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How did you get started in the "hobby" of audio? My beginnings - and the end of vinyl for me.

Xulonn

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#1
The inspiration for this long "personal audio history" post came as I was responding to a vinyl thread elsewhere here at ASR.

My experiences with audio as a "hobby" started with vacuum tube amplification and recorded music on vinyl in 1954 - about two years after I was adopted and had recently moved with my new parents to the Marquette Park neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. We had owned a Stromberg Carlson Hi-Fi console similar to the one below that I found on eBay. The only LP I remember from my parents tiny collection was the soundtrack from the musical "South Pacific." They also had some albums of classical music on 78rmp discs.
Stromberg-Carlson-2.jpg


Stromberg-Carlson-4.jpg

Somehow I became aware of component audio when I was an usher for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the Fritz Reiner era when I was a high school student in the late 1950's. Anyone who is into classical music is probably aware of the incredible series of recordings by RCA of the CSO under Reiner. In fact, Sony released the entire collection as a 108 CD box set that is still available on Amazon for $800. Although I did not fully appreciate classical music and the historic era of those recordings, the experiences there established a lifelong apppreciation of classical musicc - and jazz - which I also heard for the first time at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. The first stereo recordings of the CSO were made by RCA in 1954, a few years before my part-time usher gig, and four years before stereo LPs were introduced to the world.

So in that musical environment, I began my lifelong interest in audio. in 1958, a church parishioner and friend of my father (the minister), who was an engineer at Chicago's Jensen Speaker Company, designed a big bass-reflex speaker for me using a Jensen duplex speaker with a concentric "cellular hown" in a 12" woofer. We used an external crossover to turn the horn into a midrange, and added a Jensen "super-tweeter." Dad built the enclosure from 1" thick German oak salvaged from a coffin that had been used to transport a deceased American tourist back to Chicago for funeral and burial - which involved a much fancier casket of course. I called my speaker the "Voice of the Dead." Unfortunately, no pictures of that monaural gem survived over the years.

Dad and his engineer friend also found a nice used 20w Bell Model 2300 6L6-based integrated amplifier for me.
Bell 2300 Amplifier-01.jpg

Bell 2300 Amplifier-04.jpg


My "source" was a Garrard component "record changer" with a "ceramic" cartridge - probably this 88/4 model:
Garrard 88-4 Record Changer.jpg


When the system was completed in 1958, I started buying music on vinyl - monaural LPs at first, because stereo LPs weren't even introduced until 1958. Below is a pic of the jacket of my first LP - mono, supposedly re-released in stereo in 1975, but I've never seen stereo versions of the songs on YouTube or as MP3's.

I was 16 y/o when I bought it to play on my new HiFi system, but my father, a non-drinking, conservative Presbyterian minister - took one look at the cover, and did not approve!
Latin Escapade.JPG


But for me, that component audio system and my George Shearing Quintet LP were the start of a lifelong love of not only the hobby of audio, but also Latin dance music and Latin jazz. I saw Shearing perform at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in the 1980s (he lived into his nineties and died in 2011). I actually still have a copy of the Latin Escapade album that I bought used for sentimental reasons a number of years ago - and it's the only vinyl I own. But I don't have a turntable, so I downloaded MP3's to listen to it on my current digital only audio systems.

Back to 1958, it took a while for most people to "upgrade" to stereo - it was expensive to add a stereo cartridge, a new stereo preamp or integrated amp, and possibly another power amp. My own transition to stereo happened in 1960 at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. A frined who lived in the same dorm and I bought a stereo cartridge and combined our completely different mono amplifiers and speakers to create a crude and completely unbalanced stereo system. We had glorious sound bouncing back and forth - the infamous ping-pong effect - and no concept of soundstage and imaging.

After dropping out of college in 1962 and enlisting in the U.S. Navy, and spending nearly five years as a hospital corpsman stationed at the Naval Hospital in Oakland California, I returned to civilian life in 1967. I love the SF Bay Area and lived most of my adult life there before falling behine the cost of living there moving in 2012 to live as an expatriate Panama.

Shortly after leaving the Navy, I bought my first decent component stereo system - A Dynaco SCA-35 integrated amplifier with EL84 tubes, Dynaco FM3 tuner, Dual 1019 turntable, Sony reel-to-reel tape deck, and a pair of "Quadraflex" house-brand bookshelf speakers from a local stereo emporium. I stepped on to the upgrade treadmill a couple of years later when I replaced the Quadraflex speakers with a pair of the original Heil AMT ribbon floorstanders.

And that was the beginning of a lifetime of buying and selling (mostly used), and upgrading and downgrading my audio system over the years as my income fluctuated, I went back to finish college (U.C. Berkeley), and got married and later divorced.

When CD's were introduced in 1982, I began buying them and stopped buying LPs. I have nothing against vinyl - I'm just not into it any longer. I am very sensitive to distracting pops, clicks and other surface noise, particularly in the quiet passages of classical music - so I moved to CD's shortly after they were introduced, but kept my vinyl for another decade or so, finishing off my vinyl era with a beautiful Empire 598 Troubador turntable - not the best turntable of it's day, but certainly one of the most beautiful.

Empire 598 Troubador Turntable.jpg
 

anmpr1

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#2
Great story. I started out probably a few years after you. With a green suitcase-like fold out hi-fi featuring a detachable speaker. Flip over plastic stylus. After a few years the needle was shot, so the old man took me to a hi-fi store in order to get a replacement (ceramic cartridge). I'd never been inside a hi-fi store. Saw a Pioneer PL-61, Garrard Zero 100 and some other fantastic gear. I couldn't believe the stuff they were selling. I thought, "Why am I listening to records on a suitcase?" LOL

A friend's dad had a real hi-fi. Top of the line Dual for records. Might have been a 1229. Maybe 1219. He told us that he'd kill anyone who touched his Dual. I think he meant it. I think touching his Dual would have been worse than if he'd found us drinking his whiskey and flaming it up with his wife.

Gear that sticks out in my mind. Not necessarily the best, but gear that made a big impression on me: Original Quad electrostatic--very delicate and clear sound; JBL L100--first box speaker I heard that didn't sound like the music was coming from inside a box, like the usual acoustic suspension thing of the day; Harold Beveridge electrostatic--wrapped the entire room in crystal clear sound. As soon as I heard it I sold my Acoustats and went back to my JBLs. The Beveridge made my Acoustats sound like cheap plastic, and I couldn't stand them, anymore. The best is the enemy of the good.

I still have my L100s. Also have my Technics SL-110 with Grace 707 tonearm. I don't think they will ever die. A pair of Dyna MkIV amps I built, along with a modified PAS preamp for a den system. Main room features Paul Klipsch LaScalas and Benchmark electronics. Using a PC as a music server. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm happy.

In order to relive that first hi-fi store experience, I recently ordered a pristine Garrard Zero 100. When it arrives next week I'll plug it into the analog input of the Benchmark DAC. I might never play a record on it. I don't care. It will remind me of how I got into this hobby, and how I never want to spend another nickel on hi-fi. I'm making Benchmark and Klipsch the stop. I'm too old to play, anymore.
 
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#3
My GrandPa had a BIG telefunken stereo 58 years ago. I was also playing with his Hallicrafter radio at an early age. I always had an habit of dismantling everything electronic. GrandPa told me : You touch my telefunken and you sleep in the shed for 1 week. I was borned like this 65 years ago. I sold $$ audio gears for over 15 years. Actually, my dog's name is Woofer .
 
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Ron Texas

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#4
I started ages ago with an AR turntable, AR speakers and a Fisher tube receiver. The end of vinyl came gradually, but with a harsh finality. In 2017 my house flooded destroying all of my analog assets and a nice pair of B&W towers. The computer, digital library Crown amp and DAC survived.
 

GrimSurfer

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#5
I took over my parent's RCA tube console, complete with a Garrard mechanical TT (roughly the same vintage as @Xulonn's only mine was bone coloured) and integral 12" speakers. Yup, one of those speakers was located directly under the TT, which was "isolated" from the cabinet using conical coil springs (the adjustments for which can be seen in the photo @Xulonn provided).

The thing was capable of doing two things really well: (1) heating my bedroom and (2) producing seismic, though undefined, bass. Anything above 10 kHz was so sibilant as to qualify as hiss.

The EM and magnetic fields radiating from that beast were probably way over any health and safety limits of the 1st or 2nd world. Maybe too much for the 3rd world too. Great for playing heavy metal, such as Iron Man, which was a good thematic fit with the health hazard.

After many "modifications" and several Gauss and rads later, I lost my love of tubes and vinyl. It was the late 70s and the Japanese were putting out some very nice solid state amps, R2Rs, and tape decks.
 
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GrimSurfer

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#6
My GrandPa had a BIG telefunken stereo 58 years ago. I was also playing with his Hallicrafter radio at an early age. I always had an habit of dismantling everything electronic. GrandPa told me : You touch my telefunken and you sleep in the shed for 1 week. I was borned like this 65 years ago. I sold $$ audio gears for over 15 years. Actually, my dog's name is Woofer .
Good name for your dog. I'm imagining a Rottweiler with a name like "Woofer".

I once owned an English Bull Terrier whose huge chest was capable of resonating a sub-audible growl with audible harmonics starting at 20 Hz and ending at 80 Hz. Didn't have the foresight to call him Woofer or Sub.
 
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DKT88

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#7
In the late 60s (high school) I took over my Dad’s stereo. He had a Girrard 210 TT, Fisher receiver and Jensen TF-2 speakers.
In the early 70s I built a Dynaco SCA-80 integrated amp, bought an AR turntable with M91E cartridge, and a pair of Advents and took it all to college. Still have the AR.
 

Sal1950

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#8
I don't care. It will remind me of how I got into this hobby, and how I never want to spend another nickel on hi-fi. I'm making Benchmark and Klipsch the stop. I'm too old to play, anymore.
IMO you won't ever have to, you're done
I ran La Scala's for 32 years, only sold cause they won't fit in my retirement digs. ;)
 

Sal1950

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Good name for your dog. I'm imagining a Rottweiler with a name like "Woofer".

I once owned an English Bull Terrier whose huge chest was capable of resonating a sub-audible growl with audible harmonics starting at 20 Hz and ending at 80 Hz. Didn't have the foresight to call him Woofer or Sub.
Went thru a bunch of those old tube consoles looking for good bass as a kid, plugging in my RCA 45 changers and playing the Phil Spector "Wall of Sound" classics over and over. My favorite dog of all time will always be my Doberman named Max. Huge 130 lb dude but completely mild mannered, unless you raised a hand to me. :mad: Here's a photo of him laying in front of my brand new and unfinished La Scalas, circa 1978.
My first "real" system was a AR XB table, Marantz 2270 receiver and a Marantz 2440 quad surround adapter. There were 4 acoustic suspension speakers of a name I can't remember any more. Post divorce, that system was replaced with the La Scala's, Phase Linear 700B and Crown IC150A, talk about a system with PUNCH. LOL. Later the PL and Crown amps were replaced with McCormack Line Drive and VTL tube amps plus 2 huge 7' tall HSU subwoofers using NAD power amps. That system remained stable for close to 20 years with the addition of CD players starting in the late 80s. A high end JVC XL-Z1050TN wrapped things up, a super quality build player.
Thru most of that time, if you spun my listening chair 180 you faced the TV and AV rig mostly comprised of Adcom gear with Paradigm 5 channel speaker kit.
Sold it all to retire and move to FL in 2011. Ripped all my vinyl to hard drive then but rarely listen to those files any more, most all of them are available as clean digital streams now. I've never been a fan of the Rice Krispies sound since CD's spoiled me. ;)
Coverage of my current rig is listed here.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/sals-system.614/


Marantz1976.jpg EarlyLaScala.jpg PhaseLinear1.jpg VTLsystem_censored (1).jpg
 

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