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Audio Jewelry

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Sawdust123

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I disagree.

I don't find that to be an accurate depiction of my psychology, of any audiophile I know, or of the attitude I've seen from countless audiophiles on line more generally.
Matt, I seem to have struck a raw nerve and that wasn't my intention. I don't disagree that audiophiles are motivated by nuances in sound reproduction. I am just pointing out that they are human and are as easily swayed by aesthetics and prestige as anyone else is. Very few people admit they are influenced by these vanities but I don't know anyone completely immune from them. In my experience, these vanities become more prevalent with increasing price.

As a point of curiosity, is there anything in your system that you consider to be butt ugly?

BTW, your point about being embarrassed about what you spent reminds me of an old guitarist joke that could just as easily become an audiophile joke.
Q: What does a guitarist fear most?
A: That when he dies, his wife will sell off his guitars for the prices he told her paid for them.
 

MattHooper

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Matt, I seem to have struck a raw nerve and that wasn't my intention.

No, I have simply seen similar attempts to describe the psychology of audiophiles before, and I pipe up because they do not seem to me to be accurate. Though it is also of a piece with an issue I have with much of on-line commentary, where people tend to have a hard time seeing beyond their own values to the rationality of people acting on other values. So for instance, someone who values sonic accuracy doesn't value vinyl playback and leaps from his own criteria to poorly reasoned psychoanalyzing of why others buy vinyl "must be just nostalgia, or trying to be hip." Which is often a simply inaccurate analysis because this person doesn't really understand the motivations/values underlying the choices.

Your OP at least suggested to me it was edging on this type of fallacy, where from your perspective (I infer) certain audio gear offers very little "substantial" performance gain or change, and therefore you go on to attribute some *other* motivation to explain why people are buying lots of high end gear (vanity, aesthetics etc). But if it's the case that the audiophiles-in-question DO perceive substantial audio differences (even if it is objectively small but subjectively important to them, or even if they are merely imagining it), then they may be motivated by the sonic upgrade more than vanity or aesthetics. It's hard to put yourself in their place, if you reject a possible basis for their motivation.



I don't disagree that audiophiles are motivated by nuances in sound reproduction. I am just pointing out that they are human and are as easily swayed by aesthetics and prestige as anyone else is. Very few people admit they are influenced by these vanities but I don't know anyone completely immune from them. In my experience, these vanities become more prevalent with increasing price.

Sure we are influenced by aesthetics. As I said, I highly value aesthetic appeal (again, particularly with speakers). Is that part of the purchasing motivation for some or many audiophiles? Sure. We love gear. Gear looks cool to us. Different types of gear look cool to different audiophiles.
But as I argue, it's generally not the *main* driver of purchases for audiophiles, even among aesthetically sensitive audiophiles (there tends to be more than one option among aesthetically acceptable gear to choose from, and it's generally purported audio performance driving the decision in most cases).

Dunno about this "prestige" stuff. Most people I know aren't audiophiles, so my gear doesn't have much "prestige." And even if I like the looks, I don't expect other people not interested in audio to swoon.

As a point of curiosity, is there anything in your system that you consider to be butt ugly?

I could have pointed to a couple of items in past set ups, but in my current set up, I think all the items look nice or acceptable. (Though I didn't choose a few of the items on looks at all, it just happens they look decent).
 

cookiefactory

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But to whom?
Nobody walks through my room marvelling at the speaker wire or looking for magic stones - it is in my house not the street.

When audiophiles credential signal, it’s not to the general populace, rather it’s to other enthusiasts.
 

SDC

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There are beautiful gears that glitters like gold, but

I've seen so many audiofools attaching stickers on their gears claiming quantum control.

And much before quantum BS came to community, there were people sticking small shielding materials with yellow rubber band on their thousand dollor cables

And they look awful, they're anything but jewelry.
 

Frank Dernie

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This video is aimed at car audio. But I still think it paints a pretty relevant picture. You two obviously belong in the connoisseur end of the scale, but are you saying that exhibitionists doesn't exist in the world of home audio?
I don't know any.
And as a car designer I am not the least interested in showing off my choice, am fairly uninterested in the exterior styling (but very interested by efficient aerodynamics) I want it to be light but the interior styling, which is the bit I see, is very important, as is the ergonomics. I DETEST touch screens, for example, since they require you to look away from the road whereas normal ones do not.
I am bored rigid by black interiors and in fact the low weight and availability of a non-black interior were 2 of the significant factor in my last car purchase.
I did not choose it for bragging rights.
Most of my hifi was bought before the internet was in general use so nobody knew about it.
 

Frank Dernie

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When audiophiles credential signal, it’s not to the general populace, rather it’s to other enthusiasts.
Pre internet I didn't know any and even now I only "know" ones on line. I have one friend who is an enthusiast but he doesn't live that close to me and is an analogue messiah, LPs reel-to-reel and valve SET, so we don't talk hifi at all since he can't convert me...
 

anmpr1

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In the early days of hi-fi, the thing was to 'hide' gear behind doors. Especially amps. No one wanted to look at a tube amp--amps were usually hidden in the back of an equipment cabinet. Look at early McIntosh or Marantz amps. Not much different than Scott, Fisher (which actually looked nicer with their rounded cage), Dyna, etc.

Then there was the 'high end' 'industrial' school of design. Those examples surely couldn't be called 'jewelry', although they were some of the most expensive gear you could buy. Think about the Levinson ML-2, or the huge, four chassis Futterman amps from NYAL. They looked like something Honeywell might have made for a control panel at an iron smelting plant.

Think about Benchmark. Some of the highest quality gear you can buy. But it looks like it belongs in a studio rack. Not a living room. No one looks at a Benchmark DAC or amp, and thinks it looks nicer than an Accuphase. But that's not it's raison d'être, whereas Accuphase has to have their look, or no one would buy it.
 

Kal Rubinson

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No one looks at a Benchmark DAC or amp, and thinks it looks nicer than an Accuphase.
I think the compact, lightweight Benchmark amp looks nicer than any bloated behemoths. Of course, they will not impress the uninformed. Mebbe they need tailfins.
 

anmpr1

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I think the compact, lightweight Benchmark amp looks nicer than any bloated behemoths. Of course, they will not impress the uninformed. Mebbe they need tailfins.
If heatsinks were in the back, instead of the sides, I'd have a custom made rosewood sleeve built for the AHB2. One could do that for the HGC DAC. On the front? Rows and columns of flashing LEDs are quite informative (especially if you have the manual handy), certainly functional, but I'd prefer something a bit more... how should I put it? If I am allowed to substitute an eye for an ear, then something with a bit more visual savoir faire.

However that is, I understand it was designed with a studio-oriented purpose in mind. And I'm not complaining about what it is. Only arguing a point of visual aesthetics..., a point that is, I admit, less than firmly established in anyone's mind.
 

Kal Rubinson

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Only arguing a point of visual aesthetics..., a point that is, I admit, less than firmly established in anyone's mind.
Au contraire. I do believe that "a point of visual aesthetics" is firmly established in most people's minds, just as it is in yours and mine. It is, apparently, a different point in each.
 
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Sawdust123

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No, I have simply seen similar attempts to describe the psychology of audiophiles before, and I pipe up because they do not seem to me to be accurate. Though it is also of a piece with an issue I have with much of on-line commentary, where people tend to have a hard time seeing beyond their own values to the rationality of people acting on other values.
That is a fair observation of people in general.

Your OP at least suggested to me it was edging on this type of fallacy, where from your perspective (I infer) certain audio gear offers very little "substantial" performance gain or change, and therefore you go on to attribute some *other* motivation to explain why people are buying lots of high end gear (vanity, aesthetics etc). But if it's the case that the audiophiles-in-question DO perceive substantial audio differences (even if it is objectively small but subjectively important to them, or even if they are merely imagining it), then they may be motivated by the sonic upgrade more than vanity or aesthetics. It's hard to put yourself in their place, if you reject a possible basis for their motivation.
I am a student of sales and marketing techniques (my favorite books) and a lifetime of experience practicing those skills. I have mostly worked in B2B environments where one would expect decisions to be dominated by objective criteria such as ROI and technical performance. Sometimes they are but more often they are emotional. One rarely tells their boss they want the new widget because it is nifty and cool. They still use ROI and performance justifications. The real difference between the old and new widget may actually be relatively small. They just create the case that the differences are more significant than they really are.

Sure we are influenced by aesthetics. As I said, I highly value aesthetic appeal (again, particularly with speakers). Is that part of the purchasing motivation for some or many audiophiles? Sure. We love gear. Gear looks cool to us. Different types of gear look cool to different audiophiles.
But as I argue, it's generally not the *main* driver of purchases for audiophiles, even among aesthetically sensitive audiophiles (there tends to be more than one option among aesthetically acceptable gear to choose from, and it's generally purported audio performance driving the decision in most cases).
The CEO of a company that makes audiophile products (as well as other products) once related a story to me of a widget that they introduced. They weren't sure what to charge since there wasn't anything like it at the time. They knew they could be profitable if they charged $X. However, they felt that people wouldn't believe it was a quality product at that price. They decided, instead, to go to market at FOUR times that price. Still not sure this was the correct price, they introduced a "high end" model at SIX times the price. The two products differed in color and one other non-sonic attribute. The more expensive product outsold the cheaper one by a significant margin. The product reviews even touted that the sonic differences justified the higher price. This is just human nature. I think my original post explained why.

The anecdote above is pretty extreme and not a daily occurrence throughout the industry. However, it was not a singular occurrence. About 10 years ago, Lexicon introduced a $3500 Blu ray player that consisted of nothing more than a $500 Oppo Blu ray player mounted inside a billet aluminum chassis. Expertly machined billet aluminum looks great but it is not cheap. Was it worth an extra $3000? To some people it was. And if they are getting enjoyment from it, who am I to tell them otherwise.

These days most precious gems can be manufactured in labs. The lab-grown versions are chemically the same yet they are free from imperfections (inclusions, colorations, etc). Being perfect crystals without any optical flaws, they should be way more expensive than mined stones but instead they sell for just a fraction of the cost. Why then the price differential? The answer is that value is being placed on attributes other than its optical qualities (e.g. rarity, uniqueness, tradition). For the most part, the market has said that these other attributes are more valuable than the optical ones. Is it not possible then that many audiophiles place a high degree of value in non-sonic attributes of the gear? I believe the answer is yes and I have absolutely no problem with that.
 

Thomas savage

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That is a fair observation of people in general.


I am a student of sales and marketing techniques (my favorite books) and a lifetime of experience practicing those skills. I have mostly worked in B2B environments where one would expect decisions to be dominated by objective criteria such as ROI and technical performance. Sometimes they are but more often they are emotional. One rarely tells their boss they want the new widget because it is nifty and cool. They still use ROI and performance justifications. The real difference between the old and new widget may actually be relatively small. They just create the case that the differences are more significant than they really are.


The CEO of a company that makes audiophile products (as well as other products) once related a story to me of a widget that they introduced. They weren't sure what to charge since there wasn't anything like it at the time. They knew they could be profitable if they charged $X. However, they felt that people wouldn't believe it was a quality product at that price. They decided, instead, to go to market at FOUR times that price. Still not sure this was the correct price, they introduced a "high end" model at SIX times the price. The two products differed in color and one other non-sonic attribute. The more expensive product outsold the cheaper one by a significant margin. The product reviews even touted that the sonic differences justified the higher price. This is just human nature. I think my original post explained why.

The anecdote above is pretty extreme and not a daily occurrence throughout the industry. However, it was not a singular occurrence. About 10 years ago, Lexicon introduced a $3500 Blu ray player that consisted of nothing more than a $500 Oppo Blu ray player mounted inside a billet aluminum chassis. Expertly machined billet aluminum looks great but it is not cheap. Was it worth an extra $3000? To some people it was. And if they are getting enjoyment from it, who am I to tell them otherwise.

These days most precious gems can be manufactured in labs. The lab-grown versions are chemically the same yet they are free from imperfections (inclusions, colorations, etc). Being perfect crystals without any optical flaws, they should be way more expensive than mined stones but instead they sell for just a fraction of the cost. Why then the price differential? The answer is that value is being placed on attributes other than its optical qualities (e.g. rarity, uniqueness, tradition). For the most part, the market has said that these other attributes are more valuable than the optical ones. Is it not possible then that many audiophiles place a high degree of value in non-sonic attributes of the gear? I believe the answer is yes and I have absolutely no problem with that.
I'd add ( perceived) ' authenticity' to that list of desired qualities you have there.

I'd put it at the top..
 

MattHooper

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Thanks for the interesting reply!

My only experience in this is simply being an audiphile, having known a great number of audiophiles, and having been a denizen of audiophile forums since the 90's (and also having been part of the high-end reviewing crowd, so seeing some behind the scenes). So I hope to simply bring to a conversation like this what I have observed in terms of the behaviour and apparent motivations of actual audiophiles.

The CEO of a company that makes audiophile products (as well as other products) once related a story to me of a widget that they introduced. They weren't sure what to charge since there wasn't anything like it at the time. They knew they could be profitable if they charged $X. However, they felt that people wouldn't believe it was a quality product at that price. They decided, instead, to go to market at FOUR times that price. Still not sure this was the correct price, they introduced a "high end" model at SIX times the price. The two products differed in color and one other non-sonic attribute. The more expensive product outsold the cheaper one by a significant margin. The product reviews even touted that the sonic differences justified the higher price. This is just human nature. I think my original post explained why.

Yes I'm aware of a number of similar anecdotes. I've also heard of speaker manufacturers who were told to make more expensive speakers for parts of the Asian market where the speaker wouldn't be taken as seriously if it didn't cost enough.

But even your anecdote doesn't seem to directly entail the "vanity" angle you seemed to be arguing for. The audiophile customers in question may simply associate higher price with higher quality. Even if in error, that would still support the idea they are (or may be) motivated by perceived enhance performance, not vanity as the prime driver.

Again, I'm certainly not discounting the marketing/sales effect of how gear looks. I'm just trying to place that in what seems to me to be the correct perspective.
 
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Sawdust123

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Matt, I get the impression that we are simply two people separated by a common word. The word "vanity" can take on several different connotations. Custom license plates are called "vanity" plates because they draw attention to a vehicle. However, such plates rarely are expressions of personal vanity and I don't know anyone that looks down on vehicle owners for having such plates. This is more akin to my application of the word in this thread. I certainly wasn't trying to equate it with a deadly sin.

As the son of depression era parents, I grew up with a rather frugal set of values. That doesn't mean that I don't occasionally splurge on myself. I have convinced myself the vacation or pricey item (including audio gear) is an acceptable expense or even "deserved" as long as I stay within my means. This is simply a justification for my vanity.

Here is an example: I buy a lot of my clothes from Costco and outlet stores. For the most part, there is nothing remarkable about my selections. However, I am particularly fond of the shirts from one designer. I appreciate the shirts for their unique patterns, interesting fabric weaves, impressive stitching details and embroidery. They typically sell for 10-12X what a shirt at Costco sells for. At the outlet stores where I typically buy them, they are still 5X the price of a Costco shirt. A Costco shirt would fit just as well, last as long, keep me just as warm, etc but they are rather humdrum. In contrast, the designer shirts produce many compliments, even from men. And when a man speaks up, it is usually because they have shirts from that designer too. It is like we are members of some secret club. I must say I enjoy the attention these shirts muster. So yes, I am vain in this regard. I don't find that type of vanity so terrible but maybe some do.
 
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