Audiophile and Proud
In the past years I have noticed a negative trend towards our wonderful hobby. I have been hearing a lot of people saying something like “no, you don’t understand, I am not an audiophile”. This was said like an excuse, implying that being an audiophile is a bad thing. This shows that our hobby is misunderstood by many.
My mission is to make people appreciate and understand this hobby better.
I want to share the joy that this hobby brought me, highlight the strong points of good headphones and related audio gear and why they should give them a chance!
My hobby started a few years ago “by accident”. I was a student in my third year and, at that time, recently got a job as a software developer. My most important expenses were, at that moment covered by my parents, so in my first months I found myself with some money I could use to buy myself what I desired.
So, I had 170 Eur to spend on whatever I wanted. Just to be clear, with my first salary I bought an entry level bicycle which I used every day to get to work, so at that time I had other hobbies like biking, swimming, etc, nothing serious in the sound/music department.
One year of college I lived by myself in an apartment in Bucharest. After that, my parents moved in with me. I already had a Technics sound system which I thought to be very good . After they moved in, I couldn’t listen to music at night on the speakers, so I needed a pair of headphones. I started looking for a 5.1 headphone from Creative if i remember correctly. One night I started talking with a friend of mine from childhood and made him aware of my intentions. I found out that he is very passionate about headphones and he has studied this domain for a few years already, never actually getting to buy something serious. He wanted to buy Sennheiser HD800 and Meier Audio Symphony 2 directly. He told me to look for Sennheiser HD595. Well, this is how it all started.
When I got at the Sennheiser dealer and listened to HD595 directly from a laptop I fell in love with them and bought them instantly. I never thought headphones can sound this good. I have always seen headphones as something you should use only when you are restricted from listening to speakers.
This perspective changed dramatically in the next years and I understood that headphone can be used in a stand alone dedicated sound system. From there, things escalated pretty fast and got where I am today.
I must say that I am really happy with my journey into this hobby. I have felt and been satisfied with almost every upgrade. Sometimes I took the plunge without hearing the product first, but most of the times I was lucky enough to hear it first and make my impressions before buying it.
With every upgrade I made, I rediscovered my music collection. Every song had a different presentation. I was happy as listening to them for the first time. One important fact you must know about this hobby is that your ears and brain are getting better and better in time and perceive subtleties in different ways and with more joy. You will feel the texture of the voices better, the extensions of chords, violins, guitars and instruments generally better.
This is hobby that grows on you and you get to appreciate it more and more in time.
You will see the music and the listening experience with different eyes. Sometimes I can’t wait going home to have a glass of wine while listening to my favorite music. There have been times when I really get lost into the music, loosing touch with reality for a few moments being there between the instruments, between the chords, with the artist, living the moment with them and sometimes singing along. This is what this is really about, and the more I get into better audio equipment, the deeper I get into the music.
As I said before we rely most on our vision, so the hearing is not our best sensory input, thus most of us don’t have a very good audio memory. This is an interesting test for audio (rhythm) memory. If you score badly and cannot tell the differences between different rhythms, it will be very hard to tell the differences between some audio gear ( as soundstage, details, dynamics, transients differences are harder to distinguish than rhythm changes). However, in time your audio memory gets better and your ears more sensible to these aspects.
This may be one of the main reasons this hobby grows on you in time.
You may also want to join the Philips Golden Ears Challenge which has very good training and tests. I have passed all the tests and received the “Golden Ears” award. I thought it was fun and actually quite helpful.
Aside from the above, this hobby got me to meet very interesting people, some of which are now very good friends of mine. This is how I met DarKu,Razvan & Traian and became friends sharing the same joy with this hobby. Not to mention the guys from Jack-Fi and Avstore. Jack has 4 audition rooms and I go often to them just to listen to music and talk to the guys. It is like an audiophile club where people share the hobby & their impressions and passion.
So getting back to the reason I started this post, I think people may have a misguided impression about this hobby and what it is really about. There is nothing wrong with being an audiophile. You don’t have to spend huge amounts of money to be one. You can get a Fiio E10 and a Creative Aurvana Live with less than 150$ and still enjoy the music and the listening experience.
The fact that you may get into more expensive gear to get more out of your music, well… that is another story, but that is not a requirement of being an audiophile. And if you do that, there is nothing wrong with it, as long as you try to keep your feet on the ground and you don’t waste your life savings or your children’s college founds in the process.
Also, make sure you listen to the gear before you buy it and see if it is worth it. There are cases when the price doesn’t quite reflect the performance and if you buy it without listening to it first, you may end up justifying the price and convincing yourself and everybody else that it is worth it.
I see people that don’t understand why headphones can get so expensive and why people buy them, but the same people spend more money on other stuff which they find more important, like tvs, computers, tablets, phones, cars, motorcycles, bikes, even clothes, etc.
Some spend more on one item from just one shot than an audiophile spends in 10 years. I am not saying that is wrong, but everybody has their hobby and priorities. Just trying to point out there are a lot of more expensive hobbies out there that people seem to justify more easily.
A lot of the audiophiles I met are reluctant to say how much they spent on their systems as they fear they will be judged / misunderstood. There is nothing wrong with wanting to perfect the audio quality in your system as long as it brings you closer to the music!
Other audiophiles are not sure if what they hear is true and don’t trust their ears/brain. I saw that lately the “placebo” bid is used too much as explanation or excuse. While there are cases when placebo kicks in, if the differences are big enough, trust yourself.
If you are not sure there are audible differences then you have to be more careful, even do some blind tests to be sure. But if you are sure of the differences don’t let an untrained ear or somebody who doesn’t know your system or music insert doubts in your thoughts.
I conclude saying that I am an audiophile and cannot be more proud of it.
Don’t forget to read my guide of getting into this hobby and what to look for.
So, sit down, enjoy your music and be proud of your hobby.