Biggest impact on you?

Curious: I’ve gone through a lot of gear over the years. In reflecting upon this, a Conrad Johnson MV-45A1 power amplifier I bought back in 1983 had the biggest impact on me. This includes consideration of the many preamps, speakers, cables, CD players, and so on that I’ve owned through the years.

Has that piece been the best I’ve ever had or heard? Absolutely not. But, it was the first high end piece I’ve owned and it wowed me big time. Ran it with Vandersteens, CJ’s PV4 preamp, and a Sonograph TT – loved it!

So, what component (power, pre, speaker, TT, CD, etc.) has had the biggest impact on you?
Assume there can be more than one great moment?

These come to mind immediately:

Snell Type A in mid 1970s.
Counterpoint 9, Counterpoint 11, Counterpoint SA4, 1980s
Versa Dynamics turntable 1980s
Breuer Dynamic arm and Breuer Cartridge 1978
Audio Research SP11, 1985
Tube Research GT400
Sound-Lab Ultimates

Those years were good, married Patti in 1980 and our son was born in 1986. The economy was booming and my profession as a commercial-advertising photographer was in high demand.

Perhaps all of that added to my enjoyment of the music as much as the equipment. Great idea for a thread.
after owning lots of gear since 1975 i think that to enjoy a pr of magnepan mmgs as as I do for $599.00 in today's audio world is pretty amazing.
Dahlquist DQ-10
Magnepan MG-IIA
CJ Premier Three
Acoustat 2+2
Oracle Delphi
Mark Levinson ML-6
Mark Levinson ML-2
Room treatments had the biggest impact on me.
Then the Modwright Sony 999es had the second biggest.
Goldmund studio Table with 3B arm just a fabulous table and a shame it's not in production and bettered.
Switchung to low power 300B SET and than replacing stock tubes with "Svetlanas" and stock rectifier with Mullard tube did for me.
The first was my first stereo in (dare I say it) the mid to late 60's. AR4X speakers, a Fisher Rec, and a Dual TT.

Second years later, after dozens of changes, was an AES AE3 tubed pre. Wow, I could now really hear the wood in the guitars.

Third was Analysis Plus Silver Oval IC's.

Forth and most recent, a year or so ago I replaced my Cardas Cross Speaker cables with Paul Speltz's Anti Cables. Wow and considerably cheaper too.
Modwright SWL 9.0

First piece of tube gear and man what a difference it made. My first Sansui AU-7900/TU-7900 combo back in 79 was big as well.
Phase Linear 400
Stage opened and images became more dimensional
MIT 330
Finally heard bass notes from my Quad ESL 63
Tron Syren Full Function Pre.
To my ears it just seems to do everything correctly
Far and away the very best component I have heard and now own
Musical Fidelity kW linestage: gave me both what I liked best in passive and active preamps, and so much more.

Well-Tempered Amadeus: even with it begging for a cartridge upgrade.
OHM speakers.

First heard them back in 1978 and I have come full circle back to them again these last few years.

I fit these to my rooms and build my system around them to make them sound best and am getting mega payback these days.

The OHM Walsh speakers are unique game changers in terms of twhat you might expect to hear out of a system at price points mere mortals might afford.
Many through the years but these two in the last five years have been as big and as good as they come.
Dynavector XX2 MKII cartridge
BAT REX preamp
I was working on a project in my shop and running some Altec VOTT horn speakers in the background. I had just gotten them at a garage sale and was testing them to make sure the drivers were good at low volume and to let the old crossovers come back to life as I have with several other unused speakers in the past.

As the speakers started to come to life I heard what sounded like a LIVE trombone behind me. I was not a horn speaker fan before but I am now. It startled me.
Forte 5 amp and 40 Preamp. Got them on demo clearance in 1993 and still have them today in a second system. Started my love affair with Nelson Pass gear and high end in general that continues to this day.
I installed a quieting transformer, a sub panel and 4 dedicated 20A circuits. Wow, the presence of the musicians and the listening space jumped out of my Avalons. This approx $600 expenditure did more to make the system sound like real live music than 10's of thousands of dollars on spent on equipment. It was a good thing too, because installing that 80lb chunk of metal in the attic was pain in the butt!!!
Soundlab Ultimate II which I still own.
Audio Research LS-5mkII long gone but lovingly remembered.
Coincident Frankenstein 300b SET amplifier.
This introduced me to a new level of sheer unadulterated musical realism and pure palpable pressence.
Nottingham Spacedeck/Spacearm
Purist Audio cables
Custom Power Cord Co. Top Gun power cord
Maxell Metal Vertex cassette tape
I think it's a toss-up between the Thiel CS3.5 speakers, which were the first true high-end speakers I really listened to (couldn't afford them, wound up with Thiel CS 3s instead--this was in 1986, as I recall) and the Well-Tempered Turntable (got it in 1987), which made me realize that my vinyl collection was a lot better than the CDs I was listening to at the time.
My second pair of Advents added to the first pair in 1983. One pair of Advents was a good stereo but Double Advents made for a transformation to the big time and were still pretty cheap. They had impact, too. My landlords and neighbors reluctlantly listened to whatever I listened to. They were lucky but they didn't know it!
Heathkit tube integrated, old Ampex reel to reel and EPI MicroTowers... back in junior high. Wish I could remember all the model numbers, and that I still had them! Made me realize that there was something beyond the sound that came from the big Sears Silvertone console in my folks dining room. The journey since has been quite a trip. And, the real impact came from the fact that my mother had season tickets to the symphony and I learned at an early age what live music really sounded like; that's the "component" that has the real impact!
Also my music server which has totally changed the way I listen to music and made the musical discovery process a lot more enjoyable and efficient. Another game changer.
From what I have, or do, own.
Audio Research tube amps and preamps.(some other brands are good too, but this was my first exposure to REAL GOOD SOUNDING tube gear. not just so-so stuff like reworked ST70s :)
Soundlab Speakers. - can't say enough - unsurpassed, imo.
had to have them after hearing just one note)

Other outstanding products would buy but didn't.
Digital front end from DCS. Ive owned most of the bid name brands - Krell, Theta, Wadia, but DCS sent thing to a new level, imo.

Largest system from Meridian back in the late 1990s (would need to look up the name)- made the hair stand up on the back of my neck and arms.
Running Bitperfect on iTunes to my Centrance DACmini to my stereo was a tremendous improvement. Granted, its the poor man's path to computer audio but it opened my eyes (ears) to what awaits.
Three components come to mind that had a huge impact not just for their
sound, but also for the education that they gave me about system building:

I will never forget the first time I heard the AR SP-9 in my system. It was
the first time that I had bought a brand new component and paid full price;
this made the disappointment all the more intense. I also will never forget
the fabulous sound that it had made in one of Sound by Singer's room in
a system consisting of Snell Type A IIIi's, VTL, Roksan/Koetsu, MIT. I
thought there had to be something wrong with my sample, as it made my
system sound bleached and dry. I took it back to Andy's, and listened to it
again in their system: glorious sound. This experience taught me the
importance of component matching, and the fact that some components
really are more transparent than others. The components in my system at
the time where not up to the AR's transparency. It was an invaluable

Around the same time ('80's) I heard the Stax F-81's in a friend system. I
fell in love with their midrange and decided I had to have a pair. After a
couple of years of searching I found a pair. Brought them home thinking
that my "very powerful" Moscode 600 would not have a
problem driving this notoriously difficult speaker. It "drove"
them OK, but the sound was grainy and slow. Tried different cables,
preamps (AR SP-9 was one of them), to no avail. After months of trying to
get them to sound like music, I realized that it had not occurred to me to
try the Dynaco ST-70 that I had sitting in a closet. I figured what the heck.
I could not believe my ears. The lowly 35 watter could not coax much
volume out of the horribly inefficient Stax's, but the sound it did produce
sounded like music: refined, trimbrally correct, and within a narrow volume
range, alive. The magic of tubes and stats. Not being able to afford proper
tube amplification for the Stax's, I sold them, and proceeded to spend
several years looking for another pair,
until about ten years ago when I managed to find them.

Stax-F81. Volume and low-end limitations, but midrange that comes as
close to the sound of live music as anything I have ever heard. Even
better IMO than the Quad ESL. Mrtennis, we actually can agree ;-)
Around 1974ish I had a Sherwood receiver, Phillips TT and AR3a speakers. What was really popular at that time were reel-to-reel tape decks. So, I added a pretty good TEAC deck. Can't remember the model. The impact piece came when I went to the local Pacific Stereo store to see a demonstation of a new product by Pioneer. It was the RG-1 Sound Expander/Processor. It was meant to improve sound from tape decks. The place was packed that day and they sold quite a few. I was a buyer and I still have it.
In the late 80's I walked into a computer store here in NYC to have my MAC SE computer fixed. It turned out they also sold audio, and I saw some panel speakers in the other part of the store. I inquired if they were electrostats, since I had read about the technology in Audio magazine when I was in high school.

The salesman played what turned out to be Quad 63 US monitors with very long radio shack or low end monster cables, Quad electronics and CD. I was shocked when I heard what sounded like a live jazz trio playing right in the large showroom. I then went to listen to Quads at a true high end store, but this time with Spectral gear and MIT 330 shotgun cables. I was floored when I heard the price of the cables alone, and thought how can I ever afford such a system.

Being right out of college and in my first job I new I could not drop an entire years salary on a system. But I never got that sound out of my head.

Eventually someone told me about Audiomart and I soon entered the world of buying high end used audio, essentially recreating the system I heard in the high end store, except with Crosby'd ESL63's (which I had never heard until after I bought them)

But that original exposure to the Quads is what really opened my ears as to what was possible. In high school I had heard DQ 10's and infinity 1.5's (I think) that I wanted, but I could never get my dad to spring for high end gear, even though he loved music and played a compact stereo all the time.

Even today my ears seem to prefer point sources, and the speakers I live with (and g-d help me, now sell) in many ways sound like powerful extended versions of those original Quads. The designer, Andrew Jones, loves Quads as well, a listening preference which shows up in his designs.

I also remember vividly my first few exposures to tube amps.

I just recently met two different young audiophiles, one of whom heard my system and commented how unbelievable it was to hear what sounded like the maracas from Sympathy for the Devil playing live right in front of him.

So things have come full circle in a way. I told them both about Audiogon, and have offered to help guide them to find used or budget systems.
So difficult to pick one item, but I think it would be the Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge I had for 4 years. Really made vinyl come alive for me. Unfortunately, my current arm is a poor compliance match with Koetsu's, so I can't get another, without changing the arm, which I don't want to do

Hi Rbschauman,

If I may...chronologically:

Mid-late 70's: Hill Plasmatronics loudspeakers

Hiatus - LOL

2000's: BAT VK-75SE amp...Forsell Air Reference CD Transport with Audio Note 4.1X Balanced DAC...dedicated 20 amp circuits...AudioQuest Sky IC's...Studer A820 reel-to-reel recorder...Tape Project analog media...Dali MegaLine III loudspeakers.

Guess I kinda made up for that hiatus, hehe.

EPI 150
a 1975 Sony receiver, the component that really got me on the audiophile bus, believe it or not
Quad ESL 57
Linn LP-12
ARC Classic 30
Several impacts over the years but the biggest....

Amp: First time I heard an SET.
Preamp: Conrad Johnson ART 2.
Speaker: Apogee Duetta Sig.
Source: Long ago, when fm was FM, tie between the SAE Mark VI tuner then a Marantz 10b. I could hear the DJ turn the pages. Both had scopes that were mesmerizing.
I remember three separate times having a piece of gear added to each of three different system have a major sonic impression on me.

The first time was adding Cary's CD-308 player to a AES tube preamp w/ Pass labs power amp. The next time was adding the Classe' CA-100 power amp to power my DIY SEAS Froy III speakers. The last time was adding Altec Lansing Model 15 horn loudspeakers to my AES tube power amp.

There is also a forth experience, and that was removing a piece of gear, and this is the most profound. Removing the preamp and running a source direct to a power amp using its variable output or with use of a Luminous Audio passive preamp.

Each time this one piece or kit transformed my system.