November 29, 2012

ISF Certified Calibration For Those Serious Videophiles.

For most of us when shopping for an AV display, be it Plasma, LCD, LED screens or projector system, in a typical electrical store environment, we'd instinctively go for the brightest set with highest contrast setting, due to it's razor sharp picture quality and dynamic contrast that delivers visual punch. I wish to clarify that if choosing display device in such a crude manner, we'd end up with a knock out(literally!), as the brightly contrasting screen, with razor sharp picture would prove fatiguing for longer term viewing, such as finishing a whole movie duration.

I'd highly recommend for those who owns big screens(55 inches or bigger) for AV pleasure dom to engage the services of an ISF certified technician to calibrate the display to ISF standards to achieve colour tone balance, gamma(input/output linearity), tint/hue, and grey scale contrast(from the blackest black to the whitest white) for accurate picture quality, just like audiophiles  aiming to reproduce music as accurately as possible with a flat frequency in room response measurement. Granted, some audiophiles will also argue that flat frequency response in it self is no panacea to great sound quality either. However in the context of video, that argument is dead in the water, as the calibrated results are there for all to see clearly, even to the most un-discerning folks, such as my wife and kids!
Before(top) and after(bottom) of  RGB colour tone balance calibration. Note the flat colour response output from all three colour generators, after calibration.

I recently had my Samsung PN64D700 plasma screen re-calibrated by an ISF certified technician. He brought along with him, tools of his trade, essential for getting the job right(don't let anyone tell you otherwise!). The tools include a tripod mounted photospectrometer(like the unit pictured below), linked to a laptop loaded with the necessary software(typically Calman, as pictured below in a printout of a job, NOT mine to be specific) to interpret the results of the scan. The job took more than 3 hours as the technician did the job in the following steps.

1) RGB colour axis locking, to ensure proper on screen registration between the three colour generators.
2) RGB colour tone balance, to ensure that all three colours outputs evenly across the spectrum.
3) Colour tint/hue adjustment, to ensure accurate flesh tones.
4) Grey scale contrast, to ensure the display is reproducing the blacks and whites in a step by step linearity scaling.

There are some fine tuning to further refine the setting such as setting the brightness levels of the screen back lighting to suit the room ambient light conditions.
A photospectrometer linked to a laptop loaded with a calibration software are essential kits that an ISF certified calibration technician should have to get the job done correctly.

The end result is stunning, with an even colour tone balance between RGB, I am experiencing natural and accurate colour reproduction. Flesh tones looked realistic, with faces looking neither too blue of red. Landscape scenes with lots of green is recreated with a wealth of details, never before seen or thought was there on the original Blu-ray source. Picture depth of field is reproduced with layers and layers of  details that increases the illusion of depth, even without the use of 3D(which happens to look fake and very etched). There is so much more details in dark scenes, which makes movies like Batman, The Dark Knight, that much more enlightening. Sitting thru an entire movie has never been more pleasurable. Like I said earlier, even the un-discerning noticed the improvements immediately.
A pre/post calibration report is usual supplied to prove the technical corrections done on one's display set.

I must admit to lack the technical depth to write more about the subject matter other than a short user experience, but here's a site link that will provide more details if one is interested to learn more about the technicalities of display calibration.

Go to  

November 27, 2012

Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 Speakers, Now On Demo At Pefrect Hi-Fi.

The latest range of affordable speaker series from Sonus Faber is called Venere, available is a variety of sizes and models to suit stereo & AV use. I heard the Venere 1.5 stand mount model as pictured above singing at Perfect Hi-Fi Amcorp Mall showroom, and they do sound like a great value for money speaker option for those shopping at below RM$10k budgets.

Contact Jepson at 012-3930263 for enquiries and details.

November 25, 2012

SVS Powered Subwoofer PB12-NSD

"Fuyoh!" was the first word that flashed through my mind when the SVS PB12-NSD subwoofer was being unpacked in my listening room. I was amazed by its size. For a price of RM3,499 list, you do get a lot of subwoofer. The PB12-NSD measures 20.9" x 17.3" x 22" (hwd) and weighs 66lbs. These numbers might not convey a real sense of bulk, but seeing it in person will leave one in no doubt that this is no compact subwoofer but a giant among small box subs so popular nowadays. This is a true blue big box subwoofer that is solidly built and means business. It comes with a 12" driver and 400 watts RMS (800 watts peak) built-in amplifier, with frequency response of 18Hz-150Hz. Unpacking and installing this sub is a 2-person job. Its bulk will dominate a small to mid size home theatre room. In my 15'x22'x10' room, the SVS definitely made it presence felt. Did I mention that you do get a lot of subwoofer for the price?!

"Fuyoh!" was again the word that flashed through my mind when the PB12-NSD started playing. This bad boy churned out room shaking bass when called for by those Hollywood blockbusters. In many instances, the rumbles shook the couch and strong bass notes thumped my chest. The scale of the sound track expanded in all dimensions and became more enveloping. Watching movie with the SVS in place became a much more immersive experience. The SVS PBV12-NSD could really do the crash-bam-boom stuff.

However, it is actually more than just that. One quality of the PB12-NSD that I appreciate was that it was not about sounding loud, big and powerful. The PB12-NSD definitely had no problem achieving all that of course, but it also did not forget about the quality part. The PB12-NSD's bass reproduction was clean and agile, easily keeping pace with the other loudspeakers in my 7.1 setup. Nuances in the nether region was also faithfully conveyed, many times my attention was attracted towards listening to the details in the sound track rather than paying attention to what was happening on the screen. The PB12-NSD conveyed subtleties excellently. In the first jungle scene in the movie Avatar, the subtle bass augmentation from the PB12-NSD created an enveloping atmosphere, together with the sound effects of the creatures in the surroundings, the illusion of being there became much more real.  In the 'Catch an Ikran' scene, the Ikran's flapping of its wings, again with the PB12-NSD augmenting the sound effect, was a visceral experience, I did not just hear the sound but could almost physically sense the air turbulence those powerful flaps created, the illusion was that strong.

I believe at its asking price, the SVS PB12-NSD is a no-brainer for a HT subwoofer. I am glad to have experienced it in my HT system. I have not tested any new home theatre equipment since my system was set up 2 years ago, I am glad that I could piggyback on Big E's search for a new sub and experienced the SVS myself too.

Many thanks also to Max Loh of Maxx Audio who expertly set up the subwoofer in my room. The process took not more than 30 minutes, he first ran the MCACC auto calibration function in my Pioneer AVR, then manually made minor adjustments with a SPL meter to balance the sound levels of all channels. The end result was an enveloping and well defined surround sound field giving an excellent movie watching experience.

I highly recommend the SVS PB12-NSD subwoofer.

SVS Sound is sold by Maxx Audio, contact Max Loh at 017-6778820.

November 22, 2012

Event Report, Franck Tchang Demo At CMY Audio Visual.

Franck Tchang pitching his unique flag ship Super Tango loudspeakers to the audience.

Franck's the name, and fun's the game! That's what one can expect when attending an Acoustic System International demo, by Franck Tchang. Two week ends ago, CMY Audio & Visual hosted such an event at their Damansara Uptown showroom.

Franck was in town to promote some of his latest products, and the one and only pair of flag ship Super Tango loudspeakers on this part of the world. "I only made three pairs of these, no more! There's a pair in my home, another pair in Europe somewhere, and this pair you see here. However, the more common Tango speakers will continue to be manufactured as per order basis", he said.
The demo system system is use featured Metronome CD player, Prima Luna pre & power amps and Franck Tchang's Super Tango loudspeakers plus ASI cabling.

Some of the audience in the listening session.

Next, Franck was promoting his new product, namely an Acoustic Phase Corrector! It looked just like that block of wood used to held up his acoustic resonator cups, but Franck says the design is different as it was designed to do a different job! Franck reckons there's 3 types of phase one should take care of when setting an high end audio system, one is the electrical supply phase(to which Franck admitted being most important), two is the recording phase(such as those highly prized Decca classical recordings for example, which is why he absolutely recommends having a pre-amp with phase inverting switch) and lastly, the room phase(which is a result of speaker to room interaction, which can result in unfavourable sonic results).

With the first two phase issues tackled, the final hurdle remains, and that's where his Acoustic Phase Corrector comes in to play. As usual his demo is highly convincing as in one can really hear the difference as he plays around with his Resonator Cups and Phase Correctors, working in unison with his Sugar Cubes. All are Franck's take on non invasive method of room acoustic treatment, compared against common solutions, which can be bulky and unsightly(resulting in poor Wife Acceptance Factor!).
Franck Tchang's latest innovation, the Acoustic Phase Corrector. The front face, seen here with the blue dot points to positive phase, and if one should turn it around, will result in negative phase. Easy as that! Franck recommends the use of four Phase Corrector in a hifi room.

A short Q&A session with the audience ensured from then on and that's when Franck puts on his charm offensive! I'll leave you with some of the more memorable pictures of the session.
"What? Me crazy? Maybe just a little!"

"What do you mean you don't believe? You can't hear the difference?"

November 19, 2012

Sheffield Steel, Joe Cocker.

Sheffield Steel has got to be one of the most underrated album by the venerable blues, folk, Brit rocker, Joe Cocker. His earliest albums were so memorable, that many felt this was not his finest hour, at the time of it's release in 1982. However, time has been kinder to this classic rock album than many others.

Thanks to my buddy Jepson at Perfect Hi-Fi, this oldie but goldie has been rediscovered again. He had used the opening track, titled Look What You've Done during the recent KLIAV demo of the KEF LS-50 speakers with great success. This is a track with propulsive bass guitar play as it's musical foundation. Cocker's voice is in his roughest best, lots of vocal texture and a little dry like a Martini. The third track, Sweet Little Woman is reggae influenced interlaced with pop sensitivities. The fourth track on the album, Seven Days opens with great drums panning effect in the recording and lots of slick guitar licks on the side to good effect.  I can go on and on about every track in this album, because all are enjoyable, and each a gem on it's own, but Cocker really shines when he is doing ballads. Tracks like Marie, Many Rivers To Cross, So Good So Right and Just Like Always put Joe in his natural element, a hardy man whose voice can do softie songs that melts one's heart.

Though not an actual audiophile recording, this album is well recorded, with very little studio and mastering tricks like compression, phase compensation or echo added. The CD's playback volume is somewhat on the low side, which makes turning up the volume necessary during play back. There's some tape hiss, but overall it's not too bad in the scheme of things. With the volume up, the drum set, and bass guitar dynamics becomes the driving rhythm of the music contents. This CD is all about music rather than hifi-ness of the recording quality, but I've heard some say the LP format is the best sounding way to enjoy the songs presented here.

I've inadvertently infected more than a few people in to getting this CD/LP already. Perhaps you wanna find out? Some of the songs can actually be sampled on , all you need to do is search!

November 16, 2012

Best Budget Choice! Tara Labs TL-2/14 Speaker Cable.

Tara Labs TL-2/14 speaker cable as pictured. No fancy build or garden hose thickness. Just sturdily built.

Let's get the nitty gritty out of the way first, this is the entry level Tara Labs speaker cable your money can buy, priced at RM$1,019.00/8ft pair. If that's not a steal, just buying the Tara Labs brand, then there's indeed more substance to the name after all. All Tara Labs products are declared made in the US of A on their website. And with the marketing muscle of local dealer A&L Audio Station behind the brand, the Tara Labs products may proved more difficult to lay hands on.

The cable came sealed in regular printed cardboard box(nothing fancy here), no un-necessary packaging thrills either. The cable looks sturdily terminated with gold(not too shinny) plated banana plugs on both ends, if the cable size is a little weedy looking(who says good sounding cables must be thick, and come with shinny plugs?). There are the usual directional markings for signal flow on this 14 AWG copper cable. So far, everything seems mundane and not terribly exciting.
Check out this "live" CD and Blu-ray set, featuring amazing performances by many, many artist in collaboration with the Hit Man himself, David Foster. The Blu-ray has brilliant picture and stereo quality in PCM audio playback mode.

That is until I plug them Tara Labs in to my system, replacing my resident, and many times more costly Siltech 25th Anniversary 330L reference cable. I had previous left the TL-2/14 on my home made kable kooker for 2 whole weeks 24/7 to burn in. On my first album, the very entertaining Hit Man Returns, David Foster & Friends, featuring the likes of Seal, Donna Summer(possibly her last public appearance prior to her un-timely death), Chaka Khan, Earth Wing & Fire and many more artist I'd care to remember. I am very familiar with this "live" recording and the Blu-ray AV disc too. I was stunned by how organic, yet kick ass dynamic this cable sounds!

Here we have a very quietly dark sounding cable, with smooth, non-jarring highs, honeyed mids and propulsive(with very low extension too) kinda bass. It's like as if my PMC Fact 8 speakers was operating with sub-woofer(2.1 set up) kinda low end kick. It was as if the Earth Wind and Fire medley performance was rocking my gulis(balls for non-Malaysians) all over, just sitting on the throne(sweet spot). I would say the tonal quality is rather well balanced to the warm side, making my system less critical of recording faults, making it easier to consume my music(ala instant noodle style).

The other area that took me by surprise, which I never believed should not be attainable from such a cheap/budget cable is sound staging. The stage is deep, layered, tall and wide(beyond both sides of speakers and out side of the physical wall). However, the pudding just got sweeter when I realised that there's even a halo of "air" around each vocal, and instrument neatly projected within the sound stage!

By now, you must be waiting for some sins committed by this Tara Labs, right? Well, I won't disappoint you either. Coming from an entry level product, there must be some kind of performance compromised. First thing, while still relating to the sound staging and the imaging properties, while organically projected, it may not be solidly out lined enough for some taste and system synergy. However, one area I am sure the performance is compromised in the level of absolute transparency. In the high end audio game, transparency is highly prized commodity, while the TL-2/14 isn't the most transparent of speaker cables around, I was actually too busy enjoying my music to spot it, until the time came to remove it, and had my reference Siltechs re-installed in to the system. Only then, the one sin of omission became startling clear.

Otherwise, I am all praises for this Tara Labs TL-2/14 speaker cable. It's highly musical and appealing on an emotional level, does all the basic hifi performance parameters right, plus a sound staging and bass "king", all for beer budget money. It's been a blast of a time spent with it.

If one is in the market for any speaker cable, regardless of budget, do give this Tara Labs a try first, especially if one is after the music first, and the hifi-ness of sound next. It's that good!

Tara Labs is sold by A&L Audio Station, contact Yap(Wah Chai) at 03-79582884.

November 13, 2012

Put A Leash On That Dog! SVS STA-800H DSP Controlled Chassis Amp.

The high end community can sometimes be vicious. News began to appear sometime ago about Wilson Audio's latest arrivals destined for Malaysian soil. They include a pair of the brand spanking new flagship speakers called Alexandria XLF, a Thor's Hammer sub woofer and more subtly exciting item, a single Watch Dog passive sub woofer, which happens to belong to a very famous personality in high end dom. As the high end community awaits with baited breath to have a go at the latest Wilson products, there are some whose hopes may be more sinister than others. The Watch Dog proved hard to tame, and will bite when not well fed. I see my buddies joy diminished within days as he struggles to find a suitable controller and power amp to match the mighty Watch Dog(remember that song by Baha Men, called Who Let The Dogs Out?). I can hear some enjoying the drama already?

Fear not, as the dog owner is very resourceful and seek the help of a dog's whisperer, in the form of Max Loh, from Maxx Audio fame. The dog whisperer was a little hesitant at first, as the dog may be deemed too highly strung(read, too high end), but agreed to undertake the dog obedience training, and get the equipment required for the job. A month later the equipment arrived in the form of an SVS STA-800H DSP Controlled Chassis Amp(SVS speak for DSP equipped power amp, all 800Watts of it!)
SVS STA-800H DSP Controlled Chassis Amp, looks well built enough for the money, but more importantly has all the adjustment features required to integrate a sub woofer in to a high end stereo system.

After 2 weeks of obedience training, my buddy declared his Watch Dog ready for the Dog Show Off! Prior going for the dog show, I must admit I was somewhat as skeptical as the dog whisperer himself! I mean come on, this is a DSP plate amp we are talking about! I was not sure if it could match up to the hunger of the Watch Dog, or if it was transparent enough to handle music in an high end audio set up, paired with a pair of Wilson Sophias. Feed it some decently powerful music, and all my earlier skepticism blown to bits. The SVS had the authority to tame the Watch Dog like a leash tied around it's balls! The bass was solid, yet tunefully refined, not a dog's hair out of place here! And lastly, when we were playing track 11 of the KLIAV Show reference CD, Comes Love By Louise Rogers, where the song starts with Louise's sultry vocal inter playing a super detailed double bass. I was dumb founded to hear the double bass player's breath, hand/body movements brushed against the instrument's resonant wood body and fingers on the fret board. I've heard this song many times in my very own system, but only a superbly well tamed 2.1 speaker/sub set up can achieve this kind of clarity, and detail levels. Mind you, all this without the music losing any of it's transient or dynamic impact. I walk away from today's listening session suitably impressed with both the Wilson Watch Dog and the SVS STA-800H combo. I think my buddy feels vindicated now against all whom pre-judged him earlier. Personally, I think he's just getting started and this should be one of those combo which will be a force to be reckon with. I mean the potential is just starting to be realised, and the there's still much to be un-locked!
The Wilson Watch Dog passive is a very high end sub woofer that requires very specific amplification to tame it. However once done right, it will reward with some of the most accurate and tuneful bass notes heard.

I doubt that if I could isolate and heap praises to either the Wilson sub woofer or the SVS DSP plate amp. As we all know Wilson seldom makes a bad product(if somewhat expensive) these days, what is more interesting is that the budget priced SVS STA-800H is more than up to the task, sound quality wise, and the DSP smart enough to get out of music's way, yet remained flexible enough to allow the kind of full control required to integrate a high quality sub woofer in to an high end stereo system. The variety of connections on offer helps the SVS cause too. My only brickbat with the SVS STA-800H is that the gain setting should be more flexible to allow incremental adjustments of 0.5db per step instead of 1db, which I know the original Wilson Watch Dog controller is capable off. However, that's insignificant considering the SVS STA-800H can be bought with only about 10% to the Wilson controller's retail price. Now, if that's not a high value to performance ratio proposition, I don't know what is!

SVS is indeed the giant killer specialist of sub woofers today!

Note that this is not a review, as it does not follow our usual review protocol, hence it's just a preview done based on a listening session.

SVS Sound is sold by Maxx Audio, contact Max Loh at 017-6778820.

November 11, 2012

Gutwire C Clef2 Powercord

My first encounter with audiophile powercords was when they first appeared on our shore a couple of decades ago. They were from XLO, the ones with the green and purple jacket, terminated nicely with chunky MK UK plugs. They cost just a few hundred Ringgit for a 1m length, but was considered a princely sum then.  Despite what my engineer friend would say, these audiophile powercards actually brought some improvements to my system, reducing background hash and making the music sound more coherent.

The audiophile cable market has exploded since then. There is an abundant of choices now, at various price points. I myself have tested a few over the years, and can attest to the different ‘flavours’ that the disparate brands bring to the table, just that why it should be so, I can’t explain.

Anyway, to support the case of getting a good powercord for our hifi equipment, I like to see the electricity from our wall as the raw material that makes up the music signal all the way in our hifi chain until it reaches the loudspeakers, so if we can maintain or improve the quality of our electricity supply, the quality of our music replay should be better too.

The Gutwire C Clef2 powercord is the subject of this write-up. The C Clef2 goes for RM2,650/5 feet and RM3,350 / 8 feet. It sits in the middle of Gutwire’s 12 model strong powercord range. This is a very well made powercord, it feels solid and heavy holding it in my hand. The specifications from Gutwire’s website states the following:

• Cable Diameter: .975"
• Conductors: Multi-Strand High Purity Oxygen Free Copper
• Insulation: Low dielectric Polyethylene
• Discrete Conductors: 279
• Shield Coverage: 100% Copper braided shielding
• Shielding Type: Quadruple with individual shielding
• GutWire Electron Rectification Processing (GREP): Yes
• Conductor Current Carrying Capacity: 52A
• IEC Connector: Wattgate 15A or Hubbell 20A
• AC Connector: Hubbell Hospital Grade 8215(15A) or 8315(20A)
• Option: Wattgate 330i AC plug

Since I have only 1 piece of C Clef2, I can’t try this hefty powercord on my monoblocks. Instead, I tried it on my Ayre C-5xeMP universal player and Pass Labs XP-20 preamp in turn, and in both cases replacing Shunyata's Python Helix Alpha powercord.

The Gutwire C Clef2 was already in use for some time at the dealer’s. At my place, its performance settled down after a few of hours of use. Over the 2-week test period, the character of the power cord did not change. The first character from this powercord that announced its presence was ‘Quietness’. I'd describe this quietness as such - when no music was playing, I felt the room was just that little bit quieter, and when music was playing, the background was slightly darker and the silences between notes were, well, more silent. Switching back to my own powercord, while I was not able to discern obvious noise, I just instinctively felt that it was ‘noisier’ and the music sounded just a smidgen edgier.

The Gutwire C Clef2 has an interesting feature that I have not seen in any other powercords I came across. It has a little clip connected with a thin wire to the cable shield. You can earth the shield by clipping the clip to your equipment’s chassis. The difference between earthing and not earthing the cable shield in my system was minor. If I am pushed, I might say that I could discern just a little bit more quietness with the shield earthed. Your mileage may vary so please do experiment.  (Note: this feature is not to be confused with the earth wire in the powercord itself. The earth leg of the powercord is always connected).

The overall sound from this powercord is definitely ‘North American’ (Gutwire is Canadian) – big, bold, solid. The bass was strong and well defined, the mid was meaty, and the high was clean. Detail portrayal and delivery of musical nuances were very very good, I suppose this point is greatly helped by the quietness of the powercord. As it is, I’d just like to ask for a little more sparkle to the highs, in order to take fuller advantage the TAD-CR1 loudspeakers that I use, but that is just me. The clean highs from this powercord will balance nicely with a system that has some issues with brightness. It will also counter any roughness in that area.

Do check out the Gutwire range at the Audio Store. Contact Mr Aw at 03-78872233

November 10, 2012

WyWires Comes Courtesy Of AV Designs.

Guys and gals, still need more high end cables to play with? How about a cable that's design and developed and demo-ed in conjunction with TAD's high end audio equipments?

Yes folks, the brand is not new as it's being demo-ed in hifi shows the world over with mostly TAD partnering equipments, resulting in many "Best Of Show" awards since 2008.

However, thanks to the boys at AV Designs, we now have access to this new high end cable products. Odiosleuth is already liming up for his review samples! 

Should you feel the same, please contact James or Tony at 03-21712828 for more info.

November 8, 2012

Old Kiwi Brute. Plinius SA-250 MK IV Power Amp.

Plinius SA-250 MK IV power amp. It's a monster, and it runs so... hot, that my air conditioner has to be set just a few Celsius lower to cool the room down.

I think my dearest buddy, fellow reader and supporter of this blog, Ken will feel most vindicated with this posting of mine(though we tend to disagree on nearly all things when it comes to hifi). I am the sort of  hifi guy equivalent compared to Vin Diesel's character in, The Fast And The Furious movie franchise, who only goes for American muscle cars. I only go for class A muscle amps, no class A/B or class D bull shit for me, not that they are no good(in fact some high end class A/B and class D designs offers state of the art leading audio performance). Yes, there are draw backs a plenty when it comes to class A amps, like they tend to be monstrosity sized with chunky finger cutting heat sinks, they are bloody inefficient, they draw current like hell and yet waste most of it as dissipated heat via those chunky heat sinks. There is however only one theory in discipline that makes class A amps worthy of any audiophile's salt, they tend to pack lots of juice(a.k.a. ampere) to speakers and there's no hand over distortion between class A and B push pull transistor pair, making each musical note seamless in theory. The most common class A amp's sonic character, if I may use an M&M chocolate copy line, "Melts in your mouth, not on your hands!" That's how I feel each time I hear a class A amp sing(maybe it's the heat, stupid! my sanity cells of the brain telling me).

The object that is the subject of this posting is non other than the Plinius SA-250 MK IV power amp. It's a brute of a power amp, with the monstrosity in size and those chunky finger cutting heat sinks. If weight is any indication of a well built quality product, how about all 60kgs of it? Thank fully, the manufacturer didn't forget to put a handle on each corner to assist the in transit operations, but the front handles proved more cosmetic than useful, because it is too thick and slippery to hold on to properly, especially with sweaty hands! It's a bitch's work for two full grown men to bring it up to my first floor man cave! At the back panel, you will find WBT style speaker terminals for 2 pairs of speakers, an IEC power inlet and fused ON/OFF switch and a toggle switch to select between RCA(single ended) or XLR(balanced) inputs. On the front, you'll find similar simplicity for operations. There's another ON/OFF switch, flanked by a pair of toggle switches on either sides. On the left hand side toggle chooses between standby/mute and the right hand side toggle switches between class A/B or class A operation. The Plinius pumps out 250W @ 8 ohms load in either class operation, and double the output wattage at 4 ohms load.
The Plinius does benefit from a good power conditioner, it does sound better when drawing it's juices via the Torus Power RM8A AVR, compared to direct from wall. The amp draws 1 amp in class A/B mode, and 5 amps in class A mode. It's a good thing my Torus is still up to the task.

The sound of the Plinius is one that walks the fine line between of a brute, and of being a gentleman. While it grabs and controls the drivers of my PMC Fact 8 speakers like a Rottweiler sinking it's teeth in to one's neck, the Plinius doesn't really just sound like a crazy bitch(there, I said it again!) in heat all the way. On the contrary, it's very civilised on the highs, never un-tidy and definitely will bite when the music called for. The mids are strictly neutral and it presents an open window to the music. Like I said earlier, the bass is brute force strong, I heard more "kick" from kick drums, more defined double bass plucks and more solid, and wholly filled up bass guitar lines. The bass response of my Fact 8 speakers probably dived just a few Hz lower too.

Sound staging took on a deeper and more clearly separated layers of depth, plus the stage opened up wider, and taller too, beyond both sides of the speakers, and outside the room's physical boundaries. It's like listening to music on a 2:35 aspect ratio screen and projector AV set up! Talking about AV set up, I finally get to experience transient and dynamic response of an amp truly grabbing a pair of speakers by it's balls(or is it mine?......ouch!), musically speaking of course. The Plinius is about the quietest of muscle amps, with no hiss or hums what so ever heard, just silence when doing the ear to tweeter test. I must highlight that so far, I am only describing the sound performance in class A/B mode only.

When switched to class A operation, this amp goes in to hyper drive mode, there's more flow to the sound, to start with. One can hear strings more tensioned on guitar, violins more rosinated, drum skins tightened and vocals honeyed. The mid range gets more dark chocolaty with the sweetness of "Old Jamaican" rum and raisin kind too. Bass response also goes harder and punchier, with highs getting just a little more moist too. It's like as if every aspect of music making is taken to an extreme joy ride, that much more stimulating, for one's emotions and dynamic senses. I think a comment made by an audiophile sifu most aptly applied, "it's like all the musicians had finally got their pay cheque and year end bonus all at once!" Makes ya wonder.........hmm.............???

Granted, there must be some down sides to this old brute, right? You may ask.

This is where my 90's vintage Pass Aleph 0 mono block make a fine case for them selves. Even in class A operation, the Plinius just fails to present the ninth degree of transparency, like the last bit of piano wood harmonics and string texture, the last bit of piano foot work, like on track 6, And So It Goes, off The Well album by Jennifer Warnes, so evidently heard via the Pass Labs. On recordings with delicate high hat and cymbal play, the halo of air surrounding the shimmer is also more moist when heard via the Pass Lab Alephs. Even breathy and saxophone finger play, and brass tube resonant harmonics is more pronounced via the Pass pair of mono block. If the finer details in life is more important, as in compared to the broad brush, big bold strokes of musical picture presented by the Plinius, than the Pass Alephs still holds their magical single ended class A spell.
The girly Lily Chen sounds more sophisticated, lustfully seductive even, especially when played via the Plinius SA-250 MK IV in class A mode. The lush orchestral backing with leading violin and viola sections certainly sounds realistically rosinated on some the tracks here. 

Thinking about getting an SA-250 MK IV for yourself? Here's my two cents of market research. The popular Plinius SA series are rather long running in production. Like it's more famous smaller brother, the Plinius SA-100 was available in 4 revisions. Most preferred is the MK II followed by MK I and MK IV in equal measures. The MK III for some reason, being the most un-loved of all, due to it's too neutral tonal balance as some would say. I've only know the SA-250 to be available locally in MK IV guise as the most desirable version. It was produced starting sometime in 1999 and ended it's production run by 2004. Plinius superseded the SA-250 model with an SA-Ref model in 2005. Even though all SA-250 shared the MK IV moniker, those produced after 2003, had revised protection circuit, making less prone to fault and less sensitive to false alarms, as witness in those pre 2003 production units. One must probably also run the Plinius in air-conditioned rooms(in our tropical environment) as they will run hot, and I mean skin burning hot!, at the edges of those chunky heat sinks. Many pre-owned examples may have been used to drive too low speaker impedance(way below 4 ohms), and may have been repaired with improper bias setting, resulting the overly sensitive tripping of the protection circuit on the older production units. While the Plinius SA-260 MK IV are a brute force, they are still not Krell KAS series level brute yet.

At their current 2nd hand market prices, which could be anything between RM$9-13.5k, based on condition and year of manufacture, the Plinius is current trading at just barely 1/3 off their original retail prices when new. This makes them a worthy choice of high end, high power amplification for those who are power mad, or who just happens to own power hungry speakers. Just be mindful of the conditions that you intend to accommodate them in your home, as mention above and if you think there's potential, then the Plinius is a mighty fine used acquisition.

It's now, my high power reference!

November 5, 2012

CMY Audio & Visual Gets MS HD Power!

Good news for folks hunting for power products on an econo budget. CMY Audio & Visual has sourced a new brand of China made power delivery product with excellent build quality and reliability, a visually excited John(CMY head honcho) tells me.

They are great for budget hifi and AV requirements, and comes with a range of contact metals available, platinum being top dog. John assures that they're super affordable for the quality. We've being promised some to try soon.

For more details, call John or Dicky at 03-21439206.

November 2, 2012

Special Promotion For Latest Panasonic Home Theater Projector, PT-AE8000.

• Full-HD / 3D

• 500,000:1 Contrast Ratio

• 2,400 ANSI Lumens

• Automatic lens memory selection for use with 2.35 screens

The Offer:-

Buy the AE8000 at Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of RM 14,999.


1. 100” wide 2.35 format fixed screen from Screen Research worth RM 4,900.

2. 2 pairs 3D eyewear (TY-EW3D3MW).

3. ISF-standard video calibration using pro-grade Konica-Minolta CS200


4. Delivery and installation in KL/PJ.


Offer Price do not include accessories; e.g. mounting brackets, cabling, etc.

Option to increase screen size by topping-up the price difference.

This offer valid for first 10 customers only.

Contact James, Tony of AV Designs at 03-21712828.