The audiophile community has a problem and it’s something that is both inhibiting the growth of the high-end audio industry but also turning a lot of people inside the community off. We’re not the nicest group of people.
When I started my blog in 2018, I named it “Audiofool Reviews” and gave it the tagline “musings of an aging audio addict.” My first post was an “About Me” and I made the point that I was an audio enthusiast and put some distance between myself and the audiophile community.
Things in the community were not great then, but little did I know the next few years would make me wish for the return to 2018.
The basic problem is how the community is perceived. The audiophile community likes to portray itself as some “enlightened” group of passionate music listeners but that’s not how it is perceived outside of our little circle.
Steve Young once said “Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that is the truth in people’s minds.” And therein lies the problem.
The community has a history of pushing away female audiophiles; we have the most female contributors of any hi-fi publication and the emails and comments that we have to delete from audiophiles are pretty disgusting.
Where does that come from? If you wouldn’t send those kind of emails or comments to your own mother or sisters — what makes sending them to women writers or forum participants acceptable?
Here again though, readers will say “but I’m not misogynistic or narcissistic,” but if we contribute to any part of the stereotype (pun intended) we contribute to all of it. And sometimes all that it takes to contribute is staying silent while others behave poorly.
This isn’t some weird commentary about #metoo or being woke. Audiophiles don’t understand that how they behave on Facebook or online forums is doing real damage to this industry.
I’ve been an active member of the Head-Fi community for a very long time and I am a registered user on multiple online forums. It’s become easy to highlight certain forms of behavior that have become all too common.
A new user asks about a specific product and gets told that it is junk and they need to spend at least double that to get something worthwhile.
A user asks for a comparison of two products and instead gets a litany of suggestions why they should be looking at something else entirely
Users ask basic questions and get answers that border on electrical engineering courses and often include pseudo-science rather than just addressing the question.
Threads get hijacked and become battles between opposing camps (cables, power cords, etc…).
To paraphrase the late George Carlin, why is it that your crap is stuff and other peoples stuff is crap? The idea that what you own or use makes you superior to other people is pathetic.
Female posters are treated with patronizing answers because only men know what sounds good in the world of hi-fi.
Online forums like Audio Science Review and Facebook groups have decayed into battlegrounds between objectivists, subjectivists, cable lovers, cable haters, and those who are obsessed with measurements and feel a lot of power telling others who think their own listening experiences are what truly matters, that they are morons and fools.
A lot of these “measurement” cults don’t actually listen to the equipment they test and shred online and feel quite confident telling the acoustic and electrical engineers who design hi-fi products that they are frauds and only they are qualified to tell audiophiles what is good.
Could you imagine going on a Porsche forum and telling someone from that company that they don’t know how to design a proper engine; and that prospective customers should listen to you versus them? Because you know better from some tests an amateur posted on a forum.
It’s laughable on a good day and rather sad behavior.
I’m not entirely sure when the tide turned, but 2018 is when I noticed a decidedly ugly turn by the community. It’s one thing to disagree with another with a degree of civility, but when you create a group that is dedicated to mocking “cable morons” or to list all of the “reviewers” who are clearly on the take — you know the community has some really bad apples.
Audio reviewers don’t make a lot of money. If you think there is some secret cabal of reviewers/editors getting rich writing about home audio/video — you are sadly mistaken.
This is a hobby for 95% of us who are fortunate enough to review components.
Our EIC and Publisher have other jobs; and they both put 50 hours a week into the magazine. Do the math. That means they work another 25-30 hours to feed their families.
My favorite comment online that I see with great frequency is perhaps the most condescending and it’s sadly the norm in 2021.
“I can’t help it if your hearing is not good enough to know the difference.”
If you have ever typed those words in some online group or forum, you are definitely part of the problem and one of the reasons why the audiophile community has earned a bad reputation for being arrogant, narcissistic, and generally hostile. That doesn’t apply to everyone but it happens so frequently that it’s how the outside world views us.
How do we change that?
Next page: A suggested path forward, Part 2
Related podcast: Losing the Next Generation of Audiophiles
Related reading: Has a Decline of Pop Music led to the Rise of the Music Snob?