Buying And Taking Delivery Of Your New TV - things to look out for

This post is a good reminder for all readers to avoid any unhappiness and misunderstand. After all, you just spend a whole ton of green on that shiny new flatscreen TV.

First, before you leave the store, get in writing what you want.
  • Take note of the sale person's name, and better yet, get his contact number. We are not talking about a generic store phone number, which no ones tends to pick up, but his or her own cellphone.
  • Check the delivery date.
  • Write down on the deliver invoice on what you expect:
  • Installation required?
  • Wall Mount?
  • Cabling or extra trunking or even electrical work?
  • Type of socket (USA or UK socket - get the right plug)
  • Timings of delivery and installation
  • Narrow down the time frame, so you are not stuck at home the whole day.
  • Check on the actual number of years of warranty, and what they cover.
  • If you buy extra insurance or coverage, see what they cover, and if the entire set is spoilt, will they replace it and with what kind of set of and are there any surcharges.

Ask for all the freebies and any other items BEFORE you pay. Sales people SELL, and they can promise you the world, but if it isn't in black and white, it's not their fault. Plausible deniability...

On the day of delivery:

Know who is responsible for what part of the installation. Typically they will call ahead, and you should take note of their names, phone numbers and time of arrival.

Typically, the company selling will deliver the set.

Then installers will come in, from the brand, eg Samsung will send their own installers or a designated professional company.

These installers will also connect the TV to your existing Home Theatre system or set top box via HDMI or composite etc, but with your own cables or if you bought some from the seller, they will utilise that.

They will also do the channel setup for you, but that's it.
If they are nice, some will help add your PS3, or other items, but isn't in the contract, unless you have it in writing.

If you need a coaxial cable for connection to the rooftop antenna, or any other cables, Buy Them First.

For those who are wall mounting their sets, make sure the wall is strong enough, and there is adequate clearance around the TV, and also suitable cables behind the set on the feature wall: power, antenna, HDMI etc.

If you are placing it on a console, make sure the console can support the weight in the long term, and can give you clearance to place a centre speaker.

The rule of thumb for most TVs is that when you are seated, the centre of the TV is slightly below your eye level.

This is most important for a comfortable viewing experience.

Also check for reflections and the level of ambient lighting, so you avoid a big light source shining directly into your set giving you annoying reflections.

A little ambient light is best for watching movies, so plan on a small lamp in the viewing room.

Test the set, and all the connections including each HDMI port before they leave. Have a set of screen test color slides handy so you can look for dead pixels. Each company has their own policy on returns for dead or stuck pixels, but usually more than five is a definite for returns.

Don't forget to try the sound and also legacy connectors like composite video if they are important to you.

Try to give yourself enough time too, don't schedule a big business deal or doctor's appointment on the same day. Save yourself some frustration, and get some time off to enjoy the new set.

For some good fellowship, offer the chaps sweating over your new TV some drinks, and even cakes, trust me, they will be more likely to help with the small stuff. Once they even helped me move my 160 lb subwoofer.

After that, enjoy the new TV!

Good luck :)

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

Plans to bring BTO prices to around 4 years of salary: Khaw - entire article

Taken from:

Plans to bring BTO prices to around 4 years of salary: Khaw
Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that they have stopped BTO prices from rising, and are now looking at ways to bring down prices to around 4 years of salary. -AsiaOne

Sat, Mar 09, 2013

SINGAPORE - A relook at current public housing policies is necessary in the light of significant demographic and economic changes, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday in Parliament.
He added that the primary mission of HDB to offer an affordable flat for the majority of Singaporeans will remain unchanged.
"We have stopped BTO prices from rising by delinking them from resale prices. We can now pause and see what else we can do to bring BTO prices in non-mature estates to say, around 4 years of salary as it was before the current property cycle started.
We will do so partly through cooling measures to nudge the property market down; partly by seeing if an alternative housing option can be designed," said Mr Khaw.
The full speech is below:
Deputy Speaker, as you can see, my portfolio is not an easy one. But I do enjoy the many cuts inflicted on me and the many speeches. I am not masochistic but this is an important ministry because millions of people's lives are affected. If I can make a little contribution to make their lives better, I don't mind a few more cuts. This is my second MND COS. I have been here almost 2 years now, and I think we have achieved a few things.
To the many cuts, I have some answers. To many of the questions, I do not have the answers yet. However, I would like to share with you how I think we can go forward on this.
Deputy Speaker, we had an intense debate in Parliament last month. Let me share my two takeaways.
First, Singaporeans continue to be unhappy with the current infrastructure crunch, including the housing imbalance. We are addressing this aggressively.
Second, Singaporeans care deeply about Singapore and its future. They want to help build a vibrant and inclusive Singapore for future generations to come, and we will facilitate such participation. In the area of housing, I will involve fellow Singaporeans in working out some housing policies together. Let me elaborate on these two takeaways.
Current Housing Imbalance
First, the current housing imbalance. It is temporary and given sufficient time, can be solved. Of this I'm confident. As I said, I have been in MND for almost 2 years now, I thought I will use this occasion to report to you the progress of these two years.
First, we increased supply dramatically. An exceptionally large number of new homes are currently being built. We will begin to feel the impact this year when 30,000 units are completed and families get the keys to their new homes. But the full impact will kick in from next year, when 50,000 units are completed, followed by 54,000 units in 2015 and 63,000 units in 2016.
For public housing specifically, the ramped up programme has statistically cleared our backlog of married HDB first-timers. With 15,000 marriages each year, family formation is well within this building programme of 25,000 per year. But some of them have lost out during balloting to couples yet to marry under the Fiancé-Fiancee scheme, who outnumber them in Build-to-Order (BTO) applications. We are correcting this through the Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS).
In the recent exercise for non-mature estates, most of the 600 married HDB first-timers with children who applied will get the chance to select one. Mr Seah Kian Peng proposed that we should now extend PPS to pregnant mothers. I agree and we can do so from the May BTO launch. By the way, Mr Seah was the first who suggested giving housing priority to young couples with children. This was some three years ago. I would like to record his role as the "father" of the PPS. I am just the midwife. After we have cleared this backlog, we will extend the scheme to cover those already married but without children yet. And I hope to be able to do so next year. Mr Gerald Giam asked whether the quota will be amended when we do this extension. Certainly. Otherwise, we will not be able to clear the backlog of the target population. Let me share with you the profile of BTO applicants.
More than half of the first-timer applicants are not yet married. They outnumber the already married couples. Those with children form about 20 per cent, and those married without children the remaining 25 per cent. We can easily adjust the quota in order to achieve the purpose of clearing the backlog. I think we should try to give flats to first-timers in the following order - those already married with children, those married without children, and those not yet married. This is the priority which I think is fair.
We have complemented the PPS with a Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS). This provides an additional housing option to first-timer married couples with a child who need to rent while they await completion of their new HDB flats. The father of this scheme is Minister Lim Hng Kiang who proposed this to me a couple of years ago. I always remembered that.
Now that I have the chance to do so, the baby is delivered. The scheme has attracted 200 plus applications. All the 200 plus families can soon move into their PPHS flats, after they have been retrofitted. Mr Yeo Guat Kwang suggested that we extend the scheme to married HDB first-timers without children. As we still have a few hundred vacant units, I am able to say "yes" to Mr Yeo. In other words, all married HDB first-timers, with or without children, will be eligible for such interim rental flats, while they wait for their new flats to be completed. In the process, if the demand were to exceed supply, we still give priority to those with children.
Second, we stabilised BTO prices by de-linking them from the resale market. This is done by increasing subsidy and keeping BTO prices steady even as resale prices go up.
We are committed to continuing it until the market stabilises. Mr Giam asked what I meant by stability. We assess it by examining the Resale Price Index. He also asked how we compute market discount. This is not difficult to calculate because the resale prices of most flat types are widely available. In fact, we publish them on the HDB website. Of course, it is not so easy comparing two flats because local characteristics have to be factored in. There is some subjective element. For example, whether it is near an MRT station, which floor it is on, etc. These are adjustments that one needs to make.
In the last 2 years, 38,000 HDB first-timer families have benefited from this new pricing policy. The attractiveness of the new BTO prices has been noticed. Almost all HDB first-timers now buy new flats instead of resale flats. This is quite a big change. In the past, more bought resale flats because they were immediately available. Now, almost all get it from us.
This has diverted significant demand from the resale market and helped to moderate the rise in resale prices. But we know that this is not enough to tame the resale market because resale flat prices, like that of private properties, are determined by the market and they are heavily influenced by market sentiments.
This is where the media plays a role to guide sentiments. Mr Ang Wei Neng mentioned a Channel News Asia (CNA) report last night about a $900,000 resale flat. I was watching the news and I noted it too. This morning, the Straits Times (ST) also reported on the same story, but correctly reported on the main angle of the story - that resale transactions have plunged.
Unfortunately, CNA chose to focus on the $900,000 unit, which is an outlier, in the resale market which is beyond my control. I hope the media can help us here. We are all in the same boat together. Nobody wants the property market to escalate further, and create a possible bubble. No one will benefit from this. The way ST reported this story had a calming effect, while CNA's reporting had an alarming effect. This should not be repeated.
Third, we acted to curb speculative demand in our property market. Sub-sales as a proportion of all private housing sale transactions have fallen to 7 per cent. We have gone on to curb investment demand, especially with the recent cooling package. It is still early days, but we observe that some developers have lowered their prices. Most analysts expect the measures to impact both sale volume and prices. These cooling measures are necessary as we do not want Singaporeans to over-stretch and expose themselves to unforeseen changes in the property market.
Yesterday, NMP Tan Su Shan gave a good speech when she talked about her worry of a double whammy in the property market. She was worried about a perfect storm, of a global economy slowdown and interest rates going up. What will happen then, to those buying their 2nd or 3rd property now, hoping to make a killing? They may get killed in the process.
We are vulnerable to external shocks such as a global economic downturn or a rise in interest rates. Interest rates now are extraordinarily low, both globally and in Singapore. They could return to the norm very quickly. An increase of 2 to 3 percentage points, which is conceivable, could increase mortgage payments by up to 40 per cent. If homeowners fall behind on their mortgage payments, they could lose their homes. This had happened to many Singaporeans not too long ago. We will do all we can to prevent a property bubble because no one benefits and many will get hurt when the property bubble bursts. We continue to watch over the property market and we will harden the cooling measures further, if necessary.
Lastly, we increased access to public housing. We raised the BTO and Executive Condominium (EC) income ceilings in 2011. 8 in 10 households now have access to new, affordable flats directly from HDB. As we reduced the first-timer backlog, we tripled the second-timer quota for BTO flats in non-mature estates last year. We share Er Dr Lee Bee Wah and Mr Hri Kumar's concerns on ECs, and in January, we tightened the EC Housing Scheme, to nudge it back to its original policy intent. And I am every ready to tighten the scheme further if necessary.
This is briefly the progress in 2 years. I think the immediate phase of fire-fighting for first-timers is over, but there are still other hotspots to tackle. The temperature has come down a few notches, but it is still uncomfortable. The progress has however gained us some breathing space to take a pause, and review the priorities for the next 2 years. In addition, I am taking the opportunity of this COS to begin the process of a public discussion on our longer term housing policies.
Let me first discuss the housing work plan for this financial year, my 3rd year in MND. This year, we will maintain the ramped up construction programme and launch another 25,000 BTO flats. A couple of months ago, HDB announced that they were planning to build about 23,000 flats, I decided to tell them to up the figure because I wanted to decisively clear the backlog of all married HDB first-timers this year. This will allow us to begin to meet the housing needs of other segments of the population, besides the first-timers.
First, singles. While families will continue to be our top priority, singles have housing needs too. This we know. Currently, singles aged 35 and above can buy resale flats. Each year, about 4,000 do. However, rising resale prices have made it difficult for them. Er Dr Lee Bee Wah and Mr Lim Biow Chuan spoke about their difficulties, and asked that we allow singles to buy new BTO flats directly from HDB.
We will do so. We will allow first-timer singles aged 35 and above to buy new 2-room flats directly from HDB to meet their housing needs. These will be singles earning up to $5,000 per month as they face more financial difficulty owning a home. These new flats will be built in non-mature estates to keep prices down. They will come in 2 sizes, 35 sqm and 45sqm, and we will allow them to choose according to their needs and budget. A couple of other important details are still being finalised. For example, how much should we subsidise the flats, compared to married couples? What should the relative priority be between singles and married couples applying for these flats? We will settle these outstanding issues as quickly as we can, so that the first batch of eligible singles can apply in the July BTO launch, most likely in Sengkang.
Second, second-timers. This is a diverse group and most of them already have a home. They are looking for a change, either upwards, downwards or laterally. Their needs vary, and typically buy from the resale market as it should be. But many have sought to get it directly from HDB. In the last two years because of our attractive BTO prices, second-timer applicants have doubled to 30,000 last year. To help more second-timers, we tripled the second-timer quota in non-mature estates from 5 per cent to 15 per cent in March last year. .This has reduced second-timer application rates in non-mature estates significantly, to about 10. Some have difficulties paying the resale levy, as commented by Er Dr Lee Bee Wah and A/P Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim. We try to help, for example, by including the resale levy in the price for the flat, so that it can be paid for as part of the housing loan. This has to be on a case by case basis, so do appeal if you feel that there are genuine cases in difficulty. We will, as always, try to be as compassionate as we can.
This year, we will take further steps to help two vulnerable groups of second-timers. We will double the second-timer quota for 2-room and 3-room flats in non-mature estates from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. This will help second-timers needing to downgrade. I will give priority to those who are looking at smaller units, as many presumably are looking to downgrade and may have financial difficulties. In addition, in line with Mr Edwin Tong's suggestion, we will reserve 5 per cent of this 30 per cent quota for divorcees or the widowed who have children below 16. This will almost guarantee their ability to select a 2-room flat, and significantly increase the chances of those who apply for a 3-room flat. These changes will be implemented from the May BTO launch.
We will further help those divorcees who face debarment from subsidised flats, by shortening the debarment period from 5 years to 3 years. I think this will help them move on with their lives, especially those with children. As a further measure of assistance, Dr Teo Ho Pin suggested selling balance flats on a daily basis, as and when they become available. I have some problems with this. We have been actively clearing our stock of "balance flats" through various "Sale of Balance Flats" (SBF) exercises. Currently, there is only a small outstanding stock of about 5,000 flats in various stages of construction. We will put those nearing completion, about 3,000 units, to market soon. There are significant benefits in bunching them for sale under the SBF exercise. Small batches inevitably attract disproportionately large numbers of applicants, resulting in repeated disappointment and intense frustration. I hope Dr Teo accepts this explanation. His suggestion of allocating on a first-come-first-serve basis may not reflect the order of priority. Moreover, when it is your turn to select, and you reject a unit, you will go to the back of a very long queue. That will cause more unhappiness.
Seniors and Retirees
Third, seniors and retirees. I agree with Ms Foo Mee Har that many of our seniors have significant assets in their houses. This is a good thing, as it opens up opportunities for them to get some retirement income, for example, by subletting their flats or rooms. This year, we have increased their options by implementing the new Silver Housing Bonus (SHB) scheme to facilitate right-sizing, and the Enhanced Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) to support ageing-in-place. But many may still not be aware of the schemes or they may not have accurate information. We will step up public outreach and financial counselling to those who may benefit from these options.
To support right-sizing, we are building more studio apartments for seniors in various towns. I know many are prepared to right-size, provided they do not have to leave their neighbourhood. We are introducing a new Studio Apartment Priority Scheme (SAPS) and we will reserve half of the supply for seniors who apply for one near their current flat, near their current community or near where their children live. This is a further enhancement to the current Ageing-in-Place Priority Scheme and the Married Child Priority Scheme which award priority through giving the seniors more ballot chances. The new Studio Apartment Priority Scheme will replace these two priority schemes. This will be implemented from the May BTO exercise.
But I agree with Dr Teo Ho Pin and Mr Gan Thiam Poh that many multi-generational families prefer to live together or close to one another. Last year, we introduced the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme to allow such families to apply for the same BTO project so that they can live close by. More than 60 pairs of families have benefited from it. This is not many, but those 60 families were happy. Er Dr Lee Bee Wah suggested that we go further to build some multi-generation flats, presumably with 4 bedrooms, to help such families live in the same flat. I heard her. She advanced strong arguments on how multi-generation families could better support the newlyweds financially besides transmitting important cultural values. I agree with her. I believe there is some demand because some of my residents come to me for such flats too. But we do not know how big the demand is. Anyway, I have asked HDB to consider doing so in some BTO developments, to test out their demand. If we can, we will try to do one in Yishun.
On a separate point, Ms Foo Mee Har spoke about the growth of foreigner enclaves in some HDB blocks. I agree with her that we should avoid such enclaves. Ms Foo suggested that we cap the number of foreigner tenants at 10 per cent of each block. Let us do some analysis to see if 10 per cent is the appropriate cap. I find it a bit low, but in principle, I agree that we should impose one. While we sort out the implementation details, HDB will immediately cap approvals for all new and renewal of HDB tenancy agreements, involving non-citizens, to one and a half years. Right now it is three years. We will halve it immediately. These changes will not apply to Malaysian tenants as they face less integration challenges.
Re-examining Public Housing Policies
Deputy Speaker,
For the rest of this speech, let me elaborate on my second takeaway of involving Singaporeans more in designing housing policies. After 50 years of public housing, it is good to re-examine some old assumptions and re-visit some key policies. And I intend to do so, jointly with Singaporeans. For certain, the next 50 years will be different from the last 50 years. First, home ownership has crossed 90 per cent. We have probably reached the limit of what is possible. Second, the days of high economic growth of 7 per cent, 8 per cent, 9 per cent, and hence strong wage growth, are over. As property prices are closely correlated with economic growth, low growth means huge capital gains that our parents' and our generation made through reselling HDB flats will now become less likely. Third, Singapore's population was young and rapidly growing in the past, but future growth will severely moderate. Increasing singlehood and declining birth rates may persist though we will continue to persevere to reverse those trends. This has implications on family formation and household size. Fourth, the biological ageing of our population and the physical ageing of HDB towns will become the dominant themes that shape and colour our community life. HDB estate layout and designs will need to keep pace with such major social developments.
In short, our public housing system needs to evolve with the times. Which elements in our current system remain relevant, which require enhancement or strengthening, and which need to be overhauled? If some major changes are called for, how do we implement them without adversely affecting the vast majority of Singaporeans who own those valuable assets and are quite comfortable with the status quo? This is especially for the elderly. Ms Lee Bee Wah spoke on how to monetise their assets. I think they will be worried if their assets suddenly shrink because of policies that bring prices down. These are complex issues affecting millions of Singaporeans. While change is necessary, it is important that we do not forget the needs of the silent majority. We should give voice to those in our society who are less well resourced to make their interests, needs and concerns heard. Policies must benefit the larger good. As we make changes, we must be mindful not to throw the baby out with the bath-water. We must implement these changes judiciously and with heart.
Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, A/P Dr Faishal Ibrahim, Mr Liang Eng Hwa, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Hri Kumar and Mr Yeo Guat Kwang have all made thoughtful comments on this important subject. I listened carefully and I thank you all. From their speeches and other comments aired during Our Singapore Conversation, I distilled four issues worthy of deeper reflection. First, at the ideological level, what should be the purpose for building HDB flats? Second, at the practical level, what kind of housing should the government provide to meet future needs? Third, at the individual level, how do we address affordability concerns of HDB flat buyers, living in a global city with a high-end private property segment imposing upward pressure on mass market private home and HDB resale prices? Fourth, at the macroeconomic level, how should public housing respond to upcoming demographic changes and specifically, how can we help elderly Singaporeans better monetise their housing assets? Let me elaborate.
First, what should be the purpose of building HDB flats? The HDB flat is first and foremost a home, where couples start their lives together, and build their hopes and dreams. This is fundamental. But it is also an asset, which they can use to build a better life in their prime, and provide security for their retirement needs. In the early years of Singapore's independence, homelessness and squatter living were the norm. At that time, we were all HDB first-timers. Having basic, no-frills, low-cost homes was top priority. As Singapore progressed from third world to the first, the quality of HDB flats improved dramatically and we have now become a nation of proud homeowners. The majority are HDB second-timers. HDB flats have become significant assets to most Singaporeans. A home is now also an asset. This is a proud achievement which citizens in many other countries could only hope and dream about.
We enabled this transformation through several important housing policy changes over the decades. I thought it useful to recount the key milestones. In 1971, we allowed HDB flats to be resold for a profit. Before that, flats could only be sold back to HDB at very low pre-determined prices. In 1989, we allowed flat owners to retain their HDB flats even when they buy a private property. Before that, they would have to sell off their HDB flats. In 1993, we allowed buyers to take loans based on the prevailing market value of the flat, which allowed sellers to maximise the value of their assets. Before that, housing loans were based on HDB's historical selling prices. In 2003, we allowed flat owners to sublet their flats. Before that, the underlying principle was strict owner-occupation. These policy changes have benefitted many Singaporeans. Many were able to upgrade their homes, and dramatically improved their quality of life. It has also allowed many to accumulate large nest eggs, to fund their retirement needs.
Looking ahead, as we may no longer get the same kind of returns from reselling a HDB flat as in the past, how will its role as an asset be affected? If it is likely to diminish, how should we make the adjustments? How will any such adjustments impact different groups of Singaporeans with different aspirations and needs?
Second, what kind of housing should the government provide to support future needs and at what size? I heard Mr Pritam Singh talking about this particular aspect earlier. I don't have an immediate answer. I think we have to search for the answer together. Over the years, we have widened the range of choices, in terms of flat types and designs, to meet a wide range of aspirations. Many are now clamouring for the HDB to return to basics and its original mission of helping Singaporeans own a basic home. But what does "returning to basics" mean?
Does returning to basics mean that we should focus only on HDB flats? Then where should we set the income ceiling for HDB flats? Should we lower it, raise it or lift it altogether? What about the upper middle class? Should we for example stop offering ECs, as suggested by Mr Hri Kumar and Er Dr Lee Bee Wah?
Does returning to basics mean that we return to pre-2003 days of strict owner-occupation? How will this affect the many retirees who rely on income from subletting or the younger homeowners who use it to help support their lifestyle?
Does returning to basics mean that we return to pre-1989 days when we require HDB flat owners to sell off their flats when they buy a private residential property as suggested by Mr Hri Kumar? How will this affect the plans of many Singaporeans who aspire to live in a private condo and use their HDB flat for additional rental income?
Third, how do we ensure the affordability of new HDB flats for a new generation of newlyweds? Global liquidity and low interest rates since the global financial crisis of 2009 have caused house prices to appreciate sharply, more than income growth. Affordability has worsened. While high prices make homeowners happy, it has caused anxiety amongst young buyers as well as their parents. Some can look to their parents for help, but this may be at the expense of their parents' retirement savings.
We will do more to reduce BTO flat prices relative to incomes, and reduce the financial burden of housing on our young. One way is to increase housing grants for families with children to partly improve affordability and partly to reward parenthood, as suggested by Mr Gan Thiam Poh. Mr Ang Wei Neng suggested the same thing, but not from the parenthood point of view. There may be other ways. However, even as we make new HDB flats cheaper, we must continue to encourage prudence and avoid over-spending on housing, a point very well emphasised by Ms Penny Low. Hence, I agree with her and Mr Yeo Guat Kwang that more must be done to help Singaporeans buy within their means. Higher housing grants must however not lead to more people buying larger flat types than they can afford. I hope this is a principle that we can have consensus on.
In the earlier days, a three-room flat was acceptable to many. Now, it is a four-room flat, for some a five-room flat, and others, maybe an EC. What can a young graduate couple in the workforce for two years reasonably aspire to? What about a lower-income household? Are these aspirations within their means? Will they get into trouble if individual circumstances change suddenly or when the economy heads south? As a government, how can we help meet newlyweds' aspirations, while also ensuring that they make prudent and sustainable purchases?
Fourth, how should public housing respond to the ageing of our population? When our population was young and incomes were rising across the board, public housing was an effective way of sharing the fruits of economic growth. But as our population ages and economic growth moderates, I agree with Ms Foo; we have to be much more proactive and creative in working out options to help our seniors unlock their assets in their HDB flats. We have tinkered with the Lease Buyback Scheme, and introduced some right-sizing incentives. What else can we do?
Our public housing policies have been highly successful in enabling the vast majority of Singaporeans to own their homes. The opportunity to own homes has not been confined to those in the higher or middle income groups. Low income Singaporeans too have benefited. This is quite unique in the world and our achievement has been the envy and the subject of many studies by many countries. I know, because I receive these visitors almost every other week.
A relook is however necessary in the light of significant demographic and economic changes. The primary mission of HDB to offer an affordable flat for the majority of Singaporeans will remain unchanged. Fortunately this is within our control as we set BTO prices and HDB is the largest housing developer. We have stopped BTO prices from rising by delinking them from resale prices. We can now pause and see what else we can do to bring BTO prices in non-mature estates to say, around 4 years of salary as it was before the current property cycle started. We will do so partly through cooling measures to nudge the property market down; partly by seeing if an alternative housing option can be designed. One thing is clear; we are committed to restoring and maintaining the affordability of new HDB flats to the vast majority of first-timer Singaporean households. Their Singapore Dream of owning their own homes, like their parents', is safe. We will make sure of that.
At the same time, with the ageing population and the bulk of seniors' savings tied up in their HDB flats, we will press on with more options for the seniors to unlock their assets.
I have earlier posed quite a number of questions which we need to find answers to. They are not trivial questions, and forging consensus on what the answers should be will be challenging. But they are useful food for thought. Post-COS, I agree with A/P Dr Faishal Ibrahim that we should organise several Our Singapore Conversation discussions to explore some of these issues with fellow Singaporeans. I hope some Members can join in such sessions. As public housing impacts the lives and well-being of many Singaporeans, we will need to deliberate over these issues carefully. I invite concerned Singaporeans of all ages to mull over these issues with us. Share with us your worries, your fears, your hopes and your dreams. We hope to hear many views and many ideas so as to better inform our housing policies. Let us work on the challenges together. Let us shape our future housing policies together.

I want that rumble in my sofa and the thump in the chest - part III

I have been doing this for a while, and with the aid of the XT 32 of the new Denon 4520 and the twin sub (JL Audio F113) and Hsu MBM MK II, things have got better.
But there is no substitute for measuring the bass response.
I have posted before about the dip in response in my sitting position, which ranged roughly from 60-120 Hz.

But unless one measures it more definitively, it's hard to correct. You could hire someone, or ask for help, but sometimes friends aren't free, so you just have to find a way. I tried going the PC way, but it proved too complicated for a PC idiot like myself, so I sat down with my sine wave CD, and my SPL meter, a pen and paper.

I set the volume to be around 80db, playing through all 11 channels, and two subs. Then measured the db level as the CD swept from 10Hz to 300kHz.  I manually noted the db level for each 10Hz step in frequency change.

I found dips in the 30 Hz (-3db), 60 (-4db), and some peaks. So I then played with the ELF, the trim, the slope on my JL Audio, plus the individual volume control on each of the two subs, and also the phase button, to even out these bumps and dips.

I also shifted my Hsu MBM MK II to the left side of my seat for a more even response and better tactile feel. I had to pull a longer subwoofer and power cable to do this, but the Hsu isn't too big so it also fitted as a coffee table, albeit one that shakes - free milkshare anyone?

Some of these controls are not available on your unit, so if you don't know what they are, you don't have it.

The frequency response curve looked better, and I engaged Dynamic EQ, and found the bass too strong for me, so I backed off on the level for the two subs combined on the Denon, and it's been a rather satisfying experience without killing my hearing.

I like to keep my hearing, so conversation levels are around 60-70db, and the explosions are around 80-90db.

When you turn things up as some will, there is lots of headroom, and also that rumble and thump.

Skyfall is a very well engineered disc, and highly recommended as a demo disc, and you get good surround, and lots of low rumble, plus a few chest thumping scenes.

The summary is, after the basic Audyssey or other forms of auto-eq and calibration, you can either employ a pro, or get a SPL meter, and a sine wave frequency wave disc and measure what your own room sounds like, and get down to tweaking the frequencies.

Sometimes bass traps, and diffusers etc will be needed, and all this effort will pay off, when you get the kind of sound you lust after.


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

Adelphi article from Stereo Times

 A nice article about Adelphi

High-End Audio's Grand Emporium

Once upon a time there was a grand dame.

As a wealthy fin-de-siecle tourist landing in Singapore from Europe or the Americas, you would want to live in the best hotel, where you can attend the best balls and listen to the best Dixieland bands or chamber orchestras in town. There were only three choices; the Raffles, the Hotel De L’√Čurope, and the Adelphi.
In the early 21st century, the grand dame has reinvented herself. Ever the attention-seeker but never the dilettante, she manages to retain a reputation for genuine sophistication, still being the go-to place for a high end auditory experience, except now through electronic equipment. Rebuilt from the ashes of that beautiful three-storey hotel, she is today a 999-year commercial leasehold property, and comfortably nestled between the new Supreme Court building, the IT shopping mall Funan Centre to the west and the soon-to-be-opened National Art Gallery to the north.
A directory count of the number of shops in the Adelphi mall reveals (as of New Year’s Eve 2012) a total of 112 - out of which 26 are specialist audio dealers. This works out to around 23% or just over 2 out of 10 shops. This does not sound like much, but because most of the audio shops occupy the most visible (read: most expensive) units encircling a five-storey high atrium, it creates the impression that the Adelphi comprises mainly of purveyors of audio hardware. I am only aware of three other places in the world where audio dealers converge to such an extent in one concentrated area – Hong Kong’s Tim Chi Building (near Dundas Street), a certain street (whose name I cannot recall) in Old Quarter of Hanoi city, and Shenzhen’s Man Sheng Electric City (Hua Qiang Bei Road). Tim Chi however, unlike the others, sells primarily second hand audio equipment.
Our esteemed publisher Clement Perry visited the Adelphi in 2001 while covering the Singapore International Sound and Sight Exhibition and still has fond memories of the place. You can read about his escapades here (here).  Since his visit, we felt it would be a great and opportune time to look back at the fascinating history of this old lady and look forward to what we can expect from her as we plunge headlong into the second decade of this second millennium.

Most texts agree that the Adelphi Hotel started operations in 1863 quite possibly in Commercial Square located in modern-day Raffles Place. Unable to accommodate the growth in business, she moved at least three times after that, first to High Street, then to No.3 Coleman Street, the official residence of Singapore’s first-trained architect George Drumgoole Coleman, after whom the street was named. She finally settled in a permanent location at Nos 1 and 2 Coleman Street, where she stayed until she was torn down in 1973, almost 110 years after she first started receiving paying guests.
One particular story of the old hotel that stands out for me - which to my mind represents the spirit and stoicism of this grand dame – comes from a Kiwi couple of Nobby and Annie Clark, who experienced the first wave of Japanese bombing of the “impregnable fortress”, before Singapore island finally fell 8 days later on 15th February 1942. In Annie’s own words:
“Feb. 7th. Shelling and bombing all day, nervous of staying in the bungalows it is on the northern slopes of Fort Canning (Military Headquarters) and will be in line of attack. (Fort Canning was actually not damaged by the Japs.) Stayed all day in the lounge of the Adelphi Hotel where we helped ourselves to food cooked by the Swiss chef, the waiters having fled.”
(used by permission of Michael Pether from his website

When the Japanese started to occupy Singapore, General Yamashita, Commander of the armed forces, tried at first to win the hearts of the locals. He did this by annexing the Adelphi Hotel and calling it Nanto Hotel, “Syonanto” or “Southern Island of the Showa Age” being the name given by the Japanese to Singapore during the occupational years. He then met with 400 of Singapore’s community leaders in the Sarkies-built dining hall which could seat that huge number of people, trying his luck at jawbone diplomacy. The Adelphi bore all these indignities with a stiff upper lip that any self-respecting Englishman would be proud to sport.
By the time the old Adelphi Hotel closed its doors on 25 June 1973, Singapore was deep in the throes of the economic pressure cooker syndrome. Many historically significant buildings were demolished in the name of progress, just as Beijing is now tearing down its centuries-old quaint hutongs to build characterless skyscrapers and office buildings. Shorn of her graceful arches and imposing colonnades, the new Adelphi looked horribly drab, but with nary a complaint, the old lady plunged into her new role with renewed vim. She enticed many electronics shops in the nearby Sim Lim Square and Sim Lim Tower to move to the new building, which they did. At the time, “electronics shops” were not exactly synonymous with “good customer service”. The public saw such shops as mere product movers, and that swashbuckling, fly-by-night reputation spread to the fledgling Adelphi electronics mall. It was not an auspicious start.
“We did not want to be associated with this kind of reputation,” says Ryan Ng, partner of X-Audio located outside the Adelphi in another part of Singapore. “We looked at some units [in Adelphi] but finally decided to open up elsewhere.” That was almost ten years ago. Thankfully, the devil-may-care attitude seems largely a thing of the past. The specialist audio shops are now professionally run, with proper demo set-ups and an orientation towards serving customer’s needs.
“We believe customer relationships are the most important,” declares Ron Ong, proprietor of long-standing Coherent Audio located on the fourth floor of the Adelphi. “Someone may come in and listen to the same system five times, then decide to buy something else. We are happy for him, that he found something he wanted. We don’t look at it as having lost a sale. We see it as having gained a friend.”
This kind of consumer-oriented selling seems to permeate the rest of the Adelphi. It is a welcome change from the old days where a customer basically walked into a shop, asked for something, paid and left with the goods. To be sure, there are still shops in Adelphi (and elsewhere in Singapore) that still consider themselves “traders” as opposed to ambassadors of an audio brand. Traders are gradually finding themselves in the minority, which is good news for the Singaporean audio consumer.

“It is good to have many brands under one roof,” according to Ryan Ng. “When someone comes to Singapore, he knows he can go to Adelphi and see and hear many different equipment. That gives him a lot of choice.” And choice, or the freedom to exercise it, forces dealers to differentiate themselves primarily in the way they treat their customers. There is, of course, still an element of competition involved, despite shops selling their own particular brands. By and large, though, the competition appears healthy. Some shops even manage to cross-sell. A shopowner (who shall remain anonymous) admitted that being located in such close proximity, shops occasionally buy products from one another, making smaller margins each, but retaining customer loyalty in the process. In the end, the customer gets what he wants, and the dealers make the sale. Everyone’s happy.

In land-scarce Singapore, the price of rent only seems to go in one direction – skywards. Commercial rents in the prime shopping areas can exceed $15 Singapore dollars (SGD), per square foot (psf). Outside the city, rents are not cheap either. Bukit Timah Plaza, located at one end of Bukit Timah Road - the other end stretches approximately 12 kilometers towards Rochor Road where the aforementioned pair of Sim Lims are found - is already charging $8 SGDs (psf),  for a second floor unit. In comparison, and given its excellent location, the Adelphi actually appears to be pretty reasonably priced, at least on the higher floors. The question is – how long will that window of arbitrage last?
Almost in answer to this, a private property management company had recently bought up a number of shop units in the Adelphi. Exactly how many, no one seems to know for certain. Speculation was rife about what the new owner wanted to do. Elsewhere in Singapore, there had been one or two precedents where tenants were intentionally forced out en-masse by a new landowner who raised rents to exorbitant levels. Was this going to be the Adelphi’s fate? Would this mean audio aficionados would need to traipse around the island for their hi-fi? Would this spell the end of the grand old dame’s second lease of life?
Dealers are no wiser than the public, but there seems to be a glimmer of hope. “We know that [the company] recently sold some fourth floor units to private individuals,” Ron Ong confides. To me, the ‘private individual’ transactions spell good news. It indicates that there is no one particular direction in which a single landowner wishes to go, and in turn that means, for the time being at least, the dame will retain her reputation as the island’s specialist audio mall. However, this also means less certainty with regards to the price of top floor leases. My obsession with fourth storey rent is not just a quirk – it is the benchmark for the entire building. Traditionally, the higher floor rents are the cheapest. If they go up, then the law of falling dominoes dictates that rentals down below must go up sequentially. Many dealers, especially those on the ground floor, are anxiously watching the developments with badly-chewed fingernails.
“If prices go up beyond $10 (SGD) per square foot, I may have to reconsider my options, or downsize a bit,” a fourth floor shop owner admits. “Much as I would like to remain in Adelphi for sentimental reasons.” In the end, it’s all about business. It looks likely that the grand dame will lose her attractiveness if owners start overcharging and dealers begin to look elsewhere for alternative digs. Leases for some major shops on the top floor will be expiring in the second or third quarters of 2013, so the next few months will prove crucial.
Matters are not exactly being helped by the well-publicized proliferation since mid-2010 of “health spas” that have sprung up in the basement, some of which have been alleged to offer more than whatever is officially on the menu. Whether their presence affects the image of the old dame remains a matter of controversy. A certain Mr Lim, the owner of an audio shop on the first floor, was reported in the local media as saying that he did not mind their presence nor did they affect his business. “They (the spas) make the centre more lively,” he said. Others demur, claiming that many of them do not have the requisite licenses under Singapore law to carry out medical treatment such as acupunctural massage or chiroprody. Such lack of medical qualifications does not appear to worry audio enthusiasts too much. None of the local audiophiles I spoke to seemed to mind these spas to any extent, many even venture to say that their existence adds some prurient spice to the mix, echoing Lim’s views.

No one knows. But one thing is for sure. Whatever happens to the Adelphi in future, you can be sure she will continue to exude confidence and savoir faire in her own special way. The grand old dame has gone through many glory days, and many tribulations, and has come through unscathed. As 2013 dawns and America narrowly avoids that dreaded fiscal cliff, things in Asia and around the world should begin to look up. And that’s the way that the old dame has always greeted the challenges of life – with a positive, flexible and open-minded attitude. Perhaps we can all learn from her. Audiophiles are nothing if not opinionated, but so as long as we remember the dignity with which the Adelphi weathered and still continues to weather the storms around her, we will all go a long way together. In the process hopefully we will have some fun, learn from one another, and live and let live.
Once upon a time there was a grand dame. Long may she live and prosper.

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

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