August 9, 2009

Hi! I am Big E.

The Big E, sailing with an empty deck, but full honours!


Welcome to our blog and my first posting. If you've being following the US Naval history in World War 2, you'd immediately know what the "Big E" sometimes, also referred to the "Lucky E" stands for. It's the USS Enterprise, an early example of the wooden deck aircraft carrier, which saw action through out the duration of WW2.

I truly admire the fighting spirit of the Big E and it's crew, Even at a time when the odds are truly stacked up against the Big E, being the only flat top left in service, after the sinking of her sister ship(The Hornet) in 1942, it courageously took on the full Japanese Naval fleet comprising of 4 flat tops and the all mighty Yamato(at the time, it was the world's biggest and most powerful battleship) flagship combined in a single battle and won!(it was the biggest single day lost for the Japanese Navy, as they lost 3 flat tops and close to 200 zero fighter aircraft, it was also the turning point for the allies in the Pacific war.)

I believed good naval tactics and luck(lots of luck!), had a lot to do with the out out come. So what does hifi, or audio specifically had to do with a piece of WW2 history?

Just like in war, the audio war of a typical audiophile is won battle by battle. You need a battle plan, and execution of the plan is crucial to ensure success.

We start up by purchasing a starter audio system, usually determined by the limits of our affordability at the time. It's almost certain that we know, it'll not be our dream system. It's something that we get by with, and have some musical gratification for now. The Chinese calls this "straddling on a buffalo, whilst looking for a horse!"

From a starter system we go through numerous upgrade cycles, until the day comes when we're satisfied(are you sure you can finally be satisfied?). It's also known as an audio journey, although some would say it's a journey without end, for should you've reach your destination, what fun lies further ahead?. Apparently for these folks, it's THE journey that matters and not so much the destination.

For most of us, our audio journey reads just like the above. Mine included.

A little bit about how my audio curiosity started. I could remember vividly one fine day in 1978, my dad brought home the very first Sony Walkman. It was about the size of a pocket dictionary and weights more than a kilo with batteries included! I remembered it used 4 pcs of AAA batteries, and that would only last between 3 to 4 cassette play sides. There's no auto reverse facility, so every time the music stops, you just flip the cassette over to side B and press play. The head phones were rather flimsy affairs too. All that and the little boy in me was awe struck by the music reproduced in to my pair of ears.

My dad later bought us a family mini compo, the very first Sony FH-7! Back then a mini compo, is indeed miniature components! It came in 4 stacked modules, namely a tuner(came with proper antenna too!), an 5 band EQ equipped pre amp, a cassette deck(with auto reverse tape mechanism, that was so.... cool) and finally a power amp. It also came with speakers that looked like it had quasi ribbon for tweeters. The 4 stacked mini components could be attached to a handle for out door use too. When it was all stacked up it became rather heavy and cumbersome to lift and carried around.However, the sound it made was amazing!
Here's a picture of that Sony FH-7 in MKII form, but still looking very much the same!

Many years later, my family moved on to the VCR based(remember those?) entertainment and that Sony FH-7 was relegated to my bedroom. That was when I really tweaked the Sony till it all fell apart.

I learnt many things that affected the sound that the Sony made. I played with speaker positioning(pulling then out from the walls, and pulling them wider apart), I unstacked the 4 mini components and placed them on various surfaces, I played with various bell and lighting grade "speaker" cables(the Sony allowed that too!). I also learnt how the various EQ adjustments on the pre amp affected the sound, but that too, changed as I my taste grew. I remembered being very fond of the "Smiley" EQ curve, than later I would much preferred the "Wry Smile" EQ Curve. I've never liked the "Frowning" EQ curve though, not even for a moment.

I also learnt about pitch stability and the cassette deck's wow and flutter when I played around with the mechanism pincher and tape head alignment! When the Sony was old and things begin to fail, I also learnt to DIY fix or by pass the failed parts, just to keep the music flowing.

Back then, I did not know what being an audiophile meant, I just knew that if I did certain things to the Sony, it made the music sound somewhat different too. And there were sounds that I liked and others I clearly did not. In hind sight, It was obvious that I was born to be an audiophile!

I did not realised that until one day, my friend showed me his dad's new toy, a true hifi system of the time. It had a Nakamichi tape deck, a Sansui Receiver and the now legendary BOSE 901 series II speakers! It was an awe inspiring moment. It was a moment that made me realised, what hi fidelity is all about, and that sound I heard, was all I ever wanna achieve in this life time.

But achieving my dream of that moment, I did, and eventually surpassed it too. The trouble with the audiophile in me is that I keep out doing my self!

Next up, more about me and my hifi today.

Welcome to HiFi-Unlimited!

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