The Bladelius Saga Pre amp. Built on the same deep chassis platform as the Embla CD player.

The MONSTROUSITY called Bladelius Ymer! Watch out for the really sharp edges and corners!

I know I am supposed to live with the Bryston for a little while. But when a full set Bladelius came calling, courtesy of Audiomatic, my knees grew weak and accepted the offer in no time. Ahhh..... I am such am audio slut!

Both the Bladelius Saga and Ymer are top drawer stuff. The Saga pre amp costing RM$32K and the 300W class A/B Ymer power amp will set you back by RM$49K. These are clearly some of the most expensive components to have ever graced my audio cave.

My hifi rack, the FE spider clone struggled to contain the Saga, which is much deeper than most other equipment.

The Bladelius Saga is a full feature pre amp with 3 balanced, 6 single ended inputs and 2 balanced plus 2 single ended outputs. There's also a tape loop provided. You may also adjust the input level of each source individually, so that they all match in volume output, which ever your source is. I found this feature to be very useful to tweak the sound of the system, as it effects the perceived stage depth or forwardness somewhat, depending on setting allocated for each source. I found my self setting the Marantz CDP input to 0(zero) input level, and setting the phono stage input level to -1. I also found I prefered the -1 setting with the Bladelius Embla CDP. You can also individually label each input by name.

The back end of the Saga, input on the left and outputs on the right. Note the RS232 jack, so that you can connect to a PC or laptop for future software up grades, if available.

The Ymer power amp is monster sized, weighing close to 60kgs and no grab handles are provided for the job of lifting it from the box in to place, on my amp rack. Even with 2 person on the job, the satin smooth aluminium finish of the chassis casing is slippery from the hand. The corners are sharp as knife, as I had my hand and fingers cut whilst moving it in to place. Removable grab handles is a nice idea if Bladelius wants to retain the nice, fuss free look of the power amp. A peek on the inside reveals this is a dual mono design in the truest of sense! There are 2 large identical power supply trannies inside, each supplying power to a bank of storage caps, then to the left and right channels with their dedicated heat sinks, all packed inside the casing. The only thing the dual mono channels share is the chassis mounted IEC power input socket, and the all aluminium casing.

The Ymer needs two amp racks to support it, as it is so........ long!

I first mated the Saga to my Marantz CD7 at the front and the Ymer power amp further down the chain, then lastly, my faith full pair of Audio Physic Spark doing speaker duty. My usual array of AQ Sky, Cardas Golden Presence interconnects are used with 2 pairs of speaker cables being used in the session. First being the JPS Super Conductor 3, and later the Siltech Classic G5 LS88 speaker cable. All my usual power arrangements are used including the Torus Power RM8A PIU(Power Isolation Unit).

I loved the sound of the system comprising the Marantz CD7, AQ Sky interconnect, Saga pre amp, Cardas Golden Presence interconnect, Ymer power amp, JPS Super Conductor 3 speaker cables and the Audio Physic Spark speakers. The sound was reproduction was the most realistic ever heard in my audio cave. At this level of sonic excellence, I no longer think about the highs, mids and lows, nor do I think about the staging and imaging. I did not think about scrutinising the sound at all! I've never heard instruments like violin and piano reproduced with such beautifully woody harmonics and truth of timbre. Playing techniques and each violinist's breath could be heard clearly and distinctly. When playing vocals, the alive and breathing qualities are very apparent too. Guitars have that convincing "twang" to it, followed by the woody resonance of the body. Bass string instrument, had texture, fret board finger work all apparent and the strings bounces with each note tune fully. Drums had stick attack, skin texture and that hollow reverb that follows. Cymbal work is always realistic, yet never calling attention to itself, but has that dimensional quality(a.k.a. audiophile "air"), that projects it right at the back of the stage, but still each detail easily heard and followed.

The back end of the Ymer power amp. I love the non shorting WBT Nextgen speaker terminals. I think they are the best!

The amazing part is the stage does appear much bigger than my room. When listening in the dark at night, that room less sensation can be a little hair raising at times. The system was super silent. No tweeter hiss, back ground noise, white noise, nor any nasties were heard.

I started listening with Telarc's Round Up CD, featuring Erich Kunzer conducting Boston Pops Orchestra. This famous wild west themed CD has being heard a billion times, yet played thru the Bladelius combo, the presentation is wholly refreshing. The opening cattle scene track, the whole cattle field was portrayed on to the speaker's back and side walls, like a huge semi curved canvas(like the screen of some THX equiped cenimas) of a cattle scene art work, realizing depth of field by the various cattle "" placement and cowboy riding horses back and forth and the final round up! To me this is just un real. The only thing that diference this from reality is the missing smell of fresh grass and cow dung! By the time I got to track 3 of the Round Up CD, The Magnificient Seven theme, I call it the Marlboro track(it was used in the famous cowboy advertisement campaign by the Marlboro cigarete brand), I was getting goose bumps all over, due to the uncanny resemblence of the experience comparable to sitting on row M of the the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. The gorgeous, majestic tone of the orchestra coming full on in a Crescendo just made me flip over and over again. I was virtually breathless at the end of that track.

My other significant half, whom is always indifferent to whatever sounds my audio cave makes, suddenly decided to come in one day, when I was playing the very familiar Tube HiFi Violin CD, featuring Wilhem Dennigen on the Guarneri del Gesu 1735 violin with piano backing in the background. She exclaimed that the sound of the violin and the piano was a if in reality, performed right before her! When the track Air, from Suite no.5 was played, a popular wedding tune, she was moved to tears. She's my Dewan Filharmonik Petronas concert partner, and she knows classical music way better than me. She said "now, that's the first time I hear your hifi do the violin and piano tone right!" That statement coming from her, is testament to the highest fidelity of the Bladelius Saga and Ymer combo!

I then proceeded to replace the Marantz CD7 with the Bladelius Embla Basic. While the Embla Basic, was just as detailed and as transparent as the Marantz, it some how sounded a little on the lean, "cool" side of neutral, tonality wise. The Embla certainly had lower noise floor and better dynamics, but somehow portrays music with a little mechanicalness. Strange indeed, as I would have taught being made from the same factory, I would expect better synergy from the Embla than the Marantz CD player. I can only deduce that the Bladelius Saga and Ymer combo was revealing enough to let the Marantz strut it's stuff to the max.

However as usual, coming from such highly transparent equipment, the Saga and Ymer combo will always reveal your system's weak link, if there was one. I wondered if the system would sound as good without the help of the Torus Power? I was shock that the overall system transparency, delicate resolution, and musicality performance parameters dropped a notch or two, sans the Torus Power, with everything plugged direct to wall supply. This proves you must have good power for the Bladelius combo to perform to their very best. Next, as the dead line of the JPS Super Conductor 3 speaker cable came along, which I substituted with the Siltech Classic G5 LS88. Again I noticed a drop in overall performance. The highs were still nice and tidy, the mids are still breathy but have less density, body mass perhaps? However the bass became a little lean and less punchy overall. Dynamics and transient peaks were more subdued than before.

I was surprised, that the Audio Physic Spark speakers, remained unfazed by all the grand equipment it had to support and manages to reveal all the changes noted above. In short, it was up to the task.

The same remote set as the Embla CD player is provided, but operating the Saga is less daunting as almost all comands are direct button accessed. Not menu navigational screen prompted, like the Embla.

In the right audio system configuration, as I found out from my above experience, the Bladelius Saga and Ymer are capable of truly exceptional and absolutely life like musical performance, which more than fully justifies their asking prices. Can I dare say that "they're a steal comparing with some of the more established big brands"?

I think I may have grown silk ears by now, because my high end reference, has just being redifined!

I don't really want to return them, just yet.

Bladelius is sold by Audiomatic, contact Eugene, tel: 012-3222698

The Bladelius Embla Basic CD player.

Ladies and gentleman, this is what the future of audiophile quality CD players looks like! Well at least that's what I think any way. Mike Bladelius(product designer and owner of Bladelius) would very much agree with me on this too! He!He!

Here, we not only have a CD player in the traditional sense, but also included in the feature count is a silent replay system. What's a silent replay system? you ask.

The front panel menu display, when backing up CDs to flash memory card. Note the no. of corrected jitter errors!

It's a feature that allows you to back up all your CDs in to the Bladelius Embla's flash memory card. In Basic guise as the review sample provided(recommended retail price is RM$26K+), it is estimated to store up to the equivalent of 60 bit perfect CDs in full resolution, and jitter corrected. This mode of playback is said to reproduce better sound quality, more efficiently, as the transport jitter error is taken out of the playback system, due to the flash memory card having no moving parts at all. You may install additional flash memory cards latter at cost. That means you can potentially store your whole CD library in to the Embla. Now isn't technology great???

A fully loaded, full featured Bladelius Embla Premium, which is expected to cost you more than RM$45K!, is said to be in the works. You get front panel touch screen navigation and a back lit touch screen, hand held remote control plus 2 extra digital filter options.

Allison Kraus, Forget About It CD was backed up in to the flash memory card, note that the CD cover was uploaded from the internet, via the RS232 port connected to a computer.

I got this when I backed up a non English TOC CD. No picture too!

I can tell you straight and now, that the Embla Basic is not, that basic after all! It's got over sampling on/off option, sampling frequency option, 44.1, 48, 96 and 192 kHz are available. Also on offer is a digitally operated phase switch, for those really concerned about this sort of thing. There are also USB, Bluetooth and a host of other inputs available for you to stream music in to the Embla's flash memory card for storage, or replayed via your high end audio system.

There are just too many options and features available to mention here, otherwise, I'd start to sound like a product brochure. For full feature listing of the Bladelius Embla, check it out here:

Now we get to the important part, the sound! The Bladelius Embla, when playing with the 192kHz up sampling setting used, does remind me very much of the Esoteric X-03 reviewed last month. Only in checking the Embla's spec on the above link, I found out that it uses a Teac transport! However, I cannot confirm is it's of the VRDS variety.

When playing CDs the conventional way, the noise floor is vanishingly low, the overall presentation is very clean, very tidy. Transparency is first rate, as it plays out all the information that is embedded on the CD, nothing is added or subtracted. If it's a poorly recorded pop or rock recording, you'll know it. If it's a lush sounding classical recording, it'll sound like that too. This is about the most uncoloured, true to source CD player I've ever experienced in my system.

I found my self mostly using 44.1kHz oversampling setting for most pop and rock recordings, for a little more immediacy in the music's presentation, and 192kHz up sampling setting for classical and jazz recordings, for better presentation of hall ambiance or studio spatial cues and a little bit more audiophile "air".

But what couldn't prepare me for next to come was that, when a CD is backed up( the Embla will ask you if it should back up each time it detects a new, previously unplayed CD or other source is inserted), and jitter corrected, then stored in to the Embla's flash memory card. When replaying from the flash memory card, the music took on a slightly more focus imaging, better separation between instruments within the sound stage and more organic flow in it's presentation. You can say that I preferred the sound when played back via the flash memory. However, I must state that tonally, the Embla lies in the slightly lean, "cool" side of neutral, which makes partnering it with warmer or musical sounding amps and speakers essential. But that's just my musical preference, yours may differ.

Doesn't the Embla look nice on my audio rack?

However, I do have a few operational quibbles about the Bladelius Embla.

First is the CD slot, which I find that it scratches both the top and bottom surface of my CDs a bit when inserting or ejecting in a hurry. You'll need to exercise care when inserting or ejecting CDs. Bladelius could take cue from in car CD receivers, which has foam lined CD slots.

Next, for the price of RM$26K+, I'd expect the remote to be at least back lit. The remote is well built and heavy aluminium in feel, which is good. But then, as the remote is capable of controlling a full Bladelius system, it has many, many small rounded, black buttons, with even smaller black labelling fonts. It's an absolute nightmare to operate initially. Only after a few days of practice and familiarity, the task of operating the remote became less daunting.

See what I mean about the well built remote control??? What makes it more frustrating is that the Embla Basic is a two button only machine!!! You only have "Standby" and "Eject" button on the front fascia. Every thing else is done via the remote.

Lastly, during it's time in my system, the Embla's software did hanged a few times, usually when changing between replaying from flash memory to inserting CD for replay. Also noted is that it's software does not recognise non English CD TOCs(table of contents). Eugene of Audiomatic tells me that Bladelius is aware of the issue. A new version of the software that addresses the issue will be available for upgrade soon. The new version of upgraded software can be up loaded to older Embla players via it's RS232 port connected to a computer with Internet link.

As far as I know for now, there are no other high end CD players with this concept of backing up your CDs for storage and replaying via it's internal flash memory card(and sounding better too!), just yet. However, I am also very sure that the competition is out there watching the success of the Embla with great interest. Surely the competition does not want to be left behind either. I am also wondering with great interest, when that happens, at what entry price level would this concept be available in the not too distant future?

If the price tag does not seem too daunting for you now(high end price tags are always daunting, aren't they?), and like Mike Bladelius's idea as much as I do, then wait no more!

You can, buy the "Future Forward" today!

Bladelius is sold by Audiomatic, contact Eugene, tel: 012-3222698

once in a while, a voice comes along that completely knocks you off. such is the lure of zee avi (formerly kokokaina) that many international labels got interested once they heard the voice of zee in her youtube videos. and who would imagine a young malaysia could pull off this kind of feat?

young zee is already gigging all over in US. really, artiste like zee is too good for malaysia; she needs overseas exposures and she deserves overseas success. and knowing the tendency of malaysians to overlook homegrown talents, her move (to overseas) is indeed a very smart one.

it is not difficult to understand why foreign labels were interested in zee. her voice reminds one of divas of past like billy holiday; her tone is oh-so-rich and honeyed; her phrasing and intonation belies her young age; there is so much honesty and more than a hint of insecurity and fragility in her voice. she certainly has more texture, more emotions and more depth than joanna wang and recent singers who tread along the same genre of easy-listening.

the music here is light-folk and whimsical, sometimes reflective, a bit dark but nothing too heavy. at 23, zee's has got plenty of depth in her compositions, indicating her influences and musical depth and knowledge. it is quite amazing that brushfire records allows zee to showcase all her original compositions instead of asking some composers to write for her. this spirits of originality and creative freedom is worth applauding.

my faves are "first of the gang to die" and malay number "kantoi". zee's voice has a way to bring you back to some place far away and some time far far back. the music is wistful, pensive and latently melancholic. she has her way of story telling. it is as if she has been through a lot in her life.

as a debut, it is certainly great but it nevertheless has room for improvement, notably in her compositions. with more life experiences, we are going to see a more mature zee in the near future.

as a malaysian, i am already proud of zee avi. you should too.

[background of zee avi]

Zee Avi (born Izyan Alirahman, also known as KokoKaina). Zee Avi is just 23 but she’s an old soul. A huge talent in a petite frame bringing a universal message from the unlikely birthplace of Borneo, an ancient island east of Malaysia which remains an untouched, natural paradise, an apt description of her songs.

How Avi came to record her debut album in L.A., the first joint release from Ian Montone’s Monotone Label and Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, is a true 21st century tale of the way the Internet has transformed the music business and shrunk the globe in the process.

Born in the tiny town of Miri in Sarawak on the island of Borneo, Zee grew up near the South China Sea in a liberal, encouraging household where her father owned an energy consultancy. “I was bred to be a lawyer,” she says, but music was in her blood. Her father’s father sang and played double-bass, accordion, violin and guitar in bands.

At age 12, Zee moved from Borneo to Kuala Lumpur where she has been based since. At 17, Zee started locking herself in a room for hours on end to learn to play guitar. Guitar took a back seat for 4 years while she was studying fashion design in London. When she returned to Kuala Lumpur, she picked the instrument back up and began writing songs and performing with a band.

Zee began recording her songs on a webcam and posting them on YouTube for a friend to hear. “I remember getting so excited when there was one new comment from some random person I didn’t know… One read ‘I’m lost for words - I shall favorite it and ponder if that’s OK,’ ” which was written by Kris Rowley, a U.K. singer-songwriter with a YouTube following under the name Zzzzzzzzap. He began posting her videos on his site, which began a viral snowball effect.

The day before her 22nd birthday, Zee posted what she intended to be “my last video,” a holiday song, “No Christmas for Me.” By the time she checked her e-mail Avi had almost 3,000 messages including a slew of label offers. One email came from Ian Montone, who had been shown the YouTube clip by Raconteurs’ drummer, Patrick Keeler, prompting Montone to get in touch and offer to release her music on the Monotone Label.

Before she knew it Zee was on a plane to L.A. to record her debut with producer Robert Carranza at Brushfire’s Solar Powered Plastic Plant. “No Christmas for Me” was then featured on the holiday charity album, This Warm December, A Brushfire Holiday, Vol. 1.

With an eclectic pool of influences that range from such eccentrics as Cat Power, Regina Spektor, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Jolie Holland, Daniel Johnston and Chris Garneau, to jazz greats Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, to classics like Velvet Underground and Led Zeppelin, this self-described “rock lover at heart” captures the dark, bittersweet qualities of romance with a crack left open for hope and optimism.

From the sensuous scat singing on “Honey Bee” to the sultry break-up song, “Is This the End,” recalling the existential longing of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is,” Zee is hopeful of finding love, but equally aware of lurking heartache.

The songs on Zee Avi’s debut are about an outsider’s desire to belong and the tentative hope of moving on, filled with regret and loss, but boasting an impish, worldly wise sensibility.

“I tend to be a loner,” she nods. ” ‘Honey Bee’ is about a romance between two nonconformists who are different from the rest of the hive, and are trying to avoid the pressure to be like everybody else.”

“Just You and Me,” the first song she wrote on ukulele, has a ‘20s New Orleans swing jazz vibe.

“I get my melodic feel from the simplicity of classic jazz, people singing what they felt with straightforward lyrics and not too many harmonies,” Zee says. “Just a lot of honesty. I’m a girl of simple pleasures.

The elemental acoustic guitar of “Story of…” is enhanced with an Eno-like ambience that add to its shimmering quality, while “Poppy” is autobiographical “with a little bit of poetic license” that looks back at the demise of a two-year relationship.

“My stuff is pretty dark,” Zee admits. “Most of my songs are about the reality side of romance, outlets to vent my emotions.”

While her live experience amounts to playing gigs in Kuala Lumpur, Zee appeared this January on From the Basement, the U.K. TV webcast/broadcast that has featured Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Damien Rice, the White Stripes and the Shins. From the Basement will also air on the U.S.‘s IFC Channel.

From Malaysia to Los Angeles, Zee Avi is enjoying the ride and ready to take on passengers. “I’m still pinching myself” she gushes. “My parents always told me it’s important to keep yourself grounded. I’m thankful, but at the same time, I just want to jump through the roof. It’s been a pretty amazing journey, getting to work with some really wonderful people, a blessing, really.”

Zee Avi’s Monotone/Brushfire Records debut returns that blessing…and then some.

Monotone Records is owned by Ian Montone, whose Monotone, Inc. manages the White Stripes, M.I.A., The Shins, Vampire Weekend, the Raconteurs, Against Me!, Cold War Kids, Crookers, among others.

Brushfire Records is owned by Jack Johnson and his manager Emmett Malloy and is home to artists like Rogue Wave, Matt Costa, Neil Halstead, Money Mark, G. Love, Mason Jennings, ALO and Zach Gill.

There are friends who are 'yang' - loud, slap you hard on your back, irreverent; there are friends who are 'ying' - brooding, a little fragile, probably moody. And there are friends who are 'balanced' - always there for you, cheering along when you are up, and stay with you when you are down. The object in this write-up is the third kind, it is a friend in hifi that you can count on.

I seem to get all the pass-me-down from Panzer. :-) So, true to tradition, the Bryston BP26 / 4BSST2 pair ended up at my place for a couple of weeks while he was busy with other things.

Throughout my years' in the hifi hobby, I never owned an amp more powerful than 100w (I don't know why, probably it is the issue with my wallet). So with the 300w per side Bryston 4BSST2, I jumped at the chance, I would love to hear what a high power amp could bring to the table in my own system.

The stable mate of the 4BSST2, the BP26 pre-amp also came along for the ride. I decided to go one by one. The pre-amp would go into the system first, then the power amp. I have just completed step 1, so this write-up focuses only on the pre-amp.

The Bryston BP26 Pre-amp and MPS2 Power Supply

The BP26 is a great example of a thoroughly modern pre-amp. It is built like a tank, has all the connections that one would need (2 balanced inputs, 5 unbalanced inputs, 1 tape loop, 1 balanced output and 2 unbalanced outputs), Bryston also, in their wisdom, added some additional features that, to me, upped the value-for-money quotient for their ware - there are a headphone out, balance control, mute, and a rarely seen phase inversion switch. So this Bryston offers greater conveniences compared to those strip-down pre-amps out there, some can't even do much more than source selection and volume control.

The MPS2 power supply comes with 4 outlets, so you can power other Bryston gears with it. It connects to the main body via an umbilical cord cable. Built into a same size chassis as the pre-amp, both looked dandy stacked on each other. And that is how I installed them on the top of my equipment rack.

Mated to my Pass Labs XA-60 monoblocks, the BP-26 offered up a sound that was quite refined and smooth. This was an excellent level of performance for me, this refinement was better than my resident Pass Labs X2.5, and reminded me, to an extent, of that offered by Pass Labs' much more expensive XP-20 pre-amp (RM30k, compared to the BP26's RM16k), which I listened to a while ago.

The BP-26 also offered up excellent details. There was a slight heightening of clarity apparent towards the upper mid regions and higher (upper range of vocal, guitar plucks, violin strings), giving the sound a little sunlit quality and letting the details coming through. The sound was neither bright nor cold in any stretch of the imagination. The BP-26 also emphasized the main event (vocal, main instruments) more than the ambiance and surroundings. It is my nit to pick, after comparing to my X2.5, to wish for a tad better resolution of low level information. These traits though made the main musical details that much easier to follow.

There was no mechanical feel to the BP-26's music reproduction. The sound flowed. There were no etching, no edginess, unless it was in the recording. Do not expect the BP-26 to romanticise or beautify the music for you though. The BP-26 is an honest guy, its no non-sense demeanor will just pass on the signal as it is.

With these traits, you would be in cloud nine if you were more intellectually oriented in your music listening. Every word and every note in the music were portrayed clearly for the ears and the mind to savour. I could not ask for more in this respect, listening through to the music with the BP-26 was easy.

The control that the BP26 exerted was clear to hear on the 'Poem of Chinese Drum' track that I mentioned earlier in my E.A.R. Acute cd player post. At certain parts, the music was not only loud, but also complex and fast. the BP26 was unfazed, it segregated the threads clearly and cleanly, things do not get overblown, and each drum beat was presented in a tactile manner. The BP26 was evenhanded, it did not go weak at the knees, nor did it charge hard at the listener.

The rear view
The BP26 had no tendency to offend. There was no primadonna behaviour in its operations nor in its sound. It stayed true to the musical signal. And with its 20 year warranty it will do this year after year, presenting your music to you.

I don't think one can ask for a more dependable and trusty piece of gear than this.

Bryston is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan, tel: 016-3280237

The new shop front display.

The cosy main audio demo area.

Remember the ol' City Square building? For many years, it used to be the hifi mecca of Kuala Lumpur. However, as of late last year, the building was scheduled for demolition works, to make way for presumably a bigger, more prominent and probably more lucrative(rental returns wise) building project. All the hifi and audio stores have left the building and went their separate ways. As we try to trace where some of them had moved to, we found Rave Systems, and it's owner unker Edwin Tan and his rather chatty Mrs. It's new location is Lot1.4, Level 1, PNB Darby Park. No.10 Jalan Binjai, 50450 Kuala Lumpur. If you need assistance in finding the place, you can call the following tel. no. 03-21632818 or 012-3241745.

Jadis equipment and Herron Audio phono stage, also Jennifer Warnes latest re-issue of "The Hunter" LP, only 8000 copies pressed for worldwide sale.

More Jadis tube amp galore.

For those who do not know what Rave Systems sells, here goes. They represent some of the biggest brands in hi-end, like Jadis, Wilson Benesch, Herron Audio, Gryphon, Rega, EAR Yoshino, Almarro and Weiss. Rave also carries some really good value for money audio brands, like Stello, April Music, NAD, Ho's and Musical Interface amongst others. You can also find some DIY oddities, built to very high standards of course, being offered here.

Wilson Benesch's high tech Trinity speakers, with matching stands.

The Torus Infrasonic Generator sub, made from carbon fibre material to match the above Trinity speakers.

Wilson Benesch Full Circle turn table with matching carbon fibre A.C.T 0.5 tone arm.

Rave Systems is also a place for you to find out about the latest audiophile music. They stock most of the best audiophile music tittles in CD or LP. If you can't find it there, they can always bring any tittle you want on special order basis.

The music business corner.

Ho's LS3/5A BBC inspired monitor and matching bass extender.

Sonus Faber??? No, Musical Interface speakers! With matching stands.

Stello CD transport and DAC, endorsed by Mark Levinson. Great sound at very reasonable prices.

The decoration of the new show room has a very cosy feel, yet light and airy in ambiance. You can while away there for hours, while unker Edwin plays you some of his favourite music thru any one of his many finely tuned demo systems.

The Gryphon Diablo integrated amp.

And matching carpet!

I spent a few hours and some money there on an LP and CD over the weekend. If you're still looking for Rave Systems and wondering what happened to them since the City Square days, well wonder no more! Go pay them a visit!

Go pay Rave Systems, and unker Edwin Tan a visit!

my concept of turning my home studio into a mini concert venue actually turned out superbly on the night of my birthday!

a couple of my hifi dealers actually came that night and commented that both the acoustics and the sound from the system were great, and of course, everyone had a whale of a time enjoying the mini concert.

many have suggested to make it into a venue for press conferences, meet-the-fans sessions and live gigs....

this is really cool ;-)

Look here Fluffy! Good Dog! Now isn't he adorable?

What does this cute li'll pooch has to do with hifi? Let me introduce, for this li'll pooch named Fluffy, must be one of the most qualified audiophile dog in Malaysia, and if not, the world! Fluffy's owner is called "the hifi KING" amongst audiophile circles in his home town in Borneo island. And yes, he's a very good friend of Dr. Brian too. Like Dr. Brian, Philip(hifi King's name) also has and extensive collection of LS3/5A BBC style monitors, some old style Tannoy Yorkminsters, a few pairs of Apogee panel speakers and JBL 43xx type studio monitors plus many other interesting audio bits and pieces all over his home.

Jadis Orchestra with KT88 tube mono block power amp(where's the other side?) and Musical Fidelity A1 classic class A integrated amp spotted!

An extra pair of vintage Marantz 9B mono blocks, just in case! An Onkyo AV processor amp seen too.

Big Apogee, small Apogee! I think the big one's a Diva and the small one's a Stage.

You see Fluffy accompanies Philip on every night's listening session for hours, from start to finish! Fluffy sits on his own dedicated rocking chair, right next to Philip's very own hifi throne!

Hands Up! The Clear audio Master Reference awaiting play.

Denon D103R cartridge, with just 0.25mv output, you better need a high gain, low noise phono stage.

Philip's main, and currently plugged in hifi system consist of the following gears. The twin source system is digitally fronted by a Jadis JD 3 CD player. A Clear audio Master Reference turntable, mounted with tangential tracking arm and a Denon D103R cartridge representing the analog front. A mighty fine looking Koetsu cartridge just arrived the day I visited and will certainly be fitted soon. The signal from the MC cartridge is sent to a Herron Audio phono stage.

The Clear audio Master Reference "In Play!"

Herron Audio phono stage.

As with Dr. Brian, Philip is a big fan of the Marantz 7 pre amp, however, this is a limited edition re-issued unit made in year 1999. The signal coming out of the pre amp is then split by an electronic cross over, supplied for used with the top dog Maggie 20.1 planar speakers. The high frequency ribbons are powered by a pair of vintage Marantz 9B mono block power while the bass panels are power by a pair of Krell mono blocks rated for 600 watts!

Marantz 7 re-issue circa 1999.

Marantz 9B mono block power for the Maggie's ribbon.

600W Krell mono block power for the Maggie's bass panel.

I see many exotic cables connecting the system, including some MIT MA series! All equipment sits on dedicated audio grade shelves. The shelves then sit on sand boxes for the ultimate isolation/damping solution! Various Qi and Walker cones are used to tweak the system too. Clean power is supplied to the front end components via 2 units of Nordost Thor PLCs. The audio room measures roughly 25 x 38 ft. A very big room indeed!

Magnaplanar MG 20.1 top of the range planar speakers. It looks a whole lot bigger in real life!

2 units of Nordost Thor PLCs supplying clean power to front end.

I truly love the sound of this big boy system! It's got life size scale to sound stage and imaging presentation. When Tsai Ching sings, she's standing right there before you, backing musical instruments like double bass and piano panning to the left and right, plus drum set behind her, making it all very convincing! There's no need to resort to the imagination, every CD, or LP played, more so LP is truly life like, accompanied by that lightly honeyed golden tonal colour. High frequencies has that fade in to thin air decay quality, mids are dense, rich and full bodied and the bass control is just so very effortless! The bass extends really low too. Now who says Maggies are bass shy?

Note the sand boxes??? Can you recognise the Convergent Audio Technologies SL1 in the center?

In the areas of macro and more so, micro dynamics this system let's the listener feel each life size guitar and double bass note pluck and hands/fingers moving across fret boards, all so very clearly presented in the most organic fashion. I bet the post listening experience of this system will likely result in perspective altering of mind set. I don't know how much more convincing high end audio needs to get for you?

Ahh..... the system to Sonic Nirvana???

For me however, just a chance to listen to this system is worth paying "a KING's ransom!" I think secretly, Fluffy agrees with me, you lucky dog!

Again I apologise for the poor photography outcome! Please believe me when I said that I've tried to get better results. I really did tried.

The system is set up in a cosy well laid out room measuring about 11 x 15 ft.

Have you ever wondered what doctors do when they get home, after a hard day's work of saving lives? Well this particular doctor, returns home to music via this wonderfully set up hifi system.

The Linn LP12, note the missing cone on the bottom right? Only three cones were used at 3 corners. That's a KI method of setting up an LP12!

Dr. Brian, is stationed on the Borneo side of Malaysia, which yours truly visited recently.

Dr. Brian is an ardent under study of Joseph Ki's(L/S3/5A guru, whose system was featured in our 1st March 2009 home visit titled "This Is Music!") method of hifi system setting up. Our dear Dr. has his own tweak up his sleeves too as you'll note later!

The Phonomena phono stage. Note the Walker cone footers used for damping the top panel.

The twin source set up, first of which an analog source is fronted by a Linn LP12 turn table fitted with Shure MXR-V15 MM cartridge, followed by a Phonomena phono stage to amplify the low level signal to pre amp acceptance level. Next on the digital front, a CEC TL-1 belt driven transport, feeds the P-1A Digital Correction Engine plus P-3A DAC made by Perpetual Technologies via co-ax cable. Both the Perpetual Technologies units are powered by Monolithic Sound P3 power supply unit.

The belt drive CEC TL-1 flag ship CD transport.

Perpetual Technologies P-1A and P-3A plus Monolithic Sound P3 power supply unit.

The pre amp is the centre piece of the system, and a original Marantz 7C tube pre amp is used. This is an American unit(and in mint condition!) that runs on an audio grade modified 240V-110V step down converter. The power amps are a pair of Antique Sound Labs AQ1006 - 845 (DT) tube mono blocks producing 22 watts. The speakers are the legendary Rogers LS3/5A Gold Tag, coupled to the matching Rogers AB1 bass extenders, and a REL Strata sub, hidden just behind the sofa seating position, for the ultimate low frequency rumble! Like the revered Jo Ki, Dr Brian also has a collection of the BBC designated LS 3/5A speakers.

The centre piece, an original Marantz 7C tube pre amp.

Antique Sound Labs AQ1006-845(DT) for that glorious tube sound.

I am so.... jealous that I hereby declare that these are truly greedy folks! I beg you folks, please don't deprive us newbies and other music lovers off the magic of LS3/5A, by amassing a larger and larger collection? Ha!Ha!

The highly prized Rogers Gold Tag, and parnering Rogers AB1 bass extenders( goes down to 55Hz only) set up with the KI method.

Did I digress? Just a little, my bad. The whole set up is housed in an acoustically treated room, which is very tastefully decorated. Now, folks, that's how you enjoy! Great sound, in a comfortable environment. All equipment sits on Tong Lee's version of Mana clones, and the cables used in the system are mostly custom DIYed supplied from the US. There are also a variety of cones utilised to fine tune the system sound too.

Dr.'s own tweak! Cables hanging on ceiling attached fishing lines, so that the cables do not touch the floor! A very practical alternative to the Shunyata Darkfield Elevators indeed!

The REL Srata sub woofer, takes care of the low rumbles placed directly behind the throne. However, you can't really tell there's a sub in the system! The bass seems to come integrated from the front stage, it leaves the listener wondering how on earth can the LS3/5A plus AB1 do that! How's that for an exceptionally well tuned sub? Remember, the lowest bass notes are more felt than heard.

The sound is immediate, lush, warm and some what controlled. However, all the virtues is not achieved at the expense of transparency. Those who say the Marantz 7 pre are not transparent enough, probably hasn't heard the real thing yet! as there are countless DIYed Marantz 7 clones out there, mostly getting close to that warmness, and some goes to the extent of over cooking it too, but can never achieve the same level of transparency of the original. The whole system seems to be set up for easy listening, with a very relaxed presentation, of an airy and laid back sound stage with dense imaging qualities. A great system to de-stress.

Another look at the glow of the 845 tube! Aren't they mesmerising?

I noted to the dear Dr. that inclusion of the Torus Power RM8A will bring his system performance to another level, as experienced and probably equally advocated by Jo Ki the man himself too.

Ya hear that Dr.? Ha!Ha!

Never mind me, just enjoy the music!