Saturday, 31 October 2015

KADAS Interconnect: Mic-ing The Source

There is always the never ending debate on how interconnect and speaker cable colour our hifi system. But very seldom and maybe even never there is a discussion on microphone cable and how it effects the recording session. As the source is always deemed to be one of the most important element in a system, why don't we go to the extend of using the same microphone cable as the interconnect to reproduce the sound where it originates from? OK maybe not to the extend of the very same cable in the studio but what happens when you use a microphone cable as an interconnect.

In the past few months, there was a big buzz in the local DIY-ers scene on various different cables available for them to toy around with. I was then given this Kadas KE 80M interconnect by KOGA Audio to give it a shot.


For physical built, I prefer flexible and separated cables between left and right channel. And thats what exactly I get from Kadas. The flexibility allows user to easily arrange the cables in tight spots. However, the RCA plugs itself is quite tight to connect them to the hifi unit. It is a gold plated RCA and the high quality workmanship of KOGA Audio can be seen.

The cables itself is directional. It is clearly marked on the sleeve, hence I followed it in my review. 


Non... seriously... I could not find any literature on the net let alone a company website. But google it and you will find many event management or studio websites mentioned about KADAS mic cables.


I was told that the cables have already been run in. The first impression was leaning more towards a high level of clarity on vocals and refined low ends.  It gave me goosebumps as the track was presented in a such detail.
The IC was used in two different set ups:

Session 1 - Between Musical Fidelity M6 DAC and M6i integrated amp in my usual set up
Session 2 - Between Musical Fidelity M1 PWR power amp and M1 CLiC streamer/DAC/pre amp


1. La Vie En Rose - Louis Armstrong (FLAC)
2. Rock and Radical - Butterfingers (CD)
3. Wake Up Boo - The Boo Radleys (MD)

Louis's vocals gave me the goosebumps. I seldom like listening to digital tracks for songs that I have the LP but in this case, to my surprise, his vocals sounded smooth with no sign roughness. Quite a warm ambience and full of expression which usually, I only get when listening to it on LP. It does focus a lot on clarity of vocals. And somehow, with that level of vocal clarity, it lifted the whole soundstage to a different level.

Rock and Radical was presented in its rawness where Emmett's vocal was again the centre of attraction (as always when it comes to this Malaysian Kurt Cobain). But this time around, all other instrument shared the same lime light. Loque's guitar was surprisingly mellower than usual but in this case it was good because of the high pitch notes. The drums, hhhhmmmm... hard hitting snare and sharp crash. I like it. 

With the Boos.... it was indeed a beautiful morning to wake up to. The intro gave me a shock with the level of energy. The wind instrument sounded refreshing with high level of detail. The details of the percussion which I believe a tambourine, was lingering nicely as the background sound as if it was a layered recording. Nice. Again, for the third time, vocals seems a strong virtue of this IC. Can it be because it is a mic cable?


Not to say I was not convinced with the findings, but hey, it is my first review of a hifi related product after I have moved my set up from downstairs to upstairs. So it might be due to different room acoustics. So, for the fun of it, I then connected this IC to 'newly' set up mini hifi downstairs. Hence, why this review took a bit longer to be published. The mini hifi consists of my existing MF M1s but I threw in an unused full range speakers to the equation.
Louis's vocals was again exceptionally the centre of this track. Excellent delivery of clarity and strength. Just listen to the clip above. I have yet to experience this track in this level of emotion as this is not my favourite Louis's song.

Rock and Radical, although the vocals was also the centre of attraction, the overall 'balance' sound of all the instrument was not at the same level I experience with Session 1. But I am quite sure this is due to the speakers I am using here.  The percussion while was still authoritative, was not hard hitting enough. The shredding guitars lost a little bit of rawness.

The Boos, also was presented in a similar manner like Rock and Radical. Vocals was upright and shining, while the wind instrument and percussion took a little of a backstage compared to Session 1. Nevertheless, I do believe it is the speakers limitation.


It makes me wonder.... why there is no notion to use the same mic-ing cable that the studio uses as part of our hifi. We always say that the recording quality is very important to ensure the playback on our system is the best. So, I am sure the studio too uses good quality cabling. So, why not use the same in our system? A question to ponder.

On this KADAS.... lies a vocal strength. Clarity and high level of details are some of its strong virtues. Suffer from muddled vocals in your system, give this IC a try. Contact KOGA Audio for advice on this.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Mrs Was Right - I Still Need A System Downstairs

When I had to combine my downstairs hifi sytem with my home theatre upstairs last month, my wife told me that I will not last long before I will set up a another system downstairs very soon. Tried to live with Xounts 2.1 but it is just not hifidelity sound.

So tonight, with some simple DIY to make a speaker cable, I have set up a small digital system for downstairs pleasure. Using Musical Fidelity M1 PWR Class D power amp and M1 CLiC streamer/DAC/pre amp, I have set it up to drive a pair of mini full range speakers I had lying around somewhere.

Satisfied camper now!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Mobile Phone As A Source?

Yesterday, the iPhone 6S was made available to the Malaysian market. As much as I was a big Apple fan, I can't help but to feel that it is no longer value for money item. I have used iPhone from the first model till iPhone 5 before I switched to Samsung Note 3. But not for long before I landed onto Blackberry Passport. I did have intermediate Blackberry experience with the Bold, Torch and. Curve, Z10 before but mainly because it was provided my company as one of the perks.
So, why am I writing about mobile phones as a hifi review?

Like it or not, I cannot deny the convenience of network or wireless music. The streaming technology has improved vastly especially in the past 4 to 5 years. What's gone is the unstability that the wireless kingdom can offer.... let alone the sound quality. I have tried so many of these devices and wireless medium where I believe it is currently has reached the pinnacle.... at least for now. From the days of Apple Airport Express to Logitech Squeeze to Sonos to dedicated network media player. This was all based on wifi or ethernet connection.

And then there was the Bluetooth medium. From BRIK Audio to QED uPlay puck to dedicated BT DAC. Nowadays it is quite standard for any good branding DAC comes equipped with BT AptX module. Your truly have 2 units that offer this function... Musical Fidelity M6 DAC and the Oppo HA-1 headphone amp and the recently added QED uPlay Plus.

Now, the part that most hifi manufacturer failed to address is the source when they offer BT function. And which sector has picked up this opportunity? The mobile phone industry!

iPhone has been the most successful music library on the go kit for many years. That time has long gone where its rivals in the likes of Samsung, Oppo, Sony and the 'lag in technology' Blackberry have been offering a more flexible operating system, bigger storage capacity and AptX BT for many years. Not to mention the ability to play hi res audio straight out of the box.

Yours truly have been using Blackberry Passport for nearly a year now and have been very satisfied for the following reasons:
  1. Sound quality when streaming via BT
  2. Big storage capacity with 32 GB built in plus 128 GB external microSD which it manages smoothly
  3. Able to play FLAC files with inhouse app
  4. Excellent battery life

This is compared to my previous experience with iPhone and Samsung. And with iPhone particularly, have not evolved in any area of music delivery apart from better built in speakers over the yea. Its BT have yet to adopt Aptx and still cannot play FLAC unless you use a third party app.
I am looking forward for Blackberry Priv and do hope the Malaysia Telco companies would still have some faith in Blackberry.

Although no indication of the price for this unit, but traditionally, Blackberry flagship model (apart from the Porsche design) has never been priced above RM 2,400 (~USD 600) which makes it more value for money compared to iPhone with respect to music playing.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Audience For The Simple Minded - My Hifi Shop

On Monday, 5th October 2015, I had the pleasure of attending a small do by the latest outfit to the list of hifi shops in Malaysia. My HiFi Shop Sdn. Bhd. is located in Jaya One just besides the recently opened Swedish Statement hifi shop.

My HiFi Shop is actually only scheduled to be opened in a couple of weeks time but as the CEO of Audience (yes, the brand), Mr. John McDonald was on his Asia tour, the shop decided to host a small informal do for the local hifi fraternity.


Yours truly arrived at 1145 am and was greeted by the Director himself, Mr. Thomas Teo. After a quick look around of the shop (which is still in final touch stage), I was introduced to John. John is such a down to earth hifi enthusiast and full of passion when it comes to hifi talk.

By 1230, there was already a crowd in the venue. Familiar faces from and are among the audience besides the owners of the famous Leben amps. John then gave an introduction to some of his famous cables, interconnects, power conditioners and The One full range speakers which was on demo. The audience threw out some interesting questions and these are some of the jeez of John's respond:

  • Silver vs copper... which one is better?
    • I prefer copper....
  • Directional vs non-directional?
    • Audience cable have markings on them but its more for indicative purposes
  • XLR vs RCA... which one is better?
    • XLR suits better in an all round balanced set up
  • What is the optimal length for your cables and interconnects?
    • We build to whatever length you require
  • Thin or thick cables?
    • For power cables, the proper gauge is more important. For the rest, other factors like material and insulation is vital.

The attendees then were treated with beautiful music played from Dr. Feickert Analogue Blackbird TT and Leben CS-600 integrated amp.

Thank you Thomas and Isaac for the invite and good luck on the official opening.

The My HiFi Shop is located at:

H-97-1, Block H, 
The Suites, 
Jaya One,
No. 72A, Jalan Universiti,
46200 Petaling Jaya,
Tel: +603 79321883 or +6016 6661699

Audience The One full range speakers are quite impressive for its size. It could fill up the listening hall with ease. 

Audience The One Version II

Some of Audience RCA and speaker cable range and also John's full range driver design
Dr. Feickert Analogue Blackbird 
Leben CS-300
Leben CS-600
Dr. Feickert Analogue Woodpecker

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Xounts 2.1 System With QED uPlay Plus

As I am in the midst of revamping (more like downsizing) my hifi set up, my downstairs living is now empty... in a musical sense.... No more TV nor a hifi system. I still have the Arcadia portable TT and also the Bose Wave system but those have been parked across the dining table. 

Luckily my Mrs too cannot live without music, hence I am in the quest of a minamalist system. Coincidently, one of my FB mate, Laz Shamsudin messaged me saying that the Xounts 2.1 system is back in stock on Groupon. And at RM269 inclusive of GST and Postage, this seems to be a low enough gamble.

The item arrived within 5 days. Nicely packed in a box. The parts are smartly packed in the box, ensuring everything is protected in postage.

Assembling the unit took about 30 mins with its clear instruction booklet and the first that was tested .... was the light!

So, What is This Xounts?

It basically a speaker-lamp system that is designed around 2 .1 speaker system using NXT technology. Its basically a pair of mini speakers mounted onto the frame of the unit plus a down firing slim subwoofer.

The Specifications

Incorporated in the system:

1. 3 x 3.5mm Aux In (one inside the unit and 2 in the rear panel)
2. 1 x 2 pins power socket (inside the unit and its for low powered unit)
3. 1 x wireless receiver (inside the unit and uses RF)
4. 1 x wireless RF transmitter (comes with power supply and another 2 x 3.5 mm inputs)
5. 1 x Philips energy savings bulb

So, all together there are 5 inputs to this system.

The power cable is hard wired into the rear panel alongside with volume and bass control with 2 x 3.5 mm aux in mentioned above.

No remote! Which is the biggest gripe for this unit.

The Session

First impression... it can go loud.... really loud for a medium size living room. Bass was a bit muddled, hence I lowered down the bass volume to about 12 o clock  on the dial. But clarity was there, crystal clear sound, The sample above is from Arcadia TT streamed wirelessly to the Xounts.

It did take loooongg hours before the SW to open up a bit and sounded more refined. Connecting my faithful Blackberry Passport to the unit via 3.5 mm jack, the overall sound coming from this unit sounded more subtle and refined compared to the wireless mode. The wireless mode sounds a bit harsh and constraint.

Listening to Azlan and The Typewriter's rendition of Jeritan Batinku, the Xounts produced quite centralised sound. Although the dispersion of sound is sufficient to be heard across the hall, but it does not give that full soundstage feeling. Its loud and could deliver the stunning vocals of Azlan... also a thud thumping experience when it comes to the double kick pedal of the drums. But it still sounded 1 dimensional.

Playing a hi res file of Eagles Hotel California via the RF wireless streamer, I can feel that this wireless module somehow does not deliver the refined and detail of the hi res file that I have.

After more than 200 hours of running in, only then I can start to experience a more open sound, with less restrain on the musicality. The sound is more airy and have some energy to it. Compared to before where the sound was quite flat, this unit now delivers a more lively sound with sufficient bass control and depth. I find that setting the bass dial to about 1 pm, gives the the best result.

Placement of the unit is also important. Its better to have the area on both sides free from big furnitures.

Many Inputs is Enough?

Now, if I was the designer for Xounts, this is how I would spend my cost on to rather than offering 5 inputs:

1. Just 2 Aux input
2. Replace RF module with the option of Bluetooth or WiFi
3. Remote... at least for the volume.

The RF module...although sends out a very stable signal, is not portable. You need to connect it to a power source and stationed it near your source. Hence, its not portable at all.

And each time I want to reduce the volume, I would have to go behind the unit and meddle with the small volume knob.

Very inconvenient for a lifestyle speaker design.

Because of this, I had to enhance the Xounts capability by adding a BT module.

QED uPlay Plus

I used to own the famous QED uPlay Puck BT module. But since I have purchased two BT enabled DACs, I have since sold the unit. I was actually planning to re-purchase the puck, but it is no longer in stock. Hence, I had to settle with the uPlay Plus.

Setting up is simple. The beauty of this unit is that I can tap the power source from the internal 2 pins plug  socket inside the Xounts. I then use an stereo RCA to 3.5 mm cable to connect to the rear aux in for the Xounts. The uPlay Plus unit fits nicely underneath the Xounts, just beside the down firing SW.

Connected to my BB Passport, I played the hi res file Hotel California again. Voila, instant change in sound signature. Via BT, I feel that it helped the Xounts to give more justice to hi res sound files. The percussion now sounds more punchy and natural and the guitar plucking sounds more natural. The overall song sounded more involving.

And with this addition to the unit, I now have control on all the music I have stored on my phone and also on my 4 TB NAS over the home network. Plus, I am now able to control the volume from my phone. I just set the volume knob on the Xounts at 12 pm, and I control the volume on my phone.


For RM269, this is much better than a mini compo which I used to adore growing up with them. However, at its original price of about RM2800, I would not suggest to anyone who is fussy with audio quality from a unit. Its overall design is a bit behind time with minimal convenience of the modern hifi world.