of late, i have had some interesting debates with a couple of my audiophile buddies. they think that i am over protective of certain brands i like dearly, like magneplanar and audio research. i think they grossly under-estimated my broad-mindedness and overlooked one important thing, that these brands are the ones that i can afford at this present financial state. i have never said they are the best in the audio universe. if i were to make such foolish claim, i would be the laughing stock because hifi is the the most subjective hobby in the world.

were i a multi-millionaire, i would like to play everything and anything that my bank accounts permit me to. but still, i would like to retain my maggie and ARC in one of my many dedicated rooms. i don't need to explain to anyone why i adore the maggie so much and why i think maggie and ARC make the perfect match. if you need to ask, you would never understand. did you tell your missus about your first love, that pure, untainted and bittersweet once-in-a-lifetime experience? see, love is selfish.

many like to compare hifi to cars and i find the comparison perfectly apt. my maggie is like a bentley cruising down the boulevard, letting me enjoy the gentle caress of cool breeze and the finer things in life. but there is a flip side of me that yearns for the stark rawness, ultimate sensation and unadulterated energy of a ferrari throttling down the race track, and in that aspect, a full, top-of-the-line naim system (pre-2003 production) fulfills my needs nicely. oh, btw, i don't like the new generation of naim - too sissy and audiophile-approved.

the beauty of a naim system is i don't need to analyze the tonal balance, the layering or the imaging or anything that's anal retentive to a pure rock music lover. i would just let the pulsating pace and rhythm takes over my aural senses. many systems can do bass, humongous amount of bass, but for pop/rock music, especially stadium rock, naim rules ok. oh, i have been to many live concerts than the average joe.

i know i am close to opening a can of worms but i am too blase with the typical audiophile mud-slinging cat fights. my buddy argues - "can't one system fulfills all your needs?" to some, yes. to me, no. maybe that's why all the millionaires in town are keeping more than a few cars in their garage, to suit different applications, different moods, different roads or even different girlfriends :-) but there is bound to be one car that they drive more often that the others, and gentlemen, that's the car that they have the most emotional attachment with. most likely too, it is not the most expensive car.

my buddy further argues - "but your music is pop/rock, just how can a maggie satisfy you completely? is it because you have made the successful step to make the maggie sound good that you can't forgo the pride and glory of being praised by others? then you are not honest to yourself as you only enjoy your music partially". my answer to this is, yes, the maggie cannot play my REM, radiohead, U2 convincingly and that's why i am reserving a "virtual" room for my roksan (turntable) and naim system in the future. however, for 80% of my musical diet, especially for nocturnal listening, the maggie is perfect.

he further retorts - "not just maggie can deliver, there are many systems that can fulfill your tastes in both genres of music. you haven't tried all yet". sure, i think apogee (now defunct), mbl radial speakers can please me too but can i afford them? again, he misses the point - i buy what i can afford. but i have yet to listen to a speaker that has the delicacy of a planar/ribbon and the awesome PRaT of a naim. if you think otherwise, congratulations to you.

variety is the spice of life. even if were to become rich one day and could afford top-of-the-line naim, krell, mbl, goldmund, i will still cherish the countless magical moments that my maggie + ARC has given me all these intervening years.

every self-contented, self-fulfilling audiophile has similar story to tell.

the first cut is the deepest. just make sure that you have been "cut" at least once in your lifetime.

ace producer's debut audiophile cd with superb recording

times are a-changing, even ace cantopop producer is making audiophile cd.

mark lui, the godfather of modern cantopop, is responsible for the success of most of the hottest cantopop superstars in hk for the last decade. this includes the likes of kelly chen (wai lam), miriam yueng (chin wah), leo ku (kui kei), leon lai (ming), justine lo (juk tin), janice (wai lam) and many more. to everyone's surprise, mark lui has recently released an audiophile cd entitled "gold label smooth music", which really is a compilation of classic canto hits given a light jazz treatment.

the reason for mark lui's venture into the realm of audiophile cd biz is because he has just built a spanking new studio in HK, called the moooon studio (yes, two extra "o"s in the moon), equipped with state-of-the-art technology. he reckoned that his company has made enough money to venture into new and unchartered grounds like audiophile cds.

mark enlisted the help of jazz maestro, ted lo, to do the arrangement and i must say ted has done a great job in transforming these canto classics into the light jazz, easy listening ditties. the album has popular singers and not-so-popular ones and some new singers, all trying their best to sing in jazz. admittedly the results are a mixed bag and some, like established singers ronald cheng (chung kei), miriam yeung (chin wah) do much better than the rest. if you intent to check this cd out, try track #3, #11 and #14.

but i have to buy this regardless because the recording is superb. mark lui must have done his homework on how to make an audiophile cd. i need to learn from him too.

my mission in this blog is to recommend pop cds that is musically and sonically excellent, regardless of language, and this one gets my instant approval.

note #1: popular book store, currently holding a music fair at ikano, is selling this cd at a huge discount(RM39.90). i bought mine for RM62 just two weeks ago, dang :-(

note #2: i have got a request from a reader to put some of these recommended tracks for trial listening. now you have it! aren't you lucky! :-) btw, you need windows media player to play these files.

Equally big in Ipoh (actually, Dong Fong originally started in Pusing town but now they have a branch in Fair Park, Ipoh), Dong Fong captures the other half of the clientele that eludes Audio Art. In fact, the rivalry between Dong Fong and Audio Art is the best piece of gossip in Ipoh. Ok, we are not a gossip paper so we won’t dwell on that :-)

Proprietor Ah Lin is the most likeable sort of dealer. Easy-going and friendly in nature, he makes you feel at home. Some observers say Ah Lin doesn’t need the money, so he is very cool about his business. Whatever the case, one can’t deny that he is passionate about hifi.

Apart from its vast inventory of 2nd hand equipment, which include classic brands like Duntech, VTL, Audio Research, Dong Fong is also the Perak dealer for Thiel (speakers), Zingali (speakers), NBS (cables) and Avantgarde (speakers).

While Ah Lin manages the HQ in Pusing, the branch in Fair Park, Ipoh is managed by Ah Lin’s nephew, Ken Sin, a young man who is also very friendly and approachable.

Whether it is Audio Art or Dong Fong, you will find a trusted dealer in them. Oh, by the way, they only speak basic English. If you are conversant in any Chinese dialects, it would help greatly in communications. Anyway, hifi is a universal language… maybe sign language will suffice!

Click the sponsored link on the right to visit dong fong.

Dong Fong (Tel: 016-5344834, 012-4678788)

in the history of mankind, evolution takes place almost every now and then. in the internet world, it is no longer evolution. players like google and youtube revolutionalize the way we work, we disseminate info and the way we entertain ourselves.

in audio, evolution takes place when you upgrade an interconnect, add some cones etc etc. to "revolutionalize" the sound, more often than not, you need to change your speakers or power amp.

never in my 19-year in hifi have i totally revolutionized my system's sound without spending a single sen. in the case of shunyata hydra 4 power delivery system, not only did i not spend a single sen - i pocketed another RM300 when i sold my richard gray 600s! of course, you may argue that i have already spent RM4,800 on the RGPC but that's to overlook the kind of momentous improvement the hydra brings to my system.

in the past, i used to be fixated with tonal balance that is glamourous - shimmering highs with plenty of sparkles, communicative mids and a bottom end that is tight and taut. and the RGPC was the answer to my prayers. it pushed the highs to a level unachieved before, at the same time, tightened the sound and image. i thought that was what i wanted all along.

until the hydra 4 came along and changed my entire perspective of good sound. whereas the RGPC is highs-centric (meaning it accentuates the highs a lot), the shunyata is mids-centric. hydra 4 imbues the music with a very meaty highs and mids and a bottom end that has very good dynamic contrast. music through the hydra is analogue-sounding (tho' i hate to use this phrase), natural, meaty, full-bodied and thoroughly musical.

the hydra restores my slightly skewed tonal balance to a point where the highs, mids and lows coexist as one cohesive and musical spectrum of sound. it makes many of the power treatments i used in the past (save for the ps audio power plant which i haven't got a chance to try) sound amusical and artificial in its presentation. the hydra also imposes the least sonic signature on the sound, which is the sole criteria
for me.

the hydra's highs are not overly extended like the RGPC's but it has body and substance and weight, which to me, is more real and like-life. the shimmers and sparkles are still there but not to the extent of stealing the whole limelight (like my previous sound). the hydra's mids are thick, textured and full-bodied. the lows have good weights and dynamic contrast, making intertransients more discernible. to top it all, the musicality of the sound is unparalleled.

in short, the addition of hydra has given me the best sound (the best tonal balance, no less) i have ever attained in my 19-year journey of sound. if you think good sound can be achieved within weeks or months, think again :-)

the hydra is both an evolution, in my tastes, and a revolution in my sonic achievement, in my hifi journey.

[post script]
the hydra is one hell of an animal to burn in. potential buyers must allow at least 200 hours (with signal flow, preferably with a fan connected 24 X 7) before it can sound magical. before that, the hydra can appear overly thick with rolled-off highs and slightly rough. patience is the keyword.

Match made in heaven for Stealth Cloude 9 Full, the Stealh M5000

To all Thor users out there, this is an instant 20% increase in performance you could bring! Since the day I got the Thor, I thought I was treating it well by powering it with Harmonic Tech’s Fantasy power cord. It return, the Thor gave me hours of tremendously heavenly sound.

Damn, there’s just no free lunch, be it equipments, be it power cords, be it interconnects. Simply put, every single component counts, and that’s huge amount of money if you ask me. I took a hefty cord home without realizing the price, and as it turned out, I can’t seem to unplug it!

I thought I was getting the best out of Thor as the Fantasy is no slouch, with huge power handling capacity and with a linear and wide bandwidth. It was not until I plugged the Stealth M5000 to the Thor that I knew how much I was missing from my hard earned purchase!!!

The moment I hit play, I had to turn down the volume! It was like everything has grown bigger and bolder, taking a bigger acoustical space and fill up my room with eerie realism. I hate to always explain in words what we are hearing as without first hand experience, there is just no way you could relate!

The experience was much like when Leslie replaced the LS25 MKII to LS26, it was also like when I replaced my PS Audio Prelude with Stealth Cloude 9 Full, it was also like replacing the AQ Cheetah with NBS Honey Bee. The increased composure, resolution and definition simply pushed the setup to the next level!

You know why the better our setups have become, the more CDs we are buying? It’s just because there is no deliberately made bad sounding CDs, only mediocre setups that make CDs bad for the hearing. You must know that most pop CDs are not made with the best resolution in mind, they were meant for domestic usage with mostly consumer brands minis. Those minis are added with even harmonics to make things rosy tinted and sweet, no matter what you feed them with.

However, with entry level audio brands that intend to go the neutral and linear way, the resolution is just not enough to dig deep enough from pop CDs. With the loss in resolution, there is just no way could the setup convey the complete harmonic picture to form what was recorded in the first place.

Now, I have no technical knowledge in explaining why by replacing a cord, resolution, definition and harmonic gradients could improve by leaps and bounds. However, one does not need to be a cook to be a food connoisseur. The proof is simply in the tasting, there is just no way could I deny the dramatic improvements which power cords brought!

Back to the CD issue, do you know why some CDs that we raved sounded only mediocre in your setup? Well, I could only speculate that your resolution is just mediocre at best. I can’t say my setup is top notch as that would be a joke to many, but I have actually gone thru twice on this similar experience.

I guess many have got the Huang Hong Ying’s Tasting Loneliness for the First Time CD. I have the XRCD2 version which cost me triple the price for normal CDs. When I first got it, it was a total disappointment, the CD just played softly with everything in a distant. I felt cheated as wasn’t XRCD supposed to give greater resolution and tonal definition?! Let alone this is the XRCD 2 leh!

It was not until I replaced my Prelude with Stealth Cloude 9 for my pre that I was awed with the CD! The experience was similar this time, albeit at greater scale. Back then, all I experienced was increased tonal textures that vividly fleshed out the instruments and vocal presence. However, due to the size of my setup back then, it was not able to convey up to the level of presence with my current setup.

This Huang Hong Ying CD has got heaps of piano and Chinese instruments that demand nothing but the best to play. With M5000, the increased resolution has produced one of the best mid presence and dimensionality I have experienced. This could only be possible with great density and imaging capability, which to me, is impossible without the highest level of power purity.

With such purity in the mid, I am getting one hell of richness in tonal textures and emotional content! The varying playing strength and vocal cord vibration have brought top class performance to my room. The transitions of tones and the frail changes of vocal pitch gave me great pleasure in enjoying female voices.

When the imaging took such solid presence, the depth perception and sense of layering were just to die for! With the M5000, my depth improved, this is not the same as having a more laid back presentation. But rather, it was the distance between the nearest perceived instrument and the farthest deep inside the soundstage.

Many setups could do great depth, but many also failed to fill the in-between with a sense of acoustical space and airiness. Listen to any song in Huang Hong Ying’s said album, can you feel the energy emancipating from Huang’s lung to the throat and out from the mouth, vibrating the air surrounding her and fill your room with the sense of the size of the recording hall?! This is eerie realism!

The other important observation was something I learnt while I was doing comparisons between the many sub 15k CDPs back then. Leslie actually pointed out to me the sense of musical flow from the Meridian G08. It was something I learned and never failed to notice in more expensive setups. This is akin to the capability of the setup in gripping the rhythms of the music and conveying them in great timing.

That was exactly what M5000 imbued in the overall presentation. The subjective body perceived by the added richness in tonal colors might give the wrong impression of the setup sounding slow at first. Upon prolonged listening, there’s just no sluggishness in the mid, lower mid, and down until the bass regions. It’s actually a sense of calmness that made the overall musical presentation so composed and poised.

What do you get after all these? You see the action, the action in music, and that is what matters in hi-end! My heartiest recommendation to all Thor owners!

PS: Can all the Thor owners poll fund in getting me a piece of M5000 also?! Pleeease!

yes, you hear it right, av xpress has been approved as the inhouse bulletin in all starbucks cafes all over malaysia! give me five!

which means, starting next issue (15th october 2005), you can collect your free copy at any of the 88 branches nationwide.... isn't this great? isn't that wonderful?

which also means, we have to tailor the contents to cater more to the target readers of starbucks. for starters, we need to beef up the music section. we will be looking high and low for music reviewers who are willing to write for a song. anyone you know? nah, we can't afford daryl goh or martin vengadesan (from the star):-)

we are too elated to even think of what other contents to entice the young readers of starbucks...

any suggestions?

If you do not believe in cables and cords, I pity you!

...and stay away from me!

Stay tuned for the Stealth M5000!

at the launch, regine (left), z-yan (centre) and yuheng (right)

z-yan's cd cover - one of the most glam shots i have even seen!

my new friend, z-yan [欣彦](real name: xin yan), has just released her debut mandarin album yesterday!

after a long wait of 6 years, z-yan finally sees the fruit of her labour. it was a memorable day at the press conference with friends and journalists congratulating her.

i am the first one to buy her album and has since been spinning non-stop.

it is a good album filled with happy and bittersweet tunes that suit z-yan's innocent and angelic voice. good friends yuheng [宇珩] and regine [丽津] also lend their voices to one of the songs.

i urge you to support local artistes by buying a copy of z-yan's cd! it is only RM29.90 and i may even get it at RM25 for you readers.

drop me a comment if you want to order a copy. i have already sold 5 copies to my friends and kaki...

Finally, the new Escalantes are out!

Can't wait to have a listen to them!

finally, i managed to pressure these busy guys into giving me a full list of equipment for the blog! a big sorry for those who have been waiting eagerly.

Proprietors Ah Chee and Ah Hin were once the technicians in PE Audio, Ipoh. Not content with just earning a salary, the two enterprising men left PE Audio and started Audio Art in 1999.

A lot of people regard Audio Art’s success today as being in the right place at the right time. Audiophiles in Ipoh are mostly retirees or businessmen who have big savings and to them, buying high-end equipment to listen to music is the best form of entertainment in sleepy town like Ipoh. They are not your corporate professionals or the most refined kind of educated folks but their passion for hifi is immense. Some people say that Ipoh has the most Audio Research users in the entire country and this is not at all a far-fetched claim.

While Ah Hin manages the showroom and does repair work, Ah Chee is the Sales and Marketing man. The dynamic duo complements each other very well.

Audio Art carries many branded 2nd hand stuff such as Krell, Audio Research, Sonus Faber, Meridian etc etc. They also carry their own products which include Revolution (amplification/speakers), Stage III Concepts (cables), Marten Design (speakers) and Audionet (amplication/digital sources).

Pay them a visit, even if you are from other states, and you would then understand why they are big in Ipoh.

Audio Art (Tel: 012-5201066)

check the sponsored links on your right, and you will find audio matic's new blog.

audio matic, located in amcorp mall, is helmed by eugene ngoh. we have known eugene for more than 3 years now and we find him one of the most down-to-earth and honest dealers that audiophiles can ever ask for.

while he may not possess the thou-shall-please-all attitude and artful deceptiveness of the more successful players, eugene is someone you can trust upon when you need an honest opinion and a helping hand. and his listening and setup skills are among the best in the business. trust us, we can vouch for that.

apart from 2nd hand stuff, audio matic also carries krell, MIT cables, marten design speakers, stealth cables, harmonix, rega, bladelius, audionet etc etc.

please check this blog on a regular basis as eugene has a regular flow of 2nd hand stuff in and out of this shop.

It’s all too peaceful, so calm and quiet. No big bang, no big scream, just so quiet.

This is where I was blessed with the wise wisdom of enlightenment.

So simple, anything better than this is just beautification.

Excessiveness that can be ignored, that can be reduced to reveal the ever more truthfulness.

It’s all about perfect transformation, from potential to energy and back to calmness again.

When a setup is able to convey such perfect timing and speed, everything is just so beautiful, so cohesive and so complete in the ONE-ness.

Every music instrument has got their own minimal energy requirement to make them sing, further variations on forces applied to them is how the musicians convey the emotions and soul to us.

If the setup is able to give you the energy emancipation point, the single point where it all started, then you’ll get a realism never before experienced. This would give you the core of any instruments, the body, the soul and the emotions of every single piece of instruments!

Then the harmonic textures set in, the moment where the notes linger on, sustaining enough momentum to move you and shaken you with inner ripple of emotions and sensations.

The decays just let the experience sips in, reaching deep within your cells, your bones and your mind. It sends the chills down your spine, and then you know you have been touched!

The one and only one altruism purpose, to be touched by music, can only be achieved by the unrelenting chase to perfection. But it has never occurred to me that it happened to me just that simply!

I am indeed blessed!

before i got the shunyata hydra 4, i didn't read a single review online so i am completely neutral in my findings. anyway, i don't think there is any review that compares richard gray and shunyata side by side yet (not in the detailed manner that i am doing here), and you are gonna read it for the 1st time here.

after close to a week of non-stop burning-in, the hydra 4 has somewhat stabilised. i even switched back to my richard gray 600S last night to confirm my findings.

here's my observations:

[1] ambience - hydra beats RGPC. hydra has slightly more musical freedom and air. it also has more bloom around the instruments and singer/s.

[2] imaging - RGPC is more precise and compact (sharper outlines) because it has less "juices" than hydra, which may or may not be a good thing. vocalist's mouth is sharper with the RGPC, hydra has slightly fuzzy outlines. in fact, many would prefer RGPC's imaging because it is more pin-point

[3] midrange - hydra is fuller whereas RGPC is leaner. RPGC seems to squeeze more "juices" from the "meat".

[4] highs - RPGC has more refined but leaner highs. Hyrda's highs are more robust and more raw. this is a no-win no-loser case.

[5] dynamics - hydra is a tad better than RPGC, especially the intertransient silences and constrast. this is an area where hydra wins by the (relatively) biggest margin

[6] bass - again, hydra has more tactile and livelier bass. it is not necesssary deeper but it is definitely livelier

[7] refinement - RGPC is definitely more refined, especially with acoustic materials.

[8] tonal colour - RGPC is more colourful (in my system, it is of golden hue which is quite addictive) and hydra is more bland, or some may call it neutral.


hydra has more bloom around the images and it is also dynamically more exciting. music "breathes" with the hydra. there is a certain rawness in hydra's presentation that is very close to live music. it also retains more "juices" in the "meat". by comparision, RGPC seems drier, tighter (less relaxed), cleaner sounding with sharper images and more refined highs. RGPC can sound a tad anti-septic compared to the musically-flowing hydra. RGPC's presentation is pretty and beautiful while hydra is raw and energetic.

however, let me state that different systems react to power/AC treatment differently. one needs to really audition a few products in one's system before one can reach a conclusion.

it is obvious that i have outgrown RGPC's prettier-than-life presentation of music, while i am not completely bought over by the hydra yet. one thing for sure, the hydra makes me realized that i have been listening to a leaner midrange under RPGC. i really want fuller mids and a more natural presentation. the search and experiment continue...

your sunny personality
shines like the morning sun

your dimpled smile
brightens the darkest hours

your immense talent
inspires everyone around you

your sweet voice
like angel descends from above

your musical world
a kaleidoscope of love and happiness

[congrats to regine...for having your composition picked by gigi leung and used it as her major hit song in her latest album! It is a great song destined to hit it big in all the charts all over the world!]

remember the 70s hit tv sitcom "happy days" with ultra cool characters like fonzie and richie? were you even born then? haha. never mind, this fabulous cd brings back memories of those salad days....

mighty echoes are four guys who sing street corner acapella in the classic four-part style and their brilliant vocal arrangements and pristine recording puts the listener right on the corner with them...

i have fallen in love with this album even after listening to it just once ....

a proper review to come...

we've got the tickets! 10th row from the stage!!!!! *** shiver in anticipation ***

my agent in SG told me that it may have already been sold out within the first day! AMAZING!

check out http://www.sistic.com.sg/cms/events/index.html?content=1167


Armed with perfectly pure voice, Chen Chi Chen (Cheer), now a popular singer-songwriter, has produced songs touching the hearts of many, and her “A Fabulous Adventure” (華麗的冒險)won her the Best Music Album Producer and Best MV Award at the Taiwan Golden Melody Awards in 2006.

It was no surprised that Cheer’s “A Piece of Summer” Concert 2007 in Taipei sold out within 12 hours after tickets launched.

Come indulge in “A Piece of Summer” Singapore Concert and watch her “live” performance as she sings to the familiar tunes like [Rang Wo Xiang Yi Xiang], [Hai SHi Hui Ji Mo ], [Yu Tian De Wei Ba ], [Lu Xing De Yi Yi ], [ Xiao Bu Wu Qu ] on 29 Sept 2007.

by pure coincidence, two of my audiophile buddies are upgrading at the same time and i tell you, their relentless pursuit of good sound is something that is truly remarkable and should be an example to follow by all those who want to improve their hifi.

by virtue of my age and my experience, i would now sit on the fence, acting more like a mentor, dishing out advice and providing moral support whenever it is needed. it is fun to observe how my young friends climb up the hifi ladder in such a short time. sure, they make mistakes along the way; they fell, they picked themselves up and they become better and better. the way their hifi vocabulary improves is just startling. we exchange many sms-es daily and i get amused by some of the sms-es, simply because the adjectives and jargons used are so succinct and accurate, indicating how good they are in describing sound.

there is no short cut to hifi. no pain, no gain. my young friends are learning fast because they invest their money, time, efforts and patience.

it is so rewarding to see how my young friends embrace this hobby passionately, just like i do. i have been thru this path. the only difference is that i am less feverish these days because i have attained my ideal sound and i rather spend more time in buying software, which is the ultimate goal of every audiophile.

in this stressful world where your day job would have already consumed you and sucked you dry, to find a hobby that you can derive so much joy and satisfaction is definitely something worth cherishing about.

to them and to many more aspiring audiophiles to come, let's re-ignite this dying hobby!

sometimes, it is not that i can't get loaners from dealers and do reviews, it is because i don't want to get hooked and at the same time, not having the means to buy.

i have long promised on the battle of power conditioners. i still can't get the ps audio ppp yet; i need to personally call atven. one day it will happen.

meanwhile, eugene of audio matic has kindly loaned me a new unit of shunyata hydra 4, said to be the same in terms of technology with its more expensive siblings, the hydra 6 and 8. (the v-ray is a different kettle of fish altogether, i was told)

i am not the kind of who chases technology. once i like something (like the richard gray, which is love at first sight), i am very lazy to compare it with the latest technology, unless it promises a quantum leap. hmmm...that applies to women as well. i think i make a good husband material :-)

right out of the box, the hydra 4 sounded dull and unexciting. but after 2 hours, it started to sound right. i promised eugene to run in this unit for him, which is another 200 hours.

but first impression is always lasting. i found the hydra 4 to have better dynamic contrast, transient speed and attack than my RGPC 600S. very evident even in the first few hours. the guitar plucking has more energy and contrast of strength.

to all my "kakis" who have bought the RPGC, stay tuned for my final report.

A bit out of sync, but still can tell how lovely she is!

After having too much of China girls, no pun intended, Olivia came in as a breath of fresh air! After getting her Fall In Love with Olivia, I went hunting for her previous works.

The purpose of buying good gears is to play good and well recorded CDs, after all, it was music that drive the passion in this hobby! I read this in Stereophile today, it read something like this, "We listen to music. On hifi."

Equipments or music, I love both!

The Marten speakers have got superb chemistry with Audio Net, showing all the merits and strengths of the German marque. Marten's ceramic implementation is quite different sounding as I could recall, they carry an effortlessness and sweetness not found in many other ceramic speakers. Some ceramic speakers are quite whitish and imposing, making them good for demo but less enjoyable in the long hours.

Just before I am condemned and burnt, I better make myself clear. The above statement is a generalization on Marten speakers that I have listened to in far better conditions than that of the hotel room. Hence, I am able to listen beyond the un-burn-in state and less than conducive room condition. The speakers just came in days before the show and I was around the shop to be a witness to this.

I received calls telling me to make this clear before people started to question my listening ability. I have to admit, it would be hard for anyone to even consider the sound to be great. But what to do? I have heard great synergy between Marten and Audio Net to even hold my breath to not rave about them.

Now, I can't wait to listen to the Bird in a proper Audio Net setup!

connecting ipod to my ARC preamp - so simple

meridian Vs Ipod

if you haven't owned an ipod before, you would never understand how the entire world goes gaga over it.

out of the blue, my friend ringo brought his ipod to my house and said he wanted to connect it to my system and gauge the sound. since having this wonderful gadget, he has downloaded (using apple lossless conversion) most of his cd collections onto it and marveled at the convenience of playing music whenever and wherever he wants. he even connected the ipod to his av system once and the sound is very decent. so he wanted to know how would it sound like if connected to a high-resolution system like mine, which is ultimately revealing of any less-than-good sources.

with the ipod-ready monster interconnect (with a pin on one end and two rca plugs on the other), connection (to my preamp) is a breeze.

the sound is amazingly clean! well, it is a bit thin and threadbare and lacking of meat but it is definitely passable. it reminds me a lot of my experience when i used my brother's marantz CD63KI signature cd player on my system, in place of my meridian.(no offence to CD63 users. it is but a very basic and elementary cd player). it also lacks the pace and rhythm. but everything is very pleasant. more than enough to please newbies who are new to the hobby. it is also an exciting way to lure the newbies into this hobby, wouldn't you agree?

the lossless format is still in its infancy. give it another 3-5 years, it is bound to mature. also with better DAC (digital to analogue convertor) chip in the ipod, we are promised of a bright future. those who claimed that the lossless format is already high fidelity are kidding themselves. you may think it is ok when played in a entry-level system but once heard it in a mid-to-high end system, all the flaws are there to be heard. but to me, it is more a crime of omission rather than commission. i heard no digital glare and harshness.

steve job is truly a genious. like the cliche goes, the future of ipod is so bright that you have to wear shades :-) hand me the rayben, please.

deserts zhang xuan live@the wall (must-watch!)

my fixation with guitar-wielding rock chicks continues with deserts zhang xuan(張懸) from taiwan.

i must be the 1st few ones in malaysia to get this album, sophomore album from zhang , entitled "oh dear, i really don't know". at the princely sum of RM75 (from rock corner, 1-U), an imported version that is, i had better be the first few owners!

at close to double the normal retail price for local pressing, i don't even need to bat my eyelid. if you want to wait for sony bmg to release it locally (and save the money), give it another 2-3 months la.

unlike my idol cheer chen qi zhen (search for "cheer chen" in the search option for previous posts on her), whose music is ethereal, poetic and a bit of alt-rock slant, zhang xuan's music is folk-rockish, with a very raw and very direct delivery. even the guitar playing between these two talented singer-songwriters are different in style.

but i have to admit, as much as i like chen, zhang has a better voice - more powerful, more infectious and more impactful.

the rock songs here are quite good but what i really like about zhang is her ballads. this sophomore album has more acoustic ballads, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. zhang's ballads, with just her voice and a pristine-sounding guitar, are heartfelt and thoroughly tuneful. she has a signature style with her ballads, which is instantly recognizable. play them on speakers with good highs and you will be in cloud nine. the guitar's body is eerily palpable; the twanging sound of every string plucked is discernible and felt. it is like she is there in my living hall.

the whole album is recorded live, with musicians playing live hence you could feel the directness and rawness.

very seldom can a sophomore outdo the debut, and this is one such prime exception.
this gets my vote as one of the best chinese pop albums in 2007.

this is what playing hifi is all about - enjoying the music you love that is musically and sonically satisfying.

life is good :-)

Hua, 470! Can you imagine there have been 469 lucky blessed souls before me?! Guys, treasure this gem!

Picture says a thousand words, here, my 2 thousand happy words!

Audio Net所发出来的声音,就好像有一头乌黑秀发的少女。它的高音散发着淡淡的芬芳,轻柔高贵;它的中音雍容实在,从容不迫;它的低音扎实有力,却不倚势凌人。就像少女般,不施浓妆,不造作,只求自然、清秀与柔美!

很想告訴大家Audio Net是寬鬆的。可是,寬鬆的少女,總是難登大雅之堂吧?


harbeth+quad with "chicken" wires

I really love the Compact 7, I spent quite some time listening to them at the show. Me and my brother were totally mesmerized by its effortless mids and musicality. So far, Spendor and Harbeth are 2 brands with box resonance that does not impair the overall sound. Instead, much like a well built classical guitar, they resonate musically and added that much body to the mids, making vocal vividly fleshed out.

However, that's where the similarity between Spendor and Harbeth ends. Till now, I've never failed to notice the slightly edgy trailing of metal dome tweeters. I know people have been raving about the resolution of this room albeit the use of "chicken" cables. But do be reminded, with today's tendency to do everything high resolution, can it be overkill for the Harbeth's metal dome?

Even with silk dome, the ProAc R8S gave me a hard time taming them. I know, you can skimp on snake oil cables, but with cheaper rigs, there won't be enough heft to give you that rich sound. But if you like them, I am sure you'll give them nothing but the best!

The one thing I realize after listening to so many combinations and setups is how we could extrapolate and listen beyond a particular component, if given that the component is what we are familiar with. When I rave about certain components, at times, I have to admit I am extrapolating. But then, I have never been blowing the wrong trumpet.

Bladelius, a relatively new brand that shot up to stardom in such short period of time, is not to be missed. I have to tell you, I have had no home trial prior to sealing the deal. Heck, my second setup was built based solely on extrapolation. The Bladelius and ATC were purchased separately with no test marriage at all!

The Thor integrated and Idun pre + Balder power are 2 amplifications that really got me madly in love with Bladelius. I heard the Thor thru Marten Duke, a formidable pair of speakers, the sound was articulate and juicy. I heard the Idun + Balder thru Chario, again, the same quality greeted me, expressive and full of emotions.

These 2 amplifications make me forget that I am actually listening to solid state. The tonal richness, harmonic textures and that juiciness are qualities hard to replicate in solid state. I was overly excited and even shocked to know it's possible, and made available at such relatively affordable price! I put "relative" as people have been criticizing and condemning my perspective in affordability.

Now, why did I put "minus Bladelius"? Well, while Audio Net veered towards light blue, Bladelius is definitely orange-y. It's sunny and exciting, full of energy and willing to please with no reservation. If Audio Net is composed as golden retriever, then Bladelius is definitely the playful Boxer! They are meant for different kind of owners.

Both the Thor and Balder utilized the massive toroidal transformer, hence, the hefty and composed sound. The bigger siblings like Beowulf and Grendel sounded slightly different from Thor and Balder. Tonally, they are similar, but in terms of density, I still prefer the smaller siblings, Thor and Balder. This is personal preference, nothing against them.

Audio Net所发出来的声音,就好像有一头乌黑秀发的少女。它的高音散发着淡淡的芬芳,轻柔高贵;它的中音雍容实在,从容不迫;它的低音扎实有力,却不倚势凌人。就像少女般,不施浓妆,不造作,只求自然、清秀与柔美!

Pardon me as I could not put them in English due to my poor command of the language. Either you have to learn Chinese, or buy the lot and experience them at home. The sound is not of the golden hue, but veering towards light blue. However, it stops here before getting overly bland, lifeless and cold. The sound is open with huge and wide soundstage, yet still very well defined and in focus.

Ultimate refinement and vivid micro dynamic are the 2 main strengths that they possess. They breathe German classiness with every aural step taken in pride and elegance, something that's hard for other brand to mimic! Have a listen and you'll be blessed with a sweet smile, I did.

Now, I have heard Bladelius CDP with AudioNet amplifications and AudioNet front ends with Bladelius amplifications. I must say they are great brands on their own, but NEVER put them together! Bladelius's lively robustness would mask AudioNet's above the league refinement. Listen to their pure breed setup to really appreciate these 2 brands!

The Marten speakers have got superb chemistry with Audio Net, showing all the merits and strengths of the German marque. Marten's ceramic implementation is quite different sounding as I could recall, they carry an effortlessness and sweetness not found in many other ceramic speakers. Some ceramic speakers are quite whitish and imposing, making them good for demo but less enjoyable in the long hours.

Is there lucky draw for a pair of Bird?

PS: I was really sad as someone told me they don't sound good! I DUNNO HOW YOU GAUGE GOOD SOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111111 X 100 X 100

In terms of brand and product knowledge, I guess I am the most idiotic around already. But one thing I am surely good at is blowing the horn whenever I hear good sound. This Meishu is one heck of a gem giving out only 9 watt per channel. I was given to know that they excel in tonal accuracy, I guess I have to concur to this as what I heard was not the overly romantic rosy tinted tube sound. Instead, I was greeted with open, neutral and natural sound.

I have had not much experience with AN UK stuff, but hearing what I heard at the show, I am sure they are no slouch.

Now I am sure this is an unfair pit as this speakers should be given a more spacious room to sing! The room was basically not big enough to contain the sound, making them a bit stressed and congested. With more distance from the speakers, I guess the image integration would be more seamless. Nevertheless, the sound was huge, lively and dynamic.

Is this the Uno Nano? This is definitely the first pair of horns that I could sit down and enjoy its aural prowess! I was seriously awed by their uncanny ability to swing along with such huge dynamic range. Their effortlessness in handling transient attack was to be heard to believe. Loud they'd go, but never lack of ultimate refinement!

Gee, I am getting horny on horn speakers!