The special person

January 7, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Just because someone hears a high-end audio system—marveling at how lifelike and far from what they listen to it is—rarely does it equate to them running down to the store and buying one.

It takes a special person to become inspired to the point of taking the leap that changes their life.

Is it one out of a thousand that hears a great stereo system and decides for themselves that this is worth their time?

I don’t have any insight into the numbers.

What I do know is that it takes a very special person to care enough about the quality of their musical reproduction system to invest their energies into building one for themselves.

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50 comments on “The special person”

  1. FR, here’s one for you.
    https://youtu.be/CDOWpnBv6cY?t=3

    As to having to be some kind of special person to want to invest in high-quality audio, I think it is more about personal priorities and what you think good audio is. Most of the people I know have never heard a high-end audio system. When we have friends round, we don’t go and listen to music, we do normal things, like eat, drink and chat. More people than ever are probably listening to music these days, mostly using headphones, and they are often very good, certainly much better value than a static stereo system.

    1. Steven,
      Yes, & about bloody time!
      Meanwhile (what we Australian’s call a real England
      Captain’s knock) Joe is having roast duck for dinner 😉

      1. the lone audiophile…..a very lonely hobby this obsession of ours as Fat Rat recently reminded me. Asking friends to listen is fatal “liking that” they declare “sounds as if their in the room” they say….”great bass” and i’m thinking well shut the ****up and listen but no they want to talk over it and always when the guitar solo is about to let rip…..arggggghhh!!!!!!…..one in a thousand Paul; no chance!

        ok young Martin so Root is feasting on the Aylesbury but Jonny boy is enjoying the Century …….no land like England!

        rock and bloody roll!

        Baldy Bloke.

        1. I have the solution. Have them situated in the “sweet spot” and just before you start the music, TURN OFF ALL THE LIGHTS. They don’t speak in the dark (if they do, pretend you don’t hear them, but that is rarely needed).
          Added bonus: you hear better with your eyes closed (sensory deprivation). I always listen in the dark or close my eyes during daylight.
          Try it. I think you’ll like it.

  2. Someone sent me this link the other day but I’ve lost track of who
    it was, however I thought it appropriate for today’s Paul’s Posts.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOSTFvD-bDg

    I don’t have any insight into the numbers either Paul, but when I was
    16yo I heard a rig that lit the flame within & it did eventually send me
    down to the store to start putting my own decent home-audio rig together.

    1. I really enjoyed the George Winston pirce that you just posted FR. I’ll wager it was released by ECM which has a knack of finding this type of musician and reproducing the sound beautifully. For the most part this was Keith Jarrett’s label for his solo concerts.

      Music like this is why I love a high quality audio reproduction system. Am I a special person? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I can only say that music is special to me.

    2. Martin, Loved the link…Beautiful Music and Scenery…Thanks!

      My audiophile ember started later when in 1975, I walked into a local record shop/stereo sales place and upon hearing some glorious orchestral dynamics, was immediately fixated in that sound room, taking in the powerful sounds of Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra by the Berlin Philharmonic, being reproduced on an All Marantz sound system…Amazing!

      The light bulb went ON and now after 46 years of pursuit, Still Burns Bright! 🙂

      1. Ted,
        Similar story with me.
        In case you haven’t read it here previously…I was walking along a street in the Sydney suburb of Paddington in 1976 at age 16 when I heard the amazing sound of Rick Wakeman playing a track called ‘Merlin’ through a pair of Celestion – ‘Ditton 66’ (early) Studio Monitors & so I entered the store & just stood there dumbfounded & listened.
        When the track finished, I hauled my bottom jaw off the ground I decided that I would own a pair of those one day, 5 years later, & the rest, as they say, is now history… 😉

  3. Paul, you’re absolutely right. The reason why I went full “special” with my audio was for the love of music. The music compelled me later on to learn about the electronics and to start enriching my life with terrific music reproduction.
    It has taken me a little over 10 years to get to where I am today and certainly I’m not done yet. 🙂

  4. That’s a very interesting question.

    I think typical customers for high end systems are those, where the love for and importance of music for oneself comes with the interest to listen to music attentively! at home and with a certain interest in technical gear.

    If only one of those 3 interests is not given (e.g. even just the descriptive characteristic „attentively“ above), imo the chance of interest in buying a high end system is extremely low. There’s one add. chance of interest I see. It’s the one of those who just have a strong general technical/gear affinity. They may buy a high end system, even if just to play a bunch of music CD‘s and test tracks on it.

    IMO that’s why high end audio isn’t wider spread and why probably hardly anyone of us knows someone else in his circle of friends, who shares any real interest.

    1. Hi Jazznut.
      Hardly anyone knows someone in his circle of friends this may well be true but you can always make one ( corrupt ).
      Years ago a work colleague was happy with his JVC adagio pseudo surround sound all in one system,I gave him a few old HiFi magazines and twenty or more years later he has.
      Zingali twenty evo 1.2’s loudspeakers, Luxman d-05u cd player, Michell orbe, origin live illustrious tonearm, koetsu rosewood signature, van den Hull grasshopper, Whest rdt 30se phono stage, and a Cyain 845 valve integrated amp.
      He bought all this over the years but I probably started it, there is no way of knowing if he would have got to this point with out a push.

      PS could someone please tell kermit I would like my 500 euros back.

  5. We can all be impressed by something but then we just walk away, impressed, but it doesn’t change our lives. Listening to high quality audio is likely to evolve over time, it may even be ‘in you’. I remember really enjoying music from an early age. The first tune that struck a chord was ‘Side Saddle’ by Russ Conway. Not much credibility there but I’d only be 4 years old. Later I’d play 45’s on my parents one box record player but the sound through a 6 inch elliptical speaker wasn’t satisfactory. Later still I’d make recordings from the radio on a reel to reel of unknown make. “Please Mr DJ, don’t talk over the intro or the end.” It was cheap, it was fun. Then I started to buy my own records and the equipment to play them on. It all progressed from there and it’s still progressing. I could say I’ve been looking for a cure ever since but in all honesty I don’t think I want one. Over the years hi-fi has been an important part of my life, a usually enjoyable hobby, and I have derived immense pleasure from listening to high quality music reproduction at home.

  6. I’m not sure the people who don’t go on to chase better music reproduction system for themselves would consider us to be ‘special’.
    It’s a hobby I think, like any other, those that don’t do it, just don’t get it, just like I don’t get fishing as a hobby!

  7. For me “… what you think good audio is…” as Steven said is the starting.
    In my early teens and in the place I grow up, high-end = luxury = most of people cannot afford it. I discover what good Audio is when one day my father brought back CEC turntable + onkyo receiver + BOSE 501 + 4 vinyls. One of the vinyl is Schubert No. 8 by Karajan. That’s it, I never know 1. There is music called symphony 2. There is such “shocking” audio produced from hifi system vs typical radio that most people can afford at that time. It kicks start my “life style” with proper audio reproduction system. Today, I don’t know if my gears are high end or not, but the audio does sound “high end” to me.

  8. Where to even start…
    Special…. = better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.

    Now take the premise that one who takes time to build a high end audio system = special
    So that makes them a better or greater person. (◔_◔) I don’t think so. Maybe different.

    Or take it the other way…
    High end system owner… better greater
    Mid end system owner… lesser and not as good as above
    Low end system owner – scourge of society as seen by the special people at the top…. Maybe because they are considered normal?

    Reading todays topic – a case for audio class bigotry?

    In reality, building a great system only requires as much energy and effort as a person wants to put in it. Pick up the phone or type on the keyboard, and a full High End system is at your door.
    Or Spend your life designing and building and assembling a High End system.

    Home audio didn’t change my life… it’s an enjoyable part of it. It hasn’t made me any more or less special as a person. ✌️ Out

  9. My father was a DJ in former GDR. He recorded the music from the radio on MC’s because this music he used to play in the Bars and Discotheques wasn’t available on vinyl. There I got the love for music. At age of 11 my fathers best friend let us listen to his new rig. It was fabulous and I told myself “when I’m tall, I’ll have such a stereo system”. Later on I became interested in the technology behind all that.

    For about 10 years I’m now trying to get to the point of pleasure. The journey continous. A great hobby! And it’s nice to know, that there are others around the world sharing the same interest in music reproduction. My rig isn’t high end but sounds much more decent than what most people have in their homes.

  10. IMO, There are a few reasons that people don’t pursue investing in audiophile equipment:

    1). Money. Most people don’t have enough disposable income. From stats I have seen, over 80% of people will have a hard time paying a $500 unexpected expense. Or, same percentage of retirees have just a few thousand saved.

    2). Competition for those funds available to spend. The number of people going to car shows far outweigh people going to audio shows. Everybody will need a car and a lot of times a car is a status symbol of doing well.

    3). Majority of people will never be able to hear a good quality system. Very rare that I play anything on my audio rig for friends. If they are interested in knowing what a more expensive system will sound like then I will invite them in to my dedicated room. Otherwise, they will hear nice background music thru my sprout 100/revel setup.

    4). A lot of people think Bose is the best. I know people that have millions in cars but use Bose for all their audio. When is the last time you have seen a ps audio commercial on tv?

    1. I agree with the $ subject. I went HARD in the late 90’s/early 2000’s with LOTS of very high end gear, room treatments etc, and built an incredible system. The $ spent then was nuts, however, nothing like what it would take now! High end audio prices have risen to the point that I can’t even imagine spending what it would take to create something of that caliber. I have wonderful memories.. That will have to do.

  11. “Is it one out of a thousand that hears a great stereo system and decides for themselves that this is worth their time?”
    If true , then there are almost 8,000,000 hifi enthusiasts, aka audiophiles, on this planet.
    Anyone here gullible enough to believe that ?
    Probably the wet dream of any audio manufacturer 🙂

    1. Oh goodness, Jb4, you’re in a fine mood this morning. 🙂

      First, it was a figure of speech. Second, if we were to take it on face value (which it was not intended) it would not apply to the 8 billion people in the world. In the first world countries which consist of about 20% of the world’s population, we find our first filter. Now 8 billion is narrowed to 1.6 billion. And we probably should eliminate those under 20 years old. And now we’re down to….

      You see where I am going.

      1. As a matter of fact PmcG, I am in a good mood.
        I cannot say the same about you.
        You are aggravated and now try to correct today’s post by adding all kinds of things you should have mentioned right away in the post. Then it would have made more sense.
        And then the silly, unbelievable excuse that it was “a figure of speech”.
        But it’s always the same with you. You can’t stand people who do not glorify you and agree with you all the time.
        Your reaction is then to insult them, like you did me (and not for the first time).
        But you keep on babbling about the same topics over and over again. Enough die hard followers who worship you.
        I’m outta here. Live long and prosper.

        1. I think the expression “ One in a thousand “ has been used literally thousands of times over the years, not meaning to be an accurate mathematical quote, but a general expression of conversation. Don’t let the door hit you!! GOODBYE.

        2. jb4,
          Wow you’ve had a really huge bug up your arse lately…
          I hope that it crawls out soon.
          If you think that Paul is so ‘full of it’ & the repetitiveness of the subject matter irks you so much then I have to ask, ‘Why do you come here?’
          Go and see your proctologist & get that thing removed.
          Have a nice day 😉

  12. It depends on where you draw the line for “high end”. There’s lots of mid and lower fi stuff that actually sounds pretty damn great.
    It also depends on where they are in life. Maybe trying to raise kids (I never had any) changes your priorities.
    My system is pretty decent. Do I listen a lot? No, because I’m in the midst of live music most every day. I could live without it and not feel deprived. Priorities.

    1. I’m in the same boat. Most of my gear is made by me and the amps are now old but can shatter windows. My interested started as a lab project in school tutored by Harris Broadcast engineers, and then evolved over the years.
      I have a guitar in my hand 1-2 hours a day making music… If my wife let me I would spend even more time in that domain. Changing pickups, changing pots, tone networks, strings, modding pedals, experimenting with a cabinet profiler tone, etc.

  13. Most people we visit have some form of home theater, but no real concern over 2 channel (other than background music). I have a dedicated home theater with the latest projector/Atmos setup. Husbands and wives come down all the time and don’t want to leave. The minute I try playing 2 channel, you can see the look of interest leave.

    There simply isn’t the level of interest these days.

  14. I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to audio. People can admire a nice photograph but it doesn’t inspire them to go out and get a nice camera. They marvel at a high precision automobile but still buy a van or a truck. They just seem to not care, or, as pointed out it’s just not a high enough priority for them.

    Even as good as I have made my system, it doesn’t get the use it should because when anyone comes over we spend time (socially distant) upstairs in the big family room listening to music on the whole house system while we talk, rather than crammed into the sweet spot downstairs. Times are different, that is for sure!

  15. When I was growing up, it was cars. My first grade friend bought his first car in first grade. A 1953 Mercury . Ten years of work on weekends with his dad and he had his car ready to roll on his 16 birthday. Another bought his in sixth grade with the same idea and outcome. Still two other friends bought police auction cars to build and race stock cars. And of course when I was young we had hot wheel and slot cars. The odds I would become a motor head were pretty high, but I had a uncle and he changed everything. He worked for KRDO TV and radio station as a engineer and boy did he ever come home with cool stuff. He constructed all kinds of gadgets and repaired all kinds of radios, TVs and so on. All with these magical scopes and tools. And it was all clean. No dirt. No oil. No greasy grime. The worst dirt to deal with was dust. Plus there were all those tubes, transistors and circuits. It was all magic to me and I wanted to know the trucks. He gave me several Radio Shack kits where I’d wire parts together to make a radio, a Morse code device, and so on. After over fifty years playing with electronics from my first Radio Shack devices to my PS Audio gear , I’m still not done and I hope I never will be. Final note. I think I made the better choice. As long as I’ve owned my stereo, I have never received a speeding ticket, but as a teenager I could manage to get a ticket by merely parking my car in the driveway. Private hobbies have there advantages.

  16. What does “High End” really mean? Is it money? Is it Technology? Is it certain equipment? or is it the level of concern for music play back? When I hear terms like high end, mid fi and low fi I cringe because I strongly believe that hearing is so subjective. My sound(hearing) is different from your sound(hearing). Thing is is that I agree with all of the comments made, but why is there such separation or division of the classes. If you truly believe in the rig you have built does it matter? I’ve not heard the IRSV’s but I’ve heard Wilson’s, Vandersteens and a few others with the massive setup that went along with them and I wasn’t overly impressed with what I heard. Don’t get me wrong, they sounded really good and cause me to go on my on adventure to reproduce great sound. So, again what is high end? Does it matter if you are enjoying the music. Piggy backing on comments on friends coming over and listening to music I can conquer with that because when we use to entertain guest, no one and I mean no one asked to hear my system! Most had no idea. My Sony surround Bluetooth was the magic for all and as to my friends, I’m the only one that has a 2 channel system. I don’t even remember seeing any setups at any of my friends homes and when I bring it up, the conversation is quickly change and my administrator(wife) laughs at me riding home for me even bring it up. She’s says to me, “nobody but you fool will spend that kind of money on boxes to put in your hole” 🙂 I will agree on one thing, we are special… 🙂 So I’ll keep saving for my P20 power plant. One day maybe.

    Keep listening

  17. To want to sit down and enjoy the soulful pleasure that music brings into my being has become a necessity of life for me since I was 12 years old. This kind of passion just grows and grows as the years pass but I am not going to label myself a special person. Throughout my life people some people have told me I am a special person and that makes me feel special.

    With that said I’d like to post a YouTube video of my liking which I may have posted before (I’m really not sure) and share a one of my favorite moments listening to this truly special human being. It touches me like the George Winston piece FR posted above.

    https://youtu.be/C6tIzxmPCQE

  18. Many hear the same system yet only an exception responds so strongly to it. Why ? What is the difference between his or her brain makeup and the others? It would be very interesting to see the differences in the brain activity under dynamic conditions. They will be different no doubt but how ? May be some day. Regards.

  19. We (you-me-general population) are All special due to our unique interest and talents. Every individual, according to life’s experiences, chooses different paths that hopefully, helps fulfill their place and happiness in this world.

    Seems those who are able, get to develop hobbies that add additional excitement, purpose and enjoyment in their lives. Being an audiophile (one of hundreds of various hobbies) is a choice most here on PP forum choose to participate in and develop to their satisfaction, driven by the promise of higher fidelity reproduction in this musical art form of human expression! A noble goal for us, but due to the overall diversity of human interest, certainly not shared by the vast majority. This does not preclude others (who are not audiophiles) from the love and enjoyment of music in their own way. In my lifetime, I can’t recall anyone who didn’t enjoy music in one form or another (live or reproduced), just that their hobbies and interest are in different areas that are higher priority than home music reproduction fidelity! Most choose and share their time and talents in other “unique” hobbies…to each his/her own, and that’s okay!!

    As Paul alluded to, those who have experienced my 46 years of achievement in building a home music fidelity reproduction system have come away Impressed! However, none I know of is willing to pursue or expend the energy/investment to reach the same goals for themselves…it’s just not important in their lives!

  20. With minor exception what a lovely thread.

    My experience was as a pretty young kid. I was born a “process“ guy. I always loved to figure out how things worked and to be able to relate it to people that didn’t know how things worked.

    We had music in the house with a piano and a nice little all-in-one RCA Victor unit.

    I played music in my 20s and that inspired me to get some of that great sound in my home which got me started on on retail audio purchases. I knew how it all worked I actually repaired some of it but it wasn’t super high-end by any stretch.
    That stuff lasted me into the 80s when I took a job in Seattle as an audio sales person. At that time I was exposed to all levels of audio gear from your basic $400 total system to multiple thousand dollar amplifiers or speakers.
    Opportunities abounded as audio manufactures gave us gear at $.30 on the dollar in those days no tax no freight.
    And all the reps had great demo CDs and vinyl that they handed out so I got quite a bit of that and it got me listening to higher-end stuff in the store. I took whole lunch breaks and listened to great stuff in one of the audio rooms if it was available.
    Some of the gear I acquired then was purchased and some was awards for reaching a certain volume.
    That gear took me forward to around 2017.

    Having spent time and money in between with guitars and amps collections, a motorcycle obsession and a few other cash-gobblers.

    Today is all about listening and enjoyment, yet always knowing how and why I hear certain things.

    I have a few friends that arrive with vinyl to clean and then listen. Yes, I give them the sweet spot.

    [Ramble Mode: OFF ]

  21. I disagree that younger generations (post baby boomer ) do not appreciate high-end audio. If you look at what is happening with headphones, and headphone amps, there is a strong following. The resurgence of vinyl is another indication.

    The low demand for high-end audio is most probably due competition from video games, and home theaters products. This competition did not exist 40 years ago.

    There’s only so much money most people are willing to invest in home entertainment systems. Plus video games and home theaters offer more adrenaline bang for the buck for young people than a good audio system.

    Personally, I do not have any interest in video games, and am more than happy with our 48 inch TV. But that might just may be me getting old 😉

  22. I have vivid memories of climbing up onto our kitchen table as a very young child, turning on the radio my parents placed there, and sitting in front of it in rapture.

    Yeah, I’m a little different from most 🙂

    Music matters to some more than others; for me, it is a lifelong love affair – live and reproduced.

  23. I recall my first high end(for me) system as a young teen, in the 1960s listening to my uncle Jimmy’s Fisher x-101c with the Fisher XP 7 speakers, Garrard 301 with a 9” SME arm and some Shure cartridge. That was my bench mark and boy, did it sound great!

  24. A special person is simply one who loves music and wants the best reproduction with the music one enjoys and at one’s level of affordability.

    My decision started back in the 50s & 60s with taking piano lessons with a classical trained piano and organ teacher. Took me 7 years to figure out I had no golden ears, perfect pitch or sustaining musical memory. After my parents took me to Orchestral Hall in Chicago for classical piano recitals, I soon came to the conclusion that I didn’t have what it takes to be on the world stage. A young person’s fantasy with no talent. However, those classical piano lessons gave me the appreciation for a lifetime of aspiration and appreciation for listening to world class artists and wanting the “best audio system” I could afford.

    The joy of listening to piano recitals and concertos by Brahms, Busoni, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Grieg, Fields, Mozart, Saint-Saens, Barber, Pixis, Thalberg, Wagner and many others is a wonderful experience right in my living room. What a wonderful time to be alive!

    I agree with Paul that it takes a special person to want the best “audiophile sound”. We are definitely in the minority as the masses are happy with sound mediocrity and pop musical genres of 3 to 4 minute simple songs and chords that are here today and gone tomorrow in a flash depending on your age group.

    The real challenge is to get many more young people interested for the future in listening to high quality reproduction regardless of musical genre so that we can get closer to that live elusive sound whether it be by CDs, LPs or Streaming so that HiFi quality keeps getting better and better for a fraction of the market place of 8 billion possible consumers.

  25. Based only on my personal experience, if you do not get someone hooked on this hobby when they are between the ages of about 15 and 25, there is little hope of getting someone hooked on audio.

    1. Guess i fit in there…but it took 40 years to start…except for a stereo system with a rack in college, even bought Klipschs first bookshelf’s..then a big delay.

  26. I grew up in pine forests and summered on seashores, spending hours alone and therefore speechless. These places were off the beaten path with a dearth of ‘appliances’ so I was not interruted by the sound of motors. When it was time for music, we had a Mason and Hamlin grand – no phonograph, and a radio that was never turned on. Otherwise, we were surrounded by sounds of Nature and not motivated to drown them out with sound.

    When I was 13 we got a turntable and a box of LPs, and plugged it into the Grundig tube radio which had a phono preamp. This opened up a world of composition, but it did not really sound like music. The next year came a Garrard SL95, KLH 27 receiver, Ampex RTR, pair of KLH 5 speakers, and I bought my first record (Surrealistic Pillow). I then started going to rock concerts and found a wider gap between live music and audio.

    So my pursuit of “High Fidelity” was driven by the shortcomings. My goal was never equaling a better audio system, it was getting closer to real music, including making amplified music sound more like acoustic music.

    I am the exception among the exceptional.

  27. Right you are Paul. In my 40+ years of being an audiophile only twice has a friend made the move to getting better sound. One as recently as three years ago and now he has the bug and often asks me for advice. I wish it would happen more often, since I have as much fun as them when they are building their dream system.

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