KLIAV: Rare sonic treat

I shall not save the best for last.

When I went to the J.W. Marriott hotel for the KL International AV Show yesterday afternoon, the first room that I went to for serious listening was the Audio Note/Absolute Hi-Fi room on the 8th floor.

The reason is obvious - it was a rare opportunity to hear the FM Acoustics pre and power amps. Plus they were driving a pair of Avantgarde Uno Nano G2 speakers.

Initially I had expected such a system to sound bright and piercing, especially on the treble and with songs that feature a horns section.

I recall listening to a pair of Avantgarde speakers in a previous AV show driven by valve amps that sounded bright, shrill and piercing when reproducing trumpets and cymbals.

However, the system on demo yesterday featuring Audio Note's top-range CDT5 CD transport and Audio Note DAC5 Signature, FM 268 Line Stage, two pairs of the FM 111 monoblocks with speaker cables and interconnects from FM Acoustics, sounded very true to life and just right.

This system is for the serious (and very rich) audiophile.
I had with me a Taiyo Yuden CD-R with Frank Sinatra songs featuring a horns section.
The trumpets, saxophones and all the brassy instruments sounded just right - the timbres, the tones, just the right touch of metallic hues and just the right dynamics.

In fact, all types of music sounded just right with that system - rock, classical and even techno songs.

The techno - strange demo material in an AV show - track sounded just as punchy with hefty kick-in-stomach bass as in a disco. Bear in mind that in a disco, large speakers with even larger sub-woofers powered by monster professional amps are used. The last time I was in Zouk Kuala Lumpur, I heard lots of distortion and rattle in the bass when the volume was turned up to vibrate the entire club.

But a system like the Audio Note/FM Acoustics/Avantgarde is far too refined for techno and discos. It is meant for a serious (and very rich) audiophile who enjoys hi-fi and music.

When the classical track was played, the fortissimo passages were rendered with sufficient weight and heft. Crescendoes were handled with aplomb.

After listening to a live recording, the person next to me mentioned: "Just like real life."
That just about sums up the sound of the system.

There were a few other systems that sounded impressive by being extremely clear and clean but the FM Acoustics, undoubtedly aided by the Audio Note CD transport and DAC, sounded more organic even though the images were not as hyper etched out as a few other high-end systems. It also had the tendency to make the listener tap his feet to the rhythm of the music.

The other super systems sounded like expensive, high-end high-quality hi-fi equipment; the Audio Note/FM Acoustics/Avantgarde set-up made me feel as if I were in the audience listening to a live show.

Frankly I thought having two pairs of the FM111 monoblocks was overkill - one pair would have been more than sufficient given that the Avantgarde speakers are extremely sensitive - around 104dB.

The speakers are highly revealing too, especially on the upper-mids and treble and a lesser solid-state amplifier would have made it sound bright, shrill and piercing - just like what the valve amps did in the previous AV show, which was peculiar since valves normally sound warm and pleasant. The FM Acoustics did what the valve amps failed to do - tame the Avantgarde speakers.


  1. I know this is a very expensive system, but it's really not my type of sound. I found the sound was quite bright to my ears.


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