May 112018

I’m into my fifth month of retirement from the day job now. My internal clock is still mostly geared to the hours that I worked, up at 4:30AM, arriving at the lab at 6AM, and getting home by 4PM. I’m sleeping in later and staying up later every day, but not by much.

Even though being retired means every day is like the weekend, every Sunday I still feel like I’ll have to get up and go to work on Monday morning like always. Old habits die hard.

I’m happy to be retired and not working a day job, but I miss the swell group of people I worked with for so many years, and the mental stimulation of being around scientific research that a national laboratory provides.

I still wonder about how the Belle II high-energy physics project upgrades at KEK in Japan are going (and who will be the first Nobel recipient using Belle II’s enhanced capabilities), or how the project I worked on for a new atmospheric science research aircraft is going, or how the project I worked on for a new chemical sciences research facility is coming. All of these were exciting projects to be a part of, and I suspect one day I will hear all kinds of good news about the scientific research that these fine projects will enable.

My buddy Chad told me that it took him three full years to settle into a retired life and forget about work, and to actually feel retired. That sounds about right.

My first four months of being retired were largely a bust on the audio reviewing front. Every single project or review I had agreed to and scheduled in my queue has been significantly delayed or canceled, and I’m not always sure which as not everyone is good at communicating their intent, and that has played havoc with my queue’s scheduling.

I normally like to announce in advance the upcoming projects or reviews I’m going to be doing, but things have been so unreliable of late that I’ve decided to quit announcing them in advance, as it leaves everyone who reads Jeff’s Place wondering what’s up, and I don’t like to let you guys down when you’re expecting to read about something in the near future and it is delayed or doesn’t happen as planned.

Suffice it to say that I think there are a half dozen or more cool things coming up in my queue, but from now on you won’t hear about them until they are in my hands.

The new Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III and Carmen Mk II phonograph cartridges from Peter Ledermann.

What is in my hands right now is Peter Ledermann’s Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III and Carmen Mk II phonograph cartridges, and MMP3 Mk II phono preamp, which are receiving my full attention.

Soundsmith MMP3 Phono Preamp from Peter Ledermann.

I’ve already told you I was really impressed with the musical & sonic performance of the Carmen Mk II and Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridges on my CTC Classic 301 and Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntables, respectively.

The new Soundsmith Carmen Mk II phono cartridge on the CTC Classic 301.

Peter’s Soundsmith cartridges are unique in their high-output, fixed-coil, and moving-iron design, and they provide a powerful combination of musicality, sonic prowess, and value that is rare in today’s audio marketplace.

The new Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge on the Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124.

The path forward over the next few weeks is that I plan on telling you about listening to the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamp ($800 USD) in my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE system, the Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III phono cartridge ($1500 USD) on my CTC Classic 301 turntable, and the Soundsmith Carmen Mk II ($1000) on my Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntable.

Soundsmith MMP3 phono preamp with Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntable.

Will the solid-state Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamp perform on a level that is the equal to the vintage valve phono stage in my McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier, as it did with the valve Leben RS-30EQ phono preamp?

Vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier.

Will the Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge be as breathtakingly good on my CTC Classic 301 turntable in my Westminster based system as it was on my Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntable in my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre based system?

Classic Turntable Company Classic 301 in Artisan Fidelity plinth, with Woody SPU tonearm, Schick tonearm, and SPEC platter mat.

Will the Carmen Mk II phonograph cartridge be as impressive on my Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntable in my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre based system as it was on my CTC Classic 301 turntable in my Westminster based system?

Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 with Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge mounted on the Schick tonearm.

Stay tuned as I try each of these combinations and report back to you about the results. Then I’ll move from the first impressions phase of getting familiar with their musical & sonic performance, to the detailed analysis phase as I start writing up their formal review for Positive Feedback, which will probably be done and published by late June or early July.

I’ve got more audio goodies coming in the next few months to write about, which I shall announce upon their arrival. I’m actually pretty excited about what’s coming in for review, and I think you’ll enjoy reading about it, so stay tuned as the plot thickens!

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

 Posted by at 1:55 pm

  9 Responses to “Audio & music ramblings … and other stuff!”

  1. Jeff,

    Glad you’re adjusting to your retirement nicely! Looking forward to more of your wonderful reviews. Thanks for keeping this up for us readers, it’s a lot of fun to follow! Be well.

    • Thanks, Bobby, appreciated!

      I’m looking forward to the reviews too, it’s nice to get back in the saddle again after taking some months off from reviewing.

      Kind regards,


  2. ‘Morning Jeff,

    I pulled this LP out last night, it’s been out of rotation for quite a while, and as soon as the needle touched down I thought of you. Loads and loads of tone . . . Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars Cadillacs Etc. Etc.” Of course if you’re familiar with D. Yoakam you already know what you’re in for, lots of twang, which I LOVE.


    • Howdy Pete,

      I don’t have that particular Dwight Yoakam album, but I enjoy his music, so I’ll have to look for a copy – thanks for the tip!

      Also, on the tube rolling front, I do think that rectifiers have as big an influence on overall musical & sonic performance as power tubes do (not to mention key small signal tubes).

      For example, in my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers the Sophia Electric 274B rectifier was head & shoulders above the other rectifiers I’ve tried. Rectifiers matter.

      Kind regards,


  3. Sorry about this rather disjointed message but as I’m tube rolling this morning, I can’t help thinking about how much (it “seems” to me at least) the rectifier tube impacts what I’m hearing. As much, if not more, than dang near anything else I can put my hands on. Any thoughts?


  4. …smiling broadly…

    Jeff, indeed it will take a few years to get truly comfortable with retirement. I was genuinely blessed to be able to retire at age 54 years, 1-1/2 months, TWENTY years ago. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so used to it, not only do I NOT think on Sunday of having to go to work tomorrow, I have to THINK about about what day it is.

    But I find now that I have too many hobbies–fotografy, rifle and pistol shooting, and classical music, movies, and hi-end audio and video. But my biggest problem is that retiring has reinforced my basic laziness. Oh well…

    Question for you, and I hope I’m not getting too personal. How do you afford all those Duelund caps? I’m ‘gathering’ candidates to replace the (eight) couplers in my PS Audio BHK300 monoamps*. I already own a set of Jupiter Coppers but am also thinking about high-quality caps that are allegedly slightly ‘soft’ in the trebles rather than possibly ‘etched’. Examples of those MIGHT be the Jupiter HT Beeswax/Paper, possibly the Duelund VSF-CU, and the MultiCap RTX (‘styrene and tinfoil). Have any opinions here? (My goals in sound are HIGHEST possible resolution, and a slightly warm and pleasant tonal balance, and I’d even accept and perhaps even prefer less treble than ‘flat’ if I can get the first two.)

    Now, any way to get me a 50% discount off Parts Connexion’s Duelund’s prices? 🙂

    * Oh how I HATE the term ‘monoblock’ that AFAIK Harry Pearson coined decaes ago! If a single-channel poweramp is a monoblock, why don’t the fans of that term call stereo poweramps ‘stereoblocks’?

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      Congrats on the early retirement, even if it was twenty years ago! I think that’s the way do it if it’s at all possible. I suspect it’ll take me some time to get the hang of it completely, but it sure is nice being retired!

      My hobbies of audio, playing the guitar, writing about audio, bicycling, reading a good book now and then, cooking, taking care of my 93 year-old Mom, and an attitude of life-long learning keep me pretty well occupied, but it sure is nice just to relax and take it easy too, something I haven’t done much of for many years while working.

      I suspect the Duelund CAST tinned-copper caps are the ones you would want to be looking at for the tonal qualities you described. They are amazing caps, and they’re not overly spendy for their level of performance. If you haven’t read it already, be sure to check out the mini-review of them by Tony over at Humble Homemade HiFi.

      I was particularly gratified by Tony’s description of the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu caps, because his impressions were nearly identical to my own.

      I haven’t tried as many different caps as Tony, but I’ve tried quite a few, and I don’t think there’s anything that comes close to the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu caps, they’re so much better than any competing brand I’ve tried that I can’t even see second place in the rearview mirror!

      There’s two issues related with the Duelund CAST caps though, and that’s cost and size. If you can fit their jumbo size into the circuit they are spectacularly good.

      The cost issue is tougher. All of the Duelund CAST caps use the best available materials and are completely handmade in a very labor intensive process, so they’re going to be more expensive than other mass production caps. But it is the classic “You get what you pay for” situation with the Duelund caps.

      You’ve heard the saying “Even a blind pig sniffs out a truffle now and then.” Well, I’m the blind pig and the Duelund caps are the truffles. It turned out that way back when, after I bought my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers (which for me as a regular working class bloke were a big stretch), a number of people with Westminster’s encouraged me to try building outboard crossovers for them out of Duelund caps, resistors, and inductors, for the big performance improvement that would bring.

      Frankly, I couldn’t afford to do a crossover project with the Duelund CAST components for my Westminster’s even though I really wanted to. I dragged my feet on the idea for quite a while, until some other audio industry folks urged me to contact Frederik Carøe of Duelund Coherent Audio and see if he would like to do a joint project with me on the Westminster loudspeakers’ crossovers.

      I was a little worried about doing that, but it turned out that Frederik had always wanted to do a crossover project like that with a pair of Westminster’s, so he very graciously supplied the components for me to use in the project, and I modified my Westminster’s and built up the crossovers. The Duelund CAST crossovers were a remarkable performing success story. It was a real eye-opener for me to find out that there was such a huge difference in performance between my regular Tannoy crossovers and the crossovers I built with the Duelund CAST components.

      Occasionally, Frederik will send me some different Duelund caps to try, like with the Duelund tinned-copper prototype caps I reported about for the mod’s I did for my MX110Z, and which for me completely rewrote the book on what capacitor performance could be like.

      Frederik’s idea to make tinned-copper capacitors was absolutely brilliant, nobody has done that before, and their performance level was off the charts to such an extent it was really challenging me to articulate what they can really do, because they were so much better than anything else I’ve tried as a benchmark. I notice Tony said the same sort of thing about the Duelund tinned-copper caps. The nice thing is they are roughly the same price as the regular Duelund CAST copper caps. A win-win all the way around.

      I had been mulling over doing a crossover project with my Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers. These are historically significant loudspeakers in that they were custom made for conductor Leopold Stokowski by Altec while he was still living in New York, before he moved back to London to conclude his career.

      The components in the Stokowski A7’s are a classic combination of A7 components for that era, and Altec enclosed them in huge custom furniture grade cabinets so they would be attractive enough to be placed in Dr. Stokowski’s home.

      The level of performance these vintage Altec loudspeakers are capable of is rather amazing (and addicting), but to realize those lofty levels of performance you really have to replace their crossovers.

      So once again I contacted Frederik to see if he would be interested in partnering with me on a crossover project, this time for the A7’s. To my absolute delight Frederik said yes, and he also told me that he wanted to showcase his new line of tinned-copper components in the project.

      I am of course over the moon in excitement about this crossover project using Duelund tinned-copper components, and am eagerly looking forward to it, and kudos and a big “Thank you!” to Frederik for being willing to participate in the project.

      It has taken Frederik longer to build the components than he anticipated because of supplier delays, but hopefully that will be resolved before too long.

      I’ll be reporting every step of the way as the project goes forward, and it will be a world first project building crossovers out of Duelund tinned-copper components.

      Kind regards,


  5. Jeff, a slightly belated congratulations on your retirement.

    Maybe I was just lucky but the transition was very easy for me. Possibly that was due to two reasons. First, I had been looking forward to it for the last few years I worked. Second, I immediately busied myself in designing a new home (not working drawings, just conceptual details for each individual room, including a music room, so that a design/builder could then assemble them like building blocks for the specific chosen site) and researching areas for potential relocation. I wanted to move closer to family as well as finding someplace I liked with a lower COL than Southern California. So a couple of months after retirement I began a series of driving trips around the country exploring alternatives. Unfortunately other things came up over time and I’m still in the same location, and I can’t afford to build that home here.

    Like you mentioned, I did miss some of the social connections with work mates. But I was also fortunate to have a number of good friends near my age who were also retired or about to, so more time to get together with them. Whenever I did see any of those I worked with they invariably would ask how I enjoyed retirement. My standard reply became, “Well, every day is like a Saturday, except Home Depot is not as busy.”

    But like Jeffery, I may have also become more lazy. At least I’m not as disciplined now as when I was working. The old adage that any task will require as much time as there is to complete it can become dangerous when you no longer have hard deadlines. ;^)

    Anyway, happy tinkering, and always find time for music!

    • Thanks, Pryso, appreciated!

      I’m also finding I’m less motivated since retiring. It feels good for once not to have every minute of the day scheduled for something, and to just sort of do what I want most of the time.

      I had been thinking about moving too, but at least for the moment I’m staying put.

      Kind regards,


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