May 30, 2010

High Fidelity



Please don't call yourself a music-cum-movie buff if you haven't watched "High Fidelity", a movie adapted from Nick Hornby's famous novel of the same name. John Cusack, Jack Black were absolutely kick-ass in the movie about a bunch of losers manning a record store and their love stories which were all related to the music they listened to.

This is a classic scene which was sadly deleted from the movie.

About 3-4 years ago, an almost similar incident happened in Amcorp Mall. (i.e someone's daughter sold away his entire collection of precious LPs for a song). Ask Vinylphile like Adrian Wong of Audio Image and he could tell you what actually happened.

For music lovers (especially LP lovers), High Fidelity is a classic movie worth watching over and over again.

James Blunt

I think almost everybody is familiar with James Blunt's big hit - "You're Beautiful" (if not, check it out on youtube, the live performance at the BBC is the favourite version of mine). I even have friends telling me that they were so fed up with the track because of its high airplay. Can't blame Mr. Blunt, its catchy tune and simple but effective lyrics made the song an instant hit.

Though I liked that song, I never bought any one of Blunt's 2 albums, until I read the post in the 'Life is a Journey' blog (link at the right hand panel), where Sting - not the English in New York called it the 'Best Love Song of the Decade'.

That post, from a few months back, reminded me of the song again. While browsing for CDs in a music store, I saw James Blunt's second album, "All the Lost Souls", so I bought it. Spinning it in my system and in my car, I found that I could like his music pretty much. So I turned around and got his debut album, "Back to Bedlam", from eBay.

I am definitely behind the curve on this, as both albums came out quite a few years back. Better later than never, I suppose.


I don't quite know which genre James Blunt belongs to, somewhere between pop and rock, I suppose. I found his albums edgier than the norm for pop, and they did not have the saccharine sweetness that much of pop had. That was what appealed to me. The f-word in the middle of "You're Beautiful", a love-at-first-sight love song, was ingenious. These albums stood up to repeated listening, the music quality was high throughout such that I could listen to them from beginning till end. I have been spinning them for the last few months.

The recording quality was pretty good on "Back to Bedlam", the sound has clarity and good body, vocal was natural with little annoying sibilance (though by no means is it an 'audiophile' recording). "All the Lost Souls", on the other hand, was just ok, its sound was just a little flat and fuzzy. Did this have anything to do with where they were pressed, I do not know.

My top 3 favourites from each album are, in sequence:
"Back to Bedlam":
- 4. Goodbye My Lover (yes, I like this one better than "You're Beautiful")
- 2. You're Beautiful
- 1. High

"All the Lost Souls":
- 4. Same Mistake
- 8. Shine On
- 5. Carry Me Home

However, like I said, the rest of both albums were of high musical quality too.

May 29, 2010

State Of The Heart. KI Method MKII.

A bird's eye view of Jo's musical system.

When a tube enthusiast turns to solid state of the heart, you know he's on to something wildly special. So when Jo Ki, the famed guru of the LS3/5A club professes his desire for some FM Acoustics gears, I am all ears! Like many others, I made the pilgrimage to the hifi tavern again.

The KI Method MKII of integrating LS3/5A to the AB1 bass extender. Note the forward facing port of the AB1. Crystal tweaks to take care of baffle diffraction's.

Another look at the KI Method MKII.
When I got there, I also discovered that Jo had also been working hard tweaking his new pride and joy, in the form of the Rogers LS3/5A 60th Anniversary Signature(which I am told there's only one pair in the world, especially made for Jo by the good people at Rogers). The new tweak is in the form of the integration method for the LS3/5A mini monitor with the Rogers AB1 Bass Extender. For further details, one can go to http://ls35a.com/

The Linn LP12 with Ittok arm and Koetsu Rosewood cartridge. Note FE Ceraballs tweak under turn table.

Not only had Jo went from tube to solid state amplification with KI Method MKII speaker positioning, the analog front end also benefited from a major upgrade, in the form of a Koetsu Rosewood MC cartridge.

During my visit Jo had a full FM Acoustics line in the system, from 122 MKII phono stage, 245 pre amp, 111 power amp and Forceline speaker cables. The full line of FM Acoustics as seen here would be setting Jo back by about RM$220k. Is the sound special enough to equal the investment cost of an average apartment here in Kuala Lumpur?

FM Acoustics 122MKII phono stage.
Switching power supply for phono stage.
The sound from the analog source has gone up by a few notches since my last visit. With the Koetsu and FM Accoustics gear in the system, the sound was invitingly warm, highly transparent, huge on micro dynamics, and surprisingly major transient response improvement, way beyond what I had previously taught possible to expect from the LS3/5A speakers! It's a major re learning of the BBC mini monitor's capabilities for me.

Though the sound was invitingly warm(perhaps due to the Koetsu and LS3/5A influence), it wasn't warmness as per the tube kind per se. The FM Acoustics gear never sounding tube or solid state like, it doesn't really leave any sort of sonic imprint of it's own, so it's hard to describe the sound, unless one hears it for one's self. The rise and fall time is fast and furious, never leaves the music sounding muddled. The tonal accuracy is also pretty spot on.

In fact, the musicality factor is so very good, one will soon forget to analyse the sound of hifi attributes just after one or two songs, and get distracted right in to the music. With well recorded music, the result is clearly "you are there" effect. With "live" performance recording, the experience is just surreal.

If one thinks Jo's system is good before, wait till you hear it now, and I am sure you'll be amazed how much more performance he has managed to squeeze out of the venerable LS3/5A speakers.
Audio Note DAC2. More FE Ceraballs tweak.
Top: 47 Labs Flat Fish CD transport. Bottom: FM Acoustics 245 line stage. There's no remote for this ultra expensive pre amp!

For his digital source, Jo has opted to stick with his trusty 47 Lab Flat Fish CD player as transport and Audio Note DAC 2. He seems to have gotten the black art poison real...... bad. Jo is having sleepless nights, listening to music till the wee hours of the morning. He even told me that he's fighting this upgrade itch so hard, that he tried to remove the FM Acoustics gear from his system, and tried to live with his tube gears again, only to fall terribly ill! Missing the FM Acoustics sound too much Jo???
FM Acoustics 111 power amp. This shoe box sized amp runs surprisingly cool!
FM Acoustics Forceline speaker cables. Apparently, these RM$20k cables must be used to partner the 111 power mono blocks for best results.
As I last spoke to him, Jo insinuated that he may consider parting with some of his huge vintage hifi collection to partly finance the FM Acoustic's acquisition. He was still recovering from his illness, yet still trying to give himself an excuse not to part with the cash. Jo, as your good friend and very under standing fellow audiophile, life is too short for excuses. I have two words for you, have you heard of "Sweet Surrender"?

May 27, 2010

Proud of You, Dude!



I don't know how this can happen, the JZ8 album is just out yesterday and the review is already out in Taiwan's Audio Art June 2010 Issue. ML, the Taiwanese sure love you a lot!

Basically, the reviewer/editor reckons this is one superb album from Malaysia and he has two thumb-ups for Ldyia Chew and Tay Cher Siang!

Really, we don't need the Taiwanese to tell us how good are Malaysian musicians and Malaysian Hi-Fi, we should first support our own musicians!

We just congratulated ML on this good news and he told us that his bank account is depleted due to all these expensive projects. Poor dude. So, audiophiles, if you want to see Malaysian audiophile productions flying high in international Hi-Fi arena, you owe it to yourself to support ML and his team of musicians! It will be embarrassing if all the accolades and recognition come from overseas and not from ourselves.

We at Hi-Fi Unlimited have already done our part!

May 26, 2010

Tip Top Tap. ORB 6GG High End Tap.


The ORB 6GG High End Tap vs the Wireworld Electrifier plus Isotek Isoplug.

ORB is a Japanese outfit focusing mainly on accessories for ultra high end audio systems. They have vinyl destat & flattener devices, cables, power taps and filters amongst their product line.

Curiosity got the better of me when I visited Nova Hifi not too long ago and saw these solid, yet high quality and luxuriously finished looking power taps. I asked MK Lai, and he said "You should try them, since you're so....... in to power conditioners and contacts".
The brand says it all!

So I took the ORB 6GG High End Tap home to replace my long soldiering Wireworld Electrifier, beefed up with a Isotek Isoplug. This tap is used to power my front end components such as CD player, pre amp, turn table and phono stage, via my Torus Power RM8A PLC, which powers the whole system.
Use with confidence! The ORB 6GG complies to JET, which is the Japanese Electrical Safety Standards.

With the ORB 6GG in my system, I found the high frequencies sounding notice ably cleaner, tidier, yet airier. Noise floor was totally free from what ever little hash that was evident in my system(despite my heroic efforts, there's always room for improvements, still!). I also noticed mids took on more density which is an absolute delight when rendering vocals. With the increased density, vocals have chest and body to go with the head and mouth. Bass performance seems unaffected by the ORB power tap.
The internal solid gold bus bars linking the input and outlet contacts.

The best part I like about the ORB powering my front end components is that sound staging and imaging became highly stabilized. There was no drifting images, as each vocal, instrument was lock in it's place within the sound stage. I did not however, taught the stage was wider or deeper, but depth layering did seemed better defined. There was also an un mistake able extra dimensional and spatial quality evident within the sound stage(if the recording captures it).

Retailing at RM$4.5k, the ORB is 15 times the price of the entry level power tap called Wireworld Electrifier. However, the ORB 6GG High End Tap did not offer 15 times better improvement. But what it did, in a top flight system of deserving status, is to extract, that last possible bit of performance out of your prized audio system. By the way, if a six outlet tap is not enough for your system, the 8 outlet model called ORB 8GG is also available.

Do you think your hifi system deserve the best?

ORB products is sold by Nova Hifi, contact MK Lai, tel: 019-2226129.

May 23, 2010

10 Pre & Post Purchase Comments For the PMC Fact 8.

The PMC Fact 8, my controversial speaker choice, if my buddies and fellow audiophools are to be believed.

Since the PMC Fact 8 entered service in to my hifi system, word had gotten out(even before the review was posted) and many were already knocking on my door step, keen to find out for them selves if the PMC Fact 8's good sound is "fact or fiction". I've never had so many "keen" visitors to my audio cave before. The audiophile habit of post audition diagnostic discussion culture is alive and well, based on the feed back(there's always feed back, intentional or other wise!) I got from the (sparkling or perhaps, sour) grape vine. They range from highly supportive of my purchase to short of saying that I've made a huge purchase mistake.

I have compiled here, the top 10 comments I got from people who loved the Fact 8 and the equal amount of detractors who loathed it. I taught the contrast of opinions are rather hilarious, especially the contrasting remarks about Diana Krall!

10 comments in support buying the PMC Fact 8.

1) It's the best I've heard from your system sound so far.

2) It makes "live" recorded music come alive!

3) I am not sure if your system did the Fact 8 justice or other wise!

4) After the Fact 8, can you go back to your Audio Physic Spark?

5) Took your system performance up a few notches.

6) The way it makes Diana Krall sounds, I can understand why you fell for the Fact 8.

7) You're practically there!

8) If you don't buy the Fact 8 after this, you've no right to continue writing about hifi!

9) The Fact 8 has every musical and hifi attributes an audiophile could ever want!

10) Clap!, clap!, clap!...........(after listening a song)


10 Comments that I have made a mistake buying the PMC Fact 8.

1) Why didn't you considered a pair of pre-owned Wilsons? Much better value for money.

2) Why not Focal Utopia BE or Sonus Faber Cremona M? Those are top brands.

3) RM$30k for these? Boy the British are sure getting greedy!

4) I expected much better sound for RM$30k.

5) For the money, you should have just stayed with the Audio Physic, seriously!

6) I thought the Thiel CS2.4 offers better sound for less cash.

7) Typical transmission line bass, lumpy.

8) This pair of speakers makes Diana Krall sound some what fat!

9) The Raidho C-2 pair certainly looks and sounds better.

10) What did you buy? PM3? PMC Ah...? Ohh..........(boring....)

As with all other things typically hifi, one man's meat is surely another man's poison, that's the reality! The PMC Fact 8 speakers certainly split opinions right in the middle, among those whom have heard it and some who has never but has chosen to write it off any way. Others have never even heard of PMC as a hifi loud speaker brand(PMC Marketing Dept, take note!). He! He!

Disclaimer: No busty egos, fragile emotions and most importantly, hifi friendships were harmed in the process of writing this article(I hope, fingers crossed).

May 21, 2010

Power and Refinement - Ayre MX-R monoblocks

“The Ayre MX-R have the sound characteristics of a 300B amp, just that it is much more powerful.” A friend commented after listening to the monoblocks. I trust this guys's ears, so I believe his remark was not far off the mark, if not hitting smack at the bull’s eye.

The Ayre MX-R is a pair of high power amplifiers, putting out 300w per side into 8 ohms and 600w into 4.

The MX-R is petite compared to the majority of the muscle amps. Each unit’s chassis is hewn from a solid piece of aluminium. Instead of a solid bottom, the demo units were fitted with a transparent perspex sheet so that one could ogle at the well laid out interior when one turned it over, this meant that, interestingly, the circuit boards were mounted upside down inside the chassis. I was made to understand that the perspex will be replaced with a metal bottom if you buy the amp.


Though small, the amp is heavy. Each piece weighs in at 23kg (52lbs). It can just barely be moved around by one person. One also has to be careful when lifting it because it is front heavy due to the 2 transformers located up front.

The MX-R has only 1 input at the back, a balanced (XLR) type, this implies that the Ayre MX-R can be driven only with a pre-amp with balanced out. Ayre also says the MX-R is fully balanced and implemented without feedback.

I love the loudspeaker output, it is the Cardas binding post type, easy to use and easy to tighten, though it also means that the amp only take spades.

The amp goes into standby when it is hooked up to power (there isn’t an on-off main switch, by the way). A light press on the indicator light in front puts the amp in operating mode, the indicator light also turned from green to blue. The amp never misbehaved one bit when it was in my system. There was no funny clicks or pops. This is the least you would expect from a pair of amplifiers that is listed at around RM80,000.

The MX-R made me feel like I was cruising in a big Mercedes. It was comfortable, it was smooth, it was quiet (in that it does not emit any extraneous noise other than the sound on the recording). Additionally, it had power lurking underneath all that polish. When a change in speed or a burst of dynamics was called for, the MX-R just sprung into action, responding to the demand instantly and almost nonchalantly, and definitely without breaking any sweat. And just like a big V6, it kept its composure and smoothness all the time.

The MX-R was not about shouting at you for attention, it was not the type that grabbed you by your collar and shook you crazy. Again, my friend put it succinctly, “if you like those old Krells, you’d not like the MX-R. And vice versa.” (I have not heard the newer Krells in my system, so I can’t comment). The MX-R’s temperament was about subtlety and civility, but please don’t take this to mean ‘too polite’. The MX-R could play hard, just that it never ever would sound aggressive. The MX-R let the musical event unfold in front of you, instead of throwing things at you. After some time, you’d be drawn in by the music itself rather than the sonic characteristics. In fact, the MX-R handled all genres of music that I tried on it very well and very confidently – which included vocal, jazz, classical & rock.

The MX-R’s bass was strong and well controlled. It was a little more prominent in the sonic mix, sort of propelling the proceedings along, and it had a nice rounded quality. The mids were quite beautiful - liquid, rich and slightly creamy. The highs were clean and just very slightly darker than what I was used to, it was also very smooth, as such there was never any perception of brightness or listening fatigue. Details were top notch, I kept hearing things in the music that I have never heard before. Soundstaging was great too, it fully bloomed at the front of my listening room, filling up all the space. Soundstaging is a weakness of my listening room but with the MX-R I could discern a better formed 3-dimensional landscape.


It was quite an experience living with a high-end piece like the MX-R. It could teach one a lesson or two in high quality music enjoyment.

And it is befitting that a journey like this will not end soon. Big E has turned up an Ayre pre-amp, the K-5xeMP, not quite the MX-R natural partner, the KX-R pre-amp, but I was told that the K-5xeMP punches above its class. My next stop will be a full Ayre music production chain, with my own Ayre c-5xeMP universal player in front.

Now, I wonder where Ayre will bring me to next.

For more photos of the Ayre MX-R monoblocks, click here - http://hifi-unlimited.blogspot.com/2010/05/power-and-refinement-ayre-mx-r.html

Ayre is available from Hi-Way Laser. Contact Kenny 03-7873.8325; 019-281.3399 .

May 20, 2010

10Qs For Jz8. Featuring Lydia Chiew And Tay Cher Siang.


Lydia and Tay Cher Siang is Jz8.

I finally had the opportunity to meet these two awesomely talented artist of the Jz8 duo. Their debut album, is about to be released by Pop Pop Music, which you can use the link on our left panel to visit their blog site, and also sample Jz8's songs.

Lydia is the vocalist of the project, and I must confess she looks even better in person than any of her photo shots that I've seen till date. Tay Cher Siang plays the piano, and also serves to re-arrange all the classic hits on the project into Jazz style repertoire, which I am told is his forte'.

During the 3 in 1 Happiness event, they graciously took time off to allow me to ask them 10 questions. Let's get to know these two up and coming artist, shall we?

Big E: Tell us a little bit about your selves? What lead the two of you to Jz8?

Tay CS: I've been very active in the local jazz scene since coming home from the (United) States two years ago. When ML approach me for this project, I was very excited to be part of it.

Lydia: I've been a back up singer for many years now. I back up some of the biggest regional stars like Jacky Cheung, Jenny Tseng(Yan Le') and Sheila Majid amongst many others. Over the years, I've had offers to branch out for a solo career how ever, until now none of the projects looked quite as interesting as Jz8, and when ML said Cher Siang was the other half, I just could not resist, not after all the good things I've heard about Cher Siang.

Big E: Cher Siang, you mentioned States, did you do your formal musical training there? Does formal training helps in the music industry?

Tay CS: Yes, I studied music at the West Virginia University. I specialised in jazz, my favourite genre. I am now teaching piano as my day job, to help pay the bills, so the formal training does help come to think of it.

Big E: Lydia, you mentioned that you backed Jacky Cheung, one of the most respect able HK artist. Tell us a little bit more?

Lydia: I worked on Jacky's latest jazz concept album called "Private Corner" if you know about that? You can hear me in four tracks on that CD and one of the more familiar track is called "Double Trouble". (Lydia did mentioned the other 3 songs that she was featured actually, but my poor command of Chinese language prevented me from listing them, with apologies)

Big E: As you know, Hifi-Unlimited is a hifi content based blog site, so I'll have to ask you this. Do you guys have some kind of hifi at home?

Lydia: I don't have a hifi system at home, but my dad does. He had a Sony CD player, AR amplifier and a pair of Infinity speakers. I remember that we'd join him as a family listening to his favourite music. That's why I can relate to ML's Chinese jazz music concept, targeted towards the audiophile market. I think audiophiles are very blessed people, because they have the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of music reproduced in the highest fidelity possible. Me? I just don't have the time, to be honest!

Tay CS: I have a beer budget Denon turn table, an integrated amplifier and speakers in my place. I am avid follower of your blog and thus, I am very aware that what I have is not really considered high end in any way.

Big E: Wow! You read Hifi-Unlimited regularly? Thanks for your support! I've hang out with musicians when I was younger and I can say that most of them don't really fuss with hifi. The fact that you have a basic set up is already a step above most musicians. Don't musicians want to hear their work in it's full glory?

Tay CS: Actually, we are enjoying the real thing day in, day out, there's really no need to settle for the next best thing, which is hifi. That's why most musicians don't bother. Don't you agree?
Lydia graciously performed an impromptu request by John Yew(CMY boss), for an unplugged performance of the song titled, Ferris Wheels.



Can you see that passion in the delivery? We could certainly hear it!

Big E: What's your opinion on music downloads? And as an artist, which format do you think your work is best represented?

Lydia: Any other format is o.k. except downloads! I don't like downloads because I feel it compromises the artistic value of our work. Say for example, I know many young people today like downloads for convenience and have a big collection of songs in their MP3 player or iPod. Problem is when I ask them who sings that particular track they are playing, they said they don't know! Now what good is a song without getting to know the artist? I must also remind that illegal down loads compromises the artist's income too. Without adequate income, who'd wanna be an artist, making music?

Tay CS: When I was a teenager, I used to read hifi rags, where the reviewers would write about their vinyl experiences not found on CDs, such as admiring the great art works on the gate fold covers, all the credits are printed with read able font sizes, the smell of fresh new vinyl and lastly that tender action of pulling out the LP from it's cover, placing it on the turn table, then lovingly brush away the surface dust on the LP, and lastly, cue the tone arm to the track you wanna play. As some one growing up in the CD era, I never truly understood what that was all about until some one showed it to me! And after I experienced vinyl for the first time, I started buying LPs of artist that I like, just to keep until I could afford a turn table! I think an LP immortalises an artist's work. I would someday like to see my work to be available on vinyl too, if that is possible. And no, I don't like down loads at all, because it sounds especially bad on MP3.

Big E: Pop Pop Music is releasing 2V1G on LP, due to their commercial success. I think Jz8 could do just as well, if not better! So your odds are pretty good indeed! Are you somewhat jealous of 2V1G because they are now going to be on vinyl?

Tay CS: I am very happy for the success of 2V1G. I really hope one day, Jz8 will make to LP format too! But I think that depends on the commercial success of our debut CD.(At this point, a visibly excited ML was heard shouting at least 30,000 copies!) I hope the music lovers like our effort enough to ensure our success.

Big E: Tell us a bit more about your 2 years working together? Do you guys do the "Diva" and have a cat fights every now and then, or is it smooth sailing all the way?

Lydia: We work together very well in fact. I am happy that there's always a consensus way to work out problems, if any encountered so far. There's no "Diva" what so ever to speak off.(Cher Siang nods in agreement)

Big E: Lydia, do you feel like there's a stigma for back up singers to fight against before one makes a successful transition as a solo artist?

Lydia: I think the stigma is all in the audience's perception. There are many who first started as back up singers in the industry and successfully made it big as a solo artist, Mariah Carey is one the most famous example. For me, I don't feel there's any reason why a back up artist shouldn't be successful.

Big E: Are there any plans in place now for a follow up album? Or do you have to wait and see the success of the soon to be launched debut CD before deciding?

Tay CS: I think that question is best answered by our producer, ML. However, I actually do have some materials at hand, which I've already composed and feel they are suitable for the project, if it should happen.

Lydia: I think the biggest problem is timing. Both of us have our other commitments and this debut Jz8 CD took two years to materialise. I don't know if the audience would wait another two years or longer for the next follow up CD. Well, just let fate take it's journey and see what happens. In the mean time, we hope the audience will appreciate and support our work of Jz8 for now.
Cher Siang explains some of the finer recording details on the Jz8 CD, while Lydia looks on.

Good times seem to fly by and before we knew it, there's a crowd waiting for the Jz8 launch event to start. I had to let them go do their thang.

Lastly, I wish both Lydia and Cher Siang sweet success. Do support the Jz8 album by not down loading, but buying their CD, so that Jz8 have a chance to be immortalised on vinyl, as that is Cher Siang's dream as an artist. We can do our part to make it come true. Me and a few friends have done our part, how about you?

May 17, 2010

Drum Battle. Shefield Labs Drum & Track Disc Vs Charly Antolini's Crash!



Drum battle on a boring Monday night! A drummer boy's melody rehab.



It's a boring Monday night and what can be more exciting than re-visiting some good ol' drum music? Well at least for the occasional drummer boy in me any way.

Joe Morello has been my idol drummer since his stint as a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. For me, a good drummer must have endurance, stamina and speed for skill(none of which I possess as a drummer by the way, except perhaps when playing my imaginary "air" drum kit along a realistic hifi reproduction, like mine, He!He!). A truly exceptional drummer on a roll(pun much intended) like good ol' Joe performing "Live At Carnegie Hall" as part of the Dave Brubeck Quartet can sound like he got more than just a pair of hands! I frequently found myself asking, where that extra rim shot came from, as he's already sounding like he has his hands full!

The Shefield Labs Drum & Track Disc is a must have if one is an audiophile, and is frequently used to demo hifi equipments at shows or showrooms. It's an excellent test disc for testing a system, or the component's in questioned transient attack, speed and accuracy, bass response, and more importantly for loud speakers, can it take the sustained abuse at near clipping volumes! Why so loud? You asked?

For me the system must be able to mimic the loudness of a drum kit heard from about 2 meters away(believe me, that's very, very loud!), that way, I could still feel the beat of the kick drum, the attack of the snare and the shiny sizzle of the hig hats, shimmering in to decay, then disappearing in to thing air. As my drum instructor always tell me, drums must be loud and proud, otherwise, who'd notice you, set all the way back in to the stage, behind everybody else in the band?

With the PMC Fact 8 speakers, I could do just that! It has the clarity and linearity of driver excursion to go all the way near full volume, just a touch before clipping levels of the system, yet delivering the sonic signature of a drum set realistically, without damaging it self in the process!

Did I digress? Sorry about that, back to the Shefield Labs CD, I do find it to be a very informative and academically correct test disc, check the liner notes. My favorites tracks are the two drum improvisations by the now famous Ron Tutt and Jim Keltner, plus the Le Ballade and The Higher You Rise track, both available separately from other Shefield Labs CDs.

I've only recently discovered the Swiss drummer Charly Antolini's Crash! CD, released in 1980, by Bell Records. This is a musically amazing drum album. I was enthralled right away, from the very first track tittled, Motodrum. Charly's drum kit is set up on the right of the sound stage, and is supported by a second drummer/percussionist on the left, the tonal differences of both drum sets were clearly presented. Note the last 45 seconds of Charly's enigmatic continuous drum roll! He has proven his mettle to be one of the top drummers on this track. On track 2, which is the album titled track by the way, Charly is accompanied by a steel stringed bass electric guitar mainly. This rock based track is very demanding on amplifiers and speakers. Thank fully, my Pass Aleph and PMC F8 combo is up to task. Doing drum tracks at near system clipping levels are already difficult, adding a bass guitar lick and separating the notes clearly without distorting, bring the game to a whole new extreme level! Charly also shows his Jazz side on the track called Rotation. The track called Carambolage is a bit like Samba styled arrangement but still very catchy. Track 7 is called Co-Pilot is just another excuse for Charly to strut his stuff!

No wonder they call this Crash! CD a system killer back then in the 80's. Perhaps after more than 10 years of being exposed to the Shefield Labs Drums & Track Disc, I find Charly's Crash far more musically appealing, but I also felt it does present more challenge to one's system too! No pain, no gain is the name of game here, is your system(speakers in particular) up to the challenge?


If your answer is YES, then play this CD loud and be proud!

May 16, 2010

3 In 1 Happiness Event.

The first thing that struck me about the thoroughly modern urban chic designed, Sunway Giza Mall is those big giant fans, hung from the centre "big top" open air area. Those giant fans help to cool the side walk cafes down enough to make sitting in the open air spaces look "happenin" and sweat free.

The giant fans mounted from the "big top" provides the necessary cooling to hang out at the open air spaces, and cafes.

The newest CMY Audio & Visual shop front, located on the first floor of the air conditioned section of the Sunway Giza Mall.

The latest CMY Audio & Visual branch is located on the first floor of the air conditioned section of the mall. The showroom is tastefully decorated to reflect the discerning clientele at the up and coming area of Kota Damansara.
All the CMY brands are available here!

From left: WS Woon(Wadia i-competition winner), Big E and John Yew(Head Honcho of CMY) doing the "Grand Prize"(a Wadia 170 iTransport) giving ceremony.

I had the pleasure to escort our Wadia i-competition winner, WS Woon to the "Grand Prize" giving ceremony, and along the way, got to know him as an audiophile. We hope to feature his high end system one day.
A section of the crowd listening to the Jz8 CD demo.

The main event was of course, no other than ML's Pop Pop Music laucnh of the Jz8 album with CDs scheduled to be available some time late this month. I was so hoping that I could get my copy and get Lydia and Tay Cher Siang of the Jz8 duo to autograph it. I also got the opportunity chat up the friendly duo, which will appear in the 10Qs section latter. Those who attended the event was treated to a real eye/ear opener, with Lydia doing an impromptu unplug solo performance vs the demo CD of the song Ferris Wheels. All I can say is, this gurl's got it going on! Yeah!
From left: ML, Lydia and Tay Cher Siang of Jz8 duo.

The promising sounding all Naim system used for the CD demo.

The Naim electronics, powered by RGPC power conditioning.

The Naim Ovator speakers represent Naim's new thinking on speaker design direction. Retailing for only RM$38K.

One of the unusual design feature of the Naim Ovator speakers, the BMR tweeter decoupling suspension system. The speakers also has plinth decoupling system functioned by an ingenious leaf spring design.

ML declares "We are gonna sell at least 30,000 copies of Jz8 CDs!". Not an over optimistic forecast I'd say, going from Lydia and Tay Cher Siang's musical talents.

The system used to demo the Jz8 CD is an all Naim system featuring the latest Naim Ovator speakers. This speaker heralds a new speaker design direction, more inclusive to a wider target audience, other than to the usual loyal olive hair shirt Naim owners! The sound from the system is promising, which I suspect it had slightly diluted that Naim signature sound, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the degree of oliveness in Naim one is. The Naim Ovator comes with a few new design innovations and I urge our readers to check it out, even if one is not a Naim loyalist.
Andy is the store manager for the CMY Kota Damansara branch. So do look out for this ever friendly chap!

There's also an area dedicated to AV systems demo.
If Andy looks familiar to you, that's because he was previously posted at the nearby 1 Utama CMY branch. You can contact Andy at, 016-9765277.
Stay tuned for my 10Qs to the Jz8 duo.

May 14, 2010

330L + 550L = 770L? Siltech Classic Anniversary 550L Speaker Jumper Cables.

The Siltech Classic 25th Anniversary 550L jumper cable vs the PMC supplied silver coated bus bar.

I never really understood why the Brits like to supply their speakers with bi-wiring speaker cable binding post. Other than to facilitated by amping which, in my experience can bring about some sonic improvements at a cost. I've never really bothered with bi-wiring either. My audio guru and DIY er Papa Nelson Pass seems to agree too.(Hey! isn't it the other way round?)

So when I bought the pair of PMC Fact 8 speakers that came with the bi-wiring facility, I knew that I needed to spend some $$$ on this issue, despite the fact that the PMC supplied binding post links seemed pretty well made from silver coated bus bar. Believe me, they are much better made than those supplied by PMC in their i range and all those supplied by other British speaker brands that I've seen.

To see if I could get any sonic rewards for replacing the PMC supplied bus bars, I wanted to use a set of Siltech 330L Classic Anniversary jumper cables to match my main pair of speaker cables of the same model. However, CMY had not stocked the 330L jumper set just yet, and proposed that I try the next higher model of 550L jumper set instead, which they have a set to go. I looked at the build quality of the CA 550L jumper set and found that it's just as well built to Siltech's usual high standards. I especially loved the custom machined and well engineered spade ends.
This is how it works!

I removed the bus bars and proceeded to hook up the Siltech CA 550L jumpers as seen on the picture above and went ahead to play some music and allowed the new cables to settle down. I had in mind that the new jumpers will make little if much difference. When I started some serious listening session, boy was I in for an immediate but pleasant surprise!

The most notice able first impression was that how much more musical details and low level resolution is enhanced. The next impressive trait I noticed was the sound stage and imaging. The stage width and depth of field perception improved tremendously. The stage depth layering is also more clearly defined.

However, with the Siltech CA 550L jumper cables in, I did find that the bass is slightly leaner but better articulated. Since my PMC Fact 8 allows slight tonal adjust ability via it's rear mounted toggle switches, I decided to bring the bass up by another 3db. That leaves my high frequency setting at 0db and bass frequency setting at -3db(where it was previously set at -6db). That slight adjustment brought back the bass volume in to the tonal balance of the system. However, that extra bass articulation remains, and I could hear more bass related details, which is good. The highs and mids maintains the high refinement standards set by the Siltech Classic Anniversary series cables.
The standard Siltech poly-styrene box packaging.

Wait a minute! Doesn't 330L + 550L = 880L? If you have to ask, the answer is simple, Siltech does not have 880L in their range and the Classic Anniversary is topped by 770L. What I am trying to summarize is that the Siltech CA 330L speaker cable when used with the 550L jumper set will edge the sonic performance closer to the direction set by the Siltech CA 770L. This is perhaps due to the fact that the combo will yeild the musicality of the 330L and the technical superiority of the 550L all in one, just like the sonic characteristics of the CA 770L speaker cable.

If you need a refresher, please re-visit my "Tale Of The Three Heavenly Fairy Sisters. Siltech G7 Classic 25th Anniversary 330L, 550L & 770L" article, dated 14 August 2009.

The Siltech Classic Anniversary 550L jumper set retails for RM$3980.00 per set. Yeah!, Yeah! I know it's bad maths, the price is insane, but the sound is just....... heavenly(for the lack of a better word). I am such a nut to keep this Siltech jumper set.

Siltech cables is sold by CMY Audio & Visual, tel: 03-21439406.

May 12, 2010

10 Qs For Peter Qvortrup, Of Audio Note UK.

The man with his favourite drink, Starbucks Frappecino.

I was part of the group of bloggers invited by Wong Tatt Yew of Audio Note Malaysia for a chat with Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note UK. Over the years, Peter seems to be no stranger to controversial and he is not about to let his reputation slip that day! The man just couldn't help him self I guess.

The chat session lasted for over two hours with topics ranging from hifi, music, Ferrari, politics, economics and social studies too! There's nothing this man has no answer to, it's like as if he's got it all figured out in his mind.

The following 10 questions are not necessary entirely mine, as we had two other equally talented bloggers engaging Peter at the same time. I just cherry pick what ever is left of the unsaid parts, plus those have left a strong impression on my own twisted little mind.

Here we go!

BG: Is this your first time to Malaysia?

PQ: Actually, I was here about 9 years ago, but didn't get to do much. I arrived KL, and felt ill the very next day! I was hospitalised with a busted appendicitis and had surgery. I returned to UK for recovery as soon as I was well enough. So that was a wasted trip!

BG: What makes Audio Note products so special to justify their extravagant prices?

PQ: Our products are designed using the best custom parts, like all our sources, pre amps and power amps uses our in house manufactured R-core transformer. The more expensive models uses silver core winding. The transformer core for example is precision manufactured in Japan, sent to Germany for coating then come back to our factory in UK for the winding. Then take our latest mains cable(that's power cord for you and me) called Sogon for example, I can confidently say that our mains cable is probably one of few in the market that has been certified by DIN(which stands for Deutsches Institut for Normung, that's German Industrial Standards for us) for safety. I will tell you that many high end brands of mains cables from the US aren't tested for safety. Can you imaging what if your house caught fire due to use of un certified cables? I'll tell you that insurance companies won't compensate for you unfortunate incident! That is on top of the great sound one is certain from an Audio Note product! In short an Audio Note product not only sounds good, it also looks good, safe to operate and must be built to last.

BG: But seriously, why is it so expensive?

PQ: That's due to the inherently small volume of the high end market. If you look at a cable and wondered, how does it cost so... much? I can tell you that other than the absolute best raw materials that we used, we also test them for safety(many times apparently before it got certified by DIN), add to the R&D cost that is very expensive in Euro, divide the cost in to the cable volumes projected and the selling prices would invariably be expensive, plus, I've gotta make a profit out of selling the product too!

BG: It is known that you have a huge collection of LPs and CDs. Do you download music?

PQ: I do not download, absolutely zero music files! I just don't think it sounds good enough for audiophile grade high fidelity purposes. The problem lies in the way the files are stored in the hard disk. For the maximum storage efficiency, a hard disk stores bits of music all over the place, then recalls all the bits and pieces when the song needs to be re played. Music is a continuous sine wave. You can't break it up all over the place, store it, then re-assemble it quickly for replay! It just doesn't work that way! Transistors have the same problem because they break the continuous sine waves in to two halves, just imaging the hard disk doing the same thing but only many times over and faster! The music and sound quality suffers as result.

BG: CDs are digital, yet they are good enough?

PQ: It's not a question of digital or analog, because in CD's the music is still stored as a continuous, if some what squared, sine wave, in the form of ones and zeros. The CD does not break up the signal at all. If the hard disk store music in a continuous sine wave like CDs do, then the storage volume would be greatly reduced, imaging like instead of 5000 songs, you'd probably only have 300 songs! It's either quality or convenience, you'll have to choose because you can't have both! Just like a Ferrari or a Range Rover! The Ferrari is great on track or roads, but the Range Rover is best for off roads.

BG: Do you think CDs will be around for much longer?

PQ: I think CDs would probably disappear in about 5-10 years time. The music market will continue in two forms, where the collectibles and high end audio would still be dominated by vinyl. I was saying this 20 years ago, but people laughed at me!, who's having the last laugh now? He! He! The other end of the market where convenience and function is primary, then music down loads would be the format of choice. I can imaging that music down loads on a server would be a perfect fit for lobby or elevator music, don't you think so? (I nod in agreement) I think the music industry should look in to re-packaging music CDs, so that it is desirable. When you make something desirable and people want them, than it would sell a whole more. It's as simple as that! At the moment, the CDs packed in those nasty clear plastic cases just looks so throw away, who'd wanna buy something that looks like soon to be tomorow's rubbish? I don't like music down loads either because they're like the fast food of music, very consumable but never memorable!

BG: How do you think we can get more newbies in to high end audio? Is it just too expensive?

PQ: High end audio, like all other pursuits of excellence will by nature be expensive and hence elitist! I make no apology for it. High end audio, I hate that term, it's so....... American!, is just like the Ferrari for cars. It's meant for a privileged few, who could afford to push the boundaries of excellence, then allow the know how to trickle down to the more mundane every day products. The elitist buy the Ferrari to make a statement(because they could!), while the rest of us just want a regular, comfy A-B transport. High end audio, the boutique watch market, or even fashion designer labels works on very much the same market principles.

ML trying to get friendly with Peter? Peter gave the budding business owner a very good advice. Make your products so.... desire able, people will wanna buy em'. ML is that where Desirable Audio Boutique came from? He!He!

BG: Which competitor you most admire?

PQ: I like Naim. I don't like their sound, but I do like like the way they operate as a company, they way their product build up to a full system with upgrade routes pre-planned, they way they communicate and treat their customers. Naim is in an enviable position as their customers are very loyal, just like Audio Note UK customers!

BG: Has the current world economic malaise affected your business? And like so many of the great British brands, would you consider selling out to the newly minted rich Chinese if offered?

PQ: Yes, it has affected our sales some what, but it's manage able as we are not over geared like some other companies. It's funny that you should mention that sell out to the Chinese aspect. We actually had offers not too long ago, but I can tell you I would not sell out! Not just to the Chinese, but not to anybody! This is something I wake up for every day. I can't think of any other thing that I'd love doing more, until I roll over and drop dead!

BG: Just in case that happens, which will happen sooner or latter, how would you like to be remembered? What would your legacy be?

PQ: I've never really thought about that, but now that you guys have brought it up, I would like to be considered to be the one who brought back the popularity of SET to amplifier designs. And most importantly, the first one to bring about stratospheric prices to high end audio many, many years ago! Ha!Ha!(that's when we all laughed wildly!)

As Peter had a flight to catch on his way back to UK. We wished him "Bon Voyage" and that concluded our happy chat. Many thanks to Wong Tatt Yew and Ong of Absolute AV Galleries for organising this fruity chat.

May 11, 2010

Power and Refinement - Ayre MX-R Monoblocks

Something that may re-define your listening experience.
Write-up on our listening experience to come soon.

I simply love the absolutely minimalist and clean cut industrial design of these pieces. Enjoy the pics.