Saturday, March 31, 2007

End March 07 stock take

With the moving of apartment in HKG as well the consolidating my funds to acquire the Western Electric 124 amplifiers, I have managed to streamlined my gears. My current set up consists of the following:


  • Western Electric KS16608 + Marantz 7 pre amp + Western Electric 755a/Tannoy Cantebury
Hong Kong:
  • Leak TL12.1 + Fisher 50C pre amplifiers + LS3/5a
  • Western Electric 124b + WE 120a + Altec 755a

Spares for sale:

  • Western Electric 100f amplifiers (HKG$5000)
  • Pilot 500 power amplifier ($3600)

I am in the process of acquring a replica Western Electric 120a pre amplifiers (made by WE Wu sifu using vintage WE parts such as the 197a transformers..) to match by WE 124. Can't wait for the arrival of the WE 120a pre amplifier!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Western electric 755a home at last

I have finally brought home my Western Electric 755a speakers following my acquisition of a pair of spare Altec 755a speakers.
My wife was very happy as the cabinet really matches with my 1950s colonial style writing desk in my study room.
I have been quite careful in my purchase as I need to make sure that besides the sound quality, the visual appeal must also match with my apartment's decoration.
Currently, I am using the Western electric KS16608 + Marantz 7 for my Western Electric 755a speakers! The vocal and violin sound is execptional!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Western Electric 120a - replica

Last week end, I have travelled all the way to Kwai Fong to listen to "Western Electric Wu" 's graet work.
Sifu Wu is a very experienced SIfu in making replica Western Electric gears using genuine Western Electric spare parts. Many of his customers are Japanese, Americans as well as local.
Having found the WesternElectric 124b, I have always desire to bring the best out of my WE124. I have used both Fisher 400CX and Fisher 50C and I find both very nice. The Former has greater speed, better control with full Orchestra music while the latter has very strong emotional sweetness.
However, I have always desire for a complete Western Electric package namely Western Electric 755a speakers, WE 124 + WE pre-amplifiers. However, the high costs and rarity make the search for a pre-amplifier a very diifcult one.
Moreover, many of the pre-amplifiers have such gain that modification is neccessary in order to to convert it for home use. When I was at Sifu Wu's workshop, I have the opportunity to listen to the following:
WE 106 pre amplifier + WE 91;
WE 120 pre amplifier + WE 91
WE 120 preamplifier + WE 86.
Between the WE 91 and 86, I must say that I love the WE 86 very much. For the pre-amplifiers, I like both WE 106 & 120. The WE 106 has a wider soundstage while the WE120 has very strong vocal...
I have tried many vintage pre-amplifiers (Marantz 7, Fisher 400Cx, Fisher 50c, Fisher 80c) but I have yet to experience newly made "modern" pre-amplifier. Initially, I ws waiting for the 27M using ballon tubes but the long waiting time has made me lose interest. The BBA was another that I have thought of trying but I get no response from the seller. Now, my 3rd attempt goes to Sifu's Wu "new" pre amplifier using vintage genunie parts...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Learning the art of Fisher 50C

I have owned 2 pairs of Mono Bloc pre-amplifiers namely The Fisher 80C, Fisher 50C (now with my good friend Sing) before.

I must admit, I have no been able to use it well owing to a lack of confidence which resulted in me letting them go.

This afternoon, after lunching with Sing, Alan and his student John, we had a listening session at my apartment with my 3rd pair of mono bloc Fisher 50c pre amplifiers.

We have spent quite sometime moving and finding an ideal "Emperor throne". Following which, Alan & John have demonstrated the art of using Fisher 50C to me.

It was a pleasure and fruitful afternoon as I have managed to experience the art of pushing the Fisher 50C to its limit and exploit its potential.

Thanks Alan and John for a fun afternoon!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bringing home the WE 755a speakers

Initially, I was trying to let go one set of the spare Altec 755a to fellow audiophile iin Hong Kong. However, since the offers were not serious, I decided to bring home my spare Western Electric 755a back to Singapore and keep the Altec 755a here in Hong Kong.
With the packing, the whole living room more spacious and less crowded now. In addition, I have also created a more ideal speakers placement areas for my Altec 755a in Piano wood.
For those who loves vocal music, you must try to get a pair of 755a...which has acquired the cult status owing to its rarity. Better be quick!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Good CD - Ayako Hosokawa

Ayako Hosokawa's to Mr. Wonderful is an excelent CD! It was produced in the 1977 in LP and re-mastered into CD in 97 by the three blind mice company using the XRCD technology (now the technology has improved to XRCD2 and XRCD24..
Her vocal is sweet and smooth. This is her first album which is able to show her great vocal capabilities. Acompanied with great jazz musicians from Japan of that time (1977) such as Tsuyoshi Yamamoto on piano and Shoji Yokouchi on guitar makes this CD even better.
For the record track listing is : 1. Wrap Your Troubles In Dream 2.Misty 3. Our Love Is Here To Stay 4. My Foolish Heart 5. Bridge Over Trouble Water 6. When You Smile 7. Mr. Wonderfull 8. Feel Like Makin' Love 9. The Lady Is A Tramp. I like Misty, Bridge over trouble water..
Playing it with WE124 + 755a ...nice!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Western Electric KS 16617 amplifiers : )

Prevously, I have the intention of buying the KS 16617 in order to start a mini collection of Western Electric amplifier. Over the weekend, I have not pursue it further as I was worried about storing and moving.

Long before I came to Hong Kong,I have always planned to stay for a couple of years before moving to work in Shanghai. With all these vintage gears, I am worried about the moving. Currently, I still have 2 set of amplifiers namely the WE 124b & Leak TL12.1 plus Fisher 400CX and 3 pair of speakers (i.e. Western Electric 755a, Altec 755a, Rogers LS3/5a 15 ohms) as well as a spare Top Gun integrated amplifiers.

During my next trip back to Singapore, I should bring back the Western Electric 755a to SIngapore in order to minimize the items here.. : )

Friday, March 16, 2007

Great CD - The Absolute Sound

Very often, we will buy one CD for a particular song or songs. TAS - The Absolute sound has produced their yearly CD collections consisting of music of all kinds: Jazz, Classic, Musical, latin etc, bringing the best of the best music as well as the best recording.
So far, I have manged to buy the complete set of The Absolute Sound 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003,2004, 2005, 2006. (Not sure why it has stopped for 1999 and 2000?)
For those who wants to listen to different CD in one single CD, can try The Absolute Sound CD! Sound great!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 07 - One year of blogging

Looking back at my first post, it has been a year since I first started writing this blog. Times passes very fast! My vintage gears have gradually evolved from where I first started.

It all began with the well known household brands such as the Quad II, Mcintosh MC240, Marantz 7, and Altec 604 speakers. Later, as I began to learn more of the hifi and explore the sound that I like, I began to search for commercial professional use amplifiers such as the Leak TL12.1 and then to the Western Electric amplifiers.

My Hifi journey has been an interesting one where I have met many interesting fellow audiophiles as well as some weird one too! Along the way, I have bought, trial and sold many interesting vintage amplifiers. There are many audiophile who "collect" many amplifiers by brands, by series or everything. For me, as I always mentioned, since space and resources are limited, I would tend to focus on Quality rather then having sure quantities and numbers. I like my current system consisting of amplifiers and speakers which I have slowly collected over the past 20 months. : )

In my opinion, the best vintage power amplifiers are Western Electric 124 (most natural sound) and Leak TL12.1 (most dynamic). In term of pre amplifiers, it will be Marantz 7 (most neutral sound); Fisher 400CX (most musical) and Fisher 50C (most emotional). For speakers, Tannoy has the most relax sound with huge soundstage; the Western Electric 755a (most live like vocal) & Chartwell Ls3/5a 15 ohms (smooth silky sound). The best tubes are the 6L6/KT66 as they have the most balance sound, sufficient strength yet not rough..

Enjoy your music!

Western Electric KS 16617 amplifiers

The Western Electric KS16617 amplifiers is the "little brother" version of the KS series with 8 watts of power using 6V6 tubes. The KS 16608 is 12 watts using 6L6 tubes.

I am in the midst of consideration whether to build up a small collection of the Western Electric amplifiers. Even though these are the KS series, I must say that these amplifiers are quite rare as well. The recent ebay transaction price for the KS16617 is about US$1469 (plus shipping should be about HK$12,500).

To start the collection or not is the question?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

CD - Throne (teaching the art of speakers placement)

Placement of speakers has always been a mystery. One of the "hidden" art of hifi is the art of placing speakers.
Now, there is a CD THRONE which will help one learn the art of speakers placement with much ease!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Altec 755a speakers

I have always wanted to find a "vintage looking" cabinet for my Western Electric 755a speakers for my bedroom use in Singapore (as the Piano wood cabinet were too big for my bedroom). Last night, I have managed to find a pair of nice Altec 755a speakers in a vintage looking cabinet made of old wood. The cabinet was from Japan.

It was a very busy night as I have to spend time swapping the Western Electric speakers drivers across the vintage looking cabinet and placed the Aletc 755a into the Piano wood cabinets. It took me almost an hour to do the swap but I was happy as my wife love the new vintage looking cabinet as it fits into the overall decoration of my apartment in Singapore. I will bring back the pair of WE 755a speakers to Singapore in April 07.

Anyone keen to own a pair of classic Altec 755a in Piano wood cabinet?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Graphite heat shield for vaccum tubes

I have bought two units of Graphite heat shields made by Hobby Lab for use with my Western Electric 124b amplifiers. I have placed the two shields at the U 52 rectifiers tubes.
The purpose of the shilds are to enable quicker heat dispersement so as to protect the life span of the tubes as well as reducing the various noise interference.
The graphite shields have to be "cut" and polish from a single block of graphite.
Upon playing my WE 124 amplifiers, I can feel that the surounding temperatures were reduced. I will further test and review the graphite shiels for a little longer.. Science and technology!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why buy vintage hifi items?

Many people has asked me why I buy only vintage hifi items?

Firstly, the various vintage items were reviewed by millions of people around the world in order to reach today cult status. These have very nice circiut, superb workmanship plus superior use of materials. We can just ask ourselves, how many of these so called modern days hifi equipment being able to reach these kind of popularity and review. How many of the DIY projects can be widely accepted as before?

Secondly, during the early days where music is one of the main entertainment, milions of $$ were poured into research and development in order to create a better sound (examples Marantz 1, 2, 7,8b,9, 10B), Western Electric 124, 142, 86, 91 etc) Leak 12.1, Fishers 400CX, 50C, 400CX II etc.

Thirdly, vintage amplfiers items are limited in quantities while deman has ben growing. One year ago, I have bought the Marantz 7 at HK$20,000 and the last trasacted price is around $30,000. The LEak TL12.1 at one time was $35,000 and now it is over $45,000. I bought my Western Electric 755a at $38,000 (inclusive of the Piano wood cabinet ) and I was offered $50,000 just for the 755a drivers. As such, prices of vintage amplifiers will appreciate in values on conditions that they have to be rare and in good prestine conditions.

Thus, for anyone interested in hifi and still hope to recover your $$ when you are tired of the hobby, one can consider vintage amplifiers. However, remember to get only those reputatble ones and at its best consitions (both internal and cosmetic conditions)!

Be happy!

Fishers Family

For vintage pre amplifiers, my favourite include the Marantz 7 and the Fishers 400CX as well as the Fisher 50c.

Having cut love my set of Fisher 50C to my good friend Sing, I have somewhat felt a strange lost feeling.....The lost feeling has prompted me to continue my search for these fishes!

This evening, I have managed to find another set of Fisher 50C from another good friend, and now with matching original cabinet (but at more then 33% cost more then my previous set)

Previously, since I have 2 set of power amplifiers (Leak 12.1 & WE 124), I would have to constantly switched the pre amplifeir cables from one set to another, whch is abit troublesome. Now, with 2 pre-amplifiers, I could now just turn on and play without needing to switch cable.

My set in HKG now consists of the following combination:

Fisher 50C pre-amplifier + Western Electric 124b amplifier + Western Electric 755a
Fisher 400CX pre-amlifier + Leak TK12.1 + Rogers 15 ohms LS3/5a or Tannoy Mini.

Some personal observations:
For me, the Marantz 7 pre-ampliefier is a classic with strong Mid and a "neutral" charateristic. The Fisher 400Cx has a more "musical" sound, having more high & low thereby giving a more dynamic overall sound. For the Fisher 50C, the sound is more emotional and it allows one to be fully drwan into the music. Whch is the best? I guess, it will be a difficult question to answer as it all depends on taste and hifi matching.

When I want a more dynamic sound, Leak TL12.1 + Fisher 400CX is the answer. If I prefer a more smoothing music with strong natural vocal, I would use Fisher 50C + WE 124. But if one prefers to have a much more enegized vocal and lively mood, I think Fisher 400CX + We 124 gives me the atmosphere.

Thus, it would seem that my Power amplifier Leak TL12.1 + Western Electric 124 will be here to stay for a long time as well as my vintage Tannoy Canterbury, Western Electric 755a and Chartswell LS3/5a 15 ohms speakers. For the pre-amplifiers, my Marantz 7 and now Fisher 400CX were the proven "survival" ( as I often will eliminate the item not able to live up to its name and performance). Now, the Fisher 50C are on its testing stage on the "survial" lists!.

Thus, anyone keen on my spare Rogers 15ohms white belly can write to be for sales discussion.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Lo Fi - DIY project

I have been very passive in the past few months after my acqusistion of my dream amplifier WE124. I have been listening to the WE 124 and Leak 12.1 and the experiences have made me appreciate music and their different interpretation.
I have not been very good at DIY. I have only did some DIY on my Leak 12.1 (with the help from my friend John) and some DIY cabinets. For the WE 124, as it has been fully retored by an experience Sifu, I am hesistant to really touch the internal.
However, to satisfy my growing desire to learn some some DIY (after seeing Sing's very active restoration). Last night, I have managed to find a relatively "cheap" China made amplifier for the start of my DIY project...or should i just say upgrading of capcitors project.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dream amplifier - Western Electric 91

Ever since I have fallen in love in the world of Western Electric, it seems to be a joyful journey of no return. It started with the Western Electric KS16608 series; followed by the Western Electric 755a speakers. At the end of 2006, I have finally found a pair of Western Electric 124b power amplifiers. Following which, I have also acquired a set of very resaonable price Western Electric 100f amplifiers, WE 350 tubes etc. ( Please note that the WE 91 picture don't belong to me..)
At the hifi scene in Hong Kong, there were many active audiophiles collecting many different kind of amplifiers.
Now, I am playing both the Leak TL12.1 using KT66 tubes and alternate them with the Western Electric 124b using the 350B or 6L6 tubes. I can still vividly remember many audiophiles has thought that it will be near impossible to find a pair of Western Electric amplifiers since they have been all bought up by the audiophile in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
Moreover, the Hong Kong audiophiles who played with WesternElectric gears were so low profile that one seldom hear much in the WE forum.
Man lives by dreaming. Thus, with my hifi path being focussed at "Quality" rather then "Quantities", my next dream gear is the much famed Western ELectric 91 amplifiers, not the replica but the real WE 91.. Previously, I have hoped to find the Brooks but the set that I have found has a non oroginal out put transformer. For the Dynatron amplifies, the diffuculty in findng NOS ballon tubes have further stopped me from looking for them. Since one is going to dream, one might as well dream Big.ha ha ha.
Is it possible? Yes, I hope : )
I have alwayes been single minded in my goal. However, the good thing is that I am not in a hurry as I can take my time to enjoy with what I have at the moment and listen to the sound of music and wait for the opportunities for the dream gear to appear in front of day..

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Western Electric 124 - with Sylvania 274 tubes

My NOS Sylvania 274B tubes have finally arrived. Since it is a NOS sticks, I would have to cut open the bottom of the box in order to take out the tubes from the boxes.

These tubes were made during Dec 1942 and Jan 1943, during World War Two for the US Navy. Imagine, after all these years of storage, these tubes finally got their chance to be part of the "action"..

The sound stage for the 274B tubes are deeper then the U52. Both charatristics are different as you can imagine the U52 having a smoother and warmer sound while the 274B has a deeper sound as well as analytical sound. I like both the sound, I must say.. : ) Maybe we call call them the GEC U52 British sound while the 274B as US sound?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Great CD - Instrumental CD

Recently, there are quite alot of "competitions" in terms of collecting the great number of hifi gears in Hong Kong as well as arguments over the issues with "tone control" in the R33 forum.

Fortunately, I have been able to get out of these "rat race" and focus my energy in listening to music rather then competing or arguing.

This evening, I have managed to find 3 sentimental instrumental musics CD namely while walking around Mongkok.

The audiophiles crowd at Mongkok has drastically reduced compared to 2005. Perhaps it is due to the ebay where everyone just buy the items fom ebay rather then from the vintage shops.

The 3 CDs are:

1. Silver Screen Classics featuring violin with Piano, harp,guitar and strings.
2. Latin sound of Shangai - Latin Guitar. Very relaxing sound. Its amazing how a Western artsist is able to interpret & play the various Chinese classics songs .
3. An All Night - Guitar. Even though this is a Made in China CDs, the recording is quite good and the playing skills are excellent too!

Enjoy the music!