My Parents Stereo System
When I was a little boy growing up I remember this strange piece of equipment that occupied our living room. Little did I know that it was an early 60's tube power and pre-amp made by Harmon Kardon I would hear my mother listening to classical music occasionally. The sound of the orchestra was always very "real" to me.
It wasn't until the age of 15 that I bought my first record album. The year was 1975 and I bought David Bowie's Hunk Dory. Mainly an acoustic and piano album. I used to listen to that album on my parents stereo system over and over again and the sound completely bowled me over. It may have been the reason I got so interested in music as a teenager. During the 70's all the rage were solid state amplifiers with lots of power 100, 200, 300 Watts etc.. The more money spent - the more watts you got. This was the notion that we were brought up on. I never knew how many watts that Harman Kardon amp was - all I knew was that this amp spoke to my soul compared to anything else. I was not going to admit to anyone that my parents strange looking old tube equipment gave me a whole different level of musical involvement. It just didn't make any sense.
In my late teens when I could afford it I bought my first solid state amplifier and I still loved listening to music - Vinyl was still going strong. Around the late 80's I bought my first CD player and I was sure that musical bliss was now mine for all of eternity with perfect sounding recordings and never a scratch.
In the early years of CD I was out buying lots of them - replacing most of my record collection - The records were left in cardboard boxes in storage wherever I went. As the years went by I noticed my self continually being disappointed when I would buy a new CD and excitedly take it home only to find myself buzzing through all the tracks with my remote control - After about 10 minutes of checking out the CD I would be doing something else - other than listening or getting involved in the music. Eventually after many similar experiences I stopped buying CD's altogether. In fact I stopped listening to music alltogether. I figured it must be my advancing age (late 30's) and a busier life. I didn't give it much of a thought.
My high tech job was keeping me very busy and I was playing lots of guitar and piano. On a business trip I stopped in on a friend from high school. He was an audiophile and always had a big impressive system. I looked at his setup and saw this beautiful looking tube amplifier. I told him it looked fantastic - What is it? He told me it was a tube amplifier kit from Audio Note - I said - you mean somebody actually built this? Then I enquired as to how many watts it was. When he told me it was 8 watts. I laughed so hard. Over the next few months I told other friends about Jeff's new tube amplifier that's only 8 watts, and we all laughed. My curiosity got the better of me and eventually I ordered my own tube amplifier kit from Audio Note. It was the kit4. I was a nervous wreck building it - in fact it took me about an hour to put the feet on it. Soon I was on a roll and when I was finished - I turned it on for the first time and saw all those tubes glowing! It was an amazing feeling of satisfaction! I started to listen to my CD's and I found that I could actually listen to them. The tube amp gave a nice warm involving sound, guitars sounded more like real guitars. I was a happy man. Music was once again an enjoyable experience.
I soon started to feel I wanted more kit building experiences, I wanted to build another amplifier. So I went for Audio Note's top of the line kit, the Kit1. It was the same 8 watt amplifier my audiophile friend had. I had a work contract in another city so I brought the Kit1 and worked on it each night in my hotel room. It seemed like a monster to me - the transformers were huge - the 300B tubes were big - this was a serious amplifier, and I wonder how it will sound. I will never forget the moment when I plugged it in for the first time. I had a Tori Amos CD on - I was quite shocked - At a fairly low volume in my hotel room I heard a sound that I could not describe! The pianos struck me right in the heart. I sat there in amazement listening......
Well one thing led to another along with several life co-incidences and I found myself head first in the kit business. I think back to when that first kit4 arrived at my door and I opened the box and saw all these parts, tubes, resistors, capacitors, valve bases, printed circuit boards and manuals - A feeling came over me that I could not descibe - I was going to build this amplifier part by part. I remember how therapeutic the whole process was - I had to take my time and follow the instructions and work a little each day on the kit - no rushing around like in our everyday busy lives. Before my eyes a beautiful looking Audio Note Kit1 amplifier emerged!
Today working with Audio Note and carrying on the kit tradition and I am hoping to bring these same experiences to audiophiles all over the world. I'm hoping to persuade people to build there first amplifier and experience the single ended 300B sound. These days I am an avid vinyl collector - stopping in at record stores when ever I can. I get a huge rush out of listening to music again. I can play my old Yes albums and listen to entire sides of music - (the music is usually over before I know it),and I can sit for hours ( family and kit business willing) and enjoy music with the same feelings if not stronger as when I was in my parents living room.
I asked my mother in later years why she got such a sophisticated home stereo. She told me that she wanted a stereo system to listen to her record collection and that my father went to the local department store and bought an all in one record player - She told him to take it all back and then they went out and she chose the Harman Kardon Pre and Power Amplifier. I was never so shocked when I came to realize after starting AudioNote Kits that the amplifier I grew up listening to at my parents was actually built from a kit!