The hunt begins. As it happens, I became friends with the inimitably talented and ceaselessly interesting Mr. Tim de Paravicini and his lovely wife Oliva. Like myself, Tim is of Italian descent (but of far nobler roots than I; he is a Baron after all) who also found himself in love with and married to a lovely Japanese woman. His story is much different than mine as he met his love while working for Luxman living in Japan. I met my wife Mayu while living in Atlanta. Tim and Oliva have been terribly sweet and caring to Mayu and I and we value their friendship dearly. Set aside for a moment Tim's status as an extraordinary electronics engineer of legend and lore and my utmost respect for his accomplishments and history. There remains still a man who is deeply interested and involved with this hobby and profession at a level difficult to keep pace with. His appetite for various subjects—cars, airplanes, weather, history, audio—is beyond voracious; and he's not one to suffer fools of any sort, be they of the foo-foo dust variety or pocket protector clan. He is a walking encyclopedia and more than willing to share his knowledge, a fact I have found myself benefiting from on several occasions.

While at the Tokyo audio show this past September, I mentioned to Tim that I was interested in chasing down the 16A. I'd seen pictures, read stories but never had a chance to hear one. He was planning a trip to Kyushu to meet some folks who might be able to demonstrate one for me; and he asked if it were possible for me to meet him down there because he'd be happy to take me along for the ride. This was an offer I couldn't refuse. So started my journey down the rabbit hole. In retrospect it strikes me how rare and special this trip was. Who from amongst my friends and colleagues could actually say they went on a road trip with Tim de Paravicini to chase down some rare Western Electric horns on the southernmost of Japan's main three islands, Kyushu? I know of none so fortunate though it's far from impossible. Tim is a generous enthusiast and his wife Oliva ever the most patient of better halves.

I arranged a flight to Fukuoka to meet them there. I would fly in the night before, stay near the Hakata Station, then show up at Fukuoka Airport the following morning. When they arrived, Tim was working on abbreviated sleep after having attended a concert in Roppongi/Tokyo the night before, then having driven from Tokyo to Nagoya the same night. It's a drive that would ordinarily take about four hours but likely took Tim, owing to his professional driving habits, closer to 3 hours. In Fukuoka he had arranged for a rental car, a Subaru wagon, which we picked up forthwith and launched onto the roads. Oliva soon left us in the capable hands of Tatsuyoshi Moriyama, he of local Moriyama-Meiboku fame and progenitor of some of the most beautiful loudspeakers I've ever seen. Meeting Moriyama-san in person was a delight. He is a gentle man as well as gentleman with whom I had been Facebook friends for a while but had not previously enjoyed the privilege of a personal encounter. For this adventure, Moriyama-san would be our gracious host, first treating us to a lunch of superbly delicious ramen (Kyushu is quite famous for it), then chaperoning us across the island from Fukuoka to Oita where we would eventually land at an ongoing meeting of horn enthusiasts listening to 78rpm records in a lovely Buddhist temple, hosted by the monk who is also the caretaker of this temple and a vintage audio enthusiast.

Here we enjoyed the beautiful renderings of many 78 rpm records, some from the acoustic recording period, others from the electrical recording period, all over a system comprised of Altec VOTT style loudspeakers, a McIntosh amp/preamp front end and an EMT record player. Whilst not the object of my pursuit, it was nevertheless musically enjoyable and helped to underscore the notion that—although recording and sound reproduction technology have advanced by leaps and bounds since the 1930s—they have not necessarily improved by much since.

This point was driven home amply when we were invited into the monk's quarters to hear a full-blown VOTT system replete with two Altec 1505Bs flanking left and right to a 1005B in the center, all atop a couple of massive bass cabs. He played some Muddy Waters through the mono (center) channel only, making it a point to say that it was the 1005B alone that was engaged. Impact, immediacy, transparency - this was more than just reproduction. This was resurrection. The man and his guitar were palpably there in the room with us, an overpowering audio experience that ordinary hifi has never seemed to deliver in my presence... and I've been doing this audiophile gig as a professional for a reasonably long time. I've heard other iterations of 1005B and 1505B, all of them impressive in their own ways, but this one seemed extraordinary by comparison. I wondered what driver he had mounted. During the demo downstairs in the temple next door, I spied an Altec 288-16H (16-ohm) driver behind the 1005B, a traditional mating, so I assumed the same would be true upstairs, but the impact and presence were wholly different.

Over the several hours we spent listening to the 78s inside the temple and then to this system in the audio lair of the monk/caretaker himself, I began to feel even more excited and anxious to hear a 16A in the flesh. As it turns out, one of the men who attended the meeting was none other than Mr. Eitsu Kiyohara who, in his own audio lair and attached to a different Buddhist temple (sensing a theme yet?), has installed a pair of 16A set up in a two-channel stereo configuration. These are original 16A of apparently a set of three, one of which was given as a gift by Mr. Kiyohara to his friend, a Mr. Fujibayashi, for installation in Mr. Fujibayashi's rather high-end Sansou Murata onsen hotel.

Though Mr. Fujibayashi has since passed on, his legacy remains in one of the most finely appointed onsen hotels I've ever had the pleasure to wander into. Within the confines of this peaceful atmosphere, we traversed a short hallway into Tan's Bar where Kiyohara-san's most generous gift, a red-painted original Western Electric 16A, hangs along one of the walls, gently breathing music into the calming atmosphere of the lounge.

We sat as a group at a cocktail table opposite the beautiful 16A, listening to some Dean Martin and Tony Bennett effortlessly flowing into the room at conversational levels. I was getting a lovely taste of what I had come searching for whilst luxuriating in the brilliant company of some extraordinary gentlemen. Though I would have liked higher levels, the rules of the room wouldn't allow for any more sound pressure than we were already enjoying. In the care of Moriyama-san, we alighted post drinks to a nearby restaurant to eat, drink and enjoy conversation. Mr. Moriyama, Tim and I then moved on to an onsen hotel in Yufuin where we had a soak and more deep conversation about music and audio. Yet my mind wandered to the promise of the next day. We would first visit Moriyama-san's shop and workshop to see and hear his remarkable creations, then later to meet at Kiyohara-san's home and bear witness to the effulgent glory of a stereo pair installation of 16A.