The difference between an Audiophile and a Stereophile?

While this question may just be Phylostrabation, I think it does raise a question that many are ambigous about.  

I think an Audiophile is about the sound, the mastering of the recording, the frequency seperation of instriments and clearity of the sound.  The SN ratio, the EQ of the room, the type of music is not the topic of discussion.  A given brand may be admired, and drooled over, but only because the means justifies the end, the sound.

On the other ear, a Stereophile, is likely stimulated by the sound, but possibly more by the jewelry of the equipment.  The philostrabation for a Stereophile is the discussion about the toys, the gear, the looks of the system, possible brand names, the absolute beauty of the rack!  Both types enjoy a good looking rack! but how much will they pay for a given toy, or visual thrill? Can one justify the expense? Does anyone even need to justfy the expense, maybe to their spouse, but otherwise? 

One way we can adress this question is to ask does the blue light of a McIntosh excite you? How about the unity of the components being stacked in a manner that is visually amazing?  The size of a floor speaker? The fame of a name? Don't get me wrong, I will bragg, and enjoy names, I talked to Bob Carver on the phone once. He fixed up his original CD player I sent him for me with new chips so it would track better. That is like an audience with The Pope to some.  As well, I have met and discussed a few things with Doug Dale at Coda and such. 

I first fell in love with Hi Fi in late 70's because of the feel of a smooth volume knob turning up "Hey 19",  But I digress.

To me the sound of Miles Davis doing Bitches Brew song "Miles runs the Vodo" with John Mcglaughin Herbie Hancock, and others is more than amazing, it is life it's self.  Providing the song is flying out of my Legacy Focus 20/20 speakers powered by the Coda 11.5  Class A amp, or better.  While  I'm not lost on the Dark Side of the Moon, but will suggest Steely Dan is quite undeniable.  I will end with, "Kashmir" and just ask, what the hell is better than sound itself?   

As Ravi Shankar said," Nada Brahma".  


"Stereophile, is likely stimulated by the sound, but possibly more by the jewelry of the equipment".  Sorry but this smacks of elitism.  Maybe we could turn this around and suggest your Stereophile is able to appreciate the beauty of the equipment while also being able to feel, enjoy and understand everything on a musical level.  Something the poor Audiophile is unable to do.  😂

Reasonable question but a stretch to try to find some minute difference that I’m not interested in. On the other hand, it’s a post that probably doesn’t have a better location.

McIntosh is gear that I grew up with but don’t own. I do have the desire to find a nice vintage set, but it wouldn’t be for clarity or soundstage. Just the tone.

As long as it measures well.  I can't tell a difference between how anything sounds without good measurements. 😉

I’m someone who loves music and enjoys making it a passion as well as a hobby, so I guess I can be either or both or maybe neither.


I doubt anyone here is neither.  I think both are present in most, but a few are lost to just one side.  I don't claim either is better, nor do I deny having both.  Just asking the question to dilute the digital blindness and the emotional excess of the jewelry worshiper.  Like an amp balance knob, center is good in most rooms. 

It's one point that many "Files" here haven't asked themselves and denial is useless, admit it, sexy turning knobs and silky woven cables are really cool.  But the final thing is the delivery of the music as clear as the mic's captured it.   

Many years ago, I walked into The Record Collector in LA (before he moved locations). At the time, I was still buying classical LPs. He had some big ol' speakers from the original "golden age"- like EV Patricians or big Bozaks. One was in one area of the store and through an archway to another part of the store was another. I said, somewhat jokingly, "you know your stereo image in compromised." The owner (I think his name was Sandy?) said "bah, stereo. It's a gimmick."

In the end Stereo has 2 sides.   I like "Bigtwin's" comment.  As for Stereo being a gimmick, the gimmick is likely in the mind of the beholder. 

I can be a sucker for both a good song, and a $75,000. system.

Interesting posts.

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To me Stereophile is a magazine about high end audio.

But I do think the question of what is an audiophile is an interesting one. Often folks claim to be audiophiles but are clearly not. I think audiophiles are folks dedicated to achieving the absolute sound (yes, what that is varies).

Often, back in the 80’s definitions centered around one’s priorities. Definitions included “your system cost more than your car.” That has always been true for me.


My first loan was for an amplifier… about three times more expensive as my car. This was never intended to be a superficial gauge. It had nothing to do with conspicuous consumption.  It assumed that there were magazines like The Absolute Sound and Stereophile laying all over your house and you spent most of you waking moments listening to music and trying to find ways to improve the sound of your system. This meant your social life was limited, you were probably a geek. Outside of work, audio was your pursuit.


We always joked about audiophilia being a disease. It has always been a wonderful  compulsion. My partner of 37 years always jokes about audio dollars being a different currency… the rate of exchange being about 100 times different than regular dollars. I will buy a interconnect for $3,000 with about the same amount of reservation for spending that amount of money as a $30 trinket for the house. The research I would put into the interconnect would be massive… it would not be impulse purchase… but making the investment would be as difficult as something else for $30.


There was none of this “spending money to spend money” BS. I might say that part of the reason I was successful in my career was because I just loved chasing the best possible sound. 

A real audiophile is not into conspicuous consumption, but into a true passion for the best sounding system… well over towards to fanatic side. For the purpose of enjoyment. I listen to my system about three - four hours a day. There have been about six people outside my partner who have seen / heard my system in the last twenty years. It is for my own personal satisfaction.

“As long as it measures well.”  I hope this is a joke. IMO, measurements mean nothing in regards on how something will sound. It’s been proven many times in stereophile (since they are the only 1’s that do measurements) that if something measures good can sound bad and a piece that measure bad can sound good. 
Use your ears, your room, and use your existing equipment to determine if something will sound good

Well said hdprentice,  You basically explained the formula for value of sound and the pursuit of that.  My guess is you are both, but not the Magazine.  Someone that knows themself owns themself!  Thank you for your indulgence.   


Nada Brahma ! Namaste, and some fidelity too. 

Stereophile is a registered trademark. Audiophile is is the word people actually use for what was once called a hi-fi nut.

Thanks for mentioning Nada Brahma - I consider myself well read, but have never heard of that. I always like learning something new! So thank you.

To get back to your original question, the best sound I ever heard was the first "High Quality" system I ever heard....a Marantz 2035, original Advent Speakers and a Pioneer turntable with a Shure cartridge, connected with zip cord and Radio Shack RCA's, playing a well-worn Doobie Brother's album, Stampede.

It wasn't the system, it was the music. Started my love of music. I now have a system probably 20 times "better" now and yet I can't replicate the sound of that magic day. There's more to music then equipment.


Ultimately, whatever we call ourselves, both stereo and audio-philes need a medium to trip their respective dopamine drop. That's music. And no, its not,  with all due respect, just "sound". That's just not enough.  Like, no way the great gear I own will make a "sound" recording of say,  my gardener thrashing my front yard anywhere near  listenable compared to any decent produced track of even the worst musical recording.  Yes, its sound, but sound that has been altered into something you'll listen to, and, played, forgive me, from almost any kind of gadget on up to the mighty heights of our blessed bank-owned contraptions.  We chase our tails trying to capture lightning in a bottle. For what, I ask?  For the music, I answer.   I know, I'm spoiled on the gear too, but look how many of us here can agree on which setup  does it all. Yep, not many.  Those intrepid non-audiophiles who do dare to visit me and are not too intimidated to venture into the listening zone rarely ask about the gear, (yes, they are aghast, and numb before the wanton exhibition of it all and embarrassed for my poor (literally), spouse), but even they know what its really all about. They just ask to hear their favorite music. I'm happy to oblige.  

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I think they are the same.... an audiophile and stereophile will buy the best sounding and best looking stereo equipment they can afford (depending on the amount they feel comfortable spending). I'm with the responder who thinks you are overthinking this and really, does it matter.

If I built a great sounding speaker made out of plywood and roofing nails, would the audiophile buy it?

gs5556,  Great question, exactly what I meant when I asked this over thinking question. My bet to your question is maybe an audiophile buy it, but not a Stereophile.  The Stereophile may only buy jewelry looking equipment. Yet, the Audiophile is about the sound, and if your plywood box reproduces a piano clearly, then yes, he/she would buy it. If too ugly, they would cover it with a fine fabric having Beethoven or Zappa on it.  


Are the nails made of OCC single crystal cold drawn stainless? 

 Are they @rkenjit  approved?

Cryo treated cables create a warm sound?  Now I'm being nasty, somebody stop me. 

@gregchick0   Your comment "The Stereophile may only buy jewelry looking equipment. Yet, the Audiophile is about the sound," again, smacks of elitism.  And I might add it's not an attractive characteristic.  The inference suggests that those of us who appreciate the form as well as the function are somehow not as astute.  Where is the manufacturer of any product that does not consider how the product looks.  And then why shouldn't the consumer appreciate that and admire what has been brought forth?  Being able to see the beauty in something in no way takes away from one's ability to understand and appreciate all other facets.  Let it go.

I hear your message, I am sure others do as well. My question is only that. As Sonny and Cher sang, "And the beat goes on".  

Currently my entire neighborhood is being cryo treated by nature and it does kind of sound better, so I suggest covering cables with snow. A "stereophile" is committed to 2 channel listening, while the opposite is actually a "monophile." An audiophile is somebody with working ears that allow sound to enter the brain. An audiophilliac is into dead music. I hope that clears some if this up. Also, over the last 50 years of so I don’t think I’ve ever bought a piece of audio gear for its looks, as I’ve rejected some good looking things if they sounded unworthy of my attention, so there’s that. Same with musician gear.

Audiophile is one channel short?

What about a quadrophile?  Or, indeed, a quintaphile, the home cinema listener?

Seriously, these terms are incapable of describing a hi-fi hobbyist in alternative terms.  Any such connotation is 'all in the mind'.

This post is unuseful.

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