My Setup 12 / 2013

 Update: I have upgraded my system in 2015:
My 2015 setup








PS64D8000FM Samsung plasma TV



Denon AVR 4520 – XT 32, 11.2 capable with nine amps inbuilt, twin sub out
Marantz PM 11S3 : 2 channel stereo amp with HTbypass and 100W per channel driving the front pair of 804D (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2014/04/marantz-pm11s3-review.html)
Oppo BR player BDP 105 as CD transport and HT source
Oppo BDP 83  Nuforce BR player (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2010/07/review-of-oppo-bdp-83-nuforce-edition.html)
Marantz NA11S1 as a DAC and network player
Apple TV (Gen 1) X 2 for music and photos
HTM4s centre, Radius 90HD for height and wide channels
Usher 520 for rear back
Monitor Audio RXFX in dipole mode for side surrounds
JL Audio F113 for low bass
Hsu MBM for mid bass (tuned to 50-120 Hz) - sited behind my main seat
QED XT 300 for front and centre speakers
QED Micro speaker cable for the rest
Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI for Oppo to amp
Aiborg flat HDMI cable, LHS and AQ Forest HDMI cable - amp to TV and other sources
Audioquest Snake subwoofer cables
Wireworld Oasis 6 Interconnects
Assorted Xindak, PS Audio and other power cables
MK wall power sockets
Rhodium Right Angle Plug adapters for USA power cables
Auralex subdude platform and under centre speaker
Da lite screen
Glass optical cables







 






For my desktop:
KEF X 300A fed by my Mac
Stereo system:
Marantz PM 11S3 : 2 channel stereo amp driving the front pair of 804D 
Oppo BR player BDP 105 as CD transport fed to the Marantz NA 11 S1



Acknowledgement:
Some of the photos were my own, others were kindly provided by Terence from MODAVI.com:
  
http://www.mod-avi.com/ 





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

How to make bright sounding speakers sound more warm


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Sometimes too much detail can be a bad thing, or perhaps you like the details your speakers can produce, but also find it a tad too hot in the treble.

I found that my speakers were almost perfect for home theatre, but the treble sizzled a bit too much for my liking. So short of changing them, what can we do?

Let’s start from the free maneuvers to the ones which cost…

Speaker Position

Toeing in helps gives focus, and tightens the soundstage. But having the speakers point at your ears with makes the sound hotter. If your ears at the level of the tweeters, it also makes it hotter.

So fire them straight down the room, and sit a little above or even below the tweeter level.

Speaker Grilles

Keeping the grilles on also helps tame the treble a bit.

Wiring

In certain speakers, not all the inputs are the same. For example, in the B&W 800 series, by using the lower inputs, you get less treble energy.

Reflective surfaces

Walls, glass, marble or hard floors are reflective and give the tone a ‘shiny’ or ‘bright’ signature. That’s why installers add things like curtains, carpets or even diffusers.

An empty room is also more likely to sound bright, but take your time to experiment, so it doesn’t become too acoustically dead.

Now, onto the stuff that costs money, and we will start from the less costly to the atmospheric…


Cables

These are simple ways to tune your speakers to a more ideal sound. But it may be hard to get cables for home auditions, so that leaves you the option of reading reviews, but that doesn’t mean that the same cables will work well in your own system.


As a rough rule of thumb, silver cables sound brighter, so using copper ones will turn down that treble a bit.

Footers

Wooden footers and softer materials help to tame the treble, but also run the risk of making the bass more woolly, so strike a balance.. These can be placed under speakers, the source or even the amp.

Resonance absorbers

Now comes the more voodoo stuff. It’s entirely up to you to accept or reject this. But piezo crystals and other such stuff placed around with some trial and error can make a difference.

It’s your call on this, and I would avoid spending too much. Tweaks like this should be less than 10% of the cost of your speakers, others, it may be worth your while to simply sell off the current setup, and get something with a sonic signature which suits you more.

Experiment a bit, there is much trial and error, at the end of the day, one needs to assess if it’s still cheaper to swop out the errant speakers for another which suits your sonic tastes more.




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

Marantz NA 11 S1 review

 

Marantz has been the everyday man’s route to accessible hifi at a decent price for a while. With their equipment, you pay more than what you would at Costco or Harvey Norman, but you are far short of the stratospheric money that you would have to fork out for more esoteric gear, and yet you get a big proportion of the sound quality.

A lot of this has to do with Mr Ken Ishiwata, the music genius who sprinkles his special magic on most of their range, and you get some rather fine equipment over the past 60 years.

Here in their 60th Year, the Reference “11” series has a new member in the form of the Audiophile Network player / DAC – NA 11 S1. That’s a mouthful but your jaw will remain open when you sit down to listen to what this baby can do.



Some links to the technical blurb:


And some tips from Marantz about using digital music and their USB port:


And the info brochure:




NA-11S1
PREMIUM Network Audio Player
This latest rebirth of the Premium 11 Series not only sees the total reinvigoration of both player and amplifier but also the creation of an entirely new S11 separate – the NA-11S1 Network Audio Player.

The NA-11S1 Premium Network Audio player is arguably the most advanced, next-generation player there has ever been. Its introduction to this year’s Premium collection is a true milestone in the Marantz history and is a momentous occasion for every audiophile. Why? Because finally, it is now possible to enjoy new media on the highest of levels, by utilizing the increasingly available high resolution downloads it creates ‘studio master’ quality right in your own living room. It produces such breath-taking audio quality because inside it includes the High Current Audiophile D/A converter DSD1792 as well as a Marantz original DSP and Digital Filter PEC777- a high-end algorithm previously used only in professional recording studios - we call it Marantz Musical Mastering. This type of filtering retains greater detail for an even wider sound stage and a perfect balance. Its analogue audio circuits feature Marantz HDAM®-SA2 and HDAM®, and the Toroidal transformer ensures that there’s always power in store the instant it’s needed, while the rigid copper-plated chassis with 5mm thick aluminum top cover minimize vibration and interference. Importantly, selectable digital filters allow you to tune the sound as you prefer. The USB-B port works in asynchronous mode and supports not only 192kHz / 24bits but also the DSD 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz for maximized versatility. You can play FLAC HD 192/24 files, WAV 192/24 files, Internet Radio and Streaming Services support via Ethernet, and AirPlay Music Streaming from iTunes or iDevices – as well as many other file types. It is also DLNA 1.5 certified, so Android integration is easy, and the USB-A port on the front panel also makes playback from an iPod/iPhone/iPad or USB devices just as simple. This player has the lot. What more could you dream of?

The network hub
The NA-11S1 gives you access to an unlimited number of music sources. You can play music from your own collections stored on PC / NAS or enjoy the world of internet radio. With AirPlay you can stream from your iTunes library or any iDevice such as an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. All contents will be processed by Marantz Musical Mastering and carefully forwarded by the high-quality output stage.

Marantz Musical Mastering
The Marantz digital filtering with Noise Shaper and Dithering gives you two filter characteristics for CD and any other digital input. This filtering effectively eliminates digitalization errors, to ensure wide sound stage, perfect balance, pin-pint detail, and rich harmonics.

Superior D/A converter
The unit’s high-current audiophile DAC runs on 384kHz / 24 bit for the purest possible conversion of the digital signal processed by the Marantz DSP PEC777f3.

Oversized Toroidal transformer
The oversized transformer guarantees a high energy reserve to supply every power demand with ease and speed. The result is every detail and every nuance is faithfully and accurately reproduced.

Superior Line Out terminals
Constructed from highly pure copper and plated with gold, the NA-11S1’s line output terminals ensure long-term, highly reliable contact to transport the sensitive audio signal to the next stage of amplification.



USB-A input (front)
The front USB port gives you easy access to your music stored on portable devices and makes use of the NA-11S1’s high quality audio stage. And when you play a device it also recharges.

Low-noise LCD
Thanks to the high-contrast LCD playlists and other information is easy to read even from a distance, while the low-noise aspect ensures that the LCD never influences the sensitive audio signal.

Solid metal chassis
The 5mm aluminium top-cover and copper-plated chassis, reduces vibration to an absolute minimum. Also, this solid chassis provides a low ground potential for every point of the player.

System control terminal
System Terminal to connect the SA-11S3 and PM-11S3 so you can control the set-up with the Marantz remote App.

Remote controller
Easy operation of any function including the volume of the Marantz amplifier.





Main Features
- Premium-quality audio player for any digital media
- Internet Radio and Streaming Service support (Spotify & last.fm) via Ethernet
- AirPlay Music Streaming for easy playback of the entire music library from iDevices or iTunes
- DAC Mode with three digital Inputs (USB-B, Coaxial, Optical) for standard resolution and high-definition audio streaming
- USB-B Asynchronous Mode for minimized jitter and unadulterated audio streaming
- Marantz Musical Mastering and high-quality DAC to reproduce music details naturally
- DSD2.8 MHz file native playback via USB-B for SACD audio quality
- ALAC (Apple Lossless), FLAC 192/24, WAV 192/24 files playback


Some important technical info:

  • High-current DSD1792 DAC chip
  • Marantz Musical Mastering technology, which is currently used by professional recording studios, to deliver greater detail and more-balanced sound.
  • A toroidal transformer supplies cleaner power to the onboard electronic circuits
  • An armored 5mm-thick, copper-plated chassis to block and minimize external interferences
  • XLR-type balanced audio output typically used by high-end hi-fi systems.
Other key specifications:
  • Coaxial and optical digital audio output
  • RCA and XLR analog audio output
  • Comes in black and gold
  • 440 x 127 x 417mm (W x H x D)
  • 14.6kg





You can get this in black (North American Market) or Gold aka Champagne (Asia Pac) or if you indent one, a 220v black version and all of them are made in Japan.

Does the country of origin matter? Well when you lay your eyes and hands on the set, and caress the model, you will agree that it is really well made. At 14.6kg, it’s about as heavy as many mid-range AV amplifiers, and has a bigger toroidal transformer than most such amplifiers.


The 5mm thick metalwork helps account for the weight, and there are many audiophile parts inside and you can refer to their website to rattle off and impress your friends with the long list of fancy parts. The remote reminds me of the that came with my Pioneer Kuro TV and my Toshiba HD DVD player. The same hewn from a single piece of metal solid feel that assure you that the money was well spent on the player.

Some key components are

·      The Ishiwata tweaked USB port, into a Marantz DAC with supports 24/192 in asynchronous mode
·      Toroidal tranformer for audiophile cred
·      Airplay and compatibility with most known formats on the market, and DSD via the USB port
·      Internet radio and music server streaming if you use the Ethernet port
·      HDAM 2 modules to give you more of that sweet Marantz sound
·      Filters to tweak the sound to your liking

So after the long litany of cool parts, a fabulous finish and more, how does it sound?

It’s only the initial stages, but one word – Musical. This much maligned and oft-repeated word is truly apt here.

It simply makes all your CDs, digital music and even internet sources sound good. There is a smooth yet neutral presentation, that invites you to keep throwing all kinds of music at it, and use up all the ports and with each source, it just sound great.

There is detail, and yet, it doesn’t not go overboard and you can even make a mp3 recording sound good. No kidding, it’s just that listenable.

There is no emphasis of a particular spectrum, but a solid bass and even treble make it easy to blend into any system. There is a solid soundstage, with good separation of the instruments, and details you pick up that were either muffled or absent with other DACs.

As for setup, it couldn’t have been easier, and the NA 11 found my itunes wireless setup easily, and played each of my sources with no fuss or drama. It’s quite simple to use, yet I would have preferred an option to hook up to an external display, as the display screen is hardly visible if you sit more than 3m away. The initial setup page asks you a few simple questions, and within minutes, you are good to go. The speed in which you lock onto radio signals will be largely dependant on your internet speed.


Using the Airplay function was both easy, and also very solid sounding. There wasn’t a lot to choose between the various input options, but some critical listening may reveal more difference. Right now, my impression is that all the various modes sound wonderful.

Filters are a personal thing, and whether you want a more direct sound via Filter 1 or something a tad smoother with Filter 2 will be up to the listener.

The only thing negative so far has been the sound from the internet radio, which maybe an issue with the quality of the source and the signal strength than the Marantz itself.


Comparing it to the Oppo 105 (unmodified) I had on hand, the Sabre DAC equipped Oppo isn’t bad at all, and will work well in a HT system whose owner has a slant towards music. But if you want to eke out more from it, add the NA 11 S1 and you are in a totally different class. There is more detail, but in a very musical way that makes the sound from the Oppo sound more flat and clinical. The soundstage is wider, deeper and mellow, gaining details, and more bass, whilst sounding less edgy.

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.

I have also successfully used the rear USB with my Macbook, and it now works with iTunes after I installed Jriver to try out the DSD tracks.

Strange as it may sound, I no longer have trouble with the rear USB and iTunes, which I had earlier.

I can't really find a big difference between the ethernet port and the USB, and most of the DSD tracks aren't really my mainstream stuff, so it's hard to comment on it.

After about 4 months I finally had a chance to try out the headphone amp built into the NA11s1, and it's very good.
Neutral in nature and powers even difficult to drive cans well, you usually won't need to turn it up beyond 11 o'clock unless deafness is desired.
It begs you to use good cans with it, and will not be out of place with a nice set like the Senn HD 650 or even the 800.

All in all, the NA 11S1 is a fine buy and worth the money for it.

 My partnering equipment are in my setup page.







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

42: Movie Review

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Sports movies are usually a sure bet. You get action, drama, sometimes romance thrown in too, and a few rousing moments that allow you to leave the cinema with chests swollen, a feel good factor and a certain albeit temporary urge to take up the sport featured in the movie that one was just watching..
42 is about Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in the US professional Baseball league. It’s sheer arrogance to call a league the World Series when only one or two nations are playing, but that’s the Americans for you…
But this is a touch above the rest, thanks to a fine cast, who avoid overacting, whilst giving a realistic portrayal of the hardships and obstacles faced to be the first Black pro baseball player.
You cannot help but root for him, and at the end, you will be up on your feet cheering him on.

Plot: 4/5
Action and surround: the baseball arena is a fine place to showcase the surround effects and bass that will keep the home theatre fans happy. 3.5/5
Check factor: almost non-existent… 2.5/5
Recommended for sports movie fans as a keeper
3/5




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

Two Guns: Movie Review

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After I watched this, I had a lot of mixed feelings… the kind you get when you just witnessed something that could have been so much better… not that it was rubbish, but with some tighter story editing and a better plot, you could have had a movie that Quentin Tarantino could have been proud of. I guess that summarizes it for you about how I feel about this show.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wharlberg play two uncover agents from different agencies who end up robbing a bank and being double-crossed by their respective agencies. They come together to outwit their foes reluctantly and survive all the attempts on their lives.
This could have been a movie which combines the best of the buddy cop movies with the kind of tension from Training Day, another Denzel Washington movie which was far more successful. Instead it doesn’t know if it wishes to do worse than Street Kings, and it doesn’t have the slick coolness of Three Kings, another more successful robbery caper.

However it isn’t all bad, as the two main actors exhibit solid chemistry and the basic premise of the story works, just that there are many loopholes and impossible scenerios.
Bill Paxton was quite awesome as the bad guy, and the good action made it alright for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I would recommend this for a rental and if you like it, then buy it.

Plot: 2.5/5
Action and surround: plenty of shootouts, but nothing new or inventive in them, but the surround effects and bass will keep the home theatre fans happy. 3.5/5
Check factor: One gal isn’t a lot even if it’s Paula Patton (from Mission Impossible)… 3/5
 3/5







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

Soul Of Bread (愛的麵包魂) - movie review

 




It's been a while since I have written, so much has happened this year..

Let's start with a light hearted one:

Soul Of Bread
(愛的麵包魂)



Starring one of the sweetest actresses in Asia to ever grace the silver screen: Michelle Chen. This Taiwanese sweetie pie is sweeter than any of the confectionary items in the show. The plot is rather simple. It’s a romantic comedy about the contest of two men who excel at baking for the love of our sweet Michelle Chen.

It uses a mix of Taiwanese and Mandarin, and brings us into small town Taiwan, in a way that has not really been seen since a much older 70s production called “The Story of a Little Town” (小城故事 ). There is sharp wit, and the director takes us into the heart of Taiwan, whilse we see a battle on the bread front, between two men who could not be any different.

 

We have Gao, the classic retro man, one who has never set foot out of his little town, speaks Taiwanese, and looks like a hoodlum. But he has a good heart, but is uncouth, shoots from the hip and feels totally threatened by the newcomer. French Taiwanese Bread, who looks like Adonis, articulate, cosmopolitan, and earnestly comes to learn how to make bread.

 

 

The battle ground is the baking table, and the winner takes all, bread, girl and everything, and it is a fun movie with a lot going for it due to the solid chemistry, the genuine feeling you get that everyone is having fun filming and acting in this show, and of course, the absolutely adorable Michelle Chen, so looks the part of the sweet girl next door who has to decide if her desire to see the world and the charm of ‘el sauvo’ is more important than the honest kind man that is always by her side.

You have to watch to the end to see how it goes.

4/5 for plot
No action to speak of, and minimal surround effects, so even a DVD might suffice.

A keeper for me.







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

URA Draft Master Plan 2013

An interesting development:

 http://www.ura.gov.sg/MS/DMP2013/introduction/master-plan-2013.aspx


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About Draft Master Plan 2013
The Master Plan is the statutory land use plan which guides Singapore's development in the near to medium term.
Developed as an inter-agency effort, the Master Plan features a comprehensive and integrated planning approach that ensures our social and economic needs are met, while maintaining a liveable and sustainable environment.
In reviewing the Master Plan, we balance all major land needs in collaboration with relevant government agencies and take into account public feedback gained through our engagement process, before finalising the plans.

PLANNING FOR SINGAPORE’S FUTURE

Singapore is economically vibrant and one of the most liveable cities in the world. This is a result of our comprehensive and long-term approach in land use planning. This integrated approach is needed to optimise the use of Singapore’s limited land, to meet the current and future needs of our people. There are difficult trade-offs, but we try our best to plan ahead for the needs of current and future generations, considering social, economic and environmental factors in a holistic manner.

DRAFT MASTER PLAN 2013

The Draft Master Plan 2013 is driven by the vision of an inclusive, highly liveable, economically vibrant and green home for all Singaporeans. As a small city-state, we have to ensure that sufficient land is available to accommodate a whole range of land uses, including greenery and other critical needs such as housing, schools and employment centres.
We strive to plan for a quality living environment with amenities for all ages within reach, bringing jobs closer to homes, as well as creating green, healthy and connected towns with strong communities united in diversity.
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The planning strategies to achieve the vision for Draft Master Plan 2013 are presented through these six key focuses.
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The Draft Master Plan 2013 will continue to enhance the liveability of Singapore across all areas. Singaporeans can look forward to good quality living environments and a variety of housing options with supporting amenities to serve residents of all ages.
Government agencies will continue to actively work together to provide public amenities closer to homes, with more co-located facilities for greater convenience. Public facilities and spaces within easy reach also serve as social spaces for community bonding, and enable seniors to continue living in environments they feel at home in. As Singapore develops and older towns are rejuvenated, we will continue to ensure that the character of each town remains special and distinctive.
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Land will be set aside to sustain Singapore as a vibrant economy to provide a wide variety of jobs and opportunities that will meet the needs and aspirations of our people. As we strengthen our city area and other employment centres, we will also make a greater effort to decentralise jobs and create new hubs for businesses.
As part of the North Coast Innovation Corridor, we will see the emergence of the Woodlands Regional Centre, the Punggol Learning Corridor and Creative Cluster. New industrial estates such as Jalan Bahar / Wenya / Tengah, Lorong Halus and Seletar West will also be progressively developed.
In future, Singapore residents can look forward to job opportunities in the northern, southern, eastern and western regions of Singapore.
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By taking a holistic approach to planning and balancing our needs, we have managed to safeguard land for nature reserves, nature areas and parks. Earlier this year, we have added two new sites to our list of Nature Areas. While we will not be able to conserve every local green space, we have conserved a significant and representative segment of our native ecosystem through conscientious planning.
We will continue to safeguard land for greenery to ensure that parks and green spaces are well distributed so at least 90% of our residents will live within 400m walking distance of a park. More open spaces and local parks have been planned, and residents can also look forward to upgraded green spaces and facilities with fresh recreational options. Efforts to increase accessibility to parks will continue, with the Round Island Route anchoring Singapore’s green network.
Agencies will plan for eco-corridors to strengthen Singapore’s biodiversity and connections between our existing nature areas to sustain our rich natural systems, providing safe environments for nature to flourish as well as green havens where residents can find relief from the intensity of urban life. We will also continue to make creative use of functional water bodies such as reservoirs, canals and drains for recreation.
Under SSC’s Sports Facilities Master Plan, new spaces for sports will be created and existing ones will be enhanced to cater to the community’s needs. A tiered approach of sporting facilities will provide a network of venues for sports and leisure activities for various sporting needs at the national, regional, town and neighbourhood level. There will be more common spaces (e.g. integrated community sports hub and community playfields) for the community to interact and bond through sports.
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Within the Draft Master Plan 2013 are initiatives to protect our built heritage and social memory. Existing areas with distinctive identities will be enhanced, while new ones will be nurtured in community-centric ways.
To make Singapore an endearing home for all, we will provide more community spaces to foster social interaction, and integrate local identity and heritage into the development and design of future towns and projects. Our efforts will also be focused on strengthening collaboration with local communities and safeguarding our local identity via conservation efforts and the designation of identity nodes.
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As outlined in the Land Transport Master Plan 2013, our transport network will be expanded with an emphasis on green and sustainable transportation modes, such as public transport, cycling and walking. This will bring about greater connectivity for all commuters over the next 10 to 15 years. Agencies will continue to be guided by the vision of a more connected Singapore, with greater accessibility to public transport and a reduced reliance on private cars as a mode of commute.
The rail network will double to about 360km by 2030, so that 80% of all homes are within a 10-minute walk of an MRT station. Bus services will be enhanced with increased fleets, and there will be more integrated transport hubs provided for more convenient journeys. Infrastructure will be put in place to encourage cycling as an alternative mode of transport for both commuting and leisure. Pedestrian connectivity within a 400m radius of MRT stations will be further improved through a network of covered linkways that connect to activity-generating hubs in the vicinity.
With these enhancements to our public transport services, our towns will possess more options for walking and cycling, and ultimately lead to sustainable living environment.
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Well-designed public spaces are essential to the enjoyment of city life, and to make Singapore more attractive and liveable for all. More public spaces will be set aside to create and realise new shared community spaces. The successful implementation of these projects will require closely coordinated efforts between government agencies and collaboration with the community.

MOVING FORWARD

The Master Plan supports the needs of current and future generations of Singaporeans. As a city-state, we have a diverse range of land use needs, and we cannot predict the entirety of these needs nor the forms that they will take in future. Thus, we review the Master Plan regularly to refine it and take into account changing developmental needs.
We continue to explore better use of Singapore’s land by consolidating activities that require a large area, such as military training, golf courses and farming in order to release more land for other uses. In addition to land reclamation as a strategy for Singapore to expand our physical capacity, we will also continue to explore innovative ways to use underground space, such as for infrastructural, industrial and commercial developments.



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

Identifying your speaker cables: How do you find out which cable leads to which speaker if the cables weren't labelled properly

So the cables for your home theatre system are laid in the false ceiling and the silly electrician forgot to label the cables... what can do you?

A simple tip to test your speaker connections if one is not sure where the cables go:

Take a AA battery and press the black and red cables to each end.. Listen for the pop sound from the speaker and you will know where the connections lead to..

And if you are not sure whether the polarity is correct, the plus and minus leads on the battery correspond correctly when the speaker cone pops out towards you.



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

Oppo BDP 103D Darbee Edition review


This is a review of a new freshly minted Oppo BDP 103D unit, and I have no financial interest in it, nor do I work for Oppo or any related company.

For the review on the original Oppo BDP 103 please check it out here:



First the technical blurb off the official Oppo Website:



OPPO BDP-103D "It's like lifting a veil."  Darbee's Visual Presence™ technology establishes a fundamental breakthrough for image realism. By embedding stereoscopic depth information generated from a patented human-vision-based model into 2D or 3D video, it provides greater clarity and increases the perception of depth resulting in a more dynamic, lifelike experience. The amount of processing is adjustable, allowing you to customise the visual enhancement to your particular taste. More information about Darbee's Visual Presence™ technology can be found here.

 Enhanced Video Quality 
 
  • 4K Up-scaling - Enhance the home theatre experience with four times the resolution of Full HD 1080p by up-scaling all video sources to 4K (3840 x 2160) output resolution
  • DVD Up-Conversion - Per-pixel motion-adaptive de-interlacing and advanced scaling transform the standard definition image on DVDs to high definition output on your TV.
 
  • Full HD 1080p Output - The BDP-103D features user selectable video output resolutions, including 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p, and 4K.
  • True 24p™ Video - Many Blu-ray Discs are recorded at 24 frames per second, the same frame rate as the original movie's theatrical release. The BDP-103D can faithfully redeliver the original frames using 1080p 24Hz output (compatible display required) for smoother motion and a flicker-free, film-like home theater experience. It can also restore the original 24 frames per second progressive-scan video from well-authored DVDs and output 1080p 24Hz.
  • Source Direct Mode - For users who wish to use an external video processor, the BDP-103D offers a "Source Direct" mode. The original audio/video content on the discs is sent out with no additional processing or alteration.
 
  • Multiple Zoom Modes - The BDP-103D supports multiple levels of aspect ratio control and image zooming. Users can watch a movie in its original aspect ratio, fit to the full screen, or zoom in to remove the black bars on some titles.
  • Vertical Stretch Mode - For customers with a 2.35:1 CIH (Constant Image Height) display system, the player's zoom options include a vertical stretch mode to work nicely with an anamorphic lens. A unique subtitle shift feature allows the user to move the subtitle up and down, making it possible to see all subtitle text when using a 2.35:1 CIH display.
  • Advanced Picture Control - Users can have fine control of brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, sharpness, noise reduction, color and contrast enhancements.  The player can remember and apply three custom picture control modes to suit a variety of viewing conditions and content types.
High Fidelity Audio    
  • Dolby® TrueHD - Dolby TrueHD delivers lossless studio master quality audio designed specifically for high definition entertainment.  The BDP-103D supports bit-stream output of Dolby TrueHD via its HDMI 1.4a output. It can also internally decode Dolby TrueHD into LPCM and output via HDMI or the 7.1ch analogue audio output terminals. Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus audio formats are also supported
  • DTS-HD Master Audio™- DTS-HD Master Audio delivers an auditory experience that matches the lifelike images of high-definition video with up to 7.1 channels that are bit-for-bit identical to the studio master. The BDP-103D supports bit-stream output of DTS-HD Master Audio. It can also internally decode DTS-HD Master Audio and output via HDMI or the 7.1ch analog audio output terminals. (DTS-HD High Resolution Audio and DTS Digital Surround are also supported.)
   
  • 7.1-Channel Analogue Output - Individual analog 7.1-channel surround outputs are ideal to connect to a 7.1-channel or 5.1-channel surround sound system. The BDP-103D delivers an incredible sound stage and an immersive surround experience. For users with stereo speakers, the 7.1-channel analogue output can be configured to a stereo down-mix mode.
  • Digital Optical and Coaxial Outputs- For simple and easy connection to more traditional A/V receivers, the BDP-103D features both optical and coaxial outputs for digital audio.
  • Rigid Chassis Construction - Built around a steel chassis, aluminium faceplate, and center-mounted disc loader, the BDP-103D is designed to impress as well as to provide a stable base for the highest quality reproduction of your favorite media.

This link will be useful if one is deciding between the plain 103 and this 103D version:


Is the BDP-103D Right for Me?

The main difference between the BDP-103 and BDP-103D is the BDP-103D's incorporation of the Darbee Visual Presence processor.  The BDP-103 is a reference quality Blu-ray Disc player and has won numerous awards.  The BDP-103D is based on the BDP-103 and shares most of the same features.
Basically, the Darbee processor is a video enhancer that provides greater clarity and increases the perception of depth by embedding stereoscopic depth cues within the video, resulting in a more dynamic, lifelike experience.
The Darbee's processing level is adjustable, which allows you to customize it to your particular taste. Unlike many other image enhancers or sharpeners, the Darbee processor does not alter the image in a global fashion, so it is able to reduce the amount of image artifacts that are created, and it does not adversely affect calibrated settings such as contrast, gamma, and color.
The original BDP-103 is known for its accuracy in reproducing video from all kinds of discs.  The BDP-103D takes one step beyond reference quality accuracy.  When the Darbee Visual Presence enhancement is turned off, it is a reference quality player just like the BDP-103.  When the Darbee Visual Presence enhancement is turned on, the user has the option to fine tune the video to his/her own liking.  In summary, if you are looking for a quality player that accurately reproduces video, the BDP-103 is the right choice; if you are looking for a more customized experience beyond standard picture adjustments, the BDP-103D provides additional possibilities to fine tune your viewing experience.


The review gear:

PS64D8000FM Samsung plasma TV

Denon AVR 4520 – XT 32, 11.2 capable with nine amps inbuilt, twin sub out
Front channels - Musical Fidelity A 5.5 stereo amp in HT bypass driving the 804D
Oppo BR player BDP 105 as CD and HT source for comparison.
B&W 804D, HTM4s centre, Radius 90HD for height and wide channels
Usher S 525 for rear back
Monitor Audio RXFX in dipole mode for surrounds
JL Audio F113
Hsu MBM 12 V2
QED XT 300 for front and centre speakers
QED Micro speaker cable for the rest
HDMI cables : Audioquest Cinnamon, Forest; Aiborg flat HDMI cable, monoprice
Audioquest Snake subwoofer cables
Kimber KCAG interconnects
Assorted Xindak, PS Audio and other power cables
MK wall power sockets
Auralex support under the centre speaker
Glass optical cables
Some basic info on the technology behind Darbee:


Home DarbeeVision

FAQ Darblet DVP 5000 DarbeeVision

Where should I place the Darblet in my setup?

The best place for the Darblet is right before your display. That  way, if you have a switcher or Audio/Video receiver, whatever the  switcher selects will go through the Darblet.
   



Some early reviews of their standalone models:

The DarbeeVision Darblet

What It Does

 The Darblet will “embed real depth cues in digital images, causing enhanced perception of object shape and ultra clarity.”  That’s a fancy way of saying that it adjusts the contrast, luminance  and chrominance in a video signal to make the image appear sharper and  more detailed.


Darbee Visual Presence - Darblet Model DVP 5000 - Review

The Darbee Difference
 

   
"It's like lifting a veil."  Darbee's  Visual Presence™ technology establishes a fundamental breakthrough for  image realism. By embedding stereoscopic depth information generated  from a patented human-vision-based model into 2D or 3D video, it  provides greater clarity and increases the perception of depth resulting  in a more dynamic, lifelike experience. The amount of processing is  adjustable, allowing you to customize the visual enhancement to your  particular taste. .




So the 103 and 105 have proven that Oppo still occupies the mid-range section, where audiophiles and videophiles demand good performance, but are still cost conscious. In particular the 105 has proven to be an excellent all round music for a good music and video balance, whereas the 103 has been excelling at being top dog in being a dedicated video playback machine.

On the other hand, Darbee has been busy showing off it’s independent video processors. There have been generally positive comments, and some reviewers have been rather impressed with what a little box can do.

Now what would happen if you took the Darbee and implant that in one of the top video players around?

Thus the 103D was born, and instead of the Qdeo processor, you the VRS Clear View chip, plus the Darbee magic.

You still get 4k, courtesy of the upscaling done by the Silicon Image VRS Clear View chip, which is after the Darbee processor, so you still get to enjoy the benefits of Darbee even if you upscale to 4k.

The rest of the player is larger left alone, which is not a bad thing, when nothing really requiring fixing. So you get a Darbee 5000 implanted in the middle of the 103, and lose very little.

You get 4 modes, and adjustable levels for each, plus a brace of tricks called Split Screen and a moving mode where the difference between the pre-processing and post can be seen side by side. A cute party trick for comparisons and showing off to friends.

The Darbee button sits where the dimmer button is.



So does it work?

Here is a sample picture taken from the movie John Carter:

The original image is on the left side. I used the Hi Def mode at 50% on the right side.
Essentially there is an extra “snap” and “pop”, which is what many other users have described.

There is a visible difference when you compare the images side by side, and whether you use the 105 or 103, you can see this. However the caveat is that you will enjoy it’s effects more on a larger screen, and it works better for Blu Ray than DVDs, and for live action movies than animations.





The key question owners of older Oppo players will need to ask is:

Are the new features worth your time in upgrading, or is it just a LAGS – “latest and greatest syndrome” sort of thing?

If you already have a plain Oppo BDP 103, or even the 105, the difference for small screen users may not be worth the upgrade.

If you are considering the Oppo as a top grade transport and sending your video and audio signals to the AV amp, this should be a very good player to get. Especially if you have the budget and are moving up from a basic player, or even if this is your first player.

So size and source are the main concerns if you wish to consider this player.

So who should buy this?

 These days there are scores of cheaper BR players around, some of which are less than a tenth the price of this baby. …

This player isn’t for the budget home theatre aficionado; who wants the lowest cost player. He may be want a budget BR player that costs under USD 100, and mainly uses it for BR discs. His system will be less than $3000 for everything and may not upgrade.

Also, the main viewing screen could be a small 42-50” TV. As such, the budget choices will be better.

This is what I call a “more” player…

This is a player that does every format, and adds good video performance, plus the HDMI input capability, 4k upscaling, and the ability to play from your hard disk and it also makes a solid transport. So if you have a larger screen, and you want more in terms of video quality, and don’t want to ponder if there is a significantly better player out there for similar or even thrice the money, this is it. A consummate video player, for the owner who has a large TV or better yet a projector system.

The larger the screen, the more you will get out of this player.

So this player will suit those who have an eye for detail, appreciate better quality, be it video, sound and wants the ability to upscale other components. This videophile will also have a projector or large flatscreen TV, and wants a much better player for his collection of BR discs, and may also have some legacy DVDs which he would like to upscale well.

For previous Oppo fans, the distance between this and the older 93 is less for small screens but you will want it if you have a large screen.

For new potential owners, they will be buying into a very well built player that does everything well and in particular has a solid video section.

Small money difference between this and the older 103 means that you can ignore the 103 if you are looking at USD 499 players.

If you don't overcook it, its quite enjoyable, especially on a large screen...
Pros:

Solid Build
Small price for a instant video upgrade.
You get the same qualities Oppo is famous for, in such models as the 103 and 93.

Cons:
Poor quality remote – rubber buttons remain the same.
If you have a recent Oppo, you won’t get as much wow factor
Cheaper players for just BR player on a small screen so the cost conscious buyer may shun this player



An important footnote about Cinavia:


In essence, if you simply buy a disc, play it on the player through a HT system, you won’t be affected at all. However if you make copies, rip discs, then you may have issues.

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