I first got involved in Hi Fi in the mid 1970’s. As my regular’s will know I really got involved with music in the late 1960’s / Early 1970’s. It took a long time to get to being a Hi Fi person though. Those who were around at the time will recall that even the cheaper stuff was pretty expensive. In the days when most people used autochangers like the ubiquitous BSR turntable, it was easy to just follow the crowd. But some people wanted more from their music – and there was much more there in the grooves of the album, it just needed the right kit to bring it out. Whilst the kids, myself included in 1970 (ish), experimented with putting a penny on the head of the arm to improve the bass, others were doing genuine experiments into improving the sound from the LP.

By the 1980’s some serious kit was available and, as a result of the improvements in workers pay during the previous decade, many of the improvements were within the grasp of the single person with a penchant for good quality music. So I found myself, sharing experience with some friends who also wanted the best from their records, gradually upgrading my Hi Fi to a point where it became by the early 1990’s just about one of the best combinations you could get without spending stupid money. Even so my selection was, as usual, a little individual – My best mates all wound up with the Linn Sondek. A masterpiece of Scottish engineering – well, outsourced to the far east once the design had been finalised. I on the other hand, after initial doubts, possibly because of my friends preferences, went with the Roksan Xerxes deck – Persian design and Welsh / Far East engineering.

The key part of any record playing system is always the deck – so if you had one of those two or possibly the Oracle or Pink Triangle decks, you were in amongst the best unless you had a NASA budget to spend. The Choice of arm was also very important – a rigid mount for the stylus is critical. I could go on a lot more on this (and NASA budgets play a part in the selection of components) but keeping it simple, we all chose different Amplifiers and Speakers – more on those on a different occasion.

Time moves on – we had many great evenings as friends, families and music lovers. Speakers are great – they allow us all to share the music. They also allow the music to fill the room. With a well set up system the sound in a living room is great. Headphones are different. For starters, they can’t really be stereo – binaural certainly, but stereo is a no. I would never have used Headphones in my early Hi Fi days because I felt that they corrupted the sound (a little like the Graphic Equalizers that were popular on the ‘Ghetto Blasters’ of the period).

This perhaps illustrates the difference between the Hi Fi enthusiast and all those people who just want a sound track to their lives – Hi Fi enthusiasts want the closest sound to the original recording that they can get. My amplifier in those days had an on-off button, a switch between inputs like deck / Cd and a volume control – no graphic distortalizer as I used to call them πŸ˜‰

Time moves on – Families happen along with technological changes. Also, we grow older. The best sound possible is ideal for the younger people – ironically when it’s hardest to afford (a bit like high performance cars). I no longer find the time to sit in front of my EPOS ES14 speakers and listen to music – I did it in the first years of my son’s life and he now has a love of music. I’m not alone in this and we’re all trying to get to grips with the passage of time that we no longer seem to have.

So now I find myself using Beats Headphones with a Sony Walkman – it’s very convenient but there is a different sound to headphones and it ain’t stereo. I guess you get used to it…I’ve used a variety of ‘Mono’ headphones over the years though and you may be familiar with the names of some of the best headphones in the business – David Clark, Peltor, Yaesu and Heil. Good headphone makers for communications but not for Hi Fi πŸ˜‰ I should add that I have been very pleased with the Beats / Walkman combination.

So… That 1st date that I referred to? Well, it was the first at home (we had already been out a couple of times), and I fed my wife to be with a nice meal (ok – I made a mess of the dessert but the mains were good!). We sat down to listen to some music together and she drifted off to sleep. So, time’s ticking on and it’s nearly home time and I’m thinking… ‘How do I wake her without frightening her?!!!’ Then I hit on the idea of pouring myself a Whisky – Glen Laphroig. It has a very strong smell of smoked peat and salt water and I mean strong. It’s like smelling salts and that was exactly the effect it had. Honour satisfied, my young lady went home un-sullied (well I assume that the dress wasn’t partly disintegrated by the fumes!) until nature duly took it’s course in an honourable way πŸ˜‰

When I was a Teenager… stop smirking… We had Singles and Albums. None of this new-fangled cd, dvd and mp3 junk! Ok, I use the term junk only to highlight that times were different. In fact, I can remember the time when cd’s appeared and various sections of the Hi-Fi world took a stance. The classical side in the shape of The Gramphone magazine leapt behind the new format whilst magazines claiming to represent real Hi-Fi pushed the continued use of LP’s for serious music! What they really meant was ‘serious jazz / blues’. Some artists in those areas found themselves new followings as a direct result of the internicene war between the different factions. The likes of Grover Washington suddenly found a new market along other ‘unknowns’who were thrust into the spotlight to highlight why LP was superior to CD.

Sitting in the middle were the ordinary music fans who just go with the radio plays that guide their purchases and the Heavy Metal fans who nobody was batting for at the time. As a HM fan I stayed with the LP – or Album. Through the 1970’s to the late 1980’s I bought some classics and I also bought a top end Hi-Fi to expose every possible quality of each album.

In the early years it was poor fare – the music was good but the recordings were lacking in the punch that the best Modern Jazz recordings had. Except, that is for a few bands. I’m fortunate to have been a Budgie fan for a very long time. They were signed to the A&M label by no less a person than Herb Alpert and the quality of their recordings was far above the norm for Heavy Metal at the time. They were, however, a fringe band because they walked the true blues line rather than the pure power approach of many contemporaries. Their music was, in my opinion, every bit as good as anything that Led Zeppelin did and I suspect that Burke Shelley may be one of the greatest Bass guitarists out there.

Ok – I’m waffling in the pains of the past… Lets talk about Albums. These were the things you saved up for when I was a teenager. An album had that great single and lots of other tracks by your favourite band as well. But… some Albums, whilst having great artwork (something else that is lost with CD’s and MP3’s) presented you with a good single and a good ‘B’ side but showed up the deficiencies of the band who had cut it. Other Albums were really something special and remained favourites for years. Any Album that you could put on the record deck and play.. then turn over and play the other side was a fantastic Album. Here, in no particular order, are some of those special ones for me: –

Altogther Now by Argent
Split by The Groundhogs
Impeckable by Budgie
Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd
Wheels of Steel by Saxon
Can’t buy a Thrill by Steely Dan
Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower
All about Eve by All About Eve
Power in the Darkness by Tom Robinson Band
Heartbreaker by Free
Foxgloves and Steel Strings by Walter Wray

I’m sure there are a couple more but hopefully you get the idea – Albums where the music was that good that you had to play them all the way through in one hit!

Must add a photo when I get the time πŸ˜‰

But will play you out with some Tom Robinson…

…Lets hope it will be a long hot summer but of the sunny kind πŸ™‚