January 31, 2010

Parasound Arrives At Centre Circle Audio

Parasound is now being distributed by Centre Circle Audio.

Parasound's Halo line of pre-amps, power amps, and monoblocks are now available for audition at CCA's showroom.

Parasound JC2 Preamplifier
(116dB s/n ratio; Frequency response 5Hz-100kHz +0/-3dB; Balanced inputs and outputs;
Switchable polarity invert; Full remote control)

Parasound JC1 Monoblocks (400w, 8 ohms / 800w, 4 ohms / 1200w, 2 ohms; 135A peak current; first 25w operates in pure class A)

Parasound JC1 Monoblocks (foregorund) driving EgglestonWorks The Nine
Parasound P3 Stereo Preamplifier (Balanced inputs and outputs; phono stage; Frequency response 5Hz-55kHz)

Parasound A21 Power anp (250/400w x 2, 8/4 ohms; 60A peak current) at left sitting on carpet
Parasound A23 Power amp (125 / 200w x 2, 8/4 ohms; 45A peak cuurent) at right sitting on marble slab

Contact Centre Circle Audio, Ph: 03-77282686; Nelson Chia 012-2876807; Sky Wong 012-3371787

January 30, 2010

What's Your Flavour? My DIY Tube Pre Amp.

The inspiration!

This project has been a long time coming. I began conceiving the idea building my own tube based pre amp to fill the tube void after my previous reference pre amp, the Sonic Frontiers Line 2 departed from my system. But first, I had to scout around for a great schematic to implement. The design brief was simple, the finished pre amp must sound better than the Sonic Frontiers, well, at the very least sonically match my Pass Labs X2.5 in the audiophile technical parameters. Other design brief must include a high end remote controlled volume kit, and the overall build quality must at the very least, match the current standards, set by the high end audio products. Lastly, as a firm believer of balanced designed audio circuits, the design must have full balanced topology. The Audio Research LS26 naturally came to mind, after I heard them on a couple of occasions. The Audio Research LS26 was one of the most refined, not to mention, transparent sounding pre amp I've ever heard. It only losses out to the bigger, meaner brother, the ARC Reference 3 in terms of macro dynamics.

The insides of the ARC LS26, note there's only 2 x 6H30 tubes, that's because the input stage uses J-FETs for lower noise floor. The 6H30 tubes are pretty microphonic. They ring like a bell as the volume kit's relay switches on and off. The speaker tweeters go "Ding......, Ding......., Ding......., Ding......" A tube damper over each tube solved that problem mostly. And yes, this even happens on the ARC LS26!

My DIY efforts, see the similarities? Note, all pictures shown are the final MKII board version, as I did not document the project's early stages.

The A-28 case kit arrived flat packed to save shipping cost.

It was some time in April 2007, when I started hunting around for the schematic of the ARC LS26, but since it's still the current model, the schematics are not web published just yet. I took the earlier schematic available in the form of the ARC LS25. I then set about acquiring parts for the project. I came across this Hong Kong based website, http://diyclub.biz/ selling DIY kits and various parts for hifi DIYers. From there, I sourced the A-28 casing and the V-03 balanced volume control kit. Next is to mate the V-03 kit on to the audio, and power supply design boards. The boards are designed and CNC manufactured with the aid of CAD/CAM industrial system, thanks to a friend in the electronics industry.

The V-03 volume control kit, it also does input selector via remote! 2 pcs for stereo, 4 pcs for stereo in balanced mode. Note the relay switching resistor step ladder design.

Also included in V-03 kit is the display board, power supply board(not shown) and remote.

Once the main boards are ready, it was time to assemble a test board to check for circuit noise and operational stability. This is necessary, due to the use of the 6H30 tubes in the input and buffer stages of the pre amp design. The 6H30 tubes requires very beefy power supply and gain stage voltage regulator heat sinking of ample size, to maintain it's operational consistency. Too large a heat sink, the sound will not be good, too small the heat sink, the voltage regulators will destabilize, and at worst, burn them selves out. And during the testing stages, many other ideas started to creep in like, how about an auto mute system for starting up? This allows the tubes in the pre amp to warm up, stabilize, before turning the pre amp out puts on. And during these very infant stages of testing, I felt the sound of the DIY pre amp to sound about 65% of the inspirational ARC LS26, which I borrowed from a friend to use as bench mark. The DIY pre amp sounded some what less transparent, less harmonically rich, and that trade off in the macro dynamics was something that I just could not live with, in the long term. Not bad for an alpha board build however. By now, it was past Chinese New Year 2008.

The power supply section, the heat sinks are hot, really hot! Noted the auto mute circuit timer, towering above all. I set it up for 2 minutes warm up time.

The V-03 volume kit implemented in 4 stacked configuration to save real estate. The empty resistor slots are for fine tuning, just in case I need to use them.

I then commission a MKII version board to be drawn up and made, based on the experiences gain from the alpha board and to include the new feature that I thought would be nice to have. I also allowed the MKII board to have various feed back points to be dialled in to the audio circuit design as and when required. Following ARC's board designs, only gentle right angle curves are used on the main audio board for best sound quality. At this point of re-design, it was deemed best to separate the power supply boards from the main audio section. The power supply transformer would be housed in a separated chassis, so only filtered DC voltages would be allowed in to the main chassis, another trick adopted from the high end designs.

The custom wound transformer for the required voltages.
The back panel with fused IEC input and out put umbilical cord.

The front aluminium face plate for the power supply box.

The MKII board is then assembled for testing again, before work on the chassis begin. Only when the heat sink sizes and final board layout was confirmed, only can work on the chassis begin. I used the A-28 casing with the bottom panel cut and re drilled to suit my board lay out, and the top panel fabricated from steel mesh welded frame, with the whole casing powder coated again for consistency of finishing. The aluminium front face plate was re-polished for better shine. This was all done sometime in October 2008.

With the assembly work completed, it's time to final tweak the sound. All the gain stage power supply regulator capacitors are white grade Mundorf for very tight tolerances(+/-5%). Post rectifier storage capacitors(reservoirs) are Panasonic KAP series. And in the audio section, the DC filter and by pass capacitors are Mundorf Supreme, and Silver/Oil grade(+/- 3% tolerances). These caps are truly potent stuff, once heard, you'll only want more!

The Mundorf Supreme DC filter caps, and Silver/Oil by pass caps. They're simply magical sounding!

All power supply resistors are 1% metal film grade with all other audio section using TKD audiophile grade resistors. The V-03 volume control kit comes with Soshin audiophile grade resistors. All internal audio related wiring used vdH SCS18, and all rear panel audio in and out puts are Neutrik sourced.

The back panel of the main chassis, all Neutrik audio connectors.

The final assembly completed and finely polished front aluminium face plate. Rubber gaskets are inserted behind the buttons for that tactile feel, when in use.

It was during final testing during September 2009 that I discovered that while the pre amp circuit was specified for use of 2 pairs of 6H30 tubes, in reality the pre amp circuit is very chameleon like and can accommodate the use of most other 6 volt audio tubes too. These include the ever popular 6DJ8, ECC88, 6922, 6FQ7, 61N1P and quite possibly 6H6P tubes too.

The see thru custom fabricated top plate, for maximum ventilation and a chance to show off the insides!

Testing was done with the Copland CDA-822 CD player.

I only used XLR connections in my hifi, but I've included single ended RCA connectors just in case some one borrows the pre amp.

During audition, I tried the pre amp using 6922 NOS Mullard tubes and it truly reminded me the sound of the Sonic Frontiers when I last used them with the same tubes. I also tried using 6FQ7(so favoured by Conrad Johnson in their driver stages) and noticed a shade of that rich, lush yet muscular sound of CJ in my pre amp. I have so far, not tried any other tubes in this pre amp just yet. This pre amp is certain capable of changing it's tune to suit your flavour of the day, depending on the tubes inserted. This pre amp project was officially completed sometime in October 2009.

An update 05/02/2010, since this article, I have received some enquiries about the cost to build this pre-amp. Many were horrified that parts alone, had cost me RM$4,600 or so to build it. Well I guess if one can do away with the luxurious Mundorf Caps, TKD resistors and the V-03 Remote Volume kit, and possibly a cheaper case then I goes one can build this pre amp for very much less than RM$2,000. Some have question my financial senses for pursuing such an extravagant DIY project, and others may think it's not worth while, or better to just buy a used pre amp? Well, I'd say the choice is for each one to make.

For me pursuing this project was to see how far I could go(sound and build quality wise), without cost constraints. A sonic success or white elephant? I've never thought of it that way. It's the thrill of the build, if there's such a thing!

Next up, I would aim to build a power amp to pair with my pre amp.

January 28, 2010

10 Qs For David Amey, ProAc Representitive.

During ProAc's recent event held at CMY Audio Visual, A Musical Listening Experience with David Amey, I had an opportunity to throw 10 quickie questions at him over a cuppa, after the initial Carbon Pro 8 speaker musical demo. So here they are:

1) Big E: ProAc seems to have moved all their speaker ports towards the bottom firing direction, any design or user application advantages for the move?

David: ProAc is heading that direction with all our floor standing speakers, as you can see. We feel a bottom firing port allows more flexible speaker placement in a domestic environment, which now days are increasingly subjected to the WAF(Wife Acceptance Factor), i.e. hifi must co-exist in harmony with the family well being. With a bottom firing port, one can place the pair of speakers that much closer to the rear wall with out the room boom effect, meaning more space for the family and a less intrusive speaker in the living environment. However, there two versions of the theme. First, on our more afford able models, the ports just fires direct to the floor, which is not so good, because we will never know what's under the speakers, like carpets or rugs, wooden or concrete floors are just some of the more common surfaces. So on our higher end speaker models, we built a plinth under the speaker, supported by an arch design on the sides. This design allows the bottom firing port to have a consistent surface to work on, allowing bass response to be more predictable. On our Carbon Pro Series speakers, the plinth is made from carbon fibre composites, which has a certain reflective quality, very desire able to achieving tuneful, tight and dynamic bass response.

2) Big E: Tell us a little more about the carbon fibre drivers, for instance, how are they made?

David: Our factory is very close to those F1 racing team support facilities. We get the carbon fibre technology direct from them. For instance we have to over lay up to 300 very fine layers of carbon fibre sheets, in between allowing time for each layer to cure completely before laying on the next layer. It's a labour intensive process, that requires skilled hands. The plinth of the Carbon Pro 8 speakers for instance, can take the weight of a person jumping up and down on it repeatedly without cracking or breaking, with both ends supported like a bridge! You get the idea. We chose carbon fibre for it's stiffness to light weight ratio, so that our speaker cones will achieve the ideal pistonic movement.

3) Big E: O.K., but in recent years, other speaker manufacturers have also started to use carbon material on their speakers. How do you differentiate your product from the others?

David: Yes, I am aware that Wilson Benesch do use carbon on their speaker baffles, but not on the speaker drivers. Others may lay claim to have also use carbon material on their speaker drivers, but as far as I know, they are more like carbon particle infused, or rather, carbon coated on the cone surface, but never use carbon fibre as a whole speaker cone construction, that's where we are unique.

4) Big E: With the speaker drivers achieving ideal pistonic movement, do ProAc have to adjust the speaker cross overs to suit the new technology drivers?

David: In a way, yeah, because of the ideal pistonic movement of the speaker drivers, we can simplify our cross overs designs, using less but better quality passive components, you know less is more here?

5) Big E: You mean first order passive cross over designs are used for the Carbon Pro series speakers?

David: We at ProAc would rather you hear great sounding products best, without knowing what goes on inside the products. But yes, the Carbon Pro series passive cross overs are of first order designs. I know you audio writers are always looking for more information to spice up your stories!

6) Big E: Agreed! We aim to provide some insight and depth in to the products that we write about. Care to tell us if ProAc has some kind of an listening room in the factory to test audition and finalise voicing of it's speakers?

David: Yes, we have 2 listening areas to test and fine tune our speakers in the factory.

7) Big E: Any particular amps that ProAc uses to test it's speakers?

David: When we design a speaker, we would have no idea what our customers will partner them with, as there are so many amplification choices out there. So we use a variety of amp designs ranging from solid state to valves and modern class D to test mate our speakers during development stages to ensure they work with a wide variety of electronics available in the market.

8) Big E: The Naim/ProAc combo on demo today sounds really good. Is Naim one of those amps used to test ProAc speakers during development stages?

David: Yes, like I said, we use many different amps for testing our speakers. So far Naim, Creek and a few others have proven to be very suitable partners for our speakers.

9) Big E: Have the current global economic downturn affected ProAc sales?

David: Yes, we are certainly not spared on the economic front. In fact we saw a drastic down turn of orders at the end of 2008 till mid 2009. By July last year, I must say that things started looking up again. And when the orders start pouring in again, we had to re-adjust our inventories and ramp up production out put to cope. In fact we now have backlog orders to fulfill, which is an extremely positive turn of events.

10) Big E: How many pairs of the flag ship Carbon Pro 8 speakers have ProAc sold to date?

David: I am glad that we have sold out our first batch of 20 pairs of Carbon Pro 8 so far, we are still working hard to fill our order back logs. I am also happy to announce that we have just started manufacturing the smaller Carbon Pro 6 speakers, which I estimate to do even better!

Big E: Wow! Congrats to your success and thank you for your time.

With that, our friendly chat ended and it was time to go back to our regular week end life.

January 26, 2010

When Performance Matters. PS Audio GCPH Phono Stage.

PS Audio GCPH sitting on my audio rack.

The PS Audio company's first product back in the 70's was a humble phono stage, which was economically priced, yet sounded no less good than the more expensive competitor products. In recent years, PS Audio has made waves with their line of power re generators and cable range, but their amplifiers remain very much their core product line.
That's PS Audio's motto, clearly printed on the packaging.

What better way to get re-acquainted with PS Audio, than to re-kindle their first product, the phono stage? The modern GCPH phono stage belongs to the range of economically priced Trio Series Audio Product, yet boast a couple of technical features unique to PS Audio, like the Gain Cell amplification module, over sized power supplies and regulation circuits. For those following this blog, or my earlier contributions to another audio related blog, will know, that this PS Audio GCPH phono stage was one of my targeted up grades!(my recent pre-owned Pass Labs X-Ono purchase banished those thoughts)
The front panel in detail.

The PS Audio GCPH phono stage is shoe box size designed, with very short signal paths, high gain and flexible loading switches on the back panel for easy accessibility. The front panel has a fine gain tuning control knob, phase invert(very important switch to some as they switch from disc to disc), and mono switch(most important if you have mono recordings and cartridge), for easy fine tuning of tolerances, which can vary from disc to disc(we are talking about the vinyl disc here, just in case you're wondering!). There's also a blue LED "ON" indicator in the cetner of the front panel. The front panel controls can be remote controlled, but the hand held unit was not supplied with the review sample, so I can't test it's effectiveness in practical use.
The busy rear panel, note the gain and cartridge loading settings, no need to open up the box to do so, which is very convenient.

Build quality is sturdy, yet elegant. No complains from me here. I used the GCPH phono stage as a direct replacement to my resident Pass Labs X-Ono, as all the wiring is the same. A power cord, single ended RCA input and a choice of RCA or XLR out put, of which I used the latter. I then proceeded to set the gain to 66db, which is the same setting as the Pass Labs, and continue to set the cartridge loading to 100 ohms as per the Benz Micro Glider's recommended setting. I found the PS Audio phono stage very easy to set up and get good sonic results. I have one small quibble though, switching on the PS Audio again after the last listening session will see all the front panel switches and fine gain tuning knob go back to default, or zero setting.
The proprietary PS Audio Gain Cell amplification module.

From the first impression, I was pretty dumb founded! I found the PS Audio to sound so very similar to my Pass Labs, which was, not too long ago, considered a reference grade design! However, after spinning a few more disc, it slowly became clear, that while tonal quality is virtually the same, on the warmish side of neutral, there are some small but perceptible differences between the two phono stages. I slowly begin to recall hearing just a little bit more resolution from the Pass Labs. I also heard slightly better transient and macro dynamics. I also thought I heard slightly wider band width response on both the highs and the low ends of the frequency spectrum. Taken as a whole, I would say that the PS Audio can give the Pass Labs a very tiring run for the money, considering the Pass Labs X-Ono was costing at least twice as much, when it was last being sold, at the end of 2008! Just one more to note, setting the front gain fine tuning knob of the PS Audio to maximum, can sometimes lead to rather splashy highs and some uncontrolled sibilance in the music. Reducing the front gain fine tuning knob level to about 3 o'clock(7 o'clock being the zero out put and 5 o'clock being full out put) gave the best results.
The insides, note the over sized power supply transformer, the small audio board for short signal path and for nearest power supply regulation possible, and a pair of Gain Cell modules for stereo 2 chanel. Pretty simple but highly effective lay out, certainly less is more here.

Further listening also brought up a better side of the PS Audio. Over the longer term, I did find the PS Audio to be supremely musical, as it never failed to get my feet tapping through out my listening sessions. There's also a certain sweet, lushness to the mids, which makes vocal shine realistically with engaging emotion(with very little audio porn for good measure). Listening to Ella And Louis, a recently re-issued classic vinyl by Speaker's Corner, is a joy. I found Ella to sound so...... very seductive(but looking at the album art cover would surely banish all those thoughts!, no disrespect to the great diva meant of course) and Louis Armstrong so cuddly hug able. The GCPH phono stage brought out all those warm, fuzzy feelings of those classic vocal Jazz repertoire to the fore. I felt like wearing my homey pyjamas and warm socks in to my listening sessions, just to soak it all up. I also found the PS Audio GCPH to be very quiet in use, even in high gain mode, it's noise free, almost none existent back ground hum or hiss, when no music is playing, and pre amp volume wide open at normal listening levels!
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong duets album. Excellent for those who like classic vocal Jazz performance.

To summarize things, the PS Audio GCPH would offer almost 80% of the Pass Labs X-Ono's technical performance, but with it's very own twist of sweet lushness on the mid range, a quality that makes it that bit more special and a joy to listen to. When mated to a mid range MC cartridge(like the Benz Micro Glider) and turn table of similar price range, one can achieve a very respectable, not to mention, special sounding package of an LP play back system(if set up properly).
The recycle able packaging, with high quality printing.

Priced at RM$6,125.00 the PS Audio GCPH offers excellent value to sound performance ratio. Which is seldom the case in the hifi high end dom. Didn't PS Audio just said, "When Performance Matters"?

PS Audio is sold by A&L Audio Station, contact Yap(Wah Chai), tel:03-79582884

January 25, 2010

A Listening Experience with ProAc Carbon Pro 8 at CMY

CMY held a listening event for audiophiles with the new ProAc flagship - the Carbon Pro 8 loudspeakers on 24th Jan 2010 Sunday.

The Carbon Pro 8, fronted by all Naim electronics, impressed with its scale, dynamics and transient response, while remained poised at very high listening levels (the listening space was pretty large). Anyone interested but missed the event should make a beeline to CMY's showroom at Damansara Utama for the experience.

The Carbon Pro 8's specifications:
Nominal Impedance : 4 ohms
Recommended Amplifiers : 10 to 500 watts
Frequency Response : 20 Hz to 30kHz
Sensitivity : 91.5db linear for a 1w at 1m
Bass Drivers : 2 x 8" studio professional drive units
Midrange Drivers : 3" soft dome
Tweeter : ProAc ribbon
Dimensions : 49.2" x 9.6" x 18" (hwd)
Weight : 146.9lb each
ProAc's rep, Mr. David Amey, told the audience that the Carbon Pro 8's application of carbon fibers in its drive units benefited from technology transfer from Formula 1 racing.

CMY's head honcho, Mr. John Yew kicking off the event
Mr. David Amey of ProAc explaining the design of Carbon Pro 8
The listening session going on in earnestClose-ups of the ProAc Carbon Pro 8

The supporting cast - Naim and Richard Gray
Our very own Big E discussing the merits of ProAc's design with David Amey
One for the album

January 23, 2010

More Mad, Matte World! Harmonix TU-800EX LP Matte.

The neat white box packaging of the Harmonix TU-800EX, so favoured by the Japanese.

Having heard that I just got a Linn LP12 turn table recently, MK of Nova Hifi said "boy, have I got the best accessory for your LP12!", and before I knew it, here it was, spinning on my turn table for a review.

The Harmonix TU-800EX LP matte sample under review is apparently an improved version. I can't tell though, what exactly has been improved upon the earlier version. This Harmonix LP matte has been developed specifically to improve the sound of any turn table with a metal based platter, so not only the Linn LP12 applies specifically here! The Harmonix matte seems to be made of an embossed layer of black card board like material on the top surface, laminated to a layer of asbestos like material on the back.
Dual layer laminated construction. Embossed black card board like material on top surface and asbestos like material for the bottom.

With the Harmonix matte replacing my resident generic cork material matte, I had the VTA of the tone arm re-adjusted to suit the new matte which is a little thinner, to even out any effect of sonic changes due to the VTA factor. The cartridge used remain by default my resident Benz Micro Glider L2 and phono stage is my Pass Labs X-Ono. Phono stage to pre amp cabling is my usual Audioquest Colorado 72V dbs XLR inter connects.

Upon the first note hitting the groove, it was like as if I had up graded to a new higher end cartridge!, only that I didn't. I felt the subjectively soft bass of the Linn was much tightened and firmed, plus further extended lower. The mids whilst remain much the same, had a slight presence boost, as if the vocals are standing a few feet directly in front of me, in the room. I also found the vocal focus of the mouth, much improved, and one can hear in to much more mouth, lips, tongue and teeth movement! It's an organism festival for those whom are fetish about this kind of audio porn. I also heard more air and better extended highs. High hats and cymbals have a realistic shimmering quality to them.

It was when playing Sonny Rollins, Way Out West LP, for once I could truly hear in to that warm burnish tone of his saxophone, his finger work and the detailed opening and closing of the valves on the wind pipe of the instrument. All this never quite heard so easily before. I also felt the drum kit conveyed a little more energy to the sound. It's like as if Shelly Manne, the drummer just had a Sneakers bar prior to playing the tune.
Way Out West is quite probably Sonny Rollins most accessible work. Recorded in dual mono, with saxophone of the left, drum kit and double bass on the right, with nothing in the center, that result is very realistic trio Jazz performers in your hifi room. Also note that each side is recorded on one take! They don't record performances this way anymore. This recording is best heard on a well set up LP playback system!

I also thought that with the Harmonix matte, the sound stage depth and layering were more easily discerned than before. Each vocal and musical instrument had it's own place, in time and space. However, I also found a slight compression to the sound stage width, which have been reduced to only the space within the outer limits of the pair of stereo speakers, compared to a sound stage extended way beyond the room's boundaries previously.

LP's surface noise also seemed to have been reduced slightly. What the Harmonix matte does so well, is to enhance much of the lower level, finer details that doesn't quite surface as easily out of the LP's grooves. Though I did not try on other turn tables set up to get a second system's opinion, MK tells me that non of his customers had ever returned the Harmonix TU-800EX to him upon trial, despite the rather extravagant retail price of RM$1,300.00 each! That means the product so far has achieved 100% successful trial penetration rate?
The Harmonix TU-800EX sitting pretty on my Linn LP12. They are excellent partners too!

Do you have a metal based platter for your turn table? Do you value the low level, finer detail retrieval quality in your LP play back system? If your answer is yes to both questions, then I'll suggest that you head to Nova Hifi and ask for a trial. I will however, leave the subjective question of product value vs sonic rewards, to your own judgement.

Harmonix audio accessories and cables is sold by Nova Hifi, contact MK, tel: 019-2226129

January 21, 2010

The Two Sides Of Emi Fujita. Camomile Best Audio & Kokoro No Shokutaku.

Emi Fujita is many audiophile's favorite girl & guitar artist, that much, I can attest to based on my many home visits, most host would some how invariably play at least one Emi Fujita song. It's normally either the ever popular All My Loving or Desperado, or both!

Camomile Best Audio.

I believe is a sort of "the best of" compilation of Emi Fujita's earlier efforts. Most songs are conservatively arranged, typically Japanese style when they remake a song. Emi is mostly backed by a trio or quartet of musicians, but I personally feel that she really comes in to her own when doing just plain girl & guitar. Most songs that I like tend to be of this arrangement.

Here's the few tracks that I liked.
Track 1) And I Love You So
Track 3) First Of May
Track 4) All My Loving
Track 6) Desperado
Track 9) Proud Of You
Track 10) Longer
Track 11) Today
Track 12) Walking On Air
Track 15) Wide Awake

Looks like quite a list? Yeah, there's 17 tracks in total to choose from!

Kokoro No Shokutaku - Okaeri Itoshiki Utatachi.

This is Emi's all Japanese album, released in 2008. As I do not exactly understand Japanese 100%, I can't list down the track titles that I like. However, I will instead focus on the overall "feel" of the album.

I find Emi to be very naturally relaxed, singing in her native language. There's a sense of calmness and ease, not found on her English songs. She give feelings of intimacy, despite the language barrier, she some how still manages to emotionally engage me in all the right moments. Emi doesn't stray too far from her usual style, and can sound immediately familiar to her fans. I also thought this album's presentation from song to song to be very even in quality and style signature. Some tracks may seem very familiar only because that they've been covered by either Canto Pop or Taiwanese singers prior listening to this. I must also point out that track 4) is some kinda special(from the point of historical references), as the song features a Chinese Erhu instrument in the back, which is very well recorded, without the usual sibilance found on Chinese recording of the Erhu. I think the Japanese recording engineers got it just right here, giving the Erhu just enough presence within the sound stage but never too forward to cause any sibilance.

On both my Hybrid SACD samples which are manufactured in Japan, the sound quality is first rate, with excellent clarity and low noise floor allowing the vocals and musical instruments to seemingly pop out of the back ground, with great presence. Little wonder, I was told, that Sony audio engineers used these two albums as their sound references, when testing and finalizing their SACD/CD player tuning in the Japanese R&D laboratories!

Both albums offer lite and easy arm chair listening moods, and if language and song familiarity is your thing, then Camomile Best Audio certainly won't disappoint. But if one is an Emi Fujita fan, and want to hear her native side, Kokoro No Shokutaku is worthwhile. Pick your poison, or better, if you're a fan of Emi Fujita, just get them both!