August 30, 2009

McIntosh, Ong Radio And Audio Perfectionist, 3 in 1 Celebrations.

Partners in high end audio, Audio Perfectionist and Mcintosh.

Sometime earlier this month, we're invited to an event that celebrates McIntosh's 60th Anniversary, Ong Radio's 50th Anniversary of distributing the brand and Audio Perfectionist's 15th Anniversary operating in Malaysia. It was a grand event for the celebrations.

The classic McIntosh 275 tube amp still available new!, amongst other modern McIntosh products.

Those attending the event(on invitational basis only) consist of many local hifi personalities and the elite sector of high society. We were not only treated to the open house of Audio Perfectionist's new showroom in Jaya 1, Petaling Jaya, but were also treated to a sumptuous buffet spread and the highlight of it was the McIntosh mini concert, held in the auditorium located conveniently next to the new showroom.

More McIntosh on display at showroom.

The system that starred in the mini concert consisted of the following McIntosh products, said to be worth RM$500K or so:

McIntosh MCD500 SACD/CD player

McIntosh C500 Pre Amp

McIntosh MC1.2KW Mono block Power Amp

McIntosh XRT1K Loudspeaker system

The Mac equipment on stage of the auditorium gig.

After the pleasantries at the start, we're first treated to some live music, vocals by a little girl followed by a classical violin act by a young boy. That followed by the full McIntosh high end experience, playing mostly well known audiophile music.

Some of the lucky folks invited fr the mini concert.

It was a fun day out, catching up with all the hifi personalities and marveling at the new cozy showroom of Audio Perfectionist.

The busy new Audio Perfectionist showroom at Jaya 1.

If you've got a thing for McIntosh hifi gear, contact Simon of Audio Perfectionist, tel: 03-79542818

August 29, 2009

A Pair of 'Cili Padi' from Jeff Rowland

The Jeff Rowland Design Group 201 monoblock sitting on top my Pass Labs, looking diminutive.

These monoblocks from Jeff Rowland are just like our local 'cili padi', small but HOT. Sound wise, that is, not temperature. :-)

I am flabbergasted. Story to come.

August 28, 2009

The Three Fairy Sisters vs The Three-Eyed Warrior

仙女三姐妹 對 二郎神
(the title in Chinese)

Big E has been hot on cables lately, I have been busy too. Those Siltech Classic Anniversary Series loudspeaker cables also spent their time at my place. But there was a slight twist, I had the JPS Superconductor 3 at the same time too.

A mutual friend texted me, when he learned that I had 3 pairs of Siltech and the JPS Labs cables, "So how is the fight between the fairy sisters and the 3-eyed warrior?". I was startled for a while, and managed to catch on to what he meant only after some long thought. Wow, when did my listening room become the battleground of these Chinese mythological characters? :-)

The macho 3-eyed warrior 二郎神

Big E's seductive heavenly fairies 仙女散花

Anyway, nicknaming the Siltechs "fairies" was apt, and calling the JPS "warrior" was apt too.

The Siltech Classic Anniversary range consisted of the 330L, 550L and 770L models. All of them exhibited unparalleled achievement in terms of refinement, smoothness, sweetness and sonic beauty in my system. It must be the magic of Siltech's use of silver-gold mix in these cables.
Siltech Classic Anniversary 550L
Actually, at this level of photo resolution, the 330L, 550L, 770L would all look the same. However, in real life, they got heavier and there were more twists in the cables as you move up the range.

I started actually with the 550L, the middle fairy sister. The most prominent impression that hit me was the highs, I never heard highs so silky smooth, so beguiling in my system ever. This was coupled with a beautiful shean in the same region, giving the sound reproduction that highend glamourous feel (chinese called it "gui qi 貴氣"). I found the highs so beautiful that my attention was invariably drawn to it, just like coming face to face with a beautiful woman - the gaze was glued to the face, the rest of it became secondary.

The 550L handled the rest of the sonic spectrums excellently too, though I felt that they did not attain the achievement of the highs. Its mid was clear and articulate, its bass was a little lighter than what I was used too, but it was well defined. Its slight lightness balanced out the bass heaviness that I suffered in my system due to my small listening space. Overall, an organic and musical presentation, absolutely beautiful with music that required sophistication and subtlety - female vocals (these played right into the Siltech's hands), small ensemble Jazz, classicals. But probably not the best choice if your music diet was rock or those slap-me-silly dynamic tracks.

I told Big E how impressed I was with the 550L. He gamely lent me the 330L, the little fairy sister, for a comparison. He has bought the pair of 330L and they were his reference now. Wow, if you love 'sweet', you'd love the 330L. They reminded me of a younger time, of my high school sweetheart - fresh-faced, pretty, clean-cut, and did I mention sweet? Again, the junior model was equally competent in the area of musicality and organic-ness - it always presented music rather than hifi sound.

I came to a different conclusion from Big E at this point. He said he preferred the 330L's musicality over the 550L's more technical achievements. I, though, preferred the 550L which I felt was no less musical (well, probably just a bit less) but also with added improvement in resolution and dynamic contrast. Bear in mind, though, that the 550L (RM17.5k) came in at almost double the price of the 330L (RM9.3k).

Then my party with the 2 fairy sisters was gate-crashed. That was the JPS Superconductor 3 loudspeaker cables that Big E wrote about before. I had not heard them and I wanted to contrast the 550L with something in the same price range, so it was just natural for me to go borrow the JPS from Centre Circle Audio. It was a CONTRAST indeed.
The JPS Labs Superconductor 3, stiff but malleable, hooked up to my EgglestonWorks.
Can you cable hold a loop like this? :-) A little too long for my place, so the Superconductor 3 was connected 'standing up'!

Let's talk about their physical attibutes first. The Siltechs had a soft and flexible body, making them very easy to route and install. The JPS was stiff (and I mean really stiff) just like a metal pipe (if I remember correctly, the cables were actually shielded inside copper pipes). They fight you during installation, you have to bend them into shape to make the connection. The fortunate part was that they would hold the shape just like a metal pipe would.

See, this JPS 3-eyed warrior's physique was 'muscular', and it was reflected in the sound too. Gone was the sweetness of the Siltechs, instead it was replaced with the feeling of energy. It was transparent but did not fully match that of the Siltech 550L, however it was a more exciting listen than the Siltech. Its bass was muscular, mid had good body and energy, the highs did lose out to the Siltechs in terms of smoothness and that sweetness thingy again, but was no less extended. Even with simple vocal music, the contrast was rather stark. With Siltech, I was beguiled and relaxed; with JPS, I was attracted by the energy displayed by the musicians and singer, the listening was exciting even. The JPS Labs Superconductor 3 also portrayed a bigger soundstage which was also slightly forward.

What the Siltech had the JPS did not. What the JPS had the Siltech did not. There was no clear winner in this situation, system matching and, probably more importantly, personal taste would play into one's decision making.

This was a problem, I wonder whether there was anything that could combine the best of both. I spoke to Big E about it and he thought the top of the line 770L would solve this dilemma, so he went to CMY to borrow a pair.

Well, you can read Big E's earlier post on the 770L. You knew he was extremely impressed, he said, "The big sister is like having both the technical superiority of the 550L and the musical presentation of the 330L in one cable! In other words, the all conquering JPS Super Conductor 3 (retailing at RM$13K+ for a 2.5m pair) is now finally being put into its place." I was equally impressed too. Yes, there was now 'beauty' and 'energy' all in one. It matched the JPS in energy level and excitement to quite a large degree, and outstripped it in transparency and sophistication. The sound was perennially glamourous, a term that Big E used which I agreed with both hands. Details, timbre accuracy, smoothness were the best among the 4 pairs of cables here.

Wow, this is what you get by almost doubling up the price paid again (RM30k)! To me, the 770L was insanely expensive and I could not afford them. But I sure admire those who could!

Now, I have to admit that I found it hard to go back to my first generation Transaparent Musicwave Ultra speaker cables, which had served me very well all these years. A few guys including Big E had a wager on, betting whether I'd succumb to the beautiful fairy sister or make friends with the macho warrior. And I was pre-warned that whichever side I came down on, the losers would beat me up.

Well, be patient, guys. You will hear about it here. :-)

Siltech is carried by CMY Audio & Visual, contact John Yew, Ph: 03-21439406

JPS Labs is carried by Center Circle Audio, contact Nelson Chia, Ph: 03-77282686

August 25, 2009

More Cable Confessions.

My last post chronicled my audio cable journey. I went from a cable skeptic to one whom wouldn't mind spending some money on the subject matter. I am still keeping an open mind about things. Our state of mind over hifi as anything else in life, changes along with time and stages of our journey thus far.

Two most frequently asked questions about high end audio cables are invariably:

1) How much does one need to spend on cables?

My opinion to this is that, there is no clear cut answer to this question. However, there's a general consensus that feel spending anything between 10% - 20% of your total audio system budget is appropriate. I would certainly endorse this consensus, if your total system cost does not exceed RM$30K, i.e., an entry to mid level budget system.

Once your system budget crosses that threshold, I would prefer to say that perhaps, a less restrictive budget guideline could be set for cabling. In this case any, amount up to 80% or so is still acceptable, provided the person spending the $$$ feels the sonic returns are truly worth while.

At the other end of the high end spectrum, I personally know many audiophiles whom cables spending exceed their total system budget!

I can quite possibly explain why this is happening in the higher end of audio dome. In the last 20 years or so, the average hifi equipment inflation is about 5X, i.e. say if you take the very successful Marantz CD63 KI back then which retails for RM$2.4K. I recently spotted the latest Marantz SA-KI Pearl, now retailing for about RM$11K+. Cable inflation, on the other hand have increased by more than 10X, at least! RM$10K cables were almost unheard of during the late 80's early 90's. Today, the Siltech Emperor speaker cable retails at a cool RM$120K!

Reason for that is that, like PLC products, cable art is still evolving at an astonishing rate. Purer, better materials, construction methods, newer contact plug designs, all contributed to today's high end cable sound. They are more transparent, have wider frequency response band width and lower noise floor.

2) Do I really need high end cables?

I am in the opinion that high end cables are auxiliary equipments. They are just as important as any other hifi component in your audio system, but yet, I feel you still need to get your overall system synergy right, before embarking on a high end cable search. That means you can use any decent quality(need not be expensive) cables to hook up your system, tweak your system with the aim towards maximum optimization, i.e., look in to your power supply(PLC and decent power cords, with that I do not mean super expensive stuff!), equipment isolation, room acoustic treatment(if required) and many others. It is after all these is taken care of and you're relatively satisfied, then you can truly appreciate what high end cables brings to the system in terms of performance.

I know many whom feel that cables don't make much of a difference, compared to upgrading components. I agree with that too. But what I am trying to say is that, cables should be the last thing to be looked in to, after you've settled for all your other component choice. One more thing that I am strongly against of is that many audiophiles use cables to cover up or hoping to use cables as tone controls to balance an audio system!

And lastly, I strongly advocate this belief, " Cables cannot make a poorly optimized/synergistic system sound better, but in the correctly optimized system, the cables will take the overall good performance to another level"

In summary, having been thru the audio cable journey, I now know that depending on our audio cable journey, we may view others as audiophools, and those audiophools will see us as el cheapos. There's always two sides to a coin. So I wouldn't be too judgemental about things as they are now.

Here's wishing everyone a rewarding audio cable journey, a hifi sub journey, if there ever was one!

August 24, 2009

Confessions of a Cable Guy.

Pear cables, there are no sour pears, just sour grapes!

In a recent conversation with another fellow audiophile, upon learning that I used to write for he remarked "you guys are really cable happy!" I just smiled and gave him my usual reply, "actually, we're just being lazy, so cables being the easiest to carry around and hook up for a listen, we'd naturally did more of those!, did you noticed that we don't do speakers much?. It's because they are very difficult to get right and lugging them around is really a chore too!" The fellow nodded and our conversation steered towards other topics.

But audio cables are very controversial subject to discuss. Just look at all the hotly debated subject at audio forums! With propagators(usually those wealthy high end and big boy system owners) vs the subtractors(usually DIY fellas and value conscious audiophiles). Now before you accuse me of stereo typing or status profiling, I must state that I am coming from a very neutral angle. It's because that I've been on both sides of the pond!

Some of my DIY cable material then, the shielded co-axial for RCA terminations.

I'll start from my early days as an audiophile. At that time, I used to think that vdH D102 MKII interconnect was high end, only because it was priced way beyond my means of affordability. It was my reference cable for many years and I would bench mark all my DIY interconnects against the vdH D102 MKII. I remembered the day I managed to buy a pair of hand me down of the said vdH interconnects, because one of my buddies up graded, I hooked it up to my then system, consisting of a Marantz CD63 SE, Denon PMA680R integrated amp, and a pair of B&W DM620 speakers, I was in hifi nirvana, it was a dream of many years in the making come thru! As my system evolved due to my insatiable appetite for better sound quality, so did my perception of high end/high priced cables.

vdH D102 MKII. My cable reference for many years back then!

During my DIY with Belden cable days, I used to boast proudly that I could achieved 70-80% sound quality, against the said bench mark vdH cable, thinking that, why pay so much more when you could get so close for so little! It was until I met a DIY hifi veteran, that he told me, "it's actually the last 20% or so that's really difficult to achieve in all things audio!" I was too green in hifi mind to get his drift then, but now in clear hindsight, it seemed so wisely said. It was about that same time too, I started to mix with guys that owned bigger, mega bucks, big boy system. I started going hifi shopping with them, and they could spend RM$100K+ on a pair of speaker cables, RM$30K+ on a power cord and god knows what seemed like sinfully silly amount of $$$ on a pair of interconnects, much to my horror!

Belden cables galore! DIY ers cable darling material.

I later related my horror to my hifi buddy Wong, the shopping experience with those whom I considered "audiophools" at the time. Wong took it all in and then replied, that some day, he'd like to be an audiophool too! I ask "why?" in astonishment. Wong said "if those fellas can spend sinful amount of $$$ on cables, can you imaging how much their audio system would have cost? How high end it could be? How sinfully rich those fellas are? Wouldn't you wanna be successful like them?" At that point, I then shamefully realised that I had really became an audiophile sour grape!

I couldn't see the big picture until that point in my hifi journey. That I was just a small little fish swimming in a small pond, that those fellas that I just swam along with, were on the top tier of the food chain in their natural habitat. I could have almost been swallowed whole, bones and all.

A few years later, as my system got better, with better equipment and hifi knowledge, but still stuck with the said vdH D102 MKII and CS122 speaker cables plus all DIYed Belden based power cords. I was getting no where in the sonic direction I wanted to go. My system equipment list at that recent point in time is already mostly the same as what it is you see today. I started to craved for more resolution, higher levels of refinement and lower noise floor. I did many things to try and pull my system's audio performance towards that direction, but failed miserably.

My big fish friends at the higher end of audio dome was in another round of upgrade cycles, so they loaned me their hand me downs this time, in hope that I'll get hook and partially finance their up grade plans! It was a relevationary experience, that it then dawned on me that I could only achieved the direction and visceral results I so craved, was thru pricey, high end cables, even if they were older, hand me downs! I eventually partially financed many of my friend's up grades. But I was glad to have done it. I was glad that I managed to get the results that I want at half the entry price or so.

My recent purchase of the Siltech G7 Classic 330L speaker cables had set tongues wagging among some of those who know me. It seems to them, I've become a fully paid up membership of the audiophools club. I don't blame them, I've been there before.

Me and my friend's recent bank a/c breaking purchase(for me at least!), the Siltech G7 Classic series speaker cables. It shows how far I've come along the way!

On a happier note, 2 days after my recent review of the three Sin Lui sisters, or heavenly fairy sisters, my friend whom bought the Siltech G7 Classic 550L called me. He started hurling abuses and curses at me after he'd read my review. I was still in a dazzle and I asked "aren't you happy with the 550L that you bought recently?" He said" yes, but after a few weeks of living with it, I was feeling restless every time I listened to some music on my system. I felt as if something is missing or just plain not right, but I couldn't put a finger to any sonic fault, because there seemed like none. But in your review, you mentioned that the 550L did everything right technically yet fell slightly short on musical flow. I thought that's it! You've hit the nail on the head!"

I can only tell you the ending. Yesterday, that poor(or is it lucky?) soul, ended up another RM$15K or so poorer, but he is so musically satisfied now. You see, after that tele-conversation, he went back to CMY Audio & Visual to ask for the Siltech G7 Classic 770L for a home trial. He up graded to the twice more expensive cable, after a week's home audition. Is there anything so.... wrong with that? I am trully happy for him, but most of all, I am even more over joyed for my self. I hear you ask why? I am just glad to have lost that sour grape in me!

How about you?

August 23, 2009

Power Grab, RGPC Isogray vs Torus Power RM8A

Richard Gray Power Company's range of Isogray compatible products. Note the 400 Pro and the Substation side by side, 2nd & 3rd from left.

More PLC pow-wow time! This is getting exciting. Two PLC so close in technical execution and price range, yet can represent "clean power" sound so differently.

The RGPC Isogray system, is the ultimate power line conditioning solution in it's product catalogue. It is made up from a unit of RGPC Substation(price, RM$13K+) isolation balanced transformer and a unit of RGPC 400 Pro(price, RM$4K+) choke parallel transformer. In this review, I'll just have to pit the RGPC Isogray against my resident Torus Power RM8A(purchased price, RM$18K).

The RGPC Substation, powering my power amps and the RGPC 400Pro. Note the grey adaptors for NEMA-5 to UK spec BS13 amps plug on power cord. I used the very decent stock power cord supplied for the RGPC 400 Pro, but was told by Odiosleuth that sound quality can be improved if a better power cord was used instead.

You connect the Substation to the wall supply, use it to then split A/C power supply to your power amp(s, if mono block) plus connect to the RGPC 400 Pro to feed your source and pre amps.

The RGPC 400 Pro, supplying clean power to my CDP, turntable, phono stage and pre amp.

In practice, RGPC uses a two stage treatment system by two smaller transformers, where else the Torus Power approach is to use one very massively over sized transformer for the job.

Which is better? I know, I had previously proclaimed that the Torus Power is the best PLC you can buy at the moment. Can RGPC grab that title from today?

To start, I must confess that due to the way the plugs and cabling in my system are set up for the Torus Power, i.e. UK spec BS 13amp plugs, I had to use power adaptors with the RGPC in use. So there's a certain "contact " disadvantage to the RGPC in this comparison, just in case, if you're the type who are anal about this sort of things! I know Odiosleuth is, He!He! So you can read and interpret this review with a pinch of salt.

With that declaration out of the way, let start rolling! At first listen, I thought the Torus Power offered an overall darker impression of musical proceedings compared to the RGPC Isogray, however, that doesn't mean the latter is bright either. It's just,.....well, let's say, a little shinier, more varnished by comparison. I think the RGPC "signature" high frequencies reproduction contributes to this impression. By comparison, there just seems to be a little spot lighting of the upper frequency spectrum, always. I must stress however, the highs were never grainy nor splashy. Another area where the RGPC is easily distinguished from the Torus Power is the bass. The RGPC's bass just exhibited better slam, tighter control but extended just as low. I would rate both the RGPC and Torus Power's mids to be equally matched, except, due to the slight spot lighting of the highs, the vocalist's mouth will be more focused, versus the more solid density body of the Torus Power. When playing violin solo pieces, the RGPC would highlight the bowing string's attack over the woody resonance and decay of the instrument body that followed. I felt the Torus better balanced between the strings and the woody body of the violin.

Subjective evaluation of the back ground noise floor was equally quiet between the two, but perhaps due to the darker nature of Torus Power, I thought it did had a minor advantage. Staging and imaging of the RGPC seemed more sculpted and tightly arranged, the imaging outlines very clearly drawn out, giving the impression of a very focused subject thru an optical sonic lens. The Torus Power had a softer edge imaging presentation, with the sound stage seemingly less tightly managed, yet at the same time can seem more organic by comparison. Yeah, I know I sound very contradicting, but sometimes that's the way it is.
If at first listen the RGPC seems to scale dynamics and transient better. Upon closer inspection, that's not the case, the Torus is just very slightly more laid back in that respect. With the RGPC Isogray, vocals hang on the same plane as the speakers, followed by instruments layering behind. The Torus Power does the same thing, but with the vocals starting from the speaker's back wall.

Both RGPC and Torus Power made my system sound equally transparent, with superb retrieval of subtle spatial cues and minor recording details stood out well from the background music mix. I found that even though both gave a different account of the same musical proceedings, I could in fact happily lived with either PLC solution. I have found both to be equally musical on an emotional level, i.e. listening with your heart.

The RGPC Isogray's performance ran so close to the Torus Power, that only by preference, I could call the winner. You're welcome to disagree with me as I am sure that in the context of some other system, the RGPC Isogray may indeed prove to be the preferred PLC solution. In practice, try before you buy is still most relevant when shopping for PLCs.

In summary, I found the technical performance of both PLCs to be equally accomplished. However, for sound quality performance in the context of my system, I still have a slight preference for the Torus Power's sonic characteristics. From my own opinion at least, the Torus Power retains it's title for now.

However, Odiosleuth confessed to me that music became less enjoyable since the RGPC Isogray left his system in the past few days, and has been bugging me to return the RGPC Substation to him again for further possible investigation of merging it with his Shunyata Hydra 8! Do look out for the exciting follow up on the matter from him in the near future.

Your choice between the two could very much boil down to the final two factors that'll swing in either way. First of which, I think most plug anal audiophiles with very high end power cords would sway towards the RGPC Isogray equipped with NEMA-5 power receptacles for superior plug contact. The other factor would invariably boil down to price, and favourable trading terms, if applicable.

I know of many whom liked what the Torus Power did for their systems, but just couldn't get over the UK spec BS13 amps receptacles that came with it. It is for these folks, the RGPC Isogray offers so close in terms of performance, if not better, but also a non issue for the NEMA-5 receptacles fitted.

RGPC products are sold by CMY Audio & Visual, contact John Yew, tel: 03-21439406

Torus Power is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan, tel: 03-21712828

August 22, 2009

Greenwood HiFi & AV Miniclub in Kuala Lumpur

Are you looking for a cosy place to meet like-minded people in hifi and AV to chat and exchange experience?

Well, a few days ago I received an email from the founder of the Greenwood HiFi & AV Miniclub, Paris Ng, here in KL. We visited him a couple of days later.

No, this is not a photo of the club house :-)

Paris is a successful businessman and an experienced audiophile, he mentioned to us that he wanted to get to know more hobbyists to share the joy of the hobby. Thus he installed some rather high end hifi and AV systems in his product showroom so that it can double up as the club house. Members can lounge in the club house and enjoy the systems at the same time. I am not at the liberty to disclose the system, suffice to say that the hifi system consists of equipment from Switzerland, Germany and Malaysia. The AV part consisted of a highend SXRD projector and full surround sound facility.

I can't post photos of the house interior too, but believe me, it is well renovated, very tasteful, definitely nicer than my own home! I think Paris did not want me to reveal more because he wanted the club members to find out for themselves. :-)

This is Paris' invitation:

"I wish to announce that I am offering my small Greenwood "showroom" as a mini- club house for Hi-fi and Av enthusiasts.
The suggested activities are :
1. Meeting and discussion
2. Working ( Personal work for members)
3. Exchange of music and movies
4. Listening to music
5. Movie watching
6. Small Party
7. Place one system for listening or watching pleasure
8. Food and Wine Tasting.
9. Brainstorming & planning on Hi -Fi or AV , Charity projects
Open : 24 hours ( will need to coordinate this)

Name of group: Greenwood HIFI & AV Club

Location: Taman Bukit Maluri, Kepong, 47610 Kuala Lumpur.
* Location Guide 15 minutes from IKEA (Damansara) and 5 minutes from Desa Park CIty Entrance

Suggested formalized time: Every Friday Open officially Noon till next day 10 am."

Please contact Paris Ng at to register your interest!

August 19, 2009

Dynaudio Presentation by CEO, Wilfried Ehrenholz.

He's tha man!, Mr Wilfried and his range of Excite speakers.
This few weeks since the KLIAV show has been brewing a hifi storm in the local high end audio scene. With so many happenings and events, it was hard for us to keep up with them all. But what we did managed to attend, will be shared here.

Tha good guy, Mr John Yew of CMY Audio & Visual.
Last Thursday, 13th August, was CMY Audio Visual hosting a Dynaudio Presentation, by the company's CEO, Mr Wilfried Ehrenholz.

Mr Wilfried, during a very passionate moment of his presentation, converting us all to Dynaudio fans!
Amongst his power point presentation includes a brief history of Dynaudio, the company philosophy, it's technical achievements and latest products. One of the highlights of the presentation is the revealing of the latest, ultimate up date, of what is remarkably, one of the best kept secrets of the industry, the Dynaudio Consequence. This model has been on sale for the 25 years or so, but it has never been promoted on the company's website or brochures, up till now that is. It's been mostly sold on made to order basis with custom finishing of the customer's choice.

Revealed, the Dynaudio Consequence Ultimate, note the tweeter bottom, woofer top baffle config?
Up till now, only the real Dynaudio connoisseurs know and truly appreciates the flagship Consequence Ultimate model. Apparently a pair of these RM$250k speakers are due to arrive our shores very soon. Do not miss the chance to hear them in action then.

Some of the Danes don't lie groupies!

Also to note is that the last batch of Dynaudio 30th Anniversary Saphire model is currently in production, which Mr Ehrenholz says will likely come to end before the year is over. Only 1000 pairs of the Saphires will be built. If you've a thing for these special Dynaudio speaker models, better hurry up to CMY Audio & Visual.

Good food, great friends and excellent hifi, can you beat that for afternoon tea?
For further infomation, contact Mr John Yew, tel: 016-2861000

August 18, 2009

Dynamic Duo - Richard Gray's RGPC SubStation + RGPC 400 Pro

These Richard Gray products confirmed in no uncertain term for me that clean electricity supply was paramount for getting good sound from our hifi.

Since I had to unplug every thing from my Shunyata Hydra 8 in order to re-route them to the Richard Gray, I decided to just do a comparison - whether my Pass Labs monoblocks sound better with a power line conditioner or plugged directly to the wall.

20 minutes later, I had to unplugged them from the wall socket. The sound quality was much better with them getting their juice from either the Shunyata Hydra 8 or the Richard Gray Substation. Plugging them to the wall gave a sound that was grainy, edgy and pinched. The sound also went slightly whitish. The sound was also not appreciably more dynamic, thus giving no evidence that their current was strangled before. I got much less enjoyment listening to music and lost interest quickly.

The IsoGray system - RGPC 400 Pro (left) and the RGPC SubStation (right)

Richard Gray called the combo evaluated here the "IsoGray" system. It consisted of a RGPC SubStation and a RGPC 400 Pro.

The idea behind the SubStation was similar to the Torus RM8A that impressed me so much recently and was now used by Big E in his system. Under the SubStation's skin was basically a massive isolation transformer that output balanced, clean power to your equipment. The SubStation was heavy (70lb/32kg), but possible to be moved around by 1 person. Moving the Torus for more than a few steps, on the other hand, was a 2-person job. You do get a bigger chunk of metal based on what you pay - the SubStation's list price was RM13k while the Torus was last known to list for RM18k. The SubStation's benefits included total isolation, surge suppression and ground loop removal. Interestingly, the SubStation came with its captive power cord for the wall, thus saving you some dosh from having to acquire an aftermarket power cord.

The RGPC SubStation - note the captive power cord and the main power switch at the left side below the top plate

The 400 Pro, on the other hand, used a choke that ran in parallel to the AC line. Richard Gray said that it could eliminate AC line noise, surges and spikes with no limiting of current. The 400 Pro weighed 30lbs and listed for slightly below RM5k.

RGPC 400 Pro

Richard Gray recommended that the 2 products be daisy chained together - the SubStation plugged into the wall socket, and the 400 Pro went into one of the SubStations' 4 outlets. This configuration was called the 'IsoGray' System. Components that have high current draw, such as amplifiers, were to be plugged directly into the SubStation, while the frontends and pre-amp should go into the 400 Pro.

And that was how I set it up - the monoblocks went into the SubStation and the CD player and pre-amp went into the 400 Pro.

The IsoGray system sounded pretty fine straight out of the box, I could really sense a 'cleanness' in the sound, especially compared to having the monoblocks plugged into the wall. However, the sound quality fluctuated over the next few days, showing a certain stridency. Then the quality picked up again and stabilized.

The SubStation got out of my system for a couple of weeks as CMY, the local distributor, needed it for the KLIAV show. When it came back, I did not hear appreciable quality shift anymore.

Thus installed, the IsoGray system was excellent in lowering the noise floor, each instrument and voice was portrayed on a starkly black background. Subtleties in the music were preserved, in fact I could discern more low level details from the music. Take for example the opening of the track "You don't have to say you love me" on Shelby Lynne's CD, "Just a little lovin' " (Lost Highway 0602517448254), I was certainly impressed by Lynne's voice - out of darkness, her voice emerged, surrounded by air and illumination, then you hear the echo, finally each phrase subsided with a smooth decay into darkness again. Cool, I never heard this so clearly conveyed before in my system.

Overall, the IsoGray system conveyed a robust, big-hearted and powerful sound. It did not veer towards the refinement of the Torus and, to a lesser extent, that of the Shunyata Hydra. But this is not a criticism, it was just a different take. I think real sound was not always smooth, and the texture that the IsoGray conveyed was probably more truthful and natural. One thing was sure, do not expect the Richard Gray duo to polish up your sound for you.

Highs with IsoGray were clear, clean and extended, it was definitely not dark, nor did it stand out at the expense of the other spectrums. One could hear lots of details in cymbal and high hats, for example. The mids was poised and mature, again its clarity and details seem to be the main strength. Out of all this, the IsoGray system did not attempt to seduce you with a honey coat or some pretty colour. I got a feeling that it just subtly stepped aside, allowing your equipment to come to the fore to do their stuff. In fact, I found attributing any character to the IsoGray was very difficult.

Bass through the IsoGray was tight, punchy and much better defined. In contrast, bass from my Hydra 8 was a bit more warmish, and a bit fatter. From the Shelby Lynne CD's title track "A little lovin' ", the drums was impactful, focused, had lots of details, and went down low, it was done excellently.

And amidst all these excellence, the IsoGray system did not impede the conveyance of the emotion and spirit in the music. It did not 'wear its heart on the sleeves' as such though. Instead I found the IsoGray system's emotional portrayal mixed with its technical prowess refreshing and honest. The music did connect with me, and the listening sessions were always satisfying, many a time my listening stretched into the wee hours of the night way past my normal bed time.

On the other hand, my Shunyata Hydra 8 did milk the emotional content of music more effectively, the visceral connection with music via the Hydra 8 was a tad more. However, it was also a slightly less tidy portrayal compared to the IsoGray system, I could detect a certain brightness and hash on occasions during bad electricity time. Again, you have to match these virtues and draw backs to your system according to your preference and the depth of your pocket. :-)

One thing was quite sure, the IsoGray system was more effective in cleaning up the nasties in the power supply compared to my Hydra 8. There was much less sound quality variance between the bad electricity time at my place (7pm-midnight) and the better time (1am onwards and the mornings).

The power cord used to connect in-between the 400 Pro and the SubStation could make a difference. I changed the stock 20A cord to my Shunyata Python Helix 20A, and the sound immediately gained in stature, music was conveyed with more power and the soundstage expanded, there was slightly more smoothness. The effect was beneficial, so that was another upgrade possibility.

The complaint I had was the fact that these Richard Gray products' design require the power cord to be connected via the top, thus placing them on my equipment rack was an impossibility.

Well, if you are already in the Richard Gray camp, using their RGPC400/600/1200, you have a natural upgrade step. Adding the SubStation to move to the IsoGray status is a no-brainer.

If you are just looking for an excellent power line conditioner, please add IsoGray to your investigation list.

This is a system that could speak your music's mind and soul.

Richard Gray is carried by CMY, contact John Yew 016-2861000

August 17, 2009

A New Start

As mentioned by Big E, we have been blogging about hifi togehter for a year or so now, this new Hifi Unlimited blog is our space to continue to chronicle our HiFi life.

Let me start by introducing my system, which consists of:

CD Players: Meridian G08.2 / Copland CDA822
Preamp: Pass Labs X2.5
Monoblocks: Pass Labs XA60
Loudspeakers: EgglestonWorks The Nine
Power line conditioner: Shunyata Hydra 8
Power cords: Shunyata Python Helix Alpha x2; Taipan Helix Alpha x3
Interconnects: Audioquest Sky (CD>Pre); JPS Labs Superconductor2 (Pre>monoblocks)
Loudspeaker cables: Transparent Audio Musicwave Ultra
Equipment rack: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature with Cerapucs as feet
Accessories: Telos RCA caps; Shunyata Dark Field Cable Elevators; Finite Elemente Ceraballs
Listening space: Dedicated room 14'x10'x9.5' (LWH)

This list is correct as at posting date. Changes to my system, when they happen, will be made known as we go along.

From top: Pass Labs X2.5; Meridian G08.2; Shunyata Hydra 8

Pass Labs XA60

EgglestonWorks The Nine

Hopefully, this would give our readers a better perspective when reading my doodles.

Ok, let's roll..... :-)

August 16, 2009

Why We Write HiFi?

Odiosleuth and my self have been writing about our passion for good sound and hifi equipment for about a year now. Unlike for profit oriented publications catering to the industry in general, we seem to do so free a.k.a. no income, in fact we do spend quite a bit of expenses on getting around to visit dealers and aspiring to buy better still cameras, so that our picture quality on the blog will, hopefully be improved too. Our main motivation is that we get to play with all the latest gear that we can't quite possibly afford.

I think to a certain extend, our tireless efforts and passion to do something about the hobby that we live and breath for, is mostly influenced by a fellow senior blogger whom has been in the scene for a long, long time now, he is maggielurva of Besides the said blog, he has previously set out a few other ventures to contribute to the industry that we love to spend our hard earned cash on. We are inspired by his selfless act to do something about the declining fortunes of high end audio. We will strive to continue his crusade here in this blog as we too, believe in promoting high end audio to a wider audience.

My point??? I want more people to enjoy high end audio. More friends that we can play with. Think about it, as with most other hobbies, it's not much fun playing alone. Much better to have a few like minded fellas to journey along with towards the promised land of sonic nirvana. Guys that you can have beer or a cuppa with and share each other's joys and sorrows along the way. As they say, the more, the merrier the party.

And hopefully, with higher market volumes, maybe, just a very wishful thinking maybe, the prices of quality hifi gear, would be somewhat more affordable to the new participants. At the end of the day, we want you, the music lover/audiophile to get the best deals from your hifi dealer/manufacturer. The trick is bargain hard, real......hard!

PS: If you actually believed all that I have written above, you're pretty gullible, he!he! Our true motivation for writing about hifi is just for the high end toys that we get to play with, that's all. Did you really, for a moment think we're hifi saints???

August 14, 2009

Tale Of Three Heavenly Fairy Sisters. Siltech G7 Classic 25th Anniversary 330L, 550L & 770L.

The Siltech G7 Classic 25th Anniversary speaker cable.

Sin Lui, in the Chinese Cantonese dialect, so popularly spoken here in Kuala Lumpur, means Heavenly Fairy. How did all this came about in an high end audio speaker cable review?

I've been playing with the Siltech G7 Classic 25th Anniversary 330L speaker cable for a while now. My hifi buddy Wong, came over for a hang out one day, after playing a few songs, he asked, "did you do anything to your hifi?, the highs sounded like Sin Lui ha fan, Sin Lui san fa!(Heavenly Fairies summoned to toss flowers to the ground)" To understand the meaning, look at the image of Chinese traditional Heavenly Fairies below.
An image of Chinese traditional Heavenly Fairies, tossing flowers.

My reply, "it must be the Siltech speaker cable that just came in for review". News soon spread, more and more hifi buddies came knocking on my door, wanting to experience the said phenomenon for them selves.
The stainless steel collar indicating Classic Anniversary model.

Since we're on the subject of the Siltech speaker cable range, John, boss of CMY Audio Visual, very kindly allowed OdioSleuth and me to experience the whole G7 Classic 25th Anniversary series, starting with the 330L, 550L & the big heavenly fairy sister 770L. The Siltech G7 metallurgy combines silver and gold alloy in balanced pair twisted configurations. The build quality and construction detail of these cables are of very high standards. They are built to much more exacting standards than the older Siltech G5 Classic 20th Anniversary LS-88 that my friend allowed me to play with when he upgraded his cable to the latest G7 550L! The in house milled terminations are of much higher quality fit and finishing wise, compared to those WBT supplied ones used on the G5 Classic LS-88. The terminations are also more precise in finger feel as you tighten the grips on the amp and speaker terminal, reducing the probability of shorting as the cables do not drop off after tightening, something which I cannot say about the G5 Classic LS-88's WBT supplied terminations.
The cables are very flexibly manage able.

All the G7 cables looks like of the same gauge, but does grow heavier in weight as you climb the range ladder. The good part is that the cables are never stiff like some other's, always very easy to handle and manipulate plus looks very low key in the scheme of things. The only stand out feature is the stainless steel collars, with 25th Anniversary markings, wrapped around both ends of the cable. The 550L and 770L are serial numbered in matched pairs and are subjected to factory pre delivery burn in. The cheaper 330L makes do without the special treatment.
The 770L top, 550L middle and 330L bottom, looks like similar gauge size but note the twisting! More twist on the higher models.

Although there is also the entry level 220L in the range, I'll disregard that for now, as that is of Siltech G6 metallurgy technology. Why buy yesterday's technology new, unless buying used at much lower entry cost, than I believe it'll make sense.
Note the serial no. engraved, just at the bottom of the collar!

Here we start with the 330L,li'll Sin Lui sister.

Coming from the Siltech G5 Classic LS-88 and the 3 times cheaper Straightwire Maestro II, I was immediately impressed with the level of transparency, the much wider band width in frequency response extension on both extremes and the degree of quietness in the back ground, it's like as if there's no back ground!(at least until you start comparing with the cables higher up the range!)While the highs has a very similar familiarity to the G5 Classic LS-88's openness, the G7 improves upon with a more airy presentation, especially in the high mids, making vocals loose that throaty dryness so apparent on the older cable. The mids have a weightier presentation too, compared to the G5 cable. Bass is also more robust and notes are defined, though does not extend quite as low as the levels set by the JPS Super Conductor 3 which I had played with in June. The comparison will almost certain make the older G5 cable sound very lean indeed. The G7 cable is tonally very balanced with a tinged of lushness built in for good measure. Not only that, the G7 330L speaker cable is also extremely musical in flow. I always end up foot taping, sub consciously enjoying what ever music I am playing at the moment. Disc after disc, I could now listen the whole disc thru, never wanting to skip the unpleasant tracks on a CD which the audiophile in me used to do, that's a good musical sign. This is inherently one of the most musical cables I've come across so far. The overall staging and imaging presentation is very organically wide with good depth perception. I was playing Jennifer Warnes, The Well CD and track 6, And so it goes, with the opening piano bars, I could heard so many pressing of the foot pedals, where previously I only heard a faint pedal movement. The piano was full and had excellent woody reverb and decay qualities. I could also at times hear Jennifer Warnes, ever so gently breath in to the microphone, just in between verses. I am also rediscovering many of my old favorites too, like in Telarc's Round Up CD, on track 12,a medley of Western songs and at the Shanendoah part, the chorus choir boys all lined up behind the stage of the instruments which is further up front was breathtaking, I could count the number of mouths per left/right side of the stage! I also thought this cable is much better at presenting micro dynamics of a solo acoustic guitar, over the slightly curtailed macro dynamics of an orchestra at full crescendo. OdioSleuth mentioned that he thought the female vocals even sounded sweetly seductive(just like during your honeymoon?, He!He!) when he visited me briefly. It's that good!

Next up, the 550L, 2nd Sin Lui sister.

Moving up to the next in the G7 Classic range brought about even higher levels of transparency, wider bandwidth in frequency response and an further quietened back ground. Whilst tonally very similar to the 330L, the highs are somewhat further refined, till in comparison the 330L starts to sound a little fury around the edges. The mids are further flushed out and vocals are now chestier. Bass is now JPS Super Conductor 3 tight, but still just doesn't dive as low just yet. The staging and imaging aspect of this cable is again superior, with further defined images within the sound stage, making what I had experienced with the 330L sounded like mere hints of the event. Again, I take Jennifer Warnes, The Well CD, again track 6, the opening piano bars, the amount of foot pedal work involved is fully revealed, not only just that, I could even hear the foot pedal action which the hammer lined with a certain damper, softly striking the strings!!! I was gob smack by this level of truthful transparency! But there's a small catch. I did felt this cable is significantly better technically, it didn't quite move me as much on an emotional level compared to the 330L. The 550L ticked all the right audiophile boxes on the technical checklist, but yet some how, the music just felt a little mechanical. Again, this is only apparent if you compared, otherwise, I would believe it's an non issue.

Lastly, the 770L big Sin Lui sister.

The big sister is like having both the technical superiority 550L and the musical presentation of the 330L in one cable! In other words, the all conquering JPS Super Conductor 3(retailing at RM$13K+ for a 2.5m pair) is now finally being put in to it's place. I've being listening to it for the last few days, trying very hard to find fault with the cable, yet I always ended enjoying the music for a few hours irregardless, failing miserably in my fault finding quest! The highs are magically smooth, extended as high to near dog's hearing frequencies, and yet have just the right amount of texture to make high hats and cymbals sound real. The mids are full bodied, and vocals just about to "pop" out of the three dimensional sound stage palpably, set further back. The bass goes very low and is uber tight, with excellent transient response when portraying up right bass instruments, making musical note to note highly discern able. The result is realistically effortless refinement, combined with some of the best transient response. The micro/macro dynamics response are just equally as strong. In the end, I don't know if I am listening to the limits of the speaker cable, or the limits of my system? I personally feel this cable is capable of so much more than I can describe here, in the context of the "right" system. After all, this cable's pricing belongs to a much, more elite class of audio category as it's naturally respected partners. Certainly, this is the very best speaker cable I've ever came across so far till this date!
Another look at the smartly finished high quality cable.


The 330L, li'll heavenly fairy sister is the most seductive, forgiving and musically gifted of the three. She may have with held a few truths here and there, yet needed just to be a little more polished, but she's so convincingly enjoyable in the company of music, who cares!

The 550L, 2nd heavenly fairy sister seems to suffer a bit of the middle child syndrome. She's very technically accomplished, yet remain ever so faithfully truthful but some how, at the end of the day, just manages to leave me searching for that li'll bit more soul in her beauty.

The 770l, big heavenly fairy sister is like the glamorous Hollywood starlet you've always dreamed about, yet never quite attainable. Highly sophisticated, poised, sexy and never puts a foot wrong. She always tells the truth so ever beautifully, it never seem to hurt a bit. However, she's only available for the pleasure of a select few "privileged souls" to enjoy her ever so technically perfect, yet musically satisfying company.

In short, the Siltech G7 Classic 330L is more for the musical lover, whilst the 550L is more for those whom seek the "absolute sound" and the 770L gives you the best of both worlds. It's amazingly flawless.

The retail prices of the Slitech G7 Classic 25th Anniversary speaker cables, 2.5m pair lengths are as follows:

330L = RM$ 9,320/pair
550L = RM$17,580/pair
770L = RM$30,520/pair
My very own beautiful and seductive,"Sin Lui san fa!"

One final question perhaps all of you reading could ask your self. What price would you pay to summon the heavenly fairies to accompany you on your musical journeys?

I bought the review sample of the Siltech G7 Classic 25th Anniversary 330L speaker cable.

Siltech cables are sold by CMY Audio & Visual, tel: 03-21439206