Which components knocked you out on first listen?

I've been listening to stereos since 1973 and I am still waiting to be truly knocked out by the sound of a component. I have sat in showrooms across the country and have been pleased by what I have heard but never truly blown away.
The closest I came was when I listened to a Meitner str-55 amp and VTL preamp a few years ago, sourced by a Linn Ikemi and Revel loudspeakers. However, I also have been moved by a
Apple computer cd drive, circa 1994 through a Creek 4040 and RA Lab speakers, estimated cost about $1,200; maybe more so than the Linn,Revel 10K system. How about you?
Phase Linear"Flame"400/DQ-10s/Revox Reel playing "Blood Sweat&Tears.Sorry can not remember the pre-amp.Was first lesson in the all audio is not the same school.
Back in the 1970s it was listening to Altec Model 19s and Tannoy Monitor Golds.

More recently, upgrading from a Quad 34/606 to Meitner PA6+/MTR-101s, and from a Sony CDP-X779ES to a Sony SCD-777ES with Allen Wright analogue output stage.


Original Martin-Logan CLS with Entec Lf30 subs driven by Audio Research D115mkII amp and SP10 preamp

Quad 63s with Entec SW1 subs driven by Spectral DMA50 amps and DMC10 preamp

Avantgarde Duos driven by Audionote Kondo (?) integrated amp

Wilson Watt/Puppy 7s driven by Jadis Defy 7 amp and Hovland HP100 preamp
goes to the following scenario/combo:

SAE MK (don't even recall the numbers) amp and preamp
Technics (for God's sake) TT with SME Arm -- Empire cart
Driving Dahlquist DQ-10s -- The music: Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin -- in those years they put more raw emotion into the music than anyone.

I got goosebumps the first time I heard the Yahama NS-1000S speaker. This was in a stereo store in NYC Leonard Radio, now long gone and must have been in the late 70's. They were playing a choral recording of some kind. To my ears at that time, although a little bright it sounded holographic and real. I coveted those speakers for a long time after that, but they were always beyond my means and out of my price range, until I lost interest. Although I didn't spend enough time with these speakers to know if they would suit me sonically overall and I did have reservations about the depth and power of their bass response, I was delighted to find out years later that this speaker, along with the similar NS-10, remain underground classics of the audio world.

My first speaker was the original Advent Loudspeaker (ca. 1970). It certainly was an audio purchase of which I was very proud. I thought it was smooth and had a great low end for its price, but as good as it was, it didn't do to me viscerally what the Yahama speaker did.

My dad, who was a recording engineer for almost 40 years, had a Revox A-77 reel to reel recorder (ca. 1966), a very fine piece of equipment indeed. As it was relatively easy for him to procure various, excellent, high-quality microphones, and he was then interested in producing new acts, he was able to make some fantastic home recordings which were much more alive and dynamic than anything I was generally hearing on vinyl commercially at that time. I wonder what happened to all those tapes?

Other components which knocked me out remain in my system today. Number 1 would have to be the CAT SL-1 Ultimate preamp, which I can now admit is not perfect, but still does more things very well than any other that I have heard. It has dynamics and bass and low-end power and weight to die for, a beautifully smooth and tonally balanced and accurate mid-range.

I also like my First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II preamp, but not quite as much overall. After working to find power cords which work well with it, it is more transparent than the CAT, has that stunningly quiet black background, throws a slightly wider soundstage, really kicks out the female vocals to their best advantage, but lacks a little weight, depth and power at the low end at least in my system. I am trying to find an amp which will show the First Sound to its best advantage.

Lastly, there are my Pass Aleph 4 amp and my Vandersteen 3A Signature speakers, which have sufficient accuracy, bass extension, midrange purity, overall smoothness and presentation of detail to allow me to hear the differences in all the other components.