To the world at large, audiophiles might seem a little strange. Why do they spend so much money on speakers, or why do they like tube amplifiers? People assume a lot about us, but I think anyone who even occasionally gives recorded music their undivided attention is an audiophile, or might become one at some future date. So it's not just the gear you own that makes you an audiophile, it's more about your engagement with the sound of music.
To clear the air a bit, I'm going to try and bust a few myths.
1: All audiophiles are rich
Far from it -- that's why there's so much great affordable audiophile grade equipment on the market from the likes of Audeze, Audioengine, ELAC, FiiO, Grado, Hifiman, NAD, Pioneer, Schiit, U-Turn and many, many others. A lot of audiophiles buy used high-end gear for a fraction of the price of what it cost when new. My audiophile journey started when I was 16, and I bought gear with money earned from my afterschool job at a supermarket. I certainly wasn't rich.
2: All audiophiles "believe" in expensive cables
No way. I'd say most make do with low-priced cables from audiophile brands, perhaps just to avoid ridicule from their audiophile pals. That said, I know more than a few wealthy 'philes who use Radio Shack or hardware store cables. There's plenty of skepticism directed to manufacturers of audiophile cables. I do think carefully selected high-end cables can make a difference in systems with revealing speakers, like my Magnepan .7s.
3: Most audiophiles hate digital audio
Not true. Most of my audiophile pals don't have turntables; they only listen to digital music. A slightly smaller group, which includes me, own sizable collections of LPs and CDs, SACDs, DVD-As and downloaded music. The analog-only contingent is tiny, but they make a lot of noise, and they remain true believers against all odds. I admire their passion, but they are missing out on a lot of music that never comes out on LP.
4: All audiophile speakers are big
You're definitely an audiophile if your speakers are bigger than your refrigerator, but there are so many great bookshelf/stand-mount monitor speakers to choose from. The smallish KEF LS50 monitor and TAD Evolution One speakers are very much audiophile contenders. The brilliant Technics SB-C700 monitor would delight any audiophile.
5: Audiophiles care more about their equipment than music
Some do, most don't. The gear provides access, it's the portal through which we hear our music. The better the speakers, headphones, amplifier, turntable or digital converter, the better the music sounds. When I play a recording that I've enjoyed dozens of times over the years through a new speaker that reveals heretofore unheard details -- like the way the singer phrases a line, or the drummer accented the beat a certain way -- that's huge! The band may have struggled to get those things just so, but I might have never noticed those details before. Better gear might make the difference -- and in the end, the gear serves the music.