January 13, 2024

Northern International Audio & Visual Show Penang 2024 is ON!


Northern International Audio & Visual Show Penang is ON!

As the title goes, we are happy to announce that the Northern International Audio & Video Show Penang 2024 is confirmed to be held at Amari Spice Hotel Penang from 26-28th April 2024. 

As this show is co-sponsored by the Penang state government, show entrance is FOC, so all you have to do is show up and enjoy the latest in Audio & Visual has to offer! Not only that, for 3 nights consecutively there will also be after show concert by regional & top local bands.

The show is aimed to be family friendly, so do bring them along as there will be something for all in the family. See you all in Penang this coming April!    

January 5, 2024

 This is my 3rd streamer for try out in the last 3 weeks.  The Fiio player is not new to many, infact the reputation for Fiio easily rivals Zidoo / Eversolo. Is a mature audio brand and I have personally listen to other Fiio product which have my attention over the years. Ever since the hype of Eversolo started, I am keen to really know the almost similar product which is the R7. I will say very close with the price and most of the functions and features. Definitely worth to take a look or listen compare to its competitor of Eversolo A6. 

From the outlook, Fiio is rather small compare to Eversolo. The chassis is plastic and Eversolo is aluminium which definitely feels better. The unit is pretty light weight too. Which is easily carry about if need to. From the front screen the layout is just like any mobile phone. I will say very typical Android style.  There are 2 knobs in front for the volume and input selection. I really like it to have the selection knob. The light around the knob is really a nice touch too. The interesting part is the headphone / ear phone jack on the front. For desktop setup, this is perfect. 

On the back is pretty comprehensive too. All the connection from analog to digital. One nice thing is the microsd card slot which is a lot easier to access compared to the A6 SSD which in under the unit. The other thing which I like is the unit can be use with IEC the usual power cord or with barrel jack for LPS. Many will say that LPS has the cleaner sound to it and Eversolo has to be modded for that. 

To get it started just simply download the Fiio controller app and firing up the unit is like any Android O/S totally feels like a mobile phone. Once is up, as usual go to setting and get it connected to the home wifi or Ethernet. Voila…..we are in business. Is a little buggy of the apps in adding the R7 for the first time. I have encountered the same problem with the Eversolo A6. I guess must be an apps thing. Once connected the layout of the apps is super simple. What is the important piece is the casting. With it simply everything is right in your palm. Playback of music can be streaming or local playback just like any typical android O/S. I am sure there will be no challenge for anyone to use it. It can access NAS and USB or internal storage without sweat. Infact the player can even play YouTube on its screen if that is what you want. All the usual streaming apps of Tidal, Spotify and Apple Music all readily available. Sign on to your Google account and all good to go. 

I will start with the streaming first with Apple Music. With the casting function is easily like playing music on my iPhone. The plus point is the Apple Music is natively play from the R7 just like the Eversolo A6. Both units did very well in this. Big plus for me or to all Apple lovers. Listening to Apple Music on the R7 is more enjoyable than the A6. Is less fatigue and is also more mellow without the harshness from the Eversolo. With the screen vertical layout is more user friendly than the A6 with horizontal layout. This is the first time listening on Stereo setup with proper Apple Music playback without having to connect the IPad to the unit. Is like dream come true. 

The next thing to try out was local file playback which is another nice touch with the casting app. Totally feel like a phone but seating 7 feet away. The output I am using is XLR. I am pretty much impressed with it. FLAC, DSD, WAV and almost anything Android can recognises will play. This little player without external DAC sure does sings pretty well. The sound is pretty airy. The sound stage big enough. The bass slam is all impressive too. Comparing it to the A6,R7 win over many different areas. When tested the XLR on A6 can be a bit over the top feel. All the components of the music just come out right. A little lack of details but what the heck. Is a good little box for all kinds of listening. Leaving it on playlist as background music fills the house. It does fit in for most life style and not just audio enthusiast. 

The downside is the apps is still quite a bit unstable. It at times can be really annoying to deal with. The USB output to external DAC is a little buggy as well which I have encountered once it doesn’t play. Probably is some firmware thing. 

Overall wise the Fiio R7 is a versatile player that ticks off many things. Nice piece of hardware for majority of lifestyles. Cool as it is and pretty neat for desktop use too. I think will be nice desktop computer using it like an external sound card or simply putting in the living room for all other music listening. With its small form factor can easily tug away in some shelf and it’s like having another display piece on the rack. With the price tag a little lower than the A6 is making it a real sweet deal. As the new Fiio R9 is coming soon, looking forward to compare it with the Eversolo A8. It will be the fight of the century 

January 4, 2024

At the end of last year, I am glad I have some good try out on some well known brands on media streamer or player. Searching for a good player has been going on for me ever since I started with Hifi back in 2007. Most obvious to start will be a simple laptop connected to a DAC. From a windows based laptop to Apple MAC and even some try on Linux operating systems. During the early days of streamer or digital playback is mostly proprietary O/S. As times past, Android has become the dominant O/S in almost anything "SMART". 😄 No pun intended. There is always some kind of limitation on the file format, or compatible DAC, or it can as simple as O/S limitation. It was long journey for users like myself and some good manufacturer of this wonderful players keep going to better of the audio and of course for easier use.

By chance or not, I came across this group of hifi enthusiasts from Italy and the start of sharing on ideas and time to design a simple O/S for the aim of best of class in audio quality and also needs to be simple enough for the "IDIOTS" like me. It was year 2009 which I participated with this very fun groups of people in working out a platform which is known today as "Volumio". During the early days, the O/S is based very on single board computers which is deem to be the most simple and simple is good to have the very least of any kind of interference or disruption to the audio. After years of development and contribution from many members in the group which it grows to the current Volumio 3. It has been a long journey of 15 years to come to this. I am really happy that a free O/S can come such a long way. That is right, I have been in using Volumio for past 15 years since version 1. I can tell you is a lot of pain to even use it properly in the early days with limited hardware support, and software bugs and so on. The list goes on like forever. Around year 2016, Asus launch its first single board computer which is the Tinker board. It has all the power which rival any single board computer. Later around 2019 it launch the upgraded version of Tinker board S which I have been using since 2019. I have always been on a lookout of what can be something more.

I was quite lucky to have the chance to try out some of the really amazing player which was recently launch few months back. Starting of with Eversolo A6 than A8, follow by Fiio R7 and finally the high end player of Lumin U2. To be fair, Everysolo and Fiio is not a pure player but a player with DAC and other functions. The Lumin U2 is pure player and nothing else. Just like the Asus Tinker board I am using which is a pure player only. There are 2 critical component of any player. The first being the apps as it is the heart of the control for any of the mention players. A good apps will ensure nice experience of playback and navigating. Above all it need to be user friendly. The second critical piece of course will be playback compatibility either locally on files or streaming. Cannot deny that streaming is the main stream of users varying on different streaming platform. In my opinion, for local need is probably Spotify, Tidal and Apple. The very least any player should be able to cover this 3 streaming platforms. Although the dominant O/S for media players is the Android but can't ignore the many users of Apple around. The Airplay is almost something cannot be miss out in most devices.

Among the few players I have been given the chance to try out, I will rank it on the apps perspective as below:
1. Eversolo
2. Fiio
3. Lumin

Eversolo has the most intuitive apps among all the 3 brands. It covers all basis from user friendliness to practical functionality. Fiio is very simple which mostly rely on the mirror function which practically what is being displayed. Pretty much have all the needs but really is just a simple app. The lumin being at the bottom with the apps being stable which is a good thing but user friendliness is totally out of the window.

On playback compatibility will be rank as below:
1. Fiio R7
2. Eversolo A6 and A8.
3. Lumin U2

The Fiio is the winner here with its compatibility being the most versatile with its capability to play almost any kind of audio offline or online. Eversolo is pretty almost as close as Fiio with some downside of the files format support. Lumin at the bottom with only support of Tidal and Spotify with Apple support. Also the files format support is less than any of the 2 other players.

Of course what is an audio player of not comparing audio quality which rank as below:
1. Lumin U2
2. Eversolo A8
3. Fiio R7
4. Eversolo A6

With sound quality as the measurement, no doubt Lumin win over the Fiio and Eversolo. This are being compared with all units being output from its USB to Wadia DAC to be a fair comparison for them. Playback from local files like Wav or DSD, Lumin comes out ahead to the other players. Even from streaming perspective the Lumin do win over all the other players too. I think is fair enough to say with Lumin being the most high end players in this comparison, it is expected of Lumin to perform better.
Time to wrap up on the streamer / player topic from what is being try out last year. In conclusion, the android players do very well in serving the needs of many functions and features. The A6 and R7 probably is the most value for money with the units pack with all kinds of inputs and outputs. The software itself is like a box of candies. Its just full of goodies. The audio quality wise is definitely more than the average on most players with same price point of RM3,000 or so. The more expensive A8 is quite a big jump from the A6. Having a price tag of a little more than RM9,000 is not a small price. Definitely, for someone who is looking for full box of functions and audio quality is a good choice. Finally, the Lumin U2 with over RM20,000 price tag is really the big boy. I am sure there are many consideration for something of this price point and even more so to compare to similar price range unit.

On my personal journey of things, it is quite an ear opening or eye opening as well on how much things have change for streamer / player. Of course while trying out all the wonderful toys, naturally I am turning back to my own unit of Asus with Volumio as the O/S. In term of versatility of the player, Volumio is quite the clear winner among all. I have never came across an audio player that is able to play anything from an audio format. Digital is always the challenge with all kinds of format you can think of. Some might be more common than the other but there is always some odd ball around. When comes to GUI, the intuitive of the apps developed to Volumio is almost second to non. Even the Roon with its pretty nice GUI at most is the same as Volumio. The thing that Roon win over is the many hardware that adapt to it which makes Roon very successful and also making it quite costly. The comparison of Asus with the other players again with USB output to Wadia DAC is still the most all rounder with all kinds of genre being play. It can be rock, jazz, blues or pop, to disco. I am not sure about what other audio enthusiast will be listening to but for me, I will listen to almost anything under the sky. My personal preference is mostly rock or pop songs. Occasionally some electronic music with disco music too. I am confident to say at this moment, I haven't found something that is able to replace what I have still in the source player of digital. I am also lucky enough to listen to this little board on some very high end DAC with stellar price tag and I am surprised how good the outcome. Perhaps , my aim is not on the source player but should be on the look out of the next DAC.

December 28, 2023

Eversolo DMP-A8

Eversolo has become like a house hold brand for the audiophile or to most who wanted a streamer / player for music listening. Eversolo which is a sister company to the renowned Zidoo player that made high end media player for Home Theater. Android based media players has been the preferred O/S for quite a long time. The only limitation is the Android O/S will down sample the hi-res audio or limit it to 48khz. Eversolo has custom its Android to remove such limitation which make this player desirable among audio enthusiast. Practically anything coming out from the Eversolo is lossless and Hi-Res. 

On the front of the A8 vs A6 is pretty much no difference except for size difference on the chassis. As expected from the more premium player of A8, the chassis is well build and the weight is quite a bit for such small player. Looking into the belly of the beast will show why the bigger chassis and weight. 

Every single inch of space is fully utilized in the chassis. Is well arranged with circuitry separated with divider on each different section of power, digital and analog.  The power supply are divided into 2 stages for the digital circuitry and the other the audio circuitry. This is to ensure low noise and high quality audio. The DAC is the AKM Velvet Sound (Verita) DAC. It also features a full DSP Processor with individual configuration profiles for your source of choice (Internal Player, Bluetooth 5.0, USB, Optical 1 & 2, Coax 1 & 2, eARC/ARC).

Looking at the back shows quite a bit more connection compare to the previous A6. The last one there is only HDMI for audio. With the A8, there is HDMI ARC being added on which was something missing from the previous model. This is quite a welcoming feature especially for home user who will be using it with their TV which is quite common for many having the setup in living area. The other good thing to have is the RCA / XLR input as compare to just output on the previous model. This will allow to have audio pass through on the A8. When comes to digital input / output it has covered all basis with Coaxial, optical, HDMI, USB with support of external drive on the USB 3.0 port. Similar with previous model at the bottom of the A8 is able to install SSD drive as internal storage.

Additional look the A8 with graphic equalizer. The player is not just about feature and function but it does takes care of the look department. It does fit quite well especially if the unit is use in the living area. 

The Eversolo apps which is the main controller of the player is another key success for the player. The mirror function on the apps allow the user to remote control on the player as like the player is held on the hand of the user. What is done on the apps is exact mirror image on the player. The interactive apps is not just user friendly but is also very convenient without the needs of any remote control. Although a remote is still being provided as additional accessories. I guess physical feel of remote is something users always preferred. As an Apple music user, the A8 is a must have with its ability to have Apple music playback directly from its Android. This will means skipping Airplay which does not support Hi-Res. A big plus and there are only 1 other player which has the same capability which is the Fiio R7. 

This is another feature which is quite essential with the use of HDMI ARC for 2 channel movies. The A8 has the build in DSP to properly calibrate the necessary audio especially on movies. PEQ, High pass / Low pass filters, gain adjustment, etc. Is pretty much like a standard AVR will have for auto calibration of multi channel surround sound. Is quite a powerful tool to have even is just stereo. 

The Eversolo A8 is a piece of hardware to have and easily blend in as well. Even with my selection of theme on the home just fit in nicely. When it comes to the most intrigue part will what about the audio ? I will be thinking back on how the A6 perform compare to the A8. First of all the streaming part with Apple music just blow me away. Is so much smoother with almost no digital glare which was quite obvious in the previous A6. The listening experience is a lot more pleasant to the ears. The fatigue feeling is all gone. Is really nice to play music on it and go about your thing at home. Just perfect for the use and songs changes with just a simple press on the apps on your mobile phone. Definitely a big lifestyle piece. Hooking up the XLR / RCA directly to the amplifier to play back with its internal music player is another notch up from the A6. The sound stage has improve, sound separation is pretty clear, vocal is sharp as ever without the piercing high, even the bass extension is quite a punch on the Mission 700. By passing the internal DAC with USB output to the Leak 230 is not slouch either. The player continue to have the quality it carry from its internal DAC. Anything from FLAC to DSD just plays off nicely without effort. Songs just flows from the A8 as smooth as silk. I am impressed with big improvement from the A6 to the A8. Of course the price is almost 3x the price of A6. It will be the expected performance. 

What is the downside, the remote provided is a nice touch but pretty much not needed. With the apps makes the remote totally redundant. The Apple Music apps after being installed on the A8 could not show up on the mobile apps. Not sure the reason, could be a bug. The previous A6 has no such issue. The mobile apps still has the issue of not able to find the player once a while. NAS storage to be added to the player is a bit of a pain. It works sometimes and other it doesn’t work at all. Some files in the NAS for some reason cannot be access although in other player it was working fine.

With the personal experience on the A6 and now the A8, is definitely significant improvement for the Eversolo. Other than the hardware and some software upgrades. The most important of course is the audio quality improvement which a big portion of it. Pleasantly surprised by such a big change with the time difference of the A6 to A8. Have to flip my hat off to Eversolo

December 9, 2023

Hifi and interior design

The topic of audiophile is mainly about how good the sound and what kind of gear suite with the audio. List goes on for which ever rabbit hole it might lead. The thing is , people don't listen with their eyes close. The visual part of the listening area and anything that can be seen while listening is also important to be considered. A pleasing environment most certainly improve the listening experience. This is more so if the listening area is in the middle of the home. 

Having the hardware that can be like another piece of furniture or a decorative piece at home can be a daunting task. Need to take into consideration the home theme before going with the design and finally getting the pieces in place. The theme I am going for is more natural look with the main material of wood to have the feel. Having that in mind, the wall and flooring will be the next biggest piece for consideration. 

To match the walnut colour of the wood, the feature wall with blue is use to have the contrast with the feel of depth. Large piece of featured wall can be a little overwhelming. To soften things up, fluted panels are use on both side of the walls. Fluted panel is also good in absorption of sound rather than reflecting from the wall. 

With the background taken care of, next piece of furniture to consider is the console. The depth of console is quite important as amplifiers could be quite bulky in size. Also to consider how many pieces of equipment to be seating on the top of it. I have considered on custom made console or simply some cabinet could work. Scouring through internet for some ideas, I have notices quite a bit of IKEA furniture being tweak into a more elegant piece. Having that idea in mind, went to IKEA to pick some simple white cabinet (BESTA). The cabinet size is 180cm x 40cm x 35cm. The good thing about it is the door has plenty of options to choose from. With the wood them in mind, I went with the fluted door panel. This not only match the wood of other pieces but the fluted panel will be closely match up the wall too. Plenty of space in the cabinet as well to be storing of CD or LP. 

Originally, the cabinet top is plain white as the whole cabinet is white. IKEA do have long piece of top sold separately that could be install on top. I have a different thought of having live edge wood. Gotten a "belian" hardwood with live edge. Gotten the piece from a shop online. Quite a heavy piece of wood, weighting 20+ Kg. Good enough for even heavy piece of amplifier. Some what heavy wood is the preferred material for equipment rack. 

TV is another piece of hardware like a necessity for every home. The thing about TV is after turning them off is like another black box. Samsung Frame TV is the answer for having an art piece on the wall. With the interchangeable bezel, the TV itself looks identical to any other photo frame. The art feature of the TV is the 'magic'. With the art feature turn on, practically can leave the TV on 24 hours. To avoid too many colour mix, white is one of the choice or black can be another one. I prefer white to have less cluttered feel of things. Even the router I gotten a white one to blend in.

Coming into the audio hardware, walnut wood colour again is the theme. Having the Leak 230 and Mission 700 speakers are the match in heaven. Being an open space the pair do work well. The cool thing is both hardware pieces comes with walnut colour. The Leak 230 comes with Phono input for MM only. I have the Audio Technica LP2022 50th anniversary turntable hook up to it. Pretty neat as it is all transparent turntable that easily fit in to any type of deco or design. The blue carpet throw is another extra touch of more comfy feel to the room. Overall, I call this a success of blending in audio with cosy home setting.