I, Audiophile

— by Stas Burgiel

Sometimes I wonder if others share this experience… I’m the generic mid-career professional with a 40+ hour week, long commute, house with its requisite responsibilities, wonderful wife and overly active kids engaged in dance, sports and their friends. So when the day is done, the kids are asleep and the house is at peace, I tiptoe into my listening room around 10 in the evening, warm up the rig, maybe pour a glass of aged rum with ice and make the critical listening choices for the evening (CD, download, vinyl??). This is the quintessential image that comes to mind when I hear the word audiophile. 

The irony here is that I am only able to fulfill my ideal of the audiophile for 15-20 minutes before I fall asleep. I envy those that maintain marathon listening sessions late into the night. And I should say that my situation is not from a system lacking engagement, but pure and simply from my being really tired at that point in the day. This ongoing internal tension between my ideal and my reality has led to a slight disdain or resentment for the term “audiophile.”

By contrast, yesterday family friends came over for dinner. This friendship stems partially from being kindred spirits with common interests, but also from the fact that our two kids get along fabulously with their girls. After dinner my precocious five-year old son asks his four-year old compatriot if she wants to “go upstairs and rock.” Fortunately, he asked me to chaperone and to put the most rockingest album on the record player. For him, this is ELO’s Out of the Blue. Truth to tell, he has only ever listened to two of my garage-sale salvaged albums, but has spent significant time poring over the starship depicted on the ELO record jacket.

The two young-uns proceeded to dance and I hummed along merrily to the tune. Then, the elder girls joined in and soon there was a dance party of four- to eight-year olds with me engaged on air guitar and air drums. Two albums later all the adults were also jumping around like monkeys, the scene was fab and the music glorious. This went on far later than it should have (at least for the composure of over-tired kids who hoped the party would never end) but was well worth it.

I would hardly consider this an “audiophile” experience, yet I can’t deny that it was. It wasn’t just me in isolation enjoying the stereo and the music, but a whole group, young and old, most of whom had no clue what they were listening to, let alone the difference between solid state and valves. In the past I’ve had similar experiences, which I’ve tried to use as teachable moments (“okay, son, let’s do some tube-rolling on this single-ended triode amp”) with limited success. This was the first time that I just gave in, letting the technology be damned and the music flow.

So now I’m revisiting my preconception of what it means to be an “audiophile” and any pretensions that it might hold. In the interim, when my son asks me if he can rock out with his four-year old sweetie, I’ll happily oblige.


  1. Hi Stas and Chris

    Very nice touching stories. It is great your kids jam a long with you during the week. Mine only jam with me during the weekend.

    I think that is something we all forget from time to time that is about music enjoyment and not so much the gear/tweaks. I too work a pretty long day and sometimes get home the earliest at 9pm. Often as soon as I come into the house I turn on my system so it is fully warmed up by the time I’m done with the evening Daddy to do list. I then sit down and listen for an hour or so and then pass out around midnight. Good thing at work it is pretty secure and I have an ok headphone system there.

    Now one of the best times with my kids was when I was playing some spanish guitar music. My 4 year old comes down to where my sound system is and starts dancing. She says to Mommy I like Daddy’s music and kept dancing and having fun. So since then with my audio system I’ll bite the bullet and play some Taylor Swift or other pop music to have the little ones dance and have fun. I’m drawing the line though at Justin Bieber. I heard a couple of songs and wanted to vomit. We’ll see how long this lasts before the kids start doing their own thing. On thing I may try though is getting kids to clean my records. Do you think it will work? I’ll say look how much fun it is to spin the record on the Nitty Gritty. 😉

    • JDCD, thanks for the comment. I find that the more I can get my kids involved in the process in a tactile way (looking at record jackets, helping clean the records with a brush) the more they make a connection with the music. Spinning the record cleaner should be great as well as a good way to burn off some of their excess energy!

  2. Beautiful, and relatable. Though I work in the industry and may have more tome to spend in front of my rig, it has become almost de rigueur for the kids to join me. Typically a nighttime habit, once I start listening to something – anything, really – two pajama’ed kids (3 and 6) wander in, climb in my lap, jam along. Next thing you know … there’s a dance going on. Watching that unfold makes me so incredibly happy because they get what I get: this is about joy, deeply felt and expressed, and they don’t have any cultural or social or psychological filters blocking them from expressing it. It just flows naturally, as it should.

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