Audiophiles’ Lack of Respect Hurting Audio Industry
The belligerent side of audiophiles is hurting audio adoption among consumers. It's time audiophiles abandon their misguided ways and help the audio category grow.
Dealers, manufacturers and everyone in the consumer audio market have generally appreciated the passion of audiophiles. But there is another side to this unabashed enthusiasm: the elitist attitude and lack of respect sometimes directed towards product designers and recording engineers.
This is hindering the growth of the audio market, and it couldn’t come at a worse time as consumer audio continues to transition to a world of convenience with downloads, portable devices and streaming services.
Vinyl is making a huge comeback, but its sales are minor compared to downloads, and the idea of sitting down and taking the time to spin records is too consuming for most people who are busy with kids, work and everything else life throws at them.
Audiophiles, with their passion, could act as spokespeople for the category. But instead of discussing the enjoyment that can be derived from listening to great music on quality components, they often spout off about the minutia of system tweaks and the quality of recordings.
The criticism of product designers is subtle, but comments like this on the quality of architectural speakers sums up their attitude: “In wall speakers are for those people who don’t listen to MUSIC.”
The barbs towards musicians and recording engineers are much more pointed. Here’s a response to a Facebook post that talked about the quality of a particular recording: “You couldn’t be more right ... Many of today’s engineers are technogeeks who wouldn’t know a trumpet from a clarinet (visually or auditorially).”
Think of it this way: I’m a huge Patriots fan, but how embarrassing would it be for me to sit in on a film session with Bill Belichick and criticize the play calling from Super Bowl XLVI when I couldn’t identify how a certain play was supposed to be executed?
I’m nothing more than a fan of the Patriots, and audiophiles have to realize the same thing. Do they actually think they know more than these professionals who have invested a lifetime of training into their respective fields? Do they think musicians say to themselves, “let’s make a sucky recording?”
How would audiophiles respond if a mixing engineer sat them in front of a mixing console and asked them to adjust the equalization of a guitar on a specific track so it cuts through the mix better?
My friend Chris Maggio, a classically trained guitar player, has been practicing diligently on a song called Koyanbaba by Carlo Domeniconi for a project we’re working on. He says there are a couple things that make the song tough to perform.
“It is a bit on the difficult end of the classical guitar spectrum mainly because of the tuning: C#G#C#G#C#E low to high [this is sometimes called a Middle Eastern tuning],” he explains. “The piece is also difficult because of the alternating bass line in the third movement and the sheer speed of the fourth movement. A great recording of it is on the CD ‘John Williams The Guitarist’ Sony Classical 1998.”
With the amount of work he’s putting in on the song and the effort that will be taken to record it, could anyone think he or our recording engineer, Mike Blewitt, will do anything other than their best to make it the highest quality rendition of the song?
I admire the passion of audiophiles, but they have forgotten about the visceral response most people get while listening to music. The masses listen to music while they work, drive and do household chores. Their end goal is entertainment, so it’s not important how they listen or why they listen.
Maybe it’s time for audiophiles to rediscover the enjoyment of music. It will help them gain respect for product designers, recording engineers and musicians. And it will help grow the channel.
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]
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