Psychology of the audiophile

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Fred Hansen, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. Fred Hansen

    Fred Hansen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    San Francisco
    In the past ten years, I have come to share with many on this board a passion for high quality audio reproduction at home. Quality is subjective and has many names, but what strikes me as a big part of domestic audio culture is the psychology (there is a sociology, too, as witnessed by this community board, and the brand narratives). I would be interested in freading some research on people's relationship with their systems, their listening rituals, and the function of audiophile experiences in their lives (accounts of both good and more complicated lives, respectively). Is anyone aware of literature on the psychology of audiophiles?
  2. jdsher

    jdsher Forum Resident

    Plano, Texas, USA
    I checked pubmed for any articles relating to the psychology of audiophiles and came away with one article in a neuro publication relating to a specific audio setup for a vision science experiment. However, a simple google search led me to this interesting article in the Heretical Press about "Hi-Fi Fetishism", which tries to relate audiophiles relationship with music and equipment to a sexual fetishism. I think it's a ridiculous comparison, but I can understand how one might draw some conclusions especially when you read posts on this forum that border on fanatism about a particular brand, etc.
    Personally, my enthusiasm about audio reproduction is rooted in the music. How do I get closer to what the artist wanted me to hear and feel. Is there really anything wrong with being an active listener; wanting the sound reproduction to illicit and emotion at whatever cost that particular person decides is an appropriate value to them?
    Blank Frank and Fred Hansen like this.
  3. Fred Hansen

    Fred Hansen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    San Francisco
    I absolutely agree with you, Jon. My interest in this topic is partially motivated by the point you make and the taboos / myths of audiophiles. Indeed, if the psychology of audiophilia should include a discussion of the impact of non-audiophiles, including how audiophilia and other passions are stigmatized and pathologies.
    As a scholar and curious person I would like to see some literature that gives a balanced abd insightful account of lived experiences
  4. Grant

    Grant Audiophile and Music Fan

    United States
    My audiophillia is based squarely on the ability to immerse myself inside the musical recording, the micro-dynamics, and the ability for the gear to get out of the way. It all gets me closer to the music itself.

    Does that make any sense?
  5. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Playing music is an activity, it can be ritualistic, it creates both a physical and emotional environment.
    People play music for all sorts of reasons perhaps, but the involvement of audio equipment makes it personal
    on another level if people are deliberate about their choices. It's just not the music, it's being instrumental
    in reproducing it that is compelling. I like to be a "producer and arranger" of the music that I enjoy.
  6. Brucedgoose

    Brucedgoose Well-Known Member

    I think its about control.
    JMAC, Sterling1 and Vinny123 like this.
  7. Ripblade

    Ripblade Active Member

    SandAndGlass likes this.
  8. Fred Hansen

    Fred Hansen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    San Francisco
    Well, I am not a psychologist and would like to see psychologists expkore these questions because passion (philia) is clearly an important issue here and it is related to fundamental human needs (such as love, aesthetic experience, knowledge, and friendship). Anyway, the theme of psychology might be an issue for discussion in another forum, but if anyone can think of scholarship, novels, or discussions exploring the theme I'd like to hear about it. I guess I asked the question here because I recognize the psychological dimensions of some discussions here (upgrading, speakers for life, and so on and so forth)
  9. This may or may not need deep levels of pshycho-analysis --- but I do it because I like listening to music. And I think the gear is really cool, and the engineer in me enjoys the challenge of integrated complex components (like TT's) and squeezing the best SQ out of it.

    But I do that with all my hobbies -- woodworking, astronomy, coffee, guns, camping/backpacking -- I love the "output" of the hobby (like making furniture) but also enjoy collecting and restoring vintage handplanes / chisels, restoring vintage telescope mounts, tuning up telescopes, restoring vintage hand lever espresso machines.... it's really cool to delve into all aspects of the hobby, especially when the gear can be challenging and rewarding when you learn or get a superior result. (hey, that's human nature and what drives many of us!)

    ... same goes with audio -- I love the output the most (the music) but enjoy collecting, buying different things to try and see what I like the most. And like all my other hobbies, I am now getting into vintage stuff to play with, restore and compare. I just bought 36 yr old NS-2000 speakers, and looking long and hard at Yamaha and Accuphase vintage amps to compare to my modern A21. It's fun, rewarding, and it's easy to sell off what you don't want in the end. Plus I LOVE learning how things work, bringing them back to their former glory. THAT is the coolest thing in all my hobbies, right up there with the output of the hobby (furniture, music, looking at planets, etc)

    You may be overthinking it.... I think many of us do it because we enjoy the music, the equipment and the challenge.... I've seen a lot of attempts to dissect the "psychology of the audiophile" and maybe in some cases it might need dissecting.... but there are some that do it because they enjoy it. If enjoyment is an illness, then I must be really sick.

    Why do you want psychologists to do these studies, and if they did, what would you do with the data / conclusions? I get the impression you would like to see the data conclude there is some sort of disorder behind all of it...
  10. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Forum Resident

    Houston TX
    There is a lot of belief and not enough facts.
  11. The Pinhead


    I need to be ALONE when listening to music.Does that count ?
    The FRiNgE, JNTEX and SandAndGlass like this.
  12. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    Well, Philiadelphia, or course...;)

    I suspect a lot of the common traits in audiophile compulsion may less to do with the "audio" part, and more about a personal quest to become satisfied with conditions that other people don't care about, that you don't see anybody else in one's world paying attention to, or the need to constantly make sure a variety of "tools" you own, are as good as you can improve the performance of.

    In advertising, we call this the, "down the rabbit hole" method, of separating the concept of the product the advertiser wants to sell, from the customer, and re-attach the product to a compulsion, beloved memory, or common need your audience can relate to (but hasn't made this emotional connection to the product in question).

    Example: you have a yard company who makes a weed-wacker.
    Go around the room, and discuss the "real" value of the product to the mind of the user, and write them down, say:
    better yard than your neighbor
    pride in one's own yard
    can't just mow, you need to make it "perfect"
    love of gadgets

    Now, "down the rabbit hole": forget about the product itself, focus on one of these "real, honest" benefits...go around the room again, everybody brings up a personal memory or example of that benefit, out-of-context of the weed wacker, relating to something else in your life (maybe...a science fair project...?).

    Come back out of the "rabbit hole", write a funny commercial/story-play about being proud of making a weed-wacker at the science fair, and your neighbor was soooo jealous...

    I can see this as one of a number of motivating concepts driving a potential audiophile to spending his "Hoffman Board" time each weekend on Audiogon...!

    . Now, take the product off your
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
    Ripblade likes this.
  13. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    I'm the same way, only because I would be ignoring someone else if I were really listening.
    Helom likes this.
  14. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    You're just being Phili now. :winkgrin:
  15. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    It's the smoothest! :nyah:
  16. loudinny

    loudinny Forum Resident

    My addiction started at around age 2, I kid you not.....
    Rickchick and doak like this.
  17. doak

    doak Forum Resident

    New Orleans
    While not a sexual pursuit it is, no doubt, a sensual one.
    More direct comparisons come easily though I’ll leave it at that. :cool:
  18. Kristofa

    Kristofa I dream of wires

    Eugene, Oregon
    For me, I think addiction comes closest. I find the need to listen to my stereo sometimes. If the family goes out, I will get a quick fix with a couple tracks that I know sound amazing. I can spend the day’s first waking minutes planning what I will listen to that day.

    If I am without music for a while, it resets something in me where I come back to it refreshed, but I can easily slip back into sound, sound differences, recording differences, the room, artist trivia, etc.
    TarnishedEars likes this.
  19. Fred Hansen

    Fred Hansen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    San Francisco
    Analyzing one's passions can destroy some of the pleasure and mystique. That's not my aim. I simply have an interest in expanding my knowledge. And yes, as any scientist I would be critical and explore diverse examples. I would assume that there are healthy and pathological cases.
    TheVinylAddict likes this.
  20. As with anything in life, there are two ends of the spectrum - and the extreme end of any spectrum may not be the best place to be in any case.

    I am a firm believer in Aristotle's "anything in moderation" and those are words I live by. For instance, I drink alcohol and have quite the scotch and wine collection, but keep it in check --- where some people cannot --- I can stop for weeks on end with no ill effect, and in fact I do that frequently. I love food that is, at my age, probably not the best for me --- but I still enjoy it and have never been obese, had high blood pressure, etc. Many examples...but everyone is different.

    I think you catch my drift.... but I see your point too... IMHO anything can be abused, yet that same thing can bring enjoyment and satisfaction if moderated.
    padesu, Blank Frank and Fred Hansen like this.
  21. Erik Tracy

    Erik Tracy Meet me at the Green Dragon for an ale

    San Diego, CA, USA
    The "relationship" I have with my gear is purely platonic, and no animals have been harmed in any listening "rituals" that I participate in.:D

    I sense a darker purpose to the OP's inquiry.
    LitHum05 and crazy eights like this.
  22. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    New Braunfels, TX
    I wonder if there is some sort of "philia" word for smartphone users because being ignored is exactly what happens when I'm around someone out in public whose glued to one of those socially cursed devices.
    Chris Schoen and The FRiNgE like this.
  23. Or better yet, the term when said smartphone users exhibit that same behavior but while driving an automobile....

    ... what's the term for that?
  24. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    New Braunfels, TX
    I do have a sort of audiophile driven ritual adjusting the High EQ setting downward with my car's system head unit with CD songs that are way too crispy in that I know a negative adjustment works much better than a positive increase. And then I can crank it up even louder knowing the risk of distracted driving is greatly reduced having a stick shift inches from my head unit. No one can accuse me of distracted driving on the road because my hand is resting on the stick shift an inch or two away for my finger to tap that EQ and volume adjust.

    The psychology being better sound through stealth on the road.
    bhazen likes this.
  25. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    New Braunfels, TX
    Troubling coincidence you'ld post that just before my "better sound through stealth on the road" comment.

    Actually when I think about the comparison between my obsession for better sound as a poor boy audiophile vs the behavior of smartphone users I don't think I'm the one with a problem.

Share This Page