Literally taken the word obviously means someone who prefers an unnatural relationship with sound (not, as some people think, with audio equipment). =) Usually (not always) involves spending awful amounts of money in order to get the best audio equipment on the block.

The biggest question is, of course, "can music consent"? =)

Crazy people; often, but not always, musicians; who have a good enough ear to distinguish the differences between various calibers of audio equipment. Of course, because they can distinguish these differences, they automatically have to have the best system they can possibly afford. Not to impress the neighbors, as some rich pricks might think, but for sheer aesthetic pleasure. More often than not, it only impresses upon the neighbors just how damned loud your system can get. The pinnacle of audiophileness is the THX sound system, which has been known to induce large amounts of drool in audiophiles. They often experience moments of aural bliss.

Being an audiophile goes beyond what many people can imagine :) in order to accurately deliver the most demanding waveforms music can call for- some people consider classical music the most demanding task a playback system can perform- audiophiles have turned to everything from $60,000 Infinity Reference Standard speaker systems (four huge towers packed with speaker drivers) for the 'loud' side of things (not like rock concert loudness, however, more like what you hear from a symphony orchestra at full crank)- to amplifiers like the comparably expensive, but only 12 watt per channel, Ongaku tube amplifier, in which the tubes are obscure and rare triode power tubes and the transformers are wound from silver wire with tweezers, by hand- for the 'subtlety' side of things. It is much like comparing a Lamborghini Countach with a Yugo or Toyota- if you only need to go to the store, the Countach is not only ludicrously expensive but actually totally unsuitable and awkward. However, if you are on a race track or simply want to go 200 mph, all the mockery becomes irrelevant, and only the Countach (or something comparable and just as expensive) will do. And that is what this sound equipment is like- it must be experienced on its own terms.

An audiophile is a state of mind. Quite opposite to many peoples predilections that audiophiles are egotistical eccentrics with a lot of money to blow on equipment, an audiophile is just someone who is really into sound.

Not to be condescending, but most people will never understand what makes an audiophile an audiophile because they'll forever be content with mass-market japanese consumer crap sound systems that focus on colored lights over actual quality. And that is fine, if that's your thing. But to say audiophiles are merely gadget freaks is just plain silly. While people may like to brag about their system, it is something that they've, most probably, spent a lot of time and money on perfecting. It is no wonder they are proud.

And that's really the goal of an audiophile: perfection. While this involves a high degree of personal preference (e.g. vinyl vs. CD's, etc.), an audiophile will try to create for themselves the best music or sound experience possible. Some say that until the introduction of two-channel stereo sound, there were no audiophiles. But I disagree. Being an audiophile means that one is especially geared towards sound in it's purity. And sound is a cosmic entity, a child of the vibratory forces that permeate our universe, providing structure to it. There are all kinds of theories about various frequencies that incarnate the divine, etc., and it's hard to dispute the fact that sound can be pleasant. An audiophile is just in a state of mind that is deeply in touch with the pleasantries of sound, explicitly spiritual or not.

While the very term connotes some kind of affliction, it is a positive one in the least. Well, except being one can be hard on the wallet. There is a stereotype that says audiophiles are either filthy rich, or single, and always male. But an audiophile can be anyone.

Somebody who listens to the HiFi setup instead of the music.

Well, to be fair it's more like this: to a true audiophile, even the tiniest imperfection in the sound is intolerable and prevents them from truly enjoying the music. Thus, they are willing to spend enormous sums for equipment that has no imperfections. On the one hand, there is a big, big difference in quality between cheap low-end crap and really good hardware. But on the other, there clearly are excesses where religious fervour prompts people to spend insane amounts of money on speakers or cables that have no measurable advantage over the merely expensive alternatives.

as a professional audio engineer i'd like to say one thing about audiophiles


now let me tell you why...

1. They think tube amps sound better, because they are warmer and more natural.

WRONG WRONG WRONG! Solid state amps reproduce the sound much more faithfully than tube amps, if your sound needs more life bitch to whoever recorded CDs. Tube amps are much less accurate at reproducing sound than solid state amps, so if you think it sounds better great, but it's not accurate. I personally prefer a good solid state amp. If you find a tube amp that makes you cream everytime you use it more power to you, but more than likely it'll just sound bad.

2. Records produce a more natural sound because they're analog.

the lesser audiophiles are known to say this. Some even shelling out thousands on a high quality turntable. Well all albums are recorded straight to digital nowadays, so you're getting an analog of a digital song.

3. My system has 30 woofers!

perpetrated by lesser audiophiles. They like adding big cabinets with lots of bass, well music isn't intended to have mind blowingly loud bass, strike a good balance.

i'll think of more later.
An Audiophile is an individual for whom the sonic accuracy greatly enhances the experience of listening to music. As such, they do pursue superior sound quality within the limits of their budget and space, primarily through the acquisition of audiophile quality equipment. This pursuit is a hobby and may become consuming, much as other pastimes.

Like many hobbyists, audiophiles hold strong opinions. There are three basic divisions: analog versus digital, tube versus solid state, and tweaks.

Analog supporters promote the superiority of the long playing record or LP over the compact disk, or CD. They concede that CD's are more convenient than LP's. arguing that convenience and resistance to scratches are the real reason behind the mediums popularity. Their criticisms center around the mechanisms by which sound is digitized, arguing that the conventions of a Phillips Red Book CD lead to significant, if subtle data losses that are preserved on vinyl.

In my view they have a real point, though many audiophiles are adamant about vinyl to the point of absurdity. CDs have lower acoustic noise than LPs, which are particularly sensitive to even the tiniest bit of dust and dirt. That's a real advantage. But when played on very good equipment, LPs may produce a sound with a three dimensional quality that CDs lack. Audiophiles refer to this quality as imaging. Imaging is the ability of a recording and audio system to place sounds in space. Excellent imaging can greatly enhance the listening process. However, this advantage is probably moot to nonexistent when listening through most mass marketed equipment. Speakers designed for time coherence are a minimal requirement for good imaging.

Their have been several attempts to address these shortcomings. The earliest was the High Definition Compact Disk where an improved system of Analog to Digital Conversion,and it produced some sonic gains. However, limited software availability and the modest improvement have probably put that system on the back shelf. Two more recent and more systems have been produced, SACD and DVD-A. Both take advantage of improved data storage available on DVD disks. SACD has the advantages of compatible disks and the lack of watermarking. In fact, my SACD machine does a wonderful job, when the recording itself is good enough to take advantage of the difference. DVD-A disks may be watermarked, a digital technology imposed by the recording industry in order to reduce software piracy. The industry claims watermarks are inaudible, many audiophiles beg to disagree. Having not compared the disks, I have no opinion at this time.

In addition, upsampling has been adopted by some manufacturers as a means of improving the sound of existing Red Book CD's. The idea is to cancel errors by repeating and comparing the digital stream. The technique produces modest gains in comparison to SACD and DVD-A but does not require new software.

Audiophiles heatedly debate the superiority of solid state and tube amplifiers. Tube proponents argue that tubes handle waves better than transistors for technical reasons, and when they do distort the overtone series produced is less offensive. The fact that tubes can be changed, encourages hobbyists to experiment. While I share SilentElkofYesterday's strong preference for solid state equipment, I have heard some really wonderful tube amplifiers.

Tweaks are small changes made in order to enhance the performance of an existing music reproduction system. Common tweaks include power conditioning, experimenting with cables and speaker wires and changing tubes. One amplifier, the Mesa Baron allows the user to change rectification and tube use modes.

People tweak primarily because they enjoy tweaking. Some interesting theoretical work on cables has appeared arguing the differing ways electrons pass through conductors may produce wave form distortion. However, your system had better be damned good before you hear that difference! Power conditioning may offer real benefits, particularly to those with poor house wiring. The benefits will vary from place to place. By smoothing the power wave form and maintaining a constant voltage power conditioners allow equipment to perform at its peak. However, the effect will be less pronounced when problems are not present. Tiptoes and quality speaker stands may produce greater rigidity. As sound is vibration, any speaker stabilization will improve accuracy, again by allowing the speaker to perform unimpeded.

However, some tweaks are just plain silly. Shun Mook Mpingo Disks are little wooden disks that when placed on equipment, are purported to improve the sound by some, apparently psychic, means. Despite real support among some audiophiles, tweaks may simply represent the placebo effect in action.

However, I disagree strongly with SilentElkof Yesterday's argument about that audiophiles prefer complex systems. Far more common is the drive toward simplicity. This drive is behind common preferences for single-end triode amplification. SET amps use a single tube to amplify the signal, sacrificing power output for sound purity. Two-way speakers are very common in the audiophile world, including some very expensive speakers like the ProAc Response 2.5, which reproduces the full range with one 1" tweeter and a single 7" woofer. Many amplification systems contain no tone controls at all for that reason. In my system, the tone controls are bypassed.

The underlying argument behind the drive to simplicity is that anything put in the signal path is a potential distortion source. Unless handled with great care-- and often expense-- these sonic additions will hurt more than help. This principle is generally accepted among audiophiles, and represents one argument used by those who prefer single-ended triode amplifiers. Frankly, the the point where complexity's advantages outweigh its disadvantages is debatable. The bottom line is sound quality, itself a subjective property. I purchased a system that produced as accurate and clean sound as I could afford, and spent a lot of time shopping and comparing before I spent. Audiophiles spend a lot of time shopping.

In case anyone is interested, I have owned over the years amplification components by Lafayette (high school), Nikko, Soundcraftsman, Dynaco and Adcom. Speakers included Windsor model 200, Bose 901 series II, MIcroAcoustic FRM-1a (world's most fragile tweeters), Bozak Symphony and Kevek ES-8.

My current system consists of: A McIntosh 6500 Integrated Amplifier, Paradigm Reference Studio 100 speakers, Sony DVP-9000ES SACD/CD/DVD player, Rotel RT-1080 tuner. and a very old Thorens TD-160c turntable with a Shure V-15MRx cartridge. Yeah, it rocks.

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