Monday, July 31, 2006

Pye PF91

After much waiting, my vintage Pye PF91 finally came back home.

The sound of it is really wonderful. The Pye PF 91 is really a user friendly amps as it can be used for both 110v or 220v without the need for any step down transformer.

The master has carfully cleaned the amplifiers and changed a few leaky capacitors and kept most of the amplifiers as original as possible.

The Pye PF91 KT66 is a push pull amp, with the KT66s triode connected, so the amp gives about 12W (same as the Leak TL12.1). There is another Pye HF25 (blue in colour ) which is a KT66 push pull monoblock power amplifier made in 1950s which give 25W (similar to the Leak TL25a).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Vintage Electro Voice T35

While waiting for the arrival of the Pye PF91 KT66 amp, I have decided to play around with the vinatge Electro voice T35 high frequecies units.

Initially I have only intended to get some tubes but the owner of the vintage hifi shop Mr.Chen has strongly advised me to get this pair of 1950s alnico high frequecies speakers. The size of the magnet is huge (the diameter of the magnet is 6cm)

After attaching the Electro voice T35 to the Chi Ping speakers, the sound stage became wider . If one does a blind test, one would not suspect that the sound was from a 3 inch full range speakers at all! What an amazing change!

I have told Mr Chen that I should perhaps buy a cheap high frequecies tweeter but he was against the idea saying that it would be better off not having the cheap high frequencies tweeter at all as the improvement would not be there. He has told me the it is rare for such high frequecies tweeters as these have to be detached from a pair of working condition EV speakers.

The hifi journey is one of non stop discovery..Cheers

Saturday, July 29, 2006

CD Player recoomendation:Bang & Olufsen CD player

I have just returned from a business trip from Taipei. During my business trip, I have managed to get a quad set of KT66, Quad set of 7027a (specially good for Mcintosh MC240) and quad set of GE 6L6WGB plus a pair of Electro Voice T35 high frequency units (for my Chi Peng full range speakers)

To match my current vintage system, I have recenty used a vintage Bang & Olufsen CD player. Even though it was produced in the 1980s, the look and feel of the Bang & Olufsen CD player looks very modern and the sound quality of it is perfect in fitting with the rest of my vinatge gears!

From the functional point of view, it has to use a step down transformer as it is in 117v. Other then that, the touch screen function gives the CD player a very high standard and modern feel. The costs of the B & O CD is smiliar to the Philips CD 100. I used to own the Philips 100 CD player. However, the Philips CD 100 tend to be "over heated" after long hours of play and one has to take care of the ventilation in order to ensure its longivity. Not wanting to be "stressed" up when using the CD player, I have decided to sell away the Philips CD players to a Hong Kong collectors who owns a large collection of various CD players.

I shall be collecting my vintage Pye PF91 tomorrow back from servicing and I will be posting more pictures soon! I will have to do it soon as I will be away for business trip again from Thursday onwards...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

One more amplifier to complete the picture

Out of my 5 dream amplifiers, I have managed to find 4 namely
  1. Leak 12.1,
  2. Radio craftsmen C500a,
  3. Mcintosh MC240 and
  4. Quad II.
  5. The serach for the WE 124 is now on...( temporary substituted by the model after WE124, the later model WE KS 16608)

Hopefully, I can complete the dream amplifiers picture before Christmas this year. While it is important to find the numbers, Quality in term of appearance is also an important factor to consider. There are so many good amplifiers out there but my personal view is that one should set an objective and path to follow as resource is limited but wants are not.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Quad II - 3rd time lucky

This is my 3rd pair of Quad II. The first was sold as the capacitors were replaced. The second sets were sold as I was having two sets of Leak 12.1 then. Today, I have managed to find a 3rd units of Leak 12.1 ,220v in its original condition.
I have known that my friend JK is in need for his 4th unit of Leak 12.1 in order to pair them up. Upon getting the single unit of 12.1, I immediatley called JK to see if he is keen to pair up his 12.1
In reciprocate my efforts in helping him to pair up his 12.1, he offered his lovely set of Quad II in exchange for the single unit. It was a true "win win" situation where we both were happy. I have been in my quest for my dream "top 5 6L6/KT66" amplifiers namely, Leak TL12.1, Radio craftsmen C500s, Mcintosh MC240, Quad II & the Western Electric 124.
With this acquisition of Quad II, my last amplifier to complete my dream is the Western Electric 124. Temporary, the Western Electric KS16608 is acting as a good subsititute until the main cast arrive. Dreaming of the WE124 again.. : )
email me at if you have any interesting hifi equipments to sell or exchange.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hifi summary July 2006

July 2006, Hong Kong - This evening, I have taken out all my hifi sets for some simple cleaning. Every unit bring me some fond memories. The Tannoy speakers reminds me of the raining day during Valentine's night, The Mcintosh reminded me when I first came to Hong Kong in June 2005, The 12.1 reminded me of my quest for a pair of 12.1; the Marantz 7 reminded me of the night after my company D & D rushing to view the M7; while the WE 16608 reminds me of the streets in Singapore...

Every unit tells a story...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rogers LS3/5a 15 ohms

I have realized that I have mentioned very little about the LS3/5a speakers. I used to own 4 pairs of LS3/5a...all of them are Rogers namely:
  • - 15 ohms black badge
  • - 15 ohms with white belly
  • - Transitional model from 15 ohms to 11 ohms (pseudo 15 ohms)
  • - 11 ohms

Initially, I have intended to collect all the LS3/5a, all brands and makes. However, after much A/B compariosn, I have realised that while there are some differences in the various LS3/5a, the differences are so little that it would be so insignificant to really create an impact.

The strength of the LS3/5a is in its reproduction of vocal and playing of solo instrument. However, it has its limitation as there is very little base and very little high ..only strong mid. When using the LS3/5a to reproduce Orchestra musics, it sounded "rush and messy".

With the limitation, I have decided to try out the larger speakers which can reproduce the Orchestra music better. One of the my first large speakers was a pair of Altec 604E 15 inch speakers. It will reproduce strong base and sounded great for rock and Orchestra music. However, it sounded too "metallic" for my preference which as prompted to change for a pair of Tannoy Chartsworth 12 inch gold monitor. I like the British sound much better. The 12 inch Tannoy has the combination of the sweetness of the LS3/5a mid plus having the extension of base as well as high. Immediately, I know that Tannoy is THE speakers that will satisfy most of my hifi needs. I was lucky enough to upgrade to a pair of Tannoy Canterbury with monitor Red which is my all time favourite. ( very relex sound)

Thus, the LS3/5a is a pair of very good speakers but is not without its limitation. Firstly, it needed very good speakers stand (such as the foundation designer stand) to bring out the best in its potential. Secondly, don't expect too much base or high when playiung with this little pair of speakers. Thirdly, the escalating prices of the LS3/5a has made the equation between price versus performance to an unaccetable level. A good pair of LS3/5a in 15 ohms is around HK$11,000 + $5000 (for a pair of Foundation stands) = HK$16,000. With these amount of money, one can buy a pair of Tannoy 12 inch monitor gold Lanchester or Chartsworth. In addition, there are so many "modified" or fake LS3/5a which make one nervous in buying one. Lastly, the LS3/5a needs bigger power amplifiers to push and / or sounded good with tube amplifiers.

Some think that the LS3/5a is "suitable for small home" as it will not take much space. However, the reality of it is that in order to bring out the sound from these speakers, one has to bring it out 2- 3 feet away from the wall. Thus, when one take into consideration the speakers and its stand, plus the need to be away from the wall by 2-3 feet, the LS3/5a actually requires a larget space then say a Tannoy or Altec who can be placed near the wall. Small in this sense is actually a myth..

In the end, I have sold off 3 pairs of the LS3/5a and keep only one pair for reference (plus the fact that I could free up some cash to get the larger speakers since resources are limited but wanst are unlimited).

The LS3/5a is the King for vocal reproduction. However, in order not to miss out on other music details, I would think that one would need 3 pairs of speakers namely one large speakers, one LS3/5a and a full range speakers in order to have the speakers to cater for all music. However, this is just my personal opinion. Music and hifi is so personal that it is like colours or food all depends on your needs....

If you can afford, having a wall of LS3/5a with all brands and all models is also a very lovely sight : )

I have a few close hifi friends who has their great wall of LS3/5a and they look lovely! Well, in Chinese they say: 知足常樂 meaning to be content is to be Happy, and we should always count our blessings!

For more information on the LS3/5a, please read:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Price of Radio Craftsmen C500a

The suggested retail price of a Radio CraftsmenC500a in 1953 was US$99. Thus, to play it in stereo mode (those days mainly in mono mode), would have costs US$198 for a pair.
US$198 must be alot of money during the 1950s. The average wages in the 1950s were US$249. A pair of the Radio Craftsmen C500a would have costs almost a months salary of an average men!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

6L6 / KT66 amplifiers

Following much listening and comparison, I have realized that I have a strong inclination for 6L6/Kt66 amplifiers. The EL34 tubes amplifiers has more force and power but it sounded a bit rough in my ears. The EL84 has very sweet sound but it lacks the power when needed.
Currently, my 6L6 / KT 66 amps consists of the the following:
  1. Leak TL12.1 (KT66) - the BEst KT66 amplifiers so far!
  2. Radio craftsmen C500a (KT66) - great work by the famous Sid Smith!
  3. Pye PF91 (KT66) - another great British amp that is rare!
  4. Western Electric KS16608 (6L6) - real value for money amp!
  5. Mcintosh MC240 (6L6) - One of the best advant guarde design and good power without the harshness!

Very soon, some ( or many) of the above will dissappear like water vapour in the air : ( whern the WE 124 appears..

Others interesting amps using KT66 are:

  • RCA (my friend called it Big Quad II)
  • Quad II
  • Pilotone 901 (i think)

Given the strong inclination towards the KT66 & 6L6 tubes amplifiers, I have decided to down size and let go my Siemens amplifiers using EL84 tubes. The Siemens are great amplifiers with great details. However, since I have no wish to "collect", I have decided to focus on playing with the KT66/6L6 tubes families. By doing so, it would help me to save up resources, $$, time and space to hunt for the WE124... My wife will killme if she knows how much the WE 124 is going to cost! he he he!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Klangfilm speakers wires

In my efforts to improve the quality of the sound from my current hifi system, I have replaced my ealier interconnect with the Artist made interconnect cables linking my Pre-Amp (1.8 Metres) to Amp & from CD to Pre Amp (1.5 metres)

For the speakers cables, I have used the Audio note silver cables and Western Electric cables. This afternoon, I have managed to get a pair of fully "burn in" 50 years old Klangfilm wires.

Similar to the Artist hifi interconnect, these wires were previously used in recording studios.

Great sound! I guess was due to the 50 years of continous usage as well as the purity of the copper!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Selling Marantz 7 & Mcintosh MC240 ?

In my desire and quest to find the Western Electric 124, I have decided to sell off my Marantz 7 & Mcintosh MC240. Both the items are in excellent conditions internally and externally.

Is this a right move?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Desire for Western Electric 124

After much consideration, I have set myself a simple goal of getting a pair of Western Electric 124 power amplifiers using the 6L6 tubes by end of 2006 (Christmas)

In order to do that, I will have to cut love and streamline quite a few of my current collections in order to generate enough cash.

Even though it is going to be a very difficult decision to make, I will have to let go the following step by step. The first to go will be the Siemens Smfv4 mono blocks, followed by the Mcintosh MC240 & Marantz 7. Upon getting the WE124, I will then let go the fully restored Western Electric KS16608.

With these exercise, I will be left with the Leak 12.1, Radio Craftsmen C500a and WE124 (hopefully) & Fishers 400CX preamplifier.

Pic of WE124 don't belong to me.... : (
What a dilemma......

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Leal 12.1 & Radio Craftsmen C500a

Trying to understand my amplifiers better, I performed a A/B test between the 12.1 and the Radio Craftsmen C500a.

The similarity between the two is its sweet vocal
tone. the key differences are that the Leak TL12.1 has more open and wider and deeper soundstage. The Radio Craftsman 500a has a slightly narrower one but yet still managed to have fine details, and sweet tone.

Unless there is an immediate AB comparion, the differences may not be so clear. I would say that the Radio Craftsmen C500a sounded 90% close to the 12.1

When the 2 power amplifiers matched with the Marantz 7 and Fishers 400CX, it has different sound reproduction with the Marantz having more transparent and clear tone with emphasis on the mid; while the Fishers has a more muiscal tone and emphasis on the Mid and mid high!

The Radio Craftsmen was from the 1950s but its design (using the shining steel chassis) is so advant guarde that it is ahead of its times. It is a beauty to look at when listening. The Leak 12.1 , on the other hand, looks like a solid castle ..solid looking and under stated. The differences in looks clearly reflect the national charateristics between the American and the British!

Some facts from Alan on the RC:
RC500 has 10 watt output,
RC500A has 15 watts output and
RC550 has 30 watt output but operated in ultra-linear instead of triode
RC500 and RC500A was licence under Western Electric but RC550 was not..
RC500 and RC500A was designed by Sidney Smith, but RC550 was design by Bob Grodinski

From the "collector" point of view, the Radio craftmens is a good buy as it is relatively cheaper but rarer plus the fact that it is like a uncut diamonds waiting for further exploration by the audiophiles as it is currently only known to a few...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Key characteristics of amplifiers

According to my friend Alan, good quality hi-fi gear should have outstanding characteristic of sound and emotion.

  • Leak TL12.1 has sweet, open, wide, clear and transparent tone but slightly thin in body.
  • Quad II have warm, mellow and rich body of mid.
  • McIntosh MC-240 has outstanding authority tone, big sound stage, rich of bass and thick body.
  • Radio Craftsman 500 has fine details, clear and sweet tone, but slightly narrow in sound stage if compared to Leak TL12.1.
  • Western Electric KS-16608 has outstanding mid range, natural, emotional, warm and smooth tone but slightly lack of extension at both ends
  • Western Electric 124 - the selling point of WE124 is also not the details and extension of both end, but nature, pure and emotional tone in mid and mid-high range

True essence of hifi!

After many months of serching and upgrdating, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the true essence of hifi from fellow audiophiles.

According to an audiophile: "upgrade is not just our gear but our skill, knowledge, understanding of ourselves and understanding the emotion behind music. If the purpose of hi-fi is reproduce music (not just the sound), than the purpose of music is represent emotion of human".

How true! Many of us have gone through the path of buying an equiment, then upgrading , then selling and buying again...

The process of upgrading and changing has allowed us the opportunities to experience the different hifi characteristics and soul of the equipments. However, if not properly guided, the continuous search will be like chasing an illusive dream....

Thanks to my friend Alan for pointing the essence of hifi to me..

Thursday, July 06, 2006

志平 3吋 Fullrange speakers

I have always been fascinated with the 志平3吋小喇叭全音域單元. The production of these speakers has ceased and the only way to get them now is via Artist hifi or through the web.

Having listened to the speakers at Artists hifi, I am deeply impressed by the finishing of the speakers, its nice curve workmanship as well as the repoduction of sound from the mere 3 inch full range speakers.

Having done some simple study, the reason for its wonderul sound was due to its Alnico magnet and "元發聲擴散之音箱邊緣用手工打磨成圓角,形成一種號角效應".

For me, another great attraction is its handmade (人手製造) feature. I have tried some DIY cabinet myself, and I know how difficult the process is and it will be totally impossible for me to achieve such nice finshing result.

In the end, I have finally bought one pair for my bedroom usage together with my Siemens amplifiers. These are certainly another value for money item even though many audiophiles might not find these their cup of tea.

I have done some AB testing between these and the LS3/5A. The sound from the 志平 is much open and bright while the LS3/5a is much more detailed and confined. Both sound nice in its own ways!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Branding in Hifi

There are many famous brands in Hifi such as the Western Electric, Leak, Marantz, Mcintosh, Fishers, Siemens, Tannoy, Rogers, etc. Many of these great names were gone as a result of the passage of time, changing consumer's taste, technology innovation replacement etc.

However, when one look at the brands and see why are they were so successful and so great, the key success factors can be listed down as the following:

1. Good product that were built to last - examples Leak 12.1; Mcintosh MC225,240,275; Marantz 1,7,9,10b, Fishers 50c, 80C, 400CX, 400CXII, Western Electric 86, 91, 124, 755; Tannoy GRF, York, Canterbury; Rogers LS3/5a etc

2. Good leadership quality and good chief engineer & good -較聲工作: Marantz, Sid Smith, Fisher, etc

3. Good distribution net work

4. Focus on brand building.

There are many talented Sifu in Asia especially in Hong Kong. However, their products could never reach the same level as that of the famous and legendary hifi as many were lacking in its brand building aspect of the business.

Very often, the positioning of the brand is not clearly defined and there is no clear brand strategy involved in their launch of the products. Many would opt for the easy way of buying advertising space as well as advertorial space thinking that these are "marketing" and these actions constitutes brand building.....which of course is over simplifying and is not the case.

It will be naive to think that by having a superior products will naturally led to great sales and the building of brand. Very often, these Sifus would focus their energy on the products and missed out the other elements of marketing mix such as positioning, pricing, placement and promotion.

Being a hifi lovers as well as markerteer, I was so tempted to want help some of the local Sifu in launching their products properly. The success of any big brand requires vision! It also require a team of dedicated professional in order to help create the correct brand vision and positioning and targeting at the right group of consumers.

Hopefully, one of these days, the Asian audiophiles and sifu could look beyong their capablities and learnt to look for profeesional help in their launch of products ......that is if they seriously want to compete Globally and not locally.

They must have the desire to be and dream BIG like the Marantz, Mcintosh, Western Electric, Fisher in the past or like the modern days Audionote..

Otherwise, they would continue to be a "big" fish in a very, very small pond...

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

In the hifi arena, you can see categories of hifi people. I have met the Good, i.e people who are willing to share their knowledge, share their hobby and passion as well as provide help in many ways. My hifi friend John Keong, KY belong to the first Good group.

In addition, there are the Bad who oftens criticise and impose their views onto other. In addition, they tend to be overly dominating and they have the characteristics of wanting to win all the time, and always think they are right. In addition, they are those bad sifu who uses their "magic hand" to change the original componenets when they were paid to service their clients hifi. They often "worshipped" certain sifu in order to gain recognition for the restoration works.

The 3rd categopry refers to the Ugly, people who tends to have a severe sense of jeolousy of others & their equipments. In addition, when the have failed to get a hifi equipment either in ebay or other places, they will also have the "sour grape" approach of criticising the item which they have failed to get.

In the end, many tend to forget that Hifi is a hobby and the various hifi equipments are to reproduce the music for enjoyment and it is not a world cup soccer event where there is the element of winning or losing.

Let's enjoy muisc and our hifi!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wild Wild Western Electric 124 dream

The desire to own a pair of WE124 has grown so rapidly that I was so tempted to sell away my MC240,Radio Craftsmen, WE KS16608, Siemens SmfV4b, Fisher 400CX in order to liquidate some cash to buy the WE124!

If that process happens, I will only be left with the 12.1, Marantz 7, Tannoy Canterbury and the WE124. Is this a wise move?I don't know?

One thing is for sure, it will be very difficult to find back a near mint condition MC240 (with all box and guarantee cards, test reports, etc) plus a pair of fully restored Radio Craftsmen C500a, nice Fisher 400CX with original wooden box and the rest in such nice conditions....

A real dilemma when cash is limited and wants are unlimited!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Fishers mono block pre-amplifiers

I used to own a pair of Fishers 80C mono blocks pre amplifiers. As I was new to the vintage gears at that time, I could not handle the volume channels management. Following which, I have switched to the Fisher 400CX and Marantz 7 which are more user friendly.

Lately, the thoughts of looking for a pair of monoblock Fisher preamplifiers came back and I am tempted to start the new process of using a mono block pre-amplifiers in addition to the single units. One of the model that came to my mind is the Fishers 50C pre-amplifers. Need to do some research on these now...Can I handle the mono block pre-amplifiers versus the user friendly Fisher 400CX and Marant 7?