Journey to the Dark Side – Becoming an Audiophile
We’ve railed against the term “Audiophile” for a long time around here. Not because loving music and caring about accurate fidelity in audio reproduction is a bad thing. Quite the opposite! It is because a small group has co-oped the term. To many, an “Audiophile” isn’t someone that cares about audio, they are literally crazy about audio. They will spend any and all of their money on audio equipment. Audiophiles aren’t normal people, they inhabit the darkest corners of the Internet waiting to pounce on anyone that dares to ask a question about audio to tell them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Does this sound like you? Would you like it to? Well, here is our decidedly tongue-in-cheek path to achieving true Audiophile status!
Reject Room Acoustics
If there is a code phrase to entering the speakeasy of the Audiophile it is “the room doesn’t matter.” The core belief of Audiophilia is that the room has zero effects on the sound you hear. No matter that all the science says otherwise. In order to truly act as Audiophiles do, you must believe that the room doesn’t change what you hear.
The reason this is so important is that it powers every other belief of the Audiophile. If you’ve read any high-end audio reviews, you’ll see that the Audiophile absolutely loves listing their equipment. They’ll tell you their speakers, amps, and cables. They’ll describe any and all devices in their system including cable risers, termination materials, and tonearm modifications. What they won’t list? Anything about their room.
Audiophiles love to buy equipment. That doesn’t leave a lot of money left over for houses.
Less is More
Now that you’ve rejected room acoustics, it’s time to accept the core tenet of Audiophilia is that less is more. Less science, less functionality, and less (fewer) drivers are always better. Audiophiles don’t buy AV receivers because they do too much stuff. All the stuff that a receiver does that they don’t use must affect the sound (it doesn’t, but they think it does). So they opt for separates (pre-processor along with an external amplifier). It doesn’t end there. If they could, they’d have a separate box for every single function of their home audio system.
With speakers, the fewer drivers the better. True audiophile sound comes from one full-range driver in a tower speaker. Adding crossovers into a speaker is just asking for problems (say the Audiophiles). Because they think all the sound should be coming from your front left and right speakers (stereo is king to the Audiophile), they reject all surround sound (too much processing and functionality) and subwoofers (take the bass out of their speakers? Sacrilege!).
No, it doesn’t make much sense. But beliefs that reject science rarely do.
Begin Your Audiophile Journey by Starting Small
Now that you understand the core beliefs of the Audiophile, it is time to start your journey. Step one is to make a small change to your system. We recommend buying a pair of used, name-brand, speaker cables. There are tons on the used market as Audiophiles love to upgrade.
You may be thinking that you should upgrade your speakers or AV receiver because you are starting with decidedly non-audiophile gear. No! Buy that speaker cable and post in an Audiophile forum about how much difference it made. Here, we’ll help you. Just swap out the XXX for the name of the speaker cable, YYY for the name of your crappy speakers, and ZZZ for the name of your AV receiver or amp.
“Guys, I know I’m new to this but I just wanted to share what happened. I found a deal on XXX cables that I’ve been reading about. I didn’t really believe that they’d make much of a difference but the price was too good to pass up. I figured I could just sell them and get my money back after I tried them out. Well, that isn’t happening! I plugged them into my YYY speakers driven my my ZZZ. I know, I’m due for an upgrade! I didn’t expect to hear much if any change. But WOW!?! It was like a veil lifted from the music! Suddenly everything was clearer and the bass was much more impactful! Is this what you guys have been talking about? I can’t wait to hear what these cables sound like with some good gear!”
You’ll be in. Guaranteed.
Since Audiophiles don’t believe in room acoustics, the only way they can change or improve their sound is by “upgrading” gear. While this often equates to spending more and more money on equipment that does less, it doesn’t have to. Upgrading to a normal person means buying something better that costs more. For Audiophiles, it means making a change. Any change can be an “upgrade” if you decide it improves your sound. Put a butcherblock under your amp? It’s an upgrade. Swap out that butcherblock for a piece of marble you got as a free sample from a tile store? Upgrade! All you need to do is to describe, in excruciating detail, your process, your gear, and what you listened to in order to hear the difference.
Oh, and don’t forget to mention that “even your wife/spouse” that doesn’t care about audio noticed the difference. From a different room. Usually across the house.
No New Tech…Unless It Includes the Word “Quantum”
Audiophiles don’t care about surround sound or Atmos or upmixing or any new technology. Remember, less science means more better for them. There is one exception. Any “science” that suggests that a cable or high-end piece of gear is somehow “better” is A-OK with them. This usually involves lots of science-y words like “quantum” and “cryogenic” and “expensive.” Then, suddenly, they care all about the science.
If gold is a better conductor (even though it will sound no different from copper or other conductive metals commonly used), then everything must be gold. If they do make any scientific claims, they are numerous and filled with jargon. But for the Audiophile, your ears are the best measurement device. As such, any subjective claims always supersede any science-based explanations.
Any new technology must be thoroughly and consistently eschewed and lambasted. No, they don’t care that there is real data that shows how to get the best bass in your room. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been using the word “decouple” wrong for decades (hint: if you are using spikes, you are doing it wrong). It doesn’t matter that adding room treatments will consistently, measurably, and subjectively improve the sound in their rooms. They don’t care. All they care about is chasing the next upgrade.
If you consider yourself an Audiophile and none of the above sounds like you, we sincerely apologize. By the most textbook definition of the word, we qualify as Audiophiles as well. Unfortunately, the term has been co-oped by people that make the rest of us uncomfortable. It is possible to care about good sound and still understand room acoustics. It is possible to upgrade your system without believing that your cables are making anything other than a neutral or negative impact. Audiophiles have stolen the term and forever tainted it. That’s why we don’t use it for ourselves or for people like us.
We’re not Audiophiles. We’re enthusiasts.