Tuesday, August 30, 2011

AV demo at new B & W showroom

The classy front of the new B & W showroom.

The new B & W showroom at Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, is much larger than the previous premises.

It now has two rooms with one dedicated to home theatre demos while the main room features three sound systems:
i) B & W 802D II speakers, Classe 2300 power amp, T + A 1260r pre and an Olive 04HD music server.
ii) B & W PM1 speakers, Olive 03HD music server, Rotel RA1520 integrated amp.
iii) Olive 06HD music server, Rotel RCD 06SE CD player, Rotel RA04SE integrated amp, Rotel RC1580 preamp, RB1582 power amp, B & W 805D II and 804D II speakers.

The B&W 802D II speakers with Classe 2300 power amp,
T + A 1260r pre and an Olive 04HD music server.

The Rotel-based system.

The AV room has an Arcam-based system - the Arcam AVR 600 AV receiver and Arcam BDP 100 Blu-ray player with B & W 600 and CM series speakers in a 7.1 system.

The Arcam-based home theatre system on demo.

All the systems are placed on BDI AV furniture.

The showroom, which has been operating since the beginning of this month, is manned by Raj, who is friendly and helpful. The showroom is three shoplots from Wendy's and its telephone numbers are unchanged.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Freaq out!

These days, the road to hi-fi nirvana for a teenager does not begin with a CD Walkman anymore. It begins with an iPod, MP3 player or a smart phone.

With these gadgets, you will be listening to MP3 songs mostly on headphones - the earbud type or the newer more fashionable wraparound headphones.

If you use the gadget's speakers, you will hear a thin and high-pitched sound with all the body and bass missing.

So how does a teenager with little pocket money strive for better sound?

Simple - save up for an iPod speaker dock. There are lots of them in the market now and the latest is the SoundFreaq SFQ-01A.

The SoundFreaq SFQ-01A with docked iPhone.
My Nokia handphone is on top of the gadget.

The control knobs - (from left) UQ3 sound enhancement, bass and treble.

Unlike some of the others which have really cool designs, the SoundFreaq is shaped like a shoebox measuring W 11.8" (300mm), H 5.9" (150mm), D 6" (151.5mm) and reminded me of a bread toaster.

It is a design that you either hate or love.

The one on review was bright red in colour - again it is a colour that you either love or hate. Other choices are white and black and frankly, I preferred red.

The SoundFreaq features the usual dock for the iPhone and iPod. At one end is a hidden compartment where the small remote control is kept.

While iPod/iPhone docking is quite common these days, what is more interesting and exciting about the SoundFreaq is the Bluetooth connectivity which pairs it with not only the iPhone and iPad but any smartphone or laptop of any make.

After pairing the SoundFreaq with a gadget, remember to disconnect it from that gadget otherwise you will not be able to pair another gadget with it.

The hidden compartment where the remote control is kept.

If you have an iPhone, streaming MP3 music files to the SoundFreaq via Bluetooth is more fun than just plugging the iPhone to the dock as you are able to do other things like surf the Net with the iPhone while listening to music.

When your iPhone's battery charge runs low, you can then dock it to recharge while still playing the songs.

I had great fun Bluetoothing songs to the SoundFreaq downstairs with my Nokia handphone while I was upstairs working on the PC in my house.

Bluetoothing music files from the Nokia handphone to the SoundFreaq.

The maximum distance before the signal is disrupted while Bluetoothing depends on the make of the phone. With my son's Sony-Eriksson, the maximum distance was around 26 feet while with my Nokia it was around 28 feet.

I tried Bluetoothing from behind a brick and concrete wall about 10 feet away and from behind a sofa about eight feet away with my Nokia handphone and the signal was not disrupted.

Since my house is now a wifi hotspot, I could watch music videos on YouTube with my iPad while the song was played on the SoundFreaq.

While only the US version of the SoundFreaq comes with an FM radio mode, I felt that it did not matter at all that the Malaysian version did not have an FM mode.

This was because I could play Internet radio on the SoundFreaq via Bluetooth with either the iPhone or iPad. 

All I had to do was download a free app called Tunein Radio and I had access to hundreds of stations from Malaysia and around the world.

Seconds after I had downloaded the Tunein app I was listening to jazz from a radio station based in Seattle, United States. And all that was done without me moving an inch on the sofa.

SoundFreaq has its own app for the iPhone and iPad, but I never had to use it at all even though I downloaded it.

The SoundFreaq aspires to be an audiophile product by featuring kevlar-reinforced full-range drivers, nautilus-shaped tuned dual ports and a proprietary UQ3 spatial sound enhancement to widen the soundstage.

It has an Aux input and you can plug a 3.5mm jack to it, but I never used it at all since I had dozens of songs in my phone and I had access to hundreds of Internet radio stations.

In terms of sound quality, the SoundFreaq sounded better than many that I have heard and the UQ3 feature does enlarge the soundstage.

It can play loud enough for a party and I can already visualise college kids blasting it in their rooms and dorms. For an older audiophile with a mega-buck main rig, it can be for the bedroom - it certainly sounds better than a bedside alarm clock/radio.

The SoundFreaq sells at a rrp of RM899 and is available at all authorised resellers.

Just the other day, I heard a similar component at the Mac Store in Bangsar Shopping Complex which was in that price range and it sounded worse than the SoundFreaq.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Focal/Naim merger: Achieving more together

The new Focal/Naim merged entity under Focal & Co released a Q & A which was reported in www.whathifi.com. These are the excerpts.

Q:. What's the rationale for the deal?

A: It's a merger of European minds. We share a passion for audio and together we can move to the next level. We can achieve far more together than would have been possible alone, yet at the same time we are able to retain everything that is unique about Naim/Focal and everything that our customers love us for.

We have some incredible developments in the pipeline and this alliance will help us get those to market as quickly as possible.

Q: What are the operational and financial benefits of putting the two businesses together?

A: This is all about growth – not about finding financial synergies. The merger in fact means we are able to increase our investment in people and R&D to help us accelerate both brands.

Q. Was Naim in financial trouble? Is this a rescue?

A: Absolutely not. Naim has enjoyed successive years of strong growth and is a very successful company in its own right. It was very important to us that we find a strong performing partner to team up with.

Q: Do you have any experience of acquiring/integrating other businesses?

A: This is our first, but as the two brands will continue to be run independently by their respective management teams, not much will be changing.

Q: Is this about access to new geographic markets? Which markets are the two companies strong in at the moment?

A: Both brands have successful export strategies, across Europe, Asia and the USA. We will certainly be capitalising on any opportunity to introduce both brands to new markets.

Q What is the vision for where the combined company will be in 5 years?

A: We will be a European champion for our industry, producing amazing products within our individual brands.

Q: Are there plans for any other acquisitions?

A: We don’t have any active plans at the moment. Our focus is on Focal and Naim

Q. How much has Focal & Co paid for Naim?

A: Naim was owned by its management, who now have significant holdings in Focal & Co.

Q: What is the turnover/profits for each company?

A: Focal has a turnover of circa £31 million; Naim circa £18 million. Both are profitable businesses.

Q: What is the ownership breakdown?

A: Focal & Co is owned by Jacques Mahul (Founder and Chairman), CM-CIC (France's third largest bank; long-term shareholder in Focal) and the management teams of Focal and Naim.

Q: Where will the new company be based/incorporated?

A: Both brands will retain their existing facilities.

Q: Will there be job losses? – Where and how many?

A: Quite the opposite. This is all about growth and expanding our team. If you are a great audio engineer or designer, there will be no better place to be. Give us a call!

Q: Is Naim’s management team staying?

A: Yes. The two brands will continue to be managed as they are now.

Q: Are there cultural challenges to overcome?

A: Our two sites are separated by the Channel, but united by a passion for perfect sound. We have been pleasantly surprised by how well the two teams have come together.

Some incredible achievements have happened when the British and French have worked together – from Concorde to the Channel Tunnel.

Q: Will the two production sites be integrated over time?

A: No. We will keep both sites and develop them further. It is important for us to retain manufacturing facilities in the UK and France.

Q: Will the brands remain separate?

A: Absolutely – retaining their unique philosophies and product ranges.

Q:Will the two R&D/design teams stay separate?

A: R&D is an area where we can pool our efforts to create something which is better than the sum of its parts. Both brands have outstanding R&D teams, which will continue to work as separate teams – with joint technology groups set up to look at big picture projects.

Q: Any concerns about diluting the quality of the Naim/Focal brand/losing customers?

A: No. We are committed to running the two brands independently, so there will be no change to the customer’s experience of either brand.

Q. What would you say to the loyalists of the brands who are concerned that their beloved brand will change?

A: I would assure them that we would do nothing to damage the unique qualities of either brand and we are committed to proving that to them over the coming months and years.

Q: Will the distributors/retailers be encouraged/forced to stock both brands?

A: No. Arrangements stay as they are now. But we would be happy to have the conversation if any distributor asked.

Q: What is the geographical split for Naim and Focal’s sales?

A: Focal – 70% export – Europe, Asia, North America; Naim – 60% export – Europe, Asia, America.

Q: What are the priority markets?

A:The core European markets combined with the emerging markets of Asia.

Q: How many retail outlets does each have worldwide?

A: Naim has 650 Naim trained specialists internationally; Focal’s network represents more than 1,500 dedicated dealers worldwide.

Q: What are each brand’s star products?

A: Focal Home: Utopia, Electra, Dome
Focal Car: K2 Power
Focal Pro: Solo6Be, Twin6Be
Naim: 500 Series CD555, Classic Series HDX, Uniti System

Q: What are your immediate plans for Focal and Naim? Are there any imminent product launches?

A: Naim will be launching two significant new products before Christmas. Focal’s imminent launches are:

– Bird, a complete and autonomous system with wireless functionality, affordable, simple and stunning

– XS Book a 2.0 Multimedia reference system

– Spirit One the first step to Focal in the world of headphones

Q: What will happen to the Naim Label in future?

A: It’ll be business as usual for Naim Label. We are still passionate about music and we will continue to invest in the artists we love.

Q: Will the strategy of the Naim Label change?

A: Our ethos is still very much the same; to bring to market music of superb technical and creative quality, in a broad range of genres and to provide a platform for deserving talent. The way we do business and how we make decisions will not change.

Q: Will this merger change anything in the arrangements between Bentley and Naim?

A: No.

Q: Will Naim and Focal launch a car system?

A: No, Naim has an exclusive contract with Bentley, we will not supply after market or systems by Naim to any other automotive manufacturer.

Q. Will Naim branding appear on any Focal automotive components?

A: Absolutely not.

Naim and Focal have merged

United by their passion for perfect sound, leading high-end audio brands Focal and Naim, have announced they are merging to create a new European leader in the audio industry. Focal & Co will own and manage Focal and Naim as independent brands, retaining their unique philosophies and product ranges.

Focal & Co, owned by Jacques Mahul (Founder and Chairman), CM-CIC (long-term shareholder in Focal) and the management teams of Focal and Naim, will employ 325 people at its facilities in Saint-Etienne, France and Salisbury, UK and have a combined turnover in excess of £48 million.

The Research & Development teams of Focal and Naim are central to the success of both brands. By bringing together these hugely talented individuals, Focal & Co will create an industry leading R&D capability to propel the Naim and Focal brands to the next level of innovative, high quality sound classics in the dynamic new world of hi-fi technology.

Jacques Mahul, Founder and Chairman Focal & Co commented: “For future success the key point is that there is no future for a speaker or electronic company alone. Partnership and collaboration are the way forward both in terms of investment and R&D. Working together means you can go more quickly and successfully whilst remaining true to the respective brands.”

Paul Stephenson, MD, Naim Audio Ltd and now member of the Board of Focal & Co added: “It is a merger of European minds. In Focal, we have found a partner which shares our passion for music and will help us take Naim to the next level. We can achieve far more together than would have been possible alone, yet at the same time we are able to retain everything that is unique about Naim and everything that our customers love us for. We have some incredible developments in the pipeline and this alliance will help us get those to market as quickly as possible.”

Other key shareholders also commented:

Christophe Sicaud, President Focal & Co: “I see Focal & Co as the perfect home for Focal and Naim. We are both proud European businesses with a strong history and this merger will allow both brands to march forward with the confidence and resources needed for the future.”

Gerard Chretien, MD Focal-JMlab and member of the Board of Focal & Co: “More and more people are listening to music and are appreciating high quality sound. That is not only great news but also creates huge opportunities for our two brands. This new partnership will help both Focal and Naim make the very most of these opportunities.”

Frédéric Plas, Investment Director at CM-CIC Capital Finance: “For the past 10 years, we have been delighted to support Focal’s long term strategy to develop a unique position and a high end brand in its industry. Naim is the perfect fit.” - www.naimaudio.com

Friday, August 19, 2011

LG is ahead in 3D TV

LG Electronics's Hongsoo Kim
Playing a 3D video game on the LG TV.

LG is ahead of everyone else as far as 3D TV is concerned.

During the recent KL International AV Show, other manufacturers were showing their latest rechargeable 3D glasses while LG revealed its passive 3D glasses which are actually polarising lenses.

Not only do they need no batteries, but they are cheap. While the other active 3D glasses can cost RM200-RM300 per pair, LG is offering theirs at RM99 for five pairs. (It was even cheaper during the show.)

LG's 3D technology is ahead of the competition.

With the 3D TV technology offered by others, the 3D effect is lost when you look at the screen with your head tilted sideways. With LG's technology, you can look at the screen from any angle and the 3D effect will still be apparent.

Since the LG 3D glasses do not switch on and off alternately, the viewer will not experience eye fatigue or headache.

LG Electronics' product marketing manager Hongsoo Kim said the LG 3D television can convert normal programmes to 3D.

"While other companies have similar products, LG's 3D TV has more layers of (virtual) depth. LG has 20 layers while others have only 10-15," he said.

LG has also launched a computer monitor screen which can create 3D effects without the need to wear special glasses, but the product is available in South Korea only for the time being.

Monday, August 15, 2011

CD is no match for Linn DS

Linn MD Gilad Tiefenbrun
The Linn DS sounds better than any CD player regardless of price, declares Gilad Tiefenbrun, the managing director of Linn.

Just as his father Ivor had championed the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable as the best source, Gilad is now championing Linn's digital streaming system as the best source around.

"There is no way CD can sound better than Linn DS. It's 16 bit, it's coloured, it's noisy, it's affected by EMI...." he said during a coffee break at the recent KL International AV Show. He was in KL as a guest of Perfect Hi-Fi.

Then he went on to list the advantages of the Linn DS system such as it being solid state, a "pull" system, the files are 24-bit, etc.

Gilad said Linn is the only hi-fi company that invested in designing its own digital processing platform while other companies either use third-party technologies or modify computer parts.

He named a recently-launched digital media player (which was praised by critics) that used a modified computer mother-board.

“You can never get good music from computer parts,” he said.

Since Linn is now heading into digital in a big way, the Scottish firm has launched Songcast which is Linn’s multi-room system.

The Songcast software is downloadable for free from the Internet and with an Ethernet-linked network of Linn DS players resulting effectively in a Local Area Network (LAN), 24-bit audio can be streamed to various parts of your home at high quality and perfectly synchronised.

“There is no delay at all. You will hear the same part of the song in any room where the Linn DS player is,” Gilad said.

You can listen to playlists from a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) or, if you are connected to the Internet, you can listen to Internet radio or Cloud Music Streaming services.

Just a software download and owning two Linn DS players is sufficient to make you Songcast-ready - there is no need for other components or programmes. Your iPod, iPad or iPhone and other smartphones can be used to control the music.

Gilad said Linn is still sticking to using ethernet connections for the time being.

“Wifi is still progressing and it is changing a lot. It is also rather noisy and it is not ready for Linn to use in its digital streaming products,” he said.

Another new product from Linn is actually a rework of an old product - the Linn Isobarik speakers from 1973

“We have a passionate team of designers and they felt that with new materials and technology available, it could be timely to have another look at the isobarik system,” he said.

Essentially, they wanted to merge the treble qualities of the Majik speakers with the bass of an isobarik system using the latest drivers.

Gilad said they were pleased with the results, but decided to do it for the entry-level Majik range as the performance of the Activ Servo Bass system of the Klimax 350 speakers was more difficult to surpass.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It’s about the tone

Mario Binner had a large and varied
selection of demo CDs at the show.
“Other brands have their own character, but not Audio Note. With Audio Note, it’s about the music, it’s about the right tones,” said Mario Binner, senior engineer of Audio Note UK, who was in Kuala Lumpur for the recent KL International AV Show.

I mentioned that I noticed that an all-Audio Note system sounded good.

Mario said it was because Audio Note places emphasis on getting the tones right.

Audio Note’s aim is to have the instruments and singers sound like what they do in real life.

The natural tones, hues and dynamics of the instruments and singers are reproduced by all Audio Note components - that’s why an all-Audio Note system sounds good.

“You said so yourself,” Mario added.

I have to admit that I have heard Audio Note amps driving other-brand speakers and Audio Note speakers being driven by other-brand amps, but all these systems did not sound as well-matched as an all-Audio Note system.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Master of metals

Franck Tchang - the master of metals.

Franck Tchang is certainly a maverick in the hi-fi industry. Not only has he made tuning resonators with precious metals, but he has come up with a range of interconnects, speaker cables and power cords that nobody else in the world can make.

His ASI Liveline cables, which are distributed in Malaysia by CMY Sound & Vision, are all hand-made by him and nobody knows the formula but him and nobody knows how to 'solder' them but him.

It took him two years of trial and error to get the formula right.

The formula is unlike any used by other cable manufacturers and it goes against common wisdom regarding cable making.

For example, many cable manufacturers say you should not use dissimilar metals i.e. if the conductor is silver, then the plug should also be silver and the solder must also have silver.

Franck Tchang makes his cables with combinations of five metals - copper, silver, gold, red gold and platinum. These are not mixed into an alloy; they are connected in series.

For e.g. he may start off with, say, half a metre of pure solid-core copper which is then 'soldered' to a small section, perhaps 2mm long, of platinum which is then 'soldered' to the other wires made from the other metals.

The signal and return wires have the five metals connected in different sequences. The signal wire has more copper while the return has more silver. What works for interconnects does not for speaker cables or power cords.

Franck says his interconnects and speaker cables have solved the problem of phase shifts caused by crystal boundaries of metals.

"All the cable manufacturers are aware that crystal boundaries can cause phase shifts, but none of them knows how to solve the problem.

"Even solder can cause phase shifts. I connect my wires not with normal solder but with melted silver. I melt the silver and use it to connect the wires together.

"Phase shifts cause the images to move. With my cables, the images are solid and stable," he said.

"Can phase shift be measured?" I asked.

"Well, I don't know how to measure it, so I use my ears," he said.

After making his multi-metal wire, Franck then inserts it into a Teflon tube of larger diameter than the conductor so that the fit is loose because it sounds better that way.

His analogue interconnects are special as they can also be used as digital coax cables.

"Does that mean they are 75 Ohm cables?" I asked.

"Yes, the cables are already 75 Ohm. I don't need to use the special 75 Ohm plugs. I tried, but it sounded bad. So I use Neutrik connectors which I modify to make them sound better," he said.

The single-ended interconnects are directional and if the cable is reversed, out-of-phase signals can be made to be in phase.

Even his XLR interconnects can be used as AES/EBU cables and, yes, they are 110 Ohm conductors.

"Making my cables is a time-consuming process and I cannot make any mistake. I cannot make very long runs of my cables because of the different sections of metals used," he said.

He added that he can make speaker cables up to 10 metres long, interconnects up to five metres and power cords up to seven metres.

He neither braids nor twists the conductors and he does not screen his interconnects.
"They are just placed parallel to each other," he said.

Like I stated earlier, Franck makes cables like nobody else does.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

KLIAVS: Best of...

This year’s KLIAVS showed a great improvement in sound quality overall as the exhibitors had learnt a lot more about dealing with poor room acoustics in the hotel.

Looking as pleased as Punch and grinning like a Cheshire cat was John Yew of CMY because his rooms were praised this year. Last year’s show was not exactly the best for him as many audiophiles were disappointed by the under-performance of the main system comprising Naim amplification, Clearaudio Master Reference turntable and ProAc Carbon 8 speakers.

CMY's John Yew was very pleased with his company's systems.

This year, his main system comprising Dynaudio Evidence Temptation speakers, Jeff Rowland Criterion preamp, Jeff Rowland 301 Monoblock power amps, Wadia CD transport with Wadia 9 Series Digital Computer and Mono DAC, and ASI Liveline Power cords, interconnects and speaker cables sounded much better despite the fact that sound leaked in from the neighbouring demo rooms.

The tall and slender Dynaudio Evidence Temptation were large enough to fill the huge room with sound.

But CMY’s other system on the 7th floor comprising Jeff Rowland Corus preamp, Jeff Rowland 625 power amp, Clearaudio Master Reference turntable with Clearaudio Universal tonearm and TT2 tonearm, Goldfinger MC cartridge and Clearaudio Balanced Reference phono preamps, Dynaudio Sapphire speakers, and Shunyata and Siltech cables was clearly one of the better-sounding systems in the show.

Another happy man was Max Loh from Maxx AV who made the right decision to demo a simple system comprising the Triangle Magellan Cello speakers with his Krell KAV-400xi integrated amp and Exposure 3010s2 CD player with cables from the XLO Reference and Signature series.

Max Loh was also very pleased with his system.

Last year, he was very frustrated by the poor room acoustics which caused his SVS sub-woofers to sound bad.

After spending three days at the show, I have come up with a list of good-sounding systems. The list is in RANDOM order.

Electrocompaniet system (Flagship AV)

This brand had been absent from the Malaysian scene for many years and after such a long time, nothing seems to have changed - the components still look the same and the same ol’ models are still being made. The speakers looked cool though.

The Electrocompaniet system sounded warm and smooth.

The Nordic Tone speaker looked cool.

Many people liked this system because it sounded ‘warmish’ and smooth. Some audiophiles would call this sound ‘analogue’.

I felt that this system sounded better with slow-paced songs like ballads and light jazz than with rock songs.

Audio Note

I listened to this system twice and I was convinced twice that an all-Audio Note system sounds very good indeed. I have heard Audio Note amplifiers driving other-brand speakers and Audio Note speakers being driven by other-brand amplifiers, but they didn’t match as well as an all-Audio Note system.

Many people liked the all-Audio Note system.
Quest Silver monoblocks.

On the second day, I told Audio Note distributor Wong Tatt Yew that I wanted to listen to something with a faster pace and Mario Binner, senior engineer for Audio Note UK, who overheard the conversation, selected one CD and told Wong to play track number nine.

That track turned out to be a bass fest - the bass was tight and fast and I could not believe that I was listening to a 9-watt SET amp.

After that track ended, I was about to leave the room when Wong told me to listen to some rock music. He turned the system as loud as possible and the rock track with snarling guitar and dynamic drum lines was rendered convincingly.

Wong said it would have sounded even better with the more sensitive AN-E speakers.

The Audio Note system comprising CDT4 CD transport, DAC2, M2 line pre, Quest Silver 9 watt monoblocks and AN-J/LX speakers had a beautiful and natural tone and it was proven that it could play both fast-paced rock and ballads.

Bryston/PMC (AV Designs)

James Tan has the knack for making his systems sound good in poor acoustic situations. Many audiophiles still remember the good sound from the TAD system he played last year.

This year he showcased a Bryston/PMC system that could be used for 7.1 AV and also stereo listening. The components were PMC IB2i standmounts used as front speakers, matching IB2i-C centre speaker and four PMC Wafers for the surrounds. These speakers were driven by Bryston 28B-SST2 mono-blocks.

The Bryston BDP-1 media player paired with the BDA-1 external DAC was used for two-channel listening. For the AV system he used the SP-3 preamp/processor which made its debut at the show and for stereo listening, he used the BP-26 preamp.

AV Designs' PMC/Bryston system.
The award-winning PMC IB2i speaker.

James also screened 3D movies on the curved 130-inch wide 2.35 format screen from Screen Research using JVC's RS40 3D projector with an anamorphic expansions lens from Panamorph.

I met some friends who were looking for a good AV system for the bungalow they are building and, like many others, they were suitably impressed by what they saw - and heard - at the AV Designs room.

Ktema/Orpheus (Audio Definition)

If the Ktema speakers look somewhat like the Sonus Fabers, it’s simply because they are designed by Franco Serblin, who headed Sonus Faber till 2005. Just like the top-end Sonus Fabers, the Ktema also uses thick nylon strings as grilles.

But design-wise, the Ktema is like a quantum leap forward with a very daring and unusual design featuring back-firing woofers.

The Ktema speakers driven by Orpheus pre/power amps.

The Ktema speaker. Note the Sonus
Faber-style nylon-string 'grille'.

The woofers are rear-firing.
The Orpheus power amp.

They sounded slightly less warm and more neutral than the Sonus Fabers. Driven by Orpheus amplification with the EMM Labs DAC, the Ktema managed to fill the large hall with impressive sound.

I was told that Audio Definition is looking for a suitable place to open an outlet in Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya. I look forward to listening to this system again in better acoustic conditions.

 BAT/Joseph Audio (Acoustic Arts)

Lawrence and his brother Vincent have also learnt the art of making their systems sound good in poor acoustic conditions.

Joseph Audio speakers and BAT components.
Everything was plugged into the Walker Velocitor power conditioner.

The system comprising a pair of Joseph Audio Pulsar standmount speakers, the BAT VKD5SE CD player, BAT VK300 integrated as pre and the VK75SE power amp created a transparent and clear sound.

Looks like the Walker Velocitor power conditioner worked wonders.

Audio Research/Wilson Sophia 3 (Perfect Hi-Fi)

Perfect Hi-Fi had actually set up two systems at Level 4 - the Audio Research 150 Reference power amp, the limited edition 40th anniversary preamp and Audio Research CD player connected to the Sonus Faber Amati Futura speakers, and the dCS Puccini CD player, Pass Labs XP20 preamp, Pass Labs X600.5 power amps connected to the Wilson Solphia 3 speakers with Transparent cables.

Alvin Tan setting up the Wilson Sophia 3 and Audio Research system.

The Audio Research components.

Just before the KLIAVS ended on Sunday, I was with Alvin Tan of Perfect Hi-Fi and when I suggested that the speakers should be switched, he willingly did so and the Wilson Sophia 3 speakers ended up being driven by the Audio Research components.

The more neutral sounding Wilson speakers were given a dash of warmth by the Audio Research components and they matched very well.

Clearaudio/Jeff Rowland/Dynaudio (CMY)

Last year, many people were disappointed by the under-performing Clearaudio Master Reference turntable-based system. This year, it was a totally different story.

CMY’s system on the 7th floor comprising Jeff Rowland Corus preamp, Jeff Rowland 625 power amp, Clearaudio Master Reference turntable with Clearaudio Universal tonearm and TT2 tonearm with Goldfinger MC cartridge with Clearaudio Balanced Reference phono preamps, Dynaudio Sapphire speakers, and Shunyata and Siltech cables was praised by many as one of the good-sounding set-ups.

CMY's system on the 7th floor.

Clearaudio Master Reference turntable, TT2 tonearm and Goldfinger
MC cartridge. The Universal tonearm was not used.

Clearaudio Balanced Reference phono preamp.

When I was there, an LP featuring lots of drums and bass was played. The system rocked and the sound quality was detailed, dynamic and exquisite.

Triangle/Krell/Exposure (Maxx AV)

Max Loh spent much time trying to get the right combination. After all his hard work, he was rewarded with a system that was praised by many.

He had become the distributor for Triangle speakers recently and he brought in the high-end Magellan Cello for the show.

Max Loh selecting a song to be played on his system.

Partnering it with a Krell integrated and an Exposure CD player, he managed to get quite good sound quality from it.

LS3/5A and FM Acoustics (Jo Ki's room)

The LS3/5A guru Jo Ki had changed his system from last year and now has the Bryston digital player and matching DAC as his source, an FM Acoustics preamp and the FM Acoustics power amp.

Again he had those crystal thingeys on top of the LS3/5A speakers, but this time he used a different type of footers (last year he used brass discs).

Note the crystal objects and the footers.
Jo Ki's system had improved by leaps and bounds.
Bryston digital player and DAC, FM Acoustics pre/power and LS3/5As.

I could hear the improved dynamics, body and weight especially when playing classical music. It was the best-sounding version of his system that I have heard and I am sure many people would agree with me.

Focal Stella Utopia EM/McIntosh (Audio Perfectionist)

On Friday, this system impressed me very much with its thundering bass and huge sound that filled the large hall. On Saturday, the sound had changed somewhat and I was not as impressed.

The Focal Stella Utopia EM speakers managed
to fill the huge hall with good sound.

The Focal Stella Utopia EM.
Beside the potted plant is the control unit that changes the
amount of current that flows to the electromagnets of the woofer.

Mesmerising and beautiful blue meter.

But I think the system would really deliver the goods in the right acoustic conditions. I was really impressed by the technology involved in making the electromagnetic woofer and, of course, the blue meters of the McIntosh components were simply mesmerising.

Active ATC SCM 50 Anniversary speakers (Hi-Way Laser)

Just as I entered the Hi-Way Laser room, there was a huge drum beat and the sheer power and dynamics of the bass hit me like a Mike Tyson punch.

Comprising an Ayre universal player, ATC SCA2 preamp and Trinnov ST2 Hi-fi Loudspeaker Room Optimizer, the active ATC system showed clearly the superiority of active systems over passive ones especially in terms of sheer dynamics and punch.

The active ATCs. The monitor in the centre shows the room's acoustics.
The so-called 'Manchester United' version of the ATCs.
Note the design on the wood veneer of the side panel
which looks like the crest of the Red Devils.
The Trinnov room optimizer was connected between the preamp and the active speakers.
The top graph shows the room's acoustics while the bottom graph shows the Trinnov's correction
of the room's acoustics. The middle graph shows the corrected frequency response.
The omnidirectional microphone used to measure the room response.

However, after the demo on how the Trinnov room optimizer worked, it was obvious that much of the good sound was a result of the optimisation of the L-shaped room's poor acoustics.

With the Trinnov switched off, the bass notes were cancelled out and the thunderous bass was missing. Switching the Trinnov on resulted in the exciting and dynamic music that had impressed me when I first entered the room.