Jul 172016

It’s been a crazy busy time for yours truly, with travel, work, looking after my 91-year young Mom, getting ready for some memorial services for my Dad, keeping up here at Jeff’s Place, and the like. Sometimes 24 hours in a day seems woefully insufficient.

But I wanted to check in and say, “Hi!” and tell you what’s going on, share a few tips with you, and tell you what’s coming up. First I have a couple of tips for you, the first being a tip from Pete Riggle:

Mister and records brush.

Pete’s tip: plant mister and record brush.

In the photo above you see a plastic bottle I use for misting plants, and my Audioquest record brush.

Tip # 1 courtesy of Pete Riggle:

The last time I was over at Pete Riggles’s to listen to his Altec Lansing A7 Voice of the Theatre project with his Hiraga-san inspired crossovers (Pete’s A7’s were sounding magnificent during my visit, by the way), I saw Pete hold a plant mister in one hand and squirt a mist in the air, then with a record brush in the other hand, Pete let the mist fall down through the air upon his record brush.

Then Pete ran the brush over the spinning record on his Thorens TD124 turntable. The tiny bit of moisture picked up on the record brush’s fibers from the mist pulled the dust of his record like magic.

As soon as I got home I tried the same thing with my plant mister and record brush, with the same great results. If you live in a dusty environment like I do you’ll particularly appreciate Pete’s tip, because it means you don’t have to do near as much record washing, which I always hate to do.

So thanks to Pete for the great tip on easily getting the dust off records!

Pete Riggle's Woody SPU tonearm.

Pete Riggle’s Woody SPU tonearm.

Oh, and speaking of Pete Riggle, I have become so impressed with Pete’s Woody SPU tonearm that I have decided to formally review it for Positive Feedback, so more about that in the future.

Tip # 2 courtesy of yours truly:

Here’s a second tip from yours truly, and you may find it a bit controversial, but I’ve found it to be indispensable over the last 40 years or so.

When I was a wee lad I was involved in the sport of scuba diving. I loved to go out and submerge myself into the water world and investigate it, and I found it to be a magical and exciting place!

scuba ear equalization

SCUBA ear equalization. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of the things they teach you as a scuba diver is to equalize your ears as you descend through the depths to offset the pressure increase upon your ears.

This technique also came in handy for me when I was a young lad flying my crusty old Cessna 3245J around, and I still use it when flying commercially these days. A little bit of equalization during the aircrafts descent makes your ears feel a whole lot better!

Another thing I’ve found is that by gently equalizing my ears before listening sessions greatly helps the listening experience, and if you’ve never done that it will really surprise you, I predict.

Now here’s the thing: be very careful and very gentle when equalizing your ears! If you use too much force you could actually do damage to your eardrums. Recognize that if you try this you are doing so at your own risk! Be careful!

If you are very gentle about it I think its a good thing, and I think it pays big dividends for the music lover and audiophile. I have always done it myself, for over 40 years now, and I think you’ll be surprised how much your hearing opens up in a good way.

If you have any doubts about equalizing the pressure in your ears don’t attempt it, and be very careful if you’ve never done it before. Use the least forceful method you can that will allow your ears to clear (see the wiki link above for ideas), like swallowing, yawning, or various specialist maneuvers.

I generally use the method that is most often taught to SCUBA divers, the Valsalva maneuver, which involves lightly pinching your nostrils closed with your thumb and index finger, and then gently trying to breath out through your nose.

When you do the Valsalva maneuver, “it equalizes the pressure in the middle ear with the outside pressure by letting air enter along the Eustachian tubes”.

When my Eustachian tubes open up and the pressure in my middle ear equalizes with the outside pressure I immediately notice that everything sounds louder, clearer, less muffled, less distorted, and the music just sounds better all the way around. It’s about the magnitude of difference of listening to music from another room, then going in and sitting down in the sweet spot for a listen. It’s big.

Duelund Coherent Audio DCA16GA wire

As I mentioned in my last post, the Duelund Coherent Audio DCA16GA wire will be shipping here to me at Jeff’s Place this next week, and to Parts Connexion shortly after that.

Duelund DCA16GA is ready and shipping in the next few days!

Duelund DCA16GA is ready and shipping in the next few days!

As you know, I am really excited about the DCA16GA wire, and I can’t wait to give it a listen.

Shipping my way tomorrow!

Shipping my way tomorrow!

I’m hoping the Duelund Coherent Audio DCA16GA wire is a more refined version of the fabled Western Electric WE16GA wire that has been so impressive with my Westminsters, vintage McIntosh gear, and Altec Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers.

Western Electric WE16GA wire.

Western Electric WE16GA wire.

Frederik has told me that the MSRP retail price is $12.99 USD/meter ($3.97/ft), but I understand that Parts Connexion’s standard pricing will be 15% off this or $10.99 USD/meter ($3.37/ft.), so that’s a great deal for what is essentially a custom, hand-assembled, 16 AWG tin-plated stranded copper wire made to Western Electric WE16GA specifications, with an oil impregnated cotton jacket.

Update 7/18/2016: Frederik just told me that Parts Connexion will be pricing the Duelund Coherent Audio DCA16GA wire at an introductory price of $9.95 USD per meter for the first 30 days after they receive it. Get it while you can!

I think that the DCA16GA may very well represent a refinement of the original Western Electric WE16GA wire, and I am very eager to compare the two.

I know that Frederik worked extremely hard to bring the DCA16GA in at this price level, which is about the same that I paid for the WE16GA back when you could find the real thing. Thank you, Frederik!

There is much more to come on the Duelund Coherent Audio DCA16GA!

Bumblebee’s and Jupiter Condenser Red Astron Capacitors in the vintage McIntosh MX110

As I have report earlier, the vintage Sprague Bumblebee’s have been my favorites of all the capacitors I’ve tried in my vintage McIntosh MX110Z vacuum tube tuner-preamplifier.

Vintage 0.22uF Bumblebee caps in the MX110.

Vintage 0.22uF Bumblebee caps in the MX110.

The Bumblebee’s have an extraordinary combination of sheer musical prowess and great sonics, and I love their smooth, rich, warm, and colorful, presentation, and their very ‘real’ presentation of timbral textures, not to mention that they excel at portraying the tempos, melodies, rhythm, and dynamics that give life to the music.

I’ve also found that the Bumblebee’s also flatter less than perfect recordings, allowing a lot more recordings to fall into a musical sweet spot, and they provide unparalleled emotional connection to the music.

Many modern capacitors are done audiophile-style, with peaky, hard, and exaggerated highs, which I find unpleasant. I much prefer the smooth, rich, music-lover style of highs the vintage Bumblebee’s possess.  I sure wish Sprague (or somebody else) would make an exact reproduction of the Black Beauty / Bumblebee series of capacitors for us vintage fans and music lovers.

For my tastes, there’s been no current production capacitors that can touch the Bumblebees, and oh do I wish there was! Sprague, are you listening? Please bring back an exact reproduction of the Bumblebee. 

I have continued to search for a modern production capacitor that sounds as good as a vintage Sprague Bumblebee in my MX110Z that I can recommend to you. Using 50-year old vintage Bumblebee’s, even if you can find them, can be dicey, as they often have deterioration issues that can turn your kit into a fireworks display should they misbehave. I love them, but I also recognize the risk in using them, and I’m not sure I would recommend you take that risk upon yourself.

Top to bottom: Sprague Bumblebee, Jupiter Red Astron, and AZ capacitor.

Top to bottom: Sprague Bumblebee, Jupiter Red Astron, and AZ capacitor.

When I read that the guitar guys had said the Jupiter Condenser Red Astron capacitor might be that modern day Bumblebee, with its Mylar & tinfoil construction, and its reputation for being ‘warm’, it really got my attention, and I just had to give it a try.

0.22uF Red Astron's by Jupiter Condenser in the MX110Z.

0.22uF Red Astron’s by Jupiter Condenser in the MX110Z.

So out came my soldering iron, and I extracted the vintage Bumblebee’s from my MX110Z, and in went the Red Astron’s. I’ve been listening to them for a while now, and I swear they’ve been getting better every time I listen, and I’m very impressed.

They don’t sound like the Bumblebee’s exactly, the Red Astron’s are more transparent and their high-frequencies are more extended, but they have that ‘vintage warmth’ that I crave, but in a little bit more modern sounding capacitor.

The Red Astron capacitors represent a really nice combination of musicality & sonics that I think a lot of you would enjoy, at least I do.

I’ll be looking forward to trying the Red Astron modded MX110Z with my Duelund CAST crossovered’ Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers too, which should be illuminating.

My MX110Z with the Jupiter Condenser 'Red Astron' capacitors installed - sublime!

My MX110Z with the Jupiter Condenser ‘Red Astron’ capacitors installed – sublime!

Altec A5 VOTT Project

Altec A5 VOTT Project

Since I’ve got home from England I’ve been listening exclusively to my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers project along with the Red Astron modded vintage McIntosh MX110Z, and I have been enjoying it immensely.

The Yazaki-san modified Hiraga-san inspired crossovers are coming along very nicely, and are sounding very musical right now.

MX110Z with A5 VOTTs

MX110Z with A5 VOTTs

This combination is so musical that I’m just going through jazz album after jazz album, immersing myself in the musical experience. It’s a luxurious and sensual musical experience for sure!

I’ve got some more exciting news to share with you about the A5 VOTT project crossovers, but I have to wait for a bit to tell you about it, so there is more coming on that front soon I hope!

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

 Posted by at 1:24 pm

  9 Responses to “Jeff checking in … 2 tips, DCA16GA update, Bumblebees & Red Astrons, and the A5 VOTTs!”

  1. thank you for the tips Jeff,
    i have now also a plant mister and it works great!

  2. Hi Jeff, Nice write up of current events. I am so pleased that you passed on the mister tip. I learned it from a friend who got it from some guys in Portland OR, sometime around 1979.


    • Howdy Pido,

      Thanks for the kind words, appreciated! That’s a great tip, Pete, and I love it, it’s made a real meaningful difference for me with my ‘dusty’ LPs!

      Kind regards,


  3. Hello Jeff-san,

    I’m eager to read your impressions on Dueland’s new WE-inspired speaker cables.. The pricing is attractive indeed. I hope they extend the promo pricing for at least another 30 days.

    I really like the tone and natural detail of Tin Foil PIO from Ampohm UK. Sadly, they are not made anymore since Ampohm closed shop a few years ago.

    BTW, here’s a recent post by Joe Roberts re: the Hiraga XO..


    Kind regards,

    • Howdy Rick!

      I’m slow answering my mail lately, sorry about that. I’ve been listening to the Duelund DCA16GA wire as speaker cables now for two days, and they are killing it! They sound great musically & sonically, and they haven’t even run-in yet. A good sign!

      I’m becoming convinced there’s something very special about the properties of tin for audio. It seems like every time I try something with tin in it the music just flows. I’d love to try those Ampohm tin-foil PIO’s one of these. The Jupiter tin-foil caps are really good, and I’m really liking them in my MX110.

      Thanks for the Joe Roberts link, I shall check it out! 🙂

      Kind regards,


  4. Hello Jeff,

    I just acquired my very first piece of vintage McIntosh tube equipment; the MC240. I’ve been a reader of your blog for a while and have followed your experiences with the MC30’s and MX110. What an amazing journey!

    I’m curious to know if you’ve ever tried (or considered) the Red Astrons capacitors as a replacement for the bumblebee capacitors in McIntosh amplifiers? I ask because my understanding is the bumblebees are prone to failure, so it is recommended that they be replaced. Does this match with your experience?

    I’m curious to try them in my MC240.



    • Hi Anthony,

      I just updated the power supply capacitors and bias circuit in my MC240. I decided to leave the Bumblebee caps along with the Sprague Black Beauty caps. I checked them and they are fine. I am sure there are some Mac amps whose Bumblebee caps have gone bad. The sound quality improvements with installing new bias circuit components from Jim McShane and new Authenticap power supply capacitors has brought out the best are significant. I’ve read a few audio forum posts where MC240 owners took out most of the original caps and replaced them with new Sprague Orange Drops (716P) or some other film caps, and they came away disappointed with the results.

  5. Dear Jeff,

    My first time on your blog. i wanted to salute your devotion to this hobby and/or passion. My musical taste is very close to yours, especially when it comes to Jazz. It has been difficult for me to build up my audio system, as i live in a far away island in the Indian ocean called Mauritius, where absolutely no even the slightest serious audio gear can be found.
    We are a very small group of music lovers who believe that music must be respected by reproducing it best as possible, each at our own financial level. Some of us have traveled abroad sometimes to listen to gears.
    What i do personally to choose new gear and build up, improve my system, is rely on what i believe to be genuine reviewers, i also rely on some basic knowledge, instinct, whenever possible, i dialogue with manufacturers, and then through sharing with friends, audio sessions, and education of my ears to what music sounds like. All these combined have very rarely brought deception, i guess i must rely on some luck too!!
    I recently joined the club of Tannoy Prestige owners, by acquiring the Westminster GR. I don’t know if all Westminster GR owners are happy, I know that some don’t like them at all to the point of qualifying them as useless. Such point of view is difficult to understand but again confirms the subjectivity of our world, but associated equipment, break-in, personal taste and ear education all come in as factors.
    So far, i am very happy with the Westminsters, as they keep improving with break-in and elements i put in my system. Last addition was Coincident Dragons MkII with Psvane WE211 and improved caps. They do a marvelous job, and all friends here, audiophiles and basic amateurs altogether just cant stop being mesmerized by the performance.
    The less satisfied person is me, because i am extremely difficult on sound quality and would not want to compromise on any aspect of the music reproduction. Unlike you, not just timbral listening is a priority, but everything at once!!! Want to catch the moon, yep, that’s me, and many would say; poor me. To perfectly portray the whole soundscape in all dimensions is as prime as the timbral side of the sound.
    I am considering shifting the Coincident amps to my secondary system, and replace them with some very fine and very powerful solid state ClassA with zero NF (preamp would remain tube). I am actually evaluating the new amp possibilities, and your experience would be much appreciated if you have some time to spare. I would like to know if anyone has tried that!! It seems to me that these speakers have enormous, nearly limitless potential, and although i have never seen or heard them paired with such potent yet very high quality SS amps, totally careless of their efficiency, i believe strongly that the result will be maybe closest to what i am looking and wanting to hear/achieve.

    Thanks again for all the information that you cast, with best regards,

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