Listening against the grain.


Staff member
If anything unites us besides a want for a friendlier audio hangout, I think its that everybody here does the stereo-ing thing a bit off the beaten path. I don't know that anybody here is listening to whatever the current flavor of high-end is that's on the cover of Stereophile. I don't know that anybody is still in the Pioneer Receiver with Large Advents phase. We're all, well, freaks. In the good way.

I'm starting up this thread just for conversation, but maybe a loose theme around how you stumbled off the beaten audio path.


Great topic, John.

Home sick today and not feeling very eloquent but I will start and elaborate more later.

I wandered into the wonderful world of big horns and tubes very early - mid 1970s - after my initial foray into Quadrophonic left me wanting more.

I've subsequently found happiness with my favorite electrostats.

And then there's my little Rogers. ;)

But I always come back to big horns and SE amps - definitely NOT mainstream audio. ;)


Señor Member
From 1970s quadraphonic to tubes 'n' horns -- that's a sea change :)

My path was really simple. I grew up with EICO vacuum tube amplifiers and Electrovoice loudspeakers. In the 1970s I followed the local herd (at Johns Hopkins) to Soundscape in Baltimore and bought the best sounding stuff I could afford. I (still) think that I did pretty well in my choices (Yamaha, Philips, Grado and Polk Audio) -- I still have all of that stuff, it still works well and it still sounds good. And Soundscape is still around, too, and still under the same family management. Lee Dorsey started Soundscape's progenitor in the 1940s, I think, and son John is still the boss there, AFAIK.

In the late 1990s, I bought a pair of Cornwalls from a neighbor, who essentially threw in his electronics (McIntosh MC2100, C28, and a Sansui TU-717) for free. The pairing of those early ss Mac units and the Cornies was nigh-on unlistenable. This was the early days of the populist Internet (so to speak), and I quickly learned/decided (using tools like Lycos, AltaVista, Webcrawler, and Dogpile, if you remember those :) ) that what I needed was a vacuum tube amplifier. Long story short: My wife got me a Decware "Zen" SE-84B amplifier (single-ended SV83 or EL84 good for about 2 wpc). I hooked it to the Cornies (then still in our basement), put on Sarah McLachlan's track Angel -- and started, quite literally, to cry. In a good way.

Y'all know the rest. :)


Señor Member
Not to change the subject (I mean, who doesn't want to talk about viral diseases!?), but @JohnVF, this is a cool and insightful thread topic. I hope that someday we get the opportunity to meat in... ummm... meatspace (as opposed to cyberspace, that is) some day. You have an interesting and refreshing take on the world.

Hope that doesn't come across as too weird... :confused:


Post Whore In Training
I was always around music growing up (my parents met in the chorus at the Portland Opera), so I had a lot of exposure to music in both live and recorded formats. We had a GE or Motorola low-boy tube console when I was little (with a turntable that played 16RPM!) and then got a Technics setup in the early 80s when I was in high school.

I didn't really think too much about stereo gear until my freshman year of college when one of the guys in my dorm let me listen to his system. He had worked for a couple of years in high-school for a stereo shop in Eugene and had a Superphon stack, a pair of Vandersteen 2C speakers, and a CD player I don't recall. Either way, he was listening to REM's Document (if I recall correctly - it had just come out that fall), and I was just blown away at how good - even in a cramped dorm room - his system sounded.

I went back to my room, and immediately went hunting for something better than the Sony boombox I had gone off to college with. Swapped it and $20 at a pawn shop for a Pioneer SA-5800, used my Sony Walkman as a source, and drove a pair of 6x9 car speakers in wedge boxes (purloined from my VW) for the next year or so until I got a pair of Paradigm 3se Minis. Later, I got a Kyocera DA-410cx as my first CD player, a Harman/Kardon CD91 tape deck (used) and a Dynaco FM3 (definitely used) to provide decent source components (also got an SCA35 thrown in for free with the FM3, but that's a separate story).
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Junior Member
Have to admit...Norovirus was NOT on my bingo card for this thread.
Ya never know around here. ;)

I don't know that I've been off the beaten path too far. My system is looking more like the format I had when I was 15 now. TT, SS integrated, stand mount speakers, and the Mac Mini/RPi/DAC taking the place of the tuner.

My brief foray into an SE amp and OB speakers was an absolute failure. But at least I learned a few things.


Staff member
I originally did the surround sound thing that was big in the 1990s. I couldn't afford much, and my all NHT system was incredibly underwhelming.

I finally decided to get a decent stereo-only setup sometime around 2006. First I tried an SAE-TWO integrated amp that I bought because it was cheap, and looked interesting. Then a Sansui 9090db that I bought because it was ridiculously big and somebody online said it sounded better than Levinson, which I mentioned in another thread as being "not true". That plus a pair of KLH-sixes from an estate sale started the whole bog-standard vintage Receiver/Advents/JBL hoarding phase. Eventually, I stepped foot into an actual new-gear store and started listening and realizing that maybe everything online wasn't necessarily true to my ears, and I began to mix and match old gear and new gear. My background of really coming to stereo age in the vintage-gear-centric land of AK mixed with my own curiosity, a job that finally gave me some spending money, and living in a city filled with good audio stores that weren't as expensive, crappy-gear-filled, or scary as online-world suggested, led to me sort of living in a world between worlds. I had a lot of vintage gear and access to a lot of new gear as I became friends with the store owners, including one that moved into the basement of my apartment tower.

So with all this access to easily borrowed/bought/traded gear I could experiment without having to invest or buy things until I was settled on them.

From all the many dead-end paths I really began to resent a lot of the information out there, both online and in the current audio media landscape. Listening in person suggested that everything wasn't as unbiased or fully formed from actual use and many things that were said to be facts, turned out to be rather curious opinions and not much my ears.

So I decided to just kind of ignore the tribes and buy whatever my ears decided on...and that is where I am now. I have a hodge podge of both new and old gear. My amp is some obscure (on this side of the pond) shiny chrome German solid state thing. My preamp is the TVC from Redboy, bought based on him being one of the people's who's online advice ALWAYS lined up with my own listening impressions (you're a blessing, Nate, don't ever change). My turntable is old, my cartridges new or old and curiously not LOMC, as my ears decided on top-end MM/MI. My speakers are new, but kind of old in concept and look. Everything that has stayed has stayed based on listening.

So now I'm in audio no-man's land. I'm not all-in on vintage. I'm not all-in on new stuff. I"m not all-in on tubes or solid state.

My tribe is no tribe. And its lonely here.


Junior Member
This is fun.

I got into gear about 8-9 years ago (I'm 37 now) and I started out in "vintage" and churned though a LOT of gear. I have lists... and they are long. What this did is help me figure out the sound I was looking for. I bought low, sold high, and consolidated a LOT of stuff into LESS stuff, but higher end. I was always pretty much focused on a "main rig" but I dance around the perimeter with other systems as well for different flavors. Especially now that I have a big space to play with, I like to play.

I am very very happy with where my main system in it's treated room is at these days. I seldom make changes. The next change will be a slight phono stage upgrade since someone wants my Dynavector P75 MK2, I figured I'd take the chance to upgrade to the new MK4 version. But that's the first upgrade I'll have made in there in almost a year.

My 2nd system is the "play system" that is the tubes and horns and I look at too many Japanese Jazz Kissa photos system. It's where I play with my Altec stuff and have some fun. It's kinda always in flux lately.

I am really enjoying audio again now that I have a few rigs that are "settled," like my office computer rig, my "party" rig which I also use for passive listening when doing stuff around my loft, and the "bedroom rig" which is a recreation (but super nicer versions) of my original system that got me into hifi.

I feel like I am a lot more thoughtful about my choices now. Everything feels calculated. I'm in a good spot.

- Woody

P.S. Here's a summary of all my rigs.

Office: Retina 5k iMac > Parasound ZDac > Parasound ZAmp > Audience Clearaudient The Ones & REL T.Zero sub (Cables from Audience).

Party/Passive: Google Chromecast Audio -or- Modded Empire TT with Jelco TA and DL103R > Parasound P5 > Wyred 4 Sound MAmps > Tekton Design Pendragons (Cables from Mogami and Clear Day)

Onken "Tweaker" rig: Bluesound Node 2i -or- Denon DP-1250 with Sumiko MMT and DL103 > Parks Audio Puffin DSP Phono > Bent Audio AVC-1 > Dennis Had Inspire HO SE amp with NOS Svetlana 6550's > Altec/Jabo/Onkens (Cables from Duelund)

Bedroom: Google CCA > HotRodded Marantz 1060 > Modded Dynaco A25XLs (Cables DIY vintage WE wire)

Main Rig: Oppo Sonica DAC/Streamer -or- Well Tempered Simplex with DPS1, Dynavector 20X2L, Dynavector P75MK2 > Modwright 36.5 > Modwright KWA150SE > Philharmonic 3's (Cables from mogami and Clear Day and Shunyata)


Junior Member
Tribeless. Good concept. When I started regularly lurking and then participating at one of the other sites (unaware of the seething underbelly of insecure, agenda-driven wankers) I was a little puzzled when folks kept referring to this hobby.

I'd read of people stating "I got away from the audio hobby for a while", and began to realize it was the buying and selling that was driving it. Not music.

What hobby ? I always thought a stereo system of some stripe was an essential component of the home. DIY on the other hand, now that's a hobby. I envy the talents of a number of folks here.


Staff member
[QUOTE="airdronian, post: 80384, member: 311"(unaware of the seething underbelly of insecure, agenda-driven wankers) [/QUOTE]

It took me awhile to figure out that basically 75% of the hobby is made up of those kind of folks in all ends of the pool. And... that every hobby I pursue has the same infection rate. It's like dudes just have the propensity to take out every thing they're angry about in life on whatever hobby the adopt, be it audio, cameras, bicycles, to even...model ships if you can believe it. Yes, I used to build model ships and belonged to a model ship forum. Full of...agenda driven wankers taking out their political, economic, and marriage unhappiness on their hobby.

Ok, breathe John, breathe. Huff. Puff. Huff. Puff.

But yes, I did realize one day that vintage audio was a lot more complicated than just the liking of old stereos.


Junior Member
But yes, I did realize one day that vintage audio was a lot more complicated than just the liking of old stereos.
Yeah. That shit breaks all the time and needs serviced, and it's still not better than "newer" stuff. I mean... I love my FULLY reworked Marantz 1060, but I had modern binding posts and an IEC connector added etc... it's not for the purist. I'm content with it being my only vintage electronics outside of TTs.

What I really figured out, is that a lot of "those guys" pimp vintage gear as a great value. But in my experience by the time I buy a nice vintage piece and spend the money to really bring it up to snuff, it's not a better value then some of the AMAZING new stuff that is out there even at moderate prices. It looks cool. That's for sure.

There are exceptions I'm sure. I have a dream pair of Fairchild 275's, that once serviced... I'm sure will be EXTRA special. I really need to get those shipped out.

- Woody


Señor Member
...and maybe even chat about things unrelated to audio.
umm, besides glycoconjugate biochemistry and analytics, I don't gots much to offer in that arena. :-I
I mean, I could talk your ears off about characterization and analysis of N-linked oligosaccharides (as I do to my students on Wednesday nights) but I'm not even sure if large doses of good beer would make that palatable.


Hah, I love this thread already (well, except maybe for that little diarrhea diversion).

My audio history isn't nearly as long or deep as many of y'all's, but I jumped the tracks pretty early...

After discovering vintage stereo in the form of a Pioneer SX-780 receiver at a garage sale, I found AK and spent a few months frantically filling my garage with Craigslist detritus. It was great fun for a bit, because what I was hearing was truly some of the best playback I'd been exposed to, but most of those cheap "scores" were just different shades of mediocrity (if they worked at all).

My first exposure to tubes was at @ejfud's house. I didn't know him at the time, but he was selling a bigger Pioneer receiver and when I stopped by to pick it up, he pointed to his audio rack and said he was listening to a Pilot tube amp. I had NO idea what that meant, but it was weird and glow-ey and it smelled kinda weird... I was intrigued! Uh huh!

One thing led to another, and now I've got @JohnVF telling me I'm special... :-/