This is the second in a series of posts about my realization that I have become an audiophile. The prior post examined why I think of myself as an audiophile now.

What does it mean, to me, to be an audiophile?

So, I’m an audiophile now. What does that even mean? Am I just an overexcited consumer with enough disposable income to blow a lot of money on headphones? Hopefully there is more to it than that.

A lot of people, when talking about speakers or headphones, preface their comments with “I’m not an audiophile, but…” They do so out of humility, to admit their own limitations of hearing, and their own lack of experience discerning good sounding speakers from mediocre ones. What it is really about, however, is saying that you are not a snob. I used to do that, too. But I’ve given myself leeway to put myself in the audiophile camp, despite my lack of ear training and my lack of sophisticated acoustical measuring equipment. I want to take the term “audiophile” back from the snobs.

I call myself an audiophile now because I love sound. I love sound so much that I listen to music hours and hours each day. I love sound so much that I will listen to types of music I didn’t like before—EDM, hip-hop, country, standards, soundtracks—just because they sound good. I love sound so much I will spend large—but not obscene or unlimited—amounts of money on decent equipment.

My love of sound itself is a relatively new development. While I have loved music as long as I can remember, what drove that love was always the melody, the song structure, the lyrics, and the performance—all the normal things people enjoy about music. The production, on the other hand, was not important to me. In fact, over-produced recordings turned me off, because studio slickness betrayed, in my opinion, the authenticity of the music.

Now, I think differently. I admire the craft of studio engineers in a way I never appreciate before. Some recordings just sound great, and that is part of the pleasure of listening to them. Similarly, some singers have have beautiful voices, and it doesn’t matter if they are singing the same old songs (ahem, standards): the sound of their voices brings life to the music and helps make it worthwhile to listen to.

To me, being an audiophile is about appreciating the distinction between the sound and the music, and deriving pleasure from it, far more than it is about spending vast amounts of money on expensive equipment, or believing the hokum perpetrated by high-end audio equipment manufacturers and sellers.