Generally, audiophiles exist on a smooth continuum from the Square to the Hip (meaning no disrespect to either group, as the great Huey Lewis pointed out, it’s hip to be square). Here’s how to tell them apart in the wild…
The first group is the “I only want to reproduce what’s on the recording” folks. They want that outcome no matter how bad it actually sounds. They owe their loyalty simply to the recording, anything else isn’t “high fidelity”. They firmly believe in A/B tests and sniff that anyone who doesn’t is “not being scientific”. They often claim that things they happen to think are not possible are because of “laws of physics” (whether they understand them or not). They would never buy a product without seeing frequency response curves first. They always take everything seriously.
Clothes: Suit and Tie
Favorite Music: Bach died and music went to hell
Temperament: Violently Square
Favorite speakers: B & W, KEF (till they brought out the Blade). Vintage, Quad 57’s
From there you have the “fidelity to the recording, but with some allowance made for the vagaries of recordings” types. Did you know that every recording is too bright? As are all speakers. And all cartridges. They would also never buy a product without seeing frequency response curves first, but don’t think they should necessarily be flat. They buy room correction boxes (to make the system “accurate”), then pick an arbitrary target curve. They think they are the “one true church”, but can laugh about it a bit. They only buy solid state amps.
Hair: Short, combed neat
Clothes: Shirt, tie and nice slacks
Favorite Music: Small Classical, String Quartets some Popular Oldies, Showtunes (in some neighborhoods).
Temperament: Square, but careful, they are secret swingers when no one is looking
Favorite speakers: Harbeth, Spendor. For vintage, Spendor, Harbeth.
Next the “magaziner”. Has no fixed opinion on how equipment should sound, but can quote every review from the last 5 years of TAS and Stereophile. They read the Measurements section of the Stereophile reviews, but only the part where John Atkinson explains what they really mean. Believes that the greatest thing was when Robert Harley was appointed TAS Editor, now there are TWO magazines with “Recommended Component” issues. They buy tube amps (new only) when they feel non-conformist. They love audio shows above all else.
Hair: touches the collar between haircuts
Clothes: Short sleeved button down shirt, collar open and dockers
Favorite Music: Diana Krall, say no more!
Temperament: Earnestly Square
Favorite speakers: Vandersteen, Thiel, maybe Revel. If they are monied, Magico. For vintage, none. They are not listed in “Recommended Components.”
Then you get to the “Absolute Aficionado”. Thinks that recordings are nothing like a concert, and a concert in their living room is what they so passionately desire. No image is too big, no depth too cavernous for their lusts. They would NEVER listen to a small monitor. Vinyl with MC cartridge only, please. Would never sully their system with room correction, but might buy expensive room treatments. Loves big-ass tube amps.
Hair: long enough to be unfashionable
Clothes: T-shirt, Jeans
Favorite Music: Shostakovich, Mahler, Pink Floyd (especially “Meddle”)
Temperament: Frustrated ex-hippy
Favorite speakers: Magnepan, Martin Logan, Sound labs. Vintage, whatever HP had 10 to 35 years ago.
Finally, the “do your own thingers”. They believe the best sound is the sound they have in their mind’s eye (ear?). No equipment is too Avant-Garde, or too retrograde. They venerate tube equipment designers as present day saints, the more it looks “vintage”, the better. It’s invariably expensive and out of the main stream. Love having small get-togethers with those of their kind, which they call “tastings” (pretentious, moi?).
Hair: long, or bald with long sides
Clothes: whatever, man
Favorite Music: Anything obscure
Temperament: Any character from Kerouac’s “On the Road”
Favorite speakers: Large, retro, obscure. Extra credit for single-driver designs. Vintage, old horns, Quad 57’s.
Of course, over the years many of us have morphed through many of these cultures…