Ultimate Ears Super5 VI - review

First some links :

Technical Details

  • Exclusive top fire armature speaker, which produces powerful & extended high definition sound
  • Miniature high performance microphone for hands free phone calls
  • In-line multi-function button answers & ends calls & controls music/video on iPhone (not included)In-line microphone Sensitivity - -40dBV/Pa, 1 kHz
  • Speaker Input Sensitivity - 115 dB SPL/mW at 1 kHz
  • Frequency Response - 15 Hz - 15 kHz
  •  Cord: 46 Inches (116.8 cm)
  • Driver Unit: Single driver proprietary balanced top fire armature
  • Ear coupling: Intraaural (Ear Canal Fit)
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz-15kHz
  • Impedance: 13 Ohms (at 1Khz)
  • Input Connection: 1/8 (3.5mm) Gold plated
  • Manufacturer Warranty: 2 Years
  • Max. Power Input: 50mW*
  • Microphone (w/a): Sensitivity: -40dBV / Pa at 1kHz
  • Noise Isolation: -26dB
  • Sensitivity: 115dB SPL/Mw at 1kHz
  • Weight: 0.49 oz (14g)
Essentially this was the result of a hunt for a cheap, light alternative to my Sennheiser 250, a noise cancellation headphone I use for travels. The issue with the Senns was that it was heavy and didn't cut out all the noise. So I looked about locally, and the prices were not too inspiring. I didn't really need super hi end sound, since the main purpose was to cut out the ambient noise in the airplanes. I noted that what you get with higher end models was better sound, but the noise isolation remained the same.

Note also that this is a noise isolation earpiece which fits inside your ear, instead of the ones which fit over the years. It is a passive mechanism which simply works by cutting out the noise. No anti noise cancellation. 

So does it work? Actually pretty well, and in a recent trip to Sydney, it was put to the test. it performed quite well, cutting out the ambient noises, and it was quite eerie and I actually had trouble hearing the voices of the stewardess trying to offer me supper!

However not everyone will like the idea of stuffing something into your ear, and those buds can come off, and you may even get it stuck in the canal, so beware.

How about the sound? Once the ambient noises are cut off, the sound is quite impressive, and given that is only a single driver, rather impressive. I had no trouble with following the voices and action of the video on demand aboard the SIA planes. I even had to turn down the volume, as the IEMs cut off the sound so effectively. 

It comes in a nice case, but has no airline adaptor, so you will need to get one. The mike isn't as good as the ones on the original iphone and you pick up too much ambient noise.

Do note that it goes for under USD 100 on Amazon, whereas it may cost a lot more locally.

A good buy.

Umizaru III movie review

Umizaru III

I don't think the producers planned this when they made them movie but the screening on the airlines around the world coincided with the current nuclear disaster. And being no stranger to many natural calamities, the Japs are masters of the disaster genre.

This is the third installation of this hit series sort of like Tom Gun in the water, with hot Jap bods and equally kawaii Jap girls instead of Tom Cruise and co.

This time it is an oil rig and a gas platform which is in danger of explosion and the Sea Monkeys are sent to the rescue. If it reads like a TV episode well thats because the movie evolved out of a series and it's filled with little twists and turns but in the end you know the hero will live through each difficulty albeit with some scratches.

Right now japan needs such stirring stories filled with heroism and Umizaru hits the spot.

There is plenty of muscle and eye candy and the main actor with his toothy grin will make most girls delirious and even please the guys with his square- jawed machoism.

Plenty of humor action and even some humor thrown in.

Recommended for those who enjoy a Jap hit and some simple stirring heroism. A crowd pleaser for sure.

Sent from my iPhone

Unstoppable - movie review

Lets call it what it is, its a summer blockbuster and will not stretch the acting chops of the two main protagonists.
It is a one track story line with an end that hurtles into view with little doubt.
They will destroy some stuff and maybe a life or two will be lost but at the end the runaway train will be stopped and the heroes will survive to busk in the glory of their selfless and brave attempts.
Those pedantic ones will rue some inaccuracies in the story but if you overlook this you will find a rather gripping tale of two rather ordinary men who decided that despite the risks and it was a company which had let them down, they stood up to be counted and did the deed.
In this day and age with the Fukushima 50 in the headlines, such personal sacrifices are stuff which inspires us and gives us hope in mankind.
Not everyone is made of such heady stuff but it makes us all more grateful and also aware of our own fragility when we shy away from such bravery and sacrifice.
I also like the none too subtle pokes at the corporate goons who look silly here and their nervous glances at the bottom line and feeble attempts to solve the crisis are mildly amusing and the tribute to the daily working man are quite positive.
But the short run of this movie is not meant to showcase the woes of the blue collar worker but a bit of dressing to help frame the action and that's what we are here for.
Scott does not disappoint and despite not having much room for detouring from the railway origins, he shows the runnings of the rail world and immerses us in this tough elbow grease world and let's us enter the sanctity of the railroaders.
Loud trains, fast passing trains and screeching brakes plus the inevitable explosion make for an exciting and involving soundtrack.
Those looking for a bombastic joyride will not be disappointed.
No real chick factor here but what elevates this disaster actioner from mediocre to watchable is a real chemistry between Chris Pine and old reliable Washington.
The young and wizen play off each other well and it is believable how they transform from people on opposite sides to comrades in arms.
Should you buy, rent or avoid?
I reckon it is worth at least a rent esp if you are into no brainer action stuff. The rousing ending and the insight into the railroad world was enough for me to recommend this to the action fan.

Reign of assassins - movie review

Reign of assassins
John Woo has had many hits but most of his better works have come in the 80s and 90s. This could be a return to form for him and he has used the traditional martial arts genre to showcase his skills and has added a multiple-cultural cast plus elements of intrigue and romance coupled with swordplay to good effect.
It begins like a classic swordsman movie but you know there is more than mere swordplay within the first few minutes with change of lead lady from Kelly Lin to Michelle Yeoh within the first two opening acts.
I always say good chemistry between the main actors is a vital ingredient for a great show and the addition of Jung Woo Sung as the hard working village coureir adds a twist and again the provision of some nice humor and romance lifts this movie up and helped to make it better than average.
A martial arts show is incomplete without good choreography and you will like the action scenes too.
Kelly Lin will be the main source of eye candy but at close to 50 I reckon Michelle Yeoh isn't too shabby either.
One to rent and if the genre appeals to you, also one to keep too.
A well deserved return to form for John Woo.

My current gear 3 2011

 My current gear - 3 / 2010

Home Theater --
Denon AVR 2809;Monitor Audio GS10,LCR; Usher 520 (Red) as rears; PSB 10s dipoles; SVS PB 12+; Velodyne miniVee
Toshiba Xe1; Oppo Nuforce BDP 83; QED XT tube 300/micro for rear; GW TD 1000 conditioner;

Audio --
Oppo  BDP 95; B&W amp;W 805s; Musical Fidelity A 5.5; Sangean DDR-3 DAB tuner; PS Audio Juicebar, Belkin PF50 PureAV Power Console, Wiremold power brick, PS Audio Power Cables (amp), Oyaide 750 interconnects and power cable, XinDak Coaxial Cables, Jumper cables; Anticable speaker cables;

Pioneer 507 XG; Panasonic DMR - EX85

Oppo BDP 95 review - is it a tube, a solid state or a BR player...

Third Week with the Oppo 95 – the sonic signature
There have been some early comparisons between the 83SE and the 95 and one standout point is the more “tube-like” sonic signature of the 95, with a warmer tone than the older 83.

I tried the Oppo 83 NE in a HT based system before the weekend and I remember that it had a lot of detail, and will suit those who listen on the seat of their pants, but for those don’t want a “hot” treble, it is best to avoid using it with a treble happy assembly.

On the other hand, the 95 is more even or actually ventures to the warmer side of neutral and for those who prefer this, it will withstand prolonged listening sessions, and in particular, when I tried my “treble-hot” violin test disc, it was more listenable, and invited me to sit there longer, and finish the whole disc.

As I moved onto the third week of auditioning, the sonic signature is more stable, and you can hear that it is a detailed listen, but non-fatiguing. However, I also note that is not a super giant killer, slaying CD players a few times its price.  That seems to be what fanboys in owner threads like to pretend it does, but ultimately it is a high quality Blu Ray Player which does music rather well too.

Using the fancy Sabre DAC chips adds a lot of street cred, especially when CD players costing a lot more are using the same chips. However the sound quality is not only influenced by the chips you put into it, but the other elements matter too, and ultimately, it does a sterling job for the money, but won’t make owners of players costing a lot more too unhappy.

It is still a very credible machine and will keep those who strive to keep their systems tidy with a single player, very happy.

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

A Review Of The Rega Planet 2000 CD player

 Starship Enterprise has landed….

HT has been a large distraction for me in recent years, with sounds and sights revolving around me, it’s a very seductive proposition.

But even so, I have always kept one leg in audio, getting a musical AV amp, and then upgrading my speakers to make a difference in stereo. But my weak link has been my CD source. My last proper CD player was the Marantz CD 63 KIS and I also used it with a Camelot DAC, but somehow, using a coaxial cable to my Reference series amps was good enough and since then I have been using my trusty Pioneer DVD 525 as a transport to play music.

The journey to seek out a good CD source has been a long one, with my last player almost 6 years ago. And with a ton of DVDs to keep me occupied, the search has not been too active. I also dabbled in tube amps, but I found that my Marantz sounded better than that tube amp and so I gave it up. I was not done experimenting in stereo yet, and so began a search for a fairly reasonably budget CD player. At 1k, I do thank bros for their suggestions, but for new players, there was not a lot of choices and I had my fears about old players and the durability of their lenses and transports.

However yesterday as I fortuitously saw an ad about a certain Rega Planet. I had heard the Apollo in action at and it was something quite sweet, so my interest was piqued. A few phone calls later and a long drive to the East, and viola! I have a used Planet 2000.

Of course we should concentrate on the innards of the player but like my speakers (and perhaps women) its always nice to have a good looker as well. With a CD transport which looks like the starship Enterprise plus a series of good reviews on its sonic qualities, I was ready to part with my money. My aim was for a reasonably warm player to match my GS 10s which tend towards the brighter side of the business.

This player isn’t excessively heavy, weighing in at 5kg or so, a tad less than a HD DVD player in fact. But all the bits seems to be well screwed in place. The remote was alright too and easy to handle in the dark.

So how does it sound?

I am playing a personal favourite CD right now, the modern classics CD of current jazz, vocal and instrumental hits from Sony.

Partnering Equipment:

Marantz SR 12 Reference Series THX Ultra II AV Reciever
Xindak power cable and Coaxial cable
Cable Talk inter-connects

Monitor Audio GS 10 with QED XT tube 300 cables on Atacama SE 28 stands

Lets just say, I now have balance, the right amount of detail and smoothness, with a broad soundstage and depth.

I no longer dread that my beautiful GS 10s can be treble happy and I can put on a CD of violins with great pride and have the violins float before me, with a stable image, and turn up the volume, with no fear of my ears bleeding. There is definition of the high frequencies, and this allows me to focus on the mids, which is the forte of the GS speakers. It does not convert the bookshelf speakers into bass demons, but the bass is there, and even when you listen to a guitar tune, there is palpable bass, with a good set of rhythm and pace.

Many have suggested that the Planet presents a analogue sort of sound and I will not disagree, yet it isn’t just about softening the image, but making a even smooth sonic signature that lends itself to hours of listening, and you are actually forced ever so often to lift your head up from work, as the same tunes you have listened to many times, suddenly sound so much better that you simple have to peel yourself from the work or computer and spend a few moments just taken away by the sweet sounds emanating from the speakers. By no stretch is this the last word in high fidelity, but this reasonably affordable player gives you more than a glimpse into the lofty air of hi fi without enlarging a massive hole in your wallet.

Yet it begs you to dig up all those CDs lying forlornly in a corner ever since DVDs came along and you keep finding new information in the same recordings that simply brings a smile to your face and close your eyes to indulge in the moment, like that Wolf Blass Platinum 2000… a classic indeed….

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

Velodyne Minvee Review, AKA SPL 800i

 I have a SVS. A rather big one, so why join the Velodyne club?

First of all, I still have my SVS, this was a opportunitistic buy from Circuit City at a manager's price, so I decided why not?

I had been looking for a new sub to augment my SVS, try and fill in the 28-32 Hz region a little better.

With my new Yamaha 663, with 2 subouts, I think I have a better chance of sorting out the sub issue and get more of the addictive thump in the chest bass.

So let me tell you a little more about the Velodyne miniVEE

Specifications MiniVee
Driver: 8" (6.5" piston) forward firing
Kevlar reinforced resin cone
2 ½" dual-layer voice coil
Die-case aluminum basket
Amplifier: 2000 watts Dynamic power,
1000 watts RMS power
High Pass Crossover: 80 Hz (6 dB/octave)
Low Pass Crossover: 40 Hz - 120 Hz (12 dB octave
initial, 48 dB octave ultimate) or
bypass with Subwoofer Direct
Frequency Response: 28 - 120 Hz
Magnet Structure: 204 oz. (12.7 lbs)
Inputs: Gold plated RCA line and speaker
level inputs
Outputs: Line-level, high pass crossover,
80 Hz, 6 dB/octave
Phase Control: 0 or 180 degrees
Protection: Dynamic compression
Dimensions (H/W/D):
(inc. feet, grill and knobs) 10.063" x 10.375" x 12.75"
(27 x 26 x 33 cm)
Warranty:(parts/labor) Three years (electronics)
Five years (drivers)
Weight: 35 lbs. (16 kg.)

This will pass most WAF requirements and when I tried it in the showrooms, there was enough oompphhh in a room which was about 10m by 6m. The screaming lady scene in Transformers when the missles pass behind her had decent impact.


It is NOT a SVS and size matters,. It will not bring down the house like a larger sub can and it does about 82 db at 28 Hz, which is still quite decent.

Note 2:

This model isn't sold locally but there are small subs from Velodyne which are. The main differences is related to the DSP function, the remote control and the microphone for adjustings and settings.

These allow for some savings and a street price of USD 699 to 799.

I found one in a small store in Florida going for a nice discount and after enlisting some help, I decided I had enough baggage space and weight for the purchase to be feasible.

Will report more once I return and it is set up along with my Yam 663 and the other stuff...

*** the Velodyne support thread in AVS ***

Just ask Curt C who is from Velodyne:


I have been playing tricks on people coming to my home recently...

I show them the room, and I point to the miniVee and finally stop at the SVS where usually the remark is "Wah! So big!"

Then we sit down and playback some movies...

So we try the usual gamut of the XP demo disc, ID4 on Blu Ray and Die Hard 4
All hard hitting pieces.

So in the middle of the introduction to ID 4 when the space ship first rumbles over the moon, usually someone says, 'nice bass' pity the subwoofer is so large'...

Then I point to the power button on the SVS and tell them, 'its switched off....'

Thats usually when they get up and start looking very intently at the MiniVee in much more detail. This pocket rocket can be helding in your arms (although at 16kg, you amy not do it for long)

It goes deep (28hz for real) and as a sealed sub, it also does wonders for music and integrates well with my main speakers, keeping up in music too.

I would say the miniVee 10 is a better balance for HT and music, but I ain't complaining... smile.gif

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

Nuforce Icon Amp review

 I shall start at the end first, and tell you an easy way to get convulsions, glazed eyes, expressions of pain and sheer sadness....

Buy a Nuforce Icon for SING $300.

The links to some websites on this:






USB (USB 1.1, 2.0 compatible)
3.5mm Stereo
Speaker Outputs (RJ45 connectors with 15 micron thick gold plating). NuForce RJ45 to banana plug speaker cables are provided with NuForce Icon.
Headphone Output:
Maximum output @32 ohm Load: 31.25mW
THD (20Hz ~ 20KHz) : < 0.03%
Frequenc Fresponse (20Hz ~ 20KHz) : < -1dB
Line Out (for Subwoofer) connection
USB DAC: USB 1.1, 2.0 compatible. USB native bit rate: 32-48kHz, 16-bit
Power = 12WX2. Peak power =15WX2
THD+N=0.05%, 1kHz, 2W @ 4 ohm load. THD+N=0.06%, 1kHz, 2W @ 8 ohm load.
Power Bandwidth : 26Hz ~ 50kHz, -1dB, 1W @ 4ohm load
SNR = 84 db at 7W @ 8ohm
Maximum sampling rate: 48kHz
Resolution: 16-bit
S/N Ratio: 98dB
Power Adapter - 12-14V, 25W, 100-240VAC worldwide voltages
Dimension: 6" x 4 1/2" x 1"
Weight: 1 lb. Shipping weight 5 lb.

So who is a sucker for punishment?

Read on

I recently recieved an invitation from a friend who called and said innocently "hey, pete, wanna try something new, just 300 clams... I won't take up too much time, just 20 mins..."

So Quest comes along, whips out this tiny bright red metal box which can fit in the palm of my hand and proceeds to disconnect my speakers from my pride and joy, the Marantz SR 12, and then looks around and grabs my old dusty Pioneer DVD 535 off the floor to press into duty as a CD source. He then grabs my monoprice interconnects (USD 4 a pair) off the floor - (yes there are that many things on my floor) and goes to work connecting the setup to the above said tiny red box.

He asks me how sensitve, I say, well, you know, I was never a sensitive New Age man, but still will cry at poetry, then he rolls his eyes and points to my Monitor Audio GS 10s and yells how senstive, I blush politely and mutter 89db....

He then turns the dial on the volume to 11 o'clock and places my Sting CD into the Pioneer.

A moment later, Sting comes into my hi fi room....

I begin convulsing, sighing heavily and my mouth opens quite widely all whilst my feet follow their own rhythym and tap to the beat of "Every Breath You Take"....

So why?

This $300 SING amp can take on products 2-3 times its price and not feel embarassed. There is very good sound, detailed, tight deep bass and decent with just a hint of a splashy treble. It brings life back into a lowly Pioneer using only the cheap analogue outs from the Pioneer into the Nuforce.

Power delivery is quite linear and belies its rated 12w. You want bass? Check. Decent mids? Check? And a stable image of Sting belting his famous hit lies just a little behind my MAs, quite holographic.

Obviously they work better in near field listening, and are not meant to replace those massive Krells or even their own $8000 power amps. But in the right setting, say a bedroom bookshelf setup, a PC desktop, or a studio monitor, they will astound you with what they can do.

So for what you would pay to enter Tetsuya, I reckon they are a veritable bargain!

The main issue is when you begin convulsing thinking of how much more your other pieces of equipment cost that don't sound that much better....

A caveat though, $300 is only the beginning, since the speaker connectors are proprietary, and cost $50 for another 2m pair, a 40W power supply is extra, and by the time you get the S1 speakers, you are out of pocket by a total of 7xx plus. So it is a crafty piece of marketing to say it only costs 300 clams ....

Who said hi fi wasn't a slow poison.....

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

Review of the Denon AVR 2809 as a processor

 Review of the Denon 2809 as a processor:

I have just bought this, and I am using it as a processor for my HT.

I had sold off my Yamaha 663 as I did not like the BTB/ WTW limitations, the lack of processing for lossless bitstream signals and that mine was a 110v USA model.

I then bought a 2309 which I sold in a week as the remote was truly aweful, so here I am with the 2809!

Initial impressions:
Great remote, lots of codes.
30 000 mFarads of capacitance instead of 24 000 on the 2309.
The flap is actually a hindrance and the buttons on the front are less friendly than the 2309.
The Quick Select buttons are great.
Setting up is highly dependant on the position of the mike, and you must turn down the subwoofer levels, less than 12 o'clock
Use as many positions as possible - see the Auddysey or the AVS 2809 forum for more info.

Had a chance to try some old familar hits with the 2809 last night.

IMO Audyssey is a real boon, and will help, with the caveats that you still need good speaker placement and room treatment. A DVD version of Band Of Brothers came alive and there was so much detail coming from all the channels. Placement of effects was stable and there was a good imagery created which was convincing and places you in the action.

Dynamic EQ works well esp since I really wish to keep all my hearing intact. The subwoofers still get a good workout, and yet dialogue is not overwhelmed.

Putting Indy 4 into my PS 3 was a totally higher level of HT enjoyment. First the THX trailer was awesome, with both subs firing, the room was physically elevated off the floor and yet the subtle bits of sound effects were still distinct and even in a busy action scene, the effects were still clear, clean and easy to follow.

Of course, having good speakers and a powerful power amp helps. (I am not using the internal amps and I am using this as a HT processor). Adding DPL IIx adds space and more dimension to the soundscape, but do not overpower the front channels with too much SPLs from the rear channels.

All in all, a worthy upgrade to the Yam 663.

The CPU of the 2809 seems faster too and setup time was less. Trying out my new Indy 4 BR disc and effects transit well, dialogue locks onto the screen well and effects are quite distinct. Of course this is also a well recorded disc.

More testing:

The remote is worth the upgrade alone!
It recognises my HD DVD player, my Pioneer, my Panny DVR and my Marantz CD player!
This remote ranks highly amongst the supplied remotes. It is important to have hard buttons for commonly used functions, and they are differentiated by size and shape. I once wrote a letter in Hi Fi Choice blasting the remotes from Linn, Audiolab and the old NAD ones because of this, glad NAD has changed theirs.
The winning feature of the Denon series is the HDMI power on control, where now I can switch off my amp and still get HDMI pass through to the TV so with the last set input, you can go direct to the TV, which works well for days when you do not want to switch on the amp or just keep it simple for elder folks.

In HT, there is a perceptible difference with the 2309 and there is a better implementation of the Auddyssey, and the difference in the enveloping experience is obvious. It is also much better than the Yam 663 in this respect, in generating the ambience required. The transition from the front to back speakers and back is done seamlessly and all this while dialogue is well defined. All this of course is still dependant on a good speaker setup and placement.

The other nice thing is individual channel crossover frequency adjustments. There is plenty of control of the various parameters to get a good fit to your speakers and room.

Dynamic EQ works well, and allows you to play movies at a lower volume without losing the bass effects. But it is more integrated and effective than a simple loudness button.
I have not tried the video processing as I can switch it off and allow pass through of the signals from the PS 3 and XE1 which IMO do a better job. I have also not used this amp in stereo.

This amp is a worthy addition to the mid-budget level amps and for those looking to get a simple yet sophisticated proccesor for their HT setup and are upgrading from older non-HDMI amps, this amp deserves a look.

Denon AVR 2809 Home theatre processor review

Watching Band of Brothers

Equipment list:

Essentially I am using my Denon AVR 2809 as a processor partnered with my Marantz SR 12 used as a power amp (110w per channel X 7 THX Ultra II reference series amp), and two subwoofers used together with my Monitor Audio GS series speakers. The speakers and subwoofers have been mentioned in other threads. I used the PS 3 and the Toshiba XE 1 as Hi Def players for this review.

Using a latest generation AV Amp with the latest and fastest twin 32 bit DSP and all the processing power with a better amp make sense for me. The ‘brain’ can process all the HT information, spread it into 7.1 channels and blend it into a symphony of cinema excellence without being hampered by a weaker power section, leaving this to another amp with 3 times the power (real world), capacitance and current drive.

I have seen BOB on VCD, DVD and now I am the proud owner of the Blu Ray edition and this is a good opportunity to use it as a Reference demonstration material for this review. BOB has been acknowledged widely as a superb piece of cinematic production, not only in its story, the sound construction and the whole HT experience.

Most of the review uses scenes from the 2nd episode, which ranks as the best for me of the whole series. I have fired everything from M16s to mortars to 108 recoilless rifles, thrown grenades and leapt from choppers, so I know what the real McCoy sounds and feels like.


We are about to assault the guns at Brecourt Manor.

Imagine you closed your eyes and listened, can you pin point the position of the rifles firing, outside the confines of the horizontal plane where the speakers are aligned and at a definite point in space which is somewhere between the centre and the right / left speakers but higher up corresponding to where the actual shot should be fired from. Then trace the flight of the bullets from the front surround field right through the rear surrounds and back without any gaps.

Then heard and felt the impact of the 108mm German guns as they constantly fired in the background. A distinct percussion, yet with the reverberations going round the surrounds, and yet you are able to keep up with the dialogue, and the small sounds of empty cartridges falling about.

Then imagine you are Troy as twice he gets blown up by grenades. The sound of dirt falling around you mixed with the splinters of wood. Then the fine buzz of flies in the June air around the corpse of Hall lying on the trench floor after he was blown up, with the sound of the canons still firing around you as you pretend to be Lt. Winters brushing away the dirt from his young dead face.

BOB offers so much more detail from the BR version, it is well worth the upgrade from the DVD. Its not about being louder, it’s the detail and surround field generated. If you have a good HT system, there will definitely be a noticeable difference. A good processor is required to crunch all the digital data and digest that and come up with that magical surround ambience. All the channels are kept busy and yet the individual detail from all the speakers can be followed with little difficulty.

Do try these scenes yourselves and see if you can get the same detail retrieval, but more importantly does the surround experience pull you into the movie or does it feel like several distinct bits, like you know there is a subwoofer in your HT room, a voice emanating from a central voice box, and some ambient noises coming from behind you.

Now I have tried this with lesser setups, and you know you are not in the battlefield. Surround effects are easily isolated and seem to emerge from boxes which do not sound natural. Bass is muffled and slow, or the centre speaker is not natural and produces a boxy or feeble voice which makes Winters’ manly voice sound like a child.

The Brains behind the power:

As I mentioned the 2809 employs the same chipset as the higher end 4308 and 3808, and Denon pretty much endows their amp with the best HT DSPs around. Add some more Burr Brown magic and experience at making HT amps from a long line of AV equipment. Perhaps the icing or the pinnacle of perfection comes from the new Audyssey XT which gives the balance of dynamics at lower volumes and room correction technology which goes a long way to making up for shortfalls in the home theatre environment.

Some of us have the luxury of a dedicated HT room. Of this few try and make it less echoic. Very few people have a really well treated room and most make do with a corner of the living room or a small study. There is I stress, no substitute for a well designed HT room which has been properly treated, SPL meter measured and calibrated. But this remains rocket science for most, and the new auto-eq and setup functions available is a real boon. I have tried at least 10 AV amps, and not all are improvements on the top models I had. But I will stand on record as saying, that this Denon 2809 has the best surround field and HT experience I have had so far. And I happily relish each moment I spend in my HT room.

Now I owned the 2309 for a week and there is a difference in the two. The HT processor is less capable in the 2309, apart from the awful remote control. But you pay more for the 2809. and I do not need the power from the 3808 nor the extra features.

Denon user interfaces are not great, their manuals are awful but once you have sat down to a well tweaked setup, it is HT heaven.

BOB is one of the finest HT productions so far, and IMO every HT fan should have a copy, and try it out to test their HT system. The sound engineers did a fine job, and you will enjoy it even more if you use a good quality HT system.

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

Marantz Sa 8003 Review, Modified version of this SACD player

 When a system is running with all its components in synchrony and the sum total of the parts working well together, the music it produces is truly music to the beholder.

I have long suspected that even with a top of the line Marantz AV amp and the B/W 805s, the two of them will run on the warmer side of things, with some bloom in the bass.

I still feel that the 805s is one of the best bookshelf speakers this side of 5k, and it present a close to neutral picture with the abilty to present a sonic landscape and let you divorce yourself from the confines of the boxes and sit down to enjoy the music.

However it needs a tight rein on the bass, and enjoys being driven with power. In order to achieve a neutral balance, I was reluctant to commit to a straight out of the box Marantz Cd player and add more warmth to the whole sonic picture.

I had been talking to a professional on the possibility of either an Mod Oppo or SA 8003, when the opportunity presented itself to get a SA 8003 with mods (Burson audio clock, additional wound transformer, filtering capacitors). I grabbed this with alacrity and with the Oyaide Acrolinks this might be system I was looking at.


Marantz SA 8003 (Mods Burson audio clock, additional wound transformer, filtering capacitors)

Marantz SR 12 AVR

Oyaide 750 I/C


B/W 805s

Atacama stands.

Furatech Power cables.

The inital presentation was not promising. In fact it was downright bad, so much so that I worried that the combination had gone awry. Thankfully after a day of running in, things were much better.

The slight bloom in the bass was replaced by control and depth and this was most evident on some of my house / dance tracks with a constant beat. Yo Yo Ma's Cello and jazz pieces with double bass tunes from Earl Klugh were keeping up just fine too.

But the biggest change was in the mids now. The presentation was just right, with the right mix of treble and mids to blend together to create the which allows the music to impale you to your send rendering you quite unable to do anything else.

The 8003 with the mods is now a proper CD player and gives a soundscape where the singer is placed slightly behind the speakers (placed 3m apart 3m from the seating position). SACDs are also done right that you simply concentrate on the music and forget the equipment, the room and relax.

Even when I play a jarring violin piece, things sound fine.

The 805s weakness with a single mid cone is still large scale orchestra pieces, with complex pieces where it will lose out to its brothers with more speaker cones. But it is able still to plunge the depths and give you up to 35Hz usable and keep most but the fussiest happy.

A Harbeth or Spendor 6e might just give a tad more mid, but the 805 has little competitors below 5k.

To improve this, a Roksan Caspian CD player will give better mids, but I might be looking at a SA 11 S2 to improve on the 8003.

The amp remains now the weakest link, and a Krell FBI or even a 300i may be the answer to provide the muscle and control, althought a Classe or AVI might be the solution too.

Anyway for now, all is well again in the sonic universe.

Using the Marantz SA 8003

The Marantz SA 8003 has its quirks, and using the USB port takes time. Note that the DAC for the USB port is from NEC and it does not make use of the HDAM and DACs which serve the main CD section.

It is moderate in its response time, my older Pioneer DVD player is faster and my older Aiwa/Sony CD player is also faster in response time. You don’t see the tracks as in other SACD players.

The player itself is well built and hefty, with gold plated connectors. Without trying the Marantz SA 8003 without the mods, it is hard to comment on this, but with the mods in place, the highs are clearer without emphasis, and the mids, soundstage and pace seem better than my older SA 7001 KIs.

 This afternoon, we tried a combination of the Oyaide 750 acrolink vs a AudioQuest cable with about a $3-400 difference in price.

Then 2 Marantz players - Marantz SA 8260 vs 8003.

There is almost a 10 year gap in age between the 2 players, and the older player is better built and still responsive.

So in order of ranking of performance

1 - AQ IC + Marantz 8260
2 - a VERY Close 2nd AC IC + SA 8003

3 - IMO Oyaide + 8003
4- Oyaide + 8260

The AQ IC added a certain rightness.

The bass was tight but not over-emphasised.
The mids were smooth and clear and the soundstage forward, precise and definitely better with the AQ. The 805s and SR 12 combination allowed for many upgrades without reaching its limits.

But buyers of the 805s should know that using a warm source plus a warm amp will not suit it.
Instead a neutral amp and CD will be much better. But each step of upgrade will bring results and you can definitely hear the differences. Yet in this case, the cost of the two IC are quite different, so you will need to assess for yourself if this difference in sound will be worth that much.

This current system can allow for a better power conditioner, IC and speaker cable upgrade and still sound better.

Thats the scary part...

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

Dared MP 5 tube amplifier review

 An IPOD, Monitor Audio RS6 and a very small amp

Ipods are meant for teenagers.
Cheap amps are not hi fi.
All amps sound the same.
Small amps cannot drive floorstanders
Audiophiles are retired ah peks who have time to sit down and enjoy the whole CD.

The Dared tube hybrid amp looks better in red than Scarlett Johansson in a red dress.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong and hmm I guess the last one is wrong too  Grin

I unpack my new Dared MP5 hybrid tube pre-amp with a solid state 10w pc power section. The packaging can put many other more famous brands to shame. The word is ATD. Attention to detail. There is adequate packing material to make sure this amp survives a rollercoaster ride from ROC. The first thing you see when the box is opened is a set of gloves and a cleaning cloth, which will be needed to wipe off the inevitable fingerprints you leave behind on the chrome polished surfaces.

Next the cabling (USB connectors, RCA cables and a phones to RCA cable) are neatly stored in their own bag. My Reference series Marantz looked like it came in a NTUC plastic bag.

I use my IPOD docking station, the supplied cables and hooked it up to my MA RS 6 (91 db speakers) with QED XT 300 wires.

I have a playlist of test songs which I keep in my IPOD for auditions, so I crank this section up. The volume is set at 9 o’clock in my new 3.5 by 4m sound room.

Do you know the feeling of palpable presence? How much does it cost to invite Yo Yo Ma into your home to play in front of you? Now, I know, it costs 200USD for the amp plus USD 19 shipping.

Feel like having Earl Klugh over for dinner, just flick on the switch. Of course I recorded much of these in lossless formats but I also included some techno, and if you suddenly feel your feet move involuntarily, this amp is the cause. 128kb recordings, this setup milks the best out of it.

There is bass, a delicate mid and treble, although with a modest damping factor it won’t embarrass the grip a Krell solid state super powerful amp has. Its about finesse, and lounging with a magazine, a bit of port or sherry and a good book, although with such fine tunes emitting from the system, it will be hard to concentrate on the book.

Ever had the sensation of Natsukawa Rimi’s (夏川りみ) voice massaging your senses and leaving you unable to move about. Emil Chau seems to sound like he decided to do an impromptu live performace in my room. I hear some nuances which I have not heard before and the imaging is stable and set behind the speakers.

This setup is small change for something not much bigger than a toaster, although it does get warm.
Tomorrow, I will invite Bach and Mozart to come jam with Anzen Chidai  Switch off the lights and enjoy the music with a dull glow from the tubes, so this is what I have been missing all this while….

I finally set up my hi fi room, the Ipod playing on the Dared in the background whilst setting up my room, air con etc has made it a lot more bearable in the heat.
As the sound warms up, the partner ship of the MA RS 1 and the Dared is a good one.
The RS 1 has a tighter bass, and makes up for the lack of deep bass by exerting a tighter control over the proceedings allowing more of the excellant mids that the MP 5 can generate show through. A veritable classic amp indeed Smiley

I just bought a y-splitter which allows the single input on the Dared to be fed from my iPOD and my Toshiba which has Sharc DAcs that are supposed to be pretty spiffy.

The result really made me sit up again. What was supposed to be background music, quckly became an intense session of rummaging through old CDs, forgetten songs to bring out the best from the setup. And oh my, what a sound!

Focus, clarity like someone uses a solvent to take away years of mist from my aural windscreen. The combination of solid DACs, a good transport (the Toshiba weighs in at a good 6kg or so), good ol' cable talk RCA cables, the amp connected to my RS 1s and a marriage of high sensitivity speakers and an amp which cannot stop singing and you have tight bass, pacey rhythm and a sweet top.

Using the Usher 520:

The Usher gives nice neutral sound just short of being warm, with a well controlled treble which won't bite, but gives v good detail for not much more money than what people pay for a pair of good stands

The mids are well expressed, but the presentation and scale are just a bit small, and they won't give floorstanders much competition in the lower  frequencies, but as a whole they are very high VFM and will play happily on the end of the Ipod and Dared

You need to turn up the volume dial a bit more with the 87db Ushers, but what comes out is highly musical.

V nice indeed

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

Oppo BDP 95 review Part II - a weekend of music


The Oppo 95 comes with a nice Rotel toroidal power transformer feeds a full-wave bridge rectifier on the linear power supply. Four audio grade 3300uF/50V ELNA capacitors are used for bulk filtration before feeding a set of positive and negative linear voltage regulators. Another set of 470uF/25V ELNA capacitors are used for post-regulation filtration and current storage.

Now to put this into perspective: some Amps don’t even have that much capacitance!

A Weekend of Listening:

So I get some down time to sit down and listen to this player. Bear in mind, its only been in my system for about 2 weeks at this point, and I don’t really want to run it day and night just to run it in that much faster.

Instead, I let my dad play with it, watch his movies, listen to his CDs etc. Since there is no complaints (I took away his Nuforce Oppo 83), I guess that means the level of satisfaction remains…

I have a collection of discs with drums, which allows me to demo good bass, beats and I enjoy a nice solo instrumental guitar recording (Guitar Works – Mariah’s Watermill). I also keep handy some vocals, ranging from Faye Wong, Jack Cheung, to the Chesky Persuasions Acapella group and finally for large orchestral works, I like the Manuel and the Music of the Mountains, which was recorded in analogue, but offers excellent music separation and a lush vinyl like feel. For a final flourish, I like the solo violinist, to see how the setup sounds with Gavotte en Rondeau / Partita III BWV 1006 - Salvatore Accardo testing the highs in the system. This comes from a SACD from the Hong Kong AV 2010 show.

I let the player warm up a bit, switching it on right when I reach home and I begin in earnest after dinner.
First in are the drums, and the bass does not disappoint. There is very good timing, depth and dimension. The right amount of decay with each beat occurs, and even with my bookshelf 805s, the bass is both audible and palpable.

Guitar Works – Mariah’s Watermill
is a piece meant for the quiet evenings, and with the fingerstyle guitar piece, you will hear the etch, the detail of the guitarist’s fingers as he plucks the strings. The reverberations in the room should sound natural, and carry forward in a wave of harmonics. At the same time, the system sound be rather quiet, and if there are other noises, from the system, the transport, or even the fan and the recording, it will be rather obvious.

There were no such noises and the recording was sweet, tight and the highs natural. You can get detail without having to bear with the treble. This is a change from the first few days, when the treble was rather dull.

 Moving onto the vocals and the unplugged versions of “Sky” from Faye Wong, plus “Sorry” from Jacky, the bass, is impressively deep, the vocals are rather nice, and clear, with a soundstage that sits nicely between my speakers, and the cohesion is better now than in the beginning when the instruments seem to be merely clear but with no timing and synergy.

In playing the acapella tracks (The Persuasions Sing U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking For) the soundstage is good, and you can easily make out voices and where each individual singer stands. This is a nice test of separation.

And to follow up on this, the orchestral piece “Spanish Harlem” played by Manuel and the Music of the Mountains offers you a chance to view a sonic landscape, with separation of individual instruments, which come together, and yet offers you the ability to pick up the drums, the strings etc, whilst sitting back as the music journeys from one speaker to the other. You can truly relax to this, and yet, its hard to do anything else but listen as the integration of the whole set of frequencies invites you to pay full attention.

So the SACD version of Gavotte en Rondeau was performed in a quiet but large hall, and even in a stereo system, you can appreciate the size of the hall, whilst deciding if the violin grates or simply offers detail. Thankfully the Oppo belongs to the latter and does a solid job of producing highs in a control yet exuberant fashion, which makes me think the Oppo is quite neutral – my 805s tends to go warm, whilst the MF amp is a more neutral beast.

Now since I had the 83 Nuforce, its hard to not think of that, but I am not ready to do a comparison yet. Suffice to say, it isn’t a massive improvement, and if you have either, you should be quite happy, but I will do a more detailed review and comparison in due course.

Now back to the music….


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

Oppo BDP 95 95 or 93?

I get asked this alot, and it is also a FAQ or FA D(discussed) topic recently.

95 or 93


It's a question you will need to answer -

How is your music to HT ratio?

So in summary:

If you use the Oppo primarily as a BR device for HT, with an occasional dabble in music, and will be mainly using the HDMI as your main connection between the BR player and AV amp, then the 93 is more than enough.

In fact if you don't need the video chip, the 3D etc, a basic BR player from the mainstream brands will do.

However if music plays a significant role, if you have a serious AV amp or better yet, a stereo amp, then it pays to either use the RCA output of the 93, which can be sufficient for the occasional user,


Go the full way and get the 95.

Until we sort out some audio shootouts, we cannot really answer the question as to how much better is the 95. But I would wager that it will be better - in the Right system - and how does it compare to a Audiolab CD player with the same DAC?

Well again a shootout will make the comparison easier.

But consider this, if you are only moderately serious about music, the 95 will offer most of what a decent CD player with the same DAC can offer, but with the convenience of one player.

It also means you wear out the laser more quickly, and that may cause you to lose sleep.

Otherwise, it is the "all-in-one" concept that is appealing to some.

On the other hand, having a seperate CD player for music, allows you to keep the 93, and spend on a really serious CD player, but I would then consider something much higher than just an Audiolab or other brands with a similar DAC to make a significant difference.

Perhaps a Reference Series Marantz, Krell, Mac, Mark Levinson or Wadia?

Otherwise you may find that a mid-level Marantz / NAD / Rotel etc will give you a different sonic signature but not a significantly better sound.

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

Food joy kitchen

Simple decor but the prices are reasonable and the food isn't bad. Parking is easy and the place is kid friendly too.