June 28, 2012

Twentieth Musical Returns! PMC Twenty 22 Loud Speaker.

The PMC Twenty 22 speakers with matching stands in my room. It's a classic two way design with and Sonolex dome tweeter and 6.5 inch mid bass driver, both designed by PMC, supplied by SEAS. 

As far as the equipment review queue that my eye can see, it looks like an all British affair, starting with this review! It tells us something about the resillience of the Brit hifi manufacturers in these trying times. PMC is one of those thriving Brit hifi manufacturers, and they had celebrated their twentieth anniversary in style last year, with the high light being the Twenty series speaker launched to commemorate the occasion. I have been pretty impressed with the Twenty series during the launch demo, and particularly smitten by the vocal sweetness of the baby 21 model.

James Tan, of AV Designs decides to throw a curve ball at me, by insisting I play with the Twenty 22(the larger stand mount model) instead. Well, nothing like a little audio adventure in to the un-charted waters. I must say, right out of the box, the PMC Twenty 22 speakers looked gorgeous in piano gloss black finish. The paint job has the deep polished, wet look that most of us hot blooded males lust after from our black coloured automobiles. There's only a slight problemo, the black finishing is one mighty dust magnet, as one can see from the photos, which was taken barely 2 days after setting up in my room! The drivers of the Twenty series speakers are rather simplified units, of what looks like a variety of those used on the higher Fact range.
A closer look at the stands.

Attaching the floor coupling spikes.

Preparing the top plate for speaker mounting with a small lump of blue tack at each corner. Note that sandwiched Neoprene like material layer in between the top plates for resonance damping purposes.

Now it would seem like I am putting way too much attention to the speaker stands, but I believe the proper matching stand do optimize the sonic performance a stand mount speaker design. James also supplied me the original pair of PMC matching stands, designed specifically for the Twenty series speakers. When installed and attached to the speakers, the stands with slanting pillars matched the dynamic looks of the slanting baffle design on the PMC. The stands are worth a special mention because it was especially design with noeprene like damping materials on the top and bottom plate to absorb and prevent resonances from compromising the speaker's performance(of which other speaker stand designs may do).

Setting up the stands is pretty easy with the usual attachment of the floor spikes at the bottom plate, and then applying a small amount of blue tack on to each corner of the top plate, to securely fasten the speakers to the stands. I then proceeded to position the speakers in my room, starting at the same spot where my very own PMC Fact 8 used to sit on. Being a smaller speaker with higher bass response roll off point, the speaker sounded rather lean. I than push the speakers further back in to the front stage wall, to get a healthier bass response. At 39 inches from the stage wall, and 18 inches from side wall, measured from the outer rear speaker corner, I got the best compromise where a healthy bass response is accompanied by a still reasonably wide and deep sound stage. A slight toe in of 2 degrees or so was required to focus the vocal imaging.  PMC allows bi-wiring or bi-amping of the twenty series speakers, however I only used the conventional single run method(as can be seen in the picture below), which is what this sonic review is entirely based upon.
As with all PMC speakers, the Twenty 22 allows bi-amping or bi-wiring. I just use plain single run speaker cables.

Chie Ayado sings about the Good Life, like she's lived thru it. This is a very soulful album, with simple arrangement and great recording quality in 24/96 hi-rez FLAC file, available from the Chesky label.

Like all speakers of Brit origin, this one's mid range proud. There's something special about the mid range's vocal reproduction, regardless if it's male or female. You'll hear every lyric clearly dictioned, teased and sung, mouth, teeth, moist tongue and lips. Some of the mid range sweetness of the baby 21 is still found here on the 22, which is no bad thing, really.  I found the highs to be a tad more laid back, less exteneded and less busy sounding, if just as airy and open compared to my more expensive reference, the Fact 8. Being a stand mount, the bass doesn't extend quite as low(about 45hz or so, in room response, my ears tell me). However, what ever bass notes that were reproduced is clean, clear, articulate and tunefull, with no over hang or excessive warmness. What it loses in extention, it makes up with enough bass(air moving) volume. In short, this is a fairly neutral speaker, tonally speaking of course, capable of decent punch, when called upon to do so.

This is a fairly noise free(the ear on tweeter test!) and transparent sounding speaker, with low level details a plenty without really having to look hard for them. Playing simple vocal and piano tracks, like those from the Chie Ayado's Good Life album, in 24/96 hi-rez FLAC file, brought out the best properties of the 22 speakers. The piano is full, delicate sounding with acompanying grandness in scale(which even some larger speakers struggle to reproduce). Ms Ayado's raspy voice fully reproduced with precision and yet at the same time, flushes out the soul in her crooning. I just love to listen to this album over and over again on the PMC Twenty 22 speakers. By the way, these speaker not only do simple music, they do rock(Mark Knopfler's Shangri-La) and other more demanding musical genre's just as well.

Being stand mounts, these PMCs readily disappears from the music(sonically of course) and brings with it an intimate imaging, with well spread out, and layered sound staging behind. The Twenty 22 is the "Jack Of All Genre" which clearly walks the fine line between musicality and serious hifi performance capability. By the way, did I tell you that I am very much a sucker for any Anniversary models? Ha! Ha!
A top down look, will always reflect the gorgeous piano gloss black finish, which is unfortunatly, also a mighty dust magnet, as this picture clearly shows!

Compared to the more than twice as expensive Fact 8, the Twenty 22, only does two things slightly less well. It's not as transparent nor does it sound dyanmically as hard hitting. However, those are small sacrifices one makes for an easy to like and musical sounding speaker. In fact I bet once the music is playing, it's easy to immerse one's self in to the music, and pretty much forget about sweating the audiophile stuff. It's easy to set up and dial in it's positioning is a bonus too.

The PMC Twenty 22 retails for RM$10,100.00/pair and the matching stands cost RM$1,800.00/pair. I can't think of a better way to drop RM$12,000.00 or so for a pair of brand spanking new, stand mount speakers. Yeah! it's that good!

By the way, AV Designs will be demo-ing the full range of PMC Twenty series speakers in stereo and multi chanel HT mode, at the coming KLIAV Show 2012.

PMC speakers are sold by AV Designs, contact James or Tony at 03-21712828.

June 26, 2012

KLIAV Show 2012 Limited Edition Commemorative CD.

Folks, remember that the KLIAV Show 2012 is just barely a month away. Mark your calenders, because it's held on the 20th-22nd July 2012, at the JW Marriot Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

All entry tickets purchased(priced the same as last year's) will include a Limited Edition Commemorative CD, with all the audiophile tracks pain stakingly chosen and selected by none other than Jo Ki, the face of LS3/5A BBC monitors, keen music lover and highly regarded audiophile, to evaluate the various aspects of one's hifi system. The CD booklet, carefully written by Jo, explains clearly the subject matter to look out for on each track individually. Do note that this CD is strictly NOT for sale. Now that's one more reason to go to the KLIAV Show 2012!

We will be be reporting more on this year's potential displays soon. Stay tuned.

June 23, 2012

New Raidho S2.0 on demo at Centre Circle Audio

Another Raidho beauty arrives at Centre Circle Audio. This one is the new S2.0 model from the 'S' series (the other two are the 'C' and the 'X'). It has the tall, slim, elgant look common to the brand, a look that will look gracious in any home.  

The speaker box is finished in beautiful piano black, rather than the common rectangular box it is rounded at the back.

The tweeter is a ribbon type, and the 2 mid/woofers are ceramic. Frequnecy response is 27Hz-5-kHz, with 90db 2.83V/m sensitivity, and impedance of >6 ohm.

The curved base of the speaker hides a surprise, the speaker has a transmission line that exits at a port under the base.

The list price for the Raidho S2.0 is RM30,000 / pair.

Contact Nelson or Sky at Centre Circle Audio 03-77282686 for an audition.

June 20, 2012

567, By Miroku(JVC Audiophile Highlights Series).

567, by Miroku.

I am reviewing this CD as there seems to be interest expressed by some of our readers. There doesn't seem to be much info about this CD tittled 567, by Miroku, recorded and released in 1986 by JVC. According to a senior audiophile in regional circles, he mentioned that it was actually Leo Fung, then leading hifi reviewer in Hong Kong, who first brought this CD to the attention of the audiophile world. Musically, this is essentially a fusion of Japanese folk with modern pop arrangement structure and a re-curing theme, much like a modern cinematic soundtrack. There's much use of traditional bamboo instruments(made famous by Denon's recording of Take-Take) here. There's also the odd Kodomo drums track for those who wish to exercise their woofers and stretch their power amps. Ha! Ha!

Track one starts with a recording of the waves and seagulls flying over head in the back ground, then music breaks out in to a re-curing theme of electric guitar and bamboo instruments with pop vocal sensibilities. This theme would re-cur over the course of the remaining CD.

The audiophile killer track two, which feature all studio effects, quietly haunting scene by the river, where stone throws are bounced across the flowing water's surface over the sound stage, from left to right, with insects in the back ground. The female haunting voice drifts in, out and around the sound stage, about 30 feet in depth perception on the best of sound staging systems, maybe 15 feet on fairly well set up systems, but less depth perception in poorly set up systems. Does your system pass this acid test? If your system is well set up, the whole track is eerie, just like that scene where the female tormentor was climbing out of a well, next to a river, in the vintage Japanese horror flick, The Ring. And by the way, please forget about the awfully adapted for Hollywood version of the movie! Just in case you're wondering.

Track three is an English vocal based pop track, much similar in concept and execution like track one. Track four is a rather serene and nice sounding Japanese song for easy listening. The remaining tracks sounds much like traditional Japanese cultural music.

There are a total of eight tracks on this CD and production for sound quality is first rate. There is total silence, in the back ground on every track. This silence is what makes this CD(especially track two) sound so realistic, when one does dark room listening. It's scary enough to make the hair at the back of one's neck stand, mine certainly did when I first heard it!

By the way, I now reference this CD in the form of a 16 bit AIFF file, ripped to my hard drive, and played back via my Bryston BDP/BDA-1 combo via my system. For your information, this CD has never been re-issued by JVC and therefore, you should not expect to find it on the shelves of your favourite music store. Only used copies can be occasionally found on e-bay, usually with high bidding prices! For the faint hearted vinyl collector, there's an LP version too, usually bidding well in to four figures of US currency. Go figure.

June 17, 2012

The Swans Sing at Centre Circle Audio

A new loudspeaker brand arrives on our shore. Centre Circle Audio recently brought in a wide range of models from the Swans loudspeaker range. They are available for audition in their showroom now. The extensive range covers everything from hifi to AV to lifestyle. There is bound to be something that will interest everyone. 

The Swans brand is owned by HiVi Inc. The company is HQ'ed in California, USA, where the design and engineering is done. Manufacturing is carried out in China for its cost advantage, like what many other hifi companies have done.

There are too many models to list, so I'd just highlight a few of them here. Pay Centre Circle Audio a visit to see and listen for yourselves!

The 3 photos above are of the M806 floorstander, list price RM20,000 per pair

The M806B with stands. This is the little brother to the M806 floorstander. 
List price RM11,500 per pair.

The RM1000 floorstander with ribbon tweeter and active subwoofer. A lot of loudspeakers for a list price of RM9,800.

The active subwoofer controls on the RM1000
Three models in the RM-range - Left: RM600F RM6,500/pair ; Centre: RM1000 RM9,800/pair; Right: RM300F RM4,600/pair. The RM1000 model is the only model in the range with active subwoofer.

The bookshelf loudspeakers are equipped with ribbon tweeters too. Here are the M3 with stand, list price RM6,800 per pair.

M1 with stand, list price RM5,500 per pair

Here, we have HiVi's THX certified loudspeakers for home theatre. The models are:
X3 LCR, list price RM4,800 per unit

X3 Subwoofer, list price RM14,000 per unit

X3R Surround, list price RM5,500 per pair
These are Swans' active loudspeakers, great as a desk top or a bedroom system, just add source. Here we see them paired with a mini Parasound CD player.

On the left, the H5 active loudspeakers, list price RM2,800 per pair. On the right, the H4, which goes for RM2,500 per pair

To know more about HiVi Swans, visit their website at http://www.swanspeaker.com/.

Due to time constraints, I did not listen to the loudspeakers in action during my visit. I promise myself to visit Centre Circle Audio again soon and get myself better acquainted with these Swans.

Contact Nelson or Sky at Centre Circle Audio 03-77282686 for an audition.

June 13, 2012

Bulls Eye! Eichmann Bullet (RCA)Plug.

The Eichmann Bullet plugs just being attached to my Linn phono leads. The whole tone arm assembly was un-installed from the turn table so that it's easier to work.

I've said earlier this year that most of my hifi focus would be on tweaks and accessories. Here's one unforeseen change required recently. If you've been reading my review of the PMC TLE-1 sub woofer, which I mentioned it was picking up the turn table rumble randomly. I finally found the culprit responsible, and it's NOT the PMC sub woofer. It turn out that a bad/cold joint was developing inside the left chanel phono plug of the phono cable leading out from the Linn Sondek LP 12. One day, the cold joint had totally silenced the left chanel of my turn table.

With that, I set about looking for a pair of reliable branded after market RCA plugs. I short listed the ultra expensive WBT Nextgen, the QED after market plug and finally the Eichmann Bullet plug. The price of the WBT Nextgen totally horrified me in the context that it was probably an overkill to be used with the original Linn T cable anyway. Next, the QED after market plugs had the right price and seemed to be of good quality, but my favorite hifi supermarket, CMY Audio & Visual had sold them out with no stock arriving anytime soon. That left me with the very unlikely candidate of the Eichmann Bullet plug. On my previous encounters with the Bullet plug, I kinda disliked the light weight build, finished in cheap looking plastic bodies. The contact pins however, looked fairly well finished in a rather unusual matt gold coating. A browse thru the Internet found that they were designed specifically for phono cable application based on a probable theory of optimum hot signal to ground contact ratio which results in excellent signal to noise ratio, when connecting between tone arm and phono stage. Eichmann also claims that the conductivity of the matt gold contact pins out performs the usually shinny audio jewelery variety. Various international reviews seems to confirm the Eichmann Bullet plug's effectiveness in transmitting the ultra low signal generated by an MC cartridge, with minimum noise. I headed to PJ area's DIY den called Octave Electronics which stocked the plugs, costing RM$49.00/pair.
Another look at the very professional looking soldering skills, thanks to a certain DIY-er guru.

I brought the plugs home and started the un-ceremonial task of dis-assembling the Linn Ittok out of the LP12 turn table, in order to do a once over check all over the signal route, from the Benz Micro LP cartridge, all the way to the phono plugs at the other end. With the final confirmation that a cold joint had developed on the left chanel RCA plug, the change over could begin. The sight of soft plastics surrounding the two contact pins of Bullet plug was enough for me to call a DIY-er friend, one is equipped with a temperature controlled solder gun, and more importantly an experienced pair of steady hands(Big E's fat fingers just wasn't cut for this job!). He said "I be there in half an hour if tea time is on you", I was glad he only asked for a cuppa. Ha! Ha!

As anticipated, that soft plastic surrounding the two small contact pins with miniaturised soldering point on the Eichmann Bullet plug made soldering possible only in the most expert of steady hands. The re-termination work on both left and right chanels took my friend about twenty five minutes or so, including completing the heat shrinking sleeves for the complete and professional look. After the cuppa, I rushed home to re-connect and set up my tone arm again. The cartridge alignment and tracking force was also re-checked to ensure proper calibration.
A cross section of the Eichmann Bullet plug. A case of less is certainly more, based on a research theory of contact ratio between the hot signal and the ground.

With all the setting up checked and double checked, just to be sure, I begin to spin some vinyl disc. The first LP that went in was a recent re-issued Bad Company's self titled debut album, on 180gsm vinyl. The moment the stylus hit the vinyl, the silence of surface noise was astounding. I've never heard me LP12, or any other any LP12 in fact sound this silent, just like a modern high end Clearaudio turn table. Then the first track, I Can't Get Enough Of Your Love plays with such gutso and slamming dynamics, I was so blown away, all I wanna do is to turn the volume up, louder and louder! The bass cleared up considerably, it now had certain rhythmic propulsive quality that suited rock music. Hiss.... was vanishingly low, despite the high gain phono setting, and higher playback volume. The overall lack of surface noise and hiss... made music flow more freely, and I get more musical details, previously obscured. I could hear more in to the sound stage mix, including ambiance of recording or concert venue. Needless to say, I quickly finished both sides of the said LP and then continued with other LPs till late night. It's been a long time, since I've suspected that the Linn was short changing my Benz Micro LP cartridge. I am glad that I've finally found the culprit that strangled the fragile low level signal from the Benz Micro.

I've never been more pleased with my analog source at any other time but now, all thanks to the Eichmann Bullet plugs. I now recommend these plugs to all turn table owners as a minimal cost up grade with absolute confidence. If it could do all that with a low level signal such as those inside a phono cable, imaging what benefits it could bring to other line level signals?

Oh! By the way, if you ain't got no soldering skills, or just plain lazy, then bring your phono leads or interconnect, and let Yap of Octave Electronics do the work for a small fee.

Eichmann is sold by Octave Electronics, contact Helen or Yap at 03-79555755.

June 11, 2012

NBS Professional IV Loudspeaker Cables

A few of us were having our regular ‘teh tarik’ session. Someone said that someone else has upgraded his cables, which were now more expensive than the components those cables were connected to; and yet another someone else spent tens of thousands of Ringgit upgrading his entire cable set and the sound quality saw tremendous improvement. And thus the polarizing topic of cables in our hifi system came up, and it immediately invited both support and ridicule.

The supporters opined that cables should be regarded as a component in a hifi system and not an accessory, simply because, like other components in the system chain, no sound will be produced if there is no cable. Cables should thus be accorded the same emphasis like the other components. The naysayers countered with the argument that if one has an amount of, say, RM50k to spend, which is now not an unheard of sum spent on cabling in a highend system, one can possibly get a bigger improvement if the money is used to upgrade something else in the system, for example the loudspeaker or the source, rather than the cabling.

Then there were those who took cables as the ‘be-all and end-all’ - all ills could be cured and all the glories could be revealed by the right cables in a system; and there were those who took cables as a fit-and-forget – find something just decent enough, put them in and don’t tinker with them anymore; instead focus on your room and your main equipment where more returns on sonic improvement can be had.

So this perennial debate/discussion topic in hifi went on and on, and like the other great topics in hifi, there was no consensus. At the end, when all the ‘teh tarik’ was finished and all the ‘roti bakar’ eaten, the topic was settled with the great escape clause we use whenever we came to a deadlock, “there is no right or wrong, it is the person’s preference ‘lah’!” And so it was, until the next time the same topic rears its head again.

I digressed. Let’s start talking about the focus of this write-up, the NBS Professional IV loudspeaker cables.

The NBS Professional IV retails at RM35,700 per 12ft pair, which immediately puts it as one of those cable aimed at the highend.

NBS is the abbreviation for ‘Nothing But Signal’. NBS says that, and I quote from its website,
“This is the key to the design philosophy behind our cables. At NBS, we do not attempt to "reproduce" sound. Instead, we RETRIEVE what's on the recording.

Most audio cables incorporate devices of one type or another to filter-out undesirable frequencies. While these devices do remove a certain amount of hiss, they also, by their very nature, add to the noise floor. NBS cable does NOT employ any ancillary device. We use a unique weave of solid core copper combined with unconventional applications of silver shielding to achieve true retrieval of the recorded sound.

As a result, NBS cables deliver the lowest noise floor in the industry - reducing Radio Frequency and Electromagnetic Interferences up to 98% - while transmitting the FULL dynamic range of recorded sound. That's why, with NBS cables, you literally hear nothing but signal. This is the primary reason why NBS cables convey such a realistic presence.

You can test this with your own ears by listening to the pauses in recordings. No one delivers silence like NBS. You'll also experience an increased gain (volume boost) as well as significantly greater clarity and recognition with NBS cables.”

Commensurate with its price level, the construction of the NBS Professional IV is impeccable. When I handled them for the first time I was surprised by their weight, which probably attests to the amount of metal that has gone into the cables. Coupled to the weight is the rather unyielding nature of the cables, making cable routing just that little harder than others. It is just as well that the NBS Professional IV is constructed as a single-run cable, meaning that 2 separate cable runs are used per channel (4 separate cables in total for stereo use), allowing more flexibility to the user to work on one cable at a time for placement.

It is also interesting to note that the cable marked as the red/positive leg is constructed differently from the black/negative leg. In the photo above, you can see that the red/positive leg has a tighter twist pattern, giving more turns for the same cable length. This is NBS’s secret construction recipe for better sound possibly?

The NBS Professional IV loudspeaker cables are an excellent performer. Through my TAD Compact Reference loudspeakers, the sound conjured up through these NBS cable was bold, impactful and explicit. The sound had excellent body too. I’d put these NBS cables in the ‘yang’ camp, meaning that they give relatively more emphasis on the masculine aspects of sound. Listening to the bass guitar tracks on Dean Peer’s Ucross album, his every pluck was launched with energy and gusto into the room. The bass notes also had better definition and focus compared to my resident JPS Superconductor 3 loudspeaker cables. The latter gave slightly more diffused image edges and a more warmish feeling, though it also has to be said that the JPS cables are less than half the price of the NBS.

The scale and soundstage that these NBS cables conjured up was also grander than that achieved by my JPS. Listening to orchestral recordings (try any Reference Recordings CD), the soundstage stretched in all 3 dimensions, and was more clearly projected independent of the loudspeakers. The images within the soundstage were nicely focused with very good definition of position and ambiance/air. Image delineation was excellent, each instrument group played at its own defined location within the stage without congealing together. I credited this to the transparency of the NBS cables, which let through much more low level details, allowing the loudspeakers to paint the acoustic space much more effectively.

I mentioned earlier that the NBS cables allowed the music to sound bold, impactful and explicit. Indeed, music played through them gave an energetic feeling, as opposed to being draggy or lethargic. Yet, the cables did this without harshness or aggression. The energy was tempered with an appropriate amount of smoothness and refinement, which was evident in the naturally rendered midrange (listen to vocals or jazz sax) and the silky and extended highs (listen to cymbals and high-hats). This smoothness and refinement, while just a little short of what some silver cables could achieve, is beautifully balanced with the cables’ other robust qualities. In my opinion, it is a package deal that is very well judged and in most circumstances well nigh unbeatable.

The NBS will prove to be a superior choice for an appropriately high resolution system. With the NBS Professional IV, you loudspeaker cables will not be the stifling link in the system. They will ensure that the full glory of the musical details reach your loudspeakers.

And that is what a highend pair of cables should be.

NBS is carried by The Audio Store, contact Mr Aw at 03-78872233.

June 7, 2012

Calling It A Day? Audioing Signs Off.

Even the hifi clowns are saddened by Audioing's decision to call it a day. Truly, a tragic talent lost in Malaysian hifi blog sphere. I only hope he'll one day return with a vengeance.

No, it's not me calling a day! I am instead, referring to an esteemed fellow audio blogger, Audioing's decision to call it day from writing about his hifi adventures. He's a very private fella, a fervent proponent of low cost, high performance(CP ratio) audio reproduction. The hifi champion of the Malaysian salaried music lover and audio enthusiast.

A group of his staunchest readers wrote to him, asking for his reconsideration but to no avail. I met up with him over a cuppa with the same intentions, but also to no avail. What makes Audioing so special?

For one, his got a pair of really keen ears. Knows his hifi depth and knowledge. I find his blogging style special, as one sifu would put it "this guy's got real balls!". He's got a sense of humour too. I especially like his hifi social observation the most.

The good news is that, he's just stop writing about hifi. He is still a hifi connoisseur, and is still part of the hifi society. So perhaps he's just a little tired(we all get that sometimes), or he has other things on his mind for now. As long as Audioing is still listening to music and playing hifi, there's good chance to hope that he'll be back in the future(hopefully, we don't have to wait too long!).

He's even switched off the comments section of Audioing, so should any one want to have a shout out to him, please show your support by putting your thoughts, on to the comments section here. I know he's reading. Ha! Ha!

June 4, 2012

Musical Calypso! Aesthetix Calypso Pre-Amp.

The Aesthetix Calypso looks very classy with it's black over silver anodised aluminium finish.

I first encountered this pre-amp, along with it's matching phono stage sibling, the Aesthetix Rhea, when a friend bought the pair from overseas, back in 2009. I could still remember how the tubed pair captured my musical imagination, I've always yearned for a local dealer to carry this brand in to the Malaysian high end audio retail sector. The good news is that my prayers were answered, when The Audio Store secured the rights to distribute Aesthetix locally. The bad news is that I had just up graded my pre-amp a few months ago!

Still, the good folks at The Audio Store tried to tempt my faith, with this review offer. Like the Rhea phono stage, the Aesthetix Calypso belongs to the entry level Saturn range of the company's products. The more up market and highly impressive Jupiter range is also on demo at The Audio Store. The build quality is sumptuous for an entry level high end audio offering, save for the plasticky dull grey looking remote. The thick all round aluminium panels, resulting in a sturdy chassis, along with pure dual mono, fully balanced circuit design is highly impressive. The top panel can be easily lifted for a little eye-fi and tube(a pair of 12AX7 and 6DJ8, a.k.a. 6922 resides inside) maintenance, should it be required.  Tube rollers will be in high heavens, due to the many choices of these two type of tubes available in the NOS or after market supply. However, Aesthetix does not seem to encourage tube rolling as they practically match each tube supplied to the particular unit, and replacement tubes are encouraged to be matched, and supplied by the manufacturer.
The insides of the Calypso reveals a lot of attention to impeccable audio engineering applied in the design process. The front portion of the box, where the power supply transformers reside are sealed to shield the audio signals from EMI/RFI leakages. The top panel is held on by Velcro strips, which makes it easy to access the tubes. This review was written based upon the Calypso connected with balanced inputs and outputs.

I inserted the Aesthetix Calypso in to my system, taking place of my just acquired, pre-owned Pass Labs X0.2 pre-amp. From the power up then standby, the unit takes about 45 seconds for the tubes to become stabilised, and be ready for playback. The blue LED display counts down the remaining time, and than clicks the the audio circuit turn on relay. I immediately re-called why the Calypso previously made such a musical impression on me. Before I continue, let's just say that I am probably tube biased when it comes to sound preference, so it shall be no coincidence that this is gonna be a superb product review, which any way one looks at it.
The only area of glaring cost cutting, a DVD standard like remote is provided, but thankfully, ergonomics are logical and intuitive in daily use.

This is fusion Japanese music, titled 567, by Miroku, is recorded by JVC's best production facilities which results in spectacular playback fidelity. In the right system, it's capable of projecting the illusion of 30 feet sound stage depth. One must experience it in one's audio lifetime to believe the hype!

The sound is beautifully balanced, that Aesthetix walks the fine line between refinement, clarity and dynamics, imbued in a warm and inviting tonal palette. There's no excessive tubeyness in the sound, just well balanced and highly enjoyable. There's an airy delicate refinement on the highs here, not quite attainable at this price point before, or from even costlier solid state pre-amps. The mid range is well rounded and robust, giving male vocals it's full chest of vocal breath. Playing familiar violin and viola tracks reveals the wonderful harmonic texture and timbre of the said instruments exquisitely. The bass is at once solid, articulate and tune full, so that the very foundation of music is well preserved to start with.

This tube pre-amp is also very capable of defining dynamic shading in a linear fashion. It doesn't get shouty when playing loudly, nor does it sound musically lost when playing at soft volumes. The Calypso holds musical rhythm, images and sound staging together, regardless of playback volume.

This is one of the quietest and noise free tube pre-amp I've heard. The jet blackness in the back ground really allow for 3D prop up images within a deep, layered and dark sound stage. Playing the JVC recorded CD, titled 567 produced by Japanese cultural artist Miroku, on a 16 bit FLAC file via my Bryston BDP/BDA-1 combo really brought out the illusionary 30 feet sound stage depth effect on track 2 of the said CD. I must say that in my small room, it didn't quite made the illusionary 30 feet, but it was certainly the deepest I've managed to achieved by far!  Now, we are talking about the art of self deception at the highest possible level here.

There's only one area of sound performance that I could fault, is the matter of transparency. Compared to my Pass Labs X0.2, the Calypso did left me slightly wanting for more fine details buried deep within the sometimes complex musical structure, where the resident pre-amp just bares it all in the open. However, the Calypso is so musically engaging, regardless of what ever music genre is spinning, it's easy to overlook it's one and only small sin of omission. At the very least the Calypso never distort the truth or tell lies, it only with held certain minor information, which to most of us don't really matter, not unless, you're that nutty fella writing this review!
The back panel is busy with both balanced XLR and RCA single ended inputs and outputs.

Overall, for it's asking price of RM$17,800.00, I find this Aesthetix Calypso to be an over achiever of sorts. I can think of some of one looking to buy a used Audio Research Reference 3, only to find this Calypso pre-amp more musically appealing, unless one is fanatical about the transparency factor, that is.

Listening to music via the Aesthetix not only sounds tonally right and rhythmically tight, but rather it's the way it engages the listener, drawing one in to a staged event or recording venue and artistic emotional intents all rolled in to one, highly rewarding experience. I found it hard to return this unit to The Audio Store, but yet I am hoping to sample the Aesthetix Janus Signature in the near future, should that chance come around. I find the Janus one chassis solution to pre-amp and phono stage needs highly appealing in the up graded Signature form, of which the Calypso and Rhea is also available in. Here's looking towards a better tomorrow indeed!

Aesthetix is sold by The Audio Store, contact Mr Aw at 03-78872233.

June 1, 2012

Coming Soon! Golden Ear Technology At A&L Audio Station.

Golden Ear Technology Triton(left) looks much like a further development of the Definitive Technology products.  

Take a look at the top right advert panel by A&L Audio Station. Does the featured speaker look some what familiar? Are you "Definitive" sure? If it does bear more than a passing resemblance to another high end AV speaker brand, it is not a coincidence.

Golden Ear Technology products comes from the fertile mind of Sandy Gross, a speaker design veteran whose name has formerly been linked to Polk Audio and Definitive Technology! Ah...... now you see the connection, don't you?

A&L Audio Station has been appointed the Malaysian distributor for Golden Ear Technology and stocks shall be arriving soon, according to the management. They will certainly be here in time for the coming KLIAV Show 2012. I am waiting with to get a review pair of the Triton Towers when stocks are here! Congrats to the management at A&L Audio Station for securing another major brand.

For more info and availability, please contact Yap(Wah Chai)at Amcorp Mall branch, telephone 012-3584387.