Saturday, October 10, 2015

Magico M Project, an instant rare...

This is my recent home visit to one of the most interesting system so far own by Mr Shahril. He is a well known high end audiophile in Malaysia and since he acquired a pair of Magico M Project has made him the only person using these speakers in Malaysia. There are only 50 pairs world wide, an instant rare!.

We met "unofficially" in FB as fellow music lovers and during last KLAV show we bumped into each other and he offered me for a visit aka listening session and I took the offer recently, long delay due to unfavorable working schedule. Arrived at his mansion in the evening and was greeted by him, very friendly and humble person.

His listening!..what can I say. It is the best looking, lovely ambient so far in my home visit. The room is large, acoustically treated at its best with small section of music machine too...nice!

First on the Clearaudio Statement's  platter was Diana Krall. The room filled with lush sounding, contralto voice of her with piano tone that has a life like in the room. Bear in mind that piano tone are complex to reproduce..the hammers, the strings, the pedals, keyboards and the body itself. Not just the sounds its produced but the mechanical things that happen before, during and after it creates the sound.

Next on the platter was Tin Pan Alley by Stevie Ray Vaughn. I can't really say much on this.. it was truly awesome sounding track. Stevie's guitar tone was dry (in a good way) but as clean and refreshing as sparkling water. Stevie’s fierce playing style was the key to his distinctive sound, but he was also very hard on his equipment and that can be heard in this room as if his very best...the BEST!.

Soulution Series 7 amplifier  - 2 x 701 monoamplifier

Muddy Waters - My Captain from Folk Singer album has been an audiophile staple for years. It always gets into many playlist at hi-fi shows. It's a no doubt being one of the most popular demonstration track but never before has it sounded like this. Mr waters voice are so raw..great resonance with rich vibrant tone. Sometimes pleading, whispering, chanting and occasionally shouting, tells the whole story of the lyrics.

Hugh Masekela - Stimela from his live album Hope is another track that I've listened at many home visits. Bring on the whole concert into the room!...yes that was the feeling. The system can convey the airy, the feels of the venue convincingly. It was breathtaking experience as the drums, the bass blends in into the track. Masekela's voice again has distinct vibes in this track...Stimela on the right track!

Hydra power supply system

The whole system being augmented by Magico SubQ-18, the bass response in this system is truly amazing. Frank PowerBank storage also being used in this system, it sounded huge and I like it very much.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Siti Nurhaliza Unplugged Vinyl Album...

Siti Nurhaliza is an iconic, successful singer in Malaysia and its neighboring countries. The recent unplugged concert at Istana Budaya on 17th April 2015 has made another milestone in her career as this is her first album to be ever released in vinyl. This vinyl album is not the first from local artist since the resurrection of vinyl format.

It is double LP and the artwork is good, very nice in presentation. This album has been remastered for vinyl format at Sterling Sound, New York and pressed in Japan. On paper this is very promising and should sounds as it should be. Highly anticipated album for many  audiophiles in this format. Be it her fans or not, many has grabbed this limited released LP.

My expectation on this album is very high since the mastering and pressing of this album has been properly taken care to ensure its sound quality. 

On the very first track membunuh benci, the simple one voice one piano track is really good. The vocal projection from Siti is great consider it was a live concert recording. The reverberation of concert hall nicely captured in this recording.

When the second track kicks in, my perception on local live recording already sets in. The sound staging is nowhere to make this album a benchmark. When full musical instruments came to play, there is no sense of ample space in between musicians in a large concert hall. It was a great show to many of her fans, great recording is a must and all these should be feel in this recording. It was typical musical show like in tv program but her vocals remain focus and anchored strongly in the whole presentation.

It was like a tv show, yes...and I think it is suited more towards dvd or bluray format. The arrangement of music is nothing unusual for local standard. I was expecting a "pause" on every tracks even though it was a live recording and to cut out too much talking, chatting interactions with fans. In video format it is okay to do this. The medley arrangement also is a bit off for my liking.

As I said my expectation is high and I don't buy reasons like, "it's ok la for local show or artist". It's not...this is 2015. Our live recording still way behind many good production company and I don't know whether if it a recording engineers quality of work or the equipment used.

Let me get this straight, this album is okay. It is very good for local standard and don't get into placebo effect that everything on vinyl will sounds great. Yes, it is better than the cd since the mastering for LP was done separately...I guess.  Perhaps her strong vocal helps so much in this recording and we tend to think the whole presentation is great.

I have a strong feeling that if it is a small unplugged session in a studio, the recording will be much better. Large hall live recording is not easy to capture the sense of being there.

This is just my personal take and view on this album. If many of you satisfied with this album...just enjoy it.

P/s: I might have compared with international artist live recording, i.e. Kenny G live (great dynamic recording, listen to the drums, sense of the hall..very airy..the separations of musical instruments). too much isn't it?...but hey that was 1989 recording and we can't matched that yet?

Monday, April 6, 2015

James Newton Howard & Friends..old but gold

James Newton Howard as known to many as a great musician, composer and arranger. This album are from Sheffield Lab recording during 1983 when Yamaha developed new series of digital synthesizer DX7, DX9 & GS1 and has given James Newton Howard (JNH), David Paich and Steve Pocarro to compose and demonstrate new music on these equipments. David and Steve are band member from TOTO, the band which has recorded many hit songs in their era such as Africa, Rosanna, I'll be over you, Pamela etc.

The album has been recorded at MGM studio in California with under supervision of Sheffield Lab chief engineer,  Steve Haselton. The full album consist of 9 track and it was recorded live direct to disk, the best way to get the most, faithful of sound in recording. There is no cutting of master lacquer disc in this process and no tape recorder too. The cutter hit the disk, thumbs up from recording engineer and all recorded directly from the session.

In this album if you familiar with musical instruments or even better if you can play drums, piano or synthesizer, you will be delighted when listen to this music. Bear in mind there is no guitar in this album, it just drums, percussion and synthesizers. But make no mistake, by far this is the best live recorded album and most highly rated album in Sheffield lab history and It is in my top 10 favorite album too.

The drums played by Jeff Pocarro are truly remarkable. It was tight, explosive drumming on all over the tracks. The cymbals, floor tom, kick bass are all realistic, and the snares sound will hit you right on your face on certain attack.

The Bass works are all from synthesizers and it sounded so good. Three musicians involved in the synthesizer section alone, they are JNH, David Paich and Steve Pocarro. Joe Pocarro was on percussion.

This is a highly sought after album and one of my reference album of all time.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dr. Rashid's system

I was invited by Dr Rashid, a dentist who has high passion in music to his place in Kajang. Very nice customized room with all the acoustic treatment made this is one of the best hifi room I ever been. It even has a computerized locking door!.

The heart of the system are the explosive combo of FM Acoustics pre and power amplifier. I have experienced with this combo with Naim SL2 speakers, Naim CDS3 and Roksan Xerxes/Aro few years back and this combo throw everything at listeners faithfully...dramatically...100% musicality.

Looking Dr. Rashid's FM Acoustics combo,   roughly I now what sort of performance that I would get from this session. This is follow by a pair of JM Lab speakers that can deliver excellent low end bottom grunt with lightning fast speed. You can see many high end audiophiles using this speakers as their choice.

He got 2 set of turntable to play with, the Air Force One by TechDas and Vertere turntable. He demonstrated the excellent technology of AFO that has an Air bearing / Disc suction / Air suspension. When the stylus on the records with the disc suction in place, you can tap the record without any noise coming out from the speakers...dead quiet.

From Malay recordings to jazz, rock, pop musics. The room become alive when music starts to play.

Overall the presentation is very dynamic. The system is transparent enough to get into the recording.

As for me i feel that not only listening but see how the musician play. Maybe it just my preferences of presentation...dynamic.

The FM Acoustic amplification is the star of the system as mentioned. I have listen Jm lab with few other amp..but not as dynamic as this.

Between AFO and Vertere...both got their own strength. Musicality on vertere is hard to beat while the AFO offers the accuracy and bag of detail..but vertere is no slouch. Value for money..i pick Vertere.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hifi session with friends...

Wilson Wong, a long time friend of mine and well regarded "sifu" in DIY. He went into DIY into a great degree. His logical thinking on how things work with his background as electrical engineer..who can argue..he's the man.

Recently, I went for a hifi session at his place in Puchong. Wong as usual very accommodate and happily to demonstrate his system. The moment I stepped in his listening room, I was impressed looking at the Wilson Audio Maxx speakers...centre of attraction in his room.

On the rack I can see Mark Levinson monoblocks and DcS Puccini as digital source and surprisingly his LP12 with linear tracker was parked at the side of the room...looks like it has been abandoned...;).

When he first put on the music, I was thinking this is a real good combo from Maxx and Mark Levinson. The imaging is solid, anchored strong in the whole sound stage and yet very very smooth. On Nils Lofgren - Keith dont go, the speed and definition are truly amazing. I can enjoy this for hours easily.

After a few tracks of listening, he asked me if I want to listen to "Mark Levinson"...WHAT?. So I asked what am I listening just now and he pointed out that it was actually his DIYed TAD M300 monoblocks...holly cow. I just couldn't's real great.

After doing all the connections for ML, again I was impressed with the sound produced. It was larger and I thought it was better than his DIYed TAD M300. But then I feel that I don't have the connections like with his TADM300. The ML sound vague in comparison to TAD, not precise as TAD. When I told him, he just smile (as usual)..when I asked him to sell the TAD to me, as usual he just smile...again...hahaha.

He put a lot of effort in his DIY job..I respect this man!... 

TADM300 on the right/left of the rack, mistaken as power conditioner..:)

Mr Ngoo is a close friend of Wilson Wong and I met Ngoo almost at the same time with Wong. We are hardly met but friendships never changed.

When I first met Ngoo, his system was just a Monitor Audio bookshelf, Krell KSA100 and few preamp. I do make a visit from time to time until he made a major changes in his system.

This is a mega bucks hifi system and he really spent in order to achieve his goal. He even get the Goldmund's system engineer from Swiss to setup his sound system according to his liking and room acoustic...into detail. Listening to his system, well what I can say is truly amazing. This is the best setup he has so far and I told him that.

The dynamic is to die for..very fast, great attacks and sound staging that is in believable manner. In favorite test track of Nils Lofgren - keith don't go, the guitar sound was so distinct be it the sound, "image of the guitar", the strings and body that just very well presented.

In smooth jazz by Kenny G Live, the sound staging and depth was just right, it was airy and smooth too. The bass is just right that hit the soul...very nice!.

The system integrates very well, well done buddy...

Monday, March 23, 2015

PTP Solid Bearing

After a year of using PTP5, a Lenco base turntable with multilayer plinth. It's time for an upgrade and this time I'm going to go with robust looking PTP solid bearing. The bearing upgrade consists of the spindle housing, delrin thrust plate and ruby bearing and according to Peter, the original spindle shaft is worth to retain. The whole of original Lenco spindle is no slouch but it can be better.

image from PTP Audio

Being working in the airlines I managed to meet the PTP designer in person while in Amsterdam. We set an appointment for bearing delivery and I've bought 2 set for a friend as well. The feel in the hand is very good, heavy, solid and I know it can do good in my ptp5 turntable.

To install this bearing is pretty easy, all I need is just to dismantle the spindle top plate, remove the original spindle shaft. Pour some oil into new bearing housing, drop in the ruby bearing and insert the spindle shaft slowly. without any force the spindle will drop down slowly to certain point and all you need now is to push lightly until the shaft fully set in. The tight tolerance of the spindle shaft is great with no free play. Lock/screw the spindle at the new housing and all set to reinstall to the PTP plate.

Top plate dismantle

New Solid Bearing installed

From the photo above, you will know the benefit of using PTP5. The rigid, thick top plate and the isolation of motor/spindle. You can't argue on this seriously...

I let the platter spins for about 1/2 an hour before initial listening. I picked up few Lps that I familiar with and here is my finding and verdict on PTP solid bearing.

The bass region is obviously improved, the image become larger and quieter. On few tracks that I experience with sibilance or splashy cymbals, the solid bearing has improved them a lot. The image is larger but with full of information, startling!...the whole presentation is more structured and very organic. Solid bearing definitely improved on the noise floor too, the details in recording will protrude from dark background with ease.

Worth the upgrade?...YES...

Me with Peter Reinder

Update as at 2nd April 2015:
The overall transparency has become more vivid. The bass has an authoritative commanding in music but very liquid and yet agile. Drums has bouncy feel of its skin and the cymbals sounded real, very organic. The vocals has an airy feel to it at right size in the sound staging. The ambiance detail retrieval also improved to a high just there. in some good recording the musical instruments are life like and's like a 3D in presentation.