un-becoming an audiophile

Yes, the title is what is sounds like.

I remember long ago, as a boy, I used to be able to enjoy music without picking apart a track. is the bass tight? is the midrange clear and life-like? is the treble resolution spot on? What about imaging/sound stage?

Most people have this very same superpower - not being an audiophile. They can play a song from the worst earbuds, laptop speakers, or even computer speakers - and enjoy the music; even sing along. They aren’t thinking about "how it sounds" or scrutinizing the audio quality. Actually, they couldn’t care less. They can spend their time on other life pursuits and don’t feel a need to invest big money (or much money at all) in the hi-fi hobby.

Any psychologists or scientists in the building? (please no Amir @amir_asr ) since you are neither! ...despite the word "science" being in your domain name - audio science review.

Please, I beg you. Help me get away from this hobby.

Imagine - being able to enjoy all of your favourite music - while still achieving that dopamine rush, along with serotonin, and even oxytocin - the bonding hormone, which can be released while listening to songs with deep emotional messages, or love songs.

We’re very much like food critics or chefs in a sense. We want the best of something (in this case, audio) I’m sure michelin star chefs face the same thing in their own right...can’t enoy or even eat the food unless it’s up to a certain standard.

When we audiophiles want to listen to music, we often play it on a resolving system, so as to partake in a a "high-end" listening experience. We often pick apart music and fault the audio components in our system, cables etc. All of this takes away from the experience of enjoying music as a form of art/entertainment. It has been said that some famous artists don’t even own a high-end audio system.

I gained a great deal of wisdom of from the documentary - Greek Audiophile. In it, we have audiophiles from all walks of life. Their families think they’re crazy for spending all this money on audio. They say it sounds "nice" or "real" but still can’t justify it.

I think it’s all in the brain. If we can reset our brains (or me at least) I can still enjoy music without needing a great system for it.

- Jack



Good thread, and it describes my intermittent struggle. The yin and the yang. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does the audio system exist to serve the music and is it the means to the end, which is listening to music? Or is the gear the goal? There is no wrong answer, and each varies with the individual. I remember stealing my older brothers' 45 rpm records and listening to them on my crap turntable in the basement (The Everly Brothers), and it was about the music. Then, 12 or 13 years old, lying on the floor between the speakers of my parents' big console hi-fi ("audio furniture") listening to Dionne Warwick (mom's records, which I still love) and The Association. It was always about the music in the beginning, and still is, I think. Music creates powerful emotions in me. 


I go through phases where I renew my subscription to Absolute Sound and get sucked into the black hole of looking at expensive gear I can’t afford but still fantasize over and against which I measure my own modest system. Or, gear that I can afford, thinking of change for its own sake, incremental improvements, And I find that sometimes diminishes my enjoyment of my system. And then I let my subscription lapse and occasionally read audio reviews online but mostly focus on listening to what I have and reprioritizing the music. The music has always been it for me though—the music is what got me into buying hi-fi gear in my teens and early twenties, to try and improve the experience of enjoying music in my home. I love live music too, though I hate big venue stadium concerts and the like. Personally, I love listening to artists in smaller clubs and more intimate venues, but not everyone plays those venues. I love being able to almost synthesize that experience at home.


I went to the audio show in Seattle last summer (after not going to shows for 20 years) and listened to up to million dollar systems, and I have to say it did not create too much envy. I’m able, in my golden years, to intellectualize it, knowing that if I had more money, I might spend more money (no, I would, to a point) but my frugality would hold the law of diminishing returns in check. The 80% that you spend to get that last 20%! I don’t fantasize about a million dollar system, but a $100-200k one, with the perfect listening room, would be awesome. If audio is one’s main pastime—considering what some people spend on cars and boats—that doesn’t seem to be an outrageous sum. $50k for a lifetime of pleasure? A bargain!

"Honey, it keeps me at home and we can do it together!"

Her: "Turn it down!"


I’ve known people who absolutely love music but are always chasing that last 10 or 20%. At some point, it’s important to be able to look at yourself honestly and wonder if you’re the dog at the dog track chasing that rabbit, which you will never catch. The finish line always gets moved. If the kids are going hungry or your spouse is threatening divorce because of the money and time you spend on your obsession (whatever it is)—re-think and re-balance your life. Obsessions can be unhealthy.


One thing that has fundamentally changed my listening habits and perspective is my subscription to ROON (with Tidal). I have discovered more new music and artists in the last 2 years than I have in the previous 20, and it’s been glorious. I highly recommend it. It has made me refocus on the music, and again the system is just the tool for enjoyment. I can also enjoy rocking out in the car or on the bluetooth speaker almost as much as listening to the "big rig" system, though it isn’t the same. Almost. My brain and memory kick in, I sing along, and add to the experience to fill in the gaps that the listening device doesn’t supply. The brain works like that. I’ve been told that many really good musicians don’t have exotic audio systems, because their brain supplies them with much of the music experience, augmented by their ears. Fascinating—people hear differently.

Happy listening and system building, and thanks for the thread!

I think the solution for you may be to go to live concerts. Your brain will focus on enjoying music, not sound. I find it hard not to listen to the music in a live concert. In my opinion, many audiophiles do not enjoy music and are shallow in their appreciation. Sound quality is an important but secondary concern.

Sorry it is like the Red Pill or a one way door.  No going back.  You are now a "made" man and there is no way out.   

Wow!! I've been "on the verge" of coming to the same conclusion, but never "got there". You have verbalized (and made real) what's been going on somewhere in the part of my brain that helps me come to rational-----heartfelt----conclusions. You have hit the nail on the head----so very simple----yet, I had been  subconsciously avoiding "going there". Thank you so very much-----free at last to simply enjoy the music---- then again, the reality is that I always was!!   

Nonsense, you don’t need any psychological or scientific help for your problem, probably philosophical approach would help. Audio itself implies feature of Quality, so you can’t separate that feature while you consuming audio information. Yes, I can agree that some times audio could become too fatigued for perception due to complicated high quality reproduction. If it bothering you too much and often, but you still want to enjoy tracks without picking them apart you can switch to phone listening or lyric reading.