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Why so few audiophiles?


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I've been in the audiophile space for a while now and recently upgraded to what I consider my first true audiophile setup. It's not pricy by the standards of most here, but at least it gets me into some serious listening. 

 

One question that has always fascinated me is why there are so relatively few audiophiles out there. 

Most people at least like music; many love it. There are tonnes of tech people out there, and every average Joe would spend $2K on a TV. However, I have no friends who are even remotely interested in quality audio gear. Is it because people don't realize the difference good gear can make, or don't care, or something else entirely?

 

I can't imagine my life without a quality listening experience option. 

 

What were your thoughts? 

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But once your there, it is so enjoyable.  Fully agree with your comments , adding -without a quality listening experience option, of course life is still there, but is much better with that option, if it is possible.

 

A few days back there were replies about listening to a very well recorded jazz performance, where just by writing about it, it created and apparently  gained a new listener.  There is a plethora of music to choose from, perhaps playing some of the better choices might double or triple the potential of adding an audiophile or two. Let's both hope so. 

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In the larger picture (pun intended) the masses moved to visual dominance, started with MTV with more focus on the visuals, larger TVs, surround sound and so on became the dominant focus.

 

To add to this computers and related visual entertainment entered the scene, such as video games.

 

Best I can figure it.

 

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I think that there are many people that have just not heard a reasonably good system.

My nephew used to ask why I changed gear every now and then, was it unreliable and broken.

I tried to explain, but he just did not get the idea that the SQ would be different.

I sat him in the sweet spot and left for a while to listen, after about 15 minutes he said "I get it now".

 

Not a convert though, he'd rather spend money on cars.

 

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Remember 3D pictures? To see one for the first time you had to sort of squint, cross your eyes and point one toe north (not really). But all of a sudden, the 2D image turned into a 3-dimensional image with layers of depth. Some people just couldn't ever do it.

 

I remember the first time I ever saw one and couldn't believe the transformation that took place in front of my very eyes.

 

I liken true hi-fi to that. Many people listen to music around the world. But the majority of the population do not hear it the way, I dare say, most of us on this site do. When you listen deeply, and focus on the soundstage, at some point the brain decipers the stereo cues and starts seperating the instruments and placing them within the stage. At this point, it becomes 3D, just like those images.

 

That's how audiophiles listen, and every day around the world new listeners discover this and become audiophiles. My children are 12 and 10, and can both already hear this. Simply because they were curious about what I do (and why) and I have explained it and helped them listen. They now get it and can now listen to different headphones and correctly pick which ones sound better (to them). They don't yet know what certain instruments should sound like (lack of experience) but they can correctly identify which headphones sound more 'balanced'. I know my daughter already prefers more bass, whereas my son prefers a more accurate response. Despite this knowledge, they're still happy to listen to music from a Bluetooth speaker because for them it's usually just a background filler competing with all the other things stimulating and distracting them!

 

To answer the question, why aren't there more audiophiles? Simple, because you need to want to be one. You don't just buy a $30,000 system, or even $2000 headphones and immediately hear the benefits. You need to learn to hear it and most people have never stopped to spend the time to do that.

 

That's my take 🙂

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I agree that exposure to a good sound system goes a long way to inspiring one to becoming an audiophile, however, a passion for the music plays a significant role, many people hear music rather than listen to it. Both my 30 something sons grew up with a good sound system playing in the home, one has become an audiophile (mostly vinyl with some streaming), the other hears the music and is not concerned about sound quality. One has the passion,  the other not.

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If I'm honest, the attitude a lot of stores and salespeople have do a huge amount of damage, particularly when dealing with younger buyers.

 

The other killer is that it's a dwindling market because older generations had disposable income that younger ones don't, and it's not for lack of work ethic etc. At the end of the day, hifi gear isn't a necessity - not in the same realm as food or a home.

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It's a complex situation and a complex question.

 

'Most' people have a visual preference in terms of sensory input (but that's also a simplistic statement). Hence the preponderance of music videos, for example. And the greater difficulty of getting ahead in the music business (or any other shoe business) unless you're fairly photogenic. Many highly trained musicians have rudimentary hi-fi systems--presumably because they already perform the cerebral processing of music perception expertly.

 

Hearing happens. Listening is a cerebral processing. 

 

If you have an auditory preference then you will quickly discover the nature and source of that pleasure; often all it takes is a moment of clarity (listening to an instrument, performance or system) in a receptive mood, leading to a musical epiphany! I read in a biography of Paul MacCartney that his music-loving father rigged up a simple wiring arrangement from the downstairs hi-fi to Paul's bedroom, such that the budding musician could listen to radio broadcasts via earbuds for hours on end. Low-fi bliss. In later years the young lad had to stand in for his Dad on the piano during regular family singalongs of the great American and UK songbooks, when the father's arthritis became too much. Talk about a musical education! P.M. has said repeatedly that he never wants to alter his innate perceptions of music by learning how to read and write music: interesting. Give the most popular composer of all time a pass.

 

Early musical experiences really count for a lot.

 

Listeners who don't love music as deeply are quite happy to perceive music as background stimulation or just another commodity/happening. People will spend many thousands on a car and begrudge a few thousand for a sound system at home. It's not wrong, just different. Compared with the emphasis on quality music reproduction for the general population from the late 1950's onwards (especially recording techniques and the work of the BBC and US/UK valve gear manufacturers), the deterioration in general standards today is just disappointing. For example, who really listens regularly to the great potential of quality FM these days (apart from me)? I also think great digital reproduction is only now just starting to be realised. The vile commercial commodification of music today (low-fi on purpose) serves nobody in my opinion.

 

Getting back to audio preferences, it's paradoxically likely that those with a strong audio one will find it hard to understand why others not so blessed would be indifferent to those beautiful nuances. I suppose that somebody somewhere will introduce flashing lights to an MP3 system to make it more attractive...

 

Not that one is becoming cynical in one's old age, no...one merely observes.

 

Just my 2c worth.

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I agree with @Batty, I think most people aren't exposed to it.  I've had countless people question my spending on hi-fi, and when I compare it to their spending in their hobbies they say they understand - but it's not an understanding of where the money goes until they sit in front of my system and listen.  You need to know someone to get you in to it, I think.  for me it was my dad, his system was simple but high quality.  Once I heard that, I could never go back.

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9 minutes ago, Kaynin said:

I agree with @Batty, I think most people aren't exposed to it.  I've had countless people question my spending on hi-fi, and when I compare it to their spending in their hobbies they say they understand - but it's not an understanding of where the money goes until they sit in front of my system and listen.  You need to know someone to get you in to it, I think.  for me it was my dad, his system was simple but high quality.  Once I heard that, I could never go back.

Yes, impossible to un-hear something ✌️

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1 hour ago, Marc said:

Remember 3D pictures? To see one for the first time you had to sort of squint, cross your eyes and point one toe north (not really). But all of a sudden, the 2D image turned into a 3-dimensional image with layers of depth. Some people just couldn't ever do it.

 

 

 

This post encapsulates it. That is, listening to music properly places a demand on people that most people aren't disciplined enough to invest.

 

A quality system is expensive, both in the relative and absolute senses. Therefore it is a discretionary / luxury item.

 

But music in the background or vacuuming the house doesn't require a quality system. So if people aren't prepared to put in what is required to listen to music attentively, even I can happily point out that spending more than a bluetooth speaker is a waste.

 

A quality system doesn't just magically make music more enjoyable - people need to invest in their own time and discipline first. Only then do the benefits become clear.

 

Funnily enough, I've had some magic moments listening to music on some very bad systems also - if you listen with discipline, you don't need a quality audio system to hear music beautifully. It just makes it more enjoyable.

 

Interesting to note though - our industry is thriving. Here is something I posted to another forum recently:

 

The market is there for the taking. And there is a thriving industry to support that market too.

Absolutely thriving! - we are spoiled for choice. At least 300 brands of speaker that I could name, at least 100 brands of amplifier, at least 100 different brands of digital sources, at least 100 brands of turntables, etc.

I mean - just Australian manufacturers - we've got at least 50 at a guess......sure, some of it is niche, but we've got some world-class manufacturers in there as well - KRIX, VAF, Duntech. DEQX, Orpheus, SGR (there's just 6 off the top of my head).

I mean, Halcro - how did I forget that? And Elektra.

ME amps used to be (and still are) highly sought after all over the world. And I hear they are / may be manufacturing again too?

And some of our niche stuff is out-of-this-world! I mean, look what Graz and associates are doing with Apogee! And Kyron Audio are pretty amazing too. WHT speakers. Dynavector.

Compare that to something that is a commodity that we all have - eg. mobile phone. There are just 2-3 manufacturers. Apple, Samsung (and maybe Google, but they're stubbornly struggling on the hardware front). Even huge international conglomerates have dropped out (notably LG).

The audio industry is alive and thriving. We, as consumers, have more choice than any other hobby (or commodity) in the world that I can think of.

 

Edited by amey01
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Let's be honest, were nutcases who are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths for that little bit extra in sound quality.

 

Most people can't be bothered with the effort and/or expense required, don't want gear taking up space, snake cables all over the place, acoustic treatments on their walls/ceilings, etc, etc.

 

Even people who do hear what a great stereo can do will say "wow", but they won't rush out and buy a system.

 

There are also lots of people with systems who never listen to them.

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How many people (not on stereonet) actually sit down to listen to music? The average use case these days seems to be background in the car or on headphones when exercising. I'd even argue on StereoNet that a large percentage are listening to the gear not the music itself. We all make choices about what's good enough when we purchase something and that certainly applies to audio gear and for an awful lot of people good enough is a cheap bluetooth speaker they can stream to from their phones so there is no way they'll spend $000's on HiFi especially in these times.

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9 hours ago, kHo said:

There are tonnes of tech people out there,

Yes, plenty of choice in regards to hardware/firmware as well.

It takes a rather "special person who loves music and the hardware"  life of experimentation and diving down rabbit holes, that and a constant supply of 

1, Time

2, Money

It takes  both to see the pointy end of the Hobby and we all reach a level of satisfaction.

You can either buy it, or build it, usually swings around 1 and 2.

Both are becoming scarce  in 2024 and beyond.

Young ppl are more worried about the commodities of life generally, but it's a reality.

I have a 17 y/o Son who has mentioned he loves the HiFi, however also states he will have to wait until I die to have the hardware/lounge, in light of the time and money it takes to just "live". 🙂 

If someone asks "gee, how much does that cost, I love it" you have to be careful not to scare the socks of them and stick to, "oh, it's not much over the time I've been in the hobby"

Good luck to those who decide to jump in, there are plenty of Audiophiles who love to share their knowledge, don't be put off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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51 minutes ago, oldrose said:

The average use case these days seems to be background in the car or on headphones when exercising.

 

Anecdotal observation might suggest this but it may well lead to infering a false image of general listening habits.

Even the listening habits in cars already vary greatly - from background doodle to immersive enjoyment. (I live next to a public car park, and man these drivers listen passionately to their music).

Overall, listening habits have nothing to do with "audiophilia" - I never enjoyed music more than on my Sony Walkman in 1985 on crappy headphones.

It's a fair question why there is not a broader interest in high resolving music and stereo gear. I think it's not fair to imply that music isn't listened to properly outside of audiophile standards. ABC Classic FM's large listener base being one example.

Edited by Steff
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1 hour ago, dcathro said:

Let's be honest, were nutcases who are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths for that little bit extra in sound quality.

OCD of various degrees might be a common thing amongst us lot.

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I find the average Joe is blown away by how my system sounds and they're interested right up until they find the cost of achieving said sound. My guess is it's just so much easier to look at a TV and see which looks better, which is bigger etc and really, TV's are cheap compared to a nice sound system anyways. Generally about $4600 for a nice big 4K telly and going over 4K just doesn't show much improvement.

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How old are you? Before I turned 10, the only way to listen to music was on a stereo system at home or a car radio. It was common for nearly everyone to have a home stereo. Then Walkman came along, and it became more convenient to listen to music on the go. Every progressive advance in audio has been to make the consumption of music more convenient and more portable. You don't even need a hi-fi system these days, all you need is a pair or wireless earbuds and a phone. And everybody has a phone. For 40 years now, people are no longer conditioned to sit down and listen to music. Instead, it is part of every day life, something to be consumed while you are doing something else. 

 

The style of music has changed, too. Everyone laments that the great bands that have populated every era of music till the 90's has disappeared. It is no longer music to be appreciated or given careful thought and consideration, it is now like fast food - to be consumed by people with short attention spans who don't know what art is. My parents used to research music before buying the LP. Then they would read the liner notes and listen to music. These days you don't need to think, just stream something and if you don't like it, go stream something else. 

 

That is why there are so few audiophiles. 

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I think it's ignorance. Nobody ever told me about the stereo effect, sound stage, etc. I'm 40!

 

I have this expensive custom mechanical keyboard, state of the art OLED monitor, best computer parts you can put inside the best case and some very popular powered Edifier speakers. I put a picture of my setup somewhere and someone said "Your Edifiers need to have the tweeter at ear level". I laughed and thought, "so this random in the internet is trying to teach me how to listen to music?"

I got a stand anyway because I knew my table would look nicer. So it was only for the looks and voila. Suddenly the vocals started coming from the monitor, not from the speakers anymore.

 

I don't think most people KNOW what you can get with two speakers if you position them correctly.

After that I got better speakers and fell in the rabbit hole.

Edited by estevaom
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I believe audiophilia has always been a bit of a niche pursuit. There are degrees of ambition and desire however.

 

I've been a "would-be" "wannabe" audiophile since about 1970 when I first heard a mates system comprising valve amplification and Quad ELS speakers. He also introduced me to other systems and so the quest for good sound began. Of course in those days and for many years to come, it was all about music and home cinema was not even a consideration. My pursuit of quality audio was limited by budget over the years, but of course upgrades were usually achievable up to what I now have, which is still modest my some comparisons, but nevertheless of very high standard.

 

Back in my early days of audio pursuit, most people were satisfied with their 3 in 1 systems and "radiograms" and never desired to pursue higher quality audio. Home theatre changed that a little, but of course most people today are happy with soundbar setups for movies, and ear buds for audio. 

 

So I suppose my point here is that high quality audio for music and video can be achieved at various price points. I guess there's a bottom line here, but still quite affordable, if the desire is there. One can spend $100ks for the very high end exotic audio, but frankly, that's not really necessary even if desirable, as I believe that good HiFi audio quality can be achieved for less than a few thousand dollars, if you do it right, which requires a bit of research, knowledge and ignore the radical high end claims which are going to send you on a very steep financial outlay. I won't elaborate on that point. 

 

My original point still stands however, that audiophilia is a niche pursuit and probably always will be.

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34 minutes ago, Desap said:

good sound

34 minutes ago, Desap said:

 

In relative terms - Good Better Best never let it rest until your good is better and better is best.  It is all about continuous improvement and affordability.  It is also about an itch that needs to be scratched plus curiosity.

John

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l will always remember what Alex Encel said in one of his Audio columns that used to appear in The Age

green guide many years ago. It went along the lines of : ......people can spend $30,000 on a swimming pool

without hesitation to obtain pleasure perhaps a dozen or so times a year;  audiophiles will spend the

equivalent amount on a sound system to provide a lifetime of pleasure.

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2 hours ago, Keith_W said:

How old are you? Before I turned 10, the only way to listen to music was on a stereo system at home or a car radio. It was common for nearly everyone to have a home stereo. Then Walkman came along, and it became more convenient to listen to music on the go. Every progressive advance in audio has been to make the consumption of music more convenient and more portable. You don't even need a hi-fi system these days, all you need is a pair or wireless earbuds and a phone. And everybody has a phone. For 40 years now, people are no longer conditioned to sit down and listen to music. Instead, it is part of every day life, something to be consumed while you are doing something else. 

 

I thought along these lines for quite some time but I've come to the conclusion that this may be changing.

2 hours ago, Keith_W said:

 

The style of music has changed, too. Everyone laments that the great bands that have populated every era of music till the 90's has disappeared. It is no longer music to be appreciated or given careful thought and consideration, it is now like fast food - to be consumed by people with short attention spans who don't know what art is. My parents used to research music before buying the LP. Then they would read the liner notes and listen to music. These days you don't need to think, just stream something and if you don't like it, go stream something else. 

 

That is why there are so few audiophiles. 

I'd agree with your thoughts regarding the change in music styles.

 

What I have been discovering over the last year or so is that there is a real desire by younger generations to listen to a longer form of music. To that end I've been watching a host of YouTube channels all doing music reactions/appreciation videos. In essence they are discovering what we knew in the 60's and 70's, that the album and more importantly the music contained therein is in most cases vastly better than what t hey have been subjected to over the past 25-30 years. There's a whole generation discovering the music we know and love from days gone by. Included in that is both my son and daughter. 

It may take a while for them to understand that good sound gear will only enhance their enjoyment, but they are learning so the future may well bring a whole generation of music lovers who become audiophiles - we can only hope.

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