March 31, 2010

10 Qs For James Shannon, VP International Sales Wadia.

James Shannon, VP International Sales Wadia.

It's been an exciting Wadia sponsored month here on HiFi-Unlimited. The final qualifying entry to the Wadia write in competition has been chosen and awaiting results, for the grand prize of a Wadia 170iTransport, courtesy of CMY Audio & Visual.

In the mean time, I took the opportunity to find out more about the company, the people and the future of digital from James Shannon, when we met at the Wadia listening date some 2 weeks ago. Here are my 10 questions to James:

1) Big E: The name Wadia, what's the story behind the name?

James: Wadia is the family name of the company's founder, who originated from Syria.
The Wadia 9 series statement products, this 3 piece digital gear cost a cool, cool, RM$120k!

2) Big E: How did Wadia came about, as a company?

James: Wadia was formed by a group of researchers who formerly worked in the 3M Corporation. Their love for music and hi fidelity(that in the early days of CDs), made them feel like they could do something about the digital sound they heard. They thought they could make digital sound better.

3) Big E: What's Wadia's reference to digital music reproduction?

James: Our reference is simple, our products must reproduce music in the highest levels of fidelity possible, yet still sound like music and must involve the listener on an emotional level. We also look in to the feel good factor, and pride of ownership too. After all, we'd only produce a product that I, myself would wanna buy with my hard earned cash.

4) Big E: The Wadia 381 CD player is one of the best sounding I've heard in recent times, how is that level of performance achieved?

James: The Wadia 381 is a lower cost version of our Wadia 581SE. The 381 shares many of the core technology, circuit layout and parts as the more expensive player. The level of performance is very close between the 2 players, hence the Wadia 381i is a great value for money performer, you must trust me when I say our margins are very thin with the 381 CD player. However we felt that level of pricing would allow more people to be able to afford the Wadia level of sound performance.
A close up of the Wadia 381i DAC and analog output board. I spotted 4 pcs of PCM1704K DAC chips, made by Burr Brown. These DAC chips are still considered to be the best available today!

The production date stamp!

At this point James proceeds to open up a unit of the Wadia 381i to show us it's internal bits!

5) Big E: Is Wadia looking to introduce memory players? Like those from Bladelius or Nova Physics?

James: Oh...! You mean players with built in flash memory cards?(yes!) Ah.... I personally feel digital formats are still evolving and players with built in flash memory cards are just one of the current solution. Until the digital music download format issue settles down, we'd think of something. In the meantime, everyone now stores music in their hard disk. Some have just started, but I know many people have stored thousands of albums and singles on their hard disk. What they probably need now is kind of like a digital librarian to archive one's music in an easy to use interface.

6) Big E: Do you download your music?

James: I am one those people with thousands of albums and tunes stored in my hard disk. In fact I have a few hard disk drives full of music! Therefore, when I mentioned about the digital music librarian, I am really attending to my own problems and I think there's plenty of people out there with the same problem.
The dual power supply transformers and the CD transport, co developed by Wadia and Stream Unlimited.

7) Big E: Is the Wadia 381i CD player using a TEAC sourced CD transport?

James: Interesting question! We have previously bought OEM transport packages from Philips, Pioneer and Teac. We had an exceptionally good working relationship with Teac, as their transports were some of the best designed and most reliable in the field. But for our latest generation of players, we've decided to work with Stream Unlimited. They are a Swiss company specializing in optics for data. They are staffed by mostly ex-Philips engineers and have a lot of experience in making an excellent CD transport. The best part is, we at Wadia get to work with them, and input our requirements in to the transport design from an early development stage, compared to previously, we could only buy what was an OEM transport package! I am extreme pleased with the result of our partnership with Stream Unlimited and the transport you now see inside this CD player.
A proud James proclaiming the best Wadia transport ever made!

8) Big E: Can I make a suggestion on your next transport and tray re-design? I've being using a review sample of the Wadia 381 CD player for past few weeks and have found that, the CD shaped imprint on transport tray design does not leave much room for some warped or improperly placed CDs on to the tray. As a result, the CD becomes scratched on the playing surface, especially when the tray gets jammed as it closes and the CD is caught in between the tray and the from panel slot.

James: Thank you for that suggestion, why have we never taught of that? But that's an easy problem to fix and we'll incorporate your excellent suggestion in our next transport/tray re-design. By the way, since we talking about the tray, I'd like to point out that the aluminum alloy tray is dampened with a vinyl like material on the under side. This reduces the resonance effect the tray would have on a spinning CD. Also note those Teflon coated guide rails? They make the transport opening/closing action very smooth. And lastly, stop leaving your CDs in the sun, would ya???(hello James, this is Malaysia, you know? It's hot and sunny everyday!)

9) Big E: Do you think today's iPod generation will get to be tomorrow's hifi buyers?

James: The Apple iPod totally transformed the way today's music is sold and consumed. The market for iPod owners is huge! With products like the Wadia 170iTransport and 151 PowerDAC, we hope to open the eyes and ears of this new generation of music lovers, of what is possible with the sound quality from their iPod. If only we could convert 25% of today's iPod users in to tomorrow's high end customers, can you imagine the market size then for high end?

10) Big E: The Wadia website seems pretty basic on product information, is it a strategy to get people to go to the dealers?

James: You know, buying a piece of audio equipment is just like buying a car. You wanna touch it, feel it and most important of all, hear it(in the case of the car, test drive it) before you buy. The best way to buy hifi is still to do it at the dealers. You're right, that's our intention.

That's all the time I had with James. Do stay tuned for the winner announcement of our Wadia write in competition.

March 29, 2010

A Wadia 170iTransport for Your i-Thoughts - Final Week

Below is the fourth and final qualifying entry for Hifi Unlimited's Wadia 170iTransport competition. The final winner will be announced some time in April.

The following is from
Wang C. A.:

Essential Wadia 170i

I lead a hectic life.
I thrive on the fast lane.
I expect high performance.
I don't accept compromises.
Either I do or I don't.
My choice is clear.
I don't look back
It’s not an option.

I keep abreast with cutting edge technology.
My work requires me too push the limits.
I am the kinda guy who can be two places at one time.
The world is in the palms of my hands.
I control everything from wherever I am.
It doesn't matter where I will be.
I can be there, in an instant.
The press of a button.
I am transported.
Thanks to technology.

That’s me, at work.
When I play, I play just as hard.

When I am home, I am a different being.
I leave work outside my door but I bring the world home with me.
I am offline but I am connected, through my IPOD.
My vibe, my videos, my rhythm, my home essentials.
Never come home without it.

I don’t fuss the small stuff.
I don’t live with big clumsy, furniture either.
Everything has a purpose, a reason.
Clearly conceived, conscious space.
A place to dock my mind.
In the center of the room, a small revolution.
A Wadia 170i.
To dock my IPOD.
Plugged in, music flows immediately.
Crystal clear music through the air.
Rhythm gets my foot tapping.
Every musician comes to life.
A touch of the remote brings the projector to life.
Music video cruising from my Ipod through the Wadia 170i.
Crystal clear digital audio.
High resolution video.
High performance, miniature wonder.
Nothing like home.
Nothing like my Wadia 170i.

I don’t need anything else.

March 27, 2010

Strange Love! Audio Physic Spark and Bewitch KT88.

The Audio Physic Spark is no longer available. It has been since superseded by the Sitara, which is unfortunately, not brought in to Malaysia by the local distributor.
For the past week or so, a friend has been raving about the Audio Physic & Bewitch partnership he had heard, and hoped to emulate the very same qualities in his musical system.

Today, we've experienced the very unlikely combo that worked like a dream! My resident Audio Physic Spark was matched with a tube amp, a Bewitch KT88 integrated. This combo, played in my audio cave, sourced by my Marantz CD7(all connected with silver RCA interconnects and speaker cables by Prometheus Audio) resulted in great bass control, emotive vocal rendering, and excellent harmonic and timbre colours reproduction of string instruments like violin, piano and even acoustic guitar. Highs were smooth and airy, as it should with tube power.

The beer budget Bewitch KT88, is China made I believe, but boy...., did it sound like a million bucks when partnered with the AP Spark above!

The really unexpected thing was that when the 90db @ 4 ohms rated Spark was connect to the 8 ohms speaker output tab of the Bewitch, the sound mellowed and it was a musical experience bathed in goose bumps moments. I've never heard the Audio Physic Spark sang with such a gorgeously warm touching tone.

Just hoping to share with our readers an experience of very unlikely strange bed fellows that can sound like magic.

March 24, 2010

Absolute AV Gallery In Amcorp Mall.

The shop front display of Absolute AV Gallery.

Folks, not so new is Absolute AV Gallery, located on the first floor of Amcorp Mall, just opposite of Audiomatic, if one needs a popular location marker. The place is run by a hifi industry veteran, Mr Ong. If one doesn't quite know him, may I tell you that I first met Ong when I bought an all singing and dancing Bose speaker system for my home AV needs many years ago! Ring a bell???

Speakers galore! Meridian, Roksan and Aurum Cantus.

Absolute AV Gallery has actually been operating in Amcorp Mall for the last couple of months, but I was never able to bring my self to do another dealer focus just yet! By now all the silly holidays is over, and it's time to get back to some serious work.
Roksan front end and integrated amp.

Absolute AV Gallery deals with brands like Meridian, Roksan, Avantgarde, Snell, Audio Note and some quality used consignment high end hifi gear. Ong tells me there are plans to bring in more brands to make things just a little more exciting.
The main demo area, can't miss those beautiful Avantgarde horns can ya?

In the main demo area, a pair of Avantgarde Uno horn speakers are currently on demo, being feed by the Meridian G08.2 CD player and Roksan integrated amplifier. Ong sets up his demos meticulously and has a wide range of musical demo selection.
There's a tale behind this Meridian G08.2 CD player.

All I can say is thank fully, there's now some retail representation for great brands like Meridian and Roksan. I remembered sometime ago, a friend had listened to Odiosleuth's hifi system and decided that he'd like to purchase the Meridian G08.2 CD player as he was highly impressed with it's sonic performance. However at that time, no one knew who was selling Meridian in Malaysia! And don't ask me where and how Odiosleuth got his Meridian then. He! He!
More hifi on display, Meridian, PS Audio, Audio Note and Snell!

To avoid disappointments, please call Ong for an appointment at tel no: 012-3210488.

March 22, 2010

A Wadia 170iTransport for Your i-Thoughts - Week 3

Below is the third qualifying entry for Hifi Unlimited's Wadia 170iTransport competition. There is one last qualifying space left now for that chance to win the grand prize.

The following is from Alex Chong W.F.:

Wadia, Unforgettable Sound

End of a song sung by Tsai Chin, found myself grumbling that I was neither in an euphonic mood nor ecstasy fit. My hifi system still stood in the middle ground and I believe the weakest link would be the source, a Marantz SA8003. It is a SACD/CD player but it still falls short of the best CD source that I have ever heard. Still fresh in my mind is a ‘live’ sound I heard in an audio exhibition many years ago. A Wadia CD player was demonstrating songs by Tsai Chin which it produced with transparency, scale and realism that triggered goose bumps all over me. The clarity of flow on vocal, the reality of musical instrument was rendering Tsai Chin ‘vocally naked’ in front of me, and the rhythmic beat stirred up emotion to the highest state that I concentrated on her despite hundreds of visitors streaming in and out of the listening hall.

A visually striking, solid built square metal box that can even survive a nuclear explosion, blue lighting proudly displaying ‘Wadia’ with posh quality written all over it. This is the CD machine that I would love to own and I pushed myself to ask for the price. Wadia is a well known brand for audiophiles with deep pockets, re-confirming that I could not really afford it, I sadly moved out of the listening room.

Wadia's sound has since hounded me, still having dream of the unforgettable goose bump from Tsai Chin. Even as now I have heard other great brands for CD sources, yet I am still finding myself wishing for a Wadia. I am still very much in the hoping someone, someday would offer a reasonably priced secondhand Wadia CD player that I'll eagerly to put my well earned money to.

For the complete Rules and Regulations of the Wadia Competition, please refer to our earlier announcement here.
Grand Prize! Wadia 170i Transport. Picture shown with iPod attached. The iPod or iPhone to use is your choice, and is sold separately. By the way, you'll also need to connect the Wadia 170i Transport to your high end rig via a dedicated DAC.

March 21, 2010

Wadia Experience At CMY.

James making a product pitch to us.

On Thursday afternoon, CMY hosted most of us audio scribes and hardcore Wadia supporters to meet the company's esteemed VP Of International Sales, James Shannon.

Another Wadia, Jeff Rowland and Dynaudio demo system.

James was here to promote and re-establish Wadia's brand commitment in support of CMY Audio & Visual and Malaysian customers. He also gave us an up date of Wadia's future projects and a glimpse of future in the form of music in digital format.
Some of the familiar faces in the crowd.

A full range of Wadia digital equipment was on demo including the well received model 381i CD player, the 170i Transport and the top of the range 9 series digital separates supported by a model 581 CD transport. The much anticipated and exciting product in the form of the Wadia 151 PowerDAC was still in the process of customs clearance unfortunately.

The main demo rig.

James was visibly excited when he spoke about the Wadia 151 PowerDAC, which is the ideal partner to the 171i Transport. Dressed in the same matching style casing, (so one can stack or rack em' and look cool too!) the Wadia 151 PowerDAC is a digital to analog converter, digital input selector, volume control and 50W per channel stereo power amp all in one box. We hope to be able to take the Wadia 171i Transport and 151 PowerDAC for a spin soon. By the way, the good news is, this Wadia pair is relatively affordable too, but price is yet to be confirmed.

We were then treated to a selection of musical demo played back by the top of the range 9 series digital separates with suitably impressive top range Jeff Rowland electronics and Dynaudio C2 speakers. A few Apple loss less format tracks were also played back using an iPod.
The naked Wadia 381i CD player. Note the transport which is co developed by Wadia and Stream Unlimited(a Swiss based company that specialises in optics), dual power supplies on the right and the output board on the left with adjustable red dip switches to set output voltage should one need to run the Wadia straight in to the power amp.

The secret of the Wadia 381's good sound was also revealed by removing the cover of a unit, with James pointing out the design cues and technical aspects that enchances the performance.

As usual, I took some time to ask James a few questions that might be of interest to you. Stay tune for my 10Qs posting coming soon.

March 20, 2010

JZ8's Debut CD.

I was having a cuppa with Hifi Maverick and the Pop Pop Man(that's good ol' Maggielurva for you and me) recently and ML passed me a CD-R copy of his latest just completed JZ8 project. He told me that it's an un-edited pre-pressing sampler and then ask "tell me what you think of it after you listen to it?".

I am sure by now, most of our dear readers would've been reading about the JZ8 duo which is vocal lead by Lydia Chew and supported Tay Cher Siang on piano(there are other musical instruments in the mix too, just make it a little more interesting). The music is ol' skool Chinese Jazz but with a refreshing twist.

I listened to the music in my home hifi and car audio system, then the play list available recently in pop pop music blog on my PC speakers. All I can say is that the pre-pressing sampler CD sounded full bodied, rich, airy and natural. The compressed MP3 format's sound quality on the play list located on the right panel of this blog just doesn't do the songs justice. However, the play list here is just to allow our readers to sample the artistic content, and should not be used as a barometer indication of the CD's potential recording quality.

Musically speaking, I found Lydia's voice to have more than a passing resemblance to audiophile queen Cai Qin, but only more seductive! On some tracks, she actually sounded like your best friend's sexy elder sister that you've always wanted to date, but never dared make a move on her for being afraid that it'll ruined your friendship(Well, now's the time to go sweep her off her feet???, oh yeah, that's my right brain thinking a loud again. He!He!). By the way, since I am a banana(yellow outside, white inside) kinda Chinese fella(there's also the mango kind which is yellow inside out!), I can't quite understand what Lydia's singing most of the time, but that musical experience is no less diluted. By the way ML, what ever happened to the customary saxophone on the classic I Have A Date With Spring track? I heard Lydia singing about that "smooth, smooth saxophone" bit but I didn't hear the sax!

In the end I felt Tay Cher Siang's piano playing was quite the un expected star of the day! I like the way he licks the keyboard and the piano sound just flows(check out the song named Fairy Wheels). I find it hard to describe the sensation, but once listened to the CD on a well set up high end system, I think you'll know what I am trying to get at. ML, how about an album with Tay Cher Siang and some extra musical instrumental(trio or quartet) backing? I think he'd probably do as well as Richard Clayderman! Think of the huge market potential for easy listening, or lobby/elevator music? Ha!Ha!

I ordered a copy of the first 1000 pressing from ML. I am looking forward to get my production copy! Go get yours now.

Local CD Gets Voted "CD of the Month" in Audiophile

I guess this is something worth cheering because I was there to witness the process ;-)

Love's Tapestry gets voted "CD of The Month" by Audiophile's (Fatt Siu Yum Heong) Chief Editor, Chan Ying Kong. Being an industry veteran for more than 30 years, Chan is not an easy guy to please and "CD of The Month" is not a recognition one could "buy" with money, if you get my drift. It has to be earned.

This is the 2nd time (the first being 2V1G) a Malaysian production gets recognized by HK hifi media.

Maggie told me that he will run a contest in The Star's Audiophile page to give away 20 copies of this CD. So those who want to have this album but hesitant to get it, you can wait for the contest in The Star.

p/s Another review from Taiwan's U-Audio here.

March 19, 2010

A Little Bit Of BBC Legacy Gets Auctioned.

This pair of Rogers made, BBC spec LS3/5A with serial no.003/004 pair probably dates back to 1974!

My good friend Jo, alerted me to this! A pair of LS3/5A speakers, made by Rogers, not just any pair, but one of the very first pairs ever made, with serial no.003/004 caused bidding frenzy on e-bay in the last 2 weeks amongst collectors of the BBC spec mini monitors(hey! what happened to serial no.001/002 pair?).

The internals of the earliest LS 3/5A known. Note the KEF made drivers and the complex passive cross over design.
The bidding just ended 3 days ago, with the winning bidder paying more than three thousand British pounds(that's nearly RM$18k, buyer pays for freight too!), for the ownership privilege of the once proud BBC historical pedigree. For the money, the new owner will also get some of the authentic BBC R&D specification documents for the classic LS3/5A grade mini monitors.

The pair's frequency responce chart and some of the original BBC R&D documents that will come as part of the purchase.
As you can see from the pictures, the speakers it self is well worn and not mint, as it was probably an R&D pair and perhaps a work horse in it's later life. I can't see a more meaningful way to invest in one's favorite hifi!(it'll probably appreciate in time and gain value too, which will make this a fine investment!)

More R&D document to validate the hstoric value of the LS 3/5A.
Congrats to the new owner, and may this person do the honour to preserve the BBC heritage of past excellence!

March 18, 2010

Fact Or Myth?

PMC Fact series loud speaker's bold claims! We find out if it's fact or myth?

Stay tune!

March 17, 2010

Go Listen To The Bird Sing, Only At Audiomatic.

Marten Design Bird speaker with all ceramic drivers except diamond coated tweeter.

I made a visit to Audiomatic and was surprised to find Eugene demo-ing a pair of Marten Design Bird loud speakers powered by a Bladelius Thor MKII integrated amp and a Freja MKIII CD/SACD player. Most cables and power conditioning unit is by Furutech.
Bladelius Thor MKII integrated amp and Freja MKIII CD/SACD player.

The sound was pristine pure, with little colouration to the music. The pair of diamond coated tweeters produces some of the most liquid, smooth highs which are highly addictive to listen to. By the way, the Marten Design Bird retails for RM$115K, so go hear the bird sing while you still can!
Audiomatic's main sound room.

Call Eugene at Audiomatic, tel:012-3222698 for an appointment.

March 16, 2010

Important Announcement On the Wadia 170iTransport Write-in Competition

We want to apologize to our readers and contributors to the Wadia Competition. We have made a boo-boo in the e-mail address which you are required to send your write-ups to.

A keen-eyed contributor pointed out a typo to us. The correct e-mail address to use is In our previous posts, we have reversed the 'e' and 'u' (they have been corrected now).

For those contributors who spelt out the address, your entry would have reached me. However, if you cut and paste the email address, your entry might have gone missing in cyberspace.

If you have sent your entry to us in the last 2 weeks, please resend them again. I'll acknowledge receipt by a return e-mail within 2 working days from now on. If you do not receive my return e-mail, please check the e-mail address you use and re-send again.

We apologize again for this mishap. Please roll-in those entries now!!

A Wadia 170iTransport for Your i-Thoughts - Week 2

Below is the second qualifying entry for Hifi Unlimited's Wadia 170iTransport competition. Hurry! There are only 2 more qualifying spaces for that chance to win the grand prize. The following is from W.S.Woon:

Seeing the brand Wadia now is like taking a trip down memory lane. It was almost 10 years ago but I can still see the excitement on my father’s face when he set up his first “high-end” audio system, Wadia 6.

Back then, I could not understand the significance of having a “high end” audio system as we already had a few CD players at home. What puzzled me even more was the fact that you need to dedicate an entire room to fully appreciate the sound system.

I asked my dad, “What makes this CD player so great?” He said, listening to music is never the same when you could hear every single detail, lively, natural & warmness of sound which made a song great.

I may not comprehend the meaning of “quality sound”, but I remember the warmness of its sound brought a homely type of feeling to our house. For my dad and I, listening to the soothing sound of his audio system provided us a certain peace of mind. It was so relaxing that I lost track how many times I fell asleep in that room and I hope this natural soothing sound would past on to my next generation as well. The feeling of mental relaxation through great sound is what Wadia symbolizes to me.

For the complete Rules and Regulations of the Wadia Competition, please refer to our earlier announcement here.

Grand Prize! Wadia 170i Transport. Picture shown with iPod attached. The iPod or iPhone to use is your choice, and is sold separately. By the way, you'll also need to connect the Wadia 170i Transport to your high end rig via a dedicated DAC.

March 15, 2010

World's Premier of JZ8

Dang, just like having your dream girl snatched away by the school's best athlete, before you even confess to her that you like her, someone beats me to the reporting of the World's Premier of JZ8, the latest creation from the pop pop man.

It isn't even reported in the pop pop music blog yet, why this Malaysia Finance guy gets such privileged info from? ;-)

What delightful display of Chinese pop/jazz in the hands of Lydia Chew and Tay Cher Siang! Loving every minute of it! This is going to be a classic, i have a funny feeling.

Whether you like or dislike Maggielurva as an audiophile, blogger or music producer, you can't deny that he has what it takes to propel Malaysian-made audiophile music to the international arena. JZ8 is the culmination of what he knows and what he could do within his means. The album will go very very far. And he still have a few more in the pipeline.

If my hunch is right, JZ8 is gonna sell by the truckload, heck, it will even win awards if ever there are such for audiophile recordings. Already, Love's Tapestry gets voted as "The Best CD of The Month" in Hong Kong's longest-running Audiophile (Fatt Siu Yum Heong) magazine in this March issue.

I hope Big E could get the music player and post it over here!

March 12, 2010

A Date With Wadia

CMY is hosting a visit from Wadia Digital.

Mr. James Shannon, Wadia's VP for Export Sales, will be coming to our shore to meet local audiophiles. Details as follows:

Date: 18 March 2010
Time: 3 p.m.

Place: CMY Damansara Uptown
Ph: 77272419

Anyone interested to listen to Wadia's excellent digital frontends and want to know more about Wadia's technology, remember to make a beeline to the event!

March 11, 2010

By George, You Lift Me Up! Cardas Nocthed Myrtle Wood Blocks.

The Cardas notched Myrtle wood blocks. The review samples are the single notched ones. Double notched blocks are also available from Hi-Way Laser.

Odiosleuth was sufficiently impressed with the Cardas Myrtle wood blocks, when he tested them a few months ago, that he made them a permanent part of his system. He also secretly told me that he felt no serious audiophile should not be without a few wood blocks, just like RCA caps or isolation cones/balls as part of his/her hifi tweaking arsenal. I did not take his statement seriously, that is until now.

George Cardas is a famous man in the high end audio circles, not because he invented the Golden Ratio theory. The Golden Ratio principle was first known to be used by the Egyptians to build burial chambers for their kings inside the pyramids(does that explain why their mummified bodies are so well preserved?). No, George Cardas was not even the first person to explore the Golden Ratio application in audio reproduction. That courtesy goes to BBC, when they first developed all those LS series speakers, like 3/5A, 4/2 or 5/9 models in the 1960's. Apparently all those speaker's wooden cabinets were sized according to the principles of Golden Ratio. Can my good friend Jo Ki, the famed Malaysian LS 3/5A curator, confirm this bit?
A close up shot of the Cardas wood block. It's sized as per the "Golden" ratio, but with a notched cut in to the top for cable resting. Note the laser etched Cardas logo.

George Cardas decide incorporate the Golden Ratio principle from his earliest audio products and hifi set up theories back then in the 1980's when it was almost forgotten by most in the high end dom. That gave his products the edge to market success and that very principle is still mentioned, along with a few other newer innovations on his latest products available today.

The notched Myrtle wood blocks are used to lift cables(especially speaker cables), off the ground, offering promised sound quality enhancement. In my previous experiment with Shunyata Dark field Elevators, a product of the same function, I found my Siltech Classic 25th Anniversary 330L speaker cables did not like being lifted off the ground with it. I bought the Shunyata Dark field review samples and used it to lift my 4m long Cardas Golden Presence XLR inter connects instead(is it coincidence or irony? Your call here. He! He!).
That's how it works! My Siltech Classic 25th Anniversary 330L speaker cable resting on the Cardas notched Myrtle wood blocks.

I started with the Cardas notched Myrtle wood blocks lifting up the same Siltech speaker cables as mentioned above, using 3 pcs aside. I found the Siltech to more readily accept the Cardas than it did the Shunyata. I felt reason being that just to re cap, the Shunyata was too intrusive in it's sound character to the overall system's. Whilst the noise floor was brought down, it did on the whole harden the sonic signature of the system some what, in the process removing most of the organic sound qualities that my system had.
Who tha bad? Cardas vs Shunyata!

The Cardas was better in that respect, while not exactly as quiet as the Shunyata, it's sonic character was more subtle overall too. And what did the Cardas bring to the sonic table, it did not detract from the overall system sound. I found my already organic sound to benefited a bit more when playing female vocals. I played Lily Chen's Song Of Love CD, I felt her voice was subjectively sweeter, with better density, plus a more focus mouth(if you're in to that vocal porn kinda thang) with the Cardas under the speaker cable. I thought I was imagining things, but I wasn't. I know because I did try to take out and put the Cardas back in for few times while listening to that same Lily Chen CD. Acoustic instruments like violins, cello and piano gained a little more wood to it's instrument sound. It's like the Cardas gave a very mild mid range "lift"(pun very much intended!) to the overall musical sound of my system.
Lily Chen sings, Song Of Love. Lily is singing sweeter than usual with the Cardas wood blocks in my system.

But in the end I just felt the result with the Cardas was more like adding a pinch of MSG to what was a very nice dish on the table. I moved the Cardas notched Myrtle wood blocks to under my Pass Labs pre amp and phono stage for some further experimentation. This time, I truly understood Odiosleuth's statement, mentioned much earlier on my opening paragraph. The Cardas used like the standard Myrtle wood block under my pre amp and phono stage(3 pcs under each component) produced just the right, subtle amount of taste enhancer as in the case of a very well prepared dish on the table. Only this time, it was more like adding a pinch of salt and pepper which, while enhances the overall flavour of the dish, yet never intrusive by the way of leaving an after taste just like MSG does(makes one feel very thirsty after food).
The Cardas wood blocks under my Pass Labs X2.5 and XOno phono stage. Here picture with 4 blocks under the pre amp. One should try using between 3 or 4 blocks for that subtle differences, which ever you'll end up preferring all boils down to personal choice. See how that notch helps to place the wood blocks?

I've decided to leave the Cardas notched Myrtle wood blocks underneath my Pass Labs pre amp and phono stage for good and they are not going back to Hi-Way Laser any time soon. By the way, they cost RM$55/pc. A cheap worthy hifi tweak, by any count.

Cardas is sold by Hi-Way Laser, contact Kenny, tel no: 03 78738325.

March 9, 2010

Amina Claudine Myers, Salutes Bessie Smith.

One of my latest popular spinners!

I must first state the obvious that this CD/LP may not appeal to all our readers. I recently played this CD to a visitor, and he asked to remove the CD less than 2 minutes playing in to track 1. He did not even want to skip to the next track for curiosity's sake! However, I insisted and he sat through the song quietly until it ended. Then this visitor remarked, "I knew this is a "goreng" performance, I absolutely hated it". Apparently, he then re-counted to me, the days when he was a keyboard/vocalist performer in the local pub/bar circuits, that he'd "goreng" his key board when he was:

a) tired and just didn't feel like singing any more.
b) having a memory lapse of the song's lyric that he was singing.
c) experiencing sore or uncomfortable throat symptoms.
d) having too much time to fill with too few songs left to perform. He said he could "goreng" a 5 minutes song to as long as 15 minutes!

So what's the meaning of "goreng"?, if you international readers must ask. It's actually a local Malaysian slang used by musicians to mean "improvisation" by a band on a recording or when performing live. I am actually quite a fan of improvisation. I feel it gives me an opportunity to hear in to the performer's inner state of mind, during the recorded or live performance, not the usual rehearsed routine. My jaded musical performing friend obviously felt differently over this issue, we agree to disagree, after all music is a very personal thing. However, if you like improvisation in the Blues genre with a tinge of Gospel and performed by a trio, with songs arranged just like old Jazz movement, then read on.

I think this has to be the most popular recording Amina Claudine Myers has ever made. Obviously gifted on the piano, she "gorengs" the keyboard with such passion and feeling for the tune, for example on track 1, called Wasted Life Blues, she started and continued on a piano solo lasting way over 3 and a half minutes before starting the vocal bit! Then it was back more keyboard drama in between vocals. Amina's voice is textured, harmonically rich, yet soulful. Track 1 is certainly my favorite, and that alone is worth buying the whole CD for. But wait, hear the CD a few more times, and you'd probably start to feel all 6 tracks(yes, only six, but the whole CD runs for a good 40 minutes or so!) are actually of very even quality. Except for track 6, tittled African Blues which is actually penned by Amina, all the earlier 5 tracks are Bessie Smith covers. Truth be told, I've not heard the actual Bessie Smith performance and will not venture in to comparing for the sake of it. I just want to say that Amina Claudine Myers is very talented, no comparison is needed to justify that. On all tracks, she's backed by a double bass and a drum kit. By the way, every chance she gets, she just goes a head and "gorengs" that keyboard and sets it on fire!

This recording was originally released in 1980, but only became available on CD by year 2000. The recording quality on my CD sample had some general low level tape hiss, but did not detract from my overall appreciation of the musical materials. Look past that tape hiss however, one can find a very immediate presentation, with lots of studio "air" and just enough warmness to sound enticing for long listening sessions. There is no edginess or glare to the sound at all, unlike some modern audiophile recordings disguised in the name of clarity. Do check out the prices of the original 1980 LP pressing on e-bay now, you'd probably be surprised by how much it's worth!

I am not surprised at all, as I've heard that said LP copy on a friend's super high end system, and it sounds fabulous! Get the CD if you do not have a turntable, or just plain cheapie like me. He!He!