I won’t bother quoting a definition from Wikipedia or the Webster’s Dictionary mostly because the term “audiophile” should be easily recognized, particularly if you are reading this in the first place. Being committed to improved sonics is an obvious statement of fact and the mission audiophiles zealously follow. Spending thousands, tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuit of that last eensy, teensy, small measure of better sound is willingly accepted. We employ methods to further this result that range from proven and accepted to downright obscure and completely farfetched.
I consider myself fortunate to have a dedicated room for my audio system. Few things I do on a daily basis bring me as much contentment as going upstairs to my audio room, closing the door and immersing myself with my favorite music reproduced to stunning effect. When you spend money that could be easily, and even perhaps more intelligently, earmarked for better purposes, enjoying that stereo system is the reimbursement for all the money spent, regardless of how much the investment might actually be.
Audiophiles chase music in all genres, in all formats, and even multiple copies of the same work for no other real purpose than to see if it sounds any different than the five other versions already owned. Who but a dedicated hobbyist, or someone clearly on some sort of mission would do something like this? An audiophile, of course.
In my audio room I only have one listening chair. Not a couch. Not a loveseat. Not an anything else. I do have a few chairs stored in the closet for those times when someone might want to accompany me in a listening session. Truth is, the people that surround me in my life are not really audiophiles. They might love my system but in the back of my mind I know they do not hold the same level of fascination as do I for the hobby. Moreover, I am quite confident they assuredly think I’m nuts for spending what I have for something on which to play a song. But that’s okay – I’m an audiophile, they’re not.
As much as I hate to admit it, and as much as I enjoy and admire my system, and any system capable of finely reproducing music, there are simply times when being an audiophile just “don’t cut the mustard.”
This past July, for instance, when I was hosting my housewarming party, and at basically the eleventh hour, I realized I didn’t really have any means to have background music downstairs to play while my guests were having what I hoped would be a good time. Now to be honest, I could have let it pass because, frankly, put thirty-five people in a home, give them food and beverages and music becomes mostly secondary. But hey, I’m an audiophile, right? My vision of my party’s success would be marred if I didn’t have music playing in the background, right? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Enter Sonos and Tidal. With appreciated ease, and in little more than an hour, and the afternoon of the party, and while the caterer was setting up the food, I was hooking up the Sonos I had stored in a closet and subscribing to Tidal. And poof, I had background music. More surprising to me is that I find myself using this “downstairs” system quite often. Maybe it is on a Saturday afternoon when I am in and out of the house doing “projects” and I just want something other than the television playing in the background. Maybe it is while I am in my office doing whatever. Or, perhaps, if I have friends over for dinner, trying to make that big system upstairs become something to fill the voids of conversation around the dinner table isn’t practical – at that point simple music seems the most logical choice. In those scenarios, being an audiophile is not really necessary.
Despite having the Sonos hooked up and surprisingly discovering that I enjoy its use more than I would have thought, I do have my limits. I do not really enlist the practice of less than CD quality streamed music. Now to be honest, if I am in and out of the house fifty times on a Saturday afternoon, I’m quite certain I’d never be able to tell the difference between something streamed at 1411 kbps as opposed to one of the other popular services that stream at 256 kbps for a paid version, or much lower for a free version. And if that makes me somewhat “snobbish” then fine, I do have my scruples. Of course with Tidal there’s no commercials and that, if nothing else, is worth the $20.00 a month for the subscription.
Music fills our lives in so many ways. Movie soundtracks. Concerts. Night clubs. Shoot, singing in the shower (where admit it, we ALWAYS sound magnificent), to more ways than we probably are even aware. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and we are valuably enriched for having it around, even if we don’t recognize its value. We can champion musical quality as do audiophiles, we can casually dismiss it as something relegated to the background and not the primary focus of an event, we can enjoy it any way we like, but still, music surrounds our lives in more ways than we can ever imagine. Why else would advertisements be so heavily committed to a “jingle” if not to enable the customer to remember a product. Yes, music surrounds us in so many ways. Some of us, i.e., audiophiles, take it to the extreme. Some of us, i.e., everyone else, do not. At the end of the day, those of us who measure up to the definition of “Audiophilia” sometimes find ourselves outside the pursuit of a hobby and just enjoying a song. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.