In the beginning

My earliest tinkering memory is having a Sony Walkman cassette player whose headphones I broke accidentally. A speaker had snapped off the headband, along with the speaker wires. I found that if I touched certain parts of the back of the driver with those wires, it would still work. I broke the other speaker off the headband, taped the wires to the rear of the driver, and taped the speakers to my bed post. I now had working speakers attached to my bed. So badass.

I must have been like 9 or 10.

In college I once overclocked an Apple eMac by switching some resistors around on the logic board. It involved a lot of work – those things were not easy to open up and then I had to desolder SMD resistors. I had zero (and still do not have any) Electrical Engineering training so I was operating on 2000-era pictures from a random Mac user forum for what to do. I think it was the first time I’d used a solder iron. Still had no idea how or why I was doing what I was doing, only that it’d supposedly overclock the eMac and if I could get moar power, I should do it. After finishing and putting it back together again, the eMac powered on, was slightly overclocked, and I felt accomplished.

This is the kind of person I am.

I think it was 6 years ago I was walking through my local Frys Electronics and saw one of those “build a stereo amplifier for like $10” kits. I’m still not quite sure why I bought it. I did own a soldering iron that I’d used to fix a 3.5mm cable for a pair of headphones. It was also a cheap-o crap Frys $5 one. I must have needed a small desk sized amplifier to power some cheap speakers and thought that if I bought a cheap DIY kit, it’d be the least expensive way to power them. It’s all a bit hazy, but that’s my recollection. LOL is probably the best explanation.

I brought it home, tore it open and started solding the maybe 10 parts in occordance to the pictures on the included photo copied piece of paper. I plugged it in to a few AC/DC adapters I had laying around. Luckily I didn’t try an AC/AC adapter, not that I’d have known the difference. Finally, the little LED light I had soldered on the board lit up red. Holy crap. Music also played when I hooked up the speakers. Double holy crap. I made something that made music.

At that time I did have a modest collection of headphones. Nothing super crazy, but I believe I had a pair of Audio Technica AD500X cans and a small Fiio e10k dac/amp. Around the same time I somehow stumbled upon Z-Reviews and thought that whole world was interesting. I didn’t really know that actually building things that didn’t come in small baggies from Frys was really a thing people did, but I did have my feet ever so slightly in the headphone game and had just “built” an amplifier.

That’s the beginning of my journey in to DIY audio. I knew nothing. Nothing about AC or DC or capacitance or resistance or slew rates or impedance or CLC filters or how the hell to use a drill press. But, that dumb little stereo amplifier that distorted once you pushed it past 1 o’clock and barely powered those Goodwill Sony Speakers sparked something inside me. Audio gear syndrome had started to take some sort of shape as well. I suppose that on some level I understood I could combine my love of music with my obsession with thing tinkering.