June 5, 2011

AIME At Home.

 The system view.

We've visited CK's home a few times now, with each visit, he drifts a little more towards the obvious! More and more Audio Image range of products gets added in to his room. Now the migration is complete he says! CK invited us over for a listen to what is likely the final destination of his system building journey(really? Are you sure CK?). 
This Clearaudio Ambient turn table has been modified to accept a Schroeder tone arm, which is highly modified with use of AIME brass counter weight and head shell, to mount the Clearaudio Stradivari V2 MC cartridge. 

Let's go in to his system detail a bit since we last visited, Clearaudio Ambient turntable, check. Marantz SA11S1, changed to Lindermann CD1 player. AIME phono stage, check. Nagra PLL pre amp, check. VAL 845 mono block power amp, changed to Odessey Stratos Extreme. Audio Physic Scorpio, changed to AP Medea! There are plenty more minute changes which we will mention later.

For CK, his belief in finding the right dealer and sticking with him through out the journey of hifi system building seems to have paid off.  Lovers of the black arts called vinyl will be familiar enough with that hifi shop called Audio Image. The shop owner Adrian, is quite the tweaker himself, and possibly the only other person I'd trust to mount my ultra expensive cartridge(if I bought one that is!). Lately Adrian has been busy, dreaming up new products for his house brand called AIME. They include phono stages, transformer based power line conditioners and energisers, isolation boards and cables. I asked Adrian, what does AIME stands for? "Audio Image Musical Experience" he answered. He further advise that AIME is pronounced as AIM(the E is silent), and not AI-ME as more popularly thought. Yes, Adrian's products aims to bring you a musical experience each time you turn on your hifi for some music.
The AIME phono stage, with separate power supply chassis. It also come with a remote controlled multi EQ curves selection. The black board that all of CK's equipment sits on is the "famously mysterious" AIME isolation board. It's highly affordable too, apparently. 

The system starts with a Lindemann CD1 for digital and a Clearaudio Ambient turn atble, using a highly modified Schroeder tone arm mounted with Clearaudio Stardivari V2 MC cartridge. The vinyl system is then supported by a 2 pc AIME phono stage, equipped with remote controlled multi EQ curves. The hifi chain also includes the lovely sounding Nagra PLL pre amp and lastly, an Odessey Startos Extreme power amp(Extreme spec amps get beefed up power supply and uses boutique brand audiophile grade parts). The mouth of the system is a pair of the early Audio Physic flagship Medea speakers, which features the famed Manger transducer driver all round(in the front baffle and both the side panels). 
The Lindermann CD 1 CD player sitting on Clearaudio Magix magnetic levitation device for total isolation. Note the external power supply units at the bottom shelf, the black one on the left is for the Lindermann and the silver one on the right is an SMPS(Switch Mode power Supply) for the Nagra PLL pre amp.

CK uses only AIME products(where possible) for all his auxiliary equipment, such as the transformer based power line conditioner, volt meter, power strip, all cables in the system and isolation boards. Equipment support is courtesy of Finite Element Spider, with full Ceraball footing and interface. Clearaudio Magix magnetic levitation devices are used for the Lindermann CD1.
This top loading Lindermann CD1 uses a modified Philips CD Pro transport, internally suspended on 3 points, much like a Linn Sondek LP12 turn table.

All AIME cables, which are terminated with European sourced silver cable stocks and WBT plugs can be order in single or "shot gun"(as shown here) configuration. My personal experience suggest that for a little more $$$, the "shot gun" version always wins, in sound quality terms.
From top: AIME transformer based power line conditioner, power energiser, power strip. All power cables are also supplied by AIME.
The tube based Nagra PLL pre amp, inputs on the left and output on the right, because of internal straight line circuit design, which obviously benefits the sound.

We started the listening session with some CD play back. The sound is lush and organic, with much refined highs and reaccessed mids. The bass has a supple quality too. The sound is totally devoid of digitalis syndrome. However some might find this kind of presentation just too polite, perhaps?

The vinyl source proved superior in this set up. With much more conviction and faster transient response. The vinyl source is less dark sounding too. The highs is airier and just as refined, the mids lucid and warm with density that one you'd expect from a top drawer vinyl play back system. The bass is well defined and tuneful, which shows the speaker set up skills, considering the AP Medea(with 10 inch bass drivers) is no small speaker in a room measuring only 10 x 13ft. By the way, the room is bare and un treated in anyway, except for a front wall curtain and regular home furnishing items, like the rug on the floor. CK used to be big in to resonant cups and Shun Mook tuning, but has come to realised that a well set up high end system can sound better with less "Ajinomoto"(a famous Japanese food MSG brand).

The Odessey Stratos Extreme power amp is excellent value for money. Some call it the poor man's Soulution, only because it sounds much like the later but only cost 1/10 the price. However, it's price tag(at RM$10k or so) is clearly entry level high end.

The sound stage provides excellent perception of both width and depth. The sound is room filling and is satisfyingly musical. The imaging properties are not as clearly outlined as some(just a little blurred on the edges), but is dense and just as believable. I believe this is a characteristic of the speaker, which radiates sound from all sides of the box, much like the MBL 101 Radialstrahler system. The system is highly transparent and will reveal the recordings faults for better or worst.
The Audio Physic Medea is the former flagship prior to the Kronos. It uses 3 Manager transducer drivers for all round sound field dispersion. This gives an immersion effect and throws a believe able sound stage, however imaging is not as pin point as normal box speaker designs.

CK seems to be satisfied with his system(for now) and is just happy to enjoy the music. He has spent much time and resources to reach this high level of playing field and wants to reap the happy ending. However, I just have this suspicious feeling, from one audiophile to another, that he'll want further improvement after a while. After all sonic conquest and lust for better sound is an audiophile thing, that comes naturally! Ha! Ha! 


GCK said...

Big E, thanks for the visit and the review. Yes, your suspicion is correct. I am always looking to improve my sound system and when resources permit, I will be upgrading again. I am taking a breather and enjoy the music as you mentioned.

By the way, the CD "polite" sound is tuned that way to have more CDs listenable. But further tuning on the Magic2 footers now have a more dynamic and convincing presentation.

Your comment on the Medea is spot on. A friend suggested that this speakers need more breathing space and the sidewalls should not be cluttered like mine now. So work is in progress now to clear the sidewalls from the records and furniture. Got some IKEA racks to store the CDs and records at the back wall instead.

Big E said...


Just thinking out a loud from one audiophile to another. No worries, enjoy your journey and take your time.

I am happy that you're putting more work on your system. Like all other systems, there's always a little bit more performance to be squeezed out. I admire your dedication in the persuit of great sound.