When “sound” is more interesting than “music”: A very cool defense of audiophiles

While egosurfing for responses to my blogging via Technorati, I ran across Matt Corwine’s excellent response to my posting of a few days ago, in which I declared that “audiophiles are jackasses.” As Matt writes:

But here’s something different: I wonder whether he’s being fair to the extreme audiophiles by assuming that in addition to being really into speakers, they’re also into music. Perhaps audiophilia and musicophilia are two different things that are sometimes, but not always, present in the same brain.

So there’s music and then there’s sound. A lot of people like both, but maybe some who like sound don’t much care for music — they might be happy just listening to test tones or Boston records or whatever, as long as it sounds great on their system.

I’m probably 5dB short of being an audiophile. Before I bought my first record, I was really into listening to the vacuum cleaner. Today, I can sometimes get into hearing awesomely produced music on a high-end system that costs more than my house, but I think the part of my brain that gets off on such things is separate from the part that actually likes music. In the same way that I enjoy making sushi for entirely different reasons than I enjoy eating it.

It’s a great point. It reminded me of a similar phenomenon: Guitar-collecting freaks who do not actually record or perform with their gear, but who merely enjoy having 50 different guitars around so they can occasionally play a chord or two and re-experience the timbre that makes each unique.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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