By Lam Seng Fatt
Suffice it to say that this year, it was quite difficult to be one of the judges to select the best of show for the sound and AV categories.
This was simply because the sound systems were very well set up and the dealers put in extra effort to ensure that their components sounded good for the benefit of the audiophiles who attended the show. As reported in my previous post, at least two dealers had to repair their amps and one manufacturer, Absolare, even flew in a technician from Turkey to replace a faulty capacitor on Saturday morning. That showed the amount of commitment and dedication Absolare has to cater to customer satisfaction. AV2day.com thanks the dealers for their commendable work.
Here is my list of Best of Sound (in random order):
This system comprising the Marten Bird 2 speakers with Vitus pre and SS-103 stereo power amp, Vitus CD transport and DAC and the Dohmann turntable with Jorma Design and Furutech cables was very transparent, revealing and spacious sounding. It had the right amount of air, the right timbres and just enough richness to prevent it from sounding lean. The treble was extended and clear, but did not hurt the ears.
The Absolare amp created a clicking sound on one channel and a technician was flown in to replace a dodgy capacitor on Saturday morning. So Willy and I went to this room at 6.30pm on Saturday to listen to this system comprising the Ocean Five speakers, the Kronos Pro turntable with the power supply (which was launched during the show), Absolare amps, Skogrand cables and a whole row of Frank power banks. The sound was smooth, organic and holographic. The soundstage was huge and was impressive on the vertical scale, and the images were remarkably life-sized.
Focal has tweaked its sonic signature for the better. Gone is the upper-mid lift which gave the sound lots of presence. Now, the upper-mids and treble are mellower and the overall sound is pleasant. The Focal Sopra No 3, which was launched during the show, sounded better than the model demoed last year. Though the Esoteric components were not the highest models, they were adequate enough. I am sure the Focal Sopra No 3 would sound better with top-level components.
James has always set up good-sounding systems and this time it was no different. However, this year the competition had upped their game and it was a very tight race. The PMC speakers driven by Bryston components created a very clear sound with shimmering highs and powerful bass.
CMY Audio & Visual
The Naim Statement pre and power amps, which cost about a million ringgit at today’s exchange rate, were introduced last year. This year, the amps have been run in and sound smoother. With the towering Dynaudio speakers, they created a very powerful and engaging sound.
The amps had their tubes replaced because the NOS tubes that Wong Tatt Yew fitted in blew and he spent some time on Saturday to burn the tubes in. Later that day, he telephoned me and asked me to listen to the system. CDs and LPs were played and for a nine-watt system, the sound was incredibly dense and dynamic with a tight bass. When Rage Against The Machine was played, I was won over by the fact that an all-tube system with nine watts of power could play alternative rock with a deep, tuneful bass line.
My hifi shop
This Avantgarde horns speaker-based system had the TW Acustic turntable doing the spinning duty and an Audionote amp driving them. The slam was incredible and the music thoroughly enjoyable.
The Audio Research Reference series pre/power amps and CD player matched very well with the Sonus Faber speakers with the Nordost cables helping things in a big way, In previous shows, systems using the same marques did not impress, but this year, things just combined well to create a nice sound. The system was very high end and comprised the Audio Research CD9 CD player, Reference 6 preamp, Reference 250SE Monoblocks, Nordost Odin2 XLR interconnects, Odin 2 speaker cable, Odin 2 Power Cord and Sonus Faber Il Cremonese speakers.
The moment I stepped into this room, I was attracted by the looks of the Heco Direkt speakers. They were very retro looking and looked like part of either a museum collection or a home decor exhibition. Then, there was the sound….warm, lush and smooth. The Loit tube-output CD player and the Magnat hybrid amp surely added to the allure.
When I visited this room, the Chartwell LS3/5 was not hooked up to the Yamaha-based system. The Graham LS5/9 speakers were on demo and I was somehow reminded of old Rogers speakers. It reminded me of a pair of Rogers speakers – I cannot recall the model – that I had heard maybe 20 years ago. These speakers are well made and sounded nicely British.
I stepped into the Sony room and was amazed by the clarity of the images. Then I asked how much it cost…I was shocked. The SONY VPL VE-5000ES costs plenty of ringgit (something like RM350k), but it is very good.
The new Samsung SUHD TVs certainly do not disappoint. This time, technology has not failed. The images are super clear without being artificial. Looks like many people will upgrade from the older LED TVs to this Samsung SUHD series.
The Epson EH-TW5350 is another winner. It does not cost that much, but the picture quality is impressive.
Last year, the Atmos sound in Maxx AV’s room was not so coherent. This year, it was totally different. I feel the reason was the SVS Prime Elevation speakers (that were launched during the show) which merged very well with the other surround SVS speakers. Also, the sub-woofer was not over-powering and the bass was just enough to fill up the bottom octave without vibrating doors and windows.
As usual, James set up a good-sounding system with the PMCs and Brystons. As usual, AV Designs is the benchmark that others have to compare with. And I make this comment without the usual “donation” of coffee and cake.
I bumped into Ah Chee in the lift and he invited me to his room. He played all sorts of Blu-Ray discs for me, including a few that he had just bought on the 4th floor. He played Dolby Atmos and DTS:X discs and I felt relaxed and just enjoyed the scenes and effects. Ah Chee is also very good at tweaking AV systems.
Best AV Experience
My picks for Best AV Experience, which include sound and vision, would be AV Designs, Maxx AV, Audio Art and JV Concept. I included the last because M&K sub-woofers and AV speakers are of very high quality and JV Concept’s room used M&K components. Last year, the M&K speakers sounded hard and harsh; this year they sounded much better.
And unlike other AV rooms, the sub-woofer was not over-powering and causing everything to vibrate needlessly.