Saturday, 21 December 2013

Format Matters: Part One

So...it was so exciting to get my hands on the 6 HFPA discs on Wednesday... 18 Dec 2013...thanks to a nice gentleman nicknamed Mov_freak from Lowyat.net forum. Not only he was very helpful to get me those discs all the way from Melaka, but also had the trust for COD at KLCC. Who says internet is full of weirdos? I actually now made another friend over the net. Thanks to this great hobby.

A BIG THANK YOU TO MOV_FREAK....

Now the juicy part....

OPTIONS OPTION OPTIONS



All the 6 discs came with 3 coding options of 2.0 channel music (yes was a lil dissapointed of not having a 5.1 option):

1. PCM 24 bit/96 kHz
2. DTS-HD Master Audio 24 bit/96 kHz
3. Dolby TrueHD 24 bit/96 kHz

Now, with all these options, I was little bit confused on which set up to play these discs with.

1st SET UP: 2.0 CHANNEL ON MY MAIN HIFI

I first loaded in Diana Krall's The Look of Love using the following set up:

- SONY BDP S765 Bluray player connected to Musical Fidelity M6 DAC via a QED coaxial cable
- M6 DAC connected to M6i amp which drives a pair of ProAc Response D18 via Siltech Balanced XLR cable

The disc autoplays once loaded (loading time is faster than movie BD) using the PCM. The most evident signature of this format, in the first impression is the low end reproduction. Clean and tight bass not only from instrument but also from vocals. The overall sound is also more opened to the usual experience I have from CDs.

With the fear of the other 2 codings will produce loud noise through my DAC, I zeroed the volume and then changed ther audio coding to DTS HD MA and slowly increasing the volume..... and voila!.... it worked.. The M6 DAC can still extract the DTS HD MA (and Dolby TrueHD) signal. I believe however, this is because it is still in 2.0 channel. Nevertheless, I have played 5.1 and 7.1 bluray movies, and my DAC still able to reproduce the sound into 2.0 channel. It however shows only 48 kHz input.

Hhhmmmmmm..... Not sure how all these work as I remembered during the DVD days (it sounds like so long ago hehehhe), if I try to play 5.1 signal into a DAC, there was only loud noise coming out. And given that this disc suppose to produce 96 kHz signal... but the DAC shows 48 kHz...Any kind soul out there can explain this? Feel free to leave a comment.

Later (after listening to the music)...I played around with my BluRay player setting....then realised that because I have set it up to Downmix 2.0 channel, hence thats why all the different codings work with my DAC. When I actually changed the settings to Direct....then there were loud noise each time I tried to play DTS HD MA and DOlby TrueHD via the DAC.

But...evethough I set the Coaxial Digital Output to 24/96....my DAC still only detects the signal from the disc to be 48 kHz..... hhhhhmmm... Disc issue? DAC not up to spec? Answers please....


OK. Enough with technical write up (or the lack of it as I dont have answer to my own questions)... back to music...

Diana's album was quite a good first impression of HFPA for me. There was definitely a different presentation than standard CD. 

Next in was Nirvana's Nevermind... wanted to see what HFPA can do on this raw grunge album...

Opposite of Diana's experience, I didnt get to experience the elevated ambience of HFPA. Dissapointed? NOOOOTTT... and why you ask? This is a grunge album..... I prefer that it does not sound over-engineered and digitalized.... And thats what I get from this High Fidelity PURE Audio... I guess this format is trying to give listeners the chance to listen to the music as pure as possible.

The growling vocals of Kurt on Smells Like Teen Spirit was classic and it reminded me of the era where grunge rules. The rawness of his guitar is also very evident. The bass from from Novoselic and Grohl's bass drum was not overhighlighted as opposed to Diana's album. Even on the intro of Come As You Are, everything was mellow and in the right balanced proportion.

FORMAT VERDICT
So, on its own..... HFPA is delight to listen to. I dont even have to listen to the other 4 albums to support this.

Comparing between the 3 codings, I find that I prefer the Dolby TrueHD option. It sounded the best as its more balanced across different frequencies.... vocals were more upfront.... and the overall experience is more elevated. Having said that, I need to later compare it with a 5.1 channel set up.

But......is it better and the ultimate format compared to CD, LP and hi res FLAC? Read on....

For comparison of formats, I use Getz/Gilberto as its one of the albums that I have in LP, CD and FLAC.

HFPA vs CD


First thing I notice, the different volume level. Eventhough the CD was played through a balanced XLR chain from M1 CDT to M6 DAC to the M6i amp, the HFPA sounded louder at the same 9 o clock on the volume knob.

I am in trouble as the CD now sounded a bit dull. The HFPA sounded livelier with overall presentation was more involving....more realistic and natural. The bass line on HFPA was cleaner and more defined. Vocals were more bold. Is all this due to higher resolution? Most probably.

1-0 to HFPA.

HFPA vs FLAC
For this, I use FLAC files with the same resolution 24/96 downloaded from HDTracks a couple of years back.


Close call between them. Hard to differentiate between them. At one point, I forgot which format was playing. Perfect bit to bit transfer? Perhaps. Excellent remastering? Most probably.

The only different I notice is again the volume level. The HFPA sounded louder than the FLAC....although it might be because the FLAC was played via the M1 CLiC which is connected via RCA to the M6i amp compared to the XLR connection for the HFPA from M6 DAC. Hence a draw.

2-1 to HFPA

HFPA vs LP

The final battle....A bit tricky here as I would not say my LP is optimumly set up.... I have not changed nor re-tune/align/callibrate my TT since I purchased it in 2011.



Playing the LP made me realised what was still missing in HFPA. The warmth and sweet character of analogue production. Although HFPA can provide that natural sound, the level have yet to reach what LP gives out. Now now....Its not all that bad... Bare in mind that HFPA (or hi res for that matter) is still in its early days and I do believe it has the potential to go higher.

So for multiple format war final result?

2-2....its a draw hehehehe. :)

This is how I rank them based on musical enjoyment:

1. LP
2. HFPA
3. Hi res FLAC
4. CD

However, for overall taking into account conveniency:

1. Hi Res FLAC
2. HFPA
3. CD
4. LP

There you go.....in the end .... consumer have CHOICES..... so choose wisely....and enjoy the music....

Stay tune for Part Deux.... HFPA on 5.1 channel review...


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

High Fidelity Pure Audio - Will it Survive?






Its finally here... Bluray High Fidelity Pure Audio... Testing it tonight...  At the same time, got myself a 2013 remix of In Utero in 45 rpm...


Thanks to a nice gentleman from Lowyat forum whom helped me to source these discs.


Will the black disc still be superior?

Nirvana on 45 RPM?

Could not resist the urge to buy this when I saw it selling at RM95...

Wonder how good it will sound over the 33...


Saturday, 14 December 2013

KARAN Amps is now in CMY



Just got news that CMY is carrying KARAN amp now. Need to go and have a listen...

Friday, 13 December 2013

Xmas Sale!

Received this SMS today... So come one all.... Lets go shopping...


Thursday, 28 November 2013

When Music is A Passion: PMC SE Series




PMC’s Head of Sales Mike Picanza, was recently in Malaysia to have a meet and greet session with a few local hifi audiophiles and to talk about PMC SE series loudspeaker. The session was held on Thursday 28th Nov in AV Designs in Kuala Lumpur.

First of all, its always an exciting experience to be able to meet and chat with hifi companies reps from overseas as we get to hear first hand of any of their latest plans and designs. And this excitement just got better after chatting with Mike Picanza. Listening to his past experience working with several hifi companies, I could feel how passionate he is when it comes to hifi designs. And mind you... this is not because Mike impressed me with a sales pitch, but more on his approach and understanding of what music listeners want.

And this kind of experience with hifi companies reps was made possible by AV Designs.... so a BIG THANK YOU to James Tan and Tony Low for organising this (and of course for the wonderful dinner in Serai)

Mike's presentation mainly  was about the improvements in the SE versions from the Classic range. Not to say Classic was not a good speakers. But its also practical to based on an already established and prooven design and just refine it more.

Some of the major design changes are:

1. Internal bracing of the cabinet
2. Solid aluminium dome midrange  
3. New waveform guide for the treble


Can you spot the difference between Classic and SE?



PMC have also bought a mansion turn homely office in Bedfordshire which will also include dedicated hifi and home cinema listening rooms and an anechoic chamber. They will be moving to this place in 2014.... and there might be an invitation for local enthusiasts to a PMC summer party to celebrate the move.

And for this year's KLIAV show, PMC and AV Designs are thinking of offering something different for the event attendees.... Wait for it OK?



More pictures from PMC facebook




Saturday, 23 November 2013

RHA MA750: My 2013 Choice of IEM


 


When I was first contacted by RHA to review this unit about 3 weeks ago, I have to say that I have not heard of the name RHA.  So, I googled it and saw a few pictures and reports of RHA participation in audio shows. And its based in Scotland. After a quick read through of the company's portfolio, I really did not know what to expect of its sound characteristics.

RHA is a specialist British headphone company which takes true-to-life audio reproduction and long lasting quality as their core values. More read up of their range, I came across their mid range MA600i model which offers 'aircraft grade aluminium'. Got me a bit excited to really sample their unit. To my surprise, RHA decided to send me their top end model MA750 instead which made me even more excited. MA750 is relatively the same as their MA750i model but without the iPhone talk-through function. This model however is a stainless steel unit as oppose to the aircraft grade aluminium.

After a few emails, the MA750 sample unit arrived at my door step within 4 days of its being dispatched from Scotland. This made me feel more confident of RHA services which also offer delivery for those that opt for online purchase.

FIRST IMPRESSION

Impressive packaging. Some marketing thoughts have been put into the packaging design which was fully secured and yet wasy enough to un-box the unit. Truth be told, Apple can learn a thing or two from RHA with regards to packaging. I truly dislike how Apple package their products. 

I didnt actually bother to check the content at the beginning as I just took out the IEM unit and plug it into my iPhone 5. First track played was Iron Maiden's Can I Play With Madness... (Yes... I was  in a frenzy mood and needed some adrenalin flowing).. And the MA750 really got my juice flowing... 

This IEM delivered a very clean and natural sounding character. BUt at the same time, the low end frequency sounded full and bold. Mcbrain's awesome drumming was really revealing and the MA750 delivers this with high precision. Only after this track, I started to explore whats inside the packaging :)

WHATS INSIDE AND BUILT QUALITY?


  1. The MA750 IEM itself
  2. Leather pouch
  3. Nine (9) different ear tips, locked into a neat metal plate. Comes with dual density silicone, double flange silicone and memory foam ear tips.
  4. Manual
  5. Cable Clip

I particularly like the material of the cable used. Its somehow manage to avoid cable entanglement even without having a clip. The cable is steel reinforced, oxy-free and comes with a gold plated connection.

The stainless steel housing gives it a sleek and luxurious look and its already pre-contoured with the cable to go around the ear.




This IEM is a noise isolating unit. Using RHA's aerophonic (TM) design, it was contructed from individual machined stainless steel componets.

Top notch built quality at this price range.

THE EXTENDED LISTENING SESSION

I used this unit DAILY..... yes DAILY for a straight 3 weeks. Thats how much the first impression impact is. The listening session was done via iPhone 5 and Musical Fidelity M1 HPA headphone amp.

Tracks chosen are as below. All of which are 48kHz 320 kbps MP3 files:

  1. Can I Play With Madness - Iron Maiden
  2. The Pink Panther Theme - Henry Mancini
  3. Perfidia - Andrea Bocelli
  4. Siboh Kitak Nangis - Zee Avi
  5. My Hero - Foo Fighters

Isolation Quality: I find the double flange tip provides me the most comfortable experience with the best isolation level.

As mentioned earlier, Can I Play With Madness.... was indeed madness :). Bruce's vocals was full of energy and although the drums was really evident, it did no overshadow the heavy guitar solos and riffs. The MA750 presented the song with such high level of detail but still clean and balanced. No issues of bloated bass or high pitch treble.

Now, very recently, I got more serious in listening to Mancini's work. So The Pink Panther theme is a perfect track to test this IEM. And yes, it got me more excited with the legend's musical arrangement. All the wind instrument on this track was presented in a very bold but relaxing tone. The percussion also was very bold but was never exhausting even with the high pitch ride cymbal playing. Using the wrong IEM for this track can make this track sound loud and tiring to the ears due to the way the percussion and trumpet were recorded.

Perfidia... although its about one partner deceiving another, it is still such a beautiful tune. The classical guitar solo on this track sounded very lively with the right amount warmth injected from the MA750. And Andrea's vocal was presented in his most melodious tone but still as uplifting as his other tracks.

Through this IEM, Siboh Kitak Nangis gave me the emotion of how beautiful my nation's music and lyrics can be. The soundstaging on this track was well presented by the MA750. Zee Avi's vocal was very crisp and emotional with the beautiful sound of ukulele and double bass overhanging behind her, as if I was listening to her live performance. 

When it comes to heavy and complicated music, I always listen to My Hero. And yet again, the MA750 had no issues to deliver such a high level quality music reproduction. The drums on this track was presented with such detail and definition. The heavy bass drum gave me the urge to start banging along on my Yamaha DTXplorer drum set. And that what I did. Grohl's high strung vocal was also the highlight of this IEM. No fatigueness experienced even with such a high screeching vocals. All well balanced.

CONCLUSION

As the title suggest, this is my 2013 choice of IEM. Yes, its November... but I doubt I would get to listen to another pair in this next month that can compete with the MA750. I have actually listened to a few this year in the likes of Shure, Senns, MF although may not be reflected in my blog.

If you need clean, natural, balanced sound with good noise isolation, please audition this IEM. It is not for those who are looking for heavy bass boom. Not a Beats definitely but it does give enough to make you want to shake your head in excitement. And at this price range, its definitely can be a good Christmas present....:). Go on then.... put a smile on the face of your loved ones....

Do visit www.rha-audio.com for their full model range and specifically for this unit, click here

I was also informed that there are a few other products in their plan, to supplement their existing high quality product.

A BIG THANK YOU to RHA for the review sample. 

For those interested to purchase one, you can order it from Amazon:

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

RHA MA750 IEM: Sneak Preview

For those wondering what I received from Scotland last week, its actually one of RHA's IEM offering...the MA750...

Been using it  for nearly a week now....a review of this will come out soon.

Feast your eyes on ths pics first....




Thursday, 7 November 2013

PMC FACT 12 Launch - Live from AV Designs









 


On Thursday, 7th Nov marked another successful launch day for AVDesigns where the famous PMC Fact 12 was officially launched in Malaysia. The word official....sounds like a ribbon cutting ceremony right? Far from that actually .... It was actually a fun and informal launch event graced by many of James Tan and Tony Low friends and family, past (...and future?) customers, local hifi critics/reviewers, and guru.

The event started at 3 pm....but yours truly...due to work commitment could only be there at 5 pm... And i stayed on till 7 pm... By the time I arrived, the 'usual suspects' are already there enjoying the big sound from the Fact. There was  Dick Tan, Jo Ki, Eric, uncle Peter, Mark, Willy, Tang and soon after that Felix as well.

So, first thing first... A BIG THANK YOU to AV Designs for the invite and most importantly for the hospitality...




FIRST IMPRESSION

The Fact 12 was driven by a full Bryston set up and wired by WyWires. :

1. BP 17 pre amp
2. 4BSST2 power amp
3. BDP-2 with built in SSD media player/streamer
4. BDA-2 DAC

Three words to describe the first 5 minutes listening to these speakers: BIG, CRISP, CLEAN
Why?...read on my fellow readers...

THE SESSION

2 hours of listening .... And I was entertained by the big, room filling sound from such a slim speaker. The speakers delivered such a powerful performance in which the low ends was very controlled and tight and yet still sounded quite subtle and warm to my ears. I guess I have to attribute this to the ATL feature of the speaker. Small drivers but can easily match any bass heavy 'normal' sized speakers.

Bear in mind that this pair was designed with the following dimensions and drive units:

Dimension: 

H 1110mm (43.7”) + 25mm spikes 

W 168mm (6.1”) + 100mm (3.2”) ingot feet 

D 420mm (14.9”) + 23mm (0.9”) Ag terminals

Drive Units:

LF 2 x fact 140mm (5.5”)

MF 1 x fact 50mm (2.0”), 

HF 1 x fact 19mm (0.75”)















However, what impresses me most was the mids and highs. I have always known that PMC speakers have no issues in delivering the bass, but to balance this with the mid and high notes, not all speaker manufacturers can do what PMC does in such a slim design.

Several tracks that was played on that day includes some high pitched vocals and guitar and trumpet works. Not familiar with the tracks but the chosen tracks were good musically and recording wise. I had the concern of getting fatigued if the mids and highs are ear pinching. But to my surprise, the vocals and guitar and trumpet works were soooooo gentle to my ears but still sounded convincing. The bass did not overshadow them at all, in fact the mids and highs compliment the authoritive bass with such a crispy sounding environment. It delivers that emotional connection from the music to my soul.

And put this two together, the overall presentation was clean and no-nonsense delivery of music was achieved. At first, I thought that James and Tony used the tuning function below but I was informed that the setting used was flat and it was just that the speakers have been fully run in. The tuning switch (the 2 switches above the top speaker terminal) will allow the listener to increase/reduce the decibel of the high and low frequency by 1 to 2 decibels. It may be useful to cure some of the basic acoustic issues for a given room. But, on that day, the speaker delivered its potential without the need of any tuning,


Various music genres was played and the Fact 12 will just keep on rocking and entertaining. But for me personally, jazz and rock was the best. I also believe, vocals heavy music such as in the likes of Andrea  Bocelli will benefit most from these speakers.

The event ended (at least for me) at 7 pm. Leaving the shop was hard as the rest was still enjoying the continuous music being put on by James and Jo Ki.

PMC owners and fans out there, do go and demo the Fact 12. You owe it to your ears to experience such a well designed speakers.

Do contact James Tan (016 3280237) or Tony Low (012 2330771) to arrange a demo. Their outlet is located on Mezzanine floow, Bangunan Rohas Perkasa, Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur.






Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Thanks Poslaju and DHL

Guess what came in the mail today all the way from Scotland?

How Does She Do It?

Album after album....consistency in music and recording quality... How does Avril continuously to produce good albums?


Well spent money on this album.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Trick or Treat? LPs Galore

TREAT myself with these buy 2 get 1 free LP offer at Joe's in Amcorp Mall...



TRICK? myself to RCF to compliment the LPs..


.... And the result?

Excellent RCF for RM50 (USD16) .... And excellent 6 LPs for RM200 (USD65)...

The RCF notably did a great job in getting out all the dirt and sticky stuff from these old LPs... It comes in a spray bottle... One side of LP needs about 6 sprays of this RCF to cover the whole LP surface.

Run with the AMARI RCM... And these LPs play flawlessly today...

The Clear Groove RCF is sold at Synthesis HiFi (previously known as Simon Audio in Amcorp Mall.

Anyone interested can give Simon Liew a call at 012 320 3380. I saw there were about 10 bottles available.

And the LP offer runs till Saturday 2nd November in conjunction with Deepavali.

Happy Halloween .... Its definitely a treat for me today.



Lost the Cave but Gained the Space


Didnt waste any time to set it up in the lounge downstairs... Gained a lot of spatial sound.... Feeling elevated...




And another one below



Monday, 28 October 2013

Life Changing Moment: Lost The Man Cave

No choice but to let go of my man cave to make way for a new bedroom for my eldest child....

The set up will be moved to the lounge on the ground floor... 

Temporarily, the set up is our dinner menu as you can see in the picture :)


Thursday, 24 October 2013

The End Is The Beginning Is The End

What is the best part when you quit your job?

The farewell gifts...

Thanks to a thoughtful friend and colleague... Now my employment days will be alive...


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

Lets see how good this album is....

Aaaannnddd its GOOOOOODDDD!!

Some bands are just worthy the come back....



1.Future Days: My favourite track thus far from this album.... as mellow and emotional as Just Breathe
2. Get Away: Heavy, raw and full of grunge spirit
3. Infallible:
4. Let The Records Play: as if they are saying...we will continue to grunge...
5. Lightning Bolt: PJ's sound more modern in this track
6. Mind Your Manners: A pinch of punk rock influence here....dare to be different
7. My Father's Son: An ode to dads all around the world hehehehe
8. Pendulum: A bit weird....a bit of Chris Cornell type of music...
9. Siren: Another good track....Eddie's vocals on this is full of energy...and lost his magic he has not...
10. Sleeping by Myself: A mixture of country, oldies?
11. Swallowed Whole: Spit or swallow hehehe? Quite a simple track and just to basic.very rock & roll
12. Yellow Moon: A bit on the dark side...its like going into Hare Krishna kind of music...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Brothers At War: UD100 vs UD110







Nothing like some adrenalin to pump up your weekend. I was blown away last year with the introduction of the Naked DAC UD100 by Stoner Acoustics. Now comes the younger brother UD110. I decided to put these 2 brothers to the battle.........of musical pleasure.





UD100 was indeed a value for money upgrade from a direct headphone out of the PC/laptop to powered speaker when I reviewed it last year. Now comes the UD110 that have been long awaited by this mini DAC fans. It runs with asychronous 16/32 bit@ 32/44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz.



The Specs

RECEIVER : SA9027
LDO : LP5907
CLOCK: AK8133E
DAC : PCM5102A
OUTPUT : 2Vrms @ 10kohm load
RESOLUTION : 16/32bit @ 32/44.1/48/88.2/96Khz
SPECIAL FEATURES : Comes with ASIO driver for windows






It does need a driver when used with Windows PC which Stoner Acoustics provide a link to download it.
The installation on my laptop was straight forward and flawless.



When I asked the designer why the change from ESS to TI DAC, he explained that its actually to meet the need of users who mostly like to adjust the volume via computer's software. so, he chose a PCM that can support 32 bit. It allows us larger headroom when using software attenuation as every -6dB of software attenuation, we will loose 1 bit of resolution.



This time around, Stoner Acoustics is all ready to launch this unit commercially, so the UD110 came with its 'clothes' as oppose the UD100 which I refer to as The Naked DAC. The 'clothes' is basically a heat shrink wrap that protect the DAC chip.

The Set Up

I am using the same Dell laptop i used previously, running iTunes and WMP. My review this time is more about how much more pleasure I can get from this UD110 over the previous UD100 unit. Hence, the review revolves just around using my new Beyer T1 headphones. Its not even about whether this unit is good or not. Based on previous experience, I know for sure it is a good unit. So, i do not need to compare it with my MF CLiC streamer and on my main hifi set up.

I just took my own sweet time for about 2 weeks now to listen and listen again the beautiful music coming out from both DAC units.

The Tracks

1. Enter Sandman by Metallica (96kHz FLAC)
2. Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli (96kHz FLAC)
3. Girl from Ipanema by Getz and Gibrelto (96kHz FLAC)
4. La Mer by Kevin Kline (320kbps/48kHz MP3)
5. Siboh Kitak Nangis by Zee Avi (320kbps/48kHz MP3)

The first impression of the UD110 is that the overall sound level is amplified. At the same sound level on the iTunes/WMP, it sounded louder on UD110 compared to UD100.

On Enter Sandman, the new UD110 provided me with a more in depth experience when it comes to the solid drumming of Lars. It makes it more evident of Lar's drumming technique used on this track. I also only now realized that Kirk's solo on this track was recorded such that it created sort of a swirling effect from right to centre to left and back to centre throughout the solo. I have heard this track a million times .... on my hifi, in the car, on an MD portable player, on iPhone....and never once I notice this. It might be due to ignorance, but I attribute this in depth detail to the UD110 that allows me to realize this. When I switch to the previous UD100, the swirling guitar was there too but I never realized that before. Nevertheless, when it comes to in depth detail, the UD110 definitely is a step up from UD100.

Comes in the vocal test with my favourite test track. Andrea's and Sarah's vocals were were very energetic as if there was a surge of extra adrenalin that boosted their vocal strength. At times, it sounded a bit more on the lower tone vocals....like a baritone sound... but I realised that the overall performance was actually on the low end frequency side. It was still enjoyable especially to experience the energy from their vocals but the previous UD100 presented a more neutral but detail sound character.

Girl from Ipanema presented a different character as well. The warmth and bass heavy sound was still there but it was more balanced with the husky voice on the track. Again, detail and depth of music were very evident. Not sure whether it was a cracking sound due to interference but I could you hear through the tracks some sort of cracking/vibration sound from the instrument played. Its not annoying but instead created a very realistic and lively experience of how the music was played and recorded. Playing this track on the previous UD100, the experience is somehow different. Less of such detail, hence didnt have that extra mileage when it comes to the detail of the sound.

Switching to high quality MP3, La Mer sounded deeper in depth where the deep and husky vocals of Kevin Kline was delivered in a very detail and crispy sound. However, the overall presentation was not as coloured or lively compared to when playing higher resolution files. The UD110 to me has now highlighted MP3 inferiority compared to FLAC and higher resolution files.It was still enjoyable but after an hour of listening to higher res files, I could not run away from the fact that higher res files does give a different experience compared to MP3. But this is also attributed by what DAC you are using. As oppose to UD100, this track sounded livelier but looses on some details.

I then turn to my last track Siboh Kitak Nangis which captivated me when playing it with the previous UD100. Being a high quality MP3 file, again the new UD110 highlighted a more laid back sound signature compared to the higher resolution files. Playing this song again with the previous UD100, that liveliness that I experience last year was back.

The Verdict

Its a DRAW ! :) ... Why? 

Both units have its own strength and merit. This is how I sum up the units:

1. You have loads of high quality MP3s? UD100 is the way to go. It injects liveliness and creates the spatial openness of the music.

2. Playing higher resolution files? Go for the UD110. Detail, crispiness, warm, bold and upfront presentation are what your going to get.

There is a caveat here. The experience above is based on using a headphone and not connected to my main hifi set up nor my Bose PC speakers. 

I would like to thank Stoner Acoustic for the opportunity to review this unit. The new UD110 is still a keeper and I may use it for another CAS set up for my son's room.

For anyone interested to purchase one, this UD110 can be purchased from Stoner Acoustics at USD49/unit excluding delivery.


Saturday, 12 October 2013

New LPs for the Week

Got this over lunch time on Tuesday...

Tony is da maaaannn....

Disappointed in NIN.....

Some bands just should retire.... period...




Sunday, 29 September 2013

No More Nakedness - UD110 USB DAC


Yesss after a long wait .... The newer version of the Naked USB UD100 DAC that I reviewed many moons ago is finally out... Waiting for a sample unit to be sent out by the designer... Review to come...



Picture is courtesy of Stoner Acoustics

1st October:

Received the unit... Wooohhhooo...



SONY CDP-XB930E: True Love Lasts Forever

As mentioned in my previous post, I will do a simple review of this old-ish unit that I stumbled upon  Mr. Drife's blog. I now call this unit old-ish rather than old as apparently there are even people still using their CD player from 1988. So mine which was purchased the first time in 1999 is still considered 'young'

I have been trying to get a hold of this unit for a few years now after selling it off during my student years in the UK due to shortage of money. Yes, lots of people questioned me on why am I spending my small amount of scholarship money on hifi while I should use it to but books. Well, I worked part time on weekends and bank holidays, making doughnuts in the famous Brighton Palace Pier to cater for my hifi interest. Plus, I play drums for a local band  for that few extra quids.

Anyway, at one point, I stopped working as it was in my final year in university and just concentrated on the books. Due to shortage of money to ship back my stuff to Malaysia, I started selling some of my stuff and it included this CD player.

So, a BIG THANK YOU to Mr. Drife for finding my old flame. And sorry I didn't recognise you initially. (Mr. Drife actually have bought a hifi kit from me once but it took me a few minutes before realising I have met him before hehehe)

BUILT

Sony had 2 different series in their hifi components; QS and ES which the latter is its higher end series. But rest assured that even the QS is built to a high quality standard. At those time, Sony units can easily match other CD players in the likes of Marantz, NAD, ARCAM etc.

It weighs 6 kg and built with all metal casing. All its connections, buttons, the famous jog dial and tray mechanism are sturdy and have an expensive feel. The LCD display is one of the best out there. Crystal clear, simple, intuitive and fuss free.

The tray mechanism is the one that really impresses me. Its bigger that other normal CDP as it has to accommodate the magnetic puck on top of the CD as well. But, even with ths size and extra weight of the puck, it is sooooo silent. Even after all these years.

The unit came with a full remote control which is still working. However, I am currently using my Sony MD remote to control this unit as well.


The power cable I believe have been modified by the previous owner as it is now equipped with an IEC connection so one can start using different power cables. I remembered the original unit I owned came with a built in cable.


Picture courtesy of Drife blog


INS AND OUTS

At this price point (at least in late 90s), there was only outputs:

1. One pair of RCA
2. One coaxial digital
3. One optical

There is also a Control A1 input and output. This is mainly to be connected to other Sony products for seamless control. I use this with a mono cable connected to my Sony MD player. With this, both unit will be synced during digital recording and if there is a CDText on the source CD, it will automatically transferred to the MD, so no need to type out the tracks name onto the MD.

THE SET UP

1. Sony CDP connected direct to M6i amp using Cambridge Audio Pacific RCA interconnect (the same IC I used for this unit 14 years ago)

2. Sony CDP connected to M6 DAC via coaxial using Cambridge Audio Series 700 coaxial cable

3. MF M1 CDT connected to M6 DAC via coaxial using Cambridge Audio Series 700 coaxial cable (this unit is usually connected using Siltech digital XLR balanced cable to the M6 DAC)

THE SESSION

Tracks that I used to review this unit....were tracks during my students days in the UK:
1. Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio
2. The Circle by Ocean Colour Scene
3. Breathe by Prodigy
4. Cosmic Girl by Jamiroquai
5. Ocean Drive by Lighthouse Family
6. No Woman No Cry by The Fugees
7. Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison
8. One by Metallica

If anyone of you were into these tracks, you might know that I was using the Brit Awards 97 double CD compilation for tracks 1 to 7.

SETUP 1
I wont be giving track by track review...but more on a collective overall listening pleasure/displeasure. Most of the track are quite bass heavy and thats exactly what I got from this Sony unit. Connected directly via RCA IC, the overall sound was leaning more towards delivering a very strong and upfront low end character, more than the usual I experience with CD players fed through the MF M6 DAC. The Breathe track in particular made me went into a rave clubbing mood. I have programmed the Sony CDP to play these tracks on random repeat. As I keep on listening, it started to grow on me, giving me memories of my college days...blaring loud music and annoying neighbours hahahaha. It was still on the bass heavy side but it was still OK and pleasurable experience. Listened to these tracks for about an hour then I switched  to SETUP 2.

SETUP 2
Connecting the Sony unit to M6 DAC injected a more refined and controlled bass on these tracks. It was not as overwhelming as when it was played via RCA. However, it has made those heavy bass tracks NOT to sound as they should. Although it was a more relax and warm sounding, it took away that adrenalin I got from the RCA set up. Is the M6 DAC incompatible with a Sony transport, SQ wise? I then put on One by Metallica...My my my...this was a different beast. It made me turn on my Yamaha DTXplorer drums at 2 am in the morning....playing along to this track.  I continue to listen via the M6 DAC for about an hour...and yet again...the sound just grew on me and I started to re-appreciate the experience. So how does it compare to my MF CDT transport?

SETUP 3
Now, playing these tracks again over my MF CDT, I am surprise to hear that although I am using the same coaxial cable, feeding into the same DAC, the sound character was still different. MF CDT uses slot in mechanism while the Sony uses a tray and puck. I bet its because of the different transport design, the sound is also different. Compared to SETUP 2, the MF CDT compliments more the M6 DAC as it provided the balance between highs and lows and still deliver that extra adrenalin to make the music more alive.

CONCLUSIONS

1. The Sony still gives me that satisfactory feeling and the adrenalin to appreciate hard hitting, bass heavy, guitar growling music. The 2 best tracks that I like listening from the Sony were One and Ocean Drive. Excellente!

2. New always better than old? Not necessarily. I still believe that in any case, system matching is still important. Previously, I use the Sony with Marantz PM57 driving Heybrook Optima and soon after MF X-A1 driving TDL RTL3SE and both yield excellent results. The Sony directly connected to M6i amp delivered a little bit more on the bass but it still was sweet sounding. The M6 DAC helps a lot in controlling that extra bass.

3. Transport matters! The 2 different transport mechanism gives different sound through the same DAC. Of course, I am sure the different type of lenses used in both transports play an important rule too.

So, which one will stay as my resident CD player? Both at the moment. Until I find myself a Marantz PM57 and replace the tweeter on my old TDL RTL3SE.

Here is Ocean Drive, played from the Sony RCA hook up.