Our music listening journeys

Since we are heading into a new year and looking to the future currently causes us to repeat ourselves forever I thought this year I’d look to the past and ask all of you about your journeys to your current music system.

For me most of my music listening was done in the car as a child. I still remember as a quite young child buying my first cd’s one was a collection of childrens songs the other was now that’s what I call music 35 lol. I did have a sony walkman first for tapes then cd’s and a sony mini hifi system at one point but I used those for audio books rather than music as a kid so I don’t think they count.

While my parents owned a pioneer stereo system (we still have it and it worked before it was packed away last year for the move), it wasn’t used much around me except for christmas songs each year. I wasn’t allowed to touch the stereo system and I remember thinking it very complicated as it had so many boxes (cd, tape, record player, tuner, equalizer and an amp). It was great fun whenever it had to be moved and then put back together as inevitably there would be a point where everything was supposedly connected but no sound was happening, eventually my mum labelled what I now know are the interconnects to ensure proper wiring.

The change from mostly just car listening for music happened with the arrival of mp3 players. I had a click wheel 60gb ipod (my mum still uses that ipod so they really were well built), I was then lucky enough to get an ipod touch which really was a great device, it was eventually replaced with an iphone when it became obvious that I always kept my music player charged and carried it everywhere but left my nokia phone to die in whatever bag it was in, rendering it rather pointless for communication.

With this succession of apple products came the packed in ear buds while they were definitely better than a lot of wired earphones I had they never lasted one side would always end up cutting out after a few months (thank goodness for warranties including accessories). I assumed that apples cables were to blame and decided to try a similarly priced pair of sennheiser over ear headphones they lasted longer but still only around a year. I decided I was obviously wasn’t delicate enough for headphone wires and horrified by the thought of paying £25-30 for replacements regularly I thought that if I only had to replace the wire part it would be cheaper.

I need to take a moment to appreciate that the journey that eventually led me here started with me finding £25 replacements too expensive lol. Looking back with improved headphone knowledge what I wanted was wired headphones with a detachable wire what I found via google was bluetooth headphones. Up to this point I assumed music sounded the same no matter how it was played with only mild jumps in quality. The bose soundlink 2’s I settled on did not disabuse of this notion sure the music sounded better enough that I didn’t mind the fact that they cost at least 5x the price of the apple earbuds but they didn’t make the music sound different. They were however very comfortable and convenient and I wore them as often as possible which meant that while they still worked fine after years they looked they had been through a woodchipper (ironically considering why I’d originally bought them the ear cushion replacements cost more than apple earbuds lol).

Since the bose had survived so well I figured wireless was still the way to go but I hesitated the newest bose headphones were a lot more money for what I assumed would be a small uplift and while they still made my model it seemed silly to spend the money to just to get a pair that was shiny and new. Then apple brought out the airpods max do not ask me why they won me over they were nearly twice the cost of the bose I refused to buy because of expense after all.

Maybe it was because of all the reviews praising the sound quality and I wanted to know how good bluetooth headphones got. For me they were a revelation not only did the music sound better but for the first time it sounded different (with hindsight I now know the most striking thing was it actually had audible bass). Now that I realised headphones could make such a difference I wondered just how good headphones could get but I had a pair of expensive and still working headphones getting a second set of headphones felt like an unnecessary extravagance (I now realise that getting something like an ifi blu go and some great wired headphones would have been the cheap option lol).

Even with comfortable headphones they can become uncomfortable or hot over long listening sessions so I wondered if I would listen to more music if I had speakers so I spent time listening to music through my phone speakers for a few months as a test. Then I started down the hifi rabbit hole I ended up with a huge list of possibilities. One that several youtubers used as a reference and seemed to really like was the naim uniti atom I liked the sleek design and figured an all in one was the simple option (my plan b was the rega elicit r and a bluesond node). Since I was still isolating I got a home demo from richer sounds with the recommended focal aria 906’s. Honestly even with all my internet research I was clueless I liked the sound, it seemed easy to use (at this point I wasn’t even sure how much I’d use it).

After purchase I found this wonderful forum which has really increased my knowledge of all sorts of things to do with hifi. I loved the atom and used it every day which proved that any money spent on music wasn’t wasted. I found my amazing dealer and upgraded to my current set up and discovered just how much speaker cables matter. I’m constantly amazed how good my music sounds and it actually has me listening to music I might not have liked before. I can also listen louder I was always the one asking for music to be turned down previously (I don’t know what it was I didn’t like but whatever it is my current system doesn’t have it).

The airpods max that made me wonder what more was out there now mostly do pod-casts and youtube videos as I’d rather listen to music on my main system. Music listening is now one of my main hobbies and I’m sure there will be more to my story going into 2023 (considering a music ripper and planning to at least window shop 282/hcdr/250dr vs my system with hcdr at my dealer so I’ve at least heard any potential improvements even if it ends up being a long term upgrade plan).

Sorry for the small novel I’ve written, hope it was at least a little interesting. I’d love to hear your stories if you feel like sharing.


I started out with a Pioneer boom box when I was 18 and a low level set of Sennheisers. I had a relative who had a Luxman amp with a set of Rogers shelf mounts and a Luxman turntable with SME3009 and a Shure cartridge, so I got exposed to what hi fi sounded like. I also had a friend with an 80’s Cambridge pre/power combination and a pair of large floor standers ( cannot recall the brand, he unfortunately became a recluse in the early 200’s and passed away a few years ago) , I always had a desire for a proper hi fi system . Once I got a full time job I started saving for a system and being naïve, I started buying What hi-Fi. But I was a bit overwhelmed by the reviews until the chap with the Cambridge suggested that i go to Graham Hi Fi which was close to where I lived at the time. I phoned up to make an appointment and said that I had a budget of £1500 ( circa 2002) , the chap I spoke to said " well, that might just about get you something!!. Went down there for a demo and listened to various CD players and amplifiers however, there was box which to me, just seemed to be more dynamic and rhymical engaging than the others by a company I had never heard of called “Naim” The system I nearly settled on was a Naim Nait 5 , Arcam CD72 and a pair of B&W speakers. my Luxman loving uncle then went on a truly insane rant about how Graham just push overpriced junk like the LP12 ( his words not mine) which is just a rubber band on a bouncy bit of wood. I then visited the Audio T dealer in Enfield and tried out more amps and speakers and ended up with my first system : Arcam CD72, Rega Ear, Chord Chameleon, Naim nait 5 and ission M300 speakers.

That system served me faithfully for a bout ten years when I moved into a larger room; I had wanted floortsanders and I wanted to change my CD Player. There then followed more demoing and I ended up with a Naim CD5i and a pair of Neat Motive 1 plus I found a cheap ex demo Naim Flatcap . I was happy with the system but I spotted an ex demo NAc122x on a well known auction site priced at £300. Not expecting to win, i put in a bid of £300 and was surprised when I won it at that price. I then found an ex demo Naim Nap 150x
I also caught the vinyl bug and bought a project debut genie followed by Project x perience Classic followed by a Gyrodeck with a techno arm , I played around with various phono stages before ending up worth a Lehman Black Cube SE ( in 2015 intended as a short term solution) . At this stage I concluded that I had gotten what I wanted and I was done. Famous last words as I would then get an SME309 and a Rondo Bronze

Last year the itch for better speakers led to me demo about a dozen speakers including some huge Russel K K129 and 150, PMC and Neat Extras. The Russel K’s sound a bit to veiled, warm and laid back for me and it was an agonising decision between the PMC25:23 and the Neats, but the Neats were a bit more forgiving of less well recorded material and were more fun

On Friday I popped down to the same Audio T which started me on this road and demo’d the Supernait 3 and a Rega Aethos and am now working out whether or not to buy the supernait before the next round of inflation linked price hikes kikc in.

Listening to my 122x compared with the Supernait and it sounds like the colour has been dialled down, the vocals seem less articulate and the bass less controlled.

As I sat there wondering if £4000 for an integrated amp was a smart move, I met by sisters’ fiancé who was looking at getting another classic car and my sister admitted that her wedding dress had cost her £3000!! in that context the Supernait is a bargain


Especially when you consider how much you will use the sn3 vs a dress your sister could only use on a specific day unless its remade.

First there was a Dansette Record player…

Then I discovered ‘HiFi’. I really wanted a HiFi System… So, having saved up about £100, I bought - a Goldring G101 (with a G800 cartridge), an Amstrad IC2000 and a pair a Marsden Hall speakers. This was in 1974.

The more I read & learned, the more I realised that I wanted, needed to ‘upgrade’. In a series of moves, I got to - a Rega Planar 2 (with an AKG P7E cartridge), an A&R A60 and a pair of Tangent RS2 speakers. This was in 1978/79.

In 1981, I bought ‘my’ Linn LP12 and in 1982 I bought a Naim 42/110. Over subsequent years, my Naims ‘evolved’ in stages, into currently Naim 82/Hicap/250.

Various minor LP12 tweaks occurred en route, including several Dynavector 10X’s, a Linn Ittok - and a Linn Asak & Asaka. More recently, the LP12 itself has had a few bigger tweaks, getting the Cirkus (2018), Lingo (2021) and Kore (2022).

My speakers changed from the Tangent RS2’s, to Linn Kans, to Royd Doublets and now to Kudos X3’s (2021).

An Arcam Alpha CD player arrived in 1992, which morphed into an Alpha 8, then Alpha 9, then to a Rega Apollo - then in 2009 to a Naim CDX2, adding an XPS2 in 2014.

The Kudos X3’s and the Linn Kore were my most recent ‘big’ changes. I won’t count various Phono board or ‘wiring’ changes…! It works for me… :slightly_smiling_face:


1953 I found the American Forces Network from Munich on our old radio
Willis Conover introducing Getz,Mulligan and the earlier jazz styles.
Now this was more interesting than Radio Luxembourg.
A French lesson teacher who spent an hour talking about Miles and Juliette Greco in Paris.
5 GCE passes at grammar school heard a fatherly grunt of approval and the sight of a new Philips radiogram as a prize.
Paper rounds earned me sufficient,after mother had taken a modest cost of living tax to buy the newly emerging lps. Getz at the Shrine was the first and I have never looked back or changed from my initial love of jazz of that period.
A wife,two little ones and a mortgage put paid to any high end audio equipment. Garrard sp25? Wharfdale dittons and a wood encased Rogers amplifier that is still in the loft were some of the items I remember.
I now have a modest four box Naim system which with the Falcons will probably see me out (of this world)


I can’t remember how it started. It sort of snowballed from nothing. We used to listen to show tunes, the Spinners and Paddy Roberts as kids because that was the music in the house. Also Scottish military music and John Phillip Sousa, as I remember. I don’t recall us ever having the car radio on when children (I still don’t, mostly) I do recall some tinny transistor radios when small, my sister getting a Phillips compact cassette player when she was 11 and generally becoming more into music in my teens, listening to the family music centre through headphones, especially Tommy Vance on a Friday evening. I also remember listening to the Pioneer or whatever stack system of a family friend when I was about 10 and giving an honest (yet unwelcome!) answer when asked how good it sounded. I had a cassette and radio boom box as a student but it was not until university that I came across Regas, NADs, KEF, Creek, A&R etc and eventually a Nait 1 that I began to really explore what I liked and the kit to play it on.

CD was the new thing, and we were all into vinyl because digital was ‘ ‘clearly inferior’. I got a Planar 3, then one with the RB300 tone arm, A&R C77, Creek 4040 and Monitor Audio R252vs. A few years later I got a Creek 3140 tuner which was very good, then my own Nait, a Pioneer tape player and then a Cambridge CD2 which in its day was well regarded. I went for Monitor R700 MDs, a reflex speaker with metal dome tweeters, and got a Linn K9.

Thereafter it was a NAC 102/NAP 180, the 102 gave way to an 82 and the 180 for 2x135s plus HiCAP. I’d need to look at the receipts for the running order but it was all pretty quick and I think the SBLs came on board in 1997. And a naim CD player. CD has become my main source but even now it still amazes me just how much music was on those discs even back in the 80’s. I’ve gone active and added streaming but the front end likely needs a refresh at this point. All the while, musically I’ll listen to anything that is good music and well recorded but better yet, a live broadcast. Whatever it is I like the system to allow it to be engaging. I auditioned a non-naim system at a similar price point many years ago, and stopped listening within 10 minutes. I sometimes read that the naim presentation is forward and in your face, which I don’t think is fair but however it’s described, it makes me listen.

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My parents’ wind-up gramophone and modest collection of classical 78s, and their valve radio, provided my introduction to music listening. By the start of ‘beatlemania’ when everyone at school was singing “she loves you yeah yeah yeah” I was just old enough to be allowed to play the gramophone myself, and my favourite treat on arriving home from primary school was to play Beethoven’s Egmont overture. I couldn’t stand pop music, or at least the mainstream stuff that was all I heard on radios - coinciding with the advent of pocket-sized transistor radios, enabling music started to spring up everywhere.

I started to like the Beatles mid 1960s ( though at first refused to admit it), and occasional other things on the radio, which I was to discover was the genesis of rock music, and the key was finding the right radio programme. Then when I was about 13 or 14, my older brother got a ‘Dansette’ type record player, and I started listening to some of the music he was starting to collect, most notably Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 (but only when he was out, without his knowledge or permission - there was trouble when discovered, usually because I forgot to return the bass and treble boost controls back to where he liked them, as I always felt it sounded best with both on maximum!) The Beatles’ Get Back single was the first record I ever bought, followed by Shades of Deep Purple LP, both with only my brother’s record player to sneak playing on.

Hankering after something I could play when I wanted, and better sounding than my brother’s record player, and by then being an avid reader of HiFi and electronic publications, I read up all I could find then set about building my own system using birthday and Christmas money, reasoning that by DIY I could get something better than buying ready made. So my first system was born, costing £60 or so in ~1969: Garrard SP25/Shure M3D +Sinclair Project 60 bareboard modular amp in DIY plinth, plus DIY speakers. At the tender age of 15 or 16 my system was featured in a HiFi mag review of readers’ systems, and praised for achievement on a tight budget, while also identifying weaknesses.

Better gear then accumulated over time in a leapfrog manner as I could afford it: a good turntable first, circa 1971, long before “source first” philosophies were propounded, but simply driven by the audible inadequacy of the SP25 and its rumbling idler-wheel drive (not Linn Sondek, but the Thorens TD150 was an almost identical design and well engineered, pre-dating Linn).

When CD first appeared I was unimpressed, (where’s the bass? Why is it so harsh?) But that changed on hearing the Cambridge CD2 in about 1989, then both lived side by side until I ripped all discs of both types a couple of years ago and now have neither, having decided that the future is streaming from HD. I miss the sleeves, of LPs in particular, but I don’t miss the gradual deterioration of vinyl with heavy play, though some imperfect ones are now frozen in time until or unless I can find pristine digital versions…

Speakers were an interesting process: being on a tight budget, the first step was to build better home-made ones than my originals, but I only got around to one, then a windfall gave me the chance of major investment, and in 1975 I went shopping with a whopping (for me) £300 budget (~ £2.5-£3k in today’s money I guess), at which fairly elevated price point I was amazed to find how every speaker sounded so completely different: not subtly, but mostly like chalk and cheese, though a few perhaps more like Comté and Brie. So having spent two solid days listening to a dozen different pairs - some for only half a track - I ended up in a black cab traveling home with a pair of huge boxes containing IMF TLS50s, the one I kept finding myself returning to after others. Whereas many of the speakers I listened to were the top of the respective manufacturers’ ranges -the best they could do - these were only halfway up the IMF range, yet they sounded so much better than all the others I heard: well balanced, while at the same time the only ones with clean, deep bass - I fell in love, and it was an affair that lasted for 15 or 16 years, though I had to replace the midrange cone surrounds that perished before then. Then I saw an advert for secondhand Ref Standard Prof Monitors, an older version of IMF’s top of the range when I had bought the TLS50s, going for a good price, so went for a listen and couldn’t help myself, jilting the TLS50s instantly, and have been supremely happy ever since (though having discovered they’re even better outdoors, I yearn for a warm country and no neighbours so I can enjoy them even more!) - and I still hear my old love from time to time, still sounding great in another home if just not quite as great as their replacement.

Then an audition of a range of speakers, mostly PMC, showed me that some modern speakers can beat the IMFs, though by no means all) (e.g. not the Twenty.26 nor B&W 802) The best I heard were the PMC MB2, though a challenge to fit domestically and a bit pricey, however I found the PMC EB1i to be an good balance of sound and practicality and at an affordable price, while doing everything the IMFs did, a bit better, so those I bought.

The turntable stayed for 40 years, though with various mods (Rega arm, modified plinth, various cartridges until (IIRC) AT-OC9, styli becoming an expensive consumable after changing to MC). CD players proved they had a fixed 10 year mechanical life, so after the last one became faulty I switched to HD storage and streaming, firstly with a Naim ND5XS, through adding a Chord Hugo DAC after a brief trial and rejection of the XP5XS power supply, then upgrading to Audirvana on a Mac Mini, still with a Chord Hugo DAC, using a Gustard U12 USB/SPDIF isolator/converter between. Sonically Audirvana is great, though I still find its library system irritating and frustrating to use, and long for the addition of a hierarchical option based on disc folders… but I put up with that in the interests of sound quality.

Then I heard the Chord Dave DAC. Wow! WOW! My musician son sitting next to me in the demo room uttered that just a few bars into the first piece, and he was right. Subsequent home demo cemented it, so final upgrade is clear.

Meanwhile a flirtation with Radford amplification gave way to Musical Fidelity pre and power ( P170), later upgrading the power amp by moving up the range, while preamp gave way to Tag McLaren after the MF moving coil input went into oscillation on one channel when playing ‘Made in Japan’ at max volume, resulting in a speaker cone extraction from the far wall… Fortunately replacement drivers were readily available! An oportunity to buy a Bryston amp at good price presented an opportunity to assess if that was an upgrade (reputedly excellent at keeping the IMF bass under control, and indeed it has proved to be, though not so much in the bass, leading me to conclude that the big MF was indeed doing what it should, but cleaner in the upper mid and treble.

Meanwhile for fun I’ve been involved in long-term project for a while now, playing at DIY again trying to make speakers to achieve in my listening room the absolutely stunning sound that my beloved IMFs delivered when I once played them in the garden: much experimenting with transmission lines, triamping with digital crossover, room corrections etc … I’ve come to the conclusion that it is probably an impossible task, being limited by the room, so more realistically the question is now becoming can I match the sound of the PMC MB2s which I could not justify buying once I got the EB1is. With the ATC SM75-150 dome midrange driver, which I had already obtained for this project and which has the uncanny effect of bringing the singer into the room, right there in front of you, I know I can get the midrange as good as the MB2, but the challenge of course is getting the bass right, which is where all the design effort always goes…

My speaker project led into a little play with tri-amping: designing good passive crossovers can be tricky, and an added complexity and cost when changes may be needed as the speaker design evolves. So, having kept my original Musical Fidelity P170 when I got the 270, a cheap purchase of another old P170 got me the amplification in the form of P270 on bass, and P170s mid and top, so all I needed was to add a Behringer DCX2496 active crossover with a quality of sound that belies its low price, and I was in business. It is so easy with the Behringer to dial up different crossover parameters, helping the speaker fiddling.

Of course things are never static, and I chanced upon an old ATC EC23 analog active crossover at a real bargain price, so I had that to compare that with the Behringer.

Meanwhile It did not take very long before I determined that the Bryston is better than the MF P270, So I kept an eye open and now have a 9Bst used as a quad monoblock (actually quin, with one redundant) and the others provide mid and top end complementing the 4B on bass, the primary differences between them being that the 4B is capable of twice the power of the 9B amps.

Overall the ATC XO was better than the Behringer, but much of what I read in criticism of the latter suggested it coxuld easily be improved, so I set about major modification/rebuilding, with completely new analogue board, new clock, and new voltage regulators in critical positions - despite being a DIY build the cost was quite a bit more than the original DCX itself (partly because of excess components needed for matching), and that is excluding the time it took to build. But upon completion the improvement was immediately evident (most obvious was the quiescent noise of te original, the upgrade reducing that close to nothing, maybe even slightly better than the analogue ATC but hard to tell. Add to that the DCX’s better flexibility through the DSP capability, enabling tailoring to specific room positions made it a clear winner - so it was goodbye EC23.

My not buying the PMC MB2 speakers, though clearly the rationally correct decision at the time, remained with me as one of my very few regrets, until, just three months ago, I chanced upon a pair for sale at a very reasonable price, whereupon I snatched at the chance, so they are now in my system, and I just have to find a way around their lesser manageability if I ever need to move them. With the change in speakers I have for now reverted to passive driving (with the Bryston 4B). Some time I will have to decide whether to activate them like the EB1s, or alternatively stick with passive, or consider whether Bryston’s 7B is worth the extra…

My aim with “hifi” is to experience music as if I it was live, apart from the lack of audience… And, at least when I’m home alone with no-one to disturb, that’s what I achieve with good recordings! (Refore the PMCs the limitation was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 in 24 bit, when the relatively limited power handling of the IMFs used to mean turning down the volume for fear of the speaker cones transmuting tnto cannonballs, as they very audibly hit their travel limits!)

My system has developed via fairly infrequent upgrades, with some long periods of stability with changes only triggered by item failure. The last of those prompted several changes to source as I learnt about streaming, then a bequest provided unexpected funding, and I took the opportunity to review everything and make some changes, in particular focusing on the oldest equipment that might have a limited life - the result these two factors was a complete change of system compared to three years earlier, sounding even better though very much retaining the same character that I love, and despite those speakers changing to my latest, I feel I have a constant visual and aural reminder of the person who first introduced me to music, and brought me up with a love of music.

The above has focused just on my listening to recorded music from the angle of the system on which I play it: my experiences with listening to live music is another subject!

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Wow I can’t do physically tricky things like diy due to physical limitations but its always super interesting to hear other peoples diy stories. I’m glad you found some amazing speakers down the line second hand. At some point I’m going to have to listen to some more expensive speakers to hear how much they can change the sound of a system. Also want to compare chord lower price dacs to the ndac if possible in the future but that comes down to what my dealer has available.

Record for the thread with the longest average post length ?

I’ll fix that…

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There was one of these in the corner behind my dad’s chair where I couldn’t get at it.


It saw quite a lot of use and was still there for me to listen to Alan Freeman on a Saturday afternoon as a teenager, by which time I was given free reign of it. The sound was coloured but very engaging. Also by then there was Gerrard SP25 in the dining room that I made full use of when the living room was otherwise occupied, in fact there were two, a belt drive version that I later took to university and an idler drive that replaced it. both had ceramic pickups with flip over styli.

When I started work I bought a Mocro Seiki DD24s with an Elite mm cartridge, Sansui AU217 and mission 700s. That did me for around seven or eight years, adding a NAD 4020A tuner and Sansui tape deck along the way. The Micro Seiki was replaced at the eight year mark by a Manticore Mantra and Rega arm with an Eroica L MC cartridge using a couple of stepup coils I scrounged from Tom Evans, who was working on his Finestra pre amp at the time and then an Elite Rock a couple of years layer. I trashed the Eroica fitting the RB300 to the Rock and replaced it with a Dynavector 17D2. This lot saw me through the purchase of my first house and the first ten years of mortgage with only the replacement of the 17D2 with it’s mk 2 version and one of Tom’s iso phono stages that he made for John Michell. Very late in the 90s I also succumbed to my first CD player, £40 from Richer Sounds but there were new releases I wanted and couldn’t play without one.

With the mortgage ten years old and interest free introductory periods offered on most credit cards without, as yet, the introduction of transfer fees, it was time to hit the upgrades (by now I’d lost contact with Tom and couldn’t afford Alectos etc anyway).
A Nait 5 came first but that didn’t last and was quickly replaced by a Rega Cursa/Maia combination. A few years later a search for a better CD player resulted in a CD5x, in preference to a Rega Saturn, and giving Naim another chance.


I started out with a reel to reel tape recorder in about 1963 when I was 14. I then made a “speaker” out of 3 odd speakers I found and made a chipboard cabinet to house them,wired in parallel to give a better sound to the tape.
A relative left me some money so I bought a Dynatron Hifi as the next step. Slowly eveloved through a Technics stack system to separate boxes including Dacs and filters.
Eventually downsized to my Star and PMCs where I am now in my senior years

For sure I remember my dad, being an ex electrical and mechanical engineer turned pub landlord (he was always a boy amongst boys, but always wanted to be top boy) used to get those amps in a kit form popular in the 1970s.
He must have realised audiovarna was with headphones within budget and space constraints.
I remember a valve pre and headphone amp with big wrap over cans complete with little volume knobs on each earphone.
Would let me listen - outside of his head banging to “cat scratch fever” by Ted Nugent. A few times.
Later I grew up in a mostly poor situation with hand me downs of family and friends give away hifi after they upgraded.
Mostly Amstrad type large chipboard box with knobs.
Later with boom boxes - yet agree, that with headphones gave the most engaging experience.

Since this thread is about “music” listening and not strictly hifi.
I was a very lucky young chap inheriting a nice chunk of ££s.
Living in a small village most of the aspirational Young chaps with some sense took to playing an instrument of some sort to while away the boredom.
This was the 1980s.
I had a buddy down the road who had a Gibson les Paul and Marshall twin.
I was a very lucky boy with a 1970s black Stratocaster, Vox ac30. Electro harmonix Memory Man. Would spend days with spare hours perfecting my “Edge” licks.
This was not uncommon as there was some competition with local bands. The Garage punk and later indie jangly bands I was in were rubbish, I never gigged - although it obviously got my ears in to what sounds should sound like.
I then took time off from music to study other creative activities,although I always had a basic vinyl system.
Later after really starting working life, I agree that it all starts after finding a great dealer. Audiofile in cambridge had a lovely chap that would always let me buy an item at used ex demo prices instead of new prices.

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