my chief producer, jin liang, is finally back to kl for a short break and we met up to discuss major agenda for the audiophile cd project. of chief concerns are the total budget needed and where the recording, mixing and mastering are going to be done. other issues like album concepts, songs selection, distribution, musicians engaged etc etc are easier issues to deal with.

on the same night, i went to see winnie singing live on stage at OUG halo cafe. this is the first time i saw her singing live (not counting all her past tv appearances) and dare i say, she is a thorough gem. not only could she sing like a pro, she can entertain as well. the chatty and apathetic crowd in halo cafe absolutely had no inkling that they were listening to a first-class singer. only a discerning producer like me could appreciate the immense talents and potential in her.

during the break, winnie came to my table and we started chatting. despite her maturity in her voice, at 27, she is essentially a young lass, a smart one at that. when i reached home that night, i sms-ed her with the text - "you definitely belong to the stage. it would be a crying shame if a voice like yours is buried and unexposed. there is a great population out there who will appreciate your talents. i have full confidence in you". she replied at 2am on the same night - "thanks for the words. though appreciation is hard to find nowadays, i still believe in it".

i related the whole winnie story to my senior IT sales director friend. he believes what is essential is savvy marketing to repackage the product (i.e. winnie the singer) into a world-class performer with global appeal, after all talented singers like sandy lam, a-mei, norah jones are not selling on their looks either.

the next day, my chief producer and me met up again with winnie to talk about the project in more detail. everybody is happy to start the project, so i guess project so music (PSM) is now officially started!

taiwanese indie cds have so much to offer in terms of refreshing musical contents and superb recording. some of these recordings are near audiophile quality. this month's pick is deserts (what a name!) zhang xuan's debut album, entitled "my life will...".

zhang is a regular pub singer who has a sizeable following in taiwan. her style is reminiscent of suzanne vega, the folk pop singer who plays acoustic guitar as she sings. zhang is also nominated in taiwan's golden melody award in the "best newcomer" category. she has strong chance to win this award, judging by the strength of this album.

this cd has has very good recording - airy, raw and pristine. standout tracks are track #1 and #2. i like to play track #2 (bao bei, meaning babe) repeatedly on my system; it simply sounds lovely.

hot stuff! i just got hold of the new generation of stage 3 concepts cables and one of them is magnus, the fabulous interconnect that blew me away 3 years ago. without any info from their website (which has not been updated like more than 2 years! it show how busy these people are..), i don't really know the improvements both in terms of materials used and shielding details but the new magnus looks a bit dainty and classy. the xhadow plug (see picture) is also a class act, though i still prefer my old furutech XLR plug. my old magnus is more robustly built, thicker and harder to bend.

the initial impression of the new magnus (retailing at RM7K for 1.5m) is one of great refinement, with a capital "R". my system is already very refined but the new magnus adds a new dimension to the term refinement, almost too good to be true. if i were to use an analogy, the new magnus is like a lady in her early 20s, silky smooth complexion and alluring smell.... (hmmm...let you imagination run wild a bit) and my old magnus is a lady in her early 30s, more mature and sophisticated but her complexion has seen better days...

the new magnus shows great promise but i would like to give it more time to see if it can develop the robustness of the old magnus. robustness is a key criteria in my sound, as i play a lot of pop cds. refinement is great but it shouldn't be too dainty and cultured. since it will be on long-term loan, i will be having a great time discovering this cable.

on to other developments, yes, the curtains are back! i missed the textured and emotive midrange without the curtains on. but this time, i am smarter as i have installed a full-length curtain rod with adjustable curtain coverage to "tune" the sound as i like it (see picture). the curtains not only thicken the mids and increase palpability, they also intensify the emotions of the vocalist and stablise the imaging. my experiment shows that the sound is best with the full-spread of curtains covering the back wall.

note: this article is taken from this issue of av xpress for your reading pleasure!

We dedicate this section to the hottest, best-selling and most desirable hi-fi in Malaysia for the last quarter. The accuracy of this information may be questionable as it is solely obtained from the audio grapevine and may invite arguments or debates. However, the true spirit of this article is to share the excitement and in turn, we hope to excite the local hi-fi industry. Believe it or not, we try to be impartial and are not affiliated to any particular dealer or manufacturer.

Audio Research Reference CD7 CD player

Coming from a highly respected tube amp manufacturer that does not specialize in digital playback, Audio Research Reference CD7 CD player has done extremely well since its launch. In fact it is the first digital product from Audio Research to justify the "Reference" badge.

Following the remarkable success of its reference-status sibling, the flagship Reference 3 preamplifier, the same ground-breaking technology is employed with a gain stage taken directly from the Reference 3 and it also incorporates the latest proprietary capacitor technology found only in the Reference series components.

The good news to ARC supporters is that now they can finally purchase a full-suite of Reference products (save for loudspeakers) and proudly proclaim that they have the best of everything-under-one-roof system in the ARC universe and beyond.

Audionet ART G2 CD Player

Relatively low-profile, this German audio marque has caused quite a stir in the local market recently. Audionet products are developed, produced, and distributed by Idektron GmbH, a company that has its headquarters in Bochum, Germany. When it was founded in 1994, Idektron was a spin-off of Ruhr University Bochum, one of the leading universities in Germany, and was dedicated to making medical instruments. It now makes a nearly full range of audio products.

The ART in "ART G2" stands for Aligned Resonance Transport, a proprietary technology that decouples transport unit and boards as well as the clock generator. The G2 stands for Generation 2. It is a direct-drive top loader. The transport is mounted on a suspended, 22-pound slab of granite.

If the popularity of the G2 continues to grow at this speed, it won’t be long before Audionet becomes a formidable audio brand in Malaysia.

Promitheus Audio TVC Passive Preamplifier

Nick Chua (see interview in the “Personality Profile” section), the local 26-year-old young man who builds a superb value-for-money Transformer Volume Control (TVC) passive preamplifier, did not mince his words when he admitted that “TVC sells to international markets in huge volumes through online channels”. To find out what the fuss is about, just google “TVC”.

The key strength of the TVC is its impedance matching. It allows listeners to hear greater inner detailing and micro dynamics, a more natural timbre, and greater airiness, compared to conventional passive preamps.

Competing well with products 3-4 times the price of his TVC, Nick has certainly scored a minor victory in the price/performance war for passive preamplifiers. More importantly, the Promitheus Audio TVC heralds a new era for Malaysian audio designers who have shown that they are ready to take on all challengers in the global arena.

For further discussion on Nick’s remarkable TVC, check out the humongous 150+ page thread on the Audio Circle forum.


this is the meeting i had hoped for for the past 7 years - meeting my favourite local singer, winnie ho. well, i have many singers that i wanted to meet and get to know but none of which is possible except winnie.

i know why i like her. it is her voice and her stage persona. the moment she opens her vocal chord, you know this girl can sing. with style, that is.

so, finally, i got to meet her in real person.

but winnie was real sick yesterday and she could hardly speak. she could only whisper. even in that condition, she initiated the meeting.

she told me that she has no desire to record an album, unless the music touches her. she said she has high standards for her music. i told her i have high standards for my music too and i can assure her that together we can produce music that touches people's hearts. i told her that we are going to work with roger wang and possibly jamie wilson, all guitar supremos and she is visibly excited.

to further convince her. i told her that the first time i saw her in tv, during the astro talent quest, i already told myself that if i ever wanted to produce an album, i will sign her. so now 7 years after that, the time has finally come. 7-year is a long time but the wait is worth it. if that's not sincere enough a gesture, i don't know what is. winnie just nodded her head and said, "ok. i am interested but it has to be after august; i am extremely busy at the moment".

thanks winnie, hope we will have fun making the album!

av xpress issue #2 hits the newsstands today!

this has been a difficult issue not the least due to higher printing quality demands and increase in contents and thickness. rest assured, we will keep improving.

you can find it in major newsstands/newsagents/bookstores nationwide, including sabah and sarawak. please inform all your friends in other states.

you can also find it at A&L audio station at amcorp mall and music by design at city square.

we really hope you can support us because without your support, the journey will be a tough and lonely one. same goes to dealers and distributors.

it has been a rather tough choice for me to choose my ultimate recording engineer to do the audiophile album. basically, i have three maestros in mind:

1) aik-yew goh, hugo's boss (pun intended), has been so successful that no audiophile can afford not to own a cd from hugo. mr. aik, a singaporean based in hk, has recently hit the bull's eye with his LPCD series of audiophile albums, which include titles like faye wong and alam tam. although not having spoken to him, i highly doubt he has the time to work with us. but you never know. maybe i am so charming that i could persuade him for a collaboration. gotta use my charm.

2) keith yip, the boss of HK audiophile label rock-in music, has produced highly-acclaimed audiophile albums with the likes of susan wong and roxanne lui. he has agreed to do the mastering for us but not the recording. again, i need to persuade him more.

3) leo fung, audiophile guru from HK, who has also agreed to work with us.

i have high regards for mastering legend doug sax (from the mastering lab) as a mastering guru but you should check his rate - it is screamingly exorbitant!

i think the final choice will largely depend on our budget, availability of the maestros and timing.

the previous spot has now become a cosy little corner

new spot for maggie (notice the lateral openness)

bored with my current sound, coupled with some feng shui factors, i have decided to switch the position of my system to the opposite corner of my living room.

i took less than 1 hour to shift the furnitures and 20 minutes to setup my system randomly. meaning, using my previous experience, i simply plonk the maggie on spots which i think will best suit them.

lo and behold, even without proper setup, the resultant sound is much more spacious, dimensional and layered than before! bear in mind that i don't have my curtains on the "new" wall, so the mids are slightly thinner than before but what dimensionality! i would gladly trade off the thinned mids with this panaromic soundstaging!

it suddenly dawns on me that even in an the previous spot (enclosures flanked by two walls measuring 13' wide, see the 1st photo) the maggie still need more lateral space to breathe! the current soundstage is beautifully layered and well spread out. soundstaging used to be my achilles' heel in my previous spot and i just gave less priority to this aspect, not knowing that my spot is the limiting factor.

to counter the thinned mids, i use what have now become my second-nature skills in speaker positioning - pushing the maggie forward and backward in minute movement (centimeter by centimeter), to test the tonal balance. the more i push the maggie closer to the back (bare) wall, the better the mids become, yet without sacrificing much on the layering and dimensionality. i didn't test the bass response cos it was 2am in the morning!

by the 2nd night (tonight), i have gotten a fairly great sound satisfying 80% of my demands, eventho' i still haven't done my ultimate speaker positioning steps. the mids are better now, altho' still lacking the palpability and thickness of the previous setup.

i am going to experiment with wooden racks for my monoblocks in the hope to add more meat and texture to the tonal balance.

this has been a revelation! not only has my feng shui improved (now my main door is no longer blocked by hifi), my hifi also acquires a new dimension! way to go!

it is kinda funny. when you are a music and hi-fi die-hard, all your investment ideas would invariably center around this hobby. let's be clear, music and hifi business won't make your rich, that we know that from day one. neither do we want to be poor and struggling artistes that are fed on thin air - we want to develop this music and hifi business into a reasonably successful one; enough to pay our bills, fund our lifestyles and have helluva fun while doing it. that's why we started av xpress, the music label and now another new exciting project.

tonight, i met mark, an indie producer for the past 15 years. sparks flew, chemistry glued and immediately we strike on a partnership deal. we want to bring well-known chinese indie artistes from taiwan and china to perform live in malaysia. again, no one has dabbled in this biz before because it is so niche. mark himself is a seasoned concert organizer; with our combined expertise and experience, we are confident that we can make money and have a good time. that's all i can reveal at the moment.

sorry that av xpress issue #2 has been delayed till next tuesday due to printing problems. i have been extremely tough on my printer in that i want nothing less than 100% in printing quality for av xpress. i have to answer to myself and my dealers who support me. so you can expect a aesthetically pleasing and content-rich publication soon.

harry pearson (HP), the legendary hifi guru, has created many hifi jargons that have managed to describe abstract phenomenon in hifi and these jargons have widely been used by many reviewers till today. one of my favourites is "yin and yang".

after kc blogged about the mbl sound, i was curious and i went to A&L one day to listen to a full suite of mid-end mbl at play. the mbl house sound is unmistakably a "yin" sound. it is a bit dark, the highs are gentle and it does not sound the least like solid-state. it is also alluring, non-imposing, classy and refined, which reminds me a bit (not a lot) of the modern-day conrad-johnson, which is also a "yin" sound.

in contrast, the ARC and krell today are the epitome of "neutral" sound, neither "yin" nor "yang". very few brands sound "yang" these days, i can only think of many of the solid-state brands in the 80s/90s. a "yang" sound is normally in-your-face, gutsy and a bit over-the-top.

can you name me other brands which fall into either "yin" or "yang" sound?

to get an idea of what kind of mandarin pop that we want to do, watch this MTV by shunza (shun zi). shunza sings 回家 (coming home), a power ballad that is very demanding and will cripple any less-than-capable singers.

if i can get winnie ho to work with us, this is a must-sing song for her cos i know she likes shunza and she has done this song many times in the competition.

winnie, are you reading this?