Kyoeon H-9A Bluetooth: A Reckoning
Here I am. I am here. Am I here!
After almost 3 months, I feel I am beginning to "settle in". I have been trying to rebuild some routines into a schedule, meanwhile to get to know the city better than before (as I have to be here for longer). The most obvious casualty of a less rigorous routine is Writing, but it is coming back a little. Several articles are in the pipeline; aside from a long one on "HiFi Basics" (even I smirk here, as many articles in this series can really be viewed as Anti-Fi, or rather, Anti-Hi, and I am proud of that), there shall be an equally long one on my take on living in this city. I also have quite a few pieces of equipment from my soujourn in HK that demand write-up's (not least the Ruark Crusader III). All due, but in due time...
What has been disturbed the least is Listening to Music. I still use the piecemeal time snippets to stream music through NML (yes, the hunger is very much there). A piece of sad news: since a recent router change by the service provider I lost my previously easy access to Spotify. But I am reasonably up to date on new issues.
Readers are likely curious about what equipment I use here, so this report.
Long ago I appropriated the second largest bedroom as my main listening room (though it is also a storage room), and it has been reported on before (here). The Sansui F-55 (Audioquest CV-8) loudspeakers are approximately 7-8 ft apart and the listening seat is a little further away, an isosceles triangle that is close enough to equilateral, my favorite geometry. The loudspeakers are narrow in baffle but quite deep, so the front baffle is a little more than 2 ft from the front wall.
The system is simpler than before, using whatever is around. The Revox A720/A722 (French Filotex RG-58 cable) combo is still the center of the system. CDP is the trusted Sony DVP-PR50P (cheap AV MIT). Streaming is via my Laptops hooked up (HK Unitek USB cable) to Meridian Explorer I (Line out via minijack adaptor to cheap AV MIT). Occasionally, I also use the Meridian as headphone amp with my Grado SR-80E.
As reported before, the sound of the system is decent enough; I get thrilled with big orchestrals, yet still enjoy good details at low levels. There are no spec's, but the Sansui F55 Loudpseakers by ear go down at least to a solid 40-45 Hz. The woofer is 8" but I neglected before to mention it is complemented by a passive 8" radiator.
With Jazz and Vocals, the presence is quite stunning. With orchestrals, since they cannot be further in-room, the soundstage is a little shallow, but not at all flat, and still atmospheric and provides a semblance of the venue (the IKEA beehive-like shelf helps). Imaging is very good. Overall, I am quite satisfied. I don't need a sub yet, but I'll not rule out one in the future.
This is in the Living Room and here I encountered several challenges (detailed below). It currently makes use of the rest of the original Sansui AV system. The 2-way Sansui S60 bookshelves were designed to be rear speakers that complement the Front F55. These have 5" woofers and are 6 ohm 65-20k Hz. The tweeter has a broad but shallow circular waveguide. To minimize contact with the low cabinet below and to raise the image, I use a pair of disposable chopsticks to prop up the baffle front a little.
The Amp is Sansui UX-800 (here, now in its Mk II iteration). This 6.1 AV amp has Digital as well as Analog Inputs. I don't know whether the latter are first digitized. Cables are Mogami 3082. Researching, I saw a second-hand ad for CNY 350! :-( That shows the cruel depreciation of AV equipment. The ad has more pics should you be interested.
The electricity from the busy outlet on the front wall, where the router, TV Box and TV are also plugged in, is shockingly dirty, certainly the worst I have encountered. I first actually tried to setup another smaller AV setup (Changhong) but the noise proved too much. The Sansui was much better at noise suppression.
Streaming is via the Bluetooth Kyoeon H-9A (Thanks Eric again!) hooked up to the "analog" AUX input via its earphone output (built in Line-Out is too low in level) with a minijack adaptor connected to old and cheap Monster RCAs lent to me by old friend Hon Wo, who also lives nearby in Longgang.
CD is played through the Bubugao DV-997 DVD player. BBG was the Chinese arm of Oppo, and you can think of it as an equivalence of the Oppo 9xx series. This old DVP was touted by the HK DVD-A crowd in its time and was modded a little by one of them. I wanted to use its analog out, which is quite decent but, lacking in cables, I was forced to connect digitally. First, I tried my ancient XLO 0.4 Digital Coaxial but the noise proved annoying. I then dug out a generic Optical Cable and that vanquished the noise. The sound is quite acceptable, so I am thinking of purchasing another FX Audio BT device and use its Digital Out.
Having established the sound of the CD playback was quite satisfying, I returned to streaming and soon had some doubts about the sound of the orchestra.
Now, the loudspeakers are about 7ft apart, but the listening position is far away, almost double that, so a very narrow isoceles triangle. I know this does not favor a stereo spread but was still puzzled that the lower strings seemed to be in the center (some orchestras are fanned out like this, but not the majority). In fact, even the violins seemed to hover close to the center. I switched to the lower-level RCA outputs and the result was the same. I then streamed one of my test tracks, the Allegretto of Concertgebouw/Haitink's Shostakovich 5th (Decca), which has clearly delineated lower strings to the right. My worst fears were confirmed when I heard them hover near the center! I then switched to my Meridian Explorer and, voila! The stereo spread was clear. So this was not a problem with the loudspeakers or the setup.
The diagnosis is clear: the Kyoeon H-9A has poor channel separation; in fact it is almost mono in sound!!! I failed to notice this before as I had only used it sparingly, briefly in HK and on the desktop in the quarantine hotel. Eric had used it for longer but his system too seems to be almost desktop in its limited embrace. Also, my sample may not be representative. I don't recall my Dayton Audio (FX Audio) BT (or even the lowly HK008) to be like this (my NYC small speakers have a vast soundstage), but I wonder. Actually I may get another FX here to compare, as its digital output will fit my current amp. In fact, this re-ignites the mono-stereo debate - there is something musical about mono, as some insist. Mind you too, with a lot of a stuff I don't mind the mono, and could even prefer it (I thnk my friend Andy and our very discriminating mrgoosound would agree), but with large orchestrals, I need my spread.
In this system I am usually seated too far away on the sofa. If I sit on the high chairs, which are closer (I love to use my laptop here as it affords me a good view from the balcony), the sound improves despite the seat being high-up and skewed all the way to the right. Also, even with some propping up and tilting, the loudspeakers are really too low to have good dispersion. It is obvious the sound is not nearly as good as in the dedicated room (System 1 above). I have a feeling the system is not in its final state. I may try to work again with my even more humble Changhong system (or a heretic combo of the two) if I can surmount the noise problem. There shall be more on this; the challenge is to be creative and use whatever is around to deliver reasonable sound. It never surprises me when dirt-cheap stuff is made to sound good. The corollary is It never surprises me when ultra expensive stuff fail to deliver (indeed it is almost a rule, and a curse for many).
Everybody would be happier if music, not -fi, is the focus. Am I a happy audiophile and music lover? Yes. From this angle, with my horns and Western Electric inaccessible for the moment, am I happy? A resounding yes too. So, you, friends and readers, should be happy for me. More importantly, YOU should be happy! Cheers.