What was your first system?

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  KenKagawa 1 year, 11 months ago.

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  • #3400

    Greetings everyone!

    I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic.  Recently, I found myself reminiscing about my first system, then I thought it might be fun to learn about other members’ first systems.  By “first system”, I mean the first system you ever assembled and purchased with your own hard earned cash (hand-me-downs from family members don’t qualify).  For some of us, your first system purchase may be a fairly recent event with details still fresh in your mind.  But for others, like myself, a few decades (OK, many decades) have passed so it may take a bit more effort to clear the cob webs and recall those makes and models.  If you’re up for the challenge, please take a trip with me down memory lane and share your first system with the members of our newly revitalized SF Bay Area audio enthusiast community.

    To kick off this discussion, let me begin by sharing how I first became interested in what was then known as Hi-Fi.  During my high school years, my primary source for music was a portable General Electric AM/FM 9V mono radio.  I’d carry that radio around with me everywhere and it would be at my bedside as I fell asleep listening to it each evening.  I’d listen to a variety of FM radio stations ranging from Top 40, Classical, Soul and R&B and Rock.  At school, I had access to another source for music: reel-to-reel tapes.  I’d often find myself spending my lunch breaks in the audio-video room listening to reel-to-reel tapes of 60s artists like The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, and The Lovin’ Spoonful to name a few.  In fact, it was during this time, that the The Lovin’ Spoonful tune, Summer in the city, became indelibly imprinted in my mental musical library.  The school’s tape collection was limited to be sure, but on one hand it was great because it was free; I couldn’t complain.  On the other hand, because the selection was limited, I found myself starved for more musical variety.  It was then that I became determined to have a system of my own, a system where I was free to listen to the music of my choice at any time.

    I began to save for a system. But what system should I get?  I needed to do some research beyond reading issues of Stereo Review from the library.  I’d hop on Muni and make many trips to Pacific Stereo on Market and Van Ness to explore and research what equipment was currently available, and to check out what happened to be on sale at the time.  Remember, I was living in BTI times… “Before the Internet”.   Researching products meant having to leave the safety of your home to venture out into the wild and physically gather information on products.  These were primitive times.  Upon return, I’d pour over the glossy product literature that I successfully harvested from my exploratory trip.  Eventually, I would make a purchase.  This process would repeat over the course of the next few years until one day when I was finally able to purchase the last component, a Shure V15 Type IV cartridge (technically an upgrade), to complete my modest first stereo.  My journey, which began with an AM/FM radio, eventually lead to my first stereo system listed below:

    System Components

    • Thorens TD-150 MKII Turntable (although I would have preferred a Harman Kardon Rabco ST-7 straight line tracking table)
    • Shure V15 Type IV cartridge (upgraded my original Grado)
    • Electro-Voice EV-1181 25wpc Stereo Receiver (sans the wood case)
    • TEAC A-150 Cassette Deck (with tons of TDK SAC-90 & Maxcell UDC-90 cassettes)
      Acoustic Research AR-3a speakers (an acoustic suspension speaker considered “compact” for the time)

    There you have it, my first complete stereo system.  This was the first of many systems I’ve owned in what has turned out, for me, to be not only a most enjoyable hobby, but also an very educational journey as well.


    So what was your first system?



  • #3403


    Hi; Jazzfan,Im a newbie from cal audio show & my first system in ’79 was Chartwell LS3/5a speakers ,M&K sub,Onkyo A7 integrated  amp,Micro Seiki DD35 turntable with a Sonus> Bluegold cartridge . Added A Denon  tuner 2 years later & still have it all except the turntable in the bedroom. The long in the tooth audiophiles will remember the  midrange magic of the LS3/5As & is why the are still beloved in my home .

  • #3412

    Hi Tubenut,

    Welcome to SFAS!  I’m a new member as well, having just joined earlier this year.  I also attended CAS (my first time) and thought it was a great show.

    Thanks for being the first to join in this discussion.  The BBC LS3/5a monitor is a true classic.  Over the years, several versions of the LS3/5a have been produced by a number different manufacturers.  Even to this day, a decedent of that speaker is still being produced by Harbeth, a real testament to the strengths of the original BBC design.  You can read the full Stereophile review here.

    M&K subs were quite the rage.  I recall listening to a very dynamic demo record, which I believe was produced by M&K.  On that record, there were two tracks in particular that come to mind – one of a real steam locomotive and the other of a flamenco dancer.  Both tracks excellent recordings that showcased the capability of the M&K subs.

    I always thought the Micro Seiki DD35 was a beautiful table.  I loved the rosewood finish of the base.

    Nice system, and again thanks for chiming in and welcome to SFAS!


    To all SFAS members (new or old),

    Anyone else with memories (fond or otherwise) of your first system?  I know you’re out there.







  • #3416


    I remember the Acoustic Research AR3a very well.  It was the first speaker I lusted after, long before I had the money to purchase a decent stereo system.

    My first system was:

    Heathkit AR1515 receiver which I built from a kit and still have packed away in the attic, IIRC

    Infinity Monitor Junior speakers which I still have out in the garage, need new woofers

    Micro Seiki MR711 turntable to replace my old Garrard Synchro-Lab 65B, both long gone

    Empire 2000 EIII Cartridge

    Teac 450 Cassette Tape Deck – this is the one in the old Memorex tape commercials

    with lamp cord for speaker interconnects  😉




  • #3425

    Hi RobC,

    Nice TOTL receiver for sure.  My only experience with at kit was building a pair of Tiger .01 amps by Southwest Technical Products Corporation (SWTPC). They were fun to assemble, and my soldering skills improved by the end of the project.

    I’m not positive, but I believe the Garrard you replaced is the same table I was never allowed to touch while I was growing up.  It was part of my father’s system that included an H.H. Scott  Stereomaster 222-B  amp & Scott speakers.

    “lamp cord for speaker interconnects”?  Interesting… couldn’t be any worst than a coat hanger for an interconnect, but I’m sure that’s a topic for a completely different forum.  😉

    Thanks for joining the conversation.


    • #3426


      Hey Jazzfan,

      Thanks for mentioning SWTPC.  I built the Universal Tiger mk II and the 198a Preamp and my own home made speakers before I had enough money to buy the system outlined in my post above.  The Garrard SL65B was the turntable I used to complete this early stereo.  I didn’t really consider it an audiophile grade system though.

      I still build the occasional kit.  Gotta keep up those soldering skills.  😉

  • #3533


    My first system back in ’72 when I lived in the student Co-op at UC Berkeley.

    Garrad Type A turntable

    Shure M3D cartridge

    Dyna ST-35 integrated amp

    Heath AJ14 tuner

    KLH Model 32 loudspeakers


    Later, while at Cal, I built a Dyna PAT-4 and a Stereo 80 power amp to replace the Dyna ST-35.

  • #3537

    Hi russbutton,

    Another Garrard owner, how about that!  Welcome and thanks for chiming into the discussion.

    Nice system to sustain you through what I assume were your “starving student” years.  Dynakits were a popular choice for many, and they still have a strong following to this day.  I’ve never heard the KLH 32, but I am familiar with the company.  I always dreamed of listening to the KLH Model Nine.  I understand it was quite good within its limits.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • #3609


      Funny you should mention the KLH Model Nine.  The KLH Model 32 was as far away from the Model Nine as one could possibly get.  I don’t think KLH sold a lower priced loudspeaker at the time.  I lived in the student Co-op at UC Berkeley at the time.  Student Co-opers are all pretty much dirt-poor.


      Most every loudspeaker I’ve owned since has either been a home-brew or something built for me my Jason Daniels.

  • #3870


    Late 70s, high school. Results of much yard work in the hood. Kenwood receiver, believe it was the 2090, in any case 18wpc/AR17 speakers/Technics Belt Drive table and some kind of ADC cartridge, soon upgraded to the $20 Grado! Later got an Onkyo cassette deck. Excellent deck.

  • #3872

    Hi cpick,

    Welcome and thanks for sharing your story!

    I held on to my first cassette desk for some time. I always dreamt of owing a Nakamichi Dragon but never managed to scrape together the funds. In retrospect, it’s probably better that I skipped the high-end cassette era and moved directly to CDs.


  • #4077


    I am a new member and I had to think exactly what my first system was, it has been awhile. I was in the military and stationed at Bitburg AB, Germany. They had a great audio section in the base exchange and I used to visit the place frequently. As I listened to my friends systems I started to get some insights as to what was good and what was not so good and what I should buy on very limited military pay. So I purchased:

    Dynaco Pat-4 Pre-Amp as a Kit

    Dynaco ST-70 as a Kit

    Thorens TD-125 Turntable with SME 3009 Arm mounted with a Shure V-15 II

    AR-3a Speakers

    Revox B77 Tape Player

    The only way I could have afforded it at the time was because of the tremendous discounts offered in the military BX. I went to engineering school after the military and the system got a lot of play during those days and found that chamber music was the best while studying physics; at least for me, at the time, now that I think about it.

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by  Harley.
    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by  Harley.
  • #4089

    Hi Harley,

    That was quite a starter system – a real classic I wouldn’t mind owning today.  Those military discounts allowed a few of my friends to assemble some very nice systems back then.

    Welcome and thanks for joining the conversation!


    • #4122


      I was very lucky to meet some folks that knew much more than I did. I added a MR71 MacIntosh Tuner to the system later, I bought it from my roomie. The system performed as advertised for many years. My son has the system now and it still sounds pretty good. I think he had the speakers refurbished and did some electrical upgrade work here and there. It is in his study and his main system is a fairly large home theater system.

  • #4091

    Hi I’m new to Sfas I’m Dan as I remember it was 1979 and I bought a 18 watt per chanal realistic receiver from radio shack and some nova 50 bass reflex speakers a Sanyo cassette deck from fords dept store and a direct drive Sony turntable . I listened to a lot of blue oyster cult and supertramp and of coarse my heartthrob Olivia Newton john lol .

  • #4119




  • #4854


    My first system was when I was about 3 years old.

    My dad built a Heathkit tube amp,Lafayette 15 inch woofer and tweeter,Garrard auto turntable.All in a George Nelson inspired handmade cabinet.

    Due to the auto cuing Garrard I was able to play lps just by pulling the switch.I would listen for hours.I listened to West Side Story a thousand times .First Family was also a fav,then Beach Boys and Beatles.


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