By Lam Seng Fatt
Instead of saying that this post is about the ‘Best of 2013’, I opted to say it is the ‘Best Encounters of the Sonic Kind 2013’ simply because some of the components that left indelibly good impressions on my mind were not launched in 2013. For example, the Magneplanar 1.7 has been in the market for a while.
I must stress that this selection is in random order and I must also qualify that although I use a Bryston 4B SST in my system, it is purely coincidental that quite a number of Bryston components are named in this list. It so happened that Bryston launched many good and affordable components at around the same time last year.
I have good memories of these…
1) The Bryston B-135 SST2, which is rated at 135 watts @ 8 ohms, is one of the best integrated amps in the market. It sounded rich and full and was much better than the model it replaced.
2) The Bryston BDP-2 Digital Player and matching BDA-2 DAC made good music, just like the 1st version of the digital player/DAC.
3) The Bryston Model T speakers were also good sounding – some said they sounded nostalgic – and were good value for money. They could play real loud without any distortion.
4) The dCS Puccini SACD/CD player was special. With the matching Puccini U-Clock, which features four Word Clock outputs that reduce jitter and improve performance and an asynchronous USB input which allows a laptop to be used for streaming hi-res PCM files up to 24/192 and DSD files on DOP (DSD over PCM), the dCS system was costly, but was among the best digital components I heard last year.
5) Back to something more affordable – the ATC CDA2 CD player plus preamp plus DAC plus headphone amp – was neutral and clean sounding. It is quite an oddity since it is the only CD player-cum-preamp-cum-DAC in the market.
6) Vinyl never sounded better than when played on the TechDAS Air Force One turntable. I heard this at the show organised by Reference Audio in May. The engineering involved in making this is unbelievable and the sound quality is unbelievable too. IMHO, this is among the top few turntables in the world. However, it is most unfortunate that I cannot afford to buy one. Sigh…
7) At the same show organised by Reference Audio, I heard the mighty Genesis G2.2jr speakers demonstrated by the Singaporean owner Gary Koh. The speakers created a huge soundstage and had incredibly fast and tight bass.
8) At the Kuala Lumpur International AV show 2013, I loved the Magneplanar 1.7 speakers which were driven by the Esoteric I-03 integrated amp hooked to the Esoteric K-07 SACD/CD player. It was a simple system, but the sound was great.
9) Also, at the KLIAVS 2013, the speed and dynamics of the Audio Note ANE/Lx Hemp blue-coned speakers rocked me.
10) At the Audio Perfectionist room during the KLIAVS 2013, the Focal Stella Utopia EM, McIntosh 1.1 kW, McIntosh MCD 1100 Cd player and C1000 tube preamp worked very well and at last I heard the full glory of the ultra-expensive speakers.
11) One more good moment from the KLIAVS 2013 was the system comprising DPS turntable and tonearm, Benz Micro Ruby ZH cartridge, AIME phono preamp, Burmester 082 integrated amp and Magico S1 speakers. This was great vinyl sound.
12) Finally, the one thing that impressed me so much that I was forced to fork out some money to buy it – the WyWires Platinum interconnects. For comparatively little money (check out the prices of the top-end Nordost or MIT interconnects), the WyWires can make a modest system sound like a million bucks.