Why are audiophiles perceived as being wackos?

I have been pursuing this wonderful hobby of high end stereo equipment and music for almost 30 years. I do consider myself a passionate audiophile who loves to listen to music on a daily basis. The reason for this post is because it has been my experience that the great majority of people who do not pursue this hobby think of audiophiles as being wackos/screwballs because of the amount of time, money, and passion they put towards their systems. I find it very interesting that individuals who spend tremendous amounts of money and time pursuing esoteric tastes such as wines, watches, coins, etc, are considered connoisseurs or aficionados with a serious passion that is often respected even if it is not the other person's cup of tea. Another example would be people who love high end cars/boats who read all the magazines, go to the shows and invest large sums of money to purchase and tweak their cars or boats to get the last bit of ultimate performance out of their prized possessions. So I don't believe the negative viewpoint towards passionate audiophiles revolves around the amount of money that they can invest in their equipment. So my question for all you GON members is what would be your explanation for people outside our hobby having such a negative or condescending attitude towards our passion, where they infrequently would not have the same attitude towards other people's hobbies and passionate but unique pursuits? It would be a pleasure to hear about your experiences and what your explanation would be for this phenomena towards our hobby.
I wouldn't concern myself with the opinions of non-philes. They just don't have the apreciation for the finer treasures hidden in the sense of hearing. I kinda understand their viewpoint when I examine my opinion of people that raise horses. They certainly don't care about my opinion. The difference to me is our passion doesn't have to potential of dying, regardless of investment.
When faced with someone who questions my fervent pursuit of an illusive specter of happiness through some external means (as most of us do in so many different ways), i will usually seek out some common ground on which we may meet and enjoy life, rather than that on which we differ. Music is a universal language and is often an easy subject to find mutual enjoyment with anyone, as opposed to focusing on the gear (which I really don't like to do anyway). If common ground obviously wasn't there in music I'd just move on to something else. In the same turn I wouldn't attempt to discount anyone's opinion just because they don't understand something about me. Nor would I close myself off to the possibility that there was something I could learn from their disagreement. If the interacction was obviously not constructive I might consider a simple statement like, "...thank you for sharing." and leave it at that.

As a side note I think that some folks (not all) who obsess about various pursuits as you've described, use the pursuit not only to 'define' themselves in some way, but also to 'elevate' themselves above others through their obsession. This kind of attitude may naturally lead to dissension among those who did not indulge in a similar pursuit and perhaps did not appreciate being looked down upon from such lofty heights by someone whose poop stinks just like theirs does.

Hi, I understand this it is because some others will not think past their own needs and wants. I can see other peoples hobbies and respect them. Can remember years ago selling a car to buy a great pair of Quad speakers, and getting a lot more pleasure out of the speakers than the car.Any money put in the system has been well worth it. How many things can you say that about? Can remember many nights after a bad day of work,or? coming home to some nice sounds and a couple of beers and having the day turn around, it's cheaper than a shrink and works better.
Interesting topic, and the point made above about finding common ground is awfully smart.

I wonder if some people can not hear the difference in a basic vs super high end system, whereas auto performance has a more measurable aspect: 0-60 times, HP, torque and so on, and watches are consdered investements in beautiful (usually rare) works of art. So because nonaficionado can or does does not readily hear the difference (or maybe is not open minded enough to hear it), or maybe he doesn't feel as strongly about music as you do- he's left with the impression that the a-phile is into the hobby for "prestige" status, or are outright delusional, so they naturally would be dismissive.
A great thread--and very well stated Teajay. Now for me, I look at people that collect many things and just scratch my head and believe they are the screwballs. For example, I enjoy good wine, but can't understand those that collect more wine than they, their neighbors, friends, relatives and business associates can drink in their lifetimes--particularly since most wines do not have indefinite storage times even if you go through the expense of having them re-corked.* I don't understand people that own boats that only use them once a year or less. I also don't understand the audiophile that has a total collection of 20 CDs (10 of which are demo discs).

I guess people can understand others enjoying boating, or driving, but may not relate to sitting and listening to music that is reproduced (rather than live). Most people once they've experienced a high-end system get it--or at least can understand why an audiophile would enjoy listening to music, but some never do.

I own a high end system because I use it almost every day. I love listening to music and the better it's reproduced the more I enjoy it. Not that much different from a race car I suppose. The faster it goes, the better it handles, the more the driver enjoys the experience.

*While I made that comment on people that own more wine than they could ever know what to do with--it dawned on me I know audiophiles, that if they played each CD and LP they had sequentially and continuously they could not get through their collection in their lifetime if they lived another 50 years. Somehow I don't have a problem with that.
There are two reasons:

1) unlike wine, watches, bespoke clothing, high end boats, designer mineral water, italian sheets, sub zero refrigerators, viking stoves, modern art, luxury automobiles, dualit toasters, cashmere blankets and expensive coffee - just to name a few things...

...high end audio is marketed BY geeky audiophiles and TO geeky audiophiles

(God love "geeky" audiophiles, by the way. I have been one for 25 years now.)

Our hobby has not been successfully marketed to affluent people who simply appreciate fine things.

I continue to have an obviously contrarian view that a $30,000 CD player, for example, is more of a luxury item than say, a hobbyist's necessity.

But there is no luxury goods cachet associated with audio.

2) Also, this hobby requires some degree of cultural literacy.

And people who don't really care about music (a growing segment of the population?) are unlikely to prioritize a big investment in audio.

Of course, genuinely appreciating impressionist pictures (and even enjoying good wine) also requires a degree of cultural literacy, but even if you really dont understand it, you can still hang it on your wall (or serve it at your dinner parties) and show your friends how rich you are.

This could happen to audio one day, but not until someone changes the model.

In the meantime, we are all weird.

God bless audiophiles and have a nice day.
I don't know why audiophiles are perceived to be screwballs--if they are.

Unable to speak for "them",I'll say that someone with a passion for something,as long as it is not socially destructive has my respect.

Perhaps someone who takes the time and makes the effort to play a musical instument or write a novel or put together an audio system is a screwball--who's to say? But I don't think that is a bad thing.
here is something to think about. of all the hobbies mentioned in this thread, ours is the only one not growing. in fact, more music is listened to on pc's alone than all the audio systems(low,mid, or hi end) combined. any growth numbers are coming from home theatre. movies evidently ARE the new rock and roll
one more example....if it wasn't for nora jones being classified as jazz, sales of this music catagory would be smaller than someone's paper route
I think Cwlondon has nailed a big part of it - high end is marketed by audiophiles to audiophiles and not to the greater masses. Coupled with the fact that, aside from a college students dorm room or apartment, which also has stellar furniture such as milk crates and cement block and pine board bookshelves, audio equipment typically doesn't appear in normal home decor.

Most of the other "finer things" fit nicely in the home, garage or "lifestyle". Think about it, many people who drink fine wine do so because it is expensive and they can. In other words a "status" or "lifestyle" thing. Eventually, some may even come to appreciate it for what it is and stop buying just the most expensive stuff and start buying just the best stuff. Rolexes and BMW's are as much statements of "I've made it" as anything else. Even stamp collections laid out on a desk in the "library" are a fashion statement.

I live in one of the more affluent counties in the US and, when looking at real estate, seldom run into dedicated listening rooms or meaningful stereo equipment of any kind. Indeed, I was told by a realtor friend of mine that he advises people with large speakers and electronics out in the open to put them away when selling their house to make it more attractive to potential purchasers.

Contrast that to home theaters, however, and now you have something with the cachet of fine wine, boats, and other luxury items that fit attractively into a house, garage or marina. Even if unused, they are "status symbols" that are easily marketed to the affluent or anyone that aspires thereto. They even buy expensive/good equipment, even if they don't know the names, because they want the best.

Unfortunately, high end audio was never effectively marketed in a way that made it a must have in ones house in the 60's and 70's. For stereo, the "best" is often small and unobtrusive, which plays to Bose and not high quality sound reproduction. For home theater, the "best" is often big and ostentatious. Too bad nobody got it right 30 years ago.
Who? Me?
If car buffs thought they could increase acceleration by Cryo treating their spark plugs, they would get the same treatment.
Perhaps I'm lucky, but my friends are tactful enuf not to tell me that I'm a whacko because I 'collect' audio equipment or music. Maybe you need new a new class of friends. :-) The assumption that there are a lot of folks who think we are whackos may be nothing more than collective paranoia with a bit of guilty conscience thown in.
We all have our likes and dislikes. One man's passion is another man's apathy.
But anyone who ridicules another persons passion, lacks a bit of social

So it's best to go by the old Native American saying:
"Do not criticize your neighbor, until you've walked a mile in his shoes."
This way, you're a mile away, and you have their shoes!
I believe that it is a more personal and intimate hobby....When was the last time a beautiful lady was swooned back to your place after telling her that you just bought a new pair of B&W 801's !!! ??? But, and I'm just generalizing here, if you told her you just bought a new Porsche.....well that's different. It is more of a specialzed hobby that is between you and the creation of music through these components. It's inward not outward....for most Audiophiles. Then I love when you get the my ''boom box'' sounds just a good as your stereo....it's all the same. Yes, and so is riding in a Pinto vs. that Porsche.....It's all about the music and what music does for you and to you
Good one Rosstaman! As i sit here wondering whether it's wacko or whacko I'm reminded of 25 years ago taking up bicycle racing. Eat, ride, sleep. Travel all night to race and then back home to lie around like a deadman. People wondering why your legs are shaven. Funny suntans, 10 bikes and tons of tires, tubes, ect. in the garage. Oh no, you guys are towards the normal end of thing. Gotta go, if I leave my rca's hooked up too long the government takes over my tuner!
Wine is wine.
A car is a car.
A boat is a boat.
A watch is a watch.
Coins are, well you know, coins.

High fidelity is an ersatz.

Do you know of any collector working hard on the ultimate artificial vanilla extract collection?

Hi-fi is not the real thing.

We call it music among ourselves, but musicians know better.
We need a new class of friends? That is a "weak" statement at best.
I feel Hi-End Audio is the way it is because of what it revolves around...music. It is not that we are crazy, alot are though, and it is not what we spend in time, money, and effort, it is becaue most dont really listen to music, they hear it but dont listen, a song to most is a few or more minutes and perhaps enjoyable but then another comes right after and so on... the Marketing is also true, I dont know how many times you have listened to music with someone who keeps asking you every 3 seconds "did you hear that?!" for a casual consumer, or average friend listening to gear this is going to leave a bad taste.
I never use the word Audiophile in the real world and shy away from it in general, I am a music lover and I like to shop for, hear and read about hi-end gear. but to be an Audiophile you have to really have more technical chops then I do, you have to know how things work, how to fix them if they dont and like to open up your components and tinker, seeing how I dont know how to really fix, and I dont ever take a look inside my stuff I am going to pass on the tittle, and I feel alot of others should be smart enough to also.
Pursuing anything illusory is not good for you ,me, or society.Pbb knows what any awakened person knows which is...it's all a dream and something inside us wants real and can't figure out how to get it so we keep trading this for that caught in a trap.This site serves as a comisseration station for justification.The entire human race is filled with such outposts.It is in our nature but not in our best interest...like war,overpopulating or whatever you can think of.Drinking is fun too but overdone causes irreperable damage.By its very nature audiophiles are excess prone.It is built in to the paradigm for which it must thrive and feed off of us.
Cwlondon has it correct in that marketing plays a large role in creating wants/needs. Our culture is absolutely inundated with purveyors who influence and anticipate our every need. Material items that were previously uneeded or not even thought about suddenly become necessities!
I can just about guarantee you that if a huge marketing campaign equating Dale Earnhardt Jr., Nascar, and beautiful women with high end audio were undertaken the masses would begin to see high end audio as a cachet item, and perhaps a necessary possession. This type of campaign spit out at the masses in endless repetition over many months and years would result in the mass delusion of believeing high end audio as necessary as 4,000 square foot houses, $40,000 cars, $20,000 boats, Budweiser beer, pizza, Pepsi, etc., ad nauseum. If you couldn't afford it now you could certainly aspire to it. Hell, they could even set up mortgage like accounts for those that wanted $100,000 systems, 4 or 5% 30 year loans for stereo equipment. Every house on the block could be shaking from the boom, boom, boom from 30" subwoofers. The sudden realization hits me that perhaps I wouldn't like this world ;-), I think I may have to find another obession!
An audiophile is (almost) definable as someone willing to go to great lengths/expenses to achieve improvements in sound quality that are very subtle (compared to, say, the difference between hearing a junk "shelf system" literally on a shelf and hearing the same system properly set up in a correct configuration for actual stereophonic sound reproduction) - and in some cases, frankly, of dubious reality. Moreover, many of us obviously enjoy some sort of element of wackiness, whenever we proudly describe to others these aspects of our system (e.g. my "audiophile grade" electrical outlet).

Even if *music* has the universal importance that many audiophiles somewhat optimistically suppose it does, that is obviously not the same thing as *audio* having any importance. For most people, the job of an audio system is simply to produce a *recognizeable tune*. That's it. If they can hear enough to be able to hum along, the audio system is doing its job, and doing it entirely. The concept of doing it better is almost meaningless to them, and so the concept of spending large amounts of time or money to make it better is bound to seem bizarre.

In my experience, fairly few people have ever, even one time in their life, used an audio system for its theoretical purpose, to create a *sonic illusion* that you are hearing a musical event in some other acoustic space. I don't know how many would have any sort of "revelation" if they did, but until they do, we can all expect to be thought of as wackos.

Maybe because most words that end with "...phile" typically describe "wackos" of some sort. ;-)
Pbb's explanation that "High fidelity is an ersatz", as convenient as it seems, may be a pretty good insight. Re-creating music via high fidelity equipment is rather sort of an ongoing science experiment to which there is no conclusive answer. There is no one definitive solution and all results are highly subjective. Evaluation involves extended and focused listening - and not necessarily to music but to 'sound quality'. How frustrating and cumbersome it must seem!

The appeal of a high performance car or a fine wine seems rather straightforward by comparison.

There is one audio manufacturer that stands out as breaking the audio = geek rule - Bang & Olufsen. It's a very high prestige product and it's even an instrument of seducing women. But audiophiles are generally not interested in it because it represents poor value in terms of sound quality for the dollar and you can't tinker with it. It is first a work of art and a visual statement. It plays music rather well, too, and can set quite an ambience it the right minimalist space.

I think the level of geekiness depends on how obsessive one gets about gear (how much time one spends switching out power cords) - vs. - buying excellent, unobtrusive gear and letting music enrich your life.
Because they seek to justify their existance, rather than just existing. I can't beleive there are audiophiles who try to justify their purchases to their friends.

What would'philes think of me if I tried to justify the purchase of a $400 bottle of wine, or $700 worth of wallpaper for my 10'x14' office?

They do not have the point of reference to be able to understand audiophilia.

Or maybe it's just because it sounds too much like pedophile!?!
Most people have no true understanding or passion for music they accept what is shoved down their throats by the radio stations. They are satisfied simple beats and catchy tunes and really do not listen to the little things or take time to think about the fact that music is is about heart and soul.They just cannot understand why someone would be so passionate about listening to music since they really can't hear what we do.
Hey Eldartford, glad you set those silly folks at NASCAR straight on cryo process.

Cryogenic processing is now being used by NASCAR and other racing teams. They have taken advantage of this treatment to reduce wear of their engine components and increase horsepower which are important to their crossing the finish line. Some of the engine components treated include blocks, push rods, valves, camshafts, brake rotors, crankshafts, heads, and even spark plugs and spark plug wires.
Before I discovered high end audio for myself, I used to poke fun at this hobby a lot, 2 of my college roomates were into it, mainly because of their dads, and I just could not grasp the concept of $2200 dollar interconnects, separate transporta and DACs, and so forth. Plus, my image of the hobby was very sedate and self-indulgent - rich guys buying lots of pompous gear, lame "audiophile music", and sitting alone in their dedicated listening room. I know now that that was a generaization based on snippets of conversations, and little bits of my roomates' Stereophiles that I skimmed through. There are active aspects of this hobby, such as DIY stuff and music collecting, but I think a lot of people see us as that guy (there's definitely a male bias) in the dark room, in the bath robe, listening to some smooth jazz, scribbling notes about requency response. Now where'd I put that Kenny G CD? Oh it's right here in the pocket of my bath robe - couldn't see it in the dark...
I can't say why, but one thing is clear to me. Audiophiles grunt and groan on and on about how music is the thing, and the fact is, there are far more music lovers who are not audiophiles than who are, regardless of their budgets and sound systems.

Music love does not demand, or even much repay, high end audio. This hobby fetichizes equipment and n-th degree of perceived sonic (not musical) improvement. That does not mean it is not cool and worthwhile, but it does mean that you should expect it to be for esoteric geeks, and should not be surprised when music lovers find us wierd, and to miss the point. Which we is, and we do. Or rather, given how most audiophile package their osession, it looks like we do.

I'm a wine lover, and I can attest that the difference in how good the wine is, between mediocre and really good wine, is huge, just as the difference between how good the difference in sound between mediocre and really good systems is huge. But the difference between how good the music is from the mediocre and really good systems is not very big. But there are similar kinds of excess is wine connoiseurship too, where rarity, pedigree, cachet, prestige, and esoterica are what is really the driving force, but how good the taste of the wine is is given as a lame excuse for all the fuss. There's another relevant parallel too. Wine in wine for wine's sake often gets ripped out of its context (the meal)and placed into another (the tasting, or on its own) in order to show itself off, just as audio in audio for audio's sake get ripped out of its basic context (listening to music)and put into another (listening to this or that particularly well engineered and produced recording, perhaps just a few bars of it, and/or in rapid a/b with some other component of recording), in order to show itself off.

If it's music you like, then the extra money and attention are geeky distractions. Not so if what you love is audio. But audiophiles pretend its about music. That's not to say they don't love music, or justify their each next excess on musical grounds; but the moving point is hi fi, not the music that moves one.

Compare watches. No watch collector would for a moment justify their time and money expenditure by citing how well their beloved possessions keep time. But audiophiles use the rhetoric of fidelity to *the music*, when it's really mostly about high end sound, which is a different, and I insist, lovely matter. But it's not the same as music. There's a reason musicians rarely have high end, big bucks systems. They here tunes, phrasings, rythms, passion. Audiophiles hear whether this speaker is more plangent than that, whether this amp has more slam than the other, or whether this turntable support gives greater imaging (a total audiophile/recording artifact) than this other one.

Don't misunderstand me. I love the audiophile set of aesthetic concerns. But don't confuse them with musical virtues. Those are available on just about any damned playback system in just about any format, as those of you who fell in love with music to trasistor radios, 8 tracks, early CDs or Ipods can attest.
A lot of people simply don't have the tolerance or patience to understand music. Most people look at a Porsche and get it - it looks cool and goes fast, easy concepts to grasp, and therefore popular. Music itself takes time to grasp, let alone the finer points of imaging, tonal balance, timbre accuracy, etc. Basically, what people don't understand they label as "wacko". And obviously, since we expend so much time, effort, and financial resource on what is perceived to be an unintelligible pastime, we are thought of as "wacko" too.

Come on, who spends $1K on a wire? Wackos, that's who...
One point I would make is that at least in my middle-class world, it is a mistake to think that most people have *any* hobby comparable to being an audiophile. Most people I know don't collect wine or watches or anything of the sort. They are busy saving for college for their kids, or retirement, or trying to figure out whether they really need two cars or not. So when they hear someone is spending $5,000 or $10,000 to do something that can be done reasonably well for $500, it seems, well, odd to them.
Audiophiles are percieved as wackos because we spend great sums of money to create music that can be reproduced for a lot less.What non-audiophiles do not know is the feeling of looking at your music collection and bringing any numbers of artists into your room for a thrilling illusion of the event,they do not get the rush.I know I do and the pleasure I get from that is priceless.If they do not understand tough s--t.
I know an audiophile who will tell me about a recent component he just got, a Moon Eclipse cd player for example. He tells me how extraordinary, incredible it sounds. A few days later, or a couple of weeks, he has sold the player on audiogon because he doesn't think it sounds that great anymore, and is telling me how great the new one he got sounds. Uh, what happened?

Is he really hearing something great, or is it great because it's new? Mentally, he has convinced himself it will sound great before he even hooks it up. Then when the excitement of "new" is gone, so is the great sound.

Sometimes he even listens to a whole song before he is in the back changing tubes, cables, etc.

While this is fine with me, different strokes you know, don't you think some people might find him a little strange.
Wildoats you are correct some audiophiles get a certain high from a new piece of equipment,when the high wears off it is back to the drawing board.But after 30 years of doing this you realize you can chase your tail all day so I buy this very expensive equipment try to match it carfully and live with it.But I do demo new products at home as they come out,if it is better than what I got and fits with the system,I make a change.
the only hobby i know of built on faith, not fact. faith that a copper wire that costs 2k comes from a different source(perhaps another planet) than one that is a few dollars. faith that the propriatary and licensed technology in all cd players is radically different (the cooler the player is). faith that we are trying to achieve the illusion of a live music performance by ordering the zebrawood finish. faith that all of the home audio pioneers and companies who championed affordible music for the masses are heritics. its no wonder most music lovers think we're readt for the purple kool aid.
Being a member here,has given me an outlet. I can chat with members whom have the same value system.---I expect none from the outside to understand, nor do I encourage any understanding.--You know;leading the horse to water___.Now my friend has a 50k "Monster*-Truck--(*pat.pending)--- HE IS wacko--(NOT). He does his thing ,I do mine. I'm sure his truck gives him as much pleasure;---.
Albertporter...Cryo is just a more extreme form of heat treatment that has long been used to modify metalurgical properties important to wear of mechanical parts such as those mentioned. That would not be "Wacko". Spark plugs?? Well I suppose that electrode wear might be relevant. But the wires?...no way.
Eldartford, why don't you take it up with NASCAR? Your the one that dragged spark plugs into the discussion. I simply posted the data.

I have been around NASCAR quite a bit, having done photography for both Joe Gibbs and Interstate Battery. In case your not familiar with Joe's Super Bowl record and the winning automobiles produced at Joe Gibbs Racing, he is a class act and (forgive me) I will accept his word and record over your (usual) negative remarks.
Albertporter...The link was interesting. However, it remains true that the mechanical parts cited are reasonable to try Cryo treating, but spark plugs, even in YOUR link, are mentioned with skepticism.

By the way, what is your definition of "negative". Seems to be "disagrees with Albert". Lighten up!
Why so much negativity? If everything associated with high-end audio is crap why participate in the hobby? Maybe we all need "happy pills". Or one of those intelligent chips...
A few additional comments...

Many audiophiles like to collect/trade gear to sample what is out there, either old classics or new cutting edge technology. Sort of like watch collectors...you can only wear one watch at a time, but each is unique!

Many audiophiles try to build the "ultimate" system...can't be done! Each 'phile has his own "biases" at to what aspect of fidelity is most important [tight bass, "slam", liquid mid-range, glorious high's, soundstaging, etc.] So a reference system built to please one audiophile might disappoint another audiophile, and vice versa!

Some "audiophiles" are just status "goobers", that will put together an expensive system, just for "braggin' rights"! Their expensive systems can sound like s**t, but hey, look at the price tag and "flavor of the month" brand names!

Some people can hear, but don't know how to listen! They are unaware of the sonic and fidelity nuances of high quality audio reproduction, and while a $40,000 system may sound somewhat better to them than a $400- Circuit City/Best Buy system, the benefits don't justify the cost. Especially since many people listen to music as background fill.

You can get basic transportation for under $15,000, so why would ANYONE spend $50,000+ for a real "driving machine". The ability to appreciate and enjoy applies here as well!
I don't read all previous posts and my opinion is simple: more common the passion (cars, wines, watches, horses...), more the acceptance of people about great amounts spent on that. Our passion is considerably rarer, so less understood.
The author of the text I linked to, reported that NASCAR used cryo process for many engine parts, including spark plugs and wires.

The writer did not challenge the quality or results of cryo, he simply stated that for HIS OWN engine and budget, he would not go to that extreme. Not surprising as he is a reporter, not Joe Gibbs, building the ultimate race machine.

Sdatch, regarding.

Why so much negativity? If everything associated with high-end audio is crap why participate in the hobby? Maybe we all need "happy pills". Or one of those intelligent chips...

I agree, that's why I spend time answering questions on these forums as well as providing photo coverage (at a financial loss) of all the major audio shows around the world.

I think my motives and actions are positive. I do get upset with people that frequent a forum for high end audio and look for opportunity to criticize what they don't understand and don't (themselves) work to make better.
Interesting link Albert. I'm surprised that there are so many other applications for cryo treating parts. With so many people nay-saying everything to do with the cryo process it's fun to see new uses. I never noticed Albert saying that cryo's sparkplugs were his idea, or something new.

Maybe it's all the cranky audiophiles that drive others away. Gotta go, I'm gonna get the sparkplug wires on my motorcycle cryo'd.