Are You Out of the Audiophile Club If You Stop Buying Gear? offers affiliate links and the money that we make from them helps pays for our content.
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There are a lot of things to love about the audiophile hobby, from its long past dating back to the 1960s (perhaps even before depending on your historical outlook), as well as the rich potential that listening to music has for today’s youth. The status bump that came from owning a badass stereo (think: Don Cheadle selling stereo gear in Boogie Nights) in the 1970s was real. So was the upgrade path of CD-loving Yuppies in the 1980s. The home theater boom powered by Laserdiscs and Dolby Pro Logic surround was next. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic gave both new and old audiences a reason to stay home and listen to music complete with big benefits – even health ones. 

One of the best scenes about audio in Hollywood history

Many people reassembled, repaired and upgraded their audiophile rigs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Money that might have been spent on things like season tickets for sports, attending concerts or luxury travel, in part, started to be invested into hard goods like audiophile gear in ways that were unexpected, to say the least. While COVID-19 isn’t gone by any measure (and don’t believe the morons who tell you that it is “just a cold” today, I got it at the CEDIA Expo this past fall in Denver and it sucked big time), many people have returned back to their spending patterns from the past. Today, airplanes are jam-packed, despite massive price increases. Amazingly, the cost of luxury hotels remains, as 200 to 300 percent above pre-pandemic rates. Concert venues are filled with folks singing along like they don’t have a care in the world. Things aren’t the same as they were (certainly not the costs of things) back in 2019, but behaviors have returned to some level of normal as we go forward. 

Arranging your listening room to be a room for socialization is a great plan for audiophiles.
Arranging your listening room to be a room for socialization is a great plan for audiophiles.

Joining and Remaining in the Audiophile Club

For so many audiophiles, the return to some level or another of “normal” has changed the ways that they are spending their money. So many audiophile companies that didn’t project or invest accordingly learned that lesson in 2022. I wrote about this over at Audioholics which you can read here. The question is: if an audiophile stops investing in their system, are they still allowed to be part of the club? 

Upgrades are the driving force of the audiophile business, thus selling more and more gear to the same people is the business model of the audiophile hobby. In sales, this is the path of least resistance, as compared to finding new audiophiles. The later takes time, money and answering questions about the many quirky elements of the hobby. To be successful at recruiting new people to the audiophile hobby with younger generations (our editorial mission here at who have never known a world without unlimited access to music in the palm of their hand, takes time, money and effort. Buying another print ad that has three paragraphs of text on why some new component is the next great advancement is far easier. 

The short answer to the question is that by all means, anyone with an audiophile system can be part of the hobby whenever, wherever and however they feel like it. They do not need to be constantly upgrading components to be part of the club. A five-year-old stereo preamp is likely still a very good preamp. With the news of ADCOM returning to the marketplace, we heard from all sorts of legacy clients who have owned the legendary components for decades and still are having a great experience with them. That isn’t just an example of great audiophile value, but it also shows how investing in a mid-fi system can provide years and years of joy at a very low amortized cost. 

Can you stay in the audiophile club if you aren't actively buying gear?
Can you stay in the audiophile club if you aren’t actively buying gear?

How To Stay Involved in the Audiophile Hobby If Buying Gear Isn’t in Your Immediate Plans? 

There are so many good ways to be part of the audiophile hobby that doesn’t include constant and expensive upgrades. Here are some ways to stay involved in the hobby that cost little to no money, but very much keep you in the game.

  • Attend an audiophile show – There are a growing number of audiophile events located all over this great country of ours. A ticket isn’t very expensive, but travel can be. However, going to the right show can get you really good access to experiencing new equipment, meeting new people and so much more. I will be at the AXPONA show in Chicago this spring, which is likely the nation’s best. I attended Capital Audiofest in Maryland this past fall, and that is a pretty good local show. I flew up from Los Angeles to Seattle Audiofest for the day (I am not doing that again, as the hotels aren’t THAT expensive), and saw some great audiophile stuff. There are lots of shows that you can attend, ranging from regional (Orange County California, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Tampa Bay and others might catch your attention). 
  • Read lots of reviews as they are free (or damn close to free) – Not all reviews are the same quality or bring the same level of insight, but even the crappy ones tend to have one or two really solid takeaways, thus why not read them? Some of the print magazines get focused on Oligarch Audio or truly obscure gear that you can lose your audiophile investment in easily. The good news is that so many excellent audiophile websites (not that we are biased or anything) that you can get volumes of really solid, professionally-written audiophile reviews on any device that you want, whenever you want it. It just isn’t hard to stay up with the state of the art, even if you aren’t spending on it.
  • Send your local dealer a referral – Your historical spend at your local AV or audiophile dealer is a big factor in how they treat you, and the deals that you will get in the future, but what happens when your audio system is at the place where you want it? How about introducing your local dealer to a new client or two? Maybe you come with them into the store to help make the learning, and possibly buying, process go nice and smoothly? Even if it is for a Sonos system or some simple home automation or a TV – the dealer won’t soon forget you and your thoughtful actions.
  • Rearrange or move your listening room to another part of your home – Make your listening room a part of your home that you and your partner can enjoy together. Make listening to music part of your nightly ritual. I did this so that I watched less political news at night, and it has turned out to be a really fantastic concept. My wife is becoming increasingly tuned-in to the changes in my system. I had a new $2,000 DAC in my system last night, and she could hear how the $1,895 DAC that it replaced was more “clear” (using her term). I cycled through the handful of digital filters on the DAC, and she didn’t like any of them, but what she did get is the process of auditioning new gear and understanding what my system can do. If there is seating available, the next time somebody comes over for a social event, invite them to enjoy a drink or some tasty appetizers with some groovy music on in the background. The audio system doesn’t have to be the focus of the social event – just part of the mood and background. The concept is that the hobby shouldn’t be limited to men listening to odd (but well-recorded) music in the dark, in a messy room all by themselves. The audiophile hobby is capable of offering far more than that, and being much more inclusive by nature.
  • Mentor a younger audiophile – Is there a young person in your life who really loves music? Have you ever invited them over to hear their favorite music on your system? Have you ever taken them to a local audio show or even to a local AV dealer? Just as my wife is learning more and more about the differences in audio, this young person might want to consider starting a small system for them to take to college. Perhaps they will invest in a good set of headphones. The audiophile hobby has sadly been somewhat off-putting to new people, with all of the techno-snobbery, but you can overcome all of that. If only a fraction of audiophiles showed the health, art and lifestyle benefits of listening to music, the future of the audiophile hobby would be much brighter. 
An active display from THE SHOW in Orange County including Innuos and Estellon
An active display from THE SHOW in Orange County including Innuos and Estellon

Final Thoughts on the End of One’s Audiophile Journey…

Simply put, there are no rules that state that you have to stay on the hamster wheel of audiophile upgrades. The hobby is currently built around that timebomb of a business model, and there is one hell of a wakeup call coming to those who don’t pivot at least a little from that position. They likely have five years left of selling, nearly exclusively, to the same 70-something-year-old men. And if you think that the correction that came post-pandemic was bad, this demographic change is going to be much worse. 

There is no rule that states that you have to buy more and more audio gear The components that we invest in and love are built fantastically well and last for decades. If your system is making you happy – be happy. Don’t let some print magazine make you feel insecure about not upgrading to their “preamp of the week” or some other new technology that you must own. You can upgrade your system when it works for you, but enjoy what you have every day of ownership when it comes to your stereo system. 

I might butcher the quote, but the general idea is that “it is hard to be depressed when you are thankful for what you have.” This is a good concept to remember with your audio system. It is a blessing to be able to afford a luxury goods item like an audiophile music playback system. Be thankful for what you have and don’t get caught up in the upgrade loop because there is peer pressure to do so in order to be part of the audiophile club. Anybody with a set of earbuds is allowed to be in the audiophile club,and the same goes for people who’ve built their system up to where they are happy. There is no expiration date on this membership. You are already in. Will you inspire other to join us? 

Do you feel pressure to upgrade your audiophile system? When are you comfortable making your next upgrades (and what are you dying to get – if anything)? How do you help bring new people to the hobby? What advice would you have for new audiophiles coming to the hobby? 

We love to hear from you in the moderated comments below. Post away!

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Michael Zisserson

This makes two great articles in a row! I like the ideal on mentoring a young audiophile. That is how I was able to take my love of music to new levels of enjoyment. I had great mentors along the way. It would be my dream to take a young music lover under my wing and teach him/her the ropes of loving music, the gear, the process, and the community. Wish my kids were more into it. One of my friends, and mentors in some ways, is extremely fortunate: His 20YO son loves the hobby so they are always in it together. I have them over frequently and it is so awesome to engage with a new generation of music lover and audiophiles.

One other way I would recommend to all to stay involved is to build your music collection and/or knowledge. We know many stream, but I think as the hobby evolves for some physical media is becoming important again, and finding, playing, and learning about new great music is a great way to engage and keep it fresh.


Indeed! Great stuff. Yet I gingerly recommend half-caff? Thanks again.


Having an EE background, I thankfully never took part in the club. Sure I read reviews but the reviews I read were backed up by measurements. Those reviews provided an educational experience rather than the miriad of factless opinions (reviews without meaxurements) that a lot of reviewers submit as reviews. I also read Dr Floyd Toole’s book on Acoustics and Psychoacoustics which really opened my eyes to the limitations of human hearing as well as pointing out that the human brain is the most powerful audio processor out there, adapting so fast as to fool the listener. This is what Im going to educate the budding audiophiles on.

I listen to the music, not the equipment.


I’ve tended to hold onto equipment for a long time, usually until it fails. Initially it’s worth doing research to find equipment you like (sound, ergonomics, features) but extremely time consuming. Once you settle on a system you can divert your attention to music (or movies). Over the years musical influences came from magazines then reference books then forums. Today it’s YT reviews of LP re-releases.

Michael Zisserson

Love this:

It is rare I make major changes to my system. I find once you get good synergy established, and your system is locked in, it is very hard to make it “better” thanks a firm of “different.”

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x