Like Groucho Marx, I was born at a very early age. I bought my first record at the age of three and I still have it (a comic book that came with a 45 of the story – Spider-Man vs the Man Wolf). I was truly amazed and entranced by the ‘miracle’ of the phonograph. My interest in music was first truly sparked when I heard The Beatles on the radio. To this day, I firmly believe that The Beatles are the best that ever was and the best that ever will be. They had an impact on me unlike any other group. For Instance, when I was in fifth grade, I started to wear my dad’s jacket that was just like the one John Lennon wore on the cover of ‘Rubber Soul’ and I wore it everywhere. From there, I was turned on to music by friends of mine who were older. It was through friends that I started listening to classic rock and punk records and from there I moved on to jazz, vocal and some classical. The first music I collected was on cassette and LP, and then Compact Discs. I returned to collecting vinyl, after collecting CDs, initially due to cost (LP’s were a lot cheaper than CD’s in the early 1990’s). As my collecting continued, I noticed that some records sound better and I started to learn information about pressing and mastering and focusing on getting original pressings rather than reissues. It was at this time that I developed my country of origin view of vinyl pressings, that is to say get the version from the country where the band is from (UK pressings for British Invasion groups, US pressings of Blues and soul, etc.) I have been hooked on record collecting ever since, like an addict. (Is it wrong that there have been times in my life that I lived on Top Ramen and macaroni and cheese for a week because I blew my paycheck on a particularly good stack of records?)
As for stereo systems, I got my first stereo in fifth grade – an all in one system that have a turntable and cassette deck built in. As soon as I could afford it, I replaced my all-in-one “system” with a Technics receiver, a Sony portable CD player and my dad’s old BIC turntable, which he was no longer using. My interest in what would be considered real audio was sparked after I graduated high school and met a couple of guys at a Grateful Dead show that worked in a real stereo shop, that is to say a store that sold nothing but audio. They introduced me to a new world of sonic presentation that was more life like. They were also the ones that allowed me to get my first component stereo (Carver C-11 Preamp and NAD power amp, with Infinity speakers), which I have been upgrading ever since. As my audio journey progressed, I had a rather unique resource for learning about the manufacturers specification sheets provided for various components – that resource was my father, a Professor of Audiology at UCLA and later the University of Pennsylvania (He is a Fellow in the American Speech and Hearing Association, which is their highest honor). This also gave me a working understanding of the human auditory system by the time I was in grade school. As I upgraded, I hit upon a number of epiphany moments, among which were my first tube amplifier (a Dynaco ST-70 modified to run triode) and the first Koetsu cartridge I bought used. Over the last 30 plus years, I have learned a great deal about which records to look for in terms of label, mastering, and pressing, along with a couple of very important electronic lessons, such as ‘one end of the soldering iron is very very hot’ (hint: it’s the pointy end) and that paper and oil capacitors have a tendency to explode when installed backwards (you seriously don’t want to make this mistake – it took me three weeks to clean out the project).