Aging Gear for Aging Ears

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a Kenwood KA-501 integrated amp to power a small system that's primarily used for background music in my combination mini-den/computer room. Since space is at a premium, a set of Totem Mites was chosen to pair with the amp, and the sound wasn't bad at all. Then I found myself wanting more bass than was possible with the Mites, and decided to hook up a pair of Genesis 1 speakers.Talk about's like the amp and speakers were made for each other. The 65 watt output from the KA-501 definitely helps the 8-inch woofers on the Genesis' deliver the goods. The sound is solidly mid-fi, but to my vintage ears, there's not much lacking. A Sansui TU-217 tuner is the source, and I found my toes tapping to the sound these pieces from the late 1970s project into the room. Sometimes it's good to let technical aspects and critical-listening practices take a vacation, kick back and enjoy the music.
I have a hard time these days with ‘audiophiles’, since I no longer consider myself one.  Had all the high end gear, Mac system, Levinson system, Krell etal’. Then one day while moving hooked up an old Sansui receiver and a pair of EPI 100’s along with my turntable to spin records while we packed.  My wife and I ended up sitting on the floor, sipping wine and listening to record after record, then she says to me, “where have you been keeping this at?”I was enjoying music like I hadn’t in years.  Now I’m a music lover.  My system consists of what sounds good to me, regardless of age (though it is all vintage) and snob appeal.
I had an enormous collection of gear, and when we moved I spent months listening to each piece. Sold off most all of it, and as mentioned kept what I couldn’t part with sonically.  Your “toes tapping” comment should tell you something. 

This is something I hear more and more often. Usually ’older’ or at least veteran audiophiles who stumble upon some piece of vintage gear and are ’teleported’ to the times when it was still all about the music, not the gear. Is this just psychological, ’nostalgia for the old folks’ as it were, or is something more tangible going on?

Time to investigate, so I decided to put a carefully selected, top end vintage system side by side to my modern ’high end’ system in the same room. In terms of cost there’s no comparison (about 1:10 ratio), but sonically it’s quite a different story. I’ve been having ’this can’t be’ moments ever since. And it’s always a delight whenever people with expensive high end systems at home come listen to both systems and to see that same ’this can’t be’ look on their faces. It also happens to young people, with no nostalgic mind games involved. Of course this doesn’t ’prove’ anything, but at least it should give the ’new is always better’ crowd something to ponder.

I'm having a similar experience. I had a catastrophic incident with my Proac Response 3.8s back in the early 00's that I am only now addressing. During the interim, the rest of the system was mothballed, and most of my listening was in my study using nearfield monitors and a sub. Over the years, I found it harder and harder to just listen for enjoyment.  It could be because I use that system for mixing and composing, or it could be the nature of near-field listening, or maybe my Neuman and Focus gear are a bad match, or something else, or a combination.

Fast forward to last week. While waiting for replacement Proac drivers, I put my old ADS B7's on some Sanus stands and hooked them up to my front end ( Arcam CD player, Rogue 99 preamp, Bryston 4B ST). 

Magic! I'm sure it helps that the Bryston has gobs of headroom for the B7's, but I suspect its a little like encountering an old friend after many years of separation as well.
So it's not just me.....I'll postpone the session with my therapist. I really believe there's some science or other logical explanation for this anomaly. Like a newborn animal, maybe we were 'imprinted' with the sound from our first system. I'll never forget hearing Paul McCartney's album 'Ram' on what was to me at the time, a good stereo system while I was overseas in the Army. It was almost like a religious conversion (think Saul on the road to Damascus), and I knew right then that I was hooked. Fifty years later, that sound is akin to what you referred to, an old friend.