May 31, 2011

Good Taste Personified

A Hi-Fi shop that does not look like a Hi-Fi Shop.

You can only find it in Taiwan. The owner is former Audio Art's (magazine) Chief Editor, Jack Liu.

Whoever says that Hi-Fi shops need to be stereotyped and boring, look at how Jack infuses class and lifestyle into his shop.

Notice the long marble-top table for dining and red wine. Terminally cool.

May 30, 2011

FV Euroaudio.

FV Euroaudio is Frankie's latest venture in the local audiophile industry.

If you have to ask "Just who Frankie is?" Then either you're not that in to vinyl as a music source, or that perhaps you're less of an audiophile than you once thought. Ha! Ha!

Frankie has recently expanded his product range to include Frank power line conditioners and perhaps even pre amps(if what I heard from the grape wine is correct?), to complement his already very highly sought after Pipit series phono stages.

FV Euroaudio is Frankie's new blog based marketing platform.

Do support our talented local audio designers and visit his new blog site, via the link on the right side panel.

May 29, 2011

Clairty MP's Grand Opening at Jaya One

Clarity AV of Singapore, a leader in home entertainment in the city state, has opened its branch in Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, in order to serve its Malaysian clientele better.

We attended the grand opening of its showroom yesterday. Let's take a quick tour:

The cosy reception area, where you can relax, chat, and...

be entertained by the AV system there, all fronted by high end Lexicon electronics

This is the first of the 2 rooms for AV showcases. Both are installed with 2.35:1 systems (note the wider screen format compared to 16:9). In this room, all the loudspeakers are hidden behind or mounted flush to the walls, giving a clean and uncluttered look.

The equipment in the first room

DreamVision projector. An anamorphic lens (also from Dreamvision) is mounted in front to project in 2.35:1
Now, we are at the cost-no-object second room. The front L-R are Revel Ultima Salon 2 driven by Mark Levinson No.53 monoblocks. The centre and subwoofer are hidden behind the screen
The back of the room. The other pair of Revel Salon were just doing guard duty. The surround was actually handled by the Revel surround speakers on the wall. Note also the DremVision projector's funky colour, matching the woody colour of the speakers and the room. Interesting! I think this is first time I see projector not in the customary black or white.
The equipment rack consisting of Mark Levinson and Kaleidescape gears
The mighty Mark Levinson No 53 monoblock

Clarity MP carries the following product lines:
  • Mark Levinsion

  • Revel

  • Lexicon

  • Wisdon Audio

  • Kaleidescape

  • Speakercraft

  • DreamVision

  • Vutec
Clarity MP's address and contact are as follows:

Clarity MP Sdn Bhd
Block C-41-G, Jaya One, 72A Jalan Universiti
46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: (603) 7960 5503

May 27, 2011

Adam Classic MK III Speakers, Now On Demo In Ultimate Reference.

Adam Classic MK III Black Pencil speaker.

The Adam Classic MK III speaker is now on demo in the brand Ultimate Reference showroom located in PJ. This fine Adam speaker is demo-ed with SAT(Swedish Audio Technology) power amp and Vitus CD player as source.

The system proved highly resolving and refined with excellent dynamic response. I had an enjoy able time sampling the demo system today.
Entreq power cords from Sweden.

Also new to Malaysian soil is the latest Swedish Statement brand of Entreq powercords, which claims to be more of an energy transforming equipment. We have review samples in hand and shall be putting them to the test!

By the way while you're there do check out their impressive AV installs too!

Do call for a visit appointment by contacting Ms Goh, at 03-77314999 before making your way there.

May 24, 2011

I've Been VooDooed! VooDoo Reference Digital Cable.

The VooDoo Reference digital cable, terminated with XLR connectors is very well built, with white jacket sleeves. The silver cable stock and connectors are cryo treated too.

I hear ya all say "Oh no, not another digital cable review???" Exactly! However, I promise you that this will be my last XLR AES/EBU digital cable review for a while to come. As you know, all those real world priced cables could never really satisfy my lust for more audio performance. So I step up my cable search budget by another notch.

The first mid range priced(costing between RM$1-2K) cable that came my way was a highly reviewed example, but for some reason, didn't really fit in to my system sonically. While it won't make a stinking bad review, the dealer of the said cable decided not to have it published, as per our review guidelines, of either a review be published in it's entirety, or not at all.

Then I came across this said example of VooDoo Reference Digital on our local  classifieds. I enquired, we met, and transaction complete. This cable when new, would've cost USD$350.00 excluding freight and duties, should one choose to order thru the manufacturer's website. I got this used example for a little more than RM$600.00 which is pretty good deal(if I may say so my self! After all I wouldn't be losing much $$$, should I decide not to like this cable later).

I went home and plug this cable in between the Bryston BDP/BDA-1 CAS source combo, and from the very first notes, I was very much shocked in disbelief, how close in performance, this cable is capable of, compared to my all time reference, the JPS Aluminata!

Like the JPS, this cable very nearly disappeared from the system chain of equipment. It's nearly as quiet and almost as transparent as the 5 times more expensive reference cable. It's tonally as neutral and will project as wide a sound stage with nearly as stable imaging, but the sound stage depth layering aspect is somewhat compromised, if only a little. The exceptional area of this VooDoo Reference is that it paints a musical event with just as much "air" too.

Another area where this used cable is compromised is a slight compression of macro dynamics when the music demands. I did not quite get this until one day, a sifu came over for a listen and pointed it out to me. Subsequently, I got another top dog digital cable to confirm this weakness(And you thought I said this is the last digital cable review for a while to come???, well it's been a while since you've started reading this article, ain't it? Ha! Ha!).

Bottom line is, there aren't many bargains in high end audio anymore, but this VooDoo Reference digital cable is one of the few exceptions that I've come across, even should one decide to buy it new via the manufacturer's website, and pay for the shipping and duties. I think you'll still find it a worth while option.

Google and ye shall find the VooDoo Cable website.

May 22, 2011

Definitive Technology On Offer At Centre Circle Audio

Centre Circle Audio is putting up display units of Definitive Technology speakers at attractive prices. How about up to 45% discount for attractiveness?

Click here to go to Centre Circle Audio's website for other items on offer. Nelson tells me that stocks are limited and moving fast, don't delay to avoid disappointment.

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

May 21, 2011

Feathers. Jeanette Lindstrom & Steve Dobrogosz.

Feathers, is released in year 2000, featuring Jeanette Lindstrom.

It's been a while since we talked about music. Both our job workloads have increased with new projects trusted upon our shoulders, unfortunately for us, we can't say no to our bosses. Both of us are struggling to keep up our postings. However, we still make time for our music.

Remember the Fairytales CD pictured below? It features Redka Toneff on vocals and Steve Dobrogosz on piano. I guess most audiophiles from the 80's era would still remember Redka's heart wrenching sad The Moon's A Harsh Mistress track? I think many still use this song as a vocal reference of sorts. The truthful recording of the CD captures the beautiful tone of the piano instrument, backing Redka's venerable voice filled with moods and emotions a plenty, including all her pitching errors too. However, that's exactly what made this CD so special for so many people, it's un-varnished honesty to the recording event.

Which brings us to the CD featured today, called Feathers, by Jeanette Lindstrom on vocals and Steve Dobrogosz on piano again. I think if you loved Fairytales, you'd probably love Feathers just as much. The common denominator here is Steve on piano, and his style certain shows heavily on both CDs, which seems to have been executed on a very similar theme, albeit Feathers takes a more modern and slightly more re-freshing approach, mainly due to Jeanette's crystalline voice.

I know it's not fair comparing Jeanette to Redka, but I only aim to highlight the differences to a familiar theme. Redka's approach to the songs being more moody and retrospective, contrasting Jeanette's confidence, pitch perfect and clear diction. If there's an area that makes both ladies successfully vocalist is their ability to touch the very heart of the soul with each song.

I did find the Feathers CD to be more up lifting in mood overall, but no less romantic. Much like Fairytales, the Feathers opening track called Butterfly is especially touching and soul stirring, yet sounds heavenly. The Look Of Love has been covered like a millionth time by now, but the straight on vocal and piano only arrangement has brought a new angle to this tired track. As in many of the tracks in this CD, the use of silence to inter space between notes as a means of highlighting instrument to voice contrast, as only Scandinavian producers know how, to the effect much like Young Sun Nah's Vovage album(previously reviewed here).

The newer Feathers CD is more quiet being a recent digital recording, it has less back ground tape hiss.... My CD sample(yes, I still buy CDs, despite hoping on the CAS band wagon) was ripped in to my PC(as a native 16/44.1 AIFF file) and playback on my Bryston BDP/BDA-1 combo via USB thumb drive.
Fairytales, released in 1982. Redka Toneff died shortly after she had recorded this album. Maybe that's way she sounded so sad?

Both CDs are very worth while additions to any music lover/audiophile's music collection. Both are one track wonders, well two perhaps. And both CDs are a great way to escape the day's stress by means of easy listening pleasures. They also make excellent hifi vocal demos too!

May 20, 2011

Searching Still, Supra DAC XLR Gold AES/EBU Digital Cable.

Supra DAC XLR Gold AES/EBU digital cable.

Before I start this review, I've a confession to make! I feel the need to let you, my dear readers know about my fondness for Supra cables. In my past experience of using Supra cables have always been more satisfactory. So good actually, that I'd call them budget cable champs!

Lately, Supra cables, made by Swedish company, Jenvin SE has been spiffing up their product appearances and build quality, with use of custom built connectors and trendy blister pack packaging materials. The cable stocks though, seemed largely unchanged. The review sample of 2m length, cost RM$690.00, puts it right in the same price range as the Wireworld Starlight 6.

Supra's website tauts this as an extremely low capacitance cable, which results in fast response. Gold is apparently part of the cable's metallurgy, which is normally associated with refinement.
The custom made XLR connector with gold pins and classy gun metal coated finishing.

The Supra DAC XLR Gold went in to service immediately, replacing the Wireworld Starlight 6 which I reported about earlier. On first listen, the Supra does sound very much similar to the Starlight 6. The same warm, dark chocolate like tonality, with a slightly laid back sound stage presentation. While I would not call the imaging character cardboardy, it ain't exactly 3D in relief from the back ground either(The JPS Aluminata does that 3D thingy, for example)

The Supra has similarly smooth, refined highs, but only more "air" and extension compared to the Wireworld. I couldn't be exactly certain, but perhaps due to the extra extension on the highs, I get the impression of just very slightly better detail retrieval heard through the Supra. It does not have mid range density of the Starlight, by comparison, the Supra being more open sounding. I felt there were however, no notice able difference in the bass area.

In terms of noise floor, both cables are relatively quiet. Wireworld is better at highlighting the music's dynamic contrast.
I feel 2m is too long for standard length, but the cable is soft and pliable.

In the end, I would put both Wireworld Starlight 6 and the Supra DAC XLR Gold digital cables in the same performance level, as both have their strengths and compromises. Which ever one should you choose to buy, is more a matter of personal preference and system matching issues, I suspect. I also know that I want more performance from my digital cable, so my search continues.

Supra cables & accessories is sold by A&L Audio Station, contact Yap(Wah Chai) at 03-79582884.

May 18, 2011

Perfect HiFi Offers Sonus Faber Speakers.

Sonus Faber Toy book shelf.

Lusting after those Italian speakers that come with exquisite wood work and cow hide decorated front baffles? You want to enjoy the charismatic warm sound of Sonus Faber? You feel like you can't quite afford them?

Now you can do so without feeling the $$$ pain! Because Perfect HiFi, the local distributor of Sonus Faber is offering the latest Toy, Monitor and Liuto series speakers by up to 30% discount.

The offer is valid from now till end of June 2011, so get em' real quick.
Sonus Faber Liuto floor stander.

The recent slew of hifi sale and promotional offers is making me feel like Father Christmas is here already, even though the actual year end is more than six months away! He! He!

Call Andy Tan at 019-2112566 or 03-58821693 for further enquiries.

May 16, 2011

Pristine and Energetic – Running Springs Audio’s Duke Power Conditioner

This is my first time crossing path with Running Springs Audio. I saw it when I visited Ultimate Reference during their opening, and they graciously offered the Duke for me to listen to in my system.

I read somewhere where somebody said that we are actually listening to the electricity in our home. He is right. Our music signal is kept throughout the hifi chain as electrical signal, only until the very last step is the electrical signal converted to kinetic energy and then to sound at the loudspeakers. So it goes that the better quality the raw ingredient, i.e., the electricity supply, the better will be the end product, i.e., the sound quality.

Hence, we see now the great proliferation of power supply related products in hifi, with the use of myriad technologies.

Running Springs Audio (RSA) talks about its own technology and its construction approach on its website as follows:

“Running Springs Audio power devices do not use on/off switches, meters, lights, or dials, components that are generally known create noise in the line rather than remove it! After an extensive development process, RSA selected a mixture of passive voltage regulation with a differential topology and exceedingly high-quality proprietary components. This yields a product that, actually, surpassed the original three design criteria of proper voltage regulation, noise cancellation, and protection ….”

Its says its building blocks consist of:
* Non-ferrous high-quality aluminum chassis, no magnetic interference, or damaging field effect which can destroy inner detail, pace and roll-off high frequencies
* Internal Cardas wiring
* Proprietary high-frequency CNDI & DMS passive filter lowers noise floor without compromising dynamics and detail
* Proprietary platinum foil capacitors custom-designed and hand-trimmed to precision-matched +/- 1% tolerances
* Proprietary synthetic matrix hand wound inductors, far superior in resonance control and sound quality than the current generation of inductors on the market that use iron or air.
* Includes carbon fiber feet for isolation and vibration control, superior detail and greater dynamic contrast
* Internal carbon fiber resonance vibration control
* High current, sonically invisible circuit breaker that will not diminish current flow and offers unparalleled protection “

The Duke from the rear, note the 3 carbon fiber cones resting on top of the main chassis

The Duke is a heavy little fella. With a size not much bigger than a loaf of bread, it weighs 24lbs (11kg). Usage is simple, there is an inlet, which requires a 20A power plug, and 2 American style outlets. There is no switch, which RSA says has an adverse effect on sound quality. There is a circuit breaker, which will trip when anything goes wrong. RSA says that the Duke can cater to power need of up to 2,400 watts, which in most cases is more than sufficient for our power amplifier or monoblocks. The list price of the Duke with the Mongoose powercord is listed for RM9,187.50.

There was no more spare space on my hifi rack, so I decided to sit the Duke on the floor. RSA has thoughtfully supply 3 pieces of spike, which are made of carbon fibre. Using them under the Duke made a small but significant difference to the sound quality. With the spikes, the soundstage was more stable and the sound was a little more coherent.

The RSA Mongoose powercord that is bundled together with the Duke

I routed the 2 powercords to my monoblocks to the Duke. RSA also bundled in their own Mongoose powercord, the 20A version, to connect the Duke to the wall. The Mongoose was said to be developed in conjunction with Cardas. Indeed on the cable jacket it was written “Cardas Golden Reference”. RSA said it is the best match with its products. Well, I think with the 20A powercord bundled in it is pretty good value. You would have saved a couple of thousand Ringgits and some effort to search and purchase a suitable one for the Duke.

As the Duke continued to run in over a few days, the sound changed from slightly rugged to something more refined and smooth. After a week of continuous use, its performance stabilized.
The effect of the Duke in the system was easy to hear. Two things became obvious. The first was the quietness of the system, as if a layer of haze was removed, whether music was playing or not. The sound was also exceedingly clean and clear, making listening effortless and untiring.

The other was that on first impression the system sounded louder, I had to turn the volume a step down. After more listening, I realized that the system sounded more dynamic, it ‘jumped’ more freely, thus giving the impression that the volume was higher. There was also more energy in the sound, as if the musicians played and sang with greater commitment. The sound had more verve and the performances became more enjoyable. On classical music, the timpani whacked more forcefully, the overall sound was richer and had a good analogue feel; the scale expanded and the stage was more enveloping.

Just for my own confirmation, I plugged the monoblocks back into my Shunyata Hydra 8 (old version). It made the transient edge a little softer, the sound was also a mite lethargic comparatively. The Duke in contrast gave the system a shot in the arm, and everything perked up.

The effect of the Duke on the bass performance was something to behold. The bass became more solid, it held better as it went lower, it was weighty and much better organized (as opposed to some flabbiness without the Duke).

Was there any downside to the Duke’s performance? In the weeks that I had it in my system I could not come up with any. Every time I took it out to re-acquaint myself with the sound before, then putting it back in, I always preferred having the Duke in. Well, the one thing I can think of is that the Duke will not help you hide the system or the recording’s flaws. There is no added warmth or fuzziness to make the sound cuddly. There is just pristine, clean, clear sound emanating from your system...

Just like the name of the company that makes this – Running Springs.

Running Springs Audio is carried by Ultimate Reference, contact 03-77314999

May 13, 2011

Hot Stuff! Krell S-350a CD Player.

I've been running in this new Krell S-350a CD player for almost a week now. No, I've not listened to it just yet. Something tells me I am gonna like it a lot!

During it's week of running in on repeated play mode, the ventilation slots on the top plate of Krell became not just warm, but hot to touch as only possible coming from something like a class A device.

I've just placed it on my dedicated hifi rack, took this picture you see here and shall start some serious listening tomorrow. I can't wait in anticipation.

Stay tuned for it's review to come.

May 11, 2011

The Cable Search. Wireworld Oasis 6 & Starlight 6 AES/EBU Digital Cable.

The Wireworld Oasis 6(left) & Starlight 6(right) is continuing the evolotion of the respective cable technology.

James provided me with these two sets of Wireworld AES/EBU digital cable to start off my Bryston BDP-1 & BDA-1 combo adventures. I did not want to evaluate them until I had established a certain performance benchmark at the top, in the form of the top range JPS Aluminata.

The Wireworld Oasis and Starlight 6 looks similarly built, but the cheaper Oasis cable is pure copper, while the more expensive Starlight adds silver to the metallurgy. The RM$390/meter Oasis 6 is quite possibly the cheapest AES/EBU digital available in the market, while the red jacketed Starlight 6 is the next model up at RM$790/meter.

Both cables share a warm, dark chocolate like, tonal colour signature, yet brings about a laid back, if somewhat cardboardy flat sound staging and imaging properties. The highs are smooth and largely grain free, which make these Wireworlds non-offending choices. The mid range reproduction is quite dense yet lack the nasal qualities of lesser cables. This is where the similarities end.

We now focus on what the Starlight 6 can do for double money! Compared to the entry level Oasis 6, the Starlight covers more band width, which means the highs and the bass frequencies will extend further at the extremes. With the extended highs, the sound stage sounds less shut in and more open. The extended bass also allows more detail in the lower frequencies to pass thru the speakers(provided the speakers are not the book shelf variety). Transparency factor is also improved somewhat, as I could hear more in to the smaller details of the music coming thru, as a result of lowered noise floor. The Starlight 6 tends to highlight just a shade more dynamic contrast too. The Starlight 6 is no doubt the superior cable of the two, for me and possibly all other owners of the Bryston combo, it's probably the most logical choice if one is on a budget or just starting his/her digital adventure.

On the whole, I am quite impressed with the capabilities Wireworld Starlight 6, given it's relatively affordable price. It has set a respectable performance benchmark for other real world priced digital cables to be compared against in the future.

My search continues.

Wireworld cables are sold by AV Designs, contact James/Tony at 03-21712828.

May 9, 2011

Hi-Way Laser 10th Anniversary BIG SALE!

It's Hi-Way Laser's 10th Anniversary this time of the year, and they are celebrating the occasion with a BIG SALE!

Everything in store has been marked down in price for this month only!

The audiophile community has never had it so.... good, so many choices, all at reduced prices WOW!

Congrats to Kenny and his team for the occasion, and may we see them celebrating many more 10th Anniversaries!

Call Hi-Way Laser at 03-78738325/019-2813399 to enquire for your favorite item.

May 8, 2011

Grand Opening Promotion AV Package from Ultimate Reference

In conjunction with its recent opening, Ultimate Reference AV Centre is offering an full HD, 5.1 surround AV package at the attractive price of RM10,999.

The package consists of:
Vivitek H1080 Full HD Projector
Image Screen Cadre Simplex 90" Grey Screen (Made in Germany)

Philips Blu-ray Player

Denon AVR-1911 7.1 Channel AV Receiver
Boston Acoustic XS5.1 Loudspeakers

Click here for our write-up on Ultimate Reference's showroom.

Contact Ultimate Reference at 03-77314999 for more details on this promo package.

May 6, 2011

Anouncement: Clarity MP Is The Distributor For Mark Levinson And Revel.

In the last few days, some keened eyed reader had picked up on one of our new panel advertisement, placed by Perfect HiFi which featured the products of Mark Levinson and Revel. At the same time, other readers had also called us to enquire about the confusion, as we also ran an Industry Update/Dealer Focus article last month featuring the same brands in Clarity MP.

As we are not sure about the position of the brands our selves, we seek to clarify the matter with all parties involved.

Perfect HiFi was the former distributor for Mark Levinson and Revel products, however, if you visited, they would still have some uncleared stocks of the two brands on display in their showrooms. The said panel featuring the two products have been withdrawn with the kind permission of Perfect Hifi.

Clarity MP is the latest appointed distributor in Malaysia for Mark Levinson and Revel products.

The error is regret able and any confusion caused is clearly un-intentional. We apologise to all parties involved including our loyal readers.

May 5, 2011

All The Ayre You Need? Ayre DX-5 Universal A/V Engine.

The Ayre DX-5 A/V Engine, I could only test the audio side of things here.

The Ayre DX-5 A/V Engine(I'd call it a multi format disc player!) has been a controversial product since the day it hit the market! Hifi and audio forums around the globe engaged in heated debates as to weather if it's an Oppo Blu-ray player(a beer budget one too, mind you!) in glamorous drag? Frankly, after a week playing with the Ayre DX-5, I still find it hard to give you a direct answer!!!

The Oppo DNA is obvious the moment the CD tray slides out. The display window is pure Oppo too. In fact, a look inside the player will show you that the whole front end of the DX-5, from disc mechanism to logic control and A/V output board, is taken wholesale from Oppo. However, I also saw where Ayre put their handy little touches too, things that transform a great budget disc player to super high end performer, sound wise. The power supply has been completely reworked, with individual transformers for digital and analog sections, with each having multiple stages of regulation. The A/V board has been reworked with some sections by passed entirely(especially the DAC and audio section) for Ayre's handy work.

I did not get to test the Ayre DX-5's visual performance aspect as I do not have an AV system to do so(Odiosleuth already covered that part). However, my interest were more in to the audio side of things. Immediately, I hit two road blocks the moment I tried to play some music files via it's front panel USB input. First, this input only reads MP3, or WMA format resolution files. The second issue I faced was that I need to use a screen to scroll thru the Ayre's(or is it the Oppo's?) graphic interface menu. Well, there's always the other USB input at the rear panel for CAS purposes. I scanned thru the very thick manual only to find that the Ayre DX-5 will not read audio files off a passive storage device(like an USB thumb drive)! It only takes an active streaming signal from a PC for the Ayre to work as part of the CAS engine.

No worries, I know a guy who has an Ayre QB-9 in his high end CAS audio system, and he was very kind to obliged my request to do the CAS part of my review by comparing the DX-5 to his resident Ayre QB-9 Version II. As expected, streaming files off his dedicated audio PC via USB to the DX-5's back panel USB input worked flawlessly. The DX-5 would lock on to the signal every time on first stream, all the way from 16/44.1 to 24/192 audio resolution files. Once locked on to the in coming signal, the front display window would show the input bit/sampling rates. After about an hour of listening and comparing some tracks between the Ayre DX-5 and QB-9, all of us, Odiosleuth, the system owner, including your's truly agreed to the conclusion that the musical result via both the Ayre units sounded no different.
It's music maker supreme, when playing back CDs. Pictured here with the Phil Collins, Hits CD.

With CAS aside, I brought the Ayre DX-5 home for some disc spinning duties. I haven't played with my CDs for a while now, and it's nice to hold something tangible in my hands, and be able to read thru the liner notes as the music is played, something which is not possible with CAS. The Ayre excelled as a CD player, it's Ayre signature of warmed, refined tonal balance is clearly evident. The DX-5 also excelled at digging out almost all the data out of any 5 inch disc playable. Music was truly transparent, noise free, and true to the recordings. The Ayre would surely shine with excellent recordings, but will also let you know about the poorly recorded CDs. However, the Ayre is rather kind on the later as they still came across as musically relevant, despite the imperfections. The DX-5 can handle the most dynamic and transient response demanding CD and still come across sounding like effortless. It never sounds strained or displays any of those at it's limit's harshness. The real killer part is that the Ayre aces all the hifi check list yet still sounding homogeneous, coherent, natural and unforced.

Some say Ayre players can't rock, but the DX-5 proved otherwise. I was a little sad the day Phil Collins announced his retirement from the music business, after all, he was one of those few drummer's who could carry a decent vocal tune too! I went home and put on Phil Collin's, Hits compilation CD, and searched for the hardest rocking track, titled Easy Lover, a duet with Phillip Bailey. It was phenomenal for how the Ayre held it all together at near concert level volumes, in my tiny man cave. The searing guitar rifts, over enthusiastic vocals, aggressive bass lines and hard hitting drum kit, fused in to a solid, believable musical performance, that these great musicians were right in front of me, nearly live sized, it made me sweat! When it came to power ballad(another Phil Collins specialty) the track Against All Odds, left me nearly wet eyed(OK, I lied, I shed a tear alright, happy?) and heart ached, with a heart felt feeling of true love lost. Call me a SNAG(Sensitive New Age Guy), or even a softie if you want, but if a piece of high end audio equipment can tug my heart strings like this, for that, I would put the Ayre's CD performances even above the mighty Esoteric X-03SE or Wadia 381i, yes it's that good.

However, I was a little disappointed with the SACD performance of the DX-5. Compared to the excellence of the CD performance, the few hybrid SACDs that I have sounded soft, and slightly muted compared against the CD playback. While it still have that lovely refined mid range density of Ayre's sonic signature, it suffered from being just slightly on the overripe side of things. For some, and their systems it may find favour, but not in mine. I did not have any DVD-A format disc to play on this player.
The back lit remote with way too many buttons!

Taken on the whole, this Ayre DX-5 tries to be the Jack of all digital tricks, but ends up being the master of one(I did mentioned that it's CD playback is beyond superb! Well, master of two if you count it's excellent Blu-ray picture quality). I guess it would make perfect sense for those, who like Odiosleuth, have an integrated A/V & stereo system in one room, where the Ayre would do the duties of DVD, Blu-ray and CD play back with near perfection. SACD playback is an Achilles heel for Ayre, which after comparing to the superb CD playback performance, makes one naturally to expect more, given a superior disc format?

And lastly, for those who have migrated to CAS like me, may be left a little disappointed that the DX-5 did not read files off a passive data carrier like a thumb drive. For the money, priced at RM$38k, I would have expected Ayre to include the CAS audio file decoding(of FLAC, AIFF or WAV) engine inside the DX-5. However Ayre does not seem to think so?
The back panel of the Ayre DX-5, note the built in fan, which is noiseless when in use. The thick, informative owner's manual is a must read before you start playing around!

What ever the reason, the Ayre DX-5 is probably the perfect A/V Engine, for today's disc bound, high end A/V and stereo enthusiast, with a view for future CAS compatibility.

Ayre is sold by Hi-Way Laser, contact Kenny at 03-78738325 or 019-2813399.

May 3, 2011

AV Designs' Definitive A/V cum Music System

Since I missed out on the launch of AV Designs' recently re-modelled main A/V room a few weeks ago (see Big E's post on March 23 "AV Designs Receives Award Of Excellence From PMC"), I decided to make a trip to see for myself the state-of-the-art setup.

The room was big and was tastefully and elaborately done up. The acoustic treatment was extensive and was cleverly incorporated into the room's deco, the liberal use of wood lent it a sense of class and warmth.

The front view. The screen is a Screen Research 126", curved 2.35:1 format screen. Hidden behind the screen doing centre channel duty is a PMC MB2 Active loudspeaker, which is equal to the top half of the 2 behemoths you see beside the screen, they are the PMC MB2-XBD Active loudspeakers.

The seats and the JVC DLA-RS60 3D Projector hung from the ceiling. Note also the wooden strips installed at the ceiling as diffusers

The side walls are also acoustically treated with a combination of absorption (the grey material) and diffusion (glass and wood)

The entire system is driven with a mind-boggling array of hardware, hidden behind two panes of door at the side of the room. You'd see a lot of Bryston-PMC power amps and crossover units for the active Left-Centre-Right channels.
For home theatre, there are the Pioneer SC-LX83 AV Receiver, Pioneer BDP-LX91 Blu-ray player and a Lumagen Radiance XS-3D Video Processor.
For 2-channel music, there are the TAD D600 disc player and the Bryston BP-26 pre-amp.

A Panamorph DC1 Horizontal Expansion Lens is placed in front of the projector to stretch the image to 2.35:1 format

The loudspeaker system consists of a pair of PMC MB2-XBD Active for stereo and a PMC MB2 for centre, ...

six pieces of PMC Wafer 2 for surround, and...

a pair of PMC TLE1 Subwoofers.

I also understand that this is the first A/V demo installation in Malaysia that does 2.35:1 format in 3D (note that this is different from the normal 16:9 format).

James first run a few concert Blu-rays as demo. The wide panoramic format created a sense of envelopment for the viewers. The resolution is of the usual high quality from AV Designs, the colours were punchy yet natural.

JVC's active (it has a battery embedded in the frame) 3D glasses required for 3D effect

James then switched to a 3D demo using the 3D Blu-ray version of Avatar. Rather than the battle scenes, he chose the subtle opening scene and the rich visual of Jake's first foray into the forest. The 3D effect was much better than what I got from watching this movie in a local cinema. The dimensionality and depth in the visual was amazing. There were also an explosion of details, I thought I could count every leaf on every tree in the forest scene if I had wanted to!

To close out the session, James played us some CDs. This system played stereo at a very high level too. The sound was very detailed and well balanced. it was also fast, impactful and dynamic when required. The bass was the best, it was punchy, well defined, and done without any overhang.

If you do visit AV Designs, this is an experience not to be missed.

Call AV Designs' James Tan 03-21712828 for a demo