Friday, July 2, 2010

Reviewing own system...

After years in listening to music through high fidelity system (if I may call my system a hi-fi), there was lots of changes in my setup through my entire journey. Amplifier, speakers, cdp,TT and not to forgets..the cables!. Previously my system was reviewed by Panzer aka Big E in one of the blogging site (please find the review by clicking at hifi review section) and at the point of time my VTL MB250 monoblocks was the star of the system. Having valves system was great but I need something simpler but still deliver what I want, and that makes me hunting for McCormack series of amplifier (DNA225). Why McCormack amplifier?, ok, previously I've had used DNA 0.5 and DNA 1 Deluxe and the performance of these amps are well above their price tags and with my previous setup, no complaints. From Harman Kardon HK6100 - Marantz PM80 - John Shearne phase 2 Ref - DNA 0.5 - DNA 1 - Krell KSA 80B - down graded to Primare I30 - Naim 120x/150x - Naim 202/200 - VTL & McCormack DNA 225 and DNA stays. Steve, the designer are humble too in answering every questions you asked.

In sound reproduction in my opinion, the speakers are the most easily- to- detect change of sounds or presentation after the source. One have to remember garbage in garbage out is the key/rules in every setup. From JBL LX-22 - Mordaunt Short MS35Ti - B&W 602 S2- Mission 752 - Snell type J mk4 (this is lovely) - Dynaudio Audience 50 - Von Schweikert VR1 Ref ( the best monitor so far, big sound) - Usher BE718 - ZU Druids MK4 (08 mod kit). Yes ZU Druids mk4 which has high sensitivity to drive 225wpc McCormack. I've emailed Steve asking his opinion on this pair, he told me that many of his customers are using ZU but with 100 steps volume port for channel accuracy. Since I'm having my DIY passive buffer pre with 2pcs 6922, Elma steps pot, Nichicon gold tunes & Mundorf Silver/Oil Caps and all MIT wires, I decided to give it a try.

At this point, this is my best setup so far. Every detail of recording is heard through. The venue, style of recording, every nuance, clicks, licks of strings is made heard by ZU. Separations of each instruments are great and the depth is believable. I love this speakers very much and I guess this the advantage of having full range just different!. Since I'm into music for a very long time, jamming, performing, guitars, drums (well, it stopped for quite sometime...hmm actually long enough)..this systems has musical accuracy which will leads you into air guitar and drumming..even becoming a conductor for an orchestra.

Close your eyes and the speakers are gone, only you and the music...errkk. I don't need to do that, it disappear even eyes wide open!. Double bass is the hardest instrument for sound reproduction, often the lowest frequency booming which translate into unmusical sound. The lowest note of a double bass is an E1 (on standard four-string basses) at approximately 41 Hz , on 5 strings bass the note Bo can go as low as 31hz and this setup deliver without bloating out its sound. Contrabass player, Garcia-Fons: Ghazali was performed on this. On Marla Glen - The cost of freedom, the rumble of definitely not from 4 strings basses (could be 5 or 6 strings played by Pat Senatore) is very well presented, resonates even at lowest frequency of the song. This is bass!

The piano is one of the most complex instrument for its tonality for sound reproduction. It's not only key sound but has string vibration, hammer, body/scale of the piano, pitch/harmonic accuracy and paddles ups/downs. Chie Ayado the best live album has given me the new dimension in piano tonality through this session. Comparable to my Yamaha alive!.

The differences that you can spot not only on different album or artiste, but on every track in single disc. Well, it's depends on how the recording was just shows. The LAT International SS-1000 mkII speaker cables which received great review by users are the linking pair from DNA. This cable does make the does seriously. From my preamp to DNA, The Stout silver interconnect does the job.

This system not reaching to the optimum level yet as I'm only using an old humble marantz cd63 (mod) and this CD63 smoked T.S Lim's marantz moded player anytime! and I was thinking if I were not to sell my Esoteric P30/Victor Lab K2 Dac, this system would shine through even better!. Why did I sold my Esoteric/K2?...down sizing as I'm looking for simple cd playback and focus on my TT, the Clearaudio Champion. But until to date I haven't set it up properly due space constraints.

Ok guys, I'm not saying mine is the absolute in hi-fidelity, don't compare to mega system that costs a bomb. This is not my best system if to compare from my previous but for a modest and as my reference from my previous setup, this is my best far.

Music on this review: Ryan Adams - Love is Hell. On last track you can really feel like the band performing in an empty pub at closing time and you're sitting at the bar stool enjoying the atmosphere. I thought it's real enough before this....this superseded my experience.

Dire Straits, Yuri Honing Trio, Eva Cassidy, Chie Ayado, Marla Glen, Arya Setyadi - the bass player etc.

p/s: I wanted to add a subwoofer from ZU if possible after read about it. Click here to read


  1. Hi visitors,
    Once again I noticed my guru has upgraded his system... again and as usual... just from the looks... this is set to be: SPELLBINDING...
    Congrats, Wan for maintaining the reflection of your passion in stereo...
    Your friend and student,
    Azlan (Lan "Bye") Osman

  2. Versatile writing- loaded with superb info- although 70% of it leave me in limbo- but I dig it bro! Superb post!

  3. i'm so far removed from the hi-fi world that most of the gears or what-not youve mentioned really makes me go "wahhh..."

    but after more than 5 years of Sabbatical, the itch has returned and thinking now to start from scratch. i mean really from scratch. a simple good honest amp, a pair of speakers and one old good condition turntable, SMEs are (perhaps) and more than adequate middle-of-the-road accessories and what-have-yous. i'd be more than a happy bloke. provided i'd manage to avoid being bitten by the Hi-Fi bug.