the simplest job of all - manning the simplest stall

[simplest stall]
i really wish i could setup a stall like this for many many installments of the KLIAV show to come. i must apologize to all those who came to greet me - i couldn't put a name to your face! some i remember but some i don't. sorry, guys! thanks for dropping by.

it was really interesting to observe the visitors' response on seeing a stall like us. the response to 2v1g cd was good - we sold close to 200 copies during the 3-day event!

my producer chow and chow's angels, who helped me to man the stall

[where are the 2Vs?]
it was so funny most visitors asked my two angels if there were the singers in 2v1g. the 2Vs must not be so easily exposed. maybe next year i would book a room for 2v1g to perform live in KLIAV, how about that?

av xpress stall with 2v1g cds - the simplest stall in the whole show!

have to resort to "shock" worked!

[shock but honest marketing]
on the first day, i didn't have any promotional posters and a testing station for potential customers and the sales were no good. the next day i printed these posters with some honest words about the 2v1g cd and i had a marantz cd player with a headphone for testing and phew! the sales were tripled!

rubbing shouders with martin reynolds of dCs

did i say the scarlatti costs Rm270,000?

[ only the rich needs to apply]
opulent tone from s'pore with their dCs gear on display only. one clueless visitor pointed to the dCs scarlatti and asked me "is this an amplifier?". i had a good chat with dCs resident engineer, martin reynolds. he doesn't think dCs will ever compromise to do a poor man's version of their Rm270,000 scarlatti, or even the RM65,000 puccini. he doesn't mince his words in saying that the scarlatti is for the financially successful audiophiles. i like you, martin!

krell driving the avalon isis in norman audio

goldmund driving the sonus strad

[fully maximizing space]
perfect hifi with their two systems criss-crossing the listening space. the top-end audio research was visibly missing but it does not stop the hordes of visitors going into their room. andy tan was busy like a bee!

me with yoon tuck chee of audio art

marten bird driven by bladelius, with jorma cables

[most analytical sound]
swedish statement with marten speakers. i have always maintained my stand that marten would best be partnered with tube amp. i find the sound here too analytical and too hifi-ish for my liking. whatever, this is not a true reflection of the calibre of marten and bladelius.

chan of cmy, buddy buddy with me - the beautiful usher in the background

[the poor man's rolls royce]
cmy's usher room. the usher's workmanship is truly amazing and its sound is promising, despite the less-than-ideal hotel room conditions. i predict that cmy will sell the usher by the loads. the ever affable mr. chan gave me an usher cd which has some really nice recordings. thanks, chan!

the usher driven by naim, with siltech cables

simon choy of music by design. his magna turntable only costs RM6,500

this sound from music by design is the most analogue of all!

winner of the best sound of the show - audio matic with adam speakers being driven by bladelius

[best sound of the show]
(in my book, that is) - eugene's audio matic, with adam ribbon speaker with active sub, being driven by bladelius amp, with my favourite audionet ART g2 as source. one could tell eugene was serious in making sure his room sounds good. his dedication is exemplary. well done, eugene!

john sin of c&o audiophile enterprise - nice onix strata speakers at the back

[affordable high-end]
the beautiful highs of the ribbon tweeters are unmistakable. the strata is good, despite some boomy bass. this is an affordable high-end speaker to watch out for.

wong tatt yew of audio note - a decent setup, probably the runners-up of the best sound of the show

[sorely missing his china girl assistant]
wong tatt yew's audio note still attracted crowd with good sound from his avantgarde + audio note system, despite the absence of his well-endowed china female assistant. this year, wong spent considerably time to setup his system hence the good sound. besides, no distraction from C-cupped china doll. good work, wong!

eggleston nine being driven by pass labs - centre circle audio

all mbl setup in a&l audio - wah chai was the man in charge

harbeth from tropical audio - a hole in the middle?

[a hole in the middle]
tropical audio's harbeth setup. i don't agree with the unconventional speaker positioning. how about you? but sam is such a nice guy ;-)

hifi choice from penang - wavac driving acapella horn

analogue setup in zest audio - j.c.verdier with holfi electronicis

bee wu of zest audio looking prosperous

and finally [family reunion]
tong lee with their entourage of indon maids/helpers and bored-looking senior citizens. jenny was having a field day with throng of customers, which included yours truly. i bought an el-cheapo headphone for 2v1g cd testing at my stall. ling, as usual, was looking sweaty and corporate with his tie and long-sleeve white shirt. i am sure the cash register at tong lee was ringing non-stop.

he calls himself the commander-in-chief; he names his biz "helter skelter" not because he likes the ride in amusement park but because he is a big fan of the fab 4.

we used to be partners in music exchange; we couldn't get along and i ended up selling the entire biz to him. but it doesn't stop me from promoting his biz here. i am a very gracious guy.

helter skelter is the biggest record stockist in malaysia, with over 40,000 pieces and still counting and what's more, he has started a blog to promote his LPs.

if anything, i respect him as a bona fide music lover with immense passion, unlike the typical posers you find among the audiophile circle who call themselves music lovers. hint hint: those who only collect audiophile-approved LPs.

so visit helter skelter today and find your treasure!

sorry for the silence for the last few days. please give me some time for my brief report on the KLIAV show.

finally, for av xpress readers outside kl, hope we make it up for you by providing a pdf version in rapid share and youshare!

you can print in color printer (if you want to appreciate the beautiful ads) or black and white if you just want to read the articles.

interesting to note that this is the best printed issue of av xpress so far because we have terminated the previous printer and now changed to a new one for good. the quality of print (as well as our ad design) is very good, s-o-o-o-o much better than our competitor.

some complained that it is still too thin. well, i know, i know. we have limited resources and it is a free bulletin. also, the cost of raw paper has increased by 40%, just so you know.

in future, we would reduce drastically the number of hard copies and hope that most of you would download from here or here

enjoy. remember to give us some feedback!

[apologies: the pages are not sequenced properly due to our conversion method. please arrange it based on the page number]

admittedly, i haven't watched a hollywood movie as brilliant as dark knight for the longest time. i must say the late heath ledger, who played the joker role to the tilt, stole the entire show from christian bale, the batman. heath was even better than jack nicholson who played the same role in 1989 tim burton's batman. there were tons of witty one-liners and wise-cracks throughout the movie, the best being the one from the joker - "what doesn't kill you, makes you stranger".

what has the dark knight gotta do with hifi? i could think of a few things. this is the best batman, or possibly the best comic-book-adapted superhero movie ever made. it makes all the previous batman movies irrelevant. just like in hifi, especially in the digital playback and audiophile cable arena, we see one best product 5 years ago being "bested" by another so often. this is good for the industry as well as the end-users. just as we have to thank director christopher nolan for churning a winning blockbuster like dark knight, we have to thank many hifi designers who work tirelessly to up the ante for the state-of-the-art in high-end hifi and music reproduction.

and the tone of the movie is dark, just like some systems but its pace is so furious and relentless that the audience/listener is kept on the edge of the seat throughout the entire performance. at the end of the performance, the audience's/listener's energy is totally sapped... what's left behind is a visual/aural performance that will be cherished for a long time.

we need many more breakthru movies like dark knight from hollywood, just as we need many more breakthru hifi products from the designers all over the world.

this is the hifi week in malaysia and we take this opportunity to salute those designers who have contributed immensely to the pursuit of excellence in the high-end industry.

[1] a dealer called me up and asked me what's the best cd(s) to play at the hifi show because he is sick of the typical audiophile cds. i told him: teddy robin and cheer chen, if his system can handle it. to me, teddy cd is still the best chinese audiophile recording of the year. we would aspire one day to record something like that but it would still be a long way for us before we reach that standard.

[2] with the double- run of stage III gryphon in my system, i just listen to music and stop analyzing. which is a good thing to a perfectionist like me.

[3] lily chen has left rain forest label, the label that launched her career as the most sought after audiophile singer in the chinese audiophile music industry. has fame caught up with her? i shudder to think what will happen to 2v1g if success gets into their head.

[4] i am shortlisting the best musicians for the next audiophile album project. i need a top-notch (jazz) arranger, for a start. any recommendations?

[5] a lot of dealers reported poor business of late, citing the fact that "most people are waiting for the hifi show". is that really the case? i personally think audiophiles only buy affordable stuff at the show and not the expensive stuff.

[6] i will be distributing av xpress in the KLIAV show at level 4, the same floor as all the cd stalls, at the same time, selling 2v1g cds. if you see a good-looking guy manning the stall with two pretty gals, come to say "hi" to me.

[7] talking about pretty gals, i hope tong lee won't hire indonesian maids as their helpers this time. just joking, ling.

if i say i didn't expect it, i would be lying. 2v1g has become the best-selling and most talked-about audiophile cd in malaysia and possibly in singapore. and just this morning, i got the latest news from hk that it is chosen as the "CD OF THE MONTH" by the most authoritative hifi magazine in hong kong "AUDIOPHILE" [发烧音响], just how cool can it get?

while i am basking in this glory, i have also moved on to another project, which i conceived last night. i want to create another sensational audiophile act. i have the full plan on my table now and you shall hear more about it in this column.

i am going to invest in 2 pairs of the stage III concepts ASP gryphon, both for my home use as well as the recording studio use. can you imagine the gryphon working in the recording studio? that would be heavenly, wouldn't it? ;-)

many of you may not realize why 2v1g sounds good in many systems. that's because i have a good reference system to monitor the sound. i have also groomed my recording engineer to be a discerning audiophile by exposing him to many first-class recordings, played in my system.

as a malaysian, i am proud that we have created something that has international appeal. 2v1g is a small miracle in the local chinese music industry.

[this article is taken from av xpress issue #3]

This year's KLIAV is here again! Hi-Fi show is a religious pilgrimage that any serious audiophile would attend annually. Malaysia has its own, called the Kuala Lumpur International Audio Visual Show (KLIAV show) which is held annually in J.W.Marriot hotel. While the show can vary year to year with different themes and products on display, it is interesting to know that the different personalities among hi-fi show goers remain unchanged over the years.

[1] Pasar Malam shoppers

This type of audiophiles comes just to hunt for bargains. Whether it is that Wattgate or Hubbell IEC plug, or even the mass-market DVD players, he comes with a purpose. He will compare prices, haggle tirelessly and even ask for complimentary gifts. He will be happiest if the item comes with EPP (Easy Payment Plan). This sort of audiophiles derives the greatest satisfaction from hifi shows because they get to spend and buy lots of things that they would normally not spend on. They help to improve the economy of the hifi shows! We need them!

Advice: Bring a credit card with enough credit limit

[2] Flyers collectors

He would collect any papers in sight, from any booth, anywhere… nothing can escape him. He would end up with a bag of flyers and promo materials, ready for home reading. Some fanatics even keep flyers from previous years as collector’s items. For those with ulterior motives in mind, it is also a chance to chat up the sexy promoters who always dress up in skimpy shorts and revealing tops, and ask for their phone numbers or MSN contacts.

Advice: Bring a bag big enough to contain all those flyers. Also, some extra business cards for those sexy promoters.

[3] Talk-Cock-Sing-Song-ers

Ha, the same old faces surface in every hifi show! Ubiquitous. Omnipresent. You see them everywhere. They are the perennial feature in hifi shows. You see them in Amcorp Mall, in City Square, hanging out in all the hifi shops in town. They would go from showroom to showroom, looking for their friends to chat, the more the merrier. Most of them get their complimentary passes from their dealer friends and they will hang out till the last minute every day. Topics of discussion range from the latest hifi upgrade, the latest visit to an audiophile’s home, which room sounds the best/worst, to the prettiest promoter with the shortest skirt in the show.

Advice: Bring a stool or chair if you get too tired standing

[4] Serious listeners

Don’t ever disturb them if you find them with their eyes closed, sitting still in the sweet spot inside the showroom, else you risk getting a verbal wrath from them.

These audiophiles are a serious bunch. They have waited for the hifi show to sample the latest esoteric gear. Even with another 50 persons camped inside the claustrophobic showroom, you won’t distract them from concentrating on the music. And they are the ones that will talk to the designer/manufacturer in great length and detail. They would also attend the show every single day to make sure they get to listen to the system for a 2nd or 3rd time!

Also, they will come will their own audiophile-approved CDs!

Advice: Wear a T-shirt printed with “Leave Me Alone” or “Silent, Please”.

[5] Cheap CD hunters

Yeah, they come solely for the CDs! Plenty of audiophile CDs would be on discount and it is a delight for those who really want to buy the latest software!

In recent years, Chinese audiophile CDs is a big hit. Selling at below RM30, most Chinese folks find them affordable.

Buying CDs is the greatest reward for any visitor to hifi show. At least you don’t leave the show without buying anything!

Advice: Defer all your CD purchases until you visit the show!

So, which type of personality are you? Whichever, do enjoy this year’s KLIAV show!

the 2v1g had a rehearsal at my house tonight... it is definitely better than the overly-hyped stage III gryphon ;-)

this is live performance!

watch how amazing roger wang played john lennon's "imagine" (watch the tail end of the song where roger teases with harmonics!). the arrangement is done by his idol, tommy emmanuel!

who would have guessed - 2v1g received an invitation from no black tie (NBT) to perform a gig there in september!

NBT, long regarded as the premier jazz club in downtown kl, is the meeting place for musicians, jazz lovers and casual music lovers who want a classy place for good music. the acoustics there is first class too.

we are delighted! well, we are definitely keen but we have to sit down to discuss with everyone in the team tomorrow night, when we rehearse for our press conference on friday.

2v1g's press conference is going to be held on friday 18th july 2008, at 3pm-4pm at precious old china cafe, central market.

if you happen to be around that area at that time, do drop by and get your remaining autograph from roger wang!

if we do decide to do the gig, hope you guys can come and support ya!

another issue of av xpress ready for distribution in the hifi show next week!

i struggled with every issue of publication because i did everything myself (except the graphics la) but every time i look at the finished product, i feel good that i did it.

av xpress is not a magazine of international standards (nor it wants to be) but a big effort from someone who really wants to share with you people with a single objective in mind - to have fun in hifi. also to let you in on an open secret, i really don't care how many advertisers are with me!

in the past, i have always injected humor in the magazine but later i realized that many audiophiles are not funny people; they failed to appreciate the humor in the magazine; they really wanted hardcore stuff! so you want hardcore, i give you hardcore. so this time - we have hardcore hardware reviews by hifi kaki and master ken!

this time we are going to have a downloadable pdf version in this blog!


Hello Leslie,

It is a pleasure to meet you.

I offer my most humble thanks for such a glowing review of our cable!

We were really hoping our A.S.P. Gryphon would win the shoot out, but we certainly did not expect such an overwhelming victory. Honestly we were more concerned with beating the Audioquest Sky (which is more similar to our design) than the Kubala-Sosna.

I certainly appreciate your admiration, but please be assured, I am no genius (nor am I fortunate enough to have one in my staff).

The A.S.P. line was designed using common sense and employing the physics of electrical transmission to our advantage; not to mention, endless trial-and-error. As I'm sure you know, perfect measurements and ideal specifications often mean nothing when it comes to audio design. In the end we simply chose what sounded best to our ears, and we are thrilled that you concur with our findings.

Rest easy, there is little chance of Stage III going mainstream. I must admit, I am a bit of a control-freak, especially when it comes to my products. I prefer to supervise and be involved in the construction every cable we make, so mass-production is out of the question. The last thing the Audio world needs is another "how-cheap-can-we-make-it-factory-assembly-line-cable".

I must now congratulate you on your very informative and entertaining blog. I try to keep up with new postings whenever I can.

I hope you think this is appropriate, but I would like to post a response to your review as well as thank the many readers for their input and support.

Please keep in touch.

Once again, our most sincere thanks (and to hifikaki) for the extensive analysis and fantastic review.

All the best,

Luis de la Fuente

p.s. thanks for the "Audio Oscar", I'll cherish it. ;-)

I got to the battlefield at 10 this morning. The victor was strutting its stuff at centre stage. There were cables lying all around, literally, on the carpet in front of the system. It was not a pretty sight... No, no, hang on, it was actually quite a pretty sight, it was rare to get so many high end cables in the same room at the same time, and one did not just get to ogle but also listen to them in action…heavenly!

I plonked myself in the listening seat and maggielurva proceeded to play all his normal test CDs. Well, we already knew how taken maggielurva was by the ASP Gryphon, so I thought let’s see how much better it was in the normal hifi departments – I proceeded to analyze its performance in the bass, mid, treble, its resolution, its soundstaging capability etc. etc… Before long, I realized that it was all quite pointless. It was as if the ASP Gryphon was gently telling me that those were the wrong questions to ask. The appropriate question with the Stage III Concepts ASP Gryphon was “How Real Is It?”.

Before we get to that, let me quickly dispose of the hifi analysis stuff – in maggielurva’s system, the bass was excellent, it came on strong and even rattled my listening seat; the mid was as textured and palpable as ever; the treble was smooth and clean; the soundstage was wider and deeper, much deeper, it was more 3-dimensional than before; the resolution was first rate.

Then, the Gryphon went much ahead, to say that it was good in this and that was not appropriate. The music from maggielurva’s system was presented with an ‘oneness’ so complete that you could not but recognize it as ‘real’. For me to be able to understand / analyze this fully I’m afraid I’d need more time. I might just want to say that it was organic, it was seamless, it had natural flow…and they were all correct. I also thought that they got the ‘musical tension’ part right too (very very right). Some systems tend to tighten the tension a tad too much, that may give a sense of excitement but makes you grit your teeth some time. Some loosen it a tad too much, the music presentation may be relax but can also become lethargic and uninteresting. Maggielurva’s system with the ASP Gryphon got it right on every disc played, and it had the knack to get it right according to the music, like on the slow, atmospheric Rickie Lee Jones, and on the hard-charging and rocked out Teddy Robin.

The music through maggielurva’s system with the ASP Gryphon this morning was so real, it was like I was going to the concerts – I had 2v1g and Rickie Lee Jones performing in maggielurva’s hall live for me. I think there can’t be any higher accolade.

What about the vanquished? The Kubala-Sosna Emotion, the Stage III Concepts Magnus, and the Audioquest Sky, they were all excellent cables in their own right. Their performance in many of the hifi areas was beyond reproach, but none got into the ASP Gryphon’s territory of ‘realness’. I’ll leave it to maggielurva to tell you the shootout results. Let’s just say that - first, there was the Stage III Concepts ASP Gryphon, and then there was every one else.

Today’s listening session with the Stage III Concepts ASP Gryphon was quite a revelation.

[addendum by maggielurva]

final relative score:

[1] stage III concepts asp gryphon - 100/100
[2] kubala-sosna emotions - 80/100 (tie)
[2] stage III concepts magnus - 80/100 (tie)
[4] audioquest sky - 75/100

please click on the above description of asp gryphon and read, word by word, what louis fuente said about his own crown jewel.

it sounds like the typical marketing blitz but if you, like me, have experienced the performance enormity of this cable then you would agree, word by word, what louis said about his cable.

"spatial presentation like nothing you have ever heard with a completely palpable, lifelike soundscape. literally an open window into your music as well as the the full potential of your system".

what brilliant words, what succinct accuracy!

what we have here is a low-key super-genius designer who is so uncompromising and perfectionist in his pursuit of excellence that if ever he goes mass-market or mainstream, he would lose every single bit of this brilliance and be submerged in the sea of mediocrity plaguing many mass-market cable manufacturers today.

i am at a loss of words, at how stage III concepts ASP gryphon, changed my perspectives in hifi. i am forever indebted to louis fuente, who opened my ears and my heart to what is possible with audiophile cables.

this is a definitive product worthy of an oscar award in hifi.

p/s my pair of asp gryphon is the first pair in asia ;-)

p/s next we will discuss the merits of kubala-sosna emotion, despite the loss

[clash of the titans - stage III asp gryphon vs kubala-sosna emotion]

[xhadow vs neutrik]

it was a gory scene. it was a blood fest. it was violent.

it was like uma thurman with her bruce lee jersey killing the villain in the final duel, with dead bodies of baddies scattered everywhere in the scene where the ultimate duel takes place. it was a perfect quentin tarantino finishing. he would have made of a cult movie out of this.

i can't even begin to describe how brutal and clinical the battle was. the winner just finished off the battle - the way lucy liu in "kill bill" chopping off the head of the japanese guy who opposed her, using her samurai sword (with blood juice squirting out from his head for that extra special effect) - in just 1:30:34:57 minute. ok, i exaggerate, i didn't actually have a stop watch but the time should most likely be 00:30:34:57. yes, in exactly 30 seconds the winner killed off the loser, with little drama but plenty of blood. brutal.

whatever the loser has, the winner has it 2-3 times more. it is no longer about individual aspects of hifi criteria (i mean i don't have a sonic checklist when i evaluated these two cables), it is about everything in totality; it is about music-making ability in totality. the winner has the proverbial "opening up the sonic window" effect in the most accurate and mind-blowing sense of the word. forget about it, you would never understand what i am talking about here without listening it to the winning cable in the right system. the sonic soundscape proferred by the winner is so realistic and convincing that it left my mouth agape, eyes wide open, trying hard to search for adjectives to describe this stupendous experience.

i will be frank here. this is as good as a cable can get. this is state-of-the-art. this is how god intended audiophile cables to be. cynics and detractors of high-end, high-priced audiophile cables can go home and bask in his self-glorifying contentment that their systems sound good even without splurging on cables, after all you don't miss what you can't afford or what your system can't tell. ignorance is bliss.

it was fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, that hifi kaki couldn't make it this morning to my house so his AQ sky skipped the battle unscathed. but i doubt it would make any difference to the final results.

in the next few posts, i would do a technical analysis on the battle.

btw, not that you haven't guessed, the winner is stage III concepts ASP gryphon and the loser is kubala-sosna emotion.

more to come... kill bill (part 2) where kubala fights for 2nd place with AQ sky.

reader limkh - you can collect your winnings from me ;-)

[click to enlarge]

perhaps, more than anyone aged below 35, i witnessed the progression of adelphi shopping centre - the mecca of hifi in s'pore - for the last 20 years.

started in the 1990, adelphi didn't really change much even after 20 years. the serene quietness of the place, the breezy ambience of the mall, have largely remained the same over the years.

adelphi's tenant mix comprises of majority of hifi shops, beauty salons and tour agencies. it is never a happening place, even on weekends. hifi shops are never meant for masses.

the serenity of adelphi provides the perfect backdrop for audiophiles to relax and chill. the only visible movement in adephi is the constant changeover of tenancy among the hifi dealers. more than other kind of retail business, hifi shops come and go, only a few like reference audio and kingsley have been there for the longest time.

recently, one forumer in echoloft featured this particular unconventional audio shop that is doing brisk business and pulling in crowd like no other. it is not high-end audio but head-fi! jaben, apparently has its own blog and forum, where its owner shares his experiences and audio journey with his customers. it is the unique customer interaction that wins jaben a big following.

it is good to know that adelphi has finally got an audio store that caters to crowd of all ages!

mind sharing your adelphi experience with us? ;-)

temperature is rising at bandar utama....

the whole shipment of the latest stage III concepts top models are waiting for me to collect. louis fuente, the designer, has specifically passed the instruction to me to ask me to audition their top-range ASP gryphon interconnect against the best that's available in malaysia. such guts, such audacity! i love it!

while hifi kaki will be bringing his AQ sky to battle out with kubala-sosna emotion...

bandar utama is going to turn into a 3-way battlefield with AQ, Kubala and Stage III all fighting for supremacy....

blood shed! i want to see blood!

well, since kubala-sosna emotion was not fairly evaluated the last time (due to a faulty XLR plug), i am giving a 2nd chance.

besides, there is something about kubala's density in the mids that had me thinking....

in hifi, there is no certainty, one just have to be adventurous.


I have not listened to my system for 2 days due to work commitment. I fired it up again yesterday and was pleasantly surprised with the changes. My, my, the occasional brightness that I noted earlier was gone, and the mid bass took on some more weight. I got back almost all of the bass weight that I enjoyed before. An even better thing was that the bass now presented even more details, with speed and impact that was approaching the bass performance of higher grade disc spinners (like Esoteric SA60 and Audionet ART G2) when they were coupled to my previous cables. Pairing the Sky with these high performance players should prove to be an ‘ear-opener’, but alas, they were no longer with me.

I believe the DBS on the AQ Sky worked, because it was the only additional thing that was ‘on’ in my system for the last 2 days (as usual, the CD player and monoblocks were in standby and the pre-amp was always on). I don’t know whether this means that the DBS has fully charged the dielectric, let’s see whether there will be further changes, we should know in the next few days.

There were other improvements – I was already happy with the Sky’s performance during the first listen, but apparently they still had something up their sleeves. I was listening to 2V1G, and it slowly dawned on me that the disc has never played with such conviction in my system. On Winnie’s ‘Coming Home’ (track 1), the improvement in midrange and treble transparency allowed all the nuances in her singing through vividly. Her angst and yearnings on this track was so clearly conveyed that its impact was almost overwhelming. I have never experienced this level of emotional intensity from this track before in my system. Impressive performance, impressive recording!

Next up, I’d probably try some dynamic stuff and see where that leads.

no, this is not a movie review of the classic erotic epic starring daniel day-lewis and the very sensuous lena olin but, rather, it is about the current state of my hifi.

i am taking stock of my own hifi journey for the last 5 years. true, i have assembled a system that many (like hifi kaki!) are envious of but a perfection-seeking audiophile should not be complacent and "just be happy listening to the music". we can't achieve perfection in hifi but at least when you aim for perfection, your end-results won't be very far from it.

this realization comes fresh on the departure of audionet ART g2, a piece of gear that truly shook my aural senses and makes me realize the inadequacies of my system, and these inadequacies are what i cheekily call here "the unbearable lightness of being".

i have always thought that i have maximized the synergy of every component of my system such that not many "challengers" (i.e. other higher-priced stuff) can penetrate into my system and better the synergy. this has largely been true all these years. even higher priced goldmund cdp, esoteric cdp or even the kubala-sosna emotion can't convince me that i need to change my system. not until audionet ART g2 came along.

the audionet taught me a thing or two about headroom, energy and drive, and that very important element i called density. some like to call it heft but i prefer to call it density. this density gives weight to vocals, piano lines, kick drums and almost everything. when you don't have it, you won't realize it. but once you tasted it, you can't turn back. without this density, music is ever so light, so unbearably light; not realistic anymore.

however, the audionet is not perfect. its most impactful effect was to teach me a real lesson in wanting more from your hifi. it taught me to be greedy. yes, i know how far my system can go now and i want more.

in my aural journey from now on, i want to seek that illusive density so addictive to my ears. it may be a new pair of gold+silver interconnect, or upgrade of cdp.... whatever, i am determined to chase my new goals...

i don't want this unbearable lightness of hifi being.

i have lauded swedish statement (from s'pore) more than once for making bladelius, audionet and marten from unknown identities into almost household names in malaysia/s'pore in the short span of 2 years in business. just recently, i was astounded by audionet ART g2 cd player. 2 weeks after its departure, i still couldn't quite come to terms with my meridian g08.

it just goes to show that good products will sell on its own. of course, a large of part of swedish statement's success lies on its two very hard-working malaysian dealers, audio matic and audio art.

two new products which are going to be unveiled in the july hifi show - the bladelius saga preamp and bladelius ymer power amp. too quote from bladelius website "saga is the newest two channel preamp that supersedes its all previous preamps. the double balanced outputs are ideal to drive the beowulf, but it is also an ideal match with the ymer power amp. the power supply is larger than one might find in many integrated or power amplifiers, but here it is used to drive a preamp!".

the 300-watter fully-balanced ymer power amp should be what master ken is looking for to drive his ATC. i hope eugene or ah chee would loan him one for audition soon! ymer boasts an enormous power supply that feeds an impressive array of output transistors with enough power to drive any speaker with out any effort. master ken, are you salivating?

i was told that stock will be arriving soon. those who can't wait to audition, please call eugene (audio matic) at 012-3222698 or ah chee (audio art) at 012-5201066.

new readers here might be wondering why we are so fixated with all things cables. that's because cables are fun to play and you don't need a van to carry them back from the dealer's place to your home for audition/review! i suppose, cables to an audiophile are akin to jewelries to a woman.

i have taken notice of a certain argentum acoustics cables recently. at first, i thought it is the same danish argento audio company who makes high-end silver conductors. but i was wrong, argentum is from canada's ultralink/xlo and they use ultra-pure, cryogenically treated, continuously cast copper conductors in teflon dielectrics for its interconnects, speaker cables and power cords. alas, no silver is in sight.

in fact, the argentum acoustics proteus 12 power cord even carries a US patent (No. 5,110,999) for its "counter-spiral wound, multi-gauge, multi-core design with double shielding and double grounding."

the mention of xlo brings back memories of early 1990s, a time when xlo was the fave among malaysian audiophiles. those days, xlo was competing head-to-head with AQ and cardas mainly in the malaysian hifi turf. i had xlo interconnect before. the sound was fast but very lean, too lean for my liking. i soon dumped xlo and went for my first silver cable - siltech! xlo did make a comeback in the last couple of years but their presence has largely gone unnoticed.
so i am game to try argentum. any dealers out there who want to apply distributorship for argentum, i can certainly help ;-)

(Looks like maggielurva beat me to the headlines by a few hours, hehe…. )

After I reviewed the Siltech Forbes Lake G6 SATT interconnects, I was certain that my cabling set-up was a weak link. I absolutely loved what the Forbes Lakes did to my system, but I could not afford the admission. I so badly needed something to move my system further along, something that hopefully would not burn as big a hole in my pocket.

Maggielurva has been dropping hints here and there about silver cables since I came to know him. And suddenly I started seeing silver everywhere – my first review assignment of Siltech; master ken’s system has silver in it; CK’s system has silver in it. Maggielurva even lured me with his Stage III Concept silver cables by loaning them to me to try out in my own system, not once but twice! (this guy is bad influence :-) ) What I heard with my ears (the music that is, not the endless raving about silver), convinced me that silver was definitely a road worth going down.

So when the opportunity came along to acquire a 2nd hand pair of Audioquest Sky interconnects at an attractive price, I jumped at it. When I started writing this, they have been in my system for less than 5 hours, their DBS was still charging up, I believe, as they came disconnected. But what I heard did not just put a smile on my face, it actually caused a few chuckles and laughs. No, I was not laughing at my old cables, I was just too excited with what the AQ Sky did to my system. If their effect holds after a few hundred hours, and a few quibbles resolved, then I am in for a real treat.

The lesser of my interconnects – JPS Labs’ Superconductor FX could not hold a candle to the Sky (they are at 1/5 the list price, mind you). The other, a pair of JPS Superconductor 2 (at 1/2 the price), fared better but still beaten in almost all areas, but that was with the FX at the back end while swapping the Sky and the Superconductor 2 in front. I can’t say for sure how big the gap is until I can find another pair of Sky so that I can have a fully Sky’ed chain.

What the Sky told me in this very short span of time was that it has:

Resolution –the proverbial window onto the sound was not just merely cleaned, it was wide open. My ears were in direct contact with the music with no filtering effect in between.

Energy – It was like having a kick up the backside of the music. The musicians and singers sounded more committed to their music making and have more energy and power (contrast that with leisurely or lethargic).

Dimensionality – each sound image became more 3- dimensional. Vocal was not just about the mouth but now came attached with more of a body

Soundstaging capability – the soundstage expanded both in width and depth. More impressive on the depth part – I could better discern soundstage depth and layering which was all along my system’s Achilles’ heel (but in absolute sense still got some way to go, since it is limited by space)

The Sky still have some residual brightness (heard on trumpets and female vocal), which I hope will go away with more play time on the cables and the DBS. The bass went deeper but was thinned out a bit, not that it was a totally bad thing for my system, since it can get slightly heavy at times previously, I’ll wait and see whether I need to work further on this aspect.

Let’s see what happen after a few hundred hours, I’ll post the updates here. Treat this as an initial impression.

I have to thank maggielurva for introducing me to this silver ‘poison’.

P.S., credit also goes to maggielurva for the title of this blog entry, this is what he said to me when we talked about the AQ Sky. :-)