We had lunch with the big guy behind Goldmund, Michel Reverchon and some key personnel of Goldmund. And that simple lunch turned out to make us some of the first few to know the latest and coolest development of Goldmund product and technology. But you guys are going to kill me if you know that the lunch took place last Thursday and what you read here might soon be common knowledge.

There are many brands out there as we do not have THE sound. Even between same instruments like pianos and violins, all with the same pitch, we are able to differentiate their unique tonal textures and sonic signatures. And I would say it is a god bless that we do not have THE sound, or else everyone would be listening to synthesized MIDI compositions. Speaking of MIDI, they do sound differently via Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung mobiles! Arghhhhhhhhhh, vicious cycle!

Anyway, to get rid of all these uncertainties and variables, Goldmund has come up with an ingenious idea of certifying the room to Goldmund standard. Unlike THX certification, which is only applicable to commercial theaters, Goldmund offers this only to those rich and famous who deserve nothing but the best.

I have nothing against this though as there are just too many "voices" around us. We have our experiences and mistakes and the "wisdoms" gained or lessons learnt are unique to ourselves. All these push us nowhere but to THE sound we strived to achieve. Hence, certain brands would only suit certain individuals.

But what about those who want the most direct approach to good sound? And those who want to cut out all the hassles and just leave all these to the professionals? Audiophiles who traveled long in this audio journey would not fail to sum the room as part of the setup. The audio manufactures have left this to us so long that many of us screwed up along the way and many gave up due to frustration.

It is a dirty job and Goldmund has decided to roll up the sleeves to do it for you. Just give them a room, room measurements to be exact, and they will custom make the rigs for you. From building materials, furniture arrangements, down to equipment supports, every gory details is taken into consideration to give you nothing but the most cohesive and consistent sound.

Yep, you guess it right! There will be no more generic products, everything is custom built and unique to only your setup. There is no generic DSP for mass market applications, every computation is unique to your room. What Goldmund employs is no ordinary room correction tool, but also phase correction and time alignment utilizing state of the art computation power.

What does this tell us then? Wider sweet spot and lesser setup hassle. At the same time, these also make trickling down the technology so much harder at lower cost. When asked whether this would be a hindrance to Goldmund's market share, not the slightest doubt showed up!

And if a Goldmund certified room is not enough, the technology is extensible to multi room application with a media server employed. The medium could be of the traditional network cabling or the latest wireless transmission. When multiple wireless bands are locked down and dedicated for huge data transmission, you will have simultaneous high definition broadcasts! That is really hi quality home entertainment to the MAX!

It is a dirty job and Goldmund has decided to roll up the sleeves to do it for you. Not any you, but you who deserve nothing but the best! Well, only if you could afford it.

PS: we were offered the opportunity to witness the making of the first Goldmund room in Malaysia. Unfortunately, since I am on payroll, I had to leave as the lunch has already taken 3 hours.

verdict: average recording. pedestrian singing. good song selections.

verdict: hong kong's audiophile guru leo fung's biggest dud todate (produced and mastered by leo) stone-cold singing and artificial recording.

verdict: very good singing but tonal balance totally off (treble too much)

verdict: 2nd-rate lounge singer. good song selections but pity the pretentiousness

over the years, i have collected some bad cds that remain bad cds no matter how much my musical taste or listening skills advance. some of these cds, mainly MIC audiophile stuff that i collected out of curiosity, have been buried somewhere in my cd collection and never get to see the daylight again.

remember i told you that i am listening to more "real" music these days. i derive more joy in discovering that the latest jay chou, fish leong, stefanie sun or david tao comes with great recording. yeah, i consume tonnes of pop music. at least, they have got more soul than your average MIC anyone-also-can-become-audiophile-singer-wannabe recordings.

the good news is i want to give some of these away to readers of this blog. the newer ones i may sell half-price but you have to pay the postage if you are outside kl.

if you are in kl, just buy me a cup of teh tarik and i will deliver it to a mutually convenient place.

i finally got danny summer "am" III album from hong kong, thanks to kc. the local pricing sucks ass big time (almost double of that of HK), that's why i rather wait for friends to get it from hk. soon i will blog on the suck-ass local pricing which is killing the industry.

happily i switched on my system but lo and behold, my meridian g08's stand-by light is gone! no power at all. my heart instanly sank 39,549,650 feet.

apparently, a severe bolt of lightning had sent my beloved meridian g08 to ICU. i checked the fuse - that's gone and it is blown into a blackish ugly mess, so you can imagine the severity of the surge. upon changing the fuse, still the power didn't come up. something is serious, i said to myself. i ended the night without playing danny summer, or any cd for that matter.

the next day saw me driving listlessly to my technician's place to confirm my suspicion that the power supply of the g08 was fried. true enough, some of the surface-mounted chips on the power supply module were practically cracked/exploded! serious sh*t man. my technician warned me that the surge could have spread beyond the power supply module, to the main board. (there are only two boards in the g08, the rest is thin air!) he couldn't confirm it but advised me to get a spare power supply module from kwan (my meridian dealer) to isolate the problem. i am panicking like a sick child.

anyway, in the interim period, i got hold of ringo's meridian 508.24, the former model before the upgrade. when i powered on the 508.24, i thought my system has got other problems because the sound was terrible. it turned out that that is the normal sound of 508.24! major paradigm shift. imagine 508.24 was THE cd of choice in 1998-2000. the 508.24 seriously lacks the presence and drive of the g08. the whole soundstage shrinks considerably and everything seems to have lost its energy, as if the TURBO button has been off.

so i listened to danny summer with this less-than-ideal condition. i didn't really listen critically with the intention to write a review because the sound didn't really draw me into the music. yes, i am that fussy. so you have to wait for a fairer
review when my meridian returns from ICU.

my overall impression of this cd is not a positive one. it is quite slow and boring. it doesn't have the "jump" factor of the 1st "am" album. there is no denying that danny's voice has matured and he has become more emotive and expressive as he ages but i don't like the way the songs are being dragged to sound really slow and sleepy. i have listened to the cd for 3 rounds and still i am not quite enamoured.

some of the arrangement are pretty good, no doubt but i can't expect less with this cast of musicians. recording wise, again, i can't judge from the 508.24 but it can't be bad.

kc has been raving about this recording but not until i get back my g08, i will reserve my judgement.

i am not sure if you readers are aware, the new generation of cd players (like my g08) really pushes the aural boundary of the standard cd sound. for those who think cd technology has stopped advancing, you ain't see nothing yet.

last night, i entertained my last batch of visitors (some met for the first time) who came to listen to my system. i say "last" because i don't think i want to invite and accept invitations to listen to my system anymore.

the reason is nothing political nor personal. simply, i have concluded that human's hearing is so vastly different that it is difficult to find two persons with the same hearing, perception and listening ability.

for example, i laboured to get my vocal height close to four and a half ft and with the centre image right smack in the middle of my back wall. yet many listeners cannot detect it. some commented that it is skewed to the right/left and image height is a mere 3 ft, blah blah blah. imagine one of maggie's greatest strength is image height! it is both frustrating and amusing. because it is right in front of me; i get that everytime i sit in the sweet spot! it is not until i played them the ultimate test disc - chesky test disc #1 track #10 - with bob anders walking around within the soundstage that they are convinced that i got it right, and dead right centre. i had to resort to this test disc again last night.

how could this happen? i believe our delicate ears are built differently. i find that many listeners cannot quite detect the highest frequencies (above 16KHz, i guess) hence their perception of height could be majorly affected.

audiophiles come in many kinds. some are particular about soundstage; some imaging; some speaker positioning; some bass but very few are particular about intricate aspects like tonal balance, tonal colour and quality, harmonic texture, midrange liquidity, midrange density, moisture, microdynamics.... the list go on. why not strive to be an all-rounded audiophile?

over the years i only came across three (to be exact) audiophiles who could pinpoint my system's strengths and weaknesses accurately, and to my approval and satisfaction. one of them is our savvy audio note dealer, wong. wong is the first one and only one that pointed to me that my audio research's triode sound and tonal colour is in a league on its own.

my close-door policy is not meant to be anti-social but rather i believe some things are best left to the enjoyment of the owner.

who said that hi-fi is not a selfish hobby?

Back then, 13 years ago, a little boy was smitten by the fascinating world of home theater. Before long, he discovered the brand AudioQuest, a brand very well known amongst the home theater fanatics. Fast forward to present day, the boy has shifted his fascination from home theater to pure 2-channel stereo. And yet, the interest in AudioQuest is still fanning until today.

To be honest, I have never used AQ cables in my home theater until 2 years ago. And this is not even until I have started using them in my 2-channel stereo. I still remembered when one of my friends bought the AQ Type 4 ten years ago and how he raved on its fast and bold characteristics. I could only imagine as it was pricey for me as a student back then.

One day, opportunity knocked on my door and I bought a pair of AQ Python. I was awed by its bold and forceful presentation. It was honest and offered the best extension I had heard since I started in this hobby. In fact, Python was my first serious cable. I had tried many equally priced cables, and Python was the most direct one.

Months later, I replaced the Python with AQ’s latest offering, the DBS Panther. Back then, my priority was mainly chasing that better resolution. And AQ just fit the bill best. Again, with Panther, I was again awed by its sheer bandwidth, the highs came unrestrained and the bass did sink low. The improvements in detail retrieval were equally distributed in the highs, mids and lows.

It was not after I have tried the Anaconda of the older series that I realized the trend AQ was trying to improve. The series prior to DBS, AQ was trying their best to achieve unsurpassed bandwidth to give the best details, transients and speed. When I first hooked up Anaconda, I was blown away by its liveliness, it was a cable full of energy.

I had to pull my speakers further apart to contain that bold sound. Music was injected with ‘life’ playing thru Anaconda. There was the extra ‘zing’ quality that brings the best excitement from the presentation. Listen to any live recording thru Anaconda and you would not fail to experience the most robust drum actions! Hi hats hitting was rendered with weight and force, kick drum was deep and full bodied, vocal got a larger than life presentation.

The Anaconda captured the most expansive soundstage, vividly matching a real life performance. If you found them shouty, then it might be the room was too ‘hard’ for them, or you were having too much details from other rigs. But those are not our topic today.

The experience of going from Anaconda to DBS Cheetah was very much similar to going from Python to DBS Panther. This is the next phase of transformation for AQ sound. Upon replacing the previous series with the new DBS series, you’ll notice the lowered noise floor and smaller presentation.

What next when you have had the least compromise from the conductors? For AQ, they improved upon the insulators by charging them. In effect, we got the new AQ sound that was never before so quiet with the noise floor. What about the smaller presentation then?

When you got less noise, you would get less fuzzy outlines. When the outline was sharp, the imaging emerged as more defined and better delineated, hence, the ‘smaller’ presentation. AQ is definitely striving for refinement and poise now!

But do be careful with Cheetah as it was very potent and might trigger the upgrade chain effect. Unlike Stealth and Stage III, there was no twisting in the silver conductors. They were straight and direct. Hence, similarly, the sound was fast, taut and energized!

It had the tendency of veering towards overly preserving the transient attacks rather than sustaining longer for that bodily bloom. In this department, I would say the Anaconda fared better, balancing transient attacks and bloom. However, the bass of Anaconda had got the tendency of sounding flabby when compared to Cheetah’s.

You could try Cheetah to bring your sound faster by a notch or two, and yet retaining that refinement. If you think your sound is dry and thin, do yourself a favor by trying out Anaconda.

For me, the Sky is still the limit!

DVD-Audio is meant for high resolution. SACD is meant for high resolution.

Many mediums today are meant for high resolution. Blu-ray and HD-DVD are the home theater counterparts for high resolution medium.

But we are not discussing on the pros and cons of those mediums, we are not even talking about the hardware playing them. Nope, none of the discussions that would try to impart the author’s priorities on your buying decisions.

Today, we are just going to stick to CD as the main medium of discussion. Yes, a compromised medium in terms of resolution, but even then, are you ready for even CD-resolution reproduction?

I have been on the audio autobahn for the past 3 years, listening and trying things that I could dream of 13 years ago when I first got started. As we stay along the course of our hobby, or any hobby for that matter, leading us to just squeeze that last ounce from our wallet for that ‘last’ upgrade, many a time, we lend our fate to the hands of manufacturers and reviewers.

I for one failed to see the pitfall on upgrading and started trying and testing reputable gears and accessories. I failed to see the balance, the room, the rigs and the electricity that feed my rigs. And certainly, I failed to see my poor skills in getting that balance.

My hunger for resolution and high fidelity has pushed myself ever so close to the brink of giving up. Listening to those SOTA (state of the art) gears does elevate my listening skills and push my criticality level when listening. But to achieve SOTA sound, it is not a single dimension quest like chucking in loads of money.

Great sound is not warranted by the owners’ fat wallet, but is actually a cumulating of the owners’ years of musical quest and system building experience. Yes, I have heard big brands with poor sound. But that is just the mere reflection on the owners’ poor skills rather than horrendous pricing practice of the ill-intending-blood-sucking-manufacturers.

I have, single dimensionally, traveled fast in this audio hobby. Bringing myself up from nothing to something worthy of a glimpse. Yet, one could only travel this way thus far before realizing the big sound one could easily swallow.

I got a silly smack in the face finally to realize this is not merely an upgrade game. Great resolution has enabled me great musical enjoyment. Yet, the greed within pushed me overboard and I kept on upgrading. As I reap the benefits of high resolution, sound wise rather than bits wise, I failed to see the other ugly face of high resolution.

High resolution reveals the deepest musical contents. However, it too, reveals the dirtiest effects of less-than-acceptable-weak-links within the chain. Since the realization of this, I have slowed down considerably in upgrading and started looking inwards. Looking at what’s my main problem, rather than looking outwards for the next big upgrade.

So, do you deserve higher resolution?

sorry for the temporary respite from blogging.

the av xpress project is full of obstacles. my business model has been changing. i have sort of decided not to consult friends anymore, especially those who think that i am silly in venturing into this sort of project.

many believe that if i want to do it, i may as well do it in a grand and big way - i.e. make it a glossy and aesthetically pleasing publication. but that requires big money and that's something that i am reluctant to do. many also advise me to approach big dealers in order to secure big contracts. again, it is not my strategy.

i am going to DIY the whole publication - doing as much as i could, wearing as many hats as i could, for a start. never mind it is going to look crude and unglamourous (i may even use newspaper print material). the important thing is the contents and info that i am going to disseminate. i am not one who is particular about aesthetics, especially if it is a free publication.

as far as advertistement rates are concerned, i am going to make it affordable for everyone so that every dealer can partake. in doing so, i am also telling the big guys that if you don't follow you will "lose face".

and i am going to stay away from reviews. no point betraying my conscience in writing something that i don't mean.

if you are interested to write for av xpress, do drop me a mail. it is very tough but i am having fun so something must be right.