October 14, 2011

Audiophile, And Proud Of It!

A music lover's romance or audiophile's wet dream? Why make the distinction, as long as this beauty is helping me to re-position my speakers. Ha! Ha!

It seems like my earlier music review article, featuring The 1969-1981 Singles, by Carpenters have rubbed more than a few feathers the wrong way, only because I confessed to recognise the talents of the hugely popular artistic duo via the latest 24/96 remastered hi-rez downloads. The so called "music lovers" immediately accused me of being an audiophile, like as if it was something that I should be ashamed of. Many also pride their huge collection of music as proof of being a music lover, rather than an audiophile, yet they have very ambitious audio rigs at home, and behave in a highly critical manner when they go visit fellow audiophile homes. I wish to ask this pertinent question to those who behave as such. Why the double identity, split personality behaviour?

It's actually been happening for a few years now, that I see and hear many audiophiles declare themselves to be music lovers. I could not understand that why we should be ashamed of our fairly healthy, if somewhat obsessive hobby, in pursuit of "The Absolute Sound"? We are also not as proud to "parade" or show off our equipment to fellow enthusiast, unlike those motorcar or super bike loving folks!

When I was in to stamp collection, I proudly lugged my heavy albums with me to share my collection(OK, plain showing off, if you wish!) when I knew I was about to meet fellow collectors. My friends who like to go fishing talk about their latest sea fairing adventures and show photos of their finest catches with pride. So why are we audiophiles so eager to disguise our hobby in to something else? What's the shame in being some one who adores good sounding equipment, just like the boys who adores the fast cars and perhaps, even faster women?

In a world of six billion human beings and counting, some statistics point to the figure of 2% or so, that can be considered as audiophiles. My buddy ML would even call the said statistic as highly optimistic!  No wonder the hifi market is slumping due to a lack of fresh young blood. If we, the music loving audiophile can't even be proud enough and admit to being one, who else will be convinced enough to follow our foot steps?

As ML pointed out, audiophiles seldom attends "live musical concert" as they prefer to stay at home to listen to music through their hifi systems. I see nothing wrong with that. What one chooses to do with his/her time is of nobody else's business. I personally know many music lovers who do not own any audio equipment that we could in any way considered capable of hifi! My little girls loves music for the music it self, only because they can enjoy music via their iPods, the radio station or even the crappy OEM Honda car stereo. They still move and respond to the beat of the music, despite all the lesser than average audio fidelity. The maestro,Tey Cher Siang and many other musicians I know, do not own any audio equipment that we, the snooty audiophile community will ever consider as hifi, yet they enjoy listening to music any way(to be frank, I know the maestro is trying to get to hifi kingdom, someday)! For me, it's these particular group of people, if any one else, who deserves the title of "music lover".

If one craves for hifi equipment, only because he/she wants more bass, or clearer sound, while listening to music than they are most likely to be considered an audiophile, perhaps in the future if not now. Me? To be honest, I do not know exactly which group I should consider my self to be, an audiophile or music lover?

Here's my story so far. At six of seven years old, I discovered the addictive quality of music, when I listened to stuff, from The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and bands like Kajagoogoo, Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Culture Club, Duran-Duran and Men At Work. It wasn't really about hifi or sound quality until I was about 15 years old, when I'd tweak the tape capstan(these were the compact cassette days!) tension to get better bass and improved speed stability. The hifi streak took over as a dorm dwelling student as I started to upgrade my stereo system, what ever it was back then. Strangely, the routine of ritual called work, plus the need to save up for a nice car and home put an end to my hifi days, but I never stop buying, listening and enjoying music, which at this point is almost always the latest chart topping hits. Some where along the line, I started appreciating female vocals and some guitar(I first heard about Roger Wang about this time) music too. It wasn't until 10 years or so ago, that the car audio bug bite and soon, I was building formidable mobile systems. I moved on from the car audio only a few years back to build my current hifi system today. While doing so, I managed to revisit and appreciate much of the music that I once discounted. It wasn't until too long ago, that I started exploring musical genre like jazz, classical, or just plain audiophile music.

So one can easily see, that in my short lifetime, I have drifted in and out between music lover and audiophile with various degree of intensity. At this point in time I'd consider myself more audiophile than music lover, only because I write in these pages and the current hifi system helps me to expand my musical horizon. If you're reading this now, surely you're more of an audiophile than anything else! Otherwise, you should be spending more time on Pop Pop Music blog as linked on the right side panel or go to http://www.thediapason.com/ amongst other worth while music journals.

However, my question now(again?) is this, music lover or audiophile? Why make the distinction?  How does it matter if you've got a hifi system and love good sound with the aim to better music enjoyment? Why does one need to feel so ashamed to be called an audiophile, that he/she has to disguised as "music lover"? After all it's not like we're doing anything bad and harmful such as paedophile? Oppss......... perhaps something is better left unspoken? Your thoughts on the subject matter?


Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Big E,

Good Question. Here’s my attempt.

Fast cars. Either you have it or not. Either you win the race or not. Speed is tangible. Either you hit it or not.

Stamps, either you have it or not. Stamped, mint or not. Size, age and rarity are all tangible.

Bikes, same things. With a dare factor thrown in. Either you have it or not.

At best, I think these examples are carnal pursuits. Music appreciation is not.

Typically audiophiles are judged on these merits.
1. The system and room.
2. System performance.
3. Your music software collection
4. Yor musical appreciation/maturity
5. and ultimately, your ears.

To be a complete (and respected) audiophile, you may have to pass all 5 criteria. Out of the 5 criteria, only 2 items are tangible, the other 3 are subjective.

Sound is too subjective.

With subjectivity comes diversity. We all know where that will lead to.

I think all humans appreciate music from birth. It is how we are created. It is our birth right.

One can be a music lover and still be an audiophile.

However, being an audiophile doesn't necessarily mean one is a music lover. It could be a technical journey. Just like your stint with the capstan. A hobby, in pursuit of technical excellence.

A person who sings well may use the mic but a person who designs good mics may not necessarily know how to sing.

Or the difference between, “I am a sports driver”, and “I drive a sports car”.

Therefore, to negate the unnecessary debate of the intangible qualifications of being an audiophile, sometimes it is simpler to say, “I am a music lover”.

J Teoh said...

It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white - as long as it catches mice - Deng xiao Peng

It doesn't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing

Before elivs, there was nothing - john lennon

Whatever gets you thru the night, it's alright, it's alright - john lennon

Before Big E, nothing is ....

tlkoo said...

i see that everyone in this circle is caught between music enjoyment and music reproduction as some is inclined to enjoyment while some is inclined to reproduction, but none is at either extreme

after years i have been dabbling in between, i have realised that if one has achieved some kind of balance, enjoyment and reproduction could be just complimenting and encouraging each other, he could go a very long way!!! alas imbalance may cause both ends to ostracize and frustrate one another, in the long run he could give up either or both

check our balance, how long have we gone? perhaps more importantly, how long more we would enjoy being in between or we just wonder where we were, where we are and where we are heading [Rolling Eyes]

regard me as audiophile, music lover, musiophile or music listener, as you like it but never paedophile

Ken said...

Big E,

Its Depeche Mode!

Big E said...

Thanks guys for sharing your thoughts.

Ken, with keen eyed readers like you, I hate to slip up only to have it pointed out. However, it's guys like you who make me do a better job, much appreciated.

My point is, we are all audiophile, music lover and what not all rolled in to one. Why should we make the distinction?

Ken said...

Big E,

Actually Depeche Mode is one of my fave band for synthesizer type of music. My No 1 fave is Yazoo.

Anyway, I always believe one thing. If we want to post something, we owe it to our readers to check so that the facts that we put in, is correct. The reason I say this is that they are a lot of newbies out there. If we say something wrong, they learn the wrong thing.
I can also say the same about some of the trainers I met. They are suppose to the representative for their company for technical info. Yet their knowledge is so bad that they cant even explain some of the basics about the products.

Anyway, enough of my rant!