I've been interested in high-end audio since the mid 1970s, maybe even before that, certainly before anyone used the term High End Audio. This was mostly due to my love for music, and happening to have a few school friends and acquaintances who parents had really good systems. It wasn't until I was in college (starting in 1975) that I actually walked into a real high-end audio dealership. What struck me then, was how often the salesmen in the shops talked about how many of the manufacturers were really one or two guys building gear in their kitchen or garage. This was usually part of an explanation about how dedicated these guys were, how they weren't supporting a building full of employees or spending large amounts on marketing or PR. The line was usually that all the money went into R&D, and building the best product possible for the price. Of course, if the product mentioned was at another dealership, the comments about small one or two person operations weren't always so positive.
However, ever since then, I found many of the products I've really liked, one way or another, came from either one of these small businesses (often started as a hobby) or from companies that at least started that way, and grew to a larger size afterwards. Unlike some people I know who look for comfort in large companies, or fall for big advertising campaigns, I've often been willing to seek out the little guy, the tinkerer or maybe just the new guy.
And boy, does the Internet, non-existent in the good old days, make finding these small companies much easier.
And so it was through chance and circumstance (and Facebook) that I discovered ampandsound (like conrad-johnson, it apparently isn't capitalized, though they aren't totally consistent with that on their website). I found that ampsandsound founder Justin Weber and I shared several friends on Facebook, and seemed to be on the same side of a lot of non-audio related discussions. I then saw he posted photos of some very sweet looking tube amps, and after checking his Facebook page, realized that he was the builder.
Shortly after that, at THE Show Newport this past spring, visiting the Chapman Audio room, I saw that Chapman's new T-5 Custom Tribute Edition ($7495) speakers were driven by Weber's $2800-the-pair Casablanca power amps. I've always liked the sound Chapman produces at shows, but this was maybe the best I had ever heard them. Justin and I chatted, and after looking over his line, I asked if I could review the Stereo 15 Special Edition.