The audiophile hobby started in America but more gear is sold in Asia and Russia than anywhere else these days. The demand for stereo gear overseas, especially American made very-high-dollar products is off the chart. High interest rates seemingly can’t squash high consumer demand. During the COVID-19 pandemic 60 to 70 year old audiophiles in North America bought up every component that they could find as home entertainment (think: Disney+. Netflix, Amazon-everything, Pelotons, house plants and puppies) was a big part of the global change in economy from a balance of 70 percent service goods and 30 percent hard good items. During COVID with business like sports, special events, Hollywood movies and travel basically decimated – the balance of what was sold in the economy moved to a 50-50 percent split between service and hard goods. From our house, you could see at one point 50 to 60 container ships trying to bring goods from China to the Port of Los Angeles and The Port of Long Beach. Logistics were a nightmare.
What the audiophile hobby does right is that it helps people live a better life. Literally, listening to 15 minutes of Miles Davis or John Coltrane can lower your blood pressure in ways that make pharmaceutical companies jealous. Moreover, in an overly digital world, the audiophile hobby brings a sense of analog calm especially to those who have gone retro with vinyl.
The key concept for most audiophiles is how to get their system ready for maximum performance. Here’s a component by component guide to audiophile success.
Digital Sources – CD Players/Streamers are the key to your streaming and silver disc music playback. Good news is that players that are well under $1,000 are just excellent.
Stereo Preamps control the inputs on an audiophile system as well as the volume. Today’s audiophile stereo preamps sometimes now include bass management for subwoofers, often have digital room correction and more often than not have internal Digital to Analog Converters which are part of most CD players but can improve the sound of other digital audio sauces like streamers.
Audiophile Power Amplifiers once you have your input set and your volume dialed-in, you need power to get the signal loud enough for your speakers. That’s what your power amp can do. These power amps come in many configurations including class-D “switching amps” class-A amps that sound like tubes but don’t have tubes, tube amps which DO have tubes and more traditional class-AB amps. Again, today’s amps are more and more powerful and often less and less expensive. Class D amps run ice cold but sound very good today. They are also physically small making them a tempting audiophile component.
Floorstanding Audiophile Speakers are the biggest and most robust sounding speaker components in the market. They are also the most subjective sounding as well as the most expensive. Smaller bookshelf speakers are smaller and offer most of the performance of a floorstanding speaker, often at a fraction of the price. When matched with a subwoofer, audiophile bookshelf speakers can be a cost effective way to get A+ sound while saving some money at the same time.
There are all sorts of audiophile accessories be it AC power conditioning, comfortable seating, room acoustical treatments, equipment racks, cables and beyond. These are components you likely need en route to our end game journey as an audiophile.
We hope this guide of high performance audiophile components that make up a top performing audiophile system helps you in your route to audio success.