Should we only play super good recordings?

I was at a meet where a six figure system was being demonstrated and noted that most of the folks in the room, whom are die-hard audiophiles believe that only “audiophile” or “high-end” recordings should be played. (I’ve been hearing more of this sentiment lately). They also tend to believe that the more gear cost, the better it automatically is, no matter it’s abilities or lack thereof.
This got me to thinking about it all. I am not a real audiophile. I’m not even close and never claimed to be. In my opinion, I am the opposite of an audiophile. In fact, I avoid the label because it does not suit me in it’s generally accepted definition or sense. I always feel very out-of-place, like a fish out of water when with any group of “audiophiles” in general. I often try to avoid such situations if I can. Audiophile in and of itself is not a bad word. I think it has been perverted into meaning something it does not, but you can’t fight city hall, so I object to being called or labeled an audiophile at least until the original meaning comes back into being the accepted norm.

For me it is about the music, first, last and always. The gear is just a means to an end to me. In my mind, the music I like is so much more important than how much a piece of gear cost or even how my own or any system sounds in and of itself. That is not to say the gear is totally unimportant, what I’m saying is that it doesn’t take a lot to make the music I/we like to sound it’s best or at least good enough to enjoy. A big part of the deciding factor is budget, yes financial reality has a nasty habit of raising its head consistently. However, I have learned that it doesn’t mean one has to settle for poor sound quality or stuff that doesn’t serve you well. It just takes a bit more thought and effort.
What this article is more about though is the music. I’m sure many of us have heard about “audiophile recordings” in one way or other. The problem I have with such recordings is not just cost. Sure they are a price, but if I had $30 to $50 or more to spend on an audiophile recording of my favorite artist or record, I would not hesitate to do so. The problem I run into is the lack of good music that touches me in some way in those recordings. Many of them are rather obscure, too obscure. While sometimes obscure can be fun (just look at some of the used records I have picked up), some of it is almost un-listenable or just doesn’t flow and almost seems soul-less in some cases. It just doesn’t reach out and grab me or even get my toe tapping. The extension to that problem in my opinion is that many audiophiles will tell you that if you are not playing extremely well recorded music, then why bother.
I like music that moves me, captivates me, touches me and connects with me somehow intellectually or emotionally. The problem is the fact that a lot, make that most really good music is not all that well recorded. (There are a few exceptions I can cite of course). Much of the great music was recorded way back when. Back in the 50s, 60s, 70s and even early 80s, we did not have the technology we do now in recording or playback. So as a music lover, am I supposed to toss out all the music I love and have collected over time just because it is not an “audiophile” recording? Me thinks not!
The other part of the problem is that much of the good music that I like at least, will never be reissued anyway. There are many in this hobby who will not listen to any music that is not “high-end” in terms of sound quality. In other words, if it isn’t an “audiophile” 180 gram vinyl record reissue or remastered tape or high-rez to the ninth degree with DSD and a few other acronyms, then they will not listen to it. Some will even tell you that you shouldn’t either and that is sad. So should we think that even if we really like a piece of music, we should choose not to listen to it and deprive ourselves all over the place because the recording or pressing or whatever “isn’t good enough”? ABSOLUTELY NOT! It is attitudes like that, that only serve to disengage us from music, the very antithesis of my own and my blog’s mission.
It is really sad actually, because those people are really missing out on so much and they don’t seem to care. Then again, most audiophiles don’t really listen to music, they listen to gear and move from one piece to another almost weekly, constantly revamping their systems trying to find perfect accuracy, which does not exist in Hi-Fi. They are missing out on food for the soul and enrichment. That is partly why I do not review gear as a main part of what I do. I would rather listen to music and even review that because nothing gets lost and I get to feed, enrich and educate myself and just plain enjoy what music is about.

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