What does being an audiophile mean?
Audiophile music, audiophile headphones, audiophile cables, audiophile chairs, you name it, there is an audiophile version of it. It reminds me of the term “gaming”. Well, when you think about it, the two are quite similar.
I’ve always like music. Ever since I was a little kid, I loved jamming to some radio hits and loved the concept of music. However, due to my age, I wasn’t really “into music”, I was a kid, it was jut music to me. Of course, I had my music idols and preferences, but it wasn’t all that serious. What I loved is actually jamming to music while playing games, those two were always tied together for me.
But what makes one an audiophile?
See, when I first started looking into buying myself a pair of headphones, I was pretty young, a teenager. The first branded set of headphones I purchased were the Sony MDR-V55. At the time in the Netherlands, I remember going to Media Markt almost every single weekend. I loved spending time observing new technology. I remember spending hours upon hours researching which headphone I wanted to buy. An amateur at the time, I relied on big media and reviewing websites, watching YouTube reviews, and in general reading people’s experience with the said set of cans. I’m not sure, I think I paid for them around €50, but this particular headphone is the one that started it all for me. At that time, Sennheiser’s Momentum line was all the rage, it was THE THING. I also remember laying my eyes on the Philips Cityscape Downtown’s. Besides the Momentum lineup, it was also the era of the Audio Technica M50’s.
Besides, IEMs weren’t really “a thing” back then. Earphones were, for example, there was a lot of hype around some budget Philips earphones, but I remember being the most intrigued by the Sennheiser CX300-II Precision. Long story short, I ended up getting the Brainwavz Delta’s.
At that time, I never considered myself as an audiophile. I was just a curious teen who was fascinated with technology. Since my memory is a little muddy, I don’t remember everything clearly, the timeline isn’t that clear to me, but I do remember being blown away by the Sonos lineup. I’m not certain which model it was, but I just remember hearing a clean oomph and a gorgeous sound coming out of it. Other than the Sonos, there was always one party speaker playing in the store — you know those with the red button that makes the bass go crazy? Yes, those ones. One time a Sony party speaker was playing, and I pressed the button and it was way too loud. I was immediately struck by anxiety and tried to turn it off.
Was I an audiophile back then? I’m not sure. I know for a fact that my true intention was getting the most out of my money. For example, when I bought the Delta’s, I was not looking for a specific sound or anything of that nature. I wanted to make sure that they would last and serve me well. It’s not as though I was buying them to listen to music specifically. I just wanted something better than the buds that come with your phone. I needed a daily driver.
The point that changed everything for me is when I bought the Sennheiser HD598’s. I spent hours, weeks, months researching. Once again, I was passionate about getting the most out of my money, but this was something different for me. At this time, I remember I was looking specifically for an audiophile set of cans. I was not stupid, I was wise and spent time on forums. This is what mattered the most. I was not relying on mainstream media and reviewers. But let’s not forget the main feature of the HD598: open-back. Oh yes, it was my first open-back headphone and I loved every bit of it. This was a big purchase for me. I actually grabbed it on a discount, for something around
€140 (if I recall correctly). Most importantly, I was truly happy and fulfilled. My craze about audio gear only got worse after that. Few years down the line, I remember considering buying a full speaker setup, but ultimately scrapping the plan due to the fact that I was not in an environment where I could use speakers.
Does buying expensive audio gear make you an audiophile? Does listening to vinyl make you an audiophile? Does buying expensive cables make you an audiophile?
The short answer: Yes.
What matters the most is the intent. Why are you buying the expensive audio gear? Why are you listening to vinyl? Why are you buying expensive audio cables? If the answer is to get a more enjoyable listening experience, then that’s what I would consider an audiophile.
It’s not the act of buying expensive audio gear that makes you an audiophile. You don’t become an audiophile when you purchase and listen to vinyl. You aren’t an audiophile because you bought expensive audio cables. It’s not a Netflix subscription, you cannot purchase an audiophile qualification card. You don’t become a car enthusiast because you spent a million dollars on a car. Likely, you are one, but the sole act of purchasing it doesn’t make you a car enthusiast. You could be an investor or a collector. In the same way you can’t call yourself an audiophile just because you purchased something.
What I consider the rawest form of an audiophile is an individual who truly puts music first. The person who is passionate about listening to music. That’s someone who has an emotional attachment to music. Now, this person is the one who might want to get a specific emotion out of the music, and he/she can only achieve it by hearing a specific sound characteristics. As we all know, different sound characteristics are achieved with different audio gear.
A person with a pair of $3 earbuds can be an audiophile. A person with a $100k speaker setup can be an audiophile. A person spending $10k on speaker cables can be an audiophile. There are no rules, it’s the intention that matters. I am sure we can all agree that someone who is dropping a large amount of money on speaker cables is doing so because he is getting the previously mentioned specific sound characteristic that evokes the previously mentioned specific emotion. This is the concept of an audiophile to me. There is no reason to argue whether or not it is sane or insane to spend thousands of dollars on cables or other audio gear. What matters is whether or not this
person is getting satisfied on an emotional level, whether or not this purchase allows him to enjoy listening to music more. I support the idea that other people should not care about how much money you spend on your satisfaction.
With this being said, there is no bold box that states what makes one an audiophile or not, there are no rules. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is if YOU are enjoying your music and audio setup. Some of us don’t need all that much, while others are determined to go to the absolute extremes to satisfy their ears.