Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lounge and Copla phono stage combo...

I got the opportunity to audition budget phono stage that base on LCR schematic, It is Lounge Audio together with Copla step up. My expectation was high as I always wanted to have LCR base phono stage even better with tubes.

A friend lend me the units for few days at home for me to evaluate with my system which currently running on Puresound P10 tube phono with Cinemag 3440AH step up. 

This is not the only audition for Lounge phono as I did 2 more sessions with friend's system. I will summerise the outcome and as brief as possible.

I power up the units for about 1 hour before the analysis and while doing that I listen to P10 for A B comparison. The music used was Kenny G live, YES 90125 and Halie Loren. 

The bass is the most prominent for you to notice. It goes deep with grunt and the midrange a little forward. After few minutes of listening I start to find the weakness of Lounge and it was obvious. 

The tonal balance is not well proportioned, the kick bass is detail though but the energy was not distributed well as what I used to listen to many systems. The hump on bass is actually covers it weakness. The mid range is just cluttered in heavy mix music. The separation?...almost nowhere to be found especially with lots of musical instruments. It just a chunk of sound in the centre and I tried hard to do the "separation" mentally as it is on my very familiar tracks. Please bear in mind this evaluation is between lounge and puresound. The perfomance ratio between them.

The vocal a little coarse when Halie Loren track been played. The feel of live recording stage were missing, the stand up bass lost its organic pluck and body resonance. It just plain bass. 

The Lounge induced higher gain noise too and that mistakenly heard as excitement in sound by many. This is not for me and I got a little frustrated as it doesn't do well in my system especially when its blue LED glow in the dark.

Maybe Puresound and cinemag combo a little tough for Lounge and the following second audition was done at friend's place. He is using Thorens TD166mk2 with Nagaoka MP110, NVA amplification and Schiit Mani phono.

I have seen and read about Schiit phono review in the web and I guess this is a fair head to head fight with Lounge phono. Lets begin...

Lounge phono sounded bass heavy as usual but it was not as refine as schiit. The sound staging schiit delivered was way was big but believable with fine detail. The Lounge suffered of being trying too hard to impress. The important part of music being truncated along the session. With Schiit Mani the music sounded easy with greater sense of flow. It will let you listen to music without being nitpicking.

The depth in presentation of Schiit is nowhere to be found in Lounge. Schiit is a great little phono and value for money too at usd129. I must add that the Schiit Mani power supply has been upgraded using Swagman Linear power unit, a definite gain in its performance. The dynamics and transients are great, the bass is not deep but very articulated and controlled and there is no graininess or obvious rolloff.

The third session was between Lounge and cambridge phono. Bass?..I"ll skip that.

Noise a little higher than the cambridge. The vocal of Adele was very good on cambridge and laid back while Lounge shows smearing, forward and not refine as cambridge. 2 pairs of ears during the demo, so trust me...😂.

post script: Imagine if you looking at two design of houses. The first one with solid foundation direct to the ground, bricks wall and tiles roofing. Looking robust with windows and front door with solid wood.

The second one is elevated wooden floor, wooden walls with glass windows and wooden front door with glass panel. Not as robust as the first one but looking good and you can still see what is inside the house through the glass windows and door.

That is the analogy between the Lounge and Schiit comparison that I could gives. It's the matter what you looking or listening in sound reproduction.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

What you rather listening to in your audio system..

...Is it a nice sounding from a system or what intended by the singer/recording engineer wanted to be.

Some of you  will ask how we gonna know what is intended to be as we are not in the studio. 

My post in 2009 stereotype audiophiles, I have wrote about few issues of being so called "music lover". Not many of us really love music since young, some of us attracted to music through system that they have heard from friend's setup or a hifi show. Being limited reference in music playback, or listen to almost same setup or level will not give you any idea how the music should sound. In this case experience does helps into finding what is right to suits what you are looking for in sound reproduction. If you have knowledge about music/instruments always an added advantage.

I have friend that asked me how did I know to mix n match the components that I have use. Again, this is due to long years in listening music through a various system, setup and to many places. I don't have high end system, I can't afford but I matched carefully at my level.

Back to the issue, playback is always a playback and you can never re-create the actual recording or event in your room. Having said that, the least you can do is to try to re-create the closest possible within your system capability. How?...have you heard of components has a character?...being natural, revealing, warm, sweet high, laid back, mellow mid and whatnot.

These are all the preferences that many looking for a playback, but in my case I'm looking  for a natural sounding system. You need a good source as I always believe in analogy of garbage in, garbage out. You need an amplifier that capable to deliver what has been pass through it and amplify at flat bandwidth as close as possible. Speakers are the most obvious sound change in a system than a components. If you got all things right but not at the speakers end, it's a waste. So how do I make my choice of component?. For the last 26years, I have listen a lot, to many systems and many places. This is how I learn about system interaction between components.

Next, the demonstration disc that has inlay notes or recorded voice telling how the sound should be heard is actually a great help for setup analysis and how your system perform. For example, Chesky The Ultimate Demonstration Disc. There is lots of audiophile jargon, terms in the disc, Depth, Atmosphere, Midrange purity, Transient, Holographic, Naturalness etc (some has used these jargon and know nuts). If you system can deliver 70-80% of the disc content, it already great and your system is enough as reference standard at your level (or my level). This is not your everyday listening disc or demo for a friends visit..😜.

It will be a great help and a must (for me) to listen this cd in high end system so that you get an idea how those jargon should sound. Although it is not 100% accurate (playback is still a playback) but at least a point of reference, if not your analysis is baseless.

A "natural reference" system will depend mostly on what has been feed at source level. If the recording is good or bad it will show accordingly and that is natural reference system. The bad side is, you'll be picky on recording but that is fine as I appreciate good work than mediocre. If your system sound equally the same on most recording, then it's your system character/quality.

You don't need to be in the studio. Preference to listen to what singer/recording engineer intended to is not 100% from the studio to your room, a sensible thinking would understand this. 

Experience is the most invaluable and thanks for reading this.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Home visit demo list

What's your play list for demo whenever friends come for a visit?. Many of us, (including me) will play the best recording in our collections to show our audio system capability. Most albums are not from the mainstream artist and not known to many. Exclusive recording label with high technology style of recording, singer that sings cover version of popular songs in enhanced recording 32bit digital or half-speed mastering, direct-to-disc 45rpm. Recording that captured exhale/inhale on purpose of the singer to add the so called "audiophile" feel to it.

These album will play to a good level in most system and great in high end system, it's a safe bet for a demo session for good sound reproduction. Having said that, we rarely play albums that recorded in normal industry standard..the mainstream artist that most people know.

Why don't you try to give your system a real test from recording standard, not recording reference album. If your system capable of producing great music in many of recording standard album, you got a great system..musically.

by the way not (not all) many reference recording album are produced musically in mind , but rather to show the fidelity. IMHO.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

My cheaper equipment better than yours!...

Sounds familiar?...often misunderstood by most beginners. Comparing expensive equipment into their entry/medium level system.

20 years ago I have used LC Audio mc phono stage with great success in my system consists of Clearaudio Champion/Rega300/Denon 103r - Naim NAC202/NAP200 - Von Schweikert VR1 Speakers. The sound was dynamic to my liking.

Once my good friend of mine has asked me to try Audio research PH  in my system together with ZYX mc cartridge. I was excited since he offered me a very good price if I were to buy from him.

When I hooked up everything for an audition I was hoping all gonna be great in my system..but NO...It's not. The whole sound reproduction was flat, sound staging was collapsed. How could it be with such high end branded items. After a week I decided to return it back to my friend.

I was thinking my cheaper phono stage and cartridge are superior, and I decided to bring it to test with his high end system. He hooked up my LC Audio phono stage with ZYX to his LP12 and sound was huge and dynamic. I smiled and thinking my cheaper LC audio phono is a killer.

After few songs we swapped the phono stage with Audio Research PH and I was totally wrong. The sound coming from his system are way way better all round, no contest!.

The conclusion is, if high end audio gears doesn't sound right in your entry/medium level system, it is actually your system that cannot deliver the best from the high end gears. Things which is made expensive from high quality parts definitely serves a purpose if it is matched carefully. The synergy between components are essentially important.

Cheaper products are more easy to mix and match for a safe sound reproduction. Like wise if they were perfectly matched, they can perform above their asking price better than poorly matched expensive audio gears. Experience is definitely invaluable.

Thanks for your time...till then