The audiophile cult of High-End.

piccit_blown_away_guy_ad_for_maxell
Maxell “Blown Away Guy” advertisement in the 80’s.

I love music and like most audiophiles adore new shinny toys, be it new or vintage.
Sadly these days I’m getting a bit tired of most audiophile gear related magazines, sites and blogs, and it all started when I bought yet another magazine.
I picked up the 4€ monthly volume skimmed a bit and found one or two things of interest, mostly affordable Hi-Fi gear. All the remaining pages of the magazine were about very expensive High-End gear and when I say expensive I’m talking about car or motorcycle prices, just for you to have an idea.

I was dismayed that a reputable magazine could literally be only reviewing pricey Hi-End gear. Ok, most ads on the magazine try to sell similar gear but I’m sure most people who buy these magazines don’t buy expensive gear every month.
Sure, car and motorcycle magazines do this all the time, everyone likes to read about supercars but even those magazines try to deliver that kind of article as a special treat to their readers, after all there are classic motorcycles, cars, the story behind the great brands. etc. There’s a lot to write about, for example I truly enjoy special numbers which give a detailed account about the story of motorcycles.

So why do audiophile magazines keep publishing so much reviews of High-End gear and so very little of accessible gear?
From my perspective, maybe because readers buy the magazines without complaining about it and also because the ads that support the magazines are payed by the same companies who send gear to be reviewed. This also applies to specialized websites and blogs, even when they say they are not influenced by advertisers,etc. Yea, it’s bullshit…
I think most audiophile mediums cherish the “cult of High-End” a never ending circle that feeds on hype, inflated prices and elitism on the hobby.

Anyone who complains about the cult of High-End is branded and kicked from the kingdom of audiophiles.
Sadly new arrivals to the hobby want to belong to community and thus help the frenzy.
Can’t hear a difference between two amplifiers?
You lack the trained golden hear of a good reviewer, even if most of those audiophile reviewers hear less than a typical teenager.
The continued effort of high-end audiophile brands to eclipse less niche companies is something I’m watching since I remember reading about audiophile gear.
Creative Labs portable DACs are too mainstream, one needs to buy a specific brand which makes niche DACs, because every audiophile buys that obscure brand. Even if the quality control is bullshit.

Affordable gear is still around and people from outside the hobby buy it all the time, it’s not eyecandy or worthy of bragging rights but it does the job, just like most mainstream cars and motorcycles do everyday.
I understand why an audiophile magazine refuses to review a portable headphone amplifier made by a mainstream company, after all the reviewer would have to compare it with a very expensive model that would sound almost the same do to the law of diminishing returns in audio.
Said unwritten law says that after a certain price point you will have to spend large amounts of money to have very little improvement in audio quality.

The cult of High-End gear will not end soon but it’s important that audio enthusiasts know about it and call out magazines, websites and blogs on their biased views towards expensive gear.