Were you an audiophile in the 1980s and 1990s?

If so you will probably recognize a lot of the anecdotes in my new book about the music, the equipment and behind the scenes in some of the audio journals.  It's "The Lucky Audiophile - Anecdotes from High End Audio".

"Mike Kuller’s book, part autobiography, part musical history, chronicles his life and journeys in the world of high-performance audio during the 1980’s and 1990’s with Harry Pearson and The Absolute Sound magazine. His reminisces bring back memories of what could be considered the “Golden Age” of audio. His concert lists document many of the important and influential artists of the last thirty years. If you ever wanted to peer behind the curtain of The Absolute Sound during its heyday, give Mike’s book a read."  Steven Stone, reviewer and columnist for The Absolute Sound and FutureAudio.com

"It's a fascinating and engrossing tale of the journey he has taken.  An enjoyable read."   John Atkinson, Technical Editor Stereophile



In the late 1990's Stereophile ran an article about the 300B "God's tube" single ended triode. You could buy as a kit or a schematic to build your own such SET from Cary Audio in North Carolina. I built my first SET and began my journey. The modern 300B tubes had cheaper inferior cathodes to the coveted Western Electric 300B tubes so the price for scarce Western Electric 300B tubes went to hell. However, the less powerful 2A3 sounded richer, but NOS 2A3's were less available. The 45 globe triodes, or the 245 globe triodes were made the same way the Western Electric 300B was made and were affordable but they are less powerful. Eventually someone I thought was crazy built and sold 833A radio station transmitter tube SET amplifiers costing $350,000. The 833A was driven by a 300B. The circuit was simple and I was ready to change from complicated box speakers to Magnapan 0.7's which circumvented all the problems of box speakers. 0.7's could not be driven by 45 SET's but I could keep my SET sound if I used my 45's to transformer drive the grids of 833A's and Hammond made a perfect output transformer for the 833A that could insulate up to 4000 Volts the modest 1000 Volts I used for the plates of the 833A's. 

I never went back to factory built amplifiers since I started my 300B journey. 

@bdp24 100% I even built a custom designed dedicated listening room using J.Gordon Holt article on wall construction using activated carbon filtering for bass. He was a visionary beyond all other writers.

As to being an audiophile in the 80s and 90s, I may have been but was unable to execute sound quality commensurate with my desires until the 2000s due to financial constraints. The best thing I owned was a highly modified SME IV arm, then a VPI 19-4 table. I don’t consider my ML Monolith 3s as very good. I did own AR SP14 with an AR Classic 60 amp in the 90s but had typical bad cabling so that ruined the sound quality.

"What I DID say was that metric can not be used when the source material used in the evaluation of components is not a recording made with the intention of capturing "the sound of unamplified instruments in a real space", but is instead a recording made to merely sound "good". What does "good" mean? In the world of Pop music recording, if you think good means "the sound of unamplified instruments in a real space", well then you obviously haven’t spent much time in a recording studio." 

As a partime amateur recording engineer of 200+ performances at Disney Hall, Royce Hall, Ford Theater, etc. and many remastering engineer friends well known to the audiophile community, you are absolutely correct.  While I may have made many true to life recordings, with 48,000+ LPs/CD/78s/R2R, most of my recordings were "manufactured" to capture studio "performances for home (or inferior car/portable player) listening.  It is an entirely different experience than listening to live music (I share Holt's preference for classical although my collection includes a vast amount of jazz, opera, pop, rock to 1990 and ethnic).  I've also appraised 17 SoCal sound studios (and made a few recordings as well) and know something about creating a final listening product.  

I had a turning point in 1968 when I heard my first pair of KLH-9's at a house in the West Portal neighborhood of San Francisco. A teenager at the time, I had no idea such things existed. Reading Audio, Stereo Review, and such had not really prepared me for that.

I later ran through equipment like nobody's business. Name it, I had it. I got into repair and everything breaks. Repair people get everything. Dynamic Specialties in Redwood City with Jay and Bob was in it's heyday. What a place.

Those were fun times. I loved JGH (IWEWT) and could not read the pompous HP.

To me though, the most important HiFi writer at the time has not been mentioned.

That's because he wasn't a HiFi writer at all. He wrote music reviews for the Chronicle or the Examiner, I forget which. One was the morning paper, one the afternoon. Anyway, unlike most reviewers, he would write not about what was wrong but what was right.  Oh, he wasn't any Pollyanna, he was a realist but he wrote about what he liked and didn't quibble about the trivial.

A lot of HiFi to me has long revolved around the "analytic" side of things. Which hair should we split as opposed to what do we actually find pleasure in. That leads to the "Amplifier of the Month Club" that I've often opined about. One gets the newest and shiniest in the living room, finds fault, and seeks another.

The cycle repeats.

That way leads to madness.

Such is audio folly.

I should know. I've been there. It's a sickness.

I don't know exactly what turned me around. One day or should I say one evening I realized that just sitting back with a good single malt in the quiet of the evening and relaxing beat all the heck out of stressing about silly details that I didn't care about.

Why look for flaws that are inevitably there and force myself to be dissatisfied?

it's been a long road. More missteps than anything else to be sure but that's the story of most journeys.

That Writer that I mentioned earlier? Ralph J. Gleason was the guy. At the time he was just the music reviewer for the local fishwrap.

In my era of HiFi misadventures, he was the voice of common sense.

Yeah, I know, common sense in a HiFi environment. What a maroon.

Ah, the good old days.

Lance Cochrane

An aside as to typical example of a bad reviewer. Robert Harley reviewed a Counterpoint 400? amp. He gave it a negative review indicating that the sound was problematic and told the manufacturer that it could be defective. They asked for it back, told him that they repaired the problem (did NOTHING) and sent it back to him. He re-reviewed it and stated it was so much improved and sounded great now that it was repaired. Typical foolish reviewer.  P.S. I purchased a highly modified version of that amp and it was good at the time but I only kept it for less than a year.  See next post.


I also greatly enjoyed Art Dudley's reviews on Listener and later pubs.  He introduced me to EAR (I own the 890, 864, 324 and used/sold the Acute for 15 years).  However, I did not use the 890 and 864 for more than a year back in 2006 as it was inferior to my new monoblock tube amps and subminiature preamp.  Then in 2022, I installed Synergistic Research purple fuse in the 890 and blue fuse in the 864, put Ultra SS Stillpoints under the 864 and SR MigSx under the 890-transformed my system into high end (good became great without SOTA cost).  I don't know how Art (and others) decided that the EAR equipment was so great using stock tubes, standard glass fuses and listening on their small rubber feet.  The 864 was given so-so initial reviews which I can verify as being accurate (forward sounding/in your face, lacking depth/flat soundstage).  Also, changing to NOS tubes (Mullard 4004/RCA cleartop 12AU7 line stage) were essential to elevating the 864 as well.  Too bad I couldn't share my enthusiasm with Art for the EAR gear sooner.