Saturday, 31 May 2014

Clamp Fight Part Deux: Quadro VS LPI

After a week of nasty tonsillitis.... I continued the re-match with a few demanding LPs namely:

1. Metallica S&M Live... for its metal plus orchestral strings
2. Oscar Peterson Trio for its extensive play of hi-hat and the ride cymbal and snare
3. Enigma for its bass driven tracks

From previous match.... LPI was leading 1-0


LPI: On Nothing Else Matter, the guitar and violin intro were quite a piece. Although it was a slow intro but you can hear and feel that its building up towards an energetic music arrangement. James's vocals also sounded 'live' rather than a studio mixed vocals. 

Quadro: It brought the atmosphere down a notch. Not in a bad way. It just mellow down the track to make it more like a 'rock ballad'. The 'live' atmosphere was not really evident.

2-0 to LPI.

Oscar Peterson

LPI: On the Night Train album, the clarity on each single stroke on the hi hat and ride was really revealing. Somehow, it arises and compliments the rest of the instrument with such strong character.

Quadro: It was still noticeable but more subtle and it sounded like its more as a background sound rather than a more upfront sound. Which to me is what hihat, ride and snare suppose to be.

2-1... first point for Quadro


LPI: The bass was too overwhelming. It does give a more spacious and extensive sound (especially the vocals) but it was just more on the 'Dr. Dre Monster headphones' kinda of bass. A bit too much adrenalin.

Quadro: The bass was much more sweeter and balanced with the rest of the music. It does not overshadow the vocals and synthesizers. It relaxes the music and gives a comfort feeling to listeners which this is the way I like it when listening to Enigma.

2-2..... Its a tie....

Do I need to test another LP and see who can win this fight?

No.... not really....


Like any other analogue tweaks, its a very subjective point to say one is better than the other. Both clamps can affect the sound...thats for sure.... Hence, does it do what it claims to do? Reduce resonance, absorb vibrations, stabilised the LP etc....??? I guess so... there is no way for me to actually proof nor measure this.

The way I see it (or listen to it)..:

LPI: performs best for live music, vocals and strings. It brings out the body of such music.
Quadro: performs best for bass heavy music and jazz. It balances out all the different musical instrument.

Thats what I think..

Is the LPI a keeper?

in the words of Master Yoda...

Why not? :)

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Clamp Flight: Clearaudio Quadro VS Stillpoints LPI Part 1

Date: Monday, 19th May 2014
Venue: El Hefe's Ruang Tamu
Format: Multiple Re-Match

I have always believe that TT clamps make a different, at least on my Clearaudio Concept TT. However, all these while, I could only compare between having a clamp on or off using my Quadro clamp.

Recently, a friend of mine offered me to try this Stillpoints LP Isolator (LPI). When it was used on his system, it definitely provide a different sound. We also compared it with a Clearaudio Statement clamp. Each of them gave a different performance.

So, I took up the offer to try it at home with the risk of burning a hole in my pocket if the LPI wins a clamp fight with my Quadro.

The stage was set on 19th May.

1st Match:

The first LP went in was of course my new reference LP... Andrea Bocelli's Passione album. On the track Era Gia ....

Quadro: Clean, airy and subtle low end
LPI: Still clean, airy but more body to his vocals and bass

Match was then suspended.....due to the referee.... fell sick with tonsilitis.

To be continued.....

Saturday, 24 May 2014

PMC twenty™ 21: A Loud Small Box

As I was venturing out for a new front speakers for my home cinema, I was suggested with a few options. Basically, it must provide me with the following:
  1. Slim sized cabinet
  2. Clear sound for my late night movie watching
  3. Looks good (possibly piano gloss finish to compliment my new SVS sub)
  4. Good with stereo sound as well.
Having to cancel my projector installation and the purchase of the new Samsung curve UHD TV, I no longer need to look into the option of in wall speakers. Hence, when James Tan of AV Designs agrees to loan me a pair of showroom unit of PMC twenty™ 21 speakers, I said  to myself....why not?

Quoted from PMC website:

'The twenty™ series is the next generation of simply elegant, handcrafted British loudspeakers that follow in the lineage of world-wide acclaimed PMC designs.'
This series was actually launched to commemorate their 20 years experience in the industry.


I have always been impressed with PMC speakers each time I get to listen to them in AV Designs especially the Fact series. How can a very slim looking speakers provide such a huge soundstage was beyond me. And knowing that the twenty™ series is based on the Fact design, I had big expectations.

However, when I unboxed the pair, I realised that they are actually quite a small bookshelf. Previous experience with bookshelf's such as EPOS and Mission, they were still quite big relatively speaking.

The piano gloss finish was beautifully done on these pair. Wrapped into a white protective bag, the speakers comes with a cleaning cloth, manual and warranty card and of course PMC's famous magnetic grille.

It is relatively a light pair of speakers, weighing 5 kg each. Easy to handle by just 1 person.

The drive units consists of lightweight doped 140 mm cone with cast alloy chassis for the low frequency and a 27 mm SONOLEX soft dome for the tweeter precisely installed into a 'slanting' box design.

PMC provides an option for end user to biwire or biamp via a sturdily builds 4 mm speaker terminals.

Other specifications:Dimensions:
H 325mm 12.8” × W 152mm 6.0” × D 277mm 11.0”  (+6mm grille)

Frequency Response:
50Hz – 25kHz

87dB 1w 1m


Home Theatre: 

Stereo Music:
  • My standard set up but only tested using CD


As the main objective is for home theatre, I hooked up the 21s to my set up in my upstairs living room. With adrenalin flowing from my recent purchase of a new TV and subwoofer, it was an eye pleasing set up. The glossy finish matches well with my TV and SVS subwoofer.

As the 21s was a show room unit, it was already run in. First went in was Pirates of the Caribbean on ASTRO Byond. It was on a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital source. First impression....LOUDER than my previous Mission 34i floor stander. I just CANNOT believe this small speakers can sound that loud. And this is at the similar volume of -15 that I usually listen to. 


As I started to settle in to do some 'light' movie watching, I realised that my Infinity Centre could not cope with dynamics coming out from the 21s. Even though after the YPAO calibration, I still feel the 21s are shadowing the overall performance of my setup..... but in a good way i.e.: showing me whats lacking in my system.

The 21s copes well with action movies as such. The sound of waves splashing against the ships sounded realistic enough to imagine the room was about to get wet. The pair can easily fill up the room for such effect. 

However, which is not the fault of the 21s themselves, and most probably due to the spacing between the pair, one can easily feel that the loud and room filling sound was still coming from a bookshelf speaker. It is one of those sound character that easily be identified from a bookshelf. Well, at least for movies.

Switched to Bluray movie, Star Wars Part 1.... the pod racing scene (always my favourite scene to test  speakers and sub), the rumbling and stereo imaging from right to left was very crisp. The 21s can easily provide such detailed effect across the room. You can literally sit in any part of my living room, and experience the effect details. The imaging might not be the same, but you surely know how the effect was produced from which direction.

All the above, I found my previous Mission M34i was struggling to provide.


Now.... this is where I find the true 21s performance. The Yamaha was set to pure direct and a Getz/Gilberto HFPA was loaded into the Oppo player. Chose DTS MA (my favourite option).

Wow.... the glorious rich and room filling sound made me shook my head. The Girl from Ipanema track was reproduced with such a rich low end presentation but at the same time, maintain the balance with vocals and string works. Placing the speakers on my rack instead of proper stand may also contribute to the rich bass but at the same time, it was not overwhelming. The overall presentation can be summarised as an engaging speaker with a rich bass signature. 


Switch to standard 16/44.1 CD and feed the digital signal to the Yamaha, the presentation was brought down a notch. Using the same track on normal 2 channel audio, there was a distinct different. Volume sounded less loud and I had to crank it to -10 before the speakers started to sing again with a decent performance. The bass was still there but not as rich as the one on HFPA. It might the CD but at the same time, the 21s should be able provide at least a musical scenario. But it was relatively sounded a bit mundane.

Not satisfied, I brought the speakers down to test it with my 2 channel hifi set up.


Hooked up the 21s on a single cable to the MF M6i 200 watter integrated amp. Feed through the same track via MF M1 CDT and M6 DAC..... and it was definitely a different presentation compared to be driven by Yamaha AV receiver.

The sound changed into a more detailed and lively presentation. Again, the 21s didn't have any issue to fill up the room at the normal 10 o'clock on the volume knob level. The bass even sounded more dynamic than the HFPA. These babies can really SING. No sign of struggle at all.

The best part now is that I get to experience a more balanced sound across all frequency. The vocals on Girl of Ipanema, sounded properly layered in the musical arrangement. And for the high frequency, it produces such clarity that it made the album sounded alive again.

Feed a bass heavy track from Metallica's Enter Sandman track, the 21s reproduces Lars's bass drum with such a clean but extended and room filling signature, making you wonder again how this small speaker is doing it. Not only it is small but also slim. I would attribute this magnificent character to the ATL (transmission line) technology that PMC have put into their speakers.


The 21s is in a league of its own. It can  be a great solution for HT fan with a small area to play with. This speaker can easily smile at any musical/movie genre thrown at it. With the beautifully finish of piano gloss and couple it with the unique slim and slanting cabinet design, PMC have brought out the best of both worlds....High WAF with an elegant look and a very musical experience.

It may not be the best idea to use them as front speakers but not to say it can't cope with movies, but I do feel that the 21s suits better in a 2 channel music, driven by a well built dedicated 2 channel amp.

My journey for the quest for the front speaker did not end with this..... so wait for my next review of my journey to upgrade my home theatre.

PMC is sold by their one and only official distributor in Malaysia... AV Designs which is located on Mezzanine floor, Bangunan Rohas Perkasa, Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur.

The 21s is retailed at RM9,100 a pair. For demo, please contact James Tan on 016-3280237 or Tony Low on 012-2330771.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Not As Small As It Looks

In the midst of getting the right speakers for my home cinema upgrade... got the chance to demo PMC Twenty 21 ... both with my Yamaha receiver and with my Musical Fidelity set up...
The 21 is small in size... but not in sound... review soon...

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Story of The Spin Doctor - Revival of Lenco L78

Ever since I got back into spinning the black disc in 2011, I have always been intrigued by the engineering underneath a TT. However, as nearly half the day, my life is already pre-occupied with engineering, I always choose not to indulge too much of engineering in my musical and hifi passion.

When I joined an online group called 'PEMINAT PIRING HITAM MALAYSIA & SINGAPURA' (translated as VINYL FANS OF MALAYSIA & SINGAPORE) and LENCO*ORIIGINAL*CLASSIC, I was introduced to some of the most beautiful vintage turntables. Brings back beautiful memory of late father whom was a hifi enthusiast himself.

The urge to listen to how a Lenco unit sounds like was very strong that I started to find a way on how to order a unit from overseas as there is no Lenco distributor here in Malaysia. Started to ask around in the group and a few Lenco owners but generally was advised not to purchase the modern Lenco units and I should go for the old vintage ones. However, the vintage Lencos I have seen are all privately owned, so there is no way to get one. Until one fine day..............

..... I received a message from Spin Doctor.... asking for what exactly I was looking for... I actually have no clue....But he was very accommodating explaining the different Lenco models. The Doctor then suggest to listen to a L78 unit that he will be refurbishing soon....However, he is based in Singapore.... But nevertheless, he comes up to KL frequent enough that he can bring a unit for me to demo.... 

I did a little bit more googling about Lenco L78....and I started to fall in love with its beauty and claimed engineering accuracy.....and when I received this picture of the fully refurbished L78 from the Doc.... I knew that this is meant to be...

I have put in a special request though.... which is to have an RCA terminal instead of built in RCA interconnect from tonearm as I wanted to use my own interconnect.... and the wish was fulfilled. 

A date was set....and on a wet Saturday evening 3rd of May... at about 430 pm..... this gem was unveiled before my eyes.... The Spin Doctor came by with another Lenco enthusiast to set up this unit...his technical partner in KL...Khalizul

First Thumbs Up

The unit came in pieces.... ready to be assembled in front of me. It was a journey indeed because both Pak Mastan and Bro Khalizul will explain step by step the parts and the significant of such design... specifically this unit uses and idler wheel and 4 pole motor mechanism. I was informed that all the parts in this unit was fully serviced and refurbished with its original parts with the exception of the plinth. Pak Mastan have spent more than 12 years doing research and experimenting different type of wood for the plinth. He truly believes that this Australian Pinewood is the best material to give the biggest impact onto the performance of the Lenco L78.

The L78 also have a auto shut off function. When set to Auto, the tonearm will be automatically lifted up and the motor will also be stopped once you have listen to the last track on one side of the LP. Very useful indeed for those late night listening at which you may fall asleep.

After about 30 mins.... these parts were fully assembled ...

 The cartridge alignment sheet is a very handy tool to ensure the cartridge aligned properly.

There is a list of MM cartridges that can be fitted onto this unit. For my unit, a Shure M25C was installed.

The platter and base itself is supported by spring suspension onto the plinth makes it 'pushable' into the plinth. 

Second Thumbs Up

It was not just an assembled and leave service they provided but it also includes setting up the unit properly to integrate into your system.

Third Thumbs Up: The Performance

There were so many options of LP for me to choose from for the first test. But of course, Andrea Bocelli's Passione album was my first choice. A top quality LP under the ORG pressing.

First track was Era Gia Tusto Previsto..... a song made popular by Ricardo Cocciante...

My first impression was such a big impact that I gave myself big smack onto my disbelief... How was this 40 years old unit....could still be running.... and giving me a different perspective towards a music presentation. It has opened up soooo many questions in my head...

1. How an MM cart sounded so much more open compared to an MC cart that I have on my Clearaudio TT?

2. Where did that extra bass spectrum I heard came from? Never knew that my ProAc can deliver more bass than what I usually listen to.

3. How does the suspension mechanism make a different compared to the solid and rigid mass dampener on the Clearaudio?

4. What is missing on my Clearaudio Concept that I never really enjoyed playing any 45 rpm LPs?
The most evident trait is the amount of low end spectrum. The bass that I have been enjoying all these while on my ProAc D18 was reproduced but with a more extension and airiness. I have not heard my D18s singing like that before. The bass was so luscious and warm. That track just gave me goosebumps throughout. Andrea's vocals was so melodic and warm that it reminded me the day that I went for his concert last year.

I then put on Stan Getz/Gilberto album...another top notch recording under Analogue Productions pressing. The Girl from Ipanema was delivered flawlessly. The separation between the musical instruments was very evident and the vocals was also very airy and full of life. The wind instrument was also very energised.

I then put on my reference LP from the 70s, the Black Dog Bone. Now, this was even more surprising. The sound form this old LP was presented with such a melodious signature that it immediately brought back memories of my late father. The Lenco L78 presented a musical experience that provides the raw but lively recording of one of the most decorated local band. I have not heard or experience such a upfront, detail and at the same time warm bass coming from this LP.

So far, the L78 can take up any 'lighter' music and give a big sound to it.

The next step is to hear what it can do with 45 RPM LPs. First in was Nirvana's 2014 remix of In Utero album. I purchased this albumin early 2014 and was not very please with its performance on the Clearaudio Concept. But with this Lenco L78, it can easily deliver a different performance with my 45 rpm LPs. Kurt's vocals was full of angst and I got that sensation from the session. His raw guitars sounded heavy that when I played it on my Clearaudio.

And the Lenco L78 was further tested with ACDC Shook Me All Night Long....Again, even heavy rock music.... this L78 unit can easily pick up the details of the groove and deliver it through my system. Such a big and bold overall presentation and it gave me this sensation feeling on how ACDC frontman performs in his typical school uniform.

The session  lasted for about 3 hours....and over coffee, curry puffs and cream puffs, we chatted more on the history of Lenco...and Pak Mastan. Pak Mastan grew up in Singapore with a big exposure to music and movies. Having to be assigned by his father to ensure that an LP is played in the cinema before the movie started, he succumbed to the interest of LP. Having to refurbished quite a number of Lenco L75 and L78, he knows every single part of the TT by hard.


40 years old vintage Lenco L78 VS 3 years old modern Clearaudio Concept TT...... which one sounds better? Both actually have its own trait, its own musical signature. I get more warmth, airiness, liveliness and also low end spectrum from the Lenco L78. It showed me of what my D18s can deliver more. It can also show me how good 45 RPM LPs can sound like.

The Clearaudio Concept delivers a different presentation with a very honest sound, no frills signature.  It may be due to how the TT was set up, but I never really enjoyed playing my 45 RPM LPs on the Clearaudio. Clarity was another trait that the Clearaudio carries.

The different is that, Lenco 40 years old technology can easily compete with more modern TTs. And with the proper setting up by Pak Mastan and Khalizul and also Pak Mastan's personal touch in refurbishing Lenco units, it can easily blends in either a vintage set up or any modern set up. It can also easily match any new modern TTs with regards to sound quality, looks and robustness.

In fact, I would happily suggest to any newbie that is planning to get into playing LPs, go for this classic Lenco unit. It can give you a perfect introduction to LP and TT world.

If anyone interested to purchase one of these gem, you can find Pak Mastan the Spin Doctor and Khalizul on Facebook. You will not be disappointed in the unit nor the service provided by them.

Pak Mastan (left) and Khalizul (right)

Friday, 9 May 2014

2014 Home Theater Upgrade - Getting There

One final demo.... received the PMC Twenty 23 last night...and the Twenty Center a week ago. The PMC Twenty 21 was good... but want to hear what 23s can do.

I have finalised the TV and subwoofer.... just left the speakers.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Another Vintage vs New

Few moons ago... I managed to get an old flame back... the Sony XB930E CD player and made a comparison with a newer MF M1 CDT ... and the result was inconclusive...

Now its analogue time...

I have just landed myself with a 40 years old refurbished Lenco 78 unit...... and first impression made me feel that I may put my Clearaudio Concept to rest.... hhhhmmmm

Enjoy the pictures while I drink my hot chocolate and listen to Andrea Bocelli on this Lenco...

Friday, 2 May 2014

Sexy and Curvacious: Samsung UA65HU9000

As mentioned in my SVS cylinder sub review, 2014 will be a home theatre upgrading journey.

As the subwoofer journey have been completed, I am moving on to the TV and front and centre speakers.

My dream of setting up a projector and screen is now shattered forever as the final proposed installation set up does not provide the right aesthatic enviroment in our common living room.

Hence, a new TV was purchased instead. It was a war between Samsung UHD curve 65", Sony 4K TV 65" and Sony 70" LED. And the Samsung won. Plus, I received a Galaxy S5 as a free gift.

Pictures first before the full review.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Towering Inferno: SVS PC12-NSD Cylinder Subwoofer

So, I said to myself.... 2014 would be a home theatre year rather than the 2 channel focus. I am very much satisfied with my 2 channel, hence  its time to steer the focus towards my home theatre set up. The component that I feel is a little bit 'off' in my set up currently is the Wharfedale  SW150 subwoofer. So, that is the first item that I wanted to improve in.

My issue with the 10" Wharfedale  is that its a very isolated low end action. Each time the sub kicks in, it will a give a loud thud sound and with your eyes closed, you can easily pin point where the sub is located. Very localised effect.

When Max of MaxxAudio commented on my FB that there is an SVS tower sub that he can loan me to try out, I didn't hesitate to accept the offer. I have experienced a full SVS set up during last year's KLIAV but will it match my current Mission M34i front speakers.

Max was very accommodating towards my busy schedule. Finally, one fine Saturday, he came over with a unit. But not before we have a quick lunch, courtesy Chicken Rice Shop take away :). After a bit of bantering about Merc vs BMW, he started to set up the sub. I was a bit surprised with the shear size of this unit..... and this is the smallest unit in this series !!! The pictures I saw before did not justify the actual size of this beast.

Specifications and Built

The cylinder tower stands at 35.75" in height and will take up a floor space of 16.63" by width and depth. Refer to the picture below besides my Mission 34i front speakers.

Its a relatively a moderately weighted unit at 60 lbs. Max being the strong guy actually set it all by himself. Being an active SW, it has a built in Sledge STA-400D (Class D) 400 watter amplifier with DSP to slam a punch into its 12" woofer.

Th design also incorporates a single 4" port and can handle a frequency response of 18-130 Hz +- 3dB.

The built quality is very sturdy and reflects the price tag. No worries of small kids pushing this unit over. It is wrapped with a velvety material which makes it looks retro.


Once it was all hooked up to my Yamaha RXV2067 AV amp, Max started to to do the calibration using the YPAO mic and a SPL meter. It was all done within 15 mins or so. We tested first with Star Wars Episode 1.. the pod racing scene my my.... the immediate effect is very evident. 

First of all, there was no 'thud' sound when the LFE kicks into this unit. But the effect is more like an extended and prolong effect rather than a single strong punch. As the pods were passing the grid line, the loud roar and rumbling of the engine reminds me of my first experience at the Sepang F1 race in 2004. 

We then tested an HFPA disc for music, namely Getz and Gilberto Girl from Ipanema. Played it on DTS MA and put the system on a 2.1 channel. The effect on this was very subtle. Not sure whether the HFPA is actually feeding any signal to the sub as the source is 2.0 channel. 

The following week was a daily late night movie session after work hours. With dialogue heavy movies such as The Last Holiday, the sub still provided a huge LFE effect when music kicks in and during scenes such as the helicopter ride to the Grandhotel Pupp resort. even the dialogue sounded richer and more toned, which you would expect from the voices of Queen Latifah and LL Cool J. 

I also put on Andrea Bocelli Live in Tuscany. That was a very musical session. The sub helped to present Andrea's deep voice in a richer and more emotional tone. At times, the heavy bass lines from the double bass can be easily heard with such strong low end effect. I like it. 

Overall, the sub was giving a whole room effect rather than a localised low end experience. And my movie venue is not an easy room to work with. Regardless of what we throw at it... music, action movie, dialogue will give a very exciting-across-the-room rumbling clean bass effect. Fun for the whole family :)


It must be one of most exhilarating review that I have done so far. The impact of having a good sub that can sync properly with your HT set up has always been overlooked ( and I guess I was one of them too). I do believe to get a true home cinematic experience, a proper sub must be an integral part of the equation. This unit have shown a different level of bass requirement for my movie sessions. At RM3,499, if you are looking for a space saving solution sub, do audition it. 

So, did I purchase it? Actually no. Why didn't I take the plunge since it blended well into my set up? It was mainly because the size was still a bit too big (and tall) for my movie area. But Maxx have suggested an alternative model which could give a similar effect as this PC12-NSD unit. But, that is for another day. I already have the alternative unit in my house and loving it too.

SVS products can be purchased from Maxx Audio. Details below:

66G, Jalan Toman 4, Kemayan Square, 70200 Seremban, N.S.D.K. Tel: 017-6778820, 016-3229428, 06-7620811 Email:,