Sunday, 4 August 2019

Kuala Lumpur International AV Show 2019 - El Hefe's Verdict

So it has been a week since the KLIAV show 2019 drew its curtain down but my FB newsfeed is still full of audiophiles's postings. There is something special about the show this year. Even the most fussy audiophiles whom I know had a lot of positive comments in this year's show. I had given my first impression of the show on Audiofi page here after spending the whole of Saturday at the show.

Now, its time for a more detail opinion on the show.

As usual, my crew and I (Shaiful Anuar and Rafizulkamal) set aside Saturday as our day to contribute to the local hifi scene. Big thanks to Mr. Dick Tan and 3DotEvents for continuously trusting us to cover their event.

The Show Overall

New venue, new expectation. Given that I attended the press conference a few months ago, there was a lot of skeptical opinion on why Vistana Hotel was chosen. Completely new to the hifi scene, the hotel management had a big task to ensure the show does not suffer any major hiccups. 

Venue - Not the usual central location in KL. A bit secluded from major attraction. Limited parking seems to be the main issue that most people complaint about. The public parking on the roadside opposite the hotel also was limited to an extend. Some had to go around for about an hour before managed to get a spot.

Food and Beverage - There were some goof offers for a quick bite. Their coffee house offered a buy 1 free 1 buffet lunch. Their snacks counter on Level 3 offered some light stuff like meehoon, sandwiches, coffee etc. Moderately priced. However, there is a mamak restaurant opposite the hotel, so yours truly and the crew opted for that. :)

Rooms - Mostly are squarish. With exception of the big halls. Acoustic challenges? Maybe...or maybe this is where it can separate between a good sound specialist from others.

Registration counter - Unfortunately the hotel does not have a separate section for this so it was done just beside the check in counter. When there was a long queue, that section seems to look a bit haphazard. 

Elevators - The staff did their best to juggle between show goers and hotel guests. Not much option but have to queue and wait for our turns to go up.

The Exhibitors

A good mixture of the usual European/American brands and Asian brands this time around. A healthy option for the audiophiles to experience different sound signature of top brands from different continents.

Due to the acoustic challenges, I was informed that there was also a healthy camaraderie developed among them as there were instances where they either helped to tune the rooms, visit the rooms and give honest feedbacks and even loan out each other products. This benefited the visitors as I have yet to see comments like - 'This was the worst room' . The comments this year were more about praises and generically describing the sound of each set up.

To be honest, I could not pin point any particular set up that got it all wrong like some from previous shows. Even the newcomers like Aerix, Divini, Lukang did a great job with what they have. The ones that I personally feel could have done much better in Sunway Putra and Marriott, performed really well this year.

The Commemorative CD

I have all of them since the first year it came out. I must say I like this year's the best. Good option of tracks. Special art cover on the sleeve from the works of Joseph Ki's daughter. 

Now..... the set up verdicts:

The Most Improved SQ Award

Its a tie for me between Centre Circle Audio and Perfect HiFi. CCA decided to focus on one main set up as oppose to previous year resulted ina very detailed and focused presentation. The grand set up of Kharma speakers, VPI TT, DS Audio Optical cart and phono with VAC amps, sounded grand , clean with a touch of slam on the low end frequency. The full set up list is shown below. 

CCA made the right decision to focus on one main active set up as oppose to previous practise of having sections for 2 different set up. I believe they are the only who showcase an Optical cart and phono stage in this show.

In my opinion, Perfect HiFi also up the ante with their Nagra HD pre amp and monoblocks, Kronos Sparta with its new PSU driving a pair of Sonus Faber Amati Tradition speakers. I have been waiting for a few years now to achieve a higher level of satisfaction when listening to Perfect HiFi's set up and this year I believe they have done a fine job. The set up sounded lively with huge sound stage without compromising the details and intensity of the bass.

The Best Lifestyle Product Award

Its a growing market but at the same time, audiophiles no longer can tolerate style over substance. Long gone now is the  perception of lifestyle products cannot deliver musicality. This award goes to Aerix Duet. Newcomer to the show, their representative Mr. Jimmy showcased an entertaining demo coming from this unique pair of of wireless speakers, fully equipped with a subwoofer integrated into its design. Aerix is still looking for a distributor here in Malaysia. With its huge room filling capability, I believe this product will be a strong contender to a number of lifestyle products such as BOSE, Sonos etc. Stylish, sexy and comes with exceptional sound quality. Dont quote me but I heard this product cost about RM6K equivalent in Europe. With a CD player built in, bluetooth capability, network streamer, this is one heck of an all in one product. Fully controlled by the DTS Play Fi app, you can stream from a NAS or subscribe to online streaming services like Spotify or TIDAL.

The Best All in One Award

This award goes to the new NAD M10 BluOS all in one amp and streamer.This 100 watter belted out a powerful performance with a pair of Dali Rubicon 8 floorstander. Effortless to deliver fluid sounding music. With a touch screen front fascia, this M10 combines elegance with superior sound quality. It handles Alexa, MQA, AptX BT, Airplay2, eARC HDMI and many more features. It might just be the only unit you need today and for future. 

The Best Managed Acoustic Award

Given the small size room, I must say Analog Solution/MyHiFiShop room deserve this. Honestly, I initially was worried to see the Avantgarde Uno Fido XD being placed in a small room like this. I was expecting the sound to be muddled with too much bass and ear pinching highs. Boy, I was wrong. Issac Ho and his team did an excellent work of managing the acoustic issue. Music was sweet sounding, tonally balanced with high level of clarity and transparency. If only I have the space, this would be on wish list for my next upgrade.

The Best Overall 2 Channel Set Up Award

Taking into account both SQ and aesthetic, I actually really like the Audio Perfectionist room, show casing the full McIntosh system. Although Cary Audio streamer was used but that was just a matter of convenience. I am quite sure if a McIntosh CD player was used, the same experience can achieved. There is just something about those green displays that gives me some sort of relaxation mood. The sound from this set up was impressively good. Warm with huge ambience is what I got listening to this system.

The Best Managed LFE for HT

This award goes to Maxx Audio for his SVS, Marantz and JVC N5 home theatre set up. Compared to previous years where Max set up his showcase with a very punchy and earth shattering LFE with his powerful SVS subs, Max tuned his HT set up to deliver an effective bass delivery in a small venue. The ingenius ATMOS stands was also very effectively placed and calibrated to create the swooping effect. The bass was sufficient to create an effective impact for various type of movies or concert videos.

The Best Analogue Only Award

The analogue only solution showcased by YL Audio comprising Kronos Sparta with its new super cap PSU, Kronos phono satge, Absolare pre power and Sonus Faber Serafino Tradition speakers takes the top spot. The soundstage on this set up was huge as if you are in a concert hall. The new PSU for the Kronos Sparta has brought something new to the Sparta after a few years of its debut here. Sparta owners including yours truly was very happy to hear what this supercap PSU can do to our units. The low noise allows even more reproduction of the source to the listeners.


The Most Unique and Promising Product Award

This is for the product that was new to the KLIAV show and should have a promising place in the local hifi scene. I say promising because the product could have been set up in a better avenue than just a makeshift section of a hall. This speaker is one product that I cant shake it off from my head even after 1 week of the show. The Avantages Audio Cesar full range speakers by the designer Frank Tchang. The speakers are brought in by CMY. The soundstage from this speakers was out of this world even in that small make shift  room or cubicle. Driven by a Primaluna amp and Marantz CD player, it was already showing signs that it can handle complex music and deliver a note to note sound reproduction. Bass was not shy too. Ample capability given a bigger and more treated room.


The Ultimate Untouchable Award

I believe it is quite unanimous to say that there was one system who ruled them all. Not so much that the equipment used were better than others but its more to acknowledge their skill to set up, tune, calibrate and make full use of their system capability to satisfy the listeners. This was one set up that can deliver both in 2 channel and Multichannel a high level of details, lively ambience, extensive bass response, sweet mids and highs. This is non other than the set up in AV Designs rooms. Comprise of the beautiful PMC Fenestria speakers, full TAD Reference series pre power amps and CD player, Bryston music player for the 2 channel and Bryston SP4 processor and Pro Audio technology subs for multichannel.

Just throw any genre of music to this system and it will just sing to you with such a grand presentation. The bass digs in deeply and extensively. The vocals were presented with such luscious voice with no sign of strain in the upper notes. The subs were calibrated to handle different type of movie soundtrack. May it be a concert or bullets flying around.

AV Designs team have put up such a brilliant showcase that they created a problem for themselves now. The problem is ...How are they going to keep up or match with this year performance in the KLIAV show 2020?

El Hefe's Final Verdict

All the products that were showcased this year were actually all top notch quality and highly regarded brands. Each of them carries their own sound signature and capability. It all depends on what the listeners preference would be. Auditioning at AV shows can be a guide but if you are really looking at buying something or upgrading, I strongly urge you to request another demo at the shop or ultimately if allowed, demo the item at home. These awards given by me is purely based on my observation and listening experience on the 2nd day of the show.

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