On a recent business trip I found myself fifteen minutes into an hour and forty-five minute flight and basically bored stiff. I wasn’t interested in reading the magazines I brought for the flight. I certainly was not going to review the meeting documents on the iPad- again. Because I seldom sleep on flights I just leaned my head back, looked out the window and thought about, well, nothing. Then it hit me. A question. Why am I an audiophile? What’s the big deal about this particular hobby?
My first and most obvious answer was because of the music. My love of music is the motivation for something better than a playback method whose sonic failings are too numerous to list. But that’s not really correct now is it? I know a lot of people I’d absolutely say have a love of music equal to my own and they happily get by with the very system I choose to condemn.
Is it possibly a desire to have something to impress everyone? Well, I certainly hope not. I hope I have the system I do because I am simply happy with it and not because I am trying to impress someone. But wait now, do I not feel good when friends come over and marvel at what they hear? Well, sure but that’s the result and not really the motivation. In fact, trying to come up with a satisfactory answer to that one clicked about twenty minutes off the flight.
I decided to again go back to thinking about nothing and for some reason, I suppose music was rumbling in my subconscious, I remembered a song from high school that my girlfriend of the day and I considered “our song.” Flying Sorcery from Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat album was mine and, well, I can’t remember her name, but I sure do the song. When I hear Flying Sorcery these days I am transported back to a simpler time when how my hair looked was the major concern of the day.
But we’re still not quite there are we? I wasn’t listening to Flying Sorcery on an expensive reference system in the mid 1970’s and I still loved the song. Would I have thought differently of it had I a high performance system back then? Perhaps. Probably would have made breaking up with what’s her name a little easier.
I can drone on and on about the other obvious audiophile things- soundstage, imaging, dynamics, clarity, impact, blah, blah, blah. ALL audiophiles love those things, expect to hear them and to one degree or another have them. My system doesn’t deliver some magical thing that no one else’s does so that’s not the reason.
So again, why do I love high-end audio? Why do I have a system that costs a substantial amount of money? Why go to audio shows? Why subscribe to and read industry magazines and web sites? Why visit dealers and talk audio? Why look high and low for new and interesting music? Why take an afternoon moving speakers a few millimeters at a time only to find in the end I liked them where they were in the first place?
When the wheels touched down I still had not settled on a worthy answer. One that made some sort of sense. And when I was standing in that interminable line at the rental car counter it hit me.
Perfection. If we can agree that live, possibly unamplified, but at least live music is the standard to which all reproduction systems are measured and judged, then perfect reproduction of the same is what an audiophile seeks. Perfection is the goal always chased but seldom caught.
Audio perfection is what makes this particular hobby so entertaining. More so than just the music reproduced. Any of us may hear a song and remember some past time, place or event and the means by which the song was reproduced is irrelevant. Memories and emotions created by music are not solely tied to sound quality.
We do all of these audiophile things because we seek something more than just hearing a song on ear buds. We seek perfection. How we choose to get there is strictly a personal decision based on our own likes and dislikes. It explains, or at least is one explanation, why there are so many varied opinions about components, cables, set up and all the other things.
We may not ever reach a level of reproduction perfection that equals a live performance but the hobby and the goal are one in the same. Perfection. That is why I am an audiophile.