It’s the time of year for saving money!
At the young age of 15, I became fascinated with my then best friend’s, older brother’s, all Mcintosh system. Charles had a Mac tube amp and preamp, that really cool (even then) Mac turntable and a set of Mac speakers. The first song he played for me was a track by Bob Marley or something similar, if memory serves.
I was irrevocably hooked. Suddenly, the transistor radio I lashed around my bicycle’s handlebars was no longer in favor. What ensued was a year of neighborhood yard work and any scheme a teenaged venture capitalist want-a-be could use to earn enough money for a first audio system.
Stereo Review became my most read publication, often to the exclusion of textbooks. Julian Hirsch became my de facto mentor just by his writings. I was, I told myself and my friends, an audiophile. Even if in name only, the moniker made me feel good.
As time moved on, and finances improved, I ventured into new equipment. In my freshman year of college, I had the best stereo and probably the most records of anyone on the second floor of my dorm. My room was popular on the weekends. We played everything from Richard Pryor to some of the heaviest metal anywhere. We played it loudly. And if I could find the then hall monitor, or “RA,” I’m sure he would say “way too loud.” If only I had a do over.
I was, in those early days, a vinyl guy. Of course, there were few choices. Outside of a turntable, there was little beyond radio, 8-Track, and reel to reel. Radio was awful. 8-Track was never even a consideration. I told myself I could not afford a reel to reel and what’s more, I didn’t have a nice enough system for one anyway. I wonder, had I saved my money and bough a R2R, would I still have it today? If only I had a do over.
Okay, I’ll admit, I had an 8-track player in my car at the time – actually came with one. It was a 74 Monty Carlo with vinyl, swivel bucket seats. It also had a sunroof that leaked. So here I was, trying to be suave, sophisticated and impress girls, and what happened? The 8-track player seldom worked right, very often clicked to the next track in the middle of a song and anyone, girl or otherwise, who sat in the passenger seat got wet when it rained. I was anything but impressive. Do over? Oh yeah.
As the 70’s gave way to the 80’s I added a cassette deck into the mix. Now I was buying cassettes and LP’s. I was making my own recordings. My whatever car had a cassette player. I was having an absolute ball! I started buying those (almost certainly) illegally made cassettes for $1.00 at gas stations and way out in the middle of nowhere country markets. They sounded terrible and it was not uncommon for them to break or, for whatever inexplicable reason, simply stop working. Buying those cassettes was a complete waste of money and I wish I had known better. Do over for certain.
When full-time work became the norm, and disposable income grew (however modestly), new equipment found its way home. I was never so happy to upgrade my Marantz amp to a Nakamichi receiver. I was in audio heaven. I went from 40 watts per channel to a 140. Loud music knew no bounds. More than once, unhappy neighbors rang my doorbell demanding not so politely to TURN IT DOWN! If only I had been more considerate.
In the mid 80’s I became part of a maelstrom sweeping the world, the Compact Disc. I bought a CD player and packed my LP’s up in boxes, put away my turntable, bought a nice entertainment center for the great room – with doors that closed and hid everything no less – making it possible to entertain friends with panache. I’m not sure a do over applies, I still listen to digital and buy CD’s. I do wish, however, I had kept my using my turntable back then. Do over? Well, maybe. Call it wishing I had made different choices.
After buying a new townhome, I decided one Saturday to host a pool party. My townhouse overlooked the pool so genius me decided to move one speaker to the patio, shift the balance all the way to the left, and crank it up. I mean, it was a party! We needed music! Some party it was. I had to clean the pool the next morning in oppressive heat with a raging headache and even worse, I blew the tweeter on one of my Ohm Walsh 2’s I was using at the time. If only I had a do over.
In 1988 I became self-employed. Predictably, money was tight for a few years. The savings I had when I started, savings calculated to last for two years, ran out pretty quickly. Audio took a backseat. In fact, it got moved to the trunk. I do not now, nor will I ever regret going on my own. I just wish things had worked out differently such that I could have enjoyed life a little more in those very lean early years. Call it a do it better.
As circumstances improved, I began enjoying my early 30 something youth, the buoyancy of disposable income, however small it was at the time, and an active social life. I was a man on the move. Out and about. Or so I thought. Hindsight is an evil master. In retrospect, I wasn’t nearly as cool as I thought. And stereos? They were more or less a contrivance used for entertainment, not audiophile listening practices. But looking back, I gotta be honest, I had fun. No do over here. But a little more common sense and maturity? Well, maybe.
In spite of all my past life events, I sometimes wish I had devoted more time and attention to the hobby that has been with me for 47 years. I wish, when in my 20’s and 30’s, I had been more like that 15-year-old hearing his first high end audio system. If only I had a lifetime audio do over.
Then again, I suppose, now in my 60’s I am allowed to look back and reflect. I recently attended a funeral for a good friend I have known for thirty years or more. He died of cancer. He was 62. After his funeral, a group of us got together to tell “Jeff” stories. We laughed at all of the things we did, those horribly silly, even stupid things we did in our youth. We laughed and reflected on not only the passing of our friend, but also our own life choices. And for me, all along the way, to some degree or another, audio has been part of that journey.
I could probably talk about do overs for a while. Many other things come to mind. One of my best choices was that day in 1972 when I decided I wanted to be an audiophile and have a nice stereo system. I have never wavered from that position. That’s not a do over for sure.