lily rehearsing in the studio. photo courtesy of avbuzz

cai qin aside, can you think of anyone else who can stage a big-scale concert in SG and HK? i mean, audiophile singer, not your regular pop singer.

yes, lily chen jie li from china! she with the ultra sweet voice from the rain forest label.

it shows that audiophile singers mean big business too.

here's hoping that more and more audiophile singers will attract the concert organizers.

but most importantly, come to malaysia la ;-)

the problem with chinese albums is they try too hard to have as many genres of sound as possible in one album... the great thing about miriam yeung's "meridian" is that it does not try to be anything at all

the year is closing and i am writing my last album review, which customarily, should be the top 10 albums of the year. the problem is, i don't have 10 in number because most of the chinese pop albums i heard on radio this year suck, i can only recommend one which has become my personal fave of 2007, despite negative feedback from some quarters in the internet.

(note: instead of nominating "the best cantopop album" and "the best mandarin pop album" separately, i will just lump this under "the best chinese album".)

the problem with today's chinese albums has always been that they try too hard to have as many genres of sound as possible in one album, at the risk of being labeled "safe" and "unadventurous". they want to be like the western artistes, so they experiment, so they have R&B, pop, ballad, rock, rap and whatnots all in one album and often times, the singer can't even deliver cos they are not so versatile as western artistes. the cantopop from HK are many times worse than the mandarin pop from taiwan in committing this sin. i ask you this - why is that teresa teng only sang chinese ballads and her music is so cherished and memorable? the beauty of chinese pop music has always been the melody. yes, the sweet melody. once you lose that element, you have lost the plot.

the beauty about miriam yeung's "meridian" is it does not try to be anything at all but just good cantopop music. yes, it doesn't have a standout song and yes, it is not exactly karaoke-friendly as her previous hit albums but to this reviewer who is so sick of the eason chans, the joey yeungs, the louis koos of cantopop, this album breathes like a cool breeze in spring time.

it has plenty of ballads but most of them are not overly commercial or have commercial motives. it takes a seasoned and mature artiste like miriam to throw away her commerial hat and attempt something totally un-mainstream and un-calculated. damn those cantopop albums, they are all made for awards, radio airplay, karaoke and commercial acceptance.

bravo to miriam for her bravery. to me, this is the meridian (high point) of miriam's career.

2nd hand cd biz is deader than dead now, according to proprietor naz

how do manage a biz that is ever changing?

when my ex-partner, naz, decided to close down music exchange last year due to high rental, he is left with a huge collection of CDs and LPs so it is only natural for him to continue the biz in another place with a different biz emphasis.

amcorp mall's flea market was the natural choice for him as it is already famous for 2nd hand CDs and LPs, but how to stand out from a dozen of similar stalls there?

early in 2005, naz bought an entire collection of rare LPs - for a song - from a woman who inherited from his dad who passed away a decade ago. apparently, her dad was such a crazy collector who scouted all over the world for jazz and blues LPs. those who were lucky to see it said it was the most precious and rarest of jazz collection in this world. initially naz only sold to his usual "kaki" and those lucky ones were absolutely delirious to find such titles going for less than RM50 on the average (one buyer actually estimated that any of those titles can fetch up to RM1,000 in ebay!) soon the news leaked out and all the major LP collectors in town - including those really low-profile and hardcore collectors - soon came to amcorp mall to harass naz for early-bird preview of this legacy stock. it was such a hoo-ha in the audiophile LP circle. this experience also made naz, who is a non-audiophile, a bit smarter.

naz slowly realizes that 2nd hand CDs are long dead and buried, only LPs can survive and only audiophiles are willing to spend on LPs. so slowly, he accumulates his stock, getting rid of all those unpopular CD and LP titles and slowly buying from overseas good LP titles of various genres such as jazz, rock, pop and classical. audiophiles will be delighted to find out that he has a cool collection of verve, CTI, blue note, living stereo, riverside, pathe, impulse, 180g ,200g, colored vinyls and many other labels.

at the same time, he rented a shop in peel road to house all his treasures, and customers can visit the shop by appointment.

at the last count, naz has accumulated more than 30,000 LPs, making him the biggest LP seller in malaysia.

Helter Skelter
6-3A-6 Queens Avenue,
Jalan Bayam, Off Jalan Peel,
55100 KL (Behind Carrefour)
Phone: 012-3801691
Price: Depends of title, condition rarity ( From RM5 to RM150 on average)

Opening Hours: By Appointment

many know me as a diehard planar+ribbon speaker supporter. my first love was given to the apogee and my 2nd and current love is with the magneplanar. a planar diehard would remain a planar diehard no matter what, even when people are accusing the planar of not doing enough bass and lacking dynamic punch. the thing is, a planar can do many things that a similarly-priced box speaker can't and it produces music like no other.

yet if i were to die today, i will regret of not having owned a martin logan, not exactly a planar but an electrostatic hybrid with an equally beguiling mids and one that excels in soundstaging. past detractors of martin logan have always been accusing the speaker's lack of integrity with its cone woofer but this accusation is justifiably brought to an end with the release of the "summit", its latest statement model.

moving ahead with times, martin logan has entered a new era with its latest release, the purity. purity is powered with a 200-watter digital amplifier hence it dispenses the need for external amplifier/s. what's more, it is made for the iPod generation, with host of system connectivity options. equipped with a standard line-level input, purity is able to connect directly to devices such as digital music players, flat screen televisions or even computers. additional speaker level inputs also allow purity to function in a more traditional receiver or pre-amp equipped 2-channel or home theater system.

like the summit, purity integrates perfectly with its high-resolution 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers to supply an authoritative bass performance that will give most stand-alone subwoofers a run for their money.

retailing at RM13K, purity will definitely add class, elegance and great music to your home. the question is, are you ready for the great electrostatic sound?

norman audio (019-3189911)

Long time no write. :)
Anyway thought i share this music video with you all. The Police's Every Breath You Take is one of my all time favourite song. This is the parody version done by Dean Glenn Hubbard to spoof Ben Bernanke. Enjoy..

radiohead's website with its pay-as-you-wish digital download screen

echoing the unprecedented act of the recent radiohead's pay-as-you-wish digital download for their latest album, local chinese pop singer, penny tai, has also announced that she won't be releasing CDs anymore. instead, fans will find her singles being released periodically online for downloads.

these are shocking announcements by mainstream artistes. these must be the biggest experiments in digital-era music industry to date. have they grown tired of the middle-man (record labels, distributors, retailers)? or are they catering to their core fans who have stopped buying CDs? what are people willing to pay for music? how many will pay full price? will people pirate it anyway?

so many questions, so few answers.

here's my take but you don't have to agree with me. i gather my experience from observing behavioral patterns in younger generation like my cousins who are all in their early 20s. these young chaps may like music but it is just one of the many pastimes that are fighting for their increasingly short attention span. they have 20 times more entertainment options than folks who are now in their 30s, 40s or 50s. they have no loyalty towards any singer/artistes/bands. music to them is totally disposable - like it, download it, don't like it, trash it! it is only a mouse click's away from the recycled bin. they don't collect music like the older folks do; they are simply too busy.

true, the population of music listeners have increased many folds compared to that of a decade ago (and we have the downloads, mp3, ipods to thank), but does it represent an increase in CD sales? no way! so by making it free for online download, it does mean more young people are getting exposed to your music but does it mean these young folks will fork out money to buy it? i seriously doubt so.

i know, i know, there is another side of the argument. music labels have been having it easy for too long by charging $40 a CD with one good track and sue the customers for file-sharing. they claim that they needed the money to manage the artistes and pay all the overheads. i have no doubt that many young and net-savvy music lovers overseas are applauding radiohead's decision because these young music lovers respect intellectual property and are willing to pay for what they like. but in malaysia (and this part of the region) with our young citizens? you must be kidding!

as far as music industry is concerned, it is now living in the twilight zone. nothing is too obvious (except for the continued downward slide of CD sales and the merger/death of record labels) as to which "method" will prevail in the long run.

introducing pass labs' first integrated amplifier, one which promises to give local favourite and best-seller, the 150-watter bladelius thor, a run for the money.

the INT-150 is based on the company's acclaimed X-150.5 stereo amplifier. Design technology and refinements include pass labs' patented super-symmetry circuit, said to improve performance by precisely matching characteristics of the two halves of a balanced amplifier. Rated at 150 watt into 8 Ohms (300W@4 Ohms), same as the bladelius thor, INT-50 is touted to be dynamic and can drive difficult loads with ease.

get yourself a chinese new year present, watch out for its arrival at centre circle (03-77282686)....

listening to carpenters makes you forget that punk ever existed... this is how and what pop music should be

i have this urge every once in a while when i switch on my bedside personal lifestyle cd system to some local chinese radio stations - i feel like smashing my system to smithereens! my god, those chinese pop songs they play - for a chinese pop music connoisseur like me - are so unbearably trashy and crappy! my instant reaction is to switch to mixed FM or light & easy to seek solace and gratification. at least, i don't get angry listening to these stations despite the repetitiveness of the format radio. at least the music they play is great music.

i guess the same deterioration applies to western pop as well, tho' to a less degree. the problem with chinese pop music is, many singers are substandard and the music is too formulaic and predictable. that's why chinese cds have no collectible values, save for a few classic singers/titles.

baby boomers like us always reminisce about the good old days of pop music. the 60s were great with beatles and bee gees; the 70s even better; the 80s had the new wave, synth pop and new romantic; the 90s were not bad with the britpop, and far better than now, the 21st century! can you seriously name me any memorable acts since the dawn of the millennium?

call me old-fashioned and jaded middle-age, whenever i am upset with today's music, i dig out my collection of trusty cds, such as the carpenters' ultimate collection (double cd), which contains a whopping 30++ evergreen and bittersweet tunes that will surely soothe and rejuvenate your passion in music. listening to carpenters makes you forget that punk ever existed. this is how and what pop music should be; this is music that makes the listeners happy and sad; this is the reason why we love pop music.

what's your favourite cd(s) that you listen to to rejuvenate your jaded soul?

there's been talks about reviving musicexchange, the once most happening 2nd hand cd shop in kl....and yours truly is partly responsible for the resurrection.

it is going to happen in 2008. this time we are going to make it different, with live performances (acoustic set) by indie bands and singer-songwriters. it is gonna be a melting pot of indie cultures and non-mainstream music.

even talking about it makes me sweat with anticipation.

watch this space closely...

we (as in 2V1G and the producers) were invited to appear in stella inflight's IFE (inflight entertainment) chinese programme for the february CNY and valentine's slot. stellar group of companies, originated from australia offers a myriad of services, and its subsidiary, stellar inflight, provides IFE for several major airlines in the region. its clients include malaysian airline, qantas, air brunei and air new zealand.

frequent flyers would know that the IFE would invariably have a channel for chinese pop songs, with a host introducing the songs and some guest stars being interviewed.

stella inflight's office is located in damansara perdana and the office is posh and classy. the studio itself would have cost a few million dollars to set up, with good sound proofing (luxurious wood-paneling) and some serious pro gear. regine knows the audio engineer there, mr. edmus wong and suprise suprise the host for the progamme, happens to be a long-lost friend of mine, ms. amanda chong, a former RTM newscaster and drama actress.

the session was fun and lively and our girls (winnie and regine) answered every question posed by amanda with eloquence and intelligence. in fact, one thing i am proud about our singers is that they are both intelligent and articulate and speak perfect mandarin, besides have a great ability to sing.

of course, roger wang couldn't join us. in fact, we didn't reveal the trio's name, as "2V1G" is still a tentative name.

so, travellers who fly MAS, QANTAS, air new zealand and happen to travel in the "eventful" month of february, remember to tune in to the chinese pop channel!

in the mean time, we still have 6 more songs to go before we wrap up the recording. we want to complete it by the end of this month so that we would leave january for the all-important mixing and mastering. i have been asked frequently by many friends - when is the record out? thanks for the interest, guys!

check out avguide blog link on the right side where robert harley, TAS' editor-in-chief reported on the world's number 1 audiophile, a chinese no less.

while i admire the passion and unlimited wealth of mr. ji hui li, one simple question pops out from my inquisitive mind:

does he really have all the time to play all these massive collection of equipment and LPs/CDs? or is he a mere collector?

i read somewhere that "bigamy is having one wife too many; polygamy is also having one wife too many". haha. dear readers, what's your view?

when TICE came up with power conditioning devices in the 90s, many sceptics viewed it as unnecessary. a decade later, power management devices, to use a collective term are now the de rigueur of hifi. in malaysia, the leading brands are richard gray, shunyata, exact power and a couple of others. now, another player SINE, joins in the competition.

SAF 30A silver cryo power conditioner boasts the following features:

> 30Amps Hi-End EMI Filter is employed
> 12 AWG Solid Core Copper is used in internal wiring
> Extra thick Gold plated outlet and IEC male with Cryogenic Treatment
> Damping Material filled inside the chassis to reduce resonance and unwanted vibration
> 25 amps Circuit Breaker are with Cryogenic Treatment
> Equipped with Hi-End Grade Compensation Capacitor
> A Special compensation circuit to enhance the flow of the electricity
> 15mm Aluminium Alloy Chassis


Input Voltage: 100 - 250VAC / 50Hz - 60 Hz
Maximum Loading: 6600 Watts (220V), 3300 Watts (110V)
Dimension: (L) 290mm (H) 90mm (W) 125mm
Net Weight: 5.7 KG
Gross Weight: 6 KG
Colour: Black, Silver

Is it as good as it looks? the only way to find out is to call JR of CJ Audio. (40429429, 012-2950036)

** - means "simply amazing" in bahasa malaysia.

when it comes to musical talents among the various races in malaysia, i have always thought highly of the malays. veteran singers like sheila majid and zainal abidin and newer singers like dayang nurfaizah and now sean ghazi, all impress me with their vocal prowess, charisma and supreme showmanship

sean ghazi, he from the broadway heritage, is malaysia's answer to michael buble. just as buble pays tribute to frank sinatra, ghazi pays respect to the father of malay pop, p. ramlee, in a couple of timeless classics, in this highly acclaimed debut album. (note:the cover you are seeing now is the deluxe version with a vcd)

backed by an australian orchestra, ghazi alternates between his favourite broadway tunes, a pink martini's cover, an anneke gronloh's (a dutch/indonesian diva in the 60s) cover and some timeless p.ramlee's covers and some others, all with a delightful swing/big band sound. one simply couldn't believe that a malaysian singer can be so versatile.

even from the first track "semalam" (last night), an original composition by ghazi himself, you will smile approvingly as you sink yourself into the nostalgic feel yet modern arrangement, and ghazi's voice, oh, his voice, is the kind that can make any woman wussy and warm inside. step aside, buble!

a few songs stand out immediately, "rambut hitam, matanya galak" (black hair, beguiling eyes), an anneke gronloh's classic, has that elegant swing that invites you to sit up and dance and sway your hips. if you are too young to appreciate this, let your parents hear this and they will snap this cd away from you!

and p.ramlee's "hujan di tengahari" (rain in the afternoon) is modernized with a big band sound that will surely get the listener slow-dancing to the beautiful melody. it even has a musical passage of "singing in the rain" (as befitting the malay title) melody towards the end, such magical touch! ghazi's delivery is first-class, full of swing and rhythm, never missing a beat.

deliciously palatable, this CD is "sungguh mengkagumkan", definitely one of my top 10 albums in 2007. it has been a while i last heard a memorable cd from malaysia, regardless of language and genre. sean ghazi's "semalam" ranks high alongside sheila majid's "legenda" (1992) as musical breakthroughs in the local music industry.

to those expat readers, this is the best x'mas present for your overseas friends who want to sample some of the best music in malaysia.

what are you waiting for?

p/s sample tracks can be heard in sean ghazi's official website

i have always had respect and appreciation for young talented singers who bring classics/oldies with a new contemporary twist to the new generation of music lovers and in this respect, kudos to buble and david foster for reviving so many evergreen tunes in their last 3 studio albums, with audiophile-pleasing recording quality to boot.

since most of you have bought this album, i don't see the need to write a review. instead let's deal on its recording, which to me, scores at least a B+ in my sonics checklist. oh, this applies to US pressing only. those who have bought the malaysian pressing, like what reader nyaba said in his comment, it is good only for the dogs.

to appreciate buble's music, one must play loud, with at least 11 o'clock on your preamp volume pot. only then, the full intensity of the bass and dynamics will shine thru. and your system must have good highs, as there are plenty of brass instruments in the big band (what a band!). the highs must have sheen and adequate "brassiness" to make the band sound comes alive. in track #11, one of the best tracks in the album, a cover of elvis's calssic "always on my mind", one should hear the beautiful waves of of the string ensemble sweeping gracefully at the background. in lesser systems, this string section may be submerged or made insignificant. the piano lines have plenty of weights; one can feel every tinkling of the ivory with good density.

buble's music also has big dynamic swing and contrast, so your system mustn't be wimpy (puny 300B needs not apply, just joking). also the bass in buble's albums have been consistently good; it plumbs big depths so your system must do bass well.

buble's vocals are very textured and dense; it has plenty of emotions in the midrange. it must not sound thin!

it has been almost a year since av xpress' birth. i still receive occasional phone calls from dealers telling me that they want to advertise in av xpress.

but when i start telling them my marketing approaches, the positioning of the magazine, the distribution network, most of the times, it drew a blank on their faces. they simply don't understand (and appreciate) things like "independent" magazine, non-traditional distribution network and online marketing.

traditionally, a magazine needs to please advertisers because they need advertising revenue to survive. the magazine's publisher/editor needs to "spend quality times" with the advertisers to improve PR and to get the sales. and more often than not, the publisher needs to write pretty things about their products. the publisher/editor not only needs to be a good sales and marketing person, he also needs good PR, must be thick-skinned, able to handle the politics of the business and has tons of patience and perseverance. which, sadly, is not my forte. well, i am a pretty good marketer and i have decent PR; it is just that i don't sell out or please anyone, especially people i don't particularly fond of. to know oneself is half the battle won, haha.

call me unorthodox, un-business savvy, anti-establishment - i don't think that's the way i want av xpress to be. maybe i don't need to depend on av xpress for my livelihood, i dare to be bold about my approaches. that's cool.

local dealers, by and large, don't understand online marketing and they don't give two hoods about online audiophile community. true, the buying ones (mainly middle-aged audiophiles who are not internet savvy) are still shunning away from internet. but things are going to change with this blog and others like hifi4sale blog garnering loyal readers.

that's why i think av xpress is ahead of its time, in the malaysian context at least. given time and persistence, it will be a force to reckon with, that's my personal belief.

Veteran dealer, JR. Yan has started a new shop under the name “CJ Audio” and it is going to create a niche in the market by focusing on hifi accessories! JR feels that a lot of his customers can spend thousands of dollars on equipment yet they neglect the fundamentals of hifi, such as having good power and good contact via high-grade IEC outlets. A lot of these accessories are very affordable and they make a great impact in sound if applied properly.

CJ Audio specializes on accessories, be it power-related or LP (turntable)-related. Besides, it also deals with affordable cables, power cords, tweaks, jumpers and the like.
Most of the accessories are sourced from Hong Kong and China. Some of them like power filters are locally designed and assembled using imported parts. One of his key products is SINE from Hong Kong.

JR states that interested customers can loan some of these for their home trials with no obligation.

Talk to JR now and find out if your hifi is adequately accessorized. JR also promises to "belanja" new visitors, especially newbies, to a cup of cafe latte at the starbucks cafe on the ground floor!

CJ Audio
Unit 1.23, First Floor (Directly above Pizza Hut)
The Mall Shopping Complex
100 Jalan Putra
50350 KL

Contact : JR.Yan – 012-2950036

my fave cable manufacturer finally revamped its website after what seems like an eternity it looks really futuristic but uploading seems slow.

despite being a top-notch quality cable, stage III is very much cottage industry and operates in small scale compared to the likes of AQ, MIT and transparent. part of the reason is due to the designer's insistence on doing everything by hand and sourcing everything from US of A. this way of doing business is rare but it also explains why they are so good.

i don't need to change my stage III cables for the next 3-5 years, that's how happy i am with them.

local dealer: audio art (012-5201066)