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!


Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Good run down of the show Big E.

Always enjoy reading what comes out of your big mouth! :-)

And I hope your ship lands so that you can get your dream system faster than you can say, "yes"!

Ken said...

The top sound of the show is actually the Dynaudio Sapphire. It was quite good when playing Hawaii-5-O.
The second was the Joseph Audio driven by BAT electronics.

I feel this 2 has good potential if more care was put into it.

Big E said...


That puts you and a buddy of mine in the elite group of audio preferences.

Like your good self, he was very much enamoured by the Joseph Audio/BAT combo. He also aspires to a pair of top range ATCs one day too.

Ken said...

Big E,

Looks like your friend got good taste ;-P

On a serious note, I wish they displayed a floorstander from Joseph Audio rather than a standmount. I always find that small speakers give a small soundstage. The presence and ambience that you get from a bigger speaker is always missing.
This is particularly felt when listening to classical music.

Lately I have been listening to a lot of old Telarc cds that I owned. I have forgotten how grand the Terminator soundtrack was especially during the opening where the tympani hits. I will be listening to some RR recordings again.

This is what hi-end audio is all about.