Audio, Audiophile

The New Audiophile

Are you an ailurophile? Or instead of your love for all things cats, does your pup love the fact you are a cynophile?

As evidenced by your desire to have pets without the fuss (and your immense Teddy Bear collection), maybe you are an arctophile instead.

I am most definitely a pluviophile because rainy days are my favorites. And I increasingly find I am a clinophile, especially on rainy Saturday mornings when sleeping in is the proper way to spend time. On these days I am absolutely not an ergophile (let’s not take that love of working thing too far). Of course, most every morning we’re all javaphiles.

If you’re a night owl you might be a nyctophile, but if you’re a sun worshipper then you are most definitely a heliophile.

You might be a discophile, and your fondness for vinyl records may even include a few late 70s Donna Summer classics. Or you might be a cinephile, and everyone wants you on their team on cinema trivia night. 

I like to taste different wines, yet try as I might to be an oenophile, I still wind up buying most of my wine in the under $20 a bottle section.
So why all the negativity around the word ‘audiophile?’ Some of that may be self-inflicted and some of that may be an unfortunate stereotype. I’ll leave that for another article by someone else.

Merriam-Webster defines audiophile very succinctly as “a person who is enthusiastic about high fidelity sound reproduction.” That’s a pretty broad definition. It doesn’t say anything about age, gender, length or grayness of ponytail, or knowledge level of every sound in Dark Side of the Moon or Diana Krall’s discography. It just very plainly defines an audiophile as someone who likes things that sound good.

Is it possible the audiophile scale is a sliding one? There certainly is a sliding oenophile scale. A sommelier might laugh at my inability to smell vegetation and dirt in my wine, but that doesn’t mean I love wine any less. It might mean the sommelier in question is a little rude and judgmental, which also doesn’t invalidate the depth of their wine knowledge either. I’ll still unabashedly enjoy the wines I enjoy in my own little oenophile way.

The same thing should apply to audio. However, the reality is, there is a palpably negative connotation among non-audiophiles toward the word ‘audiophile.’ The common perception of an audiophile is of an older guy who is more into the gear than the music and who is also willing to challenge you on every notion you’ve ever had about sound and music. Not necessarily an envy-inducing image. This doesn’t happen to oenophiles, or cinephiles, or even pluviophiles.

Sadly, this is where the audiophile perception is today, but it wasn’t always that way. You can indeed be an audiophile without becoming a gearhead. You can also be an audiophile and care very little about anything other than the music you listen to.
I wanted to find out why the pure joy of being an audiophile has become so disconnected from the common perception of an audiophile.

I started by bothering the people I work with for their opinions on the subject. Linking into the wine analogy, our Videographer Brendan Castner said: “I would categorize an audiophile as someone who appreciates the technical aspect of sound while still enjoying the song. Like analyzing what makes a fine wine taste so good while also enjoying the buzz that comes with it.” E-Commerce Web Coordinator (and frequent contributor to this blog) Mike Vale said: “I've never liked the idea that an audiophile is someone who listens to the gear more than the recording. No one buys high-end gear to listen to silence.” Both answers seemed pretty positive.

I then asked if the word ‘audiophile’ had a negative or positive connotation. Sean Torenli, our Digital Marketing Manager gave a very relatable answer: “Positive as someone who knows what it means - my first time hearing the word, [a] negative feeling for sure.” I tend to be a bit of a gearhead, but I don’t consider myself an audiophile for that reason alone. I love music and admittedly I often love the sound music makes even more, but I still get a great deal of joy from even the most modest system. I am more of an audiophile in its original meaning – someone who loves all aspects of reproduced music, from the history to the album art, to the liner notes, to the music and finally how that music sounds. Whether they know it or not, most people who listen to music fall somewhere into this category.
However, the ‘audiophile’ moniker may turn off regular people who just want to listen to great sound. I wonder how many people don’t consider upgrading their audio systems because they’re afraid of going down the rabbit hole of ever-increasing complexity and expense in their audio systems. People may also shy away from really digging into high fidelity audio because they feel they can’t discern enough difference to justify the cost.

Audio systems have also become more complex as technology has advanced. The average person who is fending off the daily onslaught of the modern world while trying to find some time to relax likely finds the perception of complexity in a high-performing system a bit off-putting. Audio neophytes may also be completely intimidated by the treatment they get on various social media groups. I’m an audio lifer and I get befuddled by the varying opinions and facts I see in audio groups across my social media accounts. If I were just starting out, I’d go back to my low-fi Bluetooth device and call it a day rather than trying to navigate the opinions and facts that make up the modern audio world.
Audiophiles are just people who love music and who want their music to sound as good as possible, so nothing gets between them and that experience, or as our Senior Product Training Specialist Ben Hagens put it: “An audiophile aims to maximize their musical listening [experience], elevating from listening to a recording to experiencing the performance.”

If you have a favorite song, you’re an audiophile and you deserve the best possible sounding enjoyment of that song. Don’t let labels stop you from enjoying your music the way you want to enjoy it – and within the budget you have for the gear you want. So go ahead, crack open a $15.99 bottle of Red Blend, queue up that favorite song of yours and be an audiophile!

The new audiophile is rediscovering the essence of the original audiophile. The magic of awesome sounding music that was meant for all of us – gearhead or not – because at the end of the day, it’s all about the music.
By Jack Sharkey for KEF
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