Who Were Your Mentors

I'm curious about who your audio mentors were, and how they influenced your audio journey and the system you pursued?  Father, uncle, friend, sales dude, local manufacturer, other?
I would have to say that my best mentor is my ears.  They are what they are and have guided me to what I like.  What I like though, may not be what your ears like.  I started collecting right out of high school and haven't stopped.  When I went to college I met someone similar to me.  We would sit and talk about audio the way most guys talk about girls.  Forty years later, we are still talking and comparing.  We have developed great respect for one another over the years and don't talk badly of either ones mountain of sound.  He currently has 2 different systems in his house, with another on order.  I currently have 4 different systems in my house.  We have bought things together, swapped things back and forth and bought from one another (at very good pricing to one another and from time to time free).  From this I have raised 2 sons and have a nephew that all appreciate high fidelity.  I gave both sons a much nicer system than either could afford and sold my nephew one at a extremely cheap price.  My nephew has had the system for years and once told that he never turns the volume up higher than 1/3.  I said that's great if that's what you want to do.  But you have the equivalent of a Ferrari and you are keeping it at 55 mph.  Sometimes these things have to opened up let it run, you aren't going to hurt it. 
I am bless with ear of God. I do lot of listen with wife, wife sister and lately clean girl join us occasion to.
I did not have any mentors. When I was 16 and was purchasing my first system, a Sansui 210 receiver and a pair of Rectilinear 1A speakers with a Garrod turntable and Sony Cassette deck, my dad was furious.  He said I already had a portable radio and a portable cassette recorder and asked why I needed a stereo. 

It took me a month to convince him to let me buy it (with my own money).  I believe the total outlay at the time was around $600.  Man, I felt like I was on top of the world.   If I only knew at the time that this would turn into a life long obsession. 
A friend introduced me to "high-end" audio. Other than that, it was my own passion and drive.
Bob Grodinsky. Audio electronics designer.
Larry. Sales. Owned a shop close to Bob’s house.
Totally non related.

How 'bout you, what you got?
Several along the way; My Dad w Mac and big Bozaks in 1965, my own work at two high end audio shops. Engaging conversation and discovering w clients who became friends. Online relationship w Charlie Hansen of Ayre, Roger Modjeski of Music Reference and Beveridge! , Joe White, Jim Smith ( not the Maggie guy ), now fast friends w Richard Vandersteen. Cast a wide net, enjoy the music. Always seek out a sensei you can learn from.
No mentor. Just a love for music which goes way back to 8 yrs old. Bought my 1st record player when I was about 10. Got a weekly allowance of $2 which I promptly spent at the local record store for 2 45's. Moved up the ladder as time went on. First really good system happened when I was about 27-28. Harmon Kardon 730 w/ Large Advents. technics TT and Teac tape deck. . That was about 1978. Kept that going til the late 90's. Then I decided to go all out as much as my $$$ would allow. Discovered A'gon & Audio Asylum in 2000. Read a lot and asked a lot of questions. lots of good people w/o attitudes then.I have an advantage over many in that I have listened to & played live music since I was about 12 yr old. Music is NOT a hobby for me but a way of life. Still not sure if I an an audiophile. Don't like female vocals or a lot of jazz. Don't have a need to own every piece of equipment. If the music sounds good, that is what I want. Obviously, the sky is the limit. And I have upgraded over the years. But I don't obsess over the equipment
Jack Sampley, Young Dalton, My mother.

Stewart Marcantoni.

I met Stewart when he was moving from the east coast to Washington. He had an on-line store Weekend Environments and was driving out west with a minivan stuffed full of high end gear visiting customers along the way. Seemed like an interesting guy, I had an extra room, and know the area, and so for two weeks he stayed with us. Went house shopping during the day, and we tried all his great gear every evening and weekend.

This was around 1993, my listening room was new, and bare, but I had been at it a while and thought I was almost done. Ha. Every single thing Stewart brought in was not only clearly better than what I had, it cost less! At one point after changing amp, speaker cables, interconnects my wife came home and when I pressed play she literally jumped out of the chair, looked at me startled and said, "I thought it couldn’t sound any better. How does it sound so much better???!!!"

Stewart had the saying, it all starts at the wall. I knew wire was important but Stewart showed me just how important it really is. One time at his new home he played me what was then easily the best sound I ever heard. It was the same speakers and stuff I had heard before. But it was head and shoulders better. Then Stewart dropped the bomb, "There’s TWICE as much here in wire as components. Twice." This was, again, the 90’s. Imagine how chagrined I am to still be hearing people talk about putting maybe 10% into wire. When the best most experienced and accomplished audiophile dealer I ever knew proved to my ears: two times.

To give you guys some idea just how good Stewart was, Caelin Gabriel located Shunyata in Bremerton just to be close to Stewart. He brought his PowerSnakes prototypes over and compared with Stewart. (He brought some to my place one time too.) Stewart was at one time the highest selling Synergistic dealer in the country. When Ted Denney introduced his Active Shielding he did a demo at Weekend Environments with me and a couple other local audiophiles. It was Stewart who introduced me to the Talon Khorus speakers I used for 16 years. When I dabbled with building turntables it was Stewart who hooked me up and got me into the Talon Audio room as a vendor at CES.

Stewart taught me a lot about listening. He could hear things from anywhere in the room and at any volume level and with any music that most would have to calibrate and sit and strain and study with their favorite reference, over and over again, and still not be sure. He taught me about high end retail. He taught me about the music business. (And the car business- holy crap what he told me about that!) This is a long post, yet barely scratches the surface of the things I learned from Stewart Marcantoni.

This folks is a mentor. Stewart was independently wealthy from being a top SoCal car sales manager. He didn’t need the money from audio. He did it for the love of it. If I help a hundred audiophiles and write a million posts it will barely even begin to pay it back.
My 'mentor' must have been my older cousin.

Back in the mid 1970s he was the only person I knew who had a seperates system. In an era of radiograms and music centres he had a turntable, amp and speakers system.

As a kid I remember laughing at all of the unnecessary complexity that entailed. My cousin was a maths graduate and that was quite daunting back then, so I didn't question him too much.

And then there were all of his strange LPs.

One had a picture on a wall featuring an old man with a cane carrying some sticks on his back and another had a painting of a singer (?) wearing shades facing left on the front and an indecipherable scrawl/sketch on its back.

Truly great times.
@tubebuffer, do you already have an established fan club? If not then why not, I would certainly join. Enjoy the music
My audiophile dad. He encouraged me to listen to recorded music, something I certainly would've done anyway.  He gave me his old systems. I watched him solder together Heathkit tube mono separates on the kitchen table.  I inherited the Heathkit stuff when he went to stereophonic. He took me to audio shows. Later, I was totally blown away when I heard my buddy's B&O speakers at his tiny college apartment in Berkeley. I went shopping for them at some high-end stores and wound up with KEFs connected to NAD electronics. I was a nuisance at L.A.'s plethora of high-end stores.
My Dad was a TV repairman and had me testing tubes as soon as I was old enough to read the letters and numbers. My uncle built a Dynakit 70 in 1964 that I’m still using to this day. Those two each had their own influence for sure.

In 1984 I formed the "Kodak Audio Club" in Rochester, NY and got to know many other audiophiles. It was there that I connected with two very talented young audio designers, both based in Rochester, but in different disciplines of the business, that changed my audio trajectory in ways I would not have imagined....Bobby Palkovic from Merlin Music Systems (speakers), and Kenny Stevens from Convergent Audio Technology (CAT tube electronics). It’s hard not to learn stuff when you spend time with guys with that kind of passion and knowledge, and just the sheer exposure to some incredible audio gear is noteworthy. I went to many CES shows with either Bobby or Ken, or both, and got to meet a lot of audio insiders through them...Charlie Hansen back when he was designer of the Avalon Ascent speakers, Richard Vandersteen (who actually flew to Rochester to address our audio club), Harvey Rosenberg, Ray Kimber, George Melos, Roger Modjeski, Art Ferris from Audible Illusions, George Cardas, Eddie Mutka and Steve Kaizer of B&K, Bill Firebaugh from Well Tempered, David Hall from Velodyne, Nelson Pass, the Chesky brothers, Sal D’Amico, Ray Schab, and countless other really interesting folks. The shows were always several days of total audio overload...twice a year, and I loved it.

Bobby has since passed away, but I still see Ken Stevens for the occasional listening session.

Walt Lewsedder of Woodland Stereo (CA).

Walt helped a guy named Arnie Nudell develop his Servo Static and started selling his products (founder of Infinity Systems). He also got me started on the right path, a great guy.   

Absolute Sound and Mike Kay of Lyric Hi Fi.
Back in the early 70s, my brother and I would visit all the high end stores in Manhattan on a Saturday morning including Lyric Hifi, Park Ave Audio and Harvey Sound. We had no real mentors but listening to the equipment inspired us to get into the hobby. After HS graduation in 1974, I purchased my first system with some of my college loan money. A Pioneer 737 receiver, Dual 1228 turntable with a Pickering cartridge and Altec bookshelf speakers for $700. I was in audio heaven and I never looked back. 
Pop Staples was one of my true mentors. Marty Stuart

It's hard to identify the influencers after a buck and dime, so the best mentor is yourself.

I started an engineering degree at uni in 1974 and the design lecturer was a hifi nut.  We designed turntables and speakers as projects etc. I was a part time DJ and the two things combined to become a near obsession. I remember he took me to a presentation of Klipsch speakers with he loved and I hated, I thought my Wharfedale Denton's (made from parts) sounded much better. To this day I always go and listen to any new Klipsch hoping that I will like them but never do. I built my own Garrard 401 plinth and mounted an SME arm together with many other projects, I am now constructing large bass traps (1.5 x 1.0 x .5 m thick ) in my dedicated music room? He has a lot to answer for?
The best mentors i read about were acousticians...

How to wisely use ANY audio system....
I was introduced to audio by my dorm mates at Lehigh University which led to a Dynaco/ Acoustic Research graduation present from my parents. I moved to Philadelphia for graduate school where I met Bud Fried(IMF & Fried speakers) at his offices after reading an invitation in his news letters. We got friendly and I got invited by Bud to a dinner where I met Gordon Holt((Stereophile) and we became friends. Through Gordon I met Murray Zeligman and we became life long friends. Mainly for himself(but check SEAS driver kits) Murray designed speakers and electronics, some quite exotic. Finally I met George Bischoff(Melos Electronics, Pipe Dreams speakers, Scaena speakers, etc.) at his retail store and became lifelong pals. The re have been others, of course, but these four were my biggest mentors.
Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg
Who taught me how to make the perfect interconnect cable and
now I’ve been making them 25 years at https://stagersound.com/silver/
Lots to learn here::
A nut and a genius, RIP:

My menthors are Tom and Jef Nuyts : the creators of the Ilumnia Magister and - Vocalis.. This speaker are the first in the world with a conus that float on a magnetic field . ( Ilumnia. be ). Than I build my set around this speakers : cd-player Audio Note Cd two/2 , Moon Mind 2 ( streaming-driver). ; Metronome Technologie C6 (dac) ; Daniël Hertz M6L ( préamp) and the VAC phi 300.1 : what  a wonderful sound !!!
Paul Klipsch, I met him at our local Audio store in CT
explaining audio and hooking up a Khorn to a 9 v pocket radio 
📻 and and could not believe the output from a $7 pocket radio
in around  1978 from memory. I then bought my first Audiophile speakers the Klipsch Heresy unfinished for $795 I stained then and spent 2 weeks applying several coats of  French wax they were beautiful , with a Lafayette receiver and a Kenwood direct drive  turntable.,and A Luxman cassette  deck And AQ cables .
this was a years savings working my first full time job. It was the best sound system in my neighborhood ,that started my
Audiophile chronic addiction !!
Not striving to be an audiophile but always a lover of audio from my childhood exposure to music. My earliest dabble, if you will, was in the service which facilitated equipment purchases somewhat cheaply. Like others stationed in remote locations around the world, there was little more to do than get high, drink, and listen to music. That band of brothers association drove many of us to want to hear more from our music and now drives my desire to listen at a higher level of quality and accuracy. Fifty years later I’m still working that theme, on and off, and have expectations that more changes are yet to come.
Of late though, my compass is being guided by a friendship with Sunny Umrao. A chance acquaintance acquired through an online automotive enthusiasts forum. Because of the current pandemic I’ve not had the occasion to actually experience his sage advice first hand in a listening room, but we’ve engaged in countless hours of conversations of audio design and engineering philosophy that I was for the most part unaware of. He has also shown me that it is possible to improve my system’s sound quality without draining the pocketbook through purchase experimentation.

I’m probably not an "audiophile" yet by anyone’s standards here and this journey is surely incomplete. I continue to be amazed at what I can now hear from my own audio collection and sometimes find myself wiping a tear from the emotion of it.

Perhaps that is what really drives and excites me most.
Opening a high-end shop in 1973 and learning by LISTENING to the many, many products we carried--over 75 different manufacturers--crazy bookkeeping--and then spending my time LISTENING to everything when we closed the doors for the day.

I also happened to have a number of actual musical instruments that, while I am no musician, I could play well enough to HEAR what they sounded like live.  

Then, I continued to go to many concerts of ALL KINDS of music (except opera--there wasn't any down here back then, and frankly, I was not really interested in it enough to find it somewhere else--mea culpa.)

Anyway, I changed my opinions on almost everything by LISTENING and focusing on the specific sounds of instruments and learning to "separate" them in my head while doing so.  My time learning to play guitar iin college by listening to guitar parts "only" helped me with this.  It is not "scientific" any more than my playing my various instruments "live" was, but it helped.

Finally, I played in many bands when younger and worked with actual musicians who wanted a specific "sound" from their instruments on various songs, so I learned that all musical instruments could produce many different sounds.

Complicated, but the Mayorga Direct-to-Disc pressings were also helpful in all this.

SO, it is a combination of many elements that go into this hobby that result in "learning" to listen to music.

Finally, I taught a "Listening Skills" class at my job (large computer company) after I sold the store, and let me tell you, teaching engineers and programmers and managers to "listen" --especially to each other!--is much harder than determining if the drums were mic'ed correctly on a specific recording!  

We always said that "listening" is the hardest skill to master.  I believe today's world illustrates that better than anything I could post.

I love to explore… I was an Exploration Geologist for ten years… the guy out by himself finding the next property to explore. Later as a IT executive I implemented cutting edge systems to global corporations. So, no one. I love figuring out really complex problems then guiding others to follow.
I’m probably not an "audiophile" yet by anyone’s standards here and this journey is surely incomplete. I continue to be amazed at what I can now hear from my own audio collection and sometimes find myself wiping a tear from the emotion of it.

Perhaps that is what really drives and excites me most.

Love this!  That emotion is typically the primary reason we begin the journey in the first place, and is a great indicator that you’re on the right path. What it takes to achieve that feeling is different for each of us, and some never quite find it.
I was blessed with having brothers 14 and 10 years older. One was a Kenwood guy the other Pioneer.

We took a road trip when I was 10 from Iowa to Pittsburg Kansas to visit my older brother in college. I stayed at his house sleeping on the floor in his living room. He left the stereo on to an FM station. I was transfixed by the glow.

"One Of. These Nights" by The Eagles and that was the moment I fell in love with music. Honestly, just got goosebumps thinking about it.

He bought me a Technics turntable for my 13th birthday.

In high school, hanging out with my oldest brother listening to music.

Both gone now, but not the memories.

[Edit: Punctuation] 
A cousin, John Nichols, in the mid-70s.  His gear was strictly Pioneer. Spec series amps, 909 r2r, tuner, equalizer, even a 1000 oscilloscope. Bose 901s. But the piece that really got me was his B&O 4004 turntable. Even with its drawbacks it sounded amazing and seemed a freak of nature. I was a pre-teen with a Craig composite unit, so it was thrilling to take a new album to John’s and listen to it “properly”. I now have my own listening room with high end stuff. I always thank John for his influence.
Blake Hovecar. Met in 2017 when I started back into this pastime.
Blake's tips included:

-Patience pays off.
-Trust your ears.
-There is no "Best' of anything. It is all a compromise.
-Rooms/setup count as much as gear.
-Nothing trumps a great recording
-ignore these forums.

Okay I have failed on at least one of his tips!

Other.....Herb Reichert....reviewer/writer/painter/ a gentleman. Aside from the late Art Dudley, there is no better. 
I have zero friends or family into audio, I am a solo weirdo....
My Father got me started in Audio when I was about 7 or 8 earlier than that when I got into Astronomy aged 4 or 5!!

My main mentors later on include Malcolm Jones from KEF and latterly Falcon Acoustics before he retired a number of years ago.

Malcolm really helped me when I started building my own self designed loudspeakers from about aged 13, a bit later when aged about 15-16 he taught me a great deal more about crossover design and bass alignments, this when we used to meet together at Astronomical society meetings near Norwich.

He became a good friend as a result of our two common interests and I then helped him with telescopes!! Which I designed and built more then than now..

Then from the mid-80s when at college, I can add Martin Colloms, and Chris Bryant when I started getting real serious with designing more of my own loudspeakers, writing and research.


Sal D’Amico
Wow! That’s a name I haven’t heard in quite a while. Interesting character to say the least 😂
Simon Barsinister and Danny Seraphine Drummer from Chicago and owned a club I worked in when I was @ University in Chicago.

Sal D’Amico
Wow! That’s a name I haven’t heard in quite a while. Interesting character to say the least 😂

Sam was great.  Our CES gangs had dinner with him quite a few times.  I ended up with one of his DIstech LS2 amps (a modified BK ST-140).....excellent amp. 
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