Written by 5:30 am Audiophile, Audiophile News, News

Can You Own Too Much Gear?

Paul Wilson looks at the wisdom in collecting a lot of audio gear…

I feel quite assured there are those outside our little hobby who feel we audiophiles are all bent towards excess. We buy multiple copies of one artist’s work, in both digital and vinyl formats, and then stream any other version we may find only to discover if any sonic differences between them exist. Who, aside from an audiophile, does that?

Anyone outside our little hobby will very likely be shocked and amazed at how much gear might cost. When the average consumer may completely and irrevocably balk at the idea of spending $799.00 for an entire audio system from a big box store – the logic against being they can stream music from a smart device that costs $99.00 – how will they ever be accepting of an audio system costing $15,000.00 or more? Think they might tend to view anyone with such a system as completely insane? Imagine telling someone that million-dollar systems are easily possible? 

All audiophiles must face some measure of derision and ridicule from those outside our hobby. It is part and parcel and essentially intrinsic to the hobby itself. We are going to be questioned, doubted and maybe for some even vilified by our peers for our entertainment choices. I have told more than one wife of an audiophile friend that at least our hobby is one enjoyed at home, not out and about somewhere. And of course, they nod as if they agree – despite questioning their husband for having such a system in the first place, and also me for supporting his decision to do so. 

All of these conditions, most of which all audiophiles have faced at some time or another, are borne by those outside our hobby. What about excess within our hobby? 

And no, this is not a critique of system costs. I personally see no harm in how much anyone elects to spend on their audio system. It simply doesn’t matter to me in the least. If someone can afford a million-dollar system, that’s fine by me. I am not one to question the logic of spending untold sums of disposable income in the furtherance of a hobby. 

My question is more centered along the lines in the wisdom of having a lot of gear. Multiple versions of the same piece of equipment. Equipment that goes unused for years, maybe decades. 

I enjoy reading audio forums. I see it as audio entertainment. I laugh out loud at some of the comments. I am also continually impressed by the level of technical acumen displayed by so many. What also intrigues me is how many comments I read by those with a significant amount of audio equipment. 

How many audiophiles have more than one set of speakers? More than one turntable? More than one amplifier? More than one set of audio anything cables? In the spirit of full disclosure, I am raising my hand to the “all of the above” answer. 

I have known audiophiles who own four, five or more sets of speakers. Multiple complete systems in fact. Not a system, in the audio room and a home theater rig in the great room, mind you. I’m talking about multiple systems in the same room. 

There are those for whom multiple versions of the same piece of equipment is perfectly natural. Dealers come first to mind. Obviously, a dealer trying to remain in business must have more than one of anything to be a viable sales outlet for potential customers. 

Industry people also come to mind. Anyone engaged in the practice of performing equipment reviews will very likely have multiple components. Personally, I see that as a logical thing. In order to make reviews fair, likewise equipment rightfully should be used. I would be quite skeptical of a reviewer who found fault with a $299.00 speaker when paired with the remainder of their system retailing for a half million or more dollars. Or the opposite of that is also true. I find the most value in a review where all the equipment is on a commensurate level. 

What about the good ole average audiophile? That guy who just seems to keep buying new and seldom parts ways with old? That seasoned audiophile, who for reasons known only to themselves, never finds a logical reason to do away with a speaker despite also having six other pairs not in use? I mean, how much inactive, unused audio equipment stored in closets, basements, garages and storage budlings is too much?   

I see this as a quasi-matter of semantics. Having a collection of audio gear is completely acceptable when viewed as what many may see the audiophile hobby being – a collection of something. When framed in the context of audiophilia being, for nonprofessional use that is, a hobby, having more than one of something is quite natural. 

Maybe we hold on to those other six sets of speakers, or amps, or turntables or whatever because we plan to use them at some point in the future. Maybe we have a child who will be happy to have a system comprised of equipment originating from the closet. Maybe we hold on to something for sentimental reasons. Maybe we just like collecting gear! Is there anything demonstrably wrong with that – provided of course said collecting does not become an obsession causing financial harm to the remainder of the family?

Like so much of our hobby multiple answers to that particular question exist. In my view, anyone who does not sacrifice familial or personal fiscal responsibilities is free to collect audio gear. If it goes unused for years even, tucked neatly away in a closet to be used when “the time is right,” then so be it. Who cares? 

Collecting is the operative word here. We collect audio gear. Right or wrong is debatable and the answer is varied by the perspective of the person rendering judgment. Non audiophiles will probably think doing so foolish. Audiophiles will likely disagree. 

One fact is, of course, unassailable. At least we are at home in our madness and not out and about. Non audiophiles should welcome and not take umbrage in that. 

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