Written by 4:13 am Audiophile

Audiophile Malcontention?

Paul Wilson wonders why audio systems get different reactions that high-perforance automobiles…

As it applies to hobbies, there are two certainties: one, many people have them and two, there is a cost associated with virtually all of them – little or a lot, there’s almost always a price to pay.

aAR-Ferrari3333.jpgEnjoying doing something in one’s free time is not unusual. It oftentimes gives a purpose to why we work to earn a living. We use the “disposable” portion of those earnings for a specific interest – generally called a “hobby.” Disposable can be a description of a minor investment or a major one – it depends on the fiscal resources one intends to devote to a sideline pursuit.

Interests such as these are wide ranging and quite varied. Some can easily be decidedly expensive. Jay Leno, for instance collects cars and I’d hate to imagine what his total investment must be. I also doubt anyone chastises him for following his passion – namely because he can easily afford his automotive passion. And admittedly, walking into his garage would be something to behold. I’ve seen his shop on a few TV programs and I’d love to see his automobile collection in person.

So why is it that audiophiles are commonly, perhaps even unjustly ridiculed for an investment in what the average person sees as just a “stereo system” – even if, like Leno’s cars, that investment is easily afforded? Is not a car collection, at the most basic level, just a collection of cars? Why is Jay Leno, for example, praised and audiophiles scorned? Why is an owner of a $10,000.00 audio system, or one of a greater investment, viewed by the average person as if they have lost some frame of their mind for spending what they did? Why are most other hobbies praised, or basically not ridiculed, and high performance audio…?

Perplexing question to be sure.

In addition to audio, I also have a passing interest in watches. I have about twenty or so of them. Most are not terribly expensive and were purchased because I thought they looked cool or I just needed (wanted) a new watch at the time. Some need new batteries, a few of them don’t work at all any more, and I typically rotate wearing about eight of my favorites.

TAR-Watch.jpgwo years ago, I visited France. While walking down the Rue de la Paix in Paris, I passed a Breitling watch retail outlet. Sitting right in the front window was a gorgeous chronograph for the tidy sum of €12,500.00 At the exchange rate at the time, the cost, minus the vale added tax was about $14,000.00, and well beyond what I was willing to pay for a watch. But boy-o-boy was that thing beautiful!

Suppose, however, I had decided to purchase a $14,000.00 Breitling watch. I seriously question whether or not my friends and contemporary acquaintances would have said I was crazy for doing so. They might not want one for themselves but I really believe that I would not be questioned because I had done so. Please explain why that is a distinction seldom afforded to someone who enjoys and is engaged in the practice of high performance audio systems? What is it that engenders such questioning contempt for the investment audiophiles make – especially if that investment is easily afforded? What the heck is the problem with our particular hobby?

Take a guy who collects exotic sports cars. Say this guy has a Ferrari in his collection. Should he offer the average person a ride would that ride not happily and eagerly be accepted? Would there likely as not be a sense of excitement for being able to ride in such a car? Suppose instead this same guy had a $500,000.00 audio system. Should he ask the average person if they would like to hear a song, would the answer be yes only to be polite, or would there be a definitive interest in hearing what the system sounded like? The difference lies in, on the one hand, a ride in the Ferrari is something exciting and desired. On the other, the non audiophile might ask: “why did this person spend so much money on a stereo system just to play a song?”

Is that how this works?

AR-Leno-Garage.jpgPerhaps a rush to judgment but I do feel audiophiles are getting a pretty raw deal. I am confident the average audiophile, regardless of their level of investment, has an audio system within their means, has it comfortably fit into their living environment, enjoys listening to finely reproduced music, involves, or tries to involve their family in listening sessions, enjoys the diversion from life’s trials and tribulations that music provides, follows and is interested in what the hobby has to offer, and yet, still somehow manages to pay the power bill each month. So please tell me, the non audiophile world that is, specifically, just where is the harm in that?

I say to everyone who thinks audiophiles are crazy for spending whatever we spend on an audio system to leave us to our own devices. Go yell at the guy who bought that $14,000.00 Breitling watch. He’s probably a better mark anyway.

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