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often times, when a good product lands on the hands of a dealer who doesn't know how to promote it, the result is wasted opportunity. take for example, if you know a product only sounds good when partnered with powerful solid-state amplication, you don't match it with a 30-watter tube integrated amp and try to fool the consumers. gone are the days when consumers rely solely on WHAT*HI-FI and stereophile reviews, there are so many resources on the net where user groups congregate and share their experiences.

such is the case with ATC speakers, the billy woodman's creation which still has a loyal following in this part of the world. ATC hasn't really disappeared from the malaysian market, it is just that its previous dealer didn't really know how to position them in the market.

why brood over history? hi-way laser, the new ATC dealer, is going to start a fresh new chapter with a new attitude and new marketing approach. for one, these people are passionate people and they understand hifi. second, they assure customers that the prices of ATC are going to be competitive with the UK pound.

kenny sin, the boss at hi-way, is one of the most internet savvy dealers around and he constantly updates his website with new products (http://www.hiwaylaser.com/). not only that, kenny does his own web design for his website. how do you beat that?

dealer with such passion and sincerity is indeed a rare breed.

ken, my ATC friend, is gonna be elated to hear this.

11A, JALAN SS2/75,
+6019.281.3399 (kenny sin)

almost everyone who heard joanna's voice for the first time wanted to buy the album. her voice is refreshingly "smoky" and soulful and she doesn't sound chinese at all.

joanna, barely 20, is the daughter of famed taiwanese producer, wang zhi ping. her father exposed her to all genres of music at an early age. joanna started composing at the age of 14. and at 16, she started performing on stage. in fact, joanna reminds me a lot of my prodigy and ultra talented friend, mia palencia.

this debut album "start from here" is the result of 2 years' preparation and it turns out to be a mixed bag.

casual lovers of pop-jazz may fall in love with it instantly, simply because of joanna's rich voice but hardcore aficionados of jazz will be left wanting. musically, it is a far cry from norah jones' "come away with me", both albums belonging to the same genre.

the problem is not with joanna's singing, rather, it is her choice of songs. half of the tracks are half-boiled lazy and lifeless pop/jazz which are neither-here-nor-there stuff, hardly the kind of the stuff that evokes daydreams or chill-out like what is suggested of her voice. and the band and the arrangement aren't great either. i could have suggested better musicians for her ;-)

the 3 outstanding tracks here are title track "start from here", spandau ballet's "true" and billy joel's "new york state of mind", clearly indicating joanna's ability to interpret covers. of the 3, i pick "new york state of mind" as my personal fave while spandau's "true" is debatable, some may not like her unique interpretation.

having said all these not-so-favorable aspects, i truly love joanna's voice. rich and emotive, she could have become an audiophile singer and outsell jacintha, emi fujita and diana drall. but she needs a stronger production team and still stronger repertoire.

recording wise, it is just a normal pop recording with nothing to shout about.

to buy or not to buy? well, some of my lady friends like it. me? maybe my expectations were way too high; i don't regret buying it but it won't be on my regular spinning list.

music: 7 out of 10
sonics: 6 out of 10

dear readers,

please help to spread the word around your circle of young friends who aspire to work in the hifi/av industry. tell them that it is a lot of hard work but the returns are rewarding and you get to dabble in the latest, coolest hifi/av gear all day long!


Centre Circle Audio, a well established Audio Visual Company in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, is looking for suitable candidates to fill the following positions:-


> Min SPM, speak/read Eng, Chinese.
> Prefer (Chinese) Male, 26-30yr.

2 years of working experience in related field & possesses own car. A self-motivated personality with the ability to work independently. Basic + allowances + comm.


> Min SPM or certificate in electronics
> speak/read Eng, Chinese.
> Prefer (Chinese) Male, 20-25yr.

2 years of working experience in related field

Call 03-77282686 or email to ccaudio1@streamyx.com

AQ's most expensive to-date... the WEL signature series

is it a gun? no, it is a RCA connector from AQ

as a cable brand, i have a lot of sentiments for AQ. afterall, my first decent audiophile cable is the AQ python back in 2001, thanks to hearty recommendation from ken. before AQ, i wasn't really a cable guy. i outgrew python within, like, a month, and went straight for an upgrade to AQ anaconda. the anaconda was such a marvelous cable with the 3 "B"s - Big, Bold and Beautiful. anaconda is a bit larger than life. i fell in love with it deeply and the relationship lasted 3 years. at the peak of my passion for AQ, i was using 3 runs of AQ anaconda interconnects - cd to pre, pre to power and phono to power, and AQ volcano for my speaker cable. such was the immenseness of my love.

just what is the AQ sound? it is a very robust sound with plenty of zing and energy. (i am talking about the top models) it is a cable for audiophiles who are bent on the live sound. yes, AQ is very live and bold. even in their top-end series with perfect surface silver (PSS)(eg. amazon, sky, everest, kilimanjaro), AQ would never compromise their trademark robustness, energy, directness with the delicacy and refinement of silver.

but now william e. low wants to be the best and has upped the ante with his latest signature cables. and that's bad news for his competitors. i personally feel that it is high time that AQ matches up with MIT and transparent in terms of top-end prices. whether you like it or not, cable is a status symbol for the well-heeled audiophiles. if you are not pricey enough, you may just lose out, never mind the actual performance.

looking at these new signature series, aptly called WEL signature series with WEL being the initials for william e. low, AQ definitely means business. the gun-like silver RCA connector is refreshingly innovative and scarily expensive looking.

retailing at RM50k++ for the WEL signature series interconnect (2.0m) and RM100K++ for the WEL series speaker cable (10ft), AQ latest models are definitely big toys for the big boys.

also, you don't need to google as there is no info on the net as yet. didn't we say it is hot from the oven? ;-)

but you don't need to be a big boy to check it out at A&L audio station, 1st floor, amcorp mall.

Mr. Yap (A&L's showroom manager) - 012-3584387

sim audio on discount

vyger turntable on discount

discount galore - pathos, sim audio, pass labs

nelson chia, proprietor of centre circle in TTDI is having a serious headache.

many would not argue that centre circle is the classiest audio saloon in malaysia, with its nice interior and cosy furnishing. most customers feel at home once they step into centre circle. nelson's belief in investing on a conducive environment for his customers has brought him a loyal following.

unfortunately, his lease for the shop is going to be terminated and he has to move out very soon. you can imagine his disappointment after having spent so much on furnishing and renovation. he is taking this opportunity to clear his stock, mostly demo units and he is inviting you readers to pop in and check it out. you will sure find something that entices you.

here's a only a partial list of demo stock on sale:

[sim audio]
1) i-3 integrated amp -> RM4,000 (normal RM7,500)
2) i-5 integrated amp -> RM6,500 (normal RM11,500)
3) p3 preamp
4) w3 power amp -> RM13,500 (normal RM24,000)

[vyger turntable]
1) vyger timor -> RM4,800
2) vyger baltic -> RM12,000

[thiel loudspeaker]
1) thiel MCS-1 with stand -> RM12,000
2) thiel CS2.4 with stand -> Rm15,000

1) RC03 preamp
2) RB03 power amp -> RM2,600

1) PM7200 integrated amp -> RM1,000
2) DV6600 DVD player -> RM1,000

1) X2.5 preamp -> RM9,000

there are many other odds and ends that are not listed here.

if you want to prevent nelson from having a paracetamol (panadol) overdose, you may do him a great favour by paying him a visit:

http://www.centrecircleaudio.com.my/ (map in website)
tel: 03-77282686

just how could this be possible? ken, a bass freak and a lover of ass-kicking ATC speakers, praising, for the first time, my maggie's performance? it is like bon jovi telling karen carpenter that he likes her music.

i had a fabulous weekend. my story goes like this...

my closest hifi buddy, ken, has been on hifi sabbatical for the last 3 years due to work commitments. before that, we used to talk day and night about hifi, with him stationed in ipoh and me in kl. ken was the one who introduced me to high-end cables and for that i am eternally grateful to him.

ken knows his hifi like a guru and is one who doesn't mince his words - straight-talking, no-nonsense guy. in hifi preferences, we are also world apart yet we share common fundamental beliefs, that's why we click so well and respect each other. ken likes his hifi live, loud, and dynamic whereas i like my hifi tubey, classy and intoxicating. it is then easy to understand why ken loves ATC and behemoth solid-state amps like jeff rowland. for the record, he has never praised my system whole-heartedly, because he thinks my maggie can't do bass and is dynamically wanting.

but that was before yesterday, when he visited me for the first time in the last 12 months.

the first disc i played for him is rickie lee jone's "pop pop" and almost instantly, ken uttered, "i like this! you system has never sounded like this before?!". was it a question or a statement? he meant the highs and the mids. he thinks my highs used to sound glamorous, showy and a tad thin in the past. then i proceeded to play a lot of complex and juice-sucking, dynamic stuff - including my current fave, teddy robin goes to movie, the cd with 6 fabulous drummers on rotation - while blasting the volume way beyond 90db. ken kept mum for a few moments; the silence is deafening. he looked baffled as he uttered in total disbelief, "how could this be possible? this is maggie being pushed by only 120 watt of 6550 triode, furchristsake!"

i counted. he uttered the same sentence 3 times. i am not even sure he was talking to me or to himself.

then, almost as if he has regained he composure, he turned to me and said, "i have only ONE small gripe - and that's totally nit-picking - you vocalist's mouth is not as small as it used to be". i answered, non-chalant, "yes, i know, i haven't really bothered to tweak it yet". did i say ken is a man of few words when it comes to giving understated, positive assessment?

just how could this be possible? ken, a bass freak and a lover of ass-kicking ATC speakers, praising, for the first time, my maggie's performance? it is like bon jovi telling karen carpenter that he likes her music.

it is my time to regain my composure. i pointed to one small inconspicuous silver fascia black box at the back of my hifi rack and said to him, "you know why? it is all because of this."

and that small little silver-plated black box is called shunyata hydra 4.

some said that not only the bees are gone, even the trees are gone! so, let me put things in perspective...

if you want to get rich these days, doing hifi business is the last thing you would consider. so by that simplistic assumption, most of our dealers are passionate about hifi. having said that, there are certain things that we audiophiles would like the dealers to know:

[1] if we hang out in your shop once in a while does not necessary mean we are obligated to buy things from you. we can be interested in your company, your knowledge or simply we have nowhere to hang out when our missus do her shopping. of course, we would be nice not to disturb your customers or disrupt your business, or pass judgement about the gear that you are selling, or badmouth you behind your back.

[2] if we wear shorts and slipper doesn't give you the right to assume that we can't afford your stuff. in fact, most of us are rich enough to spend on hifi. it is a matter of which dealer we like to do business with. we only do business with people we like.

[3] if we support and worship brand "A" and if you happen not be a dealer for brand "A", doesn't mean you can criticize about it. there is this term we created in english and it is called "sour grapes".

[4] even if we can't afford your stuff now, it doesn't mean we can't afford it in another 5 years' time when we become manager, GM or director, or better still, a multi-millionaire. first impression counts, if you are hostile to us in the first meeting, chances are you are screwed and we will never buy from you in our lifetime.

[5] if we bought brand "A" from a previous dealer who has relinquished dealership and passed on to you, you have full obligation to repair my brand "A" should it be faulty or problematic. yes, we are willing to pay but stop being scornful, sarcastic, difficult and unfriendly and push all your responsibilities away

[6] sometimes, we know that we can get cheaper elsewhere and yet we buy from you because we expect good after-sale service so please don't frown on us when we bring back the gear for repair or check-up.

[7] and if you do come to our house, please stop picking on stuff we didn't buy from you and use psychological tactics to make us feel bad about our buying decisions. and if you don't like the sound you hear from our system, please refrain from criticizing it especially if that item was not bought from you. doing that will show that you have no respect and decency for your competitors. if you must comment, please give us constructive comments like how you can help to improve the sound without spending another RM5K on another upgrade.

[7] and lastly, if you can, invest on a decent showroom to showcase your stuff to the best of their ability.

if the audiophiles, the music lovers and the dealers and the media can all put their collectively efforts to promote, disseminate, share, exchange, discuss this hobby for the pure love of it, then the bees will come back and we would all expect a bountiful harvest on the hifi trees in the not-too-distant future ;-)

disclaimer: the following post is inspired by the editorial of audio art (taiwan hifi mag)issue #228 and it is not meant to steal the thoughts. it is so thought-provoking that i have decided to give my personal views.

something strange happening in certain parts of northern america. in the past, many fruit-bearing trees such as the wild apple trees would have borne lots of fruits during the harvest season in july and august. but last year, many trees are barren with no fruits in sight. do you know the cause of it?

the bees are gone. as you know, bees are carrier for pollen - the fine powder-like material consisting of pollen grains that is produced by the anthers of seed plants, which are responsible for the reproduction of seed-bearing plants. of course, the main reason for the absence of the bees is global warming but that's not the topic of this post.

so, what has it got to do with hifi, you ask? the malaysian hifi market and many other markets in the world including taiwan, is suffering one of the worst decline in the last couple of years. this is akin to the missing bees. the bees is the medium that carries the all-important pollen, just like many of us audiophiles who carry our passion for this hobby and disseminate it to all other like-minded enthusiasts. and the problem is - many audiophiles have gone missing! the can be explained by the retirement of the senior and veteran audiophiles and the totally non-existence pool of new and young audiophiles. the main reason for this - the passion is gone!

there are many ways to rekindle this passion. first and foremost, aspiring audiophiles or even experienced ones must learn to appreciate live music, be it gigs or concerts (and i don't mean those mega cantopop concerts by HK singers!). there are many opportunities in this country to see first-class live performances on a regular basis. a few prominent venues come to mind - dewan filharmonik petronas (DFP) for classical music, no black tie for jazz and indie music, groove junction for jazz and funk, alexis ampang for jazz music and many others (like the indie concert i advertised in the blog which is held in KLPAC this friday night) if you bother to find out. why aren't these people listen to live music if they want to play hifi? if people like live music enough, they are bound to be excited by the thought of re-creating the experience in the comfort of their homes! it is only thru appreciating live music then one can become a better and complete audiophile. it is only thru appreciating live music then an (aspiring) audiophile can become ambitious and passionate. i am a regular gig/concert goer and i revel in such experience cos not only i get entertained with the best hi-fi in the word (live music), it improves my listening skills and hence my hifi too.

i also think that some experienced audiophiles among you should carry the role of a mentor. a mentor should expose hifi to many more newbies who want to play hifi but don't know how to start or afraid of the cost. i have done my part in the last few years influencing my less experienced friends. a simple gesture like inviting them to listen to your system may open their eyes (and ears) to the wonderment of hifi. or even bringing them the the hifi show where they get to ogle at the equipment. be patient with these newbies, explain to them basic jargons and terminologies in layman term. for them, it definitely beats reading those jargon-filled WHAT*HI-FI, stereophile or TAS! there are so many influential tasks that a good mentor can do to bring in more audiophiles to the hobby. the responsibility starts with you!

to be continued... i will write about the role of the dealer in my next post ;-)

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to know how developed hifi is in one country, just look at the kind of hifi-related jobs that get spinned off from the hobby.

philip leung in HK, an EE (electrical engineer) by training owns a business that deals with audiophile power system consulting. in a word, he goes around audiophiles' homes to advise and commission an audiophile-approved power management system for their hifi and av systems. this would include installation of premium-grade ELCB, fuses and cabling, power conditioner, earthing of ground cable, stand-alone power stations and the like.

philip has hands-on experience from working with major telcos and IT data centres in HK, which includes a stint in IBM hong kong as the head of data center. such credentials are justifiably more impressive than your normal chinese electrical contractors you find in malaysia.

i wonder if audiophile power system consultant will find a niche in a market like malaysia. if so, how much are you willing to pay for such a service? now i have given you some ideas to start a niche biz ;-)

supporters of cult brand naim have been divided into 2 camps - those who swear by the olive green naim of yesteryear and those who love the refined naim of today. judging by the buzz in the internet, neither camp has come to a compromise on their stands...

supporters of the olive green cited the robustness, the PRaT, the drive, the oomph to be the key strengths of the old naim and these winning attributes have largely been compromised in the new generation of naim which prefer to take on a more refined, less controversial, and more crowd-pleasing and audiophile-approving persona. whereas new lovers of naim think naim has done the right thing to seek global acceptance and easy accessibility with their "audiophile-friendly" sound.

never mind, naim still marches on with its new SUREPNAIT reference integrated amplifier, which is claimed by naim the be "a landmark amplifier". supernait is the 21st century integrated amp for audiophiles. it has enough connectivity options to boggles one's mind, with world-class performance to boot. those aspiring naim owners who have always wanted naim but don't want the inconvenience of multiple boxes and attendant wiring, supernait is your answer.

the supernait slots into the naim's range at the "reference" end of the spectrum. it is not a 5-series component, neither is it a watered down version of top-end naim. it stands entirely on its own merits.

supernait produces a stunningly realistic performance from its compact case and delivery 80 wpc and drives difficult loads with ease.

so, which camp are you on? have naim gone sissy or have naim gone global and accessible? go listen to supernait at CMY damansara utama and decide for yourself.

CMY audio & visual
Damansara Utama
Address : 32, Jalan SS21/58, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya.
Tel No. : 03-77272419

there comes a time in an audiophile's life where he is totally at ease with himself, fully immersing himself in the music, and feeling 100% secure about his hifi, without any audiophilia neurosis and the need to constantly upgrade.

he feels that he deserves the best to enjoy his music so he is willing to splurge on any luxurious accompaniment that enhances his listening experience...

so he spent a few grands on a designer barcelona chair, which not only looks good but feels good as well. it is the kind of listening chair fit for a king...

and this person is none other than yours truly :-)

[post-script] i speak too soon! the introduction of leather furniture has changed the acoustic balance in my listening room somewhat. i need to redress the balance again. what a bummer. let's treat it as another minor challenge :-)

avantgarde model 3 integrated amp

this is akin to asking "what can you do with half a dollar (50 sen) in malaysia?". in the case of avantgarde acoustics, the answer is "plenty!".

for starters, half a watt can drive all the avantgarde horn models with ease. i kid you not, if you haven't listened to the latest generation of the avantgarde speakers driven by this new model 3 integrated amplifier, you will still be thinking that avantgarde is an acquired taste and not a speaker for the masses. fact is, avantgarde speakers when partnered with its own electronics, make great sound.

the model 3 is a successor to model 5. delivering a miniscule 1.1wpc in class A and 38 wpc in class a/b, the model 3 amplifier and an avantgarde horn speaker will make an outstanding combination at the respective budget sum.

model 3 utilizes an ultra short signal path, a “near zero” feedback layout and a unique cascode power stage output circuit. those who haven't heard low powered amp driving horn speakers, you would never know what is meant by "completeness" and "authority".

model 3 is not only meant for avantgarde speakers only, it is also great for other high sensitivity speakers.

and to think that i leave the pun until the last minute - those who are getting "horny" ogling at model 3 and start imagining how it satisfies its partner (avantgarde horn speakers, of course), you can give mr. wong tatt yew of audio note a call at 019-2679087. he would be pleased to arrange an audition for you ;-)

well-respected audiophile label, reference recordings, or RR in short, is going to release their "HRx" discs containing WAV files intended for computer-based music servers. HRx is not playable on conventional optical players like cd players and is tauted to be digit-for-digit copy of the original RR's 24 bit/176.4Hx digital master.

RR states that with the advance in computer technology and hard drives, they are finally able to offer sound close to the original masters. It may be bad news for preamp manufacturers but if all the buzz has any truth in it, hard drive playback is destined to rule the future.

HRx disc is only an interim solution as eventually RR's original masters will be available for direct download into music servers. at the moment, downloading a single album at 176.4Hz sample rate and 24-bit word length will take several hours.

while the labels and industry players are sorting it out, this writer feels that HDD playback has several implications and issues:

1) can it compete with cd, which has already millions of titles in the market? like the sacd and dvd-a, the lack of software titles ultimately caused the downfall/demise of these formats?

2) what happens to market leader in preamp market like audio research? i believe the technical head in such manufacturer is already cracking his brain to come out with their own version of music server...

3) will the novelty of collecting cd jewel cases and cover art die away? cd cover art is already a compromise from LP cover art, do we have to compromise further? with HDD playback, we are buying a WAV file on the computer and not a physical thing you can put in your shelf.

4) will HDD playback signal the downfall of physical music retail shops like victoria and rock corner?

5) will HDD playback threaten the livelihood of the pirates and illegal cd peddlers so infamous in a market in malaysia? if so, it will be great news to all and sundry but it is also a double-edged sword - how do artistes control illegal download online?

6) does HDD playback really sound superior to redbook cd????

the success of a new format hinges on so many complex factors, and politicking amongst the big boys is just one of them. i am waiting to see the progress of HDD playback with bated breath!

Has anyone dabbled with tube and valve amplifiers in their car audio? The one pictured is a HSS Fidelity HT-230 full tube, pure Class A. More details can be gathered from their website www.hssfidelity.com/.

I have not tried them out myself but would be interested to bring some of their products in for evaluation. As far as tube for car audio goes, I have tried the Butler, Blade, Tru Technology, PowerAmper, US Amps and a few others and yet they sounded good, none of them were exceptional. I was told some of these hybrid tube amplifiers worked even when the tubes were removed. I have also tried Tru Technology's C7.2AT (C for copper, AT for all tube) but at 13W x 2, it did not have the drive and would not please 70% of the crowd.

Has anyone tried Milbert amplifiers http://www.milbert.com/ or their tube pre-amplifier? Being a reputable 100% tube car amplifier manufacturer, I would also want to get my hands on the yummy 30watter BaM-235ab and give it a go. Perhaps then, our tube-lover editor would join me in the car audio arena too! :D

Recently, there were budget tube hybrid offerings from Helix and Phass but seriously, I doubt they will make me fall off my seat. Panasonic double-din CQ-TX5500 tube head unit made a debut quite some years ago but did not really fly with the audiophile users. Then came many reasonably priced hybrid tube pre-amps that were made to capture the bling-bling market rather than serious sound quality enthusiast.

While many of us feel (with common sense) that tube amplifiers will not be suitable in the harsh conditions in the car, I have seen enough persons that kept their tube amplifiers longer than transistors. Naturally, they are larger, less efficient and run hotter but with precautions and proper ventilation I do not see any real problems with having tubes in the car, unless you live or work in a jungle or a rocky terrain. And of course, to make the best out of tube amplifiers especially the full tube ones including the driver stage, we need to work on our car power supply and charging system.

Hey guys, sorry for not writing for quite awhile. Hooray for the New Year! Have been really busy planning for 2008, since friends are telling me it is going to be a slow year in general for business. Slow or not, we music lovers will always find some budget and savings stashed under the bed for upgrades on our hi-fi and car audio! It's a way of rewarding ourselves for working hard and not spending on too many vices, right? :)

I met a nice chap from TVCM (Toyota Vios Club Malaysia - http://www.viosclub.com/) yesterday and he was looking to add an amplifier and subwoofer to his existing system installed in XYZ some months ago. After a brief chat with him and understanding what he has running in his sweet ride, we managed to put something together within his $2,000 budget. Unfortunately, he did not know that the $2,000 budget is just enough for the equipment minus the power/ground cables, RCA, speaker cables and workmanship for installation and building a subwoofer enclosure. Quality cables and such can cost another $800-$1,000 but after explaining the significance of the one time investment, he bumped his total spending to $3,000.

The story does not end there! Sadly, after removing the seats and pulling the additional cables for the extra amplifier, we discovered that the existing 4 channel amplifier to drive the front speakers were on thin 8 gauge power cables and very cheap RCA and speaker wires. Most installers will just look away and ignore what has been installed in the existing setup and proceed to install the additional equipment, collect the money and let the customer off. However, as his new advisor, we were compelled to be the bad guy and to tell him it is not going to work or that it will not meet our expectations. Seriously, we are not here to meet a lowered expectation when we know that the equipment can and will do better under proper conditions.

It is not easy being a car audio consultant, having to tell people that they have spent a whole lot of money and that it will not achieve the desired results because basic pre-requisites were not met and very simple installation procedures and techniques were not taken into account. Is this a ploy to get customers to return and change to something more expensive or am I missing something here?

caveat emptor - not many of my friends like teddy robin's voice but after listening to this album, they asked me to buy for them!

last saturday in s'pore, i must have grabbed the only copy of this cd in the entire country cos it is nowhere to be found, except in roxy music in adelphi. apologies to those who had asked me to buy for them.

teddy robin is a retired cantopop singer who made it good in the 70s with his own band, the "playboy". cantopop in the 70s was much simpler and melodious than cantopop today. this is not a comeback album, more like music net's (the recording label) invitation for teddy to do an audiophile album. and admittedly, teddy did a good job.

playing teddy robin's cd proves to be a challenge to my system, with its low recording level and potent dynamics (superb drum works!), i have to blast my preamp's volume way past 12 o'clock to have any semblance of dynamic. it seems to be sucking so much juices from my tube power amp, i am not sure if this is caused by the way the recording engineer do the miking.

this is a serious production that engages top-class musicians and that include laurence juber, the guitarist for paul mccartney & wings and some of hong kong's who's who such as the always reliable eugene pao, jazz maestro ted lo, drummer donald ashley and roel garcia. without doubt, superb musicianship and arrangement for you listeners.

first, the imaging is first-class, with palpability than you can touch. there is plenty of air too, making the whole event very live-sounding. the producer engaged 6 different drummers for the job and the result is magnificent with the drummer(s) stealing the limelight in many tracks. outstanding tracks are track #1, track #6, track #8 and track #9.

as much as it sounds great on my system, i would think it would be stellar in a 300-watt solid-state system with dynamic cone speaker. i have heard it in the RM200K avantgarde grosso mezzo horn speaker and the bass (drum) is lighting fast, much faster than my maggie pushed by tube amp. (note, that's what i meant by "loading" of the bass in my post about the spectral setup) i am looking forward to hear this cd being played in much more elaborate (read: high-end) settings.

as to robin's singing, what's there to complain? he is so effortlessly natural and musical. you may not like his voice but you cannot deny his sincerity.

this to me is simply the most live-sounding and kick-ass audiophile cd i have heard in recent years. must buy!

if music reproduction by hifi systems be as good as DHL's no-compromise, 100% faithful delivery, then we would all be willing to spend our lifetime's savings on hifi ;-)

the fabulous, ultra trendy, uber cool, super hip hangout hostel in mount emily

like what renee zellweger said to tom cruise in "jerry mcguire", listening to the partial spectral setup (SGD50K spectral studio master reference CDP, spectral studio rerefence preamp, spectral studio reference processor) in normal audio gives me the feeling of being "complete".

the other components are YBA monoblocks, MIT Oracle MA speaker cables (I think it is the top model because it looks seriously bulky) and you guess it right, avalon acoustic speakers. (sorry, in my rush, i forgot to ask which model it is)

first impression is details, details, details. as many experienced audiophiles know, the main thing separating first-tier major league digital sources with 2nd or 3rd tier players is resolution. paying the hot-selling teddy robin's audiophile cd (review to follow) for the first time, i didn't have any reference point to make but i could feel oodles of details forthcoming, and in an very organic manner. never since my experience with the dCS three-piece combo (also close to RM100K) had i heard so much details. so when i come home today and played on my meridian, goodness gracious, i could only hear about 70% of what i heard of the spectral!

sonic character wise, the system is accurate but never analytical. the sound didn't quite open up, which later i found out, was due to the avalon being not run-in. the overall tonal balance is on the cool side, neither warm nor cold.

the teddy robin is a demanding cd to play cos you have to play it loud to appreciate the dynamics, especially the impressive drum works but the system could "load" the avalon pretty effortlessly.

short of understanding the acoustics in the room and the YBA monoblock's character, i could extrapolate and imagine how incredible the spectral could have have performed in a well-tweaked system like mine. in fact, i could go further and say that it is even better than the audionet ART G2 cdp (RM25K)i heard last year. i know, there is a gap in the prices ;-)

before i left the room, i felt like doing a renee zellweger and uttered the words "you complete me" to the spectral studio master reference cdp, a definite object of desire to the well-heeled.

[post-script] i would like to recommend you the fabulous and terminally cool budget hostel "hangout" in mt. emily. SGD110 for a twin sharing room. where to find? http://www.hangouthotels.com/

alan tam, the godfather of hong kong cantopop, is going to re-record his best-selling and legendary 1984 album "the origin of love" [愛的根源], complete with orchestra and chinese instrumentation and the title of this new album is a pompous "the best sound ever reborn".

"the origin of love" is without doubt the single most successful and influential album of its time, spawning many memorable hits and breaking into charts and winning countless awards for alan tam.

certainly a good news to younger audiophiles but to purist like me, why not leave a classic as it is and leave the perfect memories intact? besides alam tam today is not alan tam of 1984, especially his aged vocal chord. look at how disastrous air supply's audiophile album is (see under music review).

i have mixed feelings....

the debate is getting hot, let's chill and have some cool music from joanna wang, the latest singer-songwriter from the land of many talents, taiwan. joanna has just released her debut english album and judging from this free listening sample (what a cool marketing idea using embedded HTML for blogs!), she is gonna be the next hot thing.

i am gonna hunt this album down when i visit tiny dot this friday, and already some of my friends are asking me to buy for them as well...

note: you can sample the songs below

arguably the maker of the best cd transport mechanism in the world, esoteric has landed in malaysia with the help of its authorised dealer, centre circle audio.

robert harley, the editor-in-chief of TAS, is currently using esoteric as his reference digital source. famed for its VRDS transport mechanism in the mid-80s till today, esoteric the brand has eluded malaysian audiophiles for some years. VRDS is inhouse developed by esoteric and said to be the finest transport mechanism ever developed. many audiophiles here are still playing older esoteric models with nary a complaint.

the business savvy folks at centre circle have so far brought in 3 models - SA60, SA10 and X03. the SA60 can play all audio formats,including SACD, CD and DVD. it features esoteric’s custom up-sampling capabilities, the same custom engineered transport mechanism (VOSP) - not VSOP the liquor, mind you - the same incredible build quality and the same incredible sound!

the custom designed VOSP transport mechanism is one of the finest made (except for esoteric’s own VRDS-NEO used in the X-01 and X-03). the VOSP transport uses esoteric’s proprietary horizontal sled and vertical pick-up/optical assembly, which eliminates off axis vertical tracking errors and the corresponding need for error correction. esoteric boldly tauts that VOSP is one hell of a killer transport and nothing “off the shelf” can compare.

give me the VSOP now! i mean, VOSP ;-) with such credentials, make an appointment to see centre circle now! (03-77282686) http://www.centrecircleaudio.com.my/

i am never an early adopter of new technology. so when chinese audiophile label hugo's boss (pun intended) eik-yew goh announced his breakthru LPCD technology in 2005, i adopted a wait-n-see atttude. feedback on his LPCDs has been mixed - some like it, some don't. now goh has gone a step further to remaster all those classic cantopop albums of yesteryear and make them into greatest hits compilations. some are selling extremely well, like titles from faye wong and alan tam. still, it didn't entice me to buy it until i see this cd - kit chan's greatest hits - on the shelf.

business strategy wise, goh is spot-on. a lot of audiophiles don't want to listen to typical boring audiophile albums. they want to listen to their fave pop albums which, more often than not, are not well recorded. so by making these albums more audiophile sounding, more people will buy more CDs of their fave singers. just like us here in this blog, we encourage more people to buy more pop albums - the "real-world" music - rather than forcing themselves to listen to artificial (and often musically bankrupt) audiophile albums.

in short, LPCD is a proprietary remastering technology invented by goh that is supposed to make CDs to sound closer to LPs. so my sole evaluation criteria for this review is how, for want of a better word, analogue, does it sound.

you may not know who kit chan (chen jie yi) is. kit, who is now retired, has a voice that can scale great heights. her high notes are a joy to listen to. suffice to say that she is one of the best singers that has emerged from tiny dot (s'pore) in the past 2 decades, other than mavis hsu (hsu mei qing), tanya chua (cai qian ya) and of course, the reigning diva stefanie sun (sun yanzi). it is amazing such a small country can produce so many superstar singers. his compilation is quite definitive for it spans the entire career of kit, including her glorious success in hong kong, where she co-starred alongside jacky cheung in the musical snow.wolf.lake.

now, the recording. to call this cd sounding like LP is over-stating the case. it does not sound like LP. but goh is clever is in giving more body to the highs, more meat to the mids to make it sound thicker (hence more analogue), more air/ambience and remove all the harshness of typical pop recordings. the end result is a smooth and pleasant sound that is totally enjoyable. i would give it a B+ in my sonic checklist.

i salute eik-yew goh in pushing the music and hifi industry forward with his LPCD tehcnology.

reference amplifer from genesis, manufacturer of audiophile reference loudspeaker systems

what do you think of brands which were once dead or having its founder left the company but now being resurrected with new owners?

a few names come quickly to mind - mark levinson, vimak, counterpoint, genesis, micromega. i am not sure if mark levinson is still with red rose but he is definitely not making headlines as much as he was in the 80s. to be blunt about it, mark levinson products today are no longer as hot-selling as they were in the past.

vimak and counterpoint - the brand name, registered trademark - have respectively been bought over by the chinese. vimak, in particular, have come out with some new products which offer outstanding values. but it is left to be seen whether they can overcome the stigma of being a MIC product.

micromega is a disaster story. having resurrected their life with the new "aria" cd player 2 years ago, the owner absconded a large amount of money from their dealers (including our malaysian dealer) and disappeared overnight! so we won't be seeing micromega for a while yet.

genesis by the brilliant arnie nudell (he who invented "infinity" speakers in the 80s) is another story. bought over by a singaporean, gary leonard koh, genesis tried to stage a comeback but all attempts were futile as arnie nudell fell out with gary koh a couple of years later and left the company.

the latest i read is gary koh has ventured into amplifiers. the reason, he stated, “as loudspeaker manufacturers, we are at the very end of the chain, and at the mercy of all the electronic bits that come before”.

bravo to all these "new" brands but it is not easy to emulate the success of the original founder, who is the brainchild of the brand.

can you imagine krell without dan agostino? audio research with william z. johnson? magnepan without jim winey? unthinkable!

onix reference 3 hybrid loudspeaker

We have talked about how thriving hifi is in smaller cities like Ipoh and now even Kampar, a once thriving town only 30-minute drive from Ipoh, has its own hifi shop!

Young proprietor, Mr. John Sin, who founded C&O Audiophile Enterprise early last year together with his partner, Mr. Ng, has a big dream – to run a hifi/AV business that serves the needs of audiophiles from across the entire spectrum of hifi/AV. They are optimistic that hifi business is still a profitable business if managed well.

The key reason that the shop is based in Kampar is that John’s partner, Mr. Ng, is from Kampar whereas John hails from Ipoh, and together they believe that the cost of doing business in Kampar is much lower than in Ipoh. With its base in Kampar, C&O gets to serve customers from Teluk Intan, Bidor, Tapah and Cameron Highlands.

John observes that in Kampar, there are many enthusiasts who dabble in either very low-end stuff or very high-end stuff, leaving a gap in mid-end. So, John intends to educate his low-end customers by offering many good-valued mid-end packages.

C&O currently carries the following brands:

Onix, Sine (cable and accessories from Hong Kong, including cryo-treated WBT products), R-Tec karaoke (designed by Rotel), Wharfedale speakers, Denon AV products, Indiana speakers, AKG mic /headphone, Liberty AV cables, Infocus projector, Optoma projector, The Screenwork screen, Philips LCD/plasma.

C&O plans to open a branch in KL this year, do watch out for it!

Business Hours:
Mon-Sun 11:00am – 11:00pm
John Sin (Manager) – 012-5269313

readers of this blog are cordially invited to a demo of ayre MX-R monoblock at hi-way laser @SS2, petaling jaya!

for the uninitiated, charlie hanson's ayre MX-R has been winning award after award (stereophile product of the year 2007, hifi+ product of the year 2007) since its launch and many who have heard its sound, including a few of us, think that the argument about which is better - solid state or tube - is made irrelevant.

boasting 300 watt per channel, the ultra compact MX-R's chassis is milled from a solid billet of aluminum; it is classy and have great lust factor for those who place emphasis on aesthetics. sonically, we were impressed by the ultra smooth and powerful sound, the lightning fast bass and clean midrange. the sound truly justifies the tagline for the amp - second to none!

currently on demo at hi-way laser is a pair of Ayre MX-R monoblock driving ATC SCM50 speakers, with Ayre CX-7e CD player as the source, K-5xe preamp & Cardas Golden Reference cabling throughout.

those who are keen to listen can contact can contact Kenny Sin (Hi-Way Laser) at 019-2813399. hi-way laser is located at the heart of pj ss2 (http://www.hiwaylaser.com/location_map). please don't feel shy, we assure you that kenny is one of the nicest dealers around!

scurry to hi-way laser and experience music on ayre!