Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hifi matching

Hifi is about matching. I have tried matching the various amplifiers with different speakers and pre amplifiers. These mixing and matching has been a very interesting exercise. Different combination will ahve different kind of sound reproduction.

In the hifi journey, one's direction is very important as it will determine what type of hifi equipments one should acquire. I have gone through a fast crashed course in "playing" with the various vintage hifi equipements.

Brands that I like includes Marantz, Mcintosh, Radio Craftsmen, Leak, Western Electric, Fishers, Quad, Rogers, Tannoys. One of the friend has asked me why I didnt try brand like Eico, Heathkit or Dynaco?

The reason is perhaps due to its re-sale values. Since in the hifi journey, when one is searching for one's "ideal" set up, there will be many incidents where one has to "dispose" off "unwanted" or unsuitable equipements. As such, going for the "first tier" amplifiers such as Marantz, Mcintosh etc are a safer and more secured bets as their resale values are higher as there are constant demand and at the same time limited supply. Like what one of my hifi friend in Shenzhen always say, if millions of Americans during the 1940s-60s did NOT consider the EXXX brand to be tier one brand, how is it possible that one in Hong Kong can suddenly "discovered" it to be a tier one brand? What an interesting and philosophical obesrvation, I must say...

During the course of my hifi path, I have realised that unknown brands such as Leaks & Brooks has attracted me a great deal. For me, the ideal power watts ranges from 5 watts to not more than 15 watts since my favourate speakers are highly sensitive one.. Thus, one should start one hifi journey with what music one listen followed by the selection of speakers basing on the listening environment. Follwing which, one can then decide which power amplifiers one need to find.

There was some very good advice from a guru in Malaysia which I have found from a forum highlighted by KM Ng:

1) Start your hi fi quest backwards - always begin with your room and its dimensions. Get a correct sized speaker in relation to the room size (car and engine). Then get the correct and matching amp in terms of power and control to drive the speaker (engine and gear box). For the rest front end, the choice is yours but neutrality, low noise and high resolution are recommended.

2) Buy the best recordings to play in your system - the results will transform the system to another level or show faults for corrective action. Lots of audiophiles buy expensive equipment but stint on good recordings which is pretty unbelievable! You can buy the best equipment anytime, but the best recordings are much more difficult to get.

3) In the absolute best set up, you can sit anywhere in the room and you'll not hear any sound coming from the speakers (playing a good recording). In fact, even if you're 2 feet in front of the speaker, you'll not hear it!

4) Every component and accessory in your system counts, down to the how you place the cones under your components (materials, size and weight, tip up or down, how close or far apart, etc).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Project down size

It has been a difficult task when one needs to downsize the many lovely amplifiers. Following my listening session on Saturday on the Western Electric 142 amplifiers (6L6) and the Brooks 12A (2A3) with the Western Electric 755a and Westminster speakers, I have came a step closer in knowing what type of sound & music I like.

Basing on my own evlauation and my personal taste, I will keep the following combination:

  • Leak 12.1 + Fisher 400CX + Tannoy Cantebury (Living room)
  • Western Electric 755a speakers (bedroom)
  • Western Electric KS16608 + marant 7 + LS3/5a 15 ohms speakers + foundation stand as reference (Singapore)
Even though many audiophiles have "looked down" on the Western Electric KS16608 amplifiers (that were produced by Dukane and an illegitimate son... : ( , I personally loved it so much that I have bought another better condition set for keeping. Perhaps, those who commented do not have the opportunity to audition a "fully restored" or in good working condition KS16608 when making such prejudice statements or they are plain narrow minded..

Not wanting to be caught up with the "competition" among some audiophiles; plus I have given up the idea of owning the top 5 types of 6L6 amplifiers (as they sounded very close) I have started a project down sizing with the following:
  • Quad II - cut love to a good friend
  • My first set of WE KS16608 mono bloc power amplifiers - cut love to a good friend
  • Radio Craftsmen C500a mono bloc power amplifiers - cut love to a good friend
  • Mcintosh MC240 power amplifiers - only to a serious collector who appreciates complete set of papers, original box and test results.
  • Phass full range speakers - spare set

There are audiophiles who has "remarked" that I sell away my amplfiers too fast. Owing to space constraints, one has to stremline in order to make the living room "liveable". ..its just a hobby..

After continuos listening and matching with the different combinations, one will be able to know what one likes. Owing to the constraints of space, I will only keep the very best and the one I like most. I prefers to go for "Quality" rather then "Quantities". During the process, I have learnt a great deals about the different charateristics of the different gears and most importnat, I had great fun too! especically during the "search" process!

Once I have completed the process, I will either look for the Yamamoto 2 watts amplifiers or the Brooks 10C or 12A using 2A3 tubes or the Dynatron using the ballon tubes or another single ended amplifier, just to hear the difference sound. Enjoy!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Western Electric KS 16608 amplifiers X 2

I love the sound from the Western Electric amplifiers so much that when I came across an original condition Western Electric KS16608, I could not resist but to acquire them.

The newly "found" set was manaufactured by Dukane for Western Electric.

Learn something new today from a fellow audiophile Grey: KS 'means' Kearney Specification and means in compliance with a contract for acceptance purposes. They were built 'for' western electric.

Both of the mono amplifier come with the original cage and bottom plate. Both the units has the same inspection nos of 26555 and were perfectly matched pair with extremely clean interior!

It sounded as good as my first pair of the Western Electric KS16608. These were most probably produced in the 1960s. When matched with vintage speakers such as the Tannoy or the Western Electric 755a, the sound is superb! These were the more affordable amplifiers when compared to the very expensive Western Electric 124 or 142 etc. These cheaper amplifiers are good enough for me! : ) In such prestine condition, who can complain?


Friday, September 15, 2006

Radio Craftsmen amplifier

Hifi is so personal. It is like some men food is the other men's poison.

So far, I have been using the Radio craftsmen in rotation with the Leak 12.1 and the Western Electric KS 16608. The sound of Radio craftsmen is very close to the Leak 12.1 (even though there are people who keep saying that it is miles behind the 12.1 and can never win the Leak 12.1). I am often puzzle by such statement. Win? How to win? How can I hifi power amp win the other?

It is about personal choice and taste preference. If any audiophiles like to win, he should just join the 100 metres ran or join the tennis team and go out there and compete!

In the word of hifi, its about music reproduction. Its about mixing and matching in order to achieve the sound that one desires!

Good CD - Modern Folk Music Horse head Instrument

This CD recording using the horseheaded instrument is simply exceptional!

Even though this is a folk music CD using the horseheaded instrument, there are elemnents of modern interpretation of its music. In addition to the horse headed instruments, there were also guitars, Er Hu, and other instruments as well.

Listening to the CD, one can experience and "visualise"the placements of instruments and feel the sound stage. In addition, one could also achieve the state of "Zen" and achieve inner peace...

I have listened to the same CD using the Tannoy Canterbury and the 755a. The former portrays a wide soundstage of empcompassing and surround and details. The 755a, however, brings out the inner elements of emotion that could draw strong affcetion when listen to the music..

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Music & the joy of hifi

Having 3 different kind of speakers (Tannoy Canterbury, Rogers LS3/5a 15 ohms and WE 755a) has enabled me the opportunity to ABC test the reproduction of music.

The Tannoy being the larger speakers demonstrate music with the most wide soundstage and yet relaxed sound. When playing the full orchestra music "Butterfly lovers", one can easily hear the placement of different instruments as well as detail sound of the various musical instruments. Given the wide soundstage, one generally enjoy a "wider" Emperor seat (should be called Emperor bench) as at least 2 - 3 persons can enjoy the music with sharp focal point instead of one. Moreover, one can always read the newspaper and listen to the music the same time as the music would just surround you and at ease with your ears and the environment. Really love the Tannoy!

The Westen Electric 755a fullrange, on the other hand, demonstrates its strong emotional ability and its smoothness in vocal and "live" like realism for violin and light instruments such as the "Er Hu". After using the 755a, I would say that its vocal reproduction is smoother then the LS3/5a as the sound need not be force out of the mouth of the singer. This, of course is subjected to personal taste and preference as I still own and like the LS3/5a.

According to one full range speakers lover, the sound from the LS3/5a is a bit "tense" and listening to the LS3/5a require some elements of "attention and concentration". Having said that, with proper placement of speakers, the LS3/5a with its small cabinet has the ability to project strong vocal. When driven by good powered amplifier such as the Mcintosh MC240, the LS3/5a is a class on its own.

In the end, in my view, the three speakers represent the 3 pillars of music representation ranging from full sound stage to focussed music with detail. The joy of music listening is that it helps to eliminate stress and take your mind to a state of calmness and peace. Whether the music comes from a large speakers or small ones, the emotional expression may be different but the end result is fulfilment of joy..

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

LP sound - Matisse conductor

I have always wanted to achieve LP sound using the CD players for my system and one of my friend recommended me to use the Matisse Conductor.

Acording to Matiise: "The original purpose for designing the Conductor was to provide isolated grounds for HiFi equipment. Isolated grounding systems are important because conventional earth from the wall outlet is very heavily contaminated by interference generated by electrical appliances. A looping effect may also occur when all equipment in a system are sharing the same earth. The Conductor is a passive unit with a circuit that functions to greatly reduce the interference from ultra high frequency noise generated from all digital equipment (i.e.CD players, CD Transport, D/A Converters etc.)".

Please visit:

After using the Conductor for a period, I can hear that the sound stage became clearer and quieter.

Really amazing..Science and hifi as the Conductor was designed by Matisse and based on research of an American physicist working for the U.S. Military.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hifi scene in Hong Kong

I was reading through the few threads in Review 33 and I can't help but realise that there are many small little groups existing in the forum. Some of the group exert more peer pressures then others, while some are more informative and liberal then others.

There are also audiophiles with motives of promoting certain amplifiers and tubes. There are instances also when quarrel and disgreement occurred thereby affecting the mood of the forum.

In the past, I have been very active in the forum. However, recently, I have been more "selective" in choosing the threads to participate to avoid stepping into the foot of certain members with "vested interest".

In term of the vintage hifi shopes, competition from ebay has made it very tough for business as well. Having travelled to the Greater China region ( Taiwan, China, Hong Kong) and South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Brunei, Indonesia and Cambodia), Hong Kong has one of the largest collection and availability of vintage amplifiers. Even then, many shop keepers have feedback that buisness is only 30-40% compared to 5 years ago. Now, most of the attention is on the China market as the mainland Chinese ( the high income group) has most of the disposables income on vintage hifi. Moreover, with the MP3 and the mobile phone with MP3 function and many computer related internet based activities and multi media, the traditional "hifi" hobby is walking towards the sunset industry...unless the whole industry could attract teh attention of adult under 30 years of age into the hobby. Looking at the last Hifi show, nearly 80% of the peolple are age 35 years and above and the trend seems unlikely..

To make matter most, many of the shop keepers are not customer oriented and with a certain " attitude"! It is also real difficult to find a real Sifu for Hifi repair in HKG. Thus, my approach is to find full time Sifu who charges according to the level of work rather then depending on those who need you to beg or please in order to help.

Hifi as a hobby should be simple: enjoyment of music and fellow audiophiles should be friendly as a result of sharing of common hobby. However, the reality are far from that. Competition and hidden agenda seems to be quite rampant though.

Perhaps, one should just turn on the hifi and let music take away the stress and worry of the day. I have been listening to my WE 755a these few nights and I must agree that it is not the best speakers in the world as it lacks high and base musics. However, when coming to the mid and vocal part of the music, it is the Champion!

When I take a glance at all my CDs, almost 80% consist of vocal musics while the remaining 15% on light instruments and 5% on Orchestra music. Given such a ratio, I believe I have made the right decision to buy the Western Electric 755a. In addition to the vocal, the violin reproducton is so real that it makes 755a such a lovely pair of speakers to own..

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Yamamoto "45" Single stereo amplifier A-08S

In my quest for lower watt vintage amps, it seems that the options are limited to vintage Dynatron LF59 and Brooks 10c. However, since these vintage amplifiers are so rare and limited in quantities, I have decided to search for low power tube amplifies, instead of only vintage amplifiers.

While browing through the web, I came across a very attractive modern low watts amplifier using vintage 45 tubes - the Yamamoto A08s! Looking at the review, One can truly appraciates much efforts have been put in the design and building of this very nice amplifier. Moreover, another unique selling proposition from the company is that everything is built "In house" in order to ensure top qualities are maintained!

I must say this is one of the best looking power amplifiers I have come across with its nice mixture of wood and steel design as well as its "Zen" minimalist approach!

With 2 watts power, I am curious to test it with my Western Electric 755a!

For details, please see:

For review of the Yamamoto "45" Single ended stereo amplifiers A-08s, please see:

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Feedback on Western Electric 755a

I was listening to the Western Electric 755a for a few days and I must say that the Mid especially for vocal is exceptionally good!

However, the CD recording standard played a great part too as when I inserted a low quality recording, the sound reproduction is exactly like a mirror image reflecting a low production of voice. The WE 755a, in my opinion, has a much natural and smoother vocal when compared to the LS3/5a.

Over the weekend, I have managed to audition a Japan made cabinet with Western Electric 755a drivers in Tak Fak 3rd floor and I must say the sound is good with great base. The cabinet is about 3 feet in height and looked very nice with a dark brown cabinet finishing. The owner has told me that he has 4 pairs of LS3/5a and ever since listening to the 755a, he intends to sell away 2 sets and keep 2 for reference as he listended to the 755a more than the other speakers now. Will update more when i have the time! Cheers

Friday, September 01, 2006

Brook 10C & Dynatron LF59

Upon my acquiring of the Western Electric 755a, I was told my some audiophiles that for highly sensitive speakers such as the 755a & even Tannoy Canterbury, one of the best amplifiers to drive them are the 10 watts Brook 10C using 2A3 tubes or the Dynatron ( less than 9 watts) amplifiers. However, the down side of the Dynatron amplifiers is that the PX vintage tubes are very rare and very costly..

I have not have the opportunity to see or hear the amplifiers and maybe I should just have an open mind and explore...

Hifi project downsizing

Following my acquisition of the Western Electric 755a full range speakers, I have come to realised that when one starts in the hifi journey, it is essential to have a very clear direction in order to avoid buying the "wrong" hifi equipments for the matching of speakers.

Perhaps, one should start with the speakers first (and determine what sound or music one likes) and then look for amplifiers that matches well with the speakers. From my recent listening, I have also realised that I listened to the Tannoy Canterbury (for Orchestra & multiple instrumental music) and uses the fullrange speakers for vocal and light instruments more. Since both the Tannoy and the WE755a are highly sensitive speakers, there is no requirements for high power amplifiers.

Moreover, with my decision of NOT wanting to COLLECT all the five KT66/6L6 amplifiers anymore (i.e WE124, Leak 12.1, MC240, Quad II, Radio craftsmen C500), I will began a series of downsizing.

I will most probably keep the following combination and downsize the rest:
  • Leak 12.1 + Fisher400CX + Tannoy Canterbury (in HKG Living room)
  • WE KS16608 + Marantz 7 + Western Electric 755a (in bedroom HKG)
  • Rogers 15 ohms LS3/5a + Foundation stand (in Singapore)
With that in mind, I hope to down size the following to lovers of vintage amplifiers:

  • Mcinstosh MC240 (near mint condition, with original box, papers,etc)
  • Radio Craftsmen C500a (fully restored by professional, matched pair)
  • Phass fullrange speakers (brand new and sounded very nice)

Anyone who is keen, can write to me at or

Once the process is complete, I am no longer a collector of vintage amplifiers and just someone who love music.. : ) Last night, my wife and son Keith came to visit me from Singapore. We have had a short session listening to the 755a and it was a great experience and a nice warm feeling : )