Have you ever been tempted to buy a really expensive pair of headphones?
Have you ever debated with someone about whether an MP3 or a WAV file sounds better? (hint: a WAV file does.)
Have you ever shopped for a pair of these flat-frequency response earplugs so the music at the concert is safe and sounds better?
If any of these questions speak to you, there is a good chance that you are part of an elite group of audio enthusiasts.
Here are four reasons you might be an audiophile.
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Reason 1: You Take Care of Your Ears
This first reason is more common sense than an admission of guilt. If you are an audiophile, you’ve probably taken action over your years of life to protect your hearing. You only get one set of ears. It would be a shame to blow them away in your teens by attending too many concerts without proper ear protection.
Hearing loss typically compromises your natural high-frequency response first. This is affected by age as well. Having excellent natural hearing helps, but it is only part of the equation when you consider yourself to be an audiophile. If you have done your due diligence to protect your ears from damage, you can be an audiophile into well into old age.
I have fortunately taken great protection of my ears from an early age. I have always been naturally adverse to loud environments. If I am caught off-guard in a loud environment, I have even taken to wadding up toilet paper and sticking it in my ears to provide at least some protection. I have never cared for the standard foam earplugs either. Foam plugs absorb high frequencies better than low ones, which leaves the music sounding very low-end heavy. As an audio mixer, hearing the natural EQ of the room is important for my job. If you don’t want to invest in custom fit musicians earplugs though, I use and recommend getting a pair of flat-frequency-response earplugs.
The High Fidelity Musicians Earplugs by Eargasm are inexpensive (around $36 USD) and are effective at reducing the overall volume without distorting your natural frequency response.
Reason 2: You Know What to Listen for
If you are an Audiophile you don’t just have good hearing. You also have to know what to listen for. Audiophiles have studied audio terminology and have trained themselves to listen analytically. Even at an older age, you can hear the differences between an MP3 and a WAV file. Likewise, someone who has younger ears but grew up listening to low quality formats of music might not have a clue how to distinguish between the two.
MP3, being a lossy format, will compromise the quality in multiple ways:
Frequencies are chopped off at the high and low end of the frequency spectrum. These losses occur well within the 20Hz – 20,000 Hz range of human hearing.
Reduced sample rates will change the resolution of the audio, reducing dynamic range and accurate reproduction of transients, like drum hits.
Spatial information is not accurately reproduced. A quality mix is multi-dimensional. It has elements we can hear not only left and right, but also front and back. This is accomplished with creative use of volume, equalization, and reverb. A lossy format like an MP3 won’t give the listener an accurate reproduction of depth that the mix engineer intended.
Reason 3: You Have Quality Equipment
You have protected your ears and you understand how to listen analytically. Of course, all of that goes by the wayside if the equipment you listen on is not capable of producing high-quality sound. Unfortunately, if you have grown up listening on nothing but inferior quality equipment, you may not be aware of the difference this can make to your listening experience.
Audiophiles Invest in Quality Equipment. This Means:
Headphones and speakers have a flat frequency response. This way the sound is not colored in an unintended way.
Your equipment has good internal components. They have low resistance and low self-noise. The speaker assembly is sensitive. It has great dynamic range and a fast signal response.
Speakers are positioned properly for optimal listening. The two speakers and the listening position should form an equilateral triangle.
Your room is acoustically treated to minimize coloration of the sound. Hard surfaces have been covered with absorption material and the angle of the walls have been taken into account to avoid reflections.
Reason 4: You Like to Be Exclusive
While the first three reasons are enough, if you have deep pockets, the fourth reason sets some audiophiles apart from the rest. For some audiophiles it is not just about great sound; it is also about exclusivity. The most dedicated Audiophiles like to set themselves apart from the pack by owning expensive and rare speaker setups in the same way that car enthusiasts like expensive and rare cars.
Most people could own a nice pair of studio monitors like the JBL 305P MkII. They are easy to find and relatively affordable at around $350 – $400 for a pair. But few will have a set of Meridian DSP 8000’s, valued at $65,000 for a pair!
How many of these reasons do you agree with? Any reasons you feel like I missed? Please let me know in the comments below.