Hello world!

November 12, 2008

Welcome to The Hair Shirt Audiophile!  This blog is devoted to the passionate persual of high quality sound reproduction and the components that produce it.  As the blog begins to ‘breathe’, I’m sure it will stretch out to include other issues like, for example, the appreciation of music, in general, and it’s positive contribution to our lives.  It is my intention to eventually include discussions of current recordings, as well as recording and musical trends.  In short, if it creates, reproduces or honors music, this is the site for you!

So, what is a “Hair-Shirt Audiophile”?  Well, let’s start with the easy part – Webster’s says that an audiophile is “a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction”.  But the term “Hair-shirt” is a little more complicated.  Again, we find in Webster’s: “a shirt made of rough animal hair worn next to the skin as a penance”.  Further observation uncovers that the word dates at least back to biblical times. To show deep repentance, it was the custom in the Hebrew religion to wear a hair shirt (sackcloth) and ashes as a sign of repentance and atonement. This is more formally known as a Cilice. Furthermore, used as an adjective, the term hair-shirt is defined as: “Self sacrificing or austere”.  And this gives us a clue as to its seemingly far-fetched usage in audiophile circles.  The term is used quite regularly in the audio press and refers to an audiophile who is ESPECIALLY ENTHUSIASTIC about high quality sound reproduction from components which are simple in design, usually containing fewer convenience features (buttons, knobs etc) and/or simpler circuitry and, in many cases, at a significantly lower price than the current ‘state of the art’.  Occasionally, a minimally designed component will actually BE the current state of the art AND lower in price, but generally not.  But a hair-shirt audiophile is willing to give up some convenience, style, even prestige to obtain near state of the art performance, especially if it’s at a lower price.  Having said that, price is NOT necessarily the defining characteristic. For example, a simpler signal path, with less resistors, capacitors etc. for the musical signal to traverse may produce superior sound, but, alas, may actually prove more expensive to design and build.  I would only say, from my own perspective, if it’s simpler AND better sounding AND less expensive, then you have achieved Hair-Shirt Nirvana!  There are many flavors of Hair Shirts out there- some merely give up a few conveniences, while some turn to doing it themselves, which, while, it HAS to be considered part of the bigger whole, is not the main thrust of this blog.  Having said that, do-it-yourselfers are welcomed here!  Besides, while I’m not much a do-it yourselfer MYSELF, there are many home-made ways to improve the sound of your system that don’t require a soldering gun, much less a degree in Electrical Engineering.  And, in that regard, I’m DEFINITELY a DIY guy!

Well, there is much, much more to come.  I hope you will find this site either informative or entertaining, or both! – audiophiles are notoriously neurotic about our hobby, and that alone can be entertaining – even to ourselves!

Thanks for listening..