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Jeff checking in: What was, what is, and what is to come!

11-12-2021 | By Jeff Day |

Greetings friends, I hope you are doing well.

I always get retrospective in the closing months of a year, looking to the past, and giving consideration to where I'm at in life, while I try to 'crystal ball' my best guess for what the future holds. 

There's been so much change in my life over the last few years that it is rather astonishing to me. Like most people, the last few years have been a mix of agony & ecstasy, and I've been doing my best to roll with the changes that life has brought my way.

What Was

My last few years of life in a nutshell: working for a living, retiring from working, and then the coronavirus pandemic started. 

Energy Secretary Rick Perry giving us an award for our Belle II detector system project at KEK in Japan.

In some ways it doesn't seem so long ago that I was working for a living, back in 2017, but the time has flown by since I retired in January of 2018. I was fortunate to work with a fine group of people, who I still stay in touch with, but I don't miss working one bit.

My advice, if possible, is to retire as soon as you can and enjoy what life you have left, unless you are one of those people who love what you do for a living, then by all means, keep at it!

My Father, Jack, was one of those people who loved his work, and worked in his small business until age 76 before retiring. He probably would have kept going, but Mom said, "Enough is enough, retire!" So he did.

In the first two years of my retirement, 2018 and 2019, my primary focus was looking after my Mom, who was in assisted living near me.

Mom, Dad, and Jeff.

Then the worldwide coronavirus pandemic started in 2020. I caught it, survived, and kept going.

Life changed for everyone during 2020. Almost everyone knew someone who became infected or died from coronavirus, lots of people worked from home as a public health measure, a fair number of small businesses went bust, wearing masks and social distancing became the norm, and there was virtually no travel taking place.

Social isolation became the norm for many people, and to combat social isolation people engaged in retail therapy, and they bought homes, cars, motorbikes, consumer goods, including hifi components, at an unprecedented rate. 

Particularly towards the end of 2020 sales boomed, and many manufacturers of consumer goods sold out their inventory, and could not fill orders due to a lack of production staff, a lack of microchips, and supply chain woes that engulfed Planet Earth.

What Is

My 2021 started out with Mom passing away at age 95, on January 1st, just weeks shy of her 96th birthday, which was a very sad and difficult time for me. Dad passed away five years prior.

I still get very sentimental when I think about Mom and Dad, who are both gone now. Treasure your parents while you can, they won't be with you forever. 

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic continued into 2021. There was a glimmer of hope appearing on the horizon with vaccines becoming available, and a slight majority of people have become vaccinated in many places.

The need to wear masks and social distancing was still the norm for enclosed spaces, but one could get out of doors and ditch the masks for activities like cycling, motorbiking, and of course those sorts of industries boomed in sales ... until they ran out of inventory. 

Hifi gear sales also boomed, with people wanting to listen to music while they were spending more time at home, with the same result of selling out of inventory and not being able to replenish it due to slowdowns in manufacturing due to worker shortages or other limitations, and supply chain issues that worsened due to lack of adequate staffing to keep supplies moving. 

Travel became a little more doable on a national basis, but international travel is still not much of an option for most people and destinations. Smaller social events became possible, lessening the social isolation.

Ron, Leo, Chad, Santos, and myself all having a good time at Jeff's Place.

I was able to get together with a few fully vaccinated hifi friends on occasion, but for the most part hifi get togethers and listening sessions were a thing of the past. I was able to get in a few lunches with friends, until the next wave of the pandemic hit, and I haven't done much since then. I was able to get out and do quite a bit of bicycling locally, which always put me in a good mood. 

Guitar lessons with David Gitlen. Sadowsky 'Jim Hall tribute' archtop jazz guitar.

One of the really nice things that developed in 2021 was that David Gitlen, a superb jazz guitarist and friend, was able to come over to my place to give me jazz guitar lessons, while the music stores were still shut down.

It turned into a fun time of socializing each week for us both. David teaches me a lesson each week, then we follow that by listening to a couple of jazz guitar albums on the hifi, that David brings along. I have learned a lot from David, and really enjoy his visits. David has taught me so much about jazz guitar, and introduced me to so many great jazz guitar albums!

I tried to buy a new bicycle I had my eye on. Sold out. I tried to buy a new car I had my eye on. Sold out.

Jeff Day and his new BMW R1250 GS Adventure.

They were very hard to come by with booming motorbike sales, but I was able to buy a nice shiny new 2021 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure motorbike to get out and do some exploring, which has been a lot of fun. 

Jeff Frey and his new BMW F 850 GS Adventure motorbike.

The BMW motorbike purchase all started when my friend Jeff Frey brought over his new BMW F 850 GS Adventure, and I it reignited my desire for boxer-style BMW, which I'd wanted since I was a kid.

My R 1250 GS Adventure on the Waterville Plateau of Washington State, with 'haystack rocks' in the background.

Stopping in to visit Chad at his cabins on Lake Chelan. The BMWs waiting to go for a spin.

Jeff and I get out for some adventures on our bikes whenever we can, and that helps scratch the travel itch a bit.

I actually got quite a bit of hifi writing done in 2021, to date I've written forty-seven posts (!) for Jeff's Place so far in 2021, and nine-hundred-seventy-six posts since I started Jeff's Place!  

I've written five feature articles for Positive Feedback, so far in 2021, and forty-six feature articles since I started writing for Positive Feedback

I sure have enjoyed writing for all of you here at Jeff's Place and Positive Feedback, and there's lots more to come in 2021 and beyond!

Pass Labs XP-17 phono preamplifier.

In February I wrote The Pass Labs XP-17 Phono Preamplifier: Wayne’s World! (HERE) The XP-17 is a superb phono stage by any measure, and it remains in my audio stable as my reference solid-state phono preamp.

Sophia Electric mesh plate 45 vacuum tube.

Sophia Electric Aqua 274B rectifier.

In May I wrote The Art of Vacuum Tubes: Sophia Electric 45 Mesh Plate Triodes and Aqua 274B Rectifier! (HERE) Whenever I want some new stock vacuum tubes I always go to Richard and Sue at Sophia Electric, as Richard does a superb job of voicing his tube designs to have an artful combination of musicality and high-performance sound quality, and both the Sophia Electric 45 mesh plate and Aqua 274B rectifier were 'knock it out of the ballpark home runs' for my tastes, and continue to reliably accumulate hours and make beautiful music.

The Triode Lab 45 EVO integrated SET amplifier.

In June I wrote The Triode Lab 45 EVO Single-Ended-Triode Integrated Amplifier: The Evolution of the First Watt! (HERE). The 45 EVO from Frank at Triode Labs remains my favorite amplifier for my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers, and remains as my reference SET amplifier. The 45 EVO is so good it's scary! Beautiful tonality, remarkable resolution, bass to die for, astonishing dynamics, superb musicality, unparalleled sound quality, and it drives my Westminsters with ease, which a lot of amps that are ten times more powerful can't do as easily. I love the 45 EVO.

Audio Note (UK) Io I moving coil phonograph cartridge.

Audio Note (UK) AN-S4 step-up transformer (SUT).

In July I wrote The Audio Note (UK) Io I MC Phono Cartridge, AN-S4 Step-Up Transformer, AN-V Silver Interconnects, and AN-SPe Silver Loudspeaker Cables: An 'Out of this World' Listening Experience! (HERE) The Audio Note (UK) analog front end pretty much blew my mind with how good it played music, and how extraordinary it sounded, when playing records. This combination of Io I MC phono cartridge, AN-S4 SUT, and silver cables remains as my reference for vinyl playback on my trusty CTC Garrard 301 turntable.

First Watt F8 amplifier.

In August I wrote The New First Watt F8 Stereo Amplifier from Nelson Pass: Time Travel In a Black Box! (HERE). Nelson Pass has figured out how distill particular emotional elements into his First Watt designs. While being black boxes on the exterior, on the inside they bloom with color and life. In the First Watt SIT-3 Nelson figured out how to incorporate emotional elements into its circuitry that evoke the beauty of music, and in the new First Watt F8 Nelson figured out how to incorporate emotional elements into its circuitry that evoke the drama of music. Nelson's First Watt designs are really something, and if you haven't listened to a First Watt amp yet you should do so!

What Is To Come

I'm I am putting the final touches on my next feature article for Positive Feedback about the Leben HiFi Stereo Company's CS-300F integrated amplifier.

Leben Hi-Fi Stereo Company CS-300F integrated amplifier.

As is my custom, I'll be post a 'sneak peek' about the feature article this weekend, with the full article to be published at Positive Feedback in the near future. ('Sneak peek' live HERE now.)

Triode Lab 2A3 RS-R mono-blocks.

I started looking through my review queue, and next up will be the Triode Lab 2A3 RS-R mono block amplifiers from Frank. Frank tells me they are really, really, good, and he thinks I might even like them more than the EVO 45. After living with the Triode Lab 45 EVO I have no doubt the 2A3 RS-R mono block amplifiers will be brilliant, and I'll be telling you all about them in a feature review for Positive Feedback early in 2022.

Guilty Pleasure Triode 845 SET stereo integrated amp.

I got a request from Pete Riggle (Pete Riggle Audio Engineering) to write about his Guilty Pleasure Triode 845 SET stereo integrated amplifier for you. I've heard Pete's amp before and it sounds great. I haven't seen Pete in a few years due to the pandemic, but the last time I listened to Pete's audio system it sounded fantastic, and Pete consistently has one of the best sounding systems around for my tastes. Check out Pete's webpage, or drop Pete a note for more info about his Guilty Pleasure 845 SET integrated amp.

Unfortunately, I may not be able to write about Pete's amp for you unless a schedule slot opens up. As I explained to Pete, requests for writing about hifi kit have gone up exponentially during the pandemic.

With so many people working from home who want to buy audio kit, I get a constant barrage of writing requests from manufacturers who want to capitalize on that situation.

I had to shut down taking new writing requests in January of 2021 when my mom passed away. I've just been overwhelmed with requests that I can't accommodate, and am already booked up all the way through Q1 of 2023.

My apologies to those who I haven't been able to work into the schedule, but like I tell everyone, check back with me in a few months in case a slot opens up, because unanticipated stuff happens.

There will be lots of cool hifi gear to tell you about in 2022 from Pass Labs, Audio Note (UK), and others, that I'll be mentioning in my Today's Fresh Catch posts as they arrive here at Jeff's Place, so stay tuned for those announcements.

Experiencing Gigli with Quality Audio, by Paul James.

I've also got some exciting books to tell you about in the future as well.

The first is by Paul James, Experiencing Gigli with Quality Audio, from Cambridge Scholars Publishing (which you can buy from Amazon at the link). It's a spendy book, but also a beautifully produced book, and I'll be telling you all about it in the future. 

From the bio: "Paul James is an independent researcher, and holds an MA in Philosophy from Deakin University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of New England, Australia. His interests include music hi-fi, wellness, wisdom and sports cars. In collaboration with Falls Audio, he has conducted numerous experiments into achieving hi Fidelity reproduction of music at the highest level. He uses a number of bespoke audio designs in his own system, including a 205d-based line stage and an LCR phono stage."

Paul James at Jeff's Place

I really enjoy listening to Gigli, and Paul James is a terrific gentleman, who you might remember from his visit to Jeff's Place a few years back, where Doc Leo and I spent some time with Paul during his music inspired travel adventures in the USA. Paul's book is on my reading list, so more to come!

The Perfect Sound by Garrett Hongo.

The second book I want to tell you about is by poet, Garrett Hongo, The Perfect Sound (also available at Amazon at the link). Garrett is going to send me a copy to read and tell you about, so stay tuned for that.

About Garrett (from Wikipedia):

"Garrett Kaoru Hongo is a Yonsei, fourth-generation Japanese American academic and poet. His work draws on Japanese American history and his own experiences. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The River of Heaven."

Garrett and I have been corresponding for years, but in fact we have never met in person. We'll have to do that. I may have to get on the BMW motorbike and spin by Garrett's place for some hifi fun in 2022!

From the Kirkus review of The Perfect Sound:

" The music of a poet’s life. Hongo, a professor of arts and sciences at the University of Oregon, recounts his life through his evolving love of music and his obsession with the audio equipment he lusted after in order to get the precise sound he desired. Fifteen years ago, he recalls, when a CD player broke, he asked a friend’s advice about getting a replacement. With a newfound passion for opera, he was particularly interested in finding the best sound quality for that art form. What he discovered was a world of possibilities that honed his ear and his taste. He looked first for “romance and warmth,” then “refinement and tonal purity,” and, later—as he learned the esoteric jargon of audiophiles—“soundstaging, air, and bloom.” As the author notes, “stereo sound can be so compelling it displaces the real and captures your soul.” A Hawaii-born Japanese American, Hongo moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was 6 and grew up in a house surrounded with music. He began collecting LPs and 45s as a teenager, listening to folk, rock, and, in high school, rhythm and blues, introduced to him by his Black classmates. Music throbs in the background throughout this spirited memoir, as Hongo remembers his teenage friendships and crushes, experience of racial discrimination from his peers, love affairs, travel, and mentors—poet Cid Corman, for one, whom he met in Kyoto in 1973. The author pays tribute to his late father, who himself built, tested, and traded audio equipment, and his laconic teacher Charles Wright, whose records he listened to when he housesat. Hongo imbues the book with the “churning waves of new, confusing terminology” that he learned as he searched for equipment—technical terms that may be daunting to general readers. Along the way, the author offers a history of the invention of the vacuum tube, amplifiers, and the various permutations of the phonograph. A memoir of self-discovery via homage to the richness of sound." 

Ishimi-san, Jeff-san, Yazaki-san at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.

I have received another article from our friend, Yazaki-san, My Adventure with My Old Marantz Model 7, Part 10, which I will be publishing as soon as a break opens in my writing schedule.

Yazaki-san's articles are always amazing to read for their depth of insight and innovative ideas. Yazaki-san tells me that this is a rather long article, as he has a lot to tell us about his new discoveries, so I may publish it in two parts. 

Many thanks to Yazaki-san for taking time to write up his insights and to share them with us. I'm really looking forward to reading his latest article!

As we're heading into the holidays and the new year, reflecting on the past, present, and future always stirs me to be thankful.

Thankful for friends and family. Thankful for all of you reading this. Thankful for all those in the audio industry who make it possible for me to write for you, like Peter Qvortrup, Nelson Pass, Wayne Colburn, Bryan Stanton, Frank Ng, Frederik Carøe, Yoshi Hontani, Yazaki-san, Richard and Sue Wugang, and many others, and of course thankful for our esteemed Positive Feedback Editors, Dave Clark and David Robinson who allow me to share my scribbles with you. 

I am also thankful to have survived another year, so it seems appropriate to celebrate survival!

Wishing you all the best, and thanks for stopping by. May the tone be with you!

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