Those damned magazines!
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Two events come to mind. When I was around 12 years old my father, who had an audiophile friend, asked him to build a system to be housed in a 1950's style piece of furniture. You may know the kind--where the highball glasses, stored individually in felt lined shelf pockets, move towards you as you open the drop down door. Anyway, he installed a Fisher 400 solid state receiver (I think this was one of their first after building tube products for years), an AR XA turntable (just new to the scene) and then built some speakers into the side cabinets. My dad then went to the local record shop and purchased every rock album that was then currently hot. (Santana, CSNY Deja Vu, Floyd Dark Side, Van Morrison St. Dominck's Preview, etc) The sound wasn't great (by my current standards) but that AR turntable with it's sprung suspension and S shaped arm was fascinating to me. I sat for hours in the room off the living area spinning disc after disc. Much of what I would listen to later was due to my dad's choices at the record shop that day. Later, when I was in high school, a bunch of friends went to party at the house of another friend's cousin, who was away for the weekend. (House sitting always opened up great possibilities!). I remember walking into the living room as I entered the house and hearing music like I'd never heard before--rich, textured, real. The system was an M & K sub/satellite set up with some pretty expensive gear driving the whole thing (I can't remember the brands--too much pre-party activity?) Anyway, I spent most of the night spinning records on that hi-fi and marveling at the sound. I remember going to the local hi-fi shop a few weeks later where they carried M & K and listening to the Dead "American Beauty" and it sounded just as good as I recalled. I also remember finding out how much the system cost and vowing someday.....
I totally "blame" my Dad who has a very musical family. All 13 (!) of this siblings played some sort of musical instrument and sang. Two actually had minor professional singing careers. Needless to say music was always a big part of my life. My dad always had a guitar slung over his shoulder singing. He started me on loving music. When I was 6 he bought me my first radio, a Radio Shack special. I used that to listen to tbe radio all day and night. This got me started on being a "gear head". I like audio components just for their technical appeal. The combination of being a music lover and a gear head is indeed a deadly combination!!!! Not only do I spend too much money on cds (average 20-30 a month for the past 18 years!!) but also too much on audio gear.
Dad started out in 1953 with a Sherwood amp and a University Triaxial Mono speaker, which gave him the fever. About 1969 he bought a Fisher receiver and a pair of AR 2AX speakers which I remember listening to. It sounded so clear much like Art stated above. After that, I knew I always wanted a nice system.
In '86, Blushing Bride and I decided to assemble a sterteo that was more "to the point" thann the $1000-2000 "component systems" then gracing the department stores. (You remember the ones - all the woofers pushed in by young punks). At one store, I saw an Oracle turntable on display. That was what did it to me.
I do now have a nice turntable, but it isn't an Oracle. Twenty years of "research" taught me to buy sound, not looks.
However, strictly on looks, there are some components I'd dearly like to have:
Rockport System 3 Sirius
Krell Audio Standard amps
Krell MD-20 cd transport
Mark somebody no. 33 amps
Niro "Power Engine" amps
the big Acapella speakers
Large Advents---It's all their fault. They blew away everything in the store except for the most expensive stuff. Got them home but the magic wasn't there. Added a McIntosh 6100 and it was a lot better but still a far cry from what I heard in the audio store.
I realized my old turntable was off kilter. The heavy platter did not seem warped when I removed it and checked it, but every revolution the tonearm would do a roller coaster ride. I replaced it with a Dual 601 and Sure V-15 Type III (I think) cartridge. I stood there dumbfounded, literally jaw open, at the first track played--"Diamonds and Rust".
It was downhill from there. Hooked and craving more. Stacked Advents then DQ-10s and, and, and.............
By the way, has anyone seen my DQ10s? They were stolen in 1992 and I would like them back. My name is on the rear and I signed the custom walnut bases I made.
The first time I heard it.
You all know what "it" is, music from a real system.
The sound - dark or dimmed room, extreme quiet (thermostat to off) - sound that puts us in a trance - the silent exclamation - WOW.
Like a drug, we keep wanting more.
It's not to understand why we're on the "merry go round", it's hard to understand those who aren't.
I could go on but I need to relax on a beautiful cloud of Cat Stevens playing through custom DAC, CJ Tube amps and some maggies
At 8 years old I was taken by my aunt to hear Leonard Bernstien and the NY Philharmonic in NYC playing Shubert symphonies and was transported. Began to search for closer approximations at home - while is is great to hear the power and dance of rock, I am still transported by the beauty of classical music.
When I was 6 my Mom bought me my first record player, along with lots of records that I loved (In 1963, there were many to love :) Between this event and her lifelong love of playing her Piano, music was burned into my soul.
Really that was the root of all my Hi-Fi obsessions.
Lost my Mom 4 years ago, and I think often of her passion for music and the great gift she gave me.
In 1967, I was 10, and my Dad had a Lafayette system (tube receiver, Criterion? speakers, Garrard turntable). I vividly recall hearing the Mamas & Papas- the harmonies had me transfixed. It sounded so much better than when I heard it on AM radio. I knew that there was something better out there. My parents were into Otis Redding, Beatles (Sgt Pepper), Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke.... They started my love for music (I still listen to all of the above). The desire to hear it at it's best was fomented back then.
Ironically, when I finally got my first cheap system ( Sansui receiver/ BSR mini-changer/ cheap Ohm speakers), they'd yell, "Turn that ****down!". Now, they ask me to burn copies of the same **** for them. :-}
Not really an epiphany, but a long trail to the rabbit hole.
When I was young, my parents (dad) listened to a lot of music on this funky system he set up with an HH Scott tube receiver, old Garrard record changer and two large "full spectrum" speakers hidden up in the rafters somewhere. The music - mostly jazz, musicals, soundtracks and opera - was rich and loud, and it seemed to come from Heaven. By the time I was about 8 years old, I had learned how to climb up and put records on my Dad's system. The next thing I knew, I received a Westinghouse portable record player with a built in speaker, the one that had a plastic molded top that closed like a clam shell. My much older brother and sister gave me newly minted copies of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour and I was hopelessly smitten. Shortly after that I got a little transistor radio that I would listen to it incessantly. By the time I was in high school, I was spending most of my meager income on putting together the best sounding system I could, and buying and borrowing records to make high quality cassette tapes for use in the car and at parties.
I took a long break from my early ride on the merry-go-round for excessive schooling and child rearing, and was spurred back a few years ago by my wife of all people who said "Honey, it would be nice to be able to listen to the radio". At the time we only had a very old integrated amp, a little bit less old CD player and some cool looking but modest sounding home brew speakers. I interpreted my wife's comment as "Honey, go out and learn everything you can about music reproduction in the new millennium, and don't come home until you have gotten the most musical system we can barely afford with a plan to gradually improve it for the next twenty five years", or something to that effect. In this recent quest I can honestly say I have heard some really nice sounding systems. Still no epiphany, but a gradual reawakening of a deep seated interest.
Kind of funny actually, as there are two distinct turning points.
My dad fixed TV's and stereos for a living (Chief Radio). He had a Grundig console in for repair and I was in awe of the deep sound and richness of the sound. When I was 17 (1974) I purchased a SONY HP161 compact stereo and used that for 5 years and then moved up to a Pioneer/EPI/Dual combination for the next 10 years. Listened to and collected a lot of music in those days.
Fast forward to 1988 and for Christmas, my wife buys me a set of Boston Acoustics floorstanders, which I hated. I had been auditioning Klipschs for 2 years but had always hesitated on pulling the trigger. We break up two years later and audio becomes my new passion. I have owned a lot of equipment ever since.
I thought by "merry-go-round" you meant a quest for better sound, or at least better equipment, not any initial exposure to recorded music. If it is the latter, I would have to say the old tube radio in the kitchen of my childhood every evening blaring a show called "Hits on Parade" out of CKVL Verdun, Quebec, if memory serves, that my older sisters would invariably listen to.
This could almost be a synthesis of many of the above experiences. In junior-high and high school, I could only drool over the pictures and descriptions in magazines of japanese top-line Kenwood or H/K gear while I worked to save for college and told myself that my Soundesign one-piece with one-way speakers (with fake chrome ring to make them look two-way) was adequate.
College is where "it" happened in stages. My future best friend and roommate had a mediocre component system with a H/K xm400 cassette deck. We were both amazed that with frequent adjustment, the deck would duplicate LP sound to the limits of the rest of the system. After meeting my future wife, we decided to invest in a decent sound system that we would share between my and her apartments. I still remember "it" occurring at a small shop run by one man, who put Cat Stevens' "Longer Boats" through a set of Sound Source speakers (made in Cuthbert, Georgia, in the early '80's) at high volume without any degradation of sound. Amazing. We were simply accustomed to highly distorted Led Zep or Rush or Neil Young (who already sounded highly distorted anyway) blasting away in some sofa-equipped basement to that point.
The obsession actually seeped in throughout my early adulthood-- sitting with friends and dates in whomever's living room (or whatever you call the front room of an apartment), socializing and introducing each other to whatever we were discovering at the time. This always involved placing an LP on a turntable, hitting it with the ubiquitous Discwasher, then mutual anticipation at the needle drop. A mixdown of the latest favorites on metal cassette was the medium of gift exchange among my friends, male and female. None of us watched television. This ritual and intentional focus has been lost in the digital age...
Music has always had a crucially supportive role in my life, but as I got busy with grad school and family, I acquiesced to the convenience of plugging a CD changer into the "aux" input of my trusty preamp and allowing the trusty old system to provide a backdrop.
In my attempt to regain that sense of deliberate anticipation, I have gone back to analog over the past few years. I now own nine or ten vintage decks bought for pennies on the dollar, plus associated vintage electronics and refoamed classic loudspeakers, and am saving for a real, modern, off-the-merry-go-round stopper system. I am hoping to infect others, including my children, by gifting them an entire system whenever they show a real interest. Until then, I achieve "it" whenever I place a classic LP bought at one of my local thrift stores for $1 or less and cleaned by my new ritual of Orbitrac followed by VPI 16.5, pour a glass of cabernet, and enjoy the snap, crackle, and pop through a 25-year-old system (with modern cartridge) that I could only dream about back then...
Merry go Round was the wrong way to put it, I meant it in contrast to the heartfelt plea of getting off the darned thing. Amazing how many of us have a similar pattern, starting out in teens or at college, single, but poor, which has it's own set of problems. A long hiatus building a career and family. Restarting with more money, but for many of us, a partner to keep happy, a whole shed load of problems. How many of us have extolled the looks of say an ARC CD3, in my case, the simple, clean lines, industrial look. What do you get, a whithering look and "No"... sigh. No room for discussion, adult interaction, give and take, just No.
1976 at a store called LaBelle's. They had a very impressive audio room at the time. There were these refrigerator sized Frazier speakers, a 350 wpc Phase Linear amp and autocorrelation preamp, Kenwood granite based turntable and who knows what kind of cartridge. They played Eagles, Blood Sweat and Tears, Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker and Earth Wind and Fire. It was like they were all in the room and I was obsessed even though I was a high school kid with very little money. I tried for a while to build my own monster speakers but was never satisfied with the results. A couple of years later, I spent the previous years savings on a system with some Bose 901s, a Kenwood integrated amp, a Yamaha turntable and an Ortofon cartridge.
Perhaps I slightly misinterpreted the question. Consider this a prequel to my previous post.
There was no music in my house while I was growing up. My parents did not play period. And I don't mean just music. There were no older siblings to lead the way. I did not drive yet so there was no car radio.
For high school graduation an Uncle bought me a transistor radio. Yes, a stupid little radio that ran on a 9-V battery. The iPod of the 60's. I worked on an estate that summer doing yard work. The radio went everywhere with me. Not sure how I kept it in batteries.
I paid my own way through college but I managed to scrape together enough for a suitcase-style (GE) system. It was a turntable that folded down and two speakers that detached from each end. My best buddy had one so I had to have one too.
Fast forward to my first "real" job after graduate school. Woooheeee, I had money for the first time. I bought a 35mm camera and a Radio Shack (Allied) stereo system. That evolved into the Dual/McIntosh/Advent system described above.
To mix up metaphors---from humble beginnings grew the mighty oak. There might even be hope for the iPod generation yet.