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What was your Ah ha! moment in becoming an Audiophile?

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Everyone started somewhere. What was the piece of equipment that initially sent you over the edge into caring about frequency response, specs, drivers, etc?

Mine had to be the Havi B3 Pro 1 when it was a complete unknown. Blew me away compared to the items I had previously. I made the jump to an audio-gd dac/amp and HE-500 real quick after that, and I don't have those anymore either.
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Tarmack
2
Jul 30, 2021
My "Ah ha" moment was well into my system build - an Adcom GFP-750 preamp. The components of my system up to that point had all contributed to that moment - better speakers (Paradigm Studio 40), a subwoofer crossover (Paradigm X-30) and a separate amplifier (Adcom GFA-7000). But I was still using my old Onkyo receiver as the preamp and it added a lot of background noise. When I upgraded to a real preamp I could finally hear my speakers - the noise was gone, the background dead quiet, the soundstage became well defined, and all the details could be heard perfectly.
KSWDDS
18
Apr 25, 2021
My first pair of quality speakers, Fulton Musical Industries FMI 1, purchased in Atlanta back in 1975 or so. I heard, for the first time, things like imaging, depth and soundstage. From that point on it has been on ongoing journey to get to that place again. I don't get all of those things through headphones; I have a big rig in a dedicated music room that gets me closer to the music than headphones ever could.
danny87
426
Feb 10, 2021
This was about 10 years ago. I was a student so I could only afford a Sennheiser HD518. It sounded good but didn't really blow my mind. I thought it was a waste of money. Few weeks later, I listened back to my old cheap Philips headphone (not the SHP series) that I used before I bought the HD518, and realized that the Philips headphone sounded absolutely garbage compared to the HD518. That was my sort of Ah-ha moment.
DaveTBG
23
Jan 28, 2021
I was probably 10 when dad replaced the old console hi-fi with real stereo equipment, Harmon-Kardon 330B, JBL Decade 26's and a BIC 940. That inspired my first system, Akai AA-A35, EPI T/E 70's and a Pioneer PL-750 (that I still have but with a Proton D540 and NHT 1.8's).
Mikie2501
4
Jan 28, 2021
Let's do a bit of time travel! I was about 22, (my memory can be pretty fuzzy a lot of the time, but let's guess in a three year soon there somewhere, hehe!) And I was working twelve hours graveyards on my feet in an unairconditioned, unheated commercial printing press shop (picture those newspaper presses!), No breaks and you ate your lunch while you worked! Ysy! Because of the bus schedule, and me wanting to make damned sure I was always early to work, not late or just 'in time'. (I could never stand just getting there and going right to work, I liked to make coffee, check what was running on every press, if we were ahead or behind, what problems the presses were having, when the trucks were due to pickup, talk with dayshift and get the lowdown, etc) ... So by the time I got home, showered and ate, I was usually lucky to get six hours sleep. I don't know how, but that's the way it usually turned out, lol! ... Well, throw a little time in for doing maintenance on my BBS and doing some dial-up BBS calls to play my favorite door-games! :) I did say time travel, right? I'm 53 now, so just think of the time when I wore a pager on my belt, back in the era when if someone saw you with a pager they either assumed you were a business man, or a dealer. You can guess which one I was made for, lol. Imagine riding your bike down the sidewalk and getting waved over by a stranger asking if they could but a quarter from you, rofl! So most of my free time every day was spent on the bus or at the transfer station waiting for a different bus. No cellphones back then to play with. (My buddies first 'portable' phone was in a shoulder carry bag, it was so big! His second, handheld model, was the size of a brick!! All out of my price range, lol!) So what's a guy to do? It was either nap, (always made friends with the driver so he/she would wake me at my stop!) Read, (I think I cleared a few scifi/fantasy book sections!) Or listen to music. Better yet, do either while listening to music! I originally had one of those cheap am/fm rape players like you would now find in any low cost store, like Dollar Store or similar, with the little on the ear headset with the foam pads. I used those for a while but after many trips to the mall wandering around I had set my sites on my little dream player, a Sony Walkman. Am/fm , fm narrow Too I think, whatever that was! The cassette player also had Auto reverse!! Just awesome :). It was compact, sleek and beautiful and for a poor bastard like me, living in a $195 a month, all bills payed apartment were part of the weekends night entertainment usually included either gunfire or an ambulance showing up, or both, hehe, well this was a big extravagance!! The sales guy was trying to sell me some fancy headphones, but I told him I was fine with the included foam jobs, but he insisted that I at least listen to them. I figured I would, just to shut t him up so I could get out of there without being ride or short with him. Glad I did too. He didn't mess around with any of the cheaper ones either, he went right for the good stuff! They were beautiful and big! (Well, for the time!) Leather headband, all black except for this red label on each side, over the ear cushions and a fold up design to store in a carry bag. 1/8" Jack with a screw-on, all metal 1/4" Jack, and a really long spiral-Slinky cord! They were Sony MDR-V6's, and when I put them on, listening right after having listened with the included headset, well... I. Was. Blown. Away. Yeah, NO other way to describe it! I popped in a cassette of whatever I had and did the test again. Wow! I switched over to the local classical music station, closed my eyes, and it was like I was sitting in front of the orchestra! It was an experience that I can't even begin to properly describe! Imagine being born and raised in some place like Arizona in the 1930's, never having left your home town. No lakes in sight, then Dad loads everyone up, drives to California and parks the car in the beach, and you see what you've only read about at school. The Ocean! Salt water as far as the eyes can see!! Sensory Overload! It's funny, I wore them everywhere except work, hehe! On the bus was the best, listening to music and reading, plus I got to ignore the people always wanting to talk to you! Double win!! Then I noticed something strange. This black guy I ride with every day that sits about half way back, he shows up wearing a pair of Sony cans! Huh. The next week this old white lady (ok, she was about my age now, lol. Young people vision, lol!) Shows up with a pair of Sony cans on too! Huh! Before the summer was over there were at least a dozen regulars that had either switched from cheap foamies to Sony or other brand name over the ear or on the ear cans, or people that hasn't listened to music at all showed up with quality cans for their music players! It was really quite amazing!! I loved those Sony cans!! Then one day they disappeared out of my apartment. I knew it couldn't have been my roommate, he was a fu*kup, but not totally stupid. Pretty sure it was one of my "friends". Ugh. I didn't replace them then, I don't know why... But last year I got to thinking about then again and started searching through Google images, trying to find them. I couldn't remember the model, but I remembered what they looked like! Finally found them, then found them on Amazon and threw money at the vendor as fast as I could! Hehe :) Life has been strange over the years, I haven't really spent a lot of money on audio gear (well, that used Technics stereo from the late 70's, pretty awesome!) Other than a few pair of cans, and a VentureCraft slip on amo for the hand-me-down 2nd gen iphone from my wife, hehe. An upgrade portable music player with built in amp is on my list, but house projects (solar panels, solar hot water (gonna build that!), High seer mini-split a/c's) and my main hobby, amateur (HAM) radio, (towed and big antennas are expensive!) Really suck up my play money! .... Well, mostly saving up for everything. ... Still, I'll find an excuse to spend money on a dap soon, or put it in my Christmas list for the wife! Gee, that was long winded, hopefully somebody enjoyed it though!!
Oracle Delphi turntable, audio research pre and power, big magnapans, in a large, treated listening room in a hifi shop. Holographic life size realism. I was 19. The curse began.
jaydunndiddit
3246
Jul 25, 2018
Mine was when I had purchased the Shure SE215 a bit after they released. That was my gateway. I still have my 7-year old pair in working order though they are looking a bit beat up. For a long time, I was using such crappy headphones and earbuds (Skullcandy, cheap Sony's, random unknown brands, etc.). My most recent pair had broken for the umpteenth time and was looking for a new pair. I was fortunate enough to be in a local record store that had listening stations for all the new release CDs of the week. In one station, they had the 215s setup and I was just amazed. I had never realized what "better" sound was. Mind you, the 215 isn't audiophile by any means but coming from cheap earbuds that came with your Razr or Blackberry, these things sounded absolutely amazing. Fast Forward 7 years later and I still feel like I am always finding a new amp, or DAC, or heapdhone that gives me the same feeling when I sampled the 215 for the first time all those years ago.
GunsOfBrixton
901
Jul 25, 2018
When it came to audio in general I actually started with the home theater route. I was putting my wife through college at the time, so money was tight. One of our favorite things back then was going to movies, so I decided that the best thing to do was to save money by setting up a home theater (Awww...that might have been my first good self-delusion to rationalize buying electronic toys).
DVD was pretty new, so I ponied up for one to add to my VHS player and my huge 32" TV. Everything was just fine until I noticed there was something called Dolby Digital on the DVD menus. I made sure nobody needed to use the phone, and fired up my trusty AOL modem to do some research. That started me on my quest. I made friends with the stereo store in the city where I worked, bought the cheapest used receiver I could find, and they were kind enough to give me some of their speaker castoffs, since I didn't have money for speakers.
My first setup literally had five completely different types of speakers, since their castoffs were situations where one of a pair had been damaged or destroyed. It was a total monstrosity, and now that I know better, it must have sounded awful - but I loved it! I was hooked and have had a home theater ever since.
What's funny is that, even though I have loved music since my teens, I never really got into headphones until just a few years ago. I had tried several, including some Sony's, Klipsch's, and Senns, but I honestly was one of those people who was like, "Nah, there's no difference - why would you spend more than $20." But after a discussion with my team at work, I was curious enough to try again.
I picked up a pair of Senn HD558s on a Black Friday deal at Best Buy. Feeling nostalgic, I threw on my "Live at the Roxy" CD from Social Distortion - and my mind was blown! It had been 15+ years since I had been to a Social D show, but when it started playing I felt like I could see the stage, Mike Ness moving around behind an old-school mic, Dennis Dannel messing with his guitar, the distortion screech just before the wall of guitars hit. It lit up visual and auditory memories from decades past in a way I hadn't experienced before. And that was that.
After all these years, I'm just about done with my "dream" home theater, and managed to include a very comfy headphone listening station to boot. After I put on the finishing touches, I'm looking forward to sharing it on the "rigs" board to see what y'all think.
There are SO MANY.
But. My absolute epiphany would be when I learned that "there's something BETTER!"
I was in high school. All I could afford with my crap odd jobs and local veterinary after-hours doggy sitter/walker/feeder was a mix of a junked Radio Shack receiver, a cheap used car cassette player, a set of Idon'tevenknowbrand speakers and an Idon'tevenknowbrand turntable that had an elderly bent and skippy needle* on there. I had this Leo Kottke record album my Dad gave me, I played it over and over and over on that rig. For my birthday, we went to a live performance by Mr. Kottke. I'm like, "Wow. NOTHING like this is coming out of my record player!" Made it hard for me to listen to that record so much any more because it seemed so poor.
Then...I went to college. One of the guys in my dorm was into the electronic-geek schtick, he had this tube amp he'd built, a refurbed Denon TT, and a set of Beyerdynamic DT770's, (Yes. The very ones I wound up owning because he sold them to me), he let me listen to my beloved Leo Kottke album on that rig. It was so much closer to the magic I had heard coming from that stage at the concert that I sortofalmostmaybe cried. That was me understanding that "there's something BETTER!" I had to have it, and I understood, in that instant, that, if his rig was better, then there were likely even MORE BETTER equipments out there.
So, now I pursue that "there's something BETTER!" ethos. I try not to spend too much money, (but enough to achieve a very aurally satisfying experience), since, 1) I'm still paying off med school, and, 2) The one thing the concert vs. my crap rig taught me is that live performance will always be better and I save the extra cash for attending that. And maybe there's some little piece of my brain that wants it to stay that way..... ;)
I still have those DT770's. Still have that Kottke album and the ticket stub from that concert. I'll always keep them. Because they gave me so much...more than the concert, more than a scratchy old vinyl, more than a closed-back set of cans that got me through snoring room-mates in the dorm while I was up studying late at night.

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* required 3 pennies taped on the cartridge to keep the needle in the grooves at all.
Heavyboxer
374
Jul 23, 2018
First ah ha moment was when i was auditioning the Infinity reference 60 and I just HAD to hear the Harbeth in the other room. At the time, it was about 3 times the price of the infinity so i passed and have regretted ever since.
Second was with my wilson audio watt puppy speakers. I had a Sonus Faber cremona at the time and i immediately traded it in to upgrade to an ugly, grey, boxy but truly mesmerising speaker.
Third was when I bought my UE triplefi IEMs with the Graham slee Voyager about 8~9 years ago.
Fourth was today, when i powered on my R2R-11 that i received this morning, paired with my hifiman 4xx. I finally found an amp that makes the 4xx not suck (so far).
People say the R2R-11 only gets better in time, so I'm optimistic!
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