The Wayback Machine

OK gang, in spite of popular requests, Mongo is back. I thought it would be fun if some of us shared memories of how we fell in love with music, electronics, and music reproduction, that led us fall in love with High End stereo.

My Dad gave me a quartz AM radio, that you hooked up to a ground, like a water pipe, and listened to it through a single ear piece. No batteries needed. Neatest thing I’d ever seen. Would only pick up the one local radio station, but I’d listen to it for hours.
When I was about 8, my Mom would take me to a family friend’s Grandpa’s house, and he had an old Philco tube radio. It had AM and short wave, not sure about FM. It had great sound through a 6 or 8 inch speaker in the front. It sat right in front of my bed, and I’d listen to WLS Chicago, and fall asleep listening to music. I also had a small collection of transistor radios, mostly AM, but bought a nice Panasonic AM/FM radio with money earned on my paper route. It had great sound and range for it’s size. My patents had a Sears cabinet stereo that was a real POS, but my sisters and I got to play our first records on it. Happy memories.
The first real, decent stereo I ever heard, was a Sony component setup that a friend’s brother had. I’ll never forget when he put on a Doobie Brothers record and played Chine Grove, and Long Train Running. That changed my life.
When I graduated from high school, and hired on the railroad, a couple friends had Magnaplaner Tympani 1 systems, with high end electronics and turntables. Anybody remember Vesticle tonearms? I was blown away. As I was starting to make a little money, I aked them for a recommendation on a first stereo. They told me to get the most expensive Yamaha system I would afford. I got a CR600 receiver, a pair of NS670 speakers, and a crappy BSR turntable that I thought was pretty. I was still living with the folks, so 35 WPC was enough.
Lots more studying, listening, and upgrading followed. More details later, unless somebody tells me to shut the hell up.

Your turn. Who has a story for us?




I too had a quartz AM radio. I bought or was given instructions with part numbers to purchase. I believe I was 8 or 9 years old.

I’ve been fascinated by sound ever since.

I had some good people teach me early in life. I remember one time I was given a ride home and the friend/driver stopped about 100 yards short of my driveway and taught me what FM multi-path (I think that’s what it was) was all about. There was a distinct dropout in the signal at that point.

Good memories.


My mom was a musician. She played piano, organ, violin, & psalter. When I was about five, my father (who couldn’t have cared less about music) indulged my mom’s love of music and bought a console stereo for her. While more impressive for its furniture qualities than its musical accuracy, it was my childhood gateway to classical music. I loved to go to sleep listening to Maneul De Falla’s music.
I can still remember the very moment I heard my first “high end” system. I was 16 and my best high school friend had a Scott tube receiver, KLH speakers, and a Garrard turntable. Within a minute of hearing that I was hooked and my audio passion was ignited. A year later, my friend’s brother got back from Japan with top of the line Sansui separates, a big Teac reel to reel, and large Pioneer three way speakers. That definitely elevated my concept of what was possible further.


I too had a crystal AM ‘radio’. I didn’t know it then, but the amount of time I spent playing with that thing confirmed I was a born geek who would devote his working life to engineering and science. Later in my early to mid-teens I, again, didn’t know I was doomed to a lifelong bank account draining passion for HiFi when I assembled my first Dynaco kits. I eventually built a system out of all Dynaco kit electronics. My pride and joy was a Stereo 400 with the optional meters. How I wish I kept it. That was at a time when my local Dynaco dealer personally delivered the kits to my house, btw. I also had no idea I was infected by upgradeitis when I purchased Frank Van Alstine’s very first products: upgrades for my Dynaco kits. Yep!


I listened to little AM transistor radios and car radios growing up (born in '54), and for 8th grade graduation my parents got me one of those big brick of a multi-band radios, about the size of two or three laptop computers stacked together. It fit into a niche in the headboard of my bed, so it was easy to get to and listen late at night. I had a little fun exploring the shortwave bands, but most of the time I listened to AM.

My parents had a big console stereo that only got used around the holidays for Christmas music, and once in a while for Ray Coniff Singers albums, so we were all surprised when one day Dad brought home an RCA “component” stereo that he put in the kitchen as part of a remodeling job. He made a place in the cabinets to have a couple of pull-out shelves that had the turntable and the receiver, and he put shelves over the two kitchen doors (one to the mudroom and garage, and one to the dining room and the rest of the house) so he could listen at the kitchen table.

That led me to want something for my own room, and I saved my money and got a JVC “compact” stereo that was sold by the Record Club of America. It had the turntable built into the top of the receiver, and two detached speakers. I used that to death through high school and my first year of college. That’s when the real hi-fi bug bit me. I had friends with “real” component stereos that I lusted after, and I’d drool over catalogs from electronics supply houses and places like Warehouse Sound Co.

So I saved money from my summer job after freshman year ('73) and got myself a system consisting of a Pioneer SX-727 receiver, a Pioneer PL-12D turntable, some forgotten cartridge, and a pair of Cerwin Vega speakers that the shop threw in in what I later came to understand was a classic bait-and-switch (they were supposed to have been JBLs).

A couple of speaker upgrades came and went, as did a switch from the PL-12D to a BIC 960. Then my last semester in college ('78) I sold all that stuff, and all my 35mm camera gear, and entered the high-end, though admittedly through the basement door, by pestering the good folks at Milwaukee’s Audio Emporium (still around, by the way) to sell me a GAS Son of Ampzilla, GAS Thalia preamp, Maggie MG1s, and a Decca Gold cartridge to go with an armless Denon table with an Infinity Black Widow I bought elsewhere. I borrowed a small pump-action hand drill from the architecture school’s woodshop and drilled the necessary holes in the 'table’s arm insert to match the Infinity’s base, and only got in a little bit of trouble for taking it out of the building (they wouldn’t have known if the drill hadn’t gotten a little frosty in the cold Milwaukee air when I returned it). Below is a pic of it with a much-later Sumiko BPS, the bare-armature forerunner to the EVO III.

At any rate, so began my downfall…


Great stories! Keep em coming! Glad to know that my form of brain damage is contagious.




6 transistor (germanium!) pocket am radio, given to me when I was 7 (around 1970 ish), glued to my ear for the next three years until I took it apart because by that time I had a collection of old radios and the like.
Did some short wave listening too (7 am on 40 metres you could hear Australia from the uk in a good year).
Then it was donated Home built mono valve power amp, into a pair of 10 inch speakers in plywood boxes (bought at the local radio club auction). …followed by a tripletone stereo valve pre and power.
…followed by a pair of beam echo valve mono blocks (again donated to me - 35 watts a piece el34 ultra linear - best sounding amps I ever had) with a pair of very heavy bookshelf speakers (no-name but decent sounding) with the tweeters replaced with piezo electric drivers. Speakers upgraded to Richard Allen Pavanes.
And that was the first ten or so years of my listening.

Best system I heard at the time was a Tandberg receiver, tandberg reel to reel, thorns deck, and (I can’t remember the brand) 60s omnidirectional multi driver corner speakers, in the house of the folks who gave me the tripletone amp (and later a Garrard lab 80 TT).
Happy days :slight_smile:


When I was young I couldn’t get enough of HeathKit and Allied catalogs. They had all sorts of cool stuff that I could only dream about. I had the obligatory AM transistor radio and then an AM/FM, I was in heaven with FM and multiple transistors. My family had an RCA console with a turntable. Records didn’t last long. The arms were always too heavy and damaged records. It was all lo-fi but it was great.


I had a Dynaco Stereo 70 tube amp. Specs said it had about 5% distortion, but I that it was one of the most musical amps I ever had. Also built an Eico tube preamp, NOS, still in the sealed box.

Happy rememberies.