January 3, 2011

Best Analog Gear 2010.

Here's my first instalment(Odiosleuth has listed his own personal favorites) for the best hifi gears of 2010 that came our way. The main criteria for selection is that we must have reviewed them from the period of Jan-Dec 2010. However, we'd have to make an exception for speakers as we don't get enough to play with, due to room accommodation size and logistics factor. Finally, where possible, sound vs price performance factor will always be a consideration for us, unless a superior product totally sweeps us off our feet, regardless of price. Music and hifi is after all, are matters of emotion that concerns the heart more than our left brain cells!

Agree with me or not, we have to admit that 2010 is the year the analog revival goes full steam in Malaysia. Admittedly, the market for turn tables and vinyl as a music format is still relatively small but growing at a rapid rate. I see much vinyl newbies going for the highly affordable Rega P-1(now RP-1, which we are currently spinning), and surprising enough, an industry veteran tells me that there's been a few ladies picking up on vinyl and turn tables too!(I've yet to meet one personally)

Here goes our list of top analog gear for the year 2010.

Congratulations to Clearaudio for making the superb Concept turn table package at near budget pricing. There's a lot of clever thinking and advance design technology in the Concept, and the sound is just totally reflective of the effort, this time!

It was a hard choice between the Clearaudio Concept package or the VPI Scout II. Both are stupendously good sounding, but with their own personalities, and targeted at different market segments. However, I chose the Clearaudio Concept for the best, based on it's completeness in design technology and execution of functionality, rarely seen on this near entry level price range of just a little over RM$6k. The exacting factory setting is an absolute bonus for newbies too! The sound is smooth, highly transparent and utterly musical. Best of all, it may be one's first, or last turn table purchase, depending if one is a newbie or just coming off the up grade go round.
The VPI Scout II may be entry level in the VPI turn table range. The sound is anything but entry level! Spend a bit more for the VPI Classic? You bet!

Coming in a close runner up is the VPI Scout II, a turntable of traditional design but exceptionally well executed by Harry Westfield. This turn table is for intermediate level enthusiast and would most likely find a home in mid range systems. The imaging and sound stage are first rate, and the best part is the bass, which strike a happy balance between quality and volume. I only have a small problem for this more than RM$8k turn table, add another RM$3k more and one can get the superb and latest VPI Classic, which I've yet to spin, but I know more than a few who have already given it their thumbs up!
The PS Audio GCPH phono stage is highly versatile, with XLR balanced out puts too, if one likes that, and sound very respectable. Can't go wrong with this!

Now that you've got any one of the two great turn tables above and have selected your cartridge to mate(if VPI Scout II is your choice), than you'll need a good phono stage to partner. For RM$6k or so, I can't think of another better example than this PS Audio CGPH phono stage. It's got all the right buttons like mono and phase invert(both are important for fussy analog audiophiles, I am told) and best of all it will match most(except very low out put) cartridges, plus all the gain and loading adjustments are easily done on the back panel. The icing on the cake is that the PS Audio GCPH actually sounds very respectable too!

A special mention must go to the Dynavector DV-20XL cartridge, which retails for just a little below RM$2k. I've not experienced a better sounding and all round well balanced cartridge at this price range before, nuff said!

We've got more Best Of 2010 to come, stay tuned.

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