The Hub: Love begins with a Kiss; or a ForSale sign

Looking back on your life, can you see the points at which your direction changed? Sometimes the break-points are a little vague: when did you start thinking that it might be a good idea to behave responsibly, to have car insurance, and not have cold pizza and beer for breakfast every day? Those changes sneak up on you, gradually, minute by minute, day by day. For me, though, one change was clear-cut, as memorable as seeing that first '68 Corvette on the showroom floor: suddenly, the Earth shifted on its axis, what came before was no longer good enough, and all that came after would have to measure up to the New New Thing.

In audio, that moment came for me in the mid-'70's at a dusty dealership in Memphis, with pianos on one side of the cavernous showroom, Hi-Fi on the other. I couldn't afford the new, chintzy sharp-edged silver boxes, and their sound hurt my ears anyway, all tizz and boom. Back in the corner though, the trade-ins, the used stuff: what's this? Black and chrome, like Dad's '53 Buick, but more industrial. The pitted lettering on the side said, "McIntosh 225". It was familiar, yet exotic; I'd heard OF it, but never heard it. A cardboard sign stuck between the chromed tube-covers had "For Sale $199.00" magic-markered on it. Maybe I could make a killing on this thing. Or maybe I should just...just KEEP it. It's cool, and really HEAVY for the size of it.

Turns out, $199.00 was more than a jobless college Sophomore could scrape up. That amp's value,had not been maintained, it had INCREASED, having originally sold for $198.00! Too bad I didn’t snare it: many find the 225, made from 1961 to 1967, to be the sweetest-sounding of the vintage tube Macs. The 225 used 7591 output tubes, as did contemporaneous amps from Fisher, Eico and Scott. It featured technologies like the Unity Coupled Circuit and bifilar-wound output transformers-- pioneered by Mac in the late ’40’s, and still used by them today. Paired with efficient speakers (like Altecs from the same era), the 225 can sing with a voice not just sweet, but pure and clear.

I didn't get that first McIntosh, but many followed, all black and chrome and glass and blue light: a smoky bar, wrapped-up in a rack-mount. They came, they went, in hard times cashed-in like a blues guitarist’s Gibson. The sound they made was wonderful, the impression they left of their makers' dedication and pride remains, to this day.

Mac is thankfully still around, doing better than ever. For decades their products were largely owned by doctors and lawyers, the prices seeming beyond the reach of mere mortals, never mind our grasp. These days, when new cars cost more than our first house and 20-watt amps can cost a hundred grand, the cost of McIntosh gear seems downright reasonable: not just an investment in sound, but a sound investment.
According to your blue book the low for the amp is $560, the last sale was for $1490 and the high was $2700 probably before September of last year. An investment in good sound is always a sound investment
Ah yes...the good ol' days. Simple times. Heck, I remember back in the mid 70's when I was around 10. My uncle had purchased for me, my very first walkman (ok ok, portable player). For Christmas. It was an Aiwa, auto-reverse (god help us all), Dolby B portable player. It wasn’t just a few days later, when I was tweaking the alignment of the head for better sound. Little did I know that I just crossed the line between tweaking...and lunacy. Did it sound worse now? Or better? I can’t tell! How do I put it back where it was originally?!?!? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! And little did I know at the time, I had just become an audiophile. CHEERS!
Yes, I remember the good old days. The price of the HiFi hobby certainly has changed, although there are still good values within some modern products. I remember lusting after the ARXA turntable as a kid in high school. It was so expensive to me at right under $100.00 that I had to settle for a used one and was very happy to find one in a HiFi store for $69.00 which now seems like a laughable pittance under the new cost. I still remember the day I hitchhiked to White Plains and found the table for sale. Had to come back later in a friend's car and pick it up. Still have it today though! I would starve and save my lunch money, $5.00 a week allowance, and whatever else I could scrape up to build my dream system including a Dynaco amp and preamp that I found used for $60.00 each. I used headphones for a while, trying to scrape up enough for speakers. One Christmas, I came down stairs to find a pair of KLH 17's under the tree. Unbelievable, thanks Mom and Dad!
Thanks Audiogon, I am enjoying the Hub.
I’ve made my share of wrong turns to be sure. Doing the right thing for me was more an adventure or coincident than one of premeditation.

My first Gee wiz car thing was the Dan gurney AAR ‘Cuda. $3995 new! It was a short lived fantasy as banks did not care to finance kids without any credit history, and I had a job and half of the sale price in hand.

That experience got me so riled I wanted to shoot somebody and there just happened to be a police action going on in which, the US government was deeply vested into, so off I went. My draft number was six anyhow, so I thought I’d beat the rush, and pick a better spot by enlisting.

The thing about being in the service and over seas too, was the pricing of all that electronic gear! Even on a petty officers pay, one could get all sorts of pretty good gear, and I did. or so I thought at the time. it's funny how those things happen. I got the first Akai continuous play cassette deck. Well, almost hands free would be more apt a nomenclature for the device. It would stop play, then physically flip over the cassette IF you placed a wee bit of sensing tape at the end. lol

The TEAC 10 inch reel to reel tape deck was the better choice by far, but had issues playing in the car.

I opted not to go into the new Quad stereo sound so popular then so accidentally I made at least one decent decision and bought a Kenwood 2ch discrete receiver.

I passed utterly on the JBL Century series units and bought a pair of Bertagni Geostatic omni directional 3 inch thick silver & black speakers. They looked great sounded good, but had no bottom end at all. One of them quit working six months after we returned to the states.

Along my way, I ignored outright tube gear, like the Scotts, Fishers, and who could afford McIntosh’s? Live and learn seems most applicable in my case. However, buying for investment purposes remains a chancy and vague prospect as usual, but especially now, as the audio realm rushes towards positive changes with such great pace.

As for the first kiss allegory, while on a temporary recruiter duty assignment, I met the office secretarial temp. She later became my wife of 23 years. So sometimes in spite of numerous misadventures, and passed by opportunities, fortune does smile upon us now and again.
Congrats on the wife, if not the Bertagnis! I've see a lot of Big PX systems, once bought Nakamichi gear from a sailor shipping out.
Thanks to all for the nice comments and stories.
A.,what was it that got you interested in starting this site way back when?Cheers,Bob