Am I an Elitist? Are You an Elitist?

The other day, a keyboard warrior, a total stranger on the internet, accused me of being an elitist. The context was this- I was getting these repeated, annoying ads for listening to Beethoven’s symphonies through your Alexa device. Finally, out of frustration, I made a snarky remark and commented on the ad about not getting the full impact of a symphony orchestra from a 38-cent mono speaker from your kitchen counter. A few days later, there was a reply from an otherwise very seemingly nice gentleman saying that not everyone can afford to spend the cost of a small car to enjoy quality audio. I was among the elitists. Not being one to foster arguments with strangers on the internet, I did not reply to tell him that I paid $25 for my reference CD player, or point out my other flea market finds, but simply left it alone.

Now, as I sit here writing this, I am listening to music though my new Mytek Liberty DAC and thinking that I couldn’t possibly listen to music without a quality DAC ever again. Is that elitist? It sounds pretty goddamn elitist. On the other hand, I just scored a Schiit Modi 2 Uber DAC for 80 bucks that I’m putting into my two channel system later this week. That’s not necessarily elitist, that’s pretty thrifty, I think. In the next few days, I will be bringing you a review for the PureAudio Lotus DAC 5, a $2,000 piece of hi-fi bliss. Is that an elitist component? Not to those that can afford it.

Our audiophile hobby is one of those pursuits, like many, that becomes a very deep-seated passion. Let’s face it, it does set us apart a bit, maybe making us a little different. People don’t really ask us about our systems or recent acquisitions at parties much, do they? “Oh God, don’t get him started talking about speakers…” People know that we’re into this interest, but it’s not their thing, and they’re afraid to ask something that might make them sound ignorant, so they avoid it. Many times, I’ve compared our passion to someone who is deeply into fine wine. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who really knows wine? It’s only a matter of time until you say something completely wrong and get reprimanded for it. I’ve made that grave error before. As I cook more, and my wife and I delve more into the foodie world, I find there are definitely elitists there. Holy cow.

Sometimes, all you need is some good music and a good rub.

Stepping back in time, I got my first stereo at age 11. It was a Harmon Kardon receiver, a Garrard turntable, a Technics top-loading tape deck, and pair of Fisher speakers. While certainly not audiophile equipment, I was already a kid with a far better system than any of my friends, and even some of their parents. Little-by-little, I upgraded my system, component-by-component. I was an awkward kid with few friends, but the few that I had did come over a lot to listen to records and tapes at my house.

At 16, I started working at Fatal Beauty Studios, running sound in the booth for a friend’s band, and just doing what I could. I wasn’t paid a dime, but I just wanted to be there. It gave me time around instruments, amps I would not have otherwise encountered, great musicians, real recording equipment, and fun people. It was also where I earned my nickname “Muppet,” while pounding away behind someone’s drum kit one day. Most importantly, it taught me at an early age not only what instruments are supposed to sound like, but what the sound engineer intends for you to hear. It made me pickier about what I heard at home in my own system.

In conversations with other audiophiles, I usually find similar, or much more enriching stories about exposure to music throughout their lives. As enthusiasts, one of the greatest things we can do is bond over this passion and listen to each other, not just our speakers. We have far too much in common for all the silly and petty in-fighting that I see often on audiophile pages. Shows like AXPONA and the Florida Audio Expo have been a great chance for me to meet you, my fellow audiophiles in person and hear your thoughts.

So, perhaps we are all elitists to a certain extent. Nearly everyone in this world listens to music and it’s completely ubiquitous, but we enjoy it in a much more elevated fashion. Yes, some of us have spent the price of a small car on our systems, as my friend on the internet pointed out. Some have invested far more than that into their turntables alone. To all of you, I raise a glass (whether it be craft beer, good wine, or a PBR) and salute you. Enjoy your passion, your systems, and each other.

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