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Why Are Audiophiles So Ashamed?

The advent of lower-cost, high-quality audio systems has converted audiophiles from being openly prideful to apologists in hiding. How should integrators react?

Photo credit: knowzy.com
Jason Knott · December 2, 2013

Is being an audiophile today the equivalent of having leprosy centuries ago? It’s starting to feel that way. Audiophiles everywhere, it seems, are going underground and hiding their heads in shame. When they are “outed,” they apologize.

Instead of being commended and admired for their fine taste and pursuit of the ultimate audio experience, they find themselves being attacked and ridiculed as nothing but people who wildly over-spend on electronics when there are perfectly satisfactory, less-costly solutions. They get confused stares when they glorify the time they spent compiling top-of-the-line components and then tweaking them to perfection. Inviting guests to their home has become a painful experience for audiophiles knowing that ultimately the conversation will steer to the question, “How much did this stuff cost?”

The anti-audiophile trend is never more apparent than in the commentary of a recent blog from Paul McGowan, president of PS Audio, entitled, “I Admit It. I Am an Audiophile.” In the blog, McGowan laments that he and other audiophiles no longer show off with pride their new audio equipment acquisitions (like many people do with a new car or a new watch) except to their fellow audio enthusiasts who will “understand.”

“It’s taken me years to come to grips with the label ‘Audiophile,” says McGowan. “When people ask about my hobbies, passions and interests, I would talk about food, skiing, hiking, family and oh, yes, stereos. Good stereos. “Oh, like Bose?” Right, just like Bose. I had to actually work on my answer to include being an audiophile. Like someone announcing ‘I am an alcoholic.’ This isn’t a good situation. It’s one I am starting to think about how to change.”.

The responses to his blog, primarily from audiophiles, confirm that audiophiles are on the run. Commenter after commenter report that they feel like runaway slaves seeking the solace of the Underground Railroad.

One commenter notes, “I used to spend quite a bit of time at diyAudio website, but these days, it just isn’t the same – there’s just so much ready disapproval and criticism for the ‘extreme builders’ – very disappointing.”

Another comment put it best, I believe, noting that the term “audiophile = lover of sound. It does not equate to a person who fetishizes equipment, although many people might conflate the two. Sure, pretty things and great engineering are nice, but I judge sound best by closing my eyes; it’s about the sound. Embrace the term audiophile.”

I am not an audiophile myself, but several members of our CE Pro staff are, and many, many integrators are. Indeed, for some, it was their love of audio that drove them into this industry.  For some integrators, you can also attach videophile concerns to this same conversation.

So what is the posture to take with a client who shows disdain at high-performance audio gear? Do you chuckle and pile on or defend audiophiles?

Make sure to RSVP to the free CE Pro breakfast discussion at CES on Thursday, January 9 at 8 a.m. at the Venetian Resort and Hotel in Las Vegas where high-performance audio will be the topic of discussion. Space is limited so reserve your seat today.

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  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at jknott@ehpub.com

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