I’ve always been an audiophile. Even from a very young age, I’ve always appreciated the artfulness of sound reproduction, and how good it could get.
In fact, as a very young child, I used to pull apart radios to try and understand how they worked, and see if I could improve their performance.
This was back in the days when pressed paper cones were the number one type of speaker cone available. My Hitachi boom box was the shiz.
As I’ve grown, I’ve realized that the stages of life as an audiophile change, not just based on your age and your financial independence, but also on just your general stage of life.
There’s no doubt when we’re younger and we want the best and the degree of our passion is measured by how much of our disposable income we spend on audiophile equipment.
The first stereo I bought was a Sansui component system, amplifier, CD player, and some Energy speakers out of Canada which were enormous.
I used to play music in our house and then walk down the road to see how far I could walk before I couldn’t hear it anymore when it was at full volume. I’m surprised that only once did I get a neighbor complaint.
I’m not sure what this test of audiophilehood meant.
The ability to turn the stereo up so loud that I could wander almost a block away and still hear the residues of the mids screeching over the other rooftops in our neighborhood.
Interestingly, that system, while I upgraded the amp to a Denon unit from the Sansui, lasted almost 20 years after I sold it to my brother and he used it until it died.
There’s no doubt that being an audiophile is an expensive entity and once you get hooked, you know that you can’t stop upgrading your gear or looking for better ways to improve your sound by running repeated room calibration tests or manual room calibration tests with tape measures and lasers.
Trying out toeing-in your speakers, trying bookshelves, trying floor standing, trying rugs, sound dampening on the walls, and even perhaps false ceiling hangings to capture any residual noise that may be interfering with your pure audiophile experience.
Once you have the gear and you have the finances, you then start looking at upgrading furniture.
The classic Eames chair that defines easy listening, perhaps a dedicated sound room in your house just for audio pleasure with nothing more than perhaps a stereo unit, a comfortable listening chair, and if you’re a crossover home theater audiophile, a projector or large screen TV with surround system – whether that be Dolby Atmos, or even just a simple 5.1.
These stages of life are definitely impacted by finances and assumes that over time you earn more as you grow from a young audiophile into a more mature audiophile.
There is something to be said about reaching the zenith of your spending ability and realizing that it becomes harder to upgrade your gear as you get to the top end of the scale as there’s less room to move.
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of audiophiles are more interested in the quest for better audio than they are in the audio and music itself. I feel I might now fit into this category in some ways.
The quest for perfection has limited my ability to enjoy the output.
I’ll leave that there as a debatable point that any of you can discuss in the comments below, I’m certainly willing to get into it.
So, other than age and finances, as we grow and mature, have more money, and our tastes change, the third thing that impacts the stages of an audiophile’s life is how our lifestyle changes.
As a young man, I had a steady job and a secure apartment, I could afford to buy long-term type audio equipment, that being a good audio rack with components and large floor standing speakers for my living room.
In my 20s and 30s, I spent many, many years traveling around the world, lived and moved to four different countries over that time, and lived in cities such as Sydney, London, and Vancouver where driving the car was secondary to commuting on public transport.
The size of the apartments that are available in those cities is also significantly smaller than perhaps what I’d grown up with.
Therefore, my audiophile nature had to adapt. I had to go mobile.
I had to take on a new view of how to get the best possible audio quality based on the life that I was living at the time.
This was actually an interesting quest because it provided me with endless options and almost infinite upgrade opportunities from the lower-end units right up to the more expensive headphones.
For many years I had a commute of between one and two hours on the London Tube across town, which meant I had ample time to try and use different headphones, in-ear monitors, and earbuds.
Side note: There was a time when the thought of walking around town with earbuds in your ears or headphones on your head was ridiculed, laughed at, and downright embarrassing.
But as the early 2000s rolled through, this became more and more prevalent and as Apple popularized the iPod earbuds, it was suddenly fair game to go anywhere with headphones, earbuds, or in-ear monitors.
The first pair that I really enjoyed was a set of Etymotics given to us by the Etymotic guys when they were just setting up, and later I moved to some Shure EC2s which then led to one of my favorite budget IEMs, the Shure SE215.
If you fast forward somewhat through my traveling noise-canceling phase of Audio-Technica’s and Bose, we end up at Custom in-ear monitors when I ran and founded Headphones Canada.
Even in London, I had a part of my job which was selling headphones and earphones online with the company I worked for.
Not only did I have a passion for audio, but fortunately my job, and in Canada, my side hustle, provided me all sorts of opportunities to try more and more gear.
My point with this personal story is to say that the audiophile season didn’t stay cemented to home audio equipment.
As my lifestyle changed, I adapted to headphones. And now that I’m more settled again many years later, I have returned to a home audio system and home theater system, which provides me endless joy.
I have countless numbers of headphones, in-ear monitors in my collection, but very few of these ever see the light of day these days, which is quite unfortunate.
My commute is shorter, and there are some opportunities to use them in the office.
This is not to say that I will sell my portable listening equipment because who knows one day in the future things may change again.
It’s a wonderful thing to be an audiophile, it’s a wonderful thing that there are so many companies committed to producing the very best audio equipment that money can buy, providing us audiophiles endless opportunities to spend our money in this space.
I’m always impressed and appreciate the knowledge of our readers in terms of the audio and the audio equipment.
From the movement of power, the importance of amplification, the quality of speaker casings and speaker builds, the wiring, and then the source signal from lossless to FLAC, AAC, mp3, you name it, audiophiles have so much knowledge which consistently impresses me, especially of our readers here at Make Life Click.
Rambling is on a Wednesday which I’m sure many of you will relate to and I’m sure that many of you have your own stories. I’m always interested to hear those so, feel free to drop a comment below on your journey.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.