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Audio Nirvana

01 November 2020

Looking back over my many years of blog posts, I have never really spoken about my love of music and audio equipment. Perhaps that is due to most of the time I have been blogging, I was involved in that church; see my book for more on that. Because of that experience, I had a decade or so lull in music and audio equipment. However, in the time that I've been me again, I've picked up the hobby again.

As with most male teenagers, music was a big deal to me. It was always something fresh, exciting, and a glimpse into a world otherwise unknown to me. Back then, the Sony Walkman cassette player was the device everyone had. It was indeed one of the first devices that made portable music a viable solution. Boomboxes were also quite popular in the 1980s, which featured FM/AM radio and cassette recording and playback. I listened to a Walkman a lot on the school bus and at home when I had time to myself.

Later on, when I had a job and was earning some spending money, I bought myself some component stereo equipment. The brand was Pioneer, but I don't know the models anymore, and I don't even know what happened to all of it once I joined the Marine Corps later on. But I had an amplifier, pre-amp, CD player and cassette player. I did have some speakers of some kind, but I recall using headphones more often. It was funny to have this excellent component system only to use headphones most of the time. Plus, the headphones we had back then were cheap and not very good by any measure. At least that was the case for what I had, what I could afford, or what I even knew existed. We didn't have the Internet and YouTube to provide the vast exposure to hifi products that may have existed at the time. Nope, I lived out in the country near some small towns, and all I had were mail-order catalogs from Crutchfield. Even if I had knowledge of good quality headphones and existed, I probably couldn't have afforded them. But I enjoyed my music and my equipment nonetheless!

Once I joined the Marines, I had Sony Discman's and some basic bookshelf stereo sets that got the job done for little money. Eventually, the Sony minidisc player came out, and I bought one. It provided the ability to mix your discs like we used to make our mixtapes on cassette. I loved that little device, and I carried it all over the world with me. It went from the US to Mexico, Japan, Australia, and Korea. That little minidisc player was my lifesaver in a time where the Internet was in its infancy, and I was deployed in the field a lot of the time.

After I came back from and off active duty, my time in religion began, so there isn't much to say here. About the only thing I can say is that I eventually replaced the head unit in my truck with an Alpine stereo capable of playing MP3's and connecting an iPod Classic to it. What little music I had and was "allowed" to listen to I had crammed on that little iPod, and it served me well in the glove box of my truck for many years. I still have that iPod, and it works just fine.

More recently, over the past couple of years, I've gotten back into exploring high-quality audio and audio equipment. In my last post, I spoke about streaming music and rebuying CDs. I also purchase high-quality music from bandcamp.com, from artists in the synthwave genre, and typically only offer digital downloads of their music. Otherwise, I still buy the CD's and records of other artists I like.

I've also built a decent entry-level stereo system for at home with a Yamaha receiver, Teac CD player, Teac record player, a Polk subwoofer, and a pair of Sony bookshelf speakers. I don't use it a lot since I live in an apartment, and I respect my neighbors even though some don't care at all about their neighbors. I'll only turn it on and up during the daytime when many people might not be home. But I don't do that all too often.

The majority of the time, my music listening is done with headphones. I've been upgrading little by little in this area, including headphone amplifiers and DAC's and even an EQ in one configuration.

Part of the enjoyment in this hobby is learning all of the things that make a difference to the sound's quality coming out of the headphones and everything in the chain from the source file to the headphones—learning about DAC's, balanced audio, single-ended versus XLR and ohm loads. Once I learned about these things and other stuff, it helped me decide what products to purchase to achieve the goals and sounds I was after.

There are a problem and a price to pay for the hobby, all searching for your "end game" setup. Of course, many will argue that this is akin to Ponce de León's search for the fountain of youth. It's never-ending, and all you end up doing is spending more and more money. But as some overlanders would say, it's not the destination but the journey that we enjoy.

I may publish some posts about specific equipment I've chosen and do reviews on them. At the moment, I do have a new set of headphones that came in over the weekend and are going through an extended burn-in period before I start to listen to and examine them.

For now, audio nirvana isn't so much of a destination but a journey that leads to many exciting places.