Speakers

Do you remember your first speaker?

What was your first speaker you had a long-term relationship with?

In the life of an audiophile, speakers come and go, but the first pair that really pulled me into the music weren't particularly special. I remember the brand, it was XAM, but not the exact model number. It was a small, real wood veneered box, with a beige cloth grille. XAM was the house brand of the EJ Korvettes department store in New York. XAM and EJ Korvettes are long gone, but my memories live on.

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What was your first speaker? Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I bought the XAMs with the money I earned from my after-school job at a small neighborhood grocery. Before I had the XAMs I mostly listened to music on my portable radio, so the difference in sound quality with my XAMs was huge. There was bass, there was treble, and there was stereo!

Stereo was, and still is for a lot of people a difficult concept to comprehend, but when two speakers are placed 4 or more feet apart, and the listener's ears are equidistant from both speakers you can hear not just different sounds coming from the left and right speakers, you can with some recordings hear into the sound of the music. It's almost like being in the room with the band, or the band is in the room with you. Again, depending on the quality of the recording the locations of the vocalists and instruments are clearly defined and separate. Sometimes the stereo image extends beyond the width of the speakers, or extends back, behind the plane of the two speakers, or sound is projected forward in front of the speakers.

Try to find Roger Waters' "Amused to Death" album, and listen to that one over speakers; that record's stereo imaging gets remarkably close to surround sound.

But when I bought the XAM speakers I didn't know all that, I put the right channel speaker in the kitchen and the left channel speaker way over in the den, so the two speakers were 30 feet away from each other! Stereo as I now understand it never had a chance, but I thought the sound was pretty cool. With some of my old Beatles records like "Yesterday And Today," John and Paul hunkered down in the right channel speaker in the kitchen, the rest of the band was in the left channel speaker in the den. I was shooting for maximum separation, and it was a cool effect.

Then I read a few hi-fi magazines and figured it out, and put the two XAMs in the den flanking the TV, right across from the couch. Ah, that was better, stereo made more sense! I started to pay attention to the way music was mixed, so I bought a better phono cartridge, a Grado, for my Garrard turntable, and that made a big difference too. The sound was clearer, so the records sounded like better records! The XAM speakers kept pace with the changes, for a few years.

I was well on my way to becoming an audiophile, and a long procession of speakers followed the XAMs over the decades. Here's a condensed list: Bose 501, Fried W, Snell Type A, Beveridge Model 3, Rogers LS3/5A, Snell Type C, Symdex Sigma, Quad 63, Anthony Gallo Acoustic Reference, JM Labs Mini Utopia, Dynaudio Special 25, Dynaudio C1, KEF LS50, Magnepan 3.6 and 3.7, and Zu Druid IV and V.

Share your memories of your first speaker(s) in the comments section.