April 27, 2010

Coming Soon! MaXed ayRe.

Look what we have here? Looks great, but how does it sound?

April 26, 2010

Announcing the Winner of the CMY Wadia 170iTransport Competition

Well, finally, here it is! After a couple of weeks of deliberation, Team CMY has chosen the winner.

Our "A Wadia 170iTransport for Your iThoughts" competition ran the whole month of March. We received a total of 9 submissions. Out those we received each week, we chose one to be shortlisted for CMY's consideration.

(DRUM ROLLS...... DRUM ROLLS.......)
CMY chose the week 2 entry from W.S.Woon as the final winner, citing its family orientation and the fact the Wadia is something to be enjoyed by the entire family. These are also values that are pretty much close to their heart.

Prize giving will be arranged for middle of May. We are pleased to re-produce the winning article here:

"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."

April 24, 2010

What's Musicality?

Can you do without musicality? Not me or Odiosleuth though.

Both of us have been often chided by a few objective minded audiophiles over our often praised value of musicality in a component on review. For us, musicality is one of the most important sonic attribute, especially for source components. If there's no musicality in the source to start with, one can't add it in the later stages of amps, speakers or cables. One could, however lose the element of musicality easily, if the signal from the source is not carefully preserved thru out the audio system chain.

What's musicality? How do you guys define musicality? Can you measure musicality? Does feelings qualify as musicality? They often asked.

Our standard line of reply would be without musicality, it'll be hard to enjoy music through our audio system. Musicality is an important factor for us because we need to feel emotionally connected to the music we're listening through the hifi system. Granted, the term musicality could mean different forms to different people. Some wanna tap their feet, other's feel like getting up to dance to the music and for me, I just wanna sit there in the sweet spot, just trans fixed by the music that I am hearing. We cannot elaborate further.

I have a true story to tell. One of our objective minded friends have owned a Linn Soundek LP12 for the last 20 years or so. Recently, he itched to upgrade his turntable, citing the Linn as passe, and the latest turn table designs would supersede it in terms of sound performance. He happily disposed the Linn to THIS friend for a song(thank you!), and went turn table shopping.

He aimed for all those massively loaded, solid high mass designs and set about picking his choice. He eventually bought a unit of highly reviewed, and well regarded high end designed turn table. I am not allowed to name the said turn table here for a reason, which I'll disclose later.

The turn table arrived, it was set up, we were all happy for him. He raved about the excellent transparency, low noise floor, good detail separation, refinement and neutral uncoloured tonal accuracy of the new toy. The sound stage is walk thru too! he texted me.

I went to listened to the new turn table after he had it for 2 months. I heard everything that he raved about, except I thought to my self, it just needs to be more musical. However, I didn't wanna be Dr. Kill Joy either, well if he is happy with what he heard, I should be happy for him too. I left the audition without telling a word.

I recently got a call from him to invite me for another listen. I went, and I was shocked! There it was, sitting on his hifi rack, was another Linn LP 12! "What the f...?" I asked him. He said "sit down, have another listen, tell me what you think of this LP 12 over my new toy?" which now ironically sits idly on the floor. He played his usual demo tunes as he did the last time, I sat in the sweet spot, listening to the music curiously. After listening we went for a cuppa, where he intensely wanted the truth from my mind, the whole truth! I knew he was ready for it.

I told him that his new toy of latest design had sonically beaten the Linn LP12 flat on all audiophile sonic attributes except, that the Linn is just some how more musical! Despite of all it's sonic imperfections, I could some how connect with the music played back thru the Linn LP12 where else all I heard with the other table, was good "high end" sound, which left me feeling somewhat in different to the music being played. He said "I agree with you, after the first few weeks of new toy "euphoria" I found my self listening to music less, and less, I realise I was spending my couch time watching the idiot box instead! It came to a point, where I could not even finish listening to one side to the LP!" He continued "with music played back via the Linn LP 12 which I had just bought again, I found that my old listening habits came back, meaning I wanna listening to at least 3 or 4 LPs before calling it a night, every night" My reply to this friend was " well, that's musicality for you, I think you've answered your own frequently asked question brilliantly!"

Both Odiosleuth and my self got no further "crap" about our advocate for musicality in hifi from the objective minded audiophile group after this little episode. And by the way, since this dear friend is now set on keeping his "old flame" called Linn LP 12 again, his new latest is greatest design, and highly reviewed, high end turn table is now for sale. Any takers???

Now you know why I can't reveal the name of the product in question?

April 22, 2010

In Good Company, Lee Lessack.

The handsome, clean cut and lanky Lee Lesack, with the list of duets partners listed on the CD cover label. I can see many ladies buying this CD if they saw this.

I first heard "In Good Company" duets CD by Lee Lessack in a friend's place during one of my home visits. The first two times I heard this CD, I thought to my self,"what pretentious singing and somewhat exaggerated recording". However, I must say each time I heard this CD again, some of the songs started to grow on me. I eventually bought the CD some time last year, but never listened to it much.

With the PMC Fact 8 speakers in my system now, I've seem to be going back to listening vocal recordings that I've never quite enjoyed before, including this! The PMC has quite a way of presenting old vocal materials from a new angle. And it is from this new perspective, that this CD shines.

Lee Lessack has a very ol' fashion, if rather stiff style of crooning, and if Simon Cowell(of American Idol fame) were to be judge, he'd probably label Lee as cabaret performer. Some of the songs here also have a very uplifting mood feel to them. However, with repeated listening, some of the cover duets seemed tastefully arranged and stand out to connect with me on an emotional state of mind. Lee does actually have some interaction chemistry with a few of his fellow female and 2 of male duet partners, as demonstrated in my choice tracks below.

1) The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face(reminds me of the first time I saw my wifey's face!)
2) The Look Of Love(the ever popular!)
4) Never Saw Blue Like That Before
6) Bring Back Romance(makes me wanna grab my wifey for a slow dance, which we actually did once)
8) Summer Wine
9) Vincero Perdero
10) If You Go Away
14) The Rose(made popular by Amanda McBroom and she sings here too!)
15) Vincent(very inspiring guys duet)

However, I did find that Lee's version of Open Arms, once made popular by the A&R rock group Journey and later covered success fully by none other than Mariah Carey(before she went all self obsessive and left little to the male imagination), to be so, so wrong. I just could not agree with it, like I did the two earlier versions.

Well, to like 9 out of the 17 songs available isn't too bad actually. And I did felt the CD to be a little long winded. I guess Lee should have stopped at 11 tracks and cut out a few of the duds perhaps? But whose complaining about all those extra filler tracks anyway?

The recording quality is typical premium audiophile quality, with great clarity, excellent vocal and instrument separation if ultimately, a little dry. As ML would put it, there's some MSG added during mastering for easier mass accept ability.

This CD makes a great Birthday or Christmas gift if you know someone who is an audiophile, or perhaps just to reward or up lift one's mood.

April 20, 2010

Usher Reference 2.5s Power Amp

"Heave, ho!" Big E and me groaned as we hoisted the Usher Reference 2.5s power amp from his car and gingerly laid it down on a trolley. We then started the arduous journey of getting the monster amp into my listening room - first into a lift, then up a handful steps of stairs, then manoeuvring it into position in my tight room while making sure its sharp edges did not touch my loudspeakers, equipment rack, other equipment and last but not least our legs and feet. Phew! after this exercise, we vowed not to ask for another macho amp to play with again, and then there was the return trip to worry about.

But again, which audiophile guy can resist listening to a big amp in his own system?

Unfortunately, this CMY's demo unit did not come with a manual and I also could not find details of it on Usher's website. In any case, listing for Rm13,800, the R2.5s is a very well built piece of equipment. Fit and finish is absolutely exemplary, as attested by many products that come out from that Island of Asian manufacturing powerhouse called Taiwan. I forgot to note the exact weight of the R2.5s, but it'd be in the region of 50kg/110lbs, you do get a lot of material for the price you pay. At the back there are single-ended and balanced inputs, selectable via a switch. There are 2 pairs of loudspeaker outputs, the binding posts are chunky and quite a delight to use - they tighten easily and bite down on the speaker cable spades without turning loose easily. The front and back are also fitted with a pair each of grab handles, which ease the owner's effort to move the amp into position, without them, there was no way Big E and I could have handled the R2.5s at all.

It is a stereo power amp that gives out 250w of output per channel @8 ohms. There is also a switch to bridge the amp into mono for even higher power output. On its front, the words 'Ideal Class A' are printed under the model number. Since the r2.5s never ran as hot as my full class A Pass Labs XA60, I presume the big Usher is running in some sort of Class A/B scheme.

The big Usher made its presence felt easily. With my 60 watters, on some occasions I could feel that they were operating at the edge of the power range (though hardly tumbling over). With Usher's 250 watter, I never had this feeling at all. The big amp gave a sense of just cruising at ease all the time. Their grip on the music and on the loudspeaker cones was never in doubt. Usher's was always a well organized and well structured presentation. With music that has huge dynamic swings and high loudness level especially (Sheffield Lab's drum tracks and Manger's compilation CD for examples), the presentation was always 'stable', never turned unruly or noisy. The beats were done with precision, quite an experience for me and quite different from my Pass Labs XAs, the XAs' can be said to be more flow-y and organic or, more fuzzy rhythmically - whichever way you want to look at it and whichever way that tickles your fancies, they are both quite different in this regard.

Though the R2.5s is rated at 250watts, it does not lack the ability to be able to convey delicacy and minute details in the music. Details did not get glossed over. Atmosphere in recordings such as Shelby Lynne's 'Just a little lovin'" and 2v1g was well preserved and conveyed quite excellently.

Tonally, the R2.5s falls into the solid state camp, it is not a solid state amp trying to imitate tube. It has the virtues of solid state - focus, clarity, and the control and precision mentioned earlier. Its sound is just slightly lean without any excess fat, but with a little hint of warmth. It avoids the criticisms that could be levelled at poorly implemented solid state amps, such as hardness, harshness and shrillness. At times, I wanted the Usher to let its hair down just a little more, however I believe that was not its design brief, its performance was more the other way round, one where no one hair is out of place, always proper, so to speak.

The big Usher would not jump up, wave its hands and yell, 'look at me, look at me'. It just went about doing its job, doing what it could well and did not attract much attention to itself in the process. A trusty and reliable companion in music making, no less.

Usher is already well known for its loudspeakers range, but I see that they are branching off into the electronics area. They now have a CD player, integrated amps, and pre-power combos in their offerings. It is a growing company and one worth keeping an eye on. Coming up next in Hifi-Unlimited will be Usher's P307A pre-amp.

Watch this space.

April 18, 2010


The opening screen shot of poppop-music.com

http://poppop-music.com/ is Maggielurva's new venture, designed to retail tasteful music that he likes, and produces. The rather basic website has an audio sampler, called music player which is pretty cool as it requires practically no loading time to access the songs on demo.

Try your luck at the Love's Tapestry CD give away contest.

From now till 28th April 2010, ML is giving away 15 copies of Love's Tapestry CD. Go check it out using the link provided above, to see what you need to do to deserve the freebie.

Please show support for our local talents and recording efforts.

April 16, 2010

Parasound Packages At Centre Circle Audio

In addition to the Parasound and EgglestonWorks combo package Big E wrote about earlier, Centre Circle Audio has also come up with a number of packages to make ownership of Parasound amplifiers easier. Music to our ears indeed.
Call Centre Circle Audio 03-7728 2686

Parasound/Egglestone Works Combo Promo!

Whoa! Big on performance at nearly give away prices. Look at the price! We have to do a double take, just to be sure.

Center Circle Audio is now promoting the Parasound Halo pre/power amps and a pair of Egglestone Works Dianne speakers at nearly give away prices! I remembered the Egglestone Works speakers alone comes with a sticker price of nearly RM$10K.

Guys and gals, if you've thinking about getting in to high end audio, consider no further! I don't think there's quite another hifi package as slick as this! Do your selves a favour, end your misery. Go and audition the combo promo.

I've been told that this offer is time limited and subjected to stock availability, so please hurry and call Center Circle Audio, Sky Wong, tel:03-77282686 for audition appointment.

April 15, 2010

100,000 Hits!

Hip, Hip, Hoo-ray!!! And a toast to our success.

Our hit counter shows that HiFi-Unlimited has just passed the 100,000 mark! That's highly remarkable, given that we've only been online for only a few months.

We are grateful to the generous support that our friends, loyal readers and hifi dealers have shown us. More dealers have pledge to hop on to the band wagon soon, which will result in more diversity of brands that we can write about, there fore bringing our readers more shopping options.

The local hifi industry has reported very positive retail figures, despite the slowing economy and every other issues affecting the Malaysian way of life. This goes to shows that when life is faced with challenges, we retreat in to our own world of music and sound, free from the burden of daily chores. Music is our natural rehab, if I may call it that. Thank fully, 2010 is going to be a period where economic recovery will start to happen. Remember the saying "Money can't buy happiness, but without money, nothing can happen!"

Our blog site analytics is still indicating readership growth of about 8% month on month, which is encouraging. About 55% of our readers are Malaysians and the remaining are international. Thanks to analytics, we also know what our readers like to read most.

We also understand that hi-fidelity as a hobby in Malaysia is expensive to purchase and sustain, vis-a-vis our local standards of living. If you may have noticed, we've just started a segment to write about some "old is gold", classics or just plain good value pre-owned high performance hifi, like those that we'd like to buy for ourselves. It is with hope that we do actually bring more people in to this hobby by introducing quality pre-owned, yet affordable hifi as a first step in to high end audio. The multiplier effect means there will be a ready pool of buyers for owners who wish to upgrade their gears. This can only be good for the hifi retail industry in the long term.

Lastly, a big thank you to all our supporters, who gives us the strength and passion to do what we like doing best, doodling about hifi.

April 14, 2010

HiFi Furniture One Stop Shop, ATS Rack.

The shop front of ATS Rack.

Located on the 1st Floor of Amcorp Mall, Malaysia's hifi mecca, is ATS Rack. This shop is unique because they only specialize in design, manufacturing and retail of quality hifi/AV supports, stands and accessories. They also manufacture stuff like tweaking cones and coasters from various materials like wood, stainless steel, nickel or brass amongst other materials.
Various designs of AV racks on display, including Plasma/LCD screen mount brackets.

Speaker stands of various heights and designs, note the "Wonder Board"?

As you can see, they also make hifi tuning supports called "Wonder Board" from materials like acrylic and glass of various thickness, apart from the usual steel or wood support.
Displays packed to the roof!

The various tuning cones, coasters option, and even cable elevators of different designs.

Various rack designs to organise your software, like CD, DVD, Blu-ray, Cassette or LP/LDs are also available.

For overseas whole sale enquiries, please contact them at sale@atsrack.com

One can also view their product range at http://www.atsrack.com/

For local enquiries, please call, tel: 03-79576339.

April 8, 2010

Fact Or Myth? PMC Fact 8 Loudspeakers.

PMC Fact 8 is a tall and slender 2 way speaker design featuring ATL bass loading.

Odiosleuth said I would like this PMC Fact 8 speakers, and suggested very authoritatively that I should really, really ask for a review. As the saying goes, "Ask and ye shall received!", and so it was, the Fact 8 delivered to my door step, courtesy of AV Designs.
The first thing you'll see as you open the box to unpack your new PMC Fact 8 speakers.

As I unpacked the PMC, I was greeted with this message "It's A Fact, you have purchased the world's finest loudspeakers". What an ambitious(perhaps a little arrogant too?) message, I thought to my self. Let's see if that's fact or myth!
The accessories and manual pack.

Packed on the top of the box is an accessories pack consisting of a key chain(your keys to join the PMC club???), a spirit level, 2 sets of 4 self locking sharp or round bottom spikes for speaker out rigger to floor interface, a piece of special cleaning cloth(to keep that pristine finished wood veneer spotless) and a very comprehensive manual(there's some pretty interesting product facts inside).

Typical British low key design flair on the Fact 8. I used small brass coasters to sit the spikes so that my parquet flooring remains un marked.

The review sample pair of PMC Fact 8 looked impeccably made, book matched rich walnut veneers, smoothed panel joints, custom finishing touches that includes matt grey mid/bass driver and tweeter surrounds with the ATL front port metal mesh finished to match. The final midas touch is the solid chrome aluminium ingots used as out riggers at the bottom with a matching subtle chrome finished PMC badge just above the ATL front port. The design cue is classy, and will certainly fit in to many well appointed interiors of today's lavish life style homes.
Fact 8 is a pair of beautiful speakers that does not need to apologize for performance.

The SEAS custom ed built tweeter for PMC.

The 5 1/4 inch mid/bass driver is also SEAS built to PMC's specs.
The 24db steep slope passive x-over is assembled on a military spec PCB and uses +/-5% tolerance Solen caps with custom would coils and hand matched resistors, for accurate L/R chanel balance.

Setting up the speakers are relatively easy. Screw in and lock the 2 sets of 4 out rigger to floor interface sharp spikes(as I had chosen), and proceed to place the speakers in the room then wire them up to my Pass Aleph 0 power amp. I started off my usual place where my Audio Physic Spark last left, which is 36 inches from the back wall and 19 inches from the side walls. I moved the speakers around a bit and eventually settled for 40 inches from the speaker's back wall and 18 inches from the side wall, both measurements taken from the outer corner of the back panel. The speakers are separated apart by about 6ft. I also toed in the speakers just very slightly, about 2 degrees or so, just to get a bit more mid range density, as the Fact 8s can sound a little lean if firing straight ahead. Once the final spot is confirmed, I leveled the speakers by adjusting the spikes to balance, then firmly locking them with guidance from the spirit level supplied by PMC.
My choice of single wiring method. Note the silver coated buss bar connectors to match the custom speaker cable terminals.

These silver coated terminal jobs are a joy to use, offering good finger grip and feel.

There are 2 other variables with the Fact 8. First, this speaker allows bi-wiring or bi-amping, however if like me, having only a pair of speaker cables, one would have to choose how to wire with single wiring. There's 3 options, connect both positive and negative to the highs(for more high frequency out put), or connect em' both to the mid/bass(for more mid/bass out put), and lastly connect one to the highs and the other to the mid/bass irregardless(I used positive for the highs and negative for the mid/bass for balanced tonal out put). Either way the 2 pairs of silver coated buss bar(to match the custom silver terminal jobs which are a delight to use!) connectors provided by PMC remains in place. Having said that, the buss bar connectors should be taken off if one should opt to use bi-wiring or bi-amping.
The isolated speaker cable terminals with tonal adjust ability switch panel.

The other variable is two little toggle switches located just on top of the speaker cable terminals, one labeled HF and the other LF. The PMC Fact 8 is a 2 way design loaded with a 3m long ATL(Advance Transmission Line) bass tunnel. The HF switch allows the user to select +2, 0, -2db of high frequency out put. The LF switch allows the choice between 0, -3, -6db of mid/bass frequency out put. This allows the Fact 8 to suit a variety of room size, from small to reasonably large. In my cluttered and lightly treated 10 x 12 x 9ft(W x L x H) audio cave, I inter played with the toggle switches and the speaker wire connection a bit to fine tune the sound, but eventually settled back with my original wiring option and toggle switch setting of 0db for HF and -6db for LF. All review notes all based on these mentioned settings.

I allowed the speakers to settle in a bit while running the drivers in for about a month, before I start some serious auditioning. As the speakers run in, some of the upper mid sibilant notice able before is now gone and the tonal balance is neutral, in a very slightly coloured yet attractive way. The highs are extended with lots of air, and are about as smooth as the best fabric dome tweeters out there. High hats and cymbals have the right texture and decaying qualities that's hard to beat. As any proud British speaker should be, the mids are truly enticing and has the special quality that accentuates vocals with articulation and diction so well. I played Diana Krall's Quiet Nights CD's bonus track 11 tittled "How can you mend a broken heart", and I've never heard her sound so alluring and sensual to boot, never mind the vocal porn, I bet you'd enjoy that too as much as I did. Hmmm.................... The bass, despite it's -6db out put setting of my choice, is up to the job, thanks to my room's bass reinforcing +6db @ 48Hz resonant mode. Bass lines are well defined, tight with good transient speed and easy to follow. The bass response extends much lower then my Audio Physic Spark too.
The humpty dumpty 75W Aleph 0 is good enough to power the towering Fact 8, rated at 88db @ 8 ohms to satisfyingly loud levels. The Fact 8 is a slim tower design but makes up for the box volume with a deep cabinet.

The Fact 8's noise levels are non existent, with no music playing and pre amp volume setting up to my usual listening level, I stuck my ear right next to the tweeter, I heard no hiss, in fact I heard nothing at all! I guess this attributes to the next two performance parameters about to be discussed.

The Fact 8s are the most transparent sounding speakers I've came across so far. Every single little detail of the recording, if it's retrieved from the source, in my case the Marantz CD7 and preserved through the Pass pre and power amps along with cables, the Fact speakers will reproduce the details extracted, no matter how minute it may be. I frequently found myself hearing things I've never heard before, even on recordings that I know like the back of my hand! Now all those details and resolution is nothing if not presented well within the sound stage and along with the rest of the music where it should be, that will sound too analytical, which the PMC is not. Everything has it's place and that makes all musical instruments sound realistic.

Transient and micro dynamics are amongst the best of the dynamic driver kind, probably very near the speeds of panel speakers. Macro dynamic swings are equally impressive with added dynamic shading and contrast highlighted to make orchestral classical music sessions a highly enjoy able roller coaster thrill ride. Drum kits are especially real sounding. Playing Eva Cassidy "Live At The Blues Alley" CD, the snare drum kit never sounded so right like this! It's as if I am playing the snare drum and the stick attack, followed by an extremely short decay burst of skin tone is reminiscent of the real thing. I know, as I speak recalling from a drum practice session experience over the weekend!

The Fact 8 also exhibited excellent linearity in sound reproduction. When listening in low volume level, I could still hear all the recording details just as when playing my normal listening volume. When playing music at loud volumes, there's never any signs of strain or driver cone break up distortion. This pair of speakers also showed a peculiar characteristic, sometimes when playing music at a medium to high volume levels, the speakers will start to sound a little on the edge, but that's not to be construed as edginess either. Face with this situation, most listeners would do the natural thing by backing off the volume. However, I've also found that bringing up the volume one notch at this point will not only take away the "on the edge" sound, the speakers would respond by sounding even sweeter! This reminds me a bit like the movie Speed of a few years back, starring a young Keanu Reeves and girly looking Sandra Bullock then, both trapped in bus full of explosive that will blow up if the bus slows down to below 50 miles/hours. When ever faced with an obstacle, Keanu does the opposite of slowing down and just goes for it full throttle! The Fact 8 also encourages that sort of a "Gungho" Keanu Reeves behavior, when it comes to musical volume!
This is a complex "live" recording CD to play, and the PMC Fact 8 does it so...... effortlessly.

Sound staging and imaging has always been a PMC forte, as I've previously encountered with the GB1i and then the OB1i. The Fact does not disappoint too, and does it just as well, if not better than the OB1i. It has the uncanny ability to transport one to the venue, of a live recording being played, like Patricia Barber's Companion CD, which I've heard like thousands of times in the last 10 years or so. I was playing track 7, "Black Magic Woman" to two visitors, and after the 10 minute performance, both stood up to clap their hands along with the sound of the Jazz bar atmosphere still playing, audience claps, small talk, glass hitting sound and all ! They commented how life like the performance was, especially the part after 7 minutes in to the track, where all the musical instruments, like the double bass, the drums and percussion plus Patricia's Hammond B3 were jamming together with the electric guitar . It's complex and fast paced performance would have most lesser pair of speakers or system resulting in audible compression, lost of bass control, sibilant highs and even exhibiting signs of instruments all over the place! But not the PMC Fact! It held every single playing instrument in place within the sound stage, solidly anchored with depth of stage layering to boot. One of the visitor further commented for the first time he heard the drummer's kick drum action so well separated with each kick of different strength and intensity, yet still sounding far back, locked in it's place along with all the other instruments within the sound stage! This kind of musical experience, can't be easily bought, not even with a whole lot more money.(yeah right!, except that the PMC Fact 8 cost RM$29,500/pair) With this kind of staging and imaging quality, who needs more?

However, the Fact 8 does offer much, much more. I also felt that the highly convincing sound staging and imaging portrayal also has something to do with the way the speakers handle imaging to staging scale ratio. The imaging is nearly life sized, and all instruments are scaled accordingly vis-a-vis it's place within the 3 dimensional sound stage. Comparatively, the Audio Physic Spark just renders everything in 5/8 size and not totally in the correct scale ratio within the instrument's image either.

PRaT(Pace, Rhythm and Timing) factor is also king with the PMC Fact 8, I thought this was one of the missing ingredients that made classic PMC speaker designs like the OB1i less than compelling, due to a lack that X-factor perhaps. I did not feel the music being played any faster than need be, but it certainly did not hang on to a note longer then necessary. This is unlike some high end speakers that I've heard tend to have an effect, like as if time was elongated so that every minute detail can be zoomed in to provide superb transparency factor. To me however, this kinda like analysing a musical event in stop motion imagery.

The Fact 8 has the the right amount of warmness to make classical string instruments sound just right too, I mean the string to wood resonant reverb ratio. Not only is the violin, guitar or piano string sound clearly presented, followed by the resonant decay of the the wooden body, fading into nothingness, the Fact will also subtly point out the playing intensity and technique of the performer. I think the term "effortless" best describes this speaker's musical performance.

As some of you would have already known by now, that I play and listen to all genres of music. The PMC just loves them all. However, with the level of transparency and resolution on offer, the PMC will let you know if a recording is not up to par, but does it ever so musically, that it is still some how an enjoy able, if flawed experience.

To sum things up a bit, the PMC Fact 8 does actually lives up to it's lofty sonic ambitions and does very little wrong. I can only fore see a down side that, it could sound a little lean, should it be incorrectly set up or partnered with un sympathetic up stream equipment. However, the Fact 8 makes up for it with adjust ability and easy setting up options(at least you have adjust able options here compared to other speakers!).

After living with the PMC Fact 8 for about 6 weeks or so, I tried returning it to AV Designs, but just couldn't, I could not go back to the AP Spark either, good as it was. It was a though decision(finance wise) but I guess this announcement will have to come sooner, rather than later. "Ladies & Gentlemen, Audio Physic has left the building!" And now, that's a Fact (8)!

PMC is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan, tel no.016-3280237

April 6, 2010

Raidho Comes To Center Circle Audio.

Exquisite build quality, with sophisticated sound to match! Built with Danish pride and the only the best parts!

Raidho(pronounced Ride Ho), is a recently discovered Danish gem of speaker manufacturing. Two of their high end speaker designs have won Japan's Stereo Sound "Best Buy" Award 2008. The Raidho C-2 is one of the winning design. That's high praises indeed.
The custom made ribbon tweeter, sings like no other!
The back view of the ceramic mid/woofer, note the use of split magnets around the out side for uniform control of the voice coil? This is impressive technical stuff.

Center Circle Audio has recently being appointed their Malaysian distributor and the first product to arrive in the showroom is the Raidho C-2 floor stand speaker. I was mesmerised by the very extended, delicate yet sweet highs, neutral mids and solid bass performance when the Raidho C-2 was partnered to the Parasound JC1 mono blocks and source by the Esoteric X-05 SACD/CD player. The build quality and finishing is some of best I've seen irregardless of price. The Raidho makes all their own custom drivers like the ribbon tweeter and ceramic mid/woofers. All passive x-over parts are point to point soldered on a non PCB base plate and uses the best quality parts like Mundorf Supreme capasitors.

This "best buy" winning speaker design only cost RM$60K or so! Don't freak out, but I'd really urge you to go take a listen, and find out for yourself, the sound of the latest high end "best buy"!

Please contact Center Circle Audio, Sky Wong at tel:012-23371787 for an appointment.

April 5, 2010

PS Audio Xstream Statement SC Power Cable.

The multi gauge, crossed weaved with damping and sheilded PS Audio Xstream Statement SC.

Like I said earlier, buying pre-onwned cables can be a great way to pinch those pennies!

Here is one that I bought recently.

I was putting the PS Audio Perfect Wave 10 through it's paces. I came away highly impressed by it's performance. I am not ready to spend RM$3K on a power cable yet.

During the PS Audio Perfect Wave 10 review process, I borrowed a PS Audio Xstream Statement SC, which is the predecessor and by now obsolete product from a buddy, for comparison purpose. The good chap didn't mind, err...... in fact he was just as keen to find out!

Another look at the power cable.

The PS Audio Xstream Statement SC looked and felt very much like the latest Perfect Wave 10, except which it uses a less up market looking plugs at both ends with chrome plated contacts. All I can say is, the performance levels of the older cable is very nearly 90% of the latest model. A look up at the latest used hifi clssifieds(a.k.a. Hifi4sale, see our link on the right side panel) at the time, I spotted 2 pcs of the PS Audio Xstream Statement SC being advertised by an individual, and get this, the asking price was just a little over 1/3 of the new cable, at RM$1.1K!

I bought both the cables with a small discount and came away pretty happy with my purchase. When plugged in to my system the PS Audio Xstream Statement SC replaced my existing AOR Reference 003 on duty powering both my CD player and phono stage. All I can say is the system noise floor was further reduced, sound stage back grounds darkened further, and bass response is beefier. Go read the complete review of the PS Audio Perfect Wave 10 review dated 20th February 2010 on this blog site to get the fuller idea of the sonic signature on offer.
3 generations of PS Audio power cables in a row, from left, Perfect Wave 10, Xstream Statement SC and lastly, Xstream Plus.

90% performance at 35% of the price compared against the latest model, who's going to argue with that?

April 3, 2010

Pre-Owned High End Gears?

I used to love shopping for pre-owned high performance cars. I am cheap, and therefore, not prepared to pay the full entry price(at least not with the way Malaysian government puts huge taxes on car purchases), proven product record, known problems if any, availability of after market tuning options and cost of maintenance are factors that I consider when looking for pre-owned high performance cars. Now that my transportation needs are taken care of by my boss, I have no further reason to go around looking at cars. So what's a man who's gotta have toys to play do?

I started ogling at high performance/high end audio equipment! Well, that's not all actually, but I'd better not say it here, he!, he! I might just get in to trouble for it. Since I love ogling at pre-owned audio gears, I could post about the ones that I know enough about and share my thoughts with you, our dear readers. Despite having access to many hifi gears to play with, I still sometimes go hunting for pre-owned gears for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the gear that I lusted for is no longer available new, for instance, my Marantz CD7, Pass Aleph 0 mono block, Pass X2.5 pre amp and XOno phono stage. My Linn LP12 can still be bought new, but the latest version would cost me an arm and a leg, probably not offering significantly more performance, than my pre-owned 80's version.

Cables and tweak accessories often make excellent pre-owned purchases, due to their high depreciation rates and known sonic qualities, even if it's not the latest model available today. Otherwise, vintage hifi collectors also scour for pre-owned bargains to park their money, add a little elbow grease to do some restoration work, keep it in tip top and work condition, then wait for the prices of the item to sour, if enough parties become interested.

Hifi equipment, like any other electronic or mechanical devices will be subjected to wear and tear, abuses or sometimes, just plain dumb design or poor build quality. When shopping for pre-owned hifi, care must be taken when surveying an item of desire. The best way is to learn about the product, the company that produces it(there's lots of information at one's finger tip now a days, all one has to do is to google it on the www.), and if possible ask around from owners past and present, about their ownership experience, if you know any.

Product reviews are always helpful by given an impression of a product's sound qualities, and some general, if practical user experiences, but will not reveal the reliability and service ability factor. This is largely due to the nature of product reviews being on short tenancy basis with a brand new or demo unit. It is highly unlikely anything bad(other than sounding bad) will happen to a product during the short review period, unless the product in question is an early production batch with defects, or just plain poorly designed. In the end, a product's time in the market place will prove the reliability and service ability factor. Below are just some pitfalls and caution that one should expect when shopping for used(but not abused) hifi.

Do note that in the case of digital products, parts may only available or kept by the manufacturer for a period of 5 years or so. Caution must therefore be applied, especially if one is shopping for an expensive pre-owned high end CD players! What happens if the transport(the most commonly replaced part) gives up? Would parts still be available by then? Worst case scenario, un salvage able, and ready to be disposed? It's your money, you decide!

Speakers and power amps are particularly prone to abuse, often due to equipment miss match(too small an amp driving too big a speaker or just playing music too loudly, especially with that Telarc Tchaikovsky1812 CD, conducted by Erich Kunzel!) So care must be taken when surveying the object of intended purchase. For amps, if possible, ask permission to open the top panel for inspection if possible(though often not possible, one should just try and ask any way if you're dead serious about the purchase). With the top panel opened, it's often easy to spot signs of previously poorly conducted repairs, if any) As for pre-owned speakers, it's often more difficult to determine signs of abuse. A buzzing tweeter, or and dent on the wooden boxes are always a suspect. Mids and woofers are easier to inspect if you know what to do. One can gently press the woofer cone inwards, towards the center basket where the voice coil is, and gently release the pressure. Look out for rough, or less then smooth pistonic motion as that may be a sign that of a worn, or poorly repaired voice coil. Also note that older, usually vintage speakers cones often have sagging voice coils(due to poorer material quality available then and time/heat factor is usually a voice coils worst enemy) which the same press test will reveal if so. In any case, do ask the owner first, before conducting any voice coil test, as one should remember that the product for sale is not yours yet, not at least, until you have paid for it.

Though there are no moving parts for cables, it's often best to check for minor cuts, if any, along the cable length, as a minor cut can result in an oxidized patch inside the cable core, which will affect it's signal transfer qualities. Also look out poorly soldered plugs and other interface like banana plugs or spades, as this indicates the cable's joints may have been tempered with, for reasons only known to the owner.

For other mechanical based equipment like a tape deck or turntable, do look out for worn belts, motors or switches. In any case, if possible, do try to bring along a learned or experienced audiophile friend whom you can trust for guidance( four eyes and ears are definitely better than two of each, and it's always more fun). One can normally thank a friend by buy him a beer or a cuppa. However, should one is not happy about the item post transaction, whatever the reason, don't blame your friend, after all he's only trying his best to help, to the best of his abilities. Blaming your friend over a hifi deal gone bad is worst friendship mistake one can make. Just remember this, you trusted his opinion enough to ask him in the first place!

With a bit of knowledge and some good company, pre-owned hifi shopping can be fun, not to mention a more economical way to get your heart's and ear's object of desire. Lastly, good luck, and happy shopping!

April 2, 2010

Usher Pre and Power Combo

Big E lugged a pair of Usher pre and power amp combo to my place. Write-ups on them will be coming in a week or two.

Usher P307A Pre-amp:

Main body with controls for Input, Record, Balance and Volume

The P307A comes with external power supply

Rows of inputs and outputs, all single-ended

The Reference R2.5 Power Amp:

The power amp has both single-ended and balanced inputs. It is also bridgeable

Chunky and high quality speaker terminals