About a year after I bought my first system, I changed out the speakers to Cerwin Vega R-24’s. These served me well through college as they had an ability to play pretty darn loud. Right after I graduated I got my first job selling HiFi at Sam Goody in Crabtree Valley Mall. I got the bug bad then!
At that point in time, there were lots of high performance audio stores spread across the Triangle, 19 to be exact. My first audio upgrade was a pair of Fried Q speakers I got from Stereo Sound in Chapel Hill. I remember connecting them up in place of the Cerwin Vega’s and noticing a huge difference in clarity. So at that point I caught the speaker bug and within 3 months changed them to Infinity Quantum 5, then the bigger Infinity Quantum 3. Sam Goody had become an Infinity dealer and in that day and time these were great speakers. The Quantum 3 was the first speaker I ever had with pretty deep bass response and I immediately noticed my Lenco turntable had this disturbing low frequency rumble. I wound up getting the HK Rabco ST-7 straight line tracking turntable with a Micro Acoustics 2002e cartridge (how in the world I remember all these models over 35 years later boggles my mind). That got rid of the rumble as it was belt drive compared to the idler wheel drive of the Lenco. It did have a tonearm issue I discovered later on though.
The Quantum 3’s were pretty hard to drive which had me constantly blowing fuses in my Marantz integrated amp. It had pre-amp outs so this led me to get a Phase Linear 400 power amp. Now that one really made my speakers come to life! To add to the never ending speaker fun, I bought a pair of original Advents and JBL L100’s just to play around with. Yes, I had the bug bad! Every piece I changed showed me a pretty big difference in sound, so I thought, well, its time to upgrade the Marantz to a real preamp.
Sam Goody did not have any decent preamps so I went back to Chapel Hill and wound up with a Crown IC150A preamp from Stereo Sound. This is another one I’ve not forgotten to this day. I took it home, connected it up, played a favorite song and thought, hmm, something does not sound as good as the Marantz. My first disappointment. Now of course I know, the Crown gear never did sound very good but was just made to last forever. I did love the look, feel, fit and finish of the Crown, so I decided to keep it.
Now, bear in mind, everything I’ve described above all happened in about 1 year’s time. I was living in a cheap rental house with a bunch of my college buddies and had nothing better to spend my money on.
I made the mistake of starting to watch my Rabco turntable carefully and noticed the tonearm kind of waddled across the record. I thought, this can’t make for the best sound, so I switched it out for an original Rega Planar 2 and Infinity Black Widow tonearm. Huge difference!!! Yes, turntables make an amazing difference in audio quality.
By then, I had started reading all the audio enthusiasts magazines of the day and was fascinated by this new speaker out called the Dahlquist DQ-10. It had each driver in a separate enclosure and had them all time aligned. I bought a pair of these from the Audio Center on Ridge Road, which later became an Audio Advice store! I really loved the DQ-10’s. They were so much more revealing than anything I ever had and was having a ton of fun playing music. I moved out of the house into another one that had a great big open living room where I set everything up and wow, did that make a huge difference too!
About two weeks later I was working the late shift at Sam Goody and a customer walks in and asks me the strangest question….more in the next blog