Audiophiles Are Easy!
Do you have a lot of people on your Holiday Gift List? Do you want a suggestion for getting them all something that will always be appreciated? Try music. I know; that's what I said in my last article, but in that one I was mostly suggesting introducing "newbies" to our hobby and saying that giving them music to play or the equipment to play it on would be a great way to both "hook" them and, as a lasting carry-forward, give them a lifetime of enjoyment. This time, though, I'm talking specifically about the audiophiles on your gift list – people for whom music and its recorded performance are already more than just "background" aspects of their lifestyle. These people – not necessarily "Hi-Fi Crazies", as such, but people for whom a solid relationship already exists with the music and its sound — can possibly be the easiest ones on your list to find a "bull's eye" gift for this holiday season.
With most people, three questions must be answered in making your gift choice, whether for the holidays; for a birthday; or for any other special occasion: Will they like it? Do they already have it? And (in all senses of the word), does it fit?
Music, especially for audiophiles, addresses all of those issues and always comes out "right". For any music lover, music will always be of basic interest, but at least two, and maybe even all three, of those "must ask" questions might still apply.
Let's consider the last one. ("Does it fit?") first: Not all people like or are soothed, entertained, or "drawn into" all kinds of music. Three kinds of music come to mind here: Hip Hop, Country and Western, and Classical. Depending on who they are and what their personal background is, there are all kinds of people who, though nominally "music lovers", will, on hearing one or more of those particular kinds of music, immediately "tune it out" or turn it off and seek something more to their liking.
Audiophiles, on the other hand, even if they do have favorite musical styles, tend to be more open to new musical experiences. The fact that they love not just the music (the "tune") and the performance (Who's playing it, with which band or orchestral support, recorded at what venue, on what date), but also the sound (Which engineer recorded it, on what equipment [analog or digital], with what and how many microphones, in what kind of array, as stored or played in which medium [vinyl, CD, streaming, etc.]), means that each new recording — even of a "classic" old favorite — is either a new adventure or the return of an old friend, and will always be a welcome addition to their music library.
The fact that, to an audiophile, the sound may very well be fully as important as the music strongly contributes to this openness to new experience. That's why the second question ("Do they already have it") really doesn't matter for audiophiles. I personally own eleven different performances (different conductors, different orchestras) of the Shostakovich 15th Symphony (My favorite is the Bernard Haitink on London via London 417-581-2, 1979, 1983 and twenty-three performances (out of the many hundreds available) of the Vivaldi Four Seasons.
It's also why I own the music of The Beach Boys performed both by them on LP and by Papa Doo Run Run on their 1985 Grammy Award winning Telarc LP cover. [Telarc LP DG-20501 CD 70501. Incidentally, I like Papa Doo Run Run better, both performance-wise and sonically. It's the same thing with music of every kind — every new version or recording is a new adventure and is sure to be appreciated.
Part of this may be for the same reason that Formula Vee racing became popular: In conventional auto racing, both the drivers and the cars can vary widely in the same race and, even for experts, it can be hard to tell which should be credited with the win — the driver or the car. In Formula Vee, every car is identical in every performance aspect, so you always know that it's the driver who gets the trophy. With music, it's the same thing — especially with classical music, where everybody's playing exactly the same notes, off exactly the same score: It's fun to hear different conductors and different orchestras play the same piece and choose which version is "best". With other kinds of music, the same "tune" and the same words (if any) from the same composer, can come out even more wildly different, depending on who's playing; on which and how many singers or instruments are performing; on what tempo is set; and on how and where they are recorded. Every performance of every kind of music is different, and even if the performances or the recordings aren't fun, the differences are, and audiophiles love them!
And that leads directly to the last remaining question: "Will they like it?" Truthfully, I don't know; but, if you've been going to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) or to other Hi-Fi shows for anywhere near as long as I have, you've heard exhibitors — people who are playing music in the specific belief that it's special enough and of sufficiently universal appeal that hearing it will cause people to want to buy their products — play music of a phenomenally broad range of types, performance, and instrumentation.
Among the things that audiophiles have liked so well over the years that, walking the halls of a Show, you could hear it coming out of many different display rooms at the same time, were (in no particular order) Bachbusters [Telarc CD 80123] , the music of J.S. Bach, popularized and played on a synthesizer; Cantate Domino [Proprius PRCD 7762], glorious choral music with pipe organ accompaniment; and For Duke [Realtime RT5001], great big band jazz.
Jazz at the Pawnshop [Proprius PRCD 7778, vinyl LP here] great small band jazz with palpable ambience; Norah Jones' Come Away With Me [Blue Note 07243] female vocals by a daughter of Ravi Shankar; Harry Connick, Jr's. We Are In Love [Columbia CK 46146]; great male vocals (Like Frank Sinatra, but, IMHO, Connick is better).
The there's of course Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon [Parlophone 50999 028955 2.9, this is the SACD link here], no description necessary, just buy it; The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices [Gega GD 147] captivatingly weird and wonderful world music. Even HFN/RR Test Disc [Hi-Fi News and Record Review HFN 003] with the most popular track of which (#14) features the fabulously and deafeningly realistic sound of one of the editors banging on the inside of a metal garage door.
Audiophiles are easy to buy music for, for a very simple reason: Unlike trying to find a gift for most people, where you may have to guess to find a "handle" — something about the gift that they might like or some reason for choosing that one thing to give them — audiophiles come with two handles; both the music and the sound. Either one is enough to please them and both, together, will likely "blow them away"!
Give the audiophiles on your list recordings or even a streaming subscription this holiday season. Other than buying them a new High-End system, components, or accessories, there's no better way to help them — and others, too, maybe even those "newbies" I mentioned last time...