Kuala Lumpur International AV ShowHi-Fi
July 23, 2013

KLIAV 2013, Best Sound & Visual.

By WL Low

 

With our room by room pictorial completed, and Lam Seng Fatt, along with LS Loo started the ball rolling on their KLIAV 2013 show favorites, I feel it”s my turn to get the ball rolling, but only with ranking and order as intended. I feel that I should be honest enough to dispense with the pleasantries and truly recognise the exhibitors who put in the extra effort, tweak the extra mile, for our show going enjoyment. I think these are the un-sung heroes, who make the KLIAV show an event to look forward to every year, for us audiophiles, and serious music lovers.

 

Let”s get on with the Best Sound of KLIAV 2013:

 

This year is though to call, as I feel the sound quality demos were higher overall throughout the show, while there were exceptions and disapointments. Some would think that I am being mean to mark them out in some of my pictorial comments, but I am doing it so that the said exhibitor knows about it, and hopefully can put in more effort, which should hopefully result in a better show demo next year. Hey! it’s though love, if you have to call it, just like “It’s gonna hurt me more than anyone else” to say that!

 

One show exhibitor that never needs to hear though love is Jo Ki. I know that he puts in 110% each demo, regardless if it’s KLIAV or in his own cave. An exhibitor who takes pride in his system set up and music demo selection, Jo has few peers. That”s what keeps him running with the big boys year in, year out.

 

However, this year something happened, I am not sure if it’s the Bryston BDP-2 digital media player, or the Wywires, or the Skogrand cables which are recent additions to his LS3/5A speaker based system. I felt his usually high demo standards, have finally morphed in to something so heavenly, that sonically, it”s not only audiophile wet dreams, but also musical seduction, both entrapping me at the same time. I just couldn”t run out of the room. The transparency, the “air”, the dynamics, the transient, the 3D sound stage, are all present, but just remains audiophile adjectives. The music take me away to the performance as the artist intended with each and every track! By the way, I am not inhaling any sort of illegal substance, just in case you”re wondering.

 

It’s been many years since I was blown away like this, but I think the last time was Jo’s 2003 KLIAV show demo with the Quad II tube amps, in one of the big 4th floor rooms! Ladies and gentlemen, the champion is back, and with a vengeance too!

 

Why did I said the champion is back with a vengeance, only because the very next system, which by the way holds joint honours for Best Sound of Show, happens to received a little help from Jo too, during it’s system set up process! It’s the all TAD system, which our fellow contributor, Tan has been drooling over as his dream system, in which he is on the way to realising by the way!

 

If any thing could be said about this system is the TAD CR1 MKII speakers, which is the little fella that could! It could have easily being acoustically drowned out by the over sized room, that James Tan of AV Designs only realised just 3 days before the show. However Jo, being the good buddy helped in the setting and the sonic result was unbelievably stunning. Every one who heard the all TAD system commented about that punchy bass attack with balls! While I was listening, I saw a guy looking around at the back wall, “scrutinizing for a cheater sub, no way that speaker can reproduce that kind of bass” he told me. Well, he never found anything, other than a single power cord going from the back wall to the Bryston BIT PLC.

 

Of course the whole system contributed to the even tonal quality, wide open sound staging and highly musical, not to mention coherent presentation. Needless to say, that guy was floored, as so was I!

 

Never thought I would never see this day coming! WiFi hifi taking First Runner Up position for Best Sound of Show! The pair of Dynaudio XEO powered floor standers on demo were not particularly expensive, nor were any of the other components that supported them. This proves the theorem that one does not need snooty high end components for great sound quality!

 

The sound quality, generated from either an Audiolab 8200 CD player or a NAS music server(playing 16bit wav files) was fluid, involving and had great PRAT factor. There was no jarring or nasty highs, nor music interruption or bandwidth limitation. Just musical hifi quality sound all the way! Chan and the CMY Audio & Visual boys certainly deserve the kudos for bringing affordable taste of high end sound quality to the masses!

 

The hifi industry truly needs more demos like this to convert the not-audiophile yet crowd.

 

Bartalomio, the Unison Research guy was on hand to demo the new range of Opera Seconda speakers(now also sold by A&L Audio Station), finished in the purest of gloss white, and leather wrapped front baffle. One can never mistake these designer decor friendly speakers from any where else but Italian of origin.

 

Powered by Unison Research tube amp and CD player, the sound was soulfully rich and velvety smooth, yet able to boogie when the music demands it to do so. This is a thoroughbred system of known lineage with a long history of aristocratic sound quality, and the music it reproduces shows. It sounds very elegant yet comforting at the same time, just like my favorite pasta and pizza.

 

Second best never sounded better, Mama Mia!

 

Positioned for Third Runner Up in my opinion is Adrian’s(Audio Image) dps analog sourced, AIME phonostage, Burmester amp and Magico S1 speakers. I have always loved the tonal colours and texture quality that is special in the Magico speakers, which is what I heard and liked most with this system.

 

Now with the latest entry level S1 pair priced at RM$42k, more people can have access to those very qualities I mentioned at home. However, that’s just the start of the story, the speakers also need to be supported by other capable front end equipments too, and here in this demo, it shows what excellent component synergy is all about. Adrian is an old hand and his experience shows.

 

By the way, welcome back to KLIAV, Adrian.

 

Squeezing its way in to my top 5 of the show is this all BMC system, set up and demo-ed by Ah Chee of Audio Art. While BMC is a relatively new comer to high end, the sound was remarkably pristine, clear, open and concise. The Arcadia speakers have that special refined, airy, soft (as in texture and timbre)quality that is exclusive to its ribbon tweeter design. This highly analytical and detailed system represents in much ways, the pinnacle of today’s high end sound character, which ticks all the right audiophile boxes, but can also be some what unforgiving to poorer recordings.

 

Other notable mentions, in no particular rank or order:

This is the best sounding Swedish Statement demo for KLIAV 2013. It had the usual Scandinavian sound character, which can be cool with certain music and not so with others. I am sure that expensive Sperling turn table as source helped to no end. I love those Vitus amps running in Class A mode.
I normal do not have high regards for Harbeth speakers, but with the latest Monitor 30.1 as demo-ed Tropical Audio, I thought the Harbeths finally have the kind of detail and resolution that any self proclaiming high end speakers ought to. While the “natural” sound of Harbeths are still present, the M30.1 doesn”t need any excuse for sounding this good!
The latest Meridian DSP powered speakers, powered by the megabucks Sooloos digital media server would’ve been in the position of the Dynaudio XEO system, if only its price tag was eco(nomy) friendlier. I found the same level of fluidity, openness and sound free from digital glitches and artifacts just as the other system, only with more cutting edge glamour. Still, for those with the excess dough, it’s not exactly a bad way to blow Toyota Camry money on stylish hifi.
I’ve always been intrigued by the Focal BE tweeter sound. After 3 years of setting the Stella Utopia BE, I think the Audio Perfectionist/Ong Radio guys finally got it right, the fundamentals at least! Powered by the big bad McIntosh amps, the system produced Big, Bold and Majestic sounds all the way. Too bad the speakers were placed too far apart, otherwise, with a complete sound staging, it might as well have been my top 5 rated system.
Every year, I’d spent some time looking for a budget champ, and it was previously as usual the Creek/Epos combo that came out tops year after year. Now, we have a new entry in the form of Atoll electronics and Q Acoustic speakers. The whole shebang, costing less RM$10k(incl cables and accessories) sounded invitingly warm, homogenise and coherent. For the price, I have absolutely nothing un-generous to say.

 

Now, let’s move to Best Show Visual, which I felt only 3 made the grade, for high-end AV needs. There should have been more, but I feel we should keep our standards high:

 

As usual, there were no challengers in the 2:35 screen ratio display category, but only AV Designs. However, that’s not to say they won by default. James and gang always showcase their best, and this year, with the latest range of JVC 4k projectors, the colours were vivid and rich, with superb micro detail rendering in the picture quality, when demo-ing Oz The Great And Powerful, which opens with a classic black and white picture, morphing in to the full colour 2:35 cinema scope ratio quality is a gem. The later drum track demo, proved the Bryston Model T speakers no slouch for AV duties too. Congrats! to team AV Designs yet again, for winning Best Show Visual and demonstrating great AV sound.

 

This is the first of Sony’s 4K Ultra HD TV, the 84 inch unit demo-ed had detail and visual impact second to none, now if only it was bigger still and cheaper(which I am sure it will be). Still for those who wish to be ahead of the curve, your time for stunning home entertainment has come!

 

Rounding up our Second Runner Up is Maxx Audio”s SVS demo, I know Max had tiny picture, but sound was big and bold. The reason Maxx Audio is being mentioned here is that he ran comparison demos between ported and sealed enclosure sub woofers, both by SVS Sound of the same price, so the audience can hear and discern for themselves the effects of choosing either sub. It is both highly educational and entertaining at the same time. Well done Maxx!

 

You may agree or disagree with my choices, but that’s the end of my Best of KLIAV 2013, and over to Tan TE for his recount of the BEST.