Why do some think "music" (not gear, trading, etc.) is the ultimate end?


A recent thread spurred a debate about the word "audiophile." Again. It went round and round in the usual ways.

What I don't understand is why so many take for granted that loving music is superior to loving gear. Or that gear is always -- and must be -- a mere *means* to music, which is the (supposedly) true end.

But if you stop and think about it, why do we love music? It gives us enjoyment.
Isn't that why people love gear? The enjoyment?
Or even, to push the question, buying, selling, changing gear? That's for enjoyment, no?

So, it raises the difficult question: Why do some think that "music" as an "enjoyment" is better than "gear" or "shopping, buying, selling, trading"?

Not everyone believes this, but it is the most prevalent assumption in these discussions -- that "love of music" is the end-which-cannot-be-questioned. 

So, while music is the largest end I'm personally striving for, I do realize that it's because it brings me enjoyment. But the other facets of the hobby do, too. And I'm starting to realize that ranking them is an exercise but not a revelation of the "one" way everything should sort out. It's all pretty subjective and surely doesn't seem like a basis on which I could criticize someone else's enjoyment, right? 

What do you think? On what grounds do you see it argued that "music" is a *superior* or *ultimate* end? Whether you agree or not, what reasons do you think support that conclusion?
8700e65e 845e 4b1b 91cc df27687f9454hilde45
Without music equipment is worthless! I can add an observer with a functioning ear or two to complete the equation! 
Why do some think "music" (not gear, trading, etc.) is the ultimate end?

Ok, how could one not think that music is the whole point?

I had a chance to figure out for real, one time, if it was music, or the gear.

A house fire next door, was about to remove my 3rd story apartment in an old victorian house...from the surface of the planet.

I had seconds to decide. I was also fairly poor at the time. I could lose the music, the crates of records,

or the belles 450 power amp, thorens TD125mk2 table, with the sme arm and the ortofon mc30 super..and the modded out ps audio 5.0 preamp. speakers at the time, for that moment, was...the Monitor audio 952 and a pair of NHT’s that I was playing with.

I only had, I figured, enough time to move one component or aspect, before the fire took it all.

I was also half asleep, groggy, staggering, as someone had awoken me by banging on the door down below, really hard. One of the crowd that had gathered..was banging on the downstairs door..to inform anyone inside...that the house next door was on fire.

I went for the records. save the records. save the music. to hell with the hard won equipment, I could always, somehow, get more. Save the music. Music first.

I found out for real, with an actual gun pointed at my head with an actual forced binary question and answer set.

We can talk and talk..but who really gets in the actual sights of it, with the barrel stuck to their temple in a real world situation... and has to make a real choice? At a literal snap of the fingers?

Until then, it’s just talk.

Music first. the rest is the bone of contention, but again, the map is not the territory. The attitude and the talk is not the war itself. the battle is about the music.

Things are definitely conflated but one is not actually the other. It’s about the music, music first. Serve the music with the gear, but never lose track of that, and you’ll be fine.
If you use the analogy of cars plenty of people (well perhaps mainly men) love cars for cars own sake and not just as a means of getting places.  OTOH I paint, and for many, watercolor painting supplies are just a means to paint—though to be sure, there are people who are just as into painting supplies as many are into stereo equipment.  
I like the car analogy. Made me remember the old "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (Pirsig) which showed that the technology of the motorcycle and its maintenance were not mere means to the rides, but they too were also ends. All these ends were related without reduction and part of a whole. The need to split things apart -- into "means" and "end" -- and then to elevate one above the other is our Western cultural inheritance, but it is not the final and only truth, that book suggested.

Some analogies (or dis-analogies, perhaps) where a process is not just the means to the end:

Some who cook love the process as much as the plated food. The "slow food movement" adds in the local region as part of that larger process. 

Some baseball players love the game as much as the end score. There is an "art" to the game, which is the pitching, catching, strategy, etc. (Might one not see this in the equipment we use, discuss, in audio?)
Etc.

Without music equipment is worthless, roberjerman points out. I see the point. But a stack of records with nothing to play them on doesn’t seem much better.

Great story. 

It's the actual music that stirs emotions. Not the gear, cables, etc. You do see threads that appear to contradict my opinion though.

If it came down to it, I would listen to  a clock radio and be fine. I'm grateful having the opportunity to hear music thru "better" equipment.

One other thing, as a longtime sufferer of tinnitus and hearing loss, everyone needs to be  more conscious of their hearing health. I love loud R&R, but RARELY ever  push the volume these days.
I was going to use the car analogy, but @berner99 beat me to it.

What is the purpose of cars?  To get from A to B?  To go fast?  To tackle a curvy mountain road?

Are cars sitting in a garage/warehouse and never driven an obscenity?  Are they the equivalent of the guy who has a store's worth of audio equipment in his house and only owns 5 carefully selected audiophile LPs?
People do sit, stare, and look at cars, not running. 

Imagine who sits and looks at their audio gear, turned off, and not playing music. Who wants to admit to that, hahah :) 

I have no dog in this fight, as my live and let live position is that how you enjoy a hobby and why you enjoy it is so very personal.

Some people fish for the sport, others for the eating, others to get away from people.  I'm not here to judge them either.
I have no dog in this fight either and I have seen pictures of the insides of  amplifiers with people saying things like look at those beautiful mosfets or those beautiful toroids.

I suspect that many people are so afraid that the music is going to get lost that they make it the only or exclusive thing that is valued in the equation... but function and design are part of it too. At least for me.
I got 5 minutes to do everything I can. This is how it’s gonna play out..

The vinyl, 3 pictures, the dog, the bunny, the wife, and my hat, kinda in that order. Insurance will have to fix the rest...

You can have every car on the planet.
because I want a chauffeur and a Roller. Back seat please.

With a very nice stereo, that plays RtR, Vinyl and anything else I want. gosh I can dream...

After the mess got have some tunes, might as well have some nice one. Onward James..

WAR "Born in a Hurricane", that will do...

Regards
I don't know that the music is any more important than the gear- or the other way around. How could it be? As Robert Harley explains in his so excellent it should be required reading The Complete Guide to High End Audio, music is unique among communications in that the medium and the message are inseparable. Music can be written on a page but it is much more than a string of notes. Systems that are better are literally playing different music than lesser systems. 

Everyone knows this. Its one of the most common things people say with a good upgrade, they are hearing new things, things they never noticed before, etc.

Recently four audiophiles drove up from Portland to hear my system. The whole time I'm asking them what do you want to hear? Finally at the end one asked me to play my one special show off the system recording. I was actually kind of flummoxed. If the system is good enough its no longer the system you are showing off. The job of the system is to reproduce music. Not make. Reproduce. The whole idea of showing off like that, well think about it. Its like Arnold posing. He's showing off his muscles. But there is a lot more to Arnold than big muscles. Proved it by becoming a movie star and governor. I could play Bela Fleck Flight of the Cosmic Hippos, show off awesome bass. Not a lot of music content. Might as well be playing test tones. Flex, look at my guns! (Anchorman.)    

Of course music not gear is the ultimate end. How can anyone be so dense as to not see this? The ultimate goal is a system that disappears leaving only the music. Which cannot happen without a really good system. So of course the system is the ultimate end. How can anyone be so dense as to not see this?  
Are you a tourist or a traveler?


I like the car analogy, but I will extend it to books. I enjoy reading, I enjoy collecting and sometimes I amuse myself with writing.

I have read many of the books that I have collected, but not in every case. Sometimes I collect book-ish things like ephemera and pamphlets that I find interesting. There are books that I have loved that I do not own, and there are some books that I own and love, but aren't collectible per se (Ellery Queen late edition hardcovers pre-1950) because they are getting harder to find.

If someone told me they read primarily on a Kindle my reaction wouldn't be, "You're not a book lover!". I'd want to know what they like and discuss. 

Or if someone collects books because of their interest and value, it doesn't mean they can't have a meaningful opinion about an author or literature, and I would want to engage them on their knowledge and perspective.
 
My lifetime ratio of books read to books collected is probably 20:1. If someone told me that I am not a booklover as a result I one, wouldn't care, and two, I would discount everything that person had to say about the subject and give them a wide berth in the future.
Because they are stupid .
bgoeller, good answer. I'm gonna be watching you. 
 
https://youtu.be/k9DO26O6dIg?t=135
Because it is for most. More than "some."
Yet another dopey rhetorical question around here.
Most of them are.
@fuzztone  Why do you answer or read "dopey" questions? Maybe it's not as dopey as you think. I took time to word the question carefully and I'm not inclined to waste people's time. So, please just refrain from answering my OP's if you think they're dopey. Kindly avoid insulting me, is what I'm saying. 
just curious: is there anyone here who doesn’t care all that much about music BUT either (1) loves to design, build or tinker with gear (I assume there are plenty of serious "a-philes" who fit this category); or more interesting question (2) loves to buy, trade, tweak, and try to improve their system (but doesn’t really do any more than minimal repair/work on that system, and again isn’t all that interested in music).   (I assume that in the case of car enthusiasts, there are plenty of car-nuts who would fit both categories:  you work on your '56 Chevy [or you buy one] primarily to take it to auto-shows, not to go for drives in the country).
Some people like hardware, others prefer software. Some men liked Ginger, some liked Mary Ann. In the case of music vs equipment, one is necessary to and enhances, the other.
A relative who recently auditioned my system (a Maggie owner!) decided, after some discussion that I was "merely" listening to equipment and not to music. I was dumbfounded and could only reply: "Something wrong with that?" Crickets!
Back in the day, I bought a new, special order, Mustang Mach I in a Thunderbird color. Gorgeous. No relative accused me of "merely" wanting to go fast. They knew that this guy is more complicated than that. I might as well go ahead and whine a bit that a family member might actually think I could sit for hours and listen to equipment! Hello!
The true objection probably has to do with the amount of money we spend on what is primarily a solitary, obviously pleasurable and often intrusive hobby that many see as spoiling their own conception of music as a background for Whatever.  I just bought an expensive recorder. The flute thing. Relative asks, "Is it a real recorder?" Honestly, would any audiophile settle for a plastic instrument? But no accusations of "You just want it for the cool wood!" Need I go on?
Maybe if I leave my expensive recorder out on the table during listening sessions others will understand that I have reason to listen intently to everything involving music--not just the mood of the orchestrations. I listen critically to: my gear, the gear at (usually Qobuz), the gear at the recording session, the musicians’ gear, and finally the mics and then the actual sound I want to catch in mid-air. With new technology, I’m usually evaluating recording quality and performance quality. Sometimes the sound quality of a specific instrument. Is that the same as "music?"
For me, buying gear is a difficult task, not really fun I also am not too keen on following the advice of an expert on what to get so I do the DD myself. Though I want to hear their opinion. The internet is a great equalizer for me on this regard.

Listening to music is easy and fun. Only problem is I spend too much time posting like this while I listen to music instead of doing my actual work.

I recently made some audio buys (after all the DD I did) and audio tweaks that make me extremely satisfied with the sound I am now getting. I feel like the hard part is now done and the easy road lies ahead. 
Oddly, I find the same thing true of cars- I drove them. Yes, I understand the Pebble Beach mentality, but to me it’s sad to see a piece of machinery meant for the joy of driving sitting idle, perhaps rolled off a transport to be set up at a show or museum, and then returned to it’s garage slot once its appearance at a show is over. (There was a guy in Jersey with an F-40 in a room purpose built for viewing the car-- when he went bankrupt, a wall had to be removed to get access to the car).
A friend I had on the East Coast when I lived in NY visited me the first time by driving his GT 40 over to my place. Not the Ford re-boot from the early 2000’s but a real GT 40 that ran at LeMans back in the day. The type of car that most would put in museum. Not that guy- he drove it.
Sure, you can collect audio gear. I’ve known several people who do-- I have gear I don’t use that sits around in a few rooms, but I hardly consider myself a collector of vintage gear. I try and use the equipment for its intended purpose. My Quad ESLs, which I bought in 1973-4 (sorry, I’m a little imprecise about the year) were restored a few years ago and are now running in a vintage system I set up. It’s a great little system and I enjoy having and listening to that speaker. As a piece of industrial art, it’s a bit odd, but I will have owned this pair for almost 50 years. Admittedly, they sat dormant for many years when I used other speakers, awaiting refurbishment.

Do what you like. I think the thread that the OP was referring to didn’t say gear collecting was a bad thing, or that enjoying music was "superior" to gear collecting, though it is really the ultimate purpose for which this stuff was designed. I can appreciate good electro/mechanical design for its own sake. I just happen to use my hi-fi as a means to an end. The fact that there is some intrinsic beauty to the design, manufacturing quality or other aspects of the equipment is simply a nice by-product. Some of the gear I prize would not win any awards for aesthetics. But does that make it inferior? I don’t think so.
Maybe I missed the point of your post as a rejoinder to the other thread, @hilde45, but who said you can’t love gear for its own sake?
The hunt for new gear, cars, watches and, you name it, is a powerful force too. That force is more powerful than the acquisition of same. Once you get  the new amp or car the pull forces towards it diminish I think. There is no end in trading and wanting something else. With music, it think that formulation does not really apply so, in a sense, music is an end game. I love music and I love gear. Happy listening folks. Enjoy your tunes and enjoy your gear. 
The music is what drives me to by gear, but as an engineer I admire the design and craftsmanship of the gear.

Years ago I abandoned LPs for digital, just my preference. However now I almost consider buying some exotic turntable just because they look so cool.
"how can anyone be so dense?"....what a lovely human being that utters this
IMHO alan parsons put it into perspective for me when he referred to audiophiles who use his recordings to listen to their equipment. 
My humble observation and opinion is that it all starts with the music we have acquired. Then we spend time and money acquiring gear to reproduce that music as faithfully as possible. At least that has been my 50 year quest.
@emrofsemanoAlan Parsons is onto something. I catalog all my vinyl and mark down their sound quality among other things. My highest rating is EQR (Exceptional quality recording). Obviously a small minority of my 2,000 albums. But point is, if I truly want to hear my system, I will put one of those on. Otherwise I play most others simply for the music. Their sound won't blow my mind but the music will. Of course the ultimate is to have an EQR album with music that's to die for (to my taste), but that's pretty rarified air and Alan Parsons is not one of those :)
It's backwards to say we value music because we enjoy it. Rather, we enjoy music because it's valuable. 

The pleasure or enjoyment is a result of being in the presence of something beautiful or meaningful or important. 

Think about how music affects people, how they experience it. They don't say, "Oh, that Coltrane solo wasn't much good, but wow, it gave me a lot of pleasure." Instead the music is so powerful, so brilliant, transcendent even, that pleasure can't help but attend it; pleasure becomes a sign of value, not the source of the value itself. 

In fact "pleasure" and "enjoyment" are not strong enough terms for "music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music, while the music lasts." 

I can't quite see an experience of the sublime arising from stereo equipment, but I'm open to differing opinions.
Yin/Yang. Can't have one without the other. The reality lies in the eternal tension, the inherent fusion. Not a contradiction. The nature of being. Like a chemically inert atom.
Why do imagine a small group of 30 to 50 year old dudes debating which "test tone" sounds best through random gear?
Post removed 
The experience of great music can be divorced from pleasure.

Bono (of U2) fame, tells a story of listening to "A Love Supreme" over and over, trying to work his way into the music. He sensed something good was there, but it took him time to access it. I think this can be a common experience. We hear something but don't really enjoy it, but get an odd feeling that something of importance was there, and we go back to the piece until we can grasp it.

I myself would never want to listen to "A Love Supreme" if I wasn't up to the experience. To know the greatness was there but being too tired or stressed to experience it--that's something I avoid.
I think we can all agree that it starts with the music. We love music so we chase gear that makes the music sound better. Then, once we have what we think is our ultimate gear, we chase music that makes the gear sound better. Then repeat. It becomes like a dog chasing it’s tail.
Said dog is usually happy but sometimes frustrated. 
Maybe I missed the point of your post as a rejoinder to the other thread,
@hilde45, but who said you can’t love gear for its own sake?

Many do, and I can’t improve on the way I asked the question in the OP or the rejoinders. @rocknss made a comment which captured how music can be a value without necessarily dismissing the value of the equipment. 
Well, you can personalize your system to your own taste and style, but you can’t personalize the music.  Something to be said for creating a personal system being a most fun and rewarding pursuit.  Enjoyment from the gear is different than from the music, for me.  Glad I enjoy both, separately and together.
12-10-2020 5:01am 
I think we can all agree that it starts with the music. We love music so we chase gear that makes the music sound better. Then, once we have what we think is our ultimate gear, we chase music that makes the gear sound better. Then repeat. It becomes like a dog chasing it’s tail.
Said dog is usually happy but sometimes frustrated.


That’s it, in a nutshell 🙂
@hilde45- I'm not taking you to task. In fact, maybe you started this thread in response to one I missed-- I was thinking of the thread that said you aren't really an audiophile unless you are churning through equipment somewhat frequently. I don't care about being called an audiophile (in fact, it has a negative connotation to me), but I think there are a lot of different types of people drawn to this hobby, from engineering types to let's get a buzz on and listen to some tunes.
I've enjoyed the equipment I've owned over the years, but my personal priority at this stage of my life is discovering new to me music. I do take pride in the systems I've put together and enjoy the gear head aspect, but I'm not driven to acquire better and better gear at this point in my life. But, that's what makes all of this so interesting, no? Each of us is different, with different priorities.

You raised the rhetorical question in this thread why the enjoyment of music is elevated over buying/swapping out gear? You then suggested that the usual answer-- that the equipment is simply a vehicle to access and enjoy the music was, if not a token response, one that didn't fully reflect all the reasons people engage in this hobby.  
 I agree with that, but I also think it becomes very personal-- starting with  what you were exposed to musically (and gear wise) at what point in time, to whether you can play an instrument to whether you can solder or build equipment. All of those are factors and each of us differ in our backgrounds, knowledge and understanding as much as we do our musical taste or preference.

My "quest" has been to get outside of my comfort zone, musically, to avoid the audiophile traps and to better understand the musical experience. Many people of that ilk spend a fair amount of time listening to live music. Or get into the mystical aspects, which starts to make my brain overheat.
 There's been a lot written about music and the brain, emotional responses and the science of music. All of it is fascinating to me, as are archival recordings, and the techniques used to retrieve and preserve those. I guess the most we can expect from each other is to learn something, no? And perhaps to have a good laugh, a glass of wine (or whatever) and enjoy it while we can. 
I also think it is good to question one's own assumptions occasionally. I go through mid-life crises every 5 years or so and wind up reassessing things. Perhaps I'm just in a mood. Sorry for the lengthy response. 
Bill hart
Great thread...I look at it this way (and for me it WAS always music first), however once I got into and discovered the "higher end" beyond mass market is when I started listening to jazz. Before my first "real" system I would have never ever even considered listening to jazz. I'd have to say it is now my favorite genre. BUT if I had typical mass market (read Bose speakers, all in one receiver), I can honestly say I wouldn't enjoy it as much. I now listen to music I would have never even considered before in some cases simply because the sound quality is so amazing through better quality components...So I think a case could be made this one could go both ways...And in some cases for me it does..
I like the books and cars analogies too. I don't feel the music is the end. Like you hilde45, I feel it's an equal part of an equation with each part as valuable as the other in providing pleasure. Like with acquiring records and CD's, it's as much fun for me to collect the CD's as to listen to them. Same as with books. Don't know if I'll ever read all the ones on the shelves, but the collecting of ones I'd like to have and read is so much fun, it really doesn't matter if I ever read them all. 

Mike
Years ago I noticed a woman. 
She was wearing a t-shirt. It had a Buddha like image and said ‘I’ll have a hot dog with everything’

What brings someone joy os generally good and my goal is to be constructive. 
I can see folks collecting albums or 78s, enjoying the process of pursuing their perfect system or someone that owns an iPod and goes to listens music 4-5 times a week all being considered audiophiles. 
You don’t have to love everything about something to still love it, do you?
Post removed 
Here is my take on this issue.
Ofcourse it's about the music.
However, the gear that I buy is just a vessel to deliver that music in a way that elicits an emotional response.
As a Harley Davidson Technician of 27 years I can draw some parellels
between the bike and the ride.
Ultimately it's about the ride. My job is to make sure that it is a fulfilling experience. One of exhilaration and acceleration. I upgrade suspensions for a smoother ride. I do engine performance upgrades for more power.
But then there are people that spend alot of money on the bikes appearance. It technically has no effect on the ride, but man does it feel good to sit back in the garage with a beer and jibber and take in the beauty of that iron horse. Almost as good as ride itself.

I appreciate the replies so far. I was hoping to understand why some feel justified in asserting the "the music" matters more than or to the exclusion of the gear or the process or putting a system together, improving it, etc. Many are pointing out there is a spectrum of related but quasi-independent values present in this hobby, and that many can be co-present. That sounds right to me. But again, I'm trying to learn what sounds right, and why, to others.

@jdane raised an interesting question about whether any love to design/build/tinker with gear or loves to improve their system by buying/trading without having a stronger interest in music? That's a really interesting question because it asks whether someone might admit that the music is either a lesser or even negligible value. Sacrilege! Who will step forth and commit sacrilege? Good question!

@denverfred makes the point that the way he listens is often assessing the quality of the sound (recording session, playback, and all that contributes). He listens "critically" to the "sound" as well as the musical meanings being conveyed. This reminds me of a story Steve Guttenberg says; growing up, he was fascinated by the sound of static on the radio, its modulations and movements. He often talks about the impact that music has on him, too, but his origin story as an audiophile is about his fascination with different sounds. To this day, he's interesting as a reviewer because he always approaches his reviews with both sound and music and gear in mind. He rarely tilts so hard toward one of those that the others are left out. He's open to each element being the "ultimate value" but he never insists which one is the final, ultimate value. 

@yyzsantabarbara said something really intriguing, "Listening to music is easy and fun. Only problem is I spend too much time posting like this while I listen to music instead of doing my actual work." My question here would be -- Why is that a problem? Is it better to listen to music without doing something else at the same time? Why?

@whart I didn't mean to make a rejoinder to the other post (which had a wide range of opinions within it), but there were comments there (and in other places) that seem to feel a strong need to reemphasize the message that "the music is *the* point" of this hobby. I'm interested in where that urge (to make music ‘ultimate’) comes from and it's the objective (I think) of @jdane's "test question" above to see who's willing to say that "the gear not the music is the main point." @skyscraper is willing to step up on this one, though! There are "equal parts" in the equation for him/her.

@mhe asserts that we enjoy music because it is valuable, not the other way around. We can swap the equation that way if desired. Music is valuable first, then people are moved by it and notice that they enjoy that. 

Still, some who love gear or the process of building a system may want to swap things around this way, too.  They like to be active rather than just sit in the sweet spot and listen. Building, tweaking, improving or changing the character of their system turns out to be a pretty powerful value-in-itself. If music was the only end, once the system was good enough to deliver music, they'd stop futzing. But the activity of making/remaking things is their true love, and music is the vehicle to that end. The journey is the destination. Plausible.

@hickamore points out the the two elements, music and gear are both necessary, yin/yang. Agreed. Imagine a system which can just "beam" music at a person and they hear it. No intervening amps, players, cables, etc. Just say, "Alexa, play 'Misty' for me" and the music is all around you. Would it be better to have that and eliminate all these discussions?

@nd1der Yes, this is what makes this hobby a spiral and not a circle. Now that I have better gear, I not only hear more, I want to hear more better quality music. And sometimes that is for "critical" listening (as Denverfred pointed out) and sometimes it's to push myself to hear more difficult meaningful music (as mhe pointed to in the "Love Supreme" example). Somehow, the topic of "which cable" or "which amp" leads to new music. That's pretty cool.

@redwoodaudio Makes a great point about "personalizing your system to your own taste and style." That's the interactive part of the hobby which I enjoy. Changes in gear can lead to new sensations and even new emotions provoked by those sensations. The gear becomes a way to investigate what I can potentially hear and experience. And of course music helps that along. ;-)

@whart -- exactly right, it does become very personal for the reasons you cite. I am trying to understand the urge some (not all!) feel to try to re-assert that "THE music is THE point." And by asking this question, it does put me outside my comfort zone (as you call it) because I'm relatively new to the hobby and it is full of people with a lot more knowledge and experience than I have. 

And I share your quest -- to better understand the musical experience. In part, this question is getting at that because I am finding that even though I've just put a system together, I'm still interested in discussing audio. When I buy a toaster, I'm just done with that part of it; bread goes in, toast comes out. Yet here I am, talking about audio equipment with others even though my system is now good enough to just be my music-toaster. What is it about the musical experience that keeps the gear/system involved? For some reason, those things cannot be disentangled as easily.

@kingr Makes perhaps the best case I've heard for equipment -- it launched him/her into new music (and new meanings, values). I've heard people say that about the first time they ate really good food, with really good ingredients.


Loving material things without any consideration for their practical purposes can become a fetish. A fetish can become harmful when it distracts from other things that are important in life.  But if you're going to have a passion, even to the neglect of friends/sleep/exercise, then you ought to pursue it meaningfully.  If your passion is tennis for example, you aren't pursuing it very meaningfully if all you do is watch games and move your head right-left-left-right all day. You'd be an idiot.  With HiFi, you won't be very good at trading and collecting gear if it's all just random stuff that doesn't produce good music. 
Many salient points already made in this discussion.

I don't think its an either/or proposition. One feeds on the other. Personally I think its all about the music and I have literally more than 1000 pounds of gear. And still more stashed in closets. So the chase is
over for me, I'm there...I have arrived at my happy place.  That is not to say I haven't heard better rigs, I surely have many times. So what.  But, I will continue to chase music and collect it.

Music arrived on the scene long before any form of audio equipment.

Regards,
barts
No insult intended hilde45.
I guess it came out that way.
You did indeed provoke a discussion.
I like the Zen... comment. I’m a big Lila fan too, sailing through life.
I get more satisfaction getting audio hardware to work synergystcally than collecting the pieces alone. All in service of the enjoying music more.
I get much more "buzz" from discovering music I like than looking at "kit."
To answer the banner question, music is the "only" end. The pursuit of hifi gear is never ending.
"The universe without music would be madness."

Friedrich Nietzsche 
rushfan71 , I can relate! I owned a Ducati for 22-23 years. When i wasn’t riding it or fettling with it, I would sit in the garage with a beverage and a calm mind and just marvel at the art that is an Italian motorcycle... Yes, I had other bikes, but THAT bike was an object d’art...
As for music vs. gear, when I started in over 40 years ago it was a means to relate to my father. He was a classic "audiophile" with expensive equipment and a large record collection. When he wasn’t tinkering with his system he would spend hours listening to symphonies, Latin music and jazz. Occasionally he would let me play something of mine something on his system, which I’m sure sounded atrocious to him. (Rush2112 on Bozak Concert Grands? Wow! :) But we’d discuss different things and he’d teach me how and what to listen for. So when I started building systems I valued his opinions even if my meager efforts couldn’t hold a candle to his. He’s gone now, two decades, but I still rely on the techniques he taught me. A quiet home. A quiet soul. An observant mind.
Right now I’m happy with my system so I can easily let the "acquisition wolf" rest as it’s been fed and I can feed the other "wolf" that lets me enjoy the music. Hmmm but maybe I should swap that Jolida tube DAC for a Chord first? Argh! Stop it and just play music for awhile! LOL
Happy listening!