What Is An Audiophile? – Music Addict?
You’re wondering what the term “audiophile” means, right? Maybe you’re curious if you should claim the label or not. Is it a label worth claiming? Do you like giving yourself a label to live up to? There are some common misconceptions about this subject and hopefully we can clear those up.
For those of you who already know what it means to be an audiophile you can probably just skip over this article and check out a recent review or Audio Guide post. For the rest of you who are wondering “what is an audiophile?” so you can get in on the fun, you came to the perfect place.
In layman’s terms, an audiophile is a lover of listening to music at the highest level of quality (that’s technologically possible). The more crisp, the better. The more skull vibration the better.
Are You An Audiophile?
If you’ve heard of, or about audiophiles, you’re probably one of two kinds of people.
A. You consider yourself an audiophile – and carry the label proudly
B. You’ve heard the term, but aren’t really sure exactly what it means
To start off, there isn’t any official criteria that you have to meet in order to be someone who enjoys high-quality music. There are people out there who will try to convince you that spending thousands of dollars on “the best” audio gear and equipment, will secure you a spot in “audiophile heaven” (or something to that effect).
We all know that you can’t take your possessions with you on your way out – so it seems pretty counterproductive to approach music this way. My personal take is that you could consider yourself an audiophile if you:
- love looking for new audio gear to try out
- get more excited to try new gear out than you do for your significant other’s birthday
- never stop trying to push the boundaries of your listening experience
- might have a tendency to enjoy the company of audio technology more than other humans
- can’t stop talking about all the cool features that your favorite pair of ‘phones has (and why they’re better than x or y)
- enjoy converting MP3s into hi-res audio files (WAV, FLAC, AAC, etc.)
- look forward to the day that you never have to take your headphones out of your ears (maybe Elon Musk is already working on making built-in, upgradable ears)
- rather than dreading the rapid progression of technology – you have a brighter outlook for what it might mean for mankind
It doesn’t have to be an exclusionary hobby in my opinion – if you identify with most (or all) of the above – go ahead and claim the term. Overall, a label is just a label. Some people like having a name to describe what they enjoy doing. Others could care less about a specific term that lets everyone else know what they’re into and how they listen to music.
Casual vs. Extremist – The Spectrum of Audiophilia
Like most things, there is a pretty wide spectrum of people who fit into this category. There are casual audiophiles that spend less time reading, watching, and consuming information on the subject.
Some examples include:
- Anyone who has a home studio
- Casual recording artists
- Music fanatics
- Anyone who works in a non-audio-specific field (but still enjoys the hobby)
- People who still buy (and listen to) vinyl
On the opposite end, there are some people who live, breathe, and sleep audiophilia. Most of the people that fit into this end of the spectrum usually work in a field that’s dedicated to audio.
Some examples include:
- Audio engineers
- Electrical engineers
- Music producers
Of course there will be some who don’t fit either end, but might sit somewhere around the middle. Those are just a few examples that might be helpful to give you a better reference point.
Let’s move onto what tools you’ll want to invest in if you plan on fully diving into the world of audio.
What Are The Tools Needed?
A mechanic is a lot less effective without his tools. A baseball player without a bat to swing will never hit one out of the park. A professional race-car driver with no car won’t win any races. I think you see where I’m going with this.
It would be a good idea to invest in some basic tools if you’re ready to take the dive. A solid pair of headphones + a quality headphone amp = sonic bliss. If someone was looking to hire a “professional audiophile”, that would be the required setup for day 1 on the job.
Other Gear Worth Listening With
Your basic setup is like getting the essential tools to start working. Once you’ve gotten your fill of enjoyment (and the hunger for more starts growing in your belly) then you can move on and branch out some more.
This “branching out” process can range from adding studio monitors, turntables, quality earbuds, as well as tube amps, wireless smart speakers and more to your collection.
In a way, it starts to become a hobby that’s similar to collecting baseball cards or vintage license plates – except you’re collecting gear that you’ll be able to use and enjoy years down the road.
Common Misconceptions About Audiophiles
One common misconception about audiophiles is that you have to be a millionaire to get into the hobby. This is far from the truth. There are a ton of budget-friendly options available to experience your favorite song or album like you never have before.
Here are some other common misconceptions that you might’ve heard:
- They have to have a degree in an audio-related field
- They only listen to classical music
- They’re all snobs that “only listen to the best”
- They’ll never listen to a pair of Beats headphones
Depending on who you talk to, some of these misconceptions might be true. Since we all enjoy music our own way, you can see how much subjectivity plays a role.
I, for one, am not a millionaire or rich by any stretch of the imagination. Over time, you can add one piece here, another piece later to your collection until you look back and realize that you’ve acquired a mountain of audio equipment.
If you were able to add up all the hours, weeks, months, and years of enjoyment that you’ve gotten out of building your collection – you’ll wake up one day and realize that you’ve become an audiophile.
Listen How It Was Intended To Be Heard
Think about your favorite band or musician. Now, picture them recording the music doing take after take after take until they finally decide that it’s ready for the world to hear.
Do you think that they would want us to listen to their masterpiece that they spent countless hours perfecting on an old radio that can’t even get decent reception?
Of course not – they would want us to feel the same feeling that inspired them to write the song in the first place. They want us to feel the pain or the joy or indifference that had been gnawing at their core, waiting to be expressed and shared for our enjoyment.
This is where a basic setup will really help you experience your music in it’s fullness.
Hand In Hand – Like Beavis and Butthead (Or Batman & The Joker)
If we mindlessly consume music without giving a second thought about the quality of sound, we’re doing not only them, but ourselves a huge disservice.
Maybe not all self-proclaimed audiophiles share this same sentiment, but in my eyes, this connection is what rests at the core of audiophilia.
You can’t really have an interest in audiophilia without possessing an interest in music. They go hand in hand like Beavis and Butthead, Batman and The Joker, or Peter and Lois… or if cartoons aren’t really your thing, Vader and Luke.
Take a look at this video to see what other people have to say about it:
Addiction or Medicine?
Most of us have at least a peripheral interest in music. I would argue that audiophiles have an almost obsessive-compulsive urge that can sometimes come off as some sort of weird musical addiction.
The difference is that this behavior isn’t harmful like alcoholism or heroine addiction – it’s actually the exact opposite. Experiencing optimal enjoyment by riding the waves of audio to achieve continual elevation is more like medicine. Medicine for the mind, body, and soul.
Are You Ready To Elevate Your Sonics?
Now that you have your answer to “what is an audiophile?”, are you ready to take the journey into the ocean of sonic pleasure? Do you consider yourself an audiophile? Do you know anyone who’s obsessed with adding new gear to their collection? What were some of your own misconceptions? Are you ready to elevate your musical experience in every sense of the word?
Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and questions below and I will do my best to help you out in any way I can.
Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves