Psychology of the audiophile

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

  1. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    But it is nice when you can experience those precious moments when you can share.
    Agitater likes this.
  2. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    There is no literature on the matter because “audiophile” is not a psychosis or neurosis or psychopathy. Collecting music of all kinds (or specific kinds) and collecting music playing equipment is just that. Call it collecting or music appreciation or a music hobby (or some combination of all three).

    Listening to music - appreciating the act and time involved in music listening as a specific habit or practice - is no different in nature from attending concerts, jazz clubs and other music venues to hear live acts. The only things that differ are the physical experiences, the sound, and the acoustic environment. The behaviour is innocuous because it has no unusual factors or clinical pathology. The reason is simple: collecting the equipment needed to listen to LPs and CDs and digital streams, and sitting down to habitually listen to and appreciate music falls well within the parenthetical boundaries of normal human behaviour. It’s demonstrably healthy.

    There are no studies of audiophile behaviour. One of the secondary reasons that no such studies can be undertaken is that there is no clinical definition of what constitutes an audiophile. The word audiophile does not define an abnormal psychological state, but rather only generally identifies individuals who are keenly interested in audio equipment and music listening. There is no time - or funding - for the study or research of such normal behaviour.

    If personally feel that the matter is worthy of a psychological study, it seems somewhat at odds with the generally accepted idea that an audiophile is no different from an amateur astronomer or a stamp collector or an art collector. The only time such people become interesting to the medical and psychiatric community is when their pursuit of audio gear, music listening, star charting and gazing, pursuit of rare stamps and collection cataloging, and art buying and gallery browsing becomes obsessive enough to interrupt gainful employment, family relationships or has other negative effects. But such negative effects have little to do with audio specifically or stamps specifically or astronomy specifically or artwork in particular. Rather, the negative effects are of interests to neuroscientists because of the absence of normal control over impuslive urges, and because of the imbalance in behaviour that causes personal problems. The pathological mechanisms are common to a small subset of all collectors of all sorts of things who become obsessed with their hobbies to the exclusion of normal life.

    There have been very few indications (in millions of member posts in thousands of threads on SHF) of any such obsessive-compulsive behaviour. It surely exists, but it’s not in any way exclusive to audio gear and music listening. That is yet another reason why nobody has bothered to study audiophiles. They’re neither numerous enough or distinctive enough to warrant attention. The fact that most of us on SHF are deeply into audio gear and music is only an indication of a keen interest in the matters, not a psychopathy.
    dkmonroe, jdsher, Tullman and 5 others like this.
  3. Ocean56

    Ocean56 Forum Resident

    Waterford, MI USA
    I'm not an audiophile. But I love music. And as a music lover, I want good sound. So I want good equipment to play recordings. I do NOT, however, enjoy tweaking said equipment, and do not replace it at the drop of a hat.
    bhazen and Alan2 like this.
  4. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

  5. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Perlman’s essay from 2004 is interesting for the fact that it asserts science over emotion, evaluation by ABX testing instead of only subjective listening, and for his categorization and definitions of the various leaders of audiophilia (as Perlman calls it). It’s not research of any kind though, but rather just a very long-winded opinion piece that does not include any aspect of psychological analysis of audiophile behaviour. Interestingly, some of Perlman’s initial uses of the words “audiophile” and “audiophilia” are in single quotes, something generally done deliberately to indicate inauthenticity, irony or doubt. I think the article or essay or however JSTOR has categorized it is a fun read though.
    Fred Hansen likes this.
  6. The Pinhead


    I don't doubt it could be, or is for you, but friends and wife don't take it as seriously as I do, and would insist on making pauses for everything, questioning me for tweaking the sound ad nauseam or repeating the same song 3 times in row just to ¨get¨ it ¨Are you really gonna play that song AGAIN ¨? Or worse yet,insist on making me share the sweet spot !!! I'm pretty obsessive and can't pretend them to understand, so get out of the room !!!
    morinix, SirMarc, soundboy and 2 others like this.
  7. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident

    Most collecting of any kind is indeed.
    soundboy and Fred Hansen like this.
  8. Fred Hansen

    Fred Hansen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    San Francisco
    I am only quoting part of your post for practical reasons, but I agree with all of it and am grateful for your contribution. I agree it wouldbe limiting to only look for pathological issues and share the interest in the sociology of amateurs and of leisure suggested by you and others above. Being audiophile, practising audiophilia as specific development of being a music lover involves unique private and individual elements, it is domestic not public and there are single person listening hours (perhaps comparable to reading novels) and interestingly this has be commercially institutionalized (training has been developed into commercial gyms for instance). Also, the evaluation of quality is subjective and involved in personal history and economics, that is why I am thinking that psychology is relevant. But perhaps it might be better to ground such studies in a broad conception of leisure
  9. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    What does it say about the psychological ramifications of audiophilia, when one is only satisfied by it...when one is never completely satisfied by it?
  10. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Music has restorative power. If an audiophile person looks forward to sitting down in his/ her listening chair and healing from a long day, or spending some time on the weekend, then the psychology is no different than one who takes a long walk in the woods.
    Kristofa, SirMarc, soundboy and 3 others like this.
  11. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    A psychologist's view of the lunatic Fringe? I am not! :p Whoever wrote this isn't an audiophile, or has mutated into a lizard. haha! Does not the high performance car owner pride himself (sometimes herself) about its massive torque and hp ratings, and street performance? Does not the neighbor with the newest and most "deluxe" lawn tractor show off his prized machine to his envious onlookers? When I was a kid, the bike with the loudest baseball card spoke "motor" was the coolest. So, just because a food connoisseur enjoys the presentation, and patronizes world class establishments, travels to Chicago and pleasures himself/ herself with this, then these people have a "food fetish"?
  12. sheffandy

    sheffandy Forum Resident

    Sheffield, UK
    This is what some refer to as ‘mindfulness’ I guess.
    Groundcat, jdsher and Fred Hansen like this.
  13. Hipper

    Hipper Forum Resident

    Herts., England
    I suggest BillyDipper (post 12) has the right idea in that you might find answers with those that advertise audiophile products, or those that design the appearances of them, or those that show them at audiophile shows.

    All these people have an interest in selling the products and therefore will surely ask what it is we want.

    We audiophiles might say we just want to listen to the best reproduction of sound but I suspect deeper within us are other reasons we either don't know or don't want to admit.
    Fred Hansen likes this.
  14. Rob Hume

    Rob Hume Well-Known Member

    I think a study into the psychology of the Hifi Forum addict would be more interesting. Lots of "screw balls" out there. I'm fine though, honest Doctor :)....
    morinix, doak and Fred Hansen like this.
  15. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident

    Maybe, just maybe, the psychology of some (not all) audiophiles could be encapsulated thus:

    If only you had different cables, this thread would reveal so much more clarity... :whistle: :waiting: :evil:
    patrickd and SandAndGlass like this.
  16. pablo

    pablo Forum Resident

    NE, USA
    Look at audiophilia from the other side. Someone felt the desire to design, craft, and build that piece of art that you crave. Someone felt the desire strong enough to assemble like minded people together to form an organization to produce and sell these works of art. Do these people have psychological problems? Some people come to mind - Frank McIntosh, Saul Marantz, Les Paul, Steve Jobs.

    I guess if these creative people were painters, no one would have an issue with other people collecting their work. In fact, the pieces that audiophiles collect will last far longer than much modern art, and engage multiple senses as well. I don't understand the negative connotation associated with audiophilia. I've built several pairs of speaker and can appreciate them on multiple levels.
    ThinWhiteDuke and doak like this.
  17. pablo

    pablo Forum Resident

    NE, USA
    Should've mentioned vacuum tubes. See those miniature structures? Lots of artwork going on there. Think Western Electric, Tungsol. See that pinch waist 6922? Yeah.
    ThinWhiteDuke and morinix like this.
  18. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    These aren't "pieces of art" they're consumer products designed to do work and fill a market niche and make a profit for a company.

    Sure, there are design elements related to their attractiveness that are part of the work done to make them more appealing to a potential purchase, just like there's work done on the Spaghetti-o's label to make it eye catching. But an amp, a preamp, a iPod, these are not expressive productions of the creative imagination intended to speak to and about the human condition and convey emotional expressive messages like a painting or a sculpture or a poem. They're machines that do work, designed for sale. They're not any more works of art than a blender or a toaster or a cell phone ore a coffee maker.
    Dave Mac likes this.
  19. Drewan77

    Drewan77 Forum Resident

    Writeup of the annual UK enthusiasts show sums audiophile psychology up pretty well. I've visited a couple of times, it's all true.

    Audiophiles: Are They Hearing Something We're Not?

    A couple of excerpts:

    ....."You may think of yourself as someone with an interest in hi-fi, who believes that the music you love deserves to be heard in decent sound quality. Perhaps you spent a few hundred quid on an amp and speakers, or a Sonos system. Perhaps you upgraded the earbuds that came with your phone for a pair of Beats headphones. Or perhaps you've junked your CDs and turned your nose up at digital downloads in favour of a return to vinyl, confident that it sounds "so much warmer".

    But you're not an audiophile. By the standards of the exhibitors at HiFi Wigwam, you're a part-timer, a dilettante, you're one step away from the dog on the HMV logo, your idiot brain transfixed by the muffled sound coming from a wax cylinder. There's a guy in one room who's eschewed hi-fi equipment altogether in favour of playing music off the huge reel-to-reel tape machines you get in recording studios. There are people here who build their own speakers and CD players. There are "modders", men whose immediate impulse upon buying a £3,000 amplifier is to rip off the back and set about it with a soldering iron, confident they can make it better.....

    ....And that's the thing about audiophiles. You can, if you're so inclined, mock their nerdiness; if that's your wont, then there are plenty of people here from geek central casting, including a man wearing a T-shirt that reads: "THERE'S A NAME FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT BEARDS: WOMEN"...
    Tim Lookingbill likes this.
  20. doak

    doak Forum Resident

    New Orleans
    So glad you brought up this aspect of our avocation.
    I have come to believe, after 40+ years of active involvement in this glorious pursuit, that building/shaping an audio system can indeed be a form of art. Not to say that everyone is into to it to that extent, though those who are as well as those who can recognize it will "grok" my proposal.
    I refer to what we do as "Technology in the service of art," which at some point may become a form of art.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  21. Old Zorki II

    Old Zorki II Heavy Horses Operator

    Tampa, FL
    There are no healthy people, there are some who was not diagnosed yet. :pineapple:
    If audiophile is a psychological condition, then it is the mildest and the most society friendly disease.
    SandAndGlass and doak like this.
  22. SirMarc

    SirMarc Forum Resident

    How about a study on these guys? (no disrespect to the poster, just using the post as an example) Clearly an audiophile, but reluctant to admit it...
  23. The Pinhead


    Spot on ! Music is my catharsis and my antidepressant; it gets me through life instead of through the motions.
    Mike-48, The FRiNgE and SandAndGlass like this.
  24. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I don't think that being a audiophile is the problem. It is the a symptom referred to as "upgrade-itis" which is can be a manifestation of the effect's of the disease itself. Without that specific accompanying manifestation, the disease can be successfully managed and those effected can go on to lead normal lifestyle's, only having to deal with an occasional strange look from those around them. :shh:
    SirMarc, The Pinhead and Old Zorki II like this.
  25. ThinWhiteDuke

    ThinWhiteDuke Well-Known Member

    New Zealand
    Fascinating question... Whilst I'm aware what's driving some of my behavior in this hobby there are still areas I have no idea why I act the way I do.

    Beautiful powerful clear sound-stages are pretty much self-explanatory in my opinion as is my love for electronic switches, dials, knobs and meters (both digital and analogue).

    But I'd love to know why I keep looking at buying a reel-to-reel that I can't justify nor really afford - I have no R2R media nor is it easy to find in good condition nor financially sustainable for collecting in quantity, I don't believe it will be qualitatively better than well mastered digital and I've never met anyone personally who owned R2R nor have I seen one in decades in actual use live.

    But I really want one. And a well known audiophile brand 3 head cassette player. And a bunch of other expensive equally esoteric audio stuff I don't need. Plus some of those huge horn speakers that look like giant sea shells or tuba's stuck on the body of a dead Cylon!

    Madness :D:D:laugh:

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