It’s the time of year for saving money!
One night, when I was just twelve years old, my parents took me
with them to Emmons Audio Equipment in Studio City, California, where they were
meeting a friend of theirs to help him pick his first HiFi system. What he
bought that night (that I remember) was a Garrard record changer, A “Mac 30”
amplifier, and ―
remember that this was well before 1957, when the first stereo records came out
Bozak speaker. The really important
thing that happened, though, was that I heard real live 32 Hertz (We called it
“cycles”, then) bass for the very first time, and I fell in love: No first kiss was ever more thrilling than
the sound of the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ (probably played by George Wright)
over a Bozak B310A, and I was well and truly hooked for life!
At twelve, I became a “HiFi Crazy”. I didn’t learn the fancier
term, “Audiophile” until some while later, probably from reading High
the terminology may have been up for discussion, there was never any doubt at
all about what it was that turned me on: It was the sound; not the equipment
(as a kid, I could only lust after that from afar); and not the music,
either: As I’ve grown up, I’ve gone through just about every musical “phase”
you can think of, from rock n’ roll, to country, to baroque — for a while, there, I was Kid Snob, and, for
me, if it was written after 1758 when Handel died, it wasn’t even music at all
— to classical, to jazz, to folk, to electronic, to… you name it. At twelve,
though, those were all undiscovered country for me and the sound was really the
only thing that mattered!
Today, I’m a whole lot more
sophisticated and a whole lot more affluent, but the sound is still what turns
me on. It’s not ALL that turns me on, though. I’ve also become a music lover
and a lover of beauty and a major fan of just about any kind of human
accomplishment, including superb circuit design, gorgeous wood- and metal-work,
and lovely glassware containing gentle glows of orange, blue or purple.
so, for me, being an audiophile is still, above all, about audio and the sound.
While horns can be loud and lovely (I own a pair), and electrostatics can be an
open window into the music (I own three pairs), and every other kind of speaker
has its own, sometimes colossal, appeal (and I own several pairs of them, too),
for me they’re all just air pumps, and their only REAL function is to create
pressure waves in my listening room that I can hear as sound and enjoy. If they’re beautiful looking, I will
certainly notice and enjoy that, too, and if they’re wondrously exotic or
viciously expensive, I will certainly notice that and brag about them to
anybody I can get to hold still long enough to listen to me. In the final
analysis, though, if they don’t pump good air and sound good, I’m going
to be disappointed and I will almost certainly change or get rid of them. The
same thing applies to the cables that feed them, the electronics and sources
that drive them, and even the room that I listen to them in.
And that, finally, gets
around to the subject of this article: While I know that my definition of an
audiophile is “somebody in love with sound”, I’m coming, every day, to find
more and more other people who claim to be audiophiles but who don’t seem to
share that definition at all!
You probably know them. You
may even be one of them – one of the people who seem to care more about
how a thing is made or what it’s made out of than how it sounds; or one of
those (perhaps frustrated musicians) who seem to be more interested in creating
a sound to please them than in simply enjoying the music as it really is. Or
you might just like nice things or like showing other people that you like them
and can afford to own them; or – but I certainly hope not – you might be one of
those guys who is simply a “collector” and, whether it’s records or gear or
cars or bikes or cameras or anything else, cares more about getting it and
having it than about actually enjoying it for its intended purpose.
Personally, I don’t much
care whether my electronics use tubes or transistors. I own and enjoy both
kinds. I also love the looks of some of the current crop of ultra-exotic
turntables and all of the absolutely beautiful wooden horns and wood-chassis or
wood-trimmed electronics. I love, too, the great new asymmetrically-shaped
electronics that defy stacking like ordinary gear, but are too pretty to stack,
I love all of it, but as a
lover of beauty or of art or of innovation, and I’m not at all immune to the
pleasures of just plain showing-off, but I try to keep in mind that my real
goal is the sound, and that that’s, in the end, more important to me than
How about you? Years ago, Anthony H. Cordesman
(“AHC”, to readers of the absolute sound) described audiophilia as not a
hobby, but a “sport” that could be enjoyed both by playing and by cheering-on
one’s “team”. Do you think he was right? If so, which team are you on? There
seem to be lots of games going, and lots of teams out there to support: tubes
vs. solid state; digital vs. analog; “cables and stuff DO work” vs. “cables and
such are all voodoo”; Krell vs. Rowland; Audio research vs. Jadis; “My stuff
cost more than yours” vs. “I got the better bargain”, and on and on and on.
Could it be that there’s
more than just one kind of audiophile?