Tag Archives: turntable

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The ladder of excellence

I remember the very first time I heard a high-end audio system: a pair of JBL corner horns, an Audio Research preamp and power amp, and a Thorens turntable. It was a stunning revelation compared to my Kenwood integrated amplifier, AR turntable, and Phase Array speakers.

Today that same high-end system that first took my breath away would elicit only a polite smile and a soft chuckle of reminiscence.

We’re first taken by the magnitude of contrasting levels: Kenwood to Audio Research; Wonder Bread to a French baguette. Once we adjust to a new level of performance standard, we need ever greater contrasts to make the same size impression of improvement.

I remember well going to a Hong Kong reviewer’s house and listening to his collection of vintage equipment. My only reaction was to wonder how I ever thought any of those ancient treasures sounded good.

Each time we reach new levels of performance our standards change. What might have impressed us once no longer holds sway.

It’s called climbing the Ladder of Excellence.

Each higher rung advances our understanding of what’s good and what’s merely acceptable.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

A quiet revolution

My father Don was one of the few in our neighborhood that had an actual sound system. It was a cobbled together group of separates: Rek-O-Kut turntable, Stromberg Carlson electronics, homemade speakers. The few neighbors that had sound systems relied upon the classic all-in-one console, while everyone else got music through a simple radio.

All that changed in the late 1960s with a quiet revolution. Japanese receivers, speakers, and turntables began infiltrating American homes—not through stereo stores at first, but through the military. It was the height of the war in Vietnam, NATO troop buildups in Europe, and cleanup activities in Korea. The US military was everywhere and so too were the audio stores and PX where low cost Japanese (and eventually American) hifi equipment found their way home to America. Entire systems could be had for hundreds of dollars and GIs in search of bargains, their pockets filled with cash, flooded the stereo outlets.

By the mid 1970s, when the Baby Boomers were taking over, the stereo situation had completely changed. Now, there were almost no homes, dorms, apartments, or condos without the minimum requirements of a turntable, receiver, and pair of speakers. It was the heyday of the music revolution.

When I think back on these days it occurs to me there was a perfect storm of simultaneous revolution going on: the British music invasion, Woodstock, vinyl LPs, FM stereo radio, folk music, protest music, Motown, and what today we refer to as Classic Rock.

Without many taking notice we went from radios and the occasional console stereo to a near complete penetration of sound systems in every home—and it wasn’t just America. All over the world people plugged in, played music, and changed the world.