Still do not have much to write about hardware. What have arrived a few days ago are the Telos caps, both the gold and platinum versions. Still testing them out in my system, they are potent, to say the least. There are many combinations to check out, so I foresee a couple more weeks to conclude the work.

Instead, I thought to share some of the music that I listen to. I am no music critic, so I'll just write briefly about music that I go to time and again, this is music that have stood the test of time for me. Much of what I'll be writing about is from the real basic repertoire.

I'll start with (western) classical music. I have been listening to classical music before my first hifi system. I found myself gravitating towards classical more and more in my college years, very much attracted by its richness, discipline, and variety while operating within defined structure.

Classical music is of course a vast and diverse genre (I can't profess to have explored it in any extensive manner). However, with the survival-of-the-fittest principle operating on it for 200-300 years, what is left in the basic repertoire now is very much the cream of the crop.

The first classical CD I ever owned is a recording of Mozart's symphonies, and over the years, Mozart still pretty much forms the core of the classical music that I listen to. Mozart's music is almost all sunshine, optimistic, and extrovert. It will without fail lift my spirit at the end of a long hard day. Don't do any hifi analysis, just let the music wash over you, it is almost therapeutic. :-)

I'll just touch on Mozart's symphonies here, the version most satisfying for me is Neville Marriner's with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Karl Bohm with the Berlin Philharmonic comes a very close second.

A couple of years ago, I tracked down a set of Marriner's Mozart symphony cycle (part 1 of Philips' Complete Mozart Edition, pictured above) on ebay. And it is now my definitive version. Marriner with the ASMF are fleet of foot, light in heart and, most importantly, they let the music speak for itself, with no self-indulgence or self consciousness. Always a very enjoyable listen.

If you are starting with Mozart, also seek out his Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A little Night Music), a serenade, you'll recognize the tune at the first few bars. Again my favourite is Marriner's, pictured below.

I planned to continue to write on Beethoven, the 'punk rocker' of the classical era to me, but it is late now, I'll leave it for my next post.

Leaving you with a picture of my Mozart and Beethoven box sets:
Left - Complete Mozart Edition - Symphonies (12 CDs, Nevillet Marriner, ASMF. Philips 464 770 2);
Middle - Beethoven 9 Symphonies (5CDs, Herbert van Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker, 1963 edition. Deutche Grammophon 429 036-2);
Right - Beethoven 9 Symphonies (5CDs, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, The Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Teldec 2292-46452-2)

Happy listening.

Note: all recordings here are not exactly of audiophile quality, but boy, are they satisfying musically. :-)

Don't you love the nude body? I very much do!

I got this at the very last day of 2008, post titled "My Last Hurrah! For 2008" dated 31st December 2008. Yes folks, that's what holidays does to you! Make you splurge!

Like I said, I've always wanted an LP playing cartridge with a nude body design. I've found it in the rather affordable Benz Micro Glider L2. Not exactly a new model as it's been around for quite a few years by now. But my hifi choices are more about the tried and tested, and possibly leaning to more well documented products, owning to my rather conservative nature.

Tha package. Note the serial no. 21041, any folks here like to buy Toto or Magnum 4D?

As most vinyl junkies would be aware, cartridges require a fair bit of time to break in. In the mean time, the sound is inconsistent at best, and can be unbearable at times. Laws of physics, and nothing much we can do about it except to keep playing them until a point where the sound stabilizes and you'll know that's as good as it gets. My Benz Micro Glider have now broken past the 50 hours required breaking time. The sound seems to have stabilised and have consistency to it with every play.

The Glider L2 mounted to the head shell of the Rega RB600, set to run at 2 grams tracking force, and bias slider set to just half way below 1 marking, mated to my Rega P25, which has standard vdH supplied tone arm wiring terminated with Neutrik RCA, with the signal feeding a DIY Pass Ono clone phono stage with XLR balanced out put. The signal in the phono stage is loaded with a 200 ohm resistor and phono gain set to 66db, before passing it down to my Pass X2.5 pre amp and Pass Aleph 0 mono blocks feeding my Audio Physic Spark speakers.

Tracking beautifully.

The sound this system reproduces with the Benz Micro in front is smooth, grain free and very liquid. The "light weighted" signature sound of the Rega is still noticeable though, but with much more refinement, transparency and extension, compared to my previous cartridge, which is the Benz Micro MC Gold. However, the Glider L2 at RM$2.4K cost 3 times the price of the MC Gold, it self a very good and high value for money starter MC cartridge for beginners or budget vinyl junkies. From here on the law of diminishing returns really starts to set in and feels it too.

Stepping up from the MC Gold cartridge, the tonal balance of the system has never shifted, and remains very neutral, with a touch of warmness. The mids of the Glider L2 is very much more open due to it's nude body design, advantage having less body resonance to deal with. The Glider L2 tracks very well, and so far, so one extremely warped LP in my collection manages to upset it.

Another look at the nude body!

The staging and imaging aspect is superior in every way when compared to the less expensive MC Gold, where the imaging is flat and staging is clearly lacking in depth.

However, I just found out the torque driver tweak(mentioned numerous times in various postings on this blog) apparently works best on the cartridge mounting screws to the head shell of the tone arm. After re-torque ing the head shell screws with 3.2kg setting on the torque driver, the sound took on a certain free-ness to it. Whilst I did not detect a certain tenseness in the sound prior to re-torque ing the two cartridge mounted head shell screws, post torque listening exhibits that certain free-ness(or naturalness, perhaps?) to the sound. I whole heartily recommend everyone with a vinyl rig to mount their cartridges using a torque driver!, to get the best out of their vinyl play back. I last heard that Adrian of Audio Image bought a torque driver set, so if you're buying a cartridge from him, make sure you ask him to mount it for you using the torque driver.

Adrian says I shouldn't spend anymore cartridge upgrades to my Rega as I've more than crossed the point of diminishing returns with this Benz Micro Glider L2. See, we really need the advise of a good dealer! Don't we?

Benz Micro is sold by Audio Image. Tel: 03 79563077.

Some would call this 'voodoo'. I admit that, with whatever little science I learned in school, I myself do not know of or read of a fully convincing explanation of this effect. But that is just me.

The 'theory' of system demagnetizing goes like this - the ferrous (magnetic) materials or impurities in our system can get magnetized after a long use. This magnetism could negatively affect signal flow. Running a 'special' signal through the system, from the frontend all the way to the loudspeaker, will demagnetize the system, i.e., randomize the polarity orientation of the magnetic materials. (Well, you can think of a few whys and hows on these statements, can't you?) :-)

Leaving the basis of its working aside, whether 'demagnetizing' works on our hifi or not polarizes audiophiles' opinion too. However, based on my many years of doing 'demagnetizing', I say it has an effect in my system.
The 'special' signal comes in a number of varieties apparently, I myself have 3 different versions on CDs. However there is also a hardware based version - the Gryphon Exorcist, it is the first product that I am aware of (in the early 90's I think) that offers system demagnetizing.

The content of my 3 different versions are different. On the Stereophile Test CD 3, it is simply a 1khz tone that fades to silence in 23sec; on the XLO & Reference Recordings Test & Burn-in CD, it is a frequency sweep, starting from the bass, progressing through the mid to the treble in a minute. The Densen DeMagic CD has only one track, which is 3 minutes long. The track contains bass, mid and treble components (but is not pink or white noise) which slowly fades, it also has a 'chirping' sound interspersed into the track.

I found the least effect with the XLO/Reference Recordings disc (but I do enjoy the music that comes with it, excellent recording quality from Reference Recordings).

I use the Stereophile disc the most, because it is the most convenient (short duration) and the least noisy. However, its effect can go 'overboard'. Sometimes after running the demagnetizing track, the system sounds a little too dark and slightly shut-in (the highs got curtailed quite a bit), but it will recover in 2-3 days.

It was the Stereophile disc that made me a convert. In my early hifi days, I used a pair of Nordost Flatline Gold speaker cables in my entry level set up. Over time, I found that the system sounded too sharp and too bright, very analytical, very uncomfortable to listen to. I blamed it on the Nordost, and switched to a pair of warmer sounding speaker cables. My system was more listenable but I lost quite a bit of details. When I found the Stereophile test CD, I gave the demagnetizing track a spin, and lo and behold, everything calmed down. Switching back to Nordost, I found that it was indeed the superior one - clearer, more transparent, faster. Since then, using the Stereophile disc became a routine for me.

I use the Densen disc occasionally. It is the longest and noisiest wait. Its effect is always positive though, but the magnitude of improvement varies with each run. I suppose this is dependent on the condition of the system at that time. If you can live with the noise and the time, it is the best among the three.

I think it is good to leave the room (or at least cover your ears) when running these tracks, so that they do not affect your 'hearing balance', if you want to do a comparison of before and after. :-)

So how do I know when I need to demagnetize my system? Usually, one two months or so after a previous run, I'd start to detect some roughness in the highs, the system could sound a little 'jittery' or noisier, there could be some glare or brightness. One would normally have the urge to want to tinker with the equipment and cables already at this point. I got to remind myself to hold the horses and run demagnetizing first at moments like this. :-)

What is the effect of demagnetizing in my system? It usually reduces those negative effects. The feeling after is like looking at a scenery after heavy rain - cleaner, clearer, and more vivid. The background is also quieter.

I can't detect any negative physical side effect on my system (it is not like the equipment will break down or drivers will blow), so even if we want to call it 'voodoo', there is no harm in trying it out. If it works for you, then that's great.

P.S., Isotek also has its version, but I have not tried it myself.

I first saw and had a brief showroom audition of these pretty towers at Adelphi in Singapore. They sound pretty good in an unfamiliar system and showroom.

I saw them again in CMY's display windows sometime after Chinese New Year. I gave John of CMY a call to enquire.

The Proacs are now in my music cave. Stay tuned.

I am in a lull as far as hifi hardware is concerned, so I thought to share some small items that will help us get better sound.

Everybody will agree that it is a good practice to clean all the contacts in your system periodically. Once or twice a year, I'll disconnect all my interconnects, loudspeaker cables and powercords, and give their connectors a good wipe. I also clean up the input/output terminals on the cdp, amps and loudspeakers at the same time. Cleaned contacts give better sound, especially in details and smoothness.

In my early hifi days, being cash-strapped, the choice solution was some isopropyl alcohol and a few cotton buds, both available from local pharmacies.

Then I found Kontakt, whose product is much more effective. Kontakt 61 is my favourite, it cleans off the grunge and when dry leaves a thin film to protect and lubricate the connectors, which is especially useful if you swap cables frequently. The protective film also keeps the gold plated connectors looking new and shiny over time.

Give the connector a light squirt from the can, wait a minute or two, wipe the residual away with a cotton bud. You'll be surprised by the amount of grunge that comes off, even from connectors that look clean and new enough to the naked eye. Leave to dry for a couple of minutes, a thin protective film will form on the connectors' surface, oily to the touch.

The only caveat from Kontakt is that this thin protective film may impede low voltages (<1v). This might be a concern for vinyl frontends, so you have to experiment. In my own experience, listening only to CDs, I could not hear any adverse effect from my CD player all the way to the speakers. And this is definitely not a concern for powercords.

Check out Kontakt 61's specs at

If your connectors are old, tarnished or corroded, you need a stronger solution. Look for Kontakt 60 and Kontakt WL. Kontakt 60 is a cleaning agent that dissolves corrosion products, and WL is used to rinse them off for best result. Kontakt 61 can then be applied to protect the cleaned contacts.

For routine cleaning, I find Kontakt 61 alone is sufficient.

Kontakt products can be found in some hardware/electrical parts stores. In KL, I get them from Jalan Pasar at RM18-RM22 a piece.

I have not compared Kontakt with any other specialist cleaning solutions for hifi, such as DeoxIT. So if you have any such experience it will be interesting to share with us.

Happy cleaning.

The first CDP you can by, the Philips CD101.

I could still remember fondly of Philips and Sony's promise of "Perfect Sound Forever" when the Compact Disc, or CD was launched to much fanfare in the year 1982. How time flies, and in 2007, the CD celebrated it's 25th Anniversary.

I have noticed in certain used hifi clasifieds lately that certain older models of CDPs have been moving up in price. Example in point, I was browsing for my dream Marantz CD7 three years ago, and along the way bumped in to a Marantz CD10, I could have it for RM$1.2k. Today, I see the same model asking for RM$2k. Another example of that same period in time, Meridian 206 CDP was asking for RM$1.8k, today that same model is seen advertising for RM$2.3k. Another Marantz, the CD94MKII was then asking for RM$1.6k, I recently see one sold for RM$3.2k. Also a significant model like the Philips CD101 was just recently sold for RM3k plus to a collector.

So what makes a CDP a collectible classic?

a) It must have some form of significant time line marker for the product, like the above said Philips CD101, which was the 1st mass produced CDP you could buy in 1982.

b) It's technical spec must be of the right sort, mainly the transports must have the revered swing heads like the Philips CDM1 or 4 variety. Or the Teac VRDS series. Also considered equally important is the DAC chip. The right numbers to go for are of course the Philips TDA1541 variety or the TDA1547 or simply called DAC7 or Bitstream, depending on marketing speak.

The magical chip, Philips TDA1541 DAC operating in balance mode.

c) It must be reasonably rare of the kind. Some Marantz models like the CD & DA12 pair, where only 500 pairs was ever produced, and mostly are now in the hands of collectors and industry people(I'll come to this more later). Another example is that it's rare simply because at that time of product launch it was priced out of this world! Case in point is the Linn CD12, it's price was RM$60k when launched in 1999. The Denon DCD S1 is also another HOT model, rare because it was never sold outside Japan.

A rare find! Denon DCD S1.

d) Very naturally, being an audiophile product, it must not only sound good, but BENCH MARK GOOD!

So I will list a few here that I would personally consider a classic, however, I must admit that I am probably not the most authurotive figure on the subject matter.

Sony: Let's start with one of the co-developers of the format. The Sony 337 & 555ESD. These are the two more popular of then early Sony machines. They employ Sony KSxxx series transports and borrows the TDA1541 DAC chip from Philips. Inovation includes battleship build quality like double layered copper chassis and transparent military spec PCB boards(Sony 555ESD only). The sound is typically analytical Sony, with lots of details and full on gutsy bass.

Lil' Bro, Sony CDP-337 ESD.

Big Bro! Sony CDP-555 ESD, with transparent mill spec PCB!

JVC: The JVC1050 K2 CDP was considered state of the art at the time, because it uses the same K2 DAC chip developed in house by JVC to master XRCDs. I have not had the oppurtunity to audition one before, but it'll be interesting.

JVC 1050 K2.

Note K2 chip inside the JVC, on top right of pic.

Teac: The first Teac Esoteric player to feature the famed VRDS transport was the P700 and D700. It is considered a classic just so, because it started a trend where all future higher end models of Teac, from the VRDS10, 25SE to the current Esoteric X05 series incorporated the ultra stable transport with disc clamp built in.

Teac VRDS 25SE. All VRDS models are best used as transports only, to be mated with other DACs.

Naim: The CDS1 from Naim is a classic because it was the company's first digital product. It featured the all the right Philips parts, like a top mounted CDM1 swing head transport and the TDA1541 DAC chip. In typical Naim fashion, the later Naim CDs3, CD tray is a manual swing design, which is still in use for today's latest Naim products. The sound, however is typically olive Naim(which die hard flat earthers loved so much!).

Naim CDS1. Note, the tube funnels are not part of the package!
The Naim CDS3, note the Philips CDM transport mounted in to a swing tray? Just like today's Naim CD5X.

Meridian: How can we mention Naim without Meridian? The company's first CDP, the Meridian MCD Pro 888 was basically a Philips CD101 with a modified output stage and beefed up power supply. It showed the world that "Perfect Sound Forever" can be further perfected upon! For that, how can it not be a classic? In recent times, Merdian's CDPs got better and better, but still largely based loosely on the Philips parts bin list, like the Meridian CD206, which feature a box design, bolted together at the back, using Philips CDM1 transport and TDA1541 DAC chip. I would strongly speculate the current Meridian G808 CDP to be a classic in the making! However, only time would tell.

Meridian MCD PRO 888. Doesn't it look like a Philips CD101?

Meridian CD206, note the Philips CDM1 swing head transport, built in to tray?

Linn: There is only one Linn player that fits the classic bill. It's the Linn CD12. Built to rival the long lived Linn LP12 turn table in spirit. It was considered to be the closest to analog sound as CDPs get. Many whom heard it are convinced that the CD12 is as good as the LP12! Too bad it was too expensive(it was sold for RM$60k a pc then!), and only very few were sold. In fact Linn has discontinued the CD12 only to carry on with the LP12. What an irony and surely, a pity too! If only I can audition one for my self!

Sounds as good as the Linn LP12? The Linn CD12.

Marantz: There are many Marantz CDPs that surely qualifies as classic, but the top 3 would probably be starting with the CD94 & CD94 MKII. These babies are the most sought after in the used market as they are available and pretty cheap(even with today's high prices) comparitively to the next 2 models up. All the necesary goodies are there, like the heavyweight build quality, double layer chasis construction, the Philips CDM1 swing head transport and TDA1541 S1(specially matched tight tolerence DAC chips). It's also one of the earliest Marantz CDP to feature XLR balanced output(CD94 MKII only) You can say the CD94 MKII is the one box CD & DA12 econo combo!

The Marantz CD94 & CD94 MKII. Twins?

Next up is the Marantz CD7. It was considered to be significant as it was Marantz last hurrah! to CDP technology and Ken Ishiwata, the Marantz designer kept the best and last remaining TDA1541 S2 close tolerence matching DAC chips for this project. By then Philips had already stop production of the chips and Marantz only had enough to built 750 CD7s. The fully discreet and balance output stage of the CD7 deserves a special mention as it is a blue print for all future Marantz high designs, including the later Marantz SA1 and the current top of the line Marantz SA7. The magic of the the CD7's sound is however, deeply rooted in the DAC chip.

My beloved Marantz CD7, stripped for your viewing pleasure!

Lastly, probably, the most sought after Marantz CDp is the CD & DA12 combo pair. Only 500 of these combo pairs were ever built. It is said that till this day, Ken Ishiwata and the famed reviewer, Ken Kesler still uses the CD & DA12 combo for their daily music listening. They are very good friends of course and are in the same opinion that no modern CDP has beaten the Marantz combo for musicality. And that is really saying something about this player! Again, the transport in use is the Philips CDM1 and 2 pairs of TDA1541 S1 are employed in the DAC section.

Ken Ishiwata & Ken Kesler's CD machine! The Marantz CD & DA12.

Philips: How can we forget about the co-conspirator who brought us in to the digital music world? Of course, the Philips CD101 is an instant classic for being only the first of it's kind. The other notable Philips models are the CD850MKII which is the best bitstream DAC player ever built. Also need to mention the Philips CD960, which was then a top slot CDP, using CDM1 transport and TDA1541 DAC. Then of course there are the Philips cousins to their glamourous Marantz cousins, sans the audiophile jewelry bits and pieces! Like the Philips LHH1000 which is the bread & butter Marantz CD & DA12 combo! Another one to look out for is the Philips LHH800R, which is the Marantz CD11LE cousin! According to Stereo Sound Japan, both are breathtakingly good sounding!

The first Bitstream Philips 850 and 850 MKII.

Philips CD960, striped bare naked, just for you!
The poor cousins, Philips LHH1000.

Philips LHH800R.

Others worthy of mention:

DCS Elgar DAC, this is monumental in a sense that it was the first up sample 16bit data to 24/192 in the year 1996. Up sampling is now the common feature of today's CDPs. I heard this once in an super set up and it sounds sublime, in a sense that it doesn't sound like digital or analog!, it's just out of this world.

The DCS Elgar DAC, the first up sampler, way ahead of it's time!

Wadia 861SE, this model has been around since 2002, despite the arrival of a supposedly superior format SACD. In 2005 it got an SE moniker to signify certain internal changes, however, that precision VRDS tranport is still in used with in house propriety DAC. The sound is superbly detailed, if a little mechanically inclined.

Wadia 861SE with it's tongue sticking out!

Sonic Frontiers SFCD1, being one of the first high end design to incorporate a pair of 6922 tubes for output section. It also features an Ultra Jitterbug chip, said to eliminate jitter and has HDCD decoding! It a very sweet sounding player, as many of my friends have fallen in love with it.

Sonic Frontiers SFCD1, the first digital tubed delight?

Denon DCD2650/3650G, this is a player of battleship size, with equally big sound to boot! It was one of Denons first high end designs that trully overspecs every part except perhaps the sound?

The battleship Musashi? Denon DCD2650.

Arcam Alpha 5, this started off as an el'cheapo Philips TDA1541 and CDM4 swing head transport donor to DIY projects, as until recently, you could get a used unit for RM$500 of so. But I've seen them advertised lately for as much as RM$1k.

The Arcam Alpha 5, it's so light you gotta load it with a brick?

Marantz SA1 and Sony SCD1, hey! they are SACD spinners for sure, but they are also a time line product as being the first of their kind and they signal the end of the CD era. However they do play CDs too!

Marantz SA1.

Sony SCD1.

And lastly, who can forget the all time most popular CDP called the Marantz CD63 and all it's other monikers like MKII, SE and very special KI??? However they are too many around to be considered a classic.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I would have probably missed a model or two, but hey! You can always share with me what you'd think of as a classic CDP.

This is the CD that matter!

I first saw Andre Rieu Live at Maastricth on one of the Astro special channels during the 2009 New Years program. It was an excellent introduction to the violinist's gifted musical performance, not to mention, very entertaining too. The concert ends with the whole of Andre's hometown folks dancing in carnival like party ambiance! Andre's ability to connect with his audiences and me, the television viewer is great. You can't help but to like him, and his music.

If you missed the Astro telecast, you can get the DVD of the Maastricht concert in either packaging design, also available from the www mentioned below.

I promptly went on to purchase this CD at the site, along with a few other items. I've being hooked on this CD ever since.

Andre is Dutch, but has many a gift for all Strauss melodies and Waltzes. His rather light handed playing style makes the music of Strauss come alive, free from a certain heaviness of sound structure that plague so many of other Straus interpretations. My favorite march track, Redetsky's March, has a certain flow to it, played during track 1, tittled Strauss Party, which is a quick medley of the composer's most popular music. Track 2, aptly named Second Waltz, is also makes an enduring listen.

The CD's sound quality is pretty good, but not quite up to the standards set by some of the best DG or Decca recordings. An example is the Sophie Anne Mutter's interpretation of Carmen-Fantasie, recorded in 4D Stereo(Whatever that means?) by DG. Also from my own personal point of view, the track 11, Meditation taken from Thais, by Jules Massenet, Andre's lighter touch on the violin seems to have also taken out some of the emotional sadness, so felt by Sophie Anne Mutter's interpretation of the same tune. But well, that's just me and my beef!

I love the pretty Sophie Anne Mutter! and her Carmen Fantasie performance, including the filler, Meditation from Thais, by Jules Massenet. The recording is first rate too!

Overall, I'd consider this to be an easy, like able first step entry in to the classical genre, or for those whom seems to have heard em' all, a refreshingly light hearted take in to an otherwise serious music genre.

now this is quite innovative. a high-end cable manufacturer promoting DIY. no more reasons to go pasar road. all you need is a hair dryer and a screw driver!

bruce brisson, founder of MIT Cables, has released a pet project he has had in the works for over ten years. "giant killer" is the first ever offering of the MIT patented technologies in a do-it-yourself modular and upgradeable approach.

for the budget conscious, another lower-priced package, "slingshot" which is not upgradeable but packs an incredible amount of performance in a simple-to-assemble package. click here for details.

will audioquest and transparent audio follow suit? we think it is the best way to bring audiophile cables to the masses.

true to my prediction last year, all tower records branches (1-utama, lot 10, plaza damas) in malaysia are closing down....

of the 3 remaining record chain stores in malaysia, namely rock corner, victoria music and cd rama, i would think rock corner is the most aggressive and creative, with many ideas to rescue this dwindling market.

rock corner is definitely eyeing on the audiophiole market. they are the only one who distributes s2s (a japanese audiophile label who has an office in s'pore) cds in malaysia. whether they get it directly from s'pore s2s or they parallel import them, i am not sure. but as far as i know, the relationship between the retail operator and the label is always a controversial and messy one.

rock corner also produces their own compilations, with the approval and blessings from major labels. this is definitely a very creative idea as they can push aggressively this kind of compilation albums in their stores.

comparatively, victoria music is very conservative. they still rely on their regular loyal customers. as far as i know, victoria is also not doing anything on audiophile market.

cd rama, on the other hand, is still focusing on china-made audiophile cds. they have a definite advantage as their customers are predominantly chinese-educated listeners.

this local music industry is facing many challenges now. those who survive these trying times would emerge stronger at the end.

Dear Lil'kc and Ken,

Thanks for the time you spent at my place the Sunday before last. I found it both interesting and educational when you demonstrated your approach, or probably more appropriately called your 'philosophy' to sound, in the span of 4 hours or so.

I have taken the last couple of weeks to get a better handle on the sound changes in my system from the 'torquing' you have done on my equipment. I have also been thinking through this experience. I like to share with you my understanding, and please give me your feedback, especially if I have missed out something or have not been correct.

I understand that you aim for a number of key sound characteristics. I identified these as openness & clarity, extended frequency response at both ends, dynamism, and liveliness. This seems to be taken as an 'absolute' reference. I got this when on a couple of occasions lil'kc mentioned about his 'C', which is what he used to call his sound quality target. He used 'C' in contrast with 'A-B', that is that you are not evaluating sound quality through relative comparison (i.e., A-B'ing equipment's performance) but against a fixed standard instead. Am I right? (lil'kc talked about 'C' quite regularly on his blog, I could not understand it till now!) :-)

Since you have this clear target, everything done is aimed directly at its achievement. This was demonstrated in your visit session. The tightening of the screws on the equipment using a torque driver seems to 'liberate' the sound (well, 'tightening' is a misnomer, in fact, the torqued screws are looser than the original tightness that the equipment came with, but now every screw has the same tightness). As the 'torquing' exercise moved upstream, first the loudspeakers, then the amp, then the cdp, openness and dynamism of the sound improved. Then, step by step, a Telos powercord was added to the cdp, existing tweaks were taken off one by one, and tweaks from Telos were added, such as XLR caps, RCA caps and the loudspeakers banana caps. At each step, listening is conducted and the step will be reversed if the change was deemed to have gone overboard from the sound target.

Telos XLR male caps. Female version also available

Slowly but surely, the sound quality edged towards those sound targets mentioned earlier. The volume control edged up too, music was played louder and louder, adding greater dynamics, clarity and excitement to the listening experience.

Honestly, I have never listened to music on my system at such loudness level. Usually I would have found it a little painful aurally at levels like this, but now, the sound was composed and smooth.

The character, dynamic swing and the volume of the sound reminded me a lot about 'Live Sound'. I think I am not wrong to say that your 'C' is actually about that - LIVE.
Telos RCA caps

Swapping tweaks with those from Telos showed that they are pulling in different directions. My existing tweaks seems to work by 'covering up flaws', such as improving smoothness by turn down slightly the upper mids and the highs. However, Telos' pulled the other way, they aim to take the sound already liberated by torquing and expand it even further.

Am I right to say that torquing is the pre-requisite for the use of Telos' tweaks? I could imagine that without torquing, the addition of Telos' caps would not have given the users the full benefits, if at all. If so, then Telos dealers must educate their customers accordingly and probably even perform such a service for them.

Telos' products also seem to give the max effect when they are used as a total solution, as was heard as more and more Telos products were added. Mixing it with other brands again may restrict their full potential. So I think prospective users should be ready to go the whole length eventually.

Telos banana caps for speaker terminals

Ken has been advocating that all tweaks should be re-evaluated after torquing, he is right. I like to bring this one step further - every time a change is made in your system (e.g., adding a new piece of equipment), all tweaks should in fact be re-evaluated. Because if the tweaks do the 'cover-up flaws' thing, as I understand that some do from this experience, and the new change takes away the flaw, leaving the tweak in actually would restrict your system's performance. Not sure if you agree with this tweak novice. :-)

Anyway, I am interested to check out further the efficacy of Telos' tweaks, starting with the caps, as they aren't really expensive. I really must go and get some review samples. :-)

After you left and took away with you all the Telos items, I listened to my system for a few more days. The effects from the torquing were still there, but the performance was different from that during your visit session. I now look forward to do a longer term evaluation of Telos' products.

As it is, the system still sounds pretty good, with just the torquing effects left - 'Live-like', not your full 'C', but a few steps closer. :-)