Over the years I've come to know a few professional musicians, and not one of them (including those making really good money as studio musicians in Hollywood) owned anything like a decent sound system. In most cases their sound reproduction preferences were downright indecent. One listened to recorded music only on his (standard) Toyota car stereo. Another was quite happy with a boombox in a distant corner of the living room (partially obscured by heavy furniture). Still another was fully satisfied with a tiny clock-radio-cum-CD-player in the bedroom. And these are the better cases! Toward the bottom of the scale there was a musician who listened to recorded music in the form of fuzzy Youtube streams, using giveaway airline headphones. And then there was a fellow who simply never listened to music at all (recorded or otherwise) unless he was performing, rehearsing, or practicing.
I should note that this group is well distributed across different instruments (piano, strings, woodwinds, brass), forms of employment (symphony orchestras, Hollywood studios, private and college teaching), age groups (from the late 20s to the mid-50s), and levels of musical talent (from the average to the prodigious). Moreover, these musicians were acutely aware of sound quality when it came to their instruments. They could go on for hours discussing the sonic characteristics of strings, bows, reeds, and valves. And choosing the right-sounding instrument seemed to be far more torturous for them than choosing a house live in or a person to marry.
These observations bring me to the fundamental question which lies at the heart of every intellectual inquiry: What the fuck is going on here?
Alas, I have no answers, only speculations. Here are some of them:
1. Musicians have little interest in listening to recorded music for the same reason that gynecologists have little interest in looking at the photo spreads in Hustler magazine. People don't like to bring their work home.
2. For musicians the difference between lo-fi and hi-fi playback equipment is insignificant because all recorded music sounds "lo-fi" compared to actual performances. (Celibidache is said to have compared listening to recorded music to fornicating with a photograph of Brigitte Bardot.)
3. When listening to recorded music, musicians automatically use their refined aural memory of instrumental timbres to compensate for sonic shortcomings of any recording or playback equipment. (Some, admittedly not many, can "listen" to music by reading scores!)
Then again, perhaps the musicians of my acquaintance were a statistically weird group. For example, they were all men. So I have no idea if women musicians are heavily into Krell amplifiers and Apogee electrostatic speakers. Then there is the geographical bias, in that (with one exception) I met all these musicians while living in California. So again, I don't know if musicians in Boston or Philadelphia routinely mortgage their Bergonzi violins and Guarneri cellos to buy the latest tube preamplifier from Audio Research.....