Saturday, 15 February 2020

Malacca's Hidden Gem Just Got Better

Its been awhile since I visited this Malacca's hidden gem. The last visit must be about 2 years ago where the set up was in the living room and the foundation of the man cave was just about to be laid down.  There were also 2 sets of speakers; the Harbeth and Audio Note. Both driven by the the pre and monoblocks by our locally  bred  talent, Ben.

While the Ben's power amplification and source are maintained, Faisal@CB have recently upgraded his speakers to a pair of Avantgarde Acoustic Uno Nano horn speakers. The man cave have also been completed albeit the interior is still work in progress. For this session, Faisal used Ben's passive pre amp as well together with Tricord Dino phono stage.

I spent about 3 hours listening to this newly acquired speakers. To be honest, I had a concern on this speakers will sound a bit sharp and shrill based on my previous listening experience of a similar speakers. The session started off with Eric Clapton unplugged. This first spin clearly shows the strength of this speakers which is clarity. The guitar works on this LP really shine through. There was some signs of restricted  highs but we were just warming up. Bass was controlled and not overwhelming but my concern was immediately diminished. The highs although sligghtly restricted was actually sweet and luscious sounding. 

Second track was one of my favourite; Fly Me To The Moon by Diana Krall frlmo her Live in Paris album. My my my....the vocal on this was so energised that it truely presented the live ambient (but without the Eiffel Tower behind it :). The piano sounded melodic and the percussion, especially the snare sounded dispersed in a good way. A good blend of bass subtlety from the tom toms and sweet highs from the ride and hihat.


So, was it just enjoyable with unplugged, strings and live music? We then put on Up and Adam by Lee Ritenour. Now, this was a different level. My excitement just elevated a notch. The level emotion intimacy on this track was very revealing. This is where I started to shake my head and stamp my feet to the beat of the drums. And when I get emotionally engaged to certain performance like this, I basically stop 'evaluating' a set up. There is  no point anymore as that is the objective of listening to music; to be emotinally connected and just drown yourself in enjoyment.

There were other tracks that we played but as I mentioned, I stopped my critical listening after this track above. I was just enjoying the music and chit chat with Faisal and another friend Samad. At the end of the session however, Faisal wanted to see what Siltech speaker cable can do. So I brought my 330L Siltech Anniversary cable for him to try it out. Another joy of this hobby iswhen we get to share different accessories etc. The key to this is to put aside any prejudgement and also be open to whatever the comments that comes with it.

I would like to thank Faisal and also Samad for the session and also post session of makan2.  This is a fine example of how passion towards music and patience in setting up a hifi system really bears the fruit. It was not an easy journey for Faisal with several different speakers have landed in his set up. But once you get to a certain level, the satisfaction can be clearly seen from his expression that night. He still wants to see what else can be extracted from his set up, so I would say.... carry on. 

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Stoner Acoustics UD130 - The Peak of All UDs

Every time I get a hold of a Made in Malaysia hifi product, I have this sense of pride and it comes with a responsibility to give it my utmost attention in the review. For this particular product by Stoner Acoustics, it's even more special as I have been using their USB DAC since July 2012 for my office set up. The first model was UD100 which I used to call it 'The Naked DAC'.

When the owner and designer, Mr. Ooi Tze Yang contacted me just before Christmas, I quickly agreed to give a review on this as I have in the past reviewed their UD100, UD 110 and UD120.


As opposed to the previous models, this unit came with an amplifier as well. Complete in a small casing and volume control, the UD130 is lightweight which makes it portable enough to carry around. When you purchase the UD130, it comes with a USB cable to connect to your laptop and a carrying case as well. If you want it to be music on the go, it also support Android OTG. For me, this unit works well with my Samsung Fold, running Onkyo HF player, Google Music TIDAL and Spotify.

The unit is equipped with an AKM AK4493 high performance DAC, TI TPA6120A Dual Channel High Power Amplifier and a switchable USB Audio Class 1 (24 Bit/96KhZ) and Class 2 (32 Bit/384 KHz, DSD 64/12/8/256, DoP-64/128). You can read the full specs here.


Source: Macbook and Samsung FOLD playing iTunes, Google Music, TIDAL and Spotify
Headphones: Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD800S
Earphones: RHA MA750

Compatibility: Literally plug and play for both Mac and Samsung FOLD OTG. 

WAV, DSD, MP3, AAC... no issues



Take Five by Dave Brubeck on DSD

My usual first track for me to experience how deep can the UD130 deliver its bass. First of all I am happy to report that the UD130 is sooooo quiet. No hissing sound, no hums. Dead quiet. And yes, the bass extension on this track was exceptionally good. It juices up the cans sufficiently. It takes a bit more to drive the Senns and Beyer but the RHA, no issues at all. Effortless to deliver the bass that I like. On the high notes, the snare dispersion sounded extended as well.

At Last by Etta James on TIDAL HiFi

Love it Love it. The intro was mellow all in the right places. Send shivers to my spine. Etta's vocal was sharp and lively. I can experience the emotions through this track. The violin sounded very sweet too. At times, the vocal can sound a bit too sharp especially when she stretches her high notes but still tolerable.

Sweet luscious sounding Etta this UD130 allows her to sound like. Still cant believe it can deliver such sweet vocals through both HD800S and T1.

Return to Love - Andrea Bocelli and Ellie Goulding on MASTER Tidal

Ellie's vocal sounded sweet and luscious on this track. In contrast to Andrea's vocal, it made the duet sounded well balanced between Andrea's deep voice and Ellie's more high pitched voice. The piano notes also sounded very lively yet subtle. The bass and electronic effects were vibrant enough to make this track to sound old but new.

Enter Sandman by Metallica on TIDAL HiFi

Is UD130 all about vocal? Enter Sandman was a test for  heavier sound for UD130. The UD130 presented this track with such control yet still deliver that metal adrenalin that this track offers. Bass was abundant from Lars's double pedal and the overall drum tom toms. Kirk's guitar riffs were energetic but maintains its rawness.  This track shows that the UD130 is capable to cope with a fast paced and heavy metal tracks.

Sweet Child O Mine by Guns N Roses on 16/44

What can I say? I was in the mood of 90s metal and rock. I was expecting a similar experience like Metallica but for this track, it sounded a bit on a mellow side. It started off quite energetic with the guitar intro but the overall sound was a bit on the thin side. This was true for all 3 headphones/earphones that I used. It was still entertaining but I could use with a little bit of liveliness and essence behind this iconic track.

Sand of Time by Slumber Sonic on WAV 24/44

This soon to be released track by Slumber Sonic was experimental test for UD130. The bass intro sounded plucky but with still enough extension. The bass drums sounded full and well rounded but the snare dispersion sounded a bit uncontrolled. Clarity was evident here as I can hear each instrument separation clearly. The guitar solo sounded huge too. The vocal was mellow which suits the genre of this track.


Stoner Acoustics has once again produced an affordable, locally made USB DAC amp that does not compromise on sound quality. At RM300, this is a no brainer for anyone who is interested to improve their digital source without burning a big hole in their pocket. If I was to sum up the performance, I would say this DAC amp is the quietest portable model I have encountered at this price range. Its good for quite a range of musical genre including metal. It is also quite transparent. Playing high quality files is fun to listen to. Bass is exceptionally good and mids are sweet. High notes however may struggle a bit no to sound on the shrilling side. Have no issues driving headphones like T1 and HD800S although I had to play it at nearly maxed out on the volume pot. The unit is also powered directly from your source, so do check with Stoner Acoustics on compatibility. For me, no issue for Samsung FOLD and Macbook. It did not power up with Sony TPA Walkman. 

The sound characteristics described here is quite consistent across Beyer T1, Senns HD800S and RHA. It was just a matter of volume level, how is it for UD130 to drive and overall ambience. 

If interested to purchase, do head towards their website at STONER ACOUSTICS or email them at