Is “Audiophile” a dirty word?

Audiophile – What does that word conjure up or mean for you?

This is NOT a slam on Audiophiles by any means. I know some who are very nice and kind and have been of tremendous help to me in ways I can not repay. Unfortunately, I have also run into some real winners if you know what I mean, but people are people and the name doesn’t make the person. This whole article is more about the way the term “Audiophile” has been perverted and/or maligned and misused over the last few years representing a negative connotation now.
This is just my theory based on what I have experienced over the past 10 years or so.
Just as important, I also think I may have illustrated the effect it has on the human psyche and society when terms get their meaning changed to such a degree. Positive becomes negative, neutral becomes no longer neutral, etc. Just like with the word “entitlement” it used to have a connotation or meaning of something earned through hard work or vested in over time such as social security for example. Now days the same term “entitlement” now means something is undeserved as in not earned even though the origin remains the same, the meaning in the books remains the same and the path to the “entitlement” has not changed.(let’s not get into politics here though, I’m just giving example). So it is with the term “audiophile”. The origin has not changed, the original meaning or description has not changed in the books, but now days it has in the minds of most of society. So this is actually an apologetic, a defense of the term and its original meaning you could say.

So what does “Audiophile” mean these days? The original definition of the term “Audiophile” would be according to
A Oxford dictionaries:Hi-Fi Enthusiast
Merriam Webster dictionary: A person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction
Wikipedia: An audiophile is a person enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction.
For the long-winded version see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audiophile

The term “audiophile” came about in 1951 and appeared originally in High Fidelity magazine: Modern Language Association (MLA): “audiophile.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 10 Nov. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/audiophile>.
Sadly, it seems that what it means today is what I would call a perverted version of itself. These days it seems to mean “audio snob” to many folks. Many of those folks carry the term as a badge of elite license to judge others on their choice of gear or ability to obtain it unfortunately, not to mention a hall pass to be jaded and just general killjoys. This only serves to discourage others, decimate the number of folks in the hobby and eventually ruin any hope of keeping music alive by discouraging folks to bother listening to music.
Do you know who is responsible for that? I’ll tell you: Audiophiles! They are the ones who ultimately put a negative connotation on the term. Those same folk have also spun High Fidelity into a negative thing. I’ve heard crap such as, “oh, that’s just Hi-Fi, I don’t like Hi-Fi, it doesn’t reproduce the true sound. Well, uh I hate to break it to those guys, but the definition of Hi-Fi or High Fidelity is: the reproduction of an effect (as sound or an image) that is very faithful to the original. You could also put it this way: the reproduction of sound using electronic equipment that gives faithful reproduction with little or no distortion. For those guys High Fidelity has all of the sudden become inferior. Even Wikipedia has it wrong! It’s really ridiculous because both Audiophile and High-Fidelity mean almost the same thing, it’s just that “audiophile” is a noun and High-Fidelity is an adjective or descriptive.

I also believe this perversion came about at least in part, from marketing. It seems the main purpose of the term today is marketing and flash. The term “audiophile” is used so loosely these days that it is even applied to things were the term would not normally apply such as physical items like amplifiers, speakers and even records to name a few. We see it in advertising all the time, they stick the label “audiophile” on said products to fool the consumer into unjustifiably paying more for a normal product. It is used to portray to the consumer that somehow putting the badge of “audiophile” on something gives it special magical abilities and thus charge more for it. It’s basically an appeal to the wallet, vanity and bragging rights in reality. This has led to the term “audiophile” also being associated with snobbery and monetary wealth. (No, that’s not a put down to those with deep pockets, there is nothing wrong with being wealthy in and of itself and everyone has the right to spend their money as they see fit). What I am pointing out is another way the term “audiophile” has been wrongly used or applied in such a way that it has nothing to do with the origin or real meaning.

All of this is the reason I personally do not associate myself with the term “audiophile” these days. I feel like I would be severely misrepresenting myself if I did due to its current “popular connotation”. I also feel it has led to a lot of manufactures pricing good audio gear out of reach of all but a very few deep pockets among us. (I’m speaking generally. That’s not saying there aren’t pieces of gear out there that are meticulously made at significant cost and the price should reflect that indeed).

It’s really too bad when language is hijacked and manipulated into meaning something far removed from the origin. Perhaps someday the term will come back to its original and rightful definition and place, then those of us who are enthusiastic about Hi-Fi can once again associate ourselves with the term without fear of being misinterpreted.