The CD is fun to listen too because it made my humble if, flawed system sounded like a million bucks! Staging and imaging stability is good, with very balanced tone presentation. The CD cover's tag line "Be there", and this CD did just that! It brought me "there" to the music.
i have this cool idea to convert av xpress into a youtube video on the internet! the reason this is more effective than hardcopy magazine is because it saves papers; saves printing costs; dispenses with writing (and having good writers to write!); dispenses with distribution; it is globally available and many hifi personalities i know don't have time to write and capturing/interviewing them on video is the best way to get them to share their views. more importantly, it is visual! you can see all the hifi gear in action, instead of static display on the magazine!
i haven't thought out the exact format yet but for a particular issue, i would cover new products introductions, dealer visits, audiophile home visits, invite one or more hifi personality to my house to review albums - we would talk about the singer, the arrangement, the mastering engineering, the recording quality etc etc. as we talk, we would intersperse with songs from the album so it won't be so boring.
tentatively, it would be a monthly program with 30-minute duration.
many record shops love the review section of av xpress cos it helps them to promote albums but now that the magazine is temporary suspended, i would like to have another channel to promote the music industry (and hifi industry), which is in terribly bad shape now.
the youtube videos (and all it archives) will reside in this blog as i don't intend to start another blog.
i believe we are the first one to do this sort of project! gonna be helluva fun!
panzer, hifikaki, i am counting on you guys to help me out! of course, you will be paid ;-)
p/s just did a check on technical feasibility on loading a 30-min long video on youtube. looks like it is only possible on google video, and not youtube.
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 ;-)
I remember my first time witness to a DIY shoot out session very well. It was a cordial event held at a senior DIY-er's home whose system was deemed most suitable to host, i.e. system sonics has to of rather high standards and allow easy access to plug and unplug components for the shoot out.
The star of the shoot out was 3 versions of the much loved Marantz 7 pre amp. All three pre amps are built based on the very same schematic that is legendary in sound quality, but each version had different parts on it and various degrees of circuitry tweaks to reflect the builder's musical taste and personalised work signature.
I remember vividly that each version of the Marantz 7 sounding very different from one another. However, with great show of respect for each other and the subjective truth, all three of the builders gentlemanly settle the score and concluded, based on what they heard and elected the best sounding pre amp of the day. Four of us sat down for a cuppa after the shoot out where everyone shared their build experience. It was a great day for a DIY student like me, to be in the company of experienced old timers.
Today, I am just as excited as I am posting out a batch of PCBs(Printed Circuit Board)to a group of DIY-ers, where I am about to meet again in 3 months time, to hopefully witness another great and cordial DIY shoot out session.
MKIII Test Board
This time round, the star of the shoot out would be Carlos's implementation of the AD815 chip pre amp. For more info go to http://www.diyaudio.com/, do a search for Carlos or AD815. The AD815 chip is a telecommunications chips designed by Analog Device to handle high band width A/V applications. However, in the late 1990s, the high end marquee, Jeff Rowland was pairing this chip with the Crystal CS3310 volume chip for use on their flagship Coherence pre amp( see review on http://www.stereophile.com/) which was battery powered. Carlos's implementation of the AD815 is rather simplified to make this project very cost effective to build but yet have very musical sound.
The AD815 Chip
The local designer whom helped to make to project possible had retained Carlos's audio signal section of the schematic (on the left hand side of the MKIII board), but choose to use a class A power supply section instead(about 60% from the right side of the MKIII board). I had an AD815 built earlier based on the MKI version boards, which to me sounds musically satisfying when partnered to my LM3886 chip power amp(that will be another story in another time), driving a pair of Epos ES11 then. The bass was tightly controlled and extended very low, the mids had tube like quality and the highs airy. My only gripe was the highs could at times sound a tad grainy. Not bad for a budget build.
My version built on MKI board
The pictures that you see now are the MKIII boards. The improvements of the MKIII boards over the previous versions are, shorter signal paths, improved grounding and a more stable power supply re-design. According to the local project designer, whom wishes to remain anonymous, the MKIII boards in theory should sound better than previous versions, again depending on the builder's tweaks and skills.
So, it's ready, get set, build!
And wishing all those building the project "Have an enjoyable musical time!"
my dealer friend is visiting hong kong this week and he is hunting for his first glass cd, rumoured to reach the hk market recently.
near-perfect glass cd hit stores in akihabara, shibuya japan in late 2006. invented by suenori fukui, it is said that the glass cd is guaranteed to be free from distortion and warp.
as mainichi interactive reports: "as glass CDs are completely transparent, information on them can be read perfectly, improving sound quality. they are not affected by heat or humidity and remain in perfect condition forever." the first glass CD recording is j.s. bach's "air on g string" which was selling for ¥98,700!
music critics who have tried out the CD said that it's outstanding and virtually like listening to a live performance. but mind you, music critics are not necessary audiophiles!
i await with much anticipation for my dealer's glass cd. i am not sure if he has to wrap it up with a "fragile" sticker on top during transit!
look carefully, this ain't ARC! you are smart if you can spot the missing ARC badge ;-)
this is a D.I.Y 300B power amp by a hongkonger. the way they made the chassis looks like ARC is quite funny, which goes to show that chinese can make anything looks like the real mccoy. they are amazing. the D.I.Y community in hong kong is thriving; they even have regular classes whereby they teach wannabes in DIY-ing their hifi.
incidentally, panzer, ever so kind, also lent me his D.I.Y ARC LS25 preamp as an interim measure. i must say the build quality of the preamp is superb. it looks like any commercial product with good weight to boot and it even has a LED screen like the new LS26!
since panzer told me it is still a work-in-progress project, i would be so bold to comment on the sound. it sounds like a malnutrition and under-nourished kid! no kidding, so much is missing, to the extent that i don't know where to start commenting! tho' it is not bad by any measure, it doesn't have the "fullness" and "completeness" of sound and information that i am used to in LS25, or any good preamp. this factor itself is crippling the enjoyment of music.
panzer, sorry, i don't mean to degrade your efforts but it has still some way to go before it can compete with LS25, which i owned previously. however, i would be so glad to lend you my ears if you need to improve on it.
i met sunil, an indian expat who has just migrated to kl, at eugene's audio matic at amcorp mall yesterday.
sunil told me he reads my blog 3-4 times a day and it is thru my blog that he discovers the furutech dealer. at that time, i was totally outraged by something i read in the local chinese hifi magazine which i picked up in eugene's shop. so i was at the two extremes of emotions - elated that i have an appreciative reader and outraged that someone has been launching vicious attacks on me time and again.
thanks, sunil, for all the nice words you said. it is readers like you that make me enjoy my blogging. i also have plenty of appreciative music lovers who told me they love the music that we do because they are sick of the thrash in the market today.
i try not to get into the politics of hifi but sometimes the best form of defence is attack. even our mr. nice guy abdullah badawi will attack back if he is provoked beyond his threshold of tolerance.
at the end of the day, i picked up two very good CDs which really really lifted my day from a mediocre one to one which is musically blissful.
music is a powerful therapy. and in gloomy times like these, we really should find solace in music.
i will be back with more hifi this week.
Some times in life, you take a gamble and it pays off handsomely. That's how I'd describe my purchase decision of the BVSC at Carnegie Hall on a 180gsm x 2 LP set. I had pre-ordered prior the official release date which is on 30th September, and the LPs arrived in perfect condition 2 weeks later.
I've seen the BVSC studio album released 10 years ago advertised in some audiophile mag. I never saw or heard the actual CD/LP prior to this purchase.
I totally just bought by gut feeling, based on the few recordings that I've heard performed in the Carnegie Hall to my liking.
Apparently, the recorded concert was 10 years ago or so, I wondered why it took them so long to release the recording? By now, most of the artist performing on that eventful night would no longer be around to enjoy it.
The music has a core Latin feel, that dates back to a period of romanticism. Side one starts of with some traditional fast numbers like Chan Chan, by the time side two begins with Buena Vista Social Club, the momentum builds up and the music start to get very exciting. Side three sees the musicians peaking and playing as if they are all having the time of their life!, especially Ruben Gonzales on piano. Side four starts to get a little retrospective as the music winds down and closes romantically with a duet called Silencio.
I do not understand Latin or Cuban as languages but this music I like!
And how's the recording? I hear the audiophile in you ask? I would rate it as good as any live recording gets. Like most of the Carnegie Hall recordings that I've heard, the hall ambiance is warm, the staging & imaging aspect is good, with no vocal sibilance. I can't be too sure about it as my vinyl playback front end is pretty modest. It was set up just to play all my exiting old LPs. However, I've lately found myself listening and buying more LPs. Should my financial position permits, an upgrade in this area could happen soon.
Should you feel a little adventurous to try some new, or should I say "old" music, go to http://www.elusivedisc.com/prodinfo.asp?number=WEALP79872
[review by hifi kaki]
I don’t think we have to touch too much on the emergence of Chinese hifi. For a number of years and especially lately, the hifi press has been bombarding us with Chinese-made and Chinese-branded products. Most of the time, it was the tube amps, a product area where the mainland Chinese seems to have a knack in churning out a new model every other day.
The product under scrutiny here though is a CD player, from Shanling – a Chinese hifi company which apparently has been in the hifi business since 1988, and whose operations is currently based in Shenzhen, the boom town on the southern coast of mainland China.
What is in the Shanling?
Shanling – the two Chinese words that made up the name can be loosely translated as “The Spirit of the Mountains”, I could not find any information on the choice of the name though. However it does conjure up a certain image, doesn’t it? Probably it is aimed at describing the company’s house sound – Ethereal? Delicate? Otherworldly? No, No, my impression of the CD300’s sound does not fit any of these descriptions. I’ll come to that later.
This CD player is choked full of features, especially for a unit at this price point. For RM6k, you get a tubed (two 6922s) player; top loading, where the CD is held down with a magnetic puck; rca and xlr analogue outputs; rca and xlr digital outputs; and upsampling to 24bit/192kHz. I went through a few iterations to find the best combination for my extended listening sessions. Let’s go through a couple important ones here:
To 24/192 or not 24/192?
The CD300 had an upsampling feature which converted the data stream to 24bit/192kHz. This feature could be selected via remote or from the fascia. Although the selection could be done on the fly (while music is playing), I suggest you don’t, I got a couple of loud pops from my speakers doing it this way. Stop or pause your CD then do the switching.
The difference with upsampling on or off was not subtle. With upsampling, the images had sharper outlines and better separation, more details emerged, the soundstage expanded, especially in the depth plain. Without upsampling, the sound was warmer and fuzzier. Upsampling it was for me.
To RCA or to XLR?
I thought probably the CD300’s potential owners might not have an amp with xlr input, I decided to check out the difference between the CD300’s rca and xlr outputs. I should do this with the same interconnects, but I didn’t have 2 similar pairs, so I did the comparison with interconnects in similar price range – Wireworld’s Polaris III on rca and JPS Labs’ Superconductor FX on xlr. After adjusting (by ear) for the higher output level from xlr, I found the xlr connection to be superior, the sound opened up slight more, details and clarity improved further. The rca output was slightly warmer which some listeners might like.
I can’t say with 100% certainty that the difference was due to the outputs alone though. Due to the different interconnects and that my Pass Labs X2.5+XA60 amps were fully balanced, xlr might have an advantage in my setup, your mileage might vary.
When I switched xlr interconnects again, from JPS to Audioquest Sky, the CD300’s sound quality went up another notch. The music nuances came through more apparently, the sound was richer, I had a more intense emotional connection with the music. I’m not sure anyone would pair the CD300 with interconnects more expensive than the player itself, but this showed that the CD300 had great potential and would most likely respond to improvements in its partnering equipment.
In the listening sessions, it was AQ Sky via xlr for me then.
The Shanling’s Glories
Let’s just cut to the chase - the Shanling CD300’s sound was a Gong Li, not a Zhang Ziyi, if you can get my drift. It eschewed the thin, waif–like sound of budget cd players. Its sound was slightly big-boned and had good body. And like Gong Li’s early movies, the CD300 approached sound reproduction in an earthy and direct manner, without any pretension. Compared to CD players higher up the price ladder (try double or triple), the CD300’s sound might be slightly less fine-grained, and similarly its bass has slightly less impact (which can be heard on double basses on jazz tracks) but whether this would be apparent to you would depend on your equipment further down the chain and your music choice.
The glory of the CD300 lied in the midrange – especially vocals, both male and females. Since it had tubes in it, you might think that its vocal performance would be the rose-tinted, oh-so-romantic type. But no, to its credits, the Shanling did not add these colorations. It was just an honest, down to earth portrayal. Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Stacy Kent, Bobby McFerrin - all these voices came through nicely and naturally. Their performances was musical and connected with me. On Stacy Kent’s Collection CD (Premium, PRSACD27874), the vocal was rich and came through with a natural warmth, the sibilance was held in check and integrated nicely with the voice. The nuances in her singing were conveyed clearly. I could really spin this CD on the CD300 again and again.
Recently, I was re-discovering some of my older classical CDs. One of them was Franz Schubert’s Symphony No.9 “The Great” conducted by Leonard Bernstein with the Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam (Deutsche Grammophon 427646). Bernstein’s grandiose style was like a big slab of steak, nice to sample once in a while, but can’t be taken as a daily meal. On the CD300, the opening of the first movement was appropriately atmospheric, and there was a sense of air surrounding the performance, attesting to the CD300’s good resolution. The player also tracked the swell and ebb of the sound excellently. Even at the most complex passages, the CD300 held its composure and conveyed the music confidently. The only thing that my Copland CDA822 did better was at the crescendos, where the CD300 seemed to hold back just a tad rather than letting it rip. Overall, a very commendable performance from the CD300.
Are You Ready to Move Up?
The CD300 might not be meant for a system many times over its price, for that Shanling has their higher models, but the CD300 did not embarrass itself in my reference system, in fact it held my attention, allowing me to listen to music for hours at a time without any great urge to switch back to my own cd player, that was a big plus in my books.
The Shanling CD300 has high-end aspirations, but not high-end in price. It would be a great choice for someone who is ready to move up from entry level players. With its list of features coupled with its sonic performance the Shanling CD300 is great value.
Contact: Simon Liew 012- 3203380
Audio Synthesis, Amcorp Mall
since there's no hifi to play, let self-indulge a bit and talk about music, my fave subject.
since we do many cover versions, we have to be good at it. btw, chinese music industry treats cover versions with disdain because they don't understand that many good singers can give a new lease of life to covers. on the other hand, western singers get credits for reviving oldies and doing good covers. examples are diana krall, michael buble, jamie callum and many others.
oh, btw, we are not ready to do an album with 100% original compositions yet. our standards are very high; if we don't have good compositions to showcase, we rather sing other people's songs and sing them well.
there are 3 major things to bear in mind when doing covers:
 if you can't compete on singing (e.g. if the original version is already definitive and can't be surpassed), then re-arrange the song innovatively. when the arrangement is creatively different, people tend not to compare that harshly. a prime example is when singing cai qin's (chinese audiophile queen) songs - never never compete with her on singing because she is way way up there!
 inject personality into the song as if you are the original singer. when you sing as if you own the song, critics will shut up.
 if you can't compete on technique (against the original singer), enhance on the emotional delivery and vice versa. most singers are good in either technique or emotional delivery, seldom both at the same time.
now, some excellent videos on how to do a fabulous cover version...sorry, non-chinese readers :-(
 video #1 is a cover version by aska yang. this chap pours so much emotions into the song that everyone who hears the song for the first time (me inclusive) has wet eyes throughout. (notice many in the audience cried!) of course, some critics say aska is overbearing and too pretentious. but i personally think he is great and this is a definitive way of doing a cover version. btw, the judges (of this singing contest) gave aska full marks, 25/25!
 video #2 is by the real mccoy, stefanie sun. stefanie has a great tone and her rendition is beautiful, perhaps a bit understated in terms of emotional delivery, but very touching no less. stef is natural, without the overpouring of emotions of aska. i like this original version very much.
JZ8 and 2V1G projects are starting soon and i have to keep reminding myself and my arranger(s) to excel in doing covers. it is a daunting task to emulate the original version but if you can do it, the results are immensely satisfying!
a basic sonos wireless multi-room music system cost less than RM5K, if i am not mistaken. it is great for those who want music in every corner of their house.
while it is definitely useful for a big house like a bungalow with multiple rooms, i am not sure how well it can serve a typical two-storey link house (with max 4 rooms) for the malaysians.
every room can play different music so dad can choose his frank sinatra, mum her billy holiday and the kids have rihanna.
it would be great especially if you entertain guests frequently in the house.
gawd, i miss my system :-(
kenny sin (019-2813399)
I put the CD in to the CDP, press play, and what greeted me was a very flat, lifeless, 2D mechanical rendition of the concert. If the LP was as tasty as a bottle of freshly opened cold coke, the CD was stale, fizzled and warm. I was broken.
 after 3 months of searching, we have finally found the elusive jazz vocalist for jz8, our chinese pop/jazz duo! she is a veteran singer with 20 years of singing behind her. not only she sounds sophisticated; she looks sophisticated as well! unlike 2v1g, jz8 will take on a more mature repertoire, reviving some chinese oldies from as far back as the 70's. we are very excited about this project!
 barring any unforseen circumstances, we would be launching two albums at next year's KLIAV show. the two albums are respectively 2v1g's long-awaited 2nd album and jz8's debut album. there will be live performances by 2v1g and jz8 like what shanghai bookstore did for the chinese singers (lily chen) a couple of years ago.
 my preamp has been sent for repair so there won't be any review for the next few weeks. the ps audio vs furutech duel has to be postponed to next month. preliminary feedback from hifi kaki - who helped me to cook the furutech - has been great so we are really eager to do the friendly shoot-out as soon as possible.
 master ken is reviewing the black timber platform (from c&o enterprise) for his meridian cdp. this platform is made of walnut entirely and is 3" thick. i will post a photo of it soon.
 the distributor for MIT cables has changed hands. absolute hifi is the new distributor now and hi-way laser is its dealer.
This is the first of the many DIY tips and projects to come.
Let's get started with something very easy as a warm up. This is a well known electrical filter tweak amongst DIYers.
The X-2 capacitor, when attached to short between the Live and Neutral of your power supply, will act as an EMI filter. There are many ways to attach this cap. I've seen some attached to the insides of their wall outlet(please turn off your home MCB if you intend to do this, for safety's sake). I have heard of people attaching the X-2 cap to the home fridge wall outlet, to filter EMI at source.
If you look carefully at some high end products like Ayre, they have an X-2 cap pre-installed just behind the chassis mounted IEC power socket. Shunyata Hydra power conditioner have an X-2 cap fitted in to all their duplex outlets individually. That means if you have Ayre equipment or powering your hi-fi equipments via Shunyata Hydra, this tweak does not apply. In my case, I chose to incorporate the X-2 cap in to my power cord(used to power my Pass Alephs, which feeds directly off the wall outlet).
The cap value I used is 0.01uf rated for 275VAC, available from Farnell Electronics supply, order part no. 975-0630(the blue colored unit pictured above, note the X2 MKP on specs, you cannot short a non X2 spec cap). You may try use 0.1uf rated for 270VAC should you wish. The yellow X-2 caps in the below pictures are supplied by an electronics store in Puchong.
I shorted the X-2 cap between the Live and Neutral at the IEC end of the JPS Inwall power cord. I used Oyaide C-29 IEC plugs as they have a lot of space inside. Ditto for Furutech IEC plugs too. Hubbell IEC plugs are too cramp inside to acomodate an X-2 cap.
With the X-2 caps in both my power cords powering the Aleph monoblocks, I could discern a slightly quieter/darker back ground, tweeter hiss is noticeably lower in level(you'll have to put your ear right in front of the tweeter and listen very carefully!). With a quieter background, low level resolution once obscured is now more easily noticeable within the music. The bonus that comes with it, is the magical mid range bloom so associated with Shunyata Hydra is now also attainable via the X-2 cap tweak. Not exactly same, but pretty darn close(due to the fact that the Shunyata Hydra has other components inside that contribute to it's final sonics).
As with all DIY tips, the usual caveat applies. I cannot be held responsible over electrical shocks and any unforeseen injuries, damaged equipment or worst of all, death as a result of negligence. Should you wish to proceed but remain unsure or yet to have the necessary skills, please consult a qualified electrician.
60's and 70's asia pop record covers, anyone? this site should attract many of the record peddlers in amcorp mall!
there is something "kitsch-y" about record covers of the 60's and 70's that make them a worthwhile collection.
for you info, sean ghazi (our local michael buble) covered one of anneke gronloh's classics in his debut album "semalam".
a mini power duel ensues....
on my hand the furutech reference III power cord, currently being cooked for the battle.
it is going to challenge my resident ps audio xstream statement sc for the all-important connection to my cd player.
ps audio xstream statement sc has proven to be a tough opponent to beat. it has plenty of heft in the bass and midrange, plus real quality highs proferred by the single-crystal.
it is going to be a friendly duel with no bloodshed expected.
watch out in the next few days.
once in a while, a concert performance comes along that completely blows your mind away. i couldn't get enough of tonight's concert at DFP (dewan filharmonik petronas).
anyone who was at DFP last night and tonight must have come out from the hall, like us, totally mesmerized over the superlative performance by korean jazz princess, nah youn sun. for the five of us, we went completely ga-ga. how could anyone who's into jazz music could possibly afford to miss such a stunning performance?
i went with winnie (of 2v1g) and her friends who are all in the music line and all of us had nothing but the highest praise for nah and her band. everyone of us thinks we had the best concert ever for the year. for me, it is one of the very best concerts in the last few years, a few notches above diana krall's concert last month.
nah has the silkiest of voice i have ever heard. it not so much of her tone but he extraordinary voice control. some singers can be soft and velvety; some can be power-packed and explosive but nah has everything. she could be tender and sweet one moment, the next moment she could be hitting the high notes and power-packing the song with so much energy. every singer (like my winnie girl) would be envious of the talents of nah. she has the most perfect of pitch; i couldn't find any faults in her singing eventho' it is a live performance. and her scatting, wow, is absolutely out of this world, i am telling you.
another thing worthy of mention is nah sang many original compositions, which normally would not elicit instant response from the crowd because they are not familiar with the tunes but nah's compositions are so good and packed a pop sensibility that even first-timers could appreciate it instantly.
nah sings a few songs in spanish, cuban and french and she even sang a convincing malay classic "jauh jauh" just to please the malaysian audience.
we met interglobal's boss, cheah mun kit there, who distributes nah cd in malaysia (see the cover above). ever the jovial guy, cheah introduced me to nah's producer, who is also called nah. i showed cheah two thumbs-up sign after the concert and cheah the joker jested "i finally met a singer who could sing as well as me!". cheah, you can't sing la!
concert like this enriches our musical life and leaves a permanent mark in our memory. i couldn't believe that i didn't invite all my friends to this memorable occasion. and audiophiles who are always talking about how good music and good singer should be - you really need to watch out for DFP's programme for future performances of nah youn sun. you can bet that i would return for her future performances.
another note. DFP's acoutics are as usual fantastic but i would prefer a bit more midrange thickness and density. i sat on the 6th row and i did feel that the mid-highs were a bit emphasized. but that's the neurotic audiophile in me talking la!
fabulous, superb, memorable, breathless, stunning, what a night!
p/s now go and get the album "memory lane" from interglobal!
thanks to the heads-up by ck, we discovered that many UK-made power cords which are attached with US-plug (export models, as demanded by some audiophiles in countries like malaysia) have negligently configured the pins in the UK fashion, meaning that the manufacturer didn't not reverse the Live and Neutral pins!
the problem is indeed a very serious one. audiophiles in malaysia use a mixture of UK and US plug and generally they are confused about the L and N pin configuration. even local electricians don't know the difference.
it also shows that british power cords manufacturer pay scant regard to US plug configuration, eventho' they export their power cords with US plug connected.
this results in wrong polarity, which causes poor imaging, focus, transparency and the overall tonality would suffer.
readers, please be careful the next time you buy a power cord. make sure you use the multimeter to check the polarity.
The Audiodharma Cable Cooker got to me last Friday.
The first thing I used them to cook were the 2 Shunyata Taipan Helix Alphas power cords on my Pass Labs monoblocks. These 2 power cords were quite new, with around 60-70 hours on them since their acquisition 1.5 months ago. Straight out of the box, their sound was quite congested, and the bass was especially bad - lumpy, bloated and woolly. Over time, the mid and high opened up relatively quickly and stabilized, but the bass region was still behaving as described, albeit with some improvement in snail pace. These bass traits were also similarly identified by a recent visitor to my place (hi, Henry!). I could not leave the amps on for long periods to burn-in the power cords as they were full class A - my electricity bill would go through the roof.
So these 2 powersnakes were the first ones to go onto the grill. Since this was my first trial, I was eager to hear the result. The snakes were cooked for 10 hours - that was no magic number, it was just the time it took me to get a good night sleep, wake up, have breakfast and laze around a bit (it was a Saturday morning anyway). Then the 2 Taipans were hooked back up to the monoblocks.
My impression was that this 'cooking's' effect was not unlike 'de-magnetizing' the system (as observed also by someone who commented on maggielurva's earlier post), but with much more pronounced and far ranging result. My own experience with de-magnetizing was that it affected the high frequency the most - if my system sounded like it had a bad hair day - frizzy, brittle, splashy - I knew it was time to give it a good spin of the de-magnetizing cd. The cooked powercords had similar effect but the effect extended further down into the mid and bass. The entire sound spectrum became more poised, more assured, I could listen at higher volume without ear-poking effect. Some grit, not just in the high but down to the mid, was diminished. The bass improved, the bloat and lumpiness were reduced quite a bit - just like what I heard over the course of running the Taipans in via normal use. Just that the current effect was, of course, accelerated. So it seems the cable cooker was really working as advertised.
The highs shelved down a little making the system sound a little dull, this may be a sign of overcooking for the highs, it largely recovered after a few hours' of system on.
I would describe the overall effect thus - you took the same road home everyday, you were used to the road's condition, you almost knew all the little bumps and potholes by heart, and suddenly one day our MBPJ, in its infinite wisdom, decided to clean up and resurface/re-tar the road, and your experience and comfort level were transformed.
Since the bass performance from the Taipans still had some way to go, I wanted to burn them in further on the cooker. But not before I turned my attention to 2 more others.
Another Taipan Helix Alpha came off my CD player and a Python Helix Alpha came off my pre-amp. This Taipan was in my system the longest so it has been fully broken-in. The Python was acquired at the same time as the other Taipans, but since the pre-amp was always on, it should have been burned-in more if not fully so. Since some readers here mentioned that the cooker would work on fully burned-in cables too, I wanted to give it a try.
Another 10 hours on the cooker. Now, what can I say, all the experience from the first round of cooking was repeated and the effect was cumulative. Furthermore, the image delineation and the system transparency improved too. Some recordings that I dismissed as bad previously turned out to be good enough because of the improved delineation. I could listen into the recordings and knew what was going on, instead of the previous congealed image which sounded like a mess.
Now, I wasn't just driving on an improved road, I have also upgraded to a 3 litre V6.
The first 2 Taipans went back on the cooker last night, I decided to give them a good 24 hours' grilling, minimum, just to be sure that they'd be cooked thoroughly. Honestly, having to wrestle with all these cables in my system's tight space is not really fun. If I have to do this periodically like de-magnetizing my system, I probably can accept this once a year. :-)
And then there are still the interconnects and speaker cables to try out.
I do not know what is conjured up in this little box that also emits a funny faint cyclical buzz in operation. However, the cable cooker just works great in accelerating the burn-in process. It worked on well-used cables too. I won't say that it can turn a sow's ear of a cable into a silk purse, but it would let your cables perform at their true capability at the least.
Signing off now, I have to go taste my grilled snakes.
i chanced upon this post on audio asylum (AA).
i have always wanted to go to AA (planar asylum) and educate all those maggie owners out there but i am too lazy to do so. i am glad there is still discerning audiophile like jallen.
i think jallen is one of the wisest maggie owners on earth. i salute him.
we are looking for shunyata hydra 4 or 6 for our new studio in nzx commercial area, pj.
we are going to use stage 3 concepts cabling whenever we can. the (slight) leanness of stage 3 matches perfectly with the thickness of shunyata. we want to create an analogue sound and shunyata is the best PLC for this purpose.
keen sellers please contact me 012-2083790.
Telos RCA caps compared to the "cheapie"
Telos XLR caps
Telos Golden Reference Power Cord
Telos Golden Reference XLR Interconnect
john sin (mobile: 012-5269313)
c&o audiophile enterprise, ipoh
i blogged about abc records' HD- mastering two months ago.
finally, i got my hands on shirley's voice, a compilation of all previous shirley's releases using HD-mastering. i got down to do an A/B comparison and the results are startling....
story to come....
he is eloquent and charismatic; he is knowledgeable without being arrogant; he is extremely passionate and articulate; he is poetic in his hifi adjectives - he is a true
i owned a LS3/5a in 1991. i was in singapore then. i bought this tiny speaker from atlas hifi for SGD800. it was an 11ohm version. i partnered it with various amps, including electrocompanient and aragon 4004 (memories, memories, for those who started their hifi in the 80s!) but not until i upgraded to ARC classic 30 + LS1 combo, i would never know what's the fuss about this bbc monitor. the partnership was a magical one. there's something hard to describe about the midrange of LS3/5a that had me hooked for hours. voices just seem right with this speaker. i had countless hours of good music and this chapter in my hif journey remains cherishable till today.
to write another paragraph describing the virtues of the famed bbc monitor would be superfluous in this column. if you don't know what's the fuss about, then google all you can and do your homework first. better still, listen to one.
in fact, if you know mr. k, the personality profiled here, he would probably tell you the same thing "do your homework first" albeit in a amiable manner that is reflective of what a true gentleman he is. it is not his style to be offensive to novice and the less experienced.
mr.k owns 26 pairs of LS3/5a, at the last count (i was told by a confidante of his) and yet he doesn't seem like stopping his investment anytime soon. weak in the presence of beauty, as the song goes. a male's passion in collection is never fully understood until you become a collector yourself.
in the early days before i got to know mr.k, i used to think that this man must be nutty and cultish to the extreme. but as the years went by, my impression of this man grew from neutral, to positive and now, extremely impressed.
admirers of mr. k (there are tons of them out there), who are enamoured by his system (which to me is a miniature gem in all sense of the word) may not appreciate the technicality of his doctrines and beliefs but as you venture deep into the hobby, you would then realize all that he advocates make sense. in my case, since i started producing music, i become fully aware of some of the things that mr.k has all along been advocating.
to me, what impressed me most is his indepth knowledge in music reproduction, sound engineering, room acoustics and music appreciation of the highest order. there are very very few audiophiles that i know whom i consider as possessing all these qualities at the same time; mr.k is a rarity.
mr.k has probably listened to more systems than i could ever dream of. he gets invitations all the tiimes because audiophiles want to know his opinion on their systems, which speaks volume of his credibility and reputation.
to me, mr. k is a hifi poet. you have to listen to his adjectives when he speaks. some examples here:
on the quality of high frequencies - "highs must extend to infinity and then just vaporize in the air ...".
on the organicity of music - "when the music ends, everything must subside, as in the thinning of air, bloom and finally comes a complete silence. only in a good system, you can hear all these remarkable qualities".
on the importance of homogeneous recording - "when you serve fast food, make sure all the food are homogeneous. if you suddenly add a salad, it will be at odds with the rest of the dishes. that's the problem with most recordings".
on audiophile's constant self-denial when facinig criticisms - "good sound is universal. you can't say just because you like it that way, it should sound that way and you don't care whether others like it or not. this is the major problem with audiophiles in malaysia".
there are many many more of such eloquent qoutes that had me clapping in delight. but one thing for sure, this man knows his stuff damn well. don't ever challenge him if you don't have your substance and facts ready.
as i gain a deeper understanding of my hifi and the making of audiophile recording, my admiration for mr.k grows exponentially. he is not your ordinary joe (pun intended). this man eats and breathes hifi; he makes hifi an art form; he is the best ambassaador of hifi if ever there's such an award in malaysia.
every audiophile guru has his detractors. mr.k, i am sure, does have his fair share of non-believers. but my message to these people is simply - unless you have the mettle, knowledge, substance, indepth experience, charisma and strength of character - you can't convince me that you are better than mr.k.
PLACE: Somewhere in Malaysia
TIME: Sometime in Oct O8
SECURE SMS 057/369-2A
CLASS LEVEL: ALPHA-SUPER
FOR KM'S EYES ONLY
BEGIN SECURE SMS:
Cables run-in and cooked.
Can come listen.
Sunday Nov 2, 12:00 hrs.
END SECURE SMS.
This would set the mood of this report.
When M summoned you, you have to respond without question if you want to Die Another Day.
Therefore, on the appointed day, I jumped into my T5 wagon (my Aston DBS was loaned to Ethan Hunt, you know, that other not so famous guy), did a fast Lewis Hamilton on the streets, and exactly at 12:00 hours, I was at M's residence, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
"What would you like to listen?" M asked.
"Something pink. Shaken, not stirred." I replied.
"It's too early to drink!" M retorted.
"Oh, anything on your playlist then," I answered. Actually, I wanted to listen to Pink Martini but M didn't catch it.
I sat on M's designer chair and M proceeded to play some Chinese but mainly English numbers on his system.
"What do you think of the sound?" M asked.
"I would give it a D,D,D and an E," I answered.
Before you guys are shocked of The Living Daylights, thinking D,D,D and E are the colourful marks on your student report cards days....
No, they are not!
D, D, D and E stand for Detailed, Delicate, Dimensional and Emotional.
Detailed like you can hear more into the DNA of the music; like having a GoldenEye to look into the intricacies of a Pollock painting.
Delicate like you can feel the shimmer of the drummer's gentle brush strokes on the cymbals; like Octopussy in her silk lingerie on her soft skin For Your Eyes Only, sending shimmers and chills down your body.
Dimensional like you have fullness out of emptiness in the music images and space (hope not too zen to understand); like The World Is Not Enough in the soundstaging capabilities.
And, the best for last.
Emotional like the singers and musicians are expressively singing/playing out of the fullness of their hearts to you; like Tomorrow Never Dies to lift your spirits up if you are feeling down or sad.
Okay, I know you will think of this next in your train of thoughts.
Any areas to Goldfinger M's system?
Well, M is The Man With The Golden Gun, eer, Ear and since You Only Live Twice (and I don't mind dying once for the sake of music), here it goes.
The system sounded a bit like you are driving with the hand-brake slightly engaged - the music felt like running against the wind, the highs and lows not fully bloomed yet. M explained he has just changed his ELCB, fuse box and MCB only yesterday and they are running-in now.
Also, I would have preferred more power, attack and slam on the macro scale in the mid-bass and bass areas. But, then again, I was spoilt by the Thunderball (lots of thunder and cast iron balls) Wadia 581/Naim 500 & SL2 system I heard just 14 hours ago.
Since my last visit, M's system has leaped to a much high stage (pun intended) after he reloaded it with his top gun Stage cables and upgraded his A/C supply.
M's sound is a Quantum Of Solace for anyone who has ears for good sound and fine music.
His D, D, D and E have the Licence To Kill any system on the planet.
My congratulations to you, M.
km, have you considered writing a book or changing your career to a fiction writer? marvelous piece you have there!
luck is definitely not on your side as after you left, our LS3/5a guru came, and the sound suddenly took a turn for the better (guess the ELCB breaks-in quite fast) and he had an enjoyable 2.5 hours session. you know him, he wouldn't stay for a minute longer if he isn't enjoying himself. i will dedicate a post to mr. LS3/5a next.
note to readers:
this will be a last review on my system, lest people think that i am bragging or over-promoting my system.
wong tatt yew of audio note is the equivalent of harvey keital in pulp fiction
in pulp fiction - one of my all-time fave cult movies - vincent (john travolta) accidentally kills a black kid with his gun, in his car, and he needs to clean up his blood-stained car and disposing the corpse as quickly as possible. he finds harvey keitel, who plays winston wolfe, or better known as the wolf. the wolf is a cleaner about town. the wolf talks fast and thinks fast. his solutions are practical and somewhat obvious. unlike vincent (john travolta), you can argue with the wolf and not die in the process, but you can count on a nice verbal lashing. And there's no doubt that if the wolf really wanted to, he could probably make a quick phone call and have you killed. when vincent meets the wolf, with a face that's full of or worries and stress, the first thing that the wolf says to vincent is a cool "i solve problems".
every audiophile should have his problem-solvers like the wolf. in my case i have two. i don't even mind revealing who they are. in terms of solving ARC problems and general trouble-shooting, ah chee of audio art, ipoh, ranks top in malaysia. he also does a mean cable termination and soldering job, the best in the industry. the 2nd problem-solver i have is wong tatt yew, the boss of audio note malaysia. wong has a keen pair of ears and he is a problem-solver of the highest grade. he and his electrician are the subjects of this post.
the last time wong visited me was 3 years ago. it is not that he doesn't like to visit me, it is just that he hasn't got the time. with more than 20 years of hifi behind him, wong is the busiest and most business-savvy hifi dealer in town with non-stop phone calls all day long. because he is a good problem-solver, all his customers consults him all the times.
when wong listened to my system on thursday, he sat in my designer barcelona chair looking rather pensive. i knew something wasn't right. wong finally commented that the midrange is dirty and spiky, making it unbearable to listen long. he went on to inspect my system. first, i told him that my MK uk-made wall outlet has kind of loosen its grip due to my constant pulling in and out of the power cord connecting to shunyata PLC, to avoid lightning strike. so wong wanted me to replace it with his isoclean silver-plated duplex wall outlet. he also inspected my distribution board. to his horror, he found my ELCB and 3-phase fuse box totally unacceptable. they are malalysian made local brand. he wanted to replace it with HAGER, a german brand which he recommends to all his clients.
so he proceeded to replace my wall outlet to isoclean. the silver-plated isoclean wall outlet really looks classy at RM550 a pop. but not until i listened to the improvement, i wouldn't believe that RM550 can bring me this far. the sound immediately improved by 10-15%!
elated, i pressured wong to get his electrician to order the hager for my ELCB, fuse box and MCB (note: I am currently using ABL, also german made, for my MCB) . but knowing that local electrical shops don't carry ex-stock of these foreign audiophile-grade parts and that i have two major home visits on sunday, i wasn't confident that his electrician can deliver in such a short time. goh, wong's trusted electrician, promised me that he could come next day to look into my DB and make recommendations. but next day is already friday, i don't have the luxury of time!
on the same night, getting impatient, i called goh and offered to ferry him from his house to my house. audiophiles are crazy people, don't you know? we reached my house at 10:30pm. goh said if i wanted maximum performance, i really should consider hager for my ELCB, fuse box and MCB. but can we make it by sunday morning? goh promised to try his best to source it from every electrical shop in kl for the parts.
on friday, around 3pm, he sms-ed me with the text "got the parts, can i come now?". i was impressed. he is super efficient. he has to be, because he works with wong, one of the most effiicient dealer in malaysia. i was busy the whole day on friday so i asked him to come on saturday morning, which is today.
i must tell you this about goh. he is not only an audiophile-grade electrician, he is also a seasoned audiophile! he completed installing my ELCB, fuse box and MCB in less than two hours' time. time to listen. wow, another 5% improvement! the background is so much queiter now, the mids are much sweeter and the overall gain has gone down. (note: this is a good sign when your gain seems to go down but you still get the same details and dynamics as before. which goes to show the previous sound with higher gain contains a lot of noise)
so the hager MCB has replaced the ABL MCB. the hager is rated 4,500KVa but my existing ABL is rated 10,000kVA. i called ah chee to ask for his opinion. he thinks the ABL should be better than hager because of the higher kVa. so goh decided to A/B the two MCBs. the differences are day and night! the ABL has higher gain, much more noise, rougher mids. the hager has lesser gain but very controlled dynamics and sweeter mids. it was very apparent which is better. the hager, even with its 4,500kVA rating beats the ABL. both retail for only RM40 a pop. goh has ordered a hager 10,000KVa also to compare it with the 4,500Kva but it will be next week before the stock arrives.
by now, my system, after a total expenditure of only RM1,100, has improved close to 15-20%. can you not be impressed by this quantum of improvement when the total outlay is so little?
this experience humbles me again. wong is such a brillaint audiophile who always imparts critical knowledge to his customers and friends alike. if it is not because of him, my system would forever be compromised. this is the perfect example of inviting the right people to listen to your system. you have so much to gain. i actually jested with him in my sms - "bro, you are so good that as a term of our long-lasting and valuable friendship, you are obligated to pay me a visit every quarter to inspect my system".
i can't praise enough of goh, the audiophile grade electrician who could solve my problems in the shortest possible of time. yes, this is his number 012-2597329. you owe it to yourself to invite him to your house and check your DB and advise you on generally power supply issues. i have said enough of the importance of power supply to your hifi system in this blog. you must never take it for granted.
the sound is so brilliant now. and to think that the ELCB & MCB would further break-in in the next few days, i shudder in great anticipation.
every audiophile must have a winston wolfe for their hifi because simply, he solves problems ever so efficiently.
As I am about start doing equipment reviews, and to make them more meaningful to you, our dear readers, I've decide to elaborate on cablings used to power and carry signals from one equipment to another in the system's delivery chain.
You can disagree with me, but I feel that cables do exert their very own sonic virtues in the final presentation of the reproduced sound, more so in very transparent high end systems.
As the equipment on review is inserted in to the chain of existing equipments by either additional or replacement method, reported based on subjective user experience, therefore any cabling before or after the equipment under review would somewhat influence the final verdict.
It would also give you a better sense of understanding on the basis of subjective comparison between my own familiar equipment and the equipment on review.
Let's start with the source. I have 2 sources, the Marantz CD7 CD player and Rega P25 Turntable, mounted with Benz Micro Gold MC cartridge.
PS Audio Power Punch & Audioquest Colorado with 72V DBS battery pack
The Marantz is powered with an Isotek shielded power cord and using Audioquest Colorado interconnect to feed signal to the pre-amp, which is a Pass Labs X2.5, powered using PS Audio Plus power cord.
Isotek power cord
The Rega P25 came with non-detachable stock power cord and a VDH sourced tone arm cable, terminated with Neutrik Profi RCA plugs, sending signal to my DIYed Pass Ono clone phono stage, powered using PS Audio Power Punch power cord. An Audioquest Columbia interconnect sends the 60db amplified signals to the pre-amp.
From pre-amp, the interconnect used is a 3M long Cardas Golden Presence to send signals to the Pass Labs Aleph 0 power amps. Other than the turntable to phono stage all other signal connections are of the balance XLR kind.
Cardas Golden Presence
All power cords mentioned above get their supplies from an Isotek Sigmas power conditioner/filter. Sources like the CD player and turntable get their power from the choke isolated outlets, pre-amp and phono stage gets power from passive filtered outlets.
The power amps are powered using the big red JPS Inwall 10AWG power cords, terminated with MK Duraplus on wall receptacle side and Oyaide IEC socket on amp side. The power amps get their juice direct from wall.
JPS Inwall powercord c/w MK Duraplug
Straight Wire Maestro 2 speaker cables(2M length) are used between mono power amps and the Audio Physic Spark speakers.
Straight Wire Maestro II
As my equipment changes further in the future(something which I am trying very hard to resist, but maybe proven futile in the long run), they'll be updated in to the blog.
The Telos stuff are ready to be reviewed.