When I was 7 I developed a fascination for the family Roberts radio, and would spend hours tuning into different stations, pretending it was a car radio. (Not biological) Uncle Brian who worked at STC at the time gave my first radio, horrible 6 transistor thing as well as many other now old school computer parts for me to destroy. Then I got given a little valve Blaupunkt radio. I remember the sunny Sunday morning I worked out how to connect some wires into the back to make FM work, and how beautiful it sounded. It was probably about this time on one of my family visits to great uncle Edward, he had 2 radiators and a speaker in between at one end of his living room, he explained the speaker was actually an ultrasonic burglar alarm, and the radiators were speaker, and proceeded to lift the lid of the adjacent side board and put a record onto the classic Garrard 301, SME 2009, Quad 22 II FM2. I remember the sound clearly, as very detailed and transparent, but a bit loudness button, and not very loud.
My parents* were quite accommodating, and my room slowly filed up with radiograms, radios, record players and tape recorders (around 40 pieces in total at one point, annoyingly no photos), this was early 80’s when people were practically giving the stuff away. The best was a lovely Rigonda mono radiogram, which sounded so lovely, I now have the stereo version waiting to be fixed up… Retrospectively, growing up my foundations were in single ended valve sound.
By the time I was 16 my attic room had slowly emptied and I had acquired a B&O Beomaster 900M, and some homemade charity shop Wharfedale Super 8/RS/DD (I think, or could have been 10s) in some big reflex boxes, these sounded pretty nice and soon followed a Garrard deck, given to me by uncle Brian, the normal arm version of the zero 100. I remember hearing the first radio demonstration of CD on that setup.
I never had much money so old and broken things were much easier to come by, and this really propelled me into my life in electronics. I only really wanted to study electronics so I could fix free broken things…, no thought of getting jobs or anything like that.
This is a highly abridged version of my early influences. I wanted to understand why things sound like they do, and to make my own as I could not afford to buy. Later, for me a source of much frustration was the gritty grainy “electronic” sound produces by most of my lovely transistorised 80’s 90’s hi fi boxes. I like to think I now have some understanding of this and how to design around it to get a sound that I find satisfying.
* I still haven’t quite forgiven my dad for selling for £100 great Uncle Lionel’s (inventor of the electric window apparently) Quad II based system which had the super rare Acoustical corner ribbon speakers, I never heard that one unfortunately. Young me probably would have wrecked them though.