28 September, 2013

2013 TAA Taiwan 23rd International Hi-End Audio Show

2013 TAA Taiwan 23rd International Hi-End Audio Show 臺灣第23屆國際HI-END音響展報導

Published by Taiwan Audionet magazine (no relationship to hifi brand)(link here)

The blog report is of course in Chinese, but if you don't know the language you can still enjoy the huge number of photos uploaded. The report is so extensively cross-referenced that you have to take steps to prevent duplicating page visits.

The easiest way would be to go down page-by-page (tab on top of report, and on right-hand side). First pages show the setting up of rooms; opening ceremony is on page 16/51, and so on...

Scroll down past the location map and you'll see some tables. On the left are room numbers and you can click on them. This is useful if you want to see a particular dealer (names in Chinese, center column). On the right are links to various editors' recommendations.

It is vast and the pics take forever to load. Good luck!

21 September, 2013

Show Report: 2013 Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show 香港高級視聽展 (August 11, 2013)

Show Report: 2013 Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show 香港高級視聽展 (August 11, 2013)

Attention: click pics to enlarge 點擊照片就會放大

General Observations As usual, I could almost reprint last year's show report (click here for 2012 show report) for this year's. You may also want to click here for my 2009-2011 show reports. Year after year, the show is much as usual, with the exhibitors occupying their usual rooms on the upper floors. As a matter of fact, I have written this article by modifying last year's template.

That said, this year is a bit different for me. I almost could not make it, and barely managed to attend on the last day, Sunday. There were few people, but the overall sound was in many ways better than on the Fridays I usually attended in the past.

Busy as I have been, I had to wait till now to write-up this report. Since the report is not timely, I shall be even more concise than usual.

As usual, the best sounds came from LP sources, followed by CD replay. Despite use of expensive stuff, CAS had the poorest sound overall. BTW, do you believe all the hype about CAS? Not me.

The coverage below is in no particular order, divided into categories and by merit only. But I shall start with some good news:


Best News from the Show

I was really surprised when I saw Vandersteen back in HK! Now, THIS silent display of the evergreen 2CE(Signature II iteration) and I guess Treo made my heart jump! Kudos to distributor Hua Fu for re-introducing the brand to HK and China. It is courageous of them , because HK/China audiophiles do not take to brands like these (think Magnepan too) because (a) they are too reasonably priced; (b) they don't look pretty - no lacquered wood etc; and (c) they don't sound overtly exciting or artificial like too many of today's products.

When I find time, I'd definitely go to the dealer's showroom to audition them. I urge you in he area to do so too. I can think of no better product for money than the 2CE (a masterpiece really).



Given brands like Kondo in their arsenal, Avantgarde (the company) is capable of serving up good sound, but this did not prove to be the case this year. When I was in the room, Avantgarde (the brand) people were there, but the sound from this new model (driven by their own ss amp and using CAS as source) was terrible. I have heard a lot of their models. IMHO, only the Trio (+/- Basshorn) is worthwhile. None of the hybrids really integrate well. Too bad the pretty Kondo monoblocks were not in use.

Last year, Raidho driven by simple Linn electronics got my thumbs up, but this year's sound was fuzzy and ill-defined, definitely attributable to the partnering electronics. CAS was provided by Linn, but the integrated amp (curiously named and Japanese Spec) was not up to the job. Raidho deserves better.

Good Try (Large Room)

As usual, Ernest Audio (Tara Labs Far East), under Ah Ming's skilled leadership, got good sound out of their Rockport. This year's model was the smallest ever, but still showcased to good effect (using 1/2 the room). Here finally was a room that breathed naturally. Electronics were the usual VTL.

Both Wilson and Focal flagships got good demo's in their large rooms (not always the case).

Over the years in HK I have known many French JMR loudspeaker lovers, and they have always sounded musical. This year is like last year, a smooth sound as driven by Mod-Wright. Digitals used the reliable North Star. I was glad to again run into my friend Carl, who was helping out.

Could have been Better

PMC and Dynaudio were average. Both could have been better.

The combination of Verity and Artemis Lab was inferior to last year. German Physiks did not seem to be too happy with Plinius.

Harman has got JBL, which cannot be too bad, but they haven't got the electronics to do them justice. This year's impromptu effort is better, but come on!


Good Try (Medium and Small Room)

Wilson's Alexia, like the Sophia's of past years, performed well. You can definitely forget about the grossly incoherent Watt-Puppy (any generation) and doomed Sacha's. After decades, Wilson is finally getting better (but still not worth the money) and all those people who championed the incoherent models of the past (including critics) should be ashamed of themselves.

Harbeth is always reliable, and Sugden did a reasonable (but not the best) job.

(Distributor Hit Audio) again showcased the Violin loudspeaker, from China (CES report here; curiously, its own site is unstable). Sound with the Line Magnetic tube amp was OK.



"Exotic" European stuff (more often than not) = overpriced + insipid sound. Austrian Brodman loudspeakers and Bulgarian Thrax tube elctronics seemed to prove my point. The pretentious Neumann room seemed more like a bathroom!


An Oddity

There were actually many odd things in such a show, but this venerable modifier has topped them all. He modifies vintage equipment, and THAT is the secret. Sound is not bad at all, and most people do not know that is due to the excellence of vintage stuff more than his efforts. Still, good for him and a sad reflection for modern tastes.


Photo Gallery 

Beautiful Tubes, from left to right: Nagra, Japanese Tri, exotic Elrog tubes 

47 Labs and Dartzeel

Silent Magico, a flock of Giya's

17 September, 2013

Editor's Note: McDonald's New Face, Van Morrison's Old Song, the Lasting Power of Music

Editor's Note: McDonald's New Face, Van Morrison's Old Song, the Lasting Power of Music

If it is 6:00 am, and you are in a major Chinese city, but not in its CBD or central area (one hour away), where would you go?

Choices are surprisingly limited (unless you count the, eh, adult playgrounds). Yumcha places are not open yet. Even small eateries that provide breakfast are few. And they are not comfort-oriented anyway.

Just like in the West, fast food joints come into consideration. Many McDonald's and KFC's in China operate around the clock. And some Chinese fast food places open early too (a nice one is 永和大王).

Recently, I paid several visits to a particular McDonald's, tugged away in no man's land (深圳市龙岗区横岗街道力嘉新马商贸城). It is 4-months old, immaculate and very comfortable. Unusually, it has a drive-through. Traffic is on the slow side and the staff is wonderfully courteous.

Unlike most KFC's (more successful in China than Uncle Mac), most McDonald's in China enjoy the new modern look (here's an article that mentions China). This one is quite beautiful (perhaps I shall have some pics soon).

Most gratifyingly, the music played is marvelous. Imagine how stunned I was when I heard Van Morrison's Moondance. It just completely picks me up. And the jazz and oldies mix is reasonably good and perfect for breakfast. A far cry from the Muzak of old.

Sometimes, things change for the better. And great music shall go on forever.

08 September, 2013

Editor's Note: Back!

Editor's Note: Back!

Hello folks, it has been a while. Two plus months of not posting is atypical of me, and some of you got to be wondering.

While it is true that I have been preoccupied by more urgent matters, there was another reason for the absence: my aged computer, with its lamented Windows XP, died on me in March, before leaving for the USA. Could not even turn it on. Until help arrive, And I don't know whether it was just a power supply issue, or worse...I do hope the hard disc has survived as I have valuable photos and other material (like my entire iTunes library) trapped inside. Should give you second thoughts about CAS, right?

Back from the US, I finally replaced it with a cheap i3-1TB Dell Inspiron. I opted for the Windows 7, but am still not quite used to it. It is a pain to set up everything again, but a real desktop is still infinitely preferable to the small notebooks and smartphones I had been using to check mail and get by (when I am in Shenzhen, I use only a Lenovo smartphone). I wonder how many people manage to write something meaningful using a touch pad. I can't. It is hard enough to make a call using a smartphone! The phone may be "smart", but a person addicted to using it usually is not!

You may have noticed my "Coming Attractions" section. I use it as a reminder for myself on what to write about. Believe it or not, I have an article in my mind on each item there, but execution is another story.

Mid-Autumn is celebrated by the Chinese with an important Festival (second only to the New Year). Hence the old rabbit, still much lovelier than all the vulgarity that pass for art during this period.

Greetings to you all. 中秋節快樂!