Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How I Became an Audiophile

Despite of being introduced to very good sounding audio equipment and the tunes to go with it at the tender age of nine, for good or bad, it’s a journey that won’t end within a foreseeable future.

By: Vanessa Uy

Of all the “lunatic fringe” hobbies available to the relatively- peaceful-industrial-suburb-dweller since the end of World War II, high-end audio is probably one of the most misunderstood. This hobby has always been plagued by an image problem of being a very expensive and elitist pursuit, populated by music snobs who are easily offended by the opinions of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their views. Here in the Philippines, most people can’t buy at whim audio equipment whose price tags is the same as an effective military junta. Plus the supposedly “great” music scene that’s not to our tastes, pirated software of dubious quality of those musicians not to our tastes is a very good reason to go into do-it-yourself hi-fi. So the odds are stacked against us.

The good news is luck is on my side. I have a good, make that great, “audiophile mentor.” I learned from my “audiophile mentor” how to “MacGyver” my sound system from leftover components of the “U.S. Military-Industrial-Complex stationed here and they say “e-wastes” are bad. There is also the “garage sale” route in acquiring equipment and tweaking which my mentor attributes to the hours of watching “MacGyver” during the 1980’s.

Sometimes my mentor and I are fortunate enough to be able to visit “hi-fi” shows staged in neighboring Singapore or Hong Kong. This shows always bought us a sense of validation when we found out the hi-fi systems we assembled ourselves have a sound quality comparable to C.D. player, amplifier, speaker set-up worth U.S.$5,000 to U.S.$10,000. This just shows how skill and artistry can reward you. Since hi-fi is an evolving technological hobby despite “old technology” workhorses like vacuum tube amps and vinyl LPs which still manage to sound more organic than CDs, it’s best to be updated by really good hi-fi publications like Stereophile and Hi- Fi World. Looks like I’m hooked into this “noble pursuit” for life.

Sad to say that this isn’t currently possible with the mass- market audio in heavy commercial rotation on TV and the papers. Specialty Hi - Fi shops are a good bet. If your in- the- know of audio equipment, garage sales are a good source of bargains.
In my actual use a good audio system provides a deeper insight on what the musician is trying to convey. Your CDs doesn’t have to be of “audiophile persuasion”. Even contemporary rock and pop releases like Avril Lavigne or My Chemical Romance played on a good audio system can provide the illusion that they’re just a few paces in front of you. So if you have the extra cash with the skills in case of, go take the audiophile plunge. It’s a lot cheaper and way more rewarding than you think.

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