August 30, 2012

The Jazzy Sound Of Teresa Teng(Definitive Audiophile Version), Winnie Ho.

Just got my Definitive Audiophile Version of this fantastic album last week, and I have not stop listening to it since. Creativity and musical artistry aside, as covered in my earlier music review of the said album, by Malaysian song bird, Winnie Ho.

This posting is more a comparative sound check vis a vis the original, released not too long ago, as all the tracks are exactly the same. While I liked the organic quality in the mastering of the original, this audiophile version boast better extended, crispier highs, more incisive imaging quality and better dynamic contrast. Take track four for instance tittled The Girl From South Sea, the percussion session had better sense of rhythm and stood out a bit more from the mix on the left side of the sound stage, compared to where the percussion was just part of the overall musical mix in the original release. On the whole, the definitive audiophile version just sounds better and certainly worth the extra price premium.

This numbered limited edition is truly limited and if you've liked the original release as much as I did, it's best to get your copy of this definitive audiophile version too, before it's all gone and prices start to sky rocket upwards as with all "hot" audiophile CDs. If you've not heard this album and wondered what the fuss is all about, just go and get either version for your musical enjoyment.

August 27, 2012

10Qs For Ansgar Sperling & Michael Bonninghoff Of Sperling Audio.

If there's one thing you can accuse Sperling Audio of, is that it's definitely a company run by two engineers with vinyl as hobby and passion for music. However their Sperling turn table seriously looks constructed unlike anything close to a hobbyist project. It's as much as an industrial design triumph as a precision musical playback instrument.

I spoke to both the designers of the turn table and their German based company Sperling Audio. 
Ansgar Sperling(left) & Michael Bonninghoff, owner and co-designers of Sperling Audio turn table.

Big E: You guys don't seem like Swedish?

MB: That's because we're Germans!

Big E: I taught Swedish Statement only sold Swedish products?

MB: You'd have to ask Mr Koo(of Swedish Statement) about that. He met us in the Munich Show and I've never seen anyone wanted to represent our products so fast! (Mr Koo chips in, "good things must get fast, otherwise will lose out!")

Big E: Tell us a little bit more about yourselves?

AS: I am a broadcast radio engineer by profession before founding Sperling Audio.

MB: I was a microphone engineer before. We met on our job and very quickly became good friends, because of our love for vinyl and passion for music.

Big E: What made you guys wanna make your own turn table?

AS: We were never quite satisfied with what we could buy off the market, and we are always modifying other manufacturer's turn tables.

MB: Yeah, our business started out as an after market turn table mod shop, and eventually, we wanted to make our own turn table design, which was the next most logical step to take.

Big E: What do you think makes your turn table stand out from other high end designs also in the market today?

MB: For our turn table design, we started with a fresh sheet from ground up, we left nothing to chance, and no budget limitations. We wanted to take our turn table design expression and engineering capabilities to the limits of today's technology. For example, our noise free motors are built in house with load regulators built in to the speed control circuit. The tape drive stub mounted on the motor is custom finished with CNC tolerances of less than 0.01mm.  Our bearing is an over sized design to handle the extreme pressures exerted by the heavy platter. The wood inserts on the platter also makes the sound different compared to other materials. We allow owners to customized their sound by offering optional insert materials. Just to mention a few examples of our engineering work gone in to the turn table.

AS: Our turn table design has three patent pending features which would make it different from other existing turn tables in the market today. The three patent-applications we have for our turntable are:
1) The dials for tone arm mounting with graduation from 0-360°
2) The arm mounting system with the rotary plates to mount arms from 9 - 12inch
3) The on the fly regulation of the tape tension

Big E: Talking about the bearing, why not use the magnetic bearing design much favoured by much high end turn table designs these days?

MB: If you have done as much test as we have on bearings, you'd find that the magnetic bearings which causes the platter to float slightly for reduce contact force, and therefore reducing noise which is good. However, there's also a down side to the magnetic bearing which floats, but it is not exactly on even plane as the platter turns. It seems there is some bounce, only visible under magnified conditions during the float, due to the opposing magnets trying to push each other away. It causes the VTA to vary very slightly always as the tone arm and cartridge tries to track the grooves on an LP's surface, which to us is not ideal, because we are trying to get the tone arm and cartridge to track the LP's grooves in a consistent contact point and angle all the time.

Big E: You're demoing the turn table today with a tone arm from another manufacturer(an Ikeda tone arm and cartridge was used, if you have to know). Is this the preferred partnership, or do you have plans to make your own tone arm designs?

MB: Yes, we do actually, but it may take some time before you can see it. We actually tested our turn table with many tone arm designs, from the budget Rega RB250 to SME V to Graham pivoted arms and even Air Tangent linear tracking arms, of all lenghts between 9-12inches, and found that our turn table will work well to any one of them. The Ikeda is a great match for the Sperling turn table, but it's not the only one!
The Sperling Audio turn table which struck a chord with the high end KLIAV 2012 show crowd.

Big E: Which do you think is the most important element of an analog system, between turn table, tone arm and cartridge? Where would you put most of your "budget" in to, if you ever assemble an analog play back system?

MB: I think there is no wrong or right, or if there is any one part of the equation more important than others. It's what the person assembling his own analog play back has to choose his sound preference in accordance to the music that he plays. There is no "the one" magic combo out there, as I've seen some combining our turn table with an Rega RB300 arm for instance and still turned out very musically satisfying performances.

AS: I feel the more important part actually belongs at the cartridge to tone arm matching, which is technically more crucial, due to the compliance issues, compared to tone arm to turn table matching. However like my partner says, there is no magic formula and one has to try things out to know one's preferred combination.

Big E: I notice that you mentioned on the fly regulation of tape tension, which is a patent pending feature. Does it help to prolong the life span of the delicate looking tape pulling the heavy platter?

MB: The on the fly regulation of tape tension does the following, and that is to regulate the perfect contact point of the tape tension between the motor pulley stub and the platter, to ensure consistent speed and prevent the tape from slipping down as it spins. The drive tape does not look like much, but it was design to drive much heavier loads without stretching. That drive tape will last for years, under normal usage, and should it stretch or break, we have spares to back up the end user.

Big E: There are also two patents pending on the tone arm mounting dials. Care to elaborate more about them?

MB: We designed those dials to take the guess work out, and make setting up or re-mounting of tone arm an exacting procedure. Every single tone arm design is unique in it's mounting and especially setting up properties. Should the turn table owner has as many arms as we do, and likes to rotate the use of his various tone arms, then all he has to do is to mark down all the dial measurements for a given tone arm and re-used those dial positions the next time that same arm is intended to be re-mounted for use. With this feature, every time a tone arm is mounted or re-mounted, the result will always be exactly the same, and repeat able. we spent much time in designing this feature, which we felt is worth while.

Both Ansgar and Micheal also does recording in their spare time. They brought along a jazz LP which was recorded by them, performed by their friends who are members of the band. The LP sounds wonderful, and I wanted to buy a copy, but it was no more in pressing and no longer issued, which is a shame. These guys are truly engineers with a musical passion!

August 23, 2012

1,000,000 And Counting!

It's been a long, long while since I did a Mind Over Hifi posting(I must confess that very little of my mind has been in hifi of late), but the occasion warrants it today. It's been a depressing day for me. A day of opportunities lost, of deep frustrations and a general feeling of helplessness. However, when I turn on my PC and logged in to this blog, a small, if insignificant number cropped out of our page views counter. Yes folks, we've hit the million readership mark on this blog site. It's the feeling of a small achievement, that manage to end my bitter day on a some what sweeter note.

Please allow me to re-count on our journey so far.

Both me and Odioslueth started this blog as an audio adventure partnership, a little over 3 years ago, coming together from our past contributions in another audio blog site called Desirable Audio Boutique. We had intended to use this blog to promote the hobby of specialist audio for greater society participation. We shared our audio philosophies, beliefs and our practical experiences in this musically rewarding hobby of ours. We also document our equipment up grade trial, and shared our sonic triumphs with you, our dear readers. We may not always be right, but we're always man enough to own up if proven otherwise.

Soon, we found industry wide support in our passion for high end audio. We sincerely thank all those dealers who supported us with product review loaners, the little social parties called events, and most of all the friendships that were developed as result from the blog's activities. We appreciate the trust these dealers put upon us with the mega bucks gear on loan. Trust me, while we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them, the responsibility to return them, un-marked, and free from un-warranted molestation is enormous while under our care.  However, we are proud to have achieved a 100% blemish free goods return rate, except when the times that we fell head over heels over the subject under scrutiny and return in cash instead! Odiosleuth happily calls this occasion an "occupational hazard!". I couldn't agree more, happy reviews, and merry dealers, what's not to like?

Now, I am not exactly sure how much influence we hold sway upon our audience, but there sure as hell that some industry players cared enough about what we had to say. There were times when we had to make choices, between those that came bearing gifts, or those that let their legal departments do the "talking" and editorial integrity, which we'll always choose the later without the slightest of considerations. As a result we may have alienated certain industry players. There are also times when readers accuse that we always have something positive to write on every equipment under review. My guess is that if neither side is exactly pleased, then we're probably balancing along the fine line with equal measure. There's a proverb for this too, "You can't please everyone all the time, but you can please most people, most of the time".  In this blog site, we remain truly "non profit" in our hearts. For all I know, our smart readers couldn't give a jack sh*t about our ramblings here?

There are plans to bring this blog site concept up another level soon, pending legalities and other regulatory requirements which we have to comply upon in the near future. Details are still being worked out at this point, but we trust that our new effort will bring even more cheer and excitement to the high end audio market place. As we still have some on going editorial commitments to fulfil, this blog site will continue in it's present form for a little while more, so please stay with us till the very end. This is NOT a good bye note, not just yet!

Lastly, there are times when people come up to us, because they recognise us from these pages, and tell us that they love our work, or that it's the first web page they look up to when they switch on their computers, that's more than enough motivation to carry on with our sharing of musical gifts and audio joys. A million thanks to all our faithful readers, and we couldn't have done it without your un-ending support. We are proud to have gone this far with you indeed!

August 21, 2012

Ayre VX-R Power Amplifier

About 2 years ago, Big E borrowed a pair of Ayre MX-R monoblocks from Hi-Way Laser and we had a whale of a time listening to them in our systems for a couple of weeks. Having been so impressed with them, I could not resist, when I came across Ayre’s new VX-R stereo power amp at Hi-Way Laser’s showroom, to ask Kenny’s permission to bring the new amp home for a short listen. 

The Ayre VX-R is a follow-up to their flagship monoblocks. The VX-R is like a conjoint twins version of the MX-R, it is basically 2 mono amplifiers built into 1 chassis. The chassis is similarly carved out from a solid billet of aluminium. The demo unit came with a transparent plastic bottom, so I could take photos of the circuits and compare to those I took of the MX-R. The circuits from both models to my non-technical eyes look identical. The one big difference was that each MX-R uses 2 transformers per side, while the VX-R uses just 1 per channel. The VX-R has a power rating of 200w/8ohm and 400w/4ohm (MX-R gives out 300w/600w) and weighs 35kg. The list price for the VX-R is RM60,000.

One interesting nugget I dug up about the VX-R was a posting from Charles Hansen on Stereophile’s website, in which he said, “This is literally a 200 wpc version of the MX-R built into one chassis. There were a lot of requests for a smaller amplifier that would fit on a rack shelf. Within its power rating, the sound is exactly identical to the MX-R. We took special care to ensure that everything was exactly the same.” (see here)

The Ayre VX-R operates in the same way as the MX-R. It has no on-off button, it goes straight into standby when it is plugged in with the indicator light glowing green. The indicator light also serves as a power button where a push will change its colour to blue and turn the amplifier on. At the back, there is but just one pair of XLR input, so you'd need to connect the VX-R to a pre-amp with a balanced output. I like the Cardas loudspeaker binding posts, they are easy to use and to tighten down, but they accept only spade termination. 

I first mated the VX-R to my resident preamp, the Pass Labs XP-20. The XP-20 has proven to be an excellent and exceptional pre-amp, but on this particular occasion I was not happy. The sound from this pairing had an aggression, edginess and a general lack of refinement that I did not recognize as either Pass Labs or Ayre, and it definitely could not be attributed to the TAD CR-1 loudspeakers too. It was a sound I did not enjoy listening to for longer hours. Even after I let the whole thing ran overnight, thinking that the VX-R needed more run-in or warm-up, the situation did not improve. Alas, I put this down as a matching issue, a situation not unheard of in our hobby, though this is one I would not have suspected for this pairing.

As luck would have it, when I asked to loan the VX-R I also asked Kenny to loan me the Ayre KX-R pre-amp too. So, in went the KX-R. The KX-R pre-amp and VX-R clicked immediately, as they should be.

The VX-R definitely shared the MX-R’s DNA. The sonic picture it conjured had a vividness that I would describe as an ‘oil painting’ rather than ‘water colour’. The tonal colour was rich and vibrant. The sound was liquid, organic, and had an analogue warmth close to the best of tube gear, yet the VX-R also exhibited control and definition from the best of solid state.

In terms of dynamics and impact, the sound from the VX-R might lose out a little some other solid state designs, however I found that the VX-R generally sounded more natural. It exhibited a musical quality that few could match. There was tremendous amount of details presented by this Ayre duo, and they successfully weaved them together to serve the musical message, instead of just highlighting certain aspects of the sound.

I enjoyed my time with the Ayre VX-R. I hope they will make your acquaintance too. For audition, please contact Hi-Way Laser 03-7873.8325 or Kenny 019-281.3399. 

August 18, 2012

Songbbird Winnie Ho to Appear at MOD--DAC 2012

If you are visiting Singapore's inaugural MOD-Digital Audio Convention 2012 on 25/8-26/8, make a date with pop pop music's Winnie Ho. Leslie Loh, pop pop music's CEO says:

"Winnie Ho, Malaysia's rising Chinese Jazz songbird, is a guest singer at next week's inaugural MOD Digital Audio Convention (DAC), to be held on 25th and 26th August, at Raffles Convention Centre. 

Fresh from her appearance at the just concluded Tianjin Jazz Festival, Winnie Ho will be singing some songs from her popular album "The Jazzy Sounds of Teresa Teng" and at the same time, promoting the latest "Definitive Audiophile Edition" to the audiophiles in Singapore. 

The album sold well in the recent KLIAV and Taiwan's TAA Hifi Show and the Singapore's distributor for pop pop music, S2S music, hopes to expand their Chinese repertoire with this strategic partnership with pop pop music.

Winnie's showcase time:

Saturday 25th August: 3PM and 5PM
Sunday 26th August:3PM and 5PM    "


August 16, 2012

10Qs For Frank Denson, International Sales Director, Dynavector Systems Ltd.

Dynavector Systems Ltd, is a Japan based company who makes high end MC(Moving Coil) cartridges and electronics with strong links to their offices in Australia and New Zealand.

Thru Frank Denson, an elderly Kiwi gentleman in his 70's, I get to learn about the people behind the great history of Dynavector. I now share with you, our dear readers, especially analog fans, my new found admiration for the Dynavector brand. 
Frank Denson is Dynavector's International Sales Director. He's also a keen audio engineer and designer at heart. 

Big E: Frank, which part of New Zealand are you based?

FD: I am from Christchurch, south island of New Zealand.

Big E: How is Christchurch recovering from the devastating earth quake two years ago, and are you affected in any way by the tragedy?

FD: Christchurch is being re-built slowly but surely, and I consider my self lucky that I was not affected in any way, because I live 20 kilometers away from the epicenter.

Big E: Tell us about some of the illustrious history of Dynavector?

FD: Dynavector developed a coil winding machine which gave them the capability of producing high output moving coil cartridges in the very early 70's. Dr Tominari, then a professor in automation science at the Tokyo Metropolitan University, founded Dynavector, along with Mr Masaaki Sasa, an apprentice who was one off his students, went on to manufacture one of the very first cartridges with very short cantilevers made from precious stones such as Ruby and Diamond. He also produced a very small production of tube electronics which have become collectors items throughout the world.

Big E: Other than cartridges and tube audio electronics, what other engineering interest did Dr Tominari pursued?

FD: In 1985 he became very influential in the development of a Mikuni fuel injection system but was frustrated by the strong worldwide patents of Bosch in Germany. He was an avid car enthusiast, owing  heavily modified V 12 Jaguars and Alfa Romeos. He also has completed many circuits at Brands Hatch motor racing track in single seat race cars.

Big E: How did you, as a Kiwi, got involved with Dynavector?

FD: I had always represented Dynavector in New Zealand, where I run an audio specialty retail business. On the event of his untimely death in 2003 and because of a lack of English speaking personal at Dynavector Tokyo, I was invited to take up the position of International Sales Director, a position I have held to the present day. Fortunately Dynavector are blessed with the brilliant, now senior engineer Mr Masaaki Sasa who had been with Dr Tominari since a university graduate and even greater cartridges have evolved in the Dynavector stable which makes my job an exceptionally easy one.

Big E: Is it true that you designed the Te Kaitora Rua cartridge and got Dynavector to manufacture it?

FD: Yes, I designed the original Te Kaitora Rua cartridge and got Dynavector Tokyo to make it for me. The latest version is an improvement over the original design, but I didn't do much design input by then.

Big E: How did the popular P-75 phono stage came about? Was that your handy work too?

FD: The P-75 phono stage was a collaboration between Mr Davis of Dynavector Australia and myself. It has been produced since 2003 and will be getting its first serious makeover this month.

Big E: Any other new Dynavector products that you'd like to announce which is coming our way?

FD: We also have a new Step Up MC Transformer SUP-200, which started shipping recently.(By then Nelson of Centre Circle Audio was trying to order some already, so expect them to be here soon!)

Nelson(left) of Centre Circle Audio, Malaysian distributor of Dynavector seen with Frank Denson. 

Big E: Why are there scale model airplanes available on Dynavector's website?

FD: The model airplanes are a project of Taro Tominari(son of Dr. Tominari). They are very special kit sets of quite rare airplanes. Dr Tominari's other son Jiro has an interest in restoring and racing in Tokyo, vintage & classic British Motor Cycles.

Big E: Obviously, you're very good friends with Dr Tominari, how would you like to remember him by?

FD: Dr Tominari's legacy, not confined only to the Hifi World is significant and is testimony to the man's genius.

Incidentally, Frank Denson is also owner of the Well Tempered Lab turn table brand. He designed the latest Simplex turn table which was also on demo at the KLIAV show this year. Out of curiosity, I asked about the use of a golf ball integrated in to the tone arm's design. Frank said that the golf ball is the most aero dynamic(naturally also the most hydro dynamic) item with natural self damping properties, most suitable for the fluid damping design mounting base on the turn table.

I tried to asked him more about his turn table ventures and he said, "That's another long story best left for another day!" I agree to him finish his cuppa and get back to his demo sessions. Many thanks to Nelson of Centre Circle Audio for arranging this most interesting 10Qs session.

August 13, 2012

New Lower Prices for SVS Subwoofers at Maxx Audio

Maxx Audio has revised downwards the prices of its range of SVS subwoofers. Check out the full specs and pictures at The models available are:

1.  PB13-Ultra : RM8,499 (Old retail : RM11,000) (as pictured above)
2.  PC13-Ultra : RM7,599 (Old Retail : RM9,899)
3.  PB12-Plus : RM6,999 (Old Retail : RM8,599)
4.  PC12-Plus : RM6,199 (Old Retail : RM7,899)
5.  PB12-NSD : RM3,499
6.  PC12-NSD : RM3,499 (Old Retail : RM4,599)
7.  SB12-NSD : RM2,999 (charcoal black); RM3,199 ( Piano black)

More over, Maxx Audio is doing a pre-order sales from now until 22nd August 2012 to commemorate SVS in Malaysia for 3 years. For pre-order, discount of 10% will be given to all existing Maxx Audio's customers. Customer who paid in full for pre-order will get an additional 5% discount.

The pre-order quota is depleting fast, I was told that of the 10 units of PB13-Ultra available, only 2 are left as of today.  So if you are looking for a great sub at a great price what are you waiting for? Call Maxx at 0176778820.  

August 10, 2012

10Qs For Bos'ko Pjescic Of Beyond Frontiers Audio.

KLIAV is becoming increasingly popular with hifi manufacturers in the last few years. BFA is a relatively young Canadian/Serbian company with high end aspirations who certainly thinks so too.

They sent two of their audio engineers to this year's KLIAV to showcase their products, especially the latest Tulip integrated amp, which looks heavy and built like a vault. I spoke to the more senior looking and vocal guy, called Bos'ko Pjescic, and find out more about BFA and the personalities behind it.

BFA or Beyond Frontiers Audio is an industrial multi award winner too. Audio engineer Bos'ko Pjescic stands tall.

Big E: Tell us about the origins of BFA, or Beyond Frontiers Audio please?

BP: If you could remember the high end Canadian brand called Sonic Frontiers? Zdenko Zivkovic who is founder and owner of BFA was formerly an audio engineer in Sonic Frontiers. Since Sonic Frontiers brand has been bought over by new owners, Zdenko has been busy preparing to start his own high end audio company, and Beyond Frontiers Audio was chosen as the name, so that it will reflect the continuation in product design philosophy.

Big E: But wasn't Sonic Frontiers all about Chris Johnson?

BP: Yes, Chris Johnson was doing most of the marketing for Sonic Frontiers, but he had support in the design and production aspect from Zdenko Zivkovic, who was then little known.

Big E: How did the Canadian/Serbian connection came about?

BP: As you already know, Zdenko has already been living in Canada for the past 20 years or so, since the days of Sonic Frontiers. He still lives and works all his designs there. In fact much of the R&D process is done in Canada. In Serbia we import the PCB boards and bespoke parts from Canada, do the board stuffing and final assembly of the products prior to shipping.

Big E: Why don't you do it all in Canada then, perhaps the cost is lower in Serbia?

BP: I think the cost to quality ratio is best in Malaysia! That's my honest opinion. There's already a well established supporting industry catering to our parts supply needs here, plus cost is certainly one the most competitive, and ultimately Malaysian engineers have quality deeply ingrained in their work, especially in the electronics sector.

Big E: Malaysia? That's rather surprising, but what kind of terms and conditions, if any needs to be met before you can consider making BFA products here?

BP: As in any production work, there needs to exist a certain amount of manufacturing quantity, before it becomes worth while. I think if we can achieve a consistent manufacturing volume of 50 units/batch, then we can truly consider having BFA products made in Malaysia. That's why I am here, to evaluate our business expansion plans in Asia.

Big E: I noted that you mentioned that PCB boards are supplied from Canada, are they so special that you cna't make them else where, like in Serbia instead?

BP: As you may understand, technically the whole amplifier circuit is printed on the PCB board, which makes it extremely important to have a well designed and good quality board in the beginning. Zdenko has worked with some of the best suppliers of the industry during his days in Sonic Frontiers, and most of them, including the PCB board supplier are located in Canada. That's our way of guaranteeing genuine value and top sound quality with our products.

Big E: As for your business plans in Asia, is BFA sold elsewhere, other than Malaysia?

BP: Malaysia is our first Asian export market at the moment, but we are looking at Singapore, China and Taiwan next possibly. In the long term, we aim to make Malaysia as the base of Asian business.

Bos'ko, don't hide behind the speakers!

Big E: Amplifier circuit topology wise, what makes BFA designs different from other brands?

BP: We employ zero negative feedback in all our amplifier designs, which are fully balanced inside, from input to output. We believe this gives measurably ultra low distortion, and more importantly audible performance that gives more music, less noise when you listen. Even though our product's audio performance are strictly high end, our pricing is comparatively reasonable.

Big E: Would BFA consider making class A amplifiers in the future?

BP: We have no plans for that at the moment, but with currently improving circuit topology and transistor technology, there is less and less reason to go class A in the future.

Big E: What about class D?

BP: While there is potential to be harnessed from the class D topology, like cool running, huge power available from small, efficient box. However, we feel it's audio performance does not match the standards set by high end analog amplifiers for now. May be in the next few design evolutions, who knows! We are watching the developments of class D with anticipation.

While at it, Bos'ko asked if I knew who distributed BFA in Malaysia, and if I had met him? I said no.

Well in case if you didn't know too, BFA is represented in Malaysia by Acoustic Alchemy. You may contact Mr Danny Lim at 016-2187398 for an audition appointment, and general enquiries.

August 7, 2012

Polished Deck, The Rega DAC.

The matching Rega Apollo-R(left) feeding signal to the Rega DAC(right).

My last review left you with Daivd's CD player, Rega's kill all Apollo-R. Now that you've got the tiny but mighty David, how do you go top it?

The Rega DAC is the off the shelf answer. Coming from the same shoe box design concept as the Apollo-R, The Rega DAC visually matches and if put along side, by side forms a full size equipment physically. Like the matching Apollo-R, the front face plate is very simply laid out with three buttons, a power ON/OFF switch on the left, a filter slope selector switch, and lastly an input selector switch. As usual the REGA logo glows amber when power is switched ON. There's 2 Toslink input and 2 co-ax input plus a USB input, and one output each. An un-common club shaped power input receptacle is provided so no after market power cord tweaks allowed here! Thank fully, the power cord supplied by Rega is of high enough quality.

I connected the Apollo-R CD player to the DAC via 1 meter of industrial standard Belden co-axial cable, and it's analog out put to my pre-amp via a pair of The Chord Company Crimson Plus RCA interconnect for consistency sake, as a follow-up to the CD player review.

I plug in the power cord, turn power ON and and started spinning a CD on the Apollo-R as a CD transport, then select input till the LOCK indicator lights up on the DAC. The DAC also automatically senses the in-coming signal sampling rate and lights up the respective indicator. I turn up the music volume and music sweet, music flow in to my room. I then proceeded to play around with the filter mode settings and the default filter 1 setting sounded just fine. I found filter 2 rolled off the high highs just a bit more, followed by filter 3, which does the same but more aggressively and filter 4 bordering on too laid back a tonal presentation. I settled on filter 1 setting, which I felt gave the most even handed tonal pallete. The sound description of this review is based entirely on filter 1 setting.
I've always loved Kenny G, for all the brick bats hurled at him, he had brought me in to Jazz as a musical genre.

I started my listening session again with Phil Collins Hits! CD. Easy Lover is easily the hardest rocking track on the CD which is a duet with Philip Bailey, and where with the Apollo-R as a stand alone player started to lose it's composure even if just ever so slightly, the out put via the DAC seemed rock solid, and could carry the tune with continued confidence. Yes, that's the word, confidence! With confidence the high hats and crash cymbals on the track seems more tidy and self assured, and less all over the place. There's also thin layer of ozone, notice able around each instrument too. Phil's voice is less shouty, and lyrics sounded just that bit more tangible. The whole track is somewhat less jarring. Bass is no less punchy but only slightly more articulate in the note to note transfer.

Playing The Essential Kenny G, yes I am a fan of the man who made elevator music pay big time! Some of the tracks on this double CD compilation can sound rather harsh, due to recording or mastering techniques deployed, but thank fully, none of that bothered me too much, thanks to the smoothness and refinement in presentation of the Rega DAC. In fact playing this Kenny G CD on this Rega combo was rather enjoyable, as I repeated my favorite tracks over and over again, including that duet with Hong Kong superstar, Andy Lau!

I would've liked to try linking up my Bryston BDP-1 digital media player to the Rega DAC to test the unit with hi-res music files, but that was not to be, due to the broken co-axial connector on my BDP-1 unit. It was still waiting for spares as this review came and went by. Too bad then, I can only evaluate with what I have in hand, but that I believe, has already showed me what the DAC is capable of.
The back panel input/output connections of the Rega DAC, note the club shaped power cord receptacle.

The sonic merits of adding The Rega DAC to the Apollo-R is not considered much, but for those with more matured, confident and refined preference for audio performance, it can be very tangible and persuasive, due to it's not inconsiderately low retail price of RM$2,621.00/unit.

For those who are happy with the giant slaying Apollo-R as a stand alone CD player, the DAC can offer a step up in audio performance without breaking the bank.

Rega is sold by Asia Sound Equipment, contact Eddie Tan at 03-79552091.

August 3, 2012

10Qs For Aure'lie Gonzalo, Export Sales Manager, Triangle Industries S.A.S.

With the KLIAV show gaining strategic importance as a regional AV showcase, I see more and more industry executives making their way to be part of the show. It means something for so many manufacturers sending their executives, despite Malaysia being a rather insignificant market by size.

However the effects are all good, so that I can talk to and get some first hand information out of the hifi manufacturers. A rose(and exotically French!) made her way here, in a hobby and industry dominated by thorns. I had a date with her, chaperoned by Maxx, Triangle's Malaysian distributor. So here we go, ladies first!
Ms Aure'lie Gonzalo is Triangle's Export Sales Manager.

Big E: How did you get in to the hifi industry?

AG: I was formerly working for Elipson, who also makes hifi, but targeted at less traditionalist buyers. Then in January this year, I joined Triangle, and here I am now.

Big E: How do you pronounce Triangle in French? And how should the non-French speaking say it?

AG: In French, it's pronounced as Trie-an'gle, whoever for everyone else in the world, Triangle(the English word) is fine and very valid.

Big E: Other than your home market France, where else is Triangle sold in big numbers?

AG: You may find it surprising, we are no.2 in our home market, after Focal, a competitor whom we highly respect. However our loudspeakers are also very popular in Germany as well. Our next big market is likely to be India, which is a huge and un-tapped market.

Big E: Are most of the French who buy hifi music lovers or audiophiles?

AG: I am not sure how to answer this, but most homes in France do have a hifi system, because music is culturally important to us. However, it would be hard to determine if most of our buyers are audiophile or music lovers. There's also a group of buyers who like to balance their priority of good sound reproduction with decor friendly finishing, which is why we made the Color range of speakers. We certainly see an expansion of this market segment in the near future, based on the successful market penetration of the Color range. How about in Malaysia?

Big E: The people in Malaysia who buys hifi are more likely audiophile first, then music lovers(Maxx nodding in approval). Do you agree with the general statement, that loudspeakers do reflects their country of origin, as in French speakers sound different, compared to English speakers and German speakers have their own sound?

AG: I absolutely agree! I think French speakers are musical sounding, with a softer tone, compared to the German speakers, which I can't stand. English loudspeakers have their own sound which is strong on vocals. However, these are just my personal observations only.

Big E: Anything new from Triangle you'd like to share with us here?

AG: Yes, we are about to revamp our Genese' range of speakers, which have been in the market for a long time. We feel we can make the Genese' range sound closer to the flagship Megellan, because it'll contain a lot of trickle down technology.

Big E: Tell us more in detail about the trickle down technology?

AG: First, the new Genese' range will benefit from a titanium tweeter very similar to those found on the Megellan, the only difference being it'll be stamped instead of being moulded in to shape. The tweeter flange(or horn) will be made from aluminium, just like in the Megellan. Next are the all new mid/woofer drivers and x-over design. Lastly, the cabinets will, once again, be made in France, because it will feature more complex bracing and resonant control techniques.

Big E: You mean at present, the cabinets are made elsewhere, and which country in particular?

AG: The cabinets for the present Genese' range is made somewhere in Asia, however we cannot be too specific about the country which makes them. Very sorry, but it is confidential trade information.

Big E: I noticed you mentioned titanium tweeter, which was very popular in the 1980's, the speaker world today talks about more exotic materials like beryllium, or diamond for example, for tweeters. Do these exotic materials truly offer technical advantages or just marketing speak perhaps?

AG: At Triangle, we have tested all the so called alternative or exotic materials for use in tweeter production, but in the end, each material has it's merits and disadvantages, depending on what one is looking for technically. We still think the titanium metal dome used in conjunction of our phase plug design, combined with machined aluminium flange is the most effective match to our choice of x-over application and overall speaker design philosophy.
Seen here with Maxx Loh(left) of Maxx Audio, whose showroom is in Seremban.

Big E: Coming back to the speaker cabinet manufacturing, is it practical and cost effective to move production back to France?

AG: There seems to be a trend where manufacturing the speaker cabinets outside Europe no longer yields any cost advantages, further more we can control quality more tightly if the components are made near the factory. Triangle is in the process of moving back all component and assembly production back to it's in house facilities where possible, and if not, hopefully the work is done not too far away. We feel that brings stricter quality control, and where possible, the pride of having our products made in house, to give them a unique identity, not available else where, in today's competitive market place.

At this point, Maxx Loh was saying that he'd have to offer the existing Genese' stocks in his showroom for clearance, to prepare for the arrival of the newer range soon. Any takers out there?