Why does the term “Lunatic Fringe” come to mind?
Since When Did It Become Controversial Listening to Music with Great Sound?
After all, sound is a huge part of everything we do as humans, from how we communicate with each other to how we choose to spend time alone. What is wrong with wanting the sound we interact with to be the best that it can be?
I travel in music circles with pro audio engineers, recording artists, label execs and audiophiles. It surprises me that more industry people don’t go to the audiophile shows where the rubber meets the road — the people who create the music meeting those that love and buy their products.
When I ask my industry cohorts ‘why’ the first words coming from their mouths seems to be ‘lunatic fringe’ — as if ‘audiophiles’ have the plague and should be avoided at all costs.
What is defining the word ‘audiophile’ that is so bad in their minds? Can we reintroduce ‘audiophile’ to a new generation? Do we need a new word to describe a passionate listener?
A recent survey by the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) indicates that music lovers are everywhere. They’ve analyzed the results in a study called “Notion of Quality: Audio Expectations of Consumers.” Participants were asked to rate themselves as to their music listening habits divided into 3 categories. Here are the results of how people thought of themselves.
Audio Enthusiast –34%
Moderate Interest – 34%
Low Interest – 32%
CEA estimates that there are 80,000,000 Audio Enthusiasts in the USA alone. Audio Enthusiasts would pay more money for better quality content and listening gear. Their ages run relatively equally from 18-55+, with 77% having household incomes of less than $75,000 annually and 48% are women. Is it possible to expand the ‘audiophile’ profile to include these demographics or do we need a new word? “Audio Enthusiast” isn’t a bad term. As a product manufacturer, broadening the demographic to be more inclusive is a very healthy sign and benefits the whole community.
Today, the profile for ‘audiophile’ seems to be over 50 years old, male, with income over $100,000 annually. Some manufacturers feel that the estimate for ‘audiophiles’ is about 500,000 worldwide. That’s a tough nugget for any of us in the business to develop new products. Adding new categories of the demographics from the CEA report could be advantageous.
Take for instance, “women”.. something I know a bit about. I have often wondered why more women don’t consider themselves ‘audiophiles’? And, why more manufacturers haven’t taken advantage of the power of a woman’s dollar as the auto industry did in the nineties. Whether you like ‘Beats’ headphones or not, they’ve made it ‘cool’ to want better sound for a younger generation. Spending $299 on headphones is a start. If anyone feels ‘kids today’ don’t understand ‘quality in sound’, please come to my studio and experience my fresh faced interns working on analog tape, buying vinyl and unhappy with mp3 sound.
Once exposed to great sonics, they can’t go back to mp3.
In upcoming articles, I would like to poll the readership as to what it means to be called an ‘audiophile’. I welcome suggestions for questions. Is an audiophile someone who pays $xxxx for their listening environment? Someone who builds their own set of speakers? Goes to meetings with fellow listeners? Pays $1000 a foot for cable? Buys ‘Beats’ headphones? Hates mp3s? I’d like your opinion to help open our world to new ears. Let me know what you think.
This is a great forum to place your comments so we can all share. Simply comment on this post.
Thanks and enjoy your music experience!
Founder and Producer, Blue Coast Records
Special thanks to Gene Bryan Johnson for his editing skills and the volunteers at