here's it - locally made avia's 8KVa powertrans!

my criteria for this evaluation are quite simple:

what i demand/expect:
1) consistency of performance (that it always sounds good regardless of the time of the day)
2) imaging to become more rock solid and more stable
3) noise level to be reduced further (beyond richard gray)
4) widening and deepening of soundstage
5) increased palpability and transparency
6) possibly, more air and ambience

what i don't expect: (common sins)
1) it limits dynamic expression (freedom of musical flow, does it have "strangling" effect?)
2) it curtails high frequencies
3) it blurs out images
4) it slows down pace
5) it imposes a strong sonic signature

if it has any of the above stated "sins", it is considered not suitable for my application.

give me about a week, ok?

after ARC Ref3, another hot product hits ipoh like a storm.

there are already 4 proud owners of this super-duper cd player in ipoh - audionet ART G2 cdp. touted to even surpass the much heralded meridian 808, audionet art G2 is going to shake-up the scene in the next twelve months. just mark my words.

as usual, i dare not even take home a unit for audition. don't flirt with fire when you don't know how to distinguish it.

only with revolutionary products like this, high-end and audiophilia as a whole will be ignited and prosper.

Krell Transport and DAC - no upgrade plan on these as the owner does not play CDs much.

Krell Evo 2 Pre - the latest addition to the family, which bring so much refinement to MRA's raw power!

Krell MRA Power - raw muscles!

Grand Utopia on the left - huge!

Grand Utopia on the right - enormous!

Over the years, I have built up my belief that there could never be a setup capable in reproducing the live events. As I listened to more and more setups and attended more and more live events, it occurred to me that no setup could provide you the direct lifelike realism on par with listening to live events.

To newbies, I have convinced them many times that there’s no way any setup could mimic that real life events dynamic swing. When I attended the Fourplay performance in Dewan Philharmonics recently, I suffered from withdrawal syndrome that prevented me from touching my setup. That remained for at least a couple of days and I gave up hope in believing that there would ever be a setup able to give you that level of dynamism!

Just the week before I leave for SG, my perceptions changed. I was actually given the opportunity to pay a visit to our MY super hi-ender a visit. For years, I have heard about him. And I could only take a peep on his rigs from a HK website, how ironic is that?

Upon reaching the home of the owner, I knew I was in for a trip of my life! There were Krell CD transport, Krell processor, Clear Audio reference turntable, Krell Evo 2 pre, humongous pair of Krell MRA power amps and the gigantic JMLab Grand Utopias! For those MRA power amps, I swear I have never expected it to be that huge! And if that is not enough, there was another pair idling around! This is seriously hi-end setup and it literally blew me away!

We played both CDs and vinyls, however, it was with analogue that brought the best out of the setup! If you are still indulged in those prettier than life presentations of MBL and ARC, please wake yourself up. Do you have pinpoint localizations in real life events? Do you have tantalizing bloom? Do you go figure the center imaging? Forget about all those as those are false realism that we audiophiles are kidding ourselves into believing!

Have you ever attended any live musical events? As always, I have never failed to feel the excitement. Every one of them is like a journey where the musicians take you to joyrides. They never wait for you to recover from your exhilaration while you could analyze that bloom and texture. It’s all about effortlessness in bringing you waves after waves of musical vibration and the unforced dissipation of energy.

It is all about the transition from one energy form into another. From the movement of the musicians, to the vibrations of the instruments and finally to the sensations at our receiving end. It is a natural process just like God intended. The directness in the dynamic swing is so palpable and raw that no one would believe any human creation could recreate.

As I dig deeper into understanding how the live events sounded, I realized that this was actually IT. The sound that I was listening to right there and right then, this was as real as one could get! There was really no boundary as I was transported to the live events, I was no longer confined within the dimension and space of the room. I was greeted with a soundstage where the layering and depth, height and width were so seamlessly and naturally integrated. In a word, palpable!

At this performance level, the mentioning of highs, mids and lows is irrelevant. I just immersed myself in musical escapades and forget about the rest. If you want to impress me with how loud your 1812 can go, try harder, and try real hard!

stereovox SEI600II interconnect

a new cable has dethroned stage III concepts, nordost and many others as the new king in town!

the name is stereovox and it is inexpensive...

stereophile editor john atkinson has this to say: "what I find fascinating is that, in an industry as mature as audio cables, a new company can appear out of the blue and upset everything." check it out in:

apparently it is distributed by music by design (s'pore). maybe you can give a call to its malaysian counterpart in city square. (03-2164 8818).

USD$100,000 for an ugly pair of speakers, only high-end cable manufacturer siltech can do it! still a prototype, the sc-1 was created entirely in the digital domain using the COMSOL multiphysics advanced 3d modeling software. doing so, siltech was able to "model and accurately predict total cabinet, driver, and in-room acoustical behavior."

the 16" bass drivers are isobaric loaded with a jumbo port round back. 7" mid crosses over at 200 and 2500 while the electrostatic tweeter uses its 72" of radiating area to take you all the way up to 38k.

sound aside, will it get past your girlfriend/wife? we highly doubt so!

may it never see the light of the day!

while the nation is celebrating the remarkable achievements of our badminton doubles pair, a petite malaysian chinese female singer has equally made malaysians proud by being the first malaysian female singer (the male being michael wong) to perform in the prestigious HK colliseum stadium, the mecca for all superstar cantopop singers. more than any local singers (again, other than michael wong) in the country, fish has brought fame to malaysia as a land of many talented singers.

fish's success is a typical story of hardwork coupled with talent and a little bit of luck. while many malaysian chinese singers falter at the prospect of conquering taiwan, fish did it with so much style and maturity. in fact, EQ is one of fish's greatest assets, besides her vocal prowess. the way she handles the media and industry as a whole, shows that she is a woman with high EQ.

it is also exciting to know that in conjunction with her maiden concert in HK, she would be releasing a cantonese singles. now that is exciting; just how many malaysian chinese singers dare to sing cantonese songs in HK? the last one who did it in grand style was eric moo, but his success was short-lived. fish, good with her cantonese, is the only candidate hopeful of satisfying the critical HK listeners (when it comes to cantopop). even the likes of stefanie sun (yanzi), who has such a big presence in HK, does not dare to sing cantonese, for the fear of disappointing her HK fans. i am waiting with bated breath for fish's first cantonese song.

besides penny tai & michael wong, fish leong is easily the most successful malaysian entertainer overseas, and a good embassador for the country. we are proud of her!

Seriously, I was shocked to realize the overall standard of equipments our lovely neighbors are using. In a weekend, I heard 2 MBL setups that basically blew my underwear away! This really opened up my horizon on the choices I could go if I were to dump more money in this hobby.

If Ipoh is the town of Audio Research Corp and KL is the city of Krell, then Singapore is no doubt the city of MBL! In 2 days, it changed my perception on solid state and humbled me even more!

The first setup I heard comprised of Mark Levinson 31 transport, Theta processor, mbl 6010 D pre, mbl 9006 power, 2 Jeff Rowland Model 7 powers, mbl 202 A sub and mbl 101 D speakers. All cables were WireWorld, the 9006 was used for the lows while Model 7 were used to power the highs. The second setup was equally jaw dropping with mbl 1621 A transport, mbl 1611 D processor, mbl 6010 D pre and 2 mbl 9011 powers to drive the mbl 101 E speakers. Coincidently, cables used were WireWorld too with some mix in between.

With such high caliber of equipments veering towards MBL, it was easy for me to fully appreciate the sound of MBL, which to me, is standing tall against the great brands out there like ARC and Krell. Albeit the slight differences in front end, the MBL house sound was easily identified.

Unlike Krell, which caters its sheer power towards giving that effortless leading edge transient attacks, MBL is a bit on the darker side of tonal balance. MBL hangs on the notes longer, making them highly densed, tonally rich and full of textures. Although MBL is more than capable in providing that gut wrenching power, the leading edge to me is less snappy than the American powerhouse.

In both setups, the musical soundstage is never up front, residing always behind the 101 D/E with great depth and layering. The sense of space and dimensionality is vivid and never faltering, in fact, disregard of music genre, MBL is always composed and under control. It is more gentlemanly than playful.

Contrastingly, ARC gives a much more playful presentation with its lively and vivacious mid to top band coverage. Although both giving highly densed imaging, as compared to what I’ve heard with the new LS26, ARC has got that sense of air more. It might be unfair as I am overly used to MG3.6 + LS26 + CL120, which gives world class airiness. While music fundamentals develop with air surrounding and developing outwards, gracefully trailing into thin air with ARC, MBL gives a much more substantial body. Notes start and end so incisively with MBL!

It might be due to MBL’s darker nature, I find that MBL tends to hang on to the notes longer with slower (still fast relatively to tubes) leading edge and lesser decay. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so, as for the first time in my life, my perception towards solid state changed! I have never expected solid state to converge so closely to tube’s richness and textural quality.

However, please do not overlook the forte in MBL’s rendition of highs and lows. The highs, though not as vibrant as some premier tube gears, are solid and substantial. The leading edge might not be as crispy as desired by some; similarly, the decays are not so graceful as well. It is where the time slice of music fundamentals developing into rich harmonics that MBL somehow could slow down the time and let you taste them like wine.

The bass of MBL too, is slightly of the laid back nature. But never relate them to wobbly or sissy, they can definitely play loud and very well defined, too. It is more like a matured musician, never out of swing and always in a composed manner. Coupled all these, when listening to orchestral work, I find that MBL did a great job in repackaging the musical event, titivating them and fit them nicely in the comfort of your listening room!

I know this might be hard to swallow and digest, with MBL, I sense that you still remain a spectator, an onlooker towards the musical presentation as a whole. With ARC, the presentation gets a much boost up energy and lifelikeness due to its more forward presentation and slight added engagement.

If you ask me, I am still leaning more towards ARC. However, looking at the hassle of tube maintenance and the confusing tube sound from different brands, I am really contemplating to go solid state the MBL way!

finally, back to blogging. it turned out that Blogger is having some conflicts with IE. i have decided to dump IE and go for FIREFOX instead. many of my anti-microsoft friends swear by FIREFOX. i am a late convert.

while i am still waiting for a long-term solution on my electricity problems, i have developed some listening habits. i have become a morning audiophile! night-time listening is sporadic, depending on how good the sound is, using my now-indispensable reference cd (fong sum lui, the cantopop audiophile cd i recommended in av xpress). within about 20 seconds, i could tell if the electricity is great on the night. if it is not, i would just switch the system off and do other things. such is the agony of being a perfectionist audiophile!

at the same time, i am also drawing a daily chart on the performance of my system at night. this chart will be useful for me to see if there is a pattern or trend. if i find that sunday nights are persistently bad then i won't waste my time to listen to my system on sunday nights.

also, i seldom entertain guests at night now, preferring them to come in the morning or early afternoon.

a check with local dealers A&L (ps audio power plant premier) and tong lee (exact power) was responded with the expected answer "out of stock at the moment". wah chai (the A&L manager) told me that for ppp, demand has exceeded supply and ps audio can't even cope with the worldwide demand.

meanwhile, ah chee of audio art, asked me to try the locally-made powertran, an isolation transformer and a voltage regulator, the brainchild of veteran audiophile wong kok wah. i am quite sceptical but i will get one 8KVa unit to try it out when i go back to ipoh the next time.

for now, i will remain a morning audiophile!

my only and last saviour - ps audio power plant premier

an audiophile who doesn't think electricity is important to his system can either fall into the following categories: (1) his system doesn't have the resolution (2) his ears can't tell (3) all of the above.

seriously, electricity can make or break or system; the higher you go, the more dependent it is on electricity. having installed 3-phase in my house, i now have a more complete understanding how electricity impacts my hifi system.

first, 3-phase is not the solution to all problems. even for me, i still face nights where the electricity is less than ideal, 3-phase notwithstanding. my conclusion is that loading in my area (bandar utama) is very high.

when i mean less-than-ideal electricity, i don't mean having voltage less than 240V! the voltage can be a very stable and healthy 240V but the QUALITY of the electricity can be poor. this is the common misunderstaning of many audiophiles who think that they need a voltage stabilizer to maintain at 240V. in fact, i would strongly advise you to stay away for active components like voltage regulator/stabilizer. these active devices impose their own sonic signature on the sound and their have a "strangling" effect on dynamic music passages.

now, back to loading and quality of electricity. in my case, the purest electricity is obtained from morning 8am to afternoon 2pm; the best being at 2pm when presumably there are very few people at home. the worst electricity is obtained from 7pm all the way to 12 midnight. another astute observation is that on cooler nights, the electricity is better than hotter nights, when presumably more people utilize air-conditioners, the chief culprit and sucker of electricity.

now, how to tell when the electricity is bad? again, it is not about voltage reading (ie. less than 240V). you would detect that images become bloated, larger than usual and less focused, and highs become blunt. i would advise that you develop a reference cd to detect this anomaly. if you are not a critical listener, you wouldn't even detect this deterioration!

my richard gray 600s DOES NOT HELP in situation like this. so, don't think that by having a conditioner will solve your problems. i am banking on the new line of PS audio ac regenerator, my only hope and saviour.