19th August 2022

Where did my whole HiFi malarky start? Let me tell you! Here’s a run down of my first ever system, piece by piece, component by component (as memory will allow, at any rate)

My first ever record player was a Dansette-type, all-in-one, box-like classic but I’m here to talk HiFi. We all began our HiFi adventure at some time and some place and mine began when I was what, somewhere between 15 and 16, my mind is little fuzzy on that detail. I was also therefore, still residing with my parents.

Back then, my parents owned a sort of Acme brand of HiFi, no doubt sold by the same people who supplied Wile E. Coyote with his his dynamite and rockets. 


Back then, my parent’s HiFi looked like a suite of separates from the front but, if you spinned it around, you’d see that it was actually a cheap all-in-one one unit. The speakers could be picked up with a little finger and the turntable? Well, the turntable moved. That’s the best I could say for it, really. 

My folks – bless ‘em – thought it was fine. They had no issues with it. Which was great for them.

Yet, even then. Even at that age, I realised that my growing vinyl collection (which was tiny at that time but – I had big plans) was going nowhere near that thing.

How did I come to this realisation? I knew this because the HiFi magazines I had been buying from my local WH Smiths newsagent, told me so.

HiFi magazines have a lot to answer for.


More than that, during school lunch times in my home city of Liverpool in the UK, my friends and I would wander down into town and slowly peruse the HiFi sitting on the shelves in the likes of Laskys in Dale Street (a place where I saw my first Revox reel-to-reel, incidentally).

Oh, how I drooled.

There was a second Laskys (I think it was Laskys or was it Ace Audio?) in St John’s Market and an independent called Beaver Radio on Whitechapel (oh, the school-boy humour that emerged from that one) who’s shop front opened to a street packed with traffic, making listening demos a challenge.  


I wasn’t aware of specialist dealers back then. The High Street was where it was, at least for me. 

On the shelves? Flashing lights dazzled me, the acres of aluminium reeked of quality while I had seen some local houses smaller than the shop’s floor standing speakers. I was dazzled. Dazzled enough to pretend to know what I was talking about to my friends (nothing much has changed, eh?) Again, I had been soaked in HiFi magazine knowledge so I was an expert, wasn’t I?

So we would scour the magazines, my friends and I, plus the shop shelves to see what was accessible and we would talk and plan our future HiFi systems together. All based on our combined wealth of around £1.50.


Dale Street, Liverpool. You can see the actual Lasky’s I visited on the lower left of this image – I’ll feature a blow up of the shop sign below. (Copyright: Mirrorpix)

Even if part of our research was a little Alan Partridge in its execution.

Have you ever seen this comedy TV programme? 


There was one early episode I recall when Mr Patridge is granted exclusive access to Norwich’s Tandy shop in the UK (Radio Shack in the US). This was an after hours visit. As a ‘top personality’ he was granted unfettered access to the techie glories packed on the shelves, without the public in attendace. He was on his own. Well, with only the fixed-grin staff in attendance. As he walked through the isles, he stated in a voice over, “It’s aways nice to be able to mooch around without fear of being threatened or pick-pocketed.” 


So why am I telling you all about Alan Partridge? During his perusal, he walks up to a compact HiFi. Then he reaches and presses the cassette eject door. Then he steps back, pauses and while the door of the cassette deck slowly and smoothly opens and he declares, “Nice action.” Pauses again and, “Very nice action.”

I purchased my first set of headphones from here – well, a future version. This is a shot from the 50s.

Oh how I cringed while I watched! I did that! I said that! What sort of monster was I back then?

Beaver Radio (as above) in sadder times as it finally closes. Not sure of the time frame. Sometime in the 90s perhaps? Any help on fixing the date would be welcome.

I’ll tell you what sort. The sort of monster who waged unfettered psychological warfare on my parents. Bombarding them with propaganda and reasoned arguments as to why they really needed to invest in a decent HiFi. After all, it would transform mum’s Barbara Streisand records, wouldn’t it? 

As for my dad’s Neil Diamond LPs? It would surely bring new meaning to Sweet Caroline. No problem.

God save my mortal soul. 

Well, they crumbled like the wall in Berlin before my critical analysis, didn’t they? I stood triumphant and ran off to the HiFi shops to buy as many accessories, in preparation, as my saved pocket money would allow. 

One of the reasons my Mum and Dad agreed to fund my (their?) HiFi

What follows is a component-by-component list of that first system in all its glory (or otherwise) and in all its naivety. The result of a combination of reading too many HiFi magazines, listening to too many friends, focusing on too many wrong things, buying with too little knowledge and, you know what? Having a ball.

If I could have that time again. I wouldn’t change a thing. 

This was sometime around 1979, 1980, that kind of time period. So that meant no DACs, no streaming and shock horror, not even a CD player. This was a world principally occupied by vinyl.

This system was built on a low budget, lots of compromise and entreaties to my parents. This was the result.

Oh and let’s work backwards shall we? First I’ll list the accessories. Then the headphones, the cassette deck (with a ‘nice action’, of course), speakers, amp and finally the turntable.  


To begin, I had been told by the HiFi magazines (again) that my precious vinyl was in mortal danger. Mainly because the grooves were or could be caked with more grime than a techno DJ’s hard disk. 


I bought a felt padded-brush to clean that vinyl but that would only tackle loose dust. So I bought two ‘high end’ accessories that were my pride and joy(s) 

Both were produced and sold by that great HiFi accessories outfit, Milty. Back then, I was a Milty Man. I was a frequent visitor to Planet Milty.

The first was a Zerostat gun, to kiss goodbye to the dust-attracting static. To my mind, the Zerostat was truly ‘hi-tech’. In fact, Zerostats are still sold today which, I have to say, shows incredible longevity for any product, never mind a HiFi product.

This was the colour I grabbed

Although, saying that, the one I bought was bright red in colour.

The earlier white model

I’ve seen pictures of white Zerostats but never in the flesh’, as it where. I only ever see blue nowadays. Odd.

I actually have a review of this gizmo on this site which you can find HERE.


The second was the mighty Pixel Roller. This looked and performed like one of those lint rollers you use on your clothes to remove fluff. Although back then, lint rollers where around but not yet a major thing. At least, not where I lived. I had only ever seen their HiFi application.

The Pixall used sticky paper to do the job. You ripped off a layer when clogged with muck to reveal a freshly sticky layer underneath. Sticky roll refills were a costly bill for a vinyl fan back then. 

I bought the Mk.1 with the larger barrel. Later on, I bought the smaller-barrelled Mk.II (see image above) with integral sticky paper cutter which, remarkably, I still own. 

Finally, I bought one – one, mind you – TDK MA metal cassette. I looked after this thing as if it was made from precious jewels. The price of the tape? It might as well have been. In addition to that, I bought a single TDK SA chrome tape and a couple of TDK AD normal tapes. That’s all my budget would allow. The AD variant was my daily driver, you might say. I bought all of these because, again, the HiFi magazines told me so.

I then bought a pair of speaker stands for the forthcoming stand-mounted designs I had my eye on.

These look like the stands I originally bought although I don’t know if the items pictured here are original or cheapo copies. I’ve forgotten the name though. Does anyone out there remember the brand/model of the original designs? They were well reviewed in the mags around 1979-1980 ish

The brand I’ve now sadly forgotten but they were metal and telescopic. 

Oh and I also bought myself a batch of 79-strand QED speaker cables but ran with the default, out of the box, stringy interconnects of the time. Ah, innocent youth.


These were tested in that HiFi independent I mentioned earlier, Beaver Radio. Back then, by the large door that was permanently opened to a stream if noisy traffic outside, there were a string of headphones sitting on hooks, full of music and just waiting to be tested.

The headphones were the only piece of HiFi I had any real chance of testing before I bought. Despite the traffic noise, the Sennheiser HD420 headphones were, to me, far superior than anything else on that rack. 

They were just sublime. 

I actually ended up using the headphones more than my speakers because the final HiFi setup was positioned next to the family living room so I had to use them so as not to disturb anyone else. Same thing if my folks popped off to bed and I was left to prepare myself for the full glory that was Genesis’ Supper’s Ready at one in the morning. 

So yes, they experienced full use, did those headphones. 


Quite by coincidence, I found myself on the cusp of a major change in cassette deck technology and I wanted to ride that tech wave to my living room. The change was the move from the classic piano key-style interface to touch-key control. I was thus balancing on the very tip of the cutting edge and loved every moment.

I chose the front-loading JVC KD-A33. This silver beauty was a full logic, twin head machine with twin VU meters, JVC’s own ANRS noise reduction, built-in headphone amplifier, a couple of mic ports (which I never used), a mechanical door eject and wonderfully clunky toggle switches to select the tape variants and inputs. 

I adored it. One day, I will buy another. One that works. Just for old time’s sake. It was ideal to make copies of vinyl albums to share with friends and play those copies that friends made for me.


I had been impressed by the reviews of recent speakers by Wharfedale. But what type to grab? Money was the issue here. I had had my eyes on a pair of Dentons (which are around £50. £53?) but I wondered. Could I possibly? Could I wangle a pair of Sheltons for £65? Next up from the Sheltons were the Lintons which were priced at just silly money. I had no chance of those at £80. Not a chance. 


I tried asking my parents for the Sheltons and incredibly they nodded (with tears streaming down their wallet and purse). 

The Shelton was part of the company’s XP2 range and would, I strongly suspect, be completely outclassed nowadays but back then they had a great ‘tone’. I thought they were absolutely terrific back then. 


More than that, I loved the weird blue-coloured tweeter the company used and the wood veneer cabinet.

The only issue I had with the Sheltons was this: I thought I could sing like Jon Anderson from the prog band, Yes.

When both my parents were out at work on Saturdays, I would crank up the volume to 11 and sing my heart out to Yes’ debut album. Annoying neighbours, scaring their children and triggering the howling of dogs. 


I also blew my tweeters on two separate occasions. No couriers back then so my Dad and I took them to the railway station, they were weighed by the Post Office on absolutely gigantic scales and shipped via a train to Wharfedale for repair. Which took ages to return back to my impatient ears.

My Dad was a patient man.


The HiFi magazines said that the NAD 3020 was the best budget amplifier on the planet and I needed to buy one of those. Every reader who asked about buying advice in the Letters page was advised to buy a NAD 3020. Even if they didn’t want to buy an amplifier. Even if someone asked these HiFi magazines, “What time is it please, Mr Editor?” “Go and buy a NAD 3020,” was the reply. That’s how it was back then. 


Trouble was, my parents couldn’t afford one. 

So I had to put my thinking cap on. I had to do more research. I had to find a NAD-a-like. And I did. It was created by a company called Denyo. A company who also produced a tuner. That was it. That was the range. 

This was a company who promptly disappeared (at least in HiFi terms) soon afterwards and it’s a company I knew little about back then and still know little about now. In fact, if anyone out there can tell my about Denyo, I’d love to hear more. The only Denyo I’m aware of is a Japanese industrial company but I’ve no idea if they were one and the same. 


Finding images of the Denyo amp was pretty tough

The unit I had was called an AU-3000M. Mine was in black but I’ve seen one example in silver on the Internet but nowhere else. 

This was a beautifully big, chunky, metallic and yes, industrial amplifier punching out 35W (so memory tells me, at least the black variant offered that) and was resplendent with similarly chunky knobs, toggle switches and VU meters. And the HiFi magazines seemed to like it because it received good reviews from the staff who referred to it as a poor-man’s NAD 3020.

That would do for me because, oddly enough, I was a poor man. And again, I loved it. I never regretted grabbing one. NAD who?


Back then, you would think of turntables and the word ‘Technics’ would pop up at some point. 

According to my hallowed collection of HiFi magazines, I really should have been buying a Linn Sondek but that was just fairy tale talk to a young man who was currently in the process of begging for a HiFi system from his parents. Parents who spent most of their lives struggling to pay the bills, never mind indulge in technology they couldn’t afford. So no. 


Rega Planar 2

Apart from that, even so-called budget turntables of the day were just way too expensive. Even a 1977-era Rega Planar 2 back then was way out of my league. 

Today’s whippersnappers really don’t appreciate how lucky they are to have such a wealth of choice in budget turntable terms. Back then? Well, thank goodness for the likes of Technics, that’s all I can say. I did muse upon Dual – incidentally – but I think even that was slightly out of reach too. 

Technics’ low-cost turntables were not amazing. They wouldn’t blow your socks off in sonic terms. They did a job, though. They got you going. They were of a good standard. Not amazing but good. They were solid, they sounded decent and they could be upgraded to enhance their basic sound output. 


Technics enabled me to get up and running. To get into HiFi. To play my vinyl. They were my entry point and I’ll always be grateful to them for providing a suite of turntable designs that allowed that entry. 

I grabbed the best I – or rather my Ma and Pa – could afford. I grabbed a Technics SL-B2 belt driven turntable. Twin speed, strobe light, composite materials around the plinth, rubber mat, S-shaped tonearm, SME-style headshell. I think it used a DC motor and electronic speed controls. 

Again, I fell in love with the SL-B2. It served me well and provided sterling service.


In fact, this entire HiFi system (blown tweeters apart) provided solid and sterling service for many years. I thought it sounded great, thoroughly enjoyed myself and then did what all HiFi owners should do at that point. I forgot the HiFi and concentrated on the music.


OK, I did tweak a bit. I eventually upgraded my cartridge to a Grado, although I can’t remember what it was. A ‘G’ series, perhaps?

Oh how I remember drowning in HiFi and music back then. Then there were those Sundays when my mum and dad would shout to me from the sofa, “So, can we hear some Neil Diamond then? On our HiFi?”  

“Eh, what? Your hif…? Oh yes. Hehe. Right. Sure. I’ll sort that now.” 

After a quick burst of Sweet Caroline it was back to Genesis and Foxtrot, Relayer from Yes, Human League’s Travelogue and Kraftwerk’s Computer World. 

I tell you what folks, back then? With my HiFi and my music? Life was good. 

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