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In Defense of Audiophiles


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Here is an interesting article for everyone:

 

Slate Magazine

technology

In Defense of Audiophiles

The iPod hasn't made great sound obsolete.

By Fred Kaplan

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007, at 11:48 AM ET

 

Nearly 25 years ago, I walked into a "high-end audio" store for the first time. I intended to write an article exposing the enterprise—$10,000 amplifiers, $5,000 turntables, and the like—as a fraud. Could this souped-up gear sound that much better than mass-market stuff at one-tenth the price?

 

After a few seconds of listening, my agenda—and really, my life—took a new direction. I'd never imagined that recorded music could sound so good, so real. The difference between the mass-market stereos I'd been hearing up to then and the high-end gear I heard now was the difference between bodega swill and Lafite-Rothschild, between a museum-shop poster and an oil painting, between watching a porn film and having sex.

 

Link to complete article:

http://www.slate.com/id/2179093/

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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A couple of lines from Wikipedia's definition of Audiophile:

 

"Audiophiles are people who seek to listen to music at a level of quality as close to the original performance as possible. They use high-fidelity components to try and attain these goals. Most are music lovers who are passionate about high-quality music reproduction."

 

"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."

----

 

Loving great sound and doing those things necessary to do in order to have that sound when you want it, is a pursuit seemingly best suited for a rare, or fringe-area sort of breed. That is why, I think, that there is a word for this ... condition: 'audiophile'. --'You have to call them something, if for no other reason than that they are unique amongst the bipeds.

 

I would say that considering the sum total of the people I have known, significantly fewer than 10% of them have my high-priority: great audio, anywhere near their 'top 10' list of things that are most important in life. Do not misunderstand: they love coming to visit and listening, nay.. IMMERSING themselves in what fine sound has to offer. I've loved hosting them (showing off?) too. Indeed. One even told me years later that I had changed his life because of the way the sounds they heard when in my company had translated over to them. That particular person decided to spend their life as a musician (a great one, IMO). I'd had no idea of this fact until they told me later.

 

But most folks just think it lunacy to spend the 'time, talent, and treasure' needed to get to that point in sound reproduction or creation. The creators (musicians, engineers, etc.) and the listeners somehow tend to think it less lunacy and more a thing of practical-sense. By my reckoning, Audiophiles are just stuck with being on the fringe of "the real world".

 

That's a good thing. It's a great place to be! And now you can take it out with you on a stroll. Please: Go listen to something you love right now.

 

markr

"There are only two kinds of people: Those who understand binary and those who don't"

hear here

 

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I don't get it. Why write an article that subjectively castigates people who like good sound reproduction? I came to the same conclusion years ago: Recorded sound will never sound like the live performance. I don't spend the money for hardware that I used to, but I still enjoy good sound quality and cringe at what comes out of most sound systems.

 

I also cringe at the modern method of mastering for Ipods. Some records are like being hit over the head with a hammer.

 

Still... if someone wants to spend $50K for a turntable, I'm not bothered at all. I'll never do it. Nor will I spend $500 on a power cord for my amplifier. For me the question of lossless vs. CD quality has been settled in favor of the former.

 

The point is what does it take to enjoy music? I'm no audiophile, but I am picky. I want CDs that have both good performance and good recording. My system is good enough that I can hear the differences in mastering and micing... and I'm middle-aged.

 

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I would 'dialogue' just a bit about the statement: "Recorded sound will never sound like the live performance."

I would prefer to say: "The recording made of a live sound performance RARELY sounds like the live sound performance that was recorded."

 

I would then point out that rarely (unless you are there actually recording and then playing back the sound you just recorded WHERE it was recorded...) do you get to listen to recorded sound in the SAME soundstage in which it was recorded.

 

Take a symphony orchestra: you have to be in a big enough room, usually a hall or even bigger space to even be able to fit them all in (one particular set of acoustic 'facts'). Now exactly how big is your normal listening room (a totally different set of acoustic 'facts')? Why would you think it even COULD sound the same? Do you see my point? - ...its on top of my head. I'm trying to grow my hair out....

 

markr

"There are only two kinds of people: Those who understand binary and those who don't"

hear here

 

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Yes. Surround can help you get closer. It can also muddy-the-waters of 'true' reproduction - more opportunities for the recordist to err or to just 'interpret to multichannel'. Also, you will always have the issue of the difference of the physical size and resultant differing acoustic characteristics of the recorded space vs. the space available for the act of playback. But folks who don't have the experience of going to live concerts in differing settings don't really know that..... IMO this is more critical when trying to capture/reproduce symphonic or operatic sound (acoustic instrumentation and big spaces) than it is for more modern music (electronic instruments and smaller spaces available in which to do the performance). I also believe one has more leeway for pronouncing something "accurate sounding" when the source sound is more contrived or synthetic.

 

markr

"There are only two kinds of people: Those who understand binary and those who don't"

hear here

 

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  • 1 month later...

Audiophile has almost become a perjorative term. For me, good sound is part of enjoying music. When it becomes the end instead of the means, something is wrong. And I sell this stuff. We have lots of "audiophile" customers who become neurotic the instant their (insert gear here) is updated. Theirs sounds just as good now as it did last week! If you want better sound, assuming it truly is better, great. But don't quit enjoying what you own in the interim. I tell people there is something almost zen-like about what we do. You devote a fair amount of time to checking things out, listening to stuff, deciding who to trust, at some point you write a check, and the whole point at the end of the day is to be completely unaware of everything you just bought! The more you are aware of the system, the more the mechanics of the reproduction are getting in the way of the music. I am a high ender but perhaps an atypical one. The best system in the world is not determined by how much resolution there is, the sound of a tweeter, how deep is the bass, it is how much past your bedtime you stay up because the music is so compelling. My system is quite expensive but you can get musically satisfying performance at a price that people who are not rich (or don't buy at accomodation prices, heh heh) can afford.

 

End of rant.

 

rom

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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"The best system in the world is not determined by how much resolution there is, the sound of a tweeter, how deep is the bass, it is how much past your bedtime you stay up because the music is so compelling."

 

You can say that again Rick. I've spent so much time telling myself, "Just one more song and then I have to go to bed." This usually leads to one more album and so on ...

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Yeah, you two are right. I'm with LC - I'm going back to the transistor radio (this to be found in a different thread on CA) . That was the first thing I owned that made me smile. ....... of course before that, it was (I didn't own them) Eico/Shure/Garrard/Elecro-Voice, and before that a Magnavox 'console' (w/shortwave)....... all tube. all enjoyment.

 

Then, after the transisor radio and onslaught of underground FM radio (FM-capable transistor radios were rare then, y'all) , there was that Realistic Cassette/Corder that I carried in the right lower pocket of my Army (Korean era) Field Jacket from 1969 through about 1972 with the 4X6 speaker mounted in the left pocket of the same jacket (BACK YOUR MUSIC UP PEOPLE!!). "STEREO". Walking home, listening to the audio from the bands that I had just recorded at the "Teen Canteen" or the "PussyCat" or the "Sunken Gardens". There were other venues, the Municipal Auditorium and the Hemisfair Arena in San Antonio were among them. I captured Pink Floyd doing Meddle and Dark Side in Austin - but that was a bit better recorder (Wollensack). There were many more big-name - and 'other name' bands. It took them years to catch-on to me..... *big grin*

 

markr

What in the hell happened? I never did any of them monetary damage. Nor would I have.....

 

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I love stories like those markr! Since I'm from a different generation I only get to hear about this stuff from more "experienced" people like yourself.

 

I remember my first Walkman with a cassette player. Auto-reverse was the coolest feature I'd ever seen back in sixth grade.

 

Don't get me started on my first technics receiver & cd player.

 

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPod Touch.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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