Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Many times it is a struggle to explain to those not interested in high-end audio what drives the audiophile to sacrifice time, money, aesthetics, and domestic tranquility to achieve their goal of sonic bliss. Trying to describe any emotional experience to another individual is always difficult but the euphoria that is brought on by experiencing a phenomenal musical reproduction in one's own home of a favorite artist, many times long since dead is particularly difficult.

For the most part when trying to explain the quest to those who are interested in understanding I've repeated the same anecdote. When I was in college most of my friends were training as classical musicians which gave me the chance to hear live orchestral and string quartet music on a very regular basis. Though I 'm no expert. One night we were all sitting around and shooting the breeze while my stereo was playing a piece by Debussy in the background and one of my good friends asked, "Isn't this all a bit excessive?" while motioning to my system of the time. He was a huge Johnny Cash fan so I asked him, "When you pop in a CD of early Johnny Cash recordings into your boom box what is your goal?" He smugly replied, "I want to listen to a Johnny Cash CD of course" thinking that he had won the argument. My response was to say, "Then a boom box is an acceptable tool to reach your goal. My goal is different. I want to be transported back in time and space to 1955 Memphis, Tennessee at Sun Studios with Mr. Cash and his band 10 feet in front of me and Sam Philips a couple of feet behind me in the control room. To me a really great audio system is almost a time and space machine which should create a virtual reality experience." Instantly everyone in the room sort of got what all of the madness was about and from that day forward they respected what I was trying to accomplish.

Of course if this 20 minute documentary involving the Audiophile Club of Athens by Ken Barns had existed then I would have shown them this as well. It's a great peak into the passion, humor, and diversity that is the hobby. It's also wonderful viewing for audiophiles that have somehow lost their way and forgotten that it really is all about the music. Even though these gentlemen and I have had very different life experiences there is no doubt that the passion that we share for music and audio would be enough common ground to enjoy each others company for an afternoon.



Ken said...


I have met a lot of audiophiles with passion.
But unfotunately quite a few of this passionate seasoned audiophiles have not progressed at all even though they have dabbled in hifi for more than 2 decades.

They could not differentiate what is a good sound and what is bad. Sometimes they don't even know if changing a hardware or adding a tweak make a difference that is good to their system. Quite a clueless lot if you ask me.

So having a passion for hifi may not be a good thing. Having a passion to progress in hifi is what we want.

audioexplorer said...

Passion is the beginning that hopefully drives people to learn and to try to understand.

Personally I prefer hobbyists that have the passion, but may be slightly mis-guided to those that are only interested in audio to impress others and show how much money they can spend. Those guys really drive me nuts.

Ken said...


I am not against hobbyist or DIY but I find a lot of the DIYers just like to build stuff. They may start with an amp, then progress to speakers, cables etc. They just never stop trying to build stuff. They always talk about using this brand of caps and that brand of caps but when I ask them how does the sound differ when you use different caps, they could not answer.
I also find a lot of DIYers are of the opinion that highend manufacturers charge too much for things that they can build for a fraction of the cost. When challenged to build things into the same quality, they back down.

But then again, there are also good DIYers who can really make some good stuff but they are a rare breed.

audioexplorer said...


The DIYers that have a superiority complex drive me crazy too. Of course they love their OWN creations in the same way that every parent thinks that they have the cutest and smartest baby. At least until they've lived with it for a while and the newness and excitement has worn off.