An Invitation from Centre Circle Audio:

"Dear Valued Customers,

You are invited to a 'High Definition Home Theatre Preview' exclusive by INFOCUS, JVC, MITSUBISHI, MARANTZ, AMPHION, DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY, from 2nd to 4th April, 2009 (11am - 6pm) in Centre Circle Audio's TTDI showroom.

Special prizes and gifts upon purchase during the 3-day event only. Please RSVP or call 03-77282686 for more info.. We look forward to seeing you."

Gary Karr is one of the world's foremost contra bass player. Here, he appears with his long time partner, Harmon Lewis, accompanying with either and grand piano or piped organ.

This CD is a selection of songs loved by audiophiles, like me, which includes tracks like O Holy Night, a popular Christmas Carole and Playful Rondo, which is my favorite track. Others like Air from Orchestral Suite No.3 in D Minor, which is a popular wedding song and Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.

I first heard this XRCD in a trully super high end rig, comprising of top range Burmester CDP and Pre amp, feeding a pair of 4pc McIntosh mono blocks rated at 2000W, sound coming out thru a pair of Wilson X-2 speakers. All cablings are MIT Oracle! I remember as Air from Orchestral Suite No.3 in D minor was played, Gary was indeed standing in the room, playing his contra bass in life size presentation and the pipe organ companion, just behind. Somewhat behind the studio wall, I actually heard the compressor, powering the pipe organ start and stop in between the music. It was surreal....., as if I was in the studio!

That experience was really and ear and eye opener! I started to look for this XRCD soon after, but never could find it. Until last Friday, I saw it on the bargain bin(price RM$45.00/pc) of a music store in 3rd floor, Endah Parade, Seri Petaling called Action Valley Trading(I'll try to find out the shop's telephone no., so as to if interested, readers from Klang Valley can go and get it).

This version is the better XRCD2, well at least to me it is! Compared to the original XRCD releases which I was never a fan off. Whilst XRCD2 has just as much details emphasis as the original XRCD, the presentation of the said resolution is more organic, and better integrated in to the overall musical coherence, unlike the original, which can sound distracting and lead to fatigue if listened for longer periods of time.

I asked the shop owner, why is this excellent CD in the bargain bin, when it used to cost RM$120/pc? His reply was that this CD is hard to reproduced properly, and many systems do not have the necessary low end extension to carry it thru convincingly, and hence shunned by most audiophiles whom are using bookshelf speakers.

I had no trouble enjoying this XRCD2 thru my system, despite it being on the side of smaller scale and a relatively modest set up(compared to the super high end rig mentioned above!). What matters most is musical presented honestly and enjoyably.

Audience Adept Response AR6P.

The topic of PLCs has been hot lately, hence I feel it's a subject worth investigating further. With this post, I will attempt to demystify some of the technical aspect of PLCs. In hope that a more informed buyer is a smarter buyer.

There are basically four types of PLCs competing in the market today. They are:

1) Passive Filters - These are the earliest and technically the most basic of methods. It merely involves filter caps of various values, coupled with cryogenitically treated contacts and sometimes add choke filter in to the power line. The sound characteristics of this type of PLC is rather un intrusive, especially when the design uses low value filter caps of 0.1uf like the Shunyata Hydra. It basically retains the sound of the system powered by it, but with further refinements at the top end and perhaps add a little bloom to the mids. Sometimes, in circuits where a power factor cap of 4.7uf is installed in the schematics, the bass will probably also tightened up a bit. Some models like the Shunyata Hydra 8 and Audio Magic Stealth XXX has compound screening to further reduce the effects of airborne RFI and EMI interference. The most successful representation of this type are Shunyata Hydras, Audio Magic Stealth series and Audience Adept Response models.

Audio Magic Stealth XXX.

Shunyata Hydra 4 undressed. Note the red MOV, grey circuit breaker, black 0.1uf filter X-2 caps and the cyro ed bus bars connecting the duplex receptacles.

Shunyata Hydra 6.

2) Transformer Based - It's really baffling what the good ol' transformer, with it's various winding schemes can produce so many varieties of PLCs. You have parallel choke based types like the RGPC 400P, and there's also the balance transformer type like those made locally by Promithues Audio. Also available are the booster transformers employed by Isotek Titan and finally, we have isolation transformers like the famed Torus Power and RGPC Substation. AVRs can also be transformer based, just like the Soundstage brand sold by Tong Lee. As for the sound of the transformer based PLC is harder to tell, as each version will have their own characteristics. For example, a balance transformer winding splits the 240V input voltage to two 120V lines. Both are wind along side each other to cancel out noise, just like our balance XLR interconnects. Booster transformer can reproduce more ampere at output than what was feeding it at the input, hence it'll always sound muscular and in control. Isolation transformers isolate your audio system plugged thru it from the rest of your house, allowing your system to be heard at it's full glory.

Torus Power RM8A undressed, note the huge isolation transformer.

RGPC Substation, isolation transformer inside too! Claims to supply peak 4000W, double the Torus Power RM8A s, 2000W.

3) Re generators - Here, we have the most technically challenging, and in theory should be the most correct way of treating power line noises. It's like having the power station supplying direct power to your audio system. It takes power from the wall, converts them to DC voltage, either stored in batteries or huge storage capacitors, then amplify the DC back in to AC voltage just like a power amp would. With the new class D designs, you can get very high efficiency, hence very high out put from a very manageable package, it runs cool too! The sound aspect is very predictable too, to a certain degree. Both the PS Audio Power Plant Premier and Pure Power models have that characteristic balls out bass control, eerily quiet back grounds, wide band width transient response and out of this world micro and macro dynamics. It really totally takes over and changes the sound of your system substantially.

Pure Power AC re generator, UPS and offers full feature protection for your hifi!

PS Audio Power Plant Premier AC re generator.

4) Hybrids - Labeled as such, it means that the PLC uses more than one of the above three methods to treat power line noises. Isotek is one such example, like in my Sigmas model, you can actually find booster transformers, passive filter and power factor caps, married to choke filters to isolate each output.

Isotek Sigmas, a true hybrid for great performance.

Despite all the PLC technobable, I don't think it's any more help full at all, as PLC performance in any case, are hard to gauge for the following reasons.

a) They are reactive to the power quality of the area. Hence different areas will require different solutions to the problem. And if the power quality of an area is good to start with, you'll probably not hear much of improvements with the PLC, but if the power quality is poor to start with, the sound improvement perceived will certainly be more.

b) Different system places different demands on PLCs. Like ampere hungry tube power amps and mega watt class A rated solid state amps are the hardest to drive and will place very unreasonable loads upon PLCs. Smaller systems can in fact be more sensitive to changes with a PLC added.

c) Every audiophile, depending on his/her hifi journey have different expectations on PLC performance.

d) Setting up of PLCs, some will invariably respond better to tweaks, like isolation than others. Even the quality of input power cables and contact plugs matter too.

Technical merits aside, the final advise is still to try before you buy! No other way to guarantee you get the most suitable PLC for your system and budget requirements.

tho' the search for the missing V (voice) is still ongoing, roger wang and winnie ho, are marching on with full vigor to keep the 2v1g flame alive!

2v1g sans regine tai, is gonna be performing tomorrow and on sunday at cd rama music fair "don't stop the music" at 1-utama old wing concourse. details of the public performances:

saturday, 28th march 2009 - 8-9pm
sunday, 29th march 2009 - 12 noon -1pm

besides, there are plenty of discounted cds for the bargain hunters!

Ken's question about PDL vs Clipsal vs MK under "bryston replied on torus receptacle issue" prompted me to think about my own experience, I'd like to share with you a good and inexpensive UK type wall socket.

I do not like, for hifi use, the wall sockets that are common place here - the white plastic cover type that has an on/off switch, like the ones shown above.

Picture from RS Malaysia's website

I found this MK socket with a metal face and a very sturdy build, the metal parts at the back are chunkier and looks high quality. Best thing is that it is unswitched. If you look at the construction of the switch in a socket, you'd notice that the contact area is a small point, which increases resistance and thus impedes high current flow. Though taking away the switch means that you have to suffer some inconvenience if you are used to swithcing things off at the wall.

(Note though, that switching things off at the wall does not guarantee complete protection from power surge. The only 100% sure protection is to unplug everything from the wall in case of a thunder storm.)

Indeed this MK unswitched socket gives better performance compared to the white plastic type, music has better flow, becomes slightly more robust, and has fewer rough edges.

I could not find it in the normal hardware store. I found it on RS Malaysia's website (, search for "MK metalclad plus", and under "wall socket" you'll find the item number 246-9366.

If you do not want to spring for an audiophile-branded wall socket, this is a very fine upgrade from the normal stuff for an investment of less than RM50 for the one gang version.

Disclaimer: I assume no responsibility for any mishap, please hire a qualified electrician if you want to change your wall socket.

The PMC GB1i standing proud.

The PMC GB1 speakers were one of the two shortlisted candidates[to fit in to my 10 x 12 x 9(W x L x H) feet room, which I think is common size to most Malaysian terrace type houses] when I last went speaker shopping in late 2007. Reason I didn't get it?

I put the Audio Physic Spark in my room and I didn't bother to look further. It somehow just sounded right in my room. But then in the back of my mind I had always wondered what if, I had got the PMC GB1 instead? So when James of AV Designs demoed the new "improved" PMC GB1i during last year's KLIAV Show, I was impressed by it's dinky size, but the sound projected was way..... bigger and surprisingly hall filling!I asked to try it out in my room and James agreed.

The new tweeter with deflective plate and 5 inch mid driver.

The main differences between the i series and the older PMC series is the new tweeter, sourced from SEAS and built to PMC's specs. The 5 inch mid range driver is an in house refinement of the earlier design. The back baffle of the speakers are now veneered matched to the other 5 sides as opposed to the previously black painted finish. It definitely looks a lot more classy then the older GB1 model. The last difference is probably the additional plinth, which now houses 4 adjustable spikes on the outer perimeter wider off the speaker's body, to give the 3 feet high floor stander better stability.

I placed the PMC GB1is in the usual place where most speakers sounded good in my room, which is 36 inches from the back wall and 16 inches from the side walls, about 6 ft apart from each other, and 5.8 ft from my listening couch. I tried various degrees of toe in as per advised by the manual, but liked the sound best with speakers just firing straight ahead in to the room, without toe in. I eventually settled the speakers closer to the back wall to about 34 inches away for better bass response without compromising much of the stage depth perception. The sound review is formed at this position without it's protective grilles attached.

The generic quality bi-wire able binding post. Note the bottom curved plinth with spikes attached.

The new tweeters are certainly airier and much smoother comparing to the earlier GB1 series that I heard. The highs integration to the mids are much more seamless now. The mids have that magical robust body to it(not unlike the LS3/5A BBC style monitors), as any self respecting British speaker should. The ATL(Advance Transmission Line) tuned bass goes very deep(spec to 25hz), much deeper than available with my Audio Physic Spark(spec 33hz). The bass, like the mids have a very robust and tune full quality to it. The PMC GB1i, just like my Audio Physic fits my room size to the T, as they both have 5 inch drivers that didn't excite the room modes. The sound stage projected is huge with very defined depth perception. Vocal imaging centered within the sound stage is solidly anchored with realistic rendering of voice, chest and body.

Comparing to the Audio Physic Spark which is more "ying", the PMC GB1i sound is rather on the "yang" side of the tonal palette. The PMC is warmer sounding compared to the Audio Physic's strict neutral tonality. In classical recordings, where my resident speakers gave strings with only a hint of woodenness to the portrayal of violins, the GB1i gave the same strings with more of the wooden body in comparison. If the AP Spark sounds a little on the hifi..ish side, the GB1i sounds more like live music. Both speakers will paint a very different perspective of the sonic picture of the same musical scene, if you know what I mean. The PMC has lower sensitivity rating at 87db, which if compared to the AP Spark, rated at 90db will sound louder at the same volume setting.

I like this warranty seal! Tops the "feel good" factor as you unpack the PMCs from it's transportation box!

Ultimately, my Pass Aleph 0 which are also of warmish nature in tonality, is not the best partner to the PMC GB1i, which I suspect is just too much of a good thing. The Pass Aleph, with only 20db gain, sounds O.K., but it was the 29db gain Bryston 3B SST2 turned out to be the most synergistic partner to the PMC. With better drive and control to the bass. The overall sonic transient, dynamics goes louder and harder too. The Bryston's lighter tonality does balances the PMC's darker presentation better. Heck! even my DIY quassi class A rated LM3886 power amp tonally suited the PMC better, though with less resolution. I have a strange suspicion the PMC will rock hard with Naim or Creek amplification too.

However, with speakers at this RM10k price point, there will be areas of design compromise in the process of scaling down from the bigger and more expensive higher end models. On the PMC GB1i, I can only point out 2 areas which are compromised, other than the usual scaling down of bandwidth, dynamic range and transparency, compared to the bigger models like the FB1i or even the EB1i. First, whilst the ATL tuned bass is even handed and gutsy most of the time, some bass instrument like the one in track 6 of Tsai Chin's Lou Ge CD just manages to catch the bass lines off guard by lingering around just a little too long. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happens in say 1 song out of every 12 CDs or so. The other area of critic is the highs. High hats must have attack, sustain and then decay in to air, to sound realistic. In the area of attack, or lack of is where the PMC could have done better. The attack factor is there alright, but the PMC just seems a little more subdued in that department. However, having pointed out it's 2 minor faults, I must say I only heard them when it was partnered with my Pass Aleph. When powered by the Bryston 3B SST2, I did not managed to catch PMC off guard, even if it's only for a brief 2 hour session. Hence it could very well be an issue of partnering equipment synergy.

With the Audio Physic Spark now phased out in favour of the newer Sitara, which I am told by Adrian of Audio Image that it ain't coming to Malaysia, means that the PMC GB1i is still one of "THE" must audition speakers to any one with RM10K budget and shopping for speakers to suit their 10 x 12 ft room more or less! The other contender is probably another PMC, it's the re-issued LB1 Signature in Tiger Wood finishing, which I am told by those whom heard, it sounds fantastic!

PMC Speakers are sold by AV Designs, tel: 03-21712828

i am a lucky fella. music (and not hifi) has given me so much enrichment, nourishment and inspiration since i was a kid. i was already buying audio cassettes since i was a primary 4 student.

many people live their lives without any memorable high points. i have several and the highest high is gonna happen soon, as early as next year.

my first "high" is starting musicexchange in 1998, the first ever full-scale 2nd hand cd store in malaysia. in fact, the idea was born one night while i was listening to cheer chen's amazing debut album "let me think a while", which was rated at number #11 in the recent taiwan's top 200 albums of the last 20 years. musicexchange left a memorable chapter in the music industry in malaysia as well as an indelible mark on my life. in fact, i was so high that my favorite song at that time was lighthouse family's "high", which i constantly spinned in my store.

my 2nd "high" came last year with the creation of 2v1g. well, i won't dwell into this again as i have said enough in this blog.

my 3rd "high" which is about to come true is my long-time desire to create a world-class chinese indie music label with a world-class chinese female singer-songwriter a la cheer chen qi zhen and zhang xuan of taiwan. i want to do original compositions of indie pop/rock, away from the mainstream.

i had someone in mind 10 years ago. at that time, she was still a little girl but she showed enough talent to entice me. i met her in the cafe where she performed and passed her my name card but she didn't call me. subsequently, she was signed to a major label and pursue her singing career in taiwan.

10 years later, 3 months ago to be exact, i got to know her thru a friend in a x'mas dinner. she told me she likes my work in 2v1g and she is thinking of collaborating with me to start an indie label in malaysia. i couldn't believe my ears.

she passed me her demo cd last night which is full of all her compositions over the last 2 years. i played the cd on my system, i was awe-struck. "this is the music that i want to do for my label!", i yelled. her music is indie pop/rock but with a very strong hook and commercial crossover appeal. we connect instantly.

i have been listening non-stop to her cd for the last 24 hours. many times, i was moved to tears. such talent is god-send. and she isn't even peaking as i could see the depth of her talents.

everything has a reason. god delayed our fateful meeting because she wasn't ready 10 years ago. she is now.

god willing, you are going to see the first local indie queen in the chinese music industry early next year that's going to carry the malaysian flag globally, and this is gonna be my third "high" and probably my highest high.

the local distributor for torus/bryston, av designs, has kindly forwarded bryston's response on the issue of UK-Vs-US receptacle on the torus PLC.

Some extracts from the attached circular:-

“They [the NEMA 5-15 USA style receptacles] are rated for 120 volts 15 amps and should NEVER be used with 240 Volt gear.”

“Torus has spent many thousands of dollars making sure our products get all the essential Certifications and Safety documentation necessary.”

“So please be very cautious when using 120 Volt rated plugs and power cables with 240 Volt equipment. In fact don’t do it!”

what bryston is implying is: most US-manufactured PLCs for the malaysian market do not have CE certification for safety (in using the US-receptacle for 240V) so you have to use it at your own risk!

you can download the newsletter here.

plenty of expensive bottles

for the past 3 months, i couldn't feel the presence of my stage III gryphon in my system, all because of the weakening of tubes.

tonight i got the help of a friend to switch to the new svetlana winged-c 6550 tubes and do the necessary biasing, which is really a two-person's job.

i got back the glorious sound, the sound that drove me gaga when i inserted the stage III gryphon into my system for the first time last year. the bass was easily 20% more (volume, tactility, tunefulness, bounciness) compared to the one given by the weakened tubes. this is how maggie should do bass!

actually my old tubes can still be played for another 500-1,000 hours or so but the perfectionist in me couldn't accept the compromise.

lost and found, but at a price.

another blissful 1,000 hours ahead of me, yay!

The Bryston 3BSST2 sitting neat & petite. Note the input sensitivity is adjustable for 1V or 2V.

Just got a chance to hear last night, the brand new Bryston 3B SST2. Actually, it's pronounced as 3BSST Squared.

James of AV Designs was in my place to check out how the PMC's were doing and if he could do anything to aid in set up. Now, this is the sort of high end dealer we need, after spending our hard earned cash, a follow up after sales visit is re-assuring indeed. Just to be clear, I did not nor have any intentions to purchase any speaker products for now. James you do this for most your customers??? I hear?? Ha! Ha!

He'd thought it be nice for me to hear the new, latest Bryston sound, if there was one. The 3BSST2, is rated for 2 X 150W RMS. And once plugged in to my system, via the XLR input(with input sensitivity adjusted to 2V), replacing my ageing Pass Aleph mono blocks, boy, the Bryston is indeed very much more louder and more power full sounding! What's more surprisingly, for a class A/B amp, the tonal quality very much approaches the lucidity and the warmness of the class A Pass Aleph. Bass is robust and very well controlled. The mids are open and smooth, plus the highs are very tidy, well extended and have very relaxed airy nature to it. The music flow, or just plain musicality is very much improved over the older SST series, which I always thought to have a slight analytical quality to it. The unit which we played with just landed only 2 days ago. It's not thoroughly run in yet, brings so much sound promise to the table, so to speak. Through out the listening session, the amp's heat sinks only ran moderately warm to touch.

My brief 2 hours with the 3BSST2 , powering the PMC GB1i, was thoroughly enjoyable. James quoted a retail price of RM15K, which is actually quite attractive, considering that it's a Canadian manufactured product carrying a 20 year parts and labour warranty. And that's no bull.

Note: This is by no means a review, rather it's just a quick sound impression.

Bryston is sold by AV Designs, contact James, Tel: 03-21712828

a few nights ago, i had the most glorious performance from my system. thinking that it was flash-in-the-pan because TNB always plays trick with me.

indeed, it was a precursor to more spending, on tubes, that is.

i have short memory. check my blog post on this topic here.

the sublime performance was the last breath of my svetlana winged-c 6550 tubes! the last hours (before the performance goes downhill) of the 6550 tubes are the most glorious hours and most memorable.

standard peak hours for 6550 is 1,000 hours and i just checked on the hours-counter on my ARC preamp, it is close to 1,000 hours now.

the bummer is the price of 6550 has increased by 20% recently. with this rate, every hour on the 6550 costs RM2.30. that's the highest "roadtax" i could think of.

"Hey, you want to upgrade your pre-amp? I am having a special offer on my last piece of XP-20." Nelson Chia, owner of Centre Circle Audio, called me and asked. Awwww...., this is the worst time for me to be tempted by another piece of potentially lethal hifi equipment. As I have said earlier, I have already busted my budget for hifi upgrade this year.

But I have to take it home for a spin anyhow. I wanted to know how far Pass Labs have progressed from its X-series pre-amp days, though it may not be entirely fair to compare the XP-20 to my resident X2.5 - firstly, the X2.5 was the entry level pre-amp for Pass Labs, while the XP-20 resides at the current middle rung; secondly, there is a more than two times difference in price (the XP-20 is listed at around RM30k).

The XP-20 has the traditionally high quality construction of Pass Labs' products. It is a 2-box pre-amp, similar to Pass Labs' previous X1. One box is the power supply and the other contains the control and audio circuits. The separation of the power supply provides the audio circuit with a much cleaner electrical environment to operate in. The two boxes are connected via an umbilical cord, the construction of which is similar to the parallel cable used for computers, though this one is chunkier and of higher build quality.

The pre-amp has 5 inputs - 2 balanced (XLR) and 3 single-ended (RCA), plus a tape loop. Unlike the X-series, the balanced inputs are not doubled up for single-ended operations, so if you use only single-ended components, you have only 4 inputs to play with (including the tape input). It has 1 balanced and 2 single-ended outputs, all of which can be used simultaneously, making bi-amping or feeding a subwoofer easy. The user friendliness of the remote has been improved upon, it is now a direct-select unit, where a command can be selected directly via a button (on Pass Labs' previous pre-amps, you have to use the arrow button to scroll to a function before you can activate it).

Let me say that the past week has been a hifi roller coaster ride for me. First, you have read how the Torus Power PLC elevated the performance of my system, then when I had to take it out to pass to maggielurva by mid-week , I was brought back to earth. Then the XP-20 was inserted in place of my X2.5, my spirit was heightened again, but came the end of the week, it had to go back to Centre Circle Audio and I was back to square one.

Well, the XP-20 is a big leap in performance from the X2.5. While I could still recognize the normal 'signature' of my system, the XP-20 took all the virtues of the X2.5 and ratcheted them up a few notches.

The XP-20 increased my system's transparency and resolution greatly, the sonic picture was packed with more information and details. This was extended to the entire sonic spectrum, the bass became more impactful and better defined, the mid was more articulate, and the highs shimmered. The stage was lit up and bathed in a nice attractive sheen, and its clarity left very little to the imagination.

The XP-20 also has a very fine sonic texture, if I equate my X2.5 to the smoothness of a teenager's skin, then the XP-20's textural fineness is like a baby's. The other great attribute of the XP-20 was its timbre accuracy, everything, be it a musical instrument or a voice, just sounded closer to real.

I had the XP-20 playing in my system for only 3 days, shorter than my normal period for equipment evaluation (however, the XP-20 has been run-in in the shop), so I would take this as an initial impression.

I could already sense that some of you want to ask how my system sounded with Torus Power + X2.5 compared to my own Hydra 8 + XP-20. I would say that the improvement is bigger with the XP-20. What this shows, I think, is that there is a limit as to the magnitude of improvement I could get with my existing equipment, and indeed the XP-20 is a superior piece of gear. But I shudder to think how Torus Power + XP-20 would sound - it could have been audio nirvana. (No, I did not try this combination, the timing did not allow me to)

Sigh... too much temptation, too little money! :-)

Centre Circle Audio is holding a special offer on the XP-20 and some Pass Labs items for a limited time. Please call Centre Circle Audio +60 3 77282686 or Nelson Chia : + 60 12 2876807 to enquire.

i can't remember many times where my system's component were soundly beaten by another intruder. the torus came and crushed the shunyata, to the extent that, i could hardly go back to listen the shunyata again. the torus' definition and micro-detailing is the best so far i have heard. i am going to write to the manufacturer and ask them to consider making a US-version for our market.

this is the most severe case of withdrawing symptom i am suffering now. panzer and hifikaki can attest that it seldom happens to me.

i am going to adopt the ostrich policy and switch off my system for a couple of days... anyway, i am driving back to ipoh for cheng ming this weekend.

have a nice weekend, guys.

Great news to all who are looking for the next cable upgrade!

Centre Circle Audio is having some special offers on selected JPS Labs cables.

Update 20.3.09: JPS Labs' top range, the ALUMINATA, is also on special offer for a limited period.

Centre Circle Audio : +60 3 77282686
Nelson Chia : + 60 12 2876807
Sky Wong : + 60 12 3371787

let's cut to the chase - if you are not ready for the shock, don't audition the torus. it is going to change your paradigm about accuracy and high definition, among others.

let me state that i am auditioning the torus with the highly annoying US-to-UK convertors, which i dread, so the torus' performance here is a compromised one.

the best disc to illustrate torus' strengths is none other than 2v1g. a lot of people have told me that they can't differentiate winnie from regine, or vice versa. once you listen to how the torus separates the two voices, you would then realize that the two ladies are world apart in tone and expression. many PLCs, including my hydra 8, didn't do a good job in making these two voices distinctive and unique. this aspect of torus gets my highest praise - this is high-definition of the highest order. in fact, get any disc with many voices and see how torus separates each and every one of them and give them their own character.

another winning aspect of torus is its accuracy. tonally, the torus is on the cool side of neutral, very much like audio magic stealth reference, without the sizzle. this accuracy lends a superb realism to voices in terms of diction and pitching. whether it is rickie lee jones or 2v1g or cai qin, you could hear every word coming from the singer's mouth with shocking clarity, diction and correct pitching. no other PLC comes close in this aspect. hifikaki was uuh-ing and aah-ing when he heard the 2v1g cd being played thru torus.

how does it compare to hydra 8 in other areas? well, you know me, i always love analogy. pitting the two is like comparing a girlfriend/mistress to a wife. hydra 8 is flirtatious, seductive, desirable and colorful, always obliging (and could occasionally tell a lie or two just to please you), the perfect girlfriend. torus is the wife, ever faithful, honest, reliable, compassionate and does her duty quietly. the hydra dresses up the music with make-up whereas the torus does not believe in cosmetics. true, the torus does not have the hydra's femme fatale kind of seductiveness, neither does it have the voluptuousness of body and harmonic richness of the hydra but it plays music with so much conviction that you would think that is how real music should sound like. music thru the hydra 8 is like looking thru the world with a technicolor glasses; with torus, the glasses is perfectly clear, perfectly spec-ed and albeit a bit unglamorous.

the torus' major strengths lie in its honesty, definition and accuracy. if you prize these criteria with top priority then this is simply the best PLC there is. but torus is not perfect. in achieving this astounding level of accuracy and definition, it does come across as a bit thin, solid-state-y, dry and careful/cautious. of course, i am not discounting the fact that i am using a generic 15A power cord and the terrible US-to-UK adapters.

some married men never stop having girlfriends till old age because they are bored with their wives at early stage. some married men keep girlfriend(s) at the early stage of their marriage because it is exciting but ultimately when they are tired and old, they go home to the warmth of their wives. some men, once they get married, would never consider extra-marital affairs because their wives are the best. some men don't even get married and just content of having girlfriends.

which kind of man are you?

Coming up for a full review, the PMC GB1i speakers.

Panzer has been waxing lyrical about the Torus Power RM8 In'tl power line conditioner, he even has a love poem for it :-) . With an endorsement like that, how can I resist listening to the Torus Power RM8 myself? Panzer is a great pal, he delivered the Torus to my place last Saturday, and, as we can see in his last post, suffered silently in withdrawal.

Well, I'll just cut to the chase - after a 3-day listening period, I admit that I am now firmly in Panzer's camp. I usually take longer to come to a final conclusion about a piece of hifi, but since my findings echo Panzer's, who has more extensive experience with the Torus, I believe my feeling is right.

Admirably, the RM8 displayed its excellent performance even with all the cards stacked against it. First is the powercord from the wall, since mine is a Shunyata Python 20A version for my Shunyata Hydra 8, while the Torus Power RM8 takes a 15A cord, I have to substitute with a stock powercord that came with my Pass Labs amp. Second, as the Torus Power RM8 Int'l comes with UK style outlets, I have to use adapters for all the powercords from it to my equipment.

With all these limitations, I would not consider what I am writing as a review of the Torus Power RM8, just take it as a person's listening experience then.

The RM8 needs some warming up period, about 2-3 hours, after that, as I left the unit powered on permanently, its temperature (just warm to the touch) and performance stabilized. Throughout all my listening sessions, my entire system sounded more confident, it was as if my EgglestonWorks The Nine luodspeakers were saying "yes, finally this is a signal that i can really work with". All the twists and turn, dynamic swings, subtle cues and broad strokes in the music came through clearly. It is quite unbelieveable that I was listening to many smeared and veiled moments in music before the Torus Power RM8.

Take Hugh Masekela's 'Hope' cd, the spontaneous shouts and applause among the live audience never sounded so well defined and so well separated. Previously, the vocal and saxophone could sound slightly hard and shrill at certain points in the recording, but with the RM8 in place, these artifacts were totally cleaned up. The entire recording sounded natural and unforced, even at the most explosive moments.

Compared to the Shunyata Hydra 8 that I am using now, I have to say that my system performs better with the Torus Power RM8, as it should be at close to 3 times the price of the Shunyata. Shunyata may portray vocal, especially female, a little more colourfully and sultrily, while the Torus Power sounds really neutral, at the end of the day it would be the listener's preference that it will come down to. However, in other aspects, Torus Power is indeed ahead.

From what Panzer writes, we know he takes the Torus Power RM8 as the leading contender for the king of plc hill. Though there are a number of others that we have not heard, I believe he is not far off the mark. Not at all.

The Furutech FI-32(G) vs Hubbell

Yeah, it's being 2 emotionally devastating days since the departure of the Torus Power, though I am not feeling or listening mood is not holding up too well for now, my final order for a Furutech FI-32(G) finally arrived, giving me an opportunity to detour from the prevailing hifi moodiness. This was meant to be used to replace my existing Hubbell IEC 20A plug(installed in to the output end of my JPS Inwall power cord) for plugging in to the Isotek Sigmas from wall socket. So you can call this a comparison between Furutech and Hubbell.

The FI-32(G) is about 3 times the price of the humble but still good quality Hubbell. Can we expect 300% improvement? At this level of world of high end audio, the law of diminishing returns certainly bites hard. But still, I can say that you can still easily expect 10-20% improvement(again system and dependent, so the YMMV caveat still applies here!), if I am still hearing correctly.

The main improvement area to the resulting sound is probably the highs. The highs now have further refinement compared to pre Furutech installed. The overall presentation of the sonic picture is also a little tidier and cleaner. The bass lines a just a tad firmer and more well controlled.

In terms of termination ergonomics, both the Hubbell and Furutech are equally easy to work with. However, the FI-32(G) is more comfortable with accepting big fat power cords like the JPS Inwall. The finishing aspect sees the Furutech leading with more polished gold surfaces while the Hubbell makes do with industrial grade materials. Still at 1/3 the price, the Hubbell is not too shabby either.

However, if it's absolute sound quality and refinement that you crave for, then only the pricier Furutech will do. I know that I've over crowed about the Furutechs a little too much by now, and should leave things as they are for now.

Furutech is sold by,
Center Circle Audio, tel: 03-77282686
Audiomatic, tel: 012-3222698
Dong Fong Ipoh, Tel: 05-5477863

The Torus Power RM8A.

James of AV Designs called, "hey, are you having problems with the Torus Power?" I replied, "No, why would you say so?" James responded, "I just saw your posting called Power Struggle?, with a picture of the Pure Power and the Torus side by side".

In truth, I actually struggled to review the Torus Power RM8A, because every time I sit down and play some of my favourite music through my hifi system, with intention to evaluate it's performance and how it subjectively changes the sound perceived, I always end up just flipping thru disc after disc, for a few hours, drawn in to and subconsciously unaware, lost in music! Totally forgetting to do my evaluations just minutes in to the first song! And that, is no bad start. James must be relieved to hear that.

The rear panel with 5 outputs and 1 input(right, not shown).

The Torus Power is a 32kg beast of an PLC, which required again, the help of another good friend to help me haul it up in to my first floor audio cave. The build quality is first class inside out, as should be for a top price point PLC costing RM$18K! Unlike the Pure Power reviewed the week before, with it's high tech, sophisticated look, the Torus sports a rather plain if very sturdy look. There's no fancy blue dot matrix display, no multi function settings to monitor or set. Just a plain "ON/OFF" switch on the left side that glows half orange when switched "ON". At the back panel is a standard 10A rated IEC input and only 5 British 13A style outputs! I wish there was at least 6 outputs(8 would be even better!), that way I can power my whole system via the Torus Power RM8A. James, care to advise Torus Power to be more generous with the outlets, if possible?

The full rear panel pic.

The theory of Torus Power as per explained by Richard of Pure Power(whom knows his competitors well!), uses a huge transformer to isolate the audio system, plugged in to it, from the rest of the power grid in your house and quite possibly your neighbourhood! I tested the Torus Power RM8A by using a multi meter and found the input is indeed completely isolated from the output. However, I also found the same daisy chaining of the outlets as per Pure Power practise, but only after a filter and protection circuit board( seen on the right hand side of the internal picture). It would seems that both the Canadian companies choose to do things differently from their American and British competitors, whom seems to place more faith in individual or duplex output filtering.

The simple insides, the secret is in the giant isolation, balanced transformer, which sits on custom mounted brackets with sorbothane like material for insulation againts vibrations(which I never felt with hand placed on top of unit). Note the filter and protection circuit board on the top right, some say because of that, the right most (viewed from this pic) output sounds the best and should be used for source.

The sound, the Sound, oh.... the SOUND! With the Torus Power RM8A powering my Marantz CD7, Pass x-2.5 Pre and Aleph 0 Mono blocks, all the best virtues of my system is enhanced. The already warmish tonal flavour of the system blossomed in to a rich, full aroma gold blend coffee like "kau""kau", sensation. It's sound?, the mids are thick in density yet smooth in the highs, leaving no after taste what so ever. The bass, while not iron fist ed like presented with the Pure Power, is just very tune full and bouncy. It doesn't make my amps sound like it's on steroids, neither did it make my speaker sound like it's grown a pair of 8 inch woofers either! It's forte is micro dynamics rather than macro dynamics! Every thing sounded as it should be, only with the musical emotion factor brought to the fore. There's a certain way the music flows through the system powered by the Torus Power RM8A. Call it P.R.A.T. but not like Naim style, which is fast and bouncy. This P.R.A.T. factor here is of the rather relaxed kind, it lulls the audiophile in me with a sense of serenity, while the music slowly but surely, does it's magic to disarm all my audiophile prejudices, and just allow me to subconsciously flow in to the music, connecting with it's emotional message. This elusive quality(seek ed by so many, yet never knew it, but seldom found on systems at any price point) my fellow readers, is what separates the merely good hifi from a system with greatness!

My self, and a few other lucky souls included, have already witness the greatness in the by now legendary LS3/5A speaker, vintage amps based system of Mr Jo Ki. Jo has always waxed lyrical on the profound influence of the Torus Power RM8A had at shaping the sound of his system today. With the Torus Power RM8A in my system and from this brief experience, I can, finally relate to his point of view, because I can too, finally, experience musical playback at a higher emotional connecting level, stimulating goose bumps inducing sensory to boot. This experience is priceless, and one will not know that it's there until one experiences it. A hifi system playing music without this sensation, no matter how good it's audiophile qualities are, is just like watching the "Happy New Year's fireworks!" each year, very nice but also pretty pointless once the shows over.

O.K. back to the audiophile reality, the noise level of the system is the most silent that I've ever heard. The overall sound presentation is very coherent, almost liquid like yet very tidy. Images are solidly anchored within a sound stage(almost like you're there too!) which is beyond room boundaries, and very clear perception of depth, should a recording contains the spatial information. In live concert hall recordings, like the Jacky Cheung Live 2004, the hall ambiance is convincingly reproduced and the band backing Jacky Chueng can be clearly heard arranged in layers just behind the solid image in front, which is Jacky himself. Audience hand claps are also very realistic, very important if you need convincing yourself to "be there!".

I have a little poem, context taken and modified from a U2 song which nicely describes the at odds behaviour of the Torus Power RM8A that I've experienced.

It's silent yet never dark.
It's dynamic yet doesn't thrill.
It's substance yet without style.
It's loud yet never noisy.

Greatness in a box!

By now you can probably tell, that when hifikaki takes the Torus Power away for a counter point, to see if it effectively solves the dreaded Bandar Utama power supply quality issues, I'll be having a tough time re-adjusting to the cruelty called reality! The reality is I can't afford the Torus Power RM8A at this point in time now(with bad news coming in every single day about the impending and what could be a long lasting "Great Recession!"), but I know that I have found the last piece in my equipment chain of intended purchase, the final piece that brings greatness to my system. For my system and subjectively, my ears(certainly not healthy for my bank a/c), the Torus Power RM8A(or may be the RM16A?) is still the best PLC out there today!

A Technical note: Balanced transformer? What's does it do to our music? Just like our XLR balanced interconnects, the "positive" and "negative" signal cores run along side within the cable, thus canceling out each other's noise, resulting in lower overall audible noise floor. A balanced transformer works the in the same manner where both the "live" and "neutral" carrier core is winded along side each other, thereby cancelling, each other's inherent noise, there by lowering the audible noise floor.

Torus Power is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan, tel:03-21712828

HDtracks by the chesky brothers are here for free downloads!

HDtracks features DRM free downloads in your choice of three formats --CD-quality AIFF and FLAC -- as well as 320 kbps MP3. the universal compatability means your songs can be played on computers, home music servers, iPods and MP3 players, etc.

how good they are, we need our readers to tell us since we ourselves haven't hopped onto the music server bandwagon....

i think the CSF (critical success factor) here is the consumer behaviour of audiophiles. once the listening behavior is changed then we would see a wider acceptance of this new format... and the ultimate death of traditional record shops...

Referring to my earlier posting titled X-2 Capacitor Filter Tweak, dated 15th November 2008. Now that a few of my friends have tried it and have updated me with some feedback that might be use full should you wish to try.

When I did my tweak, I used 0.1uf rated 275V capacitor to short the "live" and "neutral" at the IEC plug end of my power cord. Some of my friends followed the tweak with the same value cap but reported no differences or perceived improvements in term of power line noise reduction. I have since asked them to try other values available.

You may purchase any of these X-2 capacitor values available at the electronics spares supply shop:

0.1uf @ 275V

0.22uf @ 275V

0.33uf @ 275V

0.47uf @ 275V

1.0uf @ 275V

2.2uf @ 275V

The suitable X-2 cap value to use as a filter tweak really depends on the power supply quality in your area. My area, near USJ Subang isn't too bad and I got very positive results using 0.1uf caps. Another friend who lives in Bandar Utama, near hifikaki and ML's place, reported no improvement when he first tried using 0.1uf caps. He later found that 0.47uf cap value gave him very good results.

Another fella in Kuantan reported he only found improvements after going all the way up to using 2.2uf cap value. I have being to his place a couple of times over the years and can testify that the power supply quality in Kuantan is pretty bad indeed, plus it comes with frequent black outs and brown outs(according to my long suffering friend whom almost gave up hifi because of power supply issues). I feel for him, as I feel for ML.

As usual, I will apply the caveat of non-liability should you suffer from damaged equipment, injuries or electrical shock, or worst death, as a result of this DIY activity, which invariably involves high voltages which is dangerous.

Also note that "your mileage may varies" in terms of results from this tweak.

Good luck.

I first saw him sing on Astro AEC 9.30pm weekdays, Fei Yu Ching Show and I was gob smacked! Here's a neatly dressed fella, slightly gayish in appearance and when he sang those old, classic mandarin tear jearkers, he really connect with the song and touches his audience, well, at least me.

I have recently seen his CDs started appearing on ABC Records HD Mastering series, I bought it at first chance. I think this is a compilation of some his better works over the years and it shows.

HD Mastering aside, this CD has plenty of showcase for how a brilliant recording artist's work, being destroyed by the recording engineers! Fei Yu Ching should just find a new team, for which I think he did, as some of the songs weren't too shabby after all. Now if it wasn't for the brilliant voice and performing style, for which I think is very good, wouldn't have made it here.

I guess there's only so much HD Mastering could do with a bad source!

Get it for the songs only(if you like Tsai Ching's earlier CDs, like Lau Ge, I think you'd like this too).

My finite elemente pagode signature rack finally arrived at Audio Image last Friday.

I got it assembled at home myself last night. Though its structure did not seem too complex, it still took me one and a half hours to put it together. As the assemblying progressed, I had more and more respect for the design and manufacturing quality that finite elemente had put into their product. Every thing - every nut, bolt, spike, pillar, platform - just fit into each other with very very little tolerance if at all. The final fit and finish was simply exemplary (an interesting aside - the top of the range pagode Master Reference comes fully assembled, Adrian (owner of Audio Image) had one which he showed me on Friday).

Well packed and well labelled

One particularly great user-friendly touch is in the side-spikes. Finite elemente had a small hole drilled through the spike body so that adjustments, even very fine ones, can be carried out easily with the metal pin provided. Dimples are also drilled into the locking collar nut, to allow you to easily lock the spike in place, again using the same metal pin.
Note the spike in the upper part of the photo, the owner can easily adjust the spike with the supplied metal pin, shown sticking through the spike

It is this kind of great engineering and design precision that make me think of the finite elemente pagode rack as the Mercedes Benz in the hifi rack world.

All this is of course as it should be, the pagode signature has a premium price to match, coming in at more than RM7k list (model E12, 60cm height, 3 tiers). Adrian also told me that the price has just been raised again by the manufacturer, check with him for the latest (016-6001218).

The only complaint I have is the assembly instruction. If I did not have Adrian's briefing on Friday, I think I would need an extra hour to figure everything out. It is well written all right, but poorly organized - it is all in words, no picture or diagram; in one numbered step there are many tasks to carry out, all written in 1 long paragraph. This is no way for reader-friendliness really.
The one-sheet assembly instructions that reads like an essay :-)

The assembled rack
Some may question whether it is worth spending so much on a hifi rack. Buying the pagode signature rack could be a moment of insanity on my part. :-) However, after a few listening sessions, I know it is the right path to take. I listened with all the equipment placed on the pagode signature straight (i.e., without the finite elemente ceraballs), its performance is so much more superior than my acrylic+wood rack plus 2 sets of ceraballs (both racks have the bigger cerapucs installed under the feet).

With the Pagode Signature, more low level details emerge, the sound floats free of the speakers; bass gained extension, has better definition and articulation; the entire soundstage is more solidly placed. The magnitude of improvement is no less than upgrading a major piece of component.
The finite elemente pagode signature rack in action

I'll introduce the cera feet to the equipment on the pagode rack one by one and see whether I could get further improvements, will share my experience here later.

I wish I have come down this way earlier. If you have a competent system already assembled, rather than looking at the next equipment upgrade, look into the racking aspect. Your equipment may perform fine on your existing rack, such as those ubiquitous metal or acrylic rack, you really will see a further substantial leap in performance when you install a properly designed rack.

A good rack will stay with you for many cycles of your equipment changes. So in the long term, it is actually a better upgrade step for your money.

It will not be a wrong decision, how many finite elemente racks do you see on the used market?