August 31, 2011

Digital Tour de Force - Wadia 571 CD Transport, 931 Digital Controller, 922 Mono Decoding Computers

This set of Wadia is breaking all the records at Hifi Unlimited.

In the foreground of the photo, from left to right, Wadia 931 Digital Controller, 2 pieces of Wadia 922 Mono Decoding Computers and Wadia 571 CD Transport

Firstly, it is the one system component, in this case a digital frontend, that consists of the most number of pieces. We are used to seeing a CD player coming in 2 pieces, such as a transport plus a DAC or a CD player plus an external power supply. However, this Wadia system goes a couple more steps further – it comes in 4 pieces. There is the Wadia 571 CD transport; the Wadia 931 digital controller; and 2 pieces of Wadia 922 mono Decoding Computers. ‘Decoding Computer’ is what Wadia calls their top of the line DAC.

Secondly, weight. The Wadia 571 CD transport alone weighs 24kg. The weight of the others was not mentioned in their spec sheets but I would venture to guess that the Wadia 931 Digital Controller would be about 20kg and the Wadia 922 mono DAC about 15kg each. That makes a grand total of 70-80kg (150-175lbs) worth of muscle, all this to play a CD that is less than 20g in weight. I was lucky to have a couple of friends helping me to carry them up to my listening room, helping me to unpack and set up, repacking them again and bringing them back to the CMY.

The weight is no doubt contributed by the solid aluminium enclosure that makes up each box, giving them a bomb-proof solidity that inspires confidence. I am sure these heavy weight enclosures made the Wadia system immune to all external vibration and all sorts of mechanical interference.

Thirdly, price. Hold on to your chairs - the Wadia quartet costs a total of RM174,880. It has set the record as the most expensive hifi component we ever write about on hifi-unlimited.

I had no rack space to house the 4 heavy boxes, so they go onto the floor. Having the Wadia system spread out in front of me thus was awe-inspiring and intimidating, to say the least. The first thing for me to do was to deal with the technology that went into these impressive pieces. It was no longer as simple as hooking up the powercords and the interconnects, load a CD, press play and you’d get music. Well, the powercord part still applied, each piece of gear needed its own power, so the owner would have to come up with 4 power outlets and 4 powercords. The analogue interconnects were still needed too, going from the analogues output of the 922 mono Decoding Computers to the pre-amp, or straight to the power amp if you desire ( the Wadia 931 comes with digital pre-amp function).

In-between the Wadia 571, 931 and 922, Wadia applied their technology and connecting scheme. Everything is strung together not with metal cables but glass fibre optic cables, supplied together with each component.

Wadia 931 Digital Controller

Let’s start with the Wadia 931 Digital Controller which acts as the heart of the system. The 931 Digital Controller essentially functions like a digital pre-amp - it has multiple digital inputs, which support up to 24bits/96kHz (which we also confirmed by streaming digital music files from a Bryston BDP-1). Wadia says on its website that provisions have been made for the 931 to accept 24/192 data when a standardized input is agreed upon. The 931 has a 100-step volume control implemented in the digital domain allowing you to bypass an analogue pre-amp. More importantly, the 931 supports two established Wadia jitter-reduction technologies: RockLok and ClockLink. I quote Wadia: “RockLok is Wadia’s proprietary circuit that uses cascaded Phase-Locked-Loops (PLL) to recover the clock signal from the incoming data. RockLok produces a low-jitter clock signal from any standard digital source and can be used with all sources that comply with industry standards. With ClockLink, the clock signal embedded in the incoming data stream is ignored in favor of a local crystal oscillator. This requires that the source component be synchronized to the 931 Digital Controller via a ClockLink output. Any of the inputs can be user-configured for either ClockLink or RockLok mode”.

On the left side of the back panel are the digital inputs, which consist of 1 AES/EBU (XLR), 1 optical, 2 SPDIF (BNC) and 2 ST glass fibre optic
At the centre is a ST glass fibre optic connection for clock output to the transport
On the right side are eight configurable clock and digital outputs to go to the DACs

In use, two fibre optic cables lead from the Wadia 931 Digital Controller to each of the Wadia components, one cable carrying the clock data, and the other the music’s data stream. So with the 571 CD transport and the two 922 mono Decoding Computers, we have a grand total of six fibre optic cables being used, as you can see in the photo below.

The Series 9 components are Wadia’s top dog, however CMY has not gotten the 971 CD transport. It has its junior, the 571 CD transport instead, and that is how we use this Wadia set.

Wadia 571 CD Transport

The ClockLink and digital outputs at the back of the Wadia 571 CD Transport

The Wadia 922 mono Decoding Computers have only fibre optic inputs, which means that they must be mated with the 931 Digitial Controller. It has both RCA and XLR analogue outputs. The proprietary DigiMaster 1.4 decoding software employed comes with a sampling rate of 2.8224Mhz and a digital resolution of 26bits.

Wadia 922 mono Decoding Computer. The analogue outputs consist of 1 RCA and 1 XLR. The digital inputs consists of 2 fibre optic, 1 for digital clock and the other for the digital music stream

I started my listening after a day of continuous playing to warm the components up. They were barely warm to the touch after that. I first compared the sound of going through my Pass Labs pre-amp and without. Sans pre-amp, the big improvement was in the treble region, which sounded more detailed and cleaner. For example cymbal hits were more distinct from one to another. With pre-amp, the portrayal was a little muddier. On the other hand, with pre-amp, music had a little fuller body and a little more colourful (or some may call colouration, whichever way you want to see it). Both presentations were good. If you wanted to hear everything clearly, go without a pre-amp. At the end of the day, I decided to do my listening with the pre-amp in the chain.

The Wadia system never put a foot wrong in the 2 weeks I had them. Every piece of music was produced with complete technical excellence. I had the impression that everything on the silver disc was completely dug up for the presentation; nothing could escape the laser sharp analytical capability of the Wadia.

The Wadia turned up the system’s transparency a few notches, the window on the music was wide open. Separation and focus were both very good. There was no blurriness or smearing anywhere from top to bottom. The width and depth definition of the soundstage conjured up with the Wadia was excellent. The wealth of details allowed all the ambient cues to be heard. Listening to orchestral music, every section was nicely delineated, following the playing was made very easy.

The dynamic expression of the Wadia was impressive too. Passages ranging from whisper quiet to thunderously loud never fazed the Wadia quartet, it went up and down the dynamic scale with ease. Bass performance was one of the very best I have heard in my system. It was tight and punchy. The slightly lean bass characteristic, rather than the ‘phat’ kind, allowed the bass line to be followed easily.

Adding to the flawless performance of the Wadia system was the level of refinement to the sound. The smoothness will allow one to listen on and on for hours without listening fatigue.

The Wadia system portrayed the truth encoded in digital recordings, it did not embellish. I feel that to get the best from this combination, you’d have to partner them with the best, anything that has any hint of dryness or too squeaky clean further down the chain should be avoided, as the Wadia's sound had no excesses, and those qualities in the others will be exposed for what they are.

The combination of Wadia 571 CD Transport, 931 Digital Controller and 922 Mono Decoding Computers are at the forefront of digital technology. If you are shopping at this exalted level, there are but very few choices. With Wadia, you’d be certain that you won’t miss anything on your discs.

Wadia is carried by CMY. To listen to this Wadia combo, call CMY Damansara Uptown 03-77272419

August 30, 2011

Wedging Wall. Auralex Studiofoam Wedges.

After listening to my system, a senior audiophile of "sifu" status told me that I should consider re-doing rear wall treatment, consisting of commercial acoustic foam panels and Auralex MetroFusor diffusor panels. His comment was that my back wall didn't seem to disappear enough, i.e. there's still some 2nd or 3rd deflection points, reducing the imaging stability("tein wai" in Cantonese speak) of my sound stage!

He reckons that I should just get rid of all my diffuser panels and just use Auralex Studiofoam Wedges all over instead. I headed to Centre Circle Audio the very next day and came home with 2 pieces of 2 x 4 ft Studiofoam Wedges. I went straight ahead and ripped out all my previous panels in the rear wall and proceeded to trial the Auralex Wedges panels. I stuck them to my rear wall with temporary mounting tapes and had the 2 x 4 ft panels on the horizontal side by side, to form a 2 x 8 ft black panel right behind my listening throne(sofa).

Auralex Studiofoam Wedges.

I proceeded to play some music and noted a much more silent, blacker back ground within the sound stage. However, I also noted that my high frequencies were rolled off a whole lot more than I liked too, seemingly absorbed by the Wedges. Music was lifeless, dull and boring! I guess I had overdone the Wedges panels.

Next I used only one piece of the 2 x 4 ft Wedges panel, I stuck it right in the middle of the wall, right behind the listening throne, where my head would be if I were seated, then proceeded to introduced back the Auralex MetroFusor diffusor panels measuring 2 x 2 ft  at both ends of the Wedges panel. See picture below for the final configuration.

My final back wall treatment configuration Auralex MetroFusor-Auralex Studiofoam Wedges-Auralex MetroFusor.
 I proceeded to play music again, and this time it's bliss! I managed to get the silent, black back ground for stronger imaging properties within the sound stage, and yet, did not have to suffer much rolled off high frequencies. A bonus was that because of the improved staging stability, I could also perceive deeper in to the layers of the sound stage, something of a weakness in my system previously. I did not lose any musicality, or rhythm and pace as experience just before. I listened for a few more days, and well convinced about the improvements I heard with various recordings, I applied the wall adhesives to the Auralex panels and made this my permanent back wall treatment. By the way, in case you're wondering, a piece of 2 x 4 ft Auralex Studiofoam Wedges cost RM$190.00, small money for great results(for me at least)!

In case you're wondering if you should do the same, I can only say that you should at least give it a try!

Auralex Acoustics is sold by Centre Circle Audio, contact Sky, or Nelson at 03-77282686.

August 29, 2011

The Passing Of A Hifi Ambassador "Sub" Par Excellence, The Late Victor Wong.

Hifi buddies! From Left, Chan & Eng of Sound Precision, Erik Goh & Unker Vic(in red), bloggers of H1F1 Pandemic. This picture was taken at the KLIAV 2010.

In case you're wondering, the Ambassador "Sub" Par Excellence pun on the tittle was truly meant to be intended! As you shall read on.

I received the sad news about the passing of Victor Wong, otherwise popularly know as Unker Vic, to those dear to him, yesterday morning. Just who is Unker Vic if you have to ask?

I came to know Unker Vic since 2003 when I applied for a KLANS(Kuala Lumpur Audio NutS) Internet forum membership. Unker Vic, the forum moderator, swiftly responded to my enquiry and vetted my entry requirements. The very next day or so, I was at his place listening to his hifi set up with a pair of stereo subs. It was an amazing system that's worth many times it's "sonic"(as Unker Vic used to say!) returns for what little investment that he had put in. It was early days yet for the both of us, I was a green horn, hifi young turk, just starting my journey in to high end dome. An experienced Unker Vic was just starting his investigative journey, that would lead to his obsession with sub woofers and it's integration black arts in to high end hifi system.

Many a young turks, I am sure, like my self, have been  indoctrinated similarly in to the world of high end hifi by this passionate hifi ambassador. He would share his hifi contacts, knowledge and wisdom with us newbies without hesitation. Along the way Unker Vic added more subs to his hifi arsenal, last heard thru the grape wine, he had 10 subs firing inside his 10 x 7 ft listening room with amazing results to boot!(I know, I know, it sounds absurd, all that SPL in that tiny room!) which I did not, and will probably not get the chance to experience.

Over the years, I've shared many light hearted moments with Unker Vic over our favourite Nasi Lemak, Beef Rendang mamak store near his place, followed by a demo of his latest servo clock tweak, or yet another sub woofer addition. I can't say it was a celebration every time, nor do I exactly agree with all his ideas, but we always knew where we stand and for that, he'll will always have my deepest respect.

Ever the person of un-conventional ideas, mostly deemed controversial amongst the conservative high end circles, which has not endeared many to his hifi actions and thoughts. However Unker Vic is not a vengeful person, his passion for great sound and pictures(he's quite an accomplished photographer too, championing the use of Olympus 4/3 lens system over more conventional products) carries him with thru dignity and pride, never losing sight of his goals to accomplish the next level of attainable performance. 

The Malaysian hifi and photography scene will surely miss Unker Vic's enthusiastsm, vigour and passion.

August 26, 2011

10 Qs For Franck Tchang Of Acoustic System International.

It's always a pleasure to talk to Franck Tchang. He's always chirpy and is a burst of energy away, but you'll never quite know when it happens, however it's almost guaranteed that it will. Let's see what's he been up to lately:

Big E: Franck, welcome back! How's you year been?

FT: Like always, BUSY!

Big E: What's your latest project?

FT: I've been expanding my product range, which now includes a Grand mono power amp and wait! My most out standing product to date, a Live Line pre amp! He switches on his iphone to log on the net where he showed me this picture below:

Big E: Wow! It's a two piece preamp, but I am not sure if I should say this, but it's looks kinda reminds me of a Goldmund?

FT: Goldmund??? Ha! Ha! Ha!......... Any resemblance to "that" brand is purely coincidental! Most modern day pre amp will nearly always have two knobs and a display in between right?

Big E: O.K. then, styling aside, tell me why this is your most outstanding product to date?

FT: Actually, this pre amp and it's matching power amp is the collaboration effort with a buddy of mine, whose work is designing and manufacturing precision medical instruments. Hifi is his hobby, and he became very excited when I told him I wanted him to help me design amplifiers. Basically, he's in to the technical bits, like circuitry, parts selection and specifications. I am just the "Golden Ear" in this project. At every developmental stage, the pre and power amp has been brought to me for listening trials, and he'll tweak the circuitry based on my feedback. For me, the transient response must be instantaneous, and it's output impedance is only 30 ohms, which makes it easy to match any power amp out in the market today. The voltage swing of the pre amp is 18V RMS, giving virtually live like dynamics swing of "live" music. The pre amp also has the lowest of measured THD in to the widest of bandwidth. The sound of the Live Line pre amp is quite like nothing you've heard in the high end market today, it's very special!

Big E: Tell us a bit more about the Grand mono power amp, is it class A biased?

FT: I don't really care if it's class A, A/B or D. What's important is how it sounds. The Grand monos are design to drive the most demanding of speaker loads with a damping factor of 10,000 from 20Hz to 20kHz! It delivers 2400W @ 8ohms, and will double it's output when down to 2 ohms. It's signal to noise ratio is 120dB to cater to the wide band width requirements of today's hi-rez music sources.

Big E: When do I get to hear it, the pre/power amps?

FT: When CMY Audio & Visual orders them for the Malaysian market, which they will! For more information, go to

Big E: Speaking of hi-rez files played on CAS(Computer Audio System), what's your opinion on them?

FT: Computer audio definitely sounds good with the right hi-rez music files. I am more in favour of native hi-rez than up sampled hi-rez, only because I believe that you can't get something out of nothing! A 16 bit file is still 16 bit in resolution, no matter how much up sampling you apply.

Big E: Now that DSP room correction is gaining popularity, do you think there's a future for mechanical or physical room tune products?

FT: Well......., over the years, DSP room correction has come..... gone....... come....... gone...... coming....... again??? Who knows if this is just another false start, like the few previous times! I tell you a dirty little industrial secret, did you know that some of those manufacturers who include DSP room correction features in their amps and processors also used my resonance tuning cups(hidden of course!), in their CES and Munich High End Show demo rooms? Now, what does that tell you?

Big E: Enlighten me please, why you think DSP room correction doesn't work?

FT: Acoustics and sound is physics, which you can't fix electronically. Frequency response is smooth in transition(much like a sine wave) and when you start chopping off parts of the peaks or dips, you not only get a saw tooth like response, much like a digital sine wave, you also get timing and phase errors. It is only thru resonance tuning, where the excess bass energy converted or shelved up wards in frequency to decay away as controlled resonance is most effective, because it does not induce timing or phase errors in the process. Remember that resonance is an energy that can only be effectively transferred mechanically.

Big E: How is the high end audio market in Europe at the moment?

FT: It's actually quite depressing in Europe at the moment. The Germans are about the only ones left spending money on high end audio at this time. The French and British are mostly nibbling on the entry and mid level products. The only bright spot in the high end audio market at this point in time is Russia and Asia! That's why you see so many brand principals spending their summer holidays here, in KLIAV 2011. Ha! Ha!

John(of CMY Audio & Visual) reminded Franck that is was time for his next resonance cup tuning demo session and it was back to work for the man! As for me, I have another person to talk to, stay tune for another 10Qs session!

August 24, 2011

A Great Chinese Jazz Album

Lynn Lee "Jazz Light Year" sampler (click to play)

We witnessed her great performance at the recent "The Jazzy Sounds of Teresa Teng" musical showcase and now her debut solo album is available, exclusively licensed to local audiophile label Pop Pop Music!

Lynn Lee is a veteran musician, backing vocalist, singer-songwriter in Taiwan. She has worked with almost anyone, the who's who in the Taiwan's pop industry.

Her experience in vocals is shown gloriously in this album. Lynn's tone is nothing to shout about but her singing and improvisation skills is great. She flirts, teases and plays with her voice to great effect. We can't think of a more "playful" Jazz vocalist.

The album covers a couple of Bai Guang and Teresa Teng classics, played in Bossa Nova styles. The most outstanding track is Lynn's duet with her daughter (17 year-old Peace Loh) in the 2nd track, "May Flower". It is a great song with mother and mum singing in perfect harmony!

The recording is only so-so. Knowing Leslie Loh, we guess he doesn't give two hood about recording if the music is good. The fact that he licensed it exclusively for Malaysia shows that he is confident that it will do well with his legion of supporters.

It is very rare we get good Chinese Jazz albums, it is exciting to see them coming to Malaysian shore under a strong label! Support!

August 23, 2011

Static Magneto, Walker Audio Talisman.

"Tweaks, can't live without em". Said the fellow audiophile who told me to try this, a Walker Audio Talisman. It seems like some kind of of a system demagnetiser, Walker Audio calls it a magnetic optimizer. A read thru the manual suggest that it could be used to demagnetise all kinds of disc based music software, like LP and CD, but not magnetic tapes, or in my case flash drives! There's also caution not to use it on top of sensitive electronic equipment, like a modern pre-amp with chip based remote control facility. Otherwise, I guess it is save to use the Talisman on stuff like speakers, CD players, power amps and cables, especially power cords! Apparently, the effects of the Talisman only last one session, which is fine if you don't like the post treatment results. Should you like the results it brings to the sonics, you'll have to make it a part of your system power up ritual.

I didn't have the time to try much, except on a few items. First, I tried on an LP, the instruction manual cautions about doing this on the left side of your turn table, away from your expensive MC cartridge! Post Talisman treatment, I noted that the particular LP, a Jon Bon Jovi album, New Jersey, had taken on a harsher, dryer, if some what more dynamic sound. Clicks and pops seemed more prominent too! I am not sure why, but I certainly much prefer the more permanent effects of the Milty Zerostat 3 gun, which is my usual static treatment, if required. If this does not seemed good at all, I also happened to noticed many high end audiophiles who use the Talisman for their LP static treatments. YMMV is certainly at play here.

The Walker Audio Talisman is a demagnetiser of some sort, with various magnets of different polarities and strength lined up inside.

Next, I tried the Talisman effect on my PMC Fact 8 speakers, which the manual cautions to do the treatment about half an inch over the drivers with the speaker silent, i.e. no music should be playing at the time of treatment. Post treatment result on the speaker is a whole lot more positive this time. I heard subjectively improved scaling of dynamic range, and better focus of instrument placing, and more stable vocalist mouth. It's quite a feast for the vocal fetish ed audiophile.
This is the underside(treatment side) of the Talisman, the magnets are covered by a layer of thick static velvet material.

Next, I tried it on my audio interconnects right after the speaker treatment. The post treatment result suggest similar improvements of the very same qualities noted earlier, mostly even more dynamic scaling capabilities, both on the micro and macro side, accompanied by markedly etched imaging qualities, with very strong and hardened out lines. At this point, I think I might have gone over board with the powers of the Talisman. The good thing is, the effects only last a session, and by the end of the 2 hour listening session, the effects of the Talisman over done appeared to have been reduced. By the next session, everything was fine and dandy again!
My interconnects receiving the Talisman treatment, just move the it along the cable surface in an side to side motion, from start to end point following the signal direction.

The Walker Audio Talisman cost RM$750.00 a piece. I think using the Talisman at some point in the audio chain will prove useful, but to use it all over may be too much of a good thing. Like all good things, moderation is key. I very much liked the effects of the Talisman treatment over my speakers, and it is easy enough to incorporate as a system power up ritual without much fuss. Like the fellow audiophile who told me to try this, I'd like to add a bit more, "try the Talisman at your own risk!"

Walker Audio is sold by Acoustic Arts, contact Lawrence at 03-80235708.

August 21, 2011

Old and New at CMY

Vinyl fans now have more to look out for when they visit CMY. CMY has added used LPs to its software section at its main showroom in Sungai Wang and its branch in Damasara Uptown.

The music software section of CMY Damansara Uptown. The used LPs are neatly kept in drawers, there are hundreds to choose from

The other thing I found interesting was the mini hifi from BRIK, a Taiwanese outfit. The 4-model strong line-up in CMY consists of a DAC, a phono stage, an integrated amplifier, and an internet radio. What's gonna be attractive to someone just starting out or someone looking for a small system for the kids will be the price - each unit apprently comes in at the sub-RM1k point.

The BRIK components contrasted with a CD, see how mini they are?

I took a short listen at the BRIK internet radio. All you need is an internet connection, either wired or WIFI, and you will have access to thousnads of radio stations globally. The choices are mind boggling. We played a few BBC and American stations into Jeff Rowland pre-power and a pair of ProAc loudspeakers, overkill admittedly, but the sound quality was pretty damn good!

The BRIK internet radio

To check them out, please call CMY Damansara Uptown 03-77272419.

August 20, 2011

10 Qs For Philip Swift, MD, Spendor Audio Systems Ltd.

Dick Tan, Organising Chairman of the KLIAV 2011 tells me that I should meet Philip Swift, now MD of Spendor Audio Systems Ltd, a veteran of the British hifi industry, and a man of many amazing stories! So I went and have coffee with him at the JW Marriot pool side terrace.

Big E: Philip, tell us younger ones a little bit more about yourself?

PS: Where should I start??? Let's see.....Now I was one of the founding members of Audiolab UK in the 1980's. You know about that brand, do you?

Big E: Yes, very much so, the Audiolab 8000A was an amp that I aspired to. Can you tell us what happened to Audiolab and how it ended up in Chinese hands?

PS: I'd rather not comment too much about that, but since you asked, I sold Audiolab to Tag Maclaren on the premise of their technology available, and what they could do to bring Audiolab to greater success. However, the market did not respond well to their radical ideas(at the time) about what high end audio should be. They subsequently sold Audiolab to the owners today, which is the IAG group.

Big E: How about Spendor then? How did you get involved?

PS: I've been really close to Spencer Hughes(who started Spendor with his wife Dorothy. He previously worked at the BBC's sound engineering department, and had a hand in the design of the classic LS3/5A monitor) when I was a young lad. I didn't have much money, but I saved, and did some part time work at Spendor that time. I used to have pairs of Spendor speakers with serial no.001 and 002 at home to try out. That's how close I was with the people at Spendor prior to setting up Audiolab. Some time after I left Audiolab, I heard that Spencer Hughes had departed and his son, Derek was running the company, he asked me if I could help out. Gradually, I ended up owning Spendor, which was far, far from my wildest dreams! I'd never thought one day, that I'd be in charge of Spendor.

Big E: What's your opinion of the LS3/5A monitor today?

PS: The LS3/5A monitor was a class 2 monitor, which was designed to be used in small places like a broadcast van to monitor speeches. I am not quite sure how it ended up being used as a hifi loudspeaker, but it's a very good one at that, even though the design had it's limitations like, it wouldn't go very loud, or did not have wide dynamic range. However, it was excellent with the human voices and most people can relate to a well re-produced human voice. There's still demand out there for speakers with the LS3/5A heritage today, and that's why Spendor today have the S3/5R2 which is the spiritual successor to the much revered classic, albeit with modern day drivers and x-over parts.

Big E: Do you agree that Britsh hifi, speakers in particular have their own distinct sound?

PS: Yes, I do some what agree with that statement in regards to some of the older British speakers. However, today's British speakers aim to be just as realistic sounding as all other speaker manufacturers.

Big E: Do you think that the characteristic warm mid range of British speakers is due to the use of Bextrene cone material?

PS: In the past, that would probably be logical due to the way Bextrene stores and releases energy within the cone it self. The latest Bextrene cone materials are very well damped and will store very minimal amount of energy. That reduces the time smearing factor, which contributed to the warm mid range impression of the older designs.

Big E: What about tweeter designs, much fuss have being made about the use of exotic material such as diamond and beryllium amongst others, is Spendor looking in to exotic materials for tweeters as well?

PS: I would agree that the new exotic materials do have their benefits, such as very high frequency break up point. I think they are more for marketing purposes than anything else, the prestige factor, if I may say so. However, for us at Spendor, we'd like to focus more on the frequencies that we, human beings can hear.

Big E: That means Spendor still based tweeter designs primarily on the silk dome?

PS: Not silk dome exactly, but it's still a composit of woven materials nevertheless.

Big E: What about stiffening the cabinets? What's Spendor's approach to the matter?

PS: Other than the usual bracing methods to the cabinets, we also have a very neat trick. We'd put polypropylene blocks in strategic areas such as at the corner bracing, where the polypropylene block would absorb the coincidental resonance and turn them in to heat.

Big E: How does Spendor plan to bridge the gap between the audiophiles and the non-audiophiles in this wonderful hobby of ours called hifi?

PS: We have the A line of speakers which are of the slim box design, which would allow them to integrate well with modern home decor. They can be used as stereo pair or in an AV system. They perform very well across all musical genres and movies. Our Classic and SA line of speakers targets the typical audiophile requirements, and our new ST line pushes towards aspirational high end taste.

It was getting late and Philip needed to pack for his trip home. I was the last of the many people he spoke to on the last day of KLIAV 2011.

August 18, 2011

Ripp In Peace(RIP)! More CAS Adventures.

O.K., You've decided to step in to the world of CAS(Computer Audio System). What next? You need to decide if you're gonna ripp all your CDs in to you computer or just spend $$$ buying legit hi-rez music files as source? I bet it's gonna be both very likely.

For me, since I am using the Brsyton BDP/BDA-1 digital media player/DAC combo, I won't go in to the lengths of building one's own computer for the purpose of CAS.  Instead, I'd jump right in an look in to music files and the ripp process.

There are various CODEC used for music files out there, but the most popular ones today are likely to be FLAC, WAV, AIFF & APE. So one must decide what CODEC to ripp the CDs with? The next question is which Music Converting software is best? Do they sound any different at all?

I am here to share my bit of experience here. Personally I have done ripps on all 4 of the above mention CODECs, but about 60% of my CDs are ripp with AIFF, with the remaining 40% shared amongst the other three. Amongst the 4 CODECs, I've found WAV and AIFF to sound most neutral with ruler flat frequency response. I've found FLAC to be slightly rolled off on the highs comparing against the earlier mentioned two. APE is my least favorite as it tends to sound a little noisy(hiss) in the back ground. However I am talking about high end aspirations here, meaning uncompressed 16 bit CD ripps, played back on a suitably capable and revealing enough high end system too, not your average MP3 jobs played back on ipod! I suspect that for most, it wouldn't quite matter anyway, other than us anal audiophiles!

Next, I'll go in to the Music Converting software. There's plenty available for free to down load online, including a trial version of Exact Audio Copy(EAC), which is highly recommended in the CAS forum circles, which I've tried. Then there's dbpoweramp, which was recommended by Bryston, for the BDP/BDA-1 combo users. I ripp a CD twice using WAV on both Music Converting software, but heard absolutely no difference in sound quality what so ever. However, I ended buying the dbpoweramp for one and the only reason, ease of use. The dbpoweramp automatically searches it's data base for an album cover that's been ripp. I find that for most cases(for English tittles at least), it has 80% success rate in finding the album cover. It's rather hopeless with album covers of any other language! So for all my other non-English CD covers, I'd resort to google image search, with reasonable success too. Those that I can't find? Well, there always the scanner solution, but it's another tedious round of work altogether, which I've done for a few of my CD covers by the way.

The one area that dbpoweramp is absolutely hopeless in is when inserting a Copy Right Protected CD to ripp. The ripp will never be completed as it'll always hang in the ripping process. It's nearly 8 months since I started my CAS journey. I've now nearly completed my CD ripping endeavours, only 60 out of nearly 2000 left. Mostly with the hard to find Chinese album covers! Save the best for last I guess.

Over the last few months, one area of CD ripp process that really effect the sound quality of any given CODEC music file is actually the computer power supply, and it's ancillaries, which I'll go in to on my next CAS adventures sharing. Happy Ripping!

August 16, 2011

10 Qs For Gilad Tiefenbrun Of Linn Products Ltd.

I really, really enjoyed my time with Gilad, every time I meet him, there's always something new to learn from this energetic and visionary man. Linn's future is very secured with Gilad as it's Captain. There's lots of energy and ideas bouncing about, some of it, of which I am not allowed to disclose will be a reality in the near future. For Linn, it's exciting times ahead, just like it's latest Songcast multi room/zone concept, let's hear it from the man himself:

Big E: Welcome back, and thanks for the very impressive demo of the Songcast multi zone streaming system. Tell us a little more about it?

GT: Songcast allows multiple Linn DS to work as a 24 bit multi room audio system. For more info see:
Songcast can be accessed via Kinsky, Linn's DS contro app, which one can download for free on the iphone or ipad and other compatible smart phones, allows the popular hand held device to function as a master remote control for a multi zone home audio system, and the best part is, unlike other systems the Kinsky app will select source music from the various Linn DS based audio system and control volume at each individual zone too! Also see:

Big E: What equipment do we need to have to use the Songcast app?

GT: The Songcast app works with all Linn DS equipment, including Majik-DSi and Sekrit-DSi. In a home where more than one DS is used, then all the DS equipment can either broadcast, or receive music source fro one to another. You can even transmit vinyl at 24 bits around the home! The songcast/DS multi zone system will work in either a CAT5 wired home or wireless.

A sample menu of the Kinsky app, a Linn DS interface for easy access to one's music library. Add the Songcast app for multi room/zone control if one has 2 or more Linn DS based systems.

Big E: Are previous versions of DS products compatible with Songcast?

GT: That's an excellent question! Like our Linn Sondek LP12 manufactured since 1973, and up grade able to current spec should one wish, all our Linn DS products are designed to be upgrade able as well. So the Soncast is certainly compatible with older versions of DS. And should one wish to up grade the sound quality of their DS, our latest Dynamik power supply is highly recommended. The Dynamik is the sixth generation of our in house developed switch mode power supply for high end audio applications, which results in fasting transient response time, and lower noise floor and higher head room for music.

Big E: If you could share, what OS is Songcast based on?

GT: Songcast is based on the latest Open Home standards, which you can read more about in Linn is among the first to use this standard, but we believe in 2 or 3 years time, there will be many other manufacturers adopting it.

Big E: That means in future, one does not need Linn DS to use Songcast, but equipment from other hifi manufacturers too, as long they they use the Open Home standards?

GT: Yes, that's the beautiful part!

Big E: How does this all benefit Linn?

GT: It's an obvious convenience to all our customers using the Linn DS, but more importantly now days, we not only target the traditional audiophiles as our customer, we aim to broaden our appeal to a newer generation of music lovers, who are tech savvy and have high expectations for sound quality. And as the market grows, the pie gets bigger. What's good for the overall industry well being is good for Linn. At Linn we're transforming ourselves from a hifi company to a hi-tech music company.

Big E: That's quite visionary! Tell us about your plans in your other business, like Linn radio on the Internet?

GT: The next step is to transmit our programs loss less naturally. However, to do that, we need to invest in CDN, infrastructure to allow for remote hosting. It will certainly improve transmission speed and stability. We are also working with other music companies to include their repertoire in our programs for better variety of music, which also benefits the Linn Records catalog.

Big E: Ah...! Linn Records, I must say that I truly love the recording quality of downloads on offer. I may or may not like the music, but the sound quality of your hi-rez files are consistently first rate, well done! What's in the pipeline for Linn Records?

GT: I was in New York sometime ago, where I met some of the music execs from Universal, Warner, EMI and Atlantic. Yeah, these are the majors in the music industry with thousands of back catalogs and I wanted to present to them our Linn Studio Masters concept. After a brief demo of an MP3 music file and a Studio Master hi-rez file of the same song, most music execs in the room by then had realised, that they have been comoditizing music for the last 25 years, diminishing the intrinsic value of music and their company's stock value along the way! All the music majors except Sony, at this point in time are committed to be on the hi-rez band wagon, and we shall see them committed to re-issuing all their back catalogs progressively on hi-rez, starting next year, that's 2012! The great news is that the hi-rez re-issues will also be available for downloads on Linn Records.

Big E: Speaking of hi-rez downloads, some of my buddies seemed confused about the sampling rates available, that includes 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176 and 192kHz. They have the impression that 88.2 is up sampled from 44.1 and 96 is up sampled from 48, and only 176 or 192 is true hi-rez? Care to enlighten us here?

GT: I think that's audiophile paranoia at work. Ha! Ha! It basically boils down to 2 sampling systems established over the years, and that's 44.1 and 88.2 is the standard used in European recording studios. The Americans used 48 and 96. You can see that both standards double their sampling rates on the higher end, but that doesn't mean 88.2 is up sampled from 44.1, not if it's recorded as native 88.2. Get it? It's the same for 96kHz. I often get demo files in 96kHz and that's native, not up sampled. Another factor that we should also consider is the original source of the music file. We have been recording in stereo for the last 60 years or so. The first 30 years of it up till the early 1980s is all analog master tapes. By 1985 till 1999, most recordings are done on 16bit PCM consoles, and that means the master it self is 16bits, no more. Most post millennium recordings are done on either DSD or 24/96 digital consoles, which means the master is certainly hi-rez. Here is my take, all the old analog recordings on tape can be digitize to hi-rez files of 24/96 or 24/192(which I think is better) and therefore can still be considered bonafide digital hi-rez. The problem lies with recordings done during the 16bit PCM days, which means the 16bit digital master has to be up sampled to be called hi-rez, and I think that's a shame, because really, you can't get what's not on the master in the first place. You can only do your best to prevent loss of information as much as possible. Anyway, I think the difference in sound quality from 96 to 192kHz is difficult to discern, unless one's audio system is truly revealing enough. However, as I mentioned earlier, most new hi-rez files in the pipeline will be using 192 as the default sampling rate.

Big E: And already some people in the industry are talking about sampling rates of up to 384kHz, do you think that's the next logical step for hi-rez?

GT: I think that's the way some people are, always talking about numbers. I don't think we want our hifi and music to be turned in to a numbers game do we? I mean we have all been there before, with amplifier specs at the time when as if Watt, THD and slew rates were any indications of it's musical performance. In fact, I think more importantly is how a recording was made, it's mastering care and transfer process in detail is more important than just the factor of sampling rate alone.

As we speak, there are already more show visitors waiting for Gilad's attention, so off he went for more Linn Songcast & DS system demos. See, it's exciting times ahead for Linn and all of us music lovers with CAS!

August 14, 2011

ARTORA at Centre Circle Audio

Looking for a system for the lounge or the bedroom that looks discreet and matching the deco? Or a system possibly for the youngsters at home? Or just something that sounds good but also looks good?

Check out the newly arrived Artora range at Centre Circle.

Artora is a Danish company, it was formed in 2005 by an architect and a painter. That should explain their products' clean cut and minimalist line.

The unit on the left is the ArtoAmp 150, an integrated amplifier with 75w/150w into 8ohm/4ohm. The twist with this unit is that in addition to its 3 rca inputs, it can connect with bluetooth devices, so that you can stream music to it. Centre Circle Audio can give you a music streaming demo via an iPad.

The one on the right is the ArtoPlayer 1000. It is a CD player.

The pair produced very good sound via a pair of Chario floorstanding loudpspeakers during my recent visit to Centre Circle Audio.

Not having any button on the fascia, their operations are done through the remote or the slogan 'Less Is More' on the top of the units, I leave it to you to find out how that is done when you visit CCA.

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

August 12, 2011

The Ultimate Digital Source! TAD-D600 CD/SACD Player.

Now we all know how much Odiosleuth loved this TAD disc spinner, to the point of suffering from withdrawal symptoms after he had to send it to me! For the 3 of us in Odiosleuth's room that fateful night of 3rd July 2011, listening to the TAD-D600 and C2000 pre amp, powering the Pass Labs XA-60 and a pair of PMC IB2i, will forever change our reference point in the context of super high end audio.

I had a quick run thru the TAD-D600 disc spinner before sending it back to AV Designs and this is my somewhat belated report!(Now that the KLIAV excitement has cooled down) Since Odioslueth has already gone in to great details about the construction and feature count of the TAD, I'll just skip to the bits that mattered.

Using the TAD-D600 disc spinner in place of my resident Bryston BDP/BDA-1 combo is a revelation. I've never thought CD playback technology has marched on this dramatically since I abandoned the format a few months back. The TAD-D600 just loves to spin CD after CD, and I never got jaded or tired listening to it. In fact, the only thing that bothered me a bit was that I keep hearing my system putting it's finger print on to the musical signal, post TAD. I just wished I had the TAD-C2000 pre amp in my system back like that fateful 3rd July night, but alas, it was not to be.

Back to the TAD, the first thing that struck me was like how much micro details it pulled out of that 5 inch silver disc. It kinda reminded me of the Esoteric X-03 SE disc spinner, except that thru the TAD the details were somewhat less "showy", less attention grabbing, but rather of the more organically integrated in to the musical fabric kind of presentation which is hard to beat. There was no noise floor from the TAD to talk about and the back ground of music was pitch dark, allowing the staging and imaging properties to prop out easily. It's hard to talk about the tonality of the TAD too, as it's rather chameleon like in that respect, mostly reflecting the recording that's been played back at the time. With the TAD, the hardware just disappears and leaves the music to work it's magic. I thought the bass quality of the TAD is "sub"liminal(pardon the pun, very much intended!) to as it seems to go a octave or so lower than most other digital source, but not only that, the bass had a supple and non-hollow quality that is very much like an analog source. The mids are highly transparent and at the same time presents vocals with a solidness that some lower end turn tables will find it hard to match! The highs are pristine clear, "airy" in quality and if I may use the pixel for visual analogy, is one of the finest I've heard from any source, digital or otherwise. This lead to a totally au-natural, most grain free, musical presentation I've come across. Limits, if any heard, I think I was listening to the limits of my system rather than the limits of the TAD component, because by now, after repeated listenings in the AV Design's showroom, and at Odiosleuth's place had me convinced that this TAD disc spinner is meant to be partnered with the best ancillaries possible, which are sadly beyond my economic means.

Most CD players which also plays SACD tends to only excel in either format, but never both. This TAD again impressed me with the way it handled SACDs. I've got the odd few SACDs lying around and the TAD played them with much conviction, never before realised in my system, by this fringe, if technically superior format. Via SACD, the TAD-D600 became even more transparent, organic and dynamic. One can almost say that it almost sounded like analog in it's presentation. I played my favorite Jennifer Warnes album, The Well  on SACD. My often used test track, An Ode To Billy Joe was a joy to listening to. The grand piano in the song was well "grand" with all the audiophile licks like pedal noises, and internal mechanical workings being fleshed out like never before. Not only that, the string harmonics and wood resonances of the piano were revealed their full glory. The way Jennifer vocally tease the microphone and her phrasing is very exact in it's portrayal.

I then move on to plug my Bryston BDP-1 in to the TAD-D600, via it's AES/EBU input with the aim to stream some hi-rez files. And my, my, what bounty this little move brings. I first compared by streaming some 16bit CD ripps on AIFF just to check if there's any difference vis-a-vis playing the actual same CD on the TAD transport. I heard no difference what so ever, which is good, because that means my ripps are as good in quality as the high end CD transport playback, or the TAD's transport is just so superior that what ever supposedly weaknesses due to the CD transport design are all but mitigated.

Next I tried streaming some hi-rez FLAC files to the TAD, first some 24/96 then working my way up to 24/192 sampling rates. I am happy to report that the TAD locked on to the incoming digital signals, regardless of sampling rates, first time, every time reliably, unlike some other players that we've tested earlier on. With hi-rez files, I am just transported to hi-rez heaven, if there's such a place here on earth! Forget about hifi and just cut straight in to the musical event being replayed, especially live recordings, which is painted on a big finely textured canvas screen in front of the room and the whole performance just comes alive! The TAD-D600's DAC is just so superior that returning to my regular BDA-1 DAC just left gaps in the same musical event, paint on course canvas(is that slightly nutty Big E talking AV projection here or what? Ha! Ha!) and left me wanting. To be fair, the TAD is nearly 8X the price of the Bryston combo and taken in that context, the Bryston combo can certainly held it's head high, mainly because I never suffered any withdrawal symptoms after sending the TAD-D600 back, but I tell you that was a real close call too(the withdrawal symptoms, that is!).

The thing with TAD is that it does everything it sets out to do the with best of today's digital technology allow able. It's certainly THE best CD & SACD player I've heard to date, what's more, it's an absolute musical time machine with hi-rez material streaming via the Bryston BDP-1. I'd certainly recommend for any body with the financial muscle to consider buying the TAD-D600, to seriously also consider bundling the Bryston BDP-1 in to the purchase for THE Ultimate Digital Source money can buy today!

TAD is sold by AV Designs, contact James, or Tony at 03-21712828.

August 10, 2011

10 Qs For Bartolomeo Nasta, International Sales Of Unison Research.

A very happy Bartolomeo with the Unison Research S6 amplifier. "Your're test driving this baby after the show", he told me!

I met Bartolomeo Nasta at the A&L Audio Station 4th floor demo suite during the KLIAV 2011 show. We barely talked for about 3 minutes and he already struck me like an ol' friend! I grab the opportunity to ask him 10 Qs about Unison Research, tubes, and hifi in general.

Big E: Bartolomeo, your first time to Kuala Lumpur and KLIAV?

BN: Yes, but I am already loving it here already!

Big E: Given that Unison Research deals with tube amps, and there are only so many tube circuitry available for a given tube spec, how does the company keeps coming out with new models every now and then?

BN: Correct, there are already established schematics for any given audio tube available today, we at Unison Research continues to refine on the basic circuitry over the years. You know, like newer parts and tighter tolerances, that sort of thing. In Unison Research, we believe our products have a certain soul to reflect it's Italian-ness. Just like a Ferrari automobile, you know?

Big E: About your statement of Italian-ness. Would you agree that the hifi's sound character reflects their nationality? Like French hifi sounding French, German hifi have a Germanic sound quality, and the British hifi has that unique mid range quality?

BN: I do not quite agree, on the hifi's sounding like their nationality, with the exception of British hifi! They certainly do have their own kind of sound.

Big E: Does Unison Research build everything in house?

BN: We try to keep everything made within 20 kilometers from the factory, which keeps logistics simple. We make almost every thing in house now days, including our amplifier casings, as we operate our own CNC metal cutters too. The only part on the amplifier we don't make in house is the wood inserts. That's made by a carpenter nearby the factory.

Big E: What about NOS tube rolling, what's Unison Research's policy on that?

BN: I am very glad you asked this all important question. I would like to say that many customers have asked, why we do not supply our amps with certain NOS tubes of their choice? The answer would be that it would be too difficult for us to find large enough quantities of NOS tubes to sustain our daily production quantities. And NOS tubes comes in many variations of quality too, which makes QC testing time consuming and too in exact to ensure long term reliability. However, we do understand that in some case, fitting NOS tubes can contribute to better sound of the amps. Hence we are O.K. with it.

Big E: Would fitting NOS tubes, other than those originally supplied, void warranty of the amps?

BN: I'd advise all our customer who intends to fit NOS tubes in to their Unison Research amps write to us by e-mail, provide the product serial no. and tell us the replacement NOS tubes they want to use, we'd advise the customers about the suitability of their intended NOS tube. Alternatively, our customers can also ask our dealers to confirm with us, which is the best way to do it, if the intention is to keep the product warranty in effect.

Big E: Opera loudspeakers, what is Unison Research's relationship with them?

BN: Opera loudspeakers is owned by the same owners of Unison Research, we share the same building, which is partition in to half, we both use the facilities of a university nearby for some research work too.

Big E: Does that means that Unison Research Amplifiers are an instant match to the Opera speakers?

BN: They actually do match very well, but Unison Research amplifiers will power most speakers of average specs decently. Again, I must stress to our customers, if they are unsure about speakers matching, please write us or talk to our dealers, who are more than happy to help.

Another "happy meal" time? I think it must be the Char Koay Tiew that he's having for lunch. I told him that it's stir fried pasta made from rice flour. The man loved his Char Koay Tiew indeed!

Big E: Is it safe to assume that you're running Unison Research amps and Opera loudspeakers at home too?

BN: I have a pair of S9 mono block powering a pair of Opera loudspeakers.

Big E: How is Unison Research bridging the market between audiophile and lifestyle?

BN: I wouldn't say lifestyle, but our Unico range have done very well in the regards of bringing new interest in to the "pleasurable"(this guy says the word like he really means it! No wonder he's a self proclaim lover, not fighter! Ladies look out!) world of hifi. Our classic range continues to draw audiophiles longing for tube sound with a soul.

As lunch time draws to a close, it's back to work for Bartolomeo at the A&L Audio Station demo suite. A quick thanks to Yap and Atven for making this session possible.

August 8, 2011

Take It To The World! The Jazzy Sound Of Teresa Teng Concert.

The Hifi-Unlimited team was out in full force to support ML's latest concert series, The Jazzy Sound Of Teresa Teng. Hifi Maverick, Odiosleuth and Moi(Big E) was among the many familiar faces of the hifi circle. The concert, held in the 400 seat Bentley Auditorium was packed, and the crowd energy was overwhelming in the atmosphere.

The music and performance is first rate, and this time, Winnie Ho can truly held her head up high as she worked the crowd with her heartfelt renditions of the Teresa Teng classics. The music arrangement was anything but classic, which is not surprising, with Maestro Tay Cher Siang reworking all the tunes brilliantly. It was still purely Teresa Teng in spirit, but yet the presentation of the tunes is nothing like you've heard from the great Terasa herself. I know, because I was listening to all my Teresa Teng classic CDs in the week leading up to the concert! For the concert, the Maestro has made it jazzy with a twist.

I won't spoil the fun for the next batch of people attending the 2nd showcase on the 14th October 2011(tickets still available, if you're still thinking about it, better hurry!) and spill the beans in detail, but suffice to say, the concert is definitely worth spending your time and money to attend.

Here are some pictorials for the night!

From left: Pop Pop Man, Leslie Loh a.k.a. ML, Rocky and Missus.

Moi and Roger Wang!

Bentley Auditorium has reasonably good acoustics and is well suited for events like this concert.

Winnie was going thru wardrobe changes the whole night.

Winnie doing sexy yet flirtatious flings with the audience! One could see that as she sung, she was going thru an emotional roller coaster ride herself, taking us along with her. She laughed, she cried, and she felt like a winner!

Winnie and Roger, doing the strip down girl, guitar thing.

Three divas! From left: Guest artist Lynn Li Yun Ling, Winnie and Z Yan in red!

August 6, 2011

Ready For The World

Being the busy bodies that we are, we went to watch the final rehearsal of Pop Pop Music's showcase "The Jazzy Sounds of Teresa Teng" (sold out 2 weeks ago!) today at the Brown, Black and Blue studio in Desa Sri Hartamas in early part of the afternoon and later in Bentley Music Auditorium.

My Goodness. Mr. Tay Cher Siang's (From JZ8) mastery in arrangement is simply amazing. He manages to breathe new life into many well-sung Teresa Teng classics. There's plenty of grooves and rhythms in some of the songs, allowing vocalist Winnie Ho (of 2V1G) rooms to improvise, scat and ad-lib. Even veteran guest singer from Taiwan, Lynn Lee Yun Ling was nodding in full agreement. This is Teresa Teng at its most creative form. We think Chris Bibada, who recently produced Lily Chen "Teresa Teng Live" audiophile album would love to listen to Tay Cher Siang's arrangement and learn a trick or two!

Later in Bentley Music Auditorium, it was Roger Wang's turn to practice. His solo acoustic version of "The Moon Speaks For My Heart" is worth a million dollars. Sensitive, sparse, romantic and touching, again, with Lynn clapping in admiration. She said to us: "Very few Chinese pop guitarists can do what Roger Wang does. He came from a fresh angle. Totally unaffected by how BIG the song is. This is marvelous rendition!"

A big supporter and famous blogger Malaysia Finance Blogger told us before he left the rehearsal: "They are ready for the world". Somehow, we agree.

Myself, Big E, Odiosleuth are gonna witness tonight how Tay Cher Siang, Winnie Ho and Roger Wang are going to show the capacity crowd what Malaysian musicians are capable of!

August 5, 2011

KLIAV 2011, My Favorites, Top Contenders & Other Curiosities.

I thought I'd sit back this year and allow Odiosleuth to do all the show postings, since he'd already covered most of it. Let's face it, in the last few days, virtually every A/V based Internet forums and blogs are talking about all that's KLIAV 2011. I did not think my two sens mattered anymore. Not until yesterday and today, when I received calls from people, wondering when Big E's gonna open his big mouth?

First of all, I have to say Congrats! To all exhibitors for putting up a successful show this year, in which nearly all demos sounded way... better than the last show. An exhibitor told me it was the new dense weave carpets used by JW Marriot, during their last room re-fit, which happened sometime between the last and this show. This year's show mood is also livelier and a sense of optimism abound. I also subjectively thought there were more visitors too, based on hallway traffic on all three days. It will be interesting to hear the show organiser's official statistics!

So by popular demand, here's my brief take of KLIAV 2011.

Let's start with My Favorites, the top 3 systems on demo:

This is my personal favorite! The 7th floor CMY high end system. Fronted by a Clearaudio Master Reference turn table with Jeff Rowland pre-power amps and Dynaudio Saphire Annivesary speakers. If one day, my ship shall call, this would nearly be my dream system. It's highly musical, with the right combination of dynamics, transparency, tonal neutrality and pace. For me, this system represented the epitome of today's high end modern sound.

The Clearaudio had Goldfinger MC cartridge mounted, helped by Shunyata Hydra PLC and power cords.

On first visit, I heard Audionote demo an Archie Sheep alto sax tune, it was intoxicating! Then a Pink Panther orchestration which was not bad. Continued by a male vocal track. I was thinking to my self, all the music playing to the 300B based, 8W Quest Silver tube amp's limitations. But I wasn't prepared for what Super Mario(which I later took out mano a mano for a 10 Qs session) played next.

Queen's bass heavy track, Another One Bites The Dust, literally had me bite the dust, and placed it up here as my 2nd favorite. Man, this 300B tube based system not only excelled at the more refined stuff, it has the balls to rock! By the way, in contrast to the first system above, this all Audionote system firmly represented the beauty of coloured, ol' skool sound.

My good buddy Jo always has a spot in KLIAV, and this year is no different. I was looking forward to hear his just acquired FM Acoustic amps in the context of his signature LS 3/5A speaker based system. Hmm....... I am not exactly sure what to say about this system, except that I am more used to hearing the LS 3/5A speakers being driven by tubes. While the solid state FMs did bring the audiophile must have check list qualities up by a few notches, I strangely thought last year's system was somewhat more musically involving in a subjective manner, which I must admit, I could be wrong!

Jo pioneered the KI method of setting up a pair of LS 3/5A together with a pair of bass extenders thrown in for more bass response. This year he further refined the KI method, with a MKII improvement, seen here, at the KLIAV show. Anyway, I've always reckon that Jo's KLIAV show systems over the years have never sounded as complete as when in it's own habitat. So a further post show listen in his place would be great!

Jo's music source this year is the Bryston BDP-1/DBA-1 digital media player combo, streaming files off a specially strip down hard disk, balanced on downward facing cones. Incidentally, Jo has to share the lime light for my 3rd favorite with the AV Designs demo(pictured below), who uses the same combo for their music source!

The AV Designs all PMC and Bryston combo system also served as part of an impressive 3D AV projection system, which makes it all the more deserving of the recognition. It's very hard to find a system that excels in both AV and stereo mode, which this system is one of the very few that I've experienced. It's a pity not many people experienced this system in stereo mode, as it was doing the AV duty most of the time. But for those who requested, they're treated to a system with excellent neutrality, highly resolving with finely balanced presentation.

We move to the other Top Contenders:

Eugene of Audiomatic demo-ed on behalf of Swedish Statement, an EAT Forte turntable, a full suite of Vitus electronics and Marten Design Getz speakers. The sound is pristine clean, with good detail retrieval. The imaging is tight but sound stage is free with excellent spatial effect. By the way, Eugene tells me that the Vitus phono stage made it's world wide premier here, at KLIAV 2011!

One of the secrets to Eugene's excellent sounding room. Instead of an acoustic resonator cup, this device, made locally by a certain hifi sifu(who wishes to remain anonymous!), uses the art of  adjustable resonating spike!

Newbies Maxx Audio played it smart this time by practicing "less is more". The system showcases the Triangle Magellen Cello speakers, powered by an ol' Krell integrated amp and sourced by a simple Exposure CD player. The result is a highly articulated, and controlled  sound. No particular area stood out or emphasised. Just pure coherence musical performance. I was impressed enough to request for a pair of Triangle speakers to be scheduled for review.

I like this all Naim system, set up by CMY Audio & Visual for it's seamless musical presentation with excellent prat performance. Compared to Naim's yesteryear speakers, I think this pair of Ovator S-400, with BMR technology drivers are a winner!

Acoustic Arts keeps it's "Bargain System Of KLIAV!" title, as in previous years! For a system costing a mere few thousand inflation busting Ringgit, there's nothing in the show to touch it sound quality wise! I sat there transfix, to the music. The Epos speaker, Creek electronics combo gave excellent sound staging depth and very convincing imaging properties. The Epos are a little warm sounding but maintained great rhythm and pacing.  As I left the room, all I could think of was "why do we do it? spend more that is!"

As I walked in to the AVP Souncraft room, I couldn't quite tell if it was the smaller German Physik Limited(grey) playing or the bog boy HRS-120(black)? They shared the same explosive dynamic scaling properties and omnidirectional type of enveloping sound stage. Driven by Simaudio electronics, all I heard was "Wham, Bang, Thank You Maam!" kind of music! All I can say is, "welcome to the Dynamics Kingdom!"

John Park of Pyon Sound(pronounced as Fyon Sound) and his self designed Ultima turn table and also the MC cartridge too! Made in Korea, this RM$90k turn table gave very lush, warm sounds, suitable for classical music, which John mostly demo-ed. The sound of string instruments, like violin, cello and piano is just plain alluring! For some funny psycho reason, while listening to this system, I felt like a piece of dark chocolate melting on a hot plate!

Which I think this pair of Steinmusic speakers help in no small measure! I like the way the ribbon tweeter is hung on an acrylic frame, which contributes to very smooth, open highs. Pyon Sound and Steinmusic are represented by AV Business System, here in Malaysia.

Other Curiosities:

This Indian made Rethm loudspeakers. Represented by Sound Tech in Sungai Petani Kedah.

The driver units looks suspiciously like Lowther units with a modified cone phase plug!

Electrocompaniet makes it return to Malaysian shores courtesy of Flagship AV, I taught nothing had changed with the Electrocompaniet components, including the sound, which is typically neutral cool and very even sounding, if nothing particularly or spectacularly outstanding, sound wise. However, the crowd factor was strong in this room, and many proclaiming it as their KLIAV favorite this year.

The Electrocompaniet system had some help in the form of Synergistic Research Galileo cabling system, which cost well over six figures in RM$ terms(just cables alone!).

And then some more in the form of Synergistic Research Acoustic ART room resonance tuning system.

Franco Serblin's(What do you do after selling the very successful Sonus Faber? You start a new company!)  new Ktema  loudspeakers making it's debut in Malaysia, there's no official dealer representing them yet. Any gungho dealers up for the job?

The speakers, powered by Orphues latest amplification and EMM Labs CD player, sounded nice, but according to a dealer accompanying me on my rounds, he thought he heard this speaker sounding much better while he was at an overseas show.

What better way to end the KLIAV show with some impromptu live music, courtesy of Pop Pop Music. We see the Pop Pop Man showing his MC abilities here!

Pretty in blue Z Yan is now a much more confident performer compared to her earlier days. This girl will go far in the music business!

The ever sexy Lydia strut her stuff, keeping all the audiophile unkers entertained. Lydia has a way with the microphone that comes with years of experience, quite like a veteran.

Winnie Ho too gets my attention for being very much improved as a singer/vocalist. I used to think she was an excellent vocal technician, but did not quite carry the song emotionally enough. However, today I was very pleased to find her putting much more emotion and connection to the words in the songs. I look forward to hearing these ladies again this coming weekend, singing to The Jazzy Sound Of Theresa Teng!

I look forward to the next KLIAV 2012!