Thursday, 9 February 2017

A Collection of Malaysia Underground Music Volume 2 - Vinyl Passion Did It Again




I have a confession to make. I am quite ashamed that I have lost touch with the development of the local underground scene. I still follow the scene but mostly the bands that was in my era of growing up and when I was still patronising the local gigs. Names like SilKhannaz, Brain Dead, Nebiras,  Silent Death, Carburetor Dung, The Pilgrims, The Bollocks, The Splatters are among the bands that I still spin their music. Coming back to this LP, I was intrigued to see The Pilgrims was in the line up. So, that was my first driver to quickly get a hold of this LP. Second reason was that the Volume 1 was so good as well.



What is the best time to listen to this LP? Of course early in the morning, with a cup of coffee and roti bakar. I started to spin this LP as early as 630 am. Ten bands contributed towards this compilation. All with different genres which made this compilation a very interesting mix. Although it titled as Malaysia underground, this did not stop for the label to include a Singaporean band called Ammarah to join in the fun. 





Achtung Riders

Now, as The Pilgrims was the only band on this LP that I am really familiar with, I immediately cued my stylus to the last track on Side A to listen to Achtung Riders. Very refreshing indeed. Its not really the Perfume Garden type of punk rock where Sua Sue Good Morning will make you jump for joy. But its more energetic and heavier than the normal punk rock tune they play. Just listen to the thunderous double pedal throughout the song. The vocal was also clearly presented with a very growly pitch that fits the track nicely. It was not lost in the music mayhem of heavy guitars and drums. It reminded me of Pennywise as I can feel the angst.


Sengsara

Ammarah caught me by surprise as their track was equally superb. The vocal was quite melodic and suits well with the guitar tune. Very impressive lyrics in Malay. Super impressed with how the vocalist pull off this track. Will need to find out more about this band.

It goes the same for the other tracks. Very impressive for a local production. They have improved from the Volume 1 which I already thought was quite good. They must have done quite a lot of work to master/remaster the tracks as it sounded very wholesome with big soundstage but still maintains its rawness. Clarity of vocals, punchy double pedals, roaring guitar leads, shredding rhythm and a hint of bass strings made this LP production one of the better one in the local scene. Seriously, this LP can easily put shame to the recently reissued 'super warped' Ella LP by Warner Music. I guess it pays to remain underground and not controlled by the super capitalist of the local music scene.

Congrats to Vinyl Passion....Beattle Blakk, Shufian and their gang. 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

LP Hukum Karma - Satu Lagi Khazanah Tempatan



Peminat rock kapak tanahair sekali lagi disajikan dengan hidangan LP yang ganaih.  Keluar dengan versi tiga warna yakni merah, hitam dan biru, LP Wings berjudul Hukum Karma ini merupakan LP tempatan terbaru yang telah mula diedarkan oleh Zan Din di bulan Disember 2016 untuk versi merah dan hitam. Ini disusuli dengan versi biru yang diedarkan oleh Dream Studio di bawah kelolaan Dato Zaharul Anuar pada penghujung Januari 2017.

Apa bezanya antara ketiga2 versi ini? Semuanya agak sama kecuali versi biru dikeluarkan dengan pakej T-Shirt dan bandana. Di masa yang sama, CD Edisi Emas dengan dua lagu tambahan juga diedarkan pada waktu yang sama (jualan asing).

Taman Rashidah Utama

Saya telah membeli kesemua versi LP ini semata-mata kerana nostalgia membesar dengan alunan muzik Wings. Lebih2 lagi, album ini diperkenalkan kepada saya dalam bentuk kaset oleh abang saya, agak2 sekitar 1988 atau 1989. 

Dari segi pengeluaran, kualiti kulit luar dan poster amat memuaskan. Kualiti kulit dalam diperbuat oleh kertas putih. Agak biasa. Untuk versi biru, pengeluaran 100 yang pertama telah di cap dengan nombor bersiri 1 ke 100.

Yang lebih penting sekarang adalah mutu bunyi yang dikeluarkan. Seperti yang kita semua maklum, pengeluaran LP mesti menitiberatkan penjagaan kualiti pada setiap tahap pengeluaran. Setiap tahap akan mempengaruhi mutu audio yang dihasilkan. Apabila lagu Taman Rashidah Utama diputarkan, jelas dapat didengar mutu audio yang agak bertenaga dan pementasan bunyi yang agak luas. Ini dapat didengar dari bunyi hujan semasa pembukaan lagu ini. Satu kelebihan LP ini ialah fokusnya terhadap vokal Dato Awie yang diketengahkan. Selain itu, bunyi paluan deram oleh Black amat padu bunyinya dan tidak berkecamuk atau dalam istilah Inggeris muffled sound. Setiap paluan tom2 dan pedal kaki amat bertenaga. Gorengan gitar Joe pula walapun nyaring, ia adalah di tahap yang sesuai untuk menonjolkan konsep rock kumpulan Wings. 

  
Hikayat Penuh Ranjau

Terus terang saya nyatakan, lagu kegemaran saya dalam album ini bukanlah Taman Rashidah Utama atau Misteri Mimpi Syakila. Lagu kegemaran saya adalah Hikayat Penuh Ranjau. Melodi yang rock tapi indah ini berserta dengan lirik yang mudah, serba sedikit mempunyai kesan peribadi buat saya. Di sini juga, mutu audio yang dilahirkan memperketengahkan vokal Dato Awie yang garau dan rock dengan amat baik. Petikan bass oleh Eddie juga agak melodik di dalam lagu ini. 

Secara keseluruhannya, pengeluaran LP agak bagus. Ada sedikit kelemahan dari segi bahagian nada tinggi tetapi ia tidaklah mencacatkan pengalaman mendengar lagu-lagu di dalam LP ini.

Kepada peminat rock tanah air, LP ini haruslah menjadi sebahagian dari koleksi LP anda. Belilah jikalau anda memang pengguna LP sebagai sumber musik anda. Untuk membeli LP ini, bolehlah hubungi Dream Studio atau melalui Raja2 LP Malaysia di Facebook seperti Sezali Zakaria, Jpari Din, Zan Din dan ramai lagi.

Frasa kunci di sini adalah - Edisi Terhad! Apabila kesemua stok telah dijual, tiada lagi pengeluaran akan dibuat. Jikalau tidak silap, hanya 1000 keping dihasilkan untuk semua versi digabungkan.

Terima kasih khas buat Dato Zaharul dari Dream Studio dan juga Zan Din kerana berusaha untuk mengeluarkan LP keramat ini.


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Oppo UDP203 - 4K UHD Just Got Better


When it comes to BluRay player, the name Oppo is on the top of the pedestal. Most people in the HT realm wants to own one. I always believe in Sony to be the best in BluRay; having to own the flagship BDP1SE but I too have succumbed to the mighty Oppo many years back with the purchase of BDP 95EU. I refuse to upgrade to the 105 as I was already satisfied with the 95EU.... and was not sure of what else can be better since it is still a Full HD BluRay format. At the same time, 4K UHD was already in the near horizon. So, I waited. Unfortunately, once the 4K UHD format was launched, Oppo did not follow the foot step of Samsung and Panasonic to immediate launch a player. They waited. But I could not so I purchased the Samsung a few months back. But this did not stop me to still purchase the Oppo when it came out in Malaysia end of Dec. Special thanks to Steve Chuah of CMY One Utama and Adrian Lee of Oppo Digital Malaysia. I basically received the unit as soon as it was available in Malaysia.

Given Oppo's stellar performance in BDP, it cannot be denied that the UDP 203 was the most anticipated 4K UHD piece of hardware, well at least on Facebook. I must admit that I was excited too. So, I had to do an Unboxing Video. Click here ---> Unboxing Video


I was advised to immediately update its firmware before even playing any movies. So I did. It went flawlessly on the first attempt wirelessly....downloaded via tethering to mobile phone as my Unifi was down that night!

FIRST IMPRESSION




As I have already seen what this model can do in AV Designs during the JVC Z1 projector launch, I immediately put on the Batman Vs Superman 4k disc to test the on/off HDR function. Voila! There is a distinct difference in the picture. I wanted to test this because:

  1. My TV is a 4K non HDR model but still wanted to see what HDR can do on my TV
  2. My Samsung 4K player could not activate HDR once a non HDR TV is detected.

So folks, HDR makes a different.  No longer one needs to be puzzled whether HDR is important or not since 4K UHD is already better than Full HD on Blu Ray. It is more about re-calibration once you get into HDR display.

Prefer Dolby Vision? Oppo said that the required hardware is already built in and the firmware for Dolby Vision will be released sometime in Q1 2017.

SPECIFICATION

What disc does this unit cannot play should be the question. The answer is VCD. Spin any latest disc format including DVDs, and this player will just read along.

It can decode the following:
  • Analog Audio: 7.1ch, 5.1ch, stereo.
  • Coaxial/Optical Audio: up to 2ch/192kHz PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS.
  • HDMI Audio: up to 7.1ch/192kHz PCM, up to 5.1ch DSD, Bitstream.
  • HDMI Video: UHD/1080p24/1080p/1080i/720p/576p/576i/480p/480i, 3D frame-packing 720p/1080p24.

The full specs can be found here

Now, if you look at the back panel, what is interesting is the HDMI IN. This unit is equipped with the state of the art 4K UHD Bluray decoder SoC OP8591. Connecting another player like your ASTRO BYond or Apple TV or even your Android TV, may benefit from the image decoder of this unit.

On audio side, the unit is equipped with a premium 32 bit DAC from AKM which is the AK4458VN. It is an 8 channel DAC with support for formats such as 24/192 PCM and multichannel DSD62/128.

Please take note on region coding and DSD playback:
  • 4K UHD - No region. You can buy and spin any 4K UHD disc from anywhere in the world.
  • BluRay - This unit is coded as Region A. So any locally purchased Region A blu ray disc (stand alone), will be compatible. HOWEVER, the coded Blu Ray that comes with the 4K UHD pack, can still be played on this player even though its coded B or C. Correction dated 9th Feb 2017 - I tried with Bluray region B, cannot be played. But C from Australia, still ok to be played.
  • DVD - This unit is coded to Region 1 (USA), so locally purchased DVD coded 3, cannot be played on this player.
  • At the time of review, although it could detect all my DSD files on my SONY player over the network, the Oppo could not play it. Still trying to figure out this one.
  • Playing DSD files on a 2 TB external hard disk via the front USB have no issues. Worked like a charm
Very unfortunate that this is not a multiregion player for BD and DVD. It looks like I have to still keep my Samsung 4K player.




The unit comes with an exceptionally good remote with backlight auto activated as you pick it up. Nice touch there. Very unfortunate this unit does not come with a remote app at the moment.



The overall built of the player is of high standard material. Beautifully finished with well laid out front fascia and control buttons. LCD display is bright and clear which made it easy to be read from the sofa.

SETTING UP

It was straight forward just like any other player. Connect a HDMI cable (preferably the latest and highest spec if you have an HDR capable display) from the Oppo main HDMI out to your TV or AVR and the main display should appear on your telly. Settings are quite similar to my previous Samsung 4K player with the addition of setting the HDR to Auto, Off or On.

I let my Denon do all the processing for the audio side which it can do both Dolby ATMOS or DTS:X

I did not really change any settings from the default and let the player runs as it is.


THE PERFORMANCE

Here where the fun begins. First of all, reading a 4K disc seems to take sliiiigghtly longer than Samsung. Just a mere 4 to 5 seconds more. Not as long as the first Sony BD player back in 2007. That took ages. But the very first image that came out was already jaw dropping.

Having to play Batman Vs Superman again, I can appreciate darker and richer blacks on this Oppo compared to Samsung. For me, dark scenes are the one to test as it is vital that the player does not just give out a one smacked black background. Even though black is a dull colour but a good player needs to ensure that the black can still bounce out to give the audience a sense richness in the scene. This Oppo managed to show me how the dark scenes can shine and provided me with a richer appreciation towards it. Just look at Wonder Woman above. With HDR off, the skin colour tone appear 'energised' and layered with a pretty heavy dark sides and background. It is something that this model is much stronger compared to Samsung.

On bright scenes like in the movie The Angry Birds, the Oppo gives out quite a vivid display on the various colours of the birds (or pigs). You can argue that it was a CGI based movie but even with a movie like Everest, the snowy peaks of Everest still showed a good definition of colour tones. It does give a colour balance and make you put everything in perspective.

Bright whites and dark blacks are the tow things that this player can really define and relay to audience.

The fun does not apply to 4K BDs only. Popped in standard BD or DVD, the player will upscale and process the images to give quite a stunning upscaled pictures. The upscaling of my DVD movies is much better processed compared to my Samsung TV upscaling processing.

Another key performance is also with speed. I didnt experience any frame delays or glitches on high speed scenes like when Superman flies.Very smooth and engaging. I did hear that some people experience this but I did not.

On the audio side, it streams through ATMOS or DTS:X signal to my Denon AVR flawlessly. No lagging nor audio drop in any of the movie I played (5 all together to write this review).

CONCLUSIONS

Simplified - no nonsense performance is how I would summarise this unit. Oppo's decision to drop all the streaming apps was wise since most modern TVs already have them. Focus was given on what matters - video processing. Heck, it even provide a HDMI input to extend its supremacy in video processing to other players. For the price sold here in Malaysia RM3099, I can say that it truly provide the best 4K display currently in the market (well at least for Malaysia). I dont recommend this if streaming videos or music is your thing. This player is for the purist of AV-phile. Pop in a 4K disc, press play and enjoy. 

Oppo UDP 203 can be purchased in outlets like CMY, Actsessory and other AV shops.

Gear

Samsung UA65HU9000 65-inch Curve TV, Denon X6200W AVR, PMC Twenty.23 and C front and centre speakers, SVS Prime Satellite rear speakers SVS Prime Elevation height speakers, SVS subwoofer




Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 - Thank You For The Journey


What a journey it has been for me in both, HiFi and Home Theater. There were a number hifi equipment that came through my door. Some stayed on, some left. Here are some short write ups of the journey.

WHAT WENT OUT FROM 2 CHANNEL HIFI
  1. Musical Fidelity M1 CDT
  2. Musical Fidelity M1 PWR power amp
  3. Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC streamer
  4. GL78 Lenco TT
  5. Bryston BHA-1 headphone amp
  6. Alessandro Grado MS Pro headphone
  7. Onkyo cassette Deck
  8. Dell Windows Laptop and Samsung UA55HU8000 TV for CAS
  9. Full Siltech Classic Anniversary 330L cable, IC, power cable and digital cable
  10. Belkin PF50
WHAT REMAINED AND ADDED TO 2 CHANNEL HIFI
  1. Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amp
  2. ProAc Response D18 speakers
  3. Musical Fidelity M6 DAC
  4. Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono stage
  5. Clearaudio Concept TT (until buyer collects)
  6. Lenco L78 TT (added)
  7. SONY HAP Z1ES HDD Hi Res player (added)
  8. Oppo HA-1 DAC/Preamp/headphone amp (added)
  9. Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla headphones
  10. SONY MDS JA20ES minidisk player
  11. Shunyata Dark Field cable elevators
  12. Vermouth Audio Black Pearl speaker cable (added)
  13. Frank powerbank (added)
  14. Converted all plugs to US receptacle and upgraded ELCB and MCB (added) 
  15. TAOC hifi rack (added)
  16. Musical Fidelity KW550 supercharger mono blocks (under consideration)

 

WHAT WENT OUT FROM MY HOME THEATE

  1. OPPO 95EU BDP Player
  2. Yamaha RXV2067 AV receiver
  3. Wharfedale Bipolar rear speakers
  4. Darbe Darblet DVP5000
WHAT REMAINED AND ADDED TO MY HOME THEATER
  1. OPPO UDP 203 4K UHD PLAYER (added)
  2. Samsung UBDK8500 4K UHD PLAYER (added)
  3. Denon X6200W AV receiver (added)
  4. SVS Prime Satellite rear speakers (added)
  5. SVS Prime Elevation speakers for ATMOS/DTS:X (added)
  6. SVS NSD12 subwoofer
  7. PMC twenty 23 front speakers
  8. PMC twenty C centre speaker
  9. Apple TV
  10. ASTRO B.Yond PVR
  11. Samsung UA65HU9000 65" UHD Curve TV


.......... and last but not least....my 1 minute fame:


A big thank you to the following in no particular order:

  1. Sujesh and the whole Audiofi.net and HiFi4sale crew
  2. Dick Tan, Willy Low, Lam SF and the whole AV2day.com and 3dotevent crew
  3. Victor Pheh of HiFi Creations for Kronos, Skogrand, Vermouth, Arpeggio poison
  4. Max Loh and Yoon Tat of Maxx Audio for Prime Elevation and Satellite and Denon poison
  5. Steve Chua of CMY for my Mission, Oppo UDP 203 and cabling poison
  6. James Tan and Tony Low for the full Bryston suite treatment and PMC poison
  7. David Kestez of Selective HiFi and Yoon of Audio Art for Heco and Soul Note poison
  8. Adrian Lee of Oppo Digital Malaysia for Oppo Sonica and UDP 203 poison
  9. Tony Lee fo LTB Enterprise for continuous Musical Fidelity Posion
  10. J&K Audio for the 3io Blackbox poison
  11. Spin Doctor Mastan for my second Lenco L78 and Belden
  12. Greg and KP Choong for APS speaker stand poison
  13. Foo Lek Choong for Melco Media player poison
  14. SpH for the SSS mat
  15. Frank Voon for the powerbank
  16. Dato Zaharul Anuar of Dream Studio and King Sezali for rock kapak LP poison
  17. MatYeo for MatYeoX cable poison
  18. Mizzal Yusof for Gotham poison
  19. Shaiful Anuar for HiFi BBQ and review sidekick
  20. Al HiFidelitiya group members for LP poison
  21. What Are You Listening To Right Now members for sharing the music
  22. Komuniti Blu Ray Disc Malaysia members for BD and 4K UHD poison
  23. Radzi of THR, Nick Mun of HGR, Hafeez of Crossroad Records, El Pee of LP Freakstore, Khairul Fahmi of Embrace, Rock Corner for all the LP poison
  24. Samsung
  25. JVC
  26. Oppo
  27. Sony
  28. SVS
  29. Bryston
  30. PMC
  31. ....and all the readers...



    Thursday, 29 December 2016

    Launch Event - JVC DLA-Z1 4K D-ILA Projector Launched at AV Designs


    2016 has become the year of 4K for Malaysia. In general, we are late in embracing the 4K (and HDR) technology compared to other parts of the world. However, in this last quarter of 2016, I have seen that this technology has really flourished albeit the lack of locally available 4K software. The latest offering of 4K delicacy was launched on 29th December 2016 by JVC in a form of DLA-Z1 Native 4K HDR laser projector.

    The event was held in AV Designs, hosted by Tony Low and James Tan. This long waited projector model was fitted firmly in the premier home theater demo room, coupled with the latest Oppo UDP-203 4K UHD BD player.





    This is the world FIRST projector to be certified with THX 4K display.


    Two full speed full spec 18GBPS HDMI inputs with HDR and HDCP 2.2 compliant



    Prior to this launch event, there was already a buzz in the local HT affair about the technical specs of this JVC flagship projector. With only the internet as the source of information, HT enthusiasts were eager to experience the true magic of this projector in real life. The event was attended by the usual press members and friends such as Dick Tan, Willy, Vinod, Jo Ki and many more. With the following specs and features, the expectation of its performance was very high:
    •  Equipped with 3 newest and smallest 4K D-ILA (Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier) device to create a smoother and more detailed image with no visible pixelation
    •  BLU-EscentTM provides brightness up to 3000 lumens and 20,000 hours operational life.
    • Dynamically control the laser output to provide bright whites, deep darks and brilliant colours
    • Combination of of laser light and new Cinema Filter allow the projector to achieve wide colour gamut of 100% DCI P3 and over 80% coverage of BT.2020
    • New high res lens promises an expanded shift range of 100 percent vertical and 43 percent horizontal to deliver precise 4K resolution
    • HDR compatibility will offer an extended brightness range
    • 3D compatible

    So What..... You Ask?

    Most people will not really understand the specifications given unless you meddle with display technology everyday. What matter most for consumer is how will it fair? First of all, I must say that 4K and HDR are not a plug and play technology. It requires quite the attention in calibration to ensure what you are looking at is in fact 4K and with or without HDR.

    James Tan of AV Designs have spent numerous hours to calibrate the projector to give out the best of this projector. Running 4K UHD clips from The Revenant, Batman vs Superman and The Shallows, I managed to experience a more natural and lifelike images, refined colour tones, better colour shades even in a difficult 'unicolour' scene like the forest scenes below. The HDR also provides a well balanced brightness even if you have some of your room lights on.

    The pictures below do not really do justice to what this projector can really do to deliver 4K HDR images. If you have the opportunity to demo a 4K HDR image, do ensure that the display have been properly calibrated. Specific to this JVC projector, it is true that there is no visible pixels on the screen when I went for a close up look.












    This projector is not just another display option but a true masterpiece. Yes, it is not for the commoners as it cost RM129,990, but it is good to know that there are options out there to experience a good 4K display.

    If interested, please contact:

    Steven Woo of Klingen & Erlesen Sdn Bhd - 012 3355937
    Tony Low of AV Designs - 012 2330771

    Tuesday, 20 December 2016

    BenQ W11000 and W8000 Projectors Launched in Malaysia

    While Star Wars fans were going gaga over Rogue One on 15th December 2016, BenQ the world's leading human technology and solutions provider launched their latest 4K projector series W11000 and W800 in Malaysia. The event was held in CMY, Sungai Wang where these projectors were set up in the latest edition of home theater venue in the local scene. 

    Desmond Wong, Sales and Marketing Director, BenQ Service & Marketing (M) Sdn. Bhd. (second from left); Eason Lu, Business Line Manager, Business Line Management Division, APAC Region, BenQ Asia Pacific Corporation (third from left); Simeon Sia, Marketing Communication Manager, BenQ Service & Marketing (M) Sdn. Bhd. (fourth from left); and Sasha Huang, Product Marketing Manager, Business Line Management Division, APAC Region, BenQ Asia Pacific Corporation (fifth from left) together with the BenQ W11000 during the launch event 


    BenQ W11000

    The W1100 is the world's first Ultra HD Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector to have earned the prestigious THX® HD Display Certification. The design is based on the projectors used in IMAX cinemas. 
     



    Harnessing the advanced DLP 4K UHD DMD with XPR technology, W11000 produces 3840 x 2160 distinct pixels for true 8.3-millionpixel 4K UHD resolution. Single-DMD DLP technology ensures absolute image integrity and color accuracy without artifacts that can be introduced by panel alignment issues, especially critical at 4K with much finer pixels than 1080p. BenQ’s highly optimized 4K optical system then employs 14 high-resolution elements, a true zoom system, and special low-dispersion lens coatings to preserve spectacular visual quality for an authentic digital cinema experience.

    Requiring 10 times as much data analysis and seven times the engineering effort and resources in precise color and gamma adjustments as required for pure Rec. 709 compliance, W11000 underwent over 18 months of rigorous development and 200 THX laboratory tests covering over 500 data points to ensure strict color accuracy, precise gamma, ideal color temperature, enhanced uniformity, and super high native contrast ratio for THX Certification. Passing three rounds of live testing at THX headquarters in San Francisco, W11000 offers supreme overall image performance and THX Mode, pre-calibrated by THX engineers for the most accurate out-of-box picture quality possible to deliver authentic cinematic content as filmmakers originally intended. Augmenting its high native ANSI contrast ratio, W11000’s Active Iris and Dynamic Black technology, SmartEco, and proprietary black paint sealed light engine produce an astounding 50,000:1 dynamic contrast performance for fine detail rendition in the darkest and brightest scenes without washout to preserve every subtlety of the original content.

    W11000’s CinemaMaster™ image processing technology improves vivid color reproduction, flesh tone correction, and advanced digital color and luminance noise reduction. W11000 is also ISFccc (certified calibration certificate) calibration ready, enabling professional in-home custom calibration.

    W11000 natively supports 2.35:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, offering the ultra-wide cinemascope experience of commercial digital cinemas. Its UHD performance opens a wider viewing angle to allow comfortable viewing of ultra-detailed 4K images up close, maximizing the useable screen size in any given space for a mesmerizingly immersive movie watching experience.

    With a streamlined style featuring sleek front-facing ventilation, W11000 blends seamlessly into upscale home cinema aesthetics. Its unobstructed port architecture features extra space to accommodate thick high-quality cables and HDMI / power cable locking to hold them securely in place. And to fit perfectly into any home cinema, W11000 features H/V lens shift and 1.5X big zoom for precisely custom installations.

    Powered by ultimately durable Digital Light Processing, the 2015 Academy Award of Merit Oscar® winning technology used in 90% of the world’s digital cinemas, W11000 delivers long-lasting picture quality with precise colors and razor-sharp clarity without maintenance or degradation.



    The retail price is RM23,888 but currently CMy is doing a promotion for RM 18,888. Please contact Dicky Ng of CMY if interested.

    BenQ W8000

    The W8000 is also a THX Certified and share the same CinemaMaster technology as the big brother. They are equipped with state of the art image adjustment settings to allow users to tailor the visual characteristics to their own preference.




    As the first ever BenQ projector to be awarded the prestigious and exclusive THX Certification, BenQ engineers pursued over 18 months of rigorous development comprising 200 THX laboratory tests covering over 500 data points to ensure that it meets Rec. 709 color accuracy, precise gamma, ideal color temperature, enhanced uniformity, and super high native contrast ratio requirements. Originally developed by Lucasfilm engineers to distinguish only best-in-class audio and video systems, THX Certification ensures that certified equipment can accurately deliver content as the director originally intended, and W8000's THX Mode is pre-calibrated by THX engineers to deliver the most accurate out-of-the-box picture quality possible.

    In addition to THX Certified picture quality performance from its strict Rec. 709 RGBRGB color wheel and high pixel fill factor, razor-sharp clarity and superbly sensitive high ANSI contrast from DLP technology, the Full HD 1080p W8000 offers state-of-the-art image adjustment settings to tailor visual characteristics perfectly to viewer preferences with CinematicColor and CinemaMaster technologies. Exact adjustments to gamma, color temperature, flesh tones, motion frame rates, and more can be made to suit individual requirements.

    Further enhancing flexible customizability, W8000 is compatible with five interchangeable optional lenses including 2.4:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, to integrate seamlessly into space ranging from cozy family rooms to purpose-built audiovisual screening rooms. Moreover, horizontal and vertical hardware lens shift and big zoom capability preserve perfect image quality while facilitating installation flexibility over a variety of mounting and placement options.

    Powered by the industrial-grade durability DLP technology and the robust DMD chip, W8000 produces accurate colors and brilliant uniformity without decay for years to come.

    To find out more about BenQ projectors, please visit BenQ.com.



    Monday, 12 December 2016

    SoulNote SA710 - Watts The Matter?



    It has been awhile since I get to review a Japanese product. The last Japanese product I purchased was the Sony HAP Z1ES back in June but have yet to review it. When Audio Art offered to review the HECO Direkt together with this Soul Note SA710 monitor amp, I could not resist the temptation. I first listened to Soul Note product was back in 2015 KLIAV show. I was impressed then at how comprehensive their products are and  the bang for buck sound. 

    SoulNote is designed and manufactured by CSR Inc. that was estbalished in June 2004. It has strong links with Marantz. Their vision is to create a world and industry first products and build a trusting relationship with customers.


    THE BUILT

    While most hifi chassis design are a full deck or shoe box size, SoulNote opted for a full deck size by width but half size for the length (420 x 98 x 243 mm). Its chassis has a fine black metallic finish that gives the overall classy look. There are only 2 knobs in front which are the input selector and volume. Sturdily built with sufficient control to step up/down on the volume.The power button lights up into a cool blue LED when turned on and there is also a headphone jack output. It is relatively a light amplifier weighing at 6 KG. The amp also comes with a set of steel spikes if you wish to use it.

    THE DESIGN

    Believe it or not, this small monitor amp delivers only 10 watts per channel into 8 ohm and the headphone section boasts a 3 watter amplification. It is also designed to be used as a pre amp and connect to your power amp. For this review however, it will only be used as an integrated amp driving the ProAc D18 (and Heco Direkt as per my previous review). The topography is based on a Class A amplifier.

    THE INS AND OUTS

    Simplicity is the game here. Minimalist design with the following inputs and outputs:
    • 3 x RCA in
    • 1 x XLR balanced in
    • 2 x RCA pre out
    • 1 x headphone out (in front)
    • A pair of speaker terminal (spade or banana plugs)
    Additional function includes a gain switch high/low for the headphone.




    THE TRACKS
    • What's Going On by Marvin Gaye - WAV 16/44.1
    • Take Five - DSD 2.8 MHz
    • Sabarlah Menanti  - WAV 16/44.1

    THE SET UP
    • SONY HAP Z1ES Hi Res player connected via USB cable to Oppo HA-1 DAC
    • Oppo HA-1 DAC with Siltech Classic Anniversary IC to the Soul Note
    • ProAc D18 with Vermouth Audio Black Pearl cable

    What's Going On
    Marvin's vocal sounded luscious with a hint of warmth in it. Very soulful indeed the way the SA710 delivers this track. It has great refinement with substantial musical flow. It does not bring up the control that a higher wattage amp can deliver but nevertheless, the overall track enjoys the wider sound stage and airiness that this monitor amp churns out. It is the high frequency may be a bit sharp for some  people but for a track like this, the deep baritone voice balances it out just nicely.

    Take Five
    Like any other DSD tracks, I needed to increase the volume a little bit to give me a more in depth feel of what this amp can do. The bass was extensive and spread out to provide quite an impressive envelop. It does not emphasize on control as it lets out a free flow musical experience. The percussion sounded sharp on this track especially on the ride cymbal and snare. But refinement through the wind instrument made the overall track sounded lively and full of energy. It is so refined that I somehow could hear the reed of the instrument being played.

    Sabarlah Menanti
    This was the SA710 best performance with respect to average sensitivity speaker like the ProAc D18 (88 dB). It maintains its warm big sound stage. An amp that can really deliver emotions when it is needed. The vocal from this late Malaysian superstar came out to be very melodic. The guitar works reminded me of tunes from Eric Clapton early days. Again, the SA710 strength is at the low end spectrum but without diminishing the importance of clarity and transparency.

    THE CONCLUSION

    In comparison with HECO Direkt, the SA710 maintains its strength in bass delivery and sound stage but looses out in control and grip with the ProAc D18. This I believe is related to the lower sensitivity of the ProAc D18. Surprisingly however, the SA710 can still drive the ProAc with ease and no sign of stress. With the HECO Direkt which has sensitivity of 95 dB, the SA710 drives them perfectly. Retailed at RM9538, it is definitely bang for buck as I expected.

    If you have high sensitivity speakers (I would say 90 dB and above) and looking for a nonsense-free mini amp, do consider to demo for this Soul Note SA710. It can provide a musical experience that can satisfy different genres of music.

    For a demo, please contact the following:

    KL - Selective HiFi
    68-2, Block F, Zenith Corporate Park, Jalan SS7/26, SS7, 47301 PJ
    Call David on +60 12-249 9823 or Vinson on 0129071955

    Ipoh and Northern - Audio Art
    Contact Yoon on 012-5201066

    Sunday, 11 December 2016

    Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD BD Player - A Fine Introduction to The 4K HDR World




    This is a mirror from my review on audiofi.net

    + A modestly-priced premium model which ticks all the current 4K requirement. Fast loading as opposed to the first Blu-ray player back in 2007.
    – Colour depth and dark scenes can be richer.
    Sound: 9/10
    Picture: 7/10
    Value: 8/10

    THE 4K (or UHD) quality display hype has been the buzz in the AV industry for the past few years. With TV and projector models jumping on the bandwagon, the display hardware has gone through various stages of enhancement.
    The industry now seems to have settled for 4K with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Vision, running via HDCP 2.2 protocol. AV receivers (AVR) nowadays are also well-equipped with HDMI ports that are 4K bypass-capable. However, as the display hardware and AVR blossom in sales, consumers are still deprived of software and player availability. It is even more disappointing that Malaysia is also deprived from this while consumers in Europe and USA have been enjoying 4K sources as early as Q2 this year.
    But lo and behold – the Samsung UBD-K8500 4K UHD Bluray player is available here finally. This player lets AV enthusiasts complete their dream home theatre set-up. As most enthusiasts will be equipped with 4K TVs or projectors alongside with Dolby ATMOS/DTS:X capable AV receivers, this last piece of the jigsaw will make you want to re-watch your movie collection. This player supports HDR and will output both Dolby ATMOS and DTS:X audio.
    Like any modern player, the UBD-K8500 is also equipped with various network-based apps like YouTube via its network connectivity. Those with existing Samsung SMART TVs will be happy to know that the remote control unit that comes with the player will integrate seamlessly with your TV and most common AVRs (at least I know it works fine with Denon) and allow you to control your whole entertainment set-up.
    SETTING UP
    There is the standard power cable, remote and manual. The player is light enough so you can slot it into your AV rack with ease. The connectivity offered is basic but this is all you need for the 4K viewing experience. It has two HDMI outputs (one main and one audio-only), one optical output and one LAN network port.

    With regards to 4K connectivity, a quick lesson on the requirement. In order for consumers to enjoy 4K, the whole connectivity chain from the source to the TV or projector (including the AVR if you are connecting via one) must have HDMI ports that are HDCP 2.2 compliant. This is a technology designed to prevent illegal copying of 4K Ultra HD content. Hence, before purchasing this player, check all your existing hardware.
    For this review, the player was connected via a Denon X6200W AVR into a Samsung UA65HU9000 65-inch Curve TV. I also connected the player to the Samsung ATMOS soundbar recently reviewed. Please check your TV manual which HDMI port supports HDCP 2.2 and ensure it is connected to this port. No calibration of any sort is needed from this player as it detects any error in the visual chain and displays it on the TV. Unfortunately, my TV does not support HDR, hence a message is displayed saying that only 4K display will be shown without HDR.
    Do note that while 4K UHD Blu-ray has no regional coding on it, standard existing Blu-ray discs are still subjected to regional coding on this player. For the unit sold by Samsung Malaysia, it is coded to Region A, similar to the USA.




    THE EXPERIENCE
    With The Revenant 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, the opening scene of the river flowing through the mangrove woods displayed significant detail compared with a standard Blu-ray disc. Ripples on the surface of the water were very smooth flowing with clear reflection of the tree branches above.

    Coupled with a good ATMOS track, this Samsung player provided a full package of visual details with quite an impressive ATMOS experience. However, I would prefer a richer black when for such scenes – the Samsung player seems a little bit shy to emphasise this.


    Moving on to Man of Steel, this movie is known to have quite a grainy visual with rich colour texture. During the scene where Superman is saving people from a burning offshore platform, the fiery body of Superman looks vivid with a good similarity of real fire.
    The challenge with 4K which targets to display a life-like picture is that it can start to show the CGI’s unrealistic effect if it was not done properly. The Samsung player managed to produce quite a stunning realistic visual.
    The visual on the Star Trek 4K UHD Blu-ray disc that was used to review the Samsung soundbar recently also looked quite vivid in its entirety. The attack scene at the Enterprise base showed quite a disperse colour hues during the explosion but retained its detail definition of different colour schemes. However, again it suffers a bit with black texture. Dark scenes seem to be a little bit lifeless.
    It is a pity that I could not review this on a HDR-capable TV but having seen these same movies on a HDR capable projector, rest assured that it can only be better than what I have experienced.
    As for other functions, the player has a few built-in Samsung apps which are quite standard these days. If you already have a high-specification TV, there is minimal use of the apps.

    THE LAST WORD
    As the first 4K UHD player available in Malaysia, Samsung nailed it with zero glitch during playback of these three movies. No skipping or jitter nor did I have to reboot due to system crash. I particularly like the curve chassis that matches my TV, while the simple front fascia with no LCD screen lends it a stint of elegance. The soft buttons for main functions like eject and play also shows that Samsung put in quite some thought to the design.

    At the moment, this is the only 4K UHD Blu-ray player available in the official local market. Although there is no other alternative, this player will offer a good step-up and introduction to 4K UHD excitement for any AV enthusiast, providing you own a full 4K chain. It will provide you with a different perspective of watching movies at home not only for visual, but also for ATMOS and DTS:X enveloping surround sound.
    Gear
    Samsung HW-K950 ATMOS Soundbar, Samsung UA65HU9000 65-inch Curve TV, Denon X6200W AVR, PMC Twenty.23 and C front and centre speakers, SVS Prime Satellite rear speakers SVS Prime Elevation height speakers, SVS subwoofer

    Saturday, 3 December 2016

    HECO Direkt - Style With Substance


    My wish of listening to this stylistic-retro-looking speakers in my home came true recently, courtesy of Audio Art, Ipoh via David Kestez and an FB acquaintance. After my love at first sight (or hearing) during the KLIAV show back in July, I have been wondering how these unique speaker design will sound in living room with my current set up. The looks itself already impresses not only me but also my wife. With this high Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF), I quickly said yes when David offered me for a home review. I feel even more honoured when I was informed that this will be the first time the HECO Direkt being reviewed locally. Thanks David. Thanks Audio Art! Thanks FB acquaintance!

    On a fine Saturday evening, the speakers were sent to my house together with a Soul Note 710 monitor amp. The two fine gentleman who delivered the items were fully attentive in setting the Direkt in my living room. I requested for them to set it up with my resident Musical Fidelity M6i amp first as I would like to hear this speakers with my usual set up. 













     


    DESIGN


    The Direkt are a 2 way speakers that combines the dynamics and bass extension of a large floorstanders. It comes with a 25 cm subwoofer  with the HeCO kraft paper diaphragm. Dont let the slim thickness fools you. Inside the cabinet is equipped with two flow optimised, rounded reflex tubes on each side of the bottom of the cabinet to provide optimum acoustic coupling to the room. The tweeter is a 28 mm silk compound cone which delivers up to 2.3 kHz.


    It comes with a pair of solid binding posts and the cabinet is supported by a 3 legged support at a tilted position. The speakers come with the option of spikes with steel footers or a rubber spikes. The fabric grills for the woofer and tweeter are magnetic. If you opt to use them, ensure that you have 'lock' the grill by turning it clockwise to ensure the magnets are aligned.

    The sensitivity is high at 95 dB with 4 to 8 ohm impedance, first indication that I will not have any issue drivnig this speaker with my 200 watter MF M6i amp.

    Size wise, it stands at 440 x 998 x 397 mm including foot construction and weighing at 25.8 KG each.



    THE SET UP
    • Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amp / Soul Note 710 monitor amp
    • Lenco L78 TT with MatYeoX RCA to phono stage
    • Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono stage
    • SONY HAP Z1ES Hi Res player with Siltech Classic Anniversary XLR
    THE TRACKS

    With MF M6i
    • Little Train by Niels Hennings and gang (WAV 24/192)
    • Whiskey in The Jar by Metallica (WAV 16/44.1) 
    • Countdown to Extinction by Megadeth (LP)
    With Soul Note SA710
    • One Fine Day by Natalie Merchant (WAV/16/44.1)
    • Take Five by Dave Brubeck (DSD)
    • Temptation by Diana Krall (WAV 16/44.1)
    • Wishlist by Pearl Jam (LP)
    THE FIRST IMPRESSION

    Straight out of the box, the Direkt delivered quite an impression on the bass. I did not experience that during the KLIAV show. In fact, one of my concern about this Direkt  was that it could deliver sufficient bass. Boy I was wrong. With the downfiring ports, it really worked like a charm. Soundstage was big and giving me a fuller picture of music. The overall sound however was also giving me quite a sharp sound in the higher spectrum region. Time to run in the speakers....

    THE SESSION 1 - WITH MF M6i

    By the time the serious review started, the Direkt would have seen at least 200 hours of various musical genre being played through it. Things have started to gel together and the high frequencies have started to sound sweeter rather than sharp.


    With this double bass track by Niels Hennings and gang, the Direkt delivered an impressive low frequency performance. It may not dig deep like PMC's ATL but the it could really capture every single note coming out from the 2 double bass playing with also good separation.Its not one of those jumbled up bass delivery. Excellent layering of percussion in the background as well. The high frequencies coming out from the tweeters are now more tamed and sweeter with the snare and tambourine blending in perfect harmony



    James's  vocal on this Whiskey in The Jar track was revealing, stealing the show from the shredding guitars of Kirk and drums of Lars. Kirk's guitar sounded darker than usual which brings up another element of surprise. I must be frank that I was skeptical on whether the Direkt can handle metal and rock music. It surely can. It gives quite a hard hitting bass and it does make rock or metal music sounds fuller and bigger. Again, the bass section gives an overall warmer and bolder sound even for metal or rock music.


    Lets try rock on LP by ex Metallica guitarist, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. The intro sounded very authoritative. Again that bass section was very evident, injecting a good vibration and energy to the overall presentation. Its about hard hitting bass but do not sacrifice subtlety with substance. Its not about focusing on a particular instrument but the low frequency encompasses everything; it injects a deeper voice to Dave, certain authority on the guitar even during the solo and a more bold percussion or drums.

    Now that I know what Direkt can do with my MF M6i, time to move one to partnering it with Soul Note SA710.

    THE SESSION 2 - WITH SOUL NOTE SA710

    The Soul Note SA710 was introduced to the system as part as an integrated system review. It will also be reviewed with my ProAC D18 speakers in the next detailed review.



    One Fine Day

    Airy.... It sounded airy and just lively and full of emotion. This has been my choice of romantic track and the Soul Note just elevated the the Direkt to another level. For a 10 watter amp, it surely impressed me where it can provide enough juice to the Direkt to deliver such strong and wide sound signature. Natalie's vocal was upfront and full of life. The soft hi hat and snare hits surfaced to be very detail and the kick pedal sounded refined. What went away was a hard hitting bass effect but subtlety and refinement kicked in. very involving overall presentation. Refinement at its best.

     Take Five
    The bass extension on this one if quite remarkable. Gone was the 'in you face' bass but a more extensive bass where it matters. Even the snare sounded fuller and meatier. The wind instrument sounded airier with in depth detail, giving a big soundstage but without loosing the texture behind the track. A bit loose on the high frequencies section but nothing too serious. Overall presentation was leaning towards quite a natural sounding sound with an emphasize on micro refinement on the low frequency section.


    Temptation
    Now, this track have been my reference track for the past few months. While with the Soul Note, the Direkt continues to serenade me with its sweet and refined sound, this track loss some energy in it. The opening percussion sounded less lively compared to when the Direkt was driven by the MF M6i. Diana's vocal was the emphasis which it sounded  very energized and deep. The string works on this track also showed a similar performance; very high on refinement but does not dig deep in the low frequency part.


    Now, another challenge for the Direkt with this track from Pearl Jam - Wishlist. Even for a heavier and grungier track like this, refinement kicks in with high level of transparency. The swooshing effect in the track can be felt as it was  swirling wind going across the hall. Excellent delivery of details, layer by layer. You don't get fatigue easily with the Direkt. Eddie's vocal sounded powerful with real enforcement on his baritone side.

    CONCLUSION

    Are you ready for it? If you are in the market for a new set of speakers, do not buy anything yet until you have given the Heco Direkt a good demo. German engineering meets retro artistic design. Oh, did I mention the sound is pretty darn good. Vocal,sound stage, subtle bass but refined, high transparency with sweet treble. Mids sounds fairly upfront. Flexible to accustom to your existing amp may it be a power house solid state amp or mini wattage tube or transistor amp. Both will give you a different experience but no worries on whether it will sound good or not. Is just a matter of your preference is for hard hitting and strong presentation or refined but extensive overall presentation.It is currently retailed at RM22,786. Oh... just to make it clear... di I mention the sound is pretty darn good? :)

    If you are interested to demo this babies, please contact the following:

    KL - Selective HiFi
    68-2, Block F, Zenith Corporate Park, Jalan SS7/26, SS7, 47301 PJ
    Call David on +60 12-249 9823 or Vinson on 0129071955

    Ipoh and Northern - Audio Art
    Contact Yoon on 012-5201066