Steve Guttenberg: I am an Audiophile

The Audiophiliac, Steve Guttenberg, is a long time industry heavyweight, a prolific audio journalist, and a wild "As We See It" contributor to Stereophile. He's also been a crucial mentor of mine since we first met in early 2015, during my pre-Stereophile days.

In this video, Steve shares his personal background and offers his perspective on a variety of audio-related topics. He defines the term "audiophile" while questioning the evasiveness surrounding the term, discusses affordable audio, and describes his method for reviewing. Think of this as an "As We See It"—video edition.

We'll also be posting a video tour of Steve's current system.

Here's Steve on what makes him tick as a self-confessed audiophile:

tonykaz's picture

You won the Audiophile Lottery.

You've got HR, JA and Steve G guiding and mentoring.

JA has been 'True North' for 4 Decades, HR is brilliant in his curiosity and honesty.

I met Steve G at 2011 RMAF and was immediately impressed with his wisdoms and sincerity, a rare find, I've had him on my Bookmarks Bar ( right next to Stereophile & Tyll ) ever since.

These 3 are the humble Giants of the Audio Industry ( include Tyll ).

Your work is a "breath of fresh air"!

Tony in Michigan

Herb Reichert's picture

Sphere - he sees the big picture and explains it very well

Anon2's picture

I enjoyed the entire video interview.

Obviously, I gravitated toward what provided the most hope for me in this video "article."

The speaker addressed deftly the eternal Stereophile (and audiophile writ large) frustration: the cost of gear. He spoke to this briefly. Then he gave many specific examples of affordable (not "affordable" as described often in this publication) gear for the audiophile masses.

This gentleman has a venerable track record of putting accessible (i.e. sub-$1,000) gear into this CNET recommendations. Look them up; I often do.

Another sign of hope for the budget-constrained audiophile comes from his discussion of headphones as a past and present option for high-quality audio reproduction.

I have recently gone to headphones for a growing portion of my listening time. Part of this tendency is due to long hours at work, and the ease of a USB-powered DAC/headphone amp to provide portable and excellent sound reproduction.

The other part of my headphone gravitation is the cost to performance ratio of cans. To attain the quality of sound I get with two recently purchased sets of headphones, I spent 1/2 what a modest priced component would cost. To attain similar sound reproduction from next-step-up amplification, digital sources, and speakers, I'd have to sell everything I have to get, perhaps, just one "upgrade" component. Perhaps other Stereophile readers can pull this off financially; I can't.

All in all, it was another superb production-by-Jana in which a video "says 1000 words" and much more. This was a great piece. I intend to tune in a second time this weekend to make sure I did not miss anything of substance. Keep up the excellent work.

donlin's picture

Best description of an audiophile I've heard yet. I can relate to everything he said. I don't understand why so many audiophiles deny what they are. There is nothing shameful about loving music and sound.

dalethorn's picture

I listened to this with a new $700 Blue Microphones Ella headphone, so that makes me an audiophile.

David Solomon Peachtree Audio's picture

This video really captures Steve. He's so uniquely qualified to review relying on all of his vast past experiences. And love the fact that he enjoys musical gear at any price point there's a value.
Well done Jana.

cstokes02's picture

Honesty and refreshing and sincere. What a treasure.

avanti1960's picture

your enjoyment and passion for audio is both exuberant and obviously sincere. not to mention somewhat infectious.
however, no offense but i believed that you were not critical enough of the products that you reviewed, especially the ones that i was or became familiar with.
now that i understand your approach, to seek out the characteristics that make the product stand out and how they make you feel- i look forward to reading your future reviews with this understanding in mind.

Psychedelicious's picture

Guttenberg is good at connecting to a broad audience, he's also quite masterful at stirring the pot with his "questions" about audio that he posts on Facebook. Nice interview, Jana.

egsp's picture

Fascinating interview, and I identified as an audiophile. My mother told me at at age 4 or 5 I would sit in front of the speaker (mono in early sixties) and demand that she play records over and over. In high school I had soldered in to the family console stereo an old rim-drive turntable with the guts ripped out and a home-brew aluminum arm made from a TV antenna. I wasn't really into making the gear, just in desperately trying to get better sound. I remember the moment I first heard audiophile speakers at a friend's house in high-school. Every month I eagerly awaited the arrival at the library of High Fidelity and Stereo Review.

I wonder if it is a hard-wired trait. When I sit in an office or restaurant I almost always aware of the music and the system behind it. One of my former room-mates is a brilliant PhD. He listened patiently to a few iterations of my evolving (revolving) stereo systems, enjoyed them with me, was able to identify some of the characteristics of them, but happily went back to some mediocre bookshelf speakers when I left. It 's not that he couldn't hear them, just that he didn't get the particular enjoyment I would get out of it.

There is something visceral, say, about a really good loudspeaker that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up at attention. A salute to audiophiles everywhere, I suppose!
Thanks for your column.

DaleC's picture

I think the thing I like best about Steve G is that, although he is exposed to the very highest of the high end and the most esoteric of the esoteric, he still understands, and seems to really love, the lower end stuff that draws some of us into the hobby.

I think he gets that you don't have to spend kilo-bucks to be an audiophile, but you can be an audiophile with a limited budget, some smart purchases and a lot of love for music, plus being a gear geek.

I think he really understands the Law Of Diminishing Returns when buying gear.

I don't think there is a trace of snobbery in him, which is not always the case in this hobby.

I am, regularly, amazed by his patience with both noobs and snobs.

I find that his opinions seem to match my ears.

I think a lot of audiophiles are more into gear than enjoying music, but I don't get that from Steve.

I love what he says about owning different speakers and how they all sound different. Not "better", but different. I am a bassist of 35 years and his perspective speaks to me. My Sting Ray sounds different from my custom Jazz bass, which is different from my Kubicki Ex Factor, which is different from my Jaguar bass, which is different from my Yamaha TRB6, etc. I play my StingRay 80% of the time, but the others serve a REAL purpose. Then you add the variable of feeding all of those different basses through my custom Pearce BC1 pre, my dbx 376 pre, my Universal Audio TwinFinity pre... or my 500-rack filled with pre's from Rupert Neve or Warm Audio, EQ's by Trident, Neve and Radial.... then decide between Crest, Yamaha or Crown power... then EV, Bergantino or JBL cabinets.... OR just push it all through my massive tube Mesa-Boogie Bass 400+.

basically an infinite number of variables, some high $$ and some not, but all serving a purpose. That purpose is to make ME happy.

He, also, gets my argument that audio is a pretty economical hobby. People don't even blink at dropping $25k on a Harley, $70k on a boat or $100k on a pool, NONE of which get used as often as a nice system.

Thanks, Steve.

DaleC's picture

I spend a LOT of time in my office and, because of that, I want a system that I enjoy in that space. Based on reviews by Steve, I have a Peachtree Audio Nova, a Pro-Ject Carbon Debut, a Schitt Mani, a Dragonfly DAC for my MacBook Pro and ELAC B5's in my office. I am, currently, comparing the B5's to a pair of ELAC UniFi UB5's.