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What is Audiophile

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I'm prompted to write this because of a comment on the "State of USB Audio" thread, so here goes...


PeterSt was writing about how no FireWire DAC is audiophile and his assertion that any form of oversampling ruins the sound and how delta-sigma designs aren't audiophile (sorry if I've represented this wrongly). Anyway these comments, and similar types of comments made me wonder what exactly we define an Audiophile as.


My first port was Google which led me to Wikipedia who say...

An audiophile, from Latin audio[1] "I hear" and Greek philos[2] "loving," is a hobbyist, identified by their love for music, or use of high-end audio electronics.

Some Audiophiles try to listen to music at a quality level that is as close to the original performance as possible using high-fidelity components. Others try to recreate a particular sound belonging to a piece of equipment that is old or no longer current, such as the sound created by tube amplifiers

Audiophile values may be applied at all stages of music reproduction: the initial audio recording, the production process, and the playback, which is usually in a home setting. High-end audio refers to expensive, high-quality, or esoteric products and practices used in the reproduction of music. Electronic gear used by audiophiles can be bought at specialist shops and websites.

Audiophile magazines include Hi-Fi News, Hi-Fi Choice, Hi-Fi World, and What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision in the United Kingdom as well as Stereophile and The Absolute Sound in the United States. Hobbyist audio societies also exist: Stereophile's website has a list of such groups in the United States.[3]

Audiophiles can purchase special recordings made with extra attention to sound quality, such as re-issued recordings, for this purpose, as well as recordings in the high-resolution formats such as Super Audio CD or DVD-Audio. Many modern audiophiles also take advantage of lossless file formats such as WAV, FLAC and Apple Lossless.

So whats the important part of that.


To me, my overriding motivation for my interest in HiFi is music. Not just "reproducing the original performance" as I feel that is impossible, but I want to become emotionally involved with the performance. If I goto a live event, then generally the sound quality will not be up to the same level as if I listen to the same music recorded in a studio, or even (IMO) listening to the same concert recorded on DVD, etc. However the emotional involvement is still there because of the environment.


If I'm at home, the whole of the emotional involvement must come from the reproduction, but thats not reproduction thats trying to be 100% pure to the original performance, but is reproduced in a clear way, so I can listen to the nuances. Enjoying what I'm listening to. I like to experiment with changes, give new software a whirl. But whats more important to me is spending time listening.


Anyway back to my original thoughts - what is an audiophile component. Surely it's one that produces a sound that the owner enjoys listening to. It doesn't matter if it uses valves, discrete transistors or op-amps; doesn't matter if it costs #50 or #50,000; doesn't matter if it's made by Naim or RME ... IF it works in YOUR system - and you enjoy listening to it - then IT IS audiophile.


I'm sure others will have a different view ... but thats mine.





...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Yeah, blame me ! haha


If I look at myself, but also look at the group of users I have, I am confident that the whole thing of being an audiophile comes down to nothing less than pure obsession.


In my case it is about the obsession of letting the instruments and voices sound as natural as possible as the means to get emotionally involved - when it works.

It occurred to me that even a very often played test track can draw tears when it suddenly "works", which already happens because of the achievement.


Do not underestimate "obession" here, because it is really about being obssesSIVE. Call it a desease.


So much for my take.



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That kind of says it all! It appears that there are effectively two definitions of audiophile going on:


1) Someone who prefers not simply to buy the cheapest all-in-one manager's special from Dixons because it matches their curtains (drapes), but who reads reviews and listens to different equipment before buying it. This is the wikipedia view and probably most audio-layman's view of audiophile.


2) Someone who obsessively pursues their own personal audio Nirvana, no matter the cost; who will not settle for anything less than The Very Very Best (in their opinion). This is the extreme (and wealthy!) audiophile.


Where on this continuum does a person who just wants to make sure they have a reasonably decent hifi setup stop, and a person who is an audiophile start? The wikipedia view of an audiophile seems to be anyone who makes a vaguely informed choice about their equipment. I'm not sure personally that I'd put an audiophile there, but equally I think audiophilia (hmm...that sounds very wrong...) starts well before obsessive insanity kicks in.


For what it's worth, I think PeterSt is right - though we will probably quibble of the meaning of "obsessive" :) You can make an informed choice about your equipment, but that doesn't make you an audiophile, just a savvy, sensible buyer of hifi. The audiophile is someone who never really manages to say, "that's good enough for me, I'll stop there". They might say, "that's really, really good and I really, really like it", but they are always slightly worried/excited (delete as applicable) about the possibility that they can get an even better experience* with another tweak or purchase. They might not actually buy it (not all audiophiles are wealthy, but then again not all excellent musical experiences cost vast amounts of money) it's more of an aspiration / desire thing.


* "experience" is whatever it is you personally are looking for in your music reproduction


Just my 2p



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We poor dutch ...


Wondering what the dutch version of WikiPedia would say, I am sad to anounce that the translation of that (http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audiofiel) goes like this :


Audiofiel is a term for someone feeling very much the strive for perfectioning the representation of recorded sound. Although in many cases it is not intended to really say it, this can go as far as it becoming an obsession. [...]


The audiofiel will - as far as budget and other prerequisites permit - arrange for an audio setup such, that the reproduction of high, mid and low tones will be as natural as possible. This will mean as much that it is the objective to represent the sound exactly as how it was at the moment of recording at the live concert or recording studio.




Sometimes audiofilie (audiophilism) can be called a deviation (medical), for others it is a hobby bringing much fun.




Allright. Anyone can have written that, but it wasn't me.

Possibly interesting is (though off topic, at the [...] mark) that the article tells that some of the reproduction devices (like amps etc.) are so good, that they are far better than the recording devices ever are. For that reason "audiophile recordings" exist, which explicitly make use of abnormal equipment and special care and attention in order to let the reproduction equipment excel.


Addition from me (as off topic) : of course we all know such recordings, but I have one by Turtle Records (owned by a dutch phool btw) which just beats everything and all. In XX I have a "crack detection" that protects against wrong format of files hence breaking windows (it just detects unreasonable high transients) and this is the only recording which just is good, but lets the protection trip anyway.



Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2.5      Ethernet^3     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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I agree Eloise.


If there's room in the audiophile pantheon for such differences in amplification as 2watt 2A3 SET tube amps to kilowatt 'sand' amps, and such differences in speakers as horn loaded, electrostatic, etc., then surely we can be accepting of Peter's 'non audiophile claims' regarding ALL Firewire DACS (or delta-sigma designs), with perhaps a roll of the eyes, but certainly with the understanding that this is simply Peter being obsessed (a characteristic of MANY audiophiles, some would say a requirement) about a particular implementation method or design decision. His obsession-fueled opinion does not invalidate another's choice of what constitutes audiophile gear.


One could argue successfully, as you appeared to the other day, that gear that is missing even a modicum of WAF will probably NOT be classified as audiophile, by most. I'm referring, of course, to pro audio gear, which, for the most part, would never be considered appropriate in many homes.







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I think it is important to accept that the enjoyment of music is subjective in nature, and there will be differences among audiophiles in the "flavor" of the sound reproduction they prefer. Ultimately, I want the sound of my system to be good enough that I forget about the system, and am drawn into the music, one could say that the system "dissappears" and the music "appears"; sometimes my listening is analytical in nature, and I want to dissect how an individual musician is playing his part, and how that relates to the whole. Sometimes my listening is holistic in nature, and I just want to be swept away from my present state into the world of music. I think the concept of an objective "absolute sound" is essentially flawed, because very few listeners have a reference for comparison. Really, only the recording engineers responsible for a specific recording, and present during the entire recording process have any kind of reference for what the recording "should" sound like played back in the home. Even a listener attending a live concert, and then able to get their hands on a recording of the same concert, does not really have a great reference for comparision between the concert sound and playback at home, because where they were seated during the concert may not be the perspective the engineer made the recording to present (not to mention that their internal state of mind may not be the same).

To me an "audiophile" is someone who is an enthusiast, interested in maximising the performance of a home audio system, not to reach some unknowable objective standard, but to approach the maximum enjoyment of music for him/herself.


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For example: Many, if not all of my friends would probably classify me as an Audiophile. Compared to most in this forum, I’m a novice at best.


To me an Audiophile can be one who does what he or she can to 'perfect' their listening experience - within, and maybe to the maximum that they can afford.

Some can spend multi-thousands of dollars on music systems but wouldn't know or recognize the difference between 128k encoded MP3 and 192k/24bit masters. I don't necessarily equate dollars spent with being an Audiophile.


Audiophile describes to me, someone who seeks a level of 'perfection' in the sound that their system creates in order to elicit the utmost enjoyment.


It also can encompass individuals who seek the ‘better’ sounding concert experience. Perhaps they don’t spend a dime on audio equipment, but know the different concert halls well enough to choose performances in particular venues based on that knowledge.


For me, it’s important that my system removes the things in sound reproduction that I consider annoyances or things that I find distracting. I work for hours to remove clicks and pops from vinyl recordings so that the cleanest sound comes through. I use incredible amounts of HDD storage space so that I can record and replay as faithfully to the vinyl as possible. This is just one aspect. I have invested in a DAC in the hopes that it further assists in reproducing sound more ‘faithfully’. That can mean faithful to the vinyl or to the 96k/24bit download, or even to what I imagine is the ‘original performance’.


Does the violin sound like an acoustic instrument, or does it sound like a harsh digital ‘imposter’? Does the acoustic guitar sound like it is in my listening room, and can I hear the fingers on the fret-board and neck? Is the sound clear or is it muddied?


To me, if you care, and you strive to do something about it… you are an Audiophile. How much so is completely up to you (and your budget).





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Setting aside any need to categorize the broad spectrum of people who might fall under this description with respect to technical interest, financial wherewithal etc., I would consider anyone who chooses to seek beauty/bliss/transcendence/flow/quality/higher power/God (pick a term) through enjoyment of recorded music is an audiophile.


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I’ve been involved in this hobby, obsession, mind set, trance, cult, what have you….since I first heard a pair of Klipsh Horns driven by McIntosh Amps in the early 70's and since then I have been driven to obtain that feeling of awe and wonderment from my system. To this day, I can truly say I have enjoyed the journey and feel that the true meaning of Audiophile can not be put into words.


I think most people in this hobby understand where I am coming from, and have had an experience that set them on this quest. To me I have to thank my Fathers best friend and his desire to reproduce an event that he experienced at some point in his life. I know there have been many people (young and old) over the years that I too have sent away from my listening room on an adventure that may last them a life time too.


I'll be honest; there are sometimes when it is the music that captures my soul, and other times it's the tweaking that peaks my interest, but either way I have enjoyed the trip and will continue to take time to hear the subtleties in every tweak and passion in every note.





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It is a hobby bringing much fun. Nothing more. Nothing less. (Thanks Peter St.)


I'd recommend seriously (in a fun way) listening to music rather than worrying too much about gear and software and its impact. This will make it much more fun for you in the long run.




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