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Audiophiles - Listening to music or to gear?

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

Hello Head-Fiers,


Today I read a sentence on audiohile.com that made me think:

Audiophiles don't listen to music, they listen to gear...


Well, it might be true. I owned the Shure SE425 for two years now. Since black friday I bought the Koss Clip On, Monoprice 8XXXsomething, Shure SE215 (just for the fun it, it's supposed to be more bassy, a more "fun" listen..), Alessandro MS1, HiFiMAN HE-400, NAD VISO HP50.... bought an FiiO E18 AMP/DAC.... And I can't say that I didn't enjoy listening to music with my Shure SE425...


I don't consider myself an audiophile, but I certainly do enjoy and value good sound/audio. I often find myself complain about bad sound in different places. 


I think I bought more stuff in some kind of expectation to have a better listening experience, something that will knock me down. Something for home, something for outside. One headphone for every situation.  I'm always interested to listen to different gear. And I'm still interested in buying other headphones, more expensive ones, but also cheaper ones...


Does this make sense? Am I starting some kind of gear-addiction? I haven't burned my HE-400 in yet, but oh boy do I enjoy them. Same goes to the NAD H50s, different sound, but still enjoy them... What am I expecting from different headphones..another sound signature? I can EQ if thats the problem... 


I think that I'm listening to music in the first place, otherwise there would be no interest in buying any gear, right? But still, I feel like I'm on the search for THAT Headphone that will blow we away, the headphone so crystal clear but powerful, so realistic.... And don't tell me to sell all my headphones and to buy Audeze LCD 2 ;)


So what do you think? Are audiophiles listening to music, or to gear?


What happens when the gear-horny audiophile found his perfect gear? Will he stop critical listening and will be able just to enjoy the music?


What are your opinions?

post #2 of 46

I think that the enjoyment of such a pursuit comes from the pursuit itself. It's a journey to satisfy ones self, and in many ways it's like trying to catch a unicorn. 


You buy a set of IEM's, listen to them, read about them, research what it is that you think you can better with the next pair, then research which next pair will fill in those gaps, then chase them for the best price, and when you get them, the circle starts again. 


for collectors of anything, simply insert your collecting object in the place of the IEM. A car, a bicycle, skateboard, musician, guitar, recipe. There's always another one out there to try.


It's a curse, but it's also a blessing. Hobbies like this sure keep me from having enough money to buy drugs or liquor.

post #3 of 46
Originally Posted by BaTou069 View Post

Well, it might be true.

This is a nice honest way to look at things.

I have lots of equipment. 3 pairs of hi-fi speakers. Several amplifiers, about 10 headphone amps. Numerous headphones, IEMs, DACs, DAPs. I like to buy equipment, expensive, cheap... mostly I like to buy expensive equipment cheap, but I also enjoy designing and building gear. I'm a gearhead.

I like to listen to music too. I played guitar (and a few other instruments) for over 40 years.

What I don't like is people who whine on about sound quality, veiling, detail and suchlike and have endless concerns about whether their equipment is good enough and who really do seem to be listening to the equipment and don't seem to have a real passion for music. I listened to AM radio in the '60s, we used to sit with our ears glued to the speaker and we loved the music DESPITE the poor SQ.

The people who obsess about their equipment seem crass and shallow to me, I don't feel they have any true appreciation of music at all, and I think the whole audiophile business is pretentious and dishonest, it's all about materialism, whereas music is about spirituality.

I'd better stop at this point because I don't want to preach, but that's basically where I'm coming from.

Oh, I never spend so much I don't have money for drugs and liquor.

post #4 of 46

I have always enjoyed music, but it was always a secondary activity. I'd listen while driving, or while working on the computer, etc. I very rarely just listened to the music, giving the music my full attention, that is until I stumbled into an audiophile shop and listened to what some nice (but still inexpensive) speakers could do. That sent me down the rabbit hole and I have since moved onto headphones for the bang for the buck. So, while I do enjoy doing tests on equipment and trying out some different things, it's sort of it's own hobby, while music is another hobby, they just have a lot of overlap. I have noticed that even when I listen to music as a secondary activity, when good equipment is giving a beautiful sound, I often stop what I'm doing to enjoy the beauty of the music.

post #5 of 46

There is an elongated thread discussing this subject here → http://www.head-fi.org/t/677509/do-audiophiles-like-music/225#post_10036706


My overall opinion is that the music is what makes the experience so great. It in itself is the luxury, everything else is just the icing on the cake. I discovered the audiophile world because of my love for music. I do not consider superior sound quality an essential need, I listen to music in whatever medium it is reproduced.

post #6 of 46

I think that statement is untrue. Most audiophiles and videophiles strive to "rediscover" the music they love by owning gear that "reveals" things they never heard/saw in their source material. Nothing wrong with that. Matter of fact... when you do purchase a set of speakers, headphones, TV/Monitor that does reveal these little things... like hearing Stevie Ray Vaughns amp actually humming on a recording during a silent moment... it makes you smile. Or when you own a nice TV/monitor that reveals something in shadow detail that you never noticed on a inferior set... same thing.


Now... when you get into things like interconnects, speaker and power cables and the such helping to "reveal" things in a recording that you never heard... I am kinda like the old-timers... wire is wire and most of all that is psychosomatic... You pay bookoo bucks for something and you want to justify it by hearing something. When what you want to do is hear the same thing the Sound Engineer did in his phones/monitors... that will never happen cause his ears and everybody elses ears are different and each Engineer is/was striving for or wants the recording to sound a certain way as they were/are recording/mixing it. 


I think as long as you have some drivers that will reveal all that is on the vinyl/polycarbonate+aluminum/0+1's... sit back and enjoy what is there and don't worry what happened or didn't happen in the Studio :>)



post #7 of 46

I suffer from the same condition with food. even though I have the perfect pringles+coke combo, I tend to go and eat other things too. not sure I appreciate fat and sugar for what they really are when I need to add nutella?



some want the "truth" , some want to have a taste at different stuff, some just change gear for convenience, other for e-fame and fashion. some will never really know what they are listening to because they never learned how to listen and never cared. but we all fall into the evil trap of shaking our asses at some point. that disgusting music always trying to make me enjoy the moment when I'm doing my experiments!

post #8 of 46

I think it's quite simple actually. Audiophiles want, even need, to hear differences. That's their hobby, their compulsion. They're not interested in faithful reproduction. They want their rig to be special, instead of leaving that job to the artists, the music.



@castleofargh: If I understood you right then the analogy doesn't work. Faithful reproduction shows everything in the recording that's supposed to be heard. If I want to hear something else... surprise, I change the music.


Trying to salvage your analogy: audiophilia is like having to have a special plate and cutlery and napkin and tablecloth and ... for each different meal. Oh and of course the way the chef makes the meal is not good enough. Everyone has to have special spices which he/she adds to "improve" the taste.


The problem is that with colored gear you cannot take away the spices. You're stuck with the coloration.

Edited by xnor - 12/19/13 at 12:42pm
post #9 of 46

I think I'm in the minority here, but most of the gear I buy is for the gear and not for the music. I rarely buy a pair of headphones to fulfill a need or to flat out upgrade. I typically buy gear because it sounds like a good deal and that I may be able to advice other people about it being good (or bad, depending). Also, if I feel that there is a lot of fun to be had while modding it.


The fun of headphones for me is not the audio. The fun is the chase, so to speak. My time in headphones is spent researching them, finding measurements, finding correlations between measurements and sound, finding correlations between certain mods and how they affect the measurements, and ultimately trying to figure out what the is optimal product for the money (and if it requires modification to reach that point). Reaching the optimal headphone for the money is the goal of the exercise, but not the point of exercise, if that makes sense.


It's kind of like why I follow baseball -- I don't follow baseball because I really like watching the sport. I follow baseball because it is an interesting thought experiment from a statistics standpoint, and because it is one of them that I can talk to people with. It's a combination of a mental exercise and time sink, as well as a social outlet.

post #10 of 46

As long as there are dedicated vinyl people out there... who love the idea of keeping their music as purely in the analogue world as possible and the word DAC is like a scorpion bite. Then on the other hand all the masses that live in the digital/ultra-digital world and DAC rolling is like tube-rolling in the vinyl realm... there will be money to be made in the aftermarket world. The equipment is fun and addictive, but without the music... it is all jus scarpmetal :>)

post #11 of 46

To me, audiophiles listen to music and enjoy trying or learning about new equipment/technologies.  The ratio of listening to music and reading about equipment can be unbalanced.  Before I learned of this audiophile world I enjoyed music.  My appreciation of music hasn't changed over the years.  Do I appreciate music more now?  No.  The appreciation was always there.  I now probably know more about the technicalities of equipment which makes for smarter purchases.  Audiophilia and other hobbies share a common theme of exploring new equipment.  And like many other hobbies this curiosity is quite expensive.  The frequency of purchases does go down over time.  In the end, this curiosity does not lead to higher appreciation of music unless one was not that much into music before becoming an audiophile.  In such cases the equipment may be a vehicle that brings the listener closer to music appreciation. 


All audiophile roads lead to the LCD-2 or HD-800 ;).  Kidding, of course.  Maybe.

post #12 of 46

Audiophiles are hi-fi enthusiasts.  That is a hobby.  A hi-fi enthusiasts trying to listen for slightly better sonic qualities within their new gear is the same as a PC enthusiasts looking for differences in fps for games when buying new video cards.  Yes, they like listening to music as much as the pc enthusiasts likes playing pc games, but the meat of the hobby is about gradually getting better performance through more and more expensive gear.

post #13 of 46
Originally Posted by TMRaven View Post

Audiophiles are hi-fi enthusiasts.  That is a hobby.  A hi-fi enthusiasts trying to listen for slightly better sonic qualities within their new gear is the same as a PC enthusiasts looking for differences in fps for games when buying new video cards.  Yes, they like listening to music as much as the pc enthusiasts likes playing pc games, but the meat of the hobby is about gradually getting better performance through more and more expensive gear.


There's only two problems:

a) more expensive gear doesn't necessarily yield better performance (in fact, expensive gear often contains questionable technical "solutions")

b) audiophiles are usually not measuring performance (like gamers are measuring FPS), most of them pretty much completely ignore measurements


The usually go by gut feeling...


How would a computer enthusiast feel when I tell him that my old DX9 graphics card seems to produce deeper colors and more crisp images compared to a better, new DX11.1 card? Right, they'd label me as completely mad.


In audiophile land the same behavior is not only tolerated, it is expected, even wanted!

Edited by xnor - 12/19/13 at 3:03pm
post #14 of 46

I thought it would have been given that we all knew more expensive gear is not necessarily better gear.  Audiophiles are searching for things that are subjectively better to their personal tastes.

post #15 of 46
Yet you will still find plenty of PC enthusiasts saying AMD cards have better color reproduction than Nvidia cards, and I have seen tests (mostly inconclusive) that try to prove this point.
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