Audiophiles, Music, and Equipment: Can We Be Both "Conservative" AND "Progressive"?

The terms “conservative” and “progressive” can be highly differentiating, polarizing, and clearly segmenting among those who identify as one, or the other. As audiophiles, can we sit back for a moment, take a look inward and ask ourselves the question: “Can we be a little bit of both?”

We’ll start with the premise that the “audiophile” is a music lover, high fidelity equipment connoisseur and generally good person. Great works have been around for centuries. We’ve seen various arrangements, variations, covers, remastering, artistic interpretations, etc. of the original work. We may enjoy the updated versions of the work with instrumentation or technology that was not available at the time. A recent topic on this forum mentioned that an enduring classical piece written for solo piano is most recognized as a full orchestral rendition -- Pictures at an Exhibition. Sometimes the “cover” is more commercially successful than the original writer/songwriter version and, in many cases, a vast improvement of the work. As much as we may welcome, or even prefer, the newer form(s) of the work, something anchors our hearts and souls to the original. We believe that it should be around forever. “Conserving” the piece as the artist intended not only supports and archives accurate music history but allows us to enjoy and fully acknowledge of the genius of who created it. The concepts of “Leave the original intact”, we might say (conserve) and “Allow others to apply their unique talents to create something special” (progressive) may actually coexist in the music world.

The equipment we’ve fondly tinkered with for decades may follow a similar trajectory. We all remember the pieces that just blew us away and began a life-long journey in pursuit of better sound. Numerous principles guiding "better sound" from the past are still relevant today, continually assessed by engineers and audiophiles worldwide. We also remember those moments when “the newest thing” failed to meet expectations. And those times when our patience paid off and those breakthrough technologies finally matured and earned a distinguished place in our audio racks – possibility pushing aside tenured and reliable pieces. “It’s time to move on” appears quite frequently on this forum and rings true for many participants. Others want to “hang on to what they got” for a variety of reasons: financial, emotional, physical, logistics, etc. Or, in their view, the gear may still be performing at its peak and can sonically compete quite well on the open market today. So, there is no strong motivation to change. Yet, there’s this desire to be “progressive”-- not marooned in an audio sense, left by themselves on an island of obsolete ideas and outdated equipment. This dichotomy reveals a synergy among active audiophiles—a desire to maintain what is familiar, competent, and operational while embracing the urge for progress. More often than not, we’ll see a hybrid of both “old school” and “cutting edge” in the same system – perhaps even inside the same chassis.

The conventional tug-of-war between conservative and progressive ideologies might not entirely encapsulate the audiophile community as it relates to music and the equipment designed to reproduce it. We are grown up enough to acknowledge both, and there is more than one “right” answer to a problem.




I think the attempt to apply the terms currently used to describe the U. S. political scene shouldn’t be used to describe audiophiles.  I gather that you are describing as Progessives those amongst us that change components frequently, while those of us that stick with gear for years are Conservative?  That leaves out a lot of nuance.  For example, an audiophile that never adopted Digital but who is constantly tinkering with his analog rig would be a progressive?  Or someone reared on digital but decides to junk transistors and digital and go back to analog and tubes is Progressive?

Post removed this notice that I was mentioned and whoever posted it, deleted it? 
(only 8 min. ago)
No brass in dem balls. 😄

All the best,

Many thread are born from ignorance about acoustics, which is not mere room acoustic, but the ground for all sound concept and experience ...

This basic acoustic knowledge which is mot mere room acoustic help us to understand  how  define the gear experience in a more specific context : specific ears/brain and specific room ...

Applying political concepts on top of that make no sense ...

And even taken in a psychological way this make no sense either ...Sound experience has nothing to do with "conservatism" or "progress" with the gear design, in isolation of other piece of gear (synergy ) or without any embeddings controls mechanically and electrically , and out of any specific room , and out of  any measured ears /brain specific HTRF and inner ears structure which makes of each of us a unique listener in his own way ...

We can use vintage which are good or very costlier new product, it is a non psychological or non  political decision ; but more a decision based on various factors : as money, audio knowledge and acoustic knowledge and some others secondary factors ...😊

Here i must apologize to the OP , nothing personal in my post , and more than that because i like discussion i thank him ..

My best to him ... And to all ...

Sure.  We can be whatever we want especially since nobody else really cares. 


Thank you for the insightful, respectful responses. Would expect nothing less from you.


"That leaves out a lot of nuance."

Very good point. Agreed.



I interpreted this as "Totally Logical Delightful Read." Was I close?

Let me take another shot at it:

In the realm of music, "audiophiles" appear to have an affinity toward original works and a desire to preserve and protect them (conserve). They are also open to the prospect of variations of those works and welcome new genres that resonate with them (progress). Related to hardware, "audiophiles" are adventurous, curious beings who have a tendency to adopt new products/technologies that serve the music better (progress) while acknowledging that some legacy foundations for producing good sound should not be abandoned without careful consideration (conserve).



"This is so much tinder waiting for a match."

Yes, I was aware that the "firecracker in a chicken coup" risk was pretty high here, and this could go off the rails -- quickly.

My motivation and intent was not revealed here (would be, literally TLDR). My hope that this would be interpreted as originating from a good place and possibly find some common ground.

Ahem, in the context of audiophilia indeed...

Conservative: A flat earther who says "What i do not know may not exist!!". It is a very pompous arrogant position that a scientist or a higher level engineer (masters of phd and significant field experience) would never take...That audio conservative is generally not the brightest dude and tends to have a very low comprehension of science/technology. He typically sits around claiming that some garbage tech from 60, 70 years ago is the best there is and shall be "conserved". He may not even have slightest curiosity to learn or understand anything new. He may listen to the same 15 broken records for most of his life.

Progressive: Generally, a pro science/tech kinda guy who’s willing to experiment (at the least) with any new technology or advancement in science before he decides whether it caters to his tastes or not. He may be curious to explore different genres of music, discover new artists, etc.

I hate binary classification which so appeal to the narrow part of our working lazy minds...

Audio is grounded and based on acoustics which include room acoustic and psycho-acoustics , not on the gear specs ideal space of the user manual and on their price tag and not on their date of creation linearly classed from outdated to up to date, but exist in a controlled or uncontrolled ROOM with synergy with other components for specific HRTF and inner ear/brain measures ...

The sound experience dont come from the dac/amp/ speakers as separate entities in no room for any ears/brain ...

This general false impression, which is NOT EVEN WRONG as all half truths , come from the marketing conditioning to sell the newest miraculous component as THE SOLUTION , not acoustics science and experience which set of ideas they cannot sell anyway and which implies not money but an amount of invested time to study and experiment ...


He typically sits around claiming that some garbage tech from 60, 70 years ago is the best there is and shall be "conserved".

By the way i failed to upgrade the headphone out of my vintage Sansui alpha 607i of 35 years old with one of the best tube amplifier in the world 2 months ago ... Then some vintage piece own the right to be loved and conserved for the sake of the S.Q. /cost ratio factor...This dont means that i am conservative mind... It means i know how to use my components and make them shine at their optimal working thanks to the method of mechanical,electrical and acoustical embeddings...

And my 45 years old hybrid  headphone , the AKG K340 trash anything i ever listened to ...My 9 others headphones , dynamic, magneplanar or electrostatic included ... Not bad for 100 bucks... It takes me 6 months working with them to optimize them ...

Dont call me "conservative" , call this acoustic common sense ...


Acoustics is the sleeping princess waiting for the brain/prince kiss to awake and commend the seven working dwarves ( the gear) ...


No further comment....


"I hate binary classification which so appeal to the narrow part of our working lazy minds..."

We’re in agreement here. Which, I believe, was the point of my premise.

The words "conserve" and "progress" in their root form are common in the English language. "Conservation" and "Conservatory" refer to the preservation, nurturing, and development of things that have some value to us. Oddly enough, these point towards a "liberal" position in many instances. "Progressive" has a literally reference to our world -- "Progressive rock.", "Progressive Jazz", etc. It wasn’t until recent history that these terms were (to use a US Postal Servce term) "bent, folded, and mutatated." to become quite powerful, and polarizing. We’ve used many terms throughout our lifetimes to define our present "ideology." These terms just happen to be embraced (and, reputiated) today. Tomorrow, we’ll find other terms to sling around at each other.


"That audio conservative is generally not the brightest dude and tends to have a very low comprehension of science/technology."

Fair enough. That guy/gal is out there. But, I’m going to stick my neck out and state that this does not fit the general profile of THIS group. In a world of widely projected "absolute truths" there are plenty of gray areas. It would be nice if we used a little "gray matter" to acknowlege this and determine that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can be a little (or, maybe even a lot) of both as it relates to our music/audio hobby.

A little disclosure here:

I am part of a number of "unite" and "depolarization" groups -- including my own. (I deal with a group I refer to as the "UFBPs" - the Unapologetic Fire-Breathing Partisans on a daily basis. Yes, on BOTH sides). My "gig" is discovering, acknowledging, and celebrating our common links and connections.

Example: 130 people from all over North America that have a particular fondness for 60’s British car with a Ford V8 in it engineered by Carole Shelby, got together in September in Bowling Green, KY. For 3 days, it was all about the cars, the people, doing stuff together, and bonding. For 3 days, I didn’t hear, or see, anyone try to ambush another person, insert THEIR worldview, or try to embarrass anyone. What we had was a group with strong bonds who didn’t want to put their friendships at risk, or be a general ass in front of others. In otherwords, a group of grownups who love people and cars more than they hate the diversive idealogies all around them. It just occurred to me that this group is both conservative and progressive. Yes, preserving and conserving a car from the 60’s that had drive components that were never intended to work together. And, by the way, this is the 3rd major annual event of it’s type I’ve been to (since I’ve been paying close to attention "unity"), and not a peep from anyone about politics at ANY of the events.

So, my hope here was to take some of sting and rigidity away from the definition and application of those terms and acknolwedge that this group (with common links and connections) can embrace a little bit of both.



A little disclosure here:

I am part of a number of "unite" and "depolarization" groups -- including my own. (I deal with a group I refer to as the "UFBPs" - the Unapologetic Fire-Breathing Partisans on a daily basis. Yes, on BOTH sides). My "gig" is discovering, acknowledging, and celebrating our common links and connections.


The United States is perhaps one of the most politically polarized countries in the world currently. Throughout history, countries have broken apart when segments of the population become too polarized and have nothing in common anymore (a big fear of mine). Can ya get a guy from Louisiana and a guy from Massachusetts to agree on anything these days? It may have been true 30 years ago, not anymore.

The definitions of a audio conservative vs progressive flows through from what a guy’s political inclinations are in real life. His mindset translates right through...(no surprise there). Personally, i am from Missou, i.e., about as conservative as it gets around where i grew up/currently live, but, i tend to be a moderate. Look at the top technical pool in any of the national labs, technology corps, etc, they tend to be of a progressive mindset. Rarely does one see a political conservative in such circles, i.e., rarely does one see the latter writing up a dissertation in physics, engineering, etc. I am an engineering Phd who worked in such institutions for a long time before i went the entrepreneurial route. Nevertheless, It is not difficult to classify one party in this country as an "anti-education" party these days... They also think they can defund the educational institutions, keep em dumb and shine above all the competition around the world (especially in Asia) miraculously. It is the imported genius immigrant labor that’s largely holding the fort w.r.t technical excellence. I’m not sure if the local dudes in town are ever gonna step up at this rate. The conservatives in the rest of the western world don’t shun’s a bizarre flippin phenomenon unique to God’s own land. It is not that hard for me to side with the progressives when i see this crap. And yes, i have a quite a few conservative friends and family members. We listen to music, have a few drinks and don’t talk about politics.


Small world. I was raised in KC, got my degree at CMSU, current home (since 1974) Cape Giraradeau, with strong family ties to the St. Louis area.

Very good observations. Thanks for sharing.

"i tend to be a moderate"

If we’re disclosing here, I consider myself a "Snall Progressive" (something I made up). I believe in improving the human condition by way of carefully calculated, incremental steps that will be truly beneficial, durable and stand up to the test of time. When a new initiative is considered, I have one question, and one rule: "What does it look like when it is finished?" And (if the first is not disclosed/determined), Apply the "100 year rule " What will it look like in 100 years? Current technology, legislation, etc that are working for the majority of the people yet have "flaws" are transitioned out at a pace that makes sense. Oftentimes true motives are not disclosed with new agendas, and why we hang on to old ones, which confuses and corrupts the entire process. Good ideas fail. Bad ideas go to the head of the class.

As you can see from my prior posts, I have a great deal of attention (and emotional inventory) on the subject of division. I’ve written a number of items related to this including my Top 5 WMDs (Weapons of Mass Division). We may be circiling a black hole and have gone past the Event Horizon where nothing can escape -- including TRUTH. I have a theory on the "why" of rigid partisanship. I refer to it as the "P-Myth" -- the myth of policial partisanship. People don’t become "rigid" for the reason(s) they think they do. And, yes, one’s political leanings do shape how they view the world in other areas.

Rewinding back to the topic. The terms "conservative" (and, varations thereof) and "progressive" (and it’s variations) are commonly used today, yet have become toxic and polarizing. As pointed out those components are sometimes "inconsistent" with one’s "leaning". I switched my Rivian R1T, full electric truck (about as "progressive" as you can get in personal transportation) to the "Conserve" driving mode over the weekend. So, wow. both "conservative" and "progressive" attributes living peacefully together in the same space at the same time!  They are very brave people.

Back in the 60’s we had "ideologies". We were still who we were, we just felt strongly about certain things. Today, it’s "progressed" to an identity. The position IS who wee are. And, of couse, the other side IS who they are. Attempts to recognize the humanity of each are are dwindling. There are some 1,700 in ONE group with the mission of geting those people in the same room and recognizing this.

So, there are those in this group who recognize great works from the 1400s and want them to be preserved forever, want those vacuum tubes to be a central component/technology in their music system(s) and be the same person who is chomping at the bit to find new music and a better way to reproduce it. Those who can do this can also be open to new ideas in general while keeping things intact that serve them well -- practically and emotionally.  And respect the viewpoint of others.

As one of the ’uniters' said: "Ask a conversative and a progressive what they love the most, and you’ll usually get the same answer."

Thanks for participating in this (short life) topic. I’m just happy it wasn’t taken down right away. Some very good comments, from some really smart people.



My hope that this would be interpreted as originating from a good place and possibly find some common ground.

I'd like to clarify that, IMHO, the above is an entirely admirable goal. The number of similar threads that have devolved into flame wars have made me rather cynical re: the potential for such topics to actually be regarded seriously. This thread is an exception, and I have no desire to detract from its consistently thoughtful tone. 



Thanks for taking the time to objectively evaluate the context of the topic.

This is a special group of individuals with common interests. Your comments are a validation of that.