Why I Can't Stop Being an Audiophile

"Why can't you stop being an audiophile?"

The question took me off-guard. It didn't come from one of the usual suspects—a hostile anti-audiophile, or a non-audiophile who simply can't fathom why we should care so much about something as nonessential as sound reproduction—but from Louis, a sharp dressed, goateed, middle-aged man who was known, among his audio repair shop's clientele, for not only his virtuosity as a classical solo violinist, but his expertise—some would say his preternatural ability—in setting up turntables to sound their very best.

Which explains why, on the day he asked me the question, Louis was in possession of my Rega Research Planar 5 turntable. An hour earlier I'd brought it to his shop, where he had partially dismantled and laid it out on his worktable. He was going to equip it with my new Denon DL-103 cartridge and headshell, the aluminum-lithium version modified by Audio Musikraft with ipe-wood inserts, after which he was to thoroughly, meticulously fine-tune my turntable, as only he can.

Despite his stooped, slender frame, Louis's reputation has made of him an intimidating, larger-than-life figure, and in my surprise at his question I responded like a babbling idiot. "It's about the playback equipment, right? It smells good and feels good and has, uh, good shapes." I could feel heat vapors emanating off my face. I was blushing, for heaven's sake. "And the audio, right? Hearing new things. New meanings. All that good ol' audiophile stuff."

At the heart of my blathering clichés was a fact: Nothing I can buy, unpack, and insert into some aspect of my daily life, in any other product category, has the power to make everything seem right with the world to the extent that audio gear can—just as discovering new fragments and meanings of musical art through better sound can still overwhelm me with rapture, wonder, and gratitude.

Louis would have none of it. "Mais non," he said, rising from his stool to point a bony finger at me. "Find me the answer, or I will not return your turntable to you, compris?" Before I could protest, he said, "But! I promise you that once I'm done with it, your turntable will sound better to you than any audio component you've ever heard. Do we have a deal?"

He extended a hand. Grudgingly, I shook it.

Come next day, I thought I'd found the answer to Louis's question. Surely it had to do with the fact that audio was my most consistent companion. I could count on it—count on it more, in some ways, than the people closest to me in life.

Chalk it up to pragmatism. As audio technology has made it easier for me to enjoy better sound quality when, where, and how I want it—to have, in effect, liberated my audio-listening experience—it has made it possible for me to never have to feel completely alone. Wherever I am, at any given time of day, audio has my back. I called Louis to tell him so.

He was not impressed. "Wrong answer, monsieur," he rasped.

I called him early next morning to try my luck again. "Community!" I shouted into the receiver. "Our sense of community with other hobbyists is why we can't stop being audiophiles." I heard a guttural sigh. The line went dead.

Over the next few days, growing feelings of dejection and desperation had me, far more than usual, seeking solace in the process of listening to music through quality hi-fi. Ah-ha! I thought. The answer must lie in how audio makes us feel. Another audiophile cliché, to be sure—except that I could not, at that moment, imagine a better explanation of why we keep listening to and upgrading our hi-fis: A high quality of sound reproduction makes us feel good. And, naturally, what makes us feel good we then crave more of.

Alas, Louis had other ideas. Like a deadeye assassin, he shot me down with a single bullet: "Non!"

I was beginning to lose sleep. My appetite shrank. I picked fights with my wife and children over nothing.

I had finally had enough. Screw the Rega—at this point, more than wanting my turntable back, I needed to know, as soon as I could—for the sake of my sanity and my family's well-being—the answer to Louis's question.

I barged into his shop. He sat cross-legged on his stool facing me, my turntable already boxed up, neatly taped, and sitting next to him on his worktable. I demanded to know the answer.

He cocked an eyebrow. "The answer is scurrying up your windpipe at this instant," he said. "Do you feel it?"

I did. Then it stopped, and my voice took over. "Audio defines me." I paused, wondering if my words would continue without me. They didn't. "Audio has been a part of my life for so long that it is now inseparable from who I am. Audio owns . . ." My bottom lip trembled.

"Sssay it," Louis hissed.

"Audio owns . . . my soul." I burst out in an awkward laugh. "Audio owns my soul!"

There it was, inside me all along—the answer to Louis's question. And, suddenly, it was all over.

"Voilà!" With a sparkle in his eye, Louis handed me my turntable. "It will be the best thing you've ever heard."

I smiled, and nodded appreciatively. I couldn't wait to hook it up.—Robert Schryer

COMMENTS
Glotz's picture

Awesome essay.

tonykaz's picture

Seems like that 12 year old girl, on 60 Minutes last week, who has melodies popping into her head "all the time". ( which is exactly what happens to me, all the time ).

I came from a Music Family, my mother was an Opera Singer that performed Arias while making our grade school breakfasts. ( I never thought there was anything unusual about her or it. )

Gear people are not quite like us music people, I sold to Gear people, my wife calls em the "Lunatic Fringe", for god's sake!, they love a house full of gear, god bless em, keeps the little Audio Manufacturers in business.

Still, music is essential to life. Life has a sound track, just like every movie Hollywood produces. Life's soundtrack is "in the Round" ( just like Kal Rubinson's gear performs ).

Everyday people will have their TV turned on all-the-dam-time, they're TV addicts. ( hopefully not to FOX ) TV is their home soundtrack!

The noisy Car or Bus is the commuter's daily "Soundtrack", which seems like rhythmic music to some ( especially children sleeping ). Etymotic iem earphones are my remedy for commuting noises.

We are all living with sounds and life soundtracks of some sort, music people seem to be choosing to have lovely music instead of Commercial Media controlled sounds like TV & Radio Commercials blaring away. Phew!

We are the lucky ones, we found music, we've won Life's Lottery!

Tony in Michigan

ps. there are only two Violinists named Louis or Lewis in all of Canada. One is Louis Scryer, the other is Lewis Furey. Who is your guy?

ps.2 DL103 is kinda a bargain at $400, isn't it? how did that modification turn out?

rschryer's picture

The Audio Musikraft Denon DL-103 sounds significantly better than the Rega Exact 2 it replaced. As for Louis's identity, stay tuned...

ok's picture

I’ve been a keen “audiophile” (man I hate this word, reminds me of pedophiles when applied to well-off middle aged white males) for some thirty years or so in all possible forms the term usually relates – but lately I find that a decent performance-plus-convenience budget just works fine for the time being.. I don’t know, I often feel that a full-time “natural” or whatever rendering of artificially manipulated music can be quite fatiguing in the long run – and more often than not that true artists actually struggle against the limitations of the traditionally available means in order to deliver their innermost vision.

Allen Fant's picture

Nice piece! RS
Audio owns my soul as well.

volvic's picture

How does the Rega sound? Does Louis still have the touch?

rschryer's picture

Very good, and yes. (But Louis does love making deals.)

volvic's picture

Pity I no longer live in Montreal after the closing of Audio Club I had no one to calibrate my LP12, sounds like Louis would have been just the guy. Rock on Louis!!!

rschryer's picture

I don't want to offend anybody, and this may, on the surface, seem a ludicrous statement to make, but I am confident in saying that no one calibrates a turntable as well as Louis. It's not for nothing that people from all walks of life, from all over the world, seek out his services.

volvic's picture

Can't remember if I ever met him, before I moved down to NYC I had several trusted stores In Mtl and knew them quite well; AudioClub, Filtronique and my local fave Opus Audio (long since gone). Never ventured past that but if you say he is one of the best I do not doubt it for a minute judging by the pointed questions he threw at you.

DougM's picture

I am a Music lover! I like audio equipment because of it's ability to bring music I love into my home. In the same way, I love my guitars because they allow me to express myself through music. In that world as in audio, we often forget that the music is the focus, not the gear. If music lovers spent as much time finding new musicians to admire as they do the latest greatest piece of gear, they would be spending their time more wisely. Guitar players are the same, spending all their time looking for the guitar or amp or pedal that will give them the magic they seek, not knowing that the magic resides within them, and will only come out when they find a new song within their soul to express their art. The magic is there, not in a black box. If I spent more time practicing and learning new music as I do looking at guitar, amp, and pedal reviews on YouTube, I would be a much better musician. So, that is my new goal, to spend less time admiring gear, and more time exploring new music, both mine and others'. I encourage you all to do the same. We should spend more money on new music, instead of the latest toy. After all, MUSIC is what it's all about!

AJ's picture

I thought that was the new term? Since, as you previously (accurately) described, you/ilk were actually lovers of stereophonic equipment?
https://www.stereophile.com/content/rip-audiophilia-it-was-nice-knowing-you

rschryer's picture

I write "audiophile" either when I feel I have to, i.e. in the interests of clarity and/or accuracy ("audiophile" is still what's commonly used to describe a devotee of high quality sound reproduction), or because it simply works better than any other term for a particular sentence. (Substitute "audio hobbyist" for "audiophile" in the title of this AWSI to see what I mean.) That said, I stand by what I wrote in my "R.I.P. Audiophilia" article and consider myself more a stereophile than an audiophile.

AJ's picture
Quote:

consider myself more a stereophile than an audiophile.

I agree - seems a far more apt description of self proclaimed audiophiles.
It's really some form of stereo they love.

Quote:

"audiophile" is still what's commonly used to describe a devotee of high quality sound reproduction

Well, more like whatever they deem "Quality sound" to be, also aptly described by JGH
https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/1107awsi/index.html

Quote:

Audio actually used to have a goal: perfect reproduction of the sound of real music performed in a real space. That was found difficult to achieve, and it was abandoned when most music lovers, who almost never heard anything except amplified music anyway, forgot what "the real thing" had sounded like. Today, "good" sound is whatever one likes.

rschryer's picture

In my more moneyed days, I used to chase the elusive "perfect reproduction of the sound of real music", until I realized nothing less than perfect could make me happy. I've settled down since, and as a result have been having a lot more fun.
https://www.stereophile.com/content/audiophilia-nervosa-1

dalethorn's picture

".....listen to music reproduced strictly by mainstream electronics of convenience that fly under the radar of the audiophile psyche: the car stereo and MP3 player, the boom box and kitchen radio. The trick here is to get by on decent sound -- but not too decent..... When the music moves you again in all of these ways -- when it can mesmerize you and make you happy and bring you to your feet -- that's when you'll know you're ready to return to the audiophile fold."

I dunno. I've thought about joining a club with a few friends, where we hang out in a cave on weekends, wear loincloths, carry big clubs, and go looking for mastodons to pummel. But there aren't any more mastodons.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Would be pre scandal Louis C.K. Who else would mess with your mind while _sitting cross legged on a stool_?

dalethorn's picture

How it began.... Growing up, I heard music in large churches that had awesome pipe organs. When I heard music from the local Bethel Baptist church that my dad played on the radio on Sunday mornings, I wanted to hear that music live in a real space unfiltered by the radio speaker, but I didn't have the opportunity then. I got my own radio, a tiny Motorola 6-transistor AM model in 1960, which came with a small earphone. I subsequently found other earphones at the local electronics stores that sounded better.

A couple of years later I got a small record player, and learned how to connect the speaker leads to other speakers. I also found some used speaker drivers and mounted them in boxes, and stuffed the boxes in an effort to improve the sound. In 1966, I got a small FM radio about the time that FM stations were coming on the air, some commercial-free, playing "alternative" pop music or lengthy tracks that weren't played on AM radio. Then came my first stereo headphones. Eventually I got a large table-top Grundig radio which had a DIN output that I could connect to a tape recorder, and at that point I could collect all manner of things off-the-air.

In writing this down, I can see what the main attractions were for me and when they occurred. First was hearing live music - mostly without amplification. Next was my curiosity to hear things from different sources, such as visiting relatives and hearing their home music systems, attending different churches that they attended, listening to AM radio stations in the 30 Easternmost states late at night, or listening to independent FM broadcasts, also at night. Finally, simple experiments with different headphones and speakers made it obvious that better sound was highly desirable, and could be obtained with a little effort.

The thing is, there were huge differences in sound quality between these sources, and I remember wanting to hear the different *types* or genres of music that these sources provided, but in the best sound quality that I could find. To some extent, that was possible by driving to many different cities and scrounging through record bins for whatever LP's and EP's I could obtain. The remainder of the equation was the equipment, but buying things randomly in the hope of achieving musical bliss proved elusive.

By 1973 or thereabout, I had subscribed to Stereo Review, High Fidelity, Audio, and Stereophile, in order of their value to me. One of my biggest (and most expensive) lessons learned was about deep bass reproduction in the home. My rooms were either too small or had large openings that couldn't be plugged, such as with a heavy door. Eventually I got where I wanted to be, and if I were giving advice to someone in the early days of their audiophile pursuit, I'd advise them to learn to keep the emotion for their music listening, but keep it out of their purchase decisions.

tonykaz's picture

...Audiophiles are WIERD!!!

Steves doing a daily YouTube Vlog.

Today's it's about weirdness which my wife calls lunatic.

Of course, we all know that we're weird, don't we?

Now-a-days I'm a Vinyl denier but mostly I'm putting my focus on walking around music: my Detroit Symphony that I carry around in my shirt pocket. ( try that with vinyl. )

Tony in Michigan

ps. believe it or not, Steve is doing today's Vlog in his underwear, 4-gods sake !!!

Axiom05's picture

When will you become "Tony in Venice, FL?" Better bring your dream system with you as retailers on the west coast of FL are pretty poor (maybe there is something decent in Naples, not sure). I live in Sarasota.

tonykaz's picture

Goldmund opened in Palm Beach, does that count?, I doubt it.

However,

ProAudio is strong in all of the USA.

The gear that the ProAudio shops carry is extensive, plus they're deep into Customer service.

Anyway,

We seem to be migrating in the direction of Wireless Streaming & Digital Sound Processing ( DSP ) with MQA infused keyboard controlling a FlatScreen OLED Monitor type of home music system. Traditional Audio Dealers don't sell this kind of gear, they wanna sell $80,000 Magico speakers, $1.000 interconnects, Cable trusses, Krell Mono Amps and $30,000 Clear Audio Record players. Pheeeewwwwww. Shouldn't forget that $12,000 Grado phono cart.

Are there old time Audiophiles in Florida?, I'll look forward to meeting some of them as I Kayak down the Intercostal playing my little palm sized Genelecs.

Venice, Sarasota, Tampa are the highest quality of life of anywhere I've been. I'll keep that a secret, hush-hush.

Tony in Michigan

ps. down below this posting is a Photo of a Harry Truman ( look alike ) pondering the Reviewer's Art.

Anton's picture

We are audiophiles....that means we have a gear fetish.

Normal people can enjoy music 'better' than we can. They can rock out in their cars and can be moved by the sound of music on the Sirius.

If we need all this fancy garbage to manage to fully embrace music, we are that person who can only get off if a certain shoe is involved or if our partner is dressed as a furry NCAA mascot.

Please spare the world this phony, "I only do it for the music" stuff. It's a gear fetish.

For those "It's the music" blah blah blah people, can y'all please name me some music that was bad and you didn't like, but then you heard it on a 'high end' rig and you were finally able to understand and appreciate it?

Heck, I'd settle for music you liked, but it took one of those high fidelity ensembles to allow to to get a full manual release for it.

Archimago's picture

It's one thing to be drawn in emotionally to the artistry of the music, or painting, or poetry, etc... IMO, those who love music truly will feel it in the "soul" whether from some cheap 80's boombox or expensive high-end, hi-res playback system.

But it's something else - and more akin to fetishism - when one excessively bestows emotional investment into OBJECTS. The old psychoanalytic idea of concentrating "libidinal" energies. One might even argue that in doing so, the "hobbyist" / "lover" also loses "objectivity" and can no longer separate himself from the beliefs / "faith" he has in these things of desire. While this still might come from the "soul", it probably is wiser to consider this as a less idealistic form of emotion - "lust".

tonykaz's picture

"faith" in things of desire,

form of "lust"

You're describing "Analog Planet" life, where money sprinkles down like leaves from a Tree in the Frozen North.

Stereophile is an Enthusiast's publication, not an obsessive's Bible.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm still gonna separate my USB cables with "Aged Bulsa Wood", I don't care what you heathen deniers say, you can't take that away from me, so there! And, I'm keeping my directional Power cables, thank you very much. I'm still hunting for a reliable source for Audiophile Fuses in 2 amps size. ( it's one of rarest things in all of audiophilia ) annnnnnnnnd Speaker Cable Trusses are a Hoax ( I can prove it, just ask, I dare you, I might even double-dare you ) -- objectivity is over-rated!

ok's picture

I think this is also the main reason why women keep themselves mostly out of the “audiophile” obsession even though they can actually hear better that most men do: they hate machinery as such in general – you know: cars, AC/DC devices, computers of all kind, even iphones – and testing, tweaking, repairing, buying, selling etc in particular. They are pragmatists who just want their job done and socialites who don’t mind a little ostentation every now and then as long as they don’t have to get their pretty hands dirty. And guess what they really feel when they see their one and only shamelessly lingering, worrying, caressing, smelling, paying heed and spending money on those evil and ugly machines.. all in plain sight and inside their own sweet home!

tonykaz's picture

can I disagree about fetish?

I think that we're DIYers, we like to choose our individual pieces, piece-meal.

I wish that I could simply buy an "installed" GOLDMUND System and forgetaboutit, like my wife would have me do.

And I wish I had access to a place like NY,NY to meander around, visiting all those unique places like HighWater and Pagano's , etc. There's no hifi culture in Detroit any longer ( or most of the USA ).

BUT, there still is hifi culture at Stereophile, thank god. This might be the last Audio Culture most of us will ever have access to. Kinda prompts me to fly out to Colorado to see the folks at PS Audio ( after all these 30 some years ).

So, I'm thinking that I'm just a DIY Stereophile that likes other flaky "hair shirt" tweaks. We survived decades of changes and are still looking to enjoy the latest stuff.

Tony in Michigan

rschryer's picture

FREE 1-YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to Stereophile Magazine (hard copy or digital, depending on your location) to the first person to correctly guess who Louis is in this AWSI. To be eligible, the answer MUST BE POSTED IN THIS COMMENTS SECTION (i.e., not on social media). Good luck!

Anton's picture

Do we get more than one guess?

rschryer's picture

I will announce the winner on Saturday. If, by then, there is still no winner, I will begin to post clues here, in addition to those already included in the article. (Please note: although you may "win" today, you still won't know about it until Saturday.)

volvic's picture

I will say Louis Desjardins of Kronos turntables. Oh, and I already have a 2-years subscription so just in it for the fun of it.

Anton's picture

Excellent call.

volvic's picture

I can't think of anyone else and I lived in Montreal where Mr. Schryer resides for all my life before moving to the USA. All the other turntable setter uppers in Montreal do not have a name that begins with Louis, so I have to guess and narrow it down to Monsieur Desjardins, a proud alumnus of Concordia University where I once worked. Good times. As for Mr. Filion, that was a wild guess as I am not sure if he even works at his store and if he is still active, but I thought I would throw it in. That's it....I am out of names. Oh, and if I am correct I will meet Robert for poutine lunch at La Banquise on his dime, as I already have a subscription. LOL!!!

rschryer's picture

Fun is good for the heart. :-)

volvic's picture

Louis Fillion from Fillion electronique, he is also someone that I could guess might be your Louis, but he would be quite old now and not sure he still dabbles.

michael green's picture

This is a great read Robert!

Michael Green
www.michaelgreenaudio.net

rschryer's picture

For the sake of efficiency, and because I don't want anyone who hasn't yet won to think they have, I've decided to jump forward in my plans and start dropping "Louis" clues now:

Louis in not a native of Montreal, or Quebec. He travels extensively, to the point I think it safe to say that all Stereophile readers know of him.

volvic's picture

Now I am stumped. I'm done.

rschryer's picture

He's a great violinist, loves Stravinski (thx JA for playing along)...

Anyone... anyone...? (Next clues, tomorrow morning.)

rschryer's picture

This essay is not based on a true story (although it does contain elements of truth, particularly when it comes to my feelings regarding audio). It is fiction with a moral, a fable. Louis is either real or mythological, depending on your point of view. Either way, he plays the violin like...

That's it, folks. Thanks for reading and have a *fantastical* day.

corrective_unconscious's picture

It is not possible for a human being to sit _cross legged on a stool_, but everything else about it was true?

volvic's picture

So there is no Louis?

Anton's picture

Is he a man of wealth and taste?

rschryer's picture

Whoever says it first WINS! (What is true in my essay is how audio makes me feel and the sense that audio does, in a way, own my soul (wait...soul?). I thought using "Louis" was an entertaining way to get my message across. If you re-read my essay and see how I describe Louis, I think you'll see him for what he is. Plus, I would never allow someone to keep my turntable against my will! :-) So, anyone?

volvic's picture

Lou Cipher

tonykaz's picture

even if I guess wrong?

Tony in Michigan

rschryer's picture

...you get the hat that says "MP3s Forever".

tonykaz's picture

That is wrong on every level.

I need it to say Stereophile on the front
"hifi doesn't lie" on the back.

Just like Herb is wearing in that recent video.

Hell, we all need one.

Could be a nice side business, selling those things.

Mind if I order some sports hats from Broder Brothers and have em embroidered?

Probably sell a few doz. per week. might end up supplying 70,000 .

Could do colors and variations on all things Audio, even do some nice screen printed t-shirts.

Hmm, lets make some $$,$$$

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm talking about a nice little line of Audiophile Clothes, hmm.

ok's picture

Couldn’t be a real audio dealer in the first place for advertising reasons.. Couldn’t be Mickey for he doesn’t doubt audio in the first place.. Faustian doppelganger sounds like the main candidate so that Anton’s man of wealth and taste finally wins the bet.

Anton's picture

1) Once something is learned, we can't unlearn it.

Happens in all sorts of ways. You can't forget how to ride a bike, you can't go back to the time before you heard the world's funniest joke (It's the welding mask joke, by the way,) you can't unlearn what it's like to taste wine, and you can't unlearn what your ear has learned as an audiophile.

So, once an audiophile, always an audiophile, like it, or not.

2) Audiophiles become systematically desensitized to better sound. We are the victims of having started the fall down the slippery slope of hearing 'improvements,' and thus can never rest.

The shape of audiophilia is a curve that reaches an asymptote. At first we see proportionate gains in relation to cost and effort....but the beastly curve changes! Who knows on the initial sonic ascent that at the top of the performance curve lies a plain, not a peak?

At first, we are faced with our first experience of 'better' or 'good' sound. It's great, but after a while, we accommodate to that and wonder, is that all there is? So, we seek out 'better,' and we find it, and it is good. Then we accommodate to 'better,' and we need 'mo better,' and we start the ascent into madness.

At first, the changes are pretty significant and linear, but as we climb that curve, the incremental changes become smaller and smaller...our returns diminish.

We go mad, always searching for, finding, and then stagnating in 'better.'

After a while, 'better' requires a stronger and stronger dose of quality to even give a moment of luxuriating in the waters of the oasis of 'better.'

Finally, out at the asymptote, where 'better' may no longer be 'better,' but only 'different,' civilians look at us, then look down and shake their heads. We have been swallowed by a hobby that now owns us.

THE ENEMY OF GOOD IS BETTER, SON, ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO START DOWN THAT PATH?

(Just ask my wine cellar.)

I think hell and audiophilia conclude with a ninth level. It is appropriate that Dante refers to (both) hell (and audiophilia) ending in a frozen pit, unchanging, static. We are the musically damned.

rschryer's picture

Which is why it gives me even greater pleasure to announce that, after much debating around the Stereophile roundtable with JA at the helm — and believe me when I say that no other matter has preoccupied JA's mind over the past two days more than the "Louis" Contest — you have been chosen as the official contest winner. As such, you are entitled to a 1-year sub to Stereophile. Do you wish to claim your prize, Anton?

Anton's picture

Yay!

I am already a loyal subscriber, but would love to add a year!

Double yay.

I should have figured it out when you mentioned his attention to 'details.'

_

Onward with the topic....

I did not mean to be demoralizing, because there are myriad paths toward happiness!

I love Hi Fi. I am dedicated to it!

As the wonderful and insightful Stephen Mejias used to say, "He loves listening to music on the Hi Fi."

Me, too.

The kicker is, the starting point is almost the same as the end point, when you get right down to it.

I have only been fooled into believing I was hearing live music instead of a Hi Fi system one time. It was at a Hi Fi show in Las Vegas and as I walked into a room at the San Remo hotel, I thought I heard live music playing acoustic jazz. As I walked into a small vestibule, before seeing who was playing...the illusion collapsed and I knew it was a Hi Fi, but good Hi Fi! That's it, one time. (I have thought I'd seen a ghost more times than that!) This isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing.

It was the Avantgade room and they were demonstrating their Trio speakers with two gigantic metallic horn woofers between them that just killed it on dynamics but required a listener be about 25 feet back from them to get their mojo together.

OK, so, the bad news is, almost never fooled for more then a fleeting moment, by any system. The good news is that no system can fool any of us, all systems fail at achieving their goal: fooling us into believing we are hearing a live musical event, be it the illusion that a performance is happening in our room or that we are being transported to the scene of the performance. Why is that good news? Because no matter how much money I throw at the problem, even millions of dollars, it can't ever do what I want it to do. From that point forward, we are only celebrating various degrees of failure. I can fail with a 2,000 dollar system about as well as I can fail with a million dollar system. In a way, I win.

This is the beauty of shows and reading reviews: I get to enjoy and calibrate the failure of every company's gear. It's not just my home system that fails, they all do. BOOM! I am freed from the shackles of the flat plain at the top of the Hi Fi curve and I can relax and enjoy.

Bingo! Suddenly, we are all just failing together!

The together part is pretty great. You failed, I failed, all the people at shows fail, all the people in my club fail - then we get to enjoy each other and experience other audiophiles' points of view about how they focus their failure, calibrate their systems, and prioritize what aspects of sound they wish to fail at less. That's the crux of the hobby, for me. I don't want to sit alone in a room seeking an onanistic musical release. I don't want a solipsistic pursuit, I want to enjoy my fellow audiophiles and listen, discuss, listen, sip wine, find new tunes, listen, compare, contrast, listen...with my gratitude fully in place to this awesome hobby at which we all fall short of the ultimate goal.

The best part of a Hi Fi show? Meeting people.

Best part of this place? Meeting you, meeting other people.

I find it all energizing, not at all demoralizing.

I also embrace 'different.' Since every system fails, it's interesting to change my system and enjoy different for a while, get complacent, then change it. It's a never ending series of learning how different different things sound, finding the parts I like, the parts I don't, and then shaking up the Boggle shaker and getting a new playing field.

Bottom line: all systems fail to create any lasting illusion of a live experience. There is joy in exploring all the ways in which we can fail. There is joy in doing it with other people, either in person, or virtually.

That's my ramble.

(Last question: after a Hi Fi show, have you ever gotten back home, turned on your system, and not gone, "Ahhhhh, that's the ticket!" I do, even when I charge home ready to buy something that knocked my socks off at the show! I get home, turn on my system, almost expecting to be a let down or disappointment, and then realize I had just been temporarily smitten by 'different,' not necessarily 'better.'

Sometimes, I think even my love life has almost fooled me that way back in the day, as well. The rule, "Different isn't always better" has served me well.)

Thanks again for a great AWSI.

rschryer's picture

It should be required reading for anyone contemplating embarking on the audio journey, and for those whose enjoyment of the audio hobby is hobbled by the audiophile struggle to replicate the sound of a live musical event in their home. I'm with you: To avoid the risk of becoming immune to the charms of audio (and our hobby), one should temper his or her pursuit of more accurate sound reproduction with the good sense that "we are only celebrating various degrees of failure." (What a great Nietzsche-esque statement.)

Congrats on the win, Anton. I'll get back to you on Monday with details about extending your Stereophile subscription.

John Atkinson's picture
rschryer wrote:
Congrats on the win, Anton. I'll get back to you on Monday with details about extending your Stereophile subscription.

Be easiest if Anton emails me directly, Robert: JAtkinson@enthusiastnetwork.com.

And congrats, Anton. I didn't get it until Robert told me.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dalethorn's picture

In 1967 I was sitting in the S4 supply office in Göppingen Germany talking to another inductee, and for some reason he joined me (or I joined him) in a verse of You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling. A moment later, a third person walked down the hall and exclaimed "That was amazing - could you do that again?", but by that time I was no longer in the proper mood. The combination of spontaneity and the acoustics of the hall made for a pleasurable musical experience for the person on the other end of that hall. And that after all is the key.

tonykaz's picture

I remember being Wow'd by Conrad-Johnson at Winter CES and buying the entire line ( 1 to show -- 2 to go ), we became CJ dealers, phew. Buuuuuuuuuttttt the darn stuff wasn't as dazzling at Esoteric Audio's Midwest Showroom.

In 1982 I had'nt learned to sell Tubes, we already had superb SS stuff.

Show performances can be ( and are ) misleading, don't blame yourself for getting taken-in by a great sales demo, these guys are the top-pro Audio sales folks. god bless em

Mr.Anton,
Congratulations on you big win, darn good philosophy writing, you earned it & more.

We now have another generation of Music Format to explore, bringing with it another range of products to buy, enjoy, up-grade, re-sell on eBay, read interesting reviews about and talk about as we sit around the Stereophile Campfire here in the comments section.

My "Product of the Year" is the "Roon" Software that launches us into the 21st.Century ! It feels like Roon/Tidal will be the foundation of everything we do from here onward.

Tony in Michigan

ps. The 7" 45s were designed to be an "improved" replacement for 78s, 75% of their 1950s Sales were to Juke Boxes. 45s began in March of 1949.

Doctor Fine's picture

I am infatuated with intoxication.

My technical expertise marks me as an Audiophile.

The results make me stoned.

I like it.

Thanks for playing.

rschryer's picture

Ur well.... Come.... :-)

Drastic's picture

Sometimes I wonder whether I qualify as an audiophile. Yes perhaps, but not so wholeheartedly that I would agree that audio owns my soul. Music is of such importance to me that I feel as though I would slowly turn to dust without it, and as I don't live in NYC any more, I can't find an adequate supply of the live kind. Thus, I've spent a lifetime improving my gear in search of the ability to fool myself (sometimes) that I'm hearing it live at home. Yes, I have bought $10K cables. Yes, I have bought components only to feel stupid about the choice a month later.

Yet, I resist total absorption into the Matrix. While my audiophile friends swoon over the sound of my system playing a good LP, they probably regard me as eccentric for refusing to enter the world of servers and downloads. It seems to be what they talk about nearly always. I figure, if I can't yet achieve perfection with the medium I'm using now, why introduce complexity? Will it be in the service of better sound? What, did someone talk about convenience? Bah! No serious audiophile can even admit that as a factor.

dalethorn's picture

As we develop new technology, we lose a lot of old technology. This is one I hope we don't lose, at least until the day that we can create the perfect reproduction of a live music event in the average listening room.

justlucky's picture

I think sometimes I like to reverse things,and perhaps like a 12 step program "audio owns my soul" sounds a serious admission (of what?) So, if we reverse that and say "my soul owns audio" to me sounds more empowering, even if it detracts from the direction of the article.
More than I'm willing to admit sometimes, music has always been a large part of my life. I am not a professional musician, nor am I a professional audio guy. Somehow I feel that I am not as qualified as others, but that is largely cultural as our marketplace encourages us to get the latest, best, most expensive shit you can. Perhaps when you can afford to be an audiophile, you are one....
For me, part of the spark (literally) of music (playing or listening) comes from one note. Whether its the blues or a Beethoven quartet, there are quiet moments that come from out of the blue (hmmm. a theme) for which words are inappropriate, and one is facing the sublime--such is the power of music. As that desire for the sublime subsides, we are left with a bit of a hunger pang, which means (music swelling) UPGRADE FEVER! Ah, the desire to hear just a tiny bit more, or a tiny bit differently; to climb Everest without the cold and see the view....

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