Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Hunt For A New Car

So after nine years and a bit, my Little Red Riding Hood, aka Honda Civic FD, is coming to the end of its life. Well the end of it's COE anyway, which means I can either cough up the money to renew this little piece of paper or explore new cars.

Given that I can get back almost 10k for this baby, it's really been giving me sterling service, and I should try to get another car.

So here comes the hunt:

I have set myself a budget of around 130k but if I can spend less, that will be even better. i.e, with my car thrown in, my outlay should not extend 120k.

First decision was to forgo renewing the COE.
Second one was whether I should go for a 2nd hand one. Given the high prices I see for 2nd hand examples, a first hand car seems to be the way to go.

What are the things I really need, and what are the niceties then?

Reliability is paramount. No 'characterful' cars, a euphemism for unreliable. So most likely a Jap car, that is actually made in Japan, maybe a Korean one, or perhaps a Merc if they are made in Germany and not somewhere else.

Not too low slung - I need easy enter and egress for my mum.

Versatile seats:
Folding rear seats, the ability to carry large objects will be very good.

Fuel economy:
Given the high oil prices, this will be a good thing.

Enough power to merge with traffic. I don't need a speedster, but I don't really want to worry about having a heart attack every time I need to join traffic and there's a rather steep slope outside my home and I need to merge with fast moving traffic there.

I also go on the North South Highway every now and then, so something that doesn't struggle on it will be nice.


Original leather seats
Red color
Quick turning radius
Low turn to turn ratio
SUV - high sitting position and hey, I haven't owned one before, but it was fun to drive

Front and back cameras
BT capability

So what have I identified:

Right at the top of my list right now is the Honda HRV, the authorised dealer (AD) version of the Vezel that has been taking the local market by storm.

What are the plus points:

- Jap made
- very creative interior
- SUV style
- low FC
- smart interior with decent soft touch materials abounding
- many charging points, USB and other touches

- not as solid feel as a conti car
- 130hp might not be enough compared to my older FD
- CVT transmission

So moving on, I have also tried a whole bunch of other cars. The main issue is that none, yes, none of the cars have everything I want. Each has their own pros and cons..

Mazda 3 & 6:

- nice Conti feel
- good handling
- conventional 6 speed auto
- soft touch materials abound
- Jap made

Heavy 3 combined with a 1.5l engine in the 3 doesn't help
can't help comfy in the 6 somehow
servicing can be an issue given that the new dealers aren't really setup for so many new customers
US long snout styling
? reliability
a little low slung
rear legroom

Corolla Altis

- Proven track record
- Borneo servicing
- Good FC
- Improved looks compared to the older one
- decent legroom
- solid bidding process

still looks bleah..
plastics aren't in the same league as the Mazda or Golf
not too many nice features inside

Hyundai Elantra

- sleek looks
- plenty of soft touch materials
- decent legroom
- lower price

- bidding tiers means you aren't so sure if you will get your car

Conti offers:



Solid build, lots of soft touch materials in the cabin
Good acceleration

Tight legroom at the back
Suspect gearbox

Audi A3 Sportback

An expensive version of the Golf, with similar pros and cons


The sedan is made in Hungary, and the Merc CLA is also made in the same country, and will cost 30-40k more than a Golf. It's hard to see how one can opt for this, even though most conti cars, especially the bigger brands are known for safety, and a solid metalwork. But servicing is not as easy, since these companies are much smaller than Borneo Motor or Kah, and the cost of repairs, spares and even basic servicing might be more.
The A3 is a value for money car. The A4 is significantly more costly. Almost got this car. The build quality is very solid, the engine is quite powerful, rear legroom is actually quite impressive.
It uses a more powerful 1.4t, has a bit more room and is made in Germany. It uses a wet clutch design.
The cabin has more features but it's about 20k more. The soft touch materials, the gear shift knob, oh so wonderful..
It's the cheapest of the three marques. A Merc Cla will cost another 20k more for example.

The big German brands are now more vague on the origin of their cars. For example, the popular C class Merc is made in South Africa, and not long ago, the previous model gave more issues than expect for this marquee brand.

BMW 216:
The 216d was IMO a better drive, more torque and instant response, greater urgency and the rear seats were sliding with a three fold capability. The cabin soft touch materials were also better.
The diesel is noisier but inside you hardly hear it.
The view out of the cabin was nice too as you sit higher.

But the 216d is about 10k more and I wonder about the reliability?

The CLA is made in Hungary, and the BMW 3 series is also made in South Africa.

The B Class was a solid build car with space, ergonomic and good safety features. The engine specs are also impressive, but it's about 30k more than the HRV.

Ideally a Honda HRV with a nice 1.8l engine or maybe that new 1.5 turbo will be superb! Even the hybrid version has enough ommph. Pity the authorised dealers aren't bringing it in.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Checklist when buying a car

COE Top-up
COE Rebate
Delivered By
Trade-in car value
Loan interest
Loan Amount
Loan Penalty
1st year insurance & fee
Engine/chasis ready?
Color availability
Delivered By
Keyless Entry (2016 Shuttle)
LED Headlight (2016 Shuttle)
Leather seats
Steering Wheel Control
Floor mat
Boot cover/mat
HU unit (AVH-X2650BT)
Reverse Sensors/Camera
In-car camera
Solar films
Warranty (Years/Km)
Free Servicing
IU, reg plate, 6mths rd tax include?


Keyless Entry (Lock and unlock using remote) 
Manual Entry (Lock and unlock using key) 
Master Lock 
Individual Lock 
Alarm reset switch 


Power Windows(Check that the driver side auto window is working) 
Windows control Lock 

Electric Mirrors 

Electric Mirrors Control ( Up, Down, Left & Right ) 
Folding Mirrors(Check that the Mirrors can be retractable by either manual or electrical folding.) 


Engine Start Button (if any) 
Fan Speeds 
Rear Demister 
Radio/CD/DVD Player 
Reverse Camera (if any) 
Steering controls (if any) 


Directional Signals 
High Beam 
Hazard Lights 
Parking Lights 
Tail Lights 
Brake Lights 
Fog Lamps 
Interior light 
Wiper (Make sure each speed is correct) 
Wiper Spray 


Dashboard lights come on when headlights are on 
Information lights (eg. Parking brake ) are lit at relevant time 
Check that odometer does not display excessive mileage 

Transmission & Brakes 

Smooth Gearshift 
Automatic transmission 
Over Drive button 
Shift Lock button 

Things to look out for: 
Test auto-transmission for shock while engaging gear. 
Make sure that the brake has to be depressed to shift out of Park mode. 
Make sure that the car can only start in Neutral or Park mode. 

Other Interiors 

Steering wheel properly aligned 
Steering wheel adjusting lever 
Bonnet release lever 
Boot release lever 
Fuel tank release lever 
Check for stains and holes on seats 
Seat adjuster (Forward, backward, recline) 
Seat belts (Check that the Seat belts lock when pulled hard) 
Seat belts height adjuster 
Check for scratches and dents on the trims 
Rear Mirror 
Glove box 
Check for stains on carpets 
Air-con vents (Check that they are able to move freely) 
Moonroof (Opens and closes fully) 


Check that car plate is correct 
Check that body surface is free from dents and scratches. 
Check that windows and windscreens are free from stains and scratches 
Check that lights are clear and undamaged 
Check that door handles are working 
Check that tyres are free from holes and punctures 
Check that rims are free from scratches 
Check that the radio antenna is working 
Check that fuel cap is secured 

Under The Bonnet 

Engine Oil level 
Brake Fluid level 
Battery Water level 
Transmission Fluid level 
Coolant level 
Air-Conditioning gas level 
Check engine compartment with any obvious defects and damage 

Inside the Boot 

Base board 
Boot light 
Tool kit 
Spare tyre 


Road Tax Disc 
Vehicle log card 
Certificate of insurance 
Car owner manual 


Check tyres pressure 
Cruise control (if any) 
All goodies promised are given

Things to ask for when buying a new Vezel

Vezel : Standard Freebies:-
1) Leather seats
2) Entry level HU unit (eg AVH-X2650BT)
3) 3yrs warranty 100000 or 5yrs 120000
4) basic engine oil change servicing fixed below 150 including gst (cap viscosity at w30)
5) All models steering wheel volume etc button linked to HU.
6) Rebate level max 2k below last closing COE
7) Either no top up or to be fair to dealers, max cap 2k top up above last closing COE
8) reverse camera 2 sensors

Freebies To be firmly requested/demanded/negotiated:-
{especially if taking full allowable loan and max allowable tenure}
1) upgrade to high spec HU (eg AVH-X8650BT or Appradio 4)
2) 3-in-1 Anti UV, Anti infrared, Anti shatter solar films
3) wireless mirrorlink function included with HU to link iphone or android
4) 1-2yr 100% free servicing package -manufacture listed viscosity branded engine oil of choice
5) paint protection sealant or paint protection film
6) High spec front & rear recording camera
7) other body kits and accessories
8) reverse n front parking camera and 4 sensors front + 4 sensors rear

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

How To Refine Your Home Theatre calibration: things to do after the first calibration

So, you have done that Audyssey recalibration, and followed the checklist

It is also important to get the subwoofer position right, even before you run that Audyssey. So do read up on 'crawling for bass', before you even do your calibration.

And make sure your speaker positions follow the recommended guidelines as fas as possible.

This is a nice video to follow:

Well, the step is refinement. Audyssey is only the first step to getting that mix, where you feel totally immersed in the movie. This means setting the levels right in each channel, so when sound transverses from one channel to the next, you feel that the intensity, and the object is truly moving in space from one place to the next, as the movie maker intended.

The next stage is to measure the frequency response. Now this can seem daunting for the casual computer user, and I admit, that PCs are not my strong point, so I looked to friends to use this, and if you are handy with PCs, they promise that it isn't that hard.

Some guidelines I got from the net for Macs:

The REW software can be downloaded here:

And you can use the MiniDSP Umik:

Essentially this seems rather like rocket science to the average HT hobbyist, so feel free to skip this or better yet, get someone to help with this, but essentially if you are willing to go to this extra step, you will definitely gain a lot. Really, a lot.

Once you have your curve up, then you can see what are the parts that don't work so well.

Audyssey is suppose to smoothen out the curve and cut any bumps in frequency, but it does not always do a solid job.

For the bumps, you can rely on traps to try and smoothen out the frequencies, but for the dips, and the room nodes, it's a lot harder.

Some tricks you can do:

Play with the phase. Again even though Audyssey is supposed to help, in my case, a simple switch of the phase, from 0 to 180, immediately help.
Furthermore, in my case, I had two subs, which usually helps even out the frequencies, but there was a bass suckout right at my listening position at 33 hz. This is despite having one sub right next to my listening position. By switching the phase, we almost totally eliminated the dip.

As for getting that thump and rumble, well, it's all about the SPL. If you aren't prepared to play it louder, at 80-9-db or more, one may not get that tactile bass. In my case, I prefer saner levels, so I put up with less of the low end stuff.

Now in order to refine the levels, you have to get a test tone disc. There are many you can download off the net, and now, they will also cover all 11 channels used in Atmos or even DTS.

It is vital that you AVOID using the internal test tones, which will not give you the accurate levels after Audyssey calibrations!

Play with the various levels, see what level of immersion do you like. It's like cooking curry, some like it hotter, and so in setting the Atmos ceiling channels, some like to play those channels a little louder.

As always, your mileage may vary. YMMV.

Then play something that you like and are familiar with, that has a lot of sound transitions. I like to use the gunfight scene from the Book of Eli, when they bring out the Gatling sound and listen to the shots transiting from one speaker to the next, whilst there are bullets flying everywhere, and the sound of the house being destroyed around you.

Good luck!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Port Call - Movie review

This is an effort by Philip Yung, and stars a rather different looking Aaron Kwok, who even got thinner, dyed his hair to complete the look. Very different from the slick cops seen in the recent cop shows. No Mainland money in this one. 
He investigates a murder of a young prostitute, played by a newcomer Jessie Li.

Whilst I commend the acting efforts of everyone, in particular Micheal Ning, who plays the murderer that confesses to the crime, I can't understand the plot or follow the story. It isn't the gore, or even the sex scenes, I don't find them particularly distasteful or anything like that, it's just that I don't get the plot :(

It's a talkie, so there's minimal surround use. The dialogue is clear, the picture quality is excellent, but it's no demo disc..

Can't wrap my head around this ... even though it was well received at the Golden Horse Awards 2015. 

Watch it for yourself and decide. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

State of Play - Blu Ray review

So, some of us liked Pelican Brief. And some of us have new kick ass Atmos or DTS-X 11 channel surround systems. Now how about a movie that meets the same thrill and has that pulsating story, and on top of that, has a soundtrack that ensconces you in surround sound, and adds tension, drama and impact to it?

State of Play is actually adapted from a British production, and the Brits know how to make a terrific plot. Add a whole host of marquee actors, increased the production values and you have a gripping thriller.

You have the likes of a few Academy award winners here, including Helen Mirren, Russel Crowe, backed up by some very solid acting from Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams and Batman Affleck, along with a few more supporting acts that work well together in a political drama that started with a murder under a bridge, an affair, a suicide and the only odd thing that stuck out was that the reporter played by a lion maned Crowe, smelt a rat.

Now you may think that this is no movie for bass heads and yes, I do concede that it won't be a continuous pummelling of your senses, but the bass is used to provide solid tension, and when the sniper fires, there's a solid thump too.

The money is in the surround effects, with all the speakers being involved. Despite being 'only' a DTS-MA 5.1 production, those with the more advanced surround systems can add Neural X to the mix and you definitely feel the helicopter flybys, the rain effects and more coming from on top. Each street scene is filled with sound, and you feel right in the middle of things.

When it does get rough, the bass does come in and there are very precise placement effects and the sound is crisp. When spent rounds drop onto the floor, there's a nice ring, and you will get lots of details.

This is also a good disc to test the noise floor in your system, as you don't really need to turn it up very loudly, especially if you have a really quiet room for your setup.

Plot: 4/5
Action: 3/5

Recommended for a viewing at least, and for those into political thrillers it's a keeper. The disc itself is a beauty of a demo on how to elicit solid ambience.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Things to look out for when doing your Audyssey calibration

So there was a recent firmware update for my Marantz SR 7010  ( I after doing this, I decided to take the opportunity to re-do the Audyssey calibration, and see how things sound. I have also recently reduced the toe-in on my Dynaudio C1s and moved the rear surround Usher on the right side to a more central position so the two rears are more equal in distance.

So I went through the pre-cal checklist:

- using the stock mic
- get a mic stand
(this is easier to use than a tripod, and you are free from the vibrations that may affect readings if the tripod rests on the sofa, plus it's easier to move too)
- keep the room quiet - turn off the aircon, do it on a quiet day
- keep the front three speaker tweeters as close as possible
- check the other speaker positions
- place the mic stand at the right height: ear level when seated
(if you recline that chair, make sure the stand is at the height of your ears when reclined) - more on this later
- turn both subs on

So once the mic is plugged in, and things are set up I walk quietly with my remote to the adjacent room and start the process. This usually takes 10-20 mins, and you have to walk back to shift the mic around.

I usually do it in a tight grid around the main listening position. Some websites have even advocated moving the mic up and down a little, but I did not.
Remember the first position is the all important position, which not only assess the volumes, but also the speaker positions, phase, delay, crossover and more.

So it proceeds quite smoothly, and I check my settings.

As usual, the Audyssey sets my main and centre speaker to 'large' but it's better to use them as 'small' and direct the bass to my E112s. I set the crossover at 60 Hz for all three, and the rest of the surrounds are crossed at 80, whilst my ceiling Atmos speakers cross at 110Hz.

Now some members leave things as they are, which is ok for those who simply want a no brainer solution, but for the proper immersion experience, this is when the legwork starts.

It's not a good idea to test the internal test tones for more then a test of whether your speakers are all hooked up, instead get a test tones CD / DVD and run that.

Then get a SPL meter and see if the levels match. Now I personally run the centre about 1.5 db hotter, and tone down the surrounds, otherwise they will sound too prominent, which is a problem with the Audyssey idea of a good surround experience.

The distances indicated aren't the actual ones, and sometimes you find one speaker distance to be quite different from the measured one, usually the sub. Don't fret, this is the calculated distance and takes into account the delay that Audyssey sets.

It does not stop here. The final litmus test is to use a familiar sound track, and see if the surround experience cooked up is to your taste. I like to use the "Band of Brothers", which has a nice bullets whizzing by scene in Episode Two. The flight path of the bullets should go from back to front and side to side. The grenade tossed should trace a path from back to the centre.

I recently also added the demo disc of 2016: "13 Hours".
I think most of us will be familiar with the second assault scene, beginning with the shepherd slinging his weapon and the car that appears with someone attempting to throw a home made bomb - Chap 15.
In the build up of tension towards the free for all fight, you can hear ambient sounds from all the surrounds, with the subs adding a low growl of bass that adds to the mood.
During this fight, one of the DS guys is seen running towards the wall, when a "Tango" tosses a bomb over the wall, and you can trace the flight of bomb/grenade from the left surround moving up between the Top Front and Top Rears, progressing towards the centre of the ceiling then dropping down onto the centre speaker. A nice blast follows, but it's the flight path that is amazing.
Then "Oz" cops one round on his helmet and you can trace the bullet flying across, from left to right, utilising the side surrounds, across the centre.
With each round from the M5 and M60, there's a nice thud, and when the "Tangoes" fire their RPGs, the rounds go off with a solid thump that hits your chest and quakes your sofa.

So if it sounds ok, save your settings on the PC too!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Way - movie review

This is a small budget production by the Sheen aka Estavez family and stars the patriarch Martin and his son Emilio who also directed it.
It covers martin's journey on the Camino way.
It's a quiet yet meaning way, with almost Hallmark kind of feel and will leave you with two feelings:
One you will feel warm and fuzzy;
Second you will feel like slinging on your backpack and rush to Europe and do this 800 km walk. Apart from a warm story it also takes you through a beautiful tour of this walk, almost like a Discovery channel or Japan Hour documentary.
If you don't mind the slow pace, it's definitely worth a rental at least.

Sent from my iPhone
Sorry for brevity of message