Saturday, December 31, 2011

CDs are 'alive and spinning'

The Pro-Ject CD Box SE and the Orb Jade 2 DAC matched very well.

If the hi-fi pundits are right, by this time next year there will be no more CDs released by some major labels.

There was much buzz in hi-fi forums about the impending demise of CDs after reports started surfacing in the United States about major labels giving up on releasing CDs by the end of 2012.

I have often been asked by worried friends about the future of CD and whether the CD player would still be around.

My answer has always been: "The CD will still be around because there are millions of them all over the world and the CD player will still be made because millions of people will still want to play their millions of CDs."

But one has to be careful about buying second-hand and older CD players because their transports are no longer made and spare parts may be difficult to find even from Internet suppliers.

Most of the high-end brands will keep stocks of the transports they use which should be able to satisfy demand for another seven to 10 years.

Philips has stopped making transports except for the Pro 2 transport which is usually found in top-loading high-end CD players or transports. It is expected that Philips will continue production of the Pro 2 transport for only a few more years.

When Philips closed its CD transport-making department, the engineers left and formed their own company called Stream Unlimited based in Austria and their transports are used in Wadia, Ayon, Pro-Ject and other CD players. If your CD player uses a Stream Unlimited transport, you can rest assured that spare parts will be available for a long, long time.

For the past month, I have been playing nothing but CDs and have enjoyed many hours of sonic pleasure.

This bliss came about by the superb pairing of a ProJect CD Box SE CD player (which uses a Stream Unlimited transport) and the Orb Jade 2 DAC.

Together they created some of the most 'undigital' sounding music I have ever heard for quite a long time. The Orb is in the same sonic category as the Ayre and the Rega DACs - rich, smooth and on the warm-side of neutral.

While browsing around Victoria Music in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, I chanced upon CD box sets marketed by a company called Rhino. These are no-frills sets in cardboard boxes and sleeves. Each box set has five CDs pressed in Europe and is priced at RM55.90 - thus each CD costs only RM11.18. (Later, I spotted them at Rock Corner in The Curve priced at RM55.90 for one box set and RM100 for two.)

Some of the CDs that I bought before Xmas.

I bought six box sets - John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Waits, Carly Simon and Emmylou Harris.

Meanwhile, my wife had loudly hinted that she somehow loves songs by Adele and Michael Buble. And so I bought 21 by Adele and a new Buble release as her Christmas present.

And that was how I ended up having 32 new CDs to play this month on a review system that sounded fabulously 'undigital' and enjoyable.

Well, other audiophiles may worry about the end of CDs, but in one corner of SS4, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, CDs were 'alive and spinning' and will be so till the end of 2012 and beyond.

Happy New Year to all audiophiles out there...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Samsung takes over Sony's stake in LCD venture

I just read this story in and I suppose the takeover is not that surprising given that Sony has not been performing that well while Samsung has been growing by leaps and bounds even during the global financial crisis that began in 2008.

Samsung Electronics has agreed to buy out Sony's entire stake in their liquid crystal display (LCD) joint venture.

The Korean electronics maker said it will pay Sony 1.08tn won ($939m; £600m) in cash for its stake.

The move comes as Sony has been restructuring its TV business, which has been making a loss for the past seven years.

Samsung, meanwhile, has gone on to become the world's largest maker of TVs and flat screen panels.

"Under the agreement, Samsung will acquire all of Sony's shares of S-LCD Corporation, the two companies' LCD panel manufacturing joint venture, making S-LCD a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung," Samsung Electronics said in a statement.

The joint venture between two companies was established in 2004, when a boom in the global economy saw a surge in demand for consumer electronics.

However, things have take a dramatic turn in the last three years.

Triggered by the financial crisis in 2008, the subsequent global economic uncertainty has resulted in a slowdown in consumer demand.

At the same time, falling prices of LCD panels and flat screens have also hurt profit margins.

"In order to respond to such challenging conditions and to strengthen their respective market competitiveness, the two companies have agreed to shift to a new LCD panel business alliance," Samsung said.

Sony will continue to get LCD panels from Samsung based on prevailing market prices, without having to operate a manufacturing facility.

For its part, Samsung said the full ownership of the venture will give it "heightened flexibility, speed and efficiency in both panel production and business operations".

Analysts said the deal was the right move, especially for Sony.

"In terms of direction it is positive," said Keita Wakabayashi, an analyst at Mito Securities in Tokyo.

"But if they are making a loss on the sale, one could ask why they didn't make this decision sooner."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rega launches new Apollo CD player

Rega has launched a range of products even as the year ends. Other than the Rega RP6 turntable (see, Rega has also released a new version of its popular Apollo CD player.

Called the Apollo-R, it uses the new Wolfson WM8742 DAC and is housed in a shoe-box case that reminds me of the Cyrus products.

From the Rega website:

Design technology

The Apollo-R is the result of many years of innovation, advanced software development and elegant engineering solutions researched by our highly skilled team of engineers and designers. It took the completion of two of our multi award winning products, the flagship Isis CD player and the Rega DAC to pave the way for a unique product we feel encapsulates everything the new Apollo-R should be.

Design history
The original Apollo CD player was launched in 2005. It was a huge success selling approaching 20,000 units worldwide. The Apollo was a unique player featuring Rega’s own software and control system ensuring no other manufacturers player could sound the same. This key element is carried forward and improved into Apollo-R.

Analogue & digital outputs
Development of the analogue, digital and control domains ensured direct improvements of both analogue and digital outputs making the Apollo-R a perfect partner for the Rega Brio-R amplifier and an ideal ‘CD format’ front-end for the Rega DAC. The Apollo-R internal circuitry has also been improved by tightening the PCB layout.

Compact case design
Apollo-R is a top loading design housed in a custom compact aluminium case matching the Rega DAC and Brio-R amplifier. The Apollo-R is available in both black or satin silver finish.

Dedicated CD mini system remote control
A new dedicated CD remote handset is supplied as standard which also has the advantage of Rega amplifier functionality .

Digital to analogue conversion
The DAC and the output amplifier of the Apollo-R have been enhanced using the Wolfson WM8742 digital to analogue converter, the same integrated circuit found in the Rega DAC.

Power supplies
The ‘digital’ power supplies feeding the CD processor, optical block, laser diode amplifier and slicer have been enhanced. This is achieved by using the same high performance low noise power supplies found in the same location within the Isis CD player. This vastly improves the playability, error correction and the ‘inner core’ processing of the digital CD ‘spinner’ part of the Apollo-R.

Output amplifier
The discrete output amplifier has been tweaked to reduce the overall THD from typically 0.005% to 0.0025%, whilst at the same time improving the overall sound quality of the output amplifier.

User interface
We have improved the user interface control by using a dedicated display microprocessor, which eases the workload on the main control processors giving an improvement in the control code stability, usability and improved speed of initialisation of the disc being played which now matches that of the Isis CD player.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

XTZ has the X factor

A new brand of hi-fi components has entered the Malaysian market. It is from Sweden and has been around for only a few years.

Yet in those few years, it has made a huge impact among consumers and the hi-fi Press in Europe.

The brand I am talking about is XTZ and you can hear the system at Living Audio on the first floor of Endah Parade in Bandar Baru Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur. Living Audio is one of the new additions - along with The Audio Store (see previous post) -  to the hi-fi scene in Malaysia and it opened last month.

On demo is a system comprising the XTZ CD100 CD player (RM3,000 rrp), the A100 integrated amp (RM5,000) and a pair of XTZ 99.36 floorstanders with ribbon tweeters (RM7,200).

The XTZ system on demo at Living Audio.

The XTZ CD100 CD player.

The XTZ A100 integrated amp offers Class A and Class AB modes.

The XTZ 99.36 floorstanders.

The ribbon tweeter offers a detailed and smooth sound.

Ean Soong Chee Wah, who owns Living
Audio, was previously with Audiomatic.

You can tune the speaker by plugging
the jumpers (the black objects above the
speaker terminals) into different jacks. 

Owner of Living Audio Ean Soong Chee Wah said the integrated amp can be switched between Class A (50 watts) and Class AB (180 watts) modes on the fly.

The interesting feature of the speakers is not the ribbon tweeter, but the fact that its crossover can be tuned to suit your listening room's acoustics.

By plugging jumpers into different jacks, the treble and bass can be boosted or reduced by a few decibels.

I spent a short time listening to the XTZ system and concluded that the sound quality was quite remarkable for the relatively low cost of the components.

Ean Soong, who was with Audiomatic previously, said he will be bringing in the top speaker model, the Divine 100.49, which is something that Malaysian audiophiles should watch out for given the rave reviews it has garnered.

* Ean Soong can be contacted at 019-5710383.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Audio Store opens

The entrance of The Audio Store. Note the huge Sound Lab speakers.

The latest hi-fi store in town officially opened yesterday.

Tucked in one corner of Petaling Jaya, a few doors from the PKR headquarters in Merchant Square, is The Audio Store owned by old-timers Antiq Low and T.C. Aw.

T.C. Aw posing next to a pair of Wilson Audio WAMM speakers.

Though it is situated far away from the hi-fi hotspots of Amcorp Mall and Jaya One, audiophiles will surely make their way to Jalan Tropicana Selatan 1 simply because of the brands that it distributes.

The list of brands reads like a who's who of high-end hi-fi - Air Tight, Kuzma, NBS, Sutherland, SRA, Walker Audio, Aesthetix, Keith Monks, Michael Green Audio, Sound Lab and YG Acoustics.

Once you step into the showroom, you will not miss the huge Sound Lab speakers placed against the wall to your right. That's only the beginning.

The Audio Store has two demo rooms. The first has a system comprising a NuForce CD player, Aesthetix Calypso line stage, Aesthetix Atlas power amp and YG Acoustics Carmel speakers. The analogue source comprises the Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable with four-point tonearm and Airtight PC3 cartridge and Sutherland phono preamp.

The demo system in the front listening room.

Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable with
four-point tonearm and Airtight PC3 cartridge 

The battery pack of the Sutherland phono preamp.

The second demo room has the higher-end system comprising YG Acoustics Anat III speakers, Kuzma Stabi XL4 turntable, Airline tonearm and Airtight PC-1 Supreme cartridge. The other components are all from Aesthetix and include the Callisto Mk II preamp, Atlas monoblock power amps, Romulus CD player and Phono 10 Mk II. All the cables are from NBS.

The higher-end demo system.

Kuzma Stabi XL4 turntable, Airline tonearm
and Airtight PC-1 supreme cartridge.

An audiophile having a closer look at the
YG Acoustics Anat III speakers. 

Vinyl addicts may want to take note that one of the best turntables in the world, the Walker Proscenium Black Diamond III, will be available at The Audio Store soon. Like I said earlier, audiophiles will surely make their way to Merchant Square not to hear ceramahs by PKR politicians, but to listen to some of the finest hi-fi components in the market.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Zu and Kudos speakers

Zu Audio Omen Def.

Zu Audio Omen Essence.

Zu Audio Soul Superfly.

Speakers from two companies that are relatively unknown in Malaysia are now on demo at Asia Sound, Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya.

From the United States are Zu Audio speakers which are high-efficiency (in the region of 98dB) designs which are just right for the low-powered Single-Ended Triode fans.

Zu Audio speakers use proprietary paper-coned full-range speaker units complemented with tweeters.

Asia Sound has brought in the Zu Audio Omen Essence (RM25,000 rrp), Omen Def (RM16,200), Omen (RM7,850) and Soul Superfly (RM15,700).

The Zu Audio-modified Denon 103 MC cartridge is also available at RM2,300.

From England is a range of speakers from Kudos.

Asia Sound brought in the Cardea C20 (RM18,500), the Cardea C2 (RM11,000), the bookshelf Cardea C1 (RM8,800) and the mini floorstanders X2 (RM6,500).

Kudos Cardea C20 (right pair) and Cardea C2 speakers.

Kudos X2 mini floorstanders.

Kudos Cardea C1 bookshelf speakers.

If the Cardea C20 and the C2 remind you of Neat speakers, it's simply because the designer - Derek Gilligan - was previously working for Neat. Not only that, Kudos was at one time owned by Neat Acoustics before it went independent helmed by Derek.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rega launches the RP6 turntable

The Rega RP6 turntable. Note the fly-wheel glass platter.

Rega has just launched the RP6 turntable which replaces the P5.

The interesting feature of the RP6 is that it still uses a glass platter, but it has another piece with a larger inner hole stuck to it, effectively adding mass to the circumference of the platter for the fly-wheel effect which results in better speed stability.

It uses a metal sub-platter, the RB303 tonearm and the new double-brace technology.

Asia Sound, the Malaysian distributor of Rega products, has already ordered several units.

From the Rega website:

The RP6 has been designed and engineered to achieve outstanding performance way beyond the expectations of a product at this price point. Excellent build quality, reliability and ease of use combine to make a product which, if used correctly, will offer you a lifetime of musical enjoyment. Omitting unnecessary gimmicks allows us to concentrate the manufacturing costs on the high quality parts necessary to reproduce music accurately.

The RP6 is fitted with a hand assembled RB303 tonearm, precision main bearing and a low vibration low noise 24v motor assembly which is individually hand tuned to its circuit to further reduce vibration. The minimalist design of the Rega RP6 and the use of extremely high quality components ensure that your turntable should last for many years.

RB303 Tonearm

Designed using the latest 3D CAD technology the new RB303 is the culmination of more than 30 years of tonearm design experience. Due to advances in technology we have been able to fine tune the iconic RB300 tonearm design.

Featuring a brand new tube which has increased rigidity to the bearing housing, arm carrier and headshell coupled with intelligent redistribution of mass, ensure this arm will exhibit fewer points of possible resonance. Extreme stability with almost friction free movement from the high precision bearing assemblies guarantee to gather more information from your vinyl than ever before.

TTPSU power supply

The compact TT-PSU uses a high stability crystal locked low distortion sine wave generator. This, along with an efficient drive amplifier fed from a stabilised DC power supply, generates a 24V AC balanced signal of less than 0.05% distortion, which is completely un-affected by any changes in the mains/line voltage and conditions. This then drives the improved Rega anti-vibration circuit built into the RP6 motor PCB.

Platter adaptor

The aluminium top hub adaptor is manufactured to the highest tolerance and uses a six point mounting system to ensure the platter and vinyl is presented as flat as possible to the stylus.

New DB Technology (Double BraceTechnology)

“Mass absorbs energy - lost energy equals lost music”! Rega has pioneered the use of lightweight rigid plinths. Clever use of lightweight particulate core with a highly rigid phenolic resin skin became the foundations of the high level of performance achieved by the now iconic Planar turntable range.

The latest generation of Rega turntables takes this design philosophy to the next level. A super lightweight plinth combined with a phenolic resin double brace mounted specifically where the increased rigidity is required (between the tonearm mounting and the main hub bearing) forms a structurally sound “stressed beam” assembly.

This rigid plinth design prevents energy absorption and unwanted resonances which will add unnatural distortions to the music. Equally, heavier mass can transfer more unwanted energy such as motor or bearing noise directly into the rotating record.

The use of braces instead of the complete skin allows double thickness phenolic resin in these key areas while providing further weight reduction to the plinth which directly addresses the issue of mass absorption and unwanted energy transmission.

16mm Glass flywheel platter

The RP6 features an innovative two piece platter design constructed from float glass. Manufactured using a complex and labour intensive invisible UV curing bond technique the secondary ring platter is permanently bonded to the underside of the main platter. The extra ring adds mass to the outer circumference which increase the natural flywheel effect of the platter improving speed stability, accuracy and consistency.

The plinth comes in various colours.

24V Low noise motor

The motor is a high specification, 24V twin phase synchronous unit which has the anti vibration circuit hand tuned to each motor and is controlled by Rega's unique and innovative TTPSU power supply. The motor drives the CNC machined pulley and sub platter/hub-bearing assembly via the belt drive.

Coloured turntable mats

It is possible to customise the look of your Rega turntable using a variety of new coloured mats.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Big and bold' Kimber Kable loom

The thick Kimber 12TC speaker cables deserve all the praise.

It is not without justification that the Kimber 12TC speaker cable has been highly praised and has picked up so many awards.

Once I pressed play on the CD player after adding the Kimber 12TC to the sonic equation, I realised that it was a winner.

The sound was big and bold, rich and on the warm side of neutral, smooth and soothing. Images were stable and dense without being too etched-out. Bass was full and deep, the mid-range was natural sounding without excessive sibilance and the highs were quite extended.

As I said earlier, its reputation as a high-quality speaker cable is justified.

The 12TC is a very thick cable with numerous strands of solid core wires of varying gauges woven together in a braid. The aggregate wire size is two 8 AWG conductors and the new Teflon dielectric in white and transparent gives the cable a very striking look.

I had with me three Kimber products from Hi-Way Laser in SS2, Petaling Jaya. They were the 12TC, Silver Streak interconnects and PK14 power cord.

Of the three, the one that had the most impact on the sound quality was the Kimber 12TC speaker cables which were used to link the Bryston 4B SST to the ATC SCM40 floorstanders.

Plugging in the others simply improved the sound quality by incremental steps with the PK14 power cord being the least impactful.

The Silver Streak uses silver and copper conductors woven into a tri-braid. The signal wire is made of the same hyper-pure, VariStrand silver found in the KCAG while the ground comprises hyper-pure VariStrand copper. High quality WBT RCA plugs are included.
The Silver Streak displays the 'family' sound of Kimber - big and bold, smooth and rich. 

Kimber Silver Streak interconnects.

Compared with other (more expensive) interconnects it was not as detailed or transparent or holographic, but at its price point it is a commendable performer.

As for the PK14 power cord, I found out that it was not suitable for power amps - I noticed that dynamics were restricted when I used it to power the Bryston.

There were no issues when I used the PK14 to power the Melos SHA-1 headphone amp/preamp, the Roksan Caspian CD player or even the Benchmark DAC1 Pre.

Along the way, I bought a used Kimber PK10 and quickly compared it with its thinner and cheaper sibling.

Kimber PK14 power cord.

Immediately I could hear that the PK10 was superior - it did not restrict dynamics when used with the power amp; the bass became stronger when powering the power amp or preamp; and the depth of the soundstage improved when powering the preamp.

My advice is this - if you can afford it, buy the PK10 for all your components. Its tonal balance is neutral, the bass is powerful and the soundstage improves.

Combining the Kimber PK10 power cord with the Kimber 12TC speaker cables in your system will surely change the sound quality for the better.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Edifier buys Stax

Edifier, a Chinese company more well known for making computer speakers, has bought over Japanese electrostatic headphone manufacturer Stax.

In an announcement in its website, which surprised many in the hi-fi industry, Edifier's Board of Directors met on Dec 7 and approved a decision to buy a 100% stake in Stax Ltd for 120 million yen (9.7693 million yuan).

Stax was founded in 1938 by Naotake Hayashi and it became famed for its condenser microphones and electrostatic headphones. Malaysians had the chance to test the Stax headphones when Jaben set up shop in Subang Jaya, Selangor, a couple of years ago.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Win a pair of Marten Django speakers

Marten's Django speakers which will be launched next year.

Marten from Sweden is offering audiophiles all over the world the chance to win a pair of Marten Django speakers, its latest design which will be officially launched during CES 2012.

The online contest is held in conjunction with the launch of the speakers.

In an e-mail to me, Lars Olofsson of Marten said: "Marten is just about to present the latest model Django. To promote this we decided to have a competition where one can win a pair worth 10,000 euros including delivery anywhere in the world.

"The Django is a new sensational three-way, full-range loudspeaker. Made with supreme craftsmanship, it has been designed with the same filter technology as the other exclusive Marten models Coltrane 2 and Coltrane Momento."

The winner of the speakers will be selected by a lucky draw. Twenty runners-up will get one of Marten's favourite CDs. The competition closes on January 31, 2012.

All you have to do is surf to, answer the questions, fill in your name, address and e-mail and click "Join Competition".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An impressive Pro-Ject

I did not plan to review the Pro-Ject CD Box SE so soon after getting it from Tong Lee at Low Yat Plaza, but this little gizmo impressed me so much that I just have to tell you the good news sooner rather than later.

And, of course, Christmas is round the corner and hopefully Santa will be kind enough to slip one into my home since I did not misbehave at all this year.

Just when there are reports that some record companies will stop releasing CDs by the end of next year and with CD sales plummeting to new lows, Pro-Ject - the turntable specialist - has decided to market a CD player. Two, in fact. The Pro-Ject CD Box and the CD Box SE. The former is slightly bigger than a CD Walkman and has only analogue outputs while the latter also offers a digital coax out so that it can be used as a transport.

Good things sometimes come in small packages like the Pro-Ject CD player.
You need to push the CD into the slot gently.

The high-contrast dot-matrix display can be dimmed.

I was more interested in the CD Box SE as it can be used as a transport and - on top of that - the transport is made by StreamUnlimited, the company set up by ex-Philips engineers in 2005 which also makes transports for high-end marques like Wadia and Ayon.

From the outset, I have to state that at RM2,799 (rrp) the CD Box SE is worth every sen. Even when used as a CD player, it can take on players costing twice its price.

When used as a transport, it shows its true colours - vivid and brilliant. It really shines as a transport and anyone out there looking for a good CD transport must try the Pro-Ject CD Box SE.

Since it is a new product and since StreamUnlimited is a small specialised company making CD transports and servo boards and other digital streaming components, there will be a steady and reliable stream of spare parts for a very long time. There's no need to worry about obsolescence.

The CD Box SE is a small component measuring 206 x 72 x 194 mm and weighs 2.67kg. It comes with an external power supply which is a simple wall wart.

It is a slot-loading design and those who have car CD players will have no issues using it.
A cute little remote control offers basic commands and frankly that's all you need.

The cute little remote control offers basic commands.

The DAC is a 24Bit/192kHz Burr Brown PCM 1796 with 8x oversampling while the servo board is the 'Blue Tiger' from StreamUnlimited. The player can read CD, CD-R, CD-RW and Hybrid-SACD.

Since Pro-Ject is a turntable specialist and its designers know all about the detrimental effects of vibration, much effort has been taken to isolate the transport. There are four feet on the casing - three rubber studs and a hard plastic foot which is supposed to drain the vibrations away from the transport.

I found that the performance can be improved with footers. Using soft earthquake pads resulted in a 'fat' bass and I had good results with felt footers.

The ProJect CD Box SE was plugged into my current system comprising an Orb Jade 2 DAC (being reviewed), resident Benchmark DAC1 Pre (used as DAC), Acoustic Zen Silver Photon coax cable, Alphacore Micropurl Silver interconnects, Melos SHA-1 headphone amp/preamp, Kimber Silver Streak interconnects, Bryston 4B SST power amp, Kimber 12TC speaker cables and ATC SCM40 floorstanders. Power cords were a Siltech SPX20 Classic Anniversary for the DAC, a DIY cord for the power amp and a Kimber PK10 for the Melos. All of them were plugged into an MIT Z Strip power distributor.

As I said earlier, the CD Box SE sounds quite good as a CD player and the words "musical" and "analogue" kept popping up in my mind. The sound was smooth, detailed, transparent and punchy with great depth. 

I found the CD Box SE to really shine in the reproduction of depth - since it is the festive season I played Christmas songs sung by choirs and the rendition of the size and scale of the rows of boys was amazing - especially when I used the Orb DAC.

The ProJect CD Box SE sounded so good when used as a transport that I spent much time plugging it to either the Orb or the Benchmark. With both DACs, the depth of the soundstage was cavernous and only the sonic signatures of the DACs altered the sound.

It has been said that good things come in small packages - the Pro-Ject CD Box SE is a fine example of that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ivor: 'Digital can potentially be better than analogue'

Digital music can potentially be better than analogue, said Ivor Tiefunbrun, founder of Linn and designer of the legendary Linn Sondek LP12 turntable.

Ivor, who was in Kuala Lumpur yesterday and today to meet Linn fans, seems to be just as passionate promoting digital music these days as he was promoting analogue music (using his LP12 of course) some 40 years ago.

Ivor Tiefenbrun, founder of  Linn.

At Perfect Hi-Fi's showroom in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Ivor demonstrated the quality of hi-res 24-bit music files using a Linn Klimax DS and a Linn Klimax stereo system controlled by an iPad.

Using short clips of MP3 and 24-bit hi-res files of the same song, he demonstrated how to "follow the music" as a way to determine the quality of a sound system.

"If you can follow the music more easily, then it is a better system and the sound is closer to real life. With MP3 files, it can be difficult to follow the music while with 24-bit files, it is easier because the music sounds better and closer to real life," he said.

At Linn, the designers realised how even minute amounts of jitter can affect the quality of digital music and worked towards removing jitter from the equation as much as possible.

The Linn DS has no moving parts, uses proprietary circuitry and has an extremely low noise floor.

"In your view, how does the Linn DS compare with your Linn LP12?" I asked.

The Linn DS has the potential to sound better than the turntable, but it depends on the performance and how well the recording was made with the right microphones and techniques. There are some great performances which are available only on analogue, he said.

Ivor Tiefenbrun and Andy Tan of Perfect Hi-Fi.

Prior to the demo, Ivor was getting really philosophical about life, evolution, rhythm, music, language and turntables, and he was trying to tie all these topics up in one great theory of everything.

He said that in Canadian shale, a fossil of a worm with vertebrae was found. The worm had no eyes, no mouth, no ears; thus it could not see, taste or hear. So what was the sense it possessed? Pressure. It could feel vibrations and rhythms.

The worm evolved into higher life forms and eventually Man was 'born' out of the worm with vertebrae. That's why rhythm is in our DNA, he said.

"Music is the song of our species," he said. Before a child is born, the foetus hears the heart beat of his mother. That's why rhythm is so vital in singing and language and in the reproduction of music.

Ivor also seemed positive about the paradigm shift affecting the entire world in the way that the Internet is causing society to become more and more wired and connected.
"We are in a mega trend that is resulting in us becoming more connected," he said. And the Linn DS system is part of that paradigm shift in that you can wire all the rooms in your house with the Linn DS system and they will all play the same music in a synchronised manner ("It took us seven years to get that right.") and the Linn DS system can be connected to the Internet to stream music from online sources.

Later, during a Chinese dinner in the Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur, Ivor talked about his relationship with Ariston and rubbished Internet reports that his Linn LP12 was a copy of the Ariston RD11.

"I designed the Ariston RD11 using the patented single-point bearing that my father invented," he said.

He added that the Ariston RD11 was not much different from the early Linn Sondek LP12 turntables.

Ivor elaborated on the legal suits between Hamish Robertson, who had set up Ariston, and Linn over the patent of the single-point bearing with the courts eventually ruling in Linn's favour.

He chose the name "Linn" which is a Scottish word for the pool below a waterfall while "Sondek" was a shortened "Sound Deck".

He also talked about the relationship between Linn and Naim and how he first met the late Julian Vereker who founded Naim Audio.

Ivor autographing a Linn Sondek LP12.

After all the reminiscing, I had to ask him this question: "The Linn LP12 is an old design that has been improved over the years. Will there come a time when you cannot improve it anymore?"

"Not in the forseeable future," he said.

There's still a lot of information in the grooves of records that the stylus still cannot retrieve.

"Now we are getting maybe 20 per cent of the information in the grooves," he said.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Perfect Hi-Fi in Amcorp Mall

There I was on the escalator going up from the ground floor of Amcorp Mall when suddenly I spotted a new hi-fi showroom right next to Asia Sound yesterday.

The glass door was locked and I peeped in and spotted some Linn and KEF speakers.

Then I spotted someone walking out of a room and he saw me and opened the door.
I walked in and saw Nordost cables and a Linn DS system.

These brands are distributed by Perfect Hi-Fi and I thought the man was a dealer. So I asked him if he sourced his stuff from Perfect Hi-Fi.

"This is Perfect Hi-Fi. It's their newest branch," he said.

"Oh? When did this showroom open?" I asked.

"Today," he said. It was so new that the signboard was not even put up yet.

After that I introduced myself as a hi-fi blogger and he introduced himself as Jepson Teoh, the store manager. We started chatting about the financial health of Perfect Hi-Fi and that business must be booming.

The outlet also has an AV demo room featuring a Pioneer AV system with Sonus Faber speakers. Later Pass Labs amps will be used in the AV system.

Jepson Teoh can be contacted at 012-3930263.

Friday, December 2, 2011

New den for vinyl addicts

CMY has opened a showroom just for vinyl addicts.

Looks like Amcorp Mall's position as the centre of vinyl has been taken over by CMY Audio & Visual.

The new den for vinyl addicts is in Sungei Wang Plaza, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

On the first floor, CMY (which still has a showroom on the Lower Ground floor) has taken two lots (F014 and F015) which are dedicated to turntables and LPs.

According to the boss John Yew, there are already 3,000 records there.

A vinyl lover looking for something to add to his collection of LPs.

You can spend hours browsing through all the LPs.

The audiophile pressings are displayed on the wall.

Chinese albums are available too.

There is a section for classical music.

"Another 5,000 LPs are in the store room and will be placed on display at the new showroom in the next couple of days. Next week, another shipment of 1,000 records will arrive," he said.

There are used and new LPs in the showroom and the new ones are mostly audiophile 180gm and 200gm pressings.

Music genres include jazz, pop, rock and classical. There are also some Chinese albums.

Used albums are priced from RM49 to RM99 each while the audiophile pressings cost from RM98 to RM180 each. There are also some box sets priced at about RM700.

On demo at the new showroom, which opened in mid-October, are stereo systems based on Clearaudio turntables.

The star system comprises the Clearaudio Master Reference turntable, T3 tonearm and Da Vinci V2 MC cartridge, Clearaudio Reference phono preamp, Jeff Rowland Corus pre, Jeff Rowland 312 power amp and Dynaudio Sapphire speakers. Shunyata cables are used throughout this system.

The main demo system.

The Clearaudio Master Reference turntable with
T3 tonearm and Da Vinci V2 cartridge.

The other turntable-based system comprises the Clearaudio Champion, Clearaudio Balanced Phono preamp, Naim pre and power amps and the Naim Ovator 400 speakers.

CMY's new showroom also has an AV room featuring a 2.35 screen, projector with anamorphic lens and a Dynaudio/Primare AV system.

Vinyl addicts who live in Petaling Jaya need not feel left out because the CMY showroom in Damansara Utama still has some 2,000 LPs in stock.