Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Confessions of a Non-Audiophile

In light of the much-celebrated remastered versions of the Beatles discography out today, I must make a confession that could ruin any chance I have at respectability in the music community. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is time to come clean.

I am not an audiophile.

Whew! That feels good to get that out, even if it means ridicule and scorn are destined to come my way. I know, I know. Any serious critic of music should be able to tout big statements like “the violins on ‘Eleanor Rigby’ are crisper on the remastered Revolver than ever before” or “the sound is so natural that you’ll feel like you were in Abbey Road Studios while the Beatles were recording.” I’m lucky if I can correctly pick “A” or “B” in a multiple choice test of “Identify the Newer Version.”

My affliction with sub-par sound goes back to my first experiences with music. In my elementary school days, I listened to music I’d recorded off the radio via a hand-held tape recorder shoved in front of a stereo speaker. For years, I didn’t know what the ending of Billy Joel’s “My Life” sounded like because I’d cut the song off early to cancel out the DJ chatter.

Of course, the transgressions of youth might be overlooked if I redeemed my mediocre ways in later years. Alas, when I tramped off to college, it was with crates full of cassettes and merely a ghetto blaster on which to play them.

When I’d overcome “poor college student” status, my music expenditures were predominantly on the music itself and rarely on the means by which to play it. So even while my CD collection grew to a four-digit number, my stereo never went beyond a three-digit price tag.

At one point, I ironically subscribed to Stereo Review, but only for the album reviews and even then I dismissed their recording quality ratings as irrelevant.

Even now, I am perfectly happy listening to my MP3’s on my computer while the stereo sits idle in anticipation of the occasional swish of the dust rag.

Perhaps the blame lies in my failure to learn an instrument. I was one of those grade schoolers for whom even the recorder was beyond my capabilities. I never grasped that when playing the violin, you were NOT supposed to saw away on all the strings at once.

Maybe it’s a hereditary thing. My mom likes show tunes but my dad proclaims marches to be his favorite kind of music. There really isn’t, to my knowledge, an audiophile contingent devoted to marches.

It could be my complete lack of rhythm. There’s no quicker way to make me feel like the dumbest person in the room than formal dance. Left foot here, right foot there…I need a GPS to navigate even the simplest of dance steps.

For those whose lingo is peppered with words like “woofer” and “tweeter,” it must be incomprehensible that I could enjoy listening to music so much, but at such low quality. Enroll me in AAA (Anti-Audiophiles Anonymous) or some other twelve-step program. I admit it - I have a problem and need help! Listen to my pleas carefully, though; they won't come through as loud and clear as your refined ears are used to.


  1. Just goes to show you the power of music. YOu don't have to be a musician to enjoy it, just as you don't have to be an artist to enjoy art. I'm glad the confession is off your shoulders after all these years.

  2. You know, I love MP3s - it's really about convenience and usability as much as quality. I listen to the songs I want, in the order I want, or at least the genres I want; I have bought a couple new CDs lately, and of course I ripped them onto the laptop and put them away :)

    We play music upstairs through our laptop (which sounds like an underwater tin can), and at work, I have an 8GB stick drive full of music hidden in the back of my desktop (we're not supposed to have "foreign objects" on our PCs! I just now finally got a real portable MP3 player through a new phone, and I'm looking forward to listening to it through the aux. jack in our new car!

    Long story short, I'm with you - and all this from someone who DOES have an Onkyo receiver, a standalone Kenwood EQ, and Infinity speakers large enough to crush a dog :) What do I do with them these days? They're hooked up to the downstairs TV . . .

    -- Jeremy

  3. And what's wrong with show tunes? I love a good musical. Oops is my age showing? My ideal listening would be a collection of overtures recorded with full orchestra. Vicki