July 31, 2012

KLIAV 2012 Show, Beauties Galore!

Some folks have been asking if I have I forgotten something? Certainly not, but just saving the best for last.

Time for some eye-fi!
Ms Panasonic 3D.

Another Ms Panasonic 3D.

She's the one for some luxury moment!

Ms Sharp LCD, back to the drawing boards.

Ms Wowloud. The new online music site, Check out www.wowloud.com

More WOWs! for the Ms Wowloud.

Ms Sony.

TAD I like!

More Ms TAD.

Ms Panasonic.

Ms headphones.

After some begging and pleading, Ms Wowloud agreed to give me a shot! Vote for Big E on wowloud Facebook!

Ahh..... The sounds, the sights and the company! That's what attending the KLIAV show is all about.

July 30, 2012

My Favourites at KLIAV2012

I spent the Saturday of the KLIAV 2012 weekend doing my rounds there. A number of demos caught my attention more than others, and I stayed listening to music in these rooms a little longer than others, I’d like to highlight them here.

First, at the entry level.

I was quite pleasantly surprised how nice these small ActiMate Mini+ speakers sound (the red ones in the photo). This was a very simple setup, the speakers were active, and there was a iPod dock on top. So just plug the speaker into the wall, dock your iPod, and off you go.

The sound was musical and there was a general lack of nasties – ear poking highs, thin mids, woolly bass etc.. One could listen to these and enjoy the music for long hours. If one were to nitpick, the sound was just a little curtailed at the frequency extremes, that’s all. As a starter system for the youngster in the house, or a bedroom system, these ActiMate at RM 2,200 a pair were no brainers.

Well, I wish I could call the imposing KEF Blade loudspeakers entry level, but of course going into the 6-figure price range, they were not. What I want to highlight instead is the little KEF LS50 beside it. A concentric drive design, these little guys did not embarrass themselves tethered to a DCS frontend and big Pass Labs amplification. When I was in this Perfect Hifi room, the LS30 were playing with such confidence that I stayed and listened a little longer than usual. I’d credit the concentric drive design to produce such coherence in the sound, music had excellent body and articulation especially in the mids, a trait that come natural with many British loudspeakers.

Another good example of entry level component is the Triangle Color bookshelf speakers in MAXX Audio’s room, going for RM2,800 a pair. Compared to the KEF, they seemed to be more extended in the highs but sounded slightly thinner overall, though one must also keep in mind the difference in price and the disparity in partnering equipment. The Triangle Color was driven with entry level equipment from Exposure. MAXX Audio also cleverly mated the Triangle Color to a Rhythmik subwoofer and that gave it a good heft and extension down below.

Next, we come to the mid level. In this show, there were many to choose from, and there were 3 systems that I liked more than the others.

The first was the Audiolab – Mission room set up by CMY. After a period of hiatus, it was good to see them back on our shores, now with CMY as their distributors. Seen here were an Audiolab CD player, preamp and a pair of monoblocks. The speakers were a pair of Mission 76 series floorstander, in beautiful glossy piano black.

The sound was lively and extended. Again, it has the British magic of musicality and coherence. The fact that this Audiolab–Mission combination had the lowest cost among the lot compared to the next 2 systems spoke volume of its price-performance ratio advantage.

 Clearaudio – Jeff Rowland – Dynaudio setup from CMY

Creek – BAT – Epos setup from Acoustic Arts

These 2 systems couldn’t sound more different from each other.

If I were to use a food analogy to describe these two, I’d call the Clearaudio-Jeff Rowland-Dynaudio system Japanese sushi, and the Creek-Bat-Epos system good ol’ British fish n chips. Incidentally, both systems were playing LP during my visit and both sounded really good, in fact I found systems playing LP sounded generally good in this Show, must be the analogue magic at play.

I don’t expect many people to agree with my enthusiasm for the Clearaudio-Jeff-Rowland-Dynaudio system, because on first listen there were very few attention grabbing aspects for a listener to latch on to. One would need a longer listen and probably a willingness to step away from some preconception to start appreciating this system’s real strength. Like someone used to more flavourful food, first taste of sushi would be blend and boring, only after a longer acquaintance would one start to appreciate the subtleties. The sound from this system was pristine, clear and very refined. The system sounded balance and neutral, and that was what I appreciate the most.

On the other hand the Epos system sounded bold and lush. The midrange (that British thing again) sounded particularly excellent, it stood out just a mite in the mix and was very natural with beautiful body. The bass was the best I heard in the entire show, strong and very well defined. One could easily follow the bass line. The tube traps placed at the corners of the room must have helped a lot, this system did not have the bass bloat / boom that many others had.

The Epos did not sound as pristine as the Dynaudio overall, especially in the highs, the Dynaudio Esotar2 tweeter still ranked as one of the best tweeters around for me. On the other hand, the big Epos’ boldness made music listening an exciting affair.  Like I mentioned earlier, these 2 systems can’t sound more different from each other, but I found myself enjoying both and could happily live with either.

Lastly, we come to the high end.

This system I pick is from Swedish Statement and Audiomatic’s exhibit. Each component in this system was well into the high 5-figure and 6-figure Malaysian Ringgit range, yet it was not the most expensive or the biggest in the Show. It consisted of a Sperling turntable, which was making its debut in Malaysia, Vitus electronics and Marten loudspeakers.

The huge room this system was in had very bad acoustic problem. A friend jokingly said that it had very good doublebass – bass from the left and bass from the right, alluding to the bass energy bled in from the neighbouring rooms which were showcasing home theatre.

While the room was huge relative to the Marten Bird Mk2 loudspeakers, the system sounded surprisingly full at moderate listening level sitting at the sweet spot. Koo and Eugene were smart to play music that was more about tonal quality rather than hifi pyrotechnics, and the result was excellent. The sound was organic, natural and very analogue (but of course, with the Sperling turntable upfront).

Well, these are my takes of the recently concluded KLIAV2012, looking forward to 2013.

Postscript: Judging sound quality under show condition is full of perils, at different time with different music played, different people can form different opinion. In my experience, there was one more pitfall, which was about the listener. I always insisted that a system could be judged only when one was sitting at the sweet spot (this equally applies to the home environment). I had on many occasions heard different performance from the same system at different places in the same room. Some examples: seated to one side of the speakers, close to the side wall, I heard serious bass bloat, but at the sweet spot there was no such problem; Standing at the corridor leading into the room, I heard only bass boom and not much else, again no such problem at the proper seat; Listening standing up, a system sounded balanced and smooth, but seated, the highs were rough and too sharp. So I always made sure that I got the sweet spot seat at least for a few minutes. Consequently, I also take it with a pinch of salt when someone who had not sit at the sweet spot to listen for a while talk about their take of a system they just heard for the first time.

Another problem is with some of the exhibitors who play their systems too loud, presumably to attract the attendees’ attention. I could not stay long in these rooms as they were painful to listen to after a while. Hope they’ll set the volume knob at a more sensible level in the future.

July 27, 2012

KLIAV 2012, My Favorites And Other Top Contenders.

As with previous year's post KLIAV show discussion, many asked about my favourites. Take a look at the systems listed here, one common denominator are the speakers of European make, majority British too! The other factor shared about the systems listed here is that they are mostly three component systems, consisting of a source, integrated amp and speaker. Simplicity is better?

Who knows. It may also show my personal preference with a disposition towards simpler, less ambitious, and typically British sound. What ever the reason, congrats to all those who set up and demo-ed these systems listed below.

My Favorites, the top 3 systems on demo:
Swedish Statement/Audiomatic really made a statement this year, by making my joint favorite KLIAV 2012 demo, there's a caveat, this honour only goes to it when demo-ed with the excellent Sperling turntable! The Vitus Signature  series electronics and Marten Design Bird MKII speakers are certainly up to scratch, when it comes to sound quality stakes. However with the Sperling turntable as source, this system went from sounding very good to musically extra ordinary! Here's another tip, despite being bombarded with sub-sonic frequencies from the AV demos on both sides of the room, Koo continued to play music at reasonable volumes, instead of competing with the AV demos, smart move! 

Why declare a joint favorite? My heart was smitten by this little system, demo-ed by Audio Definition, comprising of Orpheus electronics and Ktema speakers. Again this joint honour comes with an exception, that only when the little Ktema Acordo is used on the occasion. Otherwise, this system may not have made this honour, if still a rather good sounding system.

1st runner up goes to the Pro-Ac K6 speaker, powered simply by a Naim digital media player and integrated amp. Again, this system was not trying to compete in the loudness war, but injected digital music with the kind of PRAT and tonal colours that only the British can do. Congrats to Chuah of CMY Audio & Visual for doing a fine job!

Perfect Hi-Fi may not be perfect, but Jepson took his time setting up this demo, comprising of top drawer equipment list like, DCS Pucini CD player, Pass Labs amps, and KEF Blade was impressive. However, it was the KEF LS 50  speaker that was designed to celebrate KEF's 50th Anniversary in the business, caught my attention and out shined it's big brother. It's quite possibly the best budget speaker in the market retailing for under RM$5k today!  

Other Top Contenders.
This simple system presented by Acoustic Alchemy, using Triangle Genese' Quartet and BFA amplifiers was said by many of my buddies as their "Fav" and I understand why, it's an easy on the ear system, that does little if no major sonic errors. There's not much sonic "handle" on this very neutral, yet non clinical sounding system either. Again the demo was done at very sensible volumes, by non other than the rep from BFA, Bosko Pjescic himself! I threw him 10 Qs too.

If this looks familiar to you, it's because you're indeed familiar with the LS3/5a speakers, done KI method! Yes, it's Jo Ki's excellent sound quality and musical demo, and he has done it in consistent fashion, year after year! And by the way, this guy is non-profit, but he does profit from the joys of music sharing and passionate hifi ideology exchange, all the more commendable for his noble deeds and contributions to the KLIAV show, music and hifi hobby.

This Maxx Audio demo deserves a mention, especially when doing the Exposure electronics & Triangle Color speakers. The sound has pleasant tonality, subtle texture cues often missing in bigger systems. It's my "budget system demo of the year!"

Sound Gallery demo-ed his Estelon speaker which not only looks impressive, but sounds accurate too,........

Just like it's musical partner in crimes, th Absoluta integrated amp & Loit Passeri CD player. It a beautiful looking and great sounding system, which reflects the owner's personal style for the finer things in life. Audiophile lifestyle does not come better looking than this! 

Hi-Way Laser makes our top contender this year with an active ATC SCM 50 and pre-amp, partnered to the Ayre DX-5 AV engine. The secret weapon of this system was the Trinnov DSP room correction system. The sound was smooth, detailed and highly involving, especially with Pink Floyd tracks!

After making a splash last year, Mario Binner and Audio Note, may have decided to go low key with this entry level demo, consisting of Audio Note CD 1.1X and OTO SE Signature integrated amp with the Snell type J inspired AN-J speakers! while the sound lacks detail and subtle harmonic cues compared to last year's demo, the simpler system is no less musically involving. And Mario's music demo choice is spot on as usual.  

AV Designs decided to focus on the PMC Twenty series speakers this year, again mated to Bryston electronics and JVC's state of the art D-ila 4k projector. Pictures were crisp, detailed and contrast brilliant, yet colours were projected naturally without bleaching or saturation. While this system runs away as the winner on the visual stakes, the audio side was actually rather enjoyable too, especially with that Simply Red "Live" concert take. If your idea is audio and visual in one system, then look for the guys called James and Tony.

I wish to congratulate everyone listed here for doing a fine job at the KLIAV 2012. The shows a winner and the organising chairman, Dick Tan deserves a pat on the back, for his un-tiring efforts to make every show, just a little better every year.

And by the way, some may not agree with my choices of top demos listed here, if so then kindly share your top 5 rated systems in the KLIAV 2012, just for a bit of variety's sake. It would be fun!

Here's looking forward to the next KLIAV 2013.

July 26, 2012

KLIAV 2012 Show Report Part IV.

Now for the final part of our KLIAV 2012 tour.
A&L Audio Station had the Golden Ear Triton Tower speakers on demo with Unison Research S6 amp, feed by Unico CD player. The sound was easy on the ear.

Golden Ear show it's roots in the AV sector with this Force Field sub woofer and Super Sat discreet speakers(not shown).

A&L Audio Station had another demo featuring Dali Epicon 6 New Reference(outer) and Fazon F5(inner) loudspeakers, powered by Unison Research S9 tube amp and sourced with latest PS Audio Perfect Wave Memory Player & DAC II. A new generation of Power Plant from PS Audio is used. 

Other than the JBL Everest & Theta electronics combo, IMS Distribution also demoed the latest JBL Studio series speakers, powered by Bel Canto amps and Krell CD player.

AV World, had Waterfall(clear glass, left) and Amphion(right) speakers on static display.

This Orpheus electronics and Ktema speaker set up is demo-ed by Audio Defination. Also one of the best sound of show candidate.

Especially when demo-ed using this Ktema Acordo speakers! Franco Serblin never lost his touch when it comes to stand mount designs. It's both equally exquisite sounding and looking.

Clarity MP brought in the flagship series Wisdom Audio LS 3 planar speakers with the gigantic STS sub woofer, powered by...... 

Mark Levinson amps, and sourced from.......

Kaleidescape digital media player, using a Playback Designs MPS-3 for DAC.

Dared head phone amp was also on demo.

Luen Hing Electrical demo-ed the Dared I30 tube job with a computer feeding 16/44.1 signal in to the amp's built in DAC. It sounded very good too. 

That's the lot for KLIAV 2012 show report. There may be some rooms which I've missed, as I've seen from our other friendly blog site, HiFi-Avenue, who also covered the show extensively. Next, we rate our KLIAV Show favourites!

July 25, 2012

KLIAV 2012 Show Report, Part III.

Continuing our tour of duty at the KLIAV 2012.
Acoustic Arts had the flagship Epos Encore 50 mated with BAT tube amps to produce a beguiling and dynamic sound. Source is a Creek Windsor turntable.

The "budget Acoustic Arts room never disappoints as usual, with the tiny Epos Epic 1 throwing a huge holographic sound staging, helped by Creek electronics.

AVP Soundcraft showcases the German Physik Limited LE speakers with Sim Audio electronics, it's an explosive combo for sure!

Mellow sounds with a "golden" tone best describes this Verity Parsifal speakers with Nagra tube electronics.

More Sim Audio but only with Canton speakers this time!

Audio Note had these Volent Chorale CL-3(left) and CL-2(right) on static display, which was a bummer.

The Avantgarde Acoustics Duo horns were loud!!!

Powered by Avantgarde XA series pre & power combo, with the latest Wilson Benesch Circle turn table.

Many show goers called this their favorite show system, consisting of Triangle Genese' Quartet speakers and BFA integrated amp & DAC combo, source from a low rent DVD player!

CMY Audi & Visual's Pro-Ac K6 speakers were impressive.......

Especially when feed simply by Naim integrated amp and NDX digital media player.

Living Audio show off the flagship XTZ Devine speakers, which were sold on the first day of the show!..... 

Powered by all XTZ electronics!

Maxx Audio had this simple system on demo, which consist of Triangle Color speakers, and Exposure electronics, I felt it even eclipse the higher end Triangle Genese' Trio speakers(not shown) with Odyssey amps, which was also on demo. 

Audio Perfectionist, gave an improved demo this year with biggest daddy Focal Grand Utopia EM and state of the art McIntosh electronics.

AV Designs focused on the PMC Twenty series speakers this year.....

With the Twenty-24 taking center stage, on their multi chanel AV and stereo demo, partnered with Bryston electronics. While the audio part sounds familiar to me, the visual aspect was the stuff of dreams.

Swedish Statement/Audiomatic demo-ed a junior system consisting of Marten D'Jango speakers, Vitus Reference series amps and Aurender S10 digital media player coupled to the Bladelius Embla doing DAC duties. Unfortunately, I did not hear them sing.  

The big rig consist of Marten Bird MKII, making it's world wide show debut and Vitus Signature series electronics with Sperling turntable, it's a candidate for "Best Sound Of KLIAV 2012 Show"

Perfect Hi-Fi had probably the "most expensive" system on display. The Sonus Faber Aida speakers alone costing more a cool RM$500k on their own, powered by ARC Reference electronics.

CMY Audio & Visual went static this year, seen here with QED cables, and.........

Audiolab electronics with Mission speakers doing multi chanel AV demo. 

Do hang around for the final part of our KLIAV 2012 show tour next.