Thursday, March 09, 2006

Leak TL12.1 family re-union

End February/Early March 2006:
After much searching, my friend has finally helped to find my 4th Leak and now, the family of Leaks are finally united!

2 units are from the US (being 110v), one unit from UK (220) and the other is from Netherland (220v) : )

To make space for the 4th Leak, I will have to let go my Quad II set as the apartment is getting too crowded : (

However, I was very excited for being able to pair up two wonderful pair of 1950s Leak TL12.1. Now I have started a slow journey of restoring the Leak to its glorious days!

I have found a couple of NOS capacitors and resistors. Will wait for a good time to change them.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The search for Leak 220v continues

I have lost a couple of ebay bidding during the search of a 220v Leak TL12.1. However, my serach for its partner continues...slowly but surely..
I am looking forward to the day when I could pair up the lonely 220v Tl12.1.
: )

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Romancing the Leak

I was searching for a pair of Leak TL12.1 for a period of time. After much searching, I was lucky to find one pair of Leak TL12.1 My leak was made for the US market with 110v. To use it in Asia, there is a need to use a step down transformer from 220v to 110v.
Thus, I have decided to search for a pair of Leak in 220 v for easy usage. So the hunt begins. I was able to find one unit of 220v in excellent condition. Now, the challenge now is to find another 220v unit to match it...
Getting another Leak is only phase one. Phase two is to ensure that the equipment is properly checked with faulty parts replaced. One of the main problem for Leak was its leaky TCC capacitors and resistors. Through Alan's help, I have managed to find 2 packs of TCC new old stocks capacitors vaccum seal in a pack that marks July 1971 (25 years ago).
Now, the capacitors are ready, the waiting process continues...and the hunt for its mate continues..

Friday, March 03, 2006

Upgrading Leak TL12.1

This morning, I went to Richard's place to upgrade my current vintage TCC capacitors to TCC supermetal pack. Even though the costs is much higher, the supermetal packs will ensure stronger reliability and longer lifespan. Even though Richard was busy with his dissertation and his other projects, I was glad that he has taken the time to find the capacitors; change the capacitors as well as give my Leak a "medical check up". The medical report on the health of my Leak TL12.1 was excellent! : ) Even though the weight of the amplifiers were so heavy, I did not feel the weight as the joy of bringing something nice home is simply sensational! I suddenly felt like I am 18 year old again! Bringing home a "toy" and waiting to play with it.
After streamlining my current collection, I am beginning to spend more time to refine my current sysem and focuses more on the reproduction of music and arrangement of my speakers position as well as listening environment, plus selection of CDs with nicer recording.
To better understand Leaks amplifiers, please visit:

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My Hi fi "Spring cleaning" experience

Recently, I did a thorough hifi "Spring cleaning" exercise before the arrival of my wife and son. Many of the fellow audiophiles in HKG may think that I was crazy and too quick in the changing of gears. Yes, I admit to a ceratin degree. The problem with Hifi equipment is that you will need to have a continuous listening period before you realize whether you like the system or not. This is, in my personal opinion, the main reason why so many of us keep changing our sets as our taste changes as well as the listening condition is different from that from the shop where we audition.
I have sold my LS3/5A as I have decided to keep one set (I have several in the past) for reference as I have decided to try out large speakers. I tried the Altec 604E but it was too "sharp, and metal" for my taste. Thus, the search for Tannoy has began. After searching for a long period of time with many sleeples nights, I finally found one Tannoy Chartsworth 12 inch gold monitor in original cabinet which sound beautifully.

"Unfortunatle", one week later, I was offered another vintage Tannoy...this time a Tannoy Canterbury in corner unit with red monitor. It was an offered I could not resist as one could not find such speakers in such good condition often. I was happy doing a AB comparison with the Chartsworth having more "energy yet relaxed while the Canterbury having a "more relxed feel and romantic mood". Knowing that space is my concern, I have decided to put the Chartsworth on R33 secondhand sales section "to try" to sell. In my mind, my plan was: if the speakers was not sold within 3 days, I will keep both set and send one set back to my Singapore home. I could therefore, tell my wife that I have "tried selling" but was not successful. Unfortunately, it was sold on the same day that I have advertised, which has reflected the strong brand image of vintage Tannoy and its strong demand in the market!

For the pre amp, I have used a pair of Fisher 80c monoblock pre amp for a while. When I was at my fellow audiophiles (should be master Sifu) John's house, I was immdiately captured by the sound from his Fisher CXII. This has prompted me to search for a Fisher 400 CX or 400CXII. Searching for the "Fish" was not an easy task as such Fish are so rare that one has to find it by chance. For those who do fishing will definitely understand what it mean to be fishing. I was at another friend's (another Master Sifu) Richard place to listen to his Fisher CX and the sound was fantastic. I was very tempted to take it straight away. However, his own invention 27M was even better which has prompted me to wait for his product to be launched later this year.

However, as mentioned in my previous blog, yesterday was a strange night where the Fish just swam quietly straight into my home.....

Fisher 400CX pre amplifier

This evening was a strange one. I was on my way home after work and the temperature was around 15 degree . Walking on the street alone could be a lonely experience especially during this cold night. After walking for a while, I have decided to take the MTR to MongKok where there are a huge crowds walking.

When I was in Mongkok, as I was walking, I suddenly walked towards the famous Tak Fak building where there are lots of hifi shop. I remebered there is a very good conditionFisher 400CX. Previously, when I asked the price, it was much higher than I had anticipated. Without having the intention to buy, I decided to stand there at a distance to watch the pre amplifier and hopefully, the shop keeper would by chance play it. The shop keeper "General Lee" was very friendly and kind and he has decided to take it out for audition as he was using the marantz 7 at that time. Wow, I was totally captured by its reproduction of music. i must have stood there for more than 30 minutes. When I was about to leave, I give the Fisher another look and the next minutes, I was examing the cabinet and the inner circuits. ...With very soft bargaining skill, I proposed to him my price and we came to a very friendly "Win Win" deal.
Carrying the heavy Fisher 400Cx home was a very unique experience as suddenly, all the loneliness in the cold night were gone. The Fisher 400CX has accompanied me home...

It is now playing & singing together with the Leak TL12.1 and the music is just so smooth, so refined and so I wish today is Friday evening so that I could enjoy the music till 2am....

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My hifi journey continues

Recently, I have conducted a "spring cleaning" with my hifi equipments by streamlining my collection. There are many great collectors of hifi in Hong Kong with one who specilaises with Leak and the other in Eico.

Looking at my current collection, I have decided to focus on KT66/6L6 power amplifiers namely Leak TL12.1, Quad II. As for pre amplifier, I will continue to stay with my Marantz 7 and I will search for a DIY pre amp using vintage NOS large tube.

For speakers, I will stay with my Rogers LS3/5a 15 ohms and my beloved Tannoy Canterbury. So, the next stage is refinement with focuses on getting the right music and enjoying the music from the system. In the end, all equipments are to serve one single purpose, i.e. reproduction of the music to our ears...Enjoy!

My Quad II

This is my second set of Quad II. I have sold off my first set as its conditions were nice but not up to my expectation.

After months of serching, Alan has finally helped me find one complete set with Quad 22 Preamp, FM radio, AM radio as well as the monoblocks power amplifiers. The sound from Quad II is very warm.

The serial numbers are very nice and considered lucky with nos ending with "22" & "33" (which in cantonese means 22 (Easy) & "33" (Growth).
Many audiophiles have condamned the Quad 22 pre amplifiers saying that it was rubbish and bad. Upon various audition, I strongly feel that the pre amp fits very well with the Quad II. If the sound wasnot right, it was most probably due to the fault in the set (bad capacitors, tubest etc) rather than bad design.
These Quad II were most likely produced the same time as I, during the 1960s. I am glad that these hifi equipments still produces beautiful sound. In a way, listening to vintage amplifiers help to protect the environment as we reduce wastge and recycle. It seems that in the past, hifi equipments were made to last for generation after generation. With modern technology, it seems that it could only last perhaps a few years...what happened? Aren't science and technology advancement supposed to make things better ?...Perhaps, with modern standard of efficiency and productivity...there is less "heart & soul" being used and nothing is made to last....
When using the Quad II, one has to be esxtra careful not to overload its transformer as it has the tendency to be overheated and burnt!

Vintage Tannoy Canterbury speakers

My 1950s Canterbury Tannoy spekers was bought during Feb 14th,Valentine's Day. It comes with a 12 inch Red monitor with an original corner unit cabinets. I have always been using small book shelf speakers such as the LS3/5a and I have been serching for a pair of vintage Tannoy for a long period of time!

The Tannoy matches very well with my Leaks, my Quad II as well the the MC240. It has the ability to present a fuller sound stage as well as romantic sound.

I will always remember the 2006 Valentine's day as it was a very "romantic" evening with slight rain. I was caught in the rain and I have to go to a few ATM machine (some not working) to draw cash to pay for my new toy. In addition, I have to travel all the way to Shan Sui (near ShengZhen border) to collect the Tannoy. I remember vividly that while everyone was enjoying their romantic dinner during Valentine's day, I was rushing around and shifting speakers without having dinner. My hunger has been satisfied by the lovely Tannoy speakers...

For more information on the Tannoy speakers, please read:

Marantz 7 pre amplifiers

The Maramtz 7 is one of the best known and best performing pre amplifier. Soem crtics will comment that the Marantz 7 has no high or low extension. Nevertheless, we have to bear in mind that the USP for Marantz 7 is in its strong Mid which is ideal for playing vocal!

It matches very well with my MC240 and Leak TL12.1. Previously, the sound for its high was a bit weak and later after changing its ECC83 tubes, the mid high became more appealing!

I used to have two M7 but I have sold off one to a fellow hifi audiophiles collector in exchange for a pair of Leak TL12.1. A pair of good condition Marantz 7 is about HK$25000- 35000. However, there is a replica M7 that looks exactly like the vintage M7 in outlook BUT not the interior components (Called Sid Smith) selling at $40,000!!! ???

The Marantz 7 sounded very natural and its strength lies in its strong Mid. There are some hifi audiophile who commented that the fishers are "better" pre amplifiers which I disagree. The Fishers pre amplifiers has more high and mid high. It sounded more musical. Since the strength and characteristics of the of the M7 is different, it merely reproduce music in a different form..meaning that it is different.

I am against modifying the original circuit design in order to "make it better" as if one wants something that sounded like one form of amp, one should just buy that and not modify M7 to become something else.. Just my 2 cents..

Leak TL12.1 amplifiers

The Leak amplifiers are one of the best amplifiers that I have ever listened. As these are from the 1950s. The key challenges in the search for these include:

- ability to find a matched pair as it was sold as mono amplifiers in the past;

- the conditions of the amplifiers

- the ability to find its original TCC capacitors...

The Price of a pair of Leak TL12.1 in 1956 was 28 pounds 7 shillings. A typical wage then was probably well under ten pounds. If I was born during the era, I could never afford them as it will most probably costs 6 -12 months wages. Perhaps, the costs of the Leak was equavalent to the price of an apartment or a car then. As such, it is a real blessing to be able to have the opportunity to listen to such a graet amplifiers and its reproduction of music during the 21st century and at an affordable price!

The pictures showed my initial Leak 12.1 closed frame and the later more sought after and even better sounding Opened frame 12.1. The price of the 12.1 in September 2005 was HK$35,000. In February 2006, it was selling at HK$40,000.

For a large collection of Leak amplifiers, please visit my friend John's blog: He has one of the best collection of Leak (including the rare 25a!)

Mcintosh MC240

I was very lucky to be able to find a complete mint condition Mcintosh MC24o with complete box, certificates, service manuel, instructions manuel and some lab test results.

This is one of the first few vintage hifi that I have bought. I like especially the design of the MC240 which look very much like the army tank.

The design is so timeless that even after 35 -40 years, it is still so avant-garde. It is a design that is truly ahead of its time! and it will continue to be for the next 50 years!


My hifi system

What started as a simple system gradually grow and grow.....

By October, my system consists of a vintage Marantz 7C pre amp, Mcintosh MC240 power amplifier, a pair of Leak TL12.1 & TL10 mono blocks power amplifiers, classic first generation Philips CD 100 CD player, Tannoy Canterbury speakers, Rogers 15 ohms LS3/5a speakers, Quad II power amplifiers with Quad 22 preampolifier,AM & FM radio, Fishers 80c

In my wish lists, I hope to find Radio craftmen C500 power amplifier, Fisher 400CX or CXII pre amplifiers, Leak Stereo 20...

My vintage hif system

I started my hifi journey with a vintage Marantz 7 pre amplifier and a Mcintosh MC240 power amplifier together with a Philips 100 CD & Rogers LS3/5a speakers & Altec 604E.

Later, I have tried the Fisher 80C mono block pre amplifiers and a pair of closed frame 12.1.

My vintage Hifi experience

July 2005: After coming to Hong Kong, strong vintage hifi usage among the audiophiles has motivated me to start using vintage hifi for the listening of music!

I am a collector of vintage fountain pens and watches. So, naturally, I am being drawn to the world of vintage hifi..

Please see: on my watch collection