marten miles, ARC, audionet, richard gray, stage III concepts

marten miles standing tall and elegant

the ubiquitous ARC ref 3 preamp

audionet ART G2 cdp with rowland 302 power amp at the back

top-of-the-line stage III concepts cables running amok

i have written about the lifestyle of ipoh audiophiles in av xpress and in this blog. ipoh is a sedate town/city with not much nightlife or entertainment. a lot of middle-aged businessmen or retirees have plenty of disposable income hence they dabble in hifi or home theatre as favorite pastimes.

thanks to a couple of influential dealers, ipoh is the land of audio research, marten design, audionet and richard gray. for the record, perak state has the most marten design speakers in the entire malaysia. in the last count, there is a pair of marten bird and 4 pairs of marten miles, and easily 6 units of audionet ART G2 cd players, and many many audio research gear.

featured here are two of the rather low-profile high-enders in ipoh. mind you, they are not the super high-enders that the local chinese magazine often features. super high-enders in ipoh don't normally buy from local dealers. they either buy from s'pore or import themselves.

[high-ender #1 - mr. tan]
mr. tan is a quiet and unassuming man who owns a beautiful 3-storey townhouse in the fringe of ipoh city. his dedicated listening room (see picture) serves his two-channel audio as well as his home theatre system. his hifi journey is one of astronomical progress. today he is the proud owner of a plethora of esoteric gear, ranging from jeff rowland 302 power amp, ARC ref 3 preamp, audionet ART G2 cdp, marten design miles speakers, with everything almost entirely cabled by top-of-the-line stage III concepts.

first impression - large, spacious soundstage. i instinctively knew the ARC Ref 3 is responsible for that. ARC gear has been holding the soundstage champ title for years (note: the last time i auditioned the VT200 power amp, i was gobsmacked by its expansive and wonderfully panaromic soundstage). the Ref 3 is gorgeously refined and has a dynamic scale that will put many high-end preamps to shame. In fact, Ref 3 eats LS26 (my preamp) for lunch. those LS26 owners (and hifi reviewers) who claim that LS26 is 90% of Ref 3 are kidding themselves. no way, jose! the Ref 3 is at a different league altogether, in terms of scale.

the marten miles is a very neutral and accurate transducer that is adept in handling a variety of music genres. it has a very lively and vivacious character that is positively likable. the accuton ceramic tweeters give out ethereal highs that are crispy and have a "bell-like" quality, very unlike ribbon tweeters but impressive nonetheless. the miles is a very detailed (but never analytical) speaker; nothing seems to escape from it.

the pairing with jeff rowland 302 is ideal. (but later i found out that marten sounds better with ARC tube amp - see next section) overall, it is a well-rounded system that has potential for another 10-20% of improvement. mr. tan, ever eager to listen for opinions, asked me about the possible areas of improvement. i pointed out that slightly over-damped room could suck out some life from the music. mr. tan has velvet curtains covering 1/3 of the (front portion) of the room, mainly for his AV system, and double-layer carpet covering the entire floor. personally, i detest velvet (suede) materials cos i have never heard anything good from it when it is being used as curtains. with my pointers, i am sure mr. tan would commission his dealer to start work soon. good luck, mr.tan, and i look forward to listening to your system again in another few months' time!

[high-ender #2 - ah cheong]
ah cheung is fondly known as the canteen man, as he operates a canteen in a well-known school in ipoh. ah cheung is one of the most famous and revered audiophiles in ipoh. in person, he is rather low-profile and publicity shy and he doesn't want his system to be photographed. what a pity, cos it is an eye-opener as his room is a miniscule 7' X 10' treasure trove that contains some of the most desirable gear in this planet. here's the partial list - ARC VT200 power amp, ARC ref 3 preamp, marten miles speakers, meridian 808 cdp, stage III concepts vacuum gold reference interconnect (2 pairs) and audioquest everest speaker cable.

this is the fourth time i listened to ah cheung's system, every time with some new gear installed. this time, he has the piano-finished marten miles to replace his aging proac future 1 speakers. the miles is barely 1 week's old! i feel claustrophobic every time i sit in his listening room cos it is just so tiny!

we started with the joss stone's debut album, one with potent bass. i was astounded! the bass, the bass, the bass! it goes very low; very clean and taut; very bouncy and tuneful! the miles seem totally at ease in such tiny space. what did ah cheung do to his room since the last time i came here? i couldn't believe my ears. there is no flutter echoes, no pregnant notes, no interferences - heck, this is a very good room! we proceeded to play another drum demo cd - the sheffield lab drum track. again, the transients are lightning quick, the skin of the drum could be felt... my instinct was to quickly extend my hands and shook ah cheung's hands to congratulate him, "well done, cheung gor (brother cheung), you have conquered your room acoustics!", i said to him. ah cheung was grinning smugly as he knows i appreciate his system very much.

the marten miles really come alive here. this is a truly modern sound - fast, accurate and detailed. a lot of people in the past have criticized ah cheung's system of not having any decent soundstage, due to the small room. these people should come to listen to his system now. i think they would be embarrassed.

while many of his peers are busy upgrading, ah cheung is one audiophile who has worked hard to make his tiny room disappear and free of any acoustics nasties. this is a shining example that any audiophile worth his salt must work hard on his room acoustics before anything else. i am so proud of ah cheung. i think with this sound, he must have won many new followers and stamped his foot as one of the best sounds in ipoh.

it is even scarier when you think of the fact that the marten miles is barely one week's old!

[conclusion]
this is by no means an exhaustive coverage of ipoh's high end, but it does give me more than a glimpse of it. audiophiles in ipoh are reasonably rich and the dealers there are enjoying good biz too. what's more, the houses and lands there are cheap. i am considering the possibility of retiring in ipoh!

i would like to thank mr. tan and ah cheung for being the most gracious host.

12 comments:

josh said...

Wow,wow

that looks as good as the best I 've seen on A'gon

kwan said...

ow many RGPC has He got .?Amazing>>>>>

jumbo said...

I,m willing to work for him for free.....As long As i got to hear the system..must be some increadible sound coming from the system.....

aleong said...

Maggie...

You lucky you....

hafiz said...

Hi Maggie,

thank you for your efforts.From what I can see Mr Tan really ,reallyunderstand how to getgood sounds.My gosh the nombor of RG he has and all those cables are justjaw dropping......both of them seems to know how to live life to the fullest.

While we KLites are stuck in traffic jams ,those folks in Ipoh are tapping their toes....

mah said...

Maggie,

Can,t imagine any ststem sounding better than Mr tan,s

he seems to get everything perfect ,down to the acrylic racks...wow those alone cost a fortune...

GCK said...

Hi Leslie, thanks for posting the high enders in Ipoh setup. Great stuffs there.

By the way, what is the main thing that ah cheung gor's did to the room? We can learn something here.

aboon said...

Hey Maggie,What 's with the talk of retiring huh..If you talk about retiring again we will block the road to ipoh,we need you

gerhard said...

Thank you for post,
I like Mr Tan's system a lot .It's almost perfectly matched

How could Ah Cheong"s system sound better?

the only thing I could think of is probably the ARC amp..

mafan said...

Gerhard,
I think the standout difference is the room acoustic

Maggie let us know what exactly ah cheung did .It would be very valuable.

both of them to be congratulated....

james said...

who would imagine Martin design,ARC and dedicated audiophiles in a small town like Ipoh...

Truly I know very little about Malaysia....

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

ah cheung has so much stuff adorning his room that i can't tell which one is helping acoustically. i see a tiny (3'X 4') cotton curtain hanging in the front wall and some large (4' X 6') sonex panels on the side wall. the room is neither too damped nor too lively.

aboon,
i am not talking about retiring from hifi la; i mean stop working and smell the roses. places like ipoh and penang are great for retirees. and i think retire early to play hifi full-time is a damn attractive option ;-)