Have you had any truly decisive moments in your time in this hobby?
I would have to point back to the first time I ever heard Magnepans, it was a “whoa what was that moment?” moment. That was in the 1980’s. It was the first time I ever truly heard reproduced music that got the midrange right, without it being squished
A colleague asked me about a McIntosh amp her great aunt had left her because I was mechanically inclined. Right after that there was a NYTimes article on tube amps ( 2006/7). Got a wild hair bought a used Primaluna PL2 int amp and never looked back. Had about 100 albums from college and just started to build. all tubes except for the CDP which I route through a tube DAC :) and have eadded about 1500 albums since
Season tickets to the symphony. 7th row center seats… repeated exposure to live acoustic music… completely changed the direction of sonic goals and subsequent purchases. I stoped chasing ethereal sound with slam and worked towards natural sounding music with great rhythm and pace.
The sound of my system jumped at each purchase to the system I have now that is always hard to tear myself away from.
Magnepans in another college dorm room a couple years later.
I will never forget the 'he is in the room singing' feeling from hearing Frank Sinatra on vinyl in Honolulu 1990. It was at a high end shop on great bookshelf speakers via a turntable and electronics (all quality but names forgotten).
That moment really showed me for the first time how magical music could sound if portrayed superbly. It convinced me to upgrade everything and the disease started...
Deja Vu Audio loaning me the stereo EL34 amp I ended up buying and owning for 15 years when I brought an amp I bought on Audiogon in for repair. It was so much better sounding than any amp I'd had before I traded them the amp they repaired plus some cash and kept it.
Was into audio for decades then I bought a set of Grado headphones for a portable system I was putting together. Dang if every CD didn't sound great. I decided that having a system that only played a few CDs perfectly was not the way to go, I needed a system that played my music so it sounded good. Maybe not perfectly flat response but a little bounce and maybe a bit too much bass. I've been happy ever since.
When I was 12 years old (1967) I heard Frank Zappa's Freak Out LP. I can honestly say it had a profound effect and started me on a lifelong love affair with music. Listening to Lee Morgan's Rumproller LP as I write this. To quote the Dead, "what a long strange trip it's been".
When I got my first real turntable, a Technics belt drive... and I put a $250 MM cart on it. When I was 16. Listening to my metal albums (I was 16, what do you expect), hearing layers of information and nuance I had no idea were there. Also Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, etc.
This is the Ken half of Teo Audio. Taras, the other half of Teo, was into other music...certainly not metal, I'm sure. By the time I was 20 I gave up any metal tunes, anyway. But I'd been playing those albums very carefully and I've still got them.
In my early 20's I heard stacked original Quad electrostatics at an audio show. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and I blame that experience for starting me on the often treacherous audiophile path. Later WOW moments were hearing Maggies and MLs.
When I tossed my Realistic Receiver in the bin and built a Dynaco ST70 (paired with a PAS 3x I bought used). I bought these components because they were cheap and I saved money by soldering it up myself. When I turned it on, I cried. Even through a modest pair of Bang & Olafson speakers the difference was profound. Thus it began.
Most recently, when the Carver Crimson 275 fraud burst just in time for – I'd been considering it. The exposé of the 15 watt output transformer in a claimed 75 watt amplifier made me go back and look at how much over-the-top hype (too kind a word) I'd fallen for.
For me, it was a Sansui 1000X my sister gave my parents as a Christmas present in 1971. I spent hours listening to the radio with headphones I'd saved my allowance months for (I was 10). I've been on the "how do I get the music to sound better" path ever since.
Season tickets to the symphony. 7th row center seats… repeated exposure to live acoustic music…
+1 I completely agree with your comment. Nothing changes your perspective like live acoustic music in a performance hall. The other experience I've had similar to this (goosebumps) was hearing a choir perform Christmas music in the London Brompton Oratory.
I read so many times that elevating speaker cables has positive effect on sound, Never read once someone who heard the effect saying he liked it before vs after. (Of course, there are naysayers but I am excluding them) So I did elevate my cables and possibly heard some improvement. I had been listening that way for several months. Recently I bought a power cord, a big spending for me, for my amp and after enough burn-in it became very nice, justifying my spending. Yet something always bothered me, not sure why though. The sound was well-organized, well-behaved, everything in the right place. Just couple of days ago on a whim I removed the elevation and laid the cables on the wooden floor as previously. Suddenly the sound came alive. Everything became more exciting, the scale (not the volume) increased, more energy, a little gruffness (good thing) added. I’ve been listening to various music since then non-stop and yet to hear one I am not excited about. Therefore I am now fully convinced what I’ve been suspecting: you might hear the difference with a change, but from then on it depends on your taste whether to prefer it or not. I ain’t touching anything from now on. My journey is complete.
On placebo effect I’ve seen mentioned many times and just recently on the other thread: the person who took the fake medicine got better, so what is wrong with that? I built my system for my enjoyment, not my friends or whoever. So if I like something added and think the cost is alright who are you naysayers saying I am delusional? Btw, shouldn’t placebo effect work both ways? If you don’t believe it it won’t work for you?
I suppose mine started in 1967-68. I went to a Dick Clark rock show at the Stock Yards in Chicago. I was blown away by the stage speakers. Huge bass speakers with huge horns on top. They were JBL. I wrote a letter to JBL asking if they knew what they were. I was impressed they actually responded. I don’t remember what they were now but that started me on my JBL journey. In 1969 I bought a pair of JBL Dorian S12 from Allied Electronics on south Western Avenue. When I moved to Las Vegas I had to sell many pairs of JBL.
Kept L65,L100,L222,Dorian S12,B380
The day I hooked up my Marantz 6300 TT to my Kustom 250 bass guitar amp and listened to Van Halens first album when it came out. Since those early days the music has always been a constant source of gooodness. Equipment wise it would have be the discovery of sub love. Holy crap that sub opens up musical avenues I never dreamed of.
I can clearly recall visiting one of the hi-fi shows in the late seventies/eighties and being blown away by a system featuring a Michell Gyro Dec and tri-amped Proac EBS speakers. Subsequently, just had to buy the deck when I could finally afford it (1992), now upgraded with an Orbe platter and DC/HR PSU. The John Michell room was always a must visit along with Max Townshend, both sadly missed.
Great post OP! Most definitely I have had 2 such moments. One was back in the late 80's. While listening (under the influence of some damn good pot) to Yes "Parallels" live from the Yesshows cd. At one point I was so into it and the music was so clear (Advent speaks) and powerful I felt like I was on an amusement park ride. It was truly an out of body experience but ever since then when I hear the term "moved" when it comes to music I think back to that moment when I literally felt like I was actually moving. It was amazing!
The other moment was the first time I sat down for the first session after bringing home my Dynaudio Audience 82's back in 2002. Lights out, 24x24 room with 12 foot vaulted ceilings. As soon as I played Diana Krall 's "This Can't Be Love" the second I heard her voice on that very first track I was just awed. Awestruck. Goosebumps and this overwhelming feeling that I could not believe anything could ever sound this good. It was in that moment that I actually said to myself 'this is it it can't get any better'.
On a busy in store weekend in the mid 80’s I was picking up my rebuilt Quad 57’s and the store owner was demonstrating them with a Spectral amp. The sound stopped the entire store, went quiet. Two customers pulling the trigger on loudspeakers stopped their purchase!
When I opened my shop in 1974, I had Audio Research and Magneplaners there. After listening to them, I then put every other speaker we sold (about 16 different high-end brands) on the same electronics and some others (McIntosh, Phase Linear, Crown, etc.)
I learned that ALL boxes and horns and electrostat's distorted the recorded music. Only the Maggies did not.
And, while the other electronics were OK, they were not as accurate as those from Audio Research, even on boxes and electrostat's.
Eye-opening time that helped me continue to educate myself so I could bring the best possible (most accurate) products to our customers.
Not much has changed, although some boxes are getting better, and some electronics are much improved. Still, Maggies are the most accurate when set up properly with the best electronics.
Great post, OP. Enjoyed reading these interesting stories.
Like everyone on here, it’s an incremental journey. There have been seminal experiences and some good rigs thru the years. But the latest increment was, on a whim, buying a pair of ESL63’s three years ago. Had to sign up on AGon to buy them. Got them home, hooked them up, and my jaw dropped. I never imagined recorded music could sound like this.
1) The first time I heard electrostatic speakers: they were KLH 9's. I was still in college.
2) The first time I heard a Direct to Disc record: it was Lincoln Mayorga " The missing Link." At the time I believed all records were very high quality. As soon as I heard that Sheffield Lab recording, I knew that most of my records were crap.
In 2002 I and a friend of mine a couple time a week visiting different audiophiles homes and listened different systems.
On day we visited a man who had a strange system with Lowther PM4 in Oris 150 horns and 15 inch EV mid-bass woofers plus subwoofer. Lowethers were driven by Bottlehead 2a3 SET monoblocks. When we listened this setup we can believe what such sound is possible. All other systems we had listened before sounded like toy boomboxes compared to this system.
We were like a medieval knights who suddenly saw modern combat aircrafts and tanks.
Since then the direction I choose in audio is high sensitive speakers with SET amplification.