Audiophile Snobbery May Be Killing Our Hobby, and We Have to Change That

Let's face it. Audiophiles can sometimes be some of the most elitist hobbyists.
Let’s face it. Audiophiles can sometimes be some of the most elitist hobbyists.

We independently review all our recommendations. Purchases made via our links may earn us a commission. Learn more ❯

Remember when enjoying the music was the actual point?

As someone who’s been passionate about music for most of my life, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with audiophile snobbery. You know what I’m talking about— the elitist mindset some enthusiasts have.

They act as if their opinions are the gospel truth and look down on anyone who doesn’t meet their lofty standards. It’s an attitude that’s all too common in our hobby, and frankly, I’m starting to wonder if it’s doing more harm than good.

The Many Faces of Audiophile Snobbery

There are different kinds of audiophile snobs.
There are different kinds of audiophile snobs.

In my experience, audiophile snobbery comes in all shapes and sizes.

There’s the equipment snob who won’t give the time of day to anything that doesn’t have a five-figure price tag. Then you have the technical snob who loves nothing more than showing off their knowledge of exotic materials and specs.

But snobbery isn’t just about gear—there are also music snobs.

These people scoff at anyone who enjoys mainstream genres or digital formats, insisting that only rare vinyl pressings will do.

And don’t even get me started on the vintage snobs. They brag endlessly about the amazing deals they scored on decades-old gear, implying that you’re a sucker if you buy anything new.

Wherever it appears, snobbery seems to be about asserting superiority and making others feel small. And nowhere is this more evident than in online forums and comment sections.

Protected by the anonymity of the internet, these audiophile snobs attack anyone who dares to question their subjective opinions. So, newbies seeking advice are ridiculed for their lack of knowledge or limited budgets.

This creates a toxic environment that brings out the worst in people and scares away anyone who doesn’t already have a thick skin.

A Personal Encounter With Audiophile Snobbery

I saved up for the Focal Celestee for months so I was so excited to finally get my hands on them!
I saved up for the Focal Celestee for months so I was so excited to finally get my hands on them!

I had my own taste of audiophile snobbery not too long ago.

That time, I had splurged on the Focal Celestee, a well-reviewed set of closed-backs that I had been eyeing for a while. I was blown away by their detailed, engaging sound and their sleek, modern design.

So, I excitedly posted about them on an audio forum. Then, people started making fun of me right away.

One user said the Celestee were “entry-level junk.” They told me I clearly didn’t know what high-end audio really was.

Another claimed that closed-back designs were always worse than open-backs. They said I was dumb for not buying open-backs instead.

Then a third person chimed in. They said I had wasted my money on looks instead of quality and that I should have bought a pair of Sennheisers instead.

People shamed me for being excited over what they deemed to be 'subpar'.
People shamed me for being excited over what they deemed to be ‘subpar’.

I was really surprised by the hostility and the gatekeeping.

All I wanted to do was share my happiness about a piece of gear that made me feel more connected to my favorite music. But instead of being happy for me, they just made fun of me.

It made me think about how a new person to the hobby would feel in the same situation. Would they be totally scared off? Would they think that audiophilia was only for a certain kind of person with a lot of money?

Manufacturers, Marketing, and the Allure of Exclusivity

Some manufacturers have taken advantage of the audiophile snobbery.
Some manufacturers have taken advantage of the audiophile snobbery.

Sadly, it’s not just individuals who engage in this kind of elitist behavior. I’ve also noticed that some audio brands seem to encourage an air of exclusivity as part of their advertising plan.

They’ll brag about small production runs, handmade parts, and long waitlists. Some brands even limit where and when you can buy their products.

The message seems pretty clear: their gear is only for a select few. Only people with a lot of money and refined taste can really appreciate it.

Of course, exclusivity often goes hand in hand with high prices.

But here’s the thing—paying a lot more doesn’t always mean you get a lot better performance.

Sure, better sound usually costs more money. But when you get into really high-end audio, you start to see smaller and smaller improvements in the price.

For example, you might pay 10 times as much for only 10% better sound.

Yet, for some audiophiles, those crazy high prices are a badge of honor.

It’s a way to show off their expert taste and that they belong to an elite club. They put a lot of money and emotion into defending their pricey purchases. And, a lot of times, they do it by putting down anything that costs less.

The High Cost of Exclusion

Pretty soon, our hobby will be filled with rich old dudes bashing any new audio gear.
Pretty soon, our hobby will be filled with rich old dudes bashing any new audio gear.

The result is a cycle of snobbery and exclusion that I believe is slowly choking the life out of our hobby.

The more that high-end audio seems like a playground for rich, elitist snobs, the fewer people will want to explore this amazing world of sound.

Instead of a lively, welcoming group of music lovers, we’re at risk of becoming a small, closed-off clique that’s more and more out of touch with regular people.

This is a serious concern for the long-term health of the audiophile hobby.

As the high-end market keeps shrinking, it gets harder for manufacturers and dealers to stay afloat. That means less money for research and development, fewer new products being launched, and a dwindling number of brick-and-mortar stores where people can actually hear the gear for themselves.

It’s a vicious cycle that could lead to the hobby getting stale and fading away. We won’t have enough new, younger fans to replace the older ones.

The saddest part is that when we get too obsessed with pricey gear and geeky technical details, it’s easy to forget what this hobby is really all about —the profound emotional experience of connecting with music.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. I’ve gotten so caught up in comparing specs and reading reviews that I spent more time thinking about my system than actually enjoying it.

A Call for Openness

Let's try to make the gate to the world of audiophilia more welcoming than ever.
Let’s try to make the gate to the world of audiophilia more welcoming than ever.

So what’s the cure for all this audiophile snobbery? In my opinion, it’s making a real effort to be more open, welcoming, and inclusive.

When someone new asks for advice, I try to remember how overwhelming it felt when I was just starting out.

I do my best to give them patient, practical tips. I encourage them to listen to gear for themselves whenever they can. I tell them to trust their own ears instead of just chasing after whatever’s popular on the forums this month.

When it comes to gear, I make a point of celebrating great-sounding stuff at every price point.

I don’t just focus on the super expensive flagship models that get all the hype. I try to keep an open mind about new technologies or design ideas, even if they’re different from the usual audiophile stuff.

If it sounds good and helps people enjoy their music more, that’s what matters.

Most importantly, I always try to put the music first. Because at the end of the day, even the most impressive gear is just a tool to experience the music.

It’s not about having the rarest recordings or the most expensive system. It’s about the goosebumps you get when you hear a favorite album in a whole new way. It’s about the rush of excitement from a big, powerful crescendo.

That’s the magic of this hobby – the reason I fell in love with it in the first place. And it’s something that everyone should have the chance to experience, regardless of their budget or their background knowledge.

If we as a community can learn to welcome that spirit of shared passion and discovery, I think the future of high-end audio will be brighter than ever.

But it starts with each of us trying to be a little kinder, a little more open-minded, and a little more focused on spreading the joy of great sound.

Are you with me?

💬 Conversation: 12 comments

  1. Excellent write up and I totally agree with all that you said.
    Right now is a prime time to invite the younger generations to join the audiophile community. The rejuvenation of vinyl and Walkman’s is exciting and young people are interested in the “retro” gear. We should be excited to see them enjoying what we have loved for so long. We should be sharing our experiences and our music with them with open arms. A smile and a kind word goes a long way to helping someone continue to be interested. Just because someone has a small budget, listens to different music genres or doesn’t understand all the terms and definitions doesn’t mean that they are fresh meat to devour and spit out of the audiophile community.
    Thank you for this post.

  2. While im inclined to agree with your overall view even that to the extensiveness of your discusion is in and of itself a form of snobbery implying superiority because you beleive yourselfe above it all …

  3. Oh Yea! Hit the nail on the head with this one. When ever a newbie asks a question like, What is the best speaker for under $500? The responses make me ill. I always chime in, “what ever sounds good to you, your the one listening. I’m not in their house. I’m not listening tho their choice of music usualy anyway. It’s ridiculous. Like someone imposing their religious beliefs on another person who thinks differently then them.
    Then theres repair techs. Don’t get me started.

  4. What I don’t understand is the audiophiles search for “pure” sound. They pay more for equipment than the cost of the recording studio equipment. If you go to a concert at Carnegie Hall, what you hear is not “pure.” So listening to a recording of a live concert at Carnegie Hall on $50,000 worth of equipment only gives you a ‘sterile’ sound

  5. I think we’ve all experienced this at some level. Some more than others so I’m glad you you brought attention to this by writing this article Jolina.
    Here’s a quick example of how I’ve dealt with an audio snob bully. I built what I think is a very nice album stand similar to what you might have found ages ago in a record store but of hardwood and stained dark to blend in with our living room furniture. I shared it with a vintage record group page I belong to and I got quite a number of ‘attaboys’. Theres always one audio sourpuss, and he left me the comment, “thats ugly”. I have to admit, My first thought was to have a battle of words, but I chose to take a different path. I responded to his comment with only the emoticon of the sad happy face with a single tear. I went back later to see what happened and his snarky comment was gone. I guess he didnt expect my response. I think its best to point out their ‘elitist mentality’ if ever confronted with it. Most people would rally behind you and its likely the bully will fade into the background with his tail between his legs. imho

  6. All this audio snobbery is driven, at root, by massive individual insecurity. To the ‘newbies’ / recent joiners of the audio hobby …. trust your ears and your emotional connection to the music! Your listening ‘skills’ will grow over time … in the meantime, YOU are the one to whom the audio gear must deliver the 🎼 goods!

  7. Great article, thanks. My funniest “sort of” snobbery was when my high school friend recommended Ohm C2s from a chain called “Tech HiFi (https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/does-anyone-remember-tech-hifi-stores.771757/)

    Jason was was a newly successful recording engineer, (https://www.discogs.com/artist/85728-Jason-Corsaro) and he loved the price, sound, and the fact that they had a lifetime warrantly.

    The funny part: he brought Lynyrd Skynyrds “One More From the Road” to Tech Hifi to have me check them out. He had the salesperson put on “The Needle and the Spoon.”

    Many years later, I reminded him about his choice, and he vehemently denied that he brought that album to showcase the C2s. He had moved beyond “classic rock” was really angry with me for even suggesting that he had made that choice (considering where he was musically at that point in his career….

    The C2s were well-priced, sounded great (to me) and I blew them out twice, and Tech Hifi promptly replaced them (no wonder they went out of business?)

  8. Better audio equipment has always been somewhat pricey, e.g. MacIntosh, Klipschorns, Dual, but IMO, audio “snobbery” took off with the late Harry Pearson and The Absolute Sound. “High-end” is just a euphemism for “expensive.”

Leave a Reply