I think the source is like the core of the setup, and that makes them ever so hard to judge if you do not know the in and out of the downstream rigs. But still, I'll try my best.

I got to know this brand like 3 or 4 years ago when I was just starting out to venture seriously in this music loving hobby. Anywhere I came across, there seems to be someone raving and proclaiming Vimak to be one hell of a source. However, even then, the business was no longer in operation. It went busted.

Now they come back with a bold product, the DT-600. Why bold? In this day of disposable technology, most if not all companies are using ROM drives already. Instead, Vimak used the Philips CDM Pro transport.

Anyway, the CDP is rugged and well built. And it's a CDP with a rocker's attitude. It's able to groove and rock! With its rock solid build, I guess using it as a dedicated transport would pose no problem at all!

With Jonathan Valin raving and praising the brand, how could I give EDGE a pass? I find myself agreeing mostly to Jonathan Valin, I guess he has the same taste as mine. Ops, or am I having the same taste as his?

This player is composed and put reproducing music as the utmost priority. The mids is liquid with not a hint of sibilence. The top is airy and smooth while the bass has got nothing to fault at. This is not blurry liquid nor softy smooth OK, this player has got resolution and a classy sound!

I find players at this price range to be at the best price/performance point. Players like Meridian G08 springs to mind and I really wish I have them side by side for comparison. This is gonna be on my radar when I am buying a CDP!

Nothing beats unboxing gifts during X'mas, or any other happy occasions. I was lucky enough to witness one joyous one in Aural Designs. In this case, Acoustic Zen Adagio and WLM Diva were supposed to make appearance. I could not hold my breath while looking at those huge boxes being unpacked and the speakers revealed to me! Ahhh, who could resist the exhilaration of unpacking new toys, and huge ones mind you!

WLM is a new brand to me. I wouldn't even know it if it's not for a Taiwan mag. It is a new brand conceived in 2002, with such long Austrain musical history, you can be assured to see the Austrian products more later. Anyway, the speakers were not setup properly and still new. However, one would not fail to notice its potential on first listen. The sound was extended at both extremes and fast. This speaker was about speed and agility, there was this freedom with the sound coming out from the speakers. I can foresee this speakers to excel at playing orchestral work!

Hey, do read the manual before proceeding in setting up the speakers. The Taiwan reviewer found it out the hard way.

Acoustic Zen was known for their cables. It was a surprise for me to see them venturing into making speakers. But I guess they are not the first one as Zu did it earlier. Just because they are round doesn't mean that they are dome tweeters. Yes, the Adagios use the almost weightless Kapton round ribbon tweeters. No harsh highs from them for sure! With the 6.5" ceramic impregnated bass drivers in D'Appolito array, you can be assured of fast response without the lost in musical body. The frequency response was even from my initial listen, but their nimble nature might not be for those head bangers.

Need I say more?! This is one of the better speakers to reach my wish list! Not a little bit better, but a huge margin of better! These speakers have no problem showing the quality of the upstream rigs. You would love to hate these speakers, it is these kinda speakers that drive you to push the limit. The upgrade chain reaction would be a huge one if you decide to get involved! When driven with the 318B, it was fast, agile and immediate with no issue handling huge musical works. It was with the 845SE that I was awed and resolute to own one myself. It was rich, composed, effortless and classy, a sound that you would appreciate instantly if you have traveled long.

With their honesty in musical presentation, you would suffer the consequences of not feeding them with nothing but the BEST!

Yeah, call me a spoiled little bastard! I have heard much good stuff, and still hearing heaps more of good stuff! I have heard many hi-end gears which are edgy and I have heard many hi-end gears which are heavenly musical!

Thanks to my burning passion and idiotic spending logic, I get to know many good people in our niche music loving hobby. One of them being Victor of Aural Designs. I still remembered when I first stepped into the shop without much intention of buying. Victor greeted me and somehow our conversation just flowed endlessly about my headache after upgrading to my current setup. He gave plentiful of tips which I find useful and beneficial.

Nope, my setup is not super hi-end. But I still remembered how I enjoyed music and kept the passion burning with heaps of CD purchases. Nowadays, I still buy a lot of CDs, but I could not listen long due to the hi-resolution edginess. As I traveled further and further into the hi-rez realm, I found many sharing my same problem.

I do not know whether the owners realize themselves or not, but their setups are plagued with the incapability of playing loud. I still remembered along my path of numerous upgrades, I pushed the threshold of the level I could play with my setup. They do not go louder and louder as I upgraded, but rather, I had to settle at lower level to contain the higher details, which could be unbearable at times.

Many a times, I had to take a few steps back to get the setup to regain the balance again. And as I go along, I found that stripping those tweaks that I put in earlier would yield better results. There was once I stripped away the pure sine wave power regulator to make the sound more pleasant. There was once I took away the IsoNodes to make the sound more balanced. There was once I took away the Pyramid Ebony Cones to get rid of the edginess. And recently, I took away all my Target spike footers to regain the air and body that were robbed away to give me the deluded focus and definition. More on these later.

Today, I visited Victor again. He was listening leisurely when I hopped in unexpectedly. My intention this time was clearly to listen to the Escalante Designs. In fact, I am very much interested in the Pinyon bookshelves. The initial setup was actually the Vimak DT-600, Almarro 318B and the Escalante Freemont. Man, was I again awed by 318B’s control, speed, agility and the ability to drive things many times its size!

In fact, 318B would definitely be in my second setup wish list. I listened happily but Victor kindly offered me the opportunity to listen to the EDGE CDP and the New Audio Frontier 845SE driving the Fremont. Holy mother of hi-end, I was awed and spoiled at the same time!

The EDGE CDP was smooth, liquid and composed without sacrificing a single bit of resolution. The New Audio Frontier (NAF) 845SE was even more of a surprise to me, everything Victor is doing defy my understanding and expectations on power wattage and SPL! I was definitely impressed with the 18 watter 318B, but to say I am impressed by the 845SE’s measly 25 watt is a total understatement! I was bowled over by its lucid highs, exquisite mids and clean taut bass.

Everything was on honey coating and golden sweetness. Now do not get me wrong as I did not mean it is heavily colored. This is actually what I am looking for, high resolution with liquidity to play loud! Damn, do you know how hard it is to get this right? Hmm, so far, only two I have listened extensively and still find them very very very times 654321 lovable!

Many have told me that they have traveled long and all the hi-rez routes to settle back with a musical setup. Yes I agree wholeheartedly, but resorting to colored and muffled tube amps is definitely not one of them! This NAF + Escalante + EDGE is hi-resolution musicality to the MAX! There is just not the slightest hint of edginess and hardness when pushed. Everything was just swaying with composure and rich tonal textures! Yep, you are getting the complete harmonic structure without the overbearing forwardness.

I am spoiled again. And 318B is no longer on my wish list as I know I have already completed my second setup, which is now residing in my room. Bring in the money, and let’s move on to build my main setup, again!

Oh, Tan is also very friendly and polite. And I also learnt that the life and death of audio brands does not lie in the hands of the manufacturers, but rather, the shops that are carrying them. As I can see, Escalante Designs, EDGE and New Audio Frontier would have a super bright future in our audio scene!

hooray, the product of months of planning and deliberation will be out soon, in about two weeks' time! we are all excited here!

you can collect your free copy at the following cd and hifi outlets:

klang valley: rock corner outlets
  • 1-utama
  • midvalley megamall
  • subang parade
  • the curve
  • sogo
  • kotaraya
  • giant USJ
  • bangsar village
  • great eastern mall

victoria music

  • atria (damansara jaya)
  • friendly records (kinta city)
  • Max
and the following participating hifi shops:
  • cmy
  • A&L
  • audio note/high end research
  • wo kee hong (distributor)
  • interglobal music (label)
  • CMS electronics
  • zest audio
  • audiomatic
  • osher audio
  • helter skelter (LP seller in amcorp mall)
  • new leaf (LP seller in amcorp mall)
  • dong fong
  • audio art
  • swedish statement
  • perfect hifi
  • audio perfectionist/music by design
  • hi-way laser
  • centre circle
  • audio synthesis
  • auto gadget (ICE dealer)
  • divine av

we are eagerly awaiting your feedback on our baby! make sure you get a copy!

i am getting this album by roger wang and farid ali! roger's recordings have always been great for audiophiles' consumption, i have great expectations with this album.

wait for my review ya.

in terms of recording quality, i always feel that rain forest (lily's label from china) lags behind hong kong labels like rock-in music (keith yip) and TIS (vili chang), or even musiclab. rain forest's recordings are natural but somewhat mundane, lacking the hi-fi qualities of those labels from hk.

whereas lily's sweet voice is always a selling point, she can come across as a bit impassionate and pedestrian. she doesn't quite emote well in her songs. every song is plain sailing for her. i don't get the intensity or climax i get from some really top-notch pop singers. a case in point - song number #12 by kit chan (retired s'pore singer). lily's rendition is so plain and emotionless. one should really listen to kit chan's version to know how much lily falls short. kit's powerful voice is like a vocal roller coaster, leading the listener from a high point to low, back and forth; there's just so much variation in kit's rendition.

chris babida's arrangement, on the other hand, is rather understated this time. the sparse instrumentation is perhaps to highlight lily's sweet voice but it can come across as a bit under-arranged. recording quality is generally good.

lily covers songs by faye wong, eason chan, leon lai, miriam yueng and danny chan, and most of the times, i prefer the original versions, except perhaps for danny chan's "a several minute date" (track 11) where lily's delicate voice shines through in this well-arranged simple ditty.

elsewhere, it is a rather boring affair.

sonics: 4 outof 5
music: 3 out of 5

the almarro amp - from japan!

new audio frontiers 845SE

escalante fremont speakers

my first meeting with victor peh, the young md of audio designs tells me that he is foremost a music lover/audiophile, only a businessman because he owns the business.
aural designs carries many brands that i have never heard of - escalante speakers, almarro amps, new audio frontiers are alient names to me. blame me, for i didn't normally read those reports from CES.
with the new audio frontiers 845 integrated amp driving the escalante fremont speakers, the sound is sweet, delicate and pure as expected from this tube. it has a certain euphonic quality that is not found in typical push-pull amp. i am also impressed with the tank-like looks of the edge cd player. the almarro is so exquisite that i mistook it for being a product of italian lineage. wrong, it is from japan! the almarro silver interconnect is another gem-looking cable and it sells for only SGD500 a pair.
by bringing such exotic products, victor certainly has ambitions and as an audiophile, the least you could do is to pay victor a visit and check out if any of his products tickles your fancy.

pete's workshop - a paradise of tools, tubes and gadgets

a rare tube tester

pete is repairing a guitar amp

pete's main listening hall - equipment galore!

record collections

another rare tube tester

richard allen ls 3/5a and spendor are the main speakers on duty

in malaysia, well before audiophiles heard of wiliam johnson (ARC), harry pearson (TAS) and jim winey (MAGNEPAN), all legends in their own rights, we have peter leong, the veteran audiophile.

in malaysia, chances are if you are a seasoned audiophile, you would have heard of the name peter leong. i have long been wanting to feature pete in my blog cos he does make an interesting story to me. pete finally relented, provided i don't feature his face in my blog. pete is a humble bloke, you see.

it must be more than 5 years ago when i first know pete. at that time, i advertised in the star's audiomart to sell my siltech, which i bought from ELPA (do they still exist in s'pore?) back in the late 80s. see, my fixation with silver started way way back in the 80s! pete was the first one who came to my house. i remember him being a tough bargain hunter. i sold both the siltechs to him, following by my REL strata 2 subwoofer. i didn't contact pete after that transaction.

fast forward to 2006. i reacquainted with pete 3 months ago when i bumped into him regularly in audiomatic in amcorp mall. one thing leads to another, and before long, we become pally. besides hifi, there is another thing that unite us - food, glorious food.

to write about pete, you must first be intrigued by his passion in hifi, fine food and women, the later i won't reveal much here. suffice to say that pete has more than 40 years in hifi, enough for you to write a book on him.

being an avid music lover, pete had his own band, called the strangers, even when he was a teenager in the 60s. strangers played in school parties and other fun outings. pete admitted that playing in the band was the cool factor that made him a chick magnet. i have no reasons to doubt pete’s popularity with women.

pete also made his own guitar amps. his first piece of hi-fi was the stereogram console, something like a turntable with attached console and speakers. pete remotely recalled that the brand was “PYE”. it played EP (extended play) records at 45 rpm. At his time, an EP only cost RM5 a piece. beatles and the shadows were the rage during those days and their LPs can be had for RM12 at popular music outlets like those found in Penang’s Campbell Street. just like any happenig teenager, pete’s happy days were spent attending dance parties and playing in the band at the local civic hall.

in the early 70s, pete bought his hi-fi from eastland trading. eastland carried brands like leak, harmon kardon and the solid-state phase linear, which was considered the krell of those era. a phase linear amp would cost RM5K++, hell lotsa money back then. coupled with JBL speakers, a basic “high-end” system would have set one back RM10K! with that kind of money, one can almost buy a house then!

according to pete, the hifi circle was small then because it was considered an expensive hobby. pete later owned lengendary amps like the mark levinson ML-2, ML-2 and ML-3, which didn’t change his life as much as his quad 2 and quad 22 tube amps. it was quad which led pete to become the tube aficionado today. in fact, some veteran audiophiles in malaysia called pete “the king of tubes”, a title that pete himself feel embarrassed to own up.

moved on to the 80s and pete fell in love with audio research (ARC) amps. it wasn’t too far-fetched to say that pete is the ARC pioneer in malaysia. back in those days, pertama audio was the dealer for ARC and pete was a regular customer of pertama. pete had owned such fabled pre amps such as ARC SP4, SP6, SP6B, SP8, SP10, SP11, SP14 and SP15. for power amp, he had owned ARC D70, classic 60, classic 30, classic 150 and VTM120. these are all classics in their time. pete has personally spoken to william z. johnson, the founder of ARC, during one of the CES in USA. pete told me that william’s all-time-favourite ARC amp is the dimunitive classic 30!

visiting pete’s house is an eye-opening experience. his collection of vintage hi-fi is awe-inspiring, to say the least. you are bound to find some esoteric vintage gear buried somewhere in this treasure throve he called his house. amongst pete's prized possessions are few unit of extremely rare tube testers (see pictures)that are out-of-production, and hundreds of vintage tubes of varied types and age. pete's workshop is impressive as well, complete with scopes and testing equipments which can make any DIYer green with envy.

i asked pete what equipment would make his desert-island gear, the kind that he would bring to a deserted island if ever there is such opportunity. pete pointed to his air tight ATM-1 power amp which he bought from japan and his treasured richard allen LS3/5a mini monitor speakers. he would also like to take his first sound passive pre along. of course, i know deep inside that pete would also bring along a woman with him, a complete necessity in an island.

does that mean pete does not appreciate modern hi-fi? pete reckoned that modern hifi has better parts/components and is more modern sounding, but he added that the lure of vintage hifi is akin to mum’s cooking, so familiar and so nostalgic. pete minces no words in telling me that he likes a certain kind of sound – warm, nostalgic, tubey, cosy, euphonic and intimate, so that practically rules out most of the solid state gear already!

pete’s parting shot is an advice his gave to budding audiophiles and novices: “use your own judgement; don’t be influenced by others; spend wisely and buy the music you like”. well said, pete, it may sound so simple but many audiophiles can still fail to appreciate this simple approach.

to curb rising cost, some cable manufacturers have long started producing their cables in china or some far-east countries. normally, the box carries the disclaimer "designed in the USA, manufactured in china". at least, some are honest about it; some don't even bother to declare.

as i become more and more perfectionist in my approach, i start to shun mass-produced cables, especially those outsourced to china. no offence intended, but i find the quality quite sub-standard.

one cable manufacturer i know is starting to taste some degree of success in malaysia and as a result, starting to cut corners. i have yet to listen to the newer batch of their products but suffice to say that the signs are all there to see, right from the el-cheapo RCA/XLR plug to the overall look and feel of the cable. look, we audiophiles are discerning enough to know where the money is spent on. if i were to pay RM10K on a cable, i expect perfection - from the sound to the aesthetics.

this is sad. which goes to show that many manufacturers (i am not accusing all), once tasted the sweet scent of money, will stray from its noble intentions which got them started in the first place.

but then again, how many manufacturers are anti-commercial and anti-establishment like holfi and spectral, to name but two?