Linette Smith asks “What’s your drug of choice?”. 

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I came to realise, after a while, that hifi is a serious addiction.  It is never ending, there is always ‘just one more upgrade’ to be had…the goal being Audio Nirvana.  You know the scenario.  Latest upgrade is in place, let’s say new loudspeakers.  Everything is tickety-boo, the music sounds better than ever, it couldn’t sound any better, could it…..could it??? Maybe I’ll just look at some new amps.  Then off you go to see your friendly neighbourhood dealer, the pusher man with all kinds of delights to tempt you, maybe just one more upgrade.

I Can Quit Anytime10948474_s

Yeah, right…you’re an addict, you are never going to quit.  It’s obviously a serious addiction.  Just like drug and alcohol addiction there are self help groups, we call them Facebook Groups, where you can take a look at the rest of the members and try to justify your own addiction…you aren’t so bad, there are much worse addicts than you, hmmmm.  And what’s the worst thing to do when you are an addict, yes, hang around with other addicts.  We are feeding each others’ addiction, perhaps the only way to cope is cold turkey? Our addicted community has several subgroups within it, some are just on gateway drugs and some are fully blown junkies, perhaps beyond saving, here’s the signs to look out for as a concerned friend or relative, or maybe you will just spot yourself!BIRDSSPONSOR600X74

Format Addiction

Music is where it all starts and a sure way to spot an Audiophile Addict is by the size of their music collection.  They have probably got hundreds if not thousands of CD’s, records or tapes and/or hard drives full of more tunes than they will ever have time to listen to.  The tangible formats will be arranged into an unfathomable filing system…it’s never just A to Z, there’s different genres in there too.  If you are feeling evil you could really mess with their head by putting a CD back in the wrong place deliberately…they may never find it again.  This is the equivalent of hiding the last bit of a stoner’s stash or ‘misplacing’ their skins, like I said, evil.

A sure sign that your friend is an Audiophile Addict is if they have the same album in several different formats, and possibly several different copies of each format.  You see them out and about and they are buying Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ on vinyl, again (guilty as charged m’Lud – Ed). They just can’t help themselves buying music.  Vinyl Addicts are particularly hardcore.  You can tell when they are feeling flush, they will be buying expensive Jazz imports on heavy vinyl in pristine packaging from a top end vinyl pusher.  When they are skint at the end of the month they still have to scratch that itch but are more likely to be found scutting about in a charity shop ’50p a disc’ box, convinced that their ‘find’ of a rare Wombles’ Christmas album will stop them from getting the shakes and keep them going until payday.  They will buy a lot of vinyl that will never, ever get played, just because they can’t leave it on the shop shelf (Guilty – Ed).  They will also have a machine, which is a glorified wet ‘n’ dry hoover, for cleaning their records.  This machine will probably have cost more than non-addicts spend on a record player.  They will scour the net for cheap deals on bulk-buy isopropyl alcohol. If it has got to this stage then they will never shake the habit, you can’t help them, no one can…..they are heading for the ultimate level of format addiction, reel to reel tapes, and we all know how that ends up.(mmm…think I may need help – Ed)

Off  Their Heads

Headfi Addicts have got it bad.  Their addiction is portable so it’s with them all day every day, not just waiting for them when they get home.  The headfi habit bites hard and fast like a crystal meth addiction.  The headfi pushers are constantly supplying a stream of lovely new products, planar magnetic headphones so light they are a joy to wear, beautiful bespoke, custom fit in-ears, a new version of a personal music player, portable DACs and amplifiers…..the list is endless.  The technology is moving fast and headfi is a ‘perfect storm’ addiction fused from tech and music, it targets the young and the weak.  If headfi was a person it would be some cool, hipster dude wearing rolled up skinny jeans and sporting a beard and a man-bun while skateboarding to work in a trendy area of London.  The young are easily impressionable.  They probably started out, innocently enough, on a soft drug like Beats by Dre or Bose, now they wouldn’t be seen dead with anything less than either an obscure boutique brand headphone that Joe Blogs has never heard of, or something top of the range from the likes of Sennheiser.  They roll their eyes and laugh at Beats and Bose users now. They will also have a ‘wardrobe’ of headphones, different types for different music or moods.  They probably spend more on a stand to display a pair of headphones than ‘normal’ people spend on the headphones! (Ouch! – Ed)

Mixing Your Drugs Up A Bit

The Box Swappers are serious addicts but often in denial.  On first impression they don’t seem to have a problem at all, you visit their house and they have a well put together but not outlandish hifi.  Then you pop round a couple of weeks later and you swear it looks and sounds different, then the week after there is something else different. ‘Oh, the speakers? I’m just auditioning them.’  They may actually be a hifi reviewer, which is really just a genius way to both legitimise and to fuel their box swapping obsession for free, there is a new high all the time…..and it’s perfectly legal! A High-End Box Swapper is just as addicted to the buzz of spending eye wateringly huge chunks of money as they are to the actual gear and music. Like the city exec popping out for a champers-and-a-line-of-cheeky lunch, they will accept only the best and only buy new, they sniff out the latest and most expensive wares in the showroom…dealers love them.  The more common Box Swapper goes second hand or ‘vintage’ and can be found crying in a corner because their latest sale on Ebay fell through and now they can’t afford that 1980’s Quad amp they were after.  They are also likely to fall prey to the ruthless Ebay scammer because, even though deep down they know that that listing for a pair of B&W Nautilus at £500 is a scam, they still want to believe that they actually stand a chance of owning a pair.  They try to justify their addiction by saying they are a ‘collector’ but we all know they are hoarding junkies.

Cable Junkies

There are a whole load of addicts that have a very specific addiction to one particular part of their hifi.  On the face of things they seem to have everything under control, they seem to have had the same system for years, but underneath they are frantically upgrading and changing the parts that you might never notice, like the cables or the valves, or the tonearm and cartridge.  The Cable Junkie has probably spent more on cables than they have on their electronics, if you look carefully you may find something resembling a python that has just dined on a baby goat, hiding behind their system.  In fact, another way to spot the Cable Junkie is at a hifi show.  Most of their time is spent, not sitting and listening, but inspecting the wires at the back of the demo system.  Tube Rollers, like Cable Junkies are very specific, they delight in changing the valves or tubes in their equipment to improve the sound.  Tube Rollers can become particularly obsessive in their search for the perfect tubes, tracking down vintage valves from eastern Europe at high prices.  If you look at their photo’s from a hifi show they will all be of softly glowing valves in darkened rooms.

Tweaking

The Tweakers are a strange bunch, like the wild eyed hippy that still thinks they are in an acid daze of the 60s, they can be found obsessively practicing strange rituals.  You are likely to find them aligning every screw in their listening room to point in the same direction, pinning back the corners of their curtains and leaving small pieces of paper under their equipment.  They tell themselves time and time again that they are going to quit, but they never do.  They fall prey to weird and wonderful ranges of products that make massive claims of system improvement and baffle with science.  They end up spending a small fortune on these ‘tweaks’ because they are scared that they might be missing out of they don’t try them.  If they have what looks like magic gravel near their hifi and a freezer full of CDs then they are in the grip of a full on Tweak addiction.

Growing Your Own

There is a group that the dealers don’t like, the DIYers.  This group don’t buy into the trap of buying hifi, oh no, they grow their own.  They are frequently found sneering at the gear at hifi shows and in showrooms proclaiming that they can make, in their own shed no less, something that will sound infinitely better than the item before them that is the product of several years R and D, designed by the finest and most talented designers, involves cutting edge technology and has been handmade by master craftsmen.  If their hifi has an air of ‘unfinishedness’ about it and they frequently say ‘you paid HOW MUCH?!’ then they are probably a Serial DIYer.

Pusherman

What about the dealers?  They know their market, they have to, there is serious competition out there.  They need to know just what each of their customers is addicted to, when to pull out a new range of exotic mains cables, when to drop into conversation the newly released American valve amps that they have arriving.  If they are good they will have a carefully selected range of products, like an Amsterdam coffee shop, but their drugs are French loudspeakers, German turntables and British cables.  The dealer though is just as likely to be an addict as their client.  They haven’t heeded the old adage, ‘don’t get high on your own supply’.  They spend their spare time at hifi shows, lusting over new product ranges and trying not to show those higher up the chain, the distributors and the producers, just how excited they are, trying to play it cool, get the best deal….just like the rest of us.

Linette SmithBIRDSSPONSOR600X74

 

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