As audiophiles, we all have our own perception of what best defines our hobby. For some it is all about the music. For others, the components that produce the music. I've always felt I was somewhere in the middle.
I have spent a significant amount of time reading and researching reviews, attending audio shows, visiting dealers and demoing equipment in my pursuit of the excellent reproduction of recorded music. For me, it has always been a balance of the components and reproduced music. I recently, however, was given cause to alter my perception of what it means to be an audiophile.
My friend Roger always loved music. A visit to his home for dinner usually included Roger playing something on his six-string acoustic guitar -- usually to the profound dismay of his wife and kids. Roger loved it when at long last he captured the chord structure of a favorite rock'n'roll song. He was the head of the music program at his church and everyone knew how he loved music.
A couple of years ago Roger became concerned when for some reason he began to feel poorly and could not seem to shake how he felt. A trip to the doctor revealed the terrible news: colon cancer. Not just colon cancer but an unusually aggressive form of cancer. Try though the doctors did, his conditioned worsened and no amount of chemo or anything else seemed to have any positive results.
So it was one day about six months ago a friend drove Roger to my house. By this time he was in quite a weakened state and normal daily activities were difficult. Despite it all, he wanted to come and hear my reference system. I was only too happy to oblige. After all, I wanted him to hear the results of my research and effort in being the very definition of an audiophile I had set for myself to follow -- audio excellence through world-class components and high-fidelity music.
Roger spent three hours in the sweet spot that Sunday. We talked audio systems, guitars, music, bands and every subject imaginable except cancer. At one point, I looked over at Roger and he had his head back, his eyes closed, a Miller Light in his left hand and his right hand and right foot tapping in perfect time to the music. And he was happy.
After about three hours he was getting tired and it was time to go home. As I walked Roger and our other friend out to the car, he stopped, turned and shook my hand. He thanked me for having him over that afternoon. He told me that remarkably, not once had he thought about cancer, about dying or about leaving his family without a husband and father.
As they dove off I realized that my vision of an audiophile needed to be revised. I could no longer see my hobby as simply an amp, preamp, speaker or an awesome saxophone riff. Now my definition included something else. Something infinitely more important. Now I had to also consider the day a high-end audio system and the music it reproduced gave a dying man a few hours of peace.
At his funeral recently, there was a picture of Roger at the front of the church. Right beside the picture was the six-string acoustic guitar he loved so much. Several friends and family members spoke about his life. Each one commented on his love of music.
For me, being an audiophile will always be about the relentless pursuit of the goal of perfect reproduction of recorded media. I will always have a certain passion for the highest level of components. I will continue to look for the highest standards in recorded music. I will continue to read reviews, go to audio shows, visit dealers and demo equipment. But now being an audiophile will also include the sense of satisfaction I felt that day as I watched Roger leave. That sense that a high-end audio system took him to a happier place -- even if it was only for a few hours.
Recently I was listening to music on a rainy Sunday night. I was amazed at how wonderful the music sounded. As I sat in the sweet spot and listened one song after another I thought about Roger. I thought about the day he came to my house to listen to music. I thought about how those few hours that afternoon took away the pall that hung over his life at the time. I thought about how he enjoyed that afternoon listening to music on my system. I thought about friendship and guitars. I thought about how he was now free to play music and not be in pain. How he was now at peace. I thought about how being an audiophile had to now mean something more than just the way that recorded music comes into my life. I thought about the music that Roger loved. I thought about the music I love. I sat and listened to the music I enjoy on the system I love with a feeling of contentment. And I was happy.