Someone recently asked me why I had invested as much as I have in a "stereo system?" Their assertion was that I could get music just as easily from an MP3 player. Really, now? I could have launched into something about musical experience or how involving my system is. I could have talked about soundstage and dynamics. I chose to instead reply that it was a hobby and a passion and what I enjoyed.
Let's face it, some of us, probably many of us, remember a time when we were excited beyond measure to hear our new favorite song on the AM transistor radio. We may have even danced around our bedrooms while happily singing into the other end of the hairbrush. We knew every song in the top 40. We took a huge amount of satisfaction from a music playback system that sold in the day for, what, less than five bucks? So how exactly did we get from that to an audio system that costs as much as a car? Or maybe even a house?
I know a man who is vey passionate about antique cars. He has Model A's, Model T's and other vintage automobiles. Most are restored to perfection. Several of them have won first place awards at car shows. He is constantly buying and selling them and at any one time has between 20 and 25 cars in his collection. He hired a group of Amish carpenters to come from Pennsylvania and build a real Amish barn in which he can store his cars and carry out restoration work. He installed hydraulic lifts so he can store cars one on top of the other to conserve space, because he would never allow a car to sit out in the weather. He can almost always be found at some point during the weekend in his barn, doing what he loves: working on antique cars. Does this level of passion sound like an audiophile by chance? Is he wasting his money and time or doing something he loves? If it's not a waste, then how is being an audiophile any different?
What non-audiophiles fail to understand is the fun we have in the pursuit of an audio system and the music rendered. We read reviews, attend audio shows, move equipment around and do component trials because we enjoy doing so. We endure the sideways glances from wives and friends for spending what we do on our systems. We are always on the search for obscure music, high-resolution music, or any music we find interesting. We do all of this to enrich our musical experience. We do this willingly. This is simply the passion that fuels our hobby.
Some of us find this fuel in outstandingly expensive systems, some of us in modest systems. Whether a system costs $5,000 or $500,000, there will always be those who think it a complete waste of money and time. They think we should put our resources to better use. Find a hobby that is less expensive that offers equal enjoyment. Music is just not that important. Well, hold on there, Matilda.
It has been said that romance chooses us, that we don't choose romance. If this is in fact true, then the same might be said for a chosen hobby. All of us who call ourselves audiophiles fell into our passion somehow. Maybe, as in my case, it was introduced at an early age by a neighbor. I can still clearly remember how I felt that day over 40 years ago after first hearing that system. That day is such an imprinted memory for me, and one that even now I look to recreate. Maybe our passion developed because of a simple desire to enjoy improved sound. Whatever the reason, high-end audio, like antique cars, is our chosen hobby.
So the next time someone tells you that your beloved audio system is just a "glorified radio," smile and tell him or her it is a hobby you love to pursue. Or maybe even better, invite them over for a listening session. Ask them if that sounds like a glorified radio. That should change their mind!