Publisher Profile

Joy of High-end Audio: the People

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Publisher’s note: This article was published originally in the Offical Directory of the 3rd (2012) California Audio Show.

Last year our dear ole publisher asked me to write a short article about “The Joy of High-end Audio.” This year he asked for a sequel. I told him I was more than glad to do this, but I wanted to take it in a little different direction this year. One of the true joys of our hobby is the people you get to know over the years. Truth is, what I enjoy most about audio shows is seeing old and making new friends. So, let me take a few minutes to share with you just a few of the people that have made this hobby fun for me.

Let me start with the person who introduced me to high-end audio. I was a sophomore at Baylor University and had a Kenwood receiver, a Pioneer turntable, and a pair of KLH 17s. Admittedly not a bad system for a dorm room, but then this crazy guy who had grown up in Japan showed up. He was Ken Askew and he had a pair of Quad 57s, a Marantz amp, a Dynaco preamp (I think) and a Thorens turntable. I was blown away. In little over a year I had my own Quads and things have never been the same. A few years ago, I was able to spend some time with Ken when he was working in New York and I was there for an audio show. He still had a pair of Bronze Quad 57s; sometimes I think I would still like to have a pair.

After graduating from Baylor, I lived in Alabama and Georgia for around 20 years, until I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area 12 years ago. There, I met three of the best audiophiles I have ever known. The first was Mike Shotts, a dealer who wasn’t much older than me. He had a store in Auburn, Alabama named Soundtracks. It was in the old depot in Auburn. Mike is still a friend to this day, but we talk more about Auburn Tiger football than we do audio these days. Still, Mike taught me a lot about setup, tweaks, and introduced me to audiophile speaker cables and interconnects. I think I introduced him to audiophile power cords, though. It was another fellow named Steve, who you will meet below, who introduced me to something called a King Cobra.

The other dealer, that became part of my audio education was Jim Smith, who at that time had an incredible high-end shop in Birmingham called, Auditions. Jim was a fellow Quad lover and sold me my first Linn turntable. Jim was unbelievably kind to a kid just out of college who could not afford most of the things he was selling. He had me over to his house to hear his system. He would always take me to the dedicated high-end room at the shop and listen to the fantastic recordings he made. Thank you Jim, I learned much from you.

The one other person that I have to mention from those years is Steve Woolsey. Steve is not a dealer, but he’s an audiophile through and through. Steve is one of the few people I have known who has owned more audio equipment than I have. Every audiophile needs an audio bud to talk to and listen with. Though Steve lives in Birmingham, Alabama and I live across the country in the Bay Area, we still talk regularly, and yes, we still talk about audio gear, music, and many other things, including Auburn Tiger football. Do you see a pattern here: War Eagle to all you Auburn fans!

In 2000, I moved from Columbus, Georgia to the Bay Area. I was lucky enough to meet Joe Cutrufelli, who was opening a high-end shop in the East Bay named JC Audio. Joe introduced me to Audio Note UK equipment and just like with the Quad 57, my audio journey changed. I no longer own any Audio Note gear, but I still have the greatest respect for their oh-so-musical sound. It was the sound of Audio Note that lead me back to single-ended amps, the sound I love today.

Then, about six years ago in my search for a preamp, I met another guy opening a new shop. This one was in San Francisco, and the guy was a New Yorker named Matt Rotunda. He was bringing Shindo, EMT, DeVore, and Auditorium 23 to the Bay Area. I bought a Shindo Aurieges preamp and have been in love with the sound of Shindo gear ever since. Still, as great as the gear that Matt sells is, he is the real story of his shop, Pitch Perfect Audio. When you become one of Matt’s customers you also become his friend. Matt is one of the best hosts I have ever met. When you visit his shop he makes you feel like you’re a guest in his home. Matt has introduced me not only to great gear, but to great recordings.

I’m really looking forward to the 3rd California Audio Show with all the great gear, but even more to all the friends I will see. Hope to see you there.

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