Music has always been a big part if not primary focus of my life. Though my parents were not musicians, us children always had music in the house and my sister eventually became an opera singer. My father and mother were past competitive swing dancers. This resulted in a lot of big band Jazz in the Parks household. Some of the music I was thus exposed to was by Count Basie, Jimmy & Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. Speaking of Benny Goodman, there's a story my father loves telling. He used to work as a ground operations supervisor for American Airlines. His primary job at Los Angeles International airport in the late 50s to early 60s was to meet all celebrities to insure they were given the star treatment. One late summer day in 1955, my father went to meet his hero Mr. Goodman at the top of the ramp as he did all of the stars of that era. When my father asked if Mr. Goodman needed anything, Benny responded: "Yeah kid, could you carry my licorice stick?"

To which my father naturally responded "yes" with unbridled enthusiasm. He was thrilled to carry Benny's clarinet. It equated to me carrying Jimmy Page's guitar. Though I will admit now that the music of my father's era was great, it is the classic Rock of the mid 70s to mid 80s where my true musical heart lives. The seventies were the years of great album rock when entire records had a theme or story to tell. For the most part, music of that time was written for music's sake. It was a time I will miss forever. Thank God we still have those recordings. Music from the classic rock era of 1975 - 1985 has transported me many times to places in my mind and imagination where books often could not. Music then as well as today has been place of solace, inspiration and imaginary transcendence to places I could never take with my mind.

Maybe that is why music and music reproduction has been so important to me? Maybe I was destined to become an audiophile? I have been an audiophile off and on since 1974 when I attempted to build a quadraphonic system with my Panasonic four-channel receiver, four Bose 301 speakers, a BIC turntable with a Grado cartridge and a Hitachi cassette deck with something called Dolby. Though the system was really rough, I was the coolest 14 year-old on the block. Since that time, my taste in music has changed somewhat. There's a newfound love for Jazz especially from the late 50s to the mid 60s - mostly Bop and Bebop, with some of my favorite artists Donald Byrd, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Lee Morgan. And though I would rather not admit it to some of my audio buddies, to this day I love to play my favorite 70s heroes like Joan Armatrading, The Allman Brothers, Boston, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, Traffic, Rush and Yes.

When I realized that my musical talent did not match my aspirations, I took my first job in an audio store in 1977. I started as a warehouse clerk in charge of keeping track of shipping and receiving and the store's repair logs. Within one year, I was a salesman on the floor, working in my dream job by selling mid-fi to high-end gear including Audio Research, Polk Audio, Allison, Genesis Physics, Tandberg, Luxman, Yamaha and a weird-looking speaker called Magnapan. I then moved to a high-volume mid-fi store for a few years before I ended up in two of the last regional high-end-only salons. I ended this career (1977-89) in high-end car audio which by 1987 just seemed like more fun. Besides, I was into fast and loud cars, probably due to being caught up in the glitz of the 80s. To this day I love fast cars as exemplified by my 170hp modified 2002 Mazda Miata LS, though I have mellowed a bit when it comes to glitz. At 43, I guess I must finally be growing up a bit - although my wife would beg to differ.

My last two years in the audio industry were a little disappointing. I just wasn't meeting my financial or emotional needs. However, I did meet my wife Denise at my last audio gig and we've been married now for over 13 years. Denise is the best thing that has ever happened to me - my love for her grows more and more each day. Back to audio. Being frustrated with in-house sales, I tried to advance to a different position within the audio industry. I tried to get hired as a sales representative for a domestic manufacturer. Though I did not secure the jobs I was interviewing for, I noticed during one of my last interviews that my interrogator was wearing a college ring. In fact, most of my interviewers were wearing college rings. Not being college-educated, I was beginning to feel I was missing out, not to mention the fact that all of my interviewers asked if I had graduated. Well, no, I hadn't. At that point, I took this as a message from the college gods and in 1989, it was back to school to earn my BA.

I graduated from San Diego State University in 1992 with a Major in Psychology and a minor in History. And yes, I did buy a college ring. I still keep it on a finger on my right hand to this day. On my other hand is my wedding band, the second very important accomplishment in my life. During my 1989 - 1992 college years and beyond, I maintained a strong interest in audio and kept up to date about what was new by reading and subscribing to at least three of the popular audio rags. From time to time, I would also help friends and acquaintances design and put together high end audio systems in their homes or automobiles.

I then bopped around in graduate school until I finally found myself as a teacher. I hold two teaching credentials, one in special ed, the other in Social Studies general education. After teaching in special education for over eight years, I decided to make a change. I am now a 7th-grade World History and Language Arts teacher for middle school students. Although they can get a little hyper at times, they are great fun to teach. Their little minds are still so very excited about school. It makes them into veritable learning sponges and teaching them into a great gig. Along with being a writer, I truly love teaching.

How did my interest in high-audio get reborn when it had fallen by the wayside into a passive observer role? In a word, Charlie! It was Charlie who rekindled my love and passion - or should I say obsession as my wife puts it? I met Charlie in the summer of 1997 while being stuck together with our last school duty of the year: High school graduation. I taught high school from August 1995 to August 2001 and have taught middle school since. During some down time at the commencement ceremony, Charlie and I got to talking about audio. Before I knew it, I was over at Charlie's home listening to Lowthers and single-ended 2A3 monos. Soon after that, my love affair with high-end audio flared up all over again. And was I ever love-struck. But this time I was on a mission - to get my own little slice of audio nirvana. Before you knew it, I had sold my sports car for $15,000 and haunted my local audio salon to assemble my piece of audio bliss.

So I want to pledge thanks to my friend Charlie. It is through him and his genuine love for high-end music reproduction systems that now, after an 8-year formal hiatus when leaving the industry as a paid professional in 1989, I have rediscovered how much fun this hobby really can be and decided to share this love with others. In October of 2002, I founded the California Audiophile Society or CAS of Southern California. Starting this club has been a blast. I have met many new friends who are as nutty about audio as I am. Through CAS and the mutual sharing of ideas, my knowledge about audio has grown immeasurably. Not only have I touched some lives, mine has been touched as well.

Since 1997, my system has morphed through several different incarnations as I continue to strive for my little turf of audio heaven. For the most part, I have been fairly fortunate with my choices as each change has improved my system to some degree or another. How do I define audio nirvana? First and foremost, when I am listening to a system, it has to involve me emotionally. If that does not happen from the word go, we're done. I have lost interest. Next, the system has to have excellent dynamic range. Again, if it fails here, we are done. Next follows soundstage - I love a huge soundstage with great depth and width that extend well beyond the speakers but creates excellent presence in the front. Last is imaging. All of the above attributes are important but would mean nothing without realistic musical imaging. When I play Diana Krall on my set, it better fool me to thinking she is singing right in front of me. When I hear Pepper Adams blowing his baritone sax, I want to hear it in all of its honking glory, not to mention hearing him breathe between the notes. I want to believe that what I am hearing is a close to the master tapes as possible. I want to be fooled so well that there is that spooky reality. If you have even jumped up or been startled due to unexpectedly realistic vocal reproduction or that of an instrument, you know what I mean. For me, that's audio nirvana.

I get very emotional when it comes to describing what I think audio nirvana is. Audio reproduction and music are an intensely involving experience. But disagreement about particulars are important. We cannot grow if we don't listen to each other's differences of opinions and learn from them. Everyone's ears hear differently, gear reacts differently in different systems, and your room has a big effect upon how your gear will sound once you get it home.

Regarding my room
Physical dimensions are 13.5' x 15.75'. The ceiling slopes from 7' during the first 1/3 of the room to 8' for the last 2/3's to the back wall. Since my sound room is on the second floor, I have added a 3/4" MDF subfloor screwed into the main joists and floorboards. The room is carpeted with premium padding and thick carpet throughout. The source gear is located on a tiled floor whose 13"x13" tiles were mudded upon a custom concrete-injected platform that was screwed into the existing subfloor.

My reference system
Sources: VPI Aries w/JMW 10.5 arm-Benz Micro Ruby 2 H cartridge; PS Audio Lambda II Special -modified; PS Audio Ultralink II -modified; Denon CDR-W 1500
Preamplifier: Audio Research SP-15 - modified
Amplifiers: Audio Research VT-110MKIII with twin Genalex NOS KT88 matched quads or the equivalent Audio Research matched quads of Svetlanas; Counterpoint NPS 100a converted into a highly modified monoblock pair by AltaVistaAudio
Speakers: Aerial 7Bs

Cables: Cardas Cross and Quadlink interconnects; Cardas Cross speaker cable; Acoustic Zen MC-2 Silver S/PDIF digital cable; PS Audio xStream Statement power cords

Accessories: PS Audio P-500 power regenerator for source gear and preamp; VPI SDS power regenerator for the Aries table; PS Audio Ultimate Outlet high-current version for the amplifier; two Townshed Seismic Sink stands; Townshed Seismic Sink for Aries; Bedini Ultra Clarifier; Shun Mook Diamond Acoustic resonators under preamp; VPI 17F vacuum record cleaning machine; 9 Bright Star Big Rocks under all gear except for VPI Aries and VT-100MKIII; Bright Star Little Rock 3 atop PS Audio Lambda II Special; 9 Bright Star Little Rock 2 on top of all gear except for VPI Aries and Audio Research VT-100MKIII; 3 Lovan Sovereign amp stands; 9 RPG Skyline diffusers; 32 RPG Melfoam diffusing/absorbing panels; 4 Echo Buster Corner Busters; set of 3 RoomLens diffusers/tuners