F1 2011

It's Vettel's season to lose, he entered this race with a wide margin between him and the nearest contenders.
Within seconds of the start, he powers to a commanding lead, and from then, he essentially leads from start, all the way to finish.

The crash by Schumie was a vain attempt by a past champion, trying something risky, which he could have pulled off in his heyday, but he also showed that his time was up and his stunt only managed to make him crash into the back of another car.

So it ends Vettel, Button, Webber...
Comfortable win for V, tremendous fight by W for second but B takes runner up. Loud loud race, from the high pitch whine to bass explosions ...
If you have dinner in the Padang you will be surrounded bu a cacophony of sound. Someone should make this into a Blu Ray Disc.

And for the third year running the safety car is brought out as Schumie decides to get intimate with the barrier wall ....

Hardly my best effort... the cars were simply too fast... and the fact that I could barely catch a glimpse of Vettel's car is endemic of his speed:

Rear speaker cables and cables in general - budgetting

 Rear speaker cables and cables in general.

Someone asked me about what rear cables to buy, and I reckon more can benefit if I post it here.

There has been a rough rule of thumb, which is to spend about a tenth of your budget on cables in general. So following on this, if you have a mid-level or budget amp, you may want to get something simple, that costs <$3/m.

There are many options from Belden, QED, chord and many more. I have a personal deference to QED, ever since I used their 79 strand cable, so I use QED Micro for most of my surround cabling. You can choose from a wide range.

I would not go overboard on the rear cables, but I would spend getting something I would not upgrade, as it can be quite hard, since the cabling could be laid into the wall, false ceiling etc and is hard to access.

So spend say 10% more than what you think i.e. if you have a $800 AV amp, think ahead and see if you upgraded to a $2000 model later on, will you still be satisfied with the same rear cable? Front speaker cable is much easier to upgrade especially if it is not hidden or fixed.

As always YMMV and you need to choose according to your own budget and also the size and color of the rear cable can matter, which is why I choose the white color Micro.

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Buying that AV amp

Buying that AV amp

Life is complicated. Just when we have that spare cash to build up a new home theatre system, we discover that there are so many brands, models and features.

Actually it gets simpler when we do the guy thing - break it down into compartments:

First - budget.

Decide on a realistic amount. It is quite silly to ask for "great music performance", "superb home theatre experience", "lastest technology" and only want to pay a few hundred.
Life isn't fair and some compromises will need to be made.

Second - music / HT balance.
When we have a limited budget, avoid spreading your budget too thin. Unless you exceed 2-4k, a typical AV amp/ reciever won't come close to a stereo amp in performance. It is usually equal to a stereo amp in sonic quality 1/3 the price. You are paying for features, so if music matters mainly, get a stereo amp. Otherwise the main reason we get a AV amp is for HT.

Third - features.

Do we need 3D? Itunes playback? Network?
To some, this is the main reason, to others they are mere frills.

I need a good room equalisation software, be it Audyssey, MACC, YPAO, ARC or others, but the most solid, my money can buy.
I need dual sub outs
I need GUI displays

Secondary stuff: network, DNLA, are fluff, 3D is way down the list.

I need a solid amp section, not merely some published spec but the real deal. What caps, whats the weigh of the amp, are there fans?
If you choose some low impedance speaker, say 4ohm design etc, this is less likely to be those budget friendly entry level stuff, so why partner it with a AV amp that has a weedy power supply. An entry level amp with a specification of 100w times 7 written on the side of the box is not going to do the job. If you belief that it will really produce that amount of power, you must also believe in tooth fairies and strike lottery daily. A simple calculation involves downloading the manual and seeing the power consumption of the unit, if it consumes 400W in total, it is less likely to give you 700w worth of output.

But even a budget amp with pre-outs can give you thunderous output, by outsourcing the power needs to an external power amp. That's why pre-outs form part of my checklist.

Pre-outs, multi-inputs, 12v triggers.

Ease of use is something we neglect too that is pretty important.

I also need 7.1 at least, but I will go 9.2 or 11.2.

Made in Japan?
Gold plated plugs?

Cute but not a deal breaker.

Your own list may vary, but have a system of what is most important.

Fourth: partnering equipment

There is a balance. Remember, the amp is only as good as the speakers / sub and source. For hi def programs, the differences between BR is less, so the speakers play the most important difference.

Each brand of amps will advertise it's own sonic signature, but there are less differences than stereo amps. Go with what you are comfy with, choose one model and partner it with the speakers you have shortlisted.


No amount of solicitation of advise will replace a good demo session. And if you opt for satellite speakers, there is really no sense in buying a top of the line AV amp, which cannot bring out the best in your system. And if your idea of hi fi is Bose, well save the money and spend it on the software like BR discs instead.

One very important thing is that amps tend to go obsolete. So I would not expect resale to be great and buy what you need.

Good luck!


I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Mounting your surround speakers

 Wall brackets and Mounts

I know of us use bookshelves, or table tops (yucks) for this, or stands and mounts. Depending on your aesthetic demands/need to get the speakers out of the way, your methods of mounting the speakers will vary.

Been doing some research work on this:

Some speakers come with their mounts, such as the MA Radius speakers.

There are a few brands locally, but if you are willing to import, there are more choices.

There are many Omnimounts and you can get them off amazon or Monoprice too.

Many speakers come with their screw thread behind, but it is vital to assess the mount to see if it will take the weight, and give it some excess.
Check too if the wall itself especially if it is not solid can take the mount.
Other considerations are if the mounts can pivot or rotate.
Colors - black is about the only choice, unless you are willing to spray paint it..

Avoid mounting it right at the top near the ceiling - the boundary effect really changes the sound. And if it is a rear ported speaker, the sound could change too if it is not allowed to breathe.

  We have the Queenie brands for about $30 or so. Available from SLS .

There is the Sanus:
[quote]The Sanus WMS2 is a tilt and swivel wall mount for speakers up to 15 lbs / 6.82 kg. About $90.


Tilt and Swivel Wall Mount

for SMALL bookshelf speakers

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Specs vs real Pecs...

 Specs and real Pecs...

I thought it was worth posting something on specs here:

When I see a debate over which amps delivers 10w more per channel it is amusing and yet at the same time ridiculous, since they don't come anywhere close to what is stipulated, especially for the lower end models.
So I would be very sanguine and take a whole bunch of salt when looking at specs. Often for AVRs and esp in lower end models, they are grossly inflated. Even for higher end ones, when you drive all channels, some models deliberately throttle the current to prevent their amp sections from a meltdown.

However when driving 8 ohm designs in a typical apartment living room, most amps will be ok. But if you start upgrading, and start using better albeit harder to drive speakers, then the game is more complicated.

Few AVRs can drive 4 ohm designs. Krell, Sunfire etc and a few top end models from the Japs.

For the rest of us who use amps in the 1-2k region, essentially forget the specs and if you need the dynamic headroom, get a power amp.
Note: if you are after real increase in LOUDNESS, getting a more sensitive speaker works a lot easier than trying to double the power.

So take those specifications on amplifier power section outputs with plenty of salt - caveat emptor.

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

What can Audyssey and other auto-EQ do for me - what version to get?

Since I mentioned about moving upwards to XT 32, there have been some questions for me so I might as well post it:

- Audyssey takes the hassle of room acoustic adjustments or EQ from the hands of a novice and gives a pretty impressive approximation of what an expert can do. You won't replace joamonte or some of the other pros, but for those not inclined to doing too much tweaks or have no choice in the placement of certain speakers or subwoofers, this is a valuable tool.

Long before Audyssey in whatever versions, HT and audio hobbyists have been doing their own acoustic measurements and were able to get very impressive sounding rooms and setups. Audyssey has made great strides ahead in achieving this with a simple keypress after just placing the mike on a tripod.

So will everyone need it or the other versions from the other companies, such as MACC, YPAO etc? Well it saves a lot of effort, and does it's job well.

So what about XT and XT 32 etc?

Well from a personal perspective, I traded in the 2309 for the 2809 within a week of purchase, simply because I found the XT to be better on the 2809 and even now, this is the top version for Marantz and only one model in the Denon range and two in the Onkyo range which possess the higher XT 32 version.

This will be useful for those who have two subs, difficult speaker placement and can potentially offer a better surround experience.

But if your funds do not allow you to stretch to the highest version, you can make do, and then do the rest of the work manually if you wish to make the most of your system. I would advise that everyone does that, regardless of the version of auto-EQ that you have.

So in summary, IMHO for the best HT or even audio experience, buy the best auto-EQ you can afford, i.e. the best surround processor or "brain" that you can find in a AV amp or pre-amp, and then get better amp sections by adding power amps f you can. Eg, buy a second hand model with a better processor, and if you don't need 3D, or networking, an older but higher model may suit you better.
If the budget does not allow you to stretch upwards, then learn how to tweak the acoustics by simple things like moving speakers, furniture etc to enhance your experience.

Cheers and enjoy.

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Region Free Blu Ray players - Toshiba BDX3200KY 3D Blu-ray Player - mini review

Region Free Blu Ray players - Toshiba BDX3200KY 3D Blu-ray Player - mini review
There is a sparse selection of Region Free Blu Ray players out there.
Apart from the Oppo series (80, 83, 93 and 95), some other companies make mod boards for Panasonic and other mainstream players, but you will either need to send your player to them or buy a modified player from them.
Dune is another alternative, which has a simple firmware which allows this.
Sonic, Sherwood, and other lesser known brands, also make limited runs of players that allow you to change the region code via a few key presses on the remote.
Apart that these few players, you basically had to restrict your purchases to the regions or follow those forums which share the region coding of the discs like: 
However, there is a new player in the region free world – Toshiba. From the BDX 1200 to the 3100 and now the newer 3D capable BDX 3200.
Some links to reviews:
This player is available in Australia and UK mainly.
To change the region code, you need to go to set up and enter 8520 then change to A B or C. No firmware needed. For DVDs it is already set for region 0 ie region free.
Some specifications off their website:
1080p 3D Full HD:
Enjoy 1080p Full HD playback of both 3D and 2D Blu-ray discs for exceptionally clear and crisp picture quality with vivid colours

HD Audio:
BDX3200 supports Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio Essential via HDMI. Both audio technologies deliver 100% lossless transmission ensuring that the output is identical to the original studio recording.

BD-Live™ Profile 2.0 Support: BD-Live™ gives access to interactive features enabled on selected Blu-ray discs and Bonus View support for picture-in-picture capabilities. BD live extends your movie watching experience with access to additional and interactive content and bonus features from the Internet via the Ethernet port and USD drive. You can access bonus features and exclusive downloads such as alternative endings, extra scenes and trailers, live transations to purchase products featured in the movie, online chat and trivia games.
Playable Disc Types & Formats
3D Blu-ray Disc Video, Blu-ray Disc Video, BD-R/RE2.0, BDAV DVD, DVD-Video/DVD-R/+R /DVD-RW/+RW/SVCD/CD-R/CD-RW/CD-Audio AVCHD, AVCREC disc
This is a wee piece of a player, weighing 1.5 kg, and not a lot of metal to it. The remote is a standard job, and responsive enough. There is pretty fast playback, the time taken for the drawer to emerge from a switched off position is impressive and the whole player feels spritely, especially if you come to the older 1.3 HDMI players of just a year back. Certainly on par with the Oppo and other major brands like Sony and Panasonic.
This is a HDMI 1.4 capable player, so it does 3D and plays most major formats except SACD and DVD-A. Owners of VCDs will be glad to know that this player supports them, a feature which other players usually leave out.
There is even a USB port for USB media playback. This is a basic player, and if you need wi fi, apps, DNLA or other functions, it is not for you.
It also leaves out 2D to 3D conversion. And there is no 7.1 channel analogue output either.
What it does well and simply is playback Blu Ray. And in terms of picture quality and sound for Blu Ray playback, if you are using a small screen, i.e. 50" and under, you won't feel like you have lost out much to the more expensive alternatives.
However if upscaling of DVDs and usage of larger screens is needed, or you really look for details, you will still be better off with the higher end ones. This is not surprising, as an earlier shootout indicated that the modern BR player has very similar outputs when playing BR discs.
Music playback is fair, so this player is not going to scare the audiophile orientated brands or replace that CD player of yours, but via HDMI it is reasonable since the sound quality will be more reliant on the DACs in the AV amp.
The market is crowded with basic players, so what sets aside this player is the magical Region Free Playback capability, via a few simple key presses.
This player is available in Australia and UK mainly.
To change the region code, you need to go to set up and enter 8520 then change to A B or C. No firmware needed. For DVDs it is already set for region 0 ie region free.
At Aus 180 or about UK GBP 130, this player is a nice little bargain and now you can go online and shop to your heart's delight, without worrying about region coding.
 So the bottom line is, get this if you are interested in a simple region free capable BR player for not a lot of money.

The firmware for region free play can be found here (only for this model):

Not just another Sydney trip - food and more

So who has not been to Oz and in particular Sydney? Blue mountains? Harbor bridge? Koalas? I think most of us have seen them all .. How a...