Thursday, June 21, 2012

An interesting night at Jo Ki's place

Last night, I had some free time and phoned Jo Ki, the renowned LS3/5A guru, to ask if I could pop by his house and listen to his system since he had with him possibly the only Playback Designs MPS-5 SACD/CD Player in Malaysia (on loan from an audiophile friend).

The Playback Designs SACD/CD player is special as it doubles as an external DAC which accepts up to 24/384 PCM or 6.1MHz DSD files with the USB Extender Box, which is an external connector for async USB that has its own master clock.

Since Jo Ki is the LS3/5A guru, his system is built around the famed BBC mini-monitors with AB1 bass extenders driven by FM Acoustics pre/power amps with the source being the Bryston media player/DAC.


Jo Ki and his highly-tweaked system.

His Bryston/FM Acoustics/LS3/5A system.



First of all, I must state that Jo Ki has tweaked his system to such an extent that the LS3/5As don't sound like LS3/5As anymore - they sound like large floorstanders. If you opine that the LS3/5A has rolled-off treble and poor, lumpy bass, wait till you hear Jo Ki's system - the high notes are as clear and clean as the sound coming from ceramic tweeters and the bass went surprisingly low that in some tracks, I felt the bass in my stomach.

And the transparency was almost 'see-through' and the soundstage was deep and wide with dense and stable images.

I have always felt that the LS3/5As had recessed mids and the tendency to push vocals backwards and singers were rendered to appear to be a few feet behind the speakers. Not so with Jo Ki's system - the singer was perhaps at the same plane as the speakers or even pushed forward a bit on some tracks.

"I don't know what you did, but your LS3/5As don't sound like LS3/5As," I told him. He chuckled.

The Playback Designs SACD/CD player was used as an external DAC.
The USB Extender Box.

But that was not the most interesting part of the night.

The climax was the comparison of DSD with DXD (24/352.8) and 32/384 PCM files using the Playback Designs SACD/CD player (used as external DAC with the USB Extender Box) and a Mac laptop using the Audirvana music player.

He played a selection of hi-res songs from 2L - DSD files and DXD PCM versions of the same songs.

I felt that the DSD files sounded more natural with better timbres while the PCM files sounded more dynamic and brighter. Also the DSD songs sounded more 'rounded', which was a pleasant quality.

Then he told me about the experiments he had been conducting with Mark, the owner of the Playback Designs SACD/CD player, and Vince, another audiophile.

They used a DSD track as master and with the Weiss Saracon digital music processing software converted it into a 24/192 and a 32/384 PCM file.

The interesting conclusion of this experiment was that I - and many others who had listened to the tracks - preferred the 32/384 PCM file as it married the dynamics of the 24/192 PCM file with the 'rounded' sound of DSD.

Jo Ki's experiments reveal that it is possible to have very good sound from digital sources and the future of digital music looks bright.


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