I used to believe that there were two types of audiophiles. Before I go on any further, I feel that it's important for to consider someone an audiophile, that this person came to be involved in this pursuit because of a love of music. This eliminates those from this discussion those who might call themselves audiophiles, but are only involved in this pastime because of their love of the equipment that reproduces the music. There is nothing wrong with this, per se, but I'm not talking about those types of audiophiles. I'd be more comfortable calling them "gearheads who happen to listen to music". Or "equipment-philes". Or "lovers of audio components".".
I believed that the first type of audiophile included those that are searching for the aural Holy Grail. Of course I'm over-simplifying things for the sake of this argument, but this described me perfectly. Even though I knew in my heart and mind that I'd never be able to assemble a system that, for example, would allow me to play a Miles Davis recording and make this recording indistinguishable from the actual event that took place fifty years ago. Simply because there's not a chance in Hades that I was going to reach that pinnacle of sound reproduction, it didn't mean I was not going to continue my search for the unattainable. My reasoning was that the closer I got, the better my system sounded, and the better my system sounded, the happier I was – because I was getting that much closer to this original event.
In the case of reproducing music that never "happened" such as on many rock recordings that were "assembled" in the studio via multi-track, over many days or even years, piece by piece, until the musicians and producers were happy with their final product, I was still searching for that elusive feeling of being there. With a "perfect" system, I'd hear not only what the musicians and producers heard in the studio(s) when making this recording, but I'd be able to sense what their intentions were when they were making this recording.
Not only that, but what they felt when making this recording. Again, there is little chance that I will ever attain this goal. But I have no doubt in my mind that I'm still enjoying this quest to the fullest. Whether this involves spending countless hours (and spending quite a bit of money) auditioning and possibly purchasing new equipment for my system, of just staying up until dawn tweaking one component until it is behaving just right, and thus getting me closer to what my ears think is the best my system can sound like given the equipment that I'm using at the time.
In the past I used to believe that the other type of audiophile is the type that assembles a system using the funds that they have available, and proceeds to enjoy that system for years, possibly for the rest of their lives without making any modifications to this system other than replacing parts that have worn, such as a phono cartridge. I knew a gentleman who in 1995 assembled a system that was very nice. The system consisted of a pair of Vandersteen Model 3 speakers that were powered by a 150 Watt per channel McCormack Power Drive DNA-1 amplifier. I can't remember what preamplifier he used, but I'm almost positive it was a conrad-johnson PV-10a, because I remember him wanting a tube preamp that would complement the sound of the state power amp. His digital front end was an affordable but not too shabby Rotel that was high-rated and very popular at the time, and he played his records on an AR turntable.
This system sounded not just serviceable, but, in a word, excellent. We spent many hours listening to it together, and I have no doubt that he spent many hours listening to it while I wasn't there. I never had any doubt he was an audiophile, as we discussed not only the music, but the nuances hidden within this music, and ways in which each component was contributing to the excellent sound that was entering his listening room. We discussed the sonic subtleties of small-combo jazz recorded at Columbia's 30th St. studio versus Atlantic Records studios at 60th St. and Broadway. And would listen late into the night discussing the differences between the RCA Living Stereo "Shaded Dog" LPs recorded at Boston's Symphony Hall verses Chicago's Orchestra Hall. In short, behaving like audiophiles. My friend's system was indeed nice, but he never upgraded any of its components throughout the twenty-plus years I knew him and his system.
Sadly, I've since lost touch with him, yet have no doubt that if the gear in his system is still working, he's still listening to it. During the many years I knew him I would occasionally point out some of the sonic "imperfections" of his system. I wouldn't mention these things because his system didn't sound good, far from it, but as time passed I would politely remind him that times have changed, he was making much more money than he was before, and that he was missing out by not "upgrading" his system to more modern (and more sophisticated) components.
Of course being an audiophile means much more than simply obsessing over the nuances of the sound of one's system. I suppose I'm going to have to live with the fact that when it comes down to it that there are many different types of audiophiles. As an equipment reviewer, that doesn't bother me one bit. Whether one is reading one of my reviews to help them make a decision with purchasing a component that will remain in use for two weeks or twenty years without a change, for a replacement in a system that is constantly morphing in the name of upgrades, or reading my reviews solely for entertainment purposes, I know that the first thing one is (or at least should) be concerned with is how it gets one closer to the music, and allows one to get closer to the intentions (or lack thereof) of those who made the music. It is all about the music.
This Month's Issue Of Enjoy
the Music.com's Review Magazine
Also, this month one will find new reports from AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) audio convention that has returned to the Westin O'Hare in Rosemont, IL, for their 2016 event held from April 15th through 17th. The Westin O'Hare is about an hour west of Chicago, and by all accounts it was the most successful yet, despite this show's reality short history. Also in this issue is our report from High-End 2016 in Munich, which features nearly 500 exhibitors during Europe's largest audio show. In fact, there were so many exhibitors that its organizers announced that it was sold-out. From the 5th until the 8th of May audiophiles from all over the world gathered to celebrate high-end audio. And here in Enjoy the Music.com it is for you to read about the goings on, as well as gawk at the high-resolution photos from this very special event. Next week we'll be reporting on T.H.E. Show Newport.
Within this month's issue I’m also proud that I wrote a review of a piece of high-end gear that will hopefully silence at least some of the critics that claim that the high-end is meant only for the well-to-do. So, in this month's issue I review a set of in-ear-monitors that I discovered while scrolling through the internet reading about under $50 IEMs. And not only did I review this set of IEMs, I'm listening to them right now as I am writing this, not for review purposes, but to listen to music.
This month we also have a world premiere review of GoldenEar's Triton Three+ Tower floorstanding speakers. These speakers are described by GoldenEar as having the same advanced technology as the larger speakers higher up in their line, but made for those listeners "looking for a more compact speaker". Yet this five-driver speaker are far from miniature, standing at over three and a half feet tall. One will also read in this issue about a speaker system that will indeed take up less room than the GoldenEar pair, but its reason is one that is completely different than what has come before, the Markaudio-Sota Viotti One stand-mounted speakers. The last Markaudio-Sota speaker reviewed in Enjoy the Music.com was about one year ago, and if these Viotti One's sound as elegant as they look (and they look very, very elegant!) the reviewer of the speakers will have a tough time sending giving them up when it comes time to send them back to the manufacturer. In the end, what matters most is that you Enjoy the Music!