HI-FI FETISHISM: A psychologist’s view of the lunatic fringe – J. Zelinger

Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of those audiophiles who show an extraordinary preoccupation with hi-fi equipment for its own sake. Contributors to as well as readers of HFN/RR have expressed irritation with this so-called lunatic fringe, which has been repeatedly criticized for being out of touch with reality.

The symptoms of this preoccupation are well known: an inclination to attach enormous significance to audio equipment’s capacity to induce sonic pleasure and an inordinate emphasis on the sensuality of the reproduced sound, with a consequent tendency to relegate the music itself to a secondary position. We can also recognize in this obsessional interest a need to amplify very small differences between audio components out of all proportion to their true value. These audiophiles are prone to convert such differences into preferences, and institute them as rigid ideals.

It is easy enough to dismiss the lunatic fringe. but it is more important to try to understand it. With this purpose in mind I wish to undertake a brief analysis of the psychology of this group of audiophiles.