A passion for high-end audio

My awakening to high-end audio was triggered with the Accuphase E-205 integrated amplifier, as I shared in my first blog “First encounter with high-end audio”. I knew at that moment that I wanted to assemble an audio system that would bring me closer to the music. And, so in 1988, at the age of 23, my audiophile journey began.

After acquiring an E-205 for myself (a black faceplate versus Accuphase’s standard champagne one), I then sought out speakers, choosing the Image Concept 200, tall, sleek black towers, with the speaker drivers using the D’Appolito configuration (midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer). Among the speakers available to me in the store that I worked, the Concept 200 speakers were far and away the finest. Completing the system was a Sony CDP-302 CD player. I fondly recall that system. A significant improvement in performance from my previous setup. I was very content…for the time being.

January 7 – 10, 1989 had a profound impact on me, as it was the first year (of what would end up being 14 consecutive years) that I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the world’s largest electronics show, at that time and to this day. The main exhibit hall was overwhelming, occupying the space of several football fields. And, while I was obliged to familiarize myself with the new products that we’d be selling in the store, it was the more intimate setting chosen away from the main hall in which the high-end brands featured their products that really caught my attention. Brand names at the time that were unfamiliar to me. It was revelatory.

Through the remainder of 1989 and until late 1991, my desire to further refine my system resulted in some significant changes, in which ultimately every component was replaced. The first resulted from a visit I made to the head office of Audio Products International, the parent company which manufactured a number of leading Canadian-made loudspeakers, including the Concept, along with Energy and Mirage.

I had the opportunity to take a tour of the facility, see the manufacturing process first hand, and spend some time with various folks from marketing to engineering. In discussing my Concept 200 speakers, I asked them what if anything they would do to further improve their sound. The answer…upgrade the components in the crossover.

Tweaking, the affliction of all audiophiles, in the pursuit of sonic perfection. And, so, I rebuilt the crossover using the finest of components. And, the result was astounding.

At the 1990 CES, I had the opportunity to spend time in the Accuphase demo room where I experienced the Accuphase P-102 fully-balanced Class A 50-watt/channel power amplifier. The amplifier had been introduced back in January 1987, but the idea of separates was not on my radar. Nevertheless, I knew that it would be my next upgrade. The sound it produced was musical, rich, effortless, and warm (as was the unit itself). I hadn’t experienced a Class A design before, but from that day forward, I’ve never owned anything else in my main system. Of all the components that I’ve owned, I have the fondest memories of the Accuphase P-102. It was only last year that I decided to part with it, as it had been stored in my warehouse for well over a decade. It was time for someone else to enjoy it.

In March, 1990 I traded in my Accuphase E-205 integrated amplifier and my Image Concept 200 loudspeakers (with their modified crossover network), for a pair of Martin Logan Sequel speakers, which I also fell in love with at the CES. I had discovered choral music (Renaissance polyphony) and chamber music, and the transparency and breadth and depth of soundstage from the electrostatics was breathtaking. Our eldest is now enjoying them in his system that my wife and I gave him last year.

In October of 1991, I upgraded the one remaining component in my system at that time, a CD player, selecting the Sony CDP-777ES, which had just been introduced. A beautiful piece of hardware, with the aesthetics complementing the Accuphase P-102, featuring a champagne colour faceplate and high-gloss wood side panels (albeit, rosewood for the Sony versus persimmons for the Accuphase). The player was exceptionally well built, heavy, and made to last.

With the exception of the addition of an Accuphase C-250 pre-amplifier, this system would remain unchanged through the balance of the ’90s. It brought me countless hours of enjoyment and fuelled my passion for high-end audio. The next change was the catalyst for The Sound Choice, a story I’ll share in an upcoming blog.

Where has your high-end audio journey taken you so far?