All a matter of perspective

July 17, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

While on my morning constitutional walk I ran into my new neighbor, Jeff.

As we chatted, the conversation turned to what we each do for a living. He’s a programmer. I am the builder of high-end audio equipment.

“Aha!” he says. “An audiophile. I’ve heard of folks like you. Cables as big as your leg, heavy boxes with glowing tubes, and you like to play records.”

Fascinating how the world sees us. Not that it’s inaccurate, but let’s think for a moment of what takeaways stick in the minds of outsiders. Instead of what we might take away, glorious magical reproductions of musicians live in our home, their takeaways are the outlandish means by which we achieve those extraordinary results.

It’s all a matter of perspective, but I do find it interesting that unlike other avocations such a gourmet cooking or photography where the takeaways are more likely to be food or photos, outsiders seemed perpetually dazzled more with the stacks of equipment than the musical magic they produce.

It is, after all, a matter of perspective.

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48 comments on “All a matter of perspective”

  1. The difference is that most people appreciate that a good photographer and a good chef can produce better photographs and food respectively, but just having a better camera or better pots and pans is not the reason. Hence having better listening equipment does not make a difference to their enjoyment of listening to music. So to them being an audiophile is about the shiny boxes. I think they have a point.

    Just finished listening to the latest episode of The Grade Cricketer podcast. God bless Australians, and cricket. It’s a great family broadcast.

  2. Maybe the main point and difference is, that audiophiles (different than manufacturers of audiophile equipment, photographers, cooks, and even yacht or sports car owners) are not „productive“ with what they do. They just passively consume with their hobby. Just like TV watchers. And even this passive consummation and enjoyment is mostly done alone without much participation or recognition of others.

    All this is not fascinating in any way to outsiders (particularly as it’s also something they mostly can’t or wouldn’t afford) and it’s no wonder that they rather see our hobby in collecting crazy gear than having musical enjoyment (probably also because they think that musical enjoyment is a very common thing, everyone achieves by going to the disco, concert or switching on the radio).

    I think that’s why the reputation and appreciation of audiophiles ranks somewhere between videophiles, stamp and watch collectors.

    We should face that in all our isolated nerdyness.

    1. But, why are audiophile singled out and not videophiles? A true videophile is as obsessed with his equipment as an audiophile is and as, if not more obsessed, with the room.

      1. This is because the interest in having fun with a large movie screen is much closer to the interests of our fellow humans, than having fun with hearing the Stones in a somewhat better sound staging. But aside of this, I think, extreme home cinema enthusiasts don’t really have better appreciation for their hobby than audiophiles.

        Just think about, why you would never mention the hobby audiophile (or videophile) within a job application (outside the high-end business) and which hobbies you would not hesitate to mention.

  3. Sounds to me like “neighbor(sic) Jeff” needs a ‘PS Audio’
    factory tour & half an hour in music room 2 so that he can
    see that cables are not as big as your leg, that glowing tubes
    are not necessarily visible & that vinyl is not a requirement.

    1. Exactly FR. Paul you should invite him for a tour of PS Audio. Tell him to bring his favorite CD and then blow him away with the IRS V’s. Make sure you get the video of him when his jaw drops and post it for us. Lol.

  4. The “problem“ could be seen in the diffuse and ambiguous definition of “high-end audio” and “audiophile”. A lover of music who has packed his car full with mega-watt subwoofers allowing SPLs of 140 dB and more obviously gets more attention and admiration than a nerdy and autistic audiophile sitting alone in the sweet spot and having dimmed down the lighting and listening to highest DSD formats only in the late night when the mains power supply offers the best quality. 🙂

      1. You know Martin, I have to agree with this Acronym. Only because in my personal experience when I talk about audio a lot of people kind of look at me like I’m a neurotic autistic surgeon who is diagnosing a problem. Lol.

  5. I have complete faith in PmcG that he is persuasive enough to “brainwash” this reluctant neighbor (he does that on a daily basis with us) so that in a year’s time this man will have a full-blown PSA system in his living room.

    “having better listening equipment does not make a difference to their enjoyment of listening to music.
    So to them being an audiophile is about the shiny boxes”

    Following the erratic reasoning of SntbcwS’s post I’ll add :
    Having better pot and pans does not make a difference to their enjoyment of food.
    So to them being a foody is about the expensive pots and pans.
    Having a better camera does not make a difference to their enjoyment of photo’s.
    So to them being a photo hobbyist is about expensive cameras.
    .

    1. One of us! One of us!

      jb4,
      You say, “Having better pot… …does not make a difference to their enjoyment of food.”
      I can only speak from personal experience, so I must say that ‘better pot’ does
      make food, music, sex & even conversation more enjoyable…just saying.

      1. If you say so Fat Rat. Who am I to argue with our in-house pot expert 😐
        However, the real question today is: do expensive potS and pans have anything to do with better food,
        OR is it just snobbery and therefore (?) comparable with expensive hifi-gear, like for instance Magico speakers,
        say model S7…?

        1. An expert in more than one kind of pot?

          Also, in general, a more expensive pot heats more evenly, and maintains a more consistent temperature, and that can lead to better food, not only in taste, but also in texture and sometimes looks.

        2. The wife having bought a high end induction hob, we now need high end pots. Let’s see if the food improves.

          1. Well SntbcwS, I’m sure that, after the dust of the renovation has settled, at least the soundquality of your audio setup has improved a lot with the fantastic Sasha Daw speakers.
            Hardly any other speaker(brand) can give you the feeling of attending a live concert in such an excellent way like these Wilsons do.
            So while the wife is cooking a high end dinner, you can play with these audio toys for boys.

            1. The wife chose the Wilson Sabrina – she did not like the Sasha DAW – and all the audio will be hidden away. My turntable will in sight, the wife likes it, and I disagree that turntables are an audiophile thing. Both my sister and son have one and neither are audiophiles.

              The new room has paint, wallpaper and an oiled floor. No curtains or lighting yet. Furnishings not yet made. Other areas at bedrock. About 4 weeks to go and longer for other things that have to be made, like furniture and windows. Global supply chains are still a big issue. This time last year it was almost impossible to get plaster. Getting things from Italy takes forever and they are about to go on their 4 week summer break, so our dining table might arrive in October.

              1. Ooh…just in time for Christmas dinner, or whatever Jewish holiday is around that time.
                Are you all living upstairs in your bedrooms or are you & yours just shuffling around the renovations with the summer ‘heat’ seeping in?

          1. No, thanks Fat Rat, I’m not, it’s in the southern part of Holland. My house is still dry.
            In Germany already 141 victims, in Belgium 27 so far.
            More and more heavy weather seems to be the norm nowadays.

            1. Welcome to the bat-sierra crazy weather phase of global climate change. The western United States is experiencing horrid, withering heat waves and drought while floods drown parts of Deutschland and Belgie. Wildfires again are running amok. Sadly a stable equilibrium of conditions around the not-so-wide world is not how the weather engine works.

              And even with the general availability of vaccines over here, the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is hitting back with a vengeance; fueled largely by nonsense on social media and alleged leadership from a political party that shall remain unnamed. Not to mention that much of the world that won’t get the vaccines for months or even years.

  6. For a programmer your new neighbour Jeff has a decent sense of humour.
    Apologies to Jeff for stereotyping, but that’s okay on an audio website.

    I think that’s what we all do when faced with a hobby or pastime we don’t really understand. Take a few key features we do know and indulge in a bit of mild mickey-taking. For example:

    All photographers have massive lenses.
    Golf, a good walk ruined.
    Fishermen, they sit around all day like a group of garden gnomes.
    Cooking programs, very popular on tv at the moment but I don’t know why. Nobody cooks any more, they just buy ready meals.

    There must be hundreds, you can offend just about everyone. 🙂

  7. Maybe the perspective is derived from the many years of the well deserved audiophile stereotype image. It has been around a long time. It embraces a picture of disdain an audiophile has when they looks at others. (Especially their system and music choices) It embraces a testosterone driven chest thumping attitude of ‘mine is better.’ Being an audiophile can lead to obsessiveness and one mindedness. Being an audiophile can exploit the extravagant nature of ones soul. Maybe is has to do with the technical data and reasoning that gets thrown around.

    A few days ago there was a well discussed video on philosophies of those who participate in this endeavor. Substitute armament for gear and the vehement arguments between audiophile clans could easily turn to warfare.
    .
    As an audiophile community about the only thing that is agreed upon is why more don’t participate. Once someone shows more than a passing interest, the indoctrination into the audiophile cult can start.

    For me, I’m not out to convert or talk to anyone about my system. (That’s in general…, not so much here 🙂 )
    If someone asks I keep things simple. Like ‘that system is my preferred form of entertainment.’ They ask deeper questions I go deeper. If they become interested enough then I can point in general directions. The choice of how deep to go and far to go is up to them.

  8. Surely, you don’t equate chefs and photographers, who actually CREATE things, with audiophiles, who simply buy gear (much of which makes no difference anyway). Surely.

      1. Chefs combine ingredients to create something new that could not have been enjoyed without their creativity and craft; photographers look at the world and capture frozen-in-time artifacts that aren’t exactly like reality but are revealing of it. In that respect, I would put recording engineers and mixers in the same boat.

        Should audiophiles who merely combine equipment to reproduce more realistic presentations of the work of recording engineers and musicians be on that boat also? Maybe, but I’d put them in steerage. 😉

        The reason that normal people don’t think much of audiophiles is that we create complicated, expensive, impractical, Rube-Goldberg systems that look like overkill without reproducing music in the ways most people want to hear it. It’s like taking a wild ride in the passenger seat of a race car. It might be a fun experience, but a super-hot car is not a desirable daily driver for most people.

      2. Agreed Paul. Anyone can buy the ingredients, its what the Chef does with those ingredients that tickle our taste buds or make us ask for a doggie bag. Or in the case of audio make us turn it down or leave the room.

  9. I can remember a time, when I was in my early teenage years.
    By this time, portable stereos, or if you will, boom boxes became very popular.
    I had a room mate that bragged about how much bass his boom box had.
    So what the thing had a pare of detachable speakers.
    So what the thing ran on 6 D batteries.
    So what the thing had two cassette decks on it.
    I started out with a Fisher 500-c stereo receiver, and two pares of Bozack 210 speakers.
    I ran the tone controls on my receiver relatively flat.
    But when that kid wouldn’t stop bragging, I turned on the loudness control, just about maxed out the bass, and turned the volume half way up.
    Long story short, that 11 year old boy was blown away by the sound of my system.
    He wanted to know, “how can a twenty something year old box of tubes do that?”
    This kid was not an audiophile.
    It’s not what you have, it’s how you use it.

  10. Why do we care? Seriously, its our hobby, we enjoy it and who cares what other people think. Do you care if your neighbor’s hobby is stamp collecting, woodworking or gardening? Do you think they care what you thing of their hobby ( stamp collecting is really nerdy 😉 )?

    By the way, Paul’s neighbor wasn’t very wrong. My Kimber Select speaker cables are as big as some woman’s arms! 😀

  11. My friends and neighbors when in my house and see or hear my stereo system do not want to sit down and listen to music. They are too busy for that. If it were a home theater they might be interested in watching a particular movie or ball game, but to just sit and listen to music is not their thing. Also, a few people in this forum have suggested that people’s ears have to be trained to hear and appreciate high end stereo audio. Most people appreciate volume and bass punch and may be impressed by the power of a system, but few will be overwhelmed by holographic soundstage and subtle dynamics without some music appreciation and listening experience. My friends have other things they would rather do with their time and money. I even had an Emmy-nominated film score composer in my listening room, and he did not seem impressed when I played his own CD recordings on my system, even though my system is vastly superior to the one he uses when composing and mastering his tracks. He was, however, impressed by my digital pipe organ. Few young composers have ever sat at a pipe organ console and explored its variety of sounds. Composers and musicians are typically more interested in live instruments than recordings of instruments. I know a professional violinist who doesn’t even own a stereo system.

  12. As a hobbyist going back over 60 years, a couple of observations: it has always been difficult for me to get others to sit and listen to music more than a couple of minutes without them talking (it helps if it’s their music they want you to hear!), a video/audio performance seems to hold attention better, audio has an almost ridiculous range in prices for diminishing value received, you probably don’t hear as well as you think you do unless you are into music as a musician, recording engineer or someone like Paul on a quest for the holy grail in sound quality for dollar spent, the WAF is real esp. regarding cables!! All that said, I wish I had the room and money for the magnificent system in the PS Audio listening room…

  13. Well, nothing like a good constitutional walk to find out or witness the miss perception of others. 😉
    Honestly, I take no offense anymore by how blindsided so many are essentially with in stereotypical means.

    After all…we are the less than 1 % worldwide who take a great deal of understanding quality music production.

    I guess your programming neighbor, Paul will clearly think your into the wax. Lol
    Enjoy spinning that vinyl over DSD. 😉

    1. Good afternoon Nephilim 81
      !
      For what it’s worth, you Fat Rat and others, made some very excellent points!
      Not a lot of people understand and or get what being an Audiophile is all about.
      I can’t speak for others, but as for me, it’s about getting as close to the music as you can.
      Me being a blind man, that’s really all I have to look forward to.
      Sure I yoost to live in the world of sight, but that was almost 30 years ago.
      I keep hearing about these 4k to 8k video HD displays.
      How I wish I could see what that’s all about.
      But sense I can’t, I live pretty much for the sound of music.
      The better it sounds, the happier I am.
      Sure anyone could walk in to stores like Walmart Kmart RadioShack and pick up a system.
      But here is the question.
      Will systems from any of those stores move you any closer to the music?
      My answer is, no they cannot.
      Here is the reason why they can’t.
      Those systems were designed only to perhaps satisfy a kid or a teenager that doesn’t really know what the music is really suppose to sound like.
      And on top of that, a lot of moms and dads won’t shove out tens of thousands of dollars for high end stereo equipment for their kids any way.
      You say anything to any of them about being an Audiophile, they will stare you up and down and ask you, “what the hell is an Audiophile?”
      You could explain it to them, but they still wouldn’t get it.
      What I’m trying to say, is not everyone knows what this hobby is all about.

      1. And a big Good Afternoon you as well, Mr. John Price. Thank you for your lovely comment here. I certainly understand what you are saying and to briefly comment on some of your points I think being an Audiophile is becoming more of a generational thing, so say parents that are in their late 30’s are unlikely to ever bestow or pass on knowledge to little Timmy or Sammy for understanding quality audio or buying that killer speaker set up to show them the light. Not to sound pessimistic or misanthropic, but I truly believe ‘the audiophile’ is a dying breed.
        I mean one cab ask themselves how many 20 or 30 something Year-olds to we really know who are audiophiles, truly?
        Anyhow. I am truly grateful for this community partly for this very reason. People like you, Mr. Price are a dying breed. 😉

        1. Good afternoon Nephilim 81!
          My days of being an Audiophile, spans all the way back to when I was just a 2 year old baby boy, thanks to my dad.
          He was the one that got me in to audio by buying me my very first stereo system.
          Surprisingly, I still have the mane part of it today.
          And it still works too!
          But when I was 6, he sat me down one evening, to talk to me.
          I thought I was in trouble for something I mite have done wrong.
          But when the conversation started taking place, I thought to myself, I’m not in any kind of trouble at all!
          He asked me, “what kind of a stereo system do you want?
          Do you want something like the one I have in the kitchen, or would you like something way better then that?”
          I told him, “I want a real big one.
          But I want mine, to be full of tubes.
          I also want it to have big speakers in it.
          Except for the radio, I want it to both play and record on records cassette 8track and reel to reel tapes.”
          My dad just smiled at me and said, “ok son, you got it!”
          I didn’t get it until Christmas of 1979.
          But by that time, I was already 7 years old.
          I still to this very day, don’t know how he got RCA Victor to custom build that system for me.
          But boy was I glad that he did!
          So, ya, I’ve been an Audiophile for a little over 47 years.
          And I’m still at it today.

          1. Hi again John. 🙂
            And these are the stories I love to hear. I only wish the story you told me had a merry go round effect in society because what 6 year old today would ever say “ yeah dad, I want da one with da tube pleeeeaZ.” 🙂
            It is all about exposure and you sir came from a great household. Your dad sounds like an amazing man. I have a 2.5 year-old and I hope to do the same thing, especially give him some understanding to choose something great. 😉

  14. And happy Record Store Drop Day No. 2, y’all*. Although digital in general and DSD in particular has obvious advantages at the frequency extremes, noise floor, and dynamic range; good vinyl retains a special charm within the sweet spot at the middle where the soul of music resides. It is good to have both.

    *Note: I self identify as a Yankee; just throwing a little curve ball to keep you on your toes.

    .

  15. When Hi-Fi was the only game in town everyone knew about it and a lot of people were in it for various reasons other than a love for really good reproduced music. Now with the big surge in technology all those who were not into Hi-Fi for the love of it are into many other things. Super specialisation ha s resulted in ignorance of most other things and the self back slapping of what I know is all that matters. Your experience is indicative of this attitude. We indeed are living in an era of ignorance and egotistical mindset. Every downside has an upside too and in the case of audio the wheat has been separated from the chaff. Something to be happy about. Though less in number at least what we have are genuine audiophiles not me to copy cats. Regards.

  16. I think it’s all a matter of the ability to distinguish between excelent from just a good and of course the bad. The skills developed by a particular hobby.
    Lovers of Haute Cuisine will know top-notch food from the just only good. 80% of people love KFC.
    People around photography have been learning to know a good photo for years. 80% of people are only interested in whether the photo is their little Tony babyboy.
    For years, audiophiles have learned to hear how cymbals are tinkled properly and whether bass notes all have the same strength. 80% of people are only interested in whether they are playing their last favorite hit.
    And ordinary journalists are usually in the 80% group. And so they form the general consciousness into some grotesque parody of what they write about.

  17. well, easy to understand, usually audiophiles do speak about their equipment and rarely about the latest recording that blow their minds. Chef rarely speak about their latest convection oven…..

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