14 August, 2010

The Yumcha Diaries 飲茶後記: 14-08-10

The Yumcha Diaries 飲茶後記: 14-08-10

A good breakfast is a good start
Danz and his brother-in-law Sang picked me up early, to return some things to me and to loan me the little known Airtight MSM-1 Bonsai full-range speakers, of which I shall write a review later (it's magnificent! But does it give the Kiso a run for its money? Stay tuned) . Then we went to Sang's place nearby in Yuen Long for breakfast.

Perhaps we all should go audition or buy gears only when we had started our day with a good breakfast. This was what I got (and would not expect less) from Sang. Home (machine) -made bread! It's not the breakfast I'm sure, but Sang's setup has rather dramatically improved to a quite musical degree. The only significant difference from the last visit was the CD transport (visits 1, 2, and 3). He has abandoned his expensive Acuustic Arts CDP for the Sonic Frontier SFD-2 a long time ago, but now he is not even using it as a transport! Now, the old California Audio Lab Delta served very well, much more musical to my ears!

We sampled quite a few CDs over breakfast. I particularly enjoy early music in the morning, and Anne Sophie von Otter's "Lamenti" (DG111) and Musica Antiqua Koln's Bach Brandenburg's (DG) were refined and fluent.

After the great start, we took a ride out to Mongkok. It marked the first time I travelled on the newest bridge in HK, between Tsing Yi and Kwai Chung. The panoramic view of HK is spectacular, but hard to capture in a car, better in a helicopter!.

Old friends, incl Feikeung the Butterfly
The yumcha was full of surprises. As if the pleasant surprise of having Thomson and ilovesonata was not enough, feikeung, aka On9, appeared out of nowhere. As usual, we were totally upstaged by him. He and I talked about the Nagra PLP as headphone amp, but his monster Sennheiser would be a real challenge!

After yumcha only two of the nine people (aside from the inseparable twin Thomson + Frankie) made it to Thomson's place, and that's definitely their lost!

How could I have forgotten the coffee!
Thomson's setup I have visited I think twice before, and it has always been a good-sounding setup, aided by a wonderfully proportioned room. But this time, within the first few CDs played, I knew the sound has been upped a whole notch, and notable for its excellent balance. The setup is "simple" and more or less as before:

Digital: Studer 730
Vinyl: Linn LP12 (full updates I believe), Ekos-Archiva on Andante-Largo stands
Phonoamp: Linn Linto
Preamp +Amp: Cello Suite + Palette + Performance
Speakers; Dynaudio Evidence Master

First came a long CD session, and sound was immediately appealing, balanced across the full spectrum, equally adept at portrayal of intimate chamber music as well as symphonic scores. To name a couple: early Accardo playing small concert pieces was quite a treat, the sound full of rosin and lively; 鬼太鼓 full of special effects. But the CD I enjoyed the most was a track from "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi"; the low brass music was surely a challenge for any system, and this system rendered it with complete tonal accuracy and not a trace of excess.

The LP session that followed was even more delightful. Every strand in Saint Saens' Organ Symphony (EdW/Philips) could be heard, though perhaps the full organ was just a little lean. Michaelangili's Mozart concerto was delightful, the piano sound full and realistic. I asked for a Mercury, and got Dorati's Firebird (original pressing). Not a hair out of place.

We talked about the Cello Performance driving the big Dyna's so successfully. This pair cannot be easier to drive than Wilson speakers, say. I wonder why some people over-kill and use 2 pairs. It's all in the implementation. More is often less.

Thomson has always been a great host. The Italian red was wonderful, a little spicy and with good finish, complimenting the system to a T. We spent almost 3 hours there and I forgot completely about the coffee, and my umbrella left years ago!

As is sometimes the case, feikeung bestowed a gift for me, the Spanish film Alas de mariposa, which I watched in fascination later that evening. The complicated relationship in the family was really touching, and it is a beautiful and sensitive film indeed, from 1991. That's a long time ago! Thank you, feikeung!

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