Every few years, someone comes along to claim their new audio format finally strips away everything between musician and ear. Once, it was Neil Young; now, it’s T-Bone Burnett. But in this incisive essay, Mack Hagood teases at why a certain kind of listener is so consumed with the search for “a technology sophisticated enough to disappear itself.”

When they try out a new cable or component, is the audiophile really listening to the music anymore? Or are they now listening to something else — the difference between their listening and their auditory memory? Or the imagined possibility of a difference between the two? At some point, the erotics of music crossfade into something more onanistic.