Written by 6:00 am Audiophile • 6 Comments

Why Do Audiophiles Have Such Large Music Libraries?

Paul Wilson looks at the necessity of a huge music library…

AR-MusicLibrarySmallFormat225.jpgEver seen a massive record collection? How about a massive CD collection? By massive I mean thousands upon thousands, even tens of thousands of works. Many of these pervasively large libraries contain works the owner hasn’t yet played. It is also not uncommon there will be multiple copies of any one individual work just because someone was intrigued enough to see what differences, if any, there might be in having multiple versions of something. 

If you look at the classical genre, it is not uncommon to see one of the legacy composers works performed by many different symphonies. I mean, how many times, and by how many different groups, orchestras or symphonies has Beethoven’s 9th been performed? 

AR-RCAVictorRecord225.jpgAnd all of these different performances are almost certainly captured by a different collection of recording engineers. What about most of the vintage recordings? Does any fan of classical not enjoy getting their hands on a pristine, mint version of a 1950’s Decca recording? Or the same thing by RCA

Then there is the habit of buying music that may hardly ever get played. Oh, boy, I’m guilty! I have a lot of music I bought only to find I really didn’t like it so much after all. Maybe I heard one song, rushed out and bought the LP or CD, and found I did, in fact, like the one song, but the rest of the work was pretty much garbage. 

Let’s not leave out the practice of buying multiple copies of something for no more than the sheer curiosity of doing so. I have, on many occasions, bought multiple copies of a particular work just to see if and how one might sound different from the other versions I already have.


What is even more interesting is my ONLY reason to purchase multiple versions was to determine any potential sonic differences. I really won’t like the work any better on a global scale, at most, I might think one sounds better than the other. 

Should I now mention streaming? Yes, streaming is a work-around for not investing a lot of money in a music library. Music libraries may be chosen in the streamed universe for the same cost as the monthly subscription. But is doing that really any different than a huge collection of physical media? Whether a music library is cultivated from physical media or the Internet is inconsequential, it is a lot of work either way.

The only real difference in a huge collection of music assembled in the physical realm and streamed is the cost associated in the effort. Listening to a huge library is the same regardless. 

AR-JustBecause225.pngYet how many serious music collectors can honestly say they have never, not once, bought multiple versions of any one work by any one artist for no other reason than just because? Probably very few. How many serious music collectors can honestly say that whereupon finding a work by an artist they did like, they then went and purchased every other work by that artist, again, just because? Um, guilty! None of this even remotely answers the question of the necessity of having 10,000 or more albums or CD’s (or both) in a collection. It might even be surprising to learn how many audiophiles have music collections on such a scale – even larger. 

I have made the switch from JRiver to Roon for my music server. I have yet to incorporate streaming into my server although it is on my list of things to do. One thing I very much enjoy is Roon Radio.


I can select multiple genres and let Roon choose music from my library. Would it be a surprise to learn I am constantly finding music by artists I have never heard before? And this is music I have purchased as a CD and copied to my server. Just the other day, I heard an unfamiliar song and when I looked at the rest of the CD, could not even remember buying it. Yet I bought it at some point, right? How does that happen? 

Listening to music, at least from an audiophile perspective, is why we do all of this. It is why we spend so much time and energy on our systems. Music is the lifeblood of that system. Why does anyone need multiples of anything? Or a huge collection of music? Why does a watch collector need more than one exotic watch? Why does an art collector need more than one or two beautiful paintings? Why? Simple. Because it is what we enjoy doing and a fulfillment of the pursuit of a hobby. For audiophiles, a large music library and multiple copies of something is an exploration into the furtherance of a hobby. 


For some audiophiles, a large collection of music is not only superfluous but a collective waste of money and time. For most audiophiles, however, we want to expand our reach into the unknown. We enjoy the investment in time and if applicable, the fiscal commitment of collecting and enjoying different types and genres of music. 

Having a large collection of music is not a bad thing. It is no more absurd than spending what we do for the system on which these musical libraries will be played and enjoyed. There may be many reasons why logically, large music libraries make little sense. Cost, not to mention space considerations almost invalidates the practice entirely. However, this is not a matter of practicality. Throw logic and cost out the window. We build large music collections for one simple, totally plausible reason – it’s just what we do. 

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