Friday, July 30, 2010

Odd stuff

There were a pair of speakers and an amplifier featured in the Kuala Lumpur International AV Show last weekend that were really odd.


These were the Manger speakers and the Inex amplifiers (Inex calls them AmpliCables) in the Sound Precision room.


Manger speaker and Inex amp (AmpliCable).
The Manger speakers comprise the Manger Sound Transducer units matched with two pairs of normal woofers.


Unlike a cone or dome driver that we normally see in speakers, the Manger Sound Transducer is round and flat like a pancake with a nine-pointed star-shaped design.


The Manger Sound Transducer.
It was invented by Josef W. Manger who "relied on the principle of bending waves, which starting from the centre of a plate-like diaphragm, travel to the outside, like waves after a stone is thrown into the water".


According to the Manger website, www.manger-audio.co.uk, "the rigidity of this thin flexible panel increases from the centre to the outside at an equal ratio, very similarly to the basilar membrane in our ear".


It adds: "High frequencies quickly run out in the inner area of the membrane, whereas long waves (low frequencies) concentrically reach right to the edge at the star-shaped damper. There they are absorbed so that no reflections can come from the edge.


"This way the Manger Sound Transducer controls the complete frequency range from 80 Hz to 35000 Hz on its surface and is at the same time close to the ideal of the point sound source."


Not only does it act like a point source, but it is almost full range too.


In the Manger 107 Zerobox speakers on demo, the music signal is crossed over at 140Hz to the two woofers. Frequency response is touted to be 40Hz to 24kHz.


The Inex amplifiers driving the Manger speakers are also oddball components.


The small box hanging from the speaker terminals is
the amp while the larger box is the power supply.
Hanging from the speaker terminals like the 'Network Technology' boxes of MIT speaker cables is the amp that is connected to a larger box placed on the floor which is the power supply. Optical cables are used to link the components to the preamp.


It was the first time I had seen and heard the Manger speakers and Inex amps. Many audiophiles liked the system for the smoothness and good bass.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

World premiere of SVS subs and speakers

The new range of SVS sub-woofers and speakers were unveiled for the first time in the world at the recent Kuala Lumpur International AV show.


Unfortunately, the unveiling at Maxx AV's room took place without much fanfare and hype and not many people other than SVS fans were aware of it.


Maxx AV's room was in an awkward corner of Level 4 of the hotel and according to the boss, Max Loh, the room acoustics were horrible and he had a difficult time trying to get things under control.


Maxx AV's Max Loh next to the newly-launched
sealed-box SB13-Plus sub-woofer

Max Loh (left) and SVS president Ronald Stimpson.


On demo were the new SB13-Plus, SB12-NSD and SB10-NSD sealed-box sub-woofers, and the S02 range of speakers.


These were sent to Malaysia direct from the factory in Taiwan and helping Max to set up the system was SVS president Ronald Stimpson.


Max said the new subs and speakers are now set up properly and on demo in his Seremban showroom.

Ready for 3D TV?


I had already watched 3D TV before last weekend's Kuala Lumpur International AV Show when Sony held a promotion in 1Utama shopping mall and I saw an animated programme on a Samsung 3D TV at Harvey Norman in The Curve shopping mall a few months ago.


At the KLIAV, the Panasonic, Sony and Samsung rooms showed both animated programmes and footages from the World Cup including Shakira singing Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) and some goals being scored.




I spent some time testing the 3D TVs in all the rooms as I wanted to find out how I would perceive 3D with the multi-focal ocular implants that I have in both my eyes (I had cataracts in both eyes).


I felt that the 3D footages of Shakira singing and gyrating and the goals scored were not that effective - the 3D effect was not that apparent. Often the images just seemed sharper than usual.


However, on animated programmes I could see the 3D effect very clearly.


I'm not sure if someone with normal eyesight would agree with me, but that's how I perceived it through my 'bionic' eyes.


Would I buy one? I really don't know. First of all, the 3D TVs available in the market are first generation and expensive.


Secondly, the normal deal is that you will get a free pair of 3D spectacles when you buy a 3D TV and an extra pair costs a couple of hundred bucks. That seems to be too much money to spend.


I think most people will wait and see.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Love affair with 'British' sound continues

Every audiophile who visited Jo Ki's LS3/5A room during last weekend's Kuala Lumpur International AV (KLIAV) show went home satisfied. At times it was standing room only and people had to wait for others to leave before they could get in and even then they could not sit or even stand at the sweet spot.

Jo Ki's 47 Labs CD player/FM Acoustics pre/Quad II monoblocks and his beloved Rogers LS3/5A speakers (he has around 21 other pairs from other manufacturers) have been finely tuned and tweaked - you must have noticed the spikes, granite and marble slabs, and the cute little crystal objects on the speakers.

That's why many people said his room sounded among the best in the KLIAV.

Placing the LS3/5A and AB1 sub-woofer the Jo Ki way.
I think there's another reason - Malaysians love the 'British' sound. Which is understandable since Malaysia is an ex-British colony.

Many older Malaysian audiophiles grew up with Quad, Leak, Kef, Sugden, Tannoy, Wharfedale, Rogers, Harbeth, Spendor and Radford components. Those were the days when the ESL57 and ESL63 were speakers that audiophiles dreamt of owning. When the KEF 104 was launched, it quickly became the reference speaker alongside the LS3/5A that Jo Ki loves so much.

Younger Malaysian audiophiles grew up with components from Arcam, Naim, Cambridge, Meridian, Linn, Rega, Mission, Cyrus, Audiolab, Musical Fidelity, Monitor Audio, Epos, ATC, PMC, Creek, B & W, Castle, Heybrook, Roksan and others.

Thus at almost every KLIAV, there will be a large group who will be attracted to the British components.


It was the same this year as many seemed pleased with Tropical Audio's room which had a Quad 66 CD player, Quad 34 pre and Quad 606 power amp driving a pair of Harbeth 7ES-3 speakers.

Harbeth 7ES-3
Those who liked the Harbeths also liked the Electrades Audio room which featured Sugden Masterclass CD player and integrated amp driving the Spendor SP100.


One comment has to be made - these British speakers have not changed in design since they were launched almost half a century ago. And they all seem to look the same - just check out the Harbeths and the Spendors.

The latest versions of the Spendor SP1/2R (right) and the SP2/3R.
I am pretty sure all the lovers of the 'British' sound - smooth with fabulous vocals/mids, slightly dim highs and not-too-prominent bass - also had good things to say about the Audio 88 room which demoed the YG Carmel speakers with Jungson CD player and Audio Space Reference integrated valve amp; the Sound Precision room which had the Manger speakers driven by Inex pre/power amps and a CEC belt-drive CD player; the Desa Home Theater's room which showcased a Mordaunt-Short 40th Anniversary Performance Series speakers driven by Synthesis amps; the Soundtech room which had the huge Chario Serendipity speakers driven by Clasica-audio amps and A & L Audio Station's room with the Unison Research S9 valve integrated amp driving Elac speakers.

The Mordaunt-Short 40th Anniversary Performance Series
speakers driven by Synthesis amps in the Desa Home Theatre room.
The A & L Audio Station room featuring the Unison
Research S9 integrated valve amp and Elac speakers.
The Audio 88 room demoed the YG Carmel
speakers with Jungson CD player and
Audio Space Reference integrated valve amp.
 Certainly they must have loved the Nagra/Verity system too.

All these rooms featured systems that had a warmish, smooth sound with good vocals. Songs played were light jazz, slow pop and ballads which were also just right for the 'British' sound followers.

New media moves in

In the hifi4sale.net discussion thread, forumer auronthas commented that: "From my observation of this year's show, it is delightful and interesting to see more Network Media Players or Digital Stream Players or Music Servers such as Linn, PS Audio, Bladelius, etc."


This trend of computer-based music taking over the industry was seen even in last year's Kuala Lumpur International AV show when Rave demonstrated their Weiss DAC, Gryphon amps and Wilson Benesch speakers with an Apple MacBook and in Norman Audio's room, a MacBook was also used to demonstrate the Ayre QB-9 USB DAC while CMY Audio & Visual used a Naim HDX Harddisk player.


This year, Linn demonstrated its range of Digital Stream Players with an iPad while in one room, the Bladelius Embla was used to stream music files. Interestingly, the product that made Linn famous - the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable (in its Majik form) - was on static display beside the Klimax DS digital stream player as if to symbolise the paradigm shift in music source.


Ol' skool Linn Majik LP12 turntable beside
 the component that is touted to replace the CD player
as music source - the Klimax digital stream player.
The iPod was also seen being used as music source in several rooms including a CMY Audio & Visual room where the Wadia 170i Transport iPod dock was in operation.


However, of interest was the Yamaha AirWired Micro Component System which came in attractive colours.




With this Yamaha system, you just have to plug the iPod into its transmitter-dock and the music can be broadcast wirelessly to several AirWired players simultaneously with the iPod acting as source and volume control. To charge the iPod and transmitter-dock, you just have to plug the unit into a charger dock on top of the AirWired speakers. The sound was quite good too.


In Akada Corporation's room, the boss K.T. Ng showed off Nakamichi's latest Mysoundspace iPod dock player.


Akada Corp's K.T. Ng showing how portable
the Nakamichi iPod docking station is.
Akada, which made its debut at the KLIAV, had just been appointed the dealer for Nakamichi and it was also the first time in many years that Nakamichi products were seen in the AV show.


Old-timers will recall that Nakamichi made some of the best cassette players extant in its heyday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Headphones galore!

 Headphone enthusiasts had a gala time at the KLIAV which took place last weekend.



The AV show saw the return of a well-respected headphone manufacturer and the debut of a dealer that specialises in headphones and headphone amps.


At the Acoustic Arts room, I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a pair of Stax electrostatic headphones (Stax calls them earspeakers).


Apparently, Acoustic Arts became its dealer just weeks ago.


I tried the SRS-005 II in-ear system comprising the SR-003 earspeaker with its matching headphone amp but was not too impressed by it in comparison to a pair of Sennheiser HD650 that was placed next to it.


However, when I heard the SRS-2050 II system comprising the SR-202 earspeaker plugged to its matching SRM-252 II solid-state headphone amp, it was a totally different story. I recall being impressed by the Stax Lambda a long time ago and the SR-202 was just as impressive and I could hear all sorts of micro details. At RM2,800 with the headphone amp thrown in, it is a fabulous deal.

Testing the Stax electrostatic headphones.
Stax electrostatic headphones have always been praised for being extremely revealing and refined.

Looks like I will be heading to Acoustic Arts in Summit City in Subang Jaya to pick up a pair for review.


While I am in Subang Jaya, I will also check out Jaben Audio which is on Jalan SS15/8A.


Jaben Audio, a Singapore-based outfit which set up shop here recently, specialises in headphones, earphones and headphone amps. Its range of products include headphones from AKG, Alessandro, Audio Technica, Beyerdynamic, Etymotic, Grado, Ultrasone, Sennheiser and Westone; and headphone amps from Graham Slee, Lavry, Lehmann Audio, Meier, Ray Samuels and Yamamoto.

Headphone enthusiasts at the Jaben Audio room.

It made its debut at the recent KLIAV. At its room, I tried the Sennheiser HD800 and am now dying to compare it with my pair of HD600.

KLIAVS: Highlights of the show

Now that the KL International AV show is over, I can finally sieve through all the information, brochures and listening experiences to come up with my list of the memorable moments.



Many audiophiles have already compiled their lists of systems they liked and stuff that they were disappointed with in the discussion thread of hifi4sale.net.


Here is my list of memorable moments (in random order):


TAD (AV Designs)

I had heard the larger TAD Reference Ones at AV Designs' showroom weeks ago and I had expected them to be on demo at the KLIAV.

However, the smaller TAD CR1 did not disappoint. Though they were bookshelf speakers, they created sound that filled the huge room and many listeners were impressed and several even said that it was the best-sounding room.



No doubt, the ancillary equipment helped - the TAD M600 monoblock power amps, the TAD D600 CD player and the Bryston BP26 pre and Torus power conditioner.

I was confused by the funny-shaped object which had two cables connected to the CD player above it. James explained that it was a power supply and the CD player was balanced all the way. It was the first time I had seen a CD player powered by two cables.

I was also surprised when James told me the power amp was Class D as they were quite big. Apparently, the TAD designers used some new power supply technology which I will have to check out in their website. But the sound was impressive.


Audio Note/FM Acoustics/Avantgarde (Audio Note Malaysia and Absolute Hi-Fi)





This was quite a controversial room with some liking the sound and some hating it. One audiophile said that after all the hype it was disappointing; another said it was too bright and splashy. On the other hand, those who loved it praised it for its organic 'suppleness', dynamics, bass and true-to-life presentation.

One must bear in mind that the Avantgardes are highly-revealing in the upper-mids and treble and lower-quality amplifiers will make them sound shrill and bright. The analogue-like Audio Note CD transport and DAC and the high-quality FM Acoustics pre/power amps made the system very listenable and enjoyable.

Also bear in the mind the room was small and the big horns of the Avantgarde were barely 15 ft away from the listener.

In my view, this system made music sound like music. And nobody can deny that it had the tendency to make the listener nod his head or tap his feet to the rhythm.


Jo Ki's LS3/5A room

Jo Ki is well known as the LS3/5A sifu in Malaysia and he even has a method of placing the AB1 sub-woofer named after him.

Many people praised Jo Ki for making the LS3/5A sound like a large system with commendable bass. I spent much time in his room listening to how he tweaked his system.



His system comprised his newly-bought FM Acoustics preamp, Quad II monoblocks and 47 Labs CD player. You may have noticed that he placed the LS3/5As on heavy, dead-sounding stands which were on thick slabs of granite and the AB1s were placed on marble slabs sandwiched with foam.


Those observant enough would have seen the cute little crystal objects on the speakers. If you ask Jo Ki privately, he would explain and even demonstrate how they work to expand the sound stage and extend the treble.


These are some of the secret methods that he used to coax the little BBC monitors to sing beautifully.


BAT/Epos (Acoustic Arts)


I was told many good things about this room, but when I went there on Saturday evening, the tube amps were switched off. The next day, I was told that the BAT Rex pre and VK150SE power amps had been sold and carted away. Creek amplifiers were used instead to drive the Epos flagship speakers Encore 50.



Even with the Creek amps, the speakers sounded good and the chief weakness of Epos speakers - their light bass - appeared to have been take care of. At around RM16,000 a pair, they are cheap considering they are flagship speakers.


EgglestonWorks/Parasound/Pathos (Centre Circle)



When I heard the EgglestonWorks Andra III in Centre Circle's showroom in TTDI, they sounded too 'rock' for my liking.


With the Parasound JC1 and JC2 pre/power monoblocks, they sounded smooth, dynamic, tonally balanced and easy to listen to. There was a lot of room treatment foam around, so that must have helped. The Parasound amps were quite impressive and affordable.


Nagra/Verity (Audio Synthesis)




Many people have praised the sound in this room and I can see (hear?) why. The Nagra VPA monoblocks look imposing like some kind of futuristic towers and the Verity Audio Amadis speakers look elegant.

In terms of sound, they created a warmish but clear and pleasant sonic signature. It was an easy-to-like kind of sound and that's why so many people liked it.


Simaudio/German Physiks (AVP Soundcraft)


Last year, a pair of German Physiks speakers made of carbon fibre was demoed. This year, a pair of HRS120 with wood veneer was on demo driven by Simaudio Moon Series components - CD5.3, P5.3 pre and W5.3 power amps.


Several audiophiles were totally impressed by the sheer dynamics and excitement of these omni-directional speakers when percussion-based music was played.


I stood at a corner of the room just to find out if I could hear some form of soundstage - and I did. I felt the vocals did not sound as lean as they did with the carbon fibre model last year.


Vitus/Marten/EAT turntable (Audio Matic)


One of the few amps that can take on the mighty FM Acoustics, the Vitus, was on demo in this room which was well tuned.

I was surprised by the size of the Vitus phono stage - it is as big as the preamp - but it showed its mettle when the Euro Audio Team Forte S turntable with Audio Technica cartridge was played.


The slight richness of the Vitus complemented the slight leanness of the Marten Getz speakers and the resulting sound was quite enjoyable.


Revel/Mark Levinson (Flagship AV)

This was another controversial room with some liking it and others leaving feeling disappointed.

I had heard the previous generation of the Revels before driven by Theta Citadel monoblock amps and a BAT preamp and the system sounded wonderful.



In this system, the Revel Ultima Salon 2 speakers were driven by a Mark Levinson No. 532 power amp, the Mark Levinson No. 326S preamp and No. 512 CD player.

The slight warmth of the Mark Levinson tempered the highly-revealing nature of the Revels. The sound was quite good and should be better in a proper listening room.


But the new Revels look absolutely boring compared with the previous generation.


KEF/Pass Labs/Audio Research (Perfect Hi-Fi)


In this huge room, there were two high-end systems on demo.


On the left side were the KEF 207.2 Reference speakers driven by Pass Labs X600S monoblock power amps, Pass Labs XP20 pre and the Audio Research Reference CD8.





On the other end of the room facing the entrance were the Wilson Sashas driven by Goldmund Telos 250 monoblock amps, Audio Research Anniversary Reference pre and the dCS Puccini CD player with the dCS clock. A Reimyo voltage stabiliser was used in this system and the cabling for both systems was from Transparent audio.

Many felt the Wilson Sasha system sounded splashy and 'brightish'. Personally I preferred the KEF system which sounded rich and natural to me.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

KLIAVS: Snapshots II

An audiophile kneeling down to have a closer look at the
 huge KEF Reference 207.2 speakers in the Perfect Hi-Fi room.

Wilson Sasha speakers with dCS Puccini CD player and clock,
 Audio Research Anniversary Pre and Goldmund Telos 250
 monoblock amps at the Perfect Hi-Fi room.

CMY Audio & Visual's flagship system - ProAc Carbon Pro 8 speakers,
Naim pre/power amps and Clearaudio Master Reference turntable.
 

Clearaudio turntables were on display
at the CMY Audio & Visual room on Level 4.


The sound of Golden Sounds.

The Epos Encore 50 speakers and the BAT VK150SE
 power amp and BAT Rex pre in the Acoustic Arts room.

 The big component in the middle is the BAT solid-state 6200 amp.

Stax returns to the Malaysian scene. Testing Stax
headphones in the Acoustic Arts room.

Bladelius CD player and amp and
Chario speakers at the Audiomatic room.

Theta Citadel amp and the Opera Tebaldi speaker at the Ong AV room.

YG Acoustics speakers, Jungson CD player and
Audio Space valve amp at the Audio 88 room.

Wadia CD player and iPod dock at the CMY Audio & Visual showroom.
Dynaudio speakers and Jeff Rowland pre/power
amps at the CMY Audio & Visual room.

British Sound - Sam Chan of Tropical Audio
posing next to a Harbeth speaker.

British Sound - Spendor speakers and Sugden
amps at the Electrades Audio room

Cables and accessories on sale on Level 4.

The massive Chario Serendipity speakers and
 Classica Audio amps at the Soundtech Hi-fi room.

Beautiful tubes of the beautiful Unison Research amp.

The Unison Research valve amp driving Elac
 speakers at the A & L Audio Station room.

Experiencing the NAD/PSB home theatre system
 at the A & L  Audio Station's room.

Ol' Blue Meters (of McIntosh) at Audio Perfectionist's room.

The Mark Levinson/Revel system at Flagship AV's room

Watching 3D programmes at the Sony room.