Your first component that was "special"

I got into hifi 40 years ago. I had a Pioneer receiver, Kenwood table, various entry level cartridges (ADC, Stanton, Empire) and Studio Design speakers. I wound up buying a Shure V15 Type 3 cartridge. That was the first piece of gear I bought that was way beyond ordinary. I had kept the cartridge until about 2o years ago- I sold it because by then no decent replacement stylus was available. Wish I still had it.

Audio Research SP10II bought in mid 80's and used for over 25 years. Used it with Theil  3.5 speakers and Threshold SA3 amp.
zavato, The V15 TYIII was my first upgrade in '73. I'm sure a lot of us wish they would make them again!
I think that my DCM Time Windows were my introduction to what we call high-end sound.  I remember them being really good.  I also remember getting a Denon 103 cartridge for my Technics tt, which was a revelation compared to the moving magnets I'd used before.  
Back in 2005, so not until I was 50 years old, an Opera Audio a120 integrated hybrid amplifier (90W, 6H30 tube) was the first piece of audiophile kit I’d ever acquired. It was my Pandora’s box intro to the amazing world of hi-end audio that, until then, I never knew existed.
Coincident Frankenstein MK II SET amplifier. Despite the really fine power amplifiers I’d previously owned, the Frankenstein was a profound step upwards in home music reproduction and involvement. A true "breath of life " experience. 
Back in University days ...the early 70's...

These were the REALLY OLD days in audio with the sudden new introduction of bookshelf speakers and mass-produced receivers for the cohorts of boomers off to college.

COMPARATIVELY SPEAKING TO TODAY's OFFERING this "OLD" with matched "Old Technology" ?

 .... you betcha .....
(1) the college schoolbook photos consisted of crude drawings in a prehistoric cave wall in France;
(2) the college prom theme was "Fire", and
(3) the girlfriend's birthstone was "Lava".

I  sequentially moved up from a SONY receiver/ Garrard turntable / and either EPI / DYNACO bookshelf speakers to a new MARANTZ 2245 receiver, new ELAC Miracord table with a new SHURE V15 cartridge  and new JBL L100 "monitor" speakers.

FOR THEIR TIME (emphasis added) these JBL speakers with their "California sound" and roller-coaster spiked sine-curve frequency response  for treble, midrange, and bass bands were the cat's ass with this rig that rocked the college dorm.

My misspent youth nostalgia aside, it is patently obvious now that none of this "vintage" gear can even compete with today's gear.

But for its time,  it was fun and served its purpose in a college dorm arena of free-flowing beer and ethereal misty veil of Maui Wowee.....

At my age now, some days I am still dazzling, but on other days I can leave my car keys in the fridge.  Better still, why can I still faithfully remember the lyrics of the rock anthems from 1964 - 1974 but I cannot remember why I came into the room ....(sigh)

Over the years I have owned some pretty "Good" equipment. The one thing that stands out the most was simply Knowledge. Learning about component synergy, cable choices, room treatments, set-up etc. This has had a profound effect on my enjoyment of my system and music. More so  than any one product, although thy have slowly gotten progressively better/more expensive.
Nakamichi LX 5 3-head cassette deck. This deck never, ever ate a cassette. It sounded great, it was fun to maintain and it was easy to get great recording results from. I still have boxes of tapes I recorded from off-the-air (Reggae and old recordings).
I still own it.

"My most special component that I never owned" AND most influential and profound. The only way to answer your query, the ARC SP-10 Mk2 pre-amplifier is the "it" for me.
A Grace F-9E phono cartridge, purchased in 1979. I then proceeded to use various incarnations of that cartridge (the original version, the ruby-cantilevered version, and a Soundsmith-retipped ruby-cantilevered version) for the majority of the next 35 years.

-- Al
My first "special component" would have to be Stax Lambda Pro headphones from 25 years ago. I still have them, but I have since upgraded to the Stax 009's.
In 1975 I purchased a H/K ST7 turntable with a Rabco arm and mounted a GAS Sleeping Beauty cart. ran that into a GAS Goliath head amp Son Of Ampzilla a Phobe preamp and a pair of Polk model 10s, wow I was set for 10 years. I know you said one peice but this system started a beautiful relationship with audio as it delivered my music in an unforgettable way.

Magnepan SMGc but not until I drive it with a proper power amp instead of a run-of-the-mill Pioneer HT receiver.
CAT SL 1 Reference Mk2 with phono.  Bought it preowned in1994 sold it 2015. performed purrrrrrfectly never an issue during our time together. At the time, a truly eye opening, and yes ear opening magical piece
That would be a pair of Fried Beta Signature series satellite speakers with a Fried "The Subwoofer" back in 85. At that time they were a true revelation compared to what I was using and a major step into this crazy hobby for me.

I still have them boxed up in storage and every once in a great while hook them up just for fun. Sure they are rolled off on the top end due to the cone tweeter but they are musical and that is an attribute I value.
Yamaha NS1000M speakers, had them for over 30 years. Sold them 2 years ago for, effectively, more than I paid for them originally. Even so, I regret selling them. Similar story with my Quad 44 pre-amp and 606 Mk2 power amp. Did not sell these for anything like what I paid for them originally. I regret selling them.
My first was a Dynaco stereo 70. Started a love affair with tubes that i have till this day
I will never get over my ARC SP6. I had been running mid-fi until then. Started the madness. Had that unit through B and C mods. Like my 65 Mustang, I should have never sold it.

My first feeling of stumbling onto something special was the result of a combination of a well mastered reissue of Miles’ My funny Valentine and Jobim’s and Getz’s samba record that when I played them through some Mirage Omnisat speakers in parrallel with the chewed up Advents I had that played music that took me there and breathed into the room also. Another special recording with that stiched together Craiglist set up that floated my boat was Robbie Robertson’s first solo release. I’m sorry I realize the question was which component was the first special one but it’s hard to say it was just the little Mirage speaker that was special and gave me a spaciousness I’d not been exposed to. But Id have to say it was my first personal experience of a system synergy that was special aided by those Mirage Omnisats’ in consort with certain recordings.

I'd definitely say the Audible Illusion 2D preamp I bought in about 1990.  I intended to change my system by buying new speakers, BUT...I heard the 2D in my system and it was much bigger change for the better in my system's sound.  I kept that preamp for 18 years until I bought a 3A so I could use LO MC cartridges again.  After that, it was hearing VMPS 626R speakers in my system--absolutely wonderful sounding.  It caused me to want to represent VMPS as a demonstrator for Brian Cheney which I did until his passing.  I eventually traded up to VMPS RM40 speakers with most of the upgrades except the OX and still have them.
Magnepan Tympani IVa speakers, driven by a Bryston amp, coupled with an Apt Holman pre-amp. All classics of the late '70s/early '80s, and I have little doubt that the system would still sound good today.
I second mizike, it was Knowledge.  Which led to better speaker placement, then a multibit external dac for digital, a tube stage in the chain with the right tubes, an amp that was a good match for my speakers, the right interconnects, proper settings on my pre, and impedance matching for system synergy.  It finally all came together for addictive sound.
Croft Micro in 1987. My first taste of tubes. I rewired it with Holco resistors, doubled up the power supply for each channel and swapped  the ECC82 for a black plate CV5042, it was so much better than anything I'd heard like Naim, Classe etc.
Nakamichi 682ZX cassette deck. It cannot take everything from my Nottingham Spacedeck table but it sounds great for a cassette player. Nottingham is also quite special for me.
It was the late 80's.  My system consisted of a decent turntable and integrated amp driving marginal speakers.  The latter seemed like the weak link, so after auditioning a number of possible replacements, I placed an order for the Snell E. 

The day I arrived to pick them up, the dealer was in the process of setting up a pair of Magnepan MG1Cs that had just arrived.  Although I had read about Maggies, I had never heard them, so asked if I could take a listen.  I was blown away.  Compared to the Snells, the bass and highs were severely lacking, but the soundstage...  Oh the soundstage.  I had never experienced anything like it, and was hooked.  The Maggies were more expensive than the Snells, which were already over my meager budget, but it didn't matter.  I had to have them.  It's been an expensive and slippery slope ever since.


In 1972 I discovered J. Gordon Holt and his little digest-sized "quarterly" magazine Stereophile. After reading for a year about the exotic hi-fi I had never seen in Northern California (high end seemed to be an East Coast phenomenon), in the Spring of ’73 I learned of a new high end store that had recently opened in Livermore. So I paid the store a visit and met it’s owner/proprietor Walter Davies, who now makes the great Last line of record care products. Also arriving at the shop that day was none other than Bill Johnson of Audio Research. Oh, the luck!

Bill had piloted himself to Livermore in his own plane, loaded with a full Audio Research system, including the SP-3 pre-amp, Dual 51 and 75 amplifiers, PC2 crossover, and new Magneplanar Tympani T-I Loudspeakers, which ARC was distributing. He was at Walter’s shop to inaugurate him as an ARC dealer, and to set up his system, which also consisted of a Thorens TD-125 Mk.II turntable, prototype ARC pickup arm (a flat wooden "plank" about an inch wide and maybe 1/4" thick, sort of the like the old Grado), and a Decca Blue cartridge.

What a sound I heard! Sure the ARC electronics were part of that, and great for their time, but I feel it was hearing both a Decca cartridge and the Tympanis for the first time that was responsible for drastically changing my perception of what reproduced music could sound like. I bought myself that exact same system from Walter shortly thereafter.

The prototype ARC arm was never put into production, but I again now own both Decca (London actually) cartridges and Tympani (T-IV) loudspeakers ;-) !

It started out...On my Sting-Ray coaster bicycle (1965) with a banana seat and the whole bit taking a decent ride into Jamaica, Queens to the Lafayette Electronics store near the old elevator train. I purchased a complete stereo kit consisting of mini preamp and power amp, turntable, and speakers. It cost $109, saved from a $1/week allowance, and the ride back to my apartment was insane. What was I thinking? This is how I learned to solder, and the damn thing made music! Pure joy.
Zavato - Yup, and l'm doing better than my $1/week allowance as well.

BTW - Reading my comments, it's not elevator train but elevated train (L train). Like the lyrics you get wrong in a Rolling Stones song, us kids grew up in apartments with elevators, so to us they were elevator trains. And, still are today.
My panic room purpose built in 1994. Built to withstand and help me cope with newly born fraternal twins, a very stressed out wife, and very stressful job. 

For XX years all I did was move speakers around in that room (long side, short side, corners, a few inches this way, that way). Helped me learn how sound waves work, cope with audiophilia nervosa, and all it cost me was my back.

Some of the green taping still remains in spots because either those spots sounded "really good" or I can't get the tape off without serious effort. Seeing them is a reminder of what I went through so I leave them be. 
I now use speakers in that room that don' t really like to be moved.  

Early 70s. Infinity Servo-Statik 1s; ARC SP3; ARC D-75 (for mid-range ES panels); ARC D-51 (for tweeter panels); Thorens TD-125 tt; Decca International tonearm, Decca MK 5 cartridge.

That system would challenge many today, IMO.
Zavato - My bus route was mainly the Q17 between Flushing and Jamaica. I didn't truly get out until 1982, so rode the #7 as a kid and as an adult working on 34th Street.

Sorry, everyone for temporarily hijacking the thread, but you rarely are able to share such a unique memory with someone else, thousands of miles away and 50 years in the past.
Tympani 1a, December 1973. Eventually added ARC SP3a and ARC active crossover. For the day, only Magic.

Rega Planar 2 with a Dynavector Ruby 23MR.  Opened my ears right up, that combo did.
zavato and kenny


From suburban NJ, it was a NJ Transit train to Penn Station then a shuttle to Grand Central and a 7 train out to Shea Stadium.  Mostly when the Dodgers were in town,  as my family had moved out to Jersey from Brooklyn.

Last time I did that was probably 1970 or 1971. I live in LA now, so it's definitely long ago and far away!

BTW, I probably live only 25 miles from Dodger stadium now, but - with LA traffic - the car ride  often takes longer than the three trains from Jersey did back in the day.  I guess that's progress for you.
70 or 71? Hope you got to see Seaver pitch. I did. He was a childhood hero. And #41 is the only player number the Mets have ever retired (of course, Jackie Robinson's number is retired throughout baseball). 
And the Mets lost another one tonight.This time to the Giants former Polo Ground  tenants.
Living in Manhattan my subway was underground.
Family moved to South Jersey and we had Trolly cars.
Now living in Arizona, if public transportation is needed your in BIG trouble.
Anyway Re: the subject at hand.Back in the day everything sounded good to me. And everything was in for service within 2 months of purchase (well maybe not everything ) An eye or ear opener for me was the DBX expander
ADS L980 loudspeakers.  They gave me a sense of what is possible in sound reproduction.  It was up to me to take it from there.

The first time I heard the Koss electrostatic earphones.....I couldn't believe recorded music could sound this good. (50 or so years ago)
For me it was the original AR-XA turntable along with a Dynaco SCA-35 integrated amp back in 1974.  I was using a pair of homemade speakers built by my older EE brother at the time.  Among speakers, after going through a number of ARs, Altec's, EPIs and such, it was getting a used pair of Spendor BC-1s which I acquired around 1993-4.  What a revelation - that magnificent midrange!  They stayed in my main system until about 2011.
Probably my first pair of Quad loudspeakers, circa 1973. They changed how I perceived recorded music. 
Also notable for its time was the ARC SP 3-a-1. I suspect it sounds quite dated now, but when it was new, there was really nothing like it (other than perhaps some highly modified or rare tube preamps, though in the day, I thought it bettered the Marantz 7). 
I stuck with ARC electronics up through the SP-10 mk ii and Classic 60. I left the fold shortly thereafter.
I consider the Lamm ML2 SET amp to be a revelation. Though it was hardly the "first" breakthrough product I owned, it also changed my expectations of reproduced music.

I still own the ARC Dual 75a that I bought new shortly after the model was released. Most of the other equipment I owned in past decades is long gone, though I still have my original pair of Quads, as well as a pair of Crosby- modded 63s. And a pair of those old Decca ribbon tweeters, a pair of old Quad II amps, and....  :)

In 1973 I used an experimental circuit design from Motorola design notes for a 200 watt solid state amplifier. I designed and etched the printed circuit boards, wound my own power transformers from defunct colour TV sets, built my own chassis and put 2 of these mono amplifiers side by side in the same box. Wish I still had it today. LOL!
A Krell KSA100s.  I was shopping for my 1st tube pre and Krell was sitting quietly in the corner.   Only read about Krells in magazines and never heard one so ask dealer to hook it up.   WOW!!!  My brother and I were mesmerized.  We spent the whole afternoon in the showroom.

I bought the pre and at dealer's request, big mistake taking Krell home to enjoy for a week or so.   Dealer knew it wasn't coming back and I bought it.   It was 30% of my gross but well worth it.    I truly enjoyed it and eventually bought 2 more Krell amps.
1982 or '83 Oracle Delphi Mk. II that my mother helped me obtain.  I FINANCED it with her co-signature!

 I bought a used Grace 707 tonearm and an Audioquest cartridge, best I remember.  All set up by the Oracle dealer who sold me the TT new.  Still have the turntable and don't use it nearly enough.