A Brief Journey Through Audiophilia

About a month ago, we met 17-year old audiophile, Sarah Witkowski, whose exceptional knowledge and appreciation of classic rock left many of us feeling happy and encouraged. (And left me feeling like I had a lot of catching up to do.)

However, I suspect there are many more young people like Sarah, people who love music and sound, and who can remind us of the elements of our enthusiasm. Take, for instance, 16-year old David MacRunnel.

"I am always striving for better sound, as I am obsessed with music and reproducing it accurately," says David.

In addition to working towards becoming a professional recording engineer, David has spent time rebuilding tube amplifiers and turntables. David also prefers vinyl records over music files stored on a hard drive or iPod, and defines the difference as one between "experiencing" and merely "hearing."

Regardless of the format or associated equipment, however, David is first a music-lover. While he thinks that high-quality components can certainly help the listener get closer to the music, and while he believes in the importance of fine-tuning a system using the right cables and intelligent speaker placement, he says he has no problem enjoying his favorite tunes no matter what they're played on.

David has had a lot of gear—a lot—and owns a collection of over 1300 vinyl records. When I asked him what his dream system might consist of, he admitted that his preferences are still evolving, and he offered the following list:

Klipsch Cornwalls with the Bob Crites Mods
New Large Advents

Mcintosh MC275's bridged mono
JBL 6230
Magnavox 8802 (I have one currently under restoration)
pair of Eico HF20's

ARC Ref III preamp
some sort of ultra-clean audio distribution amp for my tape decks
Teac Model 1 for "lower Fi" source switching

Phono preamp:
Hacked JVC 4DD-5 CD-4 demodulator. I bypassed the filters in it and it is the finest sounding phono stage I have heard, but then again, I have not heard anything new and high end.

I'd like to hear a Hagerman phono pre, also...

Technics SP10 w/ SME 3009
Elac 50H (this thing has serious PRaT and I can listen to it for hours)
Some vintage high end Idler, like a Lenco L75, Rek O Kut B12H, Garrard 301, etc.

Shure V15III
Shure M3D
Audio Technica AT15S
Shure M91

Denon DCD-1600
Sony PS3

Akai GX912 (cassette)
Tascam 122mk3 (cassette)
Ampex 350-2T (with the original tube electronics)
Teac 3340 (original version, IMO it sounds the best out of a A3340S, 3340S, and 3340)
Teac A-6010
Tascam 44OB

Scott 350, Modded Kenwood KT-7500 (I have both. The Scott is DOA at the moment; The Kenny is stock.)

VPI 16.5 record-cleaning machine

Sheesh! Pretty impressive list, huh?

When it comes to recording, David believes in using as few microphones as possible, and likes to capture as much as he can in just one take.

What aspects of the listening experience are most important to David? It depends, he says, on the recording, the source components, his mood, and sometimes even the time of day.

"I do like using speakers, phono cartridges, and reel-to-reel decks as my tone controls, and having everything else be as neutral as possible. So, no, neutrality is not a major issue, so long as I like how it sounds. And realism, or at least good soundstaging and tonal balance, are key to bringing out an emotional response."

To learn more about David's enthusiasm for music and sound, watch "A Brief Journey Through Audiophilia." David recorded it himself, of course.

Trey's picture

Folks with Asperger's make fascinating and great friends. How cool that his area of yperfocu is our hobby! Rock on David, rock on hard.

Trey's picture

Um, make that HYPERFOCUS.Sheesh.

Stephen Mejias's picture

At first I thought "yperfocu" was some really specialized psychological term. Right on, Dr. : )

Jim Tavegia's picture

Sounds like JA has a roady in the making for his next Cantus gig. You can't let WP do it all. Maybe I am to blame that my 14 year of son, Nick, could care less about music. Now talk PS3 games...I guess we each pick our poison.

Trey's picture

Ha ha ha! It is a very technical term for this psychologist has dyslexia!Trey

jmsent's picture

I have a theory that our reference for what sounds best to us is formed very early in our lives. No doubt, the influence of listening to dad's stereo at age 3 had a very profound effect on his obsession. Unfortunately, it seems that the emphasis-at least based on his video- is mostly on the gear and not on the music. Pretty typical audiophile behavior. And those turntable and cartridge choices make my cry in pity for his vinyl collection. A Shure M3D? Please, say it isn't so.

Trey's picture

JMsent, you are likely right. Most folks with Aspergers Syndrome get an obsession with a fairly limited interest. It can be commercial fryers or elevators or Buicks or WWII. When it is something that is interesting to other people, that is a good thing! I work with a kid that is obsessed with WWII and when he talks about his problems instead of his obsession we end the session with me telling him stories about my dad flying a B-17. This kid shares an obsession with some good folks, we can only hope that he finds the equipment an avenue by which to explore the emotions of great music well reproduced.Trey

The Mad Soundman's picture

Ahhhh yesssss!This kid reminds me of myself when I was his age so much it's frightening. Encouraging to see that there still remain members of the current generation who have heard, and apreciate the sound of good vinyl.As for choice of cartridge, well...Let the child grow and learn.

vinyldavid's picture

RE: Cartridge choice.The Shure M3D is a fun little cart that I only use for playing back beat up 45's and LPs that I just want as background noise....and for that, it works fine, and sounds quite good. Rest assured, I don't use it all that much, and have swapped it out for an Audio Techncia AT15S on my living room table...(Elac 50H into a Pioneer) SX1000 and AR4X's

jmsent's picture

I'm really dating myself here, but I bought an M3D when it was still a current product. It was actually my first magnetic cartridge, installed in a Garrard RC88/4. Quite a step up from the old Sonotone 8T it replaced. I also owned a Mirachord 50H back in college. That big Pabst outer rotor motor sure was impressive, and the chrome pushbuttons were slick. For a while, Allied Radio had them on sale for about $100 with an Empire cartridge for a penny extra, which unfortunately was about all that cartridge was worth. Yesterday I was at an old radio meet and picked up a nice pair of Dynaco A25's for 15 bucks. These are definitely a level up from the AR4's

vinyldavid's picture

My M3D came on my RC88/4.Heard great things about the A25's, and if I find a pair, I'll snag 'em.For really teeensy speakers, I like Realistic Minimus-12's...

Struts's picture

What a great little video, put a huge smile on my face. David reminds me of me too (and a good few other audiophiles I've met along the way), for instance I just love the credits at the end listing all the music and exact equipment used.Way to go David, you keep on enjoying the music!

charles's picture

That's pretty cool. I think that there's got to be a lot of audiophiles on the 'spectrum'. It's a great way to exploit unusual sensory sensitivity and a need to systemitise!

Jason's picture

Coming from someone who is only 24, and has been into fidelity for about the last 15, I can now safely say that I am not alone. The biggest issue is that we are part of the "click generation". We have to have it now, and most of our generation do not appreciate what it takes to get to the level of quality you, myself, and hopefully countless others, have and know how to use correctly. I would recommend trying ADS speakers instead of Klipsch, as they seem to offer a more natural sound, and dispersion pattern. The 710's would be a natural suggestion, but anything with both the dome midrange and dome tweeter works great. I guess that it all depends on the size of your room. Klipsch speakers work great in very large rooms, whereas ADS, and most other dome drivers, work great in small to medium-large sized rooms. Take care of the stereo, and it should last you a lifetime. Happy Listening!-Jason