Audiophile Essentials

Henry Rollins: Audiophile. In a blog for the LA Weekly, Henry Rollins describes the pleasure of listening to music through his Wilson Audio Sophia 3 loudspeakers. Photo: Maura Lanahan.

It’s tough being an audiophile. Tell someone you like high-quality sound and they might look at you like you’re an alien. We forget that hi-fi used to be the coolest endeavor in town. Look at black-and-white advertisements from decades ago and you’ll see handsome men, surrounded by enormous loudspeakers, massive tube amplifiers, LPs tossed about like useless clothes and knotted bed sheets, gorgeous women wanting and waiting for more. But, somehow, over time and with changes to our priorities and lifestyles, the idea of listening to music on the hi-fi has gone from sexy to sexless—a hobby limited to the soft and balding, the smelly and unkempt, the hopelessly lonesome and woefully inept. Plus: For most people, “audiophile” is just way too close to “pedophile.”

What’s a guy to do?

We would like to destroy these negative perceptions of the audiophile. Such views are not only unfair, but horribly limited and ignorant. And would you tell Haruki Murakami that it’s not cool to be an audiophile? Lou Reed? Jim Sclavunos? Thurston Moore? Frank Sinatra? Marlon Brando? Steve McQueen? Clint Eastwood? Johnny Rotten? Syd Barrett? How about Henry Rollins? Would you tell Henry Rollins that hi-fi’s a hobby for losers? What about me? Would you tell me that hi-fi's not cool?

In an essay he calls “Reflections on the Audiophile Image,” Michael Lavorgna opens our June issue by wondering how and why hi-fi lost its cool. To complement Michael’s piece, we’ve compiled articles on our website that illuminate the elements of our shared enthusiasm for sound and music. Click on “Audiophile Essentials” to find discussion of what it really means to be an audiophile.

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tom collins's picture
love it

excellent piece.  i prickle a little when someone calls me an audiophile because of the stereotypes (fat, bald, loser) the author mentions.  i usually correct and say, no, just a music lover.  henry hit it on the nose.

Glotz's picture
Hank is an audiophile!

There is just no end to the cool of this man.  Henry salutes my vinyl purity!  Right fuckin on!  Coolest dude ever.

Mr-GRAAF's picture
Would you tell Rollins is a loser?

Not if you would like to swallow an Ipod, I imagine. 

I'm still rooting for this guy, Rollins, now audiophile hero.

cgreen416's picture
Great post

That line in there:

"Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting in a room alone with an LP crackling away, or sitting next to the turntable listening to a song at a time via 7-inch single is enjoying the sublime state of solitude."

Says it all doesn't it. Great piece by Rollins. Thanks for pointing it out.

soulful.terrain's picture
Rollins Band


 Everytime I see Henry Rollins, It reminds me of the video he did for the song "Liar"

Great lyrics that cut to the bone. good stuff!

bonhamcopeland's picture
An Editorial Request for Stereophile

Would it be totally off brand if Stereophile created a column that profiled famous Audiophiles, their gear, and the music they love?

Look at that picture of Henry Rollins. Look at it. Look at that music collection. The guy is as punk rock as it gets and he's rocking $12,000 Wilsons? Also, HE'S TALKING ABOUT THE PRESSING of his favorite album. I want to know what his kind of gear is driving those Wilsons. I want to know what introduced him to higher end gear. I want to know how his background as a musician informs his audio habits. Imagine that picture, a picture of his gear in the pages of Stereophile.

Fvck CES, I want to know what Thom Yorke listens to.

Imagine other known Audiophiles like Rick Rubin getting a profile. Or better yet, find a girl. Like Zooey D. or a well know actresss. Get some people outside of the hobby to wax poetic about great sound, and more importantly, the music they love. I mean, A. Digest does profiles of celebrity homes. What about Music and Gear?

This could:

Make great sound cool again.

Raise the public profile of audiophiles for the better.

Lower the demographic for the magazine.

Increase Readership.

Piss off a lot of long time readers. Which is probably why you won't do it. But those people will be dead in 10-20 years and what will you be left with?

Most importantly it would get Stephan in front of some music celebs he can nerd out with.

Think about it.







Glotz's picture
He's got a point..

While the magazine is modern already, it could propel the coolness factor again...

Stuart Watts's picture
Great read

Bonhancopeland I am with you on that idea..... what's running those Wilsons... What turntable is he using?

His article brings me me back to my youth making tapes of vinyl records..

Mr Rollins you are the Man!


jonahsdad's picture
Celebrity profiles

I would love it.  I'd even love non-celebrity profiles, if they're interesting.  The Human Angle of this hobby that obsesses on things.

Erick Lichte's picture
I Keep Telling JA

I keep telling JA and SM that if they just sent the camera crew over to my house, they'd get the shots they'd want for the magazine - men in tuxes with loosened bowties, rare jazz records, sweaty martinis, lounging women casting longing looks at my gear.  It's all right here, man.  Sheesh, even Hank Rollins was over just last week for some Brahms and Bourbon and told me my place is where its at.  Audio is cool EVERY DAY at my house. 

paulsax's picture
Couple axioms to take to

Couple axioms to take to heart.  First is that land war in asia thing.  Second is that the non-cool kid will never become cool by saying he is actually cool!  If great sound does become cool again it will not be us driving it.


I'm cool with that!

smittyman's picture
Stereophile Did That A Few Years Ago

Actually I recall that Stereophile ran a few pieces on the equipment used by some musicians.  I recall Tony Bennett and Branford Marsalis being profiled, clearly not as cool as Rollins, but it seemed to be a short-lived feature.  Maybe because a lot of musicians aren't audiophiles; I seem to recall Marsalis saying something to that effect - they are so into the music that they can latch on to it no matter what it is played through.  Also, a lot of them use studio equipment that may be quite different than a home system would be.

John Atkinson's picture
Rick Visits

"I recall that Stereophile ran a few pieces on the equipment used by some musicians.  I recall Tony Bennett and Branford Marsalis being profiled, clearly not as cool as Rollins, but it seemed to be a short-lived feature."

It ran for several years, but ended when writer Rick Rosen, whose concept it was, passed away at a tragically early age from unknown causes. Perhaps we should revive it.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

vclements's picture
Words to live by

Rollins hit the nail on the head with this from his LA Weekly blog:

"Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting in a room alone with an LP crackling away, or sitting next to the turntable listening to a song at a time via 7-inch single is enjoying the sublime state of solitude."

Incidentally when Rollins hits the nail on the head - he don't need no stinkin hammer- he just uses his fist while the nail cowers in fear of the punishment it is about to endure.

Sure, tell him it ain't cool to be an audiophile.

mcfaite's picture
Rick Visits

I really enjoyed those Rick Rosen pieces - if I recall, it was not uncommon for the discussion to be about the equipment simply as a vehicle for enjoying music, rather than just a discussion about the gear itself. A reminder that the enjoyment of music is the thing. For whatever my vote is worth, I'd love to see it revived in some way.

As for Rollins - he's great. I used to run into him on the street from time to time, back in the day. I think he gets a little much at times, but more often than not, he's right on.

Allen Fant's picture
Great piece! I would like to

Great piece! I would like to see Mr Rollins' entire audiophile set-up.

GuyF's picture
Redeem yourself, Mr Atkinson. Interview Rollins asap.

Of all the people I thought I`d never see in a Stereophile article, Henry Rollins comes pretty near the top. The suggestion to start articles/interviews with "celeb" audiophiles is just what the magazine needs. Plus it looks like you have a target for the first installment.

When you do interview Henry (let`s all say it together, "JA, make it happen!") please inform him that "Illumination" contains the greatest lyrics ever written. Just a pity the production didn`t equal the song....ah well, you can`t have everything....I mean , where would you put it all?

Henry, get the band back together and give us another album. Time`s a-wastin`.

corrective_unconscious's picture
No way on the "pedophile" stereotype for audiophiles

More like impotent.

deckeda's picture
I'm a little skittish on reviving this concept

I recall most musicians Rosen interviewed not being audiophiles, for the explanation Marsalis rightfully provided. Interesting, and makes sense, but doesn't promote much in the way of an on-going feature IMO.

Or you might get a celeb with fancy gear who only bought it because they were told to do so, or because it looked cool. Which would promote this endeavor ... How? Or the person who has 2 systems: studio gear and an iPod.

Famous or not, I'd far rather see a feature that had quality systems, even basic ones, with conversations about the music collections. Why shouldn't, couldn't, Stereophile readers' systems be featured occasionally? Every Internet forum does this.

bonhamcopeland's picture
I wouldn't be... (skittish)

(Stereophile) would obviously need to weed out the celebrity purchasers of expensive furniture with tubes.

And for certain, there are a lot of musicians out there who don't have killer rigs. (but I'll bet there are a bunch who do). When you are the best source for hearing living sound, why bother? 

That's why Rollins is compelling. He's not creating music as regularly as he used to, so perhaps his vinyl habits are fulfilling an unmet aural need? Maybe not? Maybe it's always been there? I don't know. That's the kind of stuff I want to read about in the interview.

And I don't want to read about other Stereophile reader's rigs and music tastes. As you point out, many other audio forums already do this. Which is exactly why Stereophile shouldn't. If I want to read about what kind of acoustic vocal jazz the dude with a giant Horn Speaker Wall listens too, I'll go to Audiogon.

However, I am utterly interested in reading the perspectives on HiFi, good sound, and Music from the people who actually create the culture. Because it is they, not us, who will change things for the better or worse. 

Jack White is selling vinyl from a food truck. He's not doing it for the money. Now that's a cover of Stereophile a future audiophile might pick up off the newsstand. 




DetroitVinylRob's picture
Audiophile celebrity cool!

I would agree...

Why hasn't someone with say... an audiophile magazine thought of hosting a regular article (with pictures) that does for audio what  "Cigar Aficionado magazine" has done for those smelly old stogies? Make it cool, because cool people love music AND are driven to hearing it in Hifi, because that is very cool.  It could be the next logical step from RollingStone to Mtv to now Stereophile. High-end needs a publicist.

So, I recommend "come in here dear boy have a're going to go far"

This is shear genius!

cena's picture
Why hasn't someone with

Why hasn't someone with say... an audiophile magazine thought of hosting a regular article (with pictures) that does for audio what 117-304 ST0-134 ST0-096 E20-594 E20-616 E20-517 E20-335 OG0-092

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