What were some of your early Hi-End audio gear/influences?

I am now in my late '60s and became interested in "real" audio gear in 1968.  KLH compact stereo, Dynaco, Garrard/BSR and more.  

I have owned most of the brands that you would associate with hi-end audio.  That said, I don't think any other product had as much influence on setting me down the road to the "real" music sound quality than the original Large Advent.  Thank you Mr. Kloss. 

Hail Kloss, original Large Advents for me too.  Had them for 20 years or so, powered by a Heathkit kit integrated amp, & a Fisher/Shure TT/cart.
Later assembled Dynaco pre & power amp for them too.  As a young teen I was mesmerized by the sound of a church room stereo, with medium sized KLH speakers, that's what first hooked me.   
Mainly my fathers HiFi JBL Sherwoood Rec o Kut,  my own gear was Kenwood integrated Klipsch Heresys a simple Yahawood plinth YP211 turtable,Akai tape deck.
Sad to say, but when I heard Bose in college, I was hooked on hifi.

Let's see. I know I had a pair of AR speakers that were small bookshelf speaker/monitors that had an unusual shape- the outer edges were tapered. I also ran another pair of bookshelf speaker with them, with impressive results, but I can't remember the name, nor the receiver I used, but it was pretty good. (God knows what strain I put on that amp).
Unfortunately, I sold it to a deadbeat who never paid me.

And, a pair of BIC SoundSpan speakers that weren't bad in retrospect.
I believe there is another speaker maker using a similar design now.

And, a pair of Tamanton speakers that were built in Williamsburg, Brooklyn-very close to a pair of Vandy 2's, but a bit less expensive. Unfortunately, Anton got out of the business. Though it was nice to meet a speaker designer and his wife (and child). I hope they are doing well.

Lots of speakers later, I eventually heard of Vandersteen.
They were a ground breaker that I always remembered. Though Magnepan, Shahinian, Quad, and even Ohm piqued my interest.

After 30 years of building my business, I finally got to the point of getting back into stereo.
That Vandy sound stuck with me, and I was happy to find them still in business.
My Treo's are one heck of a speaker.
Lots of live music in my early(formative) years, then- the first Dynaco kits, as a teen(thank you, David Hafler).
I agree , the large Advent sent me down that same road. It is on the list of the 12 most significant speakers of all time!!
The first system I cobbled together was a little Pioneer reciever,Polk SDA  speakers,and a Technics table.I thought it sounded great until a friend brought over a 100 watt integrated(brand?).Those SDAs woke up and really sang.
In college, a friend's AR-5's and AR turntable, driven by a Tiger .01 amp, which was a kit (can't recall the pre-amp).  The quiet background, clean sound and bass extension got me hooked on good gear.  My subscription to TAS started with Issue No. 6.

43 years ago I bought my 1st system: Dahlquist DQ-10a's, Harmon Kardon TT with Rabco straight-tracking arm, Soundcraftsman pre-amp and Dynaco ST-400 amp.  Heaven.
Perhaps it was my age at the time, my friends and family that I shared with, or something else,...but the DQ-10 Dahlquist speakers were playing during what are now some of my best times with my closest friends. 

The DQ-10's were unbelievable at imaging for the time.  Soundstage width and depth, coherent image, lovely timbre, sufficient bass.
Ohm speakers (early 80's). Also the Yamaha B1 amplifier. Both of those opened my eyes to sound quality I never heard before. They are long gone now as I've traveled the audiophile road of upgrades (LOL kind of)
Not long ago I bought a pair of mint New Large Advents - with the bullnose cabinet. You might be surprised how well these fare when paired with some modern ancillaries. I prefer them over many modern designs, upwards of $3K. They handily outperform most $1500 speakers in the current retail market. 
My passion began around 1989 with a modest pair of Yamaha full range speakers with big 12” woofers, a modest Yamaha stereo amp and a Sony CD Player that I begged my dad for and he saved for months to get me for my birthday (we were a blue collar family and this was a huge expense). I carried that rig to college, to NY for my first job and back to Atlanta for my second job before upgrading them. I am sure they would hurt my ears today, but they still sound amazing in my memory and remind me of my dad to this day. 
Oh I forgot the DQ-10's.
They were pretty sweet.
Unfortunately, I had no money then...
When I graduated High School in June 1971, most of my friends bought motorcycles with their graduation money.  I didn't, I bought a Sansui 30wpc receiver, Rectilinear 1a speakers, Garrard turntable with a Shure MM cartridge, and a Sony Dolby B cassette recorder.  This was Sony's first Dolby B   cassette deck.  Since then I have spent way upwards of 6 figures on my audio addiction spanning 50 years.  Thankfully, I am extremely happy now and do not have any desire to do any major changes.  I may still futz with interconnects a bit but that is only  if I see a real good deal here.
My first musical sounding system featured Large Advents, which seems to come up a bit here.  I had them from late high school into my late 20's, when Vandersteen 2C's showed me there was clearly an even more inviting world of high end audio out there to enjoy your music on.
I also followed the Large Advents with Vandersteen 2Ci's.
When I was dropping out of high school to start college early (Spring semester, I had my classes picked out, was all set) there was a ridiculous couple of weeks I had to wait for my paperwork to go through...lame but meh...so I hung out in the library reading piles of New Yorkers and whatever hifi mags were around in '68...I think that's what got me into hifi, although I was already a working musician building little PA systems for myself. Soon after I scored my first Real Good system...a KLH Model 20 compact thing that sounded great, mostly due to the speakers...had that sucker for years.
Without a doubt, the big Infinity 9 kappas powered by Sumo, i think. 
I had never heard a wall of sound like that before.  Definitely left a print in my head. 
Thinking back to my early days of being an audiophile.....was going to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.   There was a stereo store - HiFi Haven that was run by "Jerry"..   It was more of a club than a store.  Wonder what happened to Jerry....real nice guy.
I, like most of you, remember the Advents and Mr. Kloss.  My journey lead me down the path of Dahlquist, Martin Logan, Magnepan etc.

This is not a speaker, but the Magnum Dynalab MD-208 receiver was such a superb product and value. 

I should ad, the Advent 300 receiver was another eye/ear opener. 

There was no early high end only good, better and best. For me the good turned to better and then best..................................then came high end and again it's low, mid and high. Technology is the driving force and what used to be best is relegated to low. And the cycle repeats.
I would say it was Dynaco A25s and JBL 99 that got be started on the never ending quest for better sound.What a great hobby though i love it.

Nakamichi cassette decks


Bang and Olufsen turntables

@gillagth "Technology is the driving force and what used to be best is relegated to low."

A fair amount of gear that "used to be best" is still excellent stuff.  And no way the old "best" is now low end.
Two big steps for me.

In high school I got a Fisher 105 compact FM/phono 3 piece system and it totally blew away my parents’ Magnavox console.

Almost 30 years later, I replaced my aging Rectilinear III Highboys with a pair of Thiel 3.6s. The quantum leap in sound quality sent me down the upgrade path for the rest of my system.
@keegiam , that depends on how old you are. The best of the 50s does not come close to the worst of the 90s. Certainly there is the best of any timeframe and still a good listen but trying to compare it equally with the best current offering it can never be as good. Technology advances. 
That's not to say that yesterday's best cannot be better than today's worst.  But at some point, depending how far back you go, today's worst will beat yesterday's best every time. IMO
@gillatgh:  "today's worst will beat yesterday's best every time."

There you go again.  So the latest mass-market Onkyo preamp beats a 70's Audio Research SP3?  And you might want to A/B a pair of 50's Quads against a pair of current big box store cheapies.

I would avoid such extreme, absolute pronouncements, but that's just me.
AR3a speakers, Dynaco PAS3 pre, Dynaco ST-70 amp, AR TT - 1969