First encounter with high-end audio

I started working in the consumer electronics industry in 1983 while I was still in high school. The retailer was a local chain with two stores and carried a wide assortment of equipment encompassing audio, video and computers. I was hired to work in the computer department. Of course, tinkering with all the equipment was a great perk of working there. I can still clearly recall on a Summer day in 1984 unboxing a brand new component – a Technics CD player – the first time any of us had seen this new technology.

During the Summers while in university, which I attended out-of-town, I returned home and worked once again in retail, albeit at a different audio/video store. I had a particularly successful Summer of sales between my first and second year, earning far more than I needed to get me through the next year at school. And, so not having any other financial responsibilities, I purchased a new stereo system. It was a top-end Sony receiver, dual cassette deck, CD player, Technics equalizer, and a pair of Paisley loudspeakers. I was pleased with the sound, liked that the whole system matched, and was excited to finally own a CD player.

After I completed university, I was undecided as to where my education and/or career would take me. So, while I began additional studies at one of our local universities, I worked full-time at the store I had worked at during the previous Summers. From an audio perspective, the store carried primarily mid-fi brands and components, although, some of them also touted a premium series. Like most audio stores, we had a speaker wall which enabled us to demonstrate the range of speakers we carried without having to disconnect and reconnect different speakers for our customers to audition. It was powered by an integrated amplifier, with a CD player serving as the source component.

The retailer I worked for had three locations. It expanded to four at its peak. Unfortunately, it is no longer operating, for a myriad of reasons. One day I visited the main location to check out their set-up. Unlike our store at the time, the main store had a dedicated speaker room. Similarly, though, they too had a speaker wall. I had brought a few CDs with me, as I had installed a CD player in my car the Summer before. I flipped the speaker selector to a pair of speakers that I was very familiar with, popped in a CD – Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms”, if I recall, as it was in constant rotation as a demo disc those days, and stood back to listen.

The sound coming from the speakers was different. Better. In fact, better than I had ever heard these speakers sound. Was it the room? For sure. But, I sensed that there was something more to it than just the room. It appeared that we were using the same CD player as in our store. Then, I noticed that they were using a different integrated amplifier. A brand unfamiliar to me, but one that was obviously in a completely different league than that which I had previously experienced.


An Accuphase E-205 integrated amplifier to be precise, with Accuphase’s iconic champagne faceplate…I ended up purchasing one in black, but I will save that story and my journey with Accuphase for another post.

At that moment I realized there was a whole different level to audio reproduction. I had officially been introduced to high-end audio. And, so began my passion.

What was your first encounter with high-end audio?