歲月神偷 - Echoes of the Rainbow - mini review


Just had a chance to watch this BR disc which I bought a while back:
歲月神偷 - Echoes of the Rainbow

It's a simple show about the life and times of a family living in a poor part of Hong Kong in the 60s and onwards..
Simon Yam and Sandra Ng play the lead husband and wife of this family and the lives they lead in a time when a few cents could buy you a bun, and life was hard.

I wish someone would make a show like that about Singapore and Malaysia too..

Not a lot of action or effects, but the picture quality is excellent and it's worth a rental at least.

It's in Cantonese, for those who are Canto - challenged...



The Ideal Height To Mount Your TV and Lighting For TV Viewing

 A cursory glance through some pictures of new homes makes me notice that many of the TVs are mounted waaaayyyy too high...

I suspect the aesthetics took a big precedent over real viewing specifications...

The rule of thumb is quite simple:

The centre of the TV should be slightly lower than the eye level when you are seated. That way you are not craning your neck upwards, and this is quite unpleasant.
The most comfortable viewing angle is 12 degrees below horizon. As you move upward from there, fatigue and eye dryness increase gradually. Too high and you'll get a sore neck.
It is best to get it right the first time, and even if your ID or perhaps the lady boss of the home wants to center the TV around her eye level as she walks around, that's incorrect. And it's not a portrait, it's a TV, so sit down, take out the measuring tape and get it right.

This is a nice little article to help especially if you are good at DIY, otherwise leave it to the pros :
http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/article/step-step-how-mount-flat-panel-tv

As for lighting:
From an article on CNET:
Room lighting Since most people turn down the lights to watch a movie, our recommendations are designed to deliver a better picture in rooms with controlled lighting. Unless you have a big-screen projector or you're sitting at the minimum viewing distance, you shouldn't watch movies in complete darkness--it can cause eyestrain. For bright plasmas and smaller direct-view sets, the ideal setup is to place a dim light directly behind the TV and leave the rest of the room dark. Look for special daylight bulbs that glow at 6,500 degrees Kelvin. You should also prevent any light in the room from reflecting off the TV, as glare will hamper image fidelity. Watching at night is best, but if you watch during the day, thick curtains will really improve the picture.

The key is to have some light, which does not add any glare or hotspots to the TV, but prevents your pupil from dilating too much.

Have a few lighting options, some bright and others dimmer, and add a little light source that's close to your seat, so you don't have to get up just to switch on the light to look at a remote or disc cover.


Here is a couple of useful links to the ideal lighting conditions:

http://www.residentiallighting.com/how-light-media-room

http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-11247_7-6217705-1.html




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

Transferring music from one Mac to another

After the new CDs arrived and I had finished ripping them onto my iMac, I then did the migration of the music first from my iMac to my current MacbookPro (MBP)... and that proved less painful or scary than I imagined. I copied all the music onto a new "iTunes" folder on a new HDD, then copied the contents of the "library  / itunes folder" over to a separate folder that I named "to be transferred". I also created a library xml file from the export function in itunes.



The eventual target will be the new MBP-R

Since I had a itunes app and some music over in the destination MBP that was to be cloned onto the new MBP-R, I checked what music files were new and then copied the new ones into the existing location of the music folder. Then I copied the contents of the "to be transferred" folder to the same location in the MBP and the xml library file.

Most of the transfer was seamless, there were a few files iTunes could not find, and I had to direct the program to the right location, and it then prompted me to see if I wanted to look for the other files in the same place. I clicked yes and it found most of them. This process can take a while if you have a lot of music files, so don't interrupt this, as there is something going on.

The copying took a good part of the morning, but the recognition of the folder and new music files was done in an hour.

Nice and seamless, kudos Apple...





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

Tips on choosing a fan and the Haiku Fan



Fans are one thing that a home in the tropical country will need, and you may even have a few of them, either table top ones, or floor standing.
They can be purely utilitarian, or they can come in fancy designs. Sometimes, you find a fan which combines both form and function, and to top it off, it is also energy efficient.
In choosing a fan, you will need to decide which of the above matters more, and also take into account your budget before making a decision.
The cheapest are table fans, which are simple, cheap and portable. The downside is a lack of power and may not suit your decor, and many come only in a standard design.
There are some retro options:


And some of the retro theme stores locally will also carry them. Ironically the price is higher for these, and if you compare to the 30-80$ for the basic ones, these usually cost 50-100% more.
As for floorstanding fans, they usually come with timers and are more powerful. Some even come with remote controls.
Bear in mind, the more fancy it is, and if it relies solely on the remote, losing that or if the touch pad spoils, then the fan is rendered useless. So if you just want a simple and reliable design, go mechanical and leave out all the frills.
The latest designs are bladeless, but these tend to be noisy and expensive. So check them out and see if it is what you want.
Ceiling fans are powerful, and they don't take up floor space, and some also come with remote controls. You can even install a light with the fan. There are a myriad of designs to suit different decors, and you can mix and match different designs and colors, with various types of lighting too.


Point to note:
Noise levels - this differs greatly and you should test the fan at all speeds to see if it is noisy, especially if you are using it in your bedroom.
Stability - will it shake violently - that's why it's important to see it in action
Lights - check if the control of the lights and fan include all the functions you want, and can you turn them on and off individually.
Mounting of the remote: you may want to have the mount near the door or entrance of the room or have the remote next to your bedside.
Energy consumption : this differs greatly so check again.
Ceiling height and the fan stem length - if you live in a flat with a low ceiling of < 2.8m, use the 40cm stem, but if you have a higher ceiling you can use either the 60cm or even longer stem.
Shadowing and blade clearance:
When you plan, make sure that the blades will not come into contact with any false ceiling, but you will need to avoid a situation where the blades are so long that it causes flickering due to the shadows it casts when it blocks off the light rays from adjacent ceiling or uplights.
If you are planning a home theatre system, make sure the fan is quiet and the stem of the fan does not block the light path of the projector. Also ensure that the string for changing fan speed does not get in the way, or shakes too much.
Some of the better brands include KDK (limited lighting options), Crester (Korean), Hitachi and many others.
Choose according to your budget, the type of design to suit the general theme of your home, and it can accentuate your home.

Haiku Fan

This fan is Kiwi in origin, and is currently owned by Big Ass Fan Company who have bought over the the Haiku but the origin of the fan is definitely NOT American despite their ads.

The key selling points for this fan, are it's design, which looks like a seagull in flight, the silent operation and the very low energy consumption.
It is capable of using less than 10% of the other fans, and yet remains quite powerful.
There is a remote, and an LED light and a beep on the fan indicate a response when you turn it on, but a nice touch is that the LED light turns off after a few seconds.
It comes in a few colors and even has a bamboo blade design.
The main issue is that the price locally has increased significantly from less than $600 last year to almost $1000 these days.
Buy this fan, because the design is sleek and it helps that it consumes less energy and is so silent in operation.
Do take note that the installation is not simple, there are four attachment points and you need to make sure your installer is familiar with this model and can do a good job without the fan shaking violently when it is in operation.

The blurb from the website:
Energy Efficiency
The average ENERGY STAR® residential fan utilizes 65 W of electrical input power. In contrast, Haiku fans only use 2 to 30 W, exceeding the ENERGY STAR requirements for watts per CFM by 450 to 750%. In a typical year, Haiku would use about 50kWh, for a cost of around $5.



See, it's not made in USA...



Dynaudio Confidence 1 and 2 reviews - more details


Dynaudio Confidence 1 and 2 reviews - more details

My audition journey continues, and I had a chance to listen to the Confidence 1 twice, with different setups.

I had owned Dynaudio and I am familiar with their sound, a very nice neutral sound and an innate ability to play rock, loud and proud, whilst being able present a solid soundstage.

The main item of interest was a pair of Confidence 1 Signature series, and they were driven by some Spectral brand systems, a brand I had not heard of before.

The first thing that struck you was a certain accuracy, and a clean sound.
Imaging was impressive, and there was no emphasis of any of the frequencies. Then if you are not paying attention to what speaker was ahead of you, you will be struck by the amount of bass available.

Despite a diminutive size, you had bass, which extended lower than most bookshelf speakers of the same size. In fact they sounded like a pair of compact floorstanders.

The speakers presented things in a matter of fact way, giving you back whatever was in the recording. It also meant that if you gave them a poor recording, you will know.

But the laws of physics still come into play and you will still miss out on the last couple of octaves, but this speaker had no issue with large scale orchestras.

I then moved onto the much larger C2, with the twin tweeters and woofers. Here things really got interesting.

You had copious scale, and imaging opened up a few notches more and you really lost the sensation of sound coming from a box, and instead you felt palpable music and a sound of a singer resting gently in front of you, neither recessed or forward.

There was a sweetness about the sound, which was superior to the C1, perhaps due to the extra bass, and that helped round things up nicely.

You retained the solid image stability, and also the imaging and it’s associated accuracy, but this speaker needs plenty of room to breathe.

Another issue would be the partnering equipment again. Try some budget amps, or even those AV amps and you will be wondering where your money went, and the amps are also likely to shut down at dynamic parts of the music. Both these speakers thrive on power and quality amplification.

As for the C2, at twice the cost and significantly larger, this would not be the first choice speaker for many in Asia with small homes. Yet the sound was capable of making you sit up.

Like the B&W 804D, you need to invest in solid equipment, to make the best of the gear. And if you are spending most of your time in HT, then it maybe more prudent to invest in the best sub and other HT related gear.

But if you already have or are planning to invest in a solid two channel system, both of these speakers will impress you very well. The C1 is the better choice for most in small homes, but if you have the space, the C2 rewards you with a massive soundscape and scale that is hard to beat at any price. You just to spend a lot on the partnering components to achieve this.

My second audition of the C1 was with a Oppo BDP 95 as the source, and a new Plinus amp.

This was done in a much smaller domestic setting which is more akin to what more homes are like. The impression was similar, and you get plenty of detail, accuracy, pace and a bass which belies it's diminutive size.

So if you have the budget to buy a motorcycle you could instead buy a pair of one of these...


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


Links and specs:

http://www.dynaudio.com/int/home_loudspeaker_systems/confidence/confidence_c1.php

Technical Specifications
Confidence C1 II

Sensitivity

85 dB (2,83 V/1 m)

IEC Power Handling

170 W

Impedance

4 Ohms

Frequency Response

45 Hz – 22 kHz (± 3 dB)

Box Principle

2-way bass-reflex

Crossover Frequency

1800 Hz

Weight

10.9 kg

Dimensions (W x H x D)

200 x 445 x 430 mm
7.9 x 17.5 x 16.9"




Monitor Audio GX 300 speaker review

Monitor Audio GX 300 review

I have been using MA speakers ever since I got the Bronze 2 (that’s the second series) bookshelf and centre speakers.

I lugged them with me to Sydney and in my flat, they generated a whole bunch of bass which amazed my friends who came over. Partner with my Marantz SR 18 EX AV receiver, they sounded wonderful and they found a new home in my friend’s place, displacing his Thiels for home theatre.

It also cement a long partnership I had with the Silver RS and then the Gold series with my Marantz SR 12 S1, which I have written extensively about.

So when the day came and I sold off my MA GS speakers, it was only natural that I would audition their replacements, the GX series.

Things have moved on, and the new GX series have now got a new cabinet, and more interestingly, a ribbon tweeter. Now contrary to some views, it is not the same ribbon tweeter used in the Platinum series, but it’s adapted from that series.

Links and specs:

http://www.monitoraudio.co.uk/products/gold-gx/gx300/

Specifications

· New C-CAM transducer design providing extension to a class-leading 60kHz

· Dedicated mid-range and tweeter enclosure

· Pureflow Silver internal cabling

· Selected premium quality wood veneers or high gloss piano finishes

· Metal mesh grille design to give low diffraction, resulting in improved off-axis dispersion.

· Invisible magnetic grille fixing provides clean visual styling when used with the grille off.

· Curved cabinet profile for increased rigidity and reduced internal standing waves.

· Large radius cabinet edges provide low diffraction and smoother overall frequency response.

There is plenty to like about them, from the wonderful cabinet work, which is actually superior to many far more expensive speakers. With 11 layers of lacquer, the piano gloss finish is a sight to behold indeed and if not for anything else, buyers will get this simply because it looks like a really expensive piece of furniture.

I had the honor and pleasure of being invited over by a friend on a forum to listen to the top of the GX series, and they were installed in the living room of his home.

His equipment:

CD player: Cayin CDT-17a
Pre amp: Emotiva UMC-1 (running on direct mode)
Power amp: Marantz 7055
Speaker: Monitor Audio GX300
Interconnect: DIY Hisago Cable
Speaker Cable: Chord Carnival SilverScreen (Single)


I would hasten to suggest that I immediately felt the GX 200 was a better choice for his living room, which would not be more than 4m wide and 2.5m deep.

In fact I was concerned about phase coherence, and also of boominess, and even though he had inserted bungs into the speaker port, I was concerned about how the bass would be like in such a small space.

Having gotten used to the MA GS, which leans towards the bright side of neutral, I was a little worried about how they will sound, so I ask the owner to use a solid state amp (Marantz power amps driving his Denon) instead of his tubes. However his CD player was also a tube (Cayin), and this could have an influence on the sound.

The audition turned out to be rather pleasant, as the key was the SCALE. I had used a GS 10 bookshelf for a couple of years and it was refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to the full scale soundfield of the MA GX 300.

The soundscape was about 1.5-2m behind the plane of the speakers, and the imaging was very stable and clear.

Now perhaps it was the tube CD player, or the Marantz power amp, but there was no hint of brightness at all, and you could play some very etchy violins, or listen to the piercing voice of a lady singer, but essentially, the treble was detailed and yet controlled.

This in turn was matched by a decent mid and that bass. The bass didn’t shake the room like a subwoofer, and we were playing it at moderate volumes in a small flat. But it was almost palpable, and I think the bass helped to round off the treble too and make the entire presentation a smooth to neutral one.

I had also heard the GR 60 not long ago in Sydney in a friend’s home up in the Pennant Hills, and that beast had bass.

Now having heard the 804D on the same day, just an hour before the MA GX 300, it made for an interesting comparison.

There is a price gap equivalent to the price of another GX 300 between them, and the partnering equipment and listening room was certainly not the same, but the sonic characteristics were quite different.

The B&W 804D had loads of detail. The imaging and detail was amazing. It was significantly superior to the GX 300 in this respect but the key was that you needed to get the right gear to partner the 804D. Get it wrong and you could get a rather jarring experience.

The GX 300 lost out on details but it had a full range sonic experience that the 804D could not match. It dug deeper, and with this, it allowed the whole experience to sound wholesome. Furthermore, it was a bit more forgiving of electronics, and you will probably be using this with much less costly partnering gear.

So here are two speakers representing two different price points. One came from a superior range, and demanded you use better components to go with it. That meant that you will have to cough up money not only for the speakers, but also for better partnering equipment to make full use of these speakers.

On the other the GX 300 was aimed at a different level. For the price of the B&W, you can get the GX 300, plus the partnering centre and components with change.

This also meant you could have a very decent sound for a lot less money.

However the GX 300 needs room to breath and control that bass. In this respect the B&W 804D was more room friendly. But if you have the room, and could bring the GX 300 further into the room to allow this rear ported speaker some room to breath, it will reward you with amazing scale and still sufficient detail, whilst not embarrassing those pop cds. You don’t need to restrict yourself to only playing “audiophile” material with the GX 300. Even plebian low bitrate pop CDs can sound half decent and if you combine this speaker with the centre speaker and surround, you can be impressed with what you can get.

Now in earlier models the MA was much more value for money, but ever since the pound dropped in value, and we found no corresponding drop in prices, MA has losts it’s lead as value speakers, and you will find their prices almost as marked up as the B&W ones locally.

Ultimately, a long audition is needed to see what suits, and for smaller rooms the GX 200 may be a better choice. A pair of these gorgeous floorstanders will enhance most HT rooms, and will be a good upgrade for those coming from more budget setups.


Image



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

B&W 804D speaker review

Diamonds Are Not Just Women's Best Friends...



The generosity of members the hi fi community is truly amazing. You ask for help and a whole bunch of people come forward to let you check out their system.

I was in the market again, after having sold off my Monitor Audio GS 10 and LCR. Giving myself a budget of around 10k, for the front pair and hopefully the centre too, I began my search.

The first audition was the 804D, and accompanying equipment was:

AVR600 connected to Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks driven by a Oppo BDP 95

Now the 804D is a truly revealing speaker and throughout the audition, the word that came to mind was : detail.


You truly get to hear a lot more of the music and the clarity that comes through is quite amazing. In addition, the focus is also very solid and you get a nice soundstage which is about as deep as you are sitting in front of the speakers.

Regardless of the genre of the music, you can find detail, clarity and retrieve significantly more information from the recording. You will hear things you didn’t in other lesser speakers, and if you have a good recording, with well placed mikes, the placement of each instrument, each singer will be explicitly positioned. If you enjoy an exacting experience, and like to hear even your flutist gasping for air in between, this speaker will please you. However do not try to shortchange it with mp3 recordings, for it will ruthlessly expose their shortcomings.

In home theatre, it also comes into it’s own, allowing you to get more out of lossless, high definition Blu Ray discs, and again, hear a lot more detail.

The build quality is impressive too, but considering that these speakers cost so much, you would expect the best piano gloss finish in the world.

You also get a healthy boost in the bass and there is a significant difference in scale compared to a 805s or D. Timing and pace are well balanced.

However this wonderfully detailed speaker comes with some caveats.

Firstly, you can make do with some mid-level electronics, but honestly, this baby thrives on quality and therein lies the main issue. If you are moving up in the world of hi fi, and have traded in your speakers for this and expect to plonk this into your current setup expecting a heaven and earth change in sound quality, then you are sadly mistaken.

The main thing is that this pair of speakers will expose all the weak links in your system and make them look pedestrian. If your source was a plain BR player, you will be tempted or even pushed into getting a solid CD player. If you were using a AV amp, and no matter how musical it is, you will soon be opening your wallet for a stereo amp or at least a musical power amp. And this is the issue, get the combination wrong and you may get a slight harsh sound, that makes you feel that you didn’t get your money’s worth in the upgrade.

The B&W are not so system friendly as other more warm or neutral speakers, and if your system is already on the harsh side, it will reveal this. An amplifier with a lot of power and current will also be good, as it thrives on solid amplification. No 2 watt tube amps for this speaker, despite the specifications.

Furthermore, with a USD 3000 or so price difference to the smaller 805D, you begin to ponder other options, such as a 805D with a subwoofer combination. The 804D gives a lot of scale, but the price difference is large enough for one to invest in a subwoofer with a really tight and deep sound, such as the JL Audio F113. And that can also do double duties in a HT system and go deeper than the 804D can.

Furthermore, there are speakers with more scale and although it will go deeper than a bookshelf like the 805D, it won’t be anywhere near the 803 or 802D.

So who should consider this speaker?

If you do not have a lot of space, but would like a floor-stander speaker, and like the B&W sound, you should consider this speaker. Just be prepared to upgrade the entire food chain, and swop out the amplifier, the cables etc before you regain Audio Nirvana. It is revealing, and needs careful partnering to avoid a harsh sound. Done well, the solid focus and clarity will shine through...


Links and specs:

Woven Kevlar

Crossover Tuning

Nautilus Tapering Tube

Flowport

Mushrooms

FST

Tweeter on Top

Matrix

Rohacell

Diamond Tweeters

De-coupling

Quad Magnet Tweeter Motor

Dual Magnet Tweeter Motor

Description
3-way vented-box system
Drive units
1x ø25mm (1 in) diamond dome high-frequency

1x ø150mm (6 in) woven Kevlar® cone FST™ midrange

2x ø165mm (6.5 in) Rohacell® cone bass
Frequency range
-6dB at 30Hz and 33kHz

Frequency response
38Hz - 28kHz ±3dB on reference axis
Dispersion
Within 2dB of reference response
Horizontal:
over 60º arc
Vertical:
over 10º arc
Sensitivity
90dB spl (2.83V, 1m)
Harmonic distortion
2nd and 3rd harmonics (90dB, 1m)

<1 -="" 22khz="" 90hz="" br="">
<0 -="" .5="" 120hz="" 20khz="" span="">
Nominal impedance
8Ω (minimum 3.0Ω)
Crossover frequencies
350Hz, 4kHz
Recommended amplifier power
50W - 200W into 8Ω on unclipped programme
Max. recommended cable impedance
0.1Ω
Height:
1020mm (40.2 in) (not including feet)
Width:
238mm (9.4 in)
Depth:
351mm (13.8 in)
Net weight
27kg (59 lb)
Cabinet:
Cherrywood

Rosenut

Piano Black Gloss
Grille:
Black cloth





Now that I have been using this speaker for about 10 months and I want to do a little follow up, especially after following a thread on it in an adjacent forum:


Being an owner who has been using it for both HT and music, I would like to add the following thoughts:

There have been two professional reviews which find that the treble on the 804D (there is no D2, by the way, until the new series comes out..) and both have mentioned a hot treble, although one of them was a little more politically correct, shall we say?

I tend to agree to a certain extent. In music, one may find the treble hotter than some other brands, such as Sonus Faber, Quads, or even B&W's own CM series. In particular, if you toe them in, and sit with one's ears at tweeter level with the tweeters pointing at you, it will be more prominent.

Of course, partnering gear matters too, and here one can adjust the level crispness desired with cables, footers, amps and even sources.

I had previously written something about taming the treble here:


On the hand, I have also found that the current setup is simply AWESOME for HT.

The level of detail, the crispness in effects, and the voicing is precise and leaves little else to be desired. Of course one could spring up for the bigger models in the same series, but if you have a decent sub, then you won't really miss those lower octaves. I have found that placing the speaker about 50cm from the rear, and in the right listening position, the bass is quite impressive.

I have also found that a little more power is a good thing for these speakers, and the control that the MF A 5.5 gives and the bass is quite awesome.

A caveat, it doesn't suit those who want the buttery smooth sound that the classic Sonus speakers can provide, so as always YMMV.

Having said that, with the Marantz NA 11 S1 as a DAC, and the Oppo 105 serving as a transport, and the MF A 5.5, the combination is quite musical, with the detail still there and yet now the treble is detailed but no longer so prominent.

Update (17/5/2014)

I have now acquired the partnering Marantz PM 11 S3 and the two are a match made in heaven. The NA 11 s1 is neutral to warm, and matches the power and revealing PM 11 S3.  You also get network control of the amp via the NA11S1, and you can now use the Marantz app for the DAC and amp. This pair had no issues driving my B&W 804D and it also took the slightly bright treble edge off the speaker, making it a fine combination to listen for hours.

The Marantz has the drive for these speakers, even though the speakers can dip into the 4ohm territory.
The combination is the epitome of smooth, you still get the details, but the soundstage has opened up significantly, and the depth of the soundstage is about 2m behind the speakers, with good separation of instruments, and there is scale to match, even when switching from vocals to complex orchestral pieces.
If you like a neutral to warm sound, this combination will please you to no end.

Get The Gringo - movie review

Another day with the Neural X, and DTS-X, and I took out a disc from the not too distant past: Get The Gringo A relatively simple plo...