January 31, 2013

Mid Range Excellence! Pioneer BDP-450 Blu-ray/SACD Player.

The Pioneer BDP-450 Blu-ray/SACD player.

Pioneer has built an enviable reputation with the success of it's range of Blu-ray players. I have being using the starter 3D Pioneer BDP-140 as a reference my self. While it's audio/video performance is very accomplished for the price, I've always wondered, what if I spend a little more $$$ for a step up in performance?

Along the way, came the new BDP-X50 series range of latest Pioneer Blu-ray player revamp, and the model in question here is the BDP-450, which is the middle child, sitting in between the entry level BDP-150 and the exclusive LX-55 top model. The Pioneer BDP-450 retails for RM$1,899.00/unit, so it's really a big step up from the entry level model(price wise). So if the BDP-140 or BDP-150 already offers such good performance levels(assuming the newer BDP-150 is as good, if not better performing), for a mere RM$699.00/unit, what more can the BDP-450 offer?
The Pioneer BDP-450 residing in my HT system.

First up, the Pioneer BDP-450 offers superior build quality, with it's heavier gauge steel chassis(which houses beefier power supplies), all satin black brushed aluminium face panel, chunky audiophile style feet(not the fake plastic ones for sure), and definitely smoother disc loading drawer action. At the back panel, the goodies galore continues with dual HDMI output(for those who want their video signal to flow direct to screen, by passing the surround receiver's video board) for superior picture quality, while the other HDMI output sends audio signals to the said receiver. Is there really a performance upgrade by going the twin HDMI output route? I don't know, I didn't test, but I bet someone would do. I connected the BDP-450 as I would with my resident  BDP-140 for a fair comparison, which means one HDMI cable, sending audio and video signal to my Denon receiver and the second HDMI cable from receiver to my Plasma display.

The only same old, same old part as shared with the BDP-140 and BDP-150 is the hand remote wand, which I can understand Pioneer's decision to keep it as it works pretty well actually. The whole unit looks well put together with nicely aligned panels and centered disc drawer on top of the clearly legible display, which is dim able(the entry level model does that too). Like all 2012 refreshed Blu-ray player models onwards, the BDP-450 also comes equipped with Cinavia anti piracy software pre-installed.
The back panel, 2 HDMI outputs is the main selling point here.

Now we get to the nitty gritty of the Pioneer BDP-450 in terms of video performance, which the colour and picture dynamic qualities are cut from the same fabric as the cheaper Pioneers. There seems to be finer pixels in the darker scenes leading to improved black detailing. I see smoother fast motion scenes, with richer and more saturated colours. Depth of field in panoramic land scape scenes are definitely more convincing. I watched Kingdom Of Heaven Blu-ray disc and came away suitably impressed. I think a more highly regulated power supply section of the player contributed to the performance gains. Still, I thought for so much more outlay, the picture quality improvement ratio did not seemed catch up enough.

However, it is when playing 3D Blu-ray disc that I felt all the extra outlay for the BDP-450 over the lesser models became worth while. Comparing the BDP-140 to the BDP-450 in 3D mode, made the cheaper player's 3D qualities look like card board cut outs, and on certain scenes, more like a cut & paste job! I was using the Monster Vs Aliens 3D Blu-ray animation movie for comparison. With the BDP-450, the 3D effects were smoother and more organic looking, while still maintaining the pop-up effect and excellent layers within a field of depth within the confines of my 64 inch Plasma display. The BDP-450 made watching 3D movies less fatigue and more enjoyable, due to less cross talk, and less noise within the video signal. I used to find 3D fascinating for a 25 minutes only(I start to feel giddy after that) of viewing period with the BDP-140, but I could finish the whole movie on 3D mode with the BDP-450 without much fatigue setting in. I know my kids certainly look forward to more 3D animated movies from here onwards.
It is with 3D movies like Monsters Vs Aliens that the Pioneer show it's capabilities to the fore. The disc loading drawer opens and closes with smooth action.
The Grudge is a scary Hollywood take on Japanese horror, much like The Ring, but only more effective in the script build up and make up & graphics. Sarah Michelle Gellar(Buffy The Vampire Slayer) stars.

Now we get to the audio part, which the first aspect that impressed me easily was the bass, which certainly dived deeper and rumbles more solidly. The stronger bass foundation gives the center chanel a more anchored, less floaty conversation, especially with male dialogue, which feels more manly, with a bit more of that chest. Surround panning effect is more seamless and more easily located, especially the rear surround chanels, which sometimes makes me look back over my shoulder, because I actually thought some one behind was breathing down on me, it's that real! It happened when I was watching The Grudge, an American perspective on Japanese horror, like The Ring, only scarier!

Just for kicks, I played a few music SACDs and found the sound to be highly detailed, musical, rhythmically assured, smooth, and with liquid top end. The sound staging is stretches across my living lounge with good depth. I was of course, playing music thru my Denon/Bose HT system.  The Pioneer BDP-450 would certainly make a great audiophile SACD spinner or transport, if one has a huge collection of SACD disc.
My Denon AVR-1612 AV receiver(top) and Pioneer BDP-450 Blu-ray/SACD player(bottom).

It was during this time that I have to experience Cinavia anti piracy effects on my system. After playing an offending Blu-ray disc for about 20 minutes or so, the player will mute audio output and a message would appear on screen to suggest that you're playing an illegal disc, advising you not to adjust your system set up menu. Apparently, most Hollywood movies released after March 2012 is Cinavia encoded. Otherwise, the Pioneer played each and every legitimate disc or otherwise with no problems what so ever.

Another area I liked about the BDP-450 is the quick start up feature and fast disc loading times. It took less than 20 seconds to start up each time from sleep mode, and each time a new disc is loaded, the smooth closing tray would then take no more than 45 seconds to recognise and load the top menu of the said disc. Older players can sometimes take more than 2 minutes to load a Blu-ray disc top menu upon closing of disc drawer.

I think the Pioneer BDP-450 will do well in a 3D capable HT system, where the said feature is used often enough. It's a player that truly offers a step up in terms of audio and video performance from the entry level units with higher build quality to spare. Audiophiles looking for a reliable CD/SACD transport would not be disappointed with it either. For those with budget AV systems however, the entry level BDP-150 should still offer more efficient cost to performance ratio.

Pioneer products are available at all appointed dealers nation wide.

January 28, 2013

Event Report. JVC Launches New 3D HT Projectors For 2013.

The new 2013 range of JVC 3D projectors are now on sale.

JVC launched it's new range for 2013 3D projectors, mostly(except the entry level model DLA-RS46) featuring 4k up scaling, with the use of their upgraded e-shift technology, now called e-shift2. The event was held at the excellent AV Designs showroom in Rohas Perkasa, where members of the lifestyle and AV Press showed up in full force.

The whole JVC marketing team was seen there, including Mr Steven Woo of JVC Kenwood Malaysia Sdn Bhd. & Mr Takehide Sakamoto, who is MD of of the company in Malaysia.
Mr Takehide Sakamoto, MD of JVC Kenwood Malaysia Sdn Bhd. launching the new 2013 range of projectors.

Mr Steven Woo wasted no time by briefing us the salient points that makes JVC 2013 projectors worthy of one's considerations, by presenting a long feature list and finally very attractive retail prices, by 4k projector standards that is!

We were soon ushered in to AV Designs demo room 2, where the more real world priced JVC DLA-RS48 were demo-ed in normal full HD and 4k up scaling modes, plus the immersive 3D qualities that only a big projection screen can provide. Despite being the entry level 3D 4k model, the DLA-RS48 projected rich and vivid colours, truly high resolution pictures, with good depth and dense black quality, despite offering only 50,000:1 native contrast ratio! Sometimes technical specifications can be deceiving indeed.
Mr Steven Woo presenting the technical briefing and specifications session.

All smiles for the photo session.

A closer look at the JVC DLA-RS66 projector, priced at RM$39,999.00 each.

A closer took at the accompanying 3D active glass, which is said to reduce cross talk, resulting in less flickering sensation when viewing movies, causing less fatigue in the long term.

We were than moved to the big boy AV designs demo room 1, where all the best AV gear your $$$ can buy is on demo. Here, we are treated to the state of the art JVC DLA-RS66(with 130,000:1 native contrast ratio!) projector partnered with state of the art Bryston amps and PMC speakers. Every time I come in to this room, I never wanna leave!

In true Malaysian style, the event ended with a Q&A session, followed by a healthy serving of F&B!

To see for yourself is to be impressed by the latest range of JVC 3D projectors.

Do contact James or Tony at AV Designs at 03-21712828 for enquiries or demo appointment.

January 26, 2013

So Grand! Skogrand SC Air Markarian 421 Speaker Cable & Interconnects.

Skogrand SC Markarian 421 speaker cables. All Skogrand cables are hand made to order.

To the few of us in the know, these cables have come to be known as "So Grand"! Skogrand Cables aren't exactly new, but on these shores, we're practically about the first people to have heard them, thanks to my buddy Jo Ki, of LS3/5A fame. He bought the best interconnects & speaker cables that Skogrand had to offer, called the SC Air Markarian 421. For now, available direct only from Skogrand's web site. Jo told us recently that he heard god speak to him, while he was listening to music. He wanted me to confirm if I heard what he heard too, and that's how the Skogrand cables ended up in my place  for a good few weeks.

First let's examine the cable's physical attributes. The Skogrand SC Markarian 421 range of solid core copper cables are stiff. They can be quite a handful, and it seemed like I was wrestling with a pair of Anacondas in the palm of my hands. The hand build quality is solid of course, and very well finished too. The outer jacket deserves a special mention as this is not your normal clear heat shrink, rather it contains a knot every 2 inches of so intervals and it seems some air is trapped inside so that the actual cable conductors never rest directly on the floor. Inside, there is further insulation with the use of silk and cotton fibres. The solid core conductors are thick gauge and hollow in the core, to trap air for dielectric purposes. All these layers makes the cable thick and stiff, so not advisable to bending aggressively when routing the cables(gentle curves are best suited in this case), or you may weakened the core and eventually break the cable altogether. I have another minor complain about the use of extremely thick electro gold plated spades, due to their chunkiness and smooth gold plated surfaces, the speaker terminals on the amp and speakers find it difficult to lock them down, because of the resistance to bending on the cables it self. Like I said, they're a handful to handle.
Note the knots on the outer transparent heat shrink tube, not your normal cable dressing!

The first Skogrand that went in to my system are the speaker cables. Listening to music through them was like as if you are just re-discovering your first kiss all over again. Everything you've remembered from that first experience is still there, the moist lips, gritty teeth, exchange of fluids and that juicy twirling tongue, but only more intense that you last remembered it to be. So it was with my familiar music, and I mean all music genre, was like as if I was re-living that first time I listened to all those music, but only with so much more insight, and the way the artist expressed so that we can hear the way it was intended to convey, the mood, the feelings and truly be touched, establishing an emotional connection to the music being played back right in front of us.

However, this is an audiophile blog, so hifi artifice must be presented nevertheless. The Skogrand possesses a rather warmish tonal balanced, which at first listen, I though the highs were slightly rolled off on the extreme top end. On further listening, I change my perception that the highs were NOT actually rolled off, but rather presented in a more laid back fashion that I am used to. The highs were of the velvety smooth with nano particle like finest and most fluid I've heard. There is also real bite and attack when the drum kit cymbals come crashing too. The mids have dense volume, yet sounds clear and articulate at the same time. Like the few modern cable I tested recently, the Skogrands are also bass champs. The bouncy and tuneful bass, which underlies the whole musical spectrum, providing a solid foundation for the mids and top end to work their magic. The bass has slamming and dynamic qualities too, when the music calls for.        
The extremely thickly gold plated spades, which are a bitch to work with. However, once you hear the way the Skogrands sound, all is forgiven and forgotten!

I am often reminded how natural, musical instruments sounded thru the Skogrand, re-producing all it's harmonic textures and truthful timbres(we are talking about non amplified instruments here of course!). This I put squarely to the darkest of background, indicating a truly noise free and transparency factor of the highest levels, never before heard like this in my system. If you've been following my audio adventures(or mis adventures!) long enough, you'd know I am a sucker for these hifi artifacts.  Despite my initial feeling that the highs may be rolled off, I eventually came to the conclusion that the Skogrands actually played within the widest bandwidth which my system allowed. Dynamic contrast and shadings in musical scores are often not easy to achieve is a music reproduction via hifi system, which only the most high of ends will do, but that, the Skogrands did very well. All this tiny hifi artifacts adds up to a whole lot of realistic musical performance facsimile.

Sound staging and imaging are further proof in the pudding that if you can afford it, you can eat it too! My room walls and what ever boundaries, be they real or imagined, are banished, replaced with acoustics of the place in which the recording was done, be it studio on a studio album, or hall acoustic, if it's a concert recording. It gives real meaning to the term "breathing the same air as the recorded musicians" or "swimming in the same water as the fishes"! The Skogrand acts like a teleportation device, beaming one to the event, not the event in to one's hifi room. Sound stage scale versus imaging size is spot on in "live" recordings, but some things can appear somewhat bloated, or out of proportion with some studio album recordings(that's probably some multi tracking recording artifact). If you heard that via the Skogrand, don't go messing with ye hifi, go blame the recording and mastering engineers instead!
Another look at the spade termination of the speaker cables.

While all the above hifi attributes maketh a good cable, the best cables are the ones that just transmit the signal, and never imposes it's sonic signature on the music. For all it's sonic prowess, by the fourth song, I was listening to Hitman, by David Foster & Friends, I got my first of the many goosebumps experience while the Skogrand remained in my system. Not many equipment, let alone hifi cables gave me this much goose bump experience, with familiar, or new music materials. There were also times when the music moved me till I moist my eyes a little, yeah I know, what that means I am a SNAG(Sensitive New Age Guy), in contemporary terms! Hey, these guys don't only appear on Sex & The City you know?

It is for all these emotional touchy feelly elements that earns the Skogrand Markarian 421 speaker cable the kodus that it deserves. And it is in these elements, the way the Skogrand makes the rest of the system hardware disappear, and only the music remains, that makes it priceless.
Top: Skogrand SC Markarian 421 uses Xhadow RCA plugs. Bottom: My reference Audioquest Sky XLR interconnects. 

All the above observed was only while the Skogrand speaker cables were in my system, I next plug in the RCA interconnects from the same Skoprand range in to my system, between the Bryston BDA-1 DAC and Pass Labs X0.2 pre-amp, replacing my long term reference Audioquest Sky XLR pair. I know, there's at least 6db of noise reduction advantage to be had from the balanced cable configuration, but I heard no peeps, hiss, hum, hash or any kind of noise floor for the matter, via the Skogrand Markarian 421 RCA interconnects. Only dark silence emerge from the sound stage back ground. I thought the Skogrand interconnect shared all the hifi attributes and sonic signature with the speaker cables. The interconnects got out of the way just as well as the speaker cables.

In fact sometimes I thought the all Skogrand combo shared too much of a good thing? While the combo pushed the au natural organic qualities to the max, I find the whole musical canvas just a tad too soft for my taste, compared to when the AQ Sky's were still in play. I could not be sure at this stage if it's the RCA's single ended topology disadvantage at play here? I can't be unless I could have a pair of Skogrand Markarian 421 XLR interconnect on hand to confirm. Since these are Jo's cables, they are made to suit his system's operating topology, not mine. In his room Jo did not heard that over boiled softness(as per when cooking Maggi 2 minute instant noodles!). So it most likely a system compatibility issue more than anything else.
Another look at the beautiful hand termination of the Skogrand SC Markarian 421 interconnects.

Despite having brought out the above concerns for the RCA vs XLR issue, I heard very densely filled imaging properties, but I did wished for firmer imaging outlines as heard thru the AQ Sky. No bad thing here, I think, just a matter of preference and system compatibility issues, perhaps. I also found the triangle in the orchestral performance rings with more conviction and it's post attack harmonics hanging around just a little longer, before fading in to the darkness of nothingness. The all Skogrand combo further put more layers between the sound stage front imaging and back instruments, making the whole staging and imaging presentation more 3D believe able.

Adding the Skogrand interconnect in to the mix pushes the performance envelope of the system further, but at this stage, the point of diminishing returns has long been breached, as so often happens in the world of high end audio. The Skogrand Markarian 421 speaker cables cost more than 8k, and adding the interconnects will set you back a further 7k, all in cold, hard American Dollars! No small change indeed, but if one has the system of high enough stature, and is committed to the singular objective to extracting the best musical enjoyment out of the system, $$$ not with standing, the Skogrand can actually take one's musical journey to audio nirvana, at least, that is until the Divine one himself decides to speak to you.
The plastic flight case in which the Skogrand came packed with.

And there I was, on the eve of what was supposed to be the end of the world(see, even the Mayans get it wrong sometimes), I sat there on my throne, listening to god speak to me, thinking that my life as an audiophile would've come full circle, and complete if you will, if the Skogrands are the last piece of equipment I'll ever listened to again. There's this quality of completeness which the Markarian 421 exhibited each and every time I listened to music through it that makes all the right sonic cues to the discerning audiophile, yet all is not lost because in the end, and the only thing that matters, is that the Skogrand cables put music on the altar. Not many equipment, let alone cable can do that to such accomplished levels, that puts it so far ahead of the exotic cable pack race today. If that's not "So Grand!", then what is?

It's one of those hifi gears that even if any self respecting audiophile doesn't wish to buy, should at least aim to audition, once in his/her life time. At the moment in Malaysia at least, there is only one place you can hear em' Skogrands, and I think most of you would know where to go by now. Start making that orderly beeline queue!

For more infomation and purchase enquiries, please visit http://www.skograndcables.com

January 23, 2013

More Malaysian AV On The Web! Checkout AV2Day.com

There is another Malaysian web page dedicated to AV on the net! It features industry veterans such as Dick Tan(AV Today Mag & currently Organising Chairman Of KLIAV Show ), Lam Seng Fatt(The Star daily's Audiofile & Hifi-Avenue blog), and not so newbie WL Low(a.k.a. Big E in these pages). The three amigos will be supported by more guest contributors, including the supreme high end guy TE Tan(a.k.a. Odioslueth in these pages).

There shall be more of everything, from movies, music, as well as HT and stereo topics to read about. More products previews, reviews, factory tours & industry news among other relevant stories. AV2Day.com is named as such in the honour of AV Today magazine, started by Dick Tan many, many years ago as the foremost pioneering hifi rag in Malaysian shores, way back in the 1970's(which by the way, I still have acouple of copies)! That very same pioneering spirit will drive the AV2Day.com web page to higher and loftier goals, delivering quality infotainment for the Malaysian audio/video enthusiast, who seek to keep abreast on the latest in the scene products.

AV2Day.com is also the only KLIAV officially sanctioned media partner, though that does not mean exclusive coverage. We hope to bring more KLIAV insights and demo to those who could not make the yearly show pilgrimage, due to a variety of reasons.

A new voice for the Malaysian AV Industry.

Go check out http://www.av2day.com and tell us if you like what see here, on the comments section with thanks.   

January 21, 2013

Listen, Listen, Listen!

The lady that inspired me to write this!
I was inspired by a video on You Tube, show casing this lady's tirade which happened in a local university forum. By now, to most Malaysians at least, the said video that went viral in past 2 weeks needs no further introduction.

There are not many occasions when I was inspired enough to write a poem about. I can recall two, the first time I was inspired enough to write a poem is when I first fell in love my life partner, that was enough to convince me that she was THE ONE! The next time I wrote another poem was just after I witness a small miracle, in which I naturally was promoted to the ranks of fatherhood!

For some funny and in-explicable reason, which left me pondering in the past week why? How can I be inspired by an event and people in which I have no feelings what so ever for. Perhaps if you read on, then you can tell me.

Listen, listen, listen!
That's all we audiophiles ever do
Music lovers also listen
To songs that recording qualities may not do?

Listen, listen, listen!
A forum this is not
When I speak, you listen
Therefore I started this blog, your prerogative to agree with me or not!

Listen, listen, listen!
When visiting, do not talk too much
Especially to equipments which price tag makes your eyes glisten 
The host may respond "Your equipment how much?"

Listen, listen, listen!
Even animals have problems
The more an audiophile listen
Is the music mixed with acoustic problems?

Listen, listen, listen!
All of us look for audio nirvana
Perhaps there's such a place, if by heart we listen
For some however, god only can be heard via Vahalla

Listen, listen, listen!
To the lady who is a fiery speaker
I am sure her husband is a good listener
Because at home he's got Wilson speakers?

Listen, listen, listen!
She says all is forgiven
When audiophiles disagree, emotions are heightened
Perhaps more respect, should each other be given?

Listen, listen, listen!
Love all your possessions
Skill and knowledge can quicken
The expansion of one's hifi and music horizons.


There, I said "listen" many more times then the lady did! I wish to thank her for inspiring me to write another poem, but only to be reminded of my love for hifi and my circle of audiophile friends!

This poem is dedicated to all who loves hifi and music.


January 18, 2013

Screen Saver! IsoTek EVO 3 Mini Mira.

IsoTek EVO3 Mini Mira.
IsoTek is the indisputable British power line conditioning company. My love affair with IsoTek products have been well documented in these pages. When I started getting in to AV, by setting up my latest HT system, some readers asked me to try out the IsoTek Mira, the power line conditioner for displays. There have been very positive user reports with the previous versions, and as luck would have it, the local distributor had run out out of stock, and were waiting for the latest batch of EVO 3 Mini Mira to arrive. I got my review sample sometime in December, and took me a while to get on to it, due to a steady queue of equipments(some are very special indeed) coming in for reviews.

The IsoTek Evo3 Mini Mira came in a nice looking packaging, with high quality offset printed wrap around a protective brown box. The IsoTek Evo3 Mini Mira looks well built for something that's usually hidden, with 2U metal, powder coated finished(with aluminium top half) construction. The EVO3 is a simple device to install. Just an IEC input on one end and a pair of power point output on the other end, which the review sample came with US style NEMA 5 power points(as opposed to the BS standard ones on the illustration above). I used a spare, self terminated 1.5 meter JPS Inwall power cord to connect from wall to EVO3, and the captive power cords from the Panasonic 32 inch LCD screen  and Pioneer DVD player connected at the output end.
The dynamic and punchy video quality as captured here, on Astro program.
For comparison, I watched a variety of TV(Astro) programs and DVD with and without the IsoTek EVO3 Mini Mira in the loop. I found the EVO3 offered much clearer, crispier picture quality, due to less on screen hash(or noise, but not the audible kind). It's kinda like when taking picture in low light with a digital camera equipped with poor quality CMOS sensor. It's noise reflected off the visual kind. The screen also delivered far wider contrast ratio, which points to blacker blacks and whiter whites, making for much more dynamic, punchier picture quality then without the use of the EVO3. Colours are never saturated and the more punchier quality, is never eye jarring. The picture quality still manages to maintain it's cohesive whole, naturally of course.

Due to the use of built in TV speakers, I could hardly detect any gains in audio quality. Perhaps in a more sophisticated system, sound quality may take a turn for the better? I am just as suspicious as you are. I did not use the EVO3 in my other HT rig because I was testing something else there, and didn't want to up set the test conclusions by changing too many parameters in a go. And by the way, in case you're thinking about it, don't ask me if the EVO3 Mini Mira is better than the previous version? That's a question I can't answer because I never made that comparison and have never experienced the past version either.
Note the outlet with blue dot on the left? It's for your display device, and the other is for your Blu-ray or DVD player.
Priced at RM$1,100 each, the IsoTek EVO3 Mini Mira is worth checking out, if one is serious about getting the best picture quality out of one's display device and source. That means you, the AV enthusiast will have to find out how deep your thirst is for picture quality?

IsoTek is sold by Centre Circle Audio, contact Sky Wong or Nelson at 03-77282686.

January 14, 2013

Gear That Impressed in 2012

It is customary for us to start a new year with highlights on the hifi equipment that had impressed us in the past year. Fewer items coming through my place last year, due to a rather busy work schedule, nonetheless a few of them stood out and I am glad to put them up here.

The first 3 items are hifi gear that conceivably could be put together as a high end music system – a digital source with volume control, a stereo power amplifier and a pair of loudspeakers.

 1. dCS Puccini SACD/CD player.  RM 73,625. A&L Audio Station


This is the one and only source component that I auditioned in 2012, but oh boy, what an experience it was.

The dCS Puccini came to my place 3 days before the end of the year. I have not written extensively about it on Hifi Unlimited, that I’ll do in the days to come. However, for the performance the dCS Puccini conjured up , I must have it included here.

In one stroke, the dCS Puccini vanquished my past impression of the dCS house sound (I though the earlier generations of dCS gear sounded technically very accomplished, but just somewhat detached in communicating musical emotion).

The dCS Puccini continues the dCS tradition of being technically excellent, but it also sounded excellently organic, with music flowing naturally. I listened, and listened, and listened some more, all the time with not just my head but also my heart.

The dCS Puccini has user selectable variable output level – either 2V or 6V max. The latter setting is good enough to drive a power amplifier directly, so you can save on a preamp, a pair of interconnects and a powercord.

2.    Aesthetix Atlas Power Amplifier. RM28,000. The Audio Store

The Aesthetix Atlas has a hybrid topology and puts out 200w per channel into 8ohms. The sound was refined, composed and pristine. Very communicative musically, you will spend a lot of your time listening to your favourite music through this amp. 

The power in reserve came into play when called for, pretty much like a ‘steel fist in a velvet glove’.

The Aesthetix Atlas is excellent value for money. Highly recommended.

3.    TAD Compact Reference Loudspeakers. RM148,000 with matching stands. AV Designs

I own a pair of TAD CR-1. This is more raving of the TAD-CR1 from me. If you think it is unbecoming behaviour for an owner to rave about his own stuff, then just take it from me that the TAD-CR1 are one of the great loudspeakers out there currently and skip to the next section. :-)

The TAD-CR1 has been with me for one whole year now. I count myself a very happy and satisfied owner. After experiencing firsthand what they can do, they will stay with me for a long long time if not forever. You may think that after paying for something as costly as this, the owner will always say such a thing. Who would want to think that he has made a mistake, right? However, we know how us audiophiles could have the little devil in us giving us second thought, some time after the deal is done. We would get that niggling thought whether we had made the right choice, may be brand XXX or YYY would have been a better decision, may be I should have gone for the other model, may be….

I came across and listened to a number of great loudspeakers throughout the past year. Fortunately, that niggling thought never surfaced in me. I am not saying that the TAD-CR1 sounds better. No, every one of those great loudspeakers has its strengths. However, for me the TAD-CR1 comes across as a more balanced and complete package. The TAD-CR1 is worthy to be ranked as one of the best loudspeakers available today, regardless of size and price.

It may be futile for me to describe the character of the TAD-CR1. Probably I should just fall back to the statement made by Alan Sircom in his HiFi+ review of the TAD-CR1 – “This is actually one of the hardest loudspeakers to describe in sonic terms, because you end up thinking about things in terms of what other loudspeakers do wrong. When it comes to describing what this does right, it pretty much does all of it right”. (You can read the full review article here -> http://www.avdesigns.com.my/Reviews.html?cat_id=7, the second article down)

One thing that the TAD-CR1 does exceptionally right is its accuracy of timbre. Listening to vocals and piano through them was educational – I’d play some simple vocal recordings (such as Rickie Lee Jones’ ‘Pop Pop’ or the second 2V1G album) while having a few friends in my listening room. Striking up a conversation, it was uncanny for me how the timbre of the reproduced vocal sounded so similar to the live conversation. Solo piano music too was conveyed with the full harmonic richness of that instrument, it sounded similar in timbre compared to the live one my children played in the living room (just that the quality of playing on the recording was much better, but of course).

The TAD-CR1 is a transparent and honest instrument, it faithfully conveys what the other components in the system feed to them. They could sound lean / voluptuous, laid back / dynamic, aggressive / refined, exquisite / bold, boring / exciting , as I played around with equipment combination, cabling, tweaks, acoustic treatments, etc.. When I thought I caught some characteristics of the TAD-CR1, something came along, and the sonic character changed.

Usually, the loudspeaker is the bottleneck of a system, it is the most uneven and most coloured component. With the TAD-CR1, the reverse is true. I’ll honestly say that the TAD-CR1 outclassed every thing else in my current system. I have not explored the TAD-CR1’s full capability. From now onwards, my upgrade path will focus on allowing the TAD-CR1 to convey the following – An even bigger scale (they are already sounding as big as a pair of midsize floorstanders now), better control at loud passages, even greater resolution, greater soundscape density, more refinement, while retaining speed, impact and balance. I know the TAD-CR1 can do all these, because I have heard them doing these with different equipment that came through my place throughout the year.

The better the equipment you partner them with, the better the TAD-CR1 will sound. They are amazing. 

4. SVS PB12-NSD Powered Subwoofer. RM 3,499. Maxx Audio

Recommending the SVS PB12-NSD is a no brainer. At the asking price, you get a lot of subwoofer, in terms of material and of performance.

If you are looking for a subwoofer for your home theatre and have the required space to house one, the SVS PB12-NSD is a must-audition at this price point. This SVS is equally adept at conveying the rumbles and the subtleties.

January 10, 2013

Chinese New Year Sale! @ Hi-Way Laser PJ.

Hi-Way Laser's CNY Sales price list.

As the Chinese New Year, or Lunar new Year draws closer, Hi-Way Laser is offering mostly their ex-demo, or last year's model AV equipment for sales. Look at those un-believable prices!

For those fortunate enough to get bonuses, here's your chance for AV shopping spree.

Contact Kenny at 019-2813399 or sales availabilities or enquiries.

January 7, 2013

Bryston B-135 SST2 Integrated Amp Is Now Here!

Bryston B-135 SST2 integrated amp front.
Rear view of the Bryston B-135 SST2. My only gripe? No balanced or XLR inputs!

No amplifier manufacturer wants to be caught without a high end integrated amp in their line up these days, and Bryston is catching up. With today's homes being more compact, most urban folks have learned to do more with less. That's why the high quality integrated amps such as Bryston B-135 SST2, which is rated at 135 watts @ 8 ohms and 180 watts @ 4 ohms load, seems like a good solution to saving space while offering optimum sound quality of audiophile grade.

I had the opportunity to sample the B-135 SST2 powering a pair of PMC PB1i loudspeakers and came away impressed with the degree of bass control and definition in the sound. Fed by Bryston's very own BDP-1 digital media player and BDA-1 DAC combo, with all Wywire cabling, the sound was not only well controlled, but possessed a degree of transparency and rhythmic sure footedness rarely found on lesser integrated amps. Fact is the PMC PB1i loudspeakers are not exactly the easiest to drive, let alone for an integrated to exert control over, which is credit to Bryston for the new found SST2 circuitry and new short signal path pre-amp, which based on the latest SP-3 AV processor's design.

The said system is now on demo at AV Designs showroom, located at Rohas Perkasa in KL.

Please contact James or Tony at 03-21712828 for enquiries or demo appointment.

January 3, 2013

Pathos Musiteca Music Server On Demo Now!

It's 2013 and the Pathos Musiteca has the honour to be the first new product in Malaysian shores.

What do your get when you add together fine Italian styling, chic design, functional ergonomics, computer server, tube circuitry, and lastly great sound with audiophile brand credibility?

The answer is the Pathos Musiteca music server, featuring integrated touch screen interface, with iTunes like album cover art menu. The Musiteca also functions like an all in one solution for those getting in to high end music server. First, there's a slot for loading CDs which one can play immediately, or ripp using it's built in software. Then there's the touch screen interface mentioned above. And lastly, the a built in DAC capable of decoding 24/196kHz hi-rez audio files. As with all Pathos products, there's a tube output section where one can choose to use single ended or balanced connections.

All the above means nothing if it does not sound good either, and the Musiteca does not disappoint in this respect. The sound is smooth and detailed, with a liquid top end, and honeyed mid range.

It's now on demo in Centre Circle Audio's Taman Tun showroom, so why don't you drop by for a listen?

Call Sky wong or Nelson at 03-77282686 for enquiries or appointment.