Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jaya One: Hi-Fi Hotspot Pt 2

I went back to Jaya One in Petaling Jaya today to have another look at the existing hi-fi outlets there (and not the Nagra monoblocks).

Before AVP Soundcraft and Clarity MP opened (see previous post), there were already three hi-fi outlets at Jaya One - the B & W showroom, Nova Hifi and Music by Design/Audio Perfectionist (which shares one unit).

Actually the visit was quite fruitful as I found out that Rotel will be distributed by B & W (The Experts Group) from June and CEC has discontinued its belt-drive TL51/TL51X CD players and only the high-end TL-1N and TL-0X transports and the cheaper TL53X will be the belt-driven models still in production.

Audio Perfectionist/Music by Design

Located on the first floor of Block J, this outlet has its regulars, mostly McIntosh fans.
Under Music by Design are labels such as CEC, Cary Audio, Vienna Acoustics, Grado (cartridges and headphones/headphone amps), Burmester, SRM (turntable), Magna Acustic (turntable) and Continuum (turntable).

Under Audio Perfectionist are labels like McIntosh, Opera, and Sim 2 and Cineversum projectors.

It has two rooms - the first room has a Cary/CEC/Vienna Acoustics system while the other room has a McIntosh system with Sim 2 projector.

The Cary/CEC/Vienna Acoustics system.

The McIntosh-based system in the second listening room

The Magna Acustic turntable.

The SRM Athena turntable.

The CEC TL53X will be the only mid-market
belt-driven CD player from CEC.

Admin executive Esther Ng told me that CEC has discontinued the TL51/51X belt-driven CD players and a new range will be launched soon.

To make an appointment, call 03-79541882/79542818.

B & W Showroom (The Experts Group)

This showroom is located a floor above the supermarket and is manned by Zul and Raj, two enthusiastic music lovers.

The last time I visited this showroom, it had just opened and the B & W Signature Diamond speakers were driven by Classe gear.

This time, the RM100k speakers were driven by T+A components. The T+A P1260R preamp (RM12,500)and A 1560 power amp (RM17,500) with Olive 06HD music server (RM17,500) were used.

The Olive music server

The demo system at B&W featuring T+A pre-power amps, Olive
music server and B&W Signature Diamond speakers.

The T+A pre and power amp.

So, if you have not been to the B & W showroom for a while, it would be worthwhile to check out this new music server and the T+A components.

Raj told me that from next month, they will be distributing Rotel and BDI AV furniture.
Every month, several systems are put up on offer.

You can call 03-79568989 to find what the monthly offers are.

Nova Hifi

Situated above One Chef restaurant, Nova Hifi has some pretty high-end and interesting gear.

Its owner M.K. Lai is an audiophile and he knows his stuff. When you visit Nova Hifi, you must ask Lai to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Harmonix tuning feet by simply removing them from the Reimyo CD transport and putting them back.

Nova Hifi's owner M.K. Lai and his Reimyo-based system.

While he sells some Linn and KEF products, he is the distributor for Harmonix tuning feet and cables; Reimyo CD transport, CD player, pre and power amps; Enacom line filters and Orb power taps and cables. He also sells lots of audiophile LPs and the Disc Doctor vinyl cleaning products.

In his listening room is a system comprising the Reimyo CDT777 transport, Reimyo ALS-777 AC Line Stabiliser, Reimyo DAP999 Ex DAC and the Reimyo CAT 777 preamp. At the moment he is using an old Conrad-Johnson power amp, but an expensive Reimyo power amp will replace it soon.

He uses either the Dynaudio C1 or the Linn Majik speakers for demo purposes. Needless to say, all the components are on Harmonix footers.

For an appointment, call M.K. Lai at 019-2226129.

Looks like an audiophile can spend an entire day at Jaya One and with the number of restaurants and pubs there, he can also have his lunch and dinner there.

Related post:

Jaya One: Hi-Fi Hotspot Pt. 1

Audiophiles will be spoilt for choice at Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, which has become the new 'Amcorp Mall of hi-fi'.

Two Singapore-based high-end hi-fi outlets have opened there and when I checked them out yesterday, I was treated to a fantastic sonic experience - so many high-end systems, so little time.

I heard systems that I had first heard during the KL International AV Show two years ago such as the German Physiks omnidirectional speakers driven by Sim Audio Moon electronics. 

My first stop was...


Back in the 1990s, Singapore-based AVP Soundcraft had an outlet on Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur, but the financial crisis of 1997 forced the company to downsize and close the KL operations.

Now, the company has decided to invest in Malaysia again and AVP Soundcraft has opened at 11-LG-1, Block D, Jaya One, on the same row as the supermarket. You have to walk up the staircase beside Uncle K Kopitiam and AVP is to your right.

AVP sells Sim Audio Moon CD players, pre and power amps; Verity Audio speakers; German Physiks speakers; Nagra CD players, pre and power valve amps; Acoustic Solid turntables; Audioplanar cables; Canton speakers; and Sapphire cables.

Showroom manager Waymond Loke showed me the three listening rooms.

Showroom manager Waymond Loke with the Sim Audio
Moon CD player, integrated amp and Verity 
Rienze speakers.

German Physiks HRS120 speakers with Sim Audio Moon components.

Sales executive Goh Seau Wui flanked by the German Physiks speaker
and the Acoustic Solid Basic One turntable with matching stand.

The Acoustic Solid Basic One turntable without the red mat.
It is available without the stand.

The Nagra/Verity system was good to look at and nice to listen to.

The glowing valves of the Nagra monoblock amp.

The first room had a pair of Verity Rienze speakers driven by Sim Audio Moon i3.3 integrated amp and Sim Audio Moon CD 5.3 CD player.

The second room's system consisted of the German Physiks HRS120 speakers (RM103,000), Sim Audio Moon CD 5.3 (RM17,200), Sim audio Moon P5.3 preamp (RM18,900) and Sim Audio Moon W5.3 power amp (RM23,800). In one corner was the Acoustic Solid Basic One turntable with matching stand.

The third room was not only a sonic treat, but it had eye-candy too - the Nagra VPA valve monoblocks were certainly a sight to behold.

At RM70,000 a pair, they were comparatively affordable compared with the sky-high prices of other high-end equipment these days.

It was matched with the Nagra PLL pre (RM36,800) and Nagra CDC CD player (RM66,000 with built-in pre; RM55,000 without the pre).

The Nagra monoblocks were driving a pair of Verity Sarastro II speakers with ribbon tweeters (RM111,500).

The system looked so good that I told myself I had to go back another day for a longer look - and listen to some songs, of course.

Call 03-79609733 if you are heading to AVP Soundcraft.

Then I took the escalator up, turned right and headed to...


The General Manager Cliff Lee offered me some wine, but since it was too early for that, I opted for orange juice.

Clarity MP has two rooms for AV and music - the first features Lexicon components and Wisdom sound system.

The Mark Levinson No 53 monoblocks powering the Revel Salon 2 speakers.

Clarity MP general manager Cliff Lee.

The Dream Vision projector.

The star attractions were in the second room - the massive Mark Levinson No 53 monoblocks (RM180,000) driving a pair of Revel Salon 2 speakers (RM91,000). The music and video source was the Kaleidescape audio and video server which stores copies of Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs connected to the Mark Levinson No 502 Media Console.

The projector was the Dream Vision which projected images on a 147" anamorphic widescreen cinematic display. That room has a 7.2 AV system comprising Mark Levinson amplification and Revel speakers.

Clarity MP is at Block C-41-G. Call 03-79605503 for an appointment.

Related post

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

French connection

The French 'invaded' my home for a while in the form of the Triangle Esprit Altea Ex 2.5-way bass reflex speakers.

The Triangle Esprit Altea Ex speaker (left)
is taller than the ATC SCM40.
I recall listening to a pair of Triangle Zephyrs many, many years ago at Yow Chuan Plaza which used to be the centre of hi-fi in Kuala Lumpur then.

I still remember leaving the shop with the impression that the Triangles were detailed and 'brightish'.

It would appear that the sonic signature of the Triangle speakers, now brought into Malaysia by Maxx AV in Seremban, has not changed much.

The Triangle Esprit Altea Ex, which retails at RM8,500, are rather tall floorstanders and measure 100cm (h) X 20cm (d) X 33.5 (w) without plinth.

They are 2.5-way speakers with crossovers at 250Hz and 2.5kHz with a rated frequency response of 45Hz to 20kHz. There is a large port at the bottom of the front baffle while there is a smaller port at the rear of the speaker box.

The Triangle Esprit Altea Ex speakers are 2.5 way.

The tweeter is inside a horn-like enclosure.

Though their nominal impedence is rated at 8 Ohms and sensitivity rated at 91dB, they seem to prefer more power.

Initially, I hooked them up to a Marantz PM-KI Pearl Lite integrated 70-watter amp and it struggled to produce good and tight bass from the Triangles.

It was when I switched to the 300-watter Bryston 4B SST power amp that the Altea started to sound coherent.

Since they are on the large side, the manufacturer recommends that they be used in a 215-430 sq ft (20-40 m2) room.

Much of the listening was done with a system comprising a Roksan Caspian CD player used as transport, the Benchmark DAC1 Pre, the Bryston and the ATC SCM40s as reference. 

Cabling was a mix of Audioquest Panther dbs balanced interconnects and MIT Shotgun MA bi-wire speaker cables.

Sonically, the Altea showed prominence in the mids to the treble spectrum. This resulted in enhanced detail and clarity especially in the upper-mid region. Plucked guitars especially sounded clearer and sharper. Transparency from the mids to the treble region was also commendable.

Compared with the stellar clarity of the mids to upper-mids, the bass region was less well defined. But that does not mean the bass was muddy - it was with the lower-powered Marantz, but things cleared up with the Bryston. It's just that the mids and upper-mids had such clarity and transparency that in comparison, the bass region did not quite match that performance although the bass was strong and full.

The Altea's soundstage was surprisingly much deeper than it was wide, but imaging was stable and quite solid. Vocals tended to be pushed forward a bit.

If there is anything I would remember of the Altea's performance it would be the very deep soundstage and very clear and transparent mids and upper mids. I would also remember its fifth spike at the bottom of the front baffle which acts like a conduit for cabinet vibrations to flow to the ground.

If you decide to buy them, be sure to match them with an amp with lots of grunt.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More discounts!

It is now a good time for audiophiles to pick up stuff at discounted prices.

In the previous post, it was reported that Perfect Hi-Fi is offering discounts on some demo and new Sonus Faber speakers. At least two other dealers are currently offering special packages.

Hi-Way Laser in SS2, Petaling Jaya, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and has lots on offer while Ultimate Reference AV Centre is offering a full HD, 5.1 surround AV package at RM10,999 in conjunction with its recent opening at 10 Boulevard, Petaling Jaya.


Its ad tells everything:


All these for RM10,999:

The Vivitek H1080 Full HD Projector

The German-made Image Screen Cadre Simplex 90" Grey Screen

The Philips Blu-ray player

The Denon AVR-1911 7.1 Channel AV Receiver

Boston Acoustic XS5.1 HT speakers

For more details, call Ultimate Reference at 03-77314999. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sonus Faber sale

The Sonus Faber Toy Tower

Perfect Hi-Fi is offering discounts ranging from 20% to 30% on demo and new models of several Sonus Faber speakers.

The models include Sonus Faber Toy and Toy Tower, Liuto and Monitor.

The offer is on till the end of June.

To view the speakers, call:

Puchong Branch:
57A, 1st Floor, IOI Mall,
Bandar Puchong, 47100 Selangor Darul Ehsan. 

KL Branch:
G30 & G43, Ground Floor, Wisma MPL (HLA), Jalan Raja Chulan
50200 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2142-1693

Bangsar Branch:
140, Jalan Maarof,
Bangsar 59100,
Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2092 1693

Monday, May 16, 2011

Does it matter if it's black or white?

The quest to improve the performance of my much-modded Rega Planar 3 with RB250 tonearm continues.

Since I had not changed the turntable's belt for many years and it felt a bit elongated, I went to Asia Sound at Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya to buy a replacement.

Eddie of Asia Sound said he had a black and a white belt in stock with the white one costing more at about RM120.

I had read about Rega's white belt which was initially released as a limited edition item.

I had also read about an owner in the United Kingdom who had fitted the white belt to his old Rega Planar 3 which still had the old motor which was suspended on a rubber band.

With the white belt, things went awry with the motor hitting the laminate of the plinth and causing a knocking noise.

My old Rega Planar 3 has undergone a motor upgrade and the new Premotec motor is simply stuck onto the laminate with strong double-sided tape.

Back home, I fitted the white belt on the motor and sub-plinth. I understand it is made of some kind of un-vulcanised rubber and it is stickier than the black belt.

White is better than black.

My understanding of how it works is that its extra tackiness results in better grip which results in improved torque, better speed stability and better sound.

I spun some vinyl and heard the improvements - the rhythm of music was more stable and the pace more precise. The effect was somewhat like improving the fly-wheel effect of the platter.

So it does matter if it is black or white.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Double pleasure at AV Designs

AV Designs has an auditioning room specially set up for both two-channel and home theatre sessions which has been given the thumbs up by PMC owner Peter Thomas himself.

So if you go to AV Designs at Wisma Rohas Perkasa in Kuala Lumpur, you will end up with a double treat.

Seeing triple

AV Designs' James Tan and C.W. Low quickly ushered me into the room and showed me the goodies.

Standing majestically on either side of the Screen Research 126" wide, curved 2.35 format screen are a pair of PMC MB2-XBD Active speakers (driven by PMC-tweaked Bryston amps with active crossover). Behind the screen is an MB2 Active used as the centre speaker. Six PMC Wafer 2 speakers are used as surround speakers and two PMC TLE-1 Sub-woofers fill in the bass at the rear of the hall.

Other electronics include the Pioneer SC-LX83 AV Receiver, the Pioneer BDP-LX91 Blu-ray player, the JVC DLA-RS60 Projector with Panamorph DC1 Horizontal Expansion Lens and Lumagen Radiance XS-3D Video Processor.

That's a pretty expensive AV set-up.

AV Designs' Low posing next to
the stacks of electronic gear.

The PMC MB2-XBD active speakers flanking
the 126" Screen Research screen.

Six units of the PMC Wafer 2s were used as surround speakers.

The JVC DLA-RS60 Projector with Panamorph DC1 Horizontal Expansion Lens 

Two PMC TLE-1 Sub-woofers were used to
 boost the bass at the rear of the hall.

After asking me to put on a pair of active 3D glasses, James started playing Avatar in 3D. The colours were rich and saturated and the images were rendered without distortion. The 3D effect was something else - it was so sharply rendered and stable that the effect appeared 'solid' even when the camera was panned.

And in the scene when the special tree appeared in the movie in the form of a hologram, it was rendered amazingly life-like.

After watching for about half an hour, I removed the glasses and did not feel any eye fatigue - sometimes after watching 3D on LCD TV, my eyes feel strained. Bear in mind I have multi-focal ocular implants in both my eyes after being operated on for cataracts.

After that James played some music DVDs in 2D and both the images and sound were good.

All the videos were played on 2.35 format. To get that format instead of the usual 16:9, you need to hook up the Lumagen Radiance XS-3D Video Processor. Also, the JVC projector can handle only 16:9 and the Panamorph DC1 Horizontal Expansion Lens enables it to project in 2.35 format.

Two-channel pleasure

For stereo diehards, the sound system comprises only the pair of MB2-XBD Active speakers (driven by PMC-tweaked Bryston amps with active crossover) connected to the Bryston BP-26 preamp and TAD D600 SACD/CD player.

The tall PMC MB2-XBD active speaker.

The TAD D600 SACD/CD player.

I had brought along my one and only SACD hybrid disc - Patricia Barber's Cafe Blue and when an SACD disc is inserted, the TAD player plays SACD as default.

I had recently reviewed Marantz's Pearl Lite SACD/CD player and the TAD easily outclassed it in terms of detail, separation and poise. But the TAD is about 20 times the price of the Marantz. The TAD is up there in the esoteric and expensive high-end arena and has to be compared with the Esoteric, Wadia, Spectral and a few other top-range marques.

I also played Sarah Brightman's The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection Gold CD and the first song, The Phantom of The Opera (with Michael Crawford), has a driving bass line that is often rendered lifeless by lesser systems.

The PMC Active speakers did everything right - they are designed for studio monitoring after all.

The third CD I played was The Doors and the song Light My Fire with its splashy cymbals and piercing organ lines can be literally painful to hear on lesser systems. Again the PMC Active speakers did everything right.

However, in the AV Designs' listening room, I discovered that since the PMC MB2-XBD speakers are so tall (about 6') the listening position is vital. (Of course, room size is also important. The AV Design room measures 20' by 23' which seems to work well with the huge speakers.)

When my chair was on the same level as the speakers, my ears were at the same level as the bass driver on the MB2 (which is placed on top of the XBD bass speaker) and the soundstage was projected upwards - the band and singers were on a raised platform above me and the listening experience did not seem natural or comfortable.

When I sat at the back of the hall which was on a raised level, my ears were at the level just below the dome mid of the MB2. The soundstage seemed more natural that way and it was more pleasant to listen to the huge speakers in that position.

So if you own a pair of MB2-XBD speakers, you may have to raise your listening position to get the most pleasing experience.

PMC speakers are famed for their neutrality and transparency and the MB2-XBD speakers are no different. Add to that a tight and fast bass that goes real low (the MB2 is rated to go down to 17Hz) and you have a quite complete sonic experience.

Compared with the ATCs - the brand that the PMCs are often compared with since both make professional studio monitors and both use dome midrange units - the PMCs win with a lower and more detailed bass (ATC's bass starts rolling off at higher frequencies) whilst the two are almost similar in terms of midrange and treble performance (the newer ATCs have an improved tweeter).

The two brands are different regarding where their amps are placed - ATC's active speakers have their amps placed inside the cabinet while PMC's tweaked Bryston power amps and active crossover are placed outside the cabinets like a normal system.

Priced at RM370,000 a pair, the PMC MB2-XBDs would likely be the last pair of speakers that you invest in.

The TAD SACD/CD player (with external power supply), which also costs a small fortune, would be the last SACD/CD player you would buy too.

So it would be advisable to take your time auditioning the TAD/Bryston pre/PMC active system at AV Designs before taking out your cheque book.

And while you are trying to make that expensive decision, you might as well watch Avatar in 3D.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rich-sounding Furutech USB cable

Can a better-designed USB cable change sound quality? That indeed is the question that has sparked off many a debate in various online forums.

The argument is that since digital signals are all about 1s and 0s, why should the quality of the cable matter? If there is no signal, there is no signal and it is a ‘0’; likewise if there is signal, it is a ‘1’.

However, some people have pointed out that what flows through a USB cable is actually an electrical signal sent in packets and for time-critical functions like audio, they are sent on the isochronous mode. Timing interruptions can be caused by signal reflections, cables that are too long and impedance mismatches.

The Furutech USB cable looks and feels well made.

EMI/RFI  and ferrite beads - which are supposed to suppress EMI/RFI -  can also affect the integrity of the signal.

As a matter of fact, if a USB cable is not made according to specs, it will not even transmit any signal.

That calls for well-made and properly-designed USB cables which hi-fi nuts call ‘audiophile USB cables’ and pay large amounts of money for them. But do they work?

The Furutech GT2 USB2 cable features 24k gold-plated non-magnetic connectors and silver-plated (Alpha) OCC conductors, three-layer shielding and a special-grade high-density polyethylene dielectric.

The cable wrap includes damping materials that keep mechanical ringing from affecting the sound.

The Furutech GT2 USB cable comes in various lengths from 0.6m to 5m. Audiomatic in Amcorp Mall has brought in the 1.2m version which it retails at RM490.

The Furutech’s USB connectors are very tight fitting and the blue cable looks and feels well made though it is stiffer than the stock cable.

Fixed to the Toshiba laptop and the Benchmark DAC1 Pre, it was a simple matter of switching between the stock USB cable that came with the Benchmark and the Furutech to determine the differences in sound.

The rest of the system comprised the Bryston 4B SST power amp, MIT Shotgun MA biwire speaker cables and the ATC SCM40 floorstanders.

I used Media Monkey as the music player and played hires files from the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss Raising Sand album and Linn’s Studio Master 24/88.2 files of Handel’s Messiah.

With the Furutech USB cable, the music sounded richer and fuller. Acoustic instruments like guitars and violins had more ‘bloom’ and body while vocals were ‘chestier’.

So, audiophile USB cables do make a difference - with the Furutech, computer audio sounded richer and fuller and reminded me of the Bryston combo that I had reviewed some months ago.