Do Audiophiles really like music?

Or is this more of a hobby where they can over analyze the most minute details and spend more money to "get where they want to be". I have been in this hobby a long time now, and have been around live music for a greater part of my life. I've had a lot of equipment and have heard more systems and tweaks then I'd like to remember. But does any of this allow us to "get closer to the music", the reason we go to such lengths as most would admit. I've discovered the only thing that allows me to get closer to the music is to listen to more of it. Maybe I am growing up, or losing interest in losing even MORE hair over a hobby that's suppose to be enjoyable, but I'd rather listen to music then think of how I can improve my system.

What do you think? I briefly mentioned this in the past, do audiophiles really enjoy music, or is the music just an excuse to get better gear so they can "get closer to the music"?
SOME of us LOVE music and listen to lots of real music; I know I do and many of my audiofool friends do too. I really enjoy listening to music on my multichannel system, and I usually hear at least one album an evening. I know the sound quality of my system makes that listening more enjoyable. IOW, if my system didn't have, for instance, the tonality I've worked hard for, I wouldn't enjoy the music as much.

But I also confess to watching my system more than I listen to it. I love movies, many of the Star Trek TV series that I have on DVD, etc., and watch them (but not 'TV', which I watch a half-hour per week, and that on tape) more than I listen to music. But that great-sounding multichannel system enhances the viewing experience, too.

My system gets closer and closer to being finished, I think...or at least I HOPE so!
This is a terrific question--it has so many implications! It also opens to door to long winded responses, like this one. Before one can even respond, it begs to define audiophile, which has philosophical implications. For example, does certain behavior define "audiophile" and is that behavior mutually exclusive from "music lover"? Is "music loving audiophile" an oxymoron?

Assuming the characteristics of audiophile and music lover are not mutually exclusive, but individually definable sets, then arguably, the answer is that an audiophile MAY enjoy music (if they exhibit the music lover characteristics as well). Likewise, it's not necessary to enjoy music to be an audiophile. I think there are probably other hobbies that attract interest more to their "process" than to their "result."

I grew up surfing. There were two types of surfers--those that basically spent as much time in the water as possible and those that had excellent gear. The first camp usually rode decent, but beat up boards that they drove to the beach sticking out the back windows of their dad's hand-me-down Cutlass or Plymouth wagon. There were those that had different boards for various conditions, racks on their cars, wet suits, and jobs to pay for it all. Sounds a bit like our hobby--process enthusiasts vs. outcome enthusiasts. BTW, there was a third group that had all the attributes of the first, but never got in the water. They were just posers or "ho-dads" in the parlance of the late 70s (derivation unknown, to me).

Personally, I think I live in both camps. Everything in my rack is at least 6+ years old, with the exception of my SACD/CD player. I believe I'm in this hobby for the music, but certainly enjoy a healthy lust for what's around the corner, hardware wise.

Recently, a friend of mine asked an innocuous question that clarified this whole question for me pretty well. . .

He just bought a Ferrari Modena Spyder and asked me if I wanted to drive it. I politely declined, citing how I'd never be able to forgive myself if I missed a shift or let the rear end get away from me by applying too much power. The truth is that I was scared, but not of accidents.

Rather, I was afraid of what driving this car would do to my psyche--I could see my 'covet' meter hitting eleven. I like cars a lot, and drive a Z4, which a fun car (but no Ferrari by even the most liberal standards of comparison).

I think that high end audio, and Ferrari's are both a bit like porn. . .you start out sneaking a peek at Dad's Playboy cause you like what a naked lady looks like, and the next thing you know, your credit card is boomeranging around the Internet like the nimda virus.

Wow, got a little off topic there. . .I think people who own Ferrari's can be true driving enthusiasts, and people with nine surfboards can really love surfing. Maybe we all love the music, but some of us have enough money of obsessiveness to manifest the extremes. And maybe some don't give a damn about the feeling of dropping down the face of the wave, as long as we look cool doing it and don't wipe out when anyone happens to be looking. So, I guess my answer is Yes, No and Sometimes.
I've never heard anyone arguing around here about a message some piece of music conveys... or emotions... or beauty of performance. However, you'll get killed instantly if you say that cables don't make a difference.
I often ask the same question.
You're mostly right in your observations. I'm also an old timer at this hobby, and while there have always been those who were in the hobby just to play with the gear, these does seem to be a higher population of them now. Even some of the 'audiophile' recordings that have come out over the past few years, while well recorded, have got to have the record label executives snickering about the fact that people are actually buying the recordings and remarking about how much they like them.

I, like you, am interested in listening to music, not listening to the hi-fi equipment to try and determine how 'real' it sounds. I have also listened to a great deal of live music and have played a great deal as well and have never heard any hi-fi equipment that can reproduce the emotion of a live performance, and I don't expect that anyone has actually tried to build anything that does.

The goal for me is to own equipment that produces a sound that I find pleasing and to spend my time enjoying the music.
I think maybe there are a lot of reasons for this hobby, for me it's not all about the music...kind of like the guy that likes to play around with cars, motorcycles, ect.

I love the music, plus... I have a fascination with acoustics, always did. To be honest, I have as much fun tweaking as I do listening.

I never tweak when I just want to much up and down to relax the mind. If your not relaxed you can't enjoy the beauty of it all.

Music is like a fine meal, tweaking is like cooking it...some people don't like to cook.

Components?...why those are tools! used to watch tool time didn't ya?

I have always enjoyed music, mostly classical, since before I had a phonograph (as audio systems were then called). But I have other interests, and one of them is messing around with electronics and loudspeakers. Hardly unexpected for an engineer. There is no reason why loving music and tinkering with audio equipment should be mutually exclusive.
I like to think that audiophiles can be divided into two groups -- those who love gear and like music and those who love gear and love music. I've worked with and spoken to people who have multi-K systems and can recite every spec of any piece of gear you mention, but they can't tell you about the last live performance they attended or who their favorite guitar player is and why. (This always confounds the heck out of me.) To me, music lovers have to have live music like a drug, and they make an effort to have it. There is a connection to the music that no system can replicate. People who don't appreciate live music are a minority in our hobby, thank God, but they certainly exist more than audiophiles admit.
Dude I love music!!!!! More than anything. I followed the Dead around to 65 or so shows, I followed Phish around to about 50 shows. I wanted a great stereo my whole life and when I was finally when I was finally able to afford one I went for it. First I got a Rega Planet, then a Bryston B-60 and finally some decent speakers and a Rega Planar 3. After all of that I found Audiogon and have since lived happily ever after. And I just love music!!!!
"Dave - Tool Time was loosely based on my life ;) My name is Tim the Tireguy "

Ahhh, Tim Allen is from the same area of Michigan as I, we even went to different schools.


It's funny, the more I obsess over my system, the less I enjoy music. Honestly, I enjoy a lot of rock music more on my stock Ford car stereo than on my home rig. It's sad, but listening to some of the poorly recorded rock music that is produced today is just more enjoyable on the low resolution system in my car.

I don't know if that makes me an Audiophile or an anti-audiophile. All I know is I like music. I like to listen to well recoded music at home, but I have to listen to U2 and Ned's Atomic Dustbin in my car because it seems that that was the intended audio rig for these recordings. They sound so bad on a high resolution rig that I can't believe the engineers that created the recording have ever heard a good system. It they had, they wouldn't record this stuff so badly.


I have always tried to have the system serve the music, since I have always been around music. My mother taught classical piano lesons in our house when I was little, and I have learned to play a couple of instruments over the years as well. Playing in lots of groups, including a jazz big band, motivated me to build a highly electic CD and LP collection. I went to college in the early nineties and was a DJ at our radio station. When they abandoned LP as a format, I went hog wild in the record room!

At our local audio group meeting this weekend a member mantioned to me that I am rare in so far as I play and record rock stuff but own "a system". I hadn't thought about that, but it does ring true. I think that statement has relevance to this post, somehow...
I don't consider myself an audiophile, I feel I am more of a music lover. While I very much enjoy the gear that makes music sound great, I just listen to music. I haven't touched my system other than to turn it on for about 6 months. Before I got my present system, I was looking for cheap ways to improve my gear. Once I found what was enjoyable to me, then it was just about the music.

I can understand people who enjoy swapping gear, buying the next greatest thing, upgrading, etc. But it just isn't for me. Too much work and effort, plus I can't afford it. I like to relax and enjoy the music that my system give me. And my vintage system is very modest compared to almost everyone here.

I also don't care about what medium the music I want to listen to is on. I enjoy the music from both analog and digital. If it makes my toe tap, I am enjoying myself.

Maybe I am weird, or maybe I am on the right track with this hobby. Whatever it is, it suits me fine.

Bottom line is I don't belittle any direction this hobby takes someone. It's their life, time and money. If it floats their boat, who am I to try and sink it?

Post removed 
Despite having very good equipment and considering myself an audiophile, I don't think there is a direct link between the quality of the playback equipment and my enjoyment in listening to music. Once you get past your basic boombox quality systems I can seemingly get off listening to music I truly like even on fairly mediocre quality systems. To a large extent the equipment is a distraction and the goal I strive for is a system that distracts least.

In direct answer to your question, yes, at least some audiophile really like music.

Obviously music does not need audiophiles. Audiophiles are a very small portion of the music buying (live or recorded) public. Also, when recordings are engineered so poorly that they are not tolerable on a good sound system, the music producers obviously could care less about audiophiles.

The interesting thing about this is that I would guess that the typical music buyer could care less about the sound quality of the recording, but audiophiles do care. Therefore music producers could potentially increase their revenue by producing better sounding recordings. In this case the typical buyer would buy the record for the music and the audiophile may buy it for the sonic qualities.


Post removed 
Reubent answered the question exactly as I see it.
I would like to respond to Bojack. I listen to my system nearly every day but have little inclination to attend live music events. When I do attend concerts it's more about the emotion of the event than about purely listening to music. It is difficult to listen to music with ear plugs in as the sound is delivered at ear splitting levels.
For me, listening to live music and listening to recorded music, especially at home, have very little in common. I have considered myself a music lover who likes to "play" with audio gear for 35 years now. Those who know me think my audio hobby is a bit nutty.
To an audiophile;
Doh, means "surely you hear that these cables give more soundstage"
Ray, is a sound wave
Me, as in which Speaker Is Right For Me?
Far, is a kind of monitor (as opposed to near-field)
So, is what an audiophile says when his friend tells him he bought a bigger amp
La, something that follows So (but audiophiles need to ask a musician to know why)
T, a kind of audio connection that splits the signal
I'd like to point out another aspect of the landscape, record (or cd) collecting... in addition to a love of the equipment and the reproduction of music, some of us are nuts about record collecting as well. This pressing vs. that pressing, imported from this country or that one, etc.
Always trying to find the best sounding pressing.
But I'd have to say the pleasure of the aesthetic experience of music listening is not diminished by basic equipment. I enjoyed certain recordings on my mid-fi equipment I started out with in the 70's as much as hearing them now on much more delineating equipment.
I think that very few would come across this hobby in the first place, to say nothing of then choosing to indulge in it, if they didn't love music. Maybe some of us are eventually swallowed by the beast, when we reach the point that we don't hear music anymore because we're gauging instrument tonality, dynamics, soundstage depth, blah blah blah ad nauseum...
I've always been bad at tweaks and tests of equipment because I'd rather be listening to the music than thinking about the sound. But there is no doubt that I love music more when I hear it reproduced with greater authenticity. I'll not deny the "cool" factor. When somebody comes over to my house and sees the glowing tubes and the turntable, they are always pretty amazed, before even hearing it. (Most of the population is unaware that vinyl is being pressed today, and many don't know what a "tube" is.). And then they hear it, and the jaws drop and eyes bug out, etc. That's pretty fun. (Fyi none of my house guests have been audiophiles.)
So, to sum it up, I'd like to think I do this high end hobby because I want to be able to hear, as accurately as possible, what the intentions of the artist were. An analogy, for me, would be going to an art museum without your glasses, during a daytime power outage. Maybe you would still enjoy the art, but wouldn't you enjoy it a lot more if you could see it clearly, and under good lighting?

I much prefer pink noise and modulation test tones. No one performs those things live so I have nothing to compare them to and make myself unhappy.

I'm with Marco. I never really thought about music until I went into my local shop and saw all the equipment I could buy. Whatever the music was, I thought all the cool gear would impress my friends and neighbors.

So to be honest, I not really obsessed with music, and I have a hard time remembering the names of bands and things. But I guess I would say I know what I like when I hear it?

When I realized the number of formats, however, and the amount of hardware and equipment I could have, I started to pay a little bit more attention to music, but mainly with a view to which artists could be purchased on vinyl, reel to reel, CD SACD and also downloaded from iTunes.

That way, I can listen to the same track, over and over, but also switching between formats to hear the exact differences.

As the same time, I like to switch cables, while keeping a journal of how I patch them in and out of the system, and also cleaning the contacts with different solvents which makes it hard to focus on the music.

In the end, what moves me the most, is the widest possible freqency response, really really low bass, volume, and dynamic range that that can push both my family and my each of my components to the limit.

My favorite music is the stereophile test CDs. I am not so sensitive to singers, orchestras or conductors, but I am picky about the clarity of the cannon reproduction on the 1812 overture.

I enjoy moving freight train recordings, and I also enjoy straight percussion, provided it is very well recorded or from one of the audiophile labels.

So I suppose to a degree - to some degree - you could say I was an "audiophile" but my music collection is starting to grow.

For example, I am really learning about jazz, starting with all the Mannheim Steamroller recordings. Also the really timeless, classic jazz including John Klemmer and Earl Klugh. I dont really get it yet, but my taste is becoming more sophisticated and I think the clarity of SACD is helping me to get there.

Anyway, I think there is nothing wrong with being interested in both the audio and the music.
Its funny that you posed this question now because its something I've been pondering for about a year.
I started out 30 years ago as a music lover and thru the years became an audiophile. I have found that now I no longer listen to the music as much as I listen to the equipment. Somewhere along the line, I don't know quite when, this happened. So much so that I now probably enjoy listening to my FM tuner and car radio more than my current system. I've often wondered how many others in this hobby have had this happen to them.
I'm almost at the point of going back to a midfi system, where I started an enjoyed "the music" a lot more.
Unfortunately, this hobby can becaome an obsession if you're not careful. There's always going to be newer and better equipment out there!! Where does it end?
At some point you have ask yourself Am I a music lover or an equipment lover? or both.
What a great thread! It's good to examine our motivations occasionally. I just have one thought to add. I love live music but I don't relate this to listening at home. The crowd noise, bad acoustics, and social interaction put live shows in a differnent category for me. What motivates my audio hobby is totally different. I have been lucky to occasionally hear gifted people play beautiful instruments in small clubs and living rooms. The sounds a grand piano, guitar, or vioin can make in these atmospheres is completely unlike any public live performance I have heard. The closest I have found is high end audio preferably with no one else around. I also love the gear, but constantly need to remind myself not to focus on it. I'm here for the music.
I first found out about Audiophile Nervosa a little over 12 years ago when my girlfriend secretly purchased a solid state Mac preamp and amp I had pointed out to her at an estate sale for $25.00 each. They were way cool and retro looking but at that price I was certain those old things did not work. Besides, the glass on the preamp was broken.
Little did I know that they would completely blow away my new Pionneer AV receiver.
They looked Cool, Retro and sounded better than my modern stuff! Perfect to play my 5,000 LPs. My collection was suddenly unexplored territory.
I may not be much of an audiophile buy it's nice to have something that looks the business and sounds decent at the same time to play my LPs.
Say, who were the first audiophiles? Were they acousticians? I remember in high school that some guys would hang out in the boys' room singing Doo Wop and getting this cool echo sound. Were they audiophiles? I have recordings of polyphony that were recorded in courtyards that give the music a neat acoustic. I've also sat on concrete benches in parks where you could sit 100 feet from your companion and merely whisper a conversation. I've experienced the same phenomenon in domed buildings. Was all of that by design and does that make those architects audiophiles?
I'm's a quiet day here being President's Day. I better go do some work. My girlfriend is off today and I know the last thing she would do is turn on the sound system. Oh well!

I like the gear but the music takes priority, as I just sold most of my system. One of the reasons is I didn't think I was getting the value for what I paid for the system. By value I mean I had more money invested in the system than anything else (except the house) and wasn't using it enough to justify the amount of $$$. Sure, it was great when I was listening but I can't even listen to it every day.

Anyway, I downsized into a considerably less expensive system & might downsize even further. Depends on how this next round goes.

My music enjoyment is not limited to just recorded music, as I have the pleasure of running sound for a few bands. I can't tell you how fascinating it is to be able to adjust just about every aspect of the performance to the way I like it. ItÂ’s not an ego trip but full involvement with the music.

Also, by downsizing my system, now my software is worth more than the hardware. I also am going to make myself buy more music instead of gear & have already acquired about 15 CD's since the beginning of the year, which although not a huge amount, is more than I have in the recent past.

Over the years I've associated audiophilia with gear that can do a better job of reproducing the recorded medium but therein lies the danger, as has already been mentioned. One can get carried away with the ability of the gear & focus on that aspect to the exclusion of anything else. It's not simply a matter of economics but what it was that made you start listening to music in the first place.

No doubt the gear can be very nice but w/o the music, it's no more than a high performance engine sitting on an engine stand.
Do people with good stereos like music? Of course. The real question is whether they like music more than they like equipment.

One of the major problems in evaluating which they like better is that there is more good gear coming out than good music.

I have about $50-60K in my 2 channel rig, 1200+ cd's, about the same number of lp's, and I still buy 2-5 new things each month. However, at least half of what I buy is older stuff. And half of the new stuff I buy ends up being crap. So when I buy music, about half the time it's nothing new, and half of the rest of the time it's not so great.

In constrast, when I buy a new piece of gear (like my Cary SLP-05 preamp last month), I rekindle my relationship with all my music, and it makes me want to go buy more.

BOTTOM LINE: you could figure this out by asking how much music people are buying, whether they play an instrument regularly (and by play, I mean actually play, not "know how" to play) and whether they go out to hear music. The real music lovers (in my opinion) are buying, playing and going if they are physically able.

What started me in this hobby is my love for music. I have little musical talent and those that do just amaze and inspire me. Of course you have some that are so analytical that they go overboard. But they help make the equipment cutting edge for those of us that love the mystical sound that is music.
Tmrhu, excellent point about live music and the sound levels, and that's one reason I invested in a pair of custom ear plugs (175.00 and worth 10 times that) that attenuate frequencies evenly. I refuse to hear live music without them.
There is a BIG difference between rock concerts and other live concerts where the music is played at reasonable, listenable levles- namely artists such as Diana Krall, Nora Jones and Keiko Matsui- all of whom I have seen and loved.
Cwlondon...One of my favourite LP's is a test record that has a so called "silent groove" selection. It's fun to crank the volume up, boost the bass, and soak up that awesome rumble.
I am a musician of sorts but when I play I am often distracted by monitoring how well I am playing (piano), therefore I like to relax and listen as someone else performs. But when I go to live concerts I often have to contend with unskilled performances, people coughing and opening up candies etc. Though I admit many times live performances bring me to tears of joy.
Which brings me to listening at home, at night when everybody else is asleep. On good gear I can really get into it. The audiophile part of it comes in becuase it is exciting to hear an improvement and then be blown away with more treasures of detail and dynamics found within the music collection that I already own. I personally dont have much trouble shifting between music lover and sound analyst. Years will go by as a music lover and then there will be a flurry of equipment focus for awhile, then back to music lover.
Post removed 
What else do we listen to on our 2 channel systems? I didn't put this expensive money trap together to listen to books on tape??
I enjoy the music a lot, but am extremely picky about getting it to sound right to my ears.*
*Footnote: For example, it bothered me a lot when I heard speakers that sounded better than what I had. BEFORE hearing those, my own speakers sounded fine. AFTER hearing those, I got upset and eventually went on an upgrade binge to get where I am now, which is near perfection (for me).
Once you get an ear for critical listening, how do you turn it off? Everywhere I go - shopping mall with violinist playing through Bohlender Grabner 6 foot ribbons or town meeting with speaker going through crappy mic - all I hear are peaky highs, mic reverb, sibilance, and on and on. What happened to just enjoying the music? Can't put the Genie back in the bottle as Don Henley said.
It's a continuum. With a clock radio all there is is music. The higher the resolution you start hearing the sounds (listening to the system or quality of the recording) more and more and it's harder (for me at least) to hear the music.
Still, it can happen when all I focus on is the music. I enjoy music immensely with Curve's "Cuckoo" CD. It has a song "Unreadable Communication" which is absolutely surreal musically. Curve knows music.
Elizabeth sez:
i think sometimes audiophiles get caught up in judging the equipment, and when doing that, it is hard to be caught up in the music
True. Likewise, they can get caught up in the music and miss out in judging equipment:) Happens to me often: systems sound "OK" and I realise I'm not paying attention to salient, golden eared details on the actual reproduction.
how many of you would REALLY like Diana Krall if her recordings sounded like crap???
Diana Krall, my first SACD. Listened to it twice. Second time was to confirm original assessment. Same with Nora Jones. Patricia Barber and Holly Cole are a different story for me -- love em both.
funny asked a friend who runs a record shop if he deals with audiophiles on a regular basis

his answer - "audiophiles? you mean those guys that pay top dollar for crappy music on MOFSL pressings"

he has a point