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Jeff checking in ... Audio Note (UK), First Watt, Leben, Triode Lab, 78 transfers, and other stuff!

07-11-2021 | By Jeff Day |

Sometimes it seems like I am way busier as an old retired guy than when I was working full time.

The difference now is I'm busy listening to music and cool hifi gear, writing about it for Positive Feedback and Jeff's Place, learning to play jazz guitar thanks to David Gitlen, riding my bicycle, getting in a few workouts a week with weights, reading some good books, and just doing all those ordinary things of everyday life that are necessary to keep everything going smoothly.

Mind you, I'm not complaining at all, as now I am focusing on things that I really enjoy doing rather than trying to fit them in around the ol' day job, and that is a blessing that I continue to marvel at.

You have something wonderful to look forward to in your retirement years, just stay strong until those years arrive and life will be good!

Vintage Honda 450 cafe racer.

My temptation is to add yet another hobby into the mix, motorcycling. I've been racing and riding motorcycles for about 50 years now (and riding bicycles for about 59 years). I haven't had a motorbike to ride for the last few years, as my Honda cafe racer needed some TLC to get it up and running again, and I just didn't have time to give it that attention.

Instead I gave the Honda to a young lad, and he and his father are going through it to get it up and running again as a father & son project. It'll be his first motorbike. 

I really miss motorbikes being a part of my life. I'm thinking about buying another motorbike, but I wonder, when I would find the time to ride it?

My reflexes are way slower now than when I was racing motorbikes as a youngster, so the risk of splattering myself on the tarmac or dirt is something I think about now, which never even occurred to me when I was younger. One of the down sides of getting older - besides slower reflexes - is you heal a lot slower, and you don't bounce as well when you hit the ground, so you have to be a little more cautious.

Motorcycles are exciting for sure, but I have also been really excited about the hifi gear I've been listening to over the last year or so, with the added benefit of not having to worry about it breaking my bones and putting me in the hospital should I misjudge something. 

I have to pinch myself now & then to make sure I'm not dreaming, as its such a privilege to be able to listen to all this awesome hifi gear and tell you about it. I'm really thankful for that.

The Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated SET amplifier.

The Triode Lab 45 EVO SET integrated amplifier I just wrote a feature article about for Positive Feedback (HERE) is a good example of an amazing amplifier that basically does everything right, sounds gorgeous, is very musical, and is priced a lot less than a new motorbike or car.

The 45 EVO is an incredible value if you have loudspeakers that are 100dB sensitive or so, and if you don't, its worth considering ditching your loudspeakers for something the EVO's 2 watts of 45 SET power can drive. Its just that good.

Frank at Triode Lab told me I was welcome to hang onto the 45 EVO SET for a while longer (Thank you, Frank!) for some more listening adventures. So you'll be hearing more about the 45 EVO in the future. 

Audio Note (UK)!

At this very moment I am writing furiously about the almost complete Audio Note (UK) system of Peter Qvortrup's in my main music system for a Positive Feedback feature article, well except for the loudspeakers, that is.

The analog signal path goes from the Audio Note (UK) Io I MC phono cartridge to the Audio Note (UK) AN-S4 step-up transformer, through Audio Note (UK) AN-V silver interconnects to the Audio Note (UK) Oto Phono SE Signature integrated amplifier (review HERE), and then through the Audio Note (UK) AN-SPe silver loudspeaker cables to the Duelund CAST crossovers - with silver CAST high-frequency circuits - of my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers. 

System photo July 2021.

Peter talks about the design synergy that elevates system performance when using using all Audio Note (UK) components, and as I'm finding out, that's not marketing hyperbole, its just a fact. 

All the Audio Note (UK) components are designed from source to speakers to be synergistic combinations that elevates performance, and that's what I'm hearing from this combination of components.

The more Audio Note (UK) equipment I add in, the better the performance gets. What fun!

One of the nice things about Peter's approach is it takes all the guesswork out of putting a great sounding system together. All you have to do is buy Audio Note (UK) components from source to speakers and you're guaranteed to get exemplary performance that serves the music. 

Peter's home listening room.

The entry level Audio Note (UK) systems I've heard at hifi shows have all sounded great. Peter's home system with prototype and top-of-the-line Audio Note (UK) components sounded fantastic, and the mid-level Audio Note (UK) system I'm listening to now is extremely impressive as well. The synergy is real.

Peter Qvortrup (Audio Note (UK)) in his home listening room.

Every once in a while in life you meet someone that changes the way you think about the world. Peter Qvortrup is one of those people in my life.

Little did I know that when I was sitting in Peter's listening room, sipping some single malts with Peter, and listening to 78 record transfers to CD from the acoustic and electric eras of the recording arts, that my life was about to change in a very positive way. 

Peter's 78 transfers to CD-R.

I didn't know then that many of the greatest musical performances ever recorded were done during the acoustic (1877-1925) and electric (1925-1945) eras of recording. 

Since visiting Peter I have been exploring 78 transfers to CD and have gotten hooked on them.

It turns out that 78s are the SET amplifiers of the recording arts, so to speak, as they have a beguiling musicality that you just have to experience to understand how important they are as part of our recorded music canon.

Fortunately, there are music lovers whose tremendous passion for the great musical performances from those early recording eras has them valiantly transferring those performances to CD for future generations to experience and enjoy before the 78 records are lost to the sands of time.  Peter is one of them. 

Alfred Cortot - Victor Recordings of 1919-1926.

I've been listening to 78 transfers to CD on the Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player (review HERE), which has opened new realms of musical enjoyment for me, and has basically changed my music listening time in a very, very, positive way. 

Some labels, like the Pearl record label, who specialized in historically important early recordings, like the Cortot performances (above), are sadly no longer with us.

Naxos CD box set of the complete Caruso performances from the acoustic era of recording.

However, all is not lost, as there are still a small number of enthusiast record labels specializing in 78 transfers to CD, about which I will be telling you more about in the near future.

As I have discussed in earlier posts, Peter is in the beginning stages of launching his own record label that focuses on 78 transfers to CDs.

Listening to those 78 performances from Peter was the 'gateway drug' that got me hooked on listening to 78s. They're really something special, and if you try them, I suspect you'll be hooked as well.

One of the current labels is the Naxos Historical record label (above), which in their own words:

"This label is devoted to keeping the great recordings of the past alive and accessible. Naxos uses the services of the finest transfer engineers, such as Mark Obert-Thorn and Ward Marston, to produce restorations of outstanding quality.  There are separate series devoted to the greatest conductors, pianists, violinists, cellists and singers of the past."

That's a treasure trove of musical performances that I intend to explore in more depth.

Nimbus Records 'Hermes' transfers from vinylite test pressings.

Then there's Nimbus Records 'Hermes' series of 78 transfers sourced from vinylite test pressings offered by the Wyastone Estate that are truly superb (above).

There's also the Nimbus 'Prima Voce' series of 78 transfers that are great fun to listen to (below).

Caruso on the Nimbus Records 'Prima Voce' transfers from 78s.

Then there's the 78 transfers to CD by the highly regarded Ward Marston of Marston Records (below).

Marston Records 78 transfers to CD.

Another gem is The Record Collector periodical which has been published since 1946, and "... has become one of the most respected journals on historic singers of the 78 rpm era and their recordings. It is essential reading for record collectors, historians and those who love great singing."

The Record Collector offers CDs of 78 transfers each year that are retrospectives of the singers who were the subjects of articles from the previous year. 

The Record Collector magazine offers 78 transfers to CD.

All of these enthusiast labels offering 78 transfers have a little different take on what a good 78 transfer is all about, but I've enjoyed every one I've listened to, so if you see them here, consider them as recommended. 

I encourage you to go out and try some of these 78 transfers to CD, and they may very well change your world view on music and audio just like they did for me. 

I'll be writing an informal survey of all the record labels offering 78 transfers mentioned above in the future, so stay tuned on that front.

The new First Watt F8 stereo amplifier from Nelson Pass. $4000 USD.

After the Audio Note (UK) feature review I'm writing now, I'll be writing the feature review of Nelson Pass' new First Watt design, the F8. 

I've been listening to the First Watt F8 for a while now, and like everything that Nelson designs, it is remarkably good.

Much more to come on the latest First Watt amplifier from Nelson Pass!

The Leben CS-300F integrated amplifier.

A bit further down the road will be a Positive Feedback feature review of the Leben CS-300F integrated amplifier.

I've been listening to the CS-300F in my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers based audio-visual system while it is getting some run-in time, and I plan on writing a 'first impressions' update about it here at Jeff's Place in the not too distant future.

Ok, well I've worn myself out writing about music and audio today, so its time to fix a little dinner and relax for a while.

My relaxation this evening will be catching up on some movies in my AV system, which is a great way to unwind from a busy day.  

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you! 

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