Status roles

August 26, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

I am aware it makes some of us a bit uncomfortable to admit we use our system’s status as our calling card, but I’d like to suggest it’s fine.

There’s nothing wrong with rating yourself by the status of your equipment.

“I am an audiophile,” said the first, proudly.

“Yeah? What’s your system?” asked the second.

As the list of prized components gets rattled off, a judgment forms as to the seriousness and the caliber of the first. This is perfectly normal behaviour and one I encourage.

Your equipment is, after all, a reflection of you.

And we should never feel bad or inadequate for being who we are.

We are the best we know how to be.

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73 comments on “Status roles”

  1. This post is probably correct in many cases, but very egocentric. Most of the audio decisions in my house involved my family – speakers chosen by the wife, all-in-one for family use, multi-room speaker system from company where my son works, Portable Naim and Devialet units used by my wife and kids. The only kit on display is the turntable, my wife’s decision, the rest is hidden in a cabinet behind smoked glass.

    I am informed by dealers I’ve known for ages that most of their customers come in to buy an audio system and are not audiophiles, never going near forums, shows etc., and are not brand specific. So I suspect Paul’s theory is limited to the very small sub-set of audio owners that can be deemed audiophiles.

    The huge success of one and two box solutions, with established brands trying to catch up with similar products, is good evidence that non-audiophiles dominate the audio-buying public, and want simple products that are easy to use and look good.

    1. Apparently the aesthetics of the PSA FR-30 floorstanders
      were also made by a family committee.
      This whole topic just brings up the subjective definition of
      the meaning of the word ‘audiophile’ again.
      I’m going for ‘easy to use & sounds good’ 🙂

      England crushing India…but for how long?

    2. The caveat with your family is that they are all involved with music in some way and in the case of your son, employed in the industry. I suspect that a large percentage of audiophiles live alone, and another large percentage live in households where other members are not particularly interested in music…other than perhaps in a very casual way. It would be interesting to see the actual demographic breakdown. In my own house, the other half is predominately TV oriented, so we accommodate each other’s preference. In any case, the psycho-social needs of each group will likely differ. The ego-centricity of single audiophiles and those living with others who do not share their interest is a way to self-identify and establish friendships or acquaintances with those who share their passion for music and/or music playback technology.

      1. In our house ( my wife and I ) it is very simple who does what. My wife wears the pants. She has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and could work anywhere she wanted to. She made more money than me, she had a better career than I did, she is the boss. Here is how I get away with what I do get away with:

        1. She loves music.
        2. She knows what sounds good, I always take her with me to do auditions ( I call old golden ears, but if she hears me say it she gets PO’ed because she hates being called old)
        3. She’s a software expert, she can’t do hardware. She has no idea what DAC is or what a phono preamp is. To her my stereo system is speakers, turntable, boxes and cords.
        4. Her only rule is that if I buy anything new for the system I have to sell, trade-in, or throw away the old one ( if I can’t sell or trade-in the old one I do not throw it away, I just hide it 😮 )
        5. I get beat up bad because she cannot understand why I have more than one copy of any record. She thinks I should pick the best copy and dump the rest.

        Welcome to my house!

        1. So you’re a stay-at-home audiophile, Tony? How cool is that?!!!
          We all have to deal with the psychodynamics of our relationships and it sounds like you’re doing a great job with that. BTW, you’re not the only audiophile I know who “hides” his new gear purchases/old gear sales from his significant other. Re: “old golden ears”, personally, I don’t look twice at women under fifty, and long gray hair with a smile is a plus. Sounds like you’ve got a gem there, Tony. Be sure to play some music she loves once in a while.

        2. You’ve got it made.

          When my wife chose the speakers, she also liked the chairs in the listening room and she insisted we buy those as well. Fortunately it was a very recent lockdown refit by the owner’s wife, who is an interior designer, so it was a relatively easy task to get two of the chairs made.

  2. My 43 year journey in home audio has taken me from being an enthusiast to being an audiophile
    (for 6 years) & then back to being an audio enthusiast; by my own definition of those two terms.
    My current home audio rig is more of a reflection of my financial standing & on my financial priorities at this point in my life, rather than a reflection on me &/or my home audio knowledge.
    I chose to be prudent & frugal until a sh!tload of money drops in my lap, & I’m ok with that because I’ve been to the top of the mountain 😉

  3. I’m an Audiophile but IMHO, only in the reproduced sound I’ve been able to achieve with humbling mid-fi components. Like Martin, my audio journey has spanned almost 5 decades in which we’ve raised our family of four (no complaints…many blessings)! Thus, appreciating and realizing my passion for great sound has always had limited funding. However, I’ve been able to slowly but consistently move one small step forward at a time, relishing every micro advance along the way.

    I have no avenue to socially mingle with other local audiophiles to share accomplishments and music genre for education and growth…just thankful for on-line music/audio forum websites! I really appreciate the special knowledge and opportunities Paul and PSA offers to audio nuts like me (us?)…they are truly unique in what I perceive as a vast maze of marketing high-end overload!


  4. Definitely I like a little flex your might with equipment boasting, but of course I would do it in a playful and not in a conceded manner. After all, we are all dealt different cards. 🙂
    I would also say that my headphone rig is absolutely a reflection on me. Attention to detail and no cutting corners. That is pretty much myself in a nutshell. It took me a good 6 years to build up to my current headphone setup and I have loved the journey since. Best of all, I ain’t done. 🙂

  5. WHO defines the „status“ of an audio system or audio component based on which criteria whatever? The HiFi era started at home with stereo consoles with integrated loudspeakers which had to fit the styling requirements of our mother who later didn’t even tolerate floorstanders or stand-mount speakers and only allowed our father to mount spherical Grundig Audiorama loudspeakers under the ceiling. Thus my own hifi-life started with gear with top reviews from audio magazines but having the best styling and user-interface. But wondering more and more about most contradicting audio reviews I started studying the basics of acoustic and psycho-acoustics. This resulted in choosing gear not anymore from famous or most renowned brands but only after time consuming listening tests at home. Strange enough the result was having now gear from small and most innovative companies and highly engaged designers, gear that even wasn’t reviewed before. It helps a lot understanding the basics of audio technology and psycho-acoustics and getting an expert whose knowledge excels the “expertise” of most dealers and salesmen who only tell marketing stories developed by the marketing departments which have to “sell” products developed under strongest restrictions required from the controlling departments. Coming back to my initial question: what are the criteria for “status”? A company with powerful marketing and controlling departments spending huge budgets for ads and reviews in audio magazines?

    1. Hi Paul,

      you are absolutely correct. From a technical point of view it is hard to find a manufacturer who produce equipment with love, excellence and pride at an honest price, that’s why we are here. Mostly finest enclosure polish is more important than accurate design based on superb parts. It’s almost impossible to find audio magazines publishing reviews according to facts and not to the budget of advertising makers. There is a lot of monkey business out there.

  6. Audio, my hobby/passion, so my decision what to buy.
    Has absolutely nothing to do with egocentric.
    Too few women “allow” their husband to enjoy this hobby the way they (husband) want and, for that matter, buy what they (husband) want. That is what I call egocentric !

    There are not a lot of women (understatement of the year) interested in soundquality.
    From what you always told us so far SntbcwS, your wife is certainly no exception to that rule.
    And now you want us to believe that your wife chose 24k (euro) speakers ?
    Yeah right. Who are you kidding. Maybe mrs. SntbcwS chose the color.
    I don’t know any non-audiophile (man/woman) that would buy Wilson Sabrina’s and Devialet. In fact I am 100% convinced they don’t exist in our solar system.
    The inconvenient truth for you is that you are an audiophile, whether you like it or not.
    It’s only that you’re still in denial.
    Otherwise you’d be listening to Sonos speakers at best, and absolutely not to a 30k audio set.
    Even more likely to your cellphone/tablet speaker, like most (your famous 99.99999%) people do on this planet.
    There is one other possibility of course : you lied about your wife and SHE is the audiophile “in da house”.
    If that’s the case, let me be the first to congratulate you. Never ever leave her.

    One last thing. I am very happy with my (expensive, indeed…) audio set but never talk about price tags to others. Pointless and too risky. They wouldn’t understand and put me in a straitjacket at once.

    1. Full agreement! I sometimes do a demo to normal listeners of background music playing some tracks from my iPad via a Soundmatters FoxL battery driven portable loudspeakers using an Ambiophonics software player. The sound quality excels by far what they normally are used to hear. And then I do a demo of my big system in order to demo what might be possible. However 99.9 % of these shocked listeners would never invest in a real “audiophile” stereo system. They rather invest in tiny home theatre systems with bombastic bass sounds from boomy subwoofers.

    2. I bought Devialet Expert in 2016 (but it could have been Hegel or AVM, and there are many more options now) for to eliminate the box-count and have a system with excellent streaming and DSP (which integrated systems are better suited to). After I bought it, it became a family system because it is so well designed and easy to use. The family mainly cast Spotify to it, my elder son used it for vinyl.

      My wife always hated the look of Harbeth and for our new music room they had to go. My wife saw the Titanium Wilson in the shop window of my hifi dealer. It is directly opposite our favourite restaurant. I was not that interested as I’d briefly heard them in a poor set-up. I had a home loan of Focal Diablo Colour Evo (which my wife collected for me), but I did not like the sound and she hated the looks even more than Harbeth.

      So we went to the store together. The obvious choice was Sonus Faber, the usual wife’s favourite, but my wife did not like them and my dealer said I would not like the sound. Same with Franco Serblin, which the dealer said I would like and I think they are pretty, but the wife said no way. So the dealer said the Wilson Sabrina demo were for sale, the wife loved the looks and we had a demo and paid for them. She didn’t bat an eyelid at the price, which completely amazed me. Her only comment was that she was delighted the dealer would take the Harbeth in part exchange. We then went for lunch over the road.

      We also have a separate sound system in the ceiling. Far better than Sonos. The audio side (it does more than audio) is designed by Laurence Dickie, the chief engineer at B&W before founding Vivid Audio.

      The Wilson speakers are the most expensive audio component I have ever bought, by a distance. If my wife had not chosen them, I would not even have considered them. The significantly cheaper Evo’s were the limit of what I was prepared to spend.

      Maybe there is a lesson to learn that designing audio equipment that women are happy to have in their homes may result in more and larger sales.

        1. All the speakers I looked at cost more than my car. We joke about how bad it is, but it does the job, looks ok with a nice coating of mud and can do 10 hours without needing a back transplant. It has a slow puncture and a cracked windscreen, which I suspect I will get fixed eventually.

      1. Anyway mr SntbcwS, you and your partner complement each other in the strange but wonderful world of audio !
        And you/she (she/you ?) made some very good choices.
        BTW., on several occasions (shows) I had a little conversation with Laurence Dickie.
        Very nice person and excellent designer of speakers (Vivid).

    3. When my wife came to the final realisation that, ‘yes, it does have to be played at that volume level’, she selected a pair of noise cancelling bloo-toof cans that I then went & bought for her & now there is harmony & bliss in our household 😉

      1. Ah. Prof Beato.
        The Greatest Solo of All Time.

        I promise that will wow you and nullify today’s bad Covid news.

        Then try some of his “what makes this song great” tear downs.
        Risk Peter Frampton Trust me and don’t laugh.

        1. I love Rick’s posts.

          I remember being at The Bottom Line in NYCi, my first time seeing and hearing Sonny Rollins. Last set finished and when I got up I noticed that Frampton was sitting right behind me wearing a pulled apart tie-dyed T-shirt looking like he was going to fall apart from exhaustion. I found out that he had just finished his Concert at Madison Square Garden and still came down to see Sonny. That was pretty cool, Frampton and Rollins!

  7. hrboucher,
    I sense you did not read today’s post and what TOPIC it was about 🙁
    So from now on RTFP (P for post) before you comment.
    And another tip : we are audiophiles. We don’t give a shit about music. All that matters to us is soundquality.
    I for one have only cd’s with testtones. Testtones from Melody Gardot, Pink Floyd, Patricia Barber, Beethoven, Miles Davis, Tori Amos, Bill Frisell….and so on. The list is endless. 🙂

  8. I’ve read Paul’s early morning post.
    After that, I read all the comments that came after it.
    In some ways, I don’t fully understand the post.
    And I really don’t understand the comments either.
    But I will give you all the true facts about me, this way.
    I’m a music lover.
    I was pretty much born a music lover.
    And while I was still a baby boy, I became an Audiophile.
    I know that this may sound crazy to a lot of you on this list, but I’m not kitting about it.
    If you look at a lot of the studies that were done on this subject over the last past 60 years, you’ll soon find out, that it’s all true.
    Children can tell you, what sounds good to them, and what doesn’t.
    I was one of surch children that this kind of a thing happened to.
    I started out in life, with a JVC quod receiver that my father bought me, when I was a 2 year old baby boy.
    Then I ended up with an RCA Victer stereo council when I was 7.
    I’ve had the best of stereo receivers speakers turntables tape decks and CD players over the years.
    I’ve even had boom boxes and walkmen too.
    But the stuff that I’m really in to, was made long before I was even born.
    If you know what you like, then it shouldn’t matter what other people may think of you, or say to you.
    And also, as for me, my wife is in to a lot of the same stuff that I’m in to.
    Because, after all, how many women do you all know, that can replace burned out tubes without even thinking about it?
    My wife does.
    For the most part, I’m the one that tought her how to do that.

  9. Thank you, all, for your comments. They prove my point. I will refrain from further comment on this site as I do not enjoy foul language directed at me.

    1. hrboucher,
      Umm…what was your point?
      I was cordial enough to point you to a YT channel
      that discusses music & THIS is how you react??
      And please take note that I have NOT directed
      any foul language towards you.

    2. Hey HR,
      I didn’t read any foul profanity laced words directed at you. Possible (probable) you inferred them?

      Then thru a fit after poking at the hornets nest?

      Have a good day and enjoy your preferences in music and equipment

    3. I am going to go out on a limb here an poke the hornets nest.

      hrbouicher, You are right! This place can get way to nasty at times. However, you must accept that this pace is not a moderated forum, but just an internet discussion were you need to have a thick skin. FWIW ( for what its worth ), here is a link to a music and hardware forum that is moderated and while debate is allowed, nastiness is tamped down as much as possible. Good luck.

      1. Hello Mr Plachy,

        The occasional nasty may pop out once in very great while. Whether it’s driven by passion or ego doesn’t matter. It’s Paul’s place 1st and foremost. It his thoughts (some times pot stirring) that start all of these discussions. Most topics aren’t directly related specific music but rather the reproduction of such.

        Everybody’s free to walk away or for that matter never read any of this in the first place.

        Today’s post brings up a subject that has been at the forefront since “high end” audio started.

        I guess all comments and or criticism should directed and passed through some committee to ensure the least common denominator is not even the least bit offended. Or maybe since we’re all adults we write off the stuff we don’t agree with and chalk it all up to ignorance or whatever other label you want to apply.

        Maybe Paul should run all his topics 1st through you? Maybe the posting should stop and everyone who responds here can have their daily routine thrown into a tizzy.

        These are just thoughts thrown out and not intended to be personal or judgmental.

        I hope that limb wasn’t weakened by Henri. ✌️ 😀

      2. Hi Tony,
        If you familiarise yourself with some contributors demeanour
        you can just ignore them, pity them or kick back.
        ‘Nasty’ is in the eye of the beholder; I prefer ball-breaking 🙂

        1. Guys, I get it, I am not suggesting that Paul should have moderators or anything like that. My nasty may not be your nasty. All I was doing was trying to help hrboucher. Everyone is welcome to click on the link and check out SHMF for themselves.

  10. I am an audiophile. I paid the price of admission through time, research and money spent wisely, and I will continue to refine my system through tweaks and upgrades. Few audiophiles will ever hear my system, but that’s okay. My ears give me all the confirmation and satisfaction I need.

    Paul’s Posts are great. He lets people sound off for free and doesn’t turn off their mikes, which reminds me of this funny clip:

    1. Thanks JosephLG. I was hesitant to write a post about this topic today. Your post is what exactly what I’m feeling so thanks again for putting your thoughts out here in the way that I was having trouble with.

    2. Thanks JosephLG. I was hesitant to write a post about this topic today. Your post what is what exactly what I’m feeling so thanks again for putting your thoughts out here in the way that I was having trouble with.

  11. I have been in the business for a long time mostly catering to Home Theater and multi-zone stereo but do enjoy higher-end equipment myself and love a challenging 2ch project for a customer with a good budget.
    I have always been an enthusiast since my teens.
    This business used to be fun as a buyer as well as on the sales side.
    I have never been as disgusted or embarrassed as I am now with the prices of high-end audiophile equipment and I will be fighting ever harder for my customers (and making less money in some cases for sure).
    It’s gotten absolutely stupid. Fortunately there are some increasingly rare good values out there still.
    A dual 12” servo sub for $2700 Rtl. In early 2000’s was not cheap. When that product went up to $6,800 in the past 5-7 years it became stupid. I guess I should go look at the current price once again and what will that be now? Paul knows who I’m referring to and they are clearly not alone as I see in my latest Absolute Sound mag.
    People be careful with your money unless you have drug dealer money or you don’t care to leave anything to your children.
    You can enjoy music without spending $100,000. I will go out on a limb and say $10,000 on the right stuff would put a smile on many of our faces.

      1. Right on, but I feel that my $10k will better your $3k. LOL. And I was talking all new gear, plenty of power on mains and sub, and giveaway pricing on at least 1 piece that is direct marketed which I would make $0 on but part of what sells the whole kit.
        $3k can sound amazing! Especially if you buy used gear, but one better be ready for potential headaches with some old equipment that could need service.

  12. Usually when I meet someone if the subject comes up that I’m interested in music and audio, that person will ask what kind of speakers or system do I have. That ends the discussion since they never heard of any of the brands, except my modified Sony CD player.

    Then if I mention I have vacuum tubes they are amazed, thinking those disappeared 60 years ago. So my only status is I must be “nuts”!

  13. I don’t think being an audiophile has anything to do with what kind of equipment you own. Growing up in the sixties in a mobile home in The mountains of West Virginia I listen to all my favorite classic rock albums of the time on my single speaker RCA record player. I pretty much wore them out. I still have all of them and now listen through the pops and clicks. Since retiring I converted an upstairs bedroom to a listening room. I purchased a Decware Zen amp and built a pair of Oiled Teakwood open Baffle speakers using 12 in. Full range drivers. They look and sound beautiful. Some days I will spend 10-12 hours listening to everything from Tool to Ludovico Einaudi and everything in between. I’ve never had a lot of extra money , raising a family and paying for a home, plus college tuitions, but I’ve always been a Audiophile since I was old enough to hear music.

  14. Paul, This is not a good post. If status is based on what audio gear we have how do we determine who has the best gear and thus the most status? Are we going to say whoever spent the most on his gear has the most status? I do not think that’s going to fly very far. Are we going to say that whoever has the best sounding gear has the most status? I hope we can all agree that what sounds best to me is probably not what sounds best to you and probably not what sounds best to the guy standing next to us. I think the best audio system for me is the one that gives me the most pleasure. But what if the next guy says the same think. How the hell are we going to determine who is having the most pleasure?

    Status based on what audio gear you have is a bad idea.

    1. Hello Tony,

      Status in life is an individual endeavor.
      Many use it to elevate themselves and then judge others.

      Today’s topic reflects what many think.
      The overall attitude has persisted for a long time.

      Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

  15. Us audiophile geeks are not that vastly different from my fanatical gearhead buddies… “Nice car!” “Yeah, it’s got Marko D421 forged concave head 9 stage pistons with K16 rings and P8679 bearings & forged diamondite kote push roller rods, a dynoblap hedonic rear end, a shiftomatic probofluid turbo transmission, stage 3 hypoturbulator flywheel, a dynamatic anti phase detractor clutch, ultra viscous phase reversing oil pump, neo-splining anti-roller shifter with type R side-toothed bushings and hetodonic fracture seals, bounceomatic gravity detracting motion cancelling suspension, linear digital friction reverse slip brakes, hush noise canceling flow thru wheezer exhaust, a johnholmes straightline locker driveshaft and a limited production gearhead grease nipple scented rear view hanging mean duck shaped air freshener!”
    “Awesome, I have no idea what you just said, I just meant I like the color…”

    And yes, Beato is absolutely terrific. I greatly respect the odd youtuber that has credentials to back up his content & material. Rick most certainly has an impressive resumee of credentials.
    *Yes, I credit some poetic license to The Turbo Encabulator. Google that for a good giggle..

  16. Oh, my, are you off the pedestal, my friend 🙂 You would be right, of course, if bragging rights correlated with sound quality.

    However, having been in audiophile clubs most of my life, I’ve learned that many of those who define themselves by their equipment are often folks with gear whose sound does not match its pedigree.

    It doesn’t because they put little effort on room acoustics, gear placement and synergy. It’s as if the jewels will shine no matter their venue and who they hang with.

    I own PS Audio equipment because of its voicing, not the luster that shines from its superstar engineers or promoters.

    I don’t know if you really belief this post, but I marvel at how you manage to find relevant topics on a daily basis. You know how to needle the family to keep the dialogue going, and I love it.

  17. Totally disagree. Showing off is childish and immature behaviour. I am surprised that it was even suggested leave alone condoned. The worst post in all these years. Can you imagine what sub standard systems people will put together not based on sound but on the ability to brag. Regards.

  18. “ We are the best we know how to be.”

    Audiophile: someone attracted to sound (and by extension, music).

    Plain and simple.

    I’m not there… I’m way more then some list of equipment, and need not identify myself with hardware.

    I’ve been an audiophile since a young teen and raided the junk yards for old car radios, and built my first tube amp from junk parts. It was a piece of junk literally. Then came the guitar amp from Sears, (yes Pail, an original Silvertone. I remodeled it and did a built in Fuzz-tone based on the circuits from an early Mosrite fuzz.

    Someone took a liking to it at a party and I never saw it again. I sold the speaker (6×10”) to a coffeehouse later.

    I seldom use the word “audiophile” as come with too much baggage.

    I’ve bought and sold many items, and gotten some killer deals from manufactures as an employee of a Seattle Hi-Fi shop.

    And I’ve spent more money on gear over the last few years then ever before.

    I have a nice “audiophile” system these days

    John in Seattle, WA, USA

  19. “Us audiophile geeks are not that vastly different from my fanatical gearhead buddies…”
    Replace “gearhead buddies”by “foodies”.
    Just watch “Masterchef”… a lot of drooling nutcases. IMO worse than audiophiles.
    At the end of the day there is only one person here with a sound mind, and that’s hrboucher, who “will refrain from further comment on this site”.
    And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do (for now…)

      1. I won’t tonyplachy
        I tried in the past, but this site is like Hotel California :
        “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave! ”
        Ask SntbcwS. He tried, and look at him now, what became of him. He is back.
        Paul has put a spell on all of us. We’re hooked on his posts. We need a daily dose of it.
        BTW.,today’s post did not bother me.
        What Paul meant, I think, was being proud of having (built) a nice setup (NOT necessarily expensive !). Not brag about it.

        1. …which brings to mind Soundmind. I was away from this site for a while when life got busy. Hopefully he is not a victim of Covid. You’re a regular, jb4, perhaps you could clue me in?

  20. Its scary to me how some of you need to make your choice.

    For I wonder, if I had a wife? Would I be allowed to own some of the good sounding Schiit I have?

  21. As I think about it, an audiophile is not about what device (s)he listens to or what music s(he) listens to. It’s about how sh(e) listens to music. What we now call HIFI will be a funny toy in 100 years. Is my system good enough? Yes It is, It enables me to learn to listen. When I grow as a listener, I gonna get better system (maybe).

  22. When is ‘PS Audio’ gonna start building audiophile grade hearing aids for all of us old farts with our ageing tympanic membranes so that we can keep our golden ears intact?

    1. FR, Turn down the volume to something that only rattles the windows as opposed to the volume that makes the furniture move will help save whats left of your tympanic membranes. 😉

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