I remember learning to ride a bicycle. My father, Don, patiently held the bike upright—running alongside me—as I tried to get enough speed and balance to avoid crashing. At one point I felt confident enough to yell “let go!” only to look behind me and realize he had done so several hundred feet back. I panicked and immediately fell over—but I had ridden that bike. It wouldn’t be long before I was on my own.
The first time we do anything is memorable and I am still fond of my first exposure to a massive hifi system.
The setup was housed in a nondescript tract home in an area of Santa Maria California called Tanglewood. The owner, Norm, had a shop that sold waterbeds and was the employer of PS Audio’s co-founder, Stan Warren. As is often the case with big high-end audio systems, norm’s living room was consumed with a massive amount of gear including a tri-amped Audio Research stack, Cerwin Vega 18″ subwoofers, Jantzen Electrostats, and finished off with a Rabco straight line tracking turntable and Decca cartridge.
I had never heard sound like that. In fact, I never knew reproduced sound was even possible on a scale this grand. Listening to Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, or Lincoln Mayorga on a Sheffield Direct To Disc just boggled my mind. Here, in the ordinary living room of one man, was a live concert. Cymbals, bass notes, voices emerged from velvet blackness as if the musicians themselves were in the room.
Compared to my meager Kenwood Integrated amplifier-based system, this magnificent collection of wires, speakers, and electronics was as close to perfection as I could imagine—and beyond.
Of course, were I to listen to that same system today I wouldn’t be quite so impressed. But that first time. The eye-opening nature of surprise, discovery, and delight we experience when presented with the new. There’s little to compare.
If you’re curious what my first piece of high-end audio equipment was, watch this video.