Thursday, July 30, 2009

A tale of two sub-woofers

Audiophiles are accustomed to sub-woofers that are shaped like boxes. It is only a question of whether they are big or small, rectangular or "cubish" boxes.
Thus at the recent KL International AV show, some were puzzled when they saw two odd-looking sub-woofers.
Behind the Wilson Benesch ACT C60 Limited Edition speakers was a weird drum-like object.

The Torus Infrasonic Generator

That turned out to be Wilson Benesch's Torus Infrasonic Generator which uses an 18-inch diameter carbon fibre diaphragm in push-pull drive.
Judging from the great amount of sub-sonic sound created in the room, the small drum seemed pretty effective.
At the huge hall where the big Vitus amps were driving the Marten Coltrane Supremes, audiophiles were surprised to see four speakers being driven.

The Marten Coltrane Supreme Sub-woofer is at left.

Standing beside each Marten Coltrane Supreme tower speaker was another taller tower (36cm W x 176cm H x 50cm D) with six nine-inch ceramic white woofers. This is the Coltrane Supreme Sub-woofer which creates the subsonic sound waves from 15-100Hz and has an active crossover with active digital room correction
The speakers, which come as two pairs, feature lots of drive units - the tower itself (26cm W x 137cm H x 40cm D) has four 7" ceramic woofers, one 7" lower-mid ceramic, one 2" diamond mid and one 3/4" diamond tweeter which handle the frequency range from 90Hz to 100kHz.
Frankly, it was the first time I had ever come across such a speaker system.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

iPod revolution

The AktiMate Mini with iPod docked

The iPod dock

Looks like the iPod is no longer considered a teenager's toy like last generation's Sony Walkman portable cassette player.
The iPod is now considered a serious hi-fi component much like a CD player. Several high-end firms now offer components with iPod docking stations such as the Chord Electronics Indigo preamp/DAC/iPod dock and Krell which has launched its KID (Krell Interface Dock) which is an iPod preamp.
At the recent KL International AV Show, I saw an interesting product which sounded surprisingly good.
It was called the AktiMate Mini and was on display at the Audio Visual Designs Sdn Bhd room. They were bookshelf active speakers with a dock for an iPod. One speaker is the active master and the other is the passive slave.
When I heard them I thought they sounded rather good and did not know why until I reached home and read the brochure.
The AktiMate Mini uses technology licensed from Creek and Epos, so you are effectively hearing a Creek amp driving Epos bookshelf speakers measuring 300 x 185 x 210 mm (12 x 7½ x 8½ ins).
Power output is 40W RMS into 4 Ohms, the woofer is a 130mm moulded polypropylene with shielded magnet and the tweeter is a 25mm metal dome. Frequency response is rated at 50Hz to 22kHz and there is an output for connection to a subwoofer.
It has normal RCA inputs at the back for your CD player or tuner and an input for an MP3 or MP4 player.
The AktiMate Mini, which comes in black, white and red, is just right for a second system.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Glass and goo

There were a couple of products that caught my attention at the KL International AV Show. No, they were not the sound systems that cost a couple of hundred grand.
There was this booth that featured a piece of glass that could turn from being transparent to opaque at the click of a switch. That was cool.
The guy manning the booth said you can install the special glass in your office and you can still look out and see what kind of trickery your staff are up to - sending SMSes, putting on make-up, chit-chatting, etc - and when you need to make a presentation, you just turn on the switch and convert the transparent glass panel into an opaque screen for your projector.
Since you are the boss, you can even watch a movie while your staff continue, er, working.

Erica Tham of Beacon Multimedia Systems
Sdn Bhd holding a bottle of Screengoo

Another cool product was this special paint called Screengoo. It looks like thick white paint; in fact it is a specially formulated highly-reflective acrylic paint designed specifically for the video projection industry.
Simply paint any indoor or outdoor surface with it and turn a wall, a piece of cloth, a glass panel, a metal sheet, a building facade or anything into a screen. How about painting the wall of your living room for your home theatre projection system?

Puppies in new clothing

Wilson Audio Sasha

The Wilson Audio Sashas driven by Pass Labs pre/power
amps and the DCS Scarlatti three-piece CD player

The Wilson WATT/Puppy system has been an icon of high-end hi-fi for a good many years even though there were other speakers, often costing more, that could outclass it. Often it seemed as if any AV show would not be considered an AV show if Wilson Audio's Watt/Puppy system was not featured.
The WATT/Puppy system evolved eight times and the ninth version was seen and heard by audiophiles at the KL International AV Show which ended last night.
However, it wasn't called Wilson WATT/Puppy Nine; instead it was labelled Wilson Audio Sasha.
At the show, it was driven by a three-piece DCS Scarlatti CD player system, and Pass Labs XP20 pre and X600.5 monoblock power amps. The hall was big and the system managed to fill it with great sound.
Wilson Audio's website has this to say:

> Both the new midrange/tweeter module and the bass cabinet have greater volume than WATT/Puppy System 8.

> The larger bass enclosure results in a 2Hz greater extension in the bass, and less congestion in the upper bass.

> Increased volume in the upper module allows a new bracing architecture and sidewall construction for greater rigidity and lower resonance.

> Sasha’s upper module utilizes Wilson’s newest proprietary cabinet material for its baffle, resulting in a lower noise floor and greater transparency in the critical midrange.

> By removing the crossover from the upper module, less midrange energy is reflected through the midrange driver cone, again improving clarity and transparency.

> Sasha incorporates both the 7” midrange driver and the tweeter from MAXX Series 3.

> Sasha’s woofers utilize a new motor/magnet assembly with more magnetic force for the same cone mass resulting in improved dynamics and acceleration in the bass region.

> The crossover is housed in the bass module, with resistor access on a rear panel. Custom wiring, hand-built at Wilson, connects all the drivers.

Woofers: Two – 8 inch (20.32 cm)
Midrange: One – 7 inch (17.78 cm)
Tweeter: One – 1 inch inverted dome (2.54 cm
Sensitivity: 91 dB @ 1 watt @ one meter @ 1kHz
Nominal Impedance: 4 ohms, 1.8 ohms minimum @ 92 Hz
Frequency Response: +/- 3 dB 20 Hz - 22 kHz
Overall Dimensions: Height – 44 inches (111.76 cm)
Width – 14 inches (35.56 cm)
Depth – 21.25 inches (53.91 cm)
System Product Weight: 197 lbs (89.36 kg)

Apparently it is priced slightly lower than the W/P System 8. I remember listening to the System Six some years ago. Version 9, aka Sasha, seems to have a better controlled bass.
At this price range, there are lots of competitors and audiophiles are advised to shop around.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Show highlights

Just like in previous shows, the current KL International AV Show has the usual budget and mid-priced components and the high-end gear that most visitors to the show cannot afford.

There was some good music at the show and among the outstanding systems are:

> The Gryphon Mirage pre and the Colosseum power amp matched with the Wilson Benesch ACT C60 (limited edition) with songs fed by a MacBook linked to a Weiss Minerva DAC.

The tower-like component is not the speaker, but
the Gryphon Colosseum power amp.

> The McIntosh system comprising the MCD500 SACD/CD player, C500 pre and MC1.2 KW monoblocks and the XRT1K tower speakers.

The McIntosh XRT1K tower speakers

> The Marten Bird speakers matched with Bladelius Saga pre, Ymer power amp and Embla CD player. Sexy things from Sweden.

Sexy stuff from Sweden

> Best of British 1 - Harbeth Super HL5 speakers matched with the Quad 66/606 pre-power amp and the Quad CD 66.

> Best of British 2 - Naim HDX Hard Disc player with NAC 252 pre, NAP 300 power amp and three power supplies driving ProAc D28 speakers.

> Best of British 3 - Sugden Masterclass CD player, Sugden Masterclass integrated and Spendor A6 speakers.

> German Physiks Carbon Mk IV speakers with Moon by Simaudio amps and CD player. This system impressed many audiophiles.

The special driver of the German Physiks speakers

> Wilson Sasha speakers with Pass Labs XP20 pre and X600.5 monoblock power amps and the three-piece DCS Scarlatti CD system.

> TAD Reference 1 with Ayre pre/power amps and CD player.

TAD's one great speaker

> Vitus amp and CD player with the Marten Coltrane Supreme main towers and sub-woofer.

> Dynaudio Confidence C4 with Jeff Rowland Model 312, Criterion Pre and Copland CDA822.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Photos of KL International AV Show

World's first cinema proportion TV

The world's first cinema proportion LCD TV

Philips unveiled the world's first 21:9 or 2.35:1 LCD television at the KL International AV Show which opened at the J.W. Marriot hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today.
The Philips 56PFL9954 is a 56" full HD LCD with Ambilight and a Perfect Pixel HD engine, 200Hz scanning, 1ms response time, dynamic contrast ratio of 80,000:1, 17bit 2.25 trillion colours, five HDMI connectors and Net TV with wi-fi for online services.
It offers 2 X 15 watts sound system and Perfect Sharpness with 500 million pixels per second processing power.
The screen is 33% bigger than a letterboxed 16:9 TV.
When you play a Blu-ray disc or a normal DVD, it will automatically play the images full-screen. You have the option to play it in 16:9 format which means there will be vertical bars at the sides of the screen.
However, when you use it for Astro satellite TV channels or programmes which are in 4:3 format, you will have quite wide vertical bars.
Converting a 16:9 format movie into the 21:9 format results in some distortion of the images, but if you don't like that you can always convert it to 16:9.
Philips Malaysia is tentatively pricing it at around RM20,000 (US$1 = RM3.50).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Leica projector

Steven of Absolute Hi Fi just sent me an SMS to inform me that the world-famous Leica Pradovit D-1200 digital projector will make its Malaysian debut tomorrow at the KL International AV Show.


The LEICA PRADOVIT D-1200 is the first digital Leica projector for high-end applications; a high performer in an elegant body of high-quality magnesium. With its extra compact size and weight of less than 7.5 pounds, it is the world’s smallest and lightest projector in its class. The LEICA PRADOVIT D-1200 makes operation even easier with a clearly designed menu and an additional remote control for the main functions. The application potential of the LEICA PRADOVIT D-1200 is wide and varied, ranging from high-quality large-format projection of digital photos to the display of films in full HD quality, private video recordings, television programs and computer games. Viewing is an enjoyable experience for the whole family due to the projector’s extremely quiet running.
Integrating DLP (Digital Light Processing) display technology from Texas Instruments, the LEICA PRADOVIT D-1200 has optimally matched color management for photorealistic image reproduction in 16:10 format. This reflecting chip technology enables an actual resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. Even at the photorealistic setting, the contrast ratio is more than 2500:1 with a brightness of about 1400 ANSI lumen.
The LEICA VARIO-ELMARIT-P f/2.8-3.1/33-42 mm high-speed lens of the LEICA PRADOVIT D-1200 ensures superb brightness and contrast. The optics can be used in a projection range from roughly 3 ½ ft to 50 ft, which is equivalent to a screen width between approximately 1.6 ft and 22.3 ft. The picture diagonals run from 2 to 36 ft, and the projected image can therefore be optimally adapted to many different types of rooms and situations.
The LEICA PRADOVIT D-1200 is equipped with the latest lamp technology, including a 220W FusionPlus VIDI UHP lamp from Philips with a working life of approx. 3000 hours in standard mode and about 2000 hours in high-power mode. The pleasantly quiet operating noise is under 28 dB, ensuring minimal disruptions during a restful evening of projection.
The Pradovit D-1200 offers various options for connecting playback devices. In addition to a component input port, it provides HDMI1.3 and DVI digital interfaces for linking a computer, laptop, DVD, Blu-ray or HD-DVD player, HD camcorder or HDTV receiver. Besides the customary composite and S video interfaces, there are also ports for LAN and VGA cables.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Meridian at KL AV show

DSP8000 Digital Active Loudspeaker
DSP8000 - Meridian's flagship digital active speaker

After an absence of one year, respected British manufacturer Meridian will be back at the KL International AV show 2009.
Steven of Absolute Hi-Fi, who is bringing the brand to Malaysia, said the following components will be on display at the show.

DSP8000 - this is Meridian's flagship three and a half way digital active speaker featuring eight custom drive units, one 150W power amplifier per bass speaker pair and 100W amplifiers for midrange & tweeter. Its inputs feature SpeakerLink balanced digital (2ch, RJ45), S/PDIF unbalanced digital (2ch, phono) and 32kHz–96kHz sampling rates. Its audio processing
has FIFO memory buffer input for the lowest possible jitter from almost any source, four 24-bit D/A converters, and all upsampling and processing is performed with a 150MHz digital signal processor (DSP)

DSP7200 - the first of Meridian’s DSP Loudspeaker models to include the company’s new SpeakerLink input/output interfacing architecture, featuring balanced drive and RJ45 connectors for simplicity and elegance of installation via CAT-5 cabling. It also features a new, proprietary, upsampling filter that makes CDs and DVD soundtracks sound better than ever.

DSP5200 - this is available in vertical format either as pairs or as a vertical centre speaker for surround applications. A DSP5200HC horizontal centre version is also available for installation under a screen.

DSP3100 - they are ideal for use as surrounds for a Meridian DSP-based system, and they are ideal compact second zone speakers in a Meridian multi-room environment. With S/PDIF digital inputs at up to 24-bit, 96kHz, they can also be used as high-high-end computer loudspeakers. The extremely accurate characteristics of the DSP3100 and M3100 also make them eminently suitable for studio monitoring applications, particularly as near-field or surround monitors in recording and mastering facilities. They are equally suited for use in a smaller stand-alone system in a study or bedroom.

G61R Surround Controller- at the heart of the G61R is a powerful DSP engine delivering 900MIPS (million instructions per second). Processing is performed at high sample rates and with 48-bit precision throughout, ensuring that all filtering, processing and other operations are carried out far above the limits of human hearing. The G61R is ideal for the very latest in digital audio. For superior audio quality, incoming analogue signals are converted to 24-bit, high-sample-rate digital data via multibit Delta-Sigma converters as soon as they enter the processor. All digital signals are re-clocked to minimize jitter and maintain total data integrity.
The G61R combines controller and surround processor functions, meeting the latest THX Ultra 2 specifications and including the latest superb-quality AAC, MPEG, DTS, Dolby, Trifield and Ambisonic decoding.

F80 with i80
The F80 - the Ferrari mini compo

F80 - this is the "mini compo" designed in collaboration with Ferrari and it comprises a CD/DVD player, AM/FM/DAB radio and alarm functions. Combine this with the i80 with universal dock for iPod to realise the full potential of your digital music library. The F80 is available in five Ferrari colours and the i80 is available with matching clip-on covers.

Control 10
The Sooloos Control 10

Sooloos Control 10 - this the first of a new generation of Sooloos devices which provide touch interface to interact with your media library as well as high-quality digital audio outputs. It features a high-contrast 17-inch LCD display, resistive touch panel, and CD mechanism for importing music. The Control 10 connects to other Meridian Sooloos devices by Ethernet and features a 17-inch touchpanel display, offering a large, rich, social experience of the Meridian Sooloos interface, as well as S/PDIF Digital and Meridian SpeakerLink audio outputs for connection to your audio system or Meridian DSP Active Loudspeakers. Like all Sooloos components, the Control 10 connects to the system using standard TCP/IP Ethernet, using either the supplied Neutrik EtherCon connectors or any CAT5/5e/6 cable with RJ-45 connectors. The Meridian Sooloos system gives you centralised access to your collection of CDs and digital audio files, at full lossless quality, wherever you need it. From living room to kitchen, bedroom to patio, kids' rooms to media room, Meridian Sooloos will let you browse and play your central library throughout your home.

A Meridian projector will also be on show.
Steven said the prices have not been finalised yet. He added that a Meridian showroom will open in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor after the show. The shoplot is being renovated now.