View RSS Feed


What Comes First

Rate this Entry
It's the music, of course. At least for me.

CA regular wgscott, an interesting fellow whose input has been useful, stimulating and entertaining to me from time to time, poses a forum question asking us to assign a value on a 1 - 10 scale on (interest? experience? not sure what ...) a computer-to-audiophile continuum:

I figured I had to be around a two (given my 30+ year computer professional background, from computer programming and software design to founding/co-founding/managing a couple of computer startups), but something like a venn diagram might better reflect my relationship to all this stuff -- to show the interplay between my computerness, my love of music, and the factor of audiophilia.

Music has always had it for me, from the early teenage years when I heard late-night distant radio signals drift across the Midwest plains to bring me the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Little Richard and even mariachi from Mexico. Even earlier, otherwise dreaded, required church attendance had the mitigating factor of exposing me to ear boggling organ and choral sounds and Bach, Schubert, In college, I had flirted with a late-term change in major to musicology/music history, but that seemed to have been derailed by the VietNam war and other factors. By high school, I had discovered jazz and spent my precious savings on stuff like Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis, as soon as it hit the market. Later on, I was fortunate enough to stumble into some inner circles in the then-blossoming punk rock scene in Los Angeles. And I had some friends, including a roommate for a time, who were aspiring classical concert musicians and a girlfriend who was an fledgling operatic soprano. And on and on, music has been dominant in my after-work life.

In high school and on into college, I went with a suitcase-form-factor turntable with small detachable speakers, and when that thing died, I relied for some time on a GE clock radio, listening to late-night jazz stations in my newly-adopted home of Los Angeles, supplemented by visits to the Hollywood Bowl and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and small clubs.

Gradually, as my earning power increased, my equipment improved. A few friends had audiophile-level hardware, but I mostly stuck with their recommendations to the extent that my budget and need for software permitted. And now, as then, I would give far higher priority to the music itself than some new audio gadget. Nice to have nice sound reproduction, but when contemplating the possibility of upgrading my DAC, for example, for another $500 or $1000, all I have to do is think about how much music I could buy for that investment. No contest. (This especially holds, after having discovered the ideas of Jim Smith!)

I guess I generally operate with some sort of order of magnitude rule-of-thumb. Once I have about $2k invested in a modest system that yields a highly-cost-effective, for me, level of SQ, I don't really hear that much more improvement unless I were to outlay, say, $20K. And the relatively fixed price of the music itself makes chasing SQ increases to that extreme even more inappropriate.

What is an audiophile? My definition is one with a strong interest, perhaps obsession or pre-occupation, with the quality of audio gear and sound reproduction. For me, this is a peripheral concern. I read audiophile magazines basically as another source of music reviews. I would not be visiting CA if it didn't have a computer focus.

Of course, there seems to be a natural affinity around computer hardware and audio hardware. (And I find that many of my computer colleagues are deeply into digital music and my other passion, photography, for that matter.) I was playing music CDs on my computers and tying them into my home stereo many, many years ago, and experimenting with waking up to computer music, etc. An early adopter (and ultimately rejector) of MP3s, the mix of computers and music has always been a major off-hours time sink.

And I admit that it is fun to screw around with the hardware, read some equipment reviews, and follow some of the CA threads, but when I realize that it is taking away too much time from actual listening, I flip that switch, click that mouse, and sit back to enjoy the sounds.
Personal Blogs