humility is a rare attribute among audiophiles. in my 20 years of playing hifi, i can count by 5 fingers audiophiles who qualify in this criteria. a lot of audiohiles cannot go far because their egos are stopping them from improving. god has been especially kind to me this year. he granted me a reviewer and a friend who is not only humble, earnest and magnanimous but knows his stuff as well. for someone who owns a setup that cost over RM100K (about the same investment as mine) and admits that he has a lot to learn from me, says a lot about this person's depth of character, discerning power and humility. i have great honor to present his system in my blog

i reviewed the pass labs xa100 2 years back and the memory is still vividly stuck in my head. the tone, i remember, was uniquely attractive - it was neither solid-state nor tube-like.

2 years later - today, to be specific - i reunited with this class-a beauty (well, a smaller cousin, xa60, actually) in hifi kaki's house. before the visit, hifi kaki pre-empted me by saying that his system is "nowhere near mine" so "don't come with high expectations". don't even trust him on that. i was actually fooled into believing that his system is really not great! when the first note of his copland cdp was struck, i am suitably impressed and i don't mean to be nice to him just because his is my reviewer. (i told him that as a reviewer one should call a spade a spade). yes, i love the tone of his sound. it is, well, unique and a class on its own. this tonal aspect alone places him well above many systems i have listened in the past. sorry that i wasn't completely blunt and honest to those i visited in the past because some of you just don't have the humility and graciousness of hifi kaki.

his room is on the smallish side but it doesn't matter as he will be moving to a 3-storey house in 3 months' time and he will then be having a 15'X 22' almost-golden-ratio room to play with. i promise to help him to tune up the room. in fact, i am so nice to him that i have promised to bring him to ooi's house next week to show him ooi's room, cos ooi has the best hifi room i have ever seen and heard.

it is true that hifi kaki's system doesn't stage spectacularly, but that's because of his room limitations and to a lesser extent, his speaker placement. (wait till he gets his 15' X 22' room, aha) his system has all the high-end attributes of good highs, mids and lows. playing ricky lee jones' "pop pop" brings a familiar sense of air, density and palpability that can elude lesser/poorer systems. the highs are great but a tad short of the decay and that linger-forever-in-the-air quality of my maggie's ribbons. altho' equally elegant, ricky lee jones in hifi kaki's system sounded more rush than in mine; it is almost as if ricky lee jones has no patience to sing. still, it is a very likeable sound.

teddy robin's ferocious drums also sounded believable in his system, showing that the eggleston and the xa60 can indeed flex muscles together. i told hifi kaki that i would want more definition in the mids and midbass and less cluttering when i setup his system in his new house next time.

generally, the soundstage does not spread out as wide as the system is capable of, with instruments and voices cluttering around the center triangular plane. also the vocalist's mouth can be higher if tweaked properly. hifi kaki is fully aware of these shortcomings but he is being patient at the mo since the new house is almost ready.

if the above sound like criticism then you have misunderstood me. i have high standard for myself and those around me. his system is already several notches above many run-of-the-mills systems i came across all these years.

because i love and i care for my friends, i would like him to improve and i promise to present and revisit his system once his moves in to his new abode.

but, what gorgeous tone the pass labs xa60 gives!

i also passed him the RM20K siltech S.A.T.T signature series forbes lake interconnect for review, who says i don't treat my reviewers well? ;-)


Jedi said...

And what a gorgeous system he has!!!

watson said...

To achieve tonal balance is the hardest part in system matching IMHO
All he needs now is a little bit of tweak.

May I congratulate the gentleman's wife for allowing the man she loves to indulge into something that he obviously enjoy....

shook said...

give a bit more space and i think the dragon will wake up..

Jo said...

Here's a suggestion..

a before and after review.

we have the before house moving ,and let us hope to get after housemoving

nong said...

That is a very desirable system.

I could live happily with it ever after!!!!!!!

hifikaki said...

Me 'humble, earnest and magnanimous'? Maggielurva, you are too generous! :-)

I very much agree with maggielurva's assessement of my system's virtues and shortcomings, (the man really has ears! :-)) they jive absolutely with my own assessment.

My system in its current form is just about a year old (the last addition being the Egglestons), I have succeeded in getting it to do well in some areas, but I believe I have bumped up with the limitations of my listening space, which manifest in the soundstaging aspects most.

Listening to maggielurva's system confirmed that the there are more to achieve, so that is my aspiration now. The coming months will be great fun in my hifi journey.

jedi, Wwatson, shook, nong,
Thank you all for your kind words.

Jo, good suggestion, I look forward to post my system’s evolution here.

km ng said...

From the photo, I think the sound would be better without the tv between the speakers and if the equipment, which are about halfway to the speakers, are lowered.

I think the tv and equipment would compromise the imaging, soundstaging and dimensionality of the reproduced sound.

hifikaki said...

Dear KM Ng,

Thanks for your suggestion. The space constraints meant that I have to compromise a bit in this case. Crazy as I am about hifi quality, I would still prefer to have a decent household life with my beloved family around me :-)

These are the shortcomings that I look forward to address when I have the bigger room, and hope I can share the journey with you all.