There is much more than just stocking your listening space with high-end, exorbitantly expensive equipment that defines an audiophile.
As with any activity, it calls for specific knowledge and expertise. It entails understanding how to listen to music beyond anything else.
The language and terminology used in hi-fi music are unique, just like in any other specialized profession.
To become a true audiophile, you must become proficient in it. Because these terms aren’t merely abstract concepts that can be memorized and then forgotten, memorizing them might be challenging.
Still, when choosing equipment, it’s critical to understand what terms like “harmonic distortion” or a “sharp” treble mean. It may even help you to avoid buying things that most audiophiles will stay away from.
What are these things? I researched eight things that every audiophile should avoid buying or owning.
1. Lightweight Turntable
I would be ecstatic for you if you chose to switch to vinyl. However, a 12″ record is only worthwhile if you have good equipment to play it.
A cheap turntable with a lightweight platter may produce some extra noise due to acoustic vibrations.
Additionally, ceramic cartridges, often heavier, are used in current turntables. Over time, they cause damage to your records. Those scrapes will make it seem more like dubstep rather than old-school or anything else.
2. Complex Equalizer
As a general rule, you should generally aim to keep your equalizer tuning to a minimum. The track should sound as the producer intended it to if you use the right equipment.
The use of equalization too frequently will obstruct that. Even an audiophile would consider it extreme if someone spent more time getting ready to listen to a record than actually listening.
3. Inexpensive iPhone Dock
Even the most discerning audiophile can’t help but listen to some MP3, but a shoddy iPhone dock won’t help give you that high-resolution sound collection you’re looking for.
The quality is constantly compromised for convenience with lossy audio formats. Using a subpar dock for such a sound can only worsen it. Invest in a Hi-Fi system rather than a dock. Even a simple one can produce satisfactory results.
4. Digital Download of a Music Album
Put the songs on your preferred iDevice if you purchased a special edition LP with a download code. But never accept a digital copy of one of your favorite albums that are only available in that way.
By that I mean a bootleg.
Generally, they give off the impression that someone secretly entered a concert with an old tape recorder, kept it aloft all night, and then sold you the recordings.
I don’t fully disparage digital downloading.
Contrary to popular belief, iTunes has high-quality files that are available as do Tidal and more.
You don’t need a turntable to enjoy your music.
But, you don’t want a tape to sound like it was made by a spy and sneaked out in secret.
5. Overly Expensive Cables
It is well known that audiophiles will spend money on ostensibly useless products. Avoid conforming to stereotypes by refraining from spending a fortune on expensive wires and cables.
Although better cables may initially improve your listening experience, they eventually become a waste of money that could be used to purchase equipment that changes the way you hear music.
6. Shower CD Player
If you are a true audiophile, you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “what on earth is that.”
Well, you’re probably not actually.
It turns out it is one of those gimmicks that makes people buy things they still don’t want because it sounds like something “new” or “unique” when it’s not.
There is no harm in listening to your favorite songs in the shower. But I would advise you to avoid spending your hard-earned cash on gimmicks like these that aren’t intended to deliver a high-quality listening experience.
Several other ways to build a hi-fi system enable you to rock ‘n’ roll in the shower while maintaining your dignity.
7. The Average Earbuds
Always choosing hi-resolution audio formats over other options is an excellent method for optimizing audio quality.
Unfortunately, average or cheap earbuds aren’t made to provide those benefits. But it doesn’t mean you must choose bass-heavy or extravagant, stylish headphones.
It might work out if you were a gullible teenager, but most people concur that such earbuds distort the music.
Try to strike a balance by buying quality earphones that are not bass-heavy and still ensure optimized audio quality for a great listening experience.
8. A Digital Music Collection Limited to MP3 Format
No doubt that a digital collection is an effective way to save your music, although I know most audiophiles will never abandon their love for vinyl records.
And no, there isn’t much difference in how computer-based solutions, such as MP3 and FLAC, sound.
FLAC, however, is the better digital format for preserving your music. You’ve already acknowledged that you have a bit of an obsession with music.
Why not at least try to go lossless.
Why keep it a secret that you look after your music collection like your mother looks after the family photo album?
Some of this is toungue in cheek – obviously.
I tend to have strong opinions on some things also.
Surely you know you must listen to music differently than the average music lover if you consider yourself an audiophile.
While performing routine tasks, the average music listener will listen to music in the background. And they won’t give their full attention to the sounds most of the time.
An audiophile, however, must commit to listening. It entails attentive listening, eliminating all outside distractions, fixating on minute details, and immersing oneself in the music. It also requires not buying or owning things not designed to ensure this.
The eight things detailed above are just a few examples of them.
Avoiding them will save you both precious time and money.
Save the world people, save audio.
A passion for writing and ongoing research projects gives Catherine an incredibly broad knowledge of all things. She has authored an incredible number of articles and can be found in the wilderness when not attached to technology or listening to podcasts.
23 thoughts on “8 Things You Shouldn’t Buy or Own If You Call Yourself an Audiophile”
Feel like you wrote this in 2002. Ever tried the music first audiophile approach to neophytes entering the space. Maybe a little less critical and more inviting.
You forget Bose or Beats
Never ever get powered speakers.
Hah. Some powered speakers are amazing. Listen to some Genelec, Nuemann, the new Dynaudio Focus, the YG Acoustics Vantage Live, and the KEF LS60’s. Sure you won’t be system matching because it’s really already done, but these are definitely Audiophile quality.
someone needs to do more research
Yikes, someone doesn’t know anything about speakers. I am a huge fan of my Ocean Way speakers. They’re powered.
I agree with BMAX. There’s a good selection of high-end powered speakers that are definitely audiophile quality.
Agree with everything here except one point, the cables. You couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t mean that all expensive cables are automatically better because they’re expensive, there’s plenty of snake oil in the world. But there are a handful of companies with very solid reputations built on quality products that do make a sonic difference, and swapping bad cables or cheap cables in place of good cables will make the system sound anemic and unengaging. Why bother getting expensive gear set up perfectly to play through some dinky Radio Shack interconnects?? And speaker cables directly influence the efficiency of any amplifier. Why have a strong and capable water pump to fill your pool through a paper straw?? That’s not how it works. Stick to the companies with decades of reputation for being the real thing, and spend the money. Your ears will thank you.
Radio Shack cables were recommended by Stereophile. That’s good enough for me.
I’ll stay with my Olm 4XOs. Thank you
Or turntable mats..I have a marantz tt15s1 that came w a firm felt mat..tossed that bought a $20 Hudson hifi rubber mat..sounded awesome but I thought maybe a better mat ..went w herbies excellent mat $80..did not help..lost bottom end and soundstage I liked was gone..lot of ppl had better luck..I sent it back..
Fixed it for you
#3 I̶n̶e̶x̶p̶e̶n̶s̶i̶v̶e̶ iPhone ̶̶D̶o̶c̶k.
That’s a good point.
How can you consider yourself an audiophile if you listen to vinyl albums. That’s pure snobbery.
I agree! This is not an audiophile. This is a theory driven person. With minimal knowledge of audio. Mp3 and equalizer should not be in the vocabulary.
Surely you jest 🤣
“there isn’t much difference in how computer-based solutions, such as MP3 and FLAC, sound.”
They’re most definitely is otherwise you wouldn’t be arguing for using FLAC. MP3s have been obsolete since the mid-90s. The fact that new technologies like opus are still coming out shows that lossy can’t still be improved.
But maybe I should have known better from somebody who thinks vinyl is good. It will always be an inferior format.
But vinyl’s final!
Just like when I was asked to join the Corvette Club, they gave me their rules and I told them to shove it in their azz.
If you truly love your music then there are no limits.
Some audiophiles, like me, have gone all in on digital with high end streamers like the Naim NDX2 coupled with a high end music service like Quobuz or Deezer. I can also play my vast collection of ripped digital music, enhanced with Roon, which is compatible and controllable through my streamer. But, if your a true audiophile, why compress your digital music at all; rip in WAV format. Hard drive storage is cheap and really not a factor in music storage anymore. Many audiophiles are not that impressed with vinyl in terms of it being the best audio format.
If you have rules, you’re not so much an audiophile as a poser. I can’t afford a Susvara but I have an HE1000 v2, a Utopia, an HD800, an SR-009 and an LCD4z. I have several thousand dollars worth of amps.
But I still enjoy my car stereo and wireless headphones and buds. I’ve rocked out to $20 “junk” pulled off a hook at a Walmart. I still get a rush off of cool kit and, yes, there’s a difference between $4,000 headphones and their $40 counterparts. Sooner or later, I will own a $6,000 Susvara, but there’s plenty to love with something you picked up at a yard sale.
And I unabashedly EQ. Most of the time, it’s just to create a little 3 dB bass shelf on open air headphones that need a little meat at the bottom end or a treble shelf on Audezes and Sennheisers to counteract the veil.
“Like the sound engineer meant” is nonsense. They were EQing in the studio. Recordings were mastered under different conditions, for different media, under different conventions that have changed over decades.
Some music was mastered for AM radio, some for FM, some for tube stereo consoles, some for solid state, some for portable record players with the speakers next to each other in the lid, some for hifi systems in big rooms with big loudspeakers and plenty of space for dispersion.
There’s no there there.
Get the best gear you can afford and adjust to the track and your preferences. It’s about the music.
I’m with Robert on #5
My expensive cables make a huge difference. Tried many before I found the ones. Up till I found the ones I may have agreed but not now .
Vinyl is definitely much more than pure snobbery. The signal to noise ratios tend to be worse (before factoring surface dust, damage, and static), and the timing suffers from wow and flutter. And it is not portable. BUT – an absolutely huge amount of music is mastered more dynamically on vinyl than for digital release, and that matters. Further, the ritual of playing it provides a tactile experience many love.
I work in a very high end hifi shop with every imaginable products going all the way to $30k speaker cable and you left out a very important fact. Don’t consider yourself an audiophile if you list after high end audio products. Those who come in to the shop are overwhelmingly male baby boomers buying luxury items. I don’t consider the additional resolution, soundstage depth, or pick your term, to improve my enjoyment in music one iota. Often times I’m shocked by how little I care for $35k amps compared to simple economical low watt tube amplifiers. The biggest snake oil is in selling massively out of reach systems that are lauded by vulnerable narcissists like Michael Fremer.