September 30, 2012

Aesthetix Atlas Power Amplifier

I like this Aesthetix Atlas Power Amplifier quite a lot.

During the week I had it in my system, I was enjoying music rather than getting fiddly and fidgety with hifi reproduction. Coupled to my TAD Compact Reference loudspeakers, the Aesthetix Atlas produced smooth, delicate and gorgeous sound to serve up the music. Listening through the Atlas was always satisfying and enjoyable, which can’t be said of every piece of hifi equipment that has passed through my listening room. I became disinclined to analyse what the Atlas did from a hifi perspective after a while, rather, every night when I switched the system on, I slipped into a relaxed mode to listen to the music. To LISTEN TO THE MUSIC, not the sound.

How did the Atlas do this? It was hard for me to put my finger on one particular area and say, ‘there, that’s the secret ingredient.’ My way of putting it would be to say that the Aesthetix did not do anything wrong and did a lot of things more than right. Trying as I might I could not find one area of the Atlas’ sound performance that I could be critical of. It was this rightness that contributed to my musical enjoyment. When the analytical and critical mind of an audiophile was put at ease only could we enjoy the musical beauty, I suppose.

Saying that the Atlas did nothing wrong seems like a backhanded way of praising, but I assure you it is not. The Aesthetix Atlas seems to bring out the best of its hybrid (it has a tube input stage and a solid state output stage) design while not inheriting the weaknesses of the 2 dissimilar technologies. The worst solid state could have roughened highs, hardened mids, or sounding anaemic, the Aesthetix Atlas did not even have a hint of those. The worst tube gear could have flabby lows and excessive warmth, the Aesthetix? None of those was in its vocabulary.

The best word to describe the sound the Aesthetix Atlas produced was ‘pristine’, in my opinion.  The sound was clean but it was not sterile, the highs were sparkly yet sweet, the bass production was strong and well controlled yet tuneful, the mid was neutral while veering a little towards richness. Every note was properly reproduced with nothing getting rough or poking out like a sore thumb. The pristine sound of the Atlas allowed excellent details to come through. I especially appreciated the way it portrayed musical details in the recordings, such as ambiance cues and minute changes in tone and shades, of which the TAD-CR1 loudspeakers could really take full advantage of. My normal music diet which consists almost entirely of acoustic stuff – jazz, classical and vocals benefited tremendously, the greater details and nuances meant there was more to listen to and that translated to greater enjoyment. The Aesthetix Atlas is a music maker extraordinaire.

The Atlas has 200w on tap. It was interesting to compare it to my Pass Labs XA60, which is a class A 60 watter. The higher power from the Aesthetix did not manifest itself as a bigger sound or bigger scale, in fact I felt that both the Aesthetix and the Pass Labs were equal in this regard. The XA60 though exhibited the typical class A voluptuousness in imaging while the Atlas’ was more focused and cleaner. One clear advantage that the Atlas had was in the bass region, again it was not bigger or deeper bass that the Atlas’ higher power produced, but it was in bass control that the Atlas won out. The Atlas’ bass exhibited better nuances and simply played better tune, which was easy to hear in the acoustic bass line on many jazz recordings. I could listen into the bass notes, hear what was going on and follow their progression. In handling dynamics, the contrast between the two was also interesting. If I liken it to a 100m dash, the Pass Labs was more explosive coming off the starting line, but at the halfway mark, I could sense that on occasions it would start struggling a bit, especially on a big crescendo. The Aesthetix Atlas on the other hand was holding steady all the way, unwavering and unfazed, until it reached the climax. The Aesthetix Atlas sounded more at ease, and that translated into a more relaxed listening experience rather than more of an ‘edge of the seat’ kind.

The silver fascia version of the Atlas that I took home for audition looked handsome. The only ergonomical grouse I had was that the chassis did not have grab handles built in. So, to move the Atlas’ 70lbs bulk was not easy, carrying it for any distance was a 2-person job.  The Aesthetix Atlas offers both single-ended and balanced connections. There is a pair of loudspeaker output, the binding posts are the Cardas design which I delighted in using where the speaker cable spades could be tightened down by hand with a few turns of the big knobs. One unusual feature on the Atlas is the high-pass crossover input, this input allows a rolloff point to be set between 40Hz and 200Hz, the rolloff slope is 6db/octave. Such a feature will be handy if you intend to mate a subwoofer to your main speakers.

The Aesthtix Atlas is well built, the quality commensurate with its not insubstantial RM28,000 list price, though for what it can do  I think it is good value in today’s hifi world. It tempted me to think about replacing my current amplifier with it.

If you were to give it an audition, I am pretty sure it would tempt you too.

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

September 28, 2012

Hifi Funnies! Part IV

I think this is the last and best part.

For high end hifi cable purveyors, go on and have the sense of humour to laugh at our selves!

Ha! Ha!

September 27, 2012

Hifi Funnies! Part III

Folks, I love this part about directional cables!

The funniest to come still.

September 26, 2012

Hifi Funnies! Part II

More Hifi humour!

More still to come, hang on there.

September 25, 2012

Hifi Funnies! Part I

It's a pretty stressed out world now days. Here's part I in a series of hifi humour to lighten your day.

Thanks to my buddy Mark, for spotting this.

September 23, 2012

Wifi, The Future Of Hifi? Dynaudio Xeo Series Loudspeakers.

Dynaudio Xeo 5 floor stand speakers on demo at CMY Audio & Visual Damansara Uptown showroom.

I remember well a remark to end all cable debates when it comes to audio discussion, "The Best Cable Should Sound Like No Cable"! Yes, folks high end cable discussion still split opinions like no other hifi component, and now comes an innovation so close to the ideal "no cable is best" scenario, yet opens a whole new can of worms altogether in the hifi cable, or is it wifi discussions?

Dynaudio's new Xeo series of loudspeakers are quite possibly the most ambitious wifi transmission based hifi in the high end dom. CMY Audio & Visual recently launch them with fanfare at their Damansara Uptown PJ showroom, but I missed the event due to work commitments(un-like most people, I had a job too, you know?).
The Xeo series looks just like the X-cite series in gloss coloured finish. Note the power ON/OFF button with LED.

So this little preview serves to test and hear for myself if this wifi hifi is worth our serious attention? CMY Audio & Visual Damansara Uptown showroom had a pair of floor standing Xeo 5 on demo complete with NAS(Network Audio Storage) supplying 16 bit CD quality tunes via USB connection to Dynaudio's Xeo transmitter box, which is said to be effective up to 100 meters, depending on indoor domestic construction. The more solid walls, the less effective the transmission rates. However, in the demo set up, the transmitter is sited not too far away, and there were no signal drop outs through out the demo period of 35 minutes or so.

Various audiophile favorite tunes were used in the demo and the powered Xeo 5 speakers reproduced music with a refinement and maturity that only a pair of Dynaudio can. The music was reasonably detailed without too much losses compared to the lofty standards of a wired high end system. My only reservation is that the back ground noise(white hash) can be lowered for improved hifi performance, if there's any area to nit pick.
The Dynaudio Xeo loudspeakers are powered with an individual power cord each. That's about the only cable one can play with this speakers. 

I see a new kind of budget or mid-fi system option here, for those who are IT savvy or just plain lifestyle conscious folks. All one needs to do is to have a NAS set up and an iPhone or similar device as the master remote, and one can buy 1 or 2 pairs of Dynaudio Xeo to set up a single or dual zone hi-quality home audio system with not a single audio cable in sight, how cool is that, compared to a traditional wired system of black or silver boxes?
The discreet Xeo black box transmitter is no bigger than the size of a CD case.

This is probably the first serious assault at cable-less high end audio, and while the traditional wired high end audio system has nothing to lose sleep about for now, with advancing transmission technology filtering up stream in future development, there's certainly hope for the "no cable is best" argument to become a possible reality. Only time will tell, not if, but rather when it happens!

Go check 'em out and see if you like what you hear.

For demo appointment or enquiries, please contact Chan or Chua of CMY Audio & Visual at 03-77272419

September 21, 2012

Asia Sound Equipment Goes Rogue!

Yankee made Rogue Audio tube amps are now in the capable hands of Asia Sound Equipment. Eddie Tan tells me the first batch of products have arrive and are now on demo at their Amcorp Mall 1st Floor showroom.

Please contact Eddie at 03-79552091 for enquiries and demo appointment.

September 19, 2012

My AV Revival, When It All Comes Together.

The 64 inch Samsung PN64D7000 Smart TV dominates the AV set up, based in my family lounge measuring about 18 x 25 x 12ft(W x L x H). My sitting distance from the display is about 20ft away, but the nearest seat in the house is probably more further than 10ft from the screen, but the picture quality is still ok, without the screen pixels being visible just yet. 

In my last post, I've introduced the new building blocks chosen for integration with the existing speakers for my renewed AV system. You may have spotted that they are practically all last year's model! I think if if one is looking for value performance and not necessary must have the latest specs, then last year's models at clearance prices can make great buys, for those on a limited budget like me.

For me at least, all the best equipment is pointless, as I must still find a way to integrate them in to my family lounge. The trick is in the AV rack, which I've chosen to by pass all those performance enhancing specialty rack for this lovely looking, solid hard wood AV rack, which softens the overall hard edge look of the display and equipment, to fit in to my domestic lounge decor, mostly made from similarly warm tone lacquered hard wood too. It took me a while to do furniture shopping while all the equipment arrived and awaiting to be set up.
Astro cable TV decoder made by Philips and Pioneer BDP-140 represents the source of my home entertainment.

The Denon AVR1612 receiver is a reasonably powerful sounding workhorse, and actually sound like it's got more to give than it's modest power specs would indicate, provided you sort out the power cord issue. It runs cool too, which its why I could get away with such a tight fitting ventilation space. After more than 2 hours of high power rumbling my lounge, the Denon only felt slightly warm to touch.

With the arrival of the AV rack a week or so later allowed me to proceed with setting the system. A good buddy, who is an authoritative figure in the industry came to lend his pair of hands and expertise in helping me do the initial set up. The whole process of connecting all the cables and making doubly sure that everything has it's place took nearly 3 hours of hard work, including using the Audyssey as starting point 5.1 chanel calibrating but when the first disc was ready to play, it was testing time.

We used a variety of Blu-ray movies to reference the sound calibration, including Avatar, Transformers 3, and Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. Some of my older reference DVDs, like Black Hawk Down and Terminator 2 were also used to familiarised my self to the new system. The remaining fine tuning was for the 5.1 chanel surround set up was completed over a course of two weeks, with more movies and pop corn sessions. It doesn't really feel like work actually! 
The ol' skool Bose 301 Series II dates back to 1988, when I bought my first hifi set, the fact that it still serves my home entertainment today speaks volumes of it's quality. The Velodyne VX-10 is another blast from the past, since 2003. It's a 10 inch sub woofer with a self powered built in plate amp, wired with Monster sub woofer cable from the Denon AVR 1612. The Velodyne produces enough low rumble during movies, courtesy of the corner enforcement placement.

The Bose VCS 10 center chanel speaker is probably the weakest link in my AV set up for now. Plans are in place to do something about it. Stay tune to find out.

The Bose VCS 30 installed with wall mount brackets. I place them about 1 feet higher than ear level when seated, for most effective surround panning results. I had my family lounge wired in wall with tin plated Belden speaker cables, to maintain the wire free look, prior I moved in during 2003.  

The final result I got was brilliant pictures and big sound quality to match. The system went pretty loud too, and seemingly able to rumble the family lounge when the movies call for it. The surround panning effect works seamlessly to immerse the movie experience that bit more satisfactory. I get a kick when kids and some un suspecting adults turn their heads towards the back as the surround effect pans out, only to realised I've got a pair of really small Bose VCS-30 speakers around the back, while watching movies. The element of surprise is relevant for one to get totally absorb in to the movie one is watching.  Dialogues are highly intelligible and clear if a little weedy sounding, compared to the big, full bodied sounds of the front and surround effects. For me, this is an area that needs to be further improved, at least to get as tonally seamless with the big Bose 301 Series II as possible. I've figured out the improvement plans, which will need a bit of time to materialised. Also on my mind is that 10AWG power cord for the Denon AVR 1612 receiver, which can still be heard to be performing on the edge when loud explosions and dynamic sound track passages. The symptoms manifest it self as the sound just one the verge of breaking up on the near max volume.
Remote control heaven! From left: Astro, Samsung, Denon and Pioneer.

A scene from Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. Mood lights are dimmed for best viewing pleasure.

It's been a fun and satisfying experience setting this AV system, which is my fourth project(my first AV project was under taken in the early 1990's. It was a full fledge projector based, 5 chanel(there was no.1 yet at the time!) Dolby AC-3 system, comissioned by my dad in his home) over the years by the way. More AV adventures to come as I set about to unleash the full potential of my AV system.

September 16, 2012

Hi-Fi in The Chinese World

Leo mixes Hi-Fi with Fun, Humor and Tonnes of Beautiful Women and what a commercial success!

We are sure you know the biggest consumers of Hi-Fi are Chinese, or Asian, to be more accurate. Do you know who/which are some of the celebirites and publications that have global influence in the Chinese Hi-Fi community?

They are a few but this guy easily steals the limelight. Banker in the day time, playboy/hardcore audiophile/forum moderator/magazine editor at night time. Mr Leo Yeh, or more affectionately known as Xiao Ye, is the most popular audiophile in Taiwan. Leo successfully mixes Hi-Fi with fun, humor and tonnes of beautiful women and what a commercial success!

Leo started his forum, My-Hiend,  many years ago and it grew to be a monster congregation of audiophiles not only in Taiwan but other Chinese Hi-Fi communities as well. Not only does he cover almost every single Hi-Fi show on earth with his own money, he also organizes many Group Buys of audiophile CDs and other accessories for his forumers. He is the National Hero for many audiophiles in Taiwan.

It is also not far-fetched too to acknowledge Leo as the most popular Hi-Fi ambassador to the politically-divided Hi-Fi dealers in Taiwan. Many dealers advertise in his forum. Many dealers capitalize on Leo's popularity and his amazing protocols to promote and market their products.

Leo's success come from his super nice-guy demeanor, balanced views and his diplomacy. He handles everybody, whether you are a newbie, a seasoned audiophile, a dealer, a visitor, with a friendly approach fit for a diplomat. No bad-mouthing, no criticism on competitors products... you would never find any bad habits in Leo.

Recently in July 2012, Leo did something extraordinary that shook the Chinese Hi-Fi World. He started his own online publication called My-HiEnd e-Zine, much to the joy of his supporters and Chinese audiophiles all over the world. Since it is an e-Zine it is entirely FREE!

Leo did everything on this own. The layout, the artwork design, the reviews. Of course he also recruited a highly-respected team of reviewers which includes the Who's Who in Taiwan's Hi-Fi community. For starters, the magazine format and layout is refreshing: clean, classy and tasteful. Leo adopted a different approach in his editorial. His writing is simple and easily understood, just like man himself, a big contrast to the literary jargon of magazines like Audio Art, Taiwan's top Hi-Fi magazine. The e-Zine is beautifully straight-forward and highly readable. His views on Hi-Fi is also refreshingly different and more exciting from the traditional magazine reviewers.  

The first issue was an instant success, garnering more than 10,000 downloads globally.  The second issue which was released last week, has already surpassed that figure!

You can download it from here.

In line with the e-Zine publication business, Leo also setup a very classy office-cum-showroom, nestled amidst the back lanes of Taiwan, for client entertaining, equipment reviews and for Hi-Fi dealers to demo their products. Apart from his passionate pursuit in Hi-Fi, Leo is also a man of refined tastes, with his many posting of beautiful women in his Facebook and forum. Hi-Fi and women are inseparable, Leo enthuses.  

Leo's contribution to the Chinese Hi-Fi world is immense, although the man himself would be too shy to acknowledge. Many think that if there were a Nobel Prize for Hi-Fi, he would be the undisputed winner!    

September 13, 2012

My AV Revival, The Building Blocks.

Let's face it, no matter how superb sounding our hifi can make music sound, I think sometimes we need some movies too. As you may have guess from the equipment list on my previous 5.1 AV set up, the system was sound performance biased. I admit that at the time, the sound sometimes gets bigger than the picture it self. However, given the prohibitive cost of good big screens at the time, the choice was obvious.

I decided to set up a more balanced 5.1 AV system this time, paying equal attention to sound and vision. The task is less daunting this time round, due to the falling prices of big screens, and the relative affordability of Blu-ray players now days, couple to the more mature HDMI hook up format, reducing cable needs dramatically.

As my AV ambitions are less demanding compared to my stereo aspirations, I decided to go the budget route, yet the AV system must not dominate the family lounge, but rather serves to gather the whole family together for weekend pop corn and movie sessions. The kids just love it!

The system component selection reflects my thinking, and must work with my existing Bose 5.1 speaker set up already installed previously, along with the Velodyne VX-10 sub woofer. The existing Bose 5.1 speakers comprises of the 301 Series II for front chanel pair, and VCS-30 surround and center chanel set. It's imperative that the AV receiver have enough power to rumble the Bose speakers!
Pioneer BDP-140 Blu-ray player

This Pioneer BDP-140 Blu-ray player will soon be replaced by the newer BDP-150 model. I am not sure at this point the specifications of the newer model, but it surely looks very similar to the BDP-140. This is the entry point for Pioneer Blu-ray players, but the picture and sound quality is anything but budget. The build is light weight, but like everything else from the Pioneer stables, it well screwed together and come with a remote of overly large button count, majority of which I'll probably never use. For playing DVDs, the BDP-140 has impressive picture up scaling quality, much to the surprise for many of my buddies who came to view my new AV set up. There are now quite a few Blu-ray players from other manufacturers priced below the sub RM$500/unit market, but I believe if you're serious about movies as much as I am, then the Pioneer BDP-140 is quite likely to be the minimum entry level, even if it's just paying a bit more for the extra quality. This player is not fussy about disc quality, and has so far only rejected two disc of the hundreds that I've fed it.
Denon AVR 1612 AV Receiver

The Denon AVR 1612 AV receiver is something of a dark horse, as I initially wanted the older AVR 1611 instead, because the older model had more power on specs. The newer AVR 1612, is a 5.1 chanel only receiver, but comes with Airplay function for Apple iPod users, which I've not used. The AVR 1612 also has Audyssey Multi EQ to make initial setting up a doodle, followed by further fine tuning for the 5.1 surround chanels. Again, the Denon is well built, if somewhat light weight, thanks to it's five chanel class D power modules coupled to linear power supplies, which means it runs supremely cool, even with the most demanding of movie sound tracks. What surprised me was the highly detailed, yet musical nature of the amplifier section when I played some 5.1 chanel decoded SACDs, fed by the Pioneer BDP-140 on HDMI 1.4 connection! The remote is again of the buttons overload variety, but comes with night reflective white buttons(which glows light green when in the dark) for those commonly used. I had one issue when setting up the Denon, is when I substituted the rather short(but rather thick) original power cord supplied, with one that was longer which I had previously used to power my PC, and the receiver struggled to cope with loud explosion scenes during movies. The sound was breaking up and pictures were jittery too. I believe the power current draw is high and a big bad(10AWG at least!) power cord would be needed to get maximum performance out of the AVR 1612. Oh... by the way, the KLIAV 2012 show just saw the launch of the Denon AVR 1613, which looks surprisingly similar too.
Samsung PN64D7000 Smart TV

I never really taught my budget would stretch this far, but a buddy on the up grade path made ownership of this Samsung PN64D7000 Smart TV possible. It's a pre-owned item, but well taken cared for and most importantly, it fit's my budget. It's a 64 inch plasma TV framed by rectangular glass at the seams design gives it a futuristic look. I must say this Smart TV does so many things, to the point that I sometimes feel it's smarter than me! Like for instance, Astro has an annoying habit of pumping up the volume during advertisements, that I always have to tone down the volume by remote when using my old TV. The Samsung Smart TV does exactly the same, but only automatically. The volume restores to it's original setting when the actual program continues after the commercials. Still on Astro programs, which I am using the oldest 1st generation Philips decoder(non HD subscription), yet the built in picture up sampling feature of the smart TV brings picture and sound quality bang up to the top. Again those whom have viewed my Astro program chanels were amazed that I am not subscribing to the HD chanels, based on what they've seen. The titanium satin finished remote is just as smart, as it's soft touch buttons lights up when one presses any button and the layout is rather intuitive. The smart TV also does 3D pictures with very vivid results, provided the optional active 3D glasses are used. I only have one 3D featured Blu-ray disc at my disposal so couldn't test more of the effects. My buddy has a habit of having all his displays, regardless if they are projector or screen based calibrated to ISF standards, which renders balanced tonal colours and very realistic flesh tones. Well calibrated ISF standard screens have an uncanny ability to render picture depth layerings and details with exceptional ease. Another thing to note is that one can sit relatively close(about 3 feet) to the screen, and still don't noticed the pixelated effects. The screen also has great blacks(in my opinion, second only to the once mighty Pionner Kuro screens) This makes movie marathon sessions possible, because the eyes do not suffer from fatique or stress. While at it, I noticed the screen runs only moderately warm, even after hours of use, which is a far cry compared to earlier generations of plasma screens. This Samsung Smart TV is the smartest move as far as high quality screen choice is concerned.

I proceeded to assemble the whole system and integrate the new components with the old Bose speakers. And the results?

Stay tuned to find out!

September 11, 2012

My AV Revival.

What's left of my AV system, until recently. The Sony 29 inch Trinitron TV seen here plays host to Astro signal programs.

It's been more than two years since my AV system worked, upon the demise of my 50 inch back projection TV and DVD player. The rest of the system that remained was a Marantz AV receiver and mono power amps, plus all my Bose speakers including an old Velodyne 10 inch sub that maketh my 5.1 surround sound system, all of which was installed in year 2003!

I never got around to revamping my AV system because I've set two conditions which needs to be met before I can proceed to re-assemble another AV system. Just what are the conditions?

1) Prices of big screens(60 inches and above) becomes available at prices from RM$6k or below.
2) Blu-ray players becomes available at prices from about RM$500 or so.

That fateful day came during the KLIAV 2012 show, where most major distributors were clearing last year's models in the bargain corner, and both conditions were met. I was in AV shopping mode!

So what did I get and do to revive my AV project?

Stay tuned to find out.

September 6, 2012

Gutwire Goes With The Audio Store.

Gutwire cables is finally available in Malaysia.

Gutwire, the Canadian high end, high performance audio cables are now brought in by The Audio Store. They already have a couple of cable models on demo in store, and soon the whole range will be available locally.

Please contact Mr Aw for enquiries or demo at 03-78872233.

September 3, 2012

Bionic-R? Rega Brio-R Integrated Amp.

The Rega Brio-R integrated amp.

For the last 2 months, I've been doing the Rega R series of shoebox budget components. This is the last item of the highly successful series, the Rega Brio-R integrated amp, rated at 50W in to 8 ohms load. Don't be fooled by it's lowly output watt rating, or it's seemingly affordable price of RM$2,621.00/unit, and over look it when power shopping for a starter, second/bedroom, or even down grading in to a retirement music system. This entry level priced amp is rather capable for what it's designed to do.

The Brio-R does look and feel reassuringly solid in build quality and it even comes with a simple and handy remote, which manages to avoid looking cheesy in any way. The whole package just feels well designed, and will likely last many years in service, if well looked after. The front face plate has only two buttons and a largish volume knob. The button on the left is to power ON/OFF and the REGA logo glows red once power is turned on. The middle button is for source selection and the volume knob is on the right. There are no multi function switches to confuse potential users here, just plain functional and no nonsense design. The Brio-R's powder coated metal case is of the same size as the matching Apollo-R CD player used here as it's natural partner.      

I begin to wonder, what's it like to down grade my hifi, if the day comes that I no longer have the means and resources to pursue this increasingly expensive high end audio hobby? I used the Rega Apollo-R  and Brio-R duo to replace my full stack of Bryston and Pass Labs electronics and try to find out if I can still enjoy my music in a simplified, down graded hifi system?
The simplified Rega system, Brio-R(left) with matching Apollo-R CD player for partner.

As usual, I also used my pair of PMC Fact 8 speakers in this review, forming an un naturally speaker heavy biased system in this review, which is usually not the advisable case. The Fact 8s are super revealing speakers and will the Rega duo pass the sonic muster?

As I proceeded to hook up the system, I found that the IEC power receptor in the Brio-R's back panel to be located too close for comfort with the speaker binding post, which rules out the use of chunky speaker cables attached with spade connectors(a.k.a. my Siltech Classic Anniversary). I know Rega's or more accurately, Roy Gandy's touchy feelings for audio cables, so would not elaborate more on the matter. The RCA input/output side of things fare no better for space, which is tight, but still work able for the Chord Crimson Plus that's being put in to service. As for loud speaker cable, I had a spare pair of Ortofon SP-200, terminated with banana plugs lying around which really is suited for the job. The Rega duo sit on top of a dedicated audio stand with glass top resting on leveling spikes(a diy Mana clone if you will).
The supplied remote is a simple and functional affair, but just avoids looking cheap & cheesy. Well done Rega!

The sound of this Rega/PMC combo is robust and energetic. I believe this is partly due to the PMC speakers presenting a light 8 ohm load to the Brio-R amp. The treble response seemed a little rolled off, but still some what liquid in it's presentation. The high mids are slightly emphasized, pushing the vocals a bit more forward in to the room, with immediacy at lower or normal play back volumes. Simple girl guitar tracks are wonderfully reproduced by this set up. The bass is reassuringly solid and tuneful, but lacking somewhat in the lower end grip and extension. In essence, the tonal quality of this amp is neutral if, a little grayish in the back ground. Not bad for a budget amp so far.

The sound staging elements are all there, if a little flatter in depth compared to my multi box, many times more expensive reference system. For some strange reason, I also found that I only have a very limited use able volume range, as if I turn the volume knob above 11 o'clock setting, the slightly forward high mids becomes slightly pitchy and at times, ear pinching even. On the flip side, I know there many happy Maggie Mini users using this Brio-R amp as a partner without suffering the same experience. Could it be that the Rega Brio-R thrives with a bit of a though speaker loading?
Real estate is tight in the back panel.

The simplified Rega/PMC combo made for a system that is music genre unfussy and will allow the music lover to enjoy his/her music if the audiophile performance is not of paramount concern. There is no pretension here about been the super detailed and analytical hifi beast so prized by the audiophile community. It just simply presents music in the most unadulterated way possible for those with either space, or budget(perhaps even both?) limits.  Nevertheless I still found music some what enjoyable, if less technically accomplished sounding.
More so, when all the necessary connections are wired up. Note the almost touching IEC power plug and the speaker terminals! No chunky high end spade terminated speaker cables will be accommodated here, neither will chunky audio jewelry RCA design plugs!

For the money, it's hard to get made in UK quality these days, and Rega should be applauded for not being seduced by higher profits going the way of the MIC(Made In China). Let's be honest here, I find no shame in MIC goods at all, because they actually can produce some very good products under OEM arrangements. However, nothing beats proudly made in the country of design origin. Since we are talking about perceived values here, I shall state that the Rega Brio-R amplifier is no giant slayer like the Apollo-R CD player, but there are elements of musicality at work here, that should warrant it's consideration, if one is the market for some budget "hifi work horse".

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