25 January, 2011

The Yumcha Diaries 飲茶後記: 08/15-01-11 The Yumcha Diaries 飲茶後記: 15/22-01-11 (Maggies x 2)

The Yumcha Diaries 飲茶後記: 15/22-01-11 (Maggie's x 2)

15-01-11, Long Time No See, Grandma Maggie!
After the Tannoy Kingdom Royal, we were delighted that we were able to squeeze in a short visit to limage on short notice (thanks!), to both listen to his system and catch a last glimpse of his wonderful house before he moves. I had also not heard his 27D preamp. Equipment used:

Analogue: Technics SP10-(forgot what arm)-Ortofon A-90
Phonostage: EAR 834
Digital: Ensemble Dichrono combo (last generation)
Preamp: Gnostic Technology 27D
Amp: Conrad Johnson Premiere 1
Loudspeakers: Magnepan 3.5

limage's setup is probably one of the most visited in HK, and for good reason. For decades, he has stuck to the Maggie's and the CJ and was consistent in obtaining good sound from them. limage takes pride in the imaging ability of his system, hence his moniker. The Maggie's are placed REALLY up front, almost near-field, resulting in a deep and wide sound-stage, and vivid though upfront sound. Not all, including myself, are convinced that the soundstage represents the absolute truth in its rendition of the live event. I'd think not; nothing less than a horn can do that. As a matter of fact, with these so-called true-ribbons, perhaps due to the disparate speed of the treble and bass, or perhaps due to multi-miking, sometimes the image shifts in size and presentation a little too noticeably for comfort. And the large image of near-field does not suit everyone.

I have visited limage many times, and overall the sound is consistent. However, there are noticeable differences between visits that are attributable to gear changes perhaps. This time, despite the system's considerable virtues, something nagged at me as I found both improvements and disappointments. For the former, I think it could go louder than before. Compared to the last incarnation (Pass Lab preamp and Kiseki cartridge) it was smoother, but rhythm and pace was not quite as good as before. For my own taste, I think I actually prefer the time just before limage changed to the Pass Lab preamp, when he was still using the ARC SP-11 preamp (still Kiseki too). I would venture the combination of an analytical preamp and a neutral cartridge on a direct-drive steered things a little too far towards the literal for my taste, ymmv. While Britten's masterpiece Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge (Argo/ASMF/Marriner) was delivered energetically, limage's 首本名戯 Lehar's Merry Widow lacked just a little sense of the dance, which had manifested itself more dramatically before in largely the same system and which should be pervasive throughout.

It is only with true friends that I write so candidly. Despite the unfortunate events in the past used by dubious characters to advance themselves or to purge opponents (I despise that), limage and I have remained friends. It takes a straight shooter to appreciate another. Have you noticed that HK websites are either loaded with vitriol/arguments or obsequious (肉麻) tributes? It would be hard to decide which is the lesser evil. In my mind, limage is much taller (figuratively) than some of the virtual company he keeps and does not need either.

Maggies Now and Altec Then

22-01-11, A Run for the Money?
On this day we were happy to see a large turnout, greeting some old friends and meeting up with some new friends, particularly two from R33's 書房讚嘆區 . What a delight!

Serendipity! Our friend ivanto popped in to yumcha and we eagerly hurried to his den afterward. It's been more than a year since last visit, and the system has changed completely (for the last visit, click here). We were amply rewarded. System:

Analogue 1: Kenwood direct-drive/Dynavector
Analogue 2: Chinese TT with 12" carbon graphite tonearm/VdH Frog
Preamp: Canary monoblock preamps
Amps: Bruce Moore 4x 6550 monoblocks
Loudspeakers: Magnepan 3.6R

We were captivated, even soothed, by the musical sound emanating from the 3.6's. In this very large room, I'd reckon the ~100 wpc amps were sweating a bit, but overall I'd say whatever bass deficiency mattered little. As there were several turntables on hand, several of us asked to play the same recording on different TT's, and sat in different seats for assessment, and this fact alone attests to the likability of the system. Would you ask to play the same recording again if the sound is grating? Personally I'd guess the preamp, Canary, belongs to the camp of objective performers; despite that, the system worked well enough.

Comparison of the 2 turntables was fascinating. The Kenwood was less resolving but richer and more forgiving. The Chinese newbie was more incisive and rhythmic, though I think the suck-out in the midrange was due to the VdH cartridge. Have you heard a VdH cartridge that you really like? I have not.

Overall, quite a few of us enjoyed this pair of Maggie's as much, or perhaps more than, limage's. Now, let's move on to jules' 3.6...

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