January 10, 2012

Gear That Impressed in 2011

Before we embark on sharing more hifi equipment with you in 2012, it is appropriate for me to first highlight a few pieces of hifi equipment that had stood out in the year that just passed. Each one of them had lived in my system for a number of weeks, each one of them was extensively listened to. I found them to be able to stand the test of time and will provide long term listening enjoyment to the potential owner.

Digital Frontend:

1. Wadia 571 CD Transport, 931 Digital Controller, 922 Mono Decoding Computers.
List: RM174,880. CMY

The Wadia rig in the foreground of the picture

A take-no-prisoner, leave-no-stone-unturned approach to digital playback. The sound is highly detailed, very clean and refined, yet impactful and dynamic when called for.

If you love the Wadia sound, but found this quartet too stressful financially, I'd recommend the Wadia 381 CD Player, which Big E and myself listened to last year. It is the entry level in Wadia's current line-up but gives you a slice of the Wadia top dog's sound quality and sound characteristics.

2. Technical Audio Devices TAD-D600 SACD/CD Player
List: RM129,000. AV Designs

The TAD-D600 has music in its heart. It went about doing its job in an even-handed and low key manner that I did not realize just how very excellent it was, until I took it out of my system. Then, I missed it tremendously.

Flawless rendition of all musical genres, rich sound with dense sonic images.

3. Krell S350a CD Player
List: RM10,500. Hi-Way Laser.

This Krell is a surprise find for me. I wouldn't say that it comes close to the two preceding heavyweights, but the Krell S350a punches way above its price class in terms of build and of sound quality. Many will find there isn't much more they want from a CD player.

The sound is organic, robust and musical. A very good music making machine.


1. Ayre KX-R
List: RM77,700. Hi-Way Laser

Hifi jewel at its best. Impeccable build quality. The sound has an excellent vitality and an attractive, slightly golden hue.

The Ayre KX-R is both musically and technically beyond reproach. One of the best pre-amps currently available.

2. Pass Labs XP-20
List: RM31,200. Perfect Hi-Fi

This Pass Labs sounds neutral, smooth, robust, dynamic. An excellent all-rounder. My current resident pre-amp, enough said.

Power Amplifier:

1. Parasound Halo JC1 monoblocks
List: RM39,000. Centre Circle Audio

A gentle giant. When playing softer music or small scale ensemble, the Halo JC1 has the finesse of a small amplifier, like an excellent 30-50 watter. However, the 300 watts in reserve means the JC1 will stand up to any challenge. I prefer its high bias setting which gives 25 watts in class A.


1. Marten Getz
List: RM80,781. Swedish Statement

A 'High Definition' loudspeaker.

The Marten Getz was the first pair of loudspeakers in my system that challenged me to discard my old notion of high fidelity sound.

Very detailed and clean, but not clinical when matched well (my Pass Labs XA-60 was an excellent match). The high was pristine and extended, the mid was clear and open, the bass was tuneful. I called my long-term living experience with the Marten Getz a 'cultural shock'.

Power Line Conditioner

1. Running Springs Audio - Duke
List: RM9,187.50 with the Mongoose powercord. Ultimate Reference

Power line conditioner with 2 outlets, aimed at power amp or monoblocks. Takes away haziness, adds dynamics, hugely improves bass quality.

Cables - strange, I did not get myself any cables to write about the entire 2011. So there is nothing to say.

Special Mention:

Technical Audio Devices TAD-C2000 Preamp / TAD-M2500 power amp / TAD-CR1 loudspeakers
List: RM128,000 / RM115,000 / RM148,000. AV Designs

I had the TAD-C2000 and TAD-M2500 for short listening in my system (one evening) at the turn of the year. While the TAD-CR1 loudspeakers have been running in my system for a few weeks, I have not reported on them yet. So, I'd not include them in the main body of this post.

However, each and every one of the TAD gear had sounded more than impressive in the listening session and other times in the dealer's showroom. Music listening through them was deeply satisfying, and that's what our hobby is all about.

Listen to them if they cross your path, I bet you'd learn a thing or two.

That's all I have. Onwards to 2012.

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