September 27, 2010

Musicality Defined – VTL TL2.5 Preamp and MB125 Monoblocks

I have listened to tube amps in dealers’ demos and in friends’ systems, but, come to think of it, I have never had them in my own system. These VTLs are the first.

Despite being VTL’s entry level preamp and VTL’s smallest monoblocks, the trio here flew the flag for the tube brigade pretty darn well. In the 3 weeks I spent with them, every listening session was musically enjoyable. I had much less of my audiophile angst manifesting; after switching them on, I would slip comfortably into my chair, relaxed, and pressed ‘play’. Music would fill the room.

The VTLs were always about serving the music.

VTL TL2.5 preamp, front and back

The TL2.5 preamp’s design is utilitarian. There is no sexy looking fascia or protruding, warmly glowing tubes for ‘eye-fi’ (as Big E is fond to say). Instead you get a standard looking rectangular black box, with a few toggle switches and rotary knobs. A simple remote control is included, useful for the volume control and mute functions. The volume control knob is not clearly marked. Using the remote control for volume setting was convenient, however I found it hard to read out from a distance how far the knob has been turned. The pre-amp uses two 12AU7 and two 12AT7 tubes. An optional tube phono board can be fitted if you also have a vinyl source. The preamp comes in at 25lbs (about 11kgs) and is listed for RM15,690.

VTL MB125 Monoblocks, front and back

The monoblocks are of a medium size. At 42lbs each (about 19kgs), they are easier to move around and have a smaller footprint compared to my Pass Labs XA60 monoblocks that have similar power rating. The MB125 has a quiet elegance about it with its black Perspex and metal fascia. The tubes are hidden under a removable tube cage. The MB125 puts out 60 watts in triode mode and 120 watts in tetrode mode. Switching from one mode to another requires you to switch off the amp first, and toggle a switch at the back. The tubes are four EL34s and two 12AT7s. Unlike its bigger brothers, the MB125 does not come with auto-biasing, so you still have to go through the traditional manual way. A pair of MB125 is listed for RM26,880.

These VTL pre-amp and monoblocks are single ended. I had to ditch my balanced interconnects. Instead, I dug up my Wireworld cables, putting a pair of Eclipse II between my CD player and the preamp, and a pair of Polaris III between the preamp and the monoblocks.

On the word Go, the VTLs made their presence felt. During the very first session, when they were still fresh out from the box, they were already sounding musical. As time passed, their musicality did not wear off; every session spent with them was always musically satisfying.

Now, of course, ‘musicality’ is a hard to define thing. It may mean different sound characteristics to different people. I take it as a personal and subjective matter; it means that I experience an emotional connection with the sound reproduced, that the sound is strung together coherently as a whole, as a composition, not just a cacophony of, uh, sound. So it was less about characteristics like bass slam, dynamics, speed, extended highs, though these things could help in the musicality department (and therefore the two are not mutually exclusive).

Every performance was brought back to life with the VTLs. I especially enjoyed vocal sessions like Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, and Sara K’s ‘Don’t I know You from Somewhere’ from Stockfisch Records. Both are live recordings. The VTLs conveyed excellently the recordings’ atmosphere and immediacy, the vocal part were rendered naturally with a little hint of sweetness, making me wanting to listen on and on.

On big scale work like Dvorak’s Symphony No.9 “From the New World’, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Fritz Reiner, the VTLs successfully conveyed the music with a grand sweep and a good scale, the tension in the music playing was held excellently. Again, it was a beginning-until-the-end-listen-through kind of session.

The VTLs also proved capable with more dynamic music, I threw at them Hugh Masekela’s ‘Stimela’ from his ‘Hope’ album, and also the ‘Jazz Variant’ track from the Manger compilation disc. Both were musically enjoyable. Though I could detect that dynamics was held back a little bit, I still enjoyed listening from the beginning till the end. With ‘Stimela’, I even waved in the air and clapped together the crowd in the recording. The music was infectious.

The VTLs showed that the line between today’s tube and solid state gears is very thinly drawn. The VTLs’ frequency response was fully extended on both ends – there was no flabby bass, nor rolled-off highs, mind you. The VTLs were transparent too. It was not the etched, bright picture sins that some solid state committed, nor the veiled, overly warm sins that some tube committed. The VTLs were rounded, organic, refined. And at the same time, they presented excellent details, not standing out, but forming part of the sonic picture.

The one thing that probably betrayed their tube origin was the mids, which were simply attractive; it had a beautiful tonal colour, with just a little tinge of rosy romanticism. I want to emphasize though that it was not an overt colouration that beautifies everything, it was neutrality with just a wee bit of sweetness that made listening such a soothing and enjoyable exercise.

At the tail end of my time with the VTLs, I swapped the TL2.5 preamp with my own Pass Labs X2.5. Attesting to their transparency, the MB125 monoblocks showed up the differences readily. Well, both preamps were neutral with each veered just slightly to the camp they aligned to – solid state or tube. The VTL showed up with better organic-ness, better rendering of the atmosphere in the recording, the sound was sweeter. The Pass Labs was more impactful and dynamic, the sound was more overt. After a short acclimatization (a couple of hours of listening), I found that I could live happily with either.

I felt that the MB125s synergized with the TL2.5 preamp better though. No point breaking up a pairing that was so natural working together (due to time constraint, I did not try it the other way round – the VTL TL2.5 preamp with my Pass Labs XA60 monoblocks).

I did try the MB125 in its tetrode mode, which gave double the power. They sounded more powerful indeed. The amps had a better grip and were more dynamic. However, I found that you had to sacrifice some of the organic-ness. And curiously, they also lost some of the musicality I so enjoyed. My personal preference was the triode mode.

I am eager to listen to more of VTL’s offerings. If I were to contemplate an amp change, VTL will be on my shortlist!

VTL is carried by A&L Audio Station, Ph: 03-7958 2884

September 26, 2010

Enacom Trilogy. Enacom AC Noise Eliminator, Speaker Noise Eliminator & CSS-1 Speaker Tuning CD.

From left: Enacom AC Noise Eliminator, Enacom Speaker Noise Eliminator and Enacom RCA Noise Eliminator. Neither my self or Odiosleuth use RCA connections on our systems, so we have precluded that from our review.

These Enacom, by Combak Corp. Japan, products are not new in the market place. I've always been curious about them. So when MK Lai of Nova Hifi said "yes, please try it!", I am eager beaver.

Since Odiosleuth has did a detail and comprehensive report on them individually, I thought I'd just run through all three items quickly. First up is the AC Noise Eliminator, it's so easy to use that all I had to do is plug it in to a spare outlet feeding power to my hifi system. I plugged the Enacom in to a spare duplex outlet of my recently acquired Sine SA-6 power bar, which supplies power juices to my source components and pre amps. Now, I already had an Isotek Isoplug in used prior to the arrival of the Enacom. So what ever sonic comments noted below would basically be on comparison basis between the Enacom and the Isotek.

With the Enacom, the sound took on a darker background signature. While it's probably not as quiet as the Isotek, the Enacom had a more fluid and softer presentation to the music. The sound stage took on a more laid back signature. Imaging outlines softened and seemed more organic. One can say the Enacom made a big difference or the difference is subtle, depending on one's outlook, hifi journey, and one's intended objective going in to such tweaks.

Next up, I added the Enacom Speaker Noise Eliminators. These require a little more care during install in the sense of making sure both speakers are connected identically. Enacom says polarity is not a concern. I switched back and forth and found no sonic difference what so ever, as long as both speakers are wired in the same polarity. I found the Enacom speaker contraption to build on the sonic qualities of the Enacom AC. I felt a little more warmth, or colouration was added to the music, depending on how you look at it. High frequencies start to roll off a bit, resulting in high hats and cymbals losing some of their rightful sparkle. I felt at this point, in the context of my system and preference, the additional qualities of the Enacom became just a little like "too much of a good thing" perhaps? The Enacom set packaged and ready to be unleashed.

The final step is the Enacom CCS-1 Tuning CD, which I am told, works only with the Enacom Speaker Noise Eliminators. Apparently using the Enacom speaker contraption without the aid of the CSS-1 Tuning CD produces only half the desired results. It is advised that one plays the CSS-1 CD every now and then to maintain the performance of the tuning. Upon playing the CSS-1 CD in my system, I found my hifi system to sound totally relaxed, just like how one would feel after a genuine session of traditional Thai message! There's no urge for excitement and using optical lens analogy, each musical note is magnified, zoomed in to and allowed to expand it's full cycle, before evaporating in to nothing-ness. The listening experience becomes overly surreal. I had found it hard to further describe the sonic sensation post CSS-1 CD treatment to my system. Thankfully, the effect slowly wears off after a few weeks. One of the reasons why I did not want to do much reviews in the past month or so.

I will speculate that these Enacom tweaks are great for systems leaning on the brighter side of neutral tonality. The tweaks alone cannot solve the problems of a mis-matched system or major room acoustic issues. They are not design for that. They do however, like the humble aspirin in the pharmaceutical sense, be used to cure minor symptoms of cold and influenza, or perhaps even used as a gentle pain killer. And like the good aspirin, one must always be mind full not to over dose, as too much can certainly do more harm than good!
Just the right medicine to cure my symptoms of audiophilia nervousa! The Enacom AC Noise Eliminator.

Perhaps my system needed just that, an aspirin! I kept the Enacom AC Noise Eliminator. By the way, here's the price break down for each Enacom tweak:

1) Enacom AC Noise Eliminator, RM$299.00

2) Enacom Speaker Noise Eliminator, RM$399.00(per pair)

3) Enacom CSS-1 Tuning CD, RM$200.00

Note: Some DIY-ing buddies have questioned my purchase of what is basically a filtering capacitor in a "glam case", something which we can build our selves for a just fraction of the asking price. If you're a DIY-er? Great, then go ahead and build one!

For others who do not have the required knowledge, skills or time to do so, then the decision to purchase will largely depend on the perceived sonic benefit from the use of the Enacom tweaks. I have my reasons which shall remain private and I'll leave the value judgement to your own thinking devices.

Enacom is sold by Nova Hifi, contact MK Lai at 019-2226129.

September 24, 2010

End Of The Road For After Market High End Mobile Audio?

The Tokyo by night dash board lighting design of the latest Honda Accord CP1.

Just as the high end audio and music industry is under going a transitional period at the moment, so is the after market high end mobile audio scene. I've been dabbling in the mobile audio circles for nearly 20 years now. From the humble Blaupunkt head unit with the snake head style EQ booster of the same brand partnered with JBL Titanium 3 way 6x9 speakers, till the last of Alpine's finest 79xx series head units, tube pre amps, multiple power amps, component speaker systems and big bad ass sub woofers. The journey had being filled with sweat, tears and joy.

I saw the demise of high end mobile audio coming many years back, when many premium auto manufacturers started fitting tamper proof systems to their cars. I remember the very first BMW E39 5 Series, introduced in year 1997, it had an integrated audio system/air conditioning and info display hub in the center console of the dash area. Any attempt to disconnect, by pass or add accessories will render the fault light showing unstable voltage causing the car's engine management system to become unstable. The after market guys found a way around the system after a while. However, with each new model introduced, car manufacturers just made it harder and harder to fit after market audio systems. I'll have to say that auto manufacturers are indeed improving their OEM audio system's sound and ergonomics too, just to be fair.

In fact, many premium car manufacturers are working with high end audio manufacturers for improved sound, for example, Lexus has Mark Levinson on board, up market Subarus have McIntosh systems, Bentley has appointed Naim and up market Nissans have BOSE pre-installed. I totally loved the Mark Levinson sound inside the Lexus. The Subaru's McIntosh system is pretty basic, but gets the overall tonal quality right.

I remember my last corporate chariot, an A33 series Nissan Cefiro 2.0L. I had installed an after market high end mobile audio consisting of a 2x200W and another 8x50W class A power amps. The system sounded fine, but the car would stall in the middle of the road when I turned the volume up! It turned out that the class A amps sucked so much power, that it starved the car's electronic management system of the much required 12V DC, causing the engine to stall. I had to scheme down my mobile audio system, with the use of highly efficient, but less than good sounding class D power amps.
The integrated info display combines air cond mode, clock and stereo info all in one.

Our corporate fleet manager had recently decide it's time for another round of chariot change, after all the economy seems to be on the mend, our sales figures are bouncing back, and over time became the order of the day. This time, they had chosen the Honda Accord CP1 2.0 iVtec model. The car came with the latest fashion of integrate designed audio/air cond system plus info display center. I just could not do high end after market mobile installs anymore.

The Pioneer supplied 2 DIN head unit is nicely moulded to fit in to the center console area of the dash, lumped together with air cond controls and info display system. I opened up the dash to check with hope, that some how, if Pioneer had provided pre outs to feed signals to power amps. I am left extremely disappointed. A peek under the hood showed a tiny alternator and puny maintenance free battery, which is unlikely to generate and store enough amps to feed power amps with adequate juices. It would take too much cash resource and electrical re-engineering work to fit an after market high end audio system on the latest corporate chariot.

I called it a day and for me, it's certainly end of the road for high end mobile audio. Many seems to agree with me too, as many mobile audio specialist shops have either down sized or diversified the businesses to other areas of automotive supplies.

Well, perhaps I should just convinced my fleet manager to go for a Lexus in the future corporate chariot shuffle. Maybe, that's just wishful thinking too?


September 23, 2010

Mid Autumm Festival Thoughts On Hifi.

Here I was, having my Mid Autumn Festival dinner with my family last night. Only this year, I have decided to celebrate without moon cakes for desert. The reason?

In the last 20 years or so, since being financially independent, I've seen the prices of moon cakes rise meteorically, from RM$4.50/pc to what is today in excess of RM$16.00/pc! We are talking about nearly a four fold price increase. Granted, today's packaging standards are a whole lot classier than those before. In fact, one can order moon cakes in all shapes, flavours and sizes. There's now the fashionably trendy cappuccino/latte or jasmine tea variety too.

If one opts for the traditional flavours such as egg yoke & lotus seed, red bean or assorted nuts, there is virtually no difference in taste, flavour and texture of the moon cake, except in today's health conscious society, it is a little less sweet. I personally feel the pricing of moon cakes have become unsustainable, and there fore I have decided to fore go moon cakes altogether this year.

The event is the same, nobody missed it a bit. The little ones still took a walk in the park with their recycled lanterns. They seemed just as happy.

What in the world does moon cakes or Mid Autumn Festival gotta do with hifi?

As I sit here reflecting on the my decision to fore go moon cakes due to it's un sustainable pricing, I suddenly thought about our passion, hifi equipment and it's pricing trend. Like the now over priced(for me at least) moon cakes, over the last 20 years or so, I had also felt that hifi equipments, in general offered some what significant increases in audio performance, but at the expense of very significant price increases. This can in fact, be the cause why vintage audio is gaining traction, with it's romantic sound and ever increasing potential for investment returns.

Like the moon cake(or hifi?) manufacturers, they can say that inflation has caused raw materials, labour wages and marketing & logistics cost to have increased over the years. However, for me as a consumer, all I know is that when I bite in to that moon cake, everything taste, and feels the same! Only the packaging designs seems to have gone thru significant improvement!

I think for many mentally stable people, the question is do they see hifi equipment pricing trends the same way that I see moon cake prices and relate to it's tangible experience during consumption?

Is there a point where ordinary folks would start to choose fore going hifi and all it's tangible/intangible(that depends on how one sees or hears it!) experience during music consumption?

As for me, I have already been certified insane many times over by many qualified parties!

September 22, 2010

10 Qs For Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director Of Linn Products Ltd.

Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director Of Linn Products.

Gilad Tiefenbrun, son of the legendary Ivor, creator of the iconic Linn Sondek LP12 turn table, was here in Malaysia to present the latest development on the digital down loads front at the Perfect HiFi Bangsar show room. I must say the digital future does look exciting indeed.

I took the opportunity to ask Gilard 10 Qs as usual, but it was harder this time. No, it's not because he spoke English with a Scottish accent, his English is perfectly understand able. It was the long queue, as there were many hifi/audio journalist waiting in line to speak to him! Big E was a little late, so had to wait in line!

Big E: Gilad, welcome to Malaysia! And just to pick up more about Linn, starting with your father Ivor, is he still involved in the company operations, even though you're the head honcho now?

GT: Yes, my father is still actively involved in the day to day operations of Linn. He's quite the visionary and oversees things from the big picture perspective.

Big E: Still on your father, who back in the 80's once quoted that "We've only achieved 10% fidelity on our hifi vs the actual live music experience". Almost three decades later, can you say how much closer have hifi gotten to recreating that live music experience?

GT: It's hard to put a figure to the progress on audio reproduction that we've made since the 80's. However, I can confidently tell you that today's Linn entry level products, like the Majik range does actually sound better than the previous top of the line Linn products 10 years ago! My father would agree to this statement.

Big E: Does every Linn product in R&D goes through a final "golden ear" panel test for sound quality or is it only Ivor and your good self, prior to product launch?

GT: At Linn, we do not believe in the "golden ear" myth. We believe everyone, and I mean everyone, should be able to tell good sound quality over bad. There's no superior pair of ears so to speak. If a product does sound better, anybody should be able to tell the difference!

Big E: Are Linn products, including the electronic PCBs still totally made in Glasgow, Scotland?

GT: Absolutely, we believe that's the best way to make a high end product. Every Linn LP12, or electronics like amplifier and even speakers are wholly assembled by one person. This person who assembles the product also checks it for QC and signs his or her initials on the finished and QC tested product, before packing for shipping.

Big E: The Linn Klimax amplifiers sounds very pleasing while running very cool, are they class D topology based?

GT: The Linn Klimax mono blocks are the best amps we've made to date. The stereo version which you've just heard are the next best. The Klimax are class A/B based and the reason they run very cool is because we've design a highly effective passive/active ventilation system inside the case. The casing is also coated with a heat deflecting coating, hence it feels cool to touch even during operation. However, it does get hot when stretched, and the active ventilation system will kick in.

Big E: There's a mini fan inside?

GT: Yes, the fan only operates once the sensors feels the amp reaching it's maximum operating temperature. It stops immediately once the operating temperature returns to normal.

Big E: Are they further improvements made to the Linn Sondek LP12 turn table?

GT: Yes, we're still working on ways to further improve the Linn Sondek LP12. We've got a new DC motor called Radikal which my father says is the best value up grade for the Linn Sondek LP12. There's also the new Lingo 3 power supply, Urika internal MC phono stage, and an Uphoric MC/MM phono stage.

Big E: Why did Linn made the drastic decision to stop making CD players? Do you feel Linn in particular, hastened the death of the CD?

GT: Since we launched the Linn Klimax DS music streamer in 2007, we already thought about killing off CD player production, because we're convinced that the Klimax DS was so much better sounding compared to our Linn CD12(which at the time of launch in 1999, was considered the best CD player in the world). We held on to that decision and in the end, it had much to do with our music business, Linn Records. Since November last year, our music down load sales have over taken the combined physical media sales of LPs and CDs. 80% of our customers down loaded the Studio Masters version from our music catalogue. We felt at that point, it'll be futile to keep making CD players. I would give any digital disc(CD, SACD, DVD-A and Blu-ray for Audio) medium another five years or so to be in existence. I think LP's will still be around but on a limited basis.

Big E: Does that mean Linn Records will stop pressing LPs too?

GT: We will continue to press LPs as long the artist or the customers request for it. I know many artist in the Linn Records label who'd like to see their album on LP, because they know their fans would want the album on the LP format.

Big E: Linn Records, I like your recordings, any new artist on your catalogue that you'll like to introduce to us?

GT: I personally like Maeve O'Boyle. She has a knack of expressing her emotions thru song. Her lyrics are very personal and heart felt by nature and the track you've just heard, "Pray It Never Happens", was written at a time when she was feeling very depressed and sad. So sad in fact, she prays that it never happens to anyone else. I've always like the Scottish Chamber Orchestra too. And then there's Alfie Boe, who sings operetta style tenor. He lost his confidence after cutting an album with major label EMI, which proved to be a disaster on both commercial and artistic fronts. An ex-EMI executive asked if we could do a recording for him? We did, and Alfie was soon grinning away. Alfie is not just another Andrea Bocelli style tenor, which I am sure you'll find quite refreshing.

Gilad standing next to the Linn Klimax system on demo.

Big E: Are Linn Records Studio Masters down loads proprietary to Linn digital streamers?

GT: At Linn, we're a very open company, in fact we're always against the idea of proprietary in the digital down loads. Our Linn Records Studio Masters can be down loaded on FLAC(Free Lossless Audio Codec) which is the most compatible format and will be around for a long, long time. In other words, one does not necessarily need to own Linn Klimax DS music streamer to down load our Studio Masters or vice versa, because FLAC is the most universal digital format.

Big E: How would you respond to those who claim that todays' Linn products are more lifestyle than hifi?

GT: As you know, the music and audio industry is under going a transition period at the moment. Today's iPod and MP3 users will be tomorrow's hifi buyers. We want to make hifi more accessible to more people. Show them, that hifi is more than just about cables, cones and racks. We want to invite more young people who are used to iPods and MP3 sound quality to appreciate beautiful music playback. We want to bring them in to our world of hifi.

Thank you Gilad for your time. It was an enlightening chat. I'd better give way to next waiting journalist in line, otherwise I might be beaten up! Ha!Ha!

How's that for the pulling power of Linn Products?

September 20, 2010

A Solution For My Vinyl Blues? It's a Clearaudio Solution.

The impressive looking Clearaudio Solution turn table package placed on my FE Spider clone rack.

Now that you've read about my adventures of putting together an LP play back system, a.k.a. a turn table, tone arm and cartridge, let's see what this Clearaudio package has to offer?

And before we go further, I must stress that I am totally awed and marvelled at the level of mechanical engineering, and meticulous finishing. The review sample of the Solution turn table is the AMG wood variety. According to Clearaudio specs, the Panzerholtz wood is laminated from 72 layers of wood of varying density. The said result is that the wood becomes so though it can with stand a speeding bullet! a.k.a. "bullet proof wood". By the way, there's a small premium in price for the wood version over the standard acrylic version.

It took me a few hours to assemble the package and it now ready for it's final set up procedure, the cartridge alignment and set up. I used the Clearaudio provided protractor as seen below to align the cartridge then followed by the tracking force, VTA and anti skate settings. I used an Ortofon DS-1 digital cartridge scale to set the tracking force at 3.0gsm as per recommended by Clearaudio, VTA is set up by sight, straight balanced on both ends and anti skate is set to minimal.
I used the Clearaudio provided protractor to align the Concerto V2 cartridge. The protractor is very well marked and made the alignment job easier than usual.

Now, I turn my attention to the Pass Labs X-ono phono stage set up. I used the usual 56db gain setting and loaded the Concerto V2 MC cartridge at 249 ohm. That was easy.

This setting proved to be a little bass light, and then I remembered during my chat with Robert Suchy that 3.2gsm was his preferred tracking force setting for the super class range of Clearaudio MC cartridges, which the Concerto V2 is clearly a member. I used this setting for the rest of my sound description.

I thought the Clearaudio Solution, Unify and Concerto V2 package to have a flat neutral balance, never put emphasis in to any particular frequency range. The high frequencies are exact, realistic with great attack qualities. The mids are a bit lean but otherwise have good clarity and detail retrieval. Bass is a bit lite, but have enough articulation to form the musical foundation. In other words, this package is free from colouration that many have mistakenly interpreted as "warm" sounding.

I found this Clearaudio package to be amongst the most transparent, true to source turn table I've played in my system to date. It is also the most quiet, mainly free from back ground noise like hiss or hum, especially LP surface noise. The low noise floor allows the low level resolution to be exposed in all it's full glory. Take for example, Illinios Jacquet's recently reissued, Birthday Party album(a blues/jazz musical genre), I could hear every breath, moisted mouth piece, finger work, that burnish and golden brass tone of the horn and the hamonic and timbre differentiation of the all the various horn instruments used, like the flugel, baritone sax and trumpet, plus flute and tenor, each floating solidly in their own acoustic space of the sound stage. At this point stage width and depth perception is no longer an issue, because it's almost like you're there! This kind of sonic experience is priceless.

Equipped with an over sized out board motor, speed stability is first rate. Solo piano tracks that upset the Concept and all other budget turn tables sailed through beatifully this time. There were no rude awakening that one was listening to a less then perfect musical presentation.

I must however, add that all that transparency is a double edge sword too, only because the Clearaudio package is so very true to source. Put on a poorly recorded pop or rock LP, and the Clearaudio turn table will surely reveal it's inadequacies. It does not suffer for fools. Only the very best recordings guarantees a truly satisfying experience. It's no fault of the Clearaudio package as it's only the messenger, not the source. One of my analog sifus who owns a very high end Clearaudio turn table always tell me, "Don't shoot the messenger if you don't like what you hear".
Illnois Jacquet plays Birthday Party Blues, along with another out standing track called The Shadow Of Your Smile, makes up this excellent 5 track blues/jazz album on LP, recently remastered by Bernie Grundman and re-issued by Groove Note label. The recording still has high levels of tapes hiss but when played at an appropriate level, the feeling of being intoxicated with blues will certainly overwhelm.

With a little familiarisation, this turn table package is fairly easy to set up, tune and will reward with it's honesty. In the scheme of things, it is at this point of the Clearaudio turn table range where things start to get serious. The Solution turn table can be up graded later to the higher range Master Solution spec, if required. One can even go all the way and add a Synchro power supply to that out board motor. It has the family DNA of the all conquering Clearaudio Master Reference, only built to a lower price level. Some compromises are therefore, un avoidable. When compared to it's bigger brothers higher up in the range, I thought the Solution gives up some what in the area of bass weight extension and out right extreme dynamics. It is however, a clearly superior audiophile pleasing turn table, when compared to the entry level Concept I reviewed earlier.
The Unify uni-pivot tone arm is very well made, and comes with carbon arm tube. This arm is very easy to set up but the signal wires are very fragile, and one has to be very careful not to break/or bend them during installation. Shaky hands and fingers need not apply here!

As I mentioned earlier, the level of engineering and manufacturing quality borders on level of fanaticism. I can assure that if taken cared for, this turn table can serve it's owner for a long, long, time to come. There's even a pre planned up grade route in the form of the Master Solution with a price top up, when one aspires more. One can even add the Clearaudio Synchro power supply for better bass response and dynamics, according to a buddy of mine who has gone thru the Clearaudio Master Solution up grading path. I find this Solution path makes a lot of practical sense.
Another look at the Solution AMG Wood turn table. Note the little black wire below is used to ground the turn table to the phono stage.

Here's the break down of the package price for each item:

1) Clearaudio Solution AMG Wood turn table - RM$19,500.00(standard acrylic finish unit available for RM$16,500.00)

2) Clearaudio Unify tone arm - RM$10,875.00

3) Clearaudio Concerto V2 cartridge - RM$11,985.00

Do you want a Solution for your vinyl blues?

If your answer is "YES" then head on to your nearest CMY Audio & Visual showroom right away.

Clearaudio is sold by CMY Audio & Visual, contact John, tel: 03-21439406.

September 18, 2010

Perfect HiFi Host Linn Digital Down Loads Demo.

Gilad Tiefenbrun and the full Linn Klimax system on demo.

Gilad Tiefenbrun was in town two days ago to demo the latest on the digital down loads front. The event, held at Perfect HiFi's Bangsar avant garde lifestyle decorated theme show room was well attended.

The all Linn demo rig comprised of the Klimax DS music streamer, feeding off a hard disk server, controlled via the latest fad called iPad. A Linn Klimax Kontrol pre and Klimax 500 power amp combo powers a pair of Klimax 350 speaker with full Nordost cable loom making up the rest of the system.

The demo, switching between ripped CD at 16 bits comparing against Studio Masters down loads of the same tracks from the Linn Records catalogue was highly convincing in favour of the later medium, sound quality wise. The Studio Masters version of the same tracks showed superior resolution, ambient cues and more 3D like staging and imaging qualities. In fact one of the front row listeners commented that the Studio Masters down loads sounded perhaps equal or better than his Linn LP12 at home!

While food and drinks were served, and I took the opportunity to present Gilad my 10 Qs. Stay tuned for that instalment coming soon.

By the way, this is for some of my audio buddies who refused to go to the event with me, because they had taught Linn was all about the LP12! That shows a long and perceived association with the analog medium which Linn was once famous for, at least in Malaysia.

They were dead wrong and regretted when I told them the demo was to show case the superiority of digital down loads and the latest Linn Klimax DS music streamer and series of component's excellent sound quality. Ha! Ha!

Should one be interested to audition the said Linn Klimax system on demo, please contact Andy Tan at 03-58821693

September 17, 2010

ABC Records - Professional Pirate or Genuine Visionary?

Simon Tsui - Pirate or Visionary?

Classic Records warning to ABC Records (click to enlarge)

When have Diana Krall and Allison Krauss licensed their songs to ABC Records?

The huge catalog of ABC Records with its hundreds of titles, is simply mind-blogging

Chinese Audiophile label, ABC Records, is under fire from all corners and many major labels for alleged piracy and license infringement of a big scale.

Its first legal suit was the Teresa Teng series a couple of years ago. Recently, Universal HK issued another warning to ABC Records for further infringement (you can find it Review 33 ). There seems to be no remorse from ABC Records as it becomes even more blatant and daring.

We remember reading an interview on Simon Tsui, its head honcho, who said pompously: "Without ABC Records, Chinese audiophile music will go backward by 10 years." He also claimed that ABC Records has the quality of European CDs but at China's pricing.

Whether all these accusations are truth, half-truth or pure lies, ABC Records CDs still sell by big volumes. If anything, it shows that Simon Tsui is a top-notch marketeer who knows how to play and toy with audiophiles' weaknesses.

Why, you may ask, that they can't be prosecuted or sued since all there is so much evidence? Hey, We are talking about a Chinese label governed by the laws in China. And that means, everything and anything goes! There is no way major labels from overseas like Classic Records can do anything about them.

Rumors also have it that Chinese audiophile singer Shirley, is not from Paris, as claimed by ABC Records. And the recording was also not done in Canada as claimed. Shirley sings in a bar in Shanghai and the recording is done in China. So much for clever marketing and audiophile guillibility.

Too often, we audiophiles are easily fooled by all those technical proclaimation (the what XCD, ABCD, XYCD, ZZCD, German Pressing, Western Electric Sound etc etc) and the tendency to believe too readily and therefore to be easily deceived.

It makes you wonder if we ever use our ears to judge critically.

Time to wake up.

September 16, 2010

Voyage, Youn Sun Nah.

Korean sensuality meets Nordic/Scandinavian sensibility, equals Youn Sun Nah's Vovage CD.

I know, this was released quite sometime ago, and quite possibly most of our dear readers have already got a copy. I feel good things are never out dated, it just gets better with time, like this CD offering by Youn Sun Nah. Her international debut album released in 2007, under the helm of Scandinavian producer Lars Danielsson.

6 of the tracks are self penned by Youn Sun Nah, and it's those that I like the most. The arrangement is mostly sparse and sometimes hauntingly so. It's as if the silence is part of the music that's so captivating. The Nordic influence is very apparent, and if one likes Kari Bremmes(there's an album of her's called Norwegian Moods, which I'll share later), I think you'll like this too. Young Sun Nah's voices is delicate, sultry, and a little playful sometimes, but it never over whelms the album's overall dark, sombre mood. The musician ship on this CD excellent. Most music labels call this Jazz, but I feel it's much more than that, even though there are elements of jazz present.

My favourite tracks include:
The Linden
Calypso Blues
My Bye
Come, come
Inner Prayer

Surprisingly, the track called Shenandoah, which is most promoted and the track that got me buying this CD didn't make it to my favourite list after extensive listening.

The recording quality is first rate, with dark background, and balanced tonality, Youn's voice is never shouty or spitty(unlike some female voice audiophile recording), yet the vocal porn elements of breath, lips, tongue and teeth are still there if one looks for it. There's a clarity that's natural, never sounding like super imposed. There's lots of minute studio cues here and there which will be revealed in a system of high resolution calibre.

Get a copy if you've not. Youn Sun Nah is like a breath of fresh air, in an other wise staid audiophile music diet.

September 13, 2010

Is Your White Really White?

“The foundational and primary goal of display calibration is image fidelity (faithfulness to the original program)... The objective of any communication medium is to convey an original message as accurately and completely as possible. Any alteration of the message becomes a distortion of the original intent…”
- from “Display Calibration: Root Fundamentals”, an article by G. Alan Brown; President, CinemaQuest Inc.
The quote above refers to video, but the idea is similarly appealing to audiophiles. Isn’t it our holy grail to be able to playback a recording with total fidelity to the source? However, the difference between audio and video is that there are standards to follow in the video world, while I am personally not aware of anything similar in our audio world (I stand to be corrected on this point).

Thus, it is possible to get a projector or a plasma/LCD tv to display close to how the producer, the director, the artists intended the picture to be. So, for an audiophile like me who is getting into home theatre, how could I miss out on such an opportunity to do things right?

Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. We can’t go out and buy a projector or tv, plug it in and expect the picture quality to be right according to the standards. To attract your attention in the ultra-bright environment of an electrical shop, the manufacturers have boosted the picture’s contrast to the max. In my experience, in the longer term, such a picture looks artificial and plasticky, the image edges are unnaturally etched, and looking at it for long induces viewing fatigue, not unlike the listening fatigue from listening to a hifi system that is too bright and harsh.

Take the popular demo disc at the moment, James Cameron’s Avatar. In the shops, the picture looks real cartoon-ish and leaves one in no doubt that it is all CGI. Whatever analogue feel you get watching it in the cinema is gone.

Does you Avatar look like the one in the cinema?
So, how to do it right? The answer is to get the projector/tv calibrated. You can get videos/books/equipment that teach you how to do it, or you can get the help of a professional, such as one of those certified technicians/consultants from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), an organization in the US “dedicated to improving the quality of electronic imaging”.

Back to the Avatar video. If you were at the recent KLIAV show, you would see it played in almost all the rooms that showed video. The AV Designs room played Avatar too, but it did not play the fighting scenes, instead it played a full blown forest scene which showcased an incredible amount of details and richness of colour. It was one of the best Home Theatre rooms for me, as their room has been for me in the past years too.

As I have alluded to in my last 2 posts on my setting up a home theatre at my new place, I started to discuss the possibility of it with James Tan of AV Designs. AV Designs is one of the few Malaysian installers certified with ISF (you can get the global list of ISF certified outfits on its website, apparently all projectors and display sets that AV Designs sell are properly calibrated by them. The quality of the picture after calibration, seen in an environment with appropriate lighting, was most definitely unlike what you see in the electrical shops. The picture from a calibrated set is easy on the eye and natural, the richness and details are all there. It is a more analogue and film-like look. On good material, it simply looks incredible. Most will think that the calibrated picture is a little too dim initially, well, I think we have all been conditioned by picture quality that screams at us a little, it takes a little acclimatization to accept a more accurate and mellower looking display.

What does video calibration involve? From the few articles that James sent me, I understand it involves adjusting the contrast and brightness, colour and tint, and the sharpness levels. And lastly, the most well known part of the procedure – adjusting the grayscale level. The different shades of white that we see are determined by the colour temperature , it ranges from 2,800 Kelvin (orangeish/warm white) to 10,000K (bluish-white). The NTSC decided that the correct shade of white for our video system is 6,500K, which apparently is close to midday sunlight on a clear day. Since a video has much white and black information, any deviation from that standard will skew the picture to that direction. On the other hand, the studio monitors, where the shows are produced, are all calibrated to 6,500K for white. So we’ll be able to view the picture as it is intended only if our displays are calibrated to the same. Once calibrated, our projector/tv will show white at 6,500K or thereabout at all light intensity level from 20 IRE to 100 IRE.

So there you go, for video, it is possible to calibrate our display to match the industry standard. When this is done and done correctly, you’ll get to see a picture quality that is faithful to the source. I shall continue to report on what I learn and see as I go down the road from here.

To enquire about ISF video display calibration, contact AV Designs' James Tan 016-3280237

September 12, 2010

Still The Best? Audio Research Reference 3 Pre Amp.

My life long ARC buddy's new "used" toy, his pride and joy!

If you've been reading this blog for a while now, you'd understand my forbidden(I say forbidden, because in general, ARC pre amps do not sonically mate well with Pass Labs power amps, especially my Aleph 0!) love with the Audio Research Reference 3 pre amp. In my books, it's quite possibly one of the best pre amps your $$$ can buy today. By the way, when last available in year 2009, the ARC Ref 3 had a sticker price of RM$38k.

It's has very little sound character of it's own, much like a chameleon which changes it's skin colours to adapt to it's surroundings, creating the ultimate natural camouflage. The ARC Ref 3 does just that, it reflects the signal sources feed and adds nothing, while deducting very little from the source. When well matched with power amp in a highly synergistic system, it's sheer transparency, transient response, and un diluted sense of dynamics is to die for! The ARC Ref 3 has a totally neutral tonal balance, very refined and exquisite sounding highs. Mids of excellent clarity yet packing with solid density. Bass is thundering when required or just sublime when doing bass guitar licks. It's got none of the well known sonic draw backs of tube designs. In fact some did find the ARC Ref 3 totally un tube like at all. ARC got wind of that, and the result is the ARC Ref 5, which I am told, has some measure of added tubey-ness to it sound(of which I cannot confirm as I've not listened to the ARC Ref 5 yet!).

Alvin Tan of Perfect Hifi tells me that now is the best time to shop for a slightly used ARC Ref 3 pre amp. There's never been this much choice due to many Ref 3 owners waiting in line to up grade to the Ref 5. I last heard the list was 5 and growing! Prices range from RM$20-25k depending on age, condition, and colour of face plate. The black face ones tend to be cheaper by 10-15% because Malaysians in general dislike the black face plates (which I kinda like actually). There's also another factor to consider when buying a used ARC Ref 3. It's the year of make. It's very important to make sure you get a unit which serial no. indicates past year 2007 as date of manufacture. Apparently, the earlier batches are prone to power supply failures due to the use of resistors with too low wattage specs. In a country like Malaysia, where TNB does a superb job of non regulating our in coming power supply voltage, the resistors will eventually blow, resulting in complete regulator circuit failure. ARC rectified the problem in the latter(post 2007) batches by fitting higher wattage spec ed resistors in the power supply section of the pre amp.
This unit was sent to me a day after he got it to confirm it's clean bill of health! For me at least, still one of the best pre amp available out there today, ARC Ref 5 or not!

By the way, one of my life long ARC buddy(I said life long, because he only uses ARC equipment all the time) recently got this very healthy and clean looking post 2007 manufactured unit for RM$24k. According to the ARC Ref 3's tube usage hours meter, this unit had only being used for less than 400 hours! So new in fact, it's still got the new tubes burning in smell!

So, if you've been eyeing to get a used ARC Ref 3, what are you waiting for?

Call Alvin Tan of Perfect Hifi at 012-6082168 or 03-21421693.

September 10, 2010

Magico Q5 Speakers And Devialet Digital Amplifiers. Now On Demo In Audio Image.

The Magico Q5 speakers are stunning indeed. A must listen!
Audio Image is revitalising their high end audio product lines. The absolutely gorgeous and rich tonality of the Magico Q5 speakers powered by Soulution electronics must be heard if one appreciates good sound.
Devialet amplifier represents the latest thinking in digital amplification topology.

While you're there, you can also marvel at the latest digital amplifier topology design, courtesy Devialet Amplifiers. This French made and designed amplifier is certainly avant garde looking. It's designed to be hanged as the center piece on your wall decor. An RF(radio frequency) remote is provided for whole house signal reception. As this is an integrated amp, all you need is source and a pair of high quality speakers. The amp is rated for 50W RMS out put.
The Artemis SA-1 turn table set up is special. Too bad the demo set is sold.
Adrian also had the latest Frank Schroeder designed Artemis SA-1 tun table on demo too fitted with a tone arm bearing the same desginer's name and an Air Tight PC-1 cartridge last week, but is now sold. If interested, please enquire at 03-79563077.

September 8, 2010

End Of Days For The Physical Media?

Tapes, CDs, and LPs. How much longer would they remain viable as a music format?
I have lived thru two media changes in my audiophile life. I have started in the compact cassette/LP days as a kid growing up in the 70's. By the 80's, I had started to buy compact disc. At that time CDs made so much sense, it's small, convenience and overall clean sound found favour in me. The compact cassette soldiered on in my audiophile life until in-dash CD players became popular in the car. By Y2k, CD's dominated my music collection, sprinkled with a good dosh of SACD. By year 2003, it was clear to me SACD was not to be, so I sold off most of my small SACD collection. Guess what, strangely LPs never really left and made a strong return in to my daily musical consumption today.

The last few years, we've been reading about the impending change of the physical media format to the form of media servers. A few of my tech savvy audiophile friends dived in to the new form of media. I am not convinced with the sound quality of the said media that I heard so far. Add to my list of resistance, the user interface was just mind boggling to say the least. However, by each year, my buddies tried to convince me that the sound have improved to the point that the CD quality had been surpassed and the new interface is simplified. I remained unconvinced, up until this week that is.

This week, I've just taken part in a double blind test A/B. I never knew which source was playing, even though I could see both the CD player and the media server right before me. A buddy had both the sources playing in sync and both sources are volume adjusted so that the differences are minimal. Both the media server plus DAC vs the integrated CD player is of the similar high end credentials and quite nearly the same price range, with the media server plus DAC being somewhat more expensive. For the media server plus DAC rig, only true 16 bit ripped tracks were used against the 16 bit conventional CD. The game was not about which is better sounding, rather if I could tell a difference between the two sources when it was switched, and which one I preferred.

During a series of 3 test tracks selected based on the familiarity of the group members participating in the blind test, the source switcher is never allowed to take part. I could immediately recognised a switch between the two sources due to differences in sonic character detected. I had found myself to constantly liking source A, for it's overall higher resolution, better defined images, and more incisive sound quality over source B. In all my prejudiced heart, I had always thought source A was the CD player!

It was later revealed to me that source A was the media server! I had to come to terms with my prejudice.
The new media frontier, and it's all digital!

Similarly, I had lived thru three significant media format changes in my videophile life too. I started in VHS tapes in the 70's, then migrated to the short lived, but excellent Laser Disc format in the 90's. I never considered the VCD a videophile viable format, but used it for family entertainment for a while until DVD became the norm by the year 1999. My DVD player recently behaved strangely and finally said good bye last week.

And last night, while searching for a replacement DVD player, I was shown a demo, consisting of a high end Blu-ray player vs media server for HT in a high end system. Here, I still felt Blu-ray was still superior in terms of picture and sound quality, but the media server came oh! so.... very close(the fact that it offered a whole lot better picture quality over DVD was attractive enough) . Factor in the cheaper hardware price, and the convenience factor of the media server, the choice is a no brainer for me. The latest batch of HT media servers does not require a computer geek to operate, it's user interface is as easy as operating a high end DVD or Blu-ray player via it's hand held remote. I'm sold to the idea, and will probably start a media server based HT system soon.

I woke this morning to make a statement that in 2010, is the year I'll see a practical transition to yet another media format, in my audiophile/videophile life. I think if the ever late adopter and skeptical me can accept and endorse the new media, I believe the end of days is near for the physical media.

September 7, 2010

A Sine of Power? Sine SW-1PUK Wall Socket & SA-6 Power Bar.

The Sine UK 13 amp style wall socket in it's packaging.

Ever since Odiosleuth raved about the US Nema style Sine cryo processed duplex wall sockets, I've been wanting to give the UK equivalent a try, as I use UK 13 amp style plugs in my audio cave. The Sine product coded SW-1PUK wall socket is very well built, the contacts are platinum coated and cryo processed too. The aluminium face plate is classy looking. It's retail listed price is RM$414.00 a piece. Now, before you start shouting profanities at me and cursing my fore fathers. Please allow me to remind that you're reading Hifi-Unlimited, the high end audio blog. Ha!Ha!

The front aluminium panel has classy fit and glossy finishing.

Changing the wall sockets are a fairly easy task, provided one turns off the mains ELCB switch first, before even attempting to do anything. Then test with some low powered light to make sure the outlet no longer supplies the juices, just to be doubly sure! If you're still unsure and worried about your safety at this point, then hire an electrician to switch the wall socket for a small fee.

I did the switch my self, as there's only 3 cables to mug around with, just important to make sure I do not get the polarity wrong in the process. 10 minutes, and the shiny looking Sine wall socket is ready to play.
The cryo treated contacts of the back view.

Many had told me previously that if I had my system powered thru an isolated power transformer, a.k.a. the Torus Power RM8A, what ever cable or plug or socket that goes before it will have no effect what so ever on the system's audio performance. Well, in the context of my system, that was not the case. It was clearly audible from the get go that back ground noise such as hash, and hiss were clearly reduced. The reduced noise floor did one thing spectacularly well for my system in that my sound stage took on a certain fluidity, and open up both in width and depth. Sound stage layering is easier to discern too. Subtle timbre and harmonics of wooden musical instruments like violin, wood winds and cello were more flushed out than before. The high frequencies are notice ably cleaner and seems more extended too.

Again, for some, the effect was not big, and I can agree too, but for me, it was money well spent, as the premium contacts offered lowered noise floor overall. Combating noise floor is still one of my hifi holy grails.
Looks nice next to the standard house hold wall sockets.

My big fat and red JPS inwall power cable with MK Duraplug UK 13 amp fused style plug.

At the same time, I've decided to take the plunge too and replaced my heroic Wireworld Electrifier power bar with the Sine SA-6 power bar. As per my review sometime last year, I've found the Sine SA-6 to offer top notch build quality and superb contacts and resulted in better sound for my system. I've since tested other power bars, some which are some what better, but would cost either my right arm or my left leg! Other budget offerings just did not gel as well, again in the context of my system, just to quantify my statement. For the full report on the Sine SA-6, please refer to my previous report on the subject matter dated 03/06/2009.
I've also added the Sine SA-6 power bar to the system. The Isotek Isoplug filter is retained, for now.

The Sine power accessories does make a difference in the right direction for my system. I feel that the modest outlay is worth while, if one has a mid range or high end system to build on. It has certainly taken my musical enjoyment up a notch.

Sine power accessories is sold by Hi-Way Laser, contact Kenny at 019-2813399.

September 5, 2010

Rega Isis Valve CD Player Has Arrived. On Demo Now At Asia Sound Equipment.

The top loading Rega Isis is solidly built.

Ladies & gentleman, the awesome flagship of Rega's CD player range is here. The Isis valve is now on demo in Asia Sound Equipment show room located at 1st floor, Amcorp Mall.
Does the Rega Isis reassembles the Lampizator? He!He!

Roy Gandy was here last month to spread the word about the impending arrival of the Rega RP-1 turn table. At the time, it was so new.... that Rega did not even have a picture of it on their web site. I searched yesterday and now they do! So here's a little eye candy on the new, soon to arrive budget vinyl spinner.
The soon to come Rega RP-1 budget turn table. Roy Gandy said the sound of this vinyl spinner sounds so good, it made the Rega P-2 obsolete!

For enquiries, please call Eddie Tan at 03-79552091.

September 3, 2010

Just What The Audiophile World Needs Today, RESPECT!

I think we audiophiles are some the most opinionated people around. And I am pretty sure you've heard this saying before too, "Opinions are like an a#*hole, every body's got one!"

Now, just in case you're thinking, "what prompted Big E to have such angry thoughts?" I say no particular reason what so ever, but it's some thing that I've been observing silently for a while now. There are many mainstream press that seem bent on putting down the hobby labelled as audiophile. It would seem that audiophiles are gullible fools who'd buy any "high end" snake oil marketed to them. Yes, I must admit to have come across products of dubious thinking and at best, does nothing to improve your hifi system's sound. Some will question the rational of audiophiles who has spent huge amount of $$$ on our hobby.

I think the problem lies within the audiophile community themselves. As a community, I don't think we give each other enough credit and respect for our selves. We audiophiles tend to think in absolute terms and only feel that our own experiences are empirical. Others just don't understand, maybe just don't know enough. I hereby give a few examples of audiophiles not respecting each other:

1) Classic case of DIYers VS high enders. DIYer's tend to think they are technically superior beings as compared to those moneyed monkeys.

2) High enders VS low enders. High enders do not think highly of low enders, especially when low enders criticize their system. If you can't afford it, please keep your opinions to your self!

3) SET/horn loaded single drivers VS the world. Every one else just don't get it, hence they are not worthy of my respect.

4) Vinyl VS Digital. Most recent will see vinyl lovers up in arms when they see others play with music servers.

5) My own system as reference VS other inferior systems. I've seen too many folks like these!

And what happens when we don't respect our peers and each other as a community? The other 98% of general population loses respect for our hobby. Are we so engrossed in putting each other down, we forget that others are putting all us down too? We are not a big group, I last checked and found a recent study indicates that only 2% of the world's population are audiophiles. Why doesn't the mainstream press target to ridicule other extravagant hobbies, like the Ferrari or Porsche groups, the yacht and boating enthusiast, high end bikes communities, be it motorcycle or bicycle, the high end Swiss watch collectors? There are other countless other hobbies which are just as extravagant as hifi and perhaps, markets just as much snake oil? I am sure by now, you get my drift.

As a community, we should embrace each other's thoughts, accept each other's short comings and lastly, respect our selves. It's only when we respect one another, we can have a strong community. The audiophile community is too fragmented today. There's too much me, and not enough we. Building goodwill amongst our selves as we improve our audio system's performance is a better way to engage this hobby. It's so.... much more positive.

I wish to end this with a quote by Jack Nicholson when he was starring as the Joker(in one of the Batman movies) once said, "Why can't we all just, get along?"

September 2, 2010

Check Out The ATC SCM100 Active Speakers, Now On Demo In Hi-Way Laser.

ATC SCM100 Active speakers. These are big boys toys, are you man enough to handle it?

Our friendly blogger, Lam Seng Fatt of Hifi-Avenue is an ATC speakers fanatic. I saw the ATC SCM100 pair of speakers in crates at the Hi-Way Laser SS2, PJ showroom. A few days later, it's arrival was announced on his blog.

A friend of mine immediately went over for a listen, and called me very excitedly, about the best ATC pair of speakers he'd heard! And when I say this guy is hard to please, you must believe me too! There he was, this hard to please friend was raving about this new toy in town that he could have gotten, if only he had not spend all his $$$ on a pair of high end mono block power amps, during the KLIAV! Hifi Shows can make one do impulsive things. Ha!Ha!

What's so special about the pair of ATC SCM100 Active speakers you ask? Well, let's just say that even if one has no means or intention to get it, I believe it's still a worth while trip to meet Kenny and ask for a demo, that is a model of "spatial dimensionality". The demo speaker pair was sourced and pre amplified by Ayre electronics.

If you're really serious, you can call Kenny at 019-2813399 to avoid disappointment.

September 1, 2010

A Solution For My Vinyl Blues? It's a Clearaudio Solution.

A close up shot of the spindle and the acrylic platter.

Guess what I have spinning in my audio cave? I am going thru a period of vinyl revival of sorts, ever since I decided to get back on the the band wagon of the black arts. Since my Linn LP12 is still being restored, CMY Audio & Visual very thought fully supplied me with turn tables to keep my vinyl fever boiling.
The outboard motor unit and fly wheel for the drive belt.

I've always envied Micheal Fremer of Stereophile a lot, because he gets to play with all the best analog toys. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Clearaudio Concept turn table, so I was choke full of anticipation when John, boss of CMY allowed me to take home the Clearaudio Solution, Unify tone arm and Concerto V2 cartridge package for a spin. When I got home and opened the box, there's so many bits and pieces, just like a mechanical jigsaw puzzle, I did not know where to start. I slept over it and next day, fresh out of bed, made a second attempt to put together the turn table. All I needed was provided by Clearaudio, from the manuals, tools and a pair of white cotton gloves included.

The eagle has landed! The Unify Carbon tone arm and Concerto V2 cartridge.

It took me the better part of the day, more like 6 hours of constant work(stopping in between for lunch), before I heard the first tune. Assembling a complex turn table requires some mechanical familiarity, a bit of an inquisitive mind and in the case of the final assembly of the tone arm and cartridge alignment, nimble fingers too. Lastly, one needs to be very careful not to break anything too, especially the dangerously fragile looking tone arm cable and the proudly protruding cartridge cantilever and stylus tip!
The name says it all!

However, when the first tunes were played, there's a sign of relieve, and a feeling achievement, that it was all worth while. I now envy Mr Fremer no more, as from this experience, I've come to see the constant vinyl doodling as a labour of love. While I love the sound of the vinyl format, I just found it a bit too much of a hard work, just like reviewing speakers!

Did I find a Solution for my vinyl blues?

Stay tuned for the full report.