20 December, 2008

Brief Audition: Vienna Acoustics "Music"

Vienna Acoustics "Music" (Jadis)

Yesterday, after yumcha, we auditioned the flagship Vienna Acoustics "Music" at the new dealer, Jadis. Thanks to sokps for the arrangement.

Vienna Acoustics has had an intermittent presence in Hong Kong. I have always liked their musical sound, but the way they voice their speaker is anathema to a whole generation of HK audiophiles brainwashed for those most dubious of hifi values, "pinpoint imaging". "small mouth" etc (not that they are bad in those departments). Size for size, (like Usher I may add) Vienna speakers sound bigger and fuller than most other brands, and not over-etched in treble, and that is plainly not what HK people like. Nor do the average HK audiophile, a stressed-out crowd who need only to drink from Choi Kam's saliva, know how to appreciate dynamics. Nor do these "audiophiles" know what is "presence", as most of them have never attended a live concert of any kind. I'd rather not go on. Suffice to say, Vienna Acoustics has not met with success in HK, and their old models were sold at bargain basement clearance prices (Apliu St for example). Second-hand prices are pitiable.

Stereophile reviewed some of the older models back a decade ago, and that possibly accounted for VA's presence in HK then. After some lean years, the much more recent praise lavished on the more recent models by Stereophile and latecomer TAS may be pivotal in its revival in our sector.

I totally forgot about VA until a recent review of the Haydn Grand by TAS. I was thoroughly intrigued by the tweeter mounting in the port; at first I thought it was an unusual tweeter horn! So in NYC my picky WE friend and I went to Harvey's and auditioned it. Even driven by a cheap NAD amp, sound was really "Grand"! I was thoroughly impressed by its presence and delightfully full and dynamic sound. I also thought this current generation of VA seems more detailed and cleaner than older models.

I have never liked the sound of the Jadis showroom, but even then, driven by top-of-the-line MBL digitals and preamp, and paired with Boulder monoblocks, the sound of "Music" was indeed very "musical", and I am using this term in the only way it should be used. Most importantly, there is an alluring aura, an atmosphere that is hard to describe. You have to hear it yourself. It made the Weavers (Analogue Productions) sound, well, "woven"! Alive, and you can feel the live atmosphere. I didn't take too much notice of the BIS 4 seasons and Telarc Strauss that followed, but when we put on the Biber I just borrowed from the library, I was transfixed. It was exactly the atmosphere that Biber's music demands. It was so good even the salesman investigated the cover. I regret to say my Yamaha NS-1000M, excellent though it is, failed to deliver the same atmosphere when I played it at home later (but the Tannoy did). By all means go hear the beauty that is "Music"!

When we finished a young couple was auditioning the Haydn Grand. sokps said, "Surprising bass!", but I already knew that. If you're in the market for a pair of bookshelves that can do almost everything well, you should go hear these!

Note: If you are interested in any VA product, go to the US importer Sumiko site for FULL reviews by many magazines. Must have cost Sumiko dearly but it's very entertaining!

07 December, 2008



Last Saturday after yumcha I had an appointment with an art/music lover whose "study" (in an industrial building) I had long wanted to visit. His place was close to whlee's place, where we had to be in the evening, and that was why the appointment was made that day.

The host is a person in need of privacy, and so no photos for now. I thank him for allowing sokps and jules to come too. My primary aim that afternoon was to look at the art collection, but then things went quickly the hifi way, and I was surprised by the host's hi-end gear and fever history. That was unexpected as he neve gave me the impression that he was like that!

The loft is hugh and open, but decorated in "retro" fashion and used mostly for displaying the art collection; you can feel the care behind the various installations. Although a museum unto itself, there is still a casual, homey feel, and I like that. I felt intruding when we arrived, as the host's charming wife was playing on the guqing and his mother practising calligraphy! I instantly thought of 风鸣—康格尔,our guqing-playing bookworm friend!

Instead of giving us a quick survey of his art collection, the host eagerly introduced us to his hifi, confined to one corner roughly 20 x 10 ft! As he is an accomplished amateur cellist, he has several celli stowed away in the corners to help with the sound. The system is hi-end but deceptively simple:

--KRELL KPS 25 SC CD player/Preamplifier (the host had tried Rowland preamp before but preferred the Krell's preamp out)
--Rowland 8 Battery powered monoblocks (4 pcs, like Cello Performance)
--DUNTECH Sovereign (website)
--all hooked up with thin "Au" cables unknown to me.

The host told us that after the speakers were unloaded he then realized he could not move them, and so they stayed a few ft from the front wall, about 6 ft apart, surely not ideal placement. BUT, although the system had not warmed up, I was immediately taken by the sound of the monstrous Duntech, at > 6ft taller than any of us. There was at once a richness in layering that only big speakers can (yet often fail to) deliver. Ben Webster, Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughn were all mellifluous. Belafonte's chorus souded so textured that it shamed reproduction by big Magnepans (owner used Magiies before too).

Most enticing was the stunning reproduction of the piano playing of Pludermacher in this out-of-print Milstein Last Recital.

To cap it off, we requested a big piece, and the fearless host played us Solti's Mahler 8th. Although the Rowland 8 was clearly panting and I heard clipping, this was definitely the piece de resistance of the afternoon. I have never heard such richly layered Mahler 8th anywhere.

The DUNTECH Sovereign is a magnificent achievement. I hope one day I shall have the chance to own this speaker. make sure you click the website provided and also click the reviews (you'll find a blip by HP of TAS).