Kuala Lumpur International AV ShowAVHi-Fi
July 14, 2014

KLIAVS 2014: The best of…

By Lam Seng Fatt

 

By now, you must already know which was my favourite room. It was the one that I went to twice to listen to the dynamic and exciting sound and ask the turntable designer himself questions about his design principles.

 

Yes, you are right. It was…

 

The Vertere room

 

The Vertere was one of the most dynamic sounding turntables that I have ever heard. It”s expensive, but if I have the money, I don”t mind owning one.

 

The turntable was stylish with its vinyl plinths including a suspended mid-plinth. The phono preamp, preamp and power amps were from well-respected FM Acoustics and the speakers were, well, pretty Neat.

 

The sound was extremely dynamic, fast and punchy. It was exhilarating. Touraj, the designer, told me all about why unipivot tonearms are not ideal and why upward-facing bearing spindles do not work. He also said holding a record tightly against a platter with vacuum suction is not a good idea as it would transfer all the noise of the turntable to the record.

 

If it were possible, he would have the LP spinning in mid-air. His ideas may be outlandish to some people, but the end result of his work revealed that his ideas work – the sound quality was fantastic.

 

Audio Image

 

The other room that lured me back was – not surprisingly – spinning vinyl. Adrian used a Thales turntable. What was revolutionary was not that the turntable was battery powered, but its tone arm consisted of two parallel tubes that could slide and the counterweight was split into two and could also move.

 

The Thales battery-powered turntable and tonearm. Note that the tonearm has two tubes and the counterweight is split into two. The tubes and the counterweights move as the stylus tracks the grooves from the first song to the last. Therefore the stylus is always at same angle relative to the groove and there is no null point. It is actually a brilliant idea. Adrian told me the designer is a watch maker, so making intricate things like tone arms is not such a big challenge for him.

 

This effectively resulted in the headshell moving so that the stylus will be parallel to the grooves at any position along the LP. In other words, with the Thales tonearm, there are no null points.

 

I went to the room twice – once to hear the Magico S3s being driven by Exposure amps and the other time when the Burmester integrated amp was used.

 

Magico speakers have always impressed me.

 

Hi-Way Laser

 

The new ATC SCM40 floorstanders looked and sounded good. With the new tweeter, the speakers are no longer dark sounding.

 

Okay, I am a bit biased here since I am using the ATC SCM40s, but the new models look much better with boxes with curved sides, see-through metal mesh grilles and new tweeters.

 

The sound was surely an improvement especially in the treble region. In previous KL International AV Shows, ATC speakers tended to sound tonally dark. Not this time – there was greater transparency and a “freer” and brighter treble.

 

This ATC system created surprisingly good sound.

 

Hi-Way Laser used a complete ATC CD, pre and power amp to drive the ATCs.

 

Audio Art

Last year, my colleague Willy and his friends loved the BMCs while I thought they were just okay. But this year, I noted that they sounded rather good. Someone mentioned that the Loit CD player with its tube output stage could be the reason.

 

The Loit CD player, BMC pre and power amps and Adam speakers sounded good this year. It could have been the tube Loit CD player that gave the system that special sound.

 

Whatever the reason, the BMC room was among the better-sounding ones this year.

 

AV Designs

 

As usual James managed to get good sound from relatively small speakers – the slim PMC FACT.12. It was supposed to be the launch of the PMC Twenty26 but they were relegated to be on static display only.

 

Powered by a full TAD system, the speakers filled the large room with good sound even though they looked too slim and small for the room.

 

The TAD and PMC Fact.12 system. The relatively small and slim speakers could fill up the huge room with good sound.

 

James of AV Designs has never failed to calibrate the projector for optimum performance. Every year, the picture quality in AV Designs” room is sharp and saturated.

 

And as usual, AV Designs” home theatre room had the best picture of the show in terms of clarity and colour saturation. Their system comprised JVC RS49 and JVC RS67 top-of-the-range projectors which deliver 4K resolution via their e-shift feature; Panamorph expansion lenses; CineVista (entry-level) and DC1 (top-of-the-range). 140-inch wide, 2:40 aspect ratio, curved, acoustically transparent screen from Screen Research.

 

The audio segment of the AV system comprised Bryston SP3 Preamp/Processor; Bryston Power amps (7B-SST2, 4B-SST2, 2.5B-SST2); Bryston speakers (Middle T, TC1 Center Mini, Mini T and Mini T Subs) with cabling by WyWires. The sound of the home theatre system was excellent as well.

 

Maxx HT

 

The sensurround effects in Max”s HT demo room was fantastic. The bass was also strong and tight, courtesy of the SVS sub-woofers.

 

As usual, Max set up his sensurround system comprising Audio Physics speakers and SVS subs expertly with thunderous but not boomy bass and good rear effects.

 

Audionote

 

When I walked into the Audionote room, a classical piece was played at quite high volume. It was rather loud but the music did not break up and there was no distortion.

 

In the dim light, I could see that the cones of the speakers were blue – just like last year”s speakers – and I knew these were cones made of hemp.On the rack, I could also read a sign indicating that the amp was an eight-watter.

 

Well, an eight-watt amp could create loud music simply because the speakers were the high-efficiency variant. At 98dB sensitivity, they certainly could play loud.

 

Note the blue hemp-cone speakers. These are the super sensitive models which is why it could sound real loud with only an eight-watt Audionote Quest amp..

 

A & L Audio Station

 

The sound created by dCS DACs is still much better than that created by many other high-end DACs.

 

Here are a few more awards this year:

 

Best-looking CD player

 

The Loit CD player looks good. It is designed by a Malaysian from Johor Baru who is now a PR of Singapore.

 

Sexiest speaker

 

Wasn”t it last year that the KEF Blades took the best-looking speaker prize? This year, it is the Estelon XB speakers. Look at those curves...

 

Biggest amp

 

Size matters! Just look at how big the Vitus Signature power amp is! It is as big as a coffee table. This is Swedish Statement”s system comprising Sperling turntable, Vitus components and Rockport speakers.

 

Most unusual component

 

I have never come across something like the Graditech Lumi 3 speaker cables before. Essentially, the cable has three types of copper wires – stranded, solid-core and silver-plated. With jumper cables, you can choose the type of wire to suit your system. You can also choose a combination of wires. The idea is that you can tune the speaker cables to suit the sonic signature of your amplifier and also to reduce costs since you do not have to buy several pairs of speaker cables to find the right match.

 

Best-looking combo

 

The Atoll CD player and integrated amp looked really good. If you buy one, you have to buy the other.

 

Best made-in-Malaysia speaker

 

Arpeggio Pensato loudspeakers made by Victor Pheh of hifi creations. Driven by Thailand-made Magnet amp, the sound was dense and dynamic.

 

Most-affordable (and good) systems

 

CMY”s Audiolab and Mission room created music of a quality that belied the cost of the components. These were affordable stuff. In fact, I used an Audiolab 8000S in my journey in hi-fi land.

 

Acoustic Arts sells Creeks and Epos which combine well. They are also priced within reach of the average wage-earner which means the majority of us.Vincent has the knack for making his affordable systems sing well.