An open mind, and your gear didn't come from Circuit City or Best Buy.
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Nothing sounds good enough - even live performances coming out of Fender $600 amps - insanity - plenty of money to flush when you trade supposedly up and add useless tweaks just cause you have to - and never ever tell anyone you are using or interested in EQ"s or tone controls even though you may like the sound they shape to your room which has junk on the walls to accommodate the acoustical downfalls of your third wife's taste in furniture.
Here are my three favorite definitions of an audiophile. 1. has more money in his system than his car. 2. spends more time reading about and researching upgrading his/her system than actually listening to it. and 3. has more money in software (LP's and CD.s) than hardware (electronics). Unfortunately I do not fit catagory 3, but I am working on it.
I mean more money in the music than the electronics. I think that electronics can sometimes be just about money, as in some guy who has enough cash to throw at his system, but the guys who go out and puts in the effort to buy music one cd at a time, and end up spending more on that than the electronics, these guys are really into it. Having more money in my stereo than my car does not make me as proud as if I had more money in my software than my electronics. To me that is the ultimate gauge of how much you are into music, and that is what I think being an audiophile is all about.
My understanding is that "audiophilia" is more about the aquisition of better equipment, which is what most people talk about in these message boards and why 95% of the stuff up for sale/auction is hardware. It is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that can only be cured by: (a) having to sell off parts of your system (including a kidney) because you can't afford to buy food anymore, (b) losing your spouse due to circustances as described in (a), or (c) taking a really cold shower and finally coming to your senses and realize that no hi-fi will ever equal the "real thing" and it's just plain ludicrous to spend another $10k on the next "upgrade" that will squeeze an additional 1-2%out of your system. The difference between a hardcore "audiophile" and a hardcore "music lover" is the audiophile will blow a $10k bonus on a pair of speakers or preamp. The music lover will pick up several hundred CD's or LP's. Both should probably seek help. :)
Dictionary Definitions: audiophile: "A high fidelity audio hobbyist". Audio: "Pertaining to audible sound", -phile: "Indicates one having love or strong affinity or preference for". In sum: one having strong affinity for audible sound. My definition (what an audiophile should be): a lover of realistically reproduced music.
***Warning, a lot of rambling to follow*** Suggesting that it takes an audiophile to really love reproduced music is akin to saying that you need a gourmet to really love food. I've seen plenty of people who obviously enjoy (VERY obviously) food, but who couldn't tell their thyme. Similarly, I've known many people who spend just about every working hour listening and appreciating great music with just the aid of the department store. My best friend, in fact, listened only through a clock radio for months after his old stereo (one of those old , but has one of the most encylopedic knowledge of jazz of anyone I've met and has stated on occasion that live music is his reason for living. Now eventually I convinced him to let me find him a stereo, but even then he gave me a budget of $600 (Fisher 100B, Thorens 145, Polk Rt-5, and a Panasonic discman that I loaned him). He likes the stereo and admits that it sounds much better, but I honestly can't say that he's enjoying the music any more. Now I really like music, but I think that this audiophile thing is something a little different. To me, audiophiles are more akin to those guys who spend all their time under the hood of their cars. It's a hobby of continuous improvement, trying to eke out a little more performance. Not that you need that extra .05 seconds getting to 60 or an extra tiny fraction of a decibel less of a noise floor. It's fun to see how much more accurate or even 'better' we can get our equipment to sound, but I don't think that it necessarily leads to more 'enjoyment' of the music. Well, that's not entirely true either. I have found that when listening to very familiar recordings I can hear new and excitimg nuances to songs that I thought I knew like the back of my hand. And it is more exhilerating to hear tight quick kick drums than it is hearying blurry images. On the other hand, I'd be VERY hard pressed to argue that I have more fun listening to music under the perfect conditions than I do listening to it at some chatty party with a bunch of friends singing along. Oh well, who knows?
Stereophile; Absolute Sound; piled up in different rooms. Recognizing audio manufactures from model nos. alone. Example; TNT 3, JP80 MC, VK60, ML-1, etc...... Are the kids in bed yet? Maintaining at least 5 audio sites in "my favorites" on the computer. Checking Audiogon daily, even though nothing new is required. Responding to these threads.
To me it goes something like this. A music enthusiast is one who's primary interest is listening to and enjoying the music, hardware is secondary. An audiophile is an obsessive compulsive hobbyist at LEAST as MUCH INTERESTED in the gear that makes the music as enjoying the music for music sake. And finally the Audioholic, one who has an extreme case of audiophilia. New gear coming and going, trying every new tweek that comes down the pike. In long term debt. Has severed relationships and become isolated from others because of this extreme obsession. Dreams about new gear at least once a week. This individual has no more than a 10% cost ratio of software to hardware.
Is a male. Is the inverse of a music lover (Uses $20,000 worth of stuff to listen to a $200 stack of recordings (and usually a handful of CDs & records in that stack are listened to over and over again)as apposed to $200 worth of stuff to listen to $20,000 worth of recordings). Half of equipment is actually in use. Great sound but never satisfied. Has a hard time listening to a track all the way thru. Hides equipment (ESPECIALLY the shipping boxes)from the significant other and substitutes it into the system on the sly. Speaks to other audio geeks over the phone in hushed/muted tones so that the significant other wil not notice that he is talking to another audio geek (but the significant other knows it anyway). Is making the significant other even more irratible as he is now looking at wide screen TVs. Denies that he is an audiophile and says it's "just a hobby".
What *makes* someone an audiophile? That part is easy and the dictionary describes it best. American Heritage says it's "a person having an ardent interest in stereo or high-fidelity sound reproduction." (Note that the word "music" is not used!) What *defines* an audiophile? This is a bit more complicated, but I believe an audiophile is defined by what they've spent on their system. This investment is not strictly monetary nor do all the parts have physical substance. It includes the minutes and hours, the blood, sweat and tears, the sacrifices made in other parts of life. Yes, it's a package deal and why all the answers above are so different, but still so much the same. It's what each of us makes of it and why we all receive a fair share of return in entertainment, pleasure and joy from the "investment."
People this is going very nice and would like to add some words: Robba if we go by your rule IÂ´m sure the record companies will be very happy, think most of us are in debt. Joe coherent: very good point to the enjoyment of music within your budget. Interesting to point out that some people consider themselves music "aficionados" instead audiophiles because their system is not big money investment. Kind of: is not the pocketÂ´s depth in the audiophile but the love for music within ..... Hifinut: interesting to note that you identify more audiophile equipment oriented people so your hardcore definitions remind me that justice is represented holding a "balance" (equipment vs music)and with a blindfold due to the urge some people "see" to run blind tests whereas the ears are 100% functional to it.... Dacostab nice edge on the music loving part!! Rockvirgo you meant spiked even the fridge where someone puts the blue ice? Siddh your description is very vivid! Redkiwi: thereÂ´s no thing like a sure thing but the adrenaline and excitement might be lacking... Tubegroover what about the sympton about almost browsing segments of songs to check the last tweak effectiveness=) Fpeel I really can relate to your comments on the define part... boy this postings have really expanded my considerations horizon..... Guys I'll be on the road for a week keep it coming!!
Carl's definition: One who needs to get musical satisfaction through listening to accurately reproduced recordings of music. Most of the world gets musical satisfaction in other ways, and is generally satisfied with listening to a recording in a way that is less faithful to the original recorded event (duhh)..........I didn't know I was an audiophile until I was 26 years old. In some ways, I'm glad that my parents weren't into "audio without compromise", because I came to appreciate the process in a more well rounded way in adulthood, rather than knowing it as a child, and just taking it for granted for the remainder of my life (like my future children likely will...and also like quite a few audiophiles have known the hobby).
Carl, your post has warmed me to this topic. What did it was your reference to the non-audiophiles - because that is where I think the secret lies. You see, I notice that what seems to distinguish non-audiophiles for me is that they never actually concentrate on the music. They come into your house and ask to listen to the stereo then proceed to ignore it, or sit in a corner somewhere, or do something else. They do the same if you bring a system over when you are helping them to buy one. They also do this with their own systems - use the music as background or play it mainly while they are in another room. And then it occurred to me that their ears are as good as (or maybe better than) ours. They have bought stereos and have found them difficult to listen to, so they don't. Instead they are in the habit of listening subliminally, since that is the best way for them to get past the distortions of their Bose systems and enjoy some music. So when you become an audiophile, you cross that divide and start to concentrate on what you hear, because now, you are trying to get a stereo together that sounds like the real thing. And that is when the trouble starts. Of course it doesn't sound like the real thing at all and so the long and neverending quest begins....
I agree, but take issue with two things: 1) There's no use in assuming that "most" non-audiophiles can hear as good or better than those of us who are (I do realize you were using that to make a point, though). Not that I'm assuming that they can or cannot, just that there's no need in assuming either way. 2) That a 'phile who has a decent system that "OF COURSE DOESN'T SOUND LIKE THE REAL THING AT ALL"....of course, that is not really what you mean. They DO sound LIKE the real thing to varying degrees based on what aspects of reporduction are concentrated on....I believe what you meant to say was that WE OBSESS ON THE FACT THAT THE SOUND OF THE SYSTEM is NOT the ACTUAL live performance. It all depends on what your subjective definition of the word "LIKE" is.....or for that matter, what your definition of the word "is", is...(chuckle chuckle).
Hi Carl - I hoped I would draw you into some dialogue. Thanks, by the way, for explaining what I meant. Perhaps it is the obsessing over details that really defines an audiophile after all. As you suggest, I was musing that maybe non-audiophiles heard better than us and knew not to bother - merely for amusement purposes. On your second point I meant to imply that when we first cross the divide and buy our first serious hi-fi and sit down to really listen, it does not sound at all like the real thing - and it is that which takes us off on the audiophile path. I would not wish to suggest for a moment that anyone really hears better than you, or that your system does not sound like the real thing - except perhaps to get you going.
Yes, I understand your main point, and I apologize for not reiterating it: that once we finally sit down and actually PAY ATTENTION to the sound of the stereo, we realize that "work needs to be done". BUT WHAT MAKES US "WANT" TO ACTUALLY SIT, LISTEN, AND PAY ATTENTION IN THE FIRST PLACE?.....See below..........I cannot tell you how many times I'll have someone over, they'll sit, and listen for 3 seconds, and then start talking. Or the other thing, is they'll ask to hear something specific, and then the MOMENT it starts, they just want to start searching thru the collection for something else to hear...ALL THE WHILE PAYING ZERO ATTENTION TO THE MUSIC THAT IS PLAYING. Basically, it's attention deficit disorder, based on their conditioned repsonse to a learned behavior, whenever music is playing...it seems to me................................However, if you then say that "what defines the audiophile, is ONLY the obsession"...then that doesn't give us enough credit for the CAUSE of the obsession in the first place: to get better sound because of THE LOVE OF MUSIC...we want to get closer to the music, MORESO THAN DO NON-PHILES. For instance, if we are talking the vast majority of young women: how many of them like dance music, and are obsessed with dancing to it, in "clubs", at around 110 dB, and for hours at a time, until they collapse from exhaustion???? And who do they dance like this with? OTHER YOUNG WOMEN....."it is about the music", except maybe unless you're on a small country so far out in the sPacific nOcean, that you feel the need to take up ship building as your "obsession" instead...LOL!! I'm joking, sort of. I welcome this dialogue, Redkiwi.
I guess that's why we have the America's Cup. With such a weak dollar we can't afford the airfares - so we all start boat-building to get out of here - and suddenly we are good at something. You are right, it all starts with something - in our case the love of music, or perhaps the need for music - but I suspect the next step in the logic that gets us actively involved in getting better sound is something to do with the fact that (many) men appear to want to find out how things (mechanical and electrical) work, more than (most) women do. If you could just go and buy one, and then plug it in when you get home, and get good sound, then there might be more women in this pastime. It is lamentable that good sound is not made more accessible to those who have a lesser penchant than you or I to have a play with the equipment, or room, or somesuch.. Your reference to attention deficit disorder is interesting - maybe we have learnt a kind of meditation when we listen to music, which until you have learnt it, is hard for the non-philes to relate to. I read somewhere recently that 30% of Americans surf the net while watching TV. Perhaps that Stereophile article on "The Age Of Distraction" is right. So the girls do that in the US too? Do the blokes (guys in your vernacular) all turn up after 3am when the girls have collapsed with exhaustion there too?
Well, I presume they do, I've not done that. From what I've seen on tv, it seems like they'd want to show up with some soap and wash cloth at that 3 am liason, before they "finish the date", nudge nudge! There's even this island in the Mediterranean Sea where kids these days (mostly female, it looked to me on tv), go to "party all night". They do "euphoria", or somesuch (illegal drugs are encouraged on this island), and then dance for 12 hours straight (with other girls of course), sweat like HORSES, pass out, get up the next night and do it over again...until they run out of money, that is...Of course, some DIE from it, but I guess it's worth it to them to get "MUSICAL SATISFACTION" thru frenzied and never ending "dancing" to the most annoyingly loud "boom-boom-boom music" you'll ever burst your eardrums with! BTW, Redkiwi, I agree with your thoughts on women above, and admire you for having the "lads" to voice it. I did something similar to that "back in the day" this past August, and everyone including the Audiogon staff were collectively "opening an UMBRELLA up my KEESTER", for simply voicing my opinion!!! "We'll close these forums down competely, that's what we'll do...." IT'S ALRIGHT TO HAVE AN OPINION, EXCEPT OF COURSE WHEN IT ISN'T...when it's not "politically correct" (I personally never understood the popularity of those words in that phrase, to evoke that expression, back in the 1990's...seems like Hitler came up with an expression like that, and was well liked by his followers for it). I think the DNC just resurrected it, sometime around Novemeber 1992. But then, I believe they will have no power at all for at least the next 4 years AFTER TOMORROW!!!!
Sadly I think it is in fact New Zealand that holds the cup for politically correct stupidity. I will take your advice and stay away from the woman thing (by the way are you aloud to call them women in the US? - here it is OK still, but never call them girls or ladies, or you're in big trouble). But I am part-Maori and so can get away with poking borax at the racial political correctness thing. The political correctness just ensures the Maori continue to wallow in their victim status, justifies living off the state and committing crimes against others (mainly against other Maoris). For a politician this is great market segmentation, and a great opportunity for would-be Maori leaders to rip-off their people, but noone should kid themselves that we are actually doing anything good for Maoris by ignoring the truth. Whoops, I am well off the topic - may the best man win on Tuesday! Or should that be 'better' man?