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How Women and Men Differ on High Performance Audio

Paul Wilson looks at the perplexing lack of women in audio…

Having recently returned from RMAF, I am awash with all that was seen and heard. Those remembrances, however, do not include much in the way of women who were also in attendance. While it is true that I saw several women there, particularly on Saturday, there weren’t many in attendance. If I were to say that among the audiophile community men are mainly the ones who pursue the hobby would you agree? Have you ever given much consideration to the question why the average woman is mostly apathetic towards our hobby? Yes, there are women audiophiles but the number is statistically small – or their interest is very often an offshoot of their husband’s interest and not something all to their own. Personally, I think it would be great to see more female audiophiles. I have to believe it would benefit the hobby in profound ways. 

AR-Concert.jpgI say with decided certainty that women like music just as much as men. Women sing in the shower, play music in the car, listen to iPods, and wear ear buds just like men. And the last concert I attended it sure looked like there were as many women as men having an equally good time. I mean really, give the average woman the opportunity to see a concert by a favorite entertainer and it seems clearly obvious they would enjoy attending. So why the seeming disinterest in a playback system that gets somewhat close to the live music women obviously enjoy? 

Money, you say. The horrendous expense of audio dissuades most women. Well, there is probably as much absurdity in a $5,000.00 set of speakers as a $5,000.00 pair of women’s custom, designer shoes. I have a friend whose wife unsuccessfully proposed $75,000.00 worth of landscaping be done to their lawn. How is that any more or any less absurd than mono blocks? Yes, you’d have a great looking lawn, but you’d also have some magnificent amps! It’s very easy to spend profound amounts of money on the most banal things. Cost is relative. It has to be something more than cost. 

Maybe it’s the size of many audiophile components – like five-foot tall speakers and hundred plus pound amps. Well, that certainly has merit. So here’s a question – how many audiophiles have had to make concessions because their wife has some monstrosity of a sofa and coffee table she wants to put in the great room? Audiophiles are very often surrounded by furniture that is big, heavy and interrupts system set up goals. Or in the opposite extreme we live in a small space and have trouble accommodating the audio system along with the furniture. I suspect most audiophiles go to great lengths to make their system fit very nicely in their living environment – particularly if the system is in a main part of the home and not a segregated listening room. Is, then, component size really a factor? 

AR-FirstReflections.jpgHow about clashing with their sense of decor and style? That certainly sounds very plausible. While male audiophiles may see a system as a thing of beauty most women probably do not. Certainly an amp and a pair of floorstanding speakers don’t hold the same sort of captivation as a beautiful painting or sculpture. Would you not think, therefore, that such perceptions would fade after spending some time listening to music? Well, maybe, maybe not. 

What about those magnificent sonic attributes? Do they even matter? That wonderful, captivating sonic excellence most any high performance system is capable of producing – think that might matter for something? Being able to enjoy music together after a hard day’s work or on a weekend with a glass of wine should be one reason all this madness exists in the first place. Having all the pieces of the puzzle in place to reproduce the best sonics seems reasonable. Yet, how many male audiophiles enjoy the hobby predominately alone? 

So if your wife (or girlfriend) goes into some maddening form of apoplexy after you’ve spent the afternoon positioning the speakers in the golden triangle, the rule of thirds, and getting the toe in just right, and then tells you “is that where those things are going to stay? I think not!” — you’ll know all you need to know about her level of devotion to Audiophilia. On the other hand, should she start regaling you with a discussion of frequency slope, dynamics and first reflections, consider yourself quite fortunate. 

AR-NotInterestedSmallFormat.pngMy best guess is high performance audio is just one more way in which men and women differ. Maybe it is best explained by the same reasoning that, for whatever the reason, men and women simply have differing interests. Maybe women attribute it to just one more “guy thing.” Maybe they are genetically predisposed to think that audio is a silly, wasteful venture. Maybe it is as simple as they just aren’t interested. Lots of maybes –  few solutions. 

I suppose like so many things in life there is just not a satisfactory answer to the question. Maybe the cross us guy audiophiles must bear is a certain tolerance of “wife acceptance factor'” (WAF). I realize I didn’t give an answer to the question posed in the title. I didn’t because I just can’t. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing.

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