How did you get into this hobby?

I grew up listening to small boom boxes, never heard even a Mid-fi system.

When i joined the military, i first started seeing some component systems. Bass pumping, louder than the big bang.
I thought, "How cool"

Bought my first reciever a few months ago, and a couple low end speakers. Ever since then ive been upgrading.

Now my current system retails new at over 8k(everything included) paid under 6.5k, and with upgrades ive spend over 11k so far.

Been doing this for maybe 5 -6 years
I went through party systems like anyone else for years. Then I walked into an oh so hifi store and heard my first 50k system. I've been diseased ever since.
Home theater got me into this hobby. Specifically, after hearing cd playback on a dvd player through a home-theater receiver out of a small sat/sub speaker system. The music could not be enjoyed. The search to find ways to improve the music created the journey this hobby has become.
In the summer of 1966 a friend and I were riding our little Stringray bikes by a place called “The Ear Drum” in Hawthorne CA. and went in for a look. One Salesman told us to leave but another said let them look and instructed us not to touch anything. He then told the other guy we were future customers. Smart guy! I will always remember the glow of the tubes in dark store. In the early 70’s while in the service and stationed in West Germany I started with mid-fi and progressed from there.
My Father got me to transfer all his R2R to Cassette tape, when I was just about 7 years old. He worked out of town at the time Mon-Fri so when he left Monday morning I had a new batch ready for him. I lived "in" his system till I was about 16, & then at 18 I got serious. He passed away 2 years ago, prior to my Tube journey. I know if he where alive today he'd be hard to send home to Mom, & get my listening room back to myself.
Forced into it by my wife so she's have something significant to bitch about at the girl's club lunches.
walked into the back room of Mace Electronics in Erie PA when I was 14 or so in 1975 and heard a pair of JBL L-200s and Marantz units playing Supertramp and the Eagles.
My first amp was a JVC integrated 30 watter when I was 17, with a garrard turntable, shure cart. and Pioneer Project 60 speakers, bought from that location.
I think I've been a sort of audiophile all my life. I've always listened to music (started at age 3 with Beatles records, used to drive the household nuts!), and even at the age of 7 or 8 was always wanting "more" than the BSR turntable. Started into separates with a Radio Shack SA 10 amp - an output of about 3 watts per channel as I recall - at the age of 13, and then progressed through a series of Pioneer, Sony, and whatnot, until I settled down with an NAD system for about 7 years. Bought a Naim system after that, which lasted almost ten years, then got totally stupid.

This audiophile thing to me is sort of like a non-serious but lingering medical condition; every once in a while it gets bad enough to need treatment in various degrees, then goes into remission for an unspecified time. It was only life threatening once, when my wife gave me the choice of going to Florida or buying speakers. I went for the speakers...
Grado headphones. Went to replace my earbud headphones and tried out a few full sized and started hearing what I was missing. The guy told me to go next door to the hi-fi shop if I wanted to hear good headphones. Bought a pair SR-60's and within a year I had the RS-1's and matching RA-1. Then it was a better cdp then amp and speakers etc.etc.etc......
Trapped in the cultural pergatory of Wyoming in the 70s with one, yes one!! AM radio station playing only sunrise to sunset the best of George Jones and Tammy Wynette I HAD to get into this hobby. My jazz instructor in a former life played all the best hotels in Vegas backing up everybody with a big name. Learned jazz from him and that fueled the whole thing.
Much like Esoxhntr, I've listened to music since a very young age, the Beatles being the first (actually the Monkees...cause they were on tv, but I wouldn't want to admit it). Starting collecting records...back when Catcus records was around selling them for $1.99 to $3.99. Of course, the White Album was 2 records, so it took forever to buy that...

Had a dinky record player, then my step-father gave me his receiver...and woah, it was so much better. Then my parents finally bought a new system (old JVC stuff) and it was even better.

For years, all I had was a boombox at school, though. And like Stuartbranson, I bought a pair of Grado headphones when I wanted a new pair after doing some research on headphones...and it was uphill ever since.

Still a diehard music collector first, though...and audio system builder second...
When I was a little kid (<10), there was this sleazy upstairs neighbor who had Altec VOTs (yes, 2) and a Berlant r2r with staggered heads. Altec amps, too. No one else had anything other than table radios, let alone stereo. It was too much to resist. This guy went to 4 channel in the 50s!!
Big Brahm's fan now, I guess early 80's alternative music solidified it for me. I too used to make endless dubbed copies of tapes from LPs and later CDs. My mom dragged me all over the world after my dad died. So, I took my Aiwa walkmen and box full of 80's alternative tapes, so I don't have to listen to the stupid tourguide yelling at us on the bus. Would like to go back to Europe again sans the mom and tour groups.
My cousin got me into it in the mid 70's at 15 and it has been an on again,off again passion since. My family was pretty musicaly talented ,but I cannot even whistle.I should have pursued Vocals though.

My cousin use to have Home built JBL's then SOTA EPICURE Towers and amps. I was hooked. I always come back to it.
It's not a hobby, it's a sickness.
I got into it through my friend and his dad. His dad was a rep for quite a few speaker companies in the 80's and early 90's and still does some work for a couple of them. It kind of shocked me the first time i heard his set of M&K's or his dahlquists or the RTR's in his garage. Now i own a set of dahlquists and thanks to him, i will no longer be able to enjoy having money ever again (fast food jobs arent conducive to maintaining an expensive hobby).
Dad built me a pair of speaker when I was 12, they started to buzz bad and I tryed to fix them ,after awhile I just started over and built new ones that was 26 years ago still doing the same thing.JK
Started at 12 yrs old. Built my 1st 5 tube radio (ptp wiring). Since then I've been hooked with feverish search for that great stereo sound. Mind you coming from a 3rd world country one can just dream of such a system.

Living in the US for more than 20 years have certainly opened opportunities which also bless me to afford a my dream system. Dreams do come true here in the good ol US of A. Thank you USA...
Somewhere around 1975 or '76 I wondered into a store in, of all places, Reading, PA, looking for a new receiver. They were demoing a pair of Quad 57s with a full Quad electronics system: 33 preamp, 303 amp, & FM 3 tuner. Playing at the time on, I believe, a Denon turntable was "Bony Fingers" by Hoyt Axton. I had never heard anything like that and was hooked. Unfortunately at the time I couldn't afford that system, but I did end up with a Yamaha receiver; at the time the latter brand was often the low end line for high end dealers and was not yet a mass market stalwart.
I was walking down 27th street in Milwaukee when this big, long, black Lincoln Towncar pulled along side of me. As I glanced over to see what this shadow was, a window rolled down and a southern gentleman (I could tell by the accent) said "Hey dude, you wanna get high?"
"I don't do that anymore." I said, almost telling the truth.
He chuckled for a moment and replied, "You gotta check out what I got, then you can go straight."
I was tempted to turn and run as my mother had instructed when I was a little boy, but he had not said anything about candy, so I figured he must be okay.
"Watcha got?" I asked affecting my most sofisticated tone.
The man called to someone up front who steered the car to the curb. The salesman got out. He must have been all of 6'-9" tall and tipped the scale at over 300lbs. I stepped back, for obvious reasons. The man pointed to the trunk of the car which suddenly popped open.
"Check this out..." he drawled, or was he drooling? I don't remember it was a long time ago, and not relevant to the story.
My eyes popped out of my head, and my chin hit the ground. It was disgusting. As anyone who lives in Milwaukee and near 27th street can tell you santitation was not a big priority to the city fathers. I tried to look up at the big man but it was not possible with my eyes hanging out like they were. After replacing the orbs into their sockets and dusting off my chin I glanced into the trunk again. The original affect thankfully did not reoccur.

The cavernous trunk contained all manner of hifi gear. I was drawn immediately to the MacIntosh gear by the bright lights and multiplicity of knobs (I am not particularly bright, so such things are very interesting to me).
"That's cool!" I muttered pointing at the MacIntosh reciever.
"You're not real bright are you?" asked the big man in a friendly voice.
"No sir, but I sure would like to get some of that stuff in there. What is it?
"This is stereo equipment." he answered.
"What does it do?"
"It plays beautiful music."
"I gotta get some, but can I listen to it before I plunk down my hard earned paper route money?"
"Of course," he replied "what do you want to listen to?"
I pointed to a bunch of stuff. He removed several boxes from the back of the trunk and handed them to me. I almost stumbled under the load. It was all I could do to carry all the boxes. There were two Klipsch speakers, a B&O linear tracking TT and a Nakamichi cassette deck.
"I'm gonna run home and listen to this stuff, if it sounds as good as you say I'll come back and pay you the $8000, for all this stuff."
He turned around and winked at the driver.

I ran home and sure enough, the system was everything he said it would be. Some of the music was so good I nearly wept as I listened.

I still feel bad about never going back and paying the man, but I told him it might take a while before I would be back. As far as I know he's still there on 27th street waiting for me.
I was in Milwaukee for the weekend and decided to stop by the ole stomping grounds. My grade school was still there as was most of the assorted debris. Even then it was a collecting point for vagrants!

I rounded the corner where I had met the friendly stranger and there was a big black car up on blocks. The hood had long since been pried up and the motor was stripped. The windows were busted out, and Wisconsin winters had obviously taken their toll on the body.

"What's the deal with that car?" I asked one of the debris lounging against the door of a Chinese restaurant.
"Weirdest thing..." the man began and then trailed of starring into space.
"Yeah." I prompted
"Oh, uhm, the car was just there one day. Big old cracker sittin' in back. Said he was waitin' for someone. Just sat there, for years. Said some guy was comin' back. Maybe he died or sumthin' cuz the cars been sittin' there for a long time, but he ain't been around for... years, I guess."
With that the old vagrant belched, soiled himself and wandered off. I thought he left just in time.

I felt kinda bad. All that time the gentleman waited for his money. I don't even have any of that stuff anymore. I thought about bringing the old California Audio Labs Icon Mk II down and leaving it in his car, but I knew romantic notions like that serve no real purpose.

I closed the hood of the car and headed back to my hotel, where by the way Oprah was speaking to the local NAACP chapter. Not a parking space in sight. Poetic Justice? You decide!
experience. However, I got into it when I was stuck in the military in Germany and, since "hi-fi" equipment was relatively cheap and the ONLY SOURCE OF IN-HOUSE entertainment -- coupled with a lot of time on our hands -- a bunch of us started sniffing around and discovered the wonders of what Tommy583 correctly ID'd as a sickness. However, once you first HEAR music reproduced in a quality fashion, the infection has hold and there's usually no turning back. I've actually been in remission a couple of times over the years but the recurrence overwhelms and here I go again. Having just come out of one such remission, I find myself rebuilding the same system piece by piece trying to maximize the sound. All within some arbitrary and completely overstretched budgetary considerations. Then, there's the WAF or GFAF to consider. Ah well, the sounds that emanate from the equipment blind us all to the realities of the expense and anguish over the decisions and choices.

I loved music from very young, and listened to hundereds of great LP's and 8-tracks with my older brother growing up. I loved working the buttons on our cheapo mini-system (late 70's). The seeds were planted.

Then, I watched my father build our first home system -- a receiver (Nikko), tape deck (Nikko), truntable, and two speakers (Advent). I read all the Stereo Review magazines that came into our house during that time and began dreaming (early 80's). Germination...

When CD's came out I used money from a summer job to buy one of the first trickle-down CD players and some cool silver discs (Peter Gabriel's "So" was my first CD). I hooked it up to the Nikko receiver in our house stereo. Sprouting...

In 1987 I bought my first system (Kyocera, Adcom, Magnepan).

Probably 7 sets of speakers, 5 different combinations of amplifiers, 10 different digital configurations, 10's of different kinds of cables, racks, power conditioners and the like later (and 15 years), and it goes on, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, -- Its been a great ride.
I found the tweeter in my mono 8-track player didn't quite meet my expectation.I took it apart and had my father take my to rat shack and picked up a couple and finally setted in on one I liked.That was thirty five years ago.It hasn't stopped.
Not unlike Kgvet, I wanted to hear the damn cymbals on my Yes Relayer LP, and my El Plastico Panasonic single driver speaks wouldn't do it. Cannibalized a set of exponential horn loaded tweets from a set of dead BIC speakers, glued those bad boys ontop, wired up a crude crossover and was off to the races. That was 1973 and the beat goes on.
When I was about 15, I was just dabbling into stereo when an audiophile friend of my parents loaned me (for about 6 months!) a pair of Janzen hybrid speakers with electrostatic tweeters. They were way beyond anything I could afford (if I recall, $700 back in 1975), but I could hear a huge differnce. I was hooked!
It began almost to the day my girlfriend left me! The interest was always there, but at the time I thought I would show her by taking up with a pair of really bad speakers.As it turned out, she was the one who had to show me how to hook them up-to tell me what a receiver was, and how to put together a system.In walking me through all this I really got to know her in a way I never bothered to before, and this is where a really solid & generous relationship began for us. I was always trying to fix her, and all along she was just waiting for a moment when she could rescue me.
In Korea, instead of a starbuck , we have coffee houses with good stereo systems playing classical. I was shocked to learn that there is a world of beauty to be discovered, and we can turn on happiness by a button!

Ever since this pleasant discovery, I've been upgrading from a pioneer system thanks to audiogon and ebay (more risky).

Lets introduce others to this great hobby - these days, you can get pretty good sounds from not so much money - even a 1k system can sound entertaining and nonfatiguing.

My recipe is in three speaker system - 5 inch woofer bookshelfs like Athena ($170) with a sony sa-wm200 sub ($95). Even electronics like NAD and Rotel can have you on your feets dancing to your favorites.

It took me a long time to figure that out after many set of speakers, that a Sony sub was the missing link! B4 spending megabucks on speakers, you might want to try the 3 piece solution.

My wife bought me a pair of Grado SR80 headphones to go with an MP3 player for Christmas 4 or 5 years ago. Suddenly I was hearing details in the music that I never imagined existed. I fell in love with the sound immediately and have been chasing for higher quality ever since. I'm always hearing a piece of music, a guitar solo, etc, while driving, and I'll say to myself, "I can't wait to hear that again on a Hi-Fi system." My wife regrets the day she bought me those headphones.
Everything started when my dad let me sit with headphones listening Mozart, I was 3 years old... In school I started to save for my first "upgrade": some unit consisting of LP and Tape in one with two funny one-way speakers. And, so on...
played in the band in jr.high and high school- we had a record/playback system in both rooms (AR speakers, ampex tape decks, mikes on boom stands, etc.) begged my parents for a reel to reel (concord)- alligator clipped to a blaupunkt hi-fi/sw radio. later got a fisher compact stereo (turntable built onto a receiver). had an all-county band clinic at the high school one weekend- a guy shows up with a HUGE ampex recording rig. later i see peter mcgrath's studer a-80 with levinson electronics at his store. well, that's enuf for now- i have to go wipe my chin...
When I was about 11 months old (as my Mother tells me) I would crawl over to the "hi-fi" system (one of those pieces of furniture with 4 legs and a top that opened up to expose a turntable and an AM-FM stereo) and lay under it.

I wonder if the imaging was best down there?

My parents actually let me sleep under the hi-fi instead of taking me to bed.

They don't make parents like that anymore...
I got into punk and was trying to find unusual import records and found they always sounded better - Japanese CD's and UK LP's. Bad turntable, bad move - I got rid of my records. Decided I couldn't live with CD's a few years later and threw out my boombox and sold my CD collection (several thousand). I ate lunch off the proceeds for 18 months. When I threw out the boombox I vowed I would create a system I could enjoy. Many of the records I had thrown out are now worth more than a hundred dollars a piece. I work at home most of the time and almost always have music on. I added it up one time and I have a little over three months of music (24 hours a day, everyday) if I start and listen through the collection. Why not invest in equipment to enjoy it? Now I'm married and have a (nearly) crazy person system, but it's easy to use and to live with, and never grates. Even my wife likes it and enjoys it, despite some initial reservations. Plus, with the 6 plan Netflix, it serves a second purpose.