I grew up listening to Classical Music six days a week. On Sundays, the classical records stayed in their sleeves. Out would come Sidney Bechet, Earl Hines and Benny Goodman. In the 50s, my father had a Collaro deck and an Armstrong amplifier, with a Tannoy corner reflex cabinet speaker. In the early sixties, my father traded in the Armstrong for a Leak Stereo 30 amplifier, one of the first transistor amplifiers of note, with advertised distortion of 0.1%. Then came stereo speakers -- Wharfdale Sandwich I believe -- and eventually a B&O turntable. Not necessarily a better sound, but so much easier to use.

My grandfather sang in the Bournemouth Municipal Choir, which performed regularly with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. I remember hearing the Messiah on a number of occasions in the Winter Gardens Hall. I even tried to learn an instrument, the violin, but manual dexterity is not one of my accomplishments. To the immense delight of my teacher, I gave up. My mother played the piano and I got to know the Beethoven Sonatas as she practiced them.

So, jazz and classical aplenty, but no pop music? It was not welcome in our house - we were to be given an education in 'good music'. But under the bed covers at night, I managed to listen to a pirate radio station - Radio Luxemburg. I rigged my radio to work only as long as my hand was on a bell push. When I fell asleep, my fingers relaxed and the music stopped. My parents never knew. Or did they?

My elder brother was more overt in breaking the rules. I remember him playing "My Generation" at high volume, parroting the phrase "Hope I die before I get old" which, as you can imagine, went down very well indeed with my parents. He introduced me to Bert Jansch, Dylan, Donovan, The Stones, The Animals and John Mayall. I'm still listening to them today. In fact, I was at a Stones concert just recently.

At university, I had a Philips record player and a Sony tape recorder. I learned about a lot more classical music by borrowing from the record library. In this way, I got to know the Beethoven String Quartets and the Mahler Symphonies. In the small town where I studied, there were no symphony halls but churches with wonderful acoustics. I experienced inspiring performances of The St. Matthew Passion, the B-Minor Mass, the Dream of Gerontius, The Brahms Requiem and The Verdi Requiem. There was also a Senate House where chamber musicians and instrumental soloists would play. For my 21st birthday, I took a bunch of my friends, kicking and screaming, to a piano recital by Alfred Brendel. I had the requisite Abbey Road album too, and smatterings of Led Zeppelin, Ten Years After, Love, Cream and King Crimson.

Later I moved to Israel and lived on a kibbutz. I had graduated by then to a Thorens TD125 turntable, a Rotel 610 amplifier, an Akai tuner and my pride and joy, Spendor BC1 speakers. On Saturday afternoons, I would move my stereo out into the garden to hold a concert on the lawn, complete with large amounts of fresh watermelon in season. Each week there was a different theme, with a short introduction to the music - in Hebrew. At first just a few kibbutzniks would come, but as time passed, the concerts became more and more popular. And I blew quite a few drive units on the Spendors, which the factory was very good at replacing as fast as I could blow them. Thanks, guys.

In 1980, I moved to North America, leaving all my stereo and half of my records behind with friends to start again from scratch. My first purchase was a Linn Sondek LP12, with an Ittok and Koetsu Black Goldline. I still have these components today although the Linn has been through several upgrades and the Koetsu has been rebuilt and retipped. The rest of the system was simplicity itself - Meridian M2 active speakers with Meridian preamp. I first heard the M2s in Edinburgh, playing a radio recording of a concert I had just attended. I fell in love with them on the spot. After a few years, I traded the preamp for the newer Meridian preamp and upgraded the amplifier modules of the M2s. I loved that system. Warm and dynamic, simply amazing for the size, I think it was ten years ahead of its time. I stayed with the active speakers for a long time because I couldn't find anything to beat them. I even tried newer Meridian speakers but, in my room, wasn't happy with them. It took a long time but I finally found the wonderful and compact Proac Response 2 speakers to hear a wealth of detail missing from the M2s. There was no going back.

In the YBA Intégré, I found the perfect amplifier to feed them, with a moving magnet phono section and an outboard step-up transformer. I was very happy with this system until one day, I chanced upon a pair of Wilson Benesch Act 1 speakers in a classified ad. This was my first taste of the real high end, revealing octaves both above and below the reach of the Proacs. A year or so later, I was able to update the drive units with a new design from the Wilson Benesch factory. This made the speakers much more alive and increased the definition and bass reach at the same time. Unfortunately, the YBA Intégré was not an ideal match for these current-hungry speakers. It gave way to the Plinius 8150 integrated amp, later updated to 8200 specs. The Plinius drives these exotic speakers very well. I like a forward and dynamic sound, so the next addition, after trying many different players, was a Krell KAV 300CD. I bought this when it first came out. It wasn't until last year that I found significantly better CD sound at a reasonable price, with what I think of as a number of interesting machines. The one occupying my shelf at present is the latest incarnation of the Gamut CD1. This carries all the punch of the Krell and a lot more detail and top end extension to boot.

Now I love the classics as much as ever, but my taste has expanded. I'm interested in medieval music and Shostakovitch and Prokofieff. Jazz for me used to stop in about 1945 - now I love Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. And I've moved into Cuban music and Tango, African music and Folk, Blues, Klezmer and Zydeco. I find good music everywhere and I'm quite partial to a lot of music my kids listen to.

I listen everywhere: In the car, at the gym, at home, at concerts. And being technically minded, I'm passionate about HiFi for the sound and for its own sake. I am most interested in simplicity of design, economy of size. I love to see beautiful materials and shapes. I want the hardware to be elegant and small, not just so that my wife will allow it in the house, but because that's my style, too. So you find an integrated amp in my system, not a pre/power combination. A turntable with a 30 lbs platter? Not for me. The timeless Linn Sondek LP12, now 22 years old, is still going strong.

The most unusual component in my system is the custom-designed enclosure above. Built in three sections, with the outer wings angled to break up standing waves while comprised of many narrow shelves to hold CDs and lower-level drawers to hold tapes, the unit is made of solid Cherry, Walnut and Mahogany. The central section has a number of shelves to support the components, with a trick shelf about 4 foot from the floor. Said shelf is in fact a Target wall mounted stand which doesn't touch the unit itself although it looks part of the unit. This shelf holds the Linn Sondek and allows us to dance in the room without affecting the turntable's tracking despite our sprung floorboards. Gary DiTomasso of Design Progression designed and built this beautiful unit.

It is not easy to find an integrated amplifier that's capable of driving the Wilson Benesch Act 1 speakers flanking and matching the wall unit. I've had good luck with the Plinius 8200, with the Perreaux R200i also up to the task. The lovely YBA Intégré DT struggles a little at the frequency extremes. Other interesting units like the Mark Levinson 383 and Rowland Concentra are too deep to fit comfortably.

The Gamut CD1S is presently the main source though I will be auditioning some high resolution digital sources shortly. When the rest of the family needs peace and quiet, I switch to AKG K1000 headphones. These phones need to be driven directly from the speaker outlets of an amplifier.

The Perreaux R200i's remote has a button to switch the B speakers on or off. I've connected the B binding posts to my loudspeakers, the A terminals to the headphones. The remote button toggles the speakers on and off while the headphones remain permanently connected. All cabling is by Cardas.

I'm looking for a sound that's relaxed and involving and focus on the chamber music and piano, since I prefer this music to large-scale works. I'm always trying to get closest to the sound of live music in a good hall and like to listen for long periods so an edgy sound will quickly be exposed. I don't play too many audiophile disks since few of them seem musically interesting to me. I have some personal favorites among the many musicians I have heard in concert. For the record, they are:

Pianists: Rosalind Tureck, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Artur Rubinstein, Claudio Arrau, Emil Gilels, Alfred Brendel, Murray Perahia, Earl 'Fatha' Hines.
Cellists: Pierre Fournier, Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Christophe Coin, Anner Bijlsma
String Quartets: Mosaiques, Tokyo, Tel Aviv
Conductors: Just one - Otto Klemperer.

My other interests are hi-tech and science, photography (my all-time favourite camera is the Olympus OM1), theatre and soccer. I'll watch any Law & Order episode even if I've seen it five times. I'm still listening to the Goon Show and watching Jack Benny. Favourite movies? Mona Lisa and anything with Leslie Nielson. I'm sorry, but I really can't stand Country and Western music, or Celine Dione, or Herbert Von Karajan. I guess we all have our blind spots ...

To e-mail reviewer,
click his name