Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Clearaudio Concept Turntable

Write up inspiration: Black Dog Bone -Si Gadis Ayu album - original pressing from 1978 EMI.

It has been 10 days since I bought the TT but this is only the 4th time I get to listen to it due to my work and family commitments. But nevertheless, the experience I am having now while writing this up is out of this world.

So, lets recap the magical day. It must have been the longest 2 days wait for this unit. For everyone's information, I usually will not buy a piece of equipment if a retailer does not have the unit in stock at the point of purchase. Especially if I am to part with a few thousand RM. But nevertheless, past experience with CMY loaning me speakers, cables, etc which cost more than this TT, I only have confidence in them.

But the wait to listen to the sweetness of TT in my own room was still painfull !!!!

So on Monday 19th Sep, I called the retailer late morning to inform him that if the unit is ready earlier than 8 pm, just give me a call as I was ready to leave work early that day hehehe.

But at the end, the unit was only ready by 6 pm due to the heavy rain early in the morning. The retailer waited for the rain to subside before tarnsferring the unit from DU to Sunway Giza.

Two thumbs up for CMY for being punctual. 8 pm - the retailer arrived at my house.

2 boxes came out of his trunk - one with the TT and one with the acryllic dust cover.

Another 2 thumbs up to the retailer for calling me before hand to suggest the Elixir cartridge cleaner. So, there you go. I went out to get the full basic requiement for TT heheheh.

Inventory check:
1. 1 x ClearAudio Concept TT = comes with the Allan key to replace the cartridge, 'level' gauge and various plugs
2. 1 x ClearAudio Dust Cover
3. 1 x Elixir cartridge cleaner
4. 1 x ClearAudio MC cartridge - yes I swapped the MM with an MC
5. 1 x ClearAudio Clamp (CMY brought 2 models - I opted for the heavier Quadro clamp massive SS after comparing the 2)
6. 1 x LP brush
7. 1 x anti static gun

NOTE: Please excuse some of the terms I use if its not the norm for TT lovers.

Out came the TT, belt, sub platter (???) and main platter (???). I can see that the retailer knows exactly what he is doing. Setting up the TT, he also explained to me the parts although as you can see,
I could not really pay attention as I was eager to listen to the LPs I have bought earlier.

Next came out the plug which I opted for the 3 pin plug. But before pluggin it into my PF50 Pure AV, the RCA was first connected to my NAD PP-3 phone pre amp. Yes, this unit somehow does not match the rest of my set up, hence it is actually now hiding behind one of the kit hehehehe.

Then the power kicked in and the retailer switched on the TT to 33 RPM. But then, he further built my anticipation by explaining on how to take care of LPs ...aaaarrrghhhh hehehehe. But thanks for the information.From how to take out the LPs for its sleeve and how to store them. I thought handling CD was delicate. Boy I was wrong.

Then came in the anti static gun. My 1.5 years old daughter was with us throughout the set up. She looked at the gun and wanted to play with it.

First went onto the TT was the brand new Metallica Ride The Lightning album on 45 RPM. Just applied the cleaning brush briefly as this is a brand new LP. So, how did it sound????

Lets recap some info of the TT first:


This unit is actually quite heavy for a 'beginner's TT compared to Rega and ProJect. I particularly like the spike/stud underneath the unit. It made it really stable.
The tone arm however is very light to my shaky hands. I basically did not dare to take off the cartridge protector, let alone sliding the tone arm and dropping it onto the LP. I let the retailer do it for me.
My hands were too shaky hehehehe.

Power Supply

I was actually expecting a sturdier built for this price of TT but nevertheless, it also did not look like an RM10 adaptor. I just hope it will last long.


The RCA interconnect is built in together with the tone arm, so no way to change interconnects unless you change the tone arm.

Now back to sound....

My set up for the first experience is basicallY:

1. TT to NAD PP3 phone stage using the built in RCA
2. NAD PP3 to Musical Fidelity M6i amp using Cambridge Audio interconnects
3. M6i to ProAc D18 sepakers using QED Silver XT Signature cable

First song to kick in was Fade To Black. The first thing I notice is that I have to crank up the volume knob to at least 10 o'clock to get a decent sound.
The retailer mentioned that this is normal for TT. I grant that anything analogue seems to have a lower volume output. Same like my cassette deck.

But then, the guitar plucking at the beginning of the song did not give me that sensational feeling I was looking for. I had to put on the CD version of the track just to reconfirm this feeling.
True enough, at that point, I felt that CD gave me more sensational feeling. Getting a bit worried here.

So what went wrong? Where is that beautiful sweetness LP sound that I heard in CMY..both Sunway Giza and One Utama??

And then.....the retailer put on the first clamp (notice that above, I did not use any clamp). The first one is lighter (cant recall the model). But I can immediately hear the difference in the sound.

I guess the clamp does provide better levelness onto the LP spinning. Repeated Fade to Balck and this time the TT carried a heavier sound signature with the guitar plucks seems to be alive.

Sat through the whole song wit a smile on my face. And yes, you guess right. I then requested for the heavier Quadro clamp to be put on.

And things just got better. I basically forgot that the CD version is still playing on Repeat 1. Hehehehe.

With the Quadro, the whole song sounded more open, without loosing the grip on low ends and there was no sign of harshness on the high ends.

Ok, that is so called the audiophile grade of LP.

Lets go to the basic of 33 RPM LP.

Off with the Metallica and came in Guns N Roses Spaghetti Incident, courtesy of Mugenfoo generous offer to sell it to me. Its a Venezuelan pressing...rare indeed.

I cant stop smiling listening to the growling guitar of Slash on Since I Dont Have You before the drums kicked in. The sound of every tom and snare of the drums are echoed precisely to my ears liking.

Now, my ProAc can really sing with this TT. For this, I didnt bother to compare to the CD version as I know that the CD version will loose the battle.

Hmmmm... all good for the new LPs. How about the old one?

I bought the Black Dog Bone LP in Amcorp mall for RM41. Physically there was only one slight deep scratch, luckily only on the last track. I was actually worried that it can damage the cartridge but the retailer said that it should be ok.

This is when I was hit with the biggest confusion in my 15 over years hifi venture. This LP sounded so much alive compared to the new LPs I bought.

Literally, it gave me this feelings of being in the 70s and all I wanted was to put on a bell bottom jeans Smile. Sound exagerating right? But thats how I felt.

The raw but genuine guitar chords was simply amazing. And the sound of the drums which I think was set up hollow in the recording, gave me this feeling that the band really enjoyed making the album.

It was completely set up by 9 pm and I was another CMY's happy customer.

I only continued playing the TT at midnight after the kids are asleep. till 3 am hahahaha. And I was late for work the next day.

But then, the TT went on sleep mode from Tuesday night till tonight Monday night.

Back on Black Dog Bone and thats when I deciede to write this review.

But, its a different experience tonight.

What is the different????

I rested the ProAc D18....and listen to the TT using my newly acquired Musical Fidelity M1 HPA headphone amp, feeding music into my Grado Alessandro MS1 Pro.

But thats another review on its own.

NOTE: For all you TT lovers out there, try listening to your beloved TT via headphones. Its another whole new experience.


1. Easy to set up with plug and play approach

2. Suitable for beginners who would want a mid entry level TT

3. Well built, you will realise where your money is spent on - build and sound quality

4. Having a decent clamp can do wonders to the sound

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Yamaha RXV-2067 and Oppo BDP 95 EU

This review is long overdue due to some technical glitches I was having after I purchase the Yamaha RXV 2067 during the KLIAV 2011.

Before that, I would like to recap some of my ventures into the digital video medium. Putting aside the VCD era in 1994 to 1997, I first ventured into DVD when it was first launched in UK in 1998, i purchased the sony first dvd player that cost me 500 pounds. At that time, the discs were so scarced and cost up to 30 pounds each. Life was simple then because there was only one superior audio format which was Dolby Digital. At that time, I owned a Sherwood 925 AV RECEIVER which was a Dolby Digital ready meaning it can accept the 5.1 audio via 6 RCA cable and let the player decode the sound. I was a happy camper until....

DTS and multi region players came along in year 2000. I opted for the famous Wharfedale DVD player for 99 pounds, purchased from Tesco. At that time, DTS only came in Region 1 DVDs so I started purchasing DVDs online from USA. Aaaaahhh but the Wharfedaleplayer does not have onboard decoding, so thats when I purchased the Yamaha RXVa795RDS AV amp. It was among the first AV amps that could decode DTS. Life was good again until....

Blu Ray came along. While the format war was hot between HD DVD and BD, I purchased the Sony BDP S1E flagship player from Desa HT in 2008 together with a Samsung 42" Full HD LCD TV. Picture was so much better than DVD. I like and was a happy camper eventhough at that time, my Yamaha could only decode 'normal' DD and DTS. I put a hold on upgrading my home cinema to make way for 2 channel audio upgrades. I was a happy camper until....

2011 KLIAV show. After a few years focussing on 2 channel audio, this year I leaped into the so called DTS MA and DD TrueHD. I purchased the Yamaha RXV 2067 after comparing it with Onkyo and Marantz. I wasnt in the mood to set up this beast as it weighs a bit compared to my 795 unit, so I had Desa guys to come and set it up the very same Saturday night.

All set up by 830 pm after 45 minutes of moving around my set up. Desa HT guys are very pleasant people to deal with. And clean as they make sure no mess was left behind. All joy from now right?

Nooooo.... My so called Sony flagship BD player from 2008 cannot send DTS MA signal via HDMI. Aaarrrgghhh...so still not manage to experience DTS MA.

The Desa guys set up my system manually by specifying the speaker size, distance and volume. I can immediately hear the refined sound from the new amp compared to my 795. Decent movie volume starts at -30 dB. However, my faithful Wharfedale SW15 subwoofer, sounds a bit out of the league at the moment.

A few days after that, I started to play around with the YPAO mic. Using the suggested tripod method, I let the system dictates the set up. I expected the sound to be unbalanced because the living room I have. There is a big void over the stairs on the left side of the room. Aaaaahhhh but I was wrong. Reading through the analysis results, it took into account that void area and compensated the 'volume loss' on the left speaker. However, I notice my right rear speaker was a tad softer thatn my left. I checked all cables (I was using a Gale speaker cable from 1998), swapped the rear speakers, maximise the right rear speaker volume and still, very low volume. So I suspected something faulty with that section of amplifier.

Called up Desa and they came by the next evening. Did the same checks I did and yield the same result. Low volume on right rear speaker. And then he suggested something. Change speaker cable. And voila, everything back to normal. Balanced volume between all speakers. Callibrated the room again using YPAO and now its even more refined.

But, I still have not experienced DTS MA. Sad. Cannot sleep every night. So started to do research for a player that is future proof for at least 3 to 4 years more. Ended up to choose between a Marantz Universal player 7006 and Oppo BDP 95EU. I auditioned the Marantz at a friend's place and the Oppo at CMY.

I ended up purchasing the Oppo as I got a good price and also a one-to-one exchange for the first year if anything goes wrong.

And finally after 3 weeks of purchasing the Yamaha 2067, i experienced DTS MA for the first time in my living room. And just a few days ago, experienced 7.1 DTS MA on POTC Strange Tides. Superb.

One feature I like of the YAMAHA is that I can bypass the unit (no need to turn it on) if I just want to have the sound coming out of the TV when watching ASTRO B.YOND. I LIKE.

One thing I have not fully set up is the subwoofer. I am not getting the same 'blend in' like I used to have from my previous amp. I did connect both left and right channel subwoofer out from the new amp compared to previous amp where it only bad one sub out. Maybe thats why.

Or maybe I need a new sub?

As for the Oppo, Its a fast loading machine with ability to stream movies from my NAS as well. Previously I was using my Samsung LED TV to do that but I dont get the audio to feed through my AV AMP.

Now, I can heheheh.

Overall, I feel this is a good combo between Yamaha and Oppo. Picture is crystal clear, sound quality is really engaging especially after the cable change and also YPAO callibration.

Need to work on the sub though.

Hopefully this time I can stay a happy camper for a longer time.

Part Deux

A little bit more on Oppo.

So yesterday I watched 2 movies. Los Angeles Battlefield and an old movie Twister.

The LA Battlefield came with MovieIQ and BD Live features. Both needed internet connection which the Oppo wifi dongle connected to my Unifi router with minimum fuss. My router is on the lower floor.

First the BDLive. Its mainly showing what other movies available based on various genres. Good trailers shown. Once the trailer is fully loaded, the streaming is flawless.

For the MovieIQ, its basically provides you with the following:

1. Facts of the movie, score, casts etc
2. Explanation about the scenes

Now, the number 2 item is very unique. The player will first connect the BD to the MovieIQ database over the net. Then it will give you a code where you can then use your iPhone, iPad or other Smartphone to be connected and synced to the BD. You first visit the website and key in the code provided and the same MovieIQ features on the TV is now shown on your phone. You can then go back to a full screen movie on the TV and use your phone to access MovieIQ. Neat.

Now for the movie experience.

Both movies were in 5.1 DTS MA. The battle scene in LA was really engaging where planes, bullets were flying around my living room. A clear experience can be felt when an airplane was flying from my rear right speaker to the lft front speaker. The best way to experience this is to close your eyes and just listen to the effects churnedout from the Oppo and Yamaha.

Vocals were very clear on the centre channel although once in a while, it gets drowned in the battle commotion noise.

Twister on the other provided me a world wind experience. I can feel when the twister was approaching from far ahead and towards the screen. Really uplifting compared to my Dolby Digital upscaled DVD.

However, there is a different in picture quality between an older movie upgraded to BD and a new movie released originally in BD.

Twister picture can be a bit grainy compared to LA Battlefield. But It was still clearer than the old DVD. I can see frackles on Helen Hunt's face hehehehe.

The remote on Oppo is well laid out and huge buttons with backlight. I like.

Now is the time for me to update the settings for my Logitech Harmony 1000i remote to incorporate the Yamaha and Oppo.