Do I need to spend $1000 dollars to be an audiophile?
The term audiophile is one that is can be filled with snobbery and elitism when used mostly incorrectly. You will get all sorts of comments about your equipment no matter how good it is you are likely to find that you will run into people that would say they wouldn’t be seen dead with x piece of equipment. Ignore them, this hobby is about fun and the music, not about what other people think of your gear.
My view on what constitutes an audiophile is someone that purely and simply cares about sound quality and is enthusiastic about improving it as much as they can within their given constraints be it time or finances. That’s it nothing more fancy than that. No caveats about owning amps, dacs or electrostats or even the whole headphones vs speakers debates.
To have fun in this hobby, contrary to some people’s belief, you do not have to spend huge. In fact there is a whole world of equipment out there that a budget audiophile can enjoy, play around with and generally have a whole load of fun with. Whilst you will have to compromise in certain areas and refinements that the big boys of audio like FAD, Audeze, Woo and many others offer there are still ways that you can get great sound on a budget. Heres a few tips on getting started.
Step one: Go to the learn section above and familiarize yourself with some terms and basics.
Step two: Research research and research some more. The best place to do this, even though I myself am “banned” by Amos n Co :D is the Head-Fi forums. Beware of what’s called hype trains and other misinformation that is rife on the site but in general look out for threads with budget minded folks sharing their opinions and get an idea of what headphones might be suitable for your genre (the type of music you predominantly listen to) make a list of some of the gear you want to try in the future.
Step 3: Ask for advice. There are plenty of places out there where you can great advice. I myself will always respond to questions about gear recommendations through the comment section here or on my twitter and facebook accounts. I generally like helping people out and love it when I hear back from anyone who is enjoying something I have suggested, in time share your own experiences
Step 4: The Golden Ears Challenge by Phillips. This is a great way to educate yourself as to the finer points of how sound reproduction works and has examples of different nuances you can expect in regards to sound signatures, noise levels, track compression, soundstage and many more.
Step 5: Consider going used. Again, head-fi forums can be a great source for buying and selling the more niche gear that you tend to find in this hobby and you can also check out your local Gumtree, Craigslist or Ebay to see if there are bargains to be had.
Step 6: Listen. There are so many people so concerned about the gear they are using that I sometimes have to question whether they ever just bother to listen to their music to enjoy it rather than to enjoy their music. Don’t be one of them, even $50-$100 should be able to get anyone a set of headphones capable of reproducing sound without any severe annoyances. Just listen to your music and if you feel the need to keep refining your gear then your journey down the rabbit hole has just begun.