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.


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