Diagnosing Audiophilia

Diagnosing Audiophilia

Written by Stuart Marvin

Patient: Dr. Krebs, I think I have acute audiophilia.

Dr. Krebs: Sounds serious. What are your symptoms?

Patient: A lack of sound clarity with some distortion. Both my audio system and my body seem, well, a bit off lately. It’s like they’re inextricably linked.

Dr. Krebs: Take two aspirin, upgrade your DAC, and call me in the morning.

If only audio diagnostics were that simple.

“Philias” are associated with individuals exhibiting an unusually high fondness, arousal or outright love of something to an extreme. Conversely, “phobias” are when individuals have an irrationally strong hate, fear or dislike for something. Either can be associated with mundane or bizarre behavior. Of course, if an individual exhibits considerably milder levels of interest towards something, it’s then more aptly described as a “passion,” a “devotion” or a “hobby.”

A hobby is a hobby when “an activity is done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure,” as defined by Oxford Languages, though any behavior has the potential of becoming an obsession or an addiction. According to the American Association of Addiction Medicine, “Addiction is a disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” One theory is that people become physically addicted to the beta-endorphins their brains produce when experiencing pleasure. They either use that “high” to maintain a constant sense of euphoria or to counteract negative feelings, including depression or anxiety.

Most hobbies are fairly benign, though certainly far from all. Some folks just don’t know when to stop when it comes to satiating their internal (or eternal) curiosity. Roughly ten years ago, a highly “curious” Swedish man named Richard Handl decided to create a nuclear reaction in his kitchen. Handl said he wanted “to see if it was possible to split atoms at home,” and called this pursuit a “hobby.”  He gathered small amounts of radioactive material from old clocks and smoke detectors. “I tried to cook americium, radium and beryllium in 96 percent sulphuric acid, to get them easily blended. But the whole thing exploded up in the air,” Handl shared at the time.

In a moment of rational thought, Handl called the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority to see if his home-brew project was illegal. Shortly after Handl hung up the phone, the police arrived and arrested him.

So what exactly is audiophilia? For simplification (and plain old kicks), let’s define audiophilia as a condition where individuals exhibit an exceedingly high fondness for high-fidelity sound reproduction and recordings, and are willing to go to considerable length and expense (relatively speaking) to optimize each.

Yep, many of us Copperheads are on the audiophilia spectrum (and are glad to be)! We all seemingly enjoy the hunt for better sound, a multidimensional puzzle that can make Rubik’s Cube seem like checkers.

Many audio enthusiasts have distinct thoughts and opinions on a range of subjects, including: how to set up a dedicated listening room, integrated vs. component systems, amplification requirements, speaker and subwoofer placement, expensive versus inexpensive interconnects, speaker cable length, power conditioners vs. power regenerators, USB vs. Ethernet cables, reflective vs. absorptive acoustic panels, tube systems vs. solid-state, streaming vs. CDs and vinyl, and the remixing and/or remastering of classic LPs, to name just a few.

In sum, there are many different constructs to consider in an individual’s quest for aural fulfillment. The hunt can be frustrating, quite subjective and expensive, but once found, audio nirvana is quite fulfilling.

So, in my desire to better understand audiophilia, I decided to research different types of philias with an eye towards identifying a few commonalities and differences.

To my astonishment, I counted in excess of 175 different philia-related conditions. You may be familiar with some, though the vast majority are quite obscure. For example, a brontophile is someone who is fond of thunder and lightning. An odontophile is someone who is fond of teeth or dental surgery, while a rupophile is deeply attracted to dirt. My mother would say I was quite the rupophile in my formative years.


Dirt in the garden is better than dirt in the grooves. Courtesy of Pexels.com/Greta Hoffman.

Dirt in the garden is better than dirt in the grooves. Courtesy of Pexels.com/Greta Hoffman.


I also wondered if my detailed counting of philias suggested a tendency towards the counting of things, a condition the medical profession refers to as, what else, arithmophilia. Now that I mention it, I also obsessively count off 30-second time intervals each morning while doing stretches for my chronically sore back. I’m also prone to counting my heart rate both before and after exercising. Heck, maybe I should be concerned?

However, one thing I positively refuse to count is the loose change I keep in a bowl atop my living room credenza. To fulfill that task, I drag several pounds of US currency every few months to a local Coinstar machine and swap the coins for an Amazon gift card, ultimately leading to the purchase of some new vinyl. Somehow in my head, even though I’m the one pouring coins into the Coinstar machine (not the other way around), the printed Amazon gift card I receive provides me with immediate gratification and a sensation similar to winning the slots in Vegas, even though there’s no monetary gain in the transaction.

So here’s what I discovered from my research:

Melophobia – if there is one condition that’s seemingly the antithesis of audiophilia, this is it. Melophobiacs, dare I say, have a fear or hatred of music. I know, I know, I can feel your blood pressure rise just from reading those words. Pure blasphemy. It’s a concept that’s as unfathomable to our core as virtually any other.

Metallophilia – a condition where an individual has a very strong fondness for metal. In assessing the relevancy of metallophilia to audiophilia, context clearly matters. If we’re talking about gold, silver or copper’s ability to deliver audio conductivity and/or limit corrosion, then having a “fondness for metals” may indeed be applicable. However, if we’re talking about a “fondness for metal” in the context of metal bands, such as Iron Maiden, Slayer, Pantera or groups of a similar ilk, then I’m an outlier by choice, and definitely not a metallophile.

Amychophilia – a condition where a person develops a strong fondness for scratching or being scratched. This clearly is an absolutely heinous affliction, though nothing irks an audio enthusiast more than a scratch (or two) on a vinyl recording. I can, therefore, say with confidence this likely is not a relatable condition for audiophiles. Let’s just say, scratches of any kind are persona non grata.

Allodoxaphilia – perhaps you know someone who seemingly always has an opinion contrary to your own, regardless of topic. Someone who loves verbal sparring, and actively seeks out alternative or contradictory opinions to their own, while exhibiting immense pleasure in being “that guy (or girl).” Look no further than various audio forums to conclude that allodoxaphilia is widely prevalent among audio enthusiasts. Lots and lots of opinions!

Autophilia – a fondness for being alone or by oneself. When it comes to listening to music, it’s a hobby I strongly prefer doing alone. That way I can change tracks on a whim, crank my music at will, all without alienating or confusing anyone else in the room. Listening to music for me needs to be a totally immersive experience, and devoid of any causal banter. I want to unabatedly hear the nuances and surprises that a good recording and system can bring, without any outside distractions.

Acousticophilia – a condition where an individual has a fondness for noise. Well, one person’s noise is another person’s music. It’s all in the ear of the beholder. I’m sure given my choices in music some of my neighbors likely think I’m a “noise enthusiast,” though I do limit my system playing to reasonable hours. Acousticophilia can also be defined as being sexually aroused by a particular sound. Perhaps Masters and Johnson, the famed duo who pioneered research on human sexual behavior, addressed sonic arousal in their findings, but I’m gonna smartly take a pass in providing any commentary here.

Chorophilia – a condition where an individual exhibits an extreme fondness for dancing. I’ll readily admit to having really poor dance rhythm. My dancing skills are not as bad as Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes, but they’re a far cry from Dancing With The Stars. Whenever someone drags me out on the dance floor at a wedding, a Bar Mitzvah, etc., I call that the “walk of shame.” However, when it comes to dancing solo in the comfort of my sound room, with no observers and my system cranked to Apollo’s delight, I turn into Fred Astaire.

Symmetrophilia – an indication of a strong fondness for symmetry. Come on, who doesn’t crave symmetry, especially when it comes to speaker setup?

Tropophilia – a fondness for moving or making changes. This condition is a slippery slope for audiophiles, as it cuts to the very bane of our existence. Making changes to our audio systems is something we grapple with most frequently. For example, when should we tweak or upgrade our components, cables and interconnects in search of better sound? Or when do we conclude that a system-wide overhaul is needed? Tropophilia is a condition that hits home for any serious audio enthusiast. In fact, I’m inspired to coin a new and far more explicit condition called Audio-Tropophilia. Hey, is there a pill for that?

I’ll let you decide where you stand on the audiophilia spectrum, and whether any other philias (or phobias) are disconcerting to you. Of course, if you seek a medical opinion, and your personal physician also happens to be an audiophile, then he (or she) will likely diagnose your condition as benign, with no need for a second opinion.

Just go with it!

Editor’s Note: This article is presented in a lighthearted vein. It is meant to find humor in our quest for audio perfection. It is not intended to poke fun at anyone suffering from a behavioral malady or disorder, including those listed or any other. 


Header image (for the few in the galaxy who may not know): DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy of Star Trek. Courtesy of PxHere.com/public domain.

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