say no to politics in hifi

i know it will come. the day has come. the demands from the dealers on the (relative) positioning of their ads; the (unreasonable) expectations from their ads etc. etc.

and i hate all these. i really do. i am not a politician and i am not good in licking the balls/asses of these dealers.

chinese has a proverb - those who eat salted fish must be able to withstand the thirst. in this case, the salted fish i ate is bloody salty! i feel like throwing up all this salted fish i ate.

many dealers still don't know that i do av xpress not for the money, but for the passion and satisfaction of having a voice in this industry. some compare me with my sole competitor - the local chinese mag with a 14-year history behind it and practically monopolizes the market - saying that i am not politically sensitive and tactful. hey, that guy depends on the mag for his livelihood yeah and i don't!

i am thinking of making av xpress totally independent. as long as someone is willing to sponsor the printing cost and contribution fee (for my writers), then i am willing to do it as a non-profit project. you know of any organization who is willing to sponsor RM5K per issue? or you readers can form a common fund (tabung av xpress) for av xpress? only then i can be free of all this crap and politicking. only then i can be a really strong voice in the industry.

on the brighter note, i am venturing into event organization. somebody with good track record is inviting me to invest in his event company. and he has already a mega act lined up in october. i am game cos music and entertainment line is my calling. with music/cd business being a sunset biz, live concert is the way to go. at least, you can't duplicate/pirate a live concert. music lovers are willing to pay for live concerts.

i shall be announcing the act and sell tickets in this blog soon, once we have confirmation from the agent.

this is the most exciting news to us - music label rock in music of hong kong has agreed to distribute 2v1g in hong kong and taiwan!

just how many "new" artists get to break into international market with its debut album? we are so lucky!

the icing on the cake is that keith yip, the boss of rock in, finds our recording "very good" and "is good enough for release as audiophile cd". he also likes the music, altho' "it may not appeal to those who want more than a solo guitar accompaniment".

my engineer, vong, was the happiest man on earth! mark my words, vong is gonna be the most sought after audiophile-grade recording engineer in malaysia after the launch of 2v1g!

This is the second posting on my system components. This time round I’d like to talk about my Copland CDA822 cd player….

There are 2 schools of thought on which component is the most important in a hifi chain, one says it is the source, another says it is the loudspeakers. Both have their proponents.

In my early hifi years, I was more inclined to the latter. With the system I had, it was true that a change in loudspeakers gave me the greatest magnitude of change in sound (for better or worse), not to mention that when I auditioned a system, at a dealer or a friend’s place, the loudspeakers were usually the most visible component. Changing CD players or amps usually did not create the same level of impact on the system’s sound.

As the years went by, I was not so sure any more. As the resolution of my system increased over time (ahem! :-) ), I realized that any change in the hifi chain could create a significant shift in the sound quality. A change may tip the system from excellent to unlistenable and vice versa.

So now I am a fence-sitter on this issue (or to sound better, I’m now the whole-system-synergy-is-important kind of guy :-) ).

What has this got to do with the CDA822? Well, it is the component that illustrates to me in the strongest manner that the source equipment does matter a lot. The Copland contributes tremendously to my emotional connection with my music. With it, I constantly want to bob my head, wave my hands and tap my feet in time to the music. It does not allow me to do easy listening, every piece of music comes off with such conviction from the artist that it forces me to pay attention.

The Copland’s sound is bold, dynamic, and has excellent timing, yet it also retains a high degree of delicacy and details. It can convey the sultriness of a saxophone and the rhythmic throb of a double bass on a jazz piece. It can convey the scale of an orchestra at full tilt and yet resolve a solo violinist’s delicate touches.

In contrast, some higher end digital replay gear that I auditioned in my system might better the Copland in the some audiophile parameters such as resolution and soundstaging, but I was sometimes left cold with the portrayal of the music.

Well, people say digital technology advances at lightning speed, digital gear that is a few years old may be superseded by the latest and cheaper implementation. However, the CDA822 took my latest model, mid-range universal player (albeit at less than half the price of the Copland) to the proverbial cleaner on cd replay. The CDA822 is beaten comparing the cd layer to the sacd layer on a hybrid disc (and only in the treble region mostly), however I put this down to the superiority of the sacd format instead (but that is story for another day).

If I look for an upgrade to my digital front end, the first priority would be to retain the musical emotion that the Copland so ably displayed. I hope I would have greater exposure to high performance digital gear working with av xpress, and find a worthy successor to the CDA822 when the time comes.

But I have a feeling that it may not be such a straightforward task….

a couple of local dealers left for the munich high-end show this week. one dealer went because he wants to see "something different outside the CES". other just tagged along to "look see look see". while those who didn't go expressed disinterest as "there is nothing special". for this group of dealers, other than established german marques like clearaudio, mbl, avantgarde, there are just too many cottage industries on display that can be bewildering.

every year, dealers look for new brands to bring it into malaysia. apart from reading from hifi magazines and internet, they would occasionally ask from industry people like yours truly. for me, i resort to hearing from you readers. kubala-sosna and audio magic are results of "hearing from my readers".

so, please continue to recommend good stuff to us. i could use my limited influence to convince the dealers to bring them into malaysia.

we are like the present opposition leaders in malaysia - we listen to you ;-)

still remember my RM10K challenge? last month, i offered RM10k to anyone who can solve my AC problems permanently.

i just told victor (the dealer, audio creations) that after plugging in the audio magic stealth mini reference for the last 5 nights, the usual problems with my AC seem to have disappeared, momentarily, at least. i couldn't detect any anomalies for 5 consecutive nights, which is extremely rare.

something funny tells me that this jerry ramsey's product is different. it may be able to solve my nagging problem. i can't be sure and i can only speculate.

until i read this in audio magic's website. a customer from hk wrote:

it is also apparent that the changes in sound that I noticed when I listened before between daytime and nighttime (the system sounded more involving and smooth at late night to early morning) are gone, the sound from the system is now very reliable and independent of the time of the day. This is great since I found it pretty frustrating to enjoy a record late at night a lot, then getting up on the next morning playing it again and wondering where the magic from the night before had suddenly gone.

i am still not sure but i am praying hard that i myself am the one who is going to pocket the RM10K reward.

Maggielurva suggested that I talk a little about my system, so here it goes. I would start with my Pass Labs amps, since Pass Labs is the brand that stays in my system the longest…..

My Pass Labs X2.5 preamp + XA60 monoblocks render sound in a very natural and musical way. I listen almost exclusively to acoustic music, and it is also most important for me to derive musical enjoyment from my listening sessions (life is too short!) so these characteristics are critical.

But don’t get me wrong, they are not euphonic, they are the most neutral sounding amp I have ever owned. They just have the knack to put across music as music without any romantic tint.

My love affair with Pass Labs started when I chanced upon a used set of Aleph L preamp and Aleph 3 power amp. Up to that point, I was tinkering with integrated transistor amps, but found myself never totally satisfied.

I liked the philosophy behind the Aleph L+3, Pass Labs’ entry level combo at that time. The Aleph L preamp was passive at low to middle volume settings, the Aleph 3 power amp was full class A and single-ended, both are minimalist to the hilt. The 3’s 30 class-A-watts were enough to drive even a pair of floorstanders in my smallish listening room.

With the Alephs, I found myself listening and reacting more and more to music, my listening sessions stretched longer and longer. So when funds permitted, I looked at Pass Labs again for options, why mess with a successful formula, right?

The X2.5+XA60 combo was very clearly cut from the same cloth, just that the X’es took all the virtues of the Alephs and ratcheted them up a number of notches. The music swings harder, the emotional content is more intense, and all the audiophile parameters are improved upon – the top and bottom extended further, the resolution improved, the soundstage ballooned up, they sound more powerful than even a 100-watter that I owned earlier. The ergonomics and industrial design also improved tremendously (every one who saw the blue meter in the middle of the fascia would think it is way cool).

The Alephs are no longer with me, writing this brings up some nostalgia and a tinge of regret, I should have kept them. Well, at least I have the X’es to go home to, so my music life is still treating me pretty well. :-)

my oh my!

my cheque book is all ready but where's my pen?

the audio magic stealth mini reference (USD1,200) has the best midbass i have ever heard in all the power products i have auditioned and owned all these years!

fair, it still can't beat the shunyata hydra in tonal seductiveness and RPGC's delicacy in the highs but the midbass, the midbass, the midbass! the AM's midbass transforms my maggie's mylar diaphragm into a 10" cone woofer! playing teddy robin CD with drum works aplenty is such an unprecedented joy!

the mids are more neutral than the hydra. some may like it but some like me may find it bland. but could it be the truth? (and the truth always hurts) could it be that shunyata hydra actually colors the sound and make it sexy and intoxicating? i need to sleep on this issue for a few days.

i have burned it for close to 300 hours now (including jerry ramsey's 200 hours), the highs (hence airiness) still lose out by 5-10% to shunyata. i am going to add another 100 hours of cooking. if the highs can equal shunyata, then victor pheh of audio creation (the dealer) can collect the cheque from me.

midbass-cum-ATC lover master ken is gonna take it home for his evaluation/review for av xpress this weekend.

the inner voice in me screaming - "stop the euphoria, maggielurva, why not wait for ken's conclusion too before you sign on the dotted line?"

now you have two reviewers comparing notes, you just can't go wrong, can you? ;-)

two high-end products from denon - PMA-SA1 integrated amplifier and DCD-SA1 CD/SACD player going for a song!

normal retail price for the combi is > RM60K.

bid starts from RM22,888. state your bid now! new and in the box.

p/s it has 2-year warranty from the distributor.

april 19th was the record store day in the US.

the gen-x or gen-y would never really understand why us baby boomers have so much sentiments towards record stores.

back in the 70s/80s where cassettes and LPs were still the rage, we - then student - would save our last penny to go to the local record stores and have our fave songs compiled into a TDK blank cassette. of course, it was illegal now but there were not much regulations then. everyone did that. the record store would charge RM15 - a lot of money then - for just the recording fee.

me being the aspiring audiophile even at that age would buy the best TDK blank cassettes (normally chrome or metal type) in bulk and use it for recording. we would normally leave the blank cassette with the record store for one week. the day for the collection of the completed recording is normally the highlight of the week, with so much anticipation and excitement. we would normally rush to the record shop after school!

as to the song selection, the order or the sequence is important. we would normally tell the record store chap to follow the order which we wrote on the piece of paper. in the 80s, 12 inch or remixes from british bands like culture club, spandau ballet, duran duran and many others were the rave then.

in malaysia, the pirates came in full vengeance in the early 80s too. i remember buying a lot of pirated cassettes (mostly compilations) which came without the normal cassette box but just a thin plastic skeletal case. those who listened to music in the 80s would definitely know what i mean by this type of pirated cassette in malaysia. the packaging was so unique that i think one could only find it in malaysia!

in the 1998, i revived the indie record store concept with "music exchange" and it was an instant hit then. the strait times of singapore once wrote an article titled "what to do in KL if you only have 24 hours ?" and music exchange was mentioned as the must-visit place in kl. such was the coolness and hip factor of music exchange. incidentally, in a special article on kl last week in sin chew jit poh titled "50 reasons to love kl", the journalist also lamented the demise of music exchange as a hip music culture spot.

today's record stores have not much personality and quality to offer but mostly videos and bored attendants with not much knowledge and passion in music.

i still harbor a latent passion to start an ultra cool indie record store, one day.

hot from the oven - alan tam's "best sound ever reborn" japanese pressing 24k gold disc limited edition.

selling at only RM66 at yes asia. if you buy more than one cd, shipping is free.

grab, grab, grab!

p/s interestingly, my duplication factory in HK (which i am going to use for 2v1g duplication) told me that for audiophile CDs, it is better to leave the silver surface (top) of the raw cd untainted, meaning leaving it blank except for logo and album title printing. i guess it has to do with how the laser pickup reads the cd. since they are the expert, i will heed their advice.

It was supposed to be just a cordial chat with Maggielurva about contributing to his blog and AVXpress, but instead it turned into a hifi epiphany for me. It was an experience that shook me to the core as far as hifi is conerned (ok, a bit dramatic here 'lah', but honestly that was how I felt). From the first track played, I had goosebumps aplenty, and throughout the listening session, I was grinning ear to ear like a silly kid. Maggielurva was the witness, he was there too. The object of desire in this case was none other than his own hifi system. You see, I was lucky enough to be invited for a listen at his place after our chat.

He played me a lot of vocal music that night, as vocal music is the easiest way to evaluate a system since everyone is familiar with the human voice. The palpability and the realism of the vocal, the sheen and richness in the treble, the layering of the soundstage, and, most importantly, the musical enjoyment that this system conjured up would be forever etched in my memory. What galled me was that I probably have the same level of investment (read:$$$) in my setup compared to his (except on cables :-) ), but I could not equal this kind of performance level.

I sure have a lot more to learn. This level of system performance is now my aspiration, which I expect to strive long and hard to approach, let alone achieve, with my current setup in the months to come. And he said the electricity quality issue he faced meant that his system was only performing at around 80% (I shudder to think how 100% will sound like, but he promised to invite me to listen again when that day comes).

Maggielurva was also kind enough to give me a sneak preview of his 2V1G CD. What I can say is that all the hype is true. Whether you are an audiophile or a music lover, you ought to do yourself a favour, get a copy when it comes out. I'm putting my money where my mouth is, I have pre-ordered 5 copies from him to share with my family and friends. The musical arrangement was tasteful and varied, the guitar playing was excellent, and the singers' performance exceeded that from many of the current crop of HK and Taiwanese pop singers. I can’t wait to get a copy to play on my own system.

The greatest regret of the night for me was that I did not take any photos (damn!), but here is one from maggielurva's older post of his system. Tasty!

the pre-burned in unit (200 hours by jerry ramsey, the designer) arrived yesterday at my dealer's shop. out of the box, it didn't sound good.

so we burned it for another 15 hours.

this morning, it started singing.... the sound is a great contrast to richard gray and shunyata. it's gonna be fun.

review to come.

we spent 2 hours working on the sequence of the songs in the album

why must all the good things happen all at once? i am certainly not complaining.

tonight i met up with my reviewer, let's call him "t" for now. he is the first person who volunteers to write for me, after a futile search for more than one year. not only is "t" a nice person, he is experienced enough to review high-end gear for me! what a pleasant surprise! i was half expecting an aspiring newbie...

i hope "t" would also add some spice to this blog and make it less lonely for me.

i have finally listened to the final mix of 2v1g. what can i say - it moved me to tears. the recording is first-class. imagine a malaysian recording engineer achieving this feat, quick remarkable.

those of my friends who have sampled some tracks off the album, they have all increased their orders to multiple copies cos they want to give the CDs to their friends. i was moved to bits.

so the CD will leave for hong kong today for mastering by keith yip. we have also decided to press in HK since the pressing factories in malaysia are mainly owned and operated by pirates. so the CDs will come into malaysia with an "imported" sticker.

also a bonus news, very likely keith yip will distribute the cd for us in hk and taiwan. so essentially 2v1g will be going international. very cool.

i am doing all the marketing and promotion for the cd from now until its launch on 18th may 2008. we predict the internet sales will beat the retail sales. i will be meeting the press and many more media people in the next 2 months. i love this sort of thing ;-)

as many of you know, centre circle in TTDI has just shifted to another shoplot on the same row and it is looking even better than before - brighter, cozier, sunnier and definitely more customer-friendly.

in the new shop, there is plenty of displays of the very ergonomically-looking auralex acoustic panels such as the ones in the pictures.

the audio tiles look really cool. the guy who invented this ingenious design must have a fussy wife at home.

nelson, the boss, urges you guys to check out the auralex for your room treatment. it comes in an assortment of colours and shapes to fit your interior decor.

in USA, auralex boasts of a clientele from a to z. at the moment, nelson's major clients are studio owners.

it's about time you guys check it out.

it is really strange, readers who tell me great things about av xpress are genuine music lovers and not hifi nuts. i guess the reason why music lovers like my mag is because it has good music contents and i don't dish out hardcore hifi stuff that would frighten them off. you know, music lovers don't touch the typical hifi mags.

on the other hand, the true hifi readers are crying out for more hardware contents like reviews and shoot-outs. i have to strike a balance here but i am all too willing to please. starting next issue, i will have a few reviews on hardware like cd players and cables. my condition for the dealers is they must first break-in for me cos i don't want to spend my expensive tubes for breaking-in.

sourcing for worthy reviewers in malaysia has been almost impossible. i am speechless as to why this is so. are people not confident of their english or they just don't see fun in the whole exercise? i now have to source elsewhere, from overseas and i have gotten a few responses, which is good.

i know i can't please all with av xpress. there are still dealers that complain about the lack of "thickness" of the mag. they don't seem to realize by virtue of it being free, i have a cost issue to control. some even suggest to me to cut and paste articles from internet just to make up the "thickness". ludicrous suggestions, i must say.

ultimately i can't stop emphasizing the importance of music over hifi. don't be a slave to hardware. your music must be better than your hifi.

we are at the final stages of our year-long project - mastering by HK audiophile guru, keith yip of rock in music!

2V1G is gonna be the first chinese acoustic pop group in malaysia that uses the alternative media (blog) to launch its internet pre-sales starting 18th may 2008!

we have created a superb blog complete with mp3 playlist and purchase details for the CD.

we will soon be announcing the new blog here!

[p/s] do you like the black-n-white cover? ultra kool, ain't it? it is designed by creative director, eddie hor of black box, one of the biggest entertainment hub in malaysia. eddie's idea is to create a theme for the album which is "music in motion". we all like it very much!

louis de fuente (hope i got his name right), the boss-cum-designer of stage III concepts has been reading my blog and he is not too impressed that i used old models of stage III to compete with kubala-sosna so he called up the local distributor and asked him to convey the message that he will specifically loan me the latest, top-ranked ASP (absolute signal purity) reference interconnect to try out...

so, i should be so lucky lucky lucky, like what kylie minogue sings in the song!

check out ASP reference here!

i am feeling musically inspired tonight, so i will share with you my all-time-best albums. it is darn difficult task to select 10 best CDs out of the thousands of CDs in my collection. (i could actually list 30 more! please don't feel offended if your faves are left out) but tonight i will do that just for you. many of these are indie rock in the late 80s to late 90s, some are classics that are permanently mentioned in rock history books.

these are the CDs that define my musical journey and leave a big mark there. i am still deriving so much joy listening to them once in a while, like tonight.

sorry, no audiophile albums makes it into my list ;-)

i hope you can let me know yours as well!

here's it, in no particular order:

artist: teenage fanclub
album: grand prix
why: NME called teenage fanclub the best british band in the 90s. indeed, they were better than oasis and blur. the jingle-jangle of their distorted guitars never fails to drive me to multiple aural orgasms.

artist: new order
album: brotherhood
why: the post-joy division peter hook and bernard sumner are less dark but irresistably hooky. this is the definitive album that spawned "bizarre love triangle" , a song which many have mistaken to be a frente's original

artist: new order
album: low life
why: the best album cover i have ever seen. peter saville design group is the best album designer in the world. this great album carries the sublime 10-minute long "perfect kiss"

artist: travis
album: the man who
why: if music can be poetry then travis are the greatest poets in music

artist: radiohead
album: the bends
why: because it is actually better than "ok computer"

artist: belle and sebastian
album: the boy with the arab strap
why: the modern-day simon and garfunkel. ever watched john cusack's "high fidelity" where the song "seymour stein" is played?

artist: jesus and mary chain
album: darklands
why: if punk can be so deliciously melodious, then every music lover should embrace it! this is, my goodness, superlative!

artist: barbara streisand and barry gibb
album: guilty
why: stylish, rhythmic, melodic, perfect pop - superb gibbs brothers' production

artist: cheer chen qi zhen
album: a glamorous adventure
why: the only chinese album that makes it into my list. cheer is the best singer-songwriter in the chinese music world in the last decade, period. if you don't like it, it is because you are not 'there' yet.

artist: oasis
album: what's the story, morning glory?
why: the gallagher bros' angst and crafty tunes are phenomenal. but listening to them now does sound a bit dated. still, they ruled the 90s.

some dealers hinted to me that if i were to organize a hifi show in kl, they would support me.

they wanted something more niche, more focused and themed along the high-end. they wanted a "best sound of the show" kind of competition among the dealers, with panel of judges coming from renowned and respected audiophiles in malaysia; they wanted more overseas visitors; they wanted more prestige...

though i love organizing events, it boggles my mind to think of the logistics, politics (among the dealers) and sheer scale of doing such an event.

seriously, do you think we need another hifi show in malaysia?

give me your feedback, please!

it is gratifying to see this happening in US - american express collaborating with hifi retailer musicdirect in their plum card program, supposedly a credit card for the businessmen in the trade. musicdirect received plum card number 4350 (out of the initial 10,000), and to quote what amex said, "i can't wait to see what they do with it".

in a slightly different offering, the EPP (easy payment plan) scheme that malaysian credit card companies offer to hifi dealers and end-consumers is not really popular in malaysia because mark-up is too high and mathematically smart audiophiles feel that they are getting a raw deal.

if only local banks can offer something like a plum card to hifi dealers then it may ease their cashflow and allow them to manage their finances better.

it is simply beautiful to see hifi being featured in mainstream television for once!

sources close to me told me that EMI has finally pulled out from the asian market.

this is indeed sad news for one of the major labels. EMI's efforts to cut 2,000 jobs worldwide early in the year didn't seem to rescue them from dire straits.

who's next in the line?

let's be realistic, a lot of genuine music lovers can't stand this whole idea about audiophilia cos all they want is good sound at a reasonable price. aesthetics and convenience play an important part in their choice of hardware.

tivoli audio has paved the way for lifestyle music system that is acceptable even by critical audiophiles. april music, a seoul-based south korean company, the people behind russ andrews and stello, went a step further to gain audiophile's acceptance by creating this all-in-one player, the aura note music centre.

on the outside, aura note oozes retro styling, beautiful casing and classy finishing. it is simply a joy to ogle! no wonder, as april music enlisted the help of english design guru, kenneth grange, to do the styling and ergonomics. many have ranked the styling of aura note alongside lifestyle brands like bang and olufsen, only with better sound.

the aura note is a magical combination of a cd player, am/fm tuner, a 50w single-ended push-pull power amp with a line input and a pair of USB inputs for mp3 players and PCs. all it needs is a pair good speakers! the USB ports means it can connect to memory sticks, PCs and USB hard drives and playback mp3, wma and OGG files at bit-rates up to 192kbps.

reviewer david allcock of hifi world magazine called the aura note "a tremendously impressive all-in-one system at the price". he describes aura note's sound as being "slightly on the warm side of neutral, with extra richness and warmth being concentrated in the upper bass/lower midrange". david also noted that the 50w of tube power gives grand scale and power, generating real drama and energy in the music.

calling all music lovers who don't want the hassle of mix 'n' match separates - aura note may just be your ideal solution to a whole new world of music. and we can assure you that your girlfriend/spouse will love the looks of it.

call uncle edwin tan of RAVE@city square at 012-3242434 and he would be glad to demo the aura note to you.

we bumped into mia palencia at no black tie last night and she told us that she has just released her debut solo album! check it out at popfolio

the album is recorded, mixed and mastered by her long-time partner roger wang, our guitar man for 2v1g as well.

mia is currently having a roadshow at major MPH bookstores nationwide.

[mia's profile]

Singer songwriter, jazz crooner, voice actor, public speaker and occasionally a theatre personality, Mia Palencia is a woman of many talents. She kicked off her career as the other half of well-known local jazz act Double Take at the age of 14, with whom she has released two albums.

She has sung for kings, travelled the world as a public speaker and a vocalist, and, most recently, begun exploring the world of cartoons as a voice actor.

Mia released her first solo single, 'Sayang' in September 2006. Her first solo album, 'Finding My Way', has been released in digital format on and is set to be launched in its physical form in April 2008.

what do you think of chesky recordings? my fave is ana caram's "rio after dark". it is as if david chesky knew i am playing planar ribbon and he made the recording just for me. to me, chesky cds have ultra high-resolution, plenty of air and details but they might just be a bit dry and lack of warmth.

in the intervening years, chesky has somewhat slowed down in producing audiophile records. actually, they were working overtime to deliver something big.

last month, chesky launched its high-res music store called HDtracks. according to david chesky, "we designed HDtracks to be a place where you can hang out online." seriously, no one hangs out in tower records, victoria music or rock corner anymore.

from recording experts, now the chesky brothers (norman and david) have to grasp computer jargons associated with the music technology. the chesky brothers acquired servers, hired staffs of programmers and developers, negotiated with independent record labels, and created tonnes of online information.

HDtracks is impressive and works for both PC and Mac. like iTunes, HDtracks offers AIFF with the metadata intact. there's no digital rights management (DRM) and downloads of CD-sourced material can be purchased as full-resolution FLAC or AIFF files.

many indie labels have agreed to partner chesky in this ambitious project. audiophile favorites reference recordings, dorian, ASV, MDG, and, yes, chesky records are all in. there isn't a genre that chesky hasn't taken care of. but major labels are notably absent.

"we've worked really hard to eliminate all the reasons people have given for not downloading music," david chesky said.

say what you like, david. i still miss the good old days of hanging out in the "real" record shops, like championship vinyl in the movie "high fidelity" starring john cusack and jack black. there is bound to be a jack black character in every record store, hurling sarcastic and snooty remarks to those music lovers who are not clued-in. so much fun.

nothing beats flipping thru racks and racks of LPs (even CDs to a lesser extent), taking them out from the jacket, admire the artwork, sniff on them and seeing them being spun on the turntable. also discussing music with the store owner or assistant is an enriching and interactive experience.

just how could one "hang out" in an online store?

we are gaining momentum! i feel a deep sense of satisfaction distributing av xpress free copies to dealers, even to those who don't advertise with us. i feel like a santa claus dishing out goodies to all and sundry!

this issue, av xpress goes back to colour (cover pages) again! many have complained about the black-n-white colour scheme in past issues! we heard you and we promise we would never revert back to black-n-white again!

you can find free copies at:

[record shop]
1)tower records (KLCC, 1-U)
2)victoria music (Atria, Amcorp Mall)
3)rock corner (1-U, Bangsar Village, The Curve***) ***note - rock corner at the curve has moved to ground floor

[hifi shop]
1) audio matic (amcorp)
2) A&L (amcorp)
3) audio synthesis (amcorp)
4) future technology (amcorp)
5) all CMY branches (by friday this week)
6) zest audio (city square, by friday this week)
7) music by design (city square, by friday this week)
8) CJ audio (the mall, by friday this week)
9) perfect hifi (IOI mall, by friday this week)
10) audio image (ss2, PJ)
11) centre circle (TTDI, KL)
12) audio note (mont kiara, by friday this week)

[outstation dealers]
9) dong fong audio (ipoh)
10) audio art (ipoh)
11) AVE Hi-fi Centre (Perai)
12) Eng Hi-Fi (Kulim, Kedah)
14) Eng Hi-Fi (Bukit Mertajam)
15) Perfect Match AV and Hifi (Melaka)
16) Happy Photo (Penang)
17) C&O Audiophile Enterprise (Kampar, Perak)

[starbucks cafes]
we won't advise getting from starbucks cafes as they are grabbed up almost instantly. by right, customers cannot take home any in-store mags but many starbucks' customers ignore this regulation and just take home any mag they fancy. many readers have complained that they can't find av xpress in starbucks.

[contributors wanted]
calling potential writers, especially expat readers who want to contribute - we are short of contributors/writers and you can play a part in this very fun and rewarding project that is av xpress!

please hold your breath now.

in what seems like a phone call made in total elation, my dealer called me and screamed "kubala sosna emotion thrashed stage III concepts vacuum gold reference!"

i was stunned for more than a few seconds. just how could it be? a RM12,000 interconnect beating a RM20,000 interconnect????

my dealer added, "when you got the k-s kubala emotions from joe, one of the XLR plugs was shorted with pin-2 and pin-3 wrongly soldered! that's why your sound is not good!".

my god. i was speechless. i am going to screw joe kubala soon for his carelessness.

my elated dealer further asserted, "we pit k-s emotion against stage III vacuum in a RM400K (USD100K) system, and the k-s is clearly superior in all three frequency bands. soundstaging is notably better (much taller) than stage III's. when we pit the k-s against AQ amazon (the former top model before DBS), it was like child's play, k-s practically white-washes the AQ! however, k-s emotion only works in newer speaker designs like marten design but not eggleston andra".

my dealer wants me to thank all the readers who suggested this superb brand to me. he is confident that the k-s will rule in malaysia.

my apologies to readers for a misleading review. bad, bad, bad me. i am going to repent now.

meanwhile, we hail the new cable king!

there don't seem to be an end to my power woes. lately, the AC supply to my house is absolutely horrendous even at 1am in the morning, rendering a very thin and shrilly sound which is unbearable to my ears. listening is no longer a joy.

yet some experts in the circle think that whatever i have tried - be it shunyata, ps audio or RGPC - are not good enough, and that they can build something better that can tackle my power problems.

as much as i am cynical about D.I.Y. solutions, i am open to anything. seriously, i am open.

so, here's the challenge - and this challenge is open to any hifi retailer, distributor, manufacturer (wherever you are from), D.I.Y. guy, general electrician, electrical engineer, or even technician from TNB (local power company) - if you can build a permanent solution to address my problem, i am willing to offer RM10,000 (USD3,000) to you. of course, you need to come out with your own money to buy the materials (parts) to build your hardware.

to prevent naive experimentalists, let me state that my AC does not suffer from the following:

[1] fluctuations - my voltmeter reading is a solid 240v at all times. so don't waste your time suggesting power stablizers or regulators

[2] EMI/RFI - my shunyata hydra already tackles this very well. so whatever ready-made power conditioning hardware that you suggest, chances are it won't work either

[3] also if you don't know high-end or appreciate what a high-end sound is, don't need to apply. i am not snobbish, i just don't want to waste your time and my time.

criteria of challenge:

> that your solution must give consistent great sound at all times of the day
> that your solution must not alter the tone of the sound
> that your solution must not act like steroids to add false energy to the sound

i hope someone will take the challenge!

p/s if all else fails, i will consider moving house :-(

another dealer expressed interest to bring in this japanese product and he wants to gauge the response via this blog.

CSE (chubu system engineering) is a japanese company focusing on power products. RK-100, featured here, is an isolation regulator, which basically is a ac regenerator like those from ps audio.

personally, i think it is about time that malaysian audiophiles get exposed to japanese hifi.

the retail price is around SGD1,900 (RM4,400), a far cry from ps audio power plant premier.

check out little kc's review in

guys, give me some feedback!

as usual one of the benefits of reading this blog is, you will get to read first-hand info on the hottest albums releases, especially chinese audiophile albums from taiwan and hk.

** need to blow my little trumpet a bit ** ;-)

we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of dennis nieh's (聂云) first audiophile jazz album entitled "can't help falling in love" (浪漫情歌集 - 情不自禁). i am a sucker for chinese audiophile jazz cover album so please pardon my self-induced excitement.

dennis, a tv host-cum-radio deejay has made announcement about this audiophile project years ago and i had been waiting since then.

in this album, dennis partners with pianist uno and her orchestra. dennis's choice of songs includes some definite classics (the likes of teresa teng's "the moon represents my heart") and some surprises.

taiwan's hifi mag "audio art" praises this album for its recording of the bass notes.

we'll see if this gets a stamp of approval from the host of desirable audio boutique.

you can sample two tracks here

former blogger of this blog, little kc, has reviewed the AM stealth mini reference in enjoy the

check it out!

how can hifi be sexual? some readers of stereophile have cancelled their subscriptions because of provocative ads like this. do you really find anything offensive about this ad?

i don't. just like how fast cars are always associated with fast women. pick up a copy of hypertune (a local car mag) and you will see more slutty women in scantily dresses. who's complaining?

i think this hifi hobby is so boring that we need to make it sexy. hifi should have sex appeal. lusting over glowing tubes or behemoth monoblocks are perfectly ok.

perhaps i should pay carmen soo, amber chia or hannah tan (top 3 sexiest women in malaysia) to pose for my ads soon. now that's a cool idea, wouldn't you say? imagine hannah tan caressing a VT4C tube....

your say?