Monday, 17 October 2016

Arpeggio Pensato - Another Malaysian Pride

The name Arpeggio Pensato does not really sound like Malaysian but the designer of this speaker, Mr. Victor Pheh of HiFi Creations is as Malaysian as it can be. I first heard the sound of these speakers back in 2014 when it was still in the prototype stage. The second time was during its debut in KLIAV show in 2015. But it then went quiet after the debut. What I can remember at that time was these speakers have high level of authority when run with Magnet power amps. Clarity was one of its virtue.

When Victor sent the Pensato over, I now realised how big the cabinets are. Measuring at 590 mm (H) x 340 mm (W) x 400 mm (D) and weighs at 36 KG each, it is not an ordinary bookshelf speaker. In fact, I do not know how to categorize the Pensato as bookshelf or half floorstander. Its a 3 way speaker with a 1" sonolex precoated dome tweeter, 4" paper coated cone mids and 8" nextel coated woofer. Frequency response is between 38 Hz to 30 kHz with relatively high sensitivity of 89 dB. It is also rear ported design. The pair is fully hand crafted using high quality internal components including VDH wiring.

  • Bryston B135 SST2 Integrated amp (also as pre amp)
  • KOGA Aimez power amp
  • Bryston BDP2 media player and BDA3 DAC
  • Sony HAP Z1 ES HDD Hi Res player with Skogrand Wagner power cable
  • Lenco L78 TT
  • Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono stage
  • Vermouth Audio Black Pearl speaker cable

  • Temptation by Diana Krall (WAV 16/44.1)
  • Silent Death (LP)
  • Unchained Melody by Willie Nelson (DSD 2.8 MHz)
  • Money for Nothing by Dire Straits (WAV 16/44.1)


With the Pensato driven by KOGA Aimez power amp, the Pensato started to show the level of music authority that I have heard before. The zing sound of percussion in the intro was definitely the clarity of sound that can really sound extended. Its not bass shy with the double bass sounding warm and deep. Its not a bass power house like the PMCs, but its enough to really sound refine.

With a really heavy music like the one by Silent Death, the Pensato can really cook up an overall solid metal sound with high degree of separation. However, the double pedal percussion sounded a little bit thin in which a hard hitting bass kick is required in this kind if music. Partially it may also be the B135 integrated amp was not the best match for Pensato. At times, it sounded a bit restricted as oppose to a sound from a full floorstander.

The beautiful voice of Willie Nelson can be relived with high level of excitement via the Pensato. The clarity of vocals can be clearly heard through these speaker. The mellowness of his vocal was reproduced by the Pensato that it sounded very fluid and unrestricted. A character that I find very important in any speaker. It can allow music just to flow freely, creating that ambient of a big sound stage.

Now for the final track, the intro of Money for Nothing was again where the Pensato showed some muscle. The drums and guitar intro really gave  long lasting impact on me. It delivers sufficient hit on the drums tom toms and at the same time, a adequately high shredding guitar sound.PLus, the sound stage sounded really huge on this track.

Do you have the space? Are you looking for an honest sounding, high clarity and tight and defined bass? The Pensato might just be the one for you. Vocals sound clean, the mids are sweet and harmonious and the bass is just sufficiently reproduced. Bear in mind that we are dealing with a bookshelf design here. Even though the sound stage is big, at times it can sound a bit restricted especially on metal music. It needs a big air space for it to really shine. Overall, at RM22K RRP, it is a pair that has that finesse touch by Mr. Victor.With proper kit matching, these Pensato can be a great contender to ATC. If interested in a demo, please contact Victor Pheh of HiFi Creations.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Piring Hitam Artis Tempatan - Berakhirnya Penantian Berkat Usaha Dream Studio dan Mamat Rec

Beberapa minggu yang lalu, dua kugiran tempatan yang telah banyak mempengaruhi minat muzik saya telah mengeluarkan album mereka di dalam bentuk piring hitam. Walaupun bukan album baru tetapi ia adalah album-album yang memperkenalkan saya kepada muzik rock dan juga death metal. Tak lain dan tak bukan, Lefthanded dan Silent Death.

Tanggal 4 Oktober 2016, sekali lagi Dream Studio, di bawah naungan Dato Zaharul Anuar, mengejutkan peminat2 rock tanahair dengan pelancaran album kumpulan lagenda, Lefthanded berjudul Keadilan buat pertama kalinya di dalam medium piring hitam. Album ini merupakan album Lefthanded yang diterbitkan 30 tahun yang lalu. Satu sesi pelancaran khas telah diadakan di Dream Studio di mana Dato Nash, Man Kidal, Yantzen (Rusty Blade) dan lain-lain telah bersama-sama meraikan pelancaran ini. Sayang sekali buat diri saya kerana tidak dapat menghadiri sesi tersebut disebabkan tugas utama saya di KLCC. Sesi itu juga dihadiri oleh pengumpul tegar piring hitam tanahair seperti Sezali Zakaria, Rusli Hashim dan ramai lagi. Malahan, ada juga peminat dari Singapura yang datang untuk meraikan sesi pelancaran ini. 

Memang tak dapat dinafikan bahawa revolusi piring hitam telah kembali secara global dan Malaysia tidak terkecuali. Walaubagaimanapun, kadar pengeluaran piring hitam untuk artis tempatan masih belum mencapai tahap komersial seperti atis luar negara. Dengan adanya usaha gigih syarikat-syarikat seperti Dream Studio, impian peminat muzik tanahair sudah mula tercapai. Apa yang unik tentang Dream Studio ialah penekanan terhadap kualiti bunyi dalam pengeluaran piring hitam. Bermula dengan Rusty Blade beberapa bulan dahulu, sekali lagi Dream Studio telah berjaya mengeluarkan 'first pressing' album ini pada tahap yang amat memuaskan. Piring hitam ini telah diterbitkan di Australia di mana mutu bunyi yang dikeluarkan dapat melahirkan emosi rock nostalgia buat sesiapa sahaja yang memang membesar dengan alunan muzik rock Lefthanded, termasuk penulis nukilan ini. Buat saya, Lefthanded adalah kugiran yang memperkenalkan muzik rock kepada saya pada tahun 1987. Kenyaringan vokal Dato Nash begitu menyerlah di mana tiada kesan kenyaringan terlampau atau kebingitan seperti yang banyak berlaku ke atas pengeluaran piring hitam yang tidak melalui proses penyaringan yang betul. Gorengan gitar Man Kidal jugak amat terserlah bunyinya, melahirkan emosi 'head banging' buat pendengar seperti saya. Dari fizikal, ada juga pembeli yang mengatakan lubang di tengah piring hitam itu agak kecil dan sukar untuk memposisikan ke atas pemain piring hitam. Walabagaimanapun, ini dapat diselesaikan dengan menggunaka 'file' kecil.

Tahniah sekali lagi buat Dream Studio dan Dato Zaharul. Diharapkan, lebih banyak piring hitam rock tempatan dikeluarkan lagi.

Dengarkanlah klip bunyi contoh di bawah ini.

Di masa yang sama, Dream Studio juga telah mengeluarkan semula piring hitam Rusty Blade Ikrar Perwira dalam bentuk boxset yang mengandungi piring hitam, CD, kaset, T Shirt dan key chain. Pakej terbaik.


Now, this is the album that really open up the dark side of me. I first heard about this band in 1992 if I am not mistaken. It was only on a cassette at that time but it was enough to really make me fall in love in the aggressive music genre. I cannot deny that at one stage, my late parents were worried about the musical taste I was into but nevertheless, they did not went into banning me from from listening to this. From Silent Death, I went into Nebiras, Sil Khannaz, Brain Dead etc. It is also personal to me as I had to borrow Ollie's drum pedal (when he was in Carburetor Dung) during a gig in Piccadilly Discotheque in 1996.

Back to the launch of this LP, Mamat Rec have again managed to produce a magnificent piece of local musical heritage. The speed of the double pedal by Ollie was tremendously hard hitting. The growling vocals of Stone and shredding guitars of Pink were in fact another big highlight of how high quality this LP is. For this musical genre, it is important that the mixing is done so that it does not come out as mashed up music with no sense of separation between various musical instrument. I found that this LP has managed to recreate that separation but in a manner that it is coherent and in tune as a whole. Excellent experience listening to this.

The packaging of this LP is also very much high quality. The inlay, photos, post cards is asa good as it gets when it comes to a reissue of the past. I love it.

I do hope both Dream Studio and Mamat Rec will continue appreciating the past as they are still a tremendous amount of fans of these legendary local bands that will forever support the industry.

Lefhanded (RM155) and Rusty Blade (RM155 for LP only and RM330 for boxset) LPs can be purchased from Dream Studio, Teenage Head Records, Crossroads Records and a few other music store.

Silent Death LP can be purchased by contacting Mamat Rec on Facebook for RM90.

Friday, 30 September 2016

PMC twenty5 24 - Enhanced Its Punchiness, Musicality and Clarity

Looks good ey in my living room? Looks are not just what these new PMC twenty5.24 speakers are good at. When I reviewed the twenty.26 last year and purchased the twenty.23, I thought PMC cannot do any better than that. I was wrong. Read on folks.

I first heard these new twenty.5 series a few months ago when it first landed in Malaysia. That was in AV Designs. At that time, I already could hear the difference from my twenty.23 speakers with respect to the LF extension. Then came the KLIAV show in July where these babies were given my personal Best Digital based set up and won awards from A couple of months later (early Sep), these babies landed in my living room for full home review. AV Designs crew is as professional as ever, arriving on time as promised and they immediately started to unpack the beast. Being familiar with my home and set up, all was done in 15 mins. The first view of them in my house, made my jaw dropped. Sleek and sexy looking.

MAIN PHYSICAL CHANGES twenty vs twenty5

  1. Biwire/triwire vs single wire
  2. Plinth at bottom vs outriggers
  3. Foam vs Laminair front ports
  4. Slightly less in height but increased in width
  5. Heavier by 2 kg
  1. Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amp
  2. Sony HAP Z1ES Hi Res HDD player (Siltech Classic Anniversary 330L XLR cable)
  3. Lenco L78 TT 
  4. Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono stage (Gotham IC)
  5. Speaker cable - Vermouth Audio The Black Pearl
  1. Azzura - Paco De Lucia (LP)
  2. Percussion from KOGA Audio Sampler (CD)
  3. Lompat Si Katak Lompat - Kombo RTM (LP)
  4. My Hero - Foo Fighters (WAV File)
  5. David Elias - Rodeo on A Ridge (DSD)
  6. Whiskey In The Jar - Metallica (WAV)

Speakers of this caliber deserves long hours of testing. By the time the formal session was done, the speakers have seen approximately 500 hours of play time. For those who are familiar with my review approach, the sessions were done in a few different occasion and time, mainly for me to confirm that the attributes I hear from this speakers are indeed consistent.


Playing Azzura, the guitar plucking sounds vibrant but it delivers the mellowness of the track. When it goes into faster tempo in the middle of the track, the 24s hits out to the listener with a very open but energetic and forceful guitar strumming. It created that intensity that Paco would want listeners to build up their mood to. One thing for sure, these known for bass speakers do not compromise on the highs and mid notes as well. The sliding of fingers across the guitar strings and frets can be heard clearly. Just show how detail the 24s can deliver. 

Percussion and Wind

This is an excellent track that has a good mixture of percussion and those vibrato wind instrument. The introduction of the track with the percussion kicking in was really punchy. Somehow, I feel that with the Laminair, it gives a more extended low end notes, spreading the impact in a bigger spatial sense. Its even more enveloping compare to the previous twenty series. The wind instrument also sounded more airy and gives out a bigger soundstaging. Mix them together, the 24s gives a big enveloping musical experience throughout my listening area. No matter where you sit, either on the side sofas or front facing seats, the overall musicality can be heard and experience.

Lompat Si Katak Lompat

This track has become on my favourite jazz track to test new hifi equipment. Purely for its artistic arrangement and excellent recording from the 70s I believe. Its actually just based on local Malay children nursery rhyme. Its like Mancini of Malaysia. The 24s unleashed a very entertaining sound for this track. Again, giving that bigger sound stage that compliments that rich bass notes. Although PMC speakers are well known for its muscular and rich bass, these 24s do not lack in delivering melodious highs with no sign of fatigue. Mids are also quite sweet but not as sweet at the twenty.26 I reviewed last year. Having that mid driver does make the 26s a better overall performer.

My Hero

Now, lets give the 24s a real run for the money. This track is one of my favourite track to test bass delivery. Even with the complex drumming, the 24s managed to clearly reproduce each kick pedal beat with ease. No sign of muddled low end notes. At the same time, Grohl's vocal and guitar riffs sounded raw and forceful, creating that overall angst but melodious track that it intended to. However, at times it does sound that all instrument just merged together and gives out that 'blanket' flat sound. To me this is more how the track was recorded and not due to the 24s not able to keep up with the speed and accuracy. There is something from the Laminair design that reproduces the bass in a more exciting tone compare to the previous twenty series. Hard thumping impact but still digs deep in the low end notes.

David Elias with Rodeo on A Ridge

Playing DSD files is reaaaaallly enjoyable with the 24s. This to me was the highlight of my time with the 24s. Its not a complex song. Mellow. Guitars, bass and vocals. Each bass note is clearly audible while the separation of guitars were also evident between the lead and rhythm. And the vocal..... hhhmmm... clarity at its best with a very deep emphasize on reproducing the emotion. The 24s just reproduce the track with a perfect blend of musicality. The overall ambient was still leaning towards a warm and big soundstage without loosing any of the required bass frequency. This type of song or recording really needs speakers that do not loose the importance of the bass notes to create that overall enveloping musical experience.

Whiskey In The Jar

The last track is the uptempo Metallica's rendition of Whiskey in The Jar. Again, a heavy genre like this, the 24s did not lack in reproducing its famous bass kicks from Lars's kick pedal. Most times, listeners ignore the importance of a good reproduction of bass in the listening experience. Too much of it, it can create fatigue. Too little, there is no life in the music. The 24s produced that 'just right' element of bass that gels nicely with the overall track. Even for a track like this that most audiophiles dont listen to, these 24s are not shy to belt out that metal friendly capability to give headbangers a good experience in this genre. James, vocal sounded deep in its growls creating a very entertaining experience.


When PMC introduced any new design, it comes with a solid engineering behind it. Laminair is basically taken from principle of air flow in aerodynamics. It reminded me of my college days where I spent countless hours in a wind tunnel test facility to design that 'perfect' air flow for a fuselage and wing models. PMC Laminair definitely gives out a bigger and extended bass experience by enhancing the airflow. But, I never doubted that PMC is best at this. What put a smile on my face was the fact that the 24s produced an overall enveloping musicality experience with a high level of clarity and that deep diving low end notes. Just musically enjoyable. The only limiting factor would be.... my listening room. I feel that these 24s... deserve a much more serious listening room, bigger in area and more room to breathe.

Laminair works big time. It enhances the previous twenty series to a different level. My question to PMC, can it get any better than this?

PMC twenty5 series (21, 23, 24 and 26) are now available in AV Designs for demo and purchase. This twenty5.24 are retailing at RM27,000 per pair. Contact Tony or James for a demo.

Audio Visual Designs Sdn Bhd
Unit M-W-1, Mezzanine Floor,
West Wing, Rohas Perkasa,
No.9, Jalan P. Ramlee,
50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603-2171 2828
Fax: +603-2171 2825

Monday, 5 September 2016

SVS Prime Elevation Speakers - A Great Alternative To Ceiling Speakers for ATMOS and DTS:X

I took my time to leap into ATMOS, mainly to wait for the format to stabilize and also for DTS-X to be fully available, hardware wise and also software. While there are a few of HT aficionados in Malaysia that took the leap into ATMOS a few years back, most of the HT crowd faced the challenge of installing additional ceiling speakers in their existing set up. This is also true especially for those without a dedicated HT room.  For yours truly, I face the same challenge as my HT is set up in the second floor living room. I have went through various options of setting up surround back and ceiling speakers but it remains a challenge due to some obstruction above the ceiling.

The notion of using upfiring speakers first came out at the same time ATMOS came out about 2 years back. Not many options were available at that time and most of the design, did not get an acceptable performance review by the industry. Nevertheless, if we are to refer to the maker itself, Dolby, they did mention that upfiring speakers is one of the options that ATMOS can be experienced at home. So, technically, this option should work if we follow the recommended guideline by Dolby. There are soooooo many people out there that gives out recommendation that confuses a lot of HT enthusiasts that in turn, put them off to experience  ATMOS at home. I have decided to just refer to Dolby to start the leap. 

One of the main concern for me is the effectiveness of the sound reflection with upfiring speakers. Dolby recommendations are as follows and luckily, my hall fits in nicely in these recommendations.

Ceiling Height and Materials 

The ideal ceiling height is between 7.5 and 12 feet, and the maximum recommended height is 14 feet. The ceiling should be flat and made from an acoustically reflective material, such as drywall or plaster.


After I have decided to take the leap, first I had to upgrade my Yamaha RXV2067 AVR to an ATMOS/DTS:X capable AVR. After discussion with Max Loh from Maxx Audio, I have decided to purchase the Denon X6200W AVR. Once confirmed, I started to think about which upfiring speakers to get. There is no point upgrading the AVR without purchasing the ATMOS speakers.

As I currently using an SVS Prime Satellite as my rear speakers and SVS subwoofer that matches quite well (sonically and aesthetically) with my PMC twenty.24 and Centre channel, I asked Max whether I can use another pair of Prime Satellite as ATMOS speakers....... and to my surprise, SVS now have a new elevation add on speakers called Prime Elevation. Recently debuted in CES show, Maxx Audio was getting a few pairs for the KLIAV show in July. At the time this review was written, these Elevation speakers are still not available on the SVS website. But nevertheless, you can find a few reviews of it online.

Being the trouble-maker I am, I requested Maxx to have a pair of these after the show. And sure enough, these babies were in my house a week after the show (end of July).


This speakers are designed to fulfill the following options:
  • As a down-firing height channel speaker, easily mounted high on a side wall 
  • As an up-firing height channel speaker for the same formats, placed on stands or atop tower speakers 
  • As an up-firing or down-firing front or center channel speaker with projector screens or where level placement at ear height is not possible 
  • As a side or rear-firing surround speaker, when placement on a side or rear wall is not optimal for the most convincing side or back surround effects 
  • A pair of Elevation speakers can be wall-mounted and wired to become a bipole or dipole surround speaker.

The Prime Elevation is rated at  69 Hz – 25 kHz (+/- 3dB), and uses a 1" aluminum dome tweeter and a 4.5" polypropylene cone woofer. It comes with its own four position wall bracket and will also include a 1/4" 20TPI brass insert for compatibility with other mounts. The Prime Elevation comes in three colors, Gloss Black, Gloss White, and Black Ash. For me, of course I took the Gloss Black to match with the entire speaker systems that I have.

One interesting fact to note is that, although named as Elevation, it does not really want to rely on ceiling reflection but more towards sending the height effect directly to the listener.


First of all, ATMOS and DTS:X is a totally different experience compared to standard Dolby TruHD or DTS MA. I was an early adopter of BluRay back in 2007 and have gone through a number BD players and AVR. But the leap in sound distribution with ATMOS or DTS:X is just insanely engaging. With this Elevation speakers, my system is now moved from 7.1 (front height, not surround back) channel to 5.1.2.

Now, specific to the PRIME Elevation, it was first automatically calibrated using the Denon Audyssey calibration. Playing Transformers Age of Extinction, the Elevation speakers gave a new experience of how the vehicles, tankers, ships were falling from the sky and also the swooshing sound of the Dinobots (Swoop) flying across the scene. Even when the giant space craft was sucking up all the vehicles, I can experience the uplifting sound of with a touch spatial definition across my listening position. Out of curiosity, I increased the volume on these Elevation speakers in the audio setting, and voila, it sounded even more immersive. The level of immersive however stops at my listening position as I do not have an 'rear' Elevation installed. This is quite noticeable. I am curious to hear how another pair of these speakers installed in the rear will enhance the experience further.

With the movie Batman vs Superman DOJ, its just insanely enveloping especially the swooping effect each time Superman flies down or Batman drops from the ceiling. Also for scenes where building collapses, the rumbling from the top to bottom of the collapse can also be experienced in a more 'visualistic' manner. The battle scene between Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman against Doomsday also provided a very wholesome experience where the right effect of top-bottom can be experienced with the installation of the Elevation speakers. However, again the level of immersive stopped at where I sit without the presence of the surround back upfiring speakers.

It also somehow elevate the centre channel for dialogue clarity. On Zoolander 2 DTS:X, the soundstage of dialogue seems to be more spatial and elevated around the main front and centre channel. This gives me a very upfront experience with the movive characters.

For non ATMOS or DTS:X movies, with the Denon providing a Dolby Surround and DTS:X neural upmix option, these Elevation speakers still provided a good step up in providing a more uplifitng soundstage experience at home.


In essence, it does! Although SVS is not relying on ceiling reflection, but I do believe the guideline given by Dolby should be followed. Upfiring speakers does the job neatly IF.... only IF.... your HT area meets the limitation set in the Dolby guideline. You need to have the right ceiling height and also material that can properly reflect the sound coming from the upfiring speakers. This ceiling requirement actually is also a challenge for ceiling speakers. I have seen where the ceiling height is quite high (more than 15 ft), the ATMOS effect is so thin and at times, non existence. I also believe your listening position is very important. The distance from the Elevation speakers must be at the right distance for you to experience the sound reflection reaching you. If you are too far, you might feel that the immersive height sound drops in front of you rather than enveloping you.


SVS have come up with a rather neat alternative to ceiling speakers. A non fussy-multi functional pair of PRIME Elevation speakers that recreates the ATMOS and DTS:X effects by upfiring the sound directly towards the listener. Easy to install, calibrated within minutes before you can experience the ATMOS in your home.

With the design that is independent of the ceiling reflection, this must be the easiest step up to ATMOS/DTS:X for any HT enthusiasts.

At the time of review, the RRP have yet to be finalised. But Max Loh, you ain't getting this pair back. Its permanently in my system now. The question is more on how can I install another pair at the rear?

Contact Max Loh or Benjamin for further details of these PRIME Elevation speakers.

​M: 017-6778820 (Max) & 016-3229428 (Benjamin)

NOTE: I am trying to figure out a better way to provide the sound effect via Youtube. Stay tune for video samplers.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Grounding For The Better - J&K Audio Design 3io Blackbox

So you have a nice system (at least to your ears)... You sit back... relax... enjoying the music... and suddenly you start thinking how much is enough  when it comes to hifi hobby. I have concluded that ... it is LIMITLESS. I am not referring to new kit or new technologies. I am referring to how much more juice, excitement, enjoyment you can squeeze from your existing set up. I have always believe in the importance of clean power but due to bad experience of my set up being struck by lightning, I have been using surge protection for so many years until recently, I have revamped the power supply to my set up with several items including Frank Power Bank, Frank EM filter, Furutech US receptacle wall plugs, ECBs etc. The impact was not subtle.  And from this experience, I keep pushing for more.

Comes in this 3io Blackbox by J&K Audio. When the designer offered me to test this unit, I was at first wondering, what would this box do for me? But after further reading the product info, it intrigues me to see what it can do to my system.


In short, it is actually a grounding device. The Blackbox will help to draw and collect free electrons and control them from polluting the signal transfer. Too technical? In lay men's term, it takes away unwanted matters from the 'flow', allowing listener to hear more without unwanted 'noise'.

For more information, CLICKETY HERE


There are several ways that this box can be connected. You can plug it in to the wall socket next to where your set up is, direct to the grounding of your equipment or even onto a power distribution strip. For me, I opted to connect the Blackbox to the wall socket next to my set up is. It does require some run in time but the website does not specify for how long.

  • SONY HAP Z1 ES hard disk player
  • Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amp
  • ProAc D18  speakers
  • Cabling
    • Siltech XLR Classic Anniversary 330i series for Sony to MF amp
    • Vermouth Audio Black Pearl speaker cable
  • Power tweaks
    • Frank Power Bank
    • Frank EM Filter
    • Furutech US receptacle wall plugs 
    • J&K 3io Blackbox plugged into the same 'line' of the Sony HAP Z1 ES
  1. Take Five - Dave Brubeck on WAV
  2. You Are Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson on WAV
  3. Enter Sandman - Metallica on FLAC

The Take Five track.... literally gave me that take five meaning (relaxing). It just provided me another perspective of spatial definition when it comes to audio. During the drum 'solo', the percussion sounded very big in the overall sound stage. It gave me the visualization on how the drummer was set in the limelight on stage. The sound of the snare is very extensive that it really spreads out the details of each hit of the drumstick onto the drum skins.

When Willie took centre stage, it further expand my experience with the spatial spectrum that the Blackbox injected into the overall sound. His vocal sounded wholesome, warm and the emotional flow was recreated with a high sense clarity. Overall, the whole experience was very engaging as there was this controlled dispersion with the highs and quite sweet sounding mids. 

So far, for jazzy and folk genre, this Blackbox seems to be able to provide quite a change in the sound staging which created a different spatial experience. Next, I kicked in Enter Sandman by Metallica. Now, this was quite challenging to detect the sound difference with the Blackbox. The bigger soundstage and spatial experience was still there but there was some loss in clarity as the overall music reproduction of this track sounded a bit muffled at the beginning. However, listening to it more, it still provided this liveliness where the kick drums and shredding guitars were definitely livelier, hard hitting and somehow raw. Energized would be a good one word summary for this.


It works. Its just a matter of to what extend. It will depend on individual system, how its being set up etc.The main step up I would say is the spatial sense of the music reproduction. It gives a bigger sound stage for my set up. Subtle but enough to be noticeable. It somehow inject a new sense of liveliness, opens up the music more allowing listeners to experience a more engaging session. In my system, it might be subtle maybe because of the recent electrical upgrades I added but for those running straight from the standard wall plugs that came with the house, do try this Blackbox out. You may experience the similar benefit at a larger scale than me. Then, its just a matter of how many more of the Blackbox that you would like to install. Similar to the Frank PB, the more number of units you install, it may give you more impact. Highly recommended to be tested in your system for those who would like to squeeze more satisfaction from your system.

If you are interested, you can contact J&K Audio at to place an order.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Different Shades of Lenco L78 - Does the Mat Matters?

So, I got myself a stock Lenco again. This time around with a few different touches compared to my previous unit. Although it came in its all original parts except for the plinth and cart, there was still different in sound. This just proof that even the slightest change in parts and design, it will definitely affect the sound produced. Curiosity then got to me to see what else can affect the sound. Coincidentally, there was a buzz going around in the local Lenco scene that a new Stainless Steel (SS) plate was specially designed to further enhance the already exceptional Lenco sound.

With the power of the internet social media, I was contacted by the designer cum fabricator (known as Sph) of this SS plate to try this new revolutionary plate design. A date was set for me to try it out and the item was delivered. We played with it for a couple of hours but since I just received my new Lenco at that time, I requested for me continue testing out this SS plate for a month or so. 


At first, we actually tried the plate on my Clearaudio Concept TT. Erk! The Clearaudio could not even turn . So, we quickly took it off and start putting it on my new Lenco.

Bassy! First off test, the SS plate made the overall sound to be bassy. Not in a bad way. Its more like it injected more low end notes to the overall musical presentation.

But after a few weeks of swapping between this SS plate and the original Lenco rubber mat, I started to realize its potential. Heck, just to further challenge this new plate, I even started to spin LPs using a cork mat.

And fans..... this is my finding using a track by Zoe Deschanel duet She and Him, singing You Really Gotta Hold on Me. A few adjustments had to be made on the VTA to accommodate the thicker SS plate.

1. Stock Lenco Rubber Mat

With the stock Lenco, the overall sound is as per what I discovered in my previous review it produced a lighter side of of the music. Zoe's vocal sounded sharp and very open. The whole song was 'flowing' out and filling up the my hall. Huge sound stage.  Low end notes does not really emerge with the rubber mat but it then gives out a very natural overall tone to the track.

2. Stainless Steel Plate (SS Plate)

Now, this is where a significant change in the overall sound reproduction is heard. I believe it is a combination of the weight and also the design of the holes size and pattern on the plate. Both helps in dissipating unwanted vibration which is critical for LP spinning. As per my first impression, the plate injected a more defined low end notes to the music. It gives some sort of control and to the music flow by unleashing a more warm and emotional sound to this track. It uplifts the bass which made Zoe's vocal more alluring. It does give a different overall musical presentation.

3. Cork Mat

This was a big no-no for my Lenco. Although there was less fewer pops and cracks, the overall tone of the music produced just dived down with very low bass reproduction. The mids and highs just sounded less alive and just reduces the enjoyment of listening to a Lenco. And what ticks me off more was that the mat keep sticking to the LP each time I remove the LP from the platter. But, not necessarily this cork mat is bad for other TTs. I will try this on my Clearaudio after this.


YES! To me, it depends on how you want your system to sing and what your system needs. The stock Lenco already sounded good to my ears and fits my system for most of the musical genres that I listen to. However, the SS plate definitely provided me with a different musical perspective and enjoyment if I may add. It does control low end notes and allow a more defined reproduction of bass. Even on heavy metal tracks, it created a more wholesome energized music delivery. Want some lively and controlled bass from those double kick pedals of Metallica and double bass jazz?

Try out this SS plate which can be requested for a demo/home trial from SpH. The price of the plate is RM380 each. For those whom are interested, you can call him on 012-2188600.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

WyWires Diamond and PMC Twenty5 Series - New and Available at AV Design

Last Saturday, 6th Aug, Tony Low and James Tan of AV Designs organized a small appreciation get together with some of the local audio-gents. The event also include the launching of the latest WyWires Diamond series interconnects and also the PMC Twenty5 loudspeaker series.

Taken from their website:

Diamond is the newest cable in our lineup, our luxury aesthetic line of cables. Diamonds have a brand new internal configuration, taking all that we have learned to create a new concept in Litz wire air dielectric design. Diamond cables contain a complex combination of different conductor and dielectric materials, optimized to provide a neutral and well-balanced tone, along with detail retrieval that goes beyond what we’ve been able to do in the past. Additionally, we have achieved a superior level of transparency and dynamics for the ultimate music enjoyment experience. Identified by a subtle sheen on black, with carbon fiber tubing on either end.  A discreet etched black medallion that moves along the cable allows the owner to slip WyWires branding out of sight.

From the chit chat we had on that fine Saturday afternoon, there are several information about this latest addition of cable to the already solid performing WyWires suite. WyWire is confident that the combination of discrete conductors, wrapped in 2 layers of cotton, single strand of enamel insulated solid core, carbon fibre tube and PTFE Teflon and air as dielectric, this cable will provide the most harmonically correct and tonally neutral sound that works equally well with any high quality components, tube and solid state.

I had the opportunity to compare between the Diamond and Silver series in the demo room. Playing Norfolk Country Line by Doug Macleod, immediately I could detect a more open and unrestricted flow of vocal once the Diamond interconnects were introduced into their resident set up of Bryston and PMC speakers.

We also had the chance to listen to PMC Twenty5.23 and 22 and compare the musicality between them. The 22 having a bigger driver than 23, gave a bigger hard hitting punch compared to the more extensive bass of 23. I personally prefer the 23 more as I am a fan of nice and extensive, dig deep bass.

The newly designed fin at the bottom of the speakers seems to further enhanced the sound from the Twenty series based on a more controlled airflow with less friction.

WyWires and PMC can be demoed and purchased from AV Design. Please contact Tony Low or James Tan at:

Audio Visual Designs Sdn Bhd
Unit M-W-1, Mezzanine Floor,
West Wing, Rohas Perkasa,
No.9, Jalan P. Ramlee,
50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603-2171 2828
Fax: +603-2171 2825

James Tan with PMC twenty5.23 and 22.

Twenty vs Twenty5 - Notice the difference?

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Lenco L78 Back In The System - Bare Naked This Time

Last year was a blissful year as one of my hifi highlights was to get a Lenco and experience the vintage sound.... A sound that was blasting while I was growing up....around my late parents house... Really enjoyed it. A 40 over year old refurbished unit that is not far apart from modern TT. I ended up spinning more on the Lenco versus my Clearaudio. However, due to space constraint, I sold it to a fine gentleman in Trengganu, with a heavy heart as I knew at that time that I am going to miss the sound of Lenco.

This year, after space re-adjustment, the urge to have a Lenco back in the system kicked in when I saw a picture shared by non other The Spin Doctor Mastan on Facebook. It was a Lenco L78 (note that my previous unit was a GL78) but whats unique about this new refurbished design, is the thin and open plinth that exposes the internal parts from below. Now, it is also a 3 legged design, similar to some modern TTs.

Tried to curb my desire but alas, 2 weeks before Eid, discussed with Pak Mastan about that unit. And sure enough Pak Mastan being the usual obliging Lenco xifu, explained to me about this new design. We met up in KLCC for a short discussion and confirmation of the final design. And as promised, the unit was ready before Eid. But due to the busy festivity period, the delivery of the unit was postponed to the weekend after Eid. Nevertheless, Pak Mastan sent me teaser photos of the completed unit :)

So, come 10th July 2016, Pak Mastan was back in my house with his partner in crime, Khaliz. And the installation process of a Lenco L78 into my system started. Similar to previous experience, Pak Mastan and Khaliz explained  and showed me all the parts as they installed the unit. 

Within 15 minutes, the unit was installed and the calibration process started.

Level and stability - Check

Track force - check

Ready to rumble!

A Little About The Unit

There are a few changes made here compared to my previous unit but maintains all original Lenco parts
  1. L78 vs GL78
  2. Open and thinner plinth vs thicker and closed
  3. Birchwood vs pine
  4. US plug vs UK plug
  5. Shure M44 cart vs M34 cart
  6. 3 legged plinth vs 4 legged plinth

With added Spin Doctor trademark

Shure M44 Cart

Power cable sturdily clamped on the the plinth

Naked underneath view from front

Speed test for 33 1/3 RPM

Speed test for 45 RPM

Lenco Xifu aka Spin Doctor Mastan happy with his installation.... You cannot imagine how I look when I started spinning this unit :)

So, How Does It Sound?

Coincidentally, I just received the long awaited LP of The Mambo Kings OST from Tower Records. Hence, first track to test it was of course Beautiful Maria. Maaaaannn... I realized how much I missed the big and airy sound of Lenco. The wind  instrument sounded extremely lively and the emotion of Maria can be felt flowing and filling my hall. The vocal of course was reproduced with clarity. Lenco is not the quietest TT around but the little static here and there just added a more authentic sound to this track. The guitar sounded crisp and detail, giving the track an overall killer combo.

The next track is on this newly issued LP 25 Rasul (yes its a little bit religious). Faizal Tahir is always known for his prowess vocal especially for rock music. But truth be told, he does have a very strong vocal even for a mellow song like this. The Lenco again reproduced a very lively and energized guitar strum from this track, Couple with the honest and transparent deep vocal, the Lenco produced quite an overall bigger sound stage, but maintain the mellow presentation of this track.


For those who somehow had past nostalgic experience listening to Lenco, owning or re-owning a unit is an experience that only you can describe it. For me, this unit represent a true meaning of withstanding the test of time with regards to the ability to still deliver the emotion from the music you are accustomed growing up with. It produces music beautifully and with full emotion. Is it the ultimate TT? Maybe not. But if you are looking for a classic analog sound with a lot of energy and detail, this is a unit that you cant go wrong with.

With respect to the new plinth design, I feel that it produces a lighter side of Lenco compared to my previous unit. Sound stage is bigger but it maintains a mellow and lighter sound. It fits into a system that is too upfront and bright and can help to inject the warm analog sound..

As I did mentioned when I purchase the first unit, I really would recommend a Lenco for someone whom is thinking to get into the cursed world of the black disc. It can easily match any modern entry level TTs but with the advantage of custom design. You can go for the natural wood colour  or get it painted to whatever colour you wish. You can ask for the previous thicker plinth or go for this new 'naked' and thin design.

And specific to The Spin Doctor Pak Mastan, it also include the experience of owning and setting up a Lenco. The Doc will help you to set it up until the unit really sing in your system. Not that it will take long as the unit that he refurbishes will go through extensive run in to ensure it is ready to plug and play in your system. The workmanship is also very detail as you can see, the unit is level indicating accuracy in the plinth design and workmanship. You would not want to have a turntable that is not level.

You can find the Spin Doctor Mastan on Facebook if you are interested to own a trouble free and good Lenco unit.