January 2, 2010

The Best Of 2009.

Here are some of the hifi stuff that really impressed me in year 2009, but I did not buy for one reason or another. I guess you could call them the best of 2009.

1) CD Players: I thought that market is predicting the death of the CD player to come anytime soon. However, in the ironic real life, we received more CD players than anything else to review in 2009! Here's some of my favourites.

Esoteric X-03SE: I fell in love with this CD player so completely, I am still dreaming about it today. The sound is dead neutral, but exceptionally transparent and very musical. Built like a Panzer tank and offers some of the smoothest transport operation too! It's a gem.
Esoteric X-03 SE CD/SACD player.

Metromone CD One T Signature: This top loading CD player makes music unlike any other digital player. It presents music with a touch of "humanness" that very few digital gear can even hope to offer. Operates rather smoothly too, but rather pricey.
Metronome CD One T Signature CD player.

Stello CDT100 &DA100 Signature: This is possibly the cheapest high end sounding CD player one can buy today. It's mid centric sonic performance gives away little to the more expensive players tested, except that the highs can be a little more refined, but if you looked at it from a positive angle, the highs are not grainy but have a certain texture that suits Rock music much better. The I2S Transport to DAC interface must be used for best results. Bargain of the year!
Stello CDT100 Transport & DA100 Signature DAC combo.

Note: I would've included the Ayre C5-XMP that Odiosleuth bought too, but I never got a chance to grab it. Odioslueth just didn't wanna part with it after he heard it, so he parted with some cash instead! However, I do agree with his choice very much, in the context of his system synergy.

2) Amplifiers: Though I am still highly committed to my Pass Labs amps, I'll point out the few gems that came my way this year.

Bladelius Saga pre amp & Ymer power amp: This very expensive combo is worth every penny for state of the art hifi performances. One of the most true to source amplifier combos that I've played with, literally a wire with gain. The power amp has enough juice to virtually any speaker loads with great effect. Bass control is second to none!
Bladelius Saga pre amp.

Bladelius Ymer power amp.

Bryston 3BSST2 & 4BSST2 power amps: These have gotta be the most sensible power amp buys of the year! The amps are highly truthful to source and are powerful enough to drive most speaker loads under most normal conditions. Built quality and the 20 year parts & labour warranty is superb by all counts. I do however, subjectively find the 3BSST2 somewhat the more musical performer of the two, if 150W x 2 is all you need! Plus, it's cheaper too!
Bryston 3BSST2 power amp.

Bryston 4BSST2 power amp.

Krell S-300i integrated amp: This baby Krell sounds more refined, highly transparent, but just as brute, compared to Krells of the earlier generations. Despite being Chinese made, build quality is good as far as the naked eye can see. The only compromises visible is in that dull looking gray powder coat used on the chassis. It is also iPod compatible too!
Krell S-300i integrated amp.

Speakers: I didn't play too much with speakers as they are hard to set up in the room and take longer time evaluate than other hifi gears. One particular pair of speakers did stand out more than others thus far.

PMC OB1i: These rather big speakers have an uncanny way of disappearing in to the room(and mine is a very small room). The special mid range dome gives vocals and acoustic instruments an element of warmth that is classic BBC in tone. Think of it as a grown up, highly transparent LS 3/5A series classic BBC speaker with refined and extended highs and that punchy tight low bass and you're not too far off the mark!
PMC OB1i speaker.

Power Line Conditioners: In the Malaysian urban housing environment, there's no escaping poor power supply, unless one's home is a custom built mansion! Most of us just buy ready built homes from a reputable developer and pray really hard that they do not cut too much corners, and most importantly, deliver the house on time, as per stipulated in the legally binding Sales & Purchase Agreement. One of the ares most often we don't get to see until we plug in our hifi systems is the power lines embedded in the walls! It's one of the most popular areas where costing is most controlled. He!He! Although I already mentioned and bought the Torus Power RM8A yesterday, however I felt another competing product is as good as the Torus Power, It's the Pure Power APS2000.

Pure Power APS2000: This is a full featured PLC that uses re-generation as it's core technology. It comes with a full array protection features, that your audio components is almost guaranteed safe guarded electrically, when powered via the Pure Power APS. It's also one of the most "direct" sounding PLCs around. If your system does not consume too much power, I subjectively felt the smaller Pure Power APS1050 to sound more musically satisfying. Hmm.....
Pure Power APS2000 PLC.

Cables: How can we not have anything to say about this? There are two cables that got me all weak in the knees and wishing for more!

Siltech Classic Anniversary 770L: For me, this is that almost ideal speaker cable second to none! The sound is technically flawless and at the same time ever so musical, that one can forget it's even there! One can spend more $$$ on speaker cables, but I doubt you'd get any better than this Sin Lui sister!
Siltech Classic Anniversary 770L speaker cable.

JPS Alluminata power cord: I never understood before this, who in the right mind would pay RM$13k for 1.5m of power cord? But after hearing this top dog JPS, I just cannot fathom why would any one with a seriously big budgeted hifi system be without it? This state of the art power cord took my system a few notches up the performance level, I never imaging before, by a mere power cord, or any cable change, possible. If you've got "the" system to match and the $$$, you just gotta check it out. Subliminal!
JPS Alluminata power cord.

That's it folks! The best components that we have reviewed in 2009.


Joseph said...

Hi, could you share on how the Esoteric X-05 sounds compared to the X-03 SE? Thanks.

Big E said...


As I have not tried the Esoteric X-05 in my system before as per the more epensive X-03, I can't comment on the sound just yet but rather only on specs.

Compared to it's almost twice more expensive brother, the X-06 makes do with a simpler CD coupling mechanism, rather than a full metal transport of the X-03, the X-05 has a polycarbonate CD clamp.

The other main diference is the DAC chip. The X-05 uses the top dog ultra expensive, if ancient BB1704 DAC chip. The X-05 makes do with the garden variety, but once popular CS4938 upsampling chip.

The X-03 quite possibly has more regulation stages in the power supply, compared to the X-05.

Both are built to Lexus standards of fit & finish, and operates smoothly.

Let me try and see if I can get the Esoteric X-05 for a full test drive?

Keep your fingers crossed!

Joseph said...

That would be great Big E....I await with bated breath! The X-03 must sound absolutely great since the less expensive X-05 is used by Neil Gader (TAS) as his reference player.