This guy cares a lot about his headphones. Though ludicrous, the Beats tattoo is admirable. He's saying, “Music runs through my veins and the Beats pumps that blood.” Would you tattoo “Vandersteen” in cholo lettering in an arch across your back? Would you inscribe “S-O-U-N-D” and “S-T-A-G-E” on each of your knuckles so that if someone insulted your system, your beat-down would arrive in stereo?

How much do you care about your hi-fi?

This is a stupid question. Why? Because it does not put you in front of your system. Or in a record store. Or out with friends enjoying life outside of your listening room. It makes you worry about your commitment to both your music and your hi-fi, and worrying is a waste of time.

I care about my hi-fi a lot. But I try my hardest to not let my caring of it get in the way of my enjoyment of the music. Often, I fail. The point of listening is to reduce anxiety, not increase it, but as I spend time listening to more and more components with my work at Stereophile, I'm discovering flaws within my own system. This makes listening a difficult process. There are days where I will come home and sink into my speaker’s loving arms. There are other days where I won’t even look my system in the eye.

But I work at Stereophile! I love my hi-fi… Right? Well, what is love?

I learned what love wasn’t last summer when I realized I didn’t love my girlfriend. That I wouldn’t scramble from rehearsal in Jersey in response to her merlot soaked text messages. That I wouldn’t put up with the cigarettes and nachos. Not that bad right? Probably not, but it just wasn’t me. I think I learned that love means you would do anything for that which you love. Anything. I love my cat Larry. I’d swim across the Atlantic to make sure he’s fed. I love my mother. I talk to her every day.

I sure as hell would not do anything for my system. I wouldn’t blow the money I made from selling my Les Paul to upgrade my amplifier. I wouldn’t cover the vents on my amp with sheets to protect them from drifting cat hair just to remove the sheets every time I wished to listen. Yet, I’m attached to my system. It doesn’t leave my sight. It rests in my bedroom, protected from the clutches of my roommates. Hell, I moved into my living room just so I could improve my room acoustics.

I feel protective over my hi-fi, and yet I'm loathsome of its power over me. No, you can’t touch it. But sometimes, neither can I.

And then I remember. I love music. My hi-fi brings me music.

The appreciation of sound is a separate process from the appreciation of music, the former leading to torment and exaltation and the latter being a constant support. Ever since Danielle chose my best friend Zach over me for the sixth grade dance and I played the first four chords to “Battle of Evermore” for an hour and cried, music has been there. When Neil Young sings "Birds", he sings it for me. Music has been my rock and my most dependable friend. It listens to me as I listen to it. My hi-fi is an emblem of this relationship, tumultuous but gratifying, painful but enlightening. The quest for better sound is a perversion of this love.

Stephen Mejias's picture

To paraphrase the great poet, Robert Sylvester Kelly, also known as Kells: "Hi-fi must be a lady."

Psychedelicious's picture

It only took me almost 25 years to get to a point where my system's performance is not a psychological issue anymore. I started out with a pair of Sony TAN-77ES amps and an CDP-X7 connected to a pair of Image Concept 200's, which I bought on Stereophile's good recommendation. I got a decade of solid performance out of that system.

My current secret sauce is a mix of pro and home-audio gear. A DIY PC, DIY Subs, a pair of modified Andrew Jones towers featuring Selenium compression-driver horns, and Crown XTi amps with a Pioneer Elite SC-55 acting as the DAC. The upshot? About the only speakers that impressed my at the 2013 New York Audio Show were the Gamut El Superiores.

I do love it when music provokes goosebumps, or tears of joy. That's been happening a lot recently, which is how I know I've arrived somewhere special.

Mark "Psychedelicous" Henninger

Nellomilanese's picture

I love my system but not as much as I love my next upgraded system :D Kinda like havin a Porsche Carrera which is obviously a nice car and you love it, but not as much as you'd love the 911 Turbo S if you can afford it LOL

JRT's picture

Since you ask, the answer is no, I would not get the tattoo. 

My interest in good sounding playback of recorded music has lead to me getting recordings and playback gear, not tattoos about recordings and playback gear.

Many have a deep interest in something and express that by passionate direct pursuit of the interest. I expect that most of those getting a tattoo do so because they desire a tattoo at the time, and perhaps choose subject matter within the tattoo that is relevant to an interest of theirs at the time. 

In the case described in the article, I suspect the gentleman's interest was more in the tattoo than the subject matter of headphones, else he would have spent the money from the tattoo on better sounding headphones.  It is not difficult to improve on the sound delivered by Beats.  

In this I intend no disrespect toward the gentleman and his tattoo, but I have no shortage of disrepect toward what I consider to be well marketed Crap-Fi audio products such as the Beats. I suspect some interested in music have been lured into buying a Bose Wave table radio, and now I wonder if any of them have a tattoo of a Bose Wave radio (now that would be funny, and sad).

dalethorn's picture

Despite Beats being so big, hifi headphones are still a niche in the larger world, a small niche even. So from that perspective, the tattoo looks cool. But inside the hifi headphones world, Beats (compared to $300-plus Senns, Beyers, A-Ts etc.) would be like Seiko or Swiss Army to serious watch collectors. Personally, these Beats users may look like serious headphone users, but they're in a different world for the most part.

Some years ago in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store I saw a poster that said (very rough quote) "There's nothing that can't be made a little worse and a little cheaper to undercut serious products, and the person who buys cheaper is usually more victim than beneficiary". 

Another quote from a former business partner: "We should never borrow from the good reputations of others to try to make ourselves look good when our product isn't equally as good".

And so I think that Beats did a bit of these and whatever they could learn from other fashion brands that were being made down the road from Tiananmen Square, and their consumer base doesn't know the difference.

BRuggles's picture

The jackpot is nailing both compelling and nerd-alert. I have heard some, but the hunt is on for more. My first impressions for much of audiophile recordings were along the lines of, "that is recorded pristinely, buuuuuut... Meh."

As I build my dream set-up, it will always be with a nod towards making awesome music that happens to be recorded/mixed/mastered south of perfect (or even very well) sound as good as possible. 

This is why we need more The Company Band. 

Arren's picture

Ugh. He should've picked something better!

WillWeber's picture

It is hard to completely distill the sound vs. music issue. The priority is music, for me. The communication of emotion and ethereal experience is the reason for it all; good music is this. But the music transmits through sound; better sound and the experience can be deeper, allowing me to delve nearer.

The danger can be obsession over sound alone. Once the limit becomes tiny flaws in the recording/mastering, there is little point in pursuit of more perfection in playback, except perhaps for ego which will inevitably get in the way. Close enough is better than perfect, and "perfect" is not really attainable, or even definable. So listen with immersion, feel it, and enjoy.

jelyon's picture

But I love how (well recorded) music sounds coming out of the used Maggie 1.6s I bought last year. I do kinda love that after 25 years, I checked that item off my bucket list. 

I love listening to my hi-fi more when I pull the speakers out into the room. I dunno that I love listening to it any more if I toe them in. Switch them left to right. Turn them backwards. Switch the Kimber Kables out for Radio Shack speaker wire. Use the Dragonfly instead of the amp's DAC. Play the music using iTunes rather than JRiver and WASAPI. 

I'd love it more if I could move the couch out from the wall about 3 feet. But my wife would not love that. 

Would I love it the music more with a new amp? I dunno. The Maggies would be happier, and that would make me happier, so I probably would. I'd love owning a well regarded, higher quality piece of equipment.

Placebo? Maybe. I'd love to find out.