestle with doubt. The stereo has been the only place I could slow things down a bit so that I could really listen. I can turn the volume up to the point that sound emerges and makes sense, and have the ability to repeat whatever seems to have escaped clarity. I hear so much better than I did, and yet psychologically I am still-years later, adjusting. For me there is a great deal to learn about listening, The stereo has been a place to do that.
Onhwy61, good answer! I'm only serious half the time. Hugh Hefner has the worlds best job, how many guys would like to be in his shoes?

I could easily see how hifi use to be sexy. At that point in time bigger was really better.
Does Hef wear shoes? Or slippers? Still going strong at 80.
Onhwy61 I gotta get a system like yours!
OOPs, I forgot to take the quiz. Lets see, we have six categories to pick from, hmmm. You know, I wish there was a seventh category that is designated all of the above. I will pick all six categories, I think they all accurately describe my purpose of owning a stereo and I'm being very serious. Mrtennis excellent thread!
Ditto number seven!
Gunbei, your right, slippers! I was up later than usual last night agonizing over why my system sounded different than it did the day before when no changes were made, probably should write it off as a mood change. I don't think any of Mrtennis's categories covers this scenario, well maybe category five?

"...why my system sounded different than it did the day before when no changes were made".

Damn, I hate it when that happens. When I experience that the only things I can think of chalking it up to is, as you say, mood changes, and/or possibly the state of electrical current/usage in my apartment building. My neighbors love their TVs! OR as mentioned in a recent thread, AIR PRESSURE AND HUMIDITY.

Maybe everything sounds/feels better when you listen to your favorite music while wearing a silk smoking jacket and have a beautiful young woman on each arm.
*To play back recorded music.