27 June, 2009

The Yumcha Diaries: 27/06/09

The Yumcha Diaries: 27/06/09

This is the first article under this title, which shall occasionally chronicle some thoughts triggered by the day, and perhaps some harmless tidbits gathered at "JC's Letterbox" yumcha.

More often than not, the most important things we learn about friends, and people in general, come from the little things. A little preference here, a bit of insistence here; all that contributes to the man and our appreciation of him.

The day was a stormy one, coming just after the typhoon had landed barely hours ago. The restaurant was deserted at first. Glancing out of the windows, the veil put on the building across the street during refurbishing was waving rhythmically, and one had the illusion that rain was really beating down on Central.

Off-peak Central is one of the glories of HK. Here is virtually the only place in HK where you can encounter a little history while getting to your rendez-vous. You can find the new and the old, the Chinese and the Western, mingling like they have always had for the past centuries. I particularly love rainy Central. There is depth missing in most other places; I am easily re-assured that there is a sanctuary just around the corner. On this day, it was the restaurant.

I have always loved rainy days, and typhoons. I think I inherited that from my father, who would gear up for typhoon by stocking some dried-shrimps and peanuts. The dried-shrimps would be softened by soaking for a little while in warm water, then immersed in soy sauce (Shanghai style). During the height of the storm, he would enjoy a little wine with the snacks, and those moments have forever been embedded on my memory.

For some nicely moody pictures of Central, which include some rainy days, I stumbled across this very nice photo Blog. This is from a person who does not regard himself as a photographer (unlike many of our hifi-folks) yet who produces pictures with content, ones that speak with love. Yes, this is my Central.

Our friend trazom joined us. There were not too many people and I actually got to ask trazom some questions.

Q. How did you get into classical music?
A. I bought some LPs, like Pictures and 1812, when I first got hifi. When I acquired my current setup (TACT) a friend said to me why not listen to some classical, and I gave it a try

Q. And then you loved it. What was the piece that did it for you?
A. A recording of Mozart violin concerto by Heifetz. The recording was actually not good, but then I said to myself, such beautiful sound from such a poor recording!

As simple as that. I then recounted my journey. With the money I got working as a busboy (waiter's assistant) I bought my first really low-fi. I started by listening to radio and soon fell in love with some pieces. Sibelius violin concerto (Stern) and Tchaikovsky 4th symphony (Bernstein). That was my baptism.

whlee asked whether anyone really listen to 1812. I really don't know, but I used to, a lot, in my early days. The better the system got, the less I listened to it. Maybe 7.1 is a good day to re-visit it? What about you?

20 June, 2009

Home Visit: TAD 3401 /Kondo

pics. Exclusive 3401, from Russian site Kogerer (top). Setup we auditioned (left).

Home Visits: Not one, but TWO Exclusives; TAD 3401/Kondo

For many years I have always wondered why many tube people want to use TAD. From the dealer in HK to individuals, it's rare to hear even a semi-decent performance using tubes. In contrast, there are a few good performances from ss setups, even with the huge 2401.

Unlike JBL, which may respond to tube as well as ss setups, IMHO the studio TAD (US) models respond largely to ss only (I am sure people will argue with me on this). Japanese Pioneer Exclusive however is somewhat different. The more efficient lower-line 300 was widely popular in HK, and I previously had a pair. It worked with tubes pretty well, with one BIG exception: the bass responds better to ss amp.

After having heard some large TAD/ss setups, I was quite stunned when many months ago I went to tubediyer's dive to hear his newly acquired Exclusive 3401. Now, here is something that is like JBL L300, a complete thing that can deliver with all kinds of music and with little fuss. Think of it as a less efficient L300 with wooden horn that can deliver higher volumes without stress. The 3401 sports a 斩崩刀 tweeter/supertweeter that has better extension than the 077; a midrange with a wooden rather than plastic horn, and a big woofer. Like the much later 2401/2, the 3401 is FULLY ALNICO. Here is good info on various Pioneer/TAD loudspeakers

Although the wooden horn of 3401's midrange driver is very small, with the help of the tweeter the 3401 achieves an excellent dispersion, feeling of air and presence that to my ears OUTCLASSES its succesor 2401. Here lies one of my strong beliefs: A very good 3-way is better than an excellent 2-way. The 3401 is 3-way, the 2401 2 only. Enough said for me; YMMV.

At tubediyer's place I heard a very humble $2k ADCOM ss amp do great justice to the 3401. With speakers of this caliber, one doesn't need to invent excuses for poor sound.

The next time I heard the 3401 was at Andy's place. The day was actually designed to test out the iPod/ Wadia iTransport. I took my AUDIO NOTE DAC 2 (old version, PCM63-20 bit; 6DJ8 buffer stage). This DAC is one of my favorites, superb sound with a high output that suits SET amps. This day was no exception.

The setup matched very well with the KONDO M7 (line only preamp) and Ongaku (integrated used as amp). Sound had good presence and the power was enough for Andy's smallish LR. Andy's setup was known to be bass-lean, but on that day I did not notice it. The sound was good enough to make one long for a full Kondo set...

It's really gratifying to see an old friend getting better-than-ever sound. I have known Andy for a long time, and every disc sounds better now. The speakers surely deserve the biggest credits!

19 June, 2009

Home Visit: VERITY Rienzi/ASR Emitter I. Part 2.

Home Visit: VERITY Rienzi/ASR Emitter I Exclusive (Blue Light)(2 batteries). Part 2.

This is a return visit. Months had passed since my last visit. During this time, much run-in had been accomplished. As importantly, Sang ditched some of the old cables he was using.

Following Danz, Sang acquired a Sonic Frontier SFD-II MkII. Now Gotham speaker cables are used and the sound was already a major improvment!

I asked to listen to the Accustics Arts CDP, and was once again disappointed. It was better than last time, but still quite missed the mark. It did not have the full command, the articulation and musicality of the old SF DAC. Despite the expense of the CDP, it is now relegated to the role of transport! How much has digital improve, we again ask?

A little cable rolling was done. Everyone agreed my cheap DIY Mogami digital cable was superior to the much more expensive Sommer cable. Duh!

Indeed with the Mogami installed, sound approached neutrality to me and we spent more time just listening to music. We listened to this excellent Vivaldi CD. I have long been a fan of Carmignola, but it's gratifying to see Mullova (due to visit HK) to be as sure a hand in the period style. The interaction is sheer joy. Sound was splendid (as heard through SFD2). And yes, the breakfast was big and superb that I had a hard time ingesting anything during yumcha later. Thanks Carmen!