The audiophile cult of High-End.

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.

Magazines, news, written stuff and some thoughts.

They are faces of the same coin, in one you can read about audiophile gear
and in the other you can read about music. They are called “Audio & Cinema
em Casa” and “Blitz”
These two magazines are old in Portugal, the audiophile one is about 20
years old and the music one comes from the newspaper with the same name
that started running in 1984.
I don’t always buy these magazines, these days I have a digital
subscription for the audio one, because I had a heavy discount and I buy
the music one if I’m in the mood.
These magazines are the effort of countless work hours and I’m sure nights
without sleep, because of that they are references in Portugal.

I admit the Internet almost killed my enjoyment for professional written
articles. In this fast paced world of instant news and amateur journalism,
anyone can write about audio gear and music, but few are the sites that can
make me devour text like these magazines do.
People sometimes forget that most online news come from the professional
press, be it printed or digital. If you think about it all news come from
the same sources, amateurs just filter all the noise and post small
articles on niche sites or blogs. Now that’s all fun and games but because
they can’t actually copy all the content stuff gets lost in the transition.
I enjoy reading from professional sources because most news aren’t half
backed on someones attic or basement. Pros have direct access to things few
fans have, unless they are the presidents of an official fan club or
something like that.

I don’t actually follow many audio gear/music sites on the internet, I can
visit them to have a little snack but few are the sites that can make me
return after some days.
I do follow some youtube channels and many personal blogs.
Most sites have a loyalty problem with people like me, we jump for site to
site searching for our favorite news, so sites make forums and other honey
traps but in the end the result is only the delay of the departure of the
reader. Magazines might try those tricks but in the end it’s the written
material that counts, a bad magazine goes down the drain fast, a bad site
can be up for a long long time and that’s why we have so many shitty
websites about music and audiophile gear that plague the web.

I don’t put personal sites or blogs on the shitty list even if the are
awful looking and bad written like mine is. I mean if someone takes time to
rant about magazines and news from his/her point of view you already know
it’s a personal opinion, the same can’t be said about a site made really
for enthusiasts of some hobby, it might show personal views but it also
needs to have reliable news and unbiased articles, something even good
magazines have trouble keeping balanced.

I think anyone can write but no blog/website can beat a good professional
Some people should hammer that on their minds before embarking on projects
thinking about making easy money from niche communities.
Remember my Grado RA1 clone rant? It’s the same but for websites….all of this because I’m so F#$%#$ tired of website owners thinking they are the next What’s Hi-Fi or Rolling Stone magazines

Not all things are bad, for example InnerFidelity is a fine example of
something done right because it has a great reviewer. Few sites can
balance ads, reviews, good articles like he can. No I’m not getting paid by
him! 😉

Addendum: (I found out InnerFidelity belongs to a huge umbrella of tech sites, even so I still think its a fine example of a website as of this writing) 

Now I’m gonna read a good magazine if you don’t mind…

About ads & audio magazines.

I believe ads are a necessary evil in this consumer oriented world, good ads sell stuff and that’s a good thing for companies that need to make some money, the main problem is when ads are full of bullshit, and it does happen a lot in the audiophile world but not so much in the professional oriented market.

I have my theory why the two audio worlds are so different, it’s called user knowledge.
I’m subscribed to some professional audio magazines that need to balance ads with reviews and most of the time I don’t see BS on their ads.
Ok, they make claims BUT always supported with facts or opinions of professionals users.
Professional users have a lot of knowledge about their work tools and so they don’t need BS to buy products, now in the other hand audiophiles are a complicated loot.

Most audiophile magazines have BS on their ads, why?
Because most audiophiles believe blindly in the opinion of those magazines, so when you see ads on those magazines they always claim that some magazine gave the product a good review, I think you get my point, you don’t see professionals giving their word for the products. One of the few audiophile magazines I enjoy reading with balanced BS it’s called “What’s Hi-Fi” , they at least try to put less BS on their ads and I respect that.
Another one its called “Audio & Cinema em Casa” a very old Portuguese audiophile magazine, the co-founder and editor of that magazine is the chairman of EISA aka European Imaging and Sound Association and I do have a huge respect for Mr. Jorge Gonçalves an engineer by trade even when he claims audio cables make a difference.

I know audiophile magazines need to make money to stay alive so they allow BS on their ads, but even so I think they could at least try to filter BS from their ads.