I have, for over thirty years, been a practicing therapist (Rational motive Behavior Therapy) and adjunct professor at a Chicago based university. My courses and workshops are not for under graduates, but working professionals or graduates in different types of occupations, mainly in education and/or health.
Many of my students take numerous courses from me and end up being very good acquaintances and even dear friends in some cases. As we get to know each other and share our interests and hobbies they start to find out about my passions regarding music and high-end stereo gear. This invariably leads to all kinds of questions regarding what different types of gear there is and how shocked they are at what the price is of some audiophile level stuff. They can't always come to grips with the idea that speaker wire or a single power cable can cost hundreds, sometimes-even thousands of dollars. This revelation is often met with phrases such as, "you gotta be kidding me, right?"
After I explain away the costs associated with some high end systems, I quickly inform them that they can put together a beautiful sounding system without having to take out a second mortgage their home -assuming of course there's any equity in any of our homes these days.
Now, at this point in the discussion the next question always arises, " well I love music but with my ears will I really hear a difference? I know you're a 'seasoned' listener with golden ears that you have trained for years, but will I really hear a difference?"
When we get to the point in this discussion, and assuming we have become good enough friends for them to come over to my home, I invite them to over and ask that they bring their favorite CD's to see what they hear or experience setting down in front of my high end rig. My system is composed of pieces by Pass Labs, Concert Fidelity MBL, Magnapan MG-20s, Stealth wires and Running Springs Audio conditioning, all in a large dedicated listening room. Pretty good stuff, that gives a wonderful illusion of listening to real, live music.
Every demo is handled the same, I sit the guest down in the sweet spot, cue up their favorite disc and dim the lights. When the demo is over I turn up the lights and prepare myself for what is always a barrage of emotions and exclamations; "I could not believe what that just sounded like... like they were really in the room... so clear I heard every single note... it was spooky it really sounded like James Taylor was right in front of me... I never heard something like this before..." and finally, "how much does it cost to get something like this in my house?"
I have never had someone not have an experience like this in my home. Remember these are people who are curious about what a good system sounds like and also really do love music. They're not "audiophiles," so they don't use our shoptalk like: micro/macro details, soundstage/layering, timbres, harmonics, spacing of players, liquidity, musicality, etc. But yes, THEY HEAR THE DIFFERENCE, even if they just emotionally respond with, "it just sounds more real to me!"
Many of them then go on to talk to me about how to put together a system for music that fits their room size and budget. I explain that you pay a lot for that last fifteen percent of performance in the crazy world of high-end audio, but we can put together a system that will give them more of a taste then they thought possible for far less than what I've spent. Most spend around a couple of thousand dollars to get a system that really allows them to relax and enjoy the music in a way they never did before in their home. A few have gone on to spend right out of the box more then $10,000, and yes one of these music lovers was one of my female students -proving that high end audio isn't just a boys' club.
I don't believe that there is any serious moralizing in my short little anecdote, except that anyone who loves and cares about its beauty will HEAR THE DIFFERENCE, the only difference is that unlike an audiophile who develops a vocabulary to communicate with other crazy audiophiles, the lay person simply enjoys the experience without a need to analyze or put into objective terms what they are experiencing. So, yes, the music lover WILL HEAR THE DIFFERENCE, question answered.