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Why Audiophiles Can’t Back Away From The Edge


Of all the hobbies and rabbit holes I have gone down, audio and AV have some of the most fanatical members I have encountered. While I consider myself an enthusiast, I shy away (heavily) from the term audiophile. I often ask myself why audiophiles can’t back away from the edge of some of their long-held beliefs or claims.

Ok, so let’s get this out there. I am going to beat up a bit on audiophiles. I can be just as fanatical as anyone else about my hobbies. My setup went from movies only to adding streaming music. I now have a vast physical media collection, including CDs and vinyl, and now MiniDisc and VHS. I added DACs, external amplifiers, and other gadgets to get “perfection.” But here is the difference between me and an audiophile. I backed away from the edge and sold it all. But the allure of perfection is always there, and I always have to talk myself back from the edge. Does this resonate with you? Let’s discuss!

Reason 1 Why Audiophiles Can’t Back Away From The Edge – It’s All About The Gear

Audiophile (noun)

a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction

So by its very definition, I am an audiophile. I am VERY enthusiastic about the accurate reproduction of music and movies. But I never call myself one. Why is that?

When I read articles or forum posts by “audiophiles,” the discussion is always about the gear in the room, not what they are listening to. They will argue until they are blue in the face that they hear differences by changing their power cable. But refuse to treat their rooms!

And often, they will try and justify their beliefs with what they paid for the gear. I had to admit that my brand new Pro-Ject DC EVO turntable was no better than my Monolith turntable. Sure, it looks more audiophile, but I can’t detect any discernible differences between them. No one wants to admit that they spent 10K on a new amplifier with pretty blue lights and didn’t hear a difference.

Tuuuuuuuubes!

I love to get new gear, just like anyone else. But I can be truthful and admit that I often upgraded because I wanted to. And I don’t have any issue with that! Do you want to spend hundreds on new speaker cables? Go get it! But don’t try and tell me that your new speaker cables revealed a new cymbal crash that was previously hidden by inferior cables.

Reason 2 Why Audiophiles Can’t Back Away From The Edge – Gatekeeping

Gatekeeper (noun)

1: one that tends or guards a gate

2: a person who controls access

So let’s be clear, every hobby has gatekeepers – full stop. All gatekeepers have the same tendencies. That is, to keep the “undesirable people” away from their hobby. I belong to many forums, and I see posts from newcomers ripped to shreds because they don’t have their speakers in the “best place” or some other nonsense.

“None shall pass…without an external amp!”

That attitude keeps people from wanting to join and share in our hobby. It reinforces the trope that we are a bunch of weirdos who sit in our basements and continually tweak our gear. Ok, so that last one is a fairly accurate representation of me. But I will never berate someone because they don’t listen to my advice.

And sure, I am aware I am being a hypocrite by categorizing all “audiophiles” as the same. I have interacted with far more kind audiophiles than rude ones. But just like most things, we tend to remember the negative interactions more than the positive ones. But guess what? The loudest voices tend to represent us.

Reason 3 Why Audiophiles Can’t Back Away From The Edge – They Refuse To Evolve

Evolve (verb)

1: to produce by natural evolutionary processes

2: to undergo evolutionary change

I have been an audio enthusiast since I spun my first record in the ’80s. I have never looked back. Maybe I am one of the weird ones who couldn’t wait for the next big thing. But many audiophiles tend to hold onto long-held (and old-fashioned) beliefs that refuse to die, despite proof to the contrary.

One of the long-held beliefs I still read from audiophiles is that the ONLY way to listen to music is with full-range tower speakers and no subwoofer. So let me get this straight. You want to play the bass through a speaker that could share frequencies versus a speaker designed specifically for bass? Gotcha! That logic made sense when subwoofers were not as capable as they are today. But now you can get subwoofers that will outperform any full-range speaker.

But despite all the proof to the contrary, these myths refuse to die. It’s not that I don’t think that audiophiles are incapable of reading the research or listening to others. Rather, they continue to read magazines or subscribe to forums reinforcing this. I have been called out in my articles because I have dared to question these long-held beliefs. Bringing me to my last point

Reason 4 Why Audiophiles Can’t Back Away From The Edge – The Hive Mind

Hive mind (noun)

1: the collective mental activity expressed in the complex, coordinated behavior of a colony of social insects

2: the collective thoughts, ideas, and opinions of a group of people (such as Internet users) regarded as functioning together as a single mind

We are the Audiophile. We will assimilate you. Resistance is futile.

Ok, so you think I am being dramatic, but that’s not far from the truth. As I have said many times previously, I read many audio forums. I frequently see the same advice or misinformation spewed without any context. Oh, you own Klipsch speakers? That’s a paddlin! You don’t have an OLED or the flagship model TV? That’s a paddlin! You’re TV is mounted 0.5” higher than what ”they” consider optimal? You betcha, that’s a paddlin!

I see lots of comments but very little advice and even less substance. They jump on brands because one person did, and that hive mentality takes over. And guess what, most of them have never even had any real-world experience with those brands. They just squawk back the hive mind’s words. As a writer, I have to be objective in my views. I can’t look at a product and then give a review based on something I have read. It’s my job to touch, hear and use these products and be objective.

“So, we all agree that Tim’s TV is too low, right? Someone get the paddle!”

I get it, no one wants to be the odd person out. I get scoffed at when I show off my modest $1000/pr bookshelf speakers and dual subs. Oh, I use an AV receiver and room correction? Get out the pitchforks and torches!!! So to avoid that scrutiny, most give in and follow the collective.

Our Take

Ok, so I admit that (based on the definition) I am an audiophile. I am also an audio enthusiast, audio nerd, and a whole bunch of different stuff. And yes, I have gone through many of these stages, but I have backed off the ledge each time. And guess what, I will probably climb back up to peer over. But I will end up backing down.

There is no harm in being enthusiastic about your hobby. What I take umbrage with is the gatekeeping and elitism. If you have the means to spend thousands on gear, go ahead. But don’t judge me or others for choosing not to. The hobby should be about educating others and yourself.

So the next time you get up on that ledge. Consider backing away…just a little bit. If I can back away, so can you!


2 Comments on Why Audiophiles Can’t Back Away From The Edge

  1. Jason

    You guys at AVgadgets backed me away from the edge as soon as I started reading your articles. It’s great to have the no nonsense advice and the truth! My wallet and I thank you!!!

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