August 31, 2010

Amphion Demo Stock Clearance at Centre Circle Audio

More Amphion goodies are available from Centre Circle Audio. Here is the list they sent us:

*click on the image to view the full size version

Contact Centre Circle Audio, Ph: 03-77282686; Nelson Chia 012-2876807; Sky Wong 012-3371787

August 30, 2010

National Day From A Hi-Fi Perspective

What has Hi-Fi got to do with Malaysia's National Day?

Not much, except that the creator in this guy from Pop Pop Music thinks even patriotic song can be recorded in the audiophile Hi-End manner!

There's no stopping Maggielurva from turning the audiophile music genre upside down with his latest exploits on Malay Jazz classics, played by the most talented musical family in Malaysia, The Solianos.

"Tanah Pusaka" (Land of Heritage) was written by Ahmad Merican, a living music legend now in his 80s. The original tune is somber and serious but melodious nevertheless. It is often sung in place of "Negara-ku" as an alternative national anthem. Now the Solianos really turned it upside down with swing+ jazz arrangement! Totally awesome and wicked!

We heard news that the video has won thunderous applause from many quarters in Malaysia.

Fellow Hi-Fi kakis, here's "Happy Merdeka Day" to all of you!

August 28, 2010

10 Qs For Keith Martin, CEO Of IsoTek Audio Power Systems Ltd.

Presenting the very stylish Keith Martin. He kinda reminds me the look of a certain hifi guru in Malaysia too. Guess who am I thinking about?

Odiosleuth covered the event as you've read earlier. I've always felt Isotek power products to be very under rated in the Malaysian market place. They offer high performance to value ratio and are very reliable. I know, I was using an excellent Isotek GII Sigmas not too long ago.

Meeting and talking to Keith Martin is both a relevation and educational. I hope you find this 10 Qs just as meaningful.

Big E: Welcome to Malaysia! It's the summer holidays in England and you're working?

KM: I was at the Hong Kong audio show last week, and took the opportunity to visit some of Isotek's regional distributors. After this, I'll be returning to the UK, to prepare for an up coming European business trip.

Big E: There are transformer, passive filter and re generator based PLC products in the market for audio applications. Which of the 3 three is Isotek product based on?

KM: Isotek products are very certainly passive filter based. I feel passive filters PLCs like our Isotek's can fulfill 90% of the audiophile's quest for better sound.

Big E: Some of the more technically inclined audiophiles may feel re generator PLCs are the preferred way to treat power nasties. How'd you address those concerns?

KM: I feel that in theory at least, the re generator method is plausible. However, the re generator PLC products in the market place today are mostly based on class D regenerated outputs. There's so much noise when you regenerate using class D, because they put back so much EMI/RFI in to the output! What's the point then?

Big E: What is your opinion on Automatic Voltage Regulators? How do they affect the sound of an audio system?

KM: I don't think AVRs are necessary at all, unless your local power supply exceeds it's +/- 10% tolerance range. I'll add that most AVR's out in the market today does more harm than good, not to the sound, but to the lifespan of your audio equipment. Most AVRs in the market today is of the Variac servo based model of regulating voltage. What happens is that when there's a power down, the Variac servo goes in to maximum compensation. When power returns, the Variac servo does not re-act fast enough to catch up with the sudden incoming current and voltage rush. The result is blown speakers and damaged equipments. I've seen many cases like that! Having said that, we are developing a new way of regulating power, which at the moment is too premature for me to say anymore about it.

Big E: When can we expect Isotek's AVR products? And like if I already have an Isotek Sigmas in use, should I plug the AVR before or after the Sigmas?

KM: We are planning to get the AVR out to the market by next year, hopefully. And like yourself, if already have a PLC in the audio system now, you should put the AVR before the Sigmas.

Big E: I know some audiophiles who prefer to spend money on power cords over PLCs, how would you convince them?

KM: While power cords are important, I feel a PLC offers better performance for the same money. For example, if one buys a power cord at the cost of one thousand pounds, versus the same value for a PLC, the PLC will improve the whole system, with everything plugged in to it. The power cord of the same price will only improve one component.

Big E: I noticed that all of Isotek's power cords are of the shielded design. Many audiophiles have the impression shielded power cords will reduce dynamics and transient response. Any truth to that?

KM: Isotek power cords are shielded to prevent air borne EMI/RFI to re-enter the system after the power supply is filtered by the PLC. Today's atmosphere is bath in EMI/RFI, from television sets, switching power supplies of the DVD player, your cell phone, iPod, electronic ballast of fluorescent lights, and all kinds of every day house hold items! The shielding in Isotek's power cords is grounded on one side only. That allows the power cord to have no effect on the music's dynamics and transient response. We've just introduced a new power cord, called the Isotek Synchro. It is specifically designed to power your PLC from the wall. It has a network built in, to reset the zero point on the incoming power sine wave, which reduces the sine wave distortion pattern.

Big E: Which is better for audio, US Nema 5 or UK 13 amp plugs?

KM: The US style plugs are better for only 2 reasons. The lack of fuse and having less metal in the contacts. The less metal is better because the impedance is lower. However, in a country like Malaysia, where the power supply is 240V rated, I'd advise to check the current draw of the equipment. I believe most source and pre amps are O.K. as they do not draw much current, but one must be careful when using US style plugs for power amps! US style plugs are only good for up to 5.6 amps when used with 240V power supply. In cases like this, I much prefer the European Shucko plugs for regulation compliance and sound quality.

Big E: What about protection from lightning strikes?

KM: I must emphasised that NO PLC in the market today, or for a foreseeable future, can protect your equipment from a lightning strike within a radius of 10 meters or so from your equipment. The amount of current in a lightning strike is just too great for any PLC to handle. If there are other companies out there making such claims with a product insurance policy back up included, I sincerely ask you to please read the fine print of the insurance policy offered as back up!

Big E: When I bought the Isotek Sigmas sometime ago, I noticed Isotek recommends optional RDC cones to replace the standard issued rubber feet. How does the RDC cones help?

KM: It's a known fact that a well engineered cone can help to chanel away un wanted resonance from your audio equipment. The RDC cones does exactly the same for the Isotek Sigmas. We are going further than that, by taking care of the resonant qualities in our future power products. I think we are the first audio power company to be developing such a product. Again, I cannot offer any more information about the said product at this point.
Keith does a few very special Signature Edition of Isotek products that very day! Just for those who invested in an Isotek power product during the talk.

A very lucky owner of the Isotek GII Sigmas Signature Edition! I bet he's gonna be pretty pleased with his investment too.

As Keith is here to officially launch the new Evo 3 Aquarius, which replaces the hugely popular GII Mini Sub. He points that the Evo 3 Aquarius offers some of the features previously found only on the Isotek GII Sigmas, Novus and Titan. Prices for the Evo 3 Aquarius is nearly the same as the out going GII Mini Sub. From what we've heard in the demo, the Aquarius certainly a better product than the the one it replaces, not to mention, priced at just a bit shy of RM$4k, it's great value too.

Keith proceeded to sign on all Isotek products sold on that day, a Signature Edition of sorts, for the lucky buyers.

August 26, 2010

Trinity Revisited, Cowboy Junkies.

It been a while since we wrote about music. No, we did not forget about the music! How can we? We need the music to listen to our hifi, and our hifi helps by reproducing music the we only way we can enjoy, a.k.a. in hi-fidelity!

I recently got this on LP, it was expensive, but a worth while musical experience for any audiophile or music lover with a worthy high end system. I've never heard Cowboy Junkies music prior to this, but I knew they were great musicians. It was the sort of a musical experiment purchase, a small gamble if you wish and this time, I got the Russian Roulette on my side(not always the case!).

By the way, the Cowby Junkies are siblings Margo, Micheal & Peter Timmins, plus friend Alan Anton. For this Trinity Revisited project, they are joined by guest Ryan Adams, Jeff Bird, Vic Chestnutt and lastly Natalie Merchant, who takes center stage on most tracks.

I searched the www for more info on this double gate fold 2LP release for more information and got some. This is apparently, a 20th Anniversary tribute album to the original sessions, which was released in 1988. The original recording was done in a church that historically dates back to the 1800s! That same church acoustics plays a big role to the end result of this recording. Like I said, I've never heard the original 1988 release, so I got nothing to compare with, but I really liked what I heard on this 20th Anniversary tribute album. I thought it deserves our musical attention.

Cowboy Junkies are basically blues, folk, country and rock/pop influences all rolled in to one. The arrangement is mostly sparse but intense. This time the Cowboy Junkies brought in some friends to help them on the session. The songs are mostly heartfelt and bitter sweet in presentation.

Some of my favourite cuts include:
1) Misguided Angel
2) I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry
3) 200 More Miles
4) Sweet Jane
5) Postcard Blues
6) Walking After Midnight

The single miked recording is excellent! The church acoustically sets the mood of the music. There's a charm when recordings in churches are well executed. The bass guitar is solid and strong, which sets the foundation of the music. The drums are captured in the back of the stage, and I especially liked that the kick drums are still solid and could be felt(something I doubt if one plays with mini monitors or bookshelf speakers though), yet the cymbals and high hats are clearly define in space, time and presence. There's an airy quality around the instruments as we hear the space and church ambiance. The best part is the vocals! They appear to float eerily, and pop out of a dark sound stage in convincing 3D fashion. On the track Misguided Angel, when Margo, female vocal with a deep voice, located on the left of center, slightly set back in to the sound stage, harmonise with guest Natalie Merchant, who is located in the center of the sound stage on a more forward plane for duet, I got goose bumps all over, because the track's mood is so..... dark, the 3D vocal floating sensation so..... haunting(hey!, it's the seventh month of Chinese calendar year after all, for Casper and friends are out to play, boo..... hoo......), I've never quite felt like this before! On a high end system, the flaws of the recording process, like wiring/amp buzz, mike humming and some off stage chatter is bared for all to hear, but that's just the very qualities, that makes this recording so real and life like sounding! I am literally transported to the Holy Trinity Church, which is the venue of this recording.

Guess what? I played and got all these from the Clearaudio Concept entry level turn table with the packaged MM cartridge only! I originally wanted to use this recording as a high light for the turn table review, but felt that would be doing this album injustice. I think that a musical recording this good demands our undivided attention. And I am very sure once you start playing this 2LP set, it will get yours too! It certainly got mine.

August 24, 2010

10 Qs For Franck Tchang, Of Acoustic System International.

Franck Tchang of Acoustic System International.

I like talking to Franck Tchang of Acoustic System International. You can say that he's the guy who is the life of a party! I find him at once witty and humorous, which makes him an enjoyable company, which ever way you look at it.

He likes KLIAV a lot too, and this is the 2nd time he's back for the show. He also promised to bring something big for next year's show too! Now I am dying with anticipation. Can anyone wait till next year to find out? If you can't, then read on!

Big E: Welcome back to KLIAV, back so soon? You like it here in Kuala Lumpur?

FT: Yes, I like this show a lot, so many friendly faces and good friends. Kuala Lumpur is one of the friendliest cities to be in.

Big E: I knew you're coming again, and before I speak to you again, I browsed your pages. I see that you now make speakers too. Tell us a bit about the Tango speakers please?

FT: I first made the Tango speakers for my self until some of my dealers wanted it, after they heard it in my place. These speakers uses high quality drivers to start, which allows me to use an all first order slope design passive x-over for gentle roll off and frequency hand over between the drivers. But the most important innovation of the speaker is in the cabinet. I do not brace the cabinet! I allow the cabinet to remain un damped too. There's nothing inside the box, except 2 well placed ports connecting between the internal speaker chamber and 3 resonator cups built in within the cabinet.

Big E: The box is un braced and un damped? That would mean the box will resonate with the music, much like some of those ol' skool BBC designs?

FT: Yeah! Most speaker designers come over a have a look, then they said "this can't work". But I am not most designer! I am using a complex mathematics formula to keep the box pressurised to a certain level, via the earlier mentioned port between internal chambers, which are carefully calculated to allow a small amount of air thru the chambers and eventually out of the box, via it's bass port. That keeps the speaker cabinet pressurised during music play back and the cabinet resonances are cancelled out by the built in resonators. It's all very scientific.
The impressive looking Tango speakers! Will we get to hear them on the next KLIAV 2011?

Big E: Just like Aperiodic Enclosures? I had used those for my car audio sub woofers previously!

FT: Yes, the idea is similar but the mathematics are far more complex, as the Tango speakers covers nearly the full range of frequencies, where else your sub woofers only cover an octave of frequency range. Who knows, I'll probably bring a pair of Tangos for the next KLIAV show! Ha!Ha!

Big E: Now that you have mentioned it, I can't wait to hear the Tango speakers next year. Tell us what else are you working on currently?

FT: I am working on a bigger Tango speaker, called the Super Tango! It's a special order for a client who has a pair of Tangos and now wants to upgrade to a bigger sound. Once that project is finished, I am thinking about going in to amplifiers too, but as of now, nothing is set in stone.

Big E: Are you aware that there now many resonator cup copies and look alike available in the market today?

FT: Yes, I know. Let me tell you, 10 years ago, I was the only fella doing resonator cup demos in the CES show. Everyone avoided me like I am some sort of a nut case! Over the years, people realised that my products have been very successful in the market, then I start seeing variations of resonators. Today I see all kinds of resonators in the high end audio market, some look a little like my designs, others just a plain carbon copy! But I can tell you none of them are as effective in treating rooms as the original A.S.I. ones. That is no salesman talk, you're welcome to try and compare between the original and the copies. You make up your mind, you'll know what you hear. It's that easy.

Big E: You seemed happy that people are copying your products?

FT: I see it like this, if others copy my products, that means I am very successful, after all who wants to copy a loser?

Big E: You're always seeing things from a positive view, I like that! How's the current financial turmoil in Europe effecting your business?

FT: You know what? Many reported loss of sales, but A.S.I. has had business growth of over 50% compared to the previous year. I am struggling to cope with orders!

Big E: Which products is driving that growth specifically?

FT: Our Liveline cables of course! In the past, I only had orders in the numbers of 10 pairs per shipment. This has recently increased to numbers of 100 pairs per shipment. Our Liveline cables are doing extremely well in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Russia! Our cables offer great performance for a low entry value. They have been proven in the market place to displace even reference grade cables from Taralabs, MIT Oracle, Transparent and Audioquest, just to name a few.

Big E: I noticed the Liveline cables have solid silver return core vs solid copper positive core. Any reason for that?

FT: As you may already know, the signal speed travelling along the silver core is always faster than the copper core. That results in high speed response of the cable. Music comes alive when a cable is fast enough to deliver the transient response in the shortest time. My Liveline cables cannot be copied for a simple reason, that our metallurgy is different from all other cables out there. Another reason why others do not make copies of Liveline cables is because they are relatively affordable, so the profit margin is less for some else to copy. If profit be the motivator of copies, then the logic would be to copy the most expensive ones!

Big E: Just like all those brands you have mentioned earlier?

FT: Exactly!

Franck doing another resonator cup demo in the CMY Audio & Visual room. CMY's always friendly & hard working Manager, Chan is seen helping out behind!

Franck was due for another resonator cup demo session at the main CMY Audio & Visual room, which I followed to attend. I always find his demos fun, lively and enjoyable. Till then, I look forward to hear the juicy looking Tango speakers at next year's KLIAV. Fingers crossed!

August 23, 2010

Isotek CEO/MD's Visit to Centre Circle Audio - A Pirctorial

The CEO/MD of IsoTek, the UK power conditioning company, made a visit to Centre Circle Audio, its distributor in Malaysia, last Thursday. Big E and I were there to listen to Mr. Keith Marin talking about his company's products and design philosophy.

Big E will add Keith to his excellent 10 Qs series later. For now, we have a handful of photos to share.

Keith looking cool and relaxed before his talk.

He turned out to be both a humourous and...

...forceful speaker at the same time,...

...pushing his points through to the audience.

Not all sales talk, he also got technical and revealed his product designs to the audience, telling us about the design improvements as we move up IsoTek's product line.

Keith Martin and Nelson Chia (owner of Centre Circle Audio) posing with IsoTek's products.

The latest power conditioning product, The Aquarius (the item in the middle of the stack), was launched at the talk.

August 22, 2010

10 Qs For Roy Gandy, Founder, Owner, Rega Research Limited.

Roy Gandy is an enigma, that's for sure!

Roy Gandy was one of my audio heroes in my early days of hifi. I read many of his interviews in audio rags and over the years, subsequently, I bought a Rega P25 turn table to celebrate Rega's 25th Anniversary. Roy is also a personality of strong opinions, which you'll see further down this read!

I had never imagined that I'll be talking to one of my audio heroes today, courtesy of Eddie Tan, Manager of Asia Sound Equipment. Roy has been doing a tour of Asian distributors and Kuala Lumpur is one of his stops. I asked more 10 Qs, but I will cherry pick the most notable ones not found else where.

Big E: Welcome Roy, did you know you're one of audio heroes, and I had bought Rega turn table as a result of that?

RG: Hi! What a pleasant surprise to know that I have a fan in Malaysia. How did you know so much about me to call me your audio hero?

Big E: From the British hifi rags of course. I think they have helped your products sell, don't you think so?

RG: Ah....! The hifi mags, they don't help Rega only, they help everyone who sells hifi! In fact, we do best in markets that have no hifi mags, for example in Denmark, where there's no hifi mags, we are doing very well there. And France, which is one of our biggest export market, they only have music mags that features hifi, not the other way round. You know Diapason? I think buyers can make up their own mind better, without influence of the hifi mags. I personally know companies who have press reps, just to liaise with hifi mags, as part of their marketing strategy. At Rega, we do not practice that kind of marketing. We don't need to, because our products are good in the sense that they are well engineered, and offer excellent musical performance value.

Big E: So you find the audio press a necessary evil then?

RG: No, I don't find that at all. What I am saying is that you, the hifi magazine has a job to do, which is to inform your readers, and we the manufacturer's job is to make and sell the products. We give you something to write about, and you, have something to fill your pages and inform your readers. It's not about who's helping who, is it?

Big E: Your trip is to do distributor visits, what qualities do you look for in a distributor?

RG: I'll tell you a little story. I normally ask our distributor the same question every time in an interview, "What do you think the distributor's job is?" I very often hear those very logical answers, like "1) to keep stocks and distribute them to retailers, 2) to provide after sales services, 3) to...... 4) to..... and 5) to........" you get the picture? The best reply I've ever heard from a distributor is this, "We cover your weaknesses as a manufacturer!" Ha!Ha!Ha!

Big E: How is the current recession in Europe affecting Rega?

RG: It's actually being great for us! Our sales have been increasing and we are still trying to keep up at the production floor. On the R&D and engineering front is where the recession has brought us benefits. As you know, 90% of the F-1 racing teams are British based. So that allows us access to some of the best engineering and design facilities. We also tap in to the aerospace industries for advance materials sourcing. Since the recession, our R&D suppliers and engineering firms are trying harder to work with us because they are now free. However, they are still very expensive!

Big E: Which customer would you prefer to sell your products to? The music lover or the audiophile?

RG: The music lover anytime!

Big E: Take your turn tables for example, you have the P1, P2, P3, P5, P7 and P9. At which point in that particular example, would you consider a music lover turned audiophile?

RG: All our products are designed for the music lover in mind. That's why they are simple to use, and leave very little to tweak. I would define someone who buys hifi just to listen to music as a music lover, and someone who likes to tweak or change his hifi equipment frequently as an audiophile.

Big E: How do feel about hifi tweaks or after market add ons?

RG: I can safely say that out of all those tweaks and after market parts that we've tested, 90% makes the product worst by either compromising reliability, or makes then worst sounding. Actually, the most common parts we have to repair are re-wired tone arms! Most of the times, audiophile customers rewire our tone arms with wires that are too stiff! Or in the process of the after market re-wiring, they break the bearings! Some literally saw the tone arms in to half for the re-wiring job. You don't want that, do you?

Big E: How long do you think the CD format will still be around? And how do you feel about music down loads?

RG: I don't want to speculate anything beyond my control. But I guess this a good indicator, that 2 years ago an European market survey found that turn table sales had already over took sales of CD players(not including DVD or multi players). Armed with that information, I think vinyl will still be around, when CDs are no more. I personally think CDs are acceptable in sound quality, Hi-rez down loads are about as good as the CDs and those iPods and MP3s are just down right horrible. Still analog is best if you ask me!
From left: Eddie Tan and Roy Gandy, having a relaxing chat with Big E!(not shown)

Big E: What kind of music do you listen to, and who are your favorite artist?

RG: I listen to all kinds of music, but if I were to cover an artist as a musician, I'd do Alison Krauss. I also like Ry Cooder a lot, as he works with some of the best musicians in the world, yet he almost always never exerts himself musically. He plays a supporting role to the different flavours of the musicians that he works with.

Big E: You know the Chinese have bought most of the British hifi brands, would you consider cashing out if they made you an offer?

RG: That's the way of world today. Nothing we could do about it. There people from China, India, Singapore and even a Malaysian company offered to buy Rega. I would consider selling if I know they could do a better job with Rega then myself. However, I would not sell Rega, if all they intend to do is to put our brand on to other un worthy products. I don't want the Rega brand to be diluted, just like so many other British hifi brands.

Roy also took the opportunity to announce 2 new Rega products coming our way soon. First is a stand alone DAC, and the other one is the Rega P1 turn table successor called RP1. Roy says that the RP1's sound quality is so good, it has made the P2 turn table model redundant. The new RP1 looks very similar to the out going P1 except, the HDF platter is now replaced with a phenolic resin moulded type. The 4 joint arm in the previous P1 turn table gives way to a new single joint arm with a more accurately engineered counter weight stub. Other minor details like bearing tolerances are also improved. By the way, the RP1 will be retail priced with a premium over the existing P1 turn table, which Eddie says will be sold out soon to make way for the new model.

Eddie tells us that the RP1 would be available at Asia Sound Equipment soon enough, however no pictures of the new turn table is available just yet, it's not even on the Rega web page yet!

August 21, 2010

Malaysia Boleh or Tak Boleh?

2V1G - the audiophile album that put Malaysia on the map of one of World's Best Chinese Audiophile music labels

Have you been listening to 2v1g's latest album in local Chinese radio station 98.8?

Yes, we become the first audiophile album in the world that gets played in mainstream radio station!

At the same time, check out the pre-order frenzy in taiwan.... Pop Pop Music is taking Taiwan's audiophile music market by storm!

CD Rama, our biggest retailer in Malaysia commented: "We realize the quality difference between Pop Pop Music's releases and other Chinese audiophile labels. Pop Pop's has so much better recording and artistes of international standards! "

The new album will be out next week, 25th August!

你們有聽到 988 極力推薦 2v1g 的最新專輯嗎?

這次21vg 得到主流媒體的眷顧, 是發燒音樂界史無前例, 前所未有的, 我們感到很欣慰!

大眾書局 CDRAMA 也很肯定我們的專業。 他們說:【Pop Pop Music 專輯的錄音很有質感, 歌手又非常棒, 是中文發燒音樂的佼佼者!】

臺灣已開始了預購的熱潮!Pop Pop Music 已成為臺灣發燒友的品牌!

Like a lot of Hi-Fi Dealers, I am on Pop Pop Music's mailing list. I constantly receive a lot of encouraging emails like the above with regards to their achievements in overseas markets like Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong. If you read Taiwan's Audio Art and Hong Kong's Audiophile magazine, all their albums get very positive reviews from the reviewers.

The latest news, that 2V1G manages to break into mainstream market, is greatly encouraging. Ask yourself, apart of Cai Qin (even Cai Qin is hardly heard in Malaysia's Chinese radio stations), who else manage to do that?

I know ML's struggle very well. He confides in me that despite achieving all these accolades overseas, certain audiophiles in Malaysia still hold "local products" with disdain. He recounted one incident in Amcorp Mall when a Chinese audiophile, seemingly enjoying the Love's Tapestry album, when told by the Hi-Fi Dealer that "It is a Malaysian product", he quickly put that away and showed disinterest on his face. ML was disheartened.

ML knows this is something he can't change overnight. He accepted it as being a stigma with anything Made-In-Malaysia. After all, Fish Leong, Guang Liang (Michael Wong) and Gary Chow (Cao Ge) didn't made it in Malaysia. They made it in Taiwan and only gained respect in Malaysia upon return.

However, being the fighter he is, he is not discouraged. He believes one day his music label will hold a very high position among the world's top audiophile labels.

Today is 2V1G+JZ8 double bill concert. Another achievement to show that audiophile acts can hold sell-out concerts.

Malaysia boleh or tak boleh?

August 20, 2010

10 Qs For Yoshiro Al Hirano, Chief Strategy Officer Of TAD.

Yoshino Al Hirano, Chief Strategy Officer Of TAD.

If you had been reading our KLIAV 2010 show reports, you may have noticed that both of us(Odiosleuth and myself included) have been very impressed by the TAD system on demo. James of AV Designs, who is the Malaysian dealer appointed by Pioneer to represent TAD(Technical Audio Devices) offered me to meet the TAD official, Yoshiro Al Hirano, present at the show, I just could not refuse. I have developed a need to find out what makes all these little known TAD products so fine sounding. If you wanna find out more just like me, then read on!

Big E: Hi! Hirano San. What is your role in TAD? How is TAD related to Pioneer?

YH: I represent the TAD management, and liaise with the top Pioneer management in regards to all things TAD related. TAD is a very small independent subsidiary of Pioneer. Our facility is located in Kawagoe-City, north of Tokyo. We are staffed by 13 audio engineers who are dedicated to high end audio reproduction. All the electronic components like amplifiers and disc players are made in our Kawagoe-City plant. TAD also have a speaker facility in China, which manufactures all our TAD range speakers, under strict quality supervision of our Japanese engineers based there. Since TAD is a small subsidiary, we are allowed to use the vast resources of Pioneer's R&D facilities, in pursuit of high end audio excellence. This is our strength in the market place.

Big E: Pioneer seems to see something in the high end audio market, that most other Japanese mass market manufacturers have chosen to ignore. Pioneer has back out of the plasma screen TV market when others maintains market share at all cost. What strategy is Pioneer up to?

YH: I really miss our Kuro plasma TVs. I think it's a product of superior picture quality, but so far, only the serious audio/videophiles seems to buy them. The mass market is still price sensitive, irregardless of picture quality. The other manufacturers like Sony and Matsushita, for example, has abandoned their high end audio ES or Technics line of products. Pioneer sees the niche potential in a gradually declining high end audio market. The market, by the way, is still "nicely" sized. TAD will be allowed to pursue high end audio, based on this market potential of US, Europe and Japan. However, we believe Asia is a huge un tapped potential market for TAD.

Big E: I share your sadness with Pioneer's decision to remove the Kuro plasma TV product line. What is TAD's company vision, if there is one?

YH: At TAD, we really want our customer's soul to be emotionally moved by nice music. This is our passion, and we are committed to the company vision.
TAD D600 SACD/CD player. This player have a CD tray opening as smooth as "gliding on air", just like those made by Esoteric. The touch sensitive control panel is on both sides of the display. Not shown here is the dual mono, balanced power supply unit!

Big E: Now we come to the TAD products. What is the philosophy behind the TAD D600 SACD/CD player?

YH: Our development concept for the D600 SACD/CD player is based on the need to prevent jitter, rather than compensating for jitter generated later. Our research indicated that the transport mechanism, vibration control, and power supply circuitry are important aspects to achieving high performance, but most important is the oscillator clock technology. TAD co-developed a high spec oscillator clock which minimises "Phase Noise" up to 80% more effectively, compared to regular grade oscillator clocks, used by other CD player manufacturers. I believe, we still have scope to further improve sound performance at the digital section. One area to note however, is due to the high R&D cost and low market volumes in high end audio, that result is product prices will remain high, unfortunately. The D600 SACD/CD player however, has received positive market response in Japan. At the moment, it is not sold any where else.

Big E: How long do see the SACD/CD market holding on? Why pour so much resource in to what is by now a dying format?

YH: The SACD/CD is still a great media. We can expect to continue enjoying new music contents from the SACD/CD media for another decade, at least. On the other hand TAD is also concern with the development of the Hi-rez online down load services are gaining popularity, even amongst audiophile community. Record companies are seeing huge drops in CD sales, which sooner rather than later, they'll have to use HD Tracks, by David Chesky for example, as their gateway for online music revenue. TAD has business interest all over the world, and people can be very conservative in some markets. Take Japan for example, audiophiles just hate to use PC for music reproduction. Therefore, TAD will simultaneously develop products for both physical media, and the new media.
The TAD M600 mono block digital amplifier, which outputs 3ooW @ 8 ohms and doubles up to 600W @ 4 ohms. TAD says, "Listen without prejudice!". I tried, and no, it does not sound like your normal class D amps at all. This behemoth weights 90kgs per mono block.

Big E: Tell us a little more about your excellent sounding amps please?

YH: These are a new generation of digital amplification technologies, not like anything the high end audio has used before. The twist, however is in the power supply section. TAD is still developing both digital and analog power supplies. This time, for now, TAD has decided to use analog power supply section, and integrate it with digital amplification for better sound quality. Many will think that digital amplification sounds bad. TAD wants audiophiles to listen to this amplifier without prejudice, in regards to the sound character.

Big E: How does Andrew Jones, the renown speaker designer fit in to the TAD organisation? Is his role only in the loud speaker products?

YH: Andrew is a great speaker engineer, and TAD ambassador. He is the Engineering Project Leader who co-ordinates both the TAD speaker design teams in Europe and Japan. Andrew also does his own circuit designs. The electronic components however, are all engineered and designed in Kawagoe-City, Japan.
TAD CR-1 stand mount speakers. Lots of special design technologies built in to this small, "made in China" speakers. My new reference speaker costing well over RM$100k.

Big E: TAD speakers are made in China. Many high end audiophiles are not comfortable with the idea of an expensive China made product. How is TAD addressing this issue?

YH: Audiophiles in the US, Korea and especially mainland Chinese hates "made in China". TAD is aware and understands their concern. That's why I have mentioned earlier, the TAD speaker plant is located in China, but staffed by Japanese engineers to ensure the product quality standards are the same as our Japanese plant. Also note that our essential speaker components, especially the driver units are manufactured in Japan. We only make the wood working and final assembly in China. However, TAD will consider all options available to us.

Big E: Tell us some of the technical design highlights of the TAD speakers please?

YH: Firstly, our TAD range of speakers are based on a dual concentrate driver unit design. Allowing the main driver unit to cover almost full range frequency reproduction abilities, at point source. This eliminates phase shift between driver units which our ears are sensitive towards. It also gives a seamless perception of hand over frequencies between driver units. If you note, our dual concentrate driver units have a shallow cone profile, compared to others who uses this technology. The shallow cone profile eliminates the peakiness, or shoutiness sound character, that some other dual concentrate driver units exhibits. Also note our beryllium tweeter, built in to the dual concentrate driver units. Other speaker manufacturers who uses the same material for their tweeters stamp mould by force to make the driver membrane. That causes the material to fracture at the seams and exhibits metal fatigue properties, which are easily audible in the high frequency range. Our beryllium tweeter membranes are metal etched by chemical process. The process is very exact science and very costly to implement for production. However, our chosen process does not induce metal fatigue on the finished tweeter membrane, thus results in more natural sound character.

Big E: I noticed no pre amps in the TAD product line up(a Bryston BP-26 pre amp was used instead, in the TAD demo system). Any other new products in the pipe line?

YH: TAD will introduce a pre amp in the near future. We will also use the D600 technologies in some of our new media digital products covering network audio, like a stand alone DAC, DAC with integrated pre amp or a CD player with digital input. We have yet to decide it's final form at the moment. TAD may also introduce, at a much later date, a scaled down and simplified version of the D600 SACD/CD player. Again, we have not confirmed anything for the moment.

Big E: WOW! It looks like TAD is a busy company, and you're a very busy man, Hirano San. TAD is certainly the new player in the high end audio market to look out for! Thanks for spending time with me. It has given me valuable insights to TAD the company.

It was already late, the KLIAV show had just announced that it's closing in five minutes! So I left the TAD demo room highly impressed, not only by the sound, but also by the commitment to high end audio, by TAD and it's parent company Pioneer.

August 19, 2010

Wide or Even Wider?

I am in the midst of deciding on the home theatre for my new room -see my post from yesterday “Peanut Butter and Jelly or Oil and Water”.

The first thing that needs deciding is the projector screen’s aspect ratio and size. There are 2 aspect-ratio choices nowadays – widescreen 16:9 (or 1.78:1) or the even wider 2.35:1 format. The old 4:3 format, which is used in our ASTRO feed, our free tv broadcast, and the CRT TVs in our homes, is really not in contention anymore.

16:9 aspect ratio projection screen
(photo taken in AV Designs)

The 16:9 format does not require much explanation, we are used to seeing it by now. Plasma & LCD TVs are all in this aspect ratio (though I have seen Philips coming out with a 2.35:1 TV once), almost all projection screens that we encounter are in this aspect ratio too.

Many major motion pictures nowadays are shot in the 2:35:1 aspect ratio though, you see them in cinemas. If this type of movie is projected onto a 16:9 screen, there will be horizontal black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. The black bars are wasted resolution from the projector (pixels that are not used for the image). A full HD projector has 1080 rows of vertical resolution. If a 2.35:1 aspect ratio movie is played, then only 810 rows will be used for the picture part in order to preserve the aspect ratio, the rest is wasted on the black bars – you see the huge drop? You lose as much as 25% of the resolution.

There is a way though to utilize all the pixels in the HD projector while at the same time viewing the movie in all its 2.35:1 glory. This requires extra investment (there is no free lunch!). There are 2 items to invest in.

One is the screen - you’ll have to ditch the 16:9 screen and opt for a 2.35:1 one.

A 2.35:1 aspect ratio screen, note the additional width
(photo taken in AV Designs)

The other is the addition of an anamorphic lens. You see, to ensure that the entire resolution of the projector is used, the trick is to electronically stretch the 2.35:1 movie vertically into 16:9 aspect ratio to occupy all the available pixels. Many projectors and DVD/Blu-ray players can do this. However, when this stretched picture comes out on the screen, it will appear squeezed, everything will look slimmer and taller. In order to restore the correct aspect ratio, the anamorphic lens is placed in front of the projector, its job is to stretch the 16:9 image horizontally into 2.35:1 to fill the entire screen. Interesting, I learned something new.

Anamorphic lens from Panamorph installed in front of a projector
(photo taken in AV Designs)

What if now you want to watch something shot in 16:9? You can move the lens away, the image will then be projected fully on screen but with the left and right sides of the screen not used. Or if you are lazy, you can playback the 16:9 movie in 4:3 format in the player, the anamorphic lens will stretch it to 16:9 (you’ll lose horizontal resolution in the projector this way). Or you can just let the lens stretch the 16:9 image into 2.35:1 anyway, with the consequence of cropping a bit of the top and bottom part of the image off.

Have you shut down already due to these convoluted descriptions from me?

Anyway, if you interested to explore the 2.35:1 screen format, you can contact James Tan of AV Designs, he can demo it to you in his showroom. AV Designs carries the Panamorph Model A480 Professional Grade Anamorphic Lens System for this purpose. It also has a nice room set up for viewing in 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Close-up of the Panamorph lens
(photo taken in AV Designs)

Now, reality - my budget definitely can’t touch the 2.35:1 system, so I’ll settle on 16:9. What screen size? James’ advice is to get one as wide as the room and viewing distance can take. I’ll go for minimum 100” diagonal. Size does matter in home theatre, I believe. Have you seen demos where the sound was really grand but the screen was disproportionately small? The sound does not seem to come from the screen at all, they are disjointed and the experience is totally diminished.

If you are interested, I came across this Home theatre Calculator spreadsheet, you can use this to calculate screen size and viewing distance and see whether the combination meets recommended standards ->

That’s it for now, more to come later…

Panamorph is available from AV Designs, contact James Tan 016-3280237

August 18, 2010

Audio Physic Virgo 25 Is Here, And On Demo, Only At Audio Image!

The Audio Physic Virgo 25 on demo comes in white high gloss finish.

I had always fancied the Audio Physic Virgo V, and it always seemed like the most natural pair of speakers to up grade from the Spark. But that didn't happen regrettably, and many of my Audio Physic kakis were very disappointed.

To mark the company's 25th Anniversary, Audio Physic had brought out the Tempo and Virgo 25 special models to commemorate this special occasion. Audio Image didn't bring in the Tempo 25, but they got the higher range Virgo 25 in. Now if you're a fan, do drop by Audio Image for a listen. I've been told that only 5 pairs of these limited beauties are allocated for Malaysian retail.

Best to make an appointment by calling Adrian at 03-79563077, to avoid disappointment.

August 17, 2010

‘Peanut Butter and Jelly’ or ‘Oil and Water’?

Can two-channel hifi mix with multi-channel home theatre? Can they be harmonized to gel like peanut butter and jelly? Or are they like oil and water, never the twain shall 'mix'? I believe some audiophile purists will reply in the negative and take the latter stand. Home theatre enthusiasts, however, will be nonchalant about it. Me? I don’t know, but I am going to find out.

If one can afford the space, I think it would be best to separate the two, not least that such an arrangement would allow one to optimize the performance of each system. We audiophiles love to tinker with every little bit of positioning, what if the best sounding location for the ‘emperor’s throne’ (i.e,, the listening seat) is in the middle of the room and too close for viewing movie on the big screen? Well, the ‘emperor’ may then have to suffer the indignity of moving his ‘throne’ in and out of position depending on whether he wants to watch or to listen, no? (hahaha)

I don’t have the luxury at my new house to separate the two systems. I have a 15’x22’x9.5’ (wdh) room to place my existing hifi system in. At the same time, I would like to set up a home theatre system, which is a long standing personal desire and also to allow the whole family to have some good fun together. It would be unbecoming to hog the whole space for hifi alone, so the home theatre will go into the same room.

The empty room, awaiting its hifi/AV occupants

I am new to home theatre. Yes, I have read magazines and searched the net for information, but that was knowledge on paper, not real life hands-on experience. I decided to start the search with a professional installer.

For quite a long time now, I have admired the picture and sound quality that AV Designs achieved with its demos in the KLIAV shows. The picture had very natural and rich colour, it also had a rounded and analogue quality. Very attractive and comfortable for viewing for the long term (I would touch on how AV Designs achieved such picture quality in my future postings). The sound was equally excellent too - realistic, enveloping, and impactful or atmospheric as called for by the movie scene in question. Well, these demo systems were megabuck systems, way off my budget. I don’t expect the same level of performance from my budget, though I would still like to see how close AV Designs could get me there.

So I decided to talk with James Tan. Rather than straight jumping into designing and quoting for the HT system (i.e., the business stuff), James started with a few discussions to understand my needs and wishes. I liked this approach, I abhor jumping into something without understanding things myself. Since I am spending money, I like to spend it on the right stuff. If the vendor could provide me with advices and opinion and work things out, instead of just wanting to close a quick deal, so much the better.

James in fact ended the first discussion with an arrangement to come onsite to see my new room for himself, to gauge its possibilities and limitations, instead of just hearing it from me. He duly made the visit a week later. The room got his approval mostly. Its dimension was big enough, he said, and since the construction of the walls was concrete, bass performance, which was crucial to the visceral aspect of movies, should be fine. However, he pointed out that since it was not sound-proofed, the crash-bam-boom from a movie would leak from the room. That meant I had to watch the hours and the volume I played the movies (and I know that meant the hifi too, of course). He also did a rough plan of where the seating, speakers and projector will be.

Next, we went into deciding on the visual part of the system. As far as the projector resolution is concerned, it will be full HD. Given that the video standard has settled on Blu-ray and the software is widely available nowadays there was no reason to go for something of a lower resolution. It can be chosen from the brands that AV Designs carries – Sony, JVC, Sanyo. The screen size and format needed some consideration though… this I shall continue in my next post.

If you are interested to know, stay tuned...

August 16, 2010

2V1G and JZ8 in Double-Bill Concert

Date: 21st August 2010 (Saturday)
Venue: Bentley Music Auditorium, Mutiara Damansara
Time: 8pm – 10pm
Ticket Price: RM90
Booking: Ms Lim Su Li (017-6586513)

Are you going? I know quite a few audiophiles and Hi-Fi Dealers (CMY, A&L, Audio Note, Audio Art etc etc)would be attending.

A few of us heard the 2V1G's latest album in a Hi-Fi Dealer's place yesterday. It sounds incredible, recording-wise as well as performance wise. Singing is almost perfect. The recording is also the best from Maggie's label.

Maggie told me the 2V1G CDs would be sold on the venue on the concert day.

For those who will be going, see you!

August 15, 2010

10 Qs For Ron Stimpson, President/CEO Of SVS Sound.

Ron Stimpson, the SVS Sound man and his products, the SVS PC-13 Ultra sub woofer, and the prototype soon to be on sale 7.1 multi chanel power amp.

I was in to the last legs of my KLIAV 2010 show, where I visited the SVS Sound room on level 4. Maxx Audio Visual is local authorised dealer for SVS Sound products. As I was in the room I met Ron Stimpson who was busy calibrating the 7.1 HT set up. I was very impressed with the sonic difference post calibration. I knew I just had to talk to Ron.

Big E: I thought SVS Sound is a sub woofer specialist? I see more than SVS sub woofers in this room.

RS: We started with out with our cylinder sub woofer designs, which from there we branched out in to the regular cube sub woofer designs. Many of our customer who bought our subs, have requested us to start a line of speakers to match their sub woofers. That's why you see more than sub woofers!

Big E: But I also see electronics? Tell me more?

RS: As our powered/active sub woofers had plate amps inside to power them, it was something that progressed naturally. It all started with some of the plate amp modules in our cylinder sub woofers suffering warranty claims at a rate of 5%. Not a lot, but enough to warrant our attention. Our original 500W plate amps were built in Canada and we just could not accept the 5% field failure rate. So we went about looking for a suitable supplier, and that just opened up so many options for us. We eventually found a supplier in Taiwan to build us 800W plate amps which are more reliable, and come with DSP features, for easier integration with customer's home and systems.
Left: The previous 500W plate amp module for the cylinder sub woofers. Right: The latest 800W plate amp, built in Taiwan for better reliability and feature sets.

Big E: That lead to the multi chanel amp that we see here?

RS: Yes, in our quest for a better plate amp, we came across the B&O ICE Power 7.1 module, which is made in Malaysia by the way. We were impressed by the B&O ICE Power module and decided to build a product around it. We had to design an input board, and a thermal controlled fan based cooling system to improve the performance of the B&O ICE Power module.

Big E: I am familiar with the B&O ICE Power modules, many class D amplification products use them, and they are pretty good, sound quality wise. They are also very cool running amp modules, why do you need a cooling system in the amp?

RS: But NOT this module, this is the latest ICE Power module, and we're proudly the first manufacturer to use it. It's a new generation design and is quite different from what you've experienced before. Go on, touch the heat sink.

Big E: It's relatively warm, Hmm...........?

RS: See, that's why it needs a cooling system! The new 7.1 ICE Power module design just runs warm, but still we felt that a thermal controlled fan based cooling system keeps it's operating temperature optimum, for best results.

Big E: But I did not see amplifiers in your product profile on the SVS Sound web site?

RS: Very observant! This is our new soon to be launched product line. You are listening to the demo prototype. We bring this to a few shows to gauge customer's response, which have been very encouraging. When I go back to our factory later, we'll finalise production planning details and you could see this amplifier in market, before the year's end, I think.
The internals of the soon to be on sale 7.1 multi chanel amp. Watch out! It's gonna be a HOT seller.

Big E: What else are you planning to sell us in the future, new products that is?

RS: We are also developing a new in-wall speaker range, which I promise you to deliver good meaty sound. In wall speakers are not new in the market place, but most them sounds like tin cans, in other words, crap! I know there's a market for them, because a home theater install typically involves the family, and many ladies of the house do not like to see speakers all over the living room.

Big E: How are you going to differentiate your in wall speakers from others already out there in the market place?

RS: Good question. Our in wall speakers are chambered design, so it's actually more like a box built in to a wall. Most homes in the US are dry wall(wooden wall panels), so installing flush mount in wall speakers is easy. On the other hand, I understand Malaysian and most Asian homes are brick wall, so installing may prove more challenging. But in fact, our in wall speakers are only about 2 or 3 inches deep, and the design also incorporated a picture frame like surround, which makes it easier just to hang the in wall speakers, just like an art, or painting. And to complete the illusion, we have a series of art works to choose from, to fit the customer's home decor theme. The art work covers are sonically transparent and will not effect the speaker's output by much.

Big E: Most of your products are built in China to offer great performance and outstanding value. Any of your product range is built in US?

RS: You're right! Most of our products are built in our own China factory, which is really a duplicate facility of what we have in Ohio. We have a few key staff posted in the China factory to make sure quality and specifications are kept to our standards. We make products in China is because over the years, the country has built up an impressive support industry to make loud speakers. It just makes more sense to have a factory there, to minimise un necessary logistics, which some of the savings, can be passed on to our customers. At the moment, only our high end range of cylinder sub woofers are built in Ohio. We may consider building more product lines in Ohio sometime in the future.

Big E: How can SVS Sound offer so much sound performance for value conscious buyers?

RS: We try to keep our cost in the actual product as much as possible, materially speaking. Other un necessary cost like logistics and supply chain are kept to the minimum possible. For example, Maxx Audio-Visual is the Malaysian distributor. Only Maxx stands between you, the customer here, and me in the US. Can you tell me how many audio brands do that? Most would have at least three levels of distribution, before the merchandise ends up in the customer's hand. I can tell you that there's also an extra mark up each time a product goes thru more levels of distribution. That's how we keep our product prices affordable, yet offering serious performance for the money.

Big E: Thanks for your time Ron, for allowing us to get to know you, your company and your products better.

After that brief chat, I hang around the room to sample more of that capable SVS Sound AV system capabilities.

August 14, 2010

IsoTek's CEO/MD Visiting Centre Circle Audio

Centre Circle Audio is inviting all audiophiles interested in IsoTek power conditioning products to join a presentation session with the company's CEO/MD Mr. Keith Martin:

Date: 19th August 2010

Time: 2pm - 6 pm
Place: Centre Circle Audio showroom
RSVP: 03-77282686

*Click on the pic to see the full size version

August 13, 2010

A Reviewers Choice System!

Mr BR's Magnaplanar 1.6 QR based system. This is a reviewers choice!

Have your ever wondered, what makes a reviewers system? No, I am not talking about Odioslueth or my good self here! I am talking about Malaysia's top reviewer, who has been doing this work for the last 20 years or so, in one of our English local dailies "Audiofile" section.

I bet many of our local readers would've already know who this reviewer is, but he wants to remain coy about his identity, so let's call him Mr BR, shall we? He!He! I've always been a fan of Maggies and Apogee speakers. So when I heard that Mr BR has a pair of Magnaplanar 1.6 QR playing in his well set up room, I just had to hear them. But hifi is not just about one item, it's about a marriage of synergistic combination of various components that make a successful system. Here's a mighty one.
Clearaudio Performance SE turntable with Satisfy Ebony tone arm and mounted with Concerto cartridge. Mr BR swears the Satisfy Ebony sounds much better than the carbon version and the extra cost is justified. I can only agree!

This is a 2 source system, with Clearaudio Performance SE turntable packaged with Concerto cartridge for the analog side, and an Ayon CD-07 represents the latest thinking for the physical media digital front end. Mr BR is dabbling in to Hi-rez downloads too, and I think very soon, this will be a 3 source system!
The latest CD player that represents the latest digital thinking in European design, it's Swiss actually! This baby's got tube outputs. A very fine and smooth, sophisticated sounding player.

The pre amp used here is the latest hi-end craze, longer than thong waiting listed, Odyssey Audio Tempest Extreme feeding signals to a Khartago Extreme SE stereo power amp. The Odyssey Extreme mods includes beefier power supplies and use of upgraded audio grade parts inside. Mr BR used MIT CVT series interconnects and speaker cables are MIT AVT series. Power cords are from various sources. The whole system is powered via a Pure Power APS 1050i PLC with the highly under rated Audio Magic Mini Reference used as post output filter, just as I had suggested in my review of the Pure Power APS 2000 PLC more than a year ago. There's even a Prometheus Energizer Brick just after the Pure Power treatment(this, not my idea! Ha!Ha!) supplying exclusive juice for the turntable. By the way Mr BR is using the high quality built in phono stage of the Odyssey pre amp.
Note under the Ayon CD player, Odyssey pre amp are the use of Elite Acoustic Magnet Shock Isolators is combinations of 3s or 4s. On the bottom shelf is Pure Power APS 1050i.

Odyssey Khartago power amp also rest on Elite Acoustic MSI too. Wood is also used to damp the acrylic amp rack.

Even the Maggies 1.6QR is given the Elite Acoustic MSI treatment!

Mr BR uses A.S.I. Basic level cup resonators for room tune. Another tweak to mention is the use of Elite Acoustic Magnet Shock Isolator thru out the whole system. Every component sits of 3 or 4 pcs of the said Magnet Shock Isolator. By the way, the system is housed in a lightly treated for acoustics, mid size dedicated studio/lounge room of irregular shape. Mr BR is a bass guitar player too, and has jam sessions in the same room sometimes.
Audio Magic Mini Reference PLC with Quantum Physics Noise Disruptor sitting on top. The use of a passive filter post Pure Power is highly recommended, and is well demonstrated here by Mr BR.

The first thing I noticed from the first notes of hitting the play button was, "this system has so.... much bass, for a pair of small Maggies that is!" I actually found it hard to believe, as most have previously mentioned the smaller Maggies to be some what bass shy. In fact the bass that greeted me was the solid, punchy and tight kind, which is quite a pleasant surprise. On certain recordings, the bass very nearly threatened to boom but just stop short of doing so. This is what some may call a system on the edge, not the edgy kind, mind you. Just to draw a parallel sort of experience with a finely tuned high performance car, when a driver starts to lose grip, yet manages just enough grip to keep on propelling front movement on a tight corner. Yeah! you guessed it, it's called "drifting". The bass performance of this system has that threshold of performance, it's exhilarating!

The mids have an open clarity quality, just as expected from a pair of Maggies. The highs are smoothly extended and "airy" if some what not quite cut from the same cloth kind of continuity when crossing over from the mids, as experienced on the bigger Maggies. Having said that, if one comes from listening to dome and cone based dynamic drivers, you'd not noticed it at all. Overall system tonal character is on the warmer side of neutral.

Perhaps due to the room's irregular shape, sound staging may not be as deep as can be(I guess that's just a matter of taste, as some have previous indicated that my system to be far too laid back in this aspect), but depth layering is still well reproduced with solid vocal images anchored between the speakers.

Mr BR has indicated a new turn table up grade on the horizon, and perhaps even a pair of Apogee speakers, just for the fun of it. And like many Maggie 1.6 QR owners, Mr BR looks forward to the arrival of the just launched Maggie 1.7 soon.
The turn table is powered via a Prometheus Energizer Brick, after the power is regenerated by the Pure Power APS.

This is a finely tuned system, which I am sure Mr BR has spent many, many hours, not to mentioned days, perhaps even years to achieve, yet make it all look, and sound so...... effortless. After all, he's been in the reviewing business for a long, long time now. It has been team Hifi-Unlimited's joy that Mr BR is sharing his system with us.

Thank you and Kudos!

August 11, 2010

10 Qs For Jim Thompson, Director Of Sales, Eggleston Works Speakers.

Jim Thompson, Director of Sales a.k.a. the boss!, Eggleston Works.

At the KLIAV 2010, I met Jim Thompson for the first time. Odioslueth has a thang for the Eggleston Works speakers and as a very satisfied user of The Nine model, he has asked me to pose a few questions for Jim. Let's start!

Big E: Where in the US of A is Eggleston Works located? Tell us a little more about your company please?

JT: We are located in Memphis, Tennessee. We have 10 people working in a 10,000 sq ft factory. We ship out 600-800 pairs of speakers every year. Being a small company, everyone chips in and sort of does everything. Take me for example, despite what my job title says, I am actually involved in every aspect of the company. Other than sales, I also do product design, R&D work, production planning and general administrative work. Sometimes, I also sweep the floor! Ha!Ha!Ha!

Big E: Elvis town? Where Graceland is? And is Justin Timberlake tomorrow's "New King"?

JT: Yes, Elvis town, Graceland and Eggleston Works are all in Memphis Tennessee. I am not so sure about Justin Timberlake being to tomorrow's "New King". He's not exactly from Memphis, but a small place close enough. He says he is from Memphis now days, I wonder why?

Big E: I am sorry, we digressed a bit. Tell us how did you end up working in the high end audio industry, or Egglestone Works specifically?

JT: I joined Eggleston Works as an Accountant in 1996. Then a series of fateful twist later, the owner, Mr Eggleston himself, left the company and by the end of 1997, I ended up with the thankless job of running the company.

Big E: Were there any existing speaker products when you took over?

JT: The Andra and Isabel models were already established models by then, and we had the Rossa in it's final prototype form. I had to learn fast about speaker designs and manufacturing. Thank fully, we had a customer named Bob Ludwig, the famous recording engineer, who uses the Andra at that time, and he was guiding us to build him speakers that he would grade to later. That resulted in the Ivy, which is still our flag ship speaker today. The Ivy was then further re-worked to fit more realistic living spaces in the form of the smaller Savoy model.

Big E: So you had no prior training or experience on speaker design what so ever prior to running Eggleston Works on a day to day basis?

JT: No. That's why I had to learn really fast!

Big E: It's a well known fact that Eggleston Works name the products after ladies. But my partner Odiosleuth is really curios, why that tradition is broken in "The Nine" model, which he uses?

JT: It's true that all our speaker models are named after ladies, most of whom we know in person. except for the Savoy, which was taken out of Shakespeare literature. I originally wanted to name "The Nine" after my grandma, but I just felt the speaker just didn't reflected correctly with her. Since the product is the ninth model in our product line up, internally code named "The Nine" amongst our staff, the name just naturally stick ed!

Big E: Out of curiosity, what's your grandma's name?

JT: Dianne! Now you know?

Big E: Ha!Ha! That's good. Speaking of the Dianne, how's the model selling since it's launch at the 2008 CES?

JT: We had high expectations for the Dianne, it was well received by the audio press, but I think we got it in to the market at the wrong time. As you know early 2008 was when the world wide economic crisis started, many of our originally targeted buyers, meaning the music loving working class Americans, lost their jobs. The buyers of the Andra III and models up wards, seemed mostly remained un-affected though. So in terms of revenue, the Andra III is still our best selling model, followed closely by the Dianne today. We would have expected it to be the other way round, but we are not complaining.

Big E: The off center tweeter of the Dianne, any particular technical reason for it to be this way? Other than being located nearer to the mid woofer which en chances point source integration?

JT: Technically, what you have mentioned is worthy of consideration as a design benefit, but the Dianne is a low cost model for us, so there's really no budget for the usual Dynaudio Esotar tweeter that we used in all our other models, I am after all, an Accountant, remember? He!He!

Big E: If it's O.K., can you share with us who is supplying that tweeter for the Dianne?

JT: It's no secret by now, that many will know that all our mid and woofer drivers are supplied by Morel. The Dianne tweeter is also supplied by them. Just to add, the new carbon coned drivers of the Andra III are also Morel sourced, but that's custom built to our specifications and they cost more than four times compared to those used in our previous Andra II. Those are the best drivers I've seen from Morel.

Jim then proceeded to share with us a virtual tour of the Eggleston Works factory on his Mac. From there, we know that every Eggleston product, from the Dianne to the Ivy, are all hand made, and custom finished in Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

Jim taking us proud Eggleston Works speaker owners on a virtual tour of the Eggleston Works factory in Memphis Tennessee. Hey! Big E, yes you hiding behind the left there, you sure you have a pair of those speakers?

Jim also encourages Egglestone Works speaker owners to polish their prized possession every now and then with dark coloured, high quality canuaba grade wax, mostly used for auto detailing. "This will retain the shine on the cabinet finishing for many, many years!" he said.

However, he also advised owners of the Andra III speaker with the aluminium side panels to tape mask those panels first, before applying the wax, as it's difficult to remove the residual wax from the micro grained aluminium surface later.

I wish to thank Nelson and Sky of Center Circle Audio for including the Hifi-Unlimited team in the sumptous Eggleston Works owners get together event with Jim Thompson.

August 10, 2010

HiFi-Unlimited's 1st Anniversary!

Yes! We are 1, and counting. It has been an incredible hifi journey for us both, Odiosleuth and my self. It is also heartening to see more dealers warming up to us in support and we hope for the remaining few to hop on to the band wagon soon. We wish to thank all the friendly dealers and industry players who have supported us in kind and in advertisement.

We started out HiFi-Unlimited with the target of achieving 100,000 hits by our first anniversary. I am glad to say thay we have superseded our target by many yards. We organised readership activity in form of the Wadia write in contest, with moderate success. Perhaps Malaysians don't like to write in general? Who knows? We'll try something else very soon. We like to interact and reach out to our readers more in the near future.

We also wish to thank our hifi buddies and friends who gave us ideas, perspective, help without benefits, and shared their hifi systems with us. We just could not thank you enough, even for just being our friends. Hifi life would be boring otherwise.

If you have noticed, we have just done a template make over of the blog site to make it more colourful and less serious looking(ML, thanks for pointing that out!). We believe hifi should be fun and remain an activity to be shared among caring friends and like minded buddies.

Did we forget something? No we did not forget our loyal readers at all. We just decide to leave the most important VIPs for the last. With nearly 180,000 hits and counting, we could not have done it without the support of those reading this now. Your reader ship gives us a purpose of existence, the strength to keep going the journey and a joy to share all that is in music, finely reproduced by our proud hifi systems.

A VERY BIG THANK YOU! For reading HiFi-Unlimited.

August 9, 2010

Zapping the Nasties from Your Speakers - Enacom CSS-1 Speaker Tuning CD

This is my third and last write-up on an Enacom product. Before the interruption of the KLIAV2010 show, I wrote about the AC Enacom and Speaker Enacom, both of which had the ability to give you a smoothened, refined sound from your system. The CSS-1 Tuning CD is the last item and I tried, it is of a mini CD size, smaller than the normal CD that we are used to. The CSS-1 is listed for RM200.

Ths size of the CSS-1 disc (right) compared to a normal CD

Is the CSS-1 the same as those 'demagnetizing' CDs? I don't know. Literature from Enacom did not mention anything about 'demagnetizing'. The signal on the CSS-1 is also different from those demagnetizing CDs that I have. The CSS-1 contains 2 tracks, with a total of 10 minutes of play time. It is to be played just like any CD. The signal is a series of throbbing sound in different patterns. It is rather noisy when played at the normal listening volume, which is, I am certain, an experience that no one would like to sit through. The best policy is to press play, leave the room immediately and come back 10 minutes later to sample the result.

The instruction from Enacom says that the CSS-1 is to be played once every 6 months and is best to be used together with the Speaker Enacom. This also means that I had only 1 shot in listening to the effect of the CSS-1 in my system, as after I ran it once there was no way for me to repeat the process to confirm the result for another round (i.e., no multiple A-B comparisons was possible).

The CSS-1 did show an effect on the system's sound. The effect was different from my experience with 'demagnetizing' where the effect was a smoothening of the treble and, if overdone, the system would sound dark due to rolled-off highs. With the CSS-1, the effect showed up as a heightened clarity to the sound, details in the music were highlighted. If you were a photographer, you would understand it when I say that the effect was like turning up the exposure level by around 0.5 stop. If a system was a bit dull or veiled, I believe the CSS-1's effect would be very beneficial.

This sense of heightened clarity lasted for a few days. Then the sound gradually shifted, something I would describe as a mellowness or a gentleness showed up in the sound slowly. Music sounded more comfortable than challenging, the artists' performance took on a gentler swinging quality rather than urgency. The difference was not very prominent but did give a different listening impression.

Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, I could not carry out multiple tests to see how consistent the results were. Just like any another accessories and tweaks, it is best to test the CSS-1 in your own system to see whether the effect suits you.

No doubt about it, the Enacom trio is a set of interesting and effective products for fine tuning your sound.

Enacom is carried by Nova Hifi, contact MK Lai, tel: 019-2226129