When Bill Clinton first ran for president he had a campaign slogan that traveled with him everywhere. “It’s the economy, stupid.” This one saying, and the fact that he devoted the bulk of his campaign to this simple platform, arguably won him the presidency. Whether you liked or voted for Clinton or not, this adherence to a single concept kept his attention on what he deemed most important. An audiophile equivalent might well be “It’s all about the music.”
Recently I was listening to music and for what perhaps was the first time in a long time, I just closed my eyes and concentrated on what I was hearing. I didn’t care at all about amps, preamps, frequency response, dynamics, soundstage, imaging and well, all that stuff. I wasn’t watching a ball game, a golf match, or anything else on television. I wasn’t talking to anyone either in person or on the phone. I wasn’t rifling through web sites on the iPad or trying to catch up on unreturned emails, text messages or regular mail. I was just listening to music. That’s it, nothing else.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find some level of disagreement on a multitude of audiophile concepts. Cables, analog, digital, tubes, solid state, take your choice- and admit that there will never be a solitary opinion on any of it. There will always be dissention and discussions, sometimes even and possibly heated arguments in support of some position or against another. Regardless of how well thought out or how definitively you state your cause, someone, likely quite a few, will absolutely disagree.
I suppose it must be in my nature but I tend to think the more expensive the thing the better it will perform. I suspect most people would agree that a Ferrari is a better made and better engineered vehicle than a Yugo. I’d also expect I’d get little argument with the notion that a set of Constellation Hercules monoblocks, a DCS Vivaldi Stack and a set of $500,000 Goldmund Apologue 25th Anniversary Edition speakers, that Roger Skoff has written about several times, will sound better than something procured from the bargain bin at Sears and Roebuck.
Admittedly, I find myself craving the dream system- the one that no one else has, the one that cost some stupid amount of money. Perhaps, and probably very likely, that inspiration is at least partly what motivates me. That thing that keeps me getting up at 4:30 in the morning to get the day started. I also suspect I’m not really all that substantially different than a lot of folks. Shoot, we all can dream for something that is most likely unobtainable.
But whether your system is some million-dollar beast that sounds like the band is playing in your living room, or something that Richard Sears or Alvah Roebuck would be proud to call their own is not really the point. Put simply, it’s all about the music and the enjoyment derived from listening.
We audiophiles are, for better or worse, a determined lot. We draw our lines in the sand and collectively dare someone to cross. We can love the hyper expensive system, the inexpensive system, the system that sounds better than all others, the system that is only marginal or any other description of an audio system.
We can congregate in audio forums, audio web sites, for that matter an audio dealer’s loading dock, and argue till the cows come home about what we think, make that convinced, is the correct position on a subject. We can have a polite discussion or a vitriolic argument.
It seems to me that those things are the glue that keeps the hobby together. That multi facet stone of our audio jewelry that justifies everything else. It is perfectly acceptable to spend an hour in an audio forum, when admittedly you really should be working, arguing some concept on one side or the other. It is certainly also acceptable to want something better. That something that is out of reach, if only for the time being or even forever.
At some point in time, however, those things should be set aside, perhaps if only temporarily. At some point in time it shouldn’t matter if your amp cost a little or a lot, it shouldn’t matter if your speakers have the proper toe in and rake angle, if your cartridge has the proper alignment, if you use a USB or digital cable, tubes or solid state, digital or analog, or if any of the thousand other audio things are correct. At some point in time we should consider turning off the television, shutting down the iPad, the computer, putting the dog outside, and dismiss and disengage ourselves of all external distractions and influences and just listen to the music. We should let it envelop and enrich us in the way only music is capable. We should become a part of the music we hear regardless of the genre and the system on which is played.
We won’t likely be elected President but we will raise the enjoyment bar on our audio experience by a notch or two. Because it really is only about one thing. One goal that motivates us, that involves us, that captivates us, which endear us to a hobby about which not many understand or are even concerned.
In short, it’s all about the music.