I have been wanting to write about this for a long time and was trying to find a way to be as cordial as possible, but……….there is not really a way to do that and most audiophiles keep proving that to me. So, with inspiration from a good guy and a recent experience, I decided it is time to blow the whistle as it were.
Sean at Zero Fidelity came up with the Seven Audiophile Sins in a recent video and it was just about the simplest and yet best editorial on the subject I have ever heard. (I actually came up with a number 8 “sin”). I think many of us can relate to at least one of them and if we are intellectually honest with ourselves we can also find at least one that we are or were guilty of. (By the way, I do recommend you check out Zero Fidelity. Sean does a great job talking about gear and such in a real world and very honest way).
I am not going to use the word “sin” though as it denotes oppressive religion. I’m going to use the term “defective thought”, that is really what it is.
So, I am going to break it down similar to the way I saw it and explain it from my own experiences and knowledge. This is not going to be a “bitch session” (well, maybe a tiny bit) or a call for a lynch mob or a doctrine of hate, because how is that different from the defective thought and behavior I am discussing in this article? This is more a note of awareness to avoid these behaviors, not only in others, but ourselves as well.
Besides just being unpleasant human traits that some have, the other reason is that I always hear complaints about how there are not enough folks in the “hobby” and that “we need to find ways to attract more people to it”. The problem is that there are two agendas to it and they are working against each other and therefore unless one is eliminated, we will be forever stuck on this treadmill. Agenda “A” is that of what could be likened to religion. It is the theory of “strength in numbers alone”. Just as with monotheistic religions who constantly complain that there are not enough members and then turn around and continue to be exclusive to remain in judgement of others instead of inclusive and fair. So it is with most audiophiles, they complain constantly how nobody is interested in the hobby and then run around like religious zealots, harshly judging others (even among themselves) and doing everything they can to remain exclusivity and “holier than thou” attitude keeping anyone interested in the hobby out of it while continuing to complain. By the way, that “harsh judgement” comes in a variety of topics: the biggest being money (income, budget, your existing system’s monetary worth, your choice in music, brand names, what you read, etc.).
The opposite agenda (we’ll call it Agenda “B”), we almost never see from these groups is the one that says, “hey, we can’t keep this goodness to ourselves, it brings so much happiness, we need to share it with others, so they can enjoy it too. We need to find a way to welcome new folks into the hobby genuinely”. So group/agenda “A” is selfish, exclusive, elitist, prehistoric, the good ol’ boys club (and by the way, exclusive to men as well, women are not allowed unless they serve as eye candy or some kind of receptionist function or something. That is almost a whole other subject too). Group/agenda “B” is sharing, kindhearted, fair, inclusive and evolved.
Ok, so here it is:
1) The Snob – If I had to rank these, this is probably the most damaging behavior of all. Not only is it throughout everyday audiophiles, but it is also a self-induced affliction of some dealers and reviewers! I have run into too many of these guys to count. There are entire audio clubs filled with them, like little armies. They often descend on audio shows and the only way to beat them is to out-number them with kind folks and show organizers have to be keenly aware and take measures to attract kind folks in big numbers. (On a note of hope, yes, it is possible, I have witnessed it more than once).
Of course, nobody likes snobs in anything, but while wrist watch collecting may not be of interest to the masses and not considered an important aspect of the human experience, music and subsequently the playback thereof is of mass interest and a very important aspect of being human, one could even call it a public service by a stretch. That clearly denotes that it must be available to everybody in whatever ways available. Just like air, you can’t have exclusive ownership of that and meter it out based on prejudices.
Some examples of this audio snobbery attitude: The attitude of it is things unsaid, but implied strongly such as if to say, “How dare you be working class” or “Oh, you have an opinion-how much is your system worth?” Some real-life examples that have been said to me: “You don’t have enough money, what are you doing in this hobby”? “You don’t have at least a $20K turntable? You should probably not own any records”. “You aren’t using a $5000 RCM? You must really like hearing noise and playing dirty records.” (Those last two examples were said to me by a “professional reviewer” for a popular site). One can say, “so what, they are only reviewers who give their opinion” and that is true. It is not a problem until the attempt is made to state opinion as fact and sadly that happens all too often.
The problem gets real ugly when the snob is a Hi-Fi dealer. For one thing, I would think that someone trying to make a living selling audio gear (or anything) cannot afford to be a snob, but they are many. This real-life example happened to me recently: I was in market for a nice CD player (or transport and dac) and I phoned up a well-known large Hi-Fi dealer (I’m not going to give the name, let their suffering be from their own hands, not mine). I told them what I was looking for and had not mentioned budget yet. The first question out of their mouth was, “What do you currently have in your system”? I made the mistake of answering honestly and should not have answered at all for it was with my answer, that they made their judgement basically branding me as a loser and an idiot in their minds, because my system is worth far less than $20K. The immediate reply to my list was, “Sorry, we don’t have anything that you could afford or be interested in”. Feeling like I had been thrown in front of an oncoming train, I fired back with a couple of bolts of my own.
The next question was, “How much are you looking to spend”? The call was already over at this point, but I held on, curious to see where this Novocain-head was going to go. I told him that I could not use a top load because the player would be going in a shelf unit and would be inconvenient to use in that case. I needed a drawer or slot load unit. First, he said the only unit they have “that I could maybe afford” was a Rega and it was a top load. He then went into this speech (as if I were some child who doesn’t understand), about how he was not judging me and went into this example of himself talking about how he used to make $3 per hour and could not afford high-end audio, but now has a system worth about $40K. It was a very poor attempt to save face and an errant assumption that I would even begin to believe such an excuse. I then reflected great disgust in my voice. He then came up with the idea of trying to sell me an all-in-one unit. I told him that was ridiculous even if it were $50 because I am renovating a system, not looking for something for a dorm room. He then made an offer of selling me a CD player at $1300 that was just a tiny fraction outside my comfort zone, but very high-end and easy to reach for a tiny bit of stretch. Turns out though that he was offering me a player that is 9 years old from some dark dusty corner of the shop and he was not sure it works well. I was starting to lose my cool, but just told him I would think about it and hung up.
This example shows how snobbery can have a detrimental effect on everything, including a livelihood! If this dealer had the deal of the century for me, I still would not purchase from them due to their attitude as it denotes that there would be no backing behind the sale and an unwillingness for further business for starters. (Continued on next page)