So what hooked you?

Was there one piece of gear or system you started with that got you hooked? Something must have caught your attention and pulled you in and set things in motion for the direction you are going with all of this gear.

Mine was a combination of the Pioneer SX1000Ta receiver and Acoustic Research AR2ax speakers. I couldn't believe how good a combination of two old unrestored pieces from the 60's could sound. I said to myself "wow, imagine how good this will sound if I restore them. Wonder what I can find on the internet about all of this?".



Staff member
Sansui 9090db and KLH-Six speakers, around 2007

I went to buy a stereo for my bedroom, and bought a comparatively little SAE-two integrated amp. That thing suffered a break in the first week of operation (a portent of life to come?) and while taking it back I noticed this gigantic old receiver, the Sansui, on the shelf at the store. I couldn't get over how absurdly big it was compared to my AV receiver. To show how much things have changed, that 9090DB sat on the shelf for six months at around $350. Always curious about it, I eventually went in and bought it and around the same time I found a pair of KLH-Sixes at a thrift shop for $40.

That setup sounded so much better than my AV receiver paired with NHT SuperOnes that I was hooked.

Problem with that was, I mistakenly thought my middling AV receiver and late 1990s NHTs represented something closer to state of the current art was than it a large margin. But that's a different story.

That Sansui 9090db is one of only two vintage things I've sold that I regret. The other being my first tube amp.
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I got hooked around 98 when I upgraded my Sony GX-900ES receiver/Bose 601-2 combo for B&W CDM-1SE, Luxman M120A (L and R volume pots bypassed), Creek OBH-12 passive pre, and Velodyne F-1000 servo sub combo. The grateful dead, and taping jam bands also helped get me hooked on stereos. I was way into recording before I got "really into" stereos.


Just Call Me Junior
The earliest recollection I have that was surely a pivotal moment in my life was when I was about 5-6 years old when my dad had repurposed a Kodak film projector monaural audio amplifier and applied it to our Stromberg-Carlson monaural radio/record player console around 1963-4. He took the 3 S-C speakers out of it, and with 3 more matching Stromberg "Red Cone" speakers (he worked as an engineer at S-C) he built two identical speaker cabinets to house them, added the Kodak amp, a Lafayette (IIRC) MX FM unit and created our first "true" stereo system. Kinda. He shortly thereafter replaced the experimental amplifier coupling with the Lafayette Stereo 250A that I still own.

The console was one of these (crappy image pirated off the innernut):


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Peanut Head
The first thing that really hooked me was a lowly NAD 3020 integrated amp and matching FM tuner. It had an excellent phono stage in it!
I upgraded to a Dual 602 manual belt drive table with Ortophon OM cartridge as a result.
Beforehand, I was happy to settle with crap from RatShack.
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Early and mid 70's rock and roll. The equipment was just something that came along and made it better. I can still buy music for only a small additional amount but damn sure can't with the equipment. First listen of better stereo equipment was through Technics SB-7000 speakers.
I have to go way back to the late 70s, and not something I owned, but my friend's older brother. DCM Time Windows. I don't remember anything about the amp or turntable, but those speakers sounded magical to me. And loud! So much better than the cheap all-in-one system (Cassette, Turntable, Tuner with crappy little speakers) my brother and I bought years earlier. It started both my and my brother's journey into hi-fi.


Staff member
Around mid 70's. Marantz 2215B and some small two-way Sansui speakers. Also had a Pioneer TT but don't remember the model.
In my twenties in the early 90's I got an Arcam Alpha CD player and integrated amp, and a pair of small Linn speakers. It was revelation. But I sold that system before moving to NYC in the late 90s, where i lived in shoebox-sized apartments for three years. When I moved back to Toronto, I didn't get another system -- was too focused on work and trying to save up for a house.

Then 4 or 5 years ago I discovered Bottlehead and the BH forum. I began with the Crack. That's all it took to get me hooked on tube amp construction. I started badgering Paul B of Bottlehead with questions about how all the stuff worked. And so began my ongoing and very slow path towards understanding and building tube circuits - building another 6 Bottlehead products (so far) along the way. It's been awesome. What a great hobby. You can take it in so many directions: pure listening enjoyment, aesthetics, diy construction, and even physics and math. My learning curve still remains almost horizontal (painfully slow), but I love all of it.

More recently I discovered this amazing forum - so many thanks to the Prime Minister and others who made/make it happen. I can get almost as excited about someone else's project as I can about my own. And now that I think about it more, I realize that a very big part of my enjoyment of the hobby is being part of an online community of folks with similar interests.

So I guess a big part of the current "hook" was and remains the BH and HFH forums, and to a lesser extent a couple of other online communities with a diy group.

So thank you all!

cheers, Derek
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Nothing glamorous, the RadioShack TRS-80. I got one as a gift and would listen to it every night when I should've been asleep. I recorded our one Top40 station and the one Jazz/Blues program to listen to.
That hooked me and I've always had some sort of music playback device since. DIY started from there since we often couldn't buy all the toys wanted but Heath kits and Dynaco we all around as were old organ amps and speakers.


Junior Member
I suppose it was when my best friend's brother came back from Germany with a bunch of hi-fi gear (bought at the PX):

Kenwood 9340 4-channel receiver
Bose Interaudio 1000
TEAC 450 cassette deck
Some direct drive turntable, don't recall.

Not long after that I got my own Marantz 1060/Pioneer PL10/Smaller Advent system.

It was at the home of a shall we say a merchant of sorts that I heard Dahlquist DQ 10s and realized more was possible.
Come to think of, the 'merchants' I knew all had the best stereos.


Staff member
I guess if I go way way back my father had giant home-built speakers biamped with a pair of Dynaco ST-35s running off a PAT-4, with a Elac 50H turntable. This was late '70s, early '80s. So there was always kind of a big stereo around. It just took me awhile to get the bug...though even as a kid I had some sort of large stereo, just not a 'good' one.
Really, this all started maybe 8-9 years ago with the following:
  • Pioneer SP-BS21 Bookshelf Speakers
  • Lepai TA2020
  • Aux to RCA splitter from computer
And then I found a Sony TA-1144 for cheap on Craigslist; sounded incredible and died before I knew what to do about repairs. (And then I had a friend who was a full-on audiophile. And then I kept finding stuff locally that others approved of.) And then...

It's been fun, thankful for that gear came my way.
Nothing glamorous, the RadioShack TRS-80. I got one as a gift and would listen to it every night when I should've been asleep. I recorded our one Top40 station and the one Jazz/Blues program to listen to.
That hooked me and I've always had some sort of music playback device since. DIY started from there since we often couldn't buy all the toys wanted but Heath kits and Dynaco we all around as were old organ amps and speakers.
I seem to remember the Radio Shack (Tandy) TRS-80 being an PC. My fried had one in HS.
My progress has been evolutionary, so there's no one really clear point where I was hooked. There were moments, though, that foretold where I'd go in the future.
  • Probably the first "real" system in my life, at about three years old, was the upright Admiral console in the basement--it only played records. My nightly post was alongside the console, standing on a chair, stacking records and playing them all evening long from whatever stuff my folks owned. The highs were kind of soft on this console but the bass was there, in a boomy sort of way. The console itself also fascinated me, and I wasn't above peeking behind it to see the tubes glowing inside. And with my grandfather a Heathkit aficionado, all of this kind of sparked my interest in electronics, audio and music.

  • I had some Realistic separates (integrated amp/tuner/EQ, which were gold and all matched) and a pair of Nova 6 speakers that didn't last too long--the woofers in those turds were fragile. My step up would be to get a pair of speakers from local audiophile shop Absolute Sound and, after getting a Carver "cube" amp (which in retrospect was another turd) and tapping a preamp output from the integrated amp, I got a Hafler DH-101 preamp and it took the sound to a much better level. I never noticed how bad those components sounded until I got the preamp. So that was another big step up and a "lightbulb moment." It was like pulling wads of cotton out of my ears. Changes past this were merely incremental until I stepped up to true "high-end" components about six years ago.

  • Around 1987, I heard a pair of electrostatics, and it took me until 2020 to finally get a set of my own. I heard things during that demo at Absolute Sound that I never witnessed in other speakers even long after that. This revelation set a goal in motion that took me 33 years to achieve.
I seem to remember the Radio Shack (Tandy) TRS-80 being an PC. My fried had one in HS.
My cousin worked at a nearby Radio Shack back then, and I remember him loading up a program on the TRS-80 that was stored on a data cassette. The modem (however blazing fast it was) was a cradle you stuck your telephone receiver into. 😁

It always bothered me how computer snobs called it the Trash-80. That computer opened up doors for a lot of hobbyists and probably launched more than a few careers in its day. Home computing had to start somewhere...and this was one of a handful that offered it to us back in the day. Having said that, I never owned one...I was too young at the time to afford it on my lawn mowing money. All that money went to the wrecka stow instead.
I was passing time, waiting for the wife to finish her shopping in the fabric store (any of you guys ever suffer thru that one?), strolling the strip mall I happened past an audio retailer whose showroom doors were propped open.

Now, I had a decent enough ADS and Hafler rig, but the sound of a pair of Vandersteen 2s playing Dave Grusin's Mountain Dance album drifting out onto the sidewalk drew me in.

I was taken aback by the three dimensionality of the soundstage. I had no idea that was even possible.

The big new mortgage and the new baby meant there was no way in hell there would be an audio purchase. But, then again, those two things were keeping me off the golf course and off the surfboard.

So maybe fiddle around some with some cheap-o garage speaker DIY? That I could get away with!

So began the slippery slope.
A pair of Lascalla in about 72 or 73. I remember hearing a drum stick wack the rim and the speed and clarrity of it stayed with me. I was around 16.