How we fell in love with great sound

The first time you felt that particular “something” that sold you hopelessly to the hi-end passion. I’ll tell you mine: one night, in July 1997, the CD player was a Wadia, can’t remember the model, but not top of the line; preamplifier was a Classé audio, and the power amplifier was a Threshold 200W/8Ohm. Loudspeakers: Thiel CS6 (not an easy load but the Threshold was pretty tough).
Don’t tell anybody: it happened with a Cd of Duets by Johnny Mathis, and particularly the track “Love won’t let me wait” (originally by Major Harris).
I don’t know: for several nights in a row I would listen to that CD and each time my jaw would drop and I would stare in the dark in awe, and think “this is just so beautiful”.

Do you remember your “first time?”



Part One: I was 13 – my first cassette Foreigner 4 played on my Panasonic boombox. Both birthday gifts for a freshly minted teenager.

Part Two: Discovering a local audio store that carried brands like Macintosh Labs, Tandberg, Nakamichi, a lot of other stuff. They had systems all around the room and the really fancy stuff was in glass door-enclosed rooms. I fell in love with the music and the equipment and started saving my allowance. The boombox would have to suffice for a little while longer.

But I still went back often just to browse and listen–they treated me like any other customer, gave me a Coke and let me wonder. I gave them some good business over the years. I can still recall the excitement of buying something new from them, all boxed up, like the Nakamichi BX1 tape deck.

At the time I was really heavy into Genesis and I loved how those systems brought the music to life.


After my first summer job out of high school (a long time ago), I bought an Adcom 555II amp, a pair of Vandersteen 2ci speakers and a Sony ES cd player. It sounded awesome. All of my college friends who came to visit loved the sound and had never heard anything like it before. I loved music and audio since I was a kid but never bought a system before that.

It was 1980 and my Dad took me to a Hi-Fi/stereo show of some type in downtown Milwaukee.

There, for the first time, I heard Toccata from Fresh Aire III being played on what was for the time a rather high-end turntable with really good speakers, and I was hooked. The song and the sound combined to give me an aural experience I would never forget.

It took me years of searching afterward, and in 1983 by pure accident I stumbled across Toccata again, as I had remembered the record label “American Gramaphone” but had never seen one of their records until I saw their 45 RPM Sampler EP in, of all places, Musicland.

It was ridiculously pricy for a teen, but I bought it anyway. Unfortunately, it didn’t sound right, it didn’t live up to that sound in my memory - when played on either my family’s Magnavox console system with record changer or my personal JC Penney MCS series “rack” system with linear tracking turntable with Audio-Technica P-mount cartridge.

More years passed, and I even purchased all the Fresh Aire albums on CD as soon as they were released. They still sounded incredible, but something was missing.

Then a couple events happened in rapid succession.

At CES in 1988, I heard my first Wadia CD player, and for the first time a CD sounded like… music.

Oh sure, I had become used to CD for not having pops and ticks and sounding good, but until I heard that Wadia I realized I had never heard a piano sound like a piano like it did from an LP.

At that same CES, I heard my second pair of Apogee Divas, and I was completely hooked.

When at a local high end dealer in 1988 I heard a pair of Apogee Divas playing Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car… I cried.

I had never known that music could invoke such an immediate and visceral reaction in me, despite listening to thousands of hours of LPs and CDs. When I heard the Divas it transcended audio to become… magic.

Eventually I was able to play Toccata on a pair of Apogee speakers and… there it was. That same feeling, that same magic I had heard at that stereo show in 1980, made real again.

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Fell in love with Music when I got a Pioneer SX3900 Receiver that was FM was king, Pioneer Cassette Deck, Cerwin Vega Speakers and Technics Turntable. That was back in the early 1980’s. From there my first real purchases were for an Adcom GFA555 and an equalizer brand that I can’t recall then went to a Carver receiver, Polk Audio SDA ll loudspeakers. That was my 80’s…started out upgrading from the very beginning…

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That’s interesting; I went the other way when I heard how much better a GFA-555 sounded compared to my Carver M1.5t.

That GFA-555 was eventually replaced with a Mark Levinson No. 27.5, a ML No. 334 and now I have a pair of Ayre MX-R Twenty monoblocks.

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Being a gray beard, before iPod’s, Walkman’s, cassettes and 8-tracks, the sound/music bug bit me in my very early teens. Not having a record player, I got my music “fix” by using a Halicrafters SA-120 short wave radio. It had a headphone jack and I found I could connect raw drivers to it, to enhance the sound. Later, I put the drivers in cardboard box enclosures in order to gain what I thought were improvements. The electronics store I bought the drivers, also sold McIntosh gear. I could do no more than marvel at McIntosh’s stratospheric prices and their beckoning blue lights.

Although I hadn’t the funds to buy a record player, let alone hi-fi equipment, I read Stereo Review and High Fidelity magazines and returned the magazine’s advertiser cards to obtain manufacturer literature to ponder and dream about.

Later my dad okayed my buying a 3” reel-to-reel portable tape recorder (dad said I didn’t need a record player, because we had a console stereo). Of course, I rarely got to use the stereo, because it was in the TV room, where the family gathered. I did use the 3” recorder to capture tunes off the radio, so I could play back what and when I wanted. Speaking of which, I learned that a hard wire from the Halicrafters radio into the recorder, improved the sound over the player’s lapel mic. Later & after that find, I convinced my dad to let me alligator clip into our TV’s speaker wires to connect to my tape recorder to capture the Beatles 1st. U.S. appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

While in college, I petitioned a friend to become my roommate, partially because of the Pioneer quad system he bought while in the Navy. This was my first experience with a decent stereo system and man, did it live up to my expectations. My roommate introduced me to the first albums of the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull & Emerson Lake & Palmer. They remain some of my go-to rock albums. Also, being purely a rock fan, in College I took a music appreciation class that introduced me to classical music.

After college, married and with my first decent job, I had enough funds to buy my first system. Still having the notebook from my music appreciation class, I referenced it to begin my classical collection.

My first high-end system consisted of a Dual 1229 TT, Shure Cart., a JVC Integrated amp and ESS Heil AMT 3’s (“Rockmonitors”). When auditioning the Heil speakers, Pink Floyd’s DSoTM was played. After I got home, I called the store and asked who and what was that?:slightly_smiling_face: Later I added a Tandberg reel-to-reel and replaced the JVC amp with a Phase Linear 400II & matching pre-amp., which I currently have on display and my son is using my ESS Heil’s in a game room. From there, the rest is history…


Love the “petitioning” :blush: