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Jeff checking in: Music, HiFi, and Other Stuff!

09-29-2021 | By Jeff Day |

Greetings folks, I hope you are doing well, and welcome to Jeff's Place

Other Stuff

I'll start with the other stuff.

I've been ogling new motorbikes ever since I gave away my vintage Honda CR450 cafe racer in January to a young lad and his father for a little father-son fun-time of getting it back up and running as a first bike for the lad.

Vintage Honda CR450 cafe racer.

I had let the Honda get into a sorry state of upkeep as it sat mothballed in my garage as I was taking care of my elderly parents over the last eight years. I'm hoping the Honda didn't take too much effort for them to get it up and running, and they were able to get out for some riding fun over the summer. 

I've been on two wheels for almost 60 years now, starting with bicycles, and over 50 years now on motorbikes. Once it gets in your blood you just can't seem to get away from it for long without suffering intense withdrawal symptoms.

My friend Jeff and his BMW F 850 GS Adventure - beautiful bike, Jeff!

It all started when my friend Jeff - yes, another Jeff! - stopped by to show me his new BMW F 850 GS Adventure. Beautiful motorbike!

Jeff's a longtime cyclist and motorbike rider like me, and before this new bike Jeff had the big BMW RT boxer-engined touring bike. 

Jeff encouraged me to look into one of the BMW Adventure bikes. "Adventure" bikes are kind of the SUVs of the motorbike world, and are designed to be able go everywhere over pavement and dirt, but with the emphasis being on pavement (at least that's my take on it). 

I grew up racing motocross as a lad, and raced for about 10 years. I was a pretty darn good 'expert' level local racer, and have fondly kept all my trophies to remind me of all the fun I had as a youngster racing motocross at the Owyhee Motorcycle Club racing facility just outside of Boise, Idaho.

The OMC was a great place to ride, and had a winter motocross sand track, a summer 'European' style motocross track, as well as quarter-mile and mile flat and TT tracks, respectively, so you could ride there almost year around to sharpen racing skills, and I spent a lot of time there!

Since then I've enjoyed enduro bikes for off-road use, and various street 'sport' bikes for a little pavement fun.

The 'adventure' bike category was new to me, but seemed like fun, so I followed Jeff's suggestion and starting looking at them. 

Me with my new BMW R 1250 GS Adventure!

I'd always wanted to have one of the BMW boxer engine bikes when I was a kid, so predictibly I eventually settled in on the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure after I got over the size and sticker shock (above, below).

Good lord, motorbikes have gotten big and expensive over the years! 

Jeff's BMW R1250GSA relaxing in the garage.

The BMW R 1250 GS Adventure is a beautiful bike and has a ton of features like antilock braking, electronically controlled suspension, satellite navigation system, traction control, riding modes for all sorts of conditions, heated seats & grips, and on and on!

I've been having a blast riding around locally getting used to the bike and its multitude of features, while waiting for my panniers and other adventure touring gear to arrive.

Once all my touring gear arrives I want to do some shorter one to two day touring 'adventure' rides here in Washington State before the cold weather sets in, and then going further afield next year as I expand my riding range. That's the plan. Miles of smiles!


Speaking of cooler weather, the first chill of Fall has descended on Washington State, which means hifi enthusiasts will be spending more time indoors listening to music and playing with their hifi kit. 

Audio Note (UK) Oto Phono SE Signature Integrated Amplifier and my vintage 'Stokowski' Altecs.

Every once in a while you run across amplifier-loudspeaker combinations that are just incredibly good.

Audio Note (UK) Oto Phono SE Signature integrated amplifier.

For example, the Audio Note (UK) Oto Phono SE Signature integrated amplifier (HERE) paired with my vintage 'Stokowski' Altec loudspeakers (HERE) is a mind-blowingly good combination. 

I love the Oto integrated amplifier. It sounds great, plays music extremely well, has a really nice internal phono stage, is inexpensive to keep running with fresh vacuum tubes, and has enough power for moderately-sensitive loudspeakers in the 90dB sensitivity range.

Westminster Royal SEs with the Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated amplifier.

Another fantastic combination is the Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated amplifier (HERE) with my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers (HERE). 

The Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated SET amplifier.

The Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated amplifier is an amazing amplifier if you have the loudspeakers that can handle its 2 watts of power, which are loudspeakers in the 100 dB sensitivity range and above. 

The 45 EVO's combination of sound quality and musicality is simply a level above the finest amplifiers I've heard on my Westminsters, and somewhat to my surprise it easily drives my Westminsters to live-like levels with room to spare on almost all program material.

I love the 45 EVO for its incredible sound quality and musicality, its gorgeous glowing vacuum tubes, and its beautiful Ferrari 'red' top-plate. The 45 EVO is more spendy than some tube amps to keep running due to its exotic complement of vacuum tubes, but well worth it.

The 45 EVO is so good that if you don't have loudspeakers sensitive enough for it, you might want to consider getting more sensitive loudspeakers. 

Triode Lab 2A3 RS-R mono-blocks.

A while back, Frank at Triode Labs mentioned that I should listen to his Triode Lab 2A3 RS-R mono-blocks (HERE, scroll down). 

The Triode Lab 2A3 RS-R mono-blocks utilize parallel SET 2A3 vacuum tubes for each channel to deliver 8W of output power. I can't wait to give them a listen!

Leben CS-300F.

I'll be telling you more about the Triode Lab 2A3 RS-R mono-blocks in the future, and will be writing about them after I finish the review of the Leben CS-300F, which is next in the queue for review in 2021. 

Pass Labs and First Watt!

While all the kit I've mentioned above is vacuum tube powered, I don't want to leave out the great solid-state kit I've been listening to from Pass Labs and First Watt.

Pass Labs XP-17 phono preamp and XP-12 line preamp.

Most long-time readers know that audio equipment doesn't get to stay here for reference use unless it is really, really, good, and the Pass Labs and First Watt kit are truly superb solid-state electronics. 

Pass Labs XA25 amplifier.

Whether I'm listening to the Pass Labs XA25 amp (HERE), XP-17 phono preamp (HERE), the XP-12 line preamp (HERE), or the First Watt SIT-3 (HERE) and F8 (HERE), I'm always impressed by their finely balanced combination of sound quality and musicality.

First Watt SIT-3 amplifier.

I've mentioned before that the best in solid-state electronics - like Pass Labs and First Watt - are converging in performance with the best in vacuum tube electronics.

First Watt F8 amplifier.

No longer do solid-state electronics lag behind in overall performance - particularly musicality - compared to vacuum tube hifi kit.

I love the Pass Labs and First Watt kit's canny combination of sound quality and musicality, and pretty much nothing can come close to it in terms of long-term reliability and low total ownership costs. There's also the fact that all of the Pass Labs and First Watt kit mentioned above are relatively affordable for high-performance hifi electronics, which is a real win-win for today's escalating hifi prices. 


I've got a lot to tell you about music, particularly jazz, and of course 78 transfers from the early acoustic and electric eras of recording.

But those music recommendations will have to wait for their posts in my The 78 Experience and Jazz Guitar Chronicles series, as this particular article is focused on hifi gear (and motorbikes).

Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD Player.

I've been mostly a vacuum tube and analog sort of hifi gear guy for most of my life, but the Pass Labs and First Watt kit has won me over on the solid-state front, and now the Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player has won me over on the digital front (more HERE).

The Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player plays music on a level that leaves even a classic analog guy like me impressed with its performance.

In fact, I would say that I find the Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player absolutely indispensable for exploring music from all of the recording eras.

We live in a period of time where there is an important and enormous recorded music canon available to listen to from the acoustic (1877–1925), electrical (1925–1945), magnetic (1945–1975), and digital (1975 to present) eras of our historic recorded music canon.  

My 100 year old gramophone.

As much as I enjoy listening to my Grandfather's 78 records on my 100 year old gramophone as a time-travel experience of what it was like to listen to records 100 years ago, the 78 transfers to digital are so good these days that its mind-boggling to me how much music information was in those ancient grooves.

Most people don't have dedicated systems to listen to all those formats, but fortunately for us there are enthusiast music labels that are devoted to transferring all those formats into digital, so that they can be listened to as CDs, and I recommend that if you get the chance that you listen to an Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player to hear what sort of magic it can perform on music from all those eras.

Yeah, I'm in love with the Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player, as it has been such a joy to listen to music with, whether its music from the acoustic and electrical eras, or the jazz albums that my friend and jazz musician David Gitlen and I have been listening to from the magnetic era of recording.

Jeff (left) and Santos (right) in Santos listening room.

Let me tell you about some of my buddy Santos comments, who came to visit with some delicious spirits to sample, and our listening and bs-ing session that followed. The photo above is an older photo from a previous visit by yours truly to Santos' place for a fun listening session, and a delicious dinner that Santos' wife cooked for us. Cheers!

Santos and I worked together as colleagues for a couple of decades, and we have a large Venn overlap in interests, so we always get into these great conversations about everything going on in the world, conversations that take us into rarefied territory and last until the wee hours of the morning.

While we were sampling some fine bourbon, courtesy of Santos, we were listening exclusively to CDs, as I didn't have my phono front end set up yet while I was transitioning the system for preparation of an upcoming review.

Westminster Royal SEs with the Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated amplifier and Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player.

Santos and I were listening to a simple system comprised of my Westminster Royal SEs, combined with the Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated amplifier, and the Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player. 

Santos commented that he had never heard CDs sound as good as they did with the CD 2.1, and I would have to agree. "Sounds like live music!"

We were listening to mostly jazz CDs, and they were just regular CDs, rather than audiophile reissue 'specials', and they sounded mind-blowingly good with the CD 2.1 player from Audio Note (UK).

The CD 2.1 can deliver results that are as musically enjoyable as music coming from my CTC Garrard 301 or Thorens TD-124 turntables, which are great sounding turntables. 

It's a pretty grand claim to say an audio component has been a life-changing experience, but that's what the Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player has been for me. Its opened up musical vistas that I couldn't have experienced without it in my system. 

Does it have better sound quality than my Garrard 301 or Thorens TD-124 turntables? On really good record albums from the magnetic era of recording the turntables still have a performance advantage, although in terms of sheer listening satisfaction, the gap is not as large as you might think.

The important thing is that the CD 2.1 has reinvigorated my listening sessions by opening up listening to music from our entire recorded music canon, from antiquity to the present day, and I have been having a blast listening to all kinds of 'new' music. 

I have been enjoying all kinds of 'new' music on CDs, and have been learning a lot about the strengths of each of the eras of recording. It's probably not news to you that recordings from the magnetic and digital eras of recording have the best sound quality, but it might be news that recordings from the acoustic and electrical eras typically best them in terms of the intensity of musical engagement they provide. 

It's definitely worth exploring the great musical performances from the acoustic and electrical eras of recording. You may find broadening your music listening to the acoustic and electrical eras of recording to be a life changing experience, just as I have, and that's a lot easier to do with the Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player.

The Audio Note (UK) CD 2.1x/II Level Two Red Book CD player is actually a mid-range CD player in the Audio Note (UK) CD player product line, so I can't help but wonder what one of the higher level ones can do. 

Ok, I'm running out of steam for writing, so I'll tie it off here, but I'll be back with more music, hifi, and other stuff before long!

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

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