What equipment or event thrust you into the hobby?

Many paths have led us into the pursuit of audio nirvana. Was there a single event or piece of equipment in the early years that started you down your path to audio bliss?

I used to sit in front of one of those little portable record players when I was a lad of 3 who loved listening to music...spinning records...and mostly at twilight...and I thought they sounded better in the evening. I moved from kiddie records to 33s, like the South Pacific album...graduating to Georgia Gibbs "Dance with me Henry" at 4, Sinatra, and anything else my parents decided to bring home. From there, the path led through the origins of rock in the 50s and the classic rock of the 60s and ultimately to jazz (still collecting records). My first credible system was built around a Marantz 2252B receiver, a Dual 1214 turntable, drving and feeding a pair of Advents. Saul Marantz must have known what he is doing because that receiver is still alive and kicking today, the only investment being a few cans of tuner spray.
Magneplaners tympani 1D's and Levinson JC-2 preamp
Hearing "The House Of The Rising Sun" on the car radio in 1965.
A story in the NY Times about tube Ipod dock and a colleague with a dead aunts old Mac mono amp. Got me looking into tubes and deciding that after 16 years of SS cheapo stereo to take the plunge. Still falling :)
It was 1979 and I was still in high school. My best friend's dad had a pair of Snell Type A's that were off limits to us. When he was out of town, we snuck in and played Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Those were profound audiophile moments. Of course, I was stoned silly.
Walking into a high end audio store when I was about 18 and hearing a pair of Quad speakers.
A pair of B&W Matrix 805's being driven by an Anthem Integrated 1 at a local hi-fi shop. It was the first time I had ever heard a tube amp. I was amazed that I had found something that sounded even better than my Bose 901s driven by my Marantz 1200. Shortly thereafter, I ended up with a pair of B&W Matrix 804's along with a Golden Tube Audio SE-40 and SEP-1.

I'm glad the Bose are gone, but sometimes I wish I had the Marantz 1200 back.

I was 16 and I had a good friend whose family had more dosposable income than ours. When I walked into his bed room he had a system with KLH speakers, a Fisher tubed integrated amp, and an AR turntable playing. My first exposure to a half way decent audio system that day pretty well fixated me on this obsession.
My children left the roost and gave me back a room to listen to music in...and listening to tubes once again after 40 years did it for me, along with finding an excellent sounding FM Jazz station.
I come from a musical family. As far as becoming an audiophile itself, my uncle was a college professor who had a dedicated listening room back in the late sixties. He had a turntable and tubed receiver and the music sounded marvelous. I've strived for that ever since.
My curiosity was first piqued in the mid-1960s when a department store salesman told my parents that a Magnavox console was just fine and we should forget about a bunch of exotic looking "components" that were way expensive and only for hobbyists.

Later, in the late-1960s, a lot of guys in my college dorm had pretty fancy systems, and I really caught the bug. My ardor cooled in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Around 1996, I needed something to read during lunch, and I bought a copy of Stereo Review. Julian Hirsch wrote a column about how the highly praised Rectilinear IIIs of the late 1960s would stand up against mid-1990s speakers -- probably not that well. Since I was still listening to my Rectilinear IIIs, I suddenly felt completely obsolete. This started my most recent upgrade cycle.
"...path to audio bliss"

Give me a break! Bliss?

Like you I had a good (enuf) system. I focused on listening to (and discovering a lot of new music) and on a lunch break, instead of going to Tower records and looking thru vinyl I went into my first high end store. Fancy looking stuff, high price tags, and lots of talk about things like stereo imaging, depth of image. "air" around the instruments, etc. I bought it, hook line and sinker. Spent the next 20 years shopping equipment - music purchases were incidental and often made to optomize the audio experience (audiophile recordings anyone?).

It was fun and consuming while I was doing it but I sure regret the amount of time I spent listening to audio and not the 'music'. I started out with Rectilinear 7's (designed by Shaninan) a Hafler 500 amp, an Apt Holman pre-amp, and a Technic's 1350 TT w/Shure V cartridge. I loved it. My present stuff is 'better' but I don't love it more.

There is a moral in there somewhere. :-)
I would attribute my audiophile sickness to at least 2 events I can remember. First, when I had just graduated from high school I visited the apartment of a co-worker who had a Lafayette radio receiver and some Epicure speakers. They were of course far superior to anything I had heard up to that time and I was hooked for life. Second, in 1990 I visited a stereo store and heard the first high-end system I had ever heard, some Quad ESL-63 speakers driven by VTL 225 tube monoblocks. That was the event that turned the page for me and fueled my current addiction.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, my older sister came home from a dance with a door prize that she won, an LP. It was Cream's Disraeli Gears. She spun it on the record player in her room and let me listen in. I loved it! She didn't care for it, so she gave it to me. I went out and bought my first system with money I had earned from caddying.
Previous to this, I didn't have much musical listening experience other than the radio. My mom listened to Country music, my father listened to Celtic tunes. Neither musical format really ever stirred any interest from me.

This was different though, this music (Disraeli Gears) spoke to me, with it's heavy bass lines I was hypnotized.

I've had the bug ever since...........

Dayton Wright XG8 with Audio Research combo. some years later Beveridge model 2 with Koetsu front end...I was hooked!
My father got me into this nonsense. I remember as a kid listening to music through his big Magnepan Tympanis and Ohm Walsh 3s driven by SAE and Marantz gear. My father bought me a pair of Ohm Walsh 2s for my 21st birthday. ( I still have them 20 years later) As I went from starving law student to income-producing attorney, I voraciously moved up the food chain and began a cycle of upgrading which still continues to this day. I recently sent a big pair of panel speakers to the factory for repair. For kicks, I unpacked a pair of Magnepan Tympani 1ds which have been boxed for a while and hooked them up to my reference system. After about 5 minutes, I sat there scratching my head wondering why I have spent so much time and $$$$$$ (probably six figures over the years) in my quest for sound which might be marginally better than these 30 year old Maggies. This audio nervosa is really a sickness and like any addiction can get out of control. I'm sure I'll continue with my pursuit of the best, but I wish that I had more restraint!
Back in 1986, I was shopping in the local mall. There was a nice electronics store (independent), that demo the latest Yamaha component system, then new. On that day, I learned how good hifi could be...
Separation from my wife and needed something to occupy my time. Audio Advisor website caught my eye, bought a pair of Sound Dynamic speakers and next thing you know.......
As a teenager-early seventies, listening to Ten Years After / Cricklewood Green / Love Like A Man on a friend's system (actually I think it was his dad's), unsure of integrated, unsure of TT except that I had never seen a full size platter before, it was manual and had a pickering cartridge, speakers were Wharfdales with wooden lattice grills over the grill cloth, the sound was the best I had ever heard. That was the beginning for me.
2 years old, my dad recorded christmas morning's on a pioneer 8 track (I still have it), I loved playing with the mics, wires, and watching the analog VU meters move when we spoke. I used to get in trouble (recorded of course) b/c I could not leave the wires and equipment alone. He had (still has) these huge speakers with 15 inch downfiring woofers in a 3 way design. They are called Grenadiers I think, they are octagon shaped, beautiful wood with real marble round tops mom and dad used for light stands. Any chance I could get I would crank his wood cased sony 70wpc receiver...the bass rattled the walls and my chest thumped...I was hooked instantly. From then on I have been cursed/blessed to be part of such a noble hobby ;) Now my toddler son absolutely LOVES looking at my tube amp at night (just like me) yelling out "amlifier...amlifier...amlifier"
as long as he stays away from the pencils (sorry dad) I should be in good shape ;)
Klipschorns in 1982. Wish that I'd never heard them..;)
in '86 I walked into a local highest end shop. I visited every week, for every week the speaker room show cased one set of speakers only. Almost always the choice front end was a Goldmund turntable, Koetzu cartridge. The amps were Mark Levinson or Jadis most of the time.

As I was saying, I walked in one day, and the owner was not present offering his customary glass of wine. The place was deathly quiet, except for a piano recital that came from next door.

So I thought. Walking into the huge room I spied two what looked like to me room dividers, perhaps some fancy diffuser. It didn't matter where I wandered about the room, the piano was being beautifully played down the hall. That vivid image never faltered no matter where I was.

It wasn't until I looked back to the equipment rack and saw the Goldmund spinning a record that I entertained the thought those trapezoid panels were creating the pianist down the hall.

I own those speakers now. The piano has moved into the listening room thanks to new more powerful and transparent amps now awailable.

What event thrust me into the hobby? I saw and heard McIntosh, Marantz, Telefunken, Harmon Kardon, Sansui, Nikko, Fisher, etc. equipment in my late teens and early twenties. Couldn't come close to affording any of it then. When I finally had some money in my 20's and 30's I bought low-fi out of lack of knowledge. When my last low fi gear deteriorated in my late 40's I was getting into the Internet and found some internet retailers and decided to spend my first thousands on mid fi Marsh gear. That was the beginning of the hobby for me. Then I found Galen Carol Audio and then Audiogon. Wish I had the faith in Audiogon in the beginning that I do know. I could have saved myself so much money!I was afraid to buy someone else's used equipment early on because the concept was so foreign to me. I didn't understand how well most audiophiles care for their equipment. Nor did I understand that there was so much well- cared-for-quipment to buy at large discounts. If I could just get my money back and start over with the knowledge I have now!
So, reporting back again, I was a student at Gettysburg College in the late 60s/early 70s. The guy that lived next door in the dorm had a father who was a buyer for a major retailer. Well, one day, a Class 8 truck pulled up to the dorm and out comes some high end SONY electronics, compliments of Vito...not the stuff they sold at K-Mart-the stuff they were selling out of Japan. Turns out the guy took a bribe and the kid was on the receiving end of the payoff. That system really had some serious dynamic drive to it. So when I graduated in '73, I was determined to buy a "high end" receiver...resulting in the Marantz 2252 in 1975. I listened contently to the Marantz and the Advents for 20 years...because I loved the music. Then one day on a business trip, I had a few hours to kill and walked through the doors of Audio Emporium in Brown Deer, Wisconsin...and Dave introduced me to a Threshold T-200 amplifier. I remembered the kid that got the SONY stuff from Vito and decided it was time to play Vito for my own gratification. I mated the Threshold to a Modulus 3 with phono stage purchased from Audio Connection in Verona, N.J. This was hooked up to a rather modest pair of Monitor Audio MA700s...which were replaced by a pair of Dynaudio Contour 1.8s auditioned during a trip to Chicago. And then I discovered tubes....
My brother used to take me to a store called Audioland. It was on the east side of Detroit. They carried Mid-fi and high end. My brother was constantly changing speakers. I would go with him and wander into the high-end rooms. I didn't know what the stuff was I was only 11 at the time. When I was 15 I went to a trade school to learn how to fix Audio equipment and TV's. I never carried for fixing tv's but I loved working on audio gear. By the time I was 17 I was going to all the high-end stores in Michigan. I've have been hooked since then. Such is life!
Over at a friends house cutting school in the garage up to no good we listened to Edgar Winter's "Frankenstien" on some JBL speakers ( the one's with the thick blue foam grill covers, what model was that? ) back around 1974. Then "Dark side of the Moon" Pink Floyd, Steely Dan and "Tres Hombres" by ZZ Top " They gotta lotta nice girls out there ". I was hooked and bought my first system on the money I made after school, a little Sony system.
Then when I got out on my own I bought an Advent reciever/ BSR turntable and some very nice solid oak veneer JBL speakers, can't remember the model number of those either.
Those JBL's lasted a long long time.
I dropped out of the hobby for some 20 years and then a few years back I bought some new Magnepan MMG's wow! Hooked again.
I always played with whatever stereo stuff we had laying around the house as a kid, an old turntable and such. But it wasn't until I heard my brother in laws system in my teens, with some monoblock amps that looked like legos he was working on, and a Theta DAC that the spark happened. It was the first time that I really saw that there is this whole subculture of people that are obsessed with the quality of the sound. Before this point I didn't really even think about it. Now it's all over, I'm one of them!

I did recently get a chance to purchase the very monoblock amps that got me into this hobby, so I bought them. They still sound good, but now they remain in my collection unused and under a dust cover for nastalgia sake.
Early 70's the last school day of the year some friends and I went to a guys house in a Lutheran Seminary,his dad was the dean of the school.

I was caught by surprise by the sounds of Yes-Roundabout through some big NEW Bozak Concert Grands and I have never been the same since.

I have been involved in Audio and the business of it ever since in some form or another.

Forward to the mid-late 70's and I met Roy Allison and Gordon Gow at the dealer I worked for. I did what it took to get some Allison 3's and an old Mac 225 Tube AMp. I had a Rek-o-Kut Rondine Table and Mac pre-amp too.

Then we moved and our neighbor was an Audio Consultant who rigged the Masters and Johnson "Clinic" here in St.Louis.He was a Crown and Electrovoice dealer and had a pair of custom speakers featuring two of those god-forsaken 30" EV Foam Woofers driven by Crown through tube crossovers he had built himself.
A certain new madness overcame me right then and the rest is really a blur.

What a hobby!
Sept., 1969. A guy on my dorm floor had Dynaco speakers, Dynaco integrated amp, don't remember the turntable. I'd never seen or heard anything like it and spent the next 3 years drooling over the Allied Radio catalog.

1974 - Went through listening sessions at Tech HiFi and Almas Stereo in Michigan, checking out the Ohm Walsh designs vs. the Heil Air Motion Transformers. Got completely hooked and started saving and spending most of my pennies for equipment, especially after I heard Stevie Wonder and Bach on Maggies driven by Audio Research in 1976.
Worked in a record store when I was a kid that sold Altec's and various box speakers. Loved R&B on Texas radio and my best friends older sisters collection of Kenton, Chet Baker, June Christy, etc.