June 28, 2010

AV Designs Launches TAD R-1 In Malysia.

AV Designs has been chosen by Pioneer to represent their TAD range of high end loud speakers. TAD has been very popular in the professional world, but has only recently started their assault on the high end stereo market.
The pre demo chat. James(the baldie on the right!) explaining some of the TAD's finer details to the corwd.

AV Designs launched the TAD R-1 flag ship speakers, costing no less than RM$280k on the weekend. They had invited members of the press(yes, that includes us audio bloggers now!) and selected potential clients.
TAD R-1, the star of the show.

The supporting cast, by Bryston.

More heavy lifting by Bryston.

The TAD R-1 speakers was supported by the cast of Bryston amplifiers and sources. It starts with a Bryston BCD-1 used as CD transport only, feeding digital data to a BDA-1 DAC unit. The converted analog signal is sent to a BP-26 pre amp, and lastly amplified by the big bad 28B SST mono block amps. The whole system is powered via a Torus Power RM16A PLC unit.
The full demo system.

The critics evaluating the TAD's performance.

The music order of the day was mostly ROCK!, as pre launch chatter had indicated that many thought the TAD can't do rock, but other wise a fine audiophile speaker. James decided to take the bulls by the horns(or was it the balls?). Whatever it was, the critics were proven wrong as the TAD could definitely rocked and rolled very loud and clear, with out restrain. He brought out The Who, Scorpions, Led Zedppelin and Deep Purple.

How can a demo of a flag ship audiophile loud speaker happen without playing some firm crowd favourites? Tsai Ching, Aurora, Sheffield Lab demo CD, and some classical performances were also thrown in to thew mix, to confirm the TAD's audiophile credentials.

A great week end made better with good sound, excellent music, fine foods and most of all in the company of like minded friends.

Do contact James of AV Designs at 03-21712828 for an audition appointment.

June 26, 2010

Power Outlet for My New Room

I am in the process of renovating my new house. Yes, finally I am doing that, after about a lapse of about a year since we acquired it.

I am looking at setting up my system in one of the rooms, and have gotten the contractor to pull 2 dedicated power line into the room, directly from the DB. PuchongWong suggested that I used copper cables that are 6mm in diameter (if my conversion is correct, this is about 3AWG), capable of handling 30A of current , which I have duly instructed my contractor to do so too. The MCB for these outlets will be changed to Hager.

Next up is to select a wall outlet to install. I have been using JPS's duplex wall outlet for a few years and am a very satisfied user. It is also a cost effective choice (JPS is available from Centre Circle Audio). So one of the two will be JPS, the other I'd like to be something else. There are many choices out there of course. I decided to consult Big E, who told me to consider SINE or Furutech.
Hi-Way Laser is more convenient for me to get to, so I went there to buy a SINE duplex power outlet (list price RM389).

The SINE power outlet's construction quality is impressive. It is apparently cryo treated at -196 degree C. The metal parts, as you can see from the photo, is gold plated. It feels solid and came with a metal faceplate.

My contractor still have a few weeks to finish his job. I was itchy-handed, so I decided to press the SINE outlet into use at my current place.

In use, the SINE outlet bite onto the plug tightly and created a secured fit. Compared to the half-the-price JPS, the SINE seem to make the system sound just slightly more quiet, more sure-footed. The extension on both ends of the spectrum was excellent. The JPS is slightly more inclined to 'jump' for impact, while the SINE has a slightly calmer demeanour. Again, it is a matching game, choose the one that suits your musical taste best.

It is interesting for me to note that for not too much an outlay (as far as hifi equipment is concerned), there was a discernible effect significant enough and comparable to, say, changes in cables, and various kinds of equipment stands and tweaks like cones.

*Get a qualified electrician to help you if you want to change your power outlet, electricity can kill

June 24, 2010

RCA Cap Capper.

Since my post on the subject of RCA Cap Wars and tweak, my objectivist audio buddy, Wilson Wong has been having a field day with my supposedly heavenly gift of "God's" pair of ears. He later asked me a question that had me stumped.

He asked, should a pre amp designer include more extra RCA or XLR inputs and outputs than required for better sound?

I thought about the question for a week or so, then I came to this conclusion. My answer to Wilson Wong will be this.

Should a pre amp be equipped with more input and outputs than required, then at the very least, I have one more option to tweak the sound to suit my system synergy and musical taste for best results. If a pre amp does not have any extra input or outputs, and so happens if one does not like the sound, there's nothing much one can do, except, to work with other tweaks such as isolation cones, cables and power management. However, those are another three cans of worms best left un opened for now.

Here's to more input and outputs galore. He!He!

June 23, 2010

The Musical Coda. Coda CSI B Integrated Amp.

Coda CSI B integrated amplifier.

Coda Technologies is a company that's been around discreetly for a long time now. It's run by some of Nelson Pass ex-colleagues from the glorious Threshold days. Coda's presence on these shores have being spotty in the past and has recently made another attempt to re-establish a position in Malaysia's high end audio scene, made possible by Audio Impression.

The first product to arrive is the Coda CSI B(Balanced) Integrated amplifier. This hunk of an amp boast 330W output @ 8 ohms and 600W @ 4 ohms speaker load. If one has a pair of Magnaplanar 1.6 QR for speakers, which are notoriously difficult to drive, this could well be your ticket to audio bliss, based on what I heard in the Audio Impression showroom, where this amp is mated to a pair of Eminent Technologies LFT 8 panel/cone hybrid speaker is any thing to go by.
Again, the Coda sits nicely on my amp rack. Note the acoustically de-coupled feet for isolation purposes.

This amplifier is very well built, but without extravagant finishing. Everything is form follows function and sensibility of use. A few nice points to note on the external side of things is the acoustically de-coupling feet on each bottom corner. The WBT style speaker cable binding post offers excellent contacts, safety and ease of use. On the inside, the amplifier benefits from mill spec PCB boards, over sized 2KVA toroidal transformer and 80,000uF Black Gate storage/filter caps for power supply section. Audiophile grade resistors and capacitors are used thru out the audio signal path. A programmable remote control rounds up the convenience package, which was unfortunately, not supplied for this review.
The Coda allows individual input level adjust. I found that having the input levels set to full at 99 setting gave a slightly harsh sound. Setting the input levels to 90 will reward with balanced and dynamic sonics, which is what this review is based on. Your system may respond differently then mine. Do explore this setting with care.

I initially found the front panel navigation a little confusing, but a few referrals to the very clearly written manual and with added familiarity along the review period, I eventually got the hang of it. The main power ON/OFF switch is located in the back panel, and the amplifier is put in to "standby"mode once this is switched ON. Next, press the button labeled "power" on the front panel and the "bias on" LED lights up, indicating amplifier is now really ON and ready to sing. My Marantz CD 7 is the balanced source used, and the amplifier outputs it's juices via my resident PMC Fact 8 pair of speakers.
The rather busy back end. Note the excellent speaker cable terminals. Inputs on the right and pre outs on the left. Note this amp allows a pair of stereo sub woofer out, which the levels can be adjusted from the front panel. Cool feature for those who can't live without a sub woofer or two in his musical pleasures!

From the very first tune played, I found myself admiring this integrated amp's transparency factor. For a pre amp section design utilising the famous BB2310 volume control chip in balanced dual mono pair configuration, I must quantify that it is certainly the most transparent sounding implementation, compared to the utilization of the said BB chips in other pre amp designs, including one of my own DIY pre amp projects. However, when compared to other pre amp sections using methods of more sophisticated volume control, the Coda is still somewhat a little short, compared the very best high end examples that I've heard.

As with most current solid state high end class A/B biased design, the CSI B is incredibly quiet with virtually no noise, just dead silence. The tonal balance is well judged and strictly neutral, in keeping with today's high end amplifier design trend. The top end, is smooth, grain free and generally tidy if not the most extended. The mids are un coloured and will present vocals in a very clean and sibilant free manner. The bass is again not the most extended, but what ever low notes reproduced, is clean and free from note to note smearing. The Coda build quality, note the over sized 2 KVA toroidal transformer, top PCB(dark blue) is the pre amp section where a pair of BB2310 volume chip is mounted. Just below that is the power supply PCB(lighter blue colour), note the bridge rectifiers and the big bad Black Gate storage/filter caps mounted in reverse. Lastly, look at all those transistors attached to the heat sink on the side, that's the power amp section!

The sound stage reproduced as wide and as deep as my usual system will do, only with some what less hall ambient when playing "live" recordings. I did however felt that the Coda did anchor images within the sound stage more effectively than my usual Pass Labs pre/power combo. Unlike the Pass combo, the Coda does not introduce any sort of bloom, or colouration to enhance the musical interpretation, rather it allows the music speaks for it self. If I may further the theme a bit, I did felt like as if the Pass combo effectively make over the musical presentation for more perceived beauty, where else the Coda confidently allows the music's true self to show without make up, no matter how plain Jane it may appear to be.
The programmable remote, which was not supplied for the review.

In summary, I would put the Coda CSI B integrated amplifier as an over achiever within the context of it's price/product category. It's the sort of 80/20 philosophy product that so many companies touts, but never truly suceeds. Why would I say that? Here's why, retailing for RM$21K, this amp comes very close to offering nearly 80% the performance of some very much more expensive pre/power combos out there in the market(including those that we have wrote much about recently). So unless one is looking for the ultimate sound experience with no regard to cost, here's an alternative that offers so much sound performance in the package and convenience of an integrated amp.

If the price is no chump change, I think very few integrated or pre/power combo amplifiers would rival the sensible performance to value ratio offered by this Coda. This amp will drive most loud speakers loads in the market nicely, although I would hazard a guess that, it'll sonically mate superbly with warmer sounding speakers, like a pair of Sonus Faber Grand Piano, Vienna Acoustics Beethoven, ATC SCM 40 and perhaps even the earlier mentioned Magnaplanars or Eminent Technologies LFT-8B. Lastly, Coda offers 10 years product warranty which I believe, is the second longest effective period in the industry, after Bryston's 20 years warranty on their non digital products.

Coda Technologies product is sold by Audio Impression, contact Roy, tel: 012-3890333

June 21, 2010

Clearaudio Factory Tour. CMY Goes Analog.

It's spring time in Europe and the weather is pleasant. What a great time to be visiting The High End Audio Show in Munich! Apparently, some industry players are telling me that CES in Vegas has become a victim of it's own success, and the more industry focused High End Show is now "the" place where brands are acquired, secured or lost!
The place to be in high end audio now. The Munich High End Audio Show.

The main foyer to the show floor. If only KLIAV looked some thing like this?

John, big boss of CMY has been scouting for an analog brand for a while now, and has un unexpectedly scored(pardon me for using that pun, it's the World Cup month after all!) with Clearaudio. After the business is taken care of, John took a visit to the Clearaudio factory, and shared his journey with me. I persuaded John to allow me to show our readers, the impressive facilities of the establishment.
The latest Clearaudio Performance Series.

Clearaudio Innovation. Hmm.......... if I can only have a go at this?

Clearaudio Statement flag ship table, there's already 2 of these in Malaysia, which I've had the privilege to audition in one of the owner's home, and it was phenomenal!

John and Peter Suchy smiling after a satisfactory deal done. One for the contract!

John and Robert Suchy at the factory entrance.

At the entrance of the Clearaudio factory, one will be greeted by all the awards and accolades scooped by it's products, Namely turn tables and cartridges, but now also expanded to some analog related electronics, cables and accessories.
The Awards section!

The first area area of production always starts with the incoming store, where all the raw materials and out sourced parts are stored, and awaiting to be processed.
Just some of the out sourced parts for manufacturing turn tables.

Raw materials to feed the metal works and fabrication section of the factory.

Next up is the machining area, where all the metal fabrication work is done. There are flat bed CNCs and cylindrical machining facilities of all shapes and sizes. Some computer controlled for extremely tight tolerances. This is proof that Clearaudio makes most components in house.
Cylindrical milling machine.

A piece of bearing jacket being milled.

More cylindrical milling machines.

Note the scarred surface? This will be rejected.

A small sized flat bed CNC machine.

More metal work machines!

The turn table arm lift being peeled of the multiples. These will later be sanded down and polished to perfection, before final turn table assembly.

Computer controlled machining for very exact tolerances required on precision turn table parts.

Then we are taken to the assembly area. This is where most of the interesting "work" takes place. Some important sub assemblies like motors and bearings are also done in house. Then turn tables are line assembled for production.
Motor assembly by skilled hands.

Clearaudio CMB bearing assembly, note the white ceramic core to be inserted in to the inverted bearing jacket.

This man assembles tone arms.

Note the precision of the assembly.

The tone arm bearing.

A high end turn table under goes final assembly.

The most interesting part of the factory is where the cartridges are assembled under magnified glass.
This is what a cartridge coil is made of, a piece of wire wound, the cantilever, and suspension.

All the work is done under the magnifying glass with skilled, and nimble fingers. This is clearly some thing I was not born to do!

The magnified stylus profile for QC purposes.

The QC test results for the cartridges, was this for my Stradivari?

The completed cartridges, awaiting packaging.

There's also an area dedicated to cable assembly. Clearaudio cables are a growing portfolio in the business.
Ahh...... nothing like a pair of loving lady hands for the cable assembly.

Finally, there's the QC section, where most components are tested during assembly and finished turn tables tested prior to final packing
The assembly line for the Concept table. This is the base of the table.

More Concepts under going final assembly.

A scope for electronics testing, the most basic equipment in the business.

An LCR meter for cable testing. Also used to test loading, insulation and impedance of cartridges.

An instrument to test acrylic platter balance.

With an acrylic platter on for balancing test, just like our car wheels balancing!

After QC, the products can be packed and ready for shipping, to their final destinations, the dealers show rooms.
Some of the finished goods, packed and ready to be shipped.

One of the containers is coming to Port Klang! Guess which one? He!He!

Clearaudio is also in to Music Production, where they mainly output in to the LP format, naturally. Like Clearaudio turn tables and cartridges, the music produced have also received numerous awards and accolades over the years.
The music library section. All LPs only!

One of the Award wining musical productions by Clearaudio.

With that, the Clearaudio factory tour ends and I've been told that Robert Suchy(the second generation chief of Clearaudio) will be making an appearance in the coming KLIAV 2010(no, I haven't forgotten that event). Robert will be giving tips to Clearaudio owners on how to extract the most musical performance from their investments. Obviously, Clearaudio will be a major attraction at this year's KLIAV!
CMY doing Malaysia proud, with our national flag flying high!

Lastly, I wish to congratulate John, and team CMY for scoring(that soccer thing aagin!) one of the premium analog brands. CMY will start to display Clearaudio products some time next month, if all things goes as planed. I am looking forward to playing with some Clearaudio turn tables too!