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. 


Monday, 16 September 2013

Tweaks Tweaks by CMY



Bass and room correction by DSpeaker...available at CMY. For demo, please visit CMY One Utama and look for Steve Chua.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Discount Offer on BOSE new products

Received this SMS yesterday from Atlas Hi Fi. Go and get it if you are looking for in ear noise cancelling earphones..


Bedtime Story

Set up a mini haven for those late night listening.... Consist of:

1. Musical Fidelity M1 HPA headphone amp.
2. Bose Around the Ears headphone
3. Bose Wave Music system
4. Airport Express
5. iPhone 5


Friday, 6 September 2013

Old Is Good!!!











A long lost love.... Rekindled today...

Thanks to the cupid... Mr. Drife... Who found this unit to be sold to me... The lucky buyer...thanks bro...

I purchased this unit 1999 for GBP 300 from Sevenoaks Brighton... Matched it with my previous MF X-DAC and XA1/XA50... And TDL RTL3SEs...But due to financial crisis as a student where my bank balance was about 85 pence, had to sell it for just GBP 100 after less than 1 year of use.

I use this CDP to synchronously dub music into MDs on my SONY ES MD player besides play endless hours of CDs from HMV/Virgin stores..

Eversince I got back into hifi bug in 2008, I have been looking high and low for a 2nd hand unit on ebay but to no avail... Except for the ones in the US...

Now its back in my hands...loving it...

Its unconventional... But I will review this old unit... Because:

1. Its a model that was not available in Malaysia

2. To see whether old is better/at par/worst than new

3. Because I want to and this is my blog :) woooohhhhoo

So stay tune...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

PisangRama - Another Classic

I just love 80's music...and listening it through T1s... Amazing...




Monday, 2 September 2013

Beyerdynamic T1: Light on The Head, Heavy on Pleasure

 





It was a tough session listening to the T1s after a delightful session with the Audeze.... I was not sure what headphones can actually match the SQ from the Audeze. I received the demo unit courtesy of CMY One Utama arranged by the good man Steve Chua a few days before Hari Raya. So, I had good time to really listen to these cans.

BUILT


As oppose to Audeze, the T1s came in a metal casing with soft foam like material internally to house the cans.AT this price point, there is little to complain about the built. A mix of metal and fabric cushion on the cans itself and leather on the headband. An odd combination to me as it could also be more economical to just stick to one material or the most two. I do prefer the fabric cushion on the pads rather than leather given that I live in a humid country. Its OK to use leather if the pads are interchangeable as BOSE's headphones are. But if its  permanent fixture, I rather go for fabric. It would be even better if the headband was of fabric as well.


The headband can be adjusted easily and it gave me the right amount of pressure to keep the cans in place over my head. Not inducing any uncomfortable experience.


The unit comes with a double sided cable with a 1/4" jack..Sturdily built to precision tightly into the cans. No wiggly cables. But unfortunately, the cable cannot be easily replaced or changed to an XLR connection unless you start doing major modifications internally.

The ear cups of the T1 is made from soft fabric and the pads are soft and gentle on the ears as well. Very comfortable.

It is also lighter then the LCD2 which is a bonus for me. I can use this cans straight for 2 to 3 hours without resting back onto my sofa.

SPECIFICATION

The T1 of course employs Beyerdynamic Tesla technology. You can read more about this HERE

  • Transducer type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dynamic
  • Operating principle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Semi-open
  • Frequency response . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 - 50,000 Hz
  • Impedance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600 Ω
  • Nominal SPL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 dB (1 mW / 500 Hz)
  • T.H.D. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . < 0.05% (1 mW / 500 Hz)
  • Power handling capacity. . . . . . . . . . 300 mW
  • Max. SPL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 dB (300 mW / 500 Hz)
  • Sound coupling to the ear . . . . . . . . Circumaural
  • Headband pressure . . . . . . . . . . . . . approx. 2.8 N
  • Cable . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 m / double-sided / balanced (6-core)
  • Connector . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gold vaporised 1/4" stereojack plug (6.35 mm

Highlighted in bold above is the impedance of 600 ohm. Now, this unit really needs an amp to justify the SQ. However, I tried connecting to it to my iPhone 5 using an adaptor.... and the result was...actually not too bad.. it does not really deliver the T1s true potential, but if you would like to have a RM5000 headphones out and about connected to your phone while you jog, by all means, it can still be driven by iPhone.

THE SET UP

Source 1:
  • MF M1 CDT to M6 DAC to M6i amplifier to Bryston BHA-1 headphone using all Siltech interconnects. All balanced except from M6i to Bryston headphone amp using single ended RCA interconnect.
Source 2:
  • Clearaudio Concept turntable to MF M1 ViNL phono stage to Bryston headphone amp via its Balanced input using VDH XLR cables.


THE SESSION

I used the same track listing similar to when I demo-ed the LCD2. 
  • La Voce Del Silenzio - Andrea Bocelli (CD)
  • My Hero - Foo Fighters (CD)
  • Until It Sleeps - Metallica (CD)
  • Siboh Kitak Nangis - Zee Avi (CD)
  • Patience - Guns and Roses (LP)
  • Unforgettable - George Benson (LP)

For Andrea's track, the T1 presentation was very bold but maintains the airiness that I like from my MS Pro. I guess it being a semi open design, it was capable to provide that extra low end notes compared to my MS Pro but still maintain the subtle dispersion of music that creates that liveliness in the tracks. Vocals was presented in clarity and very melodious..

My Hero however was a little bit of disappointment. The kick drum did not come out as per my usual expectation from this track. A bit weak and did not bring up the adrenalin which I usually get from this track. The grungy guitar sound of Grohl is however very evident and the T1 maintains the clarity of his vocals even with all his growling. It was still entertaining but something was missing which I think was that extrat bass notes from the kick drums. 

To further test the low end notes, Until it Sleeps by Metallica was in line next. The T1 gave a better performance with this track. Lars's kick drums was detailed, bold and solid. I LIKE. His hand works on the snare was also very detailed and relatively similar to LCD2.

The best performance of this T1 came from Zee Avi's track. It was PERFECT headfi moment for me. The T1 presented the track in all its glory. Musically balanced between the low, mids and highs. Vocals was heavy with passion, ukulele strings was detailed and airy, the double bass was hitting the right vibration notes.

Patience was a track that brought back lots of memories from school. This was one of those GNR tracks that melts the hearts of the girls in my school. I had to pick up my Ibanez Semi Acoustic guitar and played along.... but of course... stopped half way through the song as I have forgotten the chords. But nevertheless, with the T1, it gave me that music passion from Axl's voice.

Unforgettable from George Benson sums up the performance of this T1. It was indeed another unforgettable experience listening to these T1s. This track alone is already a strong track to begin with eventhough its an old melody. The T1 presented this track  in a very emotional but strong experience especially from the violins playing. 

VERDICT


A must have for those who wants that little extra bass especially for those coming from open back headphones. It does not deliver as much bass as the LCD2 but it all depends on what you prefer. The mids and treble are balanced out with the subtlety of the bass.

I burn in the demo unit for more than 150 hours and the sound quality just got even better. Beyond that however, seems to be plateaued.

It suits well with Bryston BHA-1 amp using single end 1/4" jack.

Fortunately for me, the weight issue I had with LCD2, the T1 gave me the perfect comfort. So, its the T1 that is residing permanently in my audio den.



There are various hifi shops selling Beyerdynamic product besides CMY. But not sure which shop have an open demo unit for customer to try it out in the shop at least.

Thanks again to CMY especially Steve Chua from One Utama.

A Rest From Reality



It was  a much needed break for me and my family after a very physically and mentally exhausting year thus far. Had the time to spend about an hour to visit this famous LP store in Paris. A true Madonna fan but still I managed to to get a few gems from this shop.

And now back in KL...listening to these LPs through my T1s.