If music plays such a large role in their lives, why are there so few musician audiophiles?
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Anyone can listen to music on $10 computer speakers, free earbuds, or a crappy car audio system. The only thing a good-quality hi-fi brings to the party is sound quality, which is something fewer and fewer people really care about. For audiophiles, sound is a big turn-on, and I figured that out when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was always saving up to buy better-sounding gear, and would spend my nights reveling in the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Doors albums. The sound was so fresh, and the layers of textures and spatial effects were endlessly fascinating. That's literally true, there were always new records coming out with new sounds to wrap my brain around. I'm still listening, still fascinated by new sounds, and a great hi-fi gets me closer to the music.
Early on I assumed most musicians had the coolest hi-fis, and they were just like me, totally in love with the sound. As I grew up and met more and more musicians, I learned my assumptions were wrong; most musicians have pretty lame hi-fis. They put their money in instruments, which of course makes sense. They listen to how well the music is being played, and more often than not, musicians are oblivious to sound quality.
That's strange, they invest weeks or months in studios trying to craft a sound. If all they were trying to do was record the music and words, they could do that in a few hours--it's getting just the right sound that takes time. Too bad so few people ever really get to hear the fruits of the musicians' labor. Weirder still, why is it that so few musicians don't even try to hear it, either. Audiophiles and musicians are listening for different things.
Then I read Henry Rollins' "I Am an Audiophile" piece in "Stereophile" magazine and discovered a very serious rock musician who is as passionate about sound as I am. The man is known for his intensity, and he's proud to be an audiophile!
Rollins comes right out and says it, "Why spend so much time and money to achieve optimum playback? For me it is simple, perhaps brutally so: Life is short, and music is humankind's ultimate achievement. Michelangelo, Picasso, Einstein were all unfathomably brilliant, but I would toss any one of them off the center spot of my couch when I put on this pristine copy of Hawkwind's "Doremi Fasol Latido" I got a couple of months ago. As soon as that music starts, every dollar becomes well spent, time becomes precious, and there is no place I would rather be." Tell it, brother!
I've heard that Jimmy Page is also into hi-fi, but if you know of any other audiophile rock musicians, tell us about them in the Comments section. I'm not talking about people who make great-sounding recordings, I want to know about musicians who own killer hi-fis.