i am not one who can be satisfied easily but this system has so many things done right. i have never been a fan of mr.ki's system in all his previous incarnations but tonight i am a convert. the most impressive factors that got me hooked are the scale, versatility and tonal balance.
this post could alternatively be titled "the best sound i heard in 2008", or "ls3/5a redefined" or "a new chapter in ls3/5a".

ok, let's cut to the chase: i have listened to many systems this year and nothing quite competes with what i heard tonight at mr.jo ki's house, the local ls3/5a guru.

i have no reasons to butter up mr. ki, yet i feel like urging everyone to go to his house and have a listen. my last visit was close to 1 year ago. at that time, it was still a "traditional" ls3/5a sound to me - small-scale, miniature, tidy and neat. but today, this girl has turned into a beautiful woman, with scale, dynamics approaching a mid-range box speaker. you think that's easy to achieve? ask any ls3/5a user.

what stands out is a tonal balance that's is very similar to mine - evenly balanced and just done right. you think that's easy to achieve? ask anyone who's been that path. the highs is an area where mr. ki's system has improved by leaps and bounds and i immediately detected "silver" in the system, to which, mr. ki's admitted "yes, i use audio note silver speaker cables!". the highs have good extension and are full-bodied, something which i place so much importance on. most highs are thin and shrilly but the highs i heard tonight are pretty cool. and do i have to tell you that i am very critical in highs? and, mind you, it can play loud to quite a decent level without any strain. it is like the system has broken all previous physical boundaries of ls3/5a and morphed into another beast. another winning aspect is the versatility of the system. throw any music at it and it will play convincingly. this ls3/5a is no longer limited to vocals-only music.

elsewhere, all the previous virtues of his system remain intact - the imaging, the focus, the soundstaging. hardcore lovers of ls3/5a would not be disappointed but would be shocked that this miniature has such grown-up sound. i urge all the ls3/5a users in malaysia to learn from mr. ki on how to transform this little girl into a woman. beg him, if you need to.

i could have asked for a wee bit more transparency, a wee bit more immediacy, a wee bit more sparkles in the highs but that's being anal and over-critical. what is presented to me is a "complete" and "full" (i always emphasize the importance of "completeness" and "fullness" in sound) soundscape that's not lacking in any areas. many systems i listened to this year are "cacat' (malay word for handicapped) in one area or another. but this system is complete.

what's the secret? what has he done in the last 12 months? i asked the same questions that you have in mind. mr.ki said it is the sum of all the little parts he did, like tweaking with qi cones, changing his wadia transport to lab 47 transport, changing his passive preamp to diva active preamp, multiple visits to other audiophiles' homes and learned all the virtues of others and incorporate into his system, all these add up to a quantum leap that i heard tonight.

to sum up - mr.ki no longer needs to keep telling people (apologetically sometimes) that this is only a ls3/5a-based system and it could only do so much. his system can complete with many systems many times its price. this is the greatest compliment i can think of.

like me, mr. ki confesses that he has come a long way since i last visited him 1 year ago. we have all improved; we have all been enlightened; and funnily, we are all heading towards same sonic path and sonic goals.

smart people think alike or fools seldom differ? you decide ;-)

ki's system major transformation keeps me awake till 3am this morning. i still couldn't fathom why the sound has transformed from a relatively "less" sound to a "more", "full" and "complete" sound. it finally dawns on me that the answer lies in his change from a passive pre to a active pre. truth be told, i have never been a proponent of passive pre. tho' the sound is purer and it has more microdynamics, it doesn't have the meat, fullness, scale and the dynamics of the best of active pre.

another aspect worthy of mention is how easy to discern a good pressing from a inferior pressing in ki's system. i bought mr.ki a taiwan pressing of my fave cd (mr. ki has the china pressing) - cheer chen "a fabulous adventure" - and from the first note, we could already tell that the taiwan pressing is miles ahead of the china pressing. this is one of the hallmarks of a highly revealing system and i am glad to say, ki's system has it in spades.

ok, i can go back to sleep now ;-)


Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of listening to Jo's setup b4 the AV show and it sounded great then. I was told it is different by leaps and bounds now. He's truly the God of the LS3/5a. I am so glad to read this review of his system.

Anonymous said...

was it "live feel" as suggested by km ng?

Anonymous said...

Are you sure its the same girl? LS3/5A is the design, Mr Ki who has many pairs may have been using one pair the last time you visited and another one this time. All LS3/5A designs should excel in vocals but not all have a full top end unless they keep to the original design.
I also noticed you did not mention his sub.
On paper your 3.6 should be a little better (you have in a way said this) in every department except for bass (because Mr Ki would have been using his sub).
BTW it may not sound the same next time you visit if he changes speakers again. :)

kiarch said...

Thank you for your visit Les. I am please that my system can live-up to your standard knowingly Maggie and its virtues, compare to mine, a seal box aged miniature - such daunting extreme.

Indeed it is true,LS3/5A has not much sound, so what amount it has, all are harvested for good purpose. What you have heard last night was a case in time for my journey has never standstill; on the other hand, it was never a roller coaster ride too due to its limiting factors.

Diva Classic 1H pre managed to knock-out my Cello Etude passive pre, and you are right in saying that my active pre did a lot of good to my system especially in image density(bod or mass). I also find 47 Lab's Flatfish has contributed a lot in the tonal structure of the spectrum; this has helped in the panning of realism in the high frequency and to overall improvements in my system. Almost as immediately, I remembered TORUS power isolation which has done rather similar effects, then inevitably, AOR Ref 003 power cord comes to mind, then the tweaks & isolations gadgets..,my AB-1 and sub; I have to do a lot for it to sound good enough for me.

For all that I have been through, they are multi-facetted with compromising approached on each; take the best compromise for least trade-off is the rule of the game.

I am still learning. So please be gentle to this 'woman'. TX.

To Anonymous, you are right also, there is always AB-1 and sub in my system, when Les visited me last night and his previous visits, the same AB-1 and sub were used. What has changed is the power amp; I am using Leak TL12.1 currently which gives much better density in sound comparatively. But against TL12+, the heights of TL12.1 is no way comes near. Likewise, if the Bluesky did not suffered the dismissal of its power trans, it would have had sufficient immediacy of a live-like performance. However, changing of different pair of LS3/5A do not contribute such level of difference.