Oppo BDP 105 review - audio performance

Oppo BDP 105 review - audio performance

Partnering equipment

Musical fidelity A5.5 stereo amplifier
B&W 804D
QED XT 300 speaker cables, kimber I/C, wireworld oasis power cables

The Oppo official website has plenty of info on the various features:

Details of the various functions of this versatile machine can be found elsewhere, but key audio features include:

Sabre 32 DAC - no longer stacked, but it remains to be seen of that was a better arrangement
Inputs coaxial, optical, hdmi and USB to use the internal DAC
Wi fi playback of a variety of formats

The latest flagship Oppo has evolved into more than just a simple universal player and has a long list of functions, which give it capabilities beyond even the new generation of cd players with one or two digital inputs.

Oppo has been quick to recognize that it cannot win the pocket rocket Blu Ray player, or even merely on the pedigree of the components, but it has tried to embrace the digital age where more and more media is hard disk based instead of just on a cd.

For a universal disc player disc loading is impressive, but it's still slower than a regular Red Book player. Build quality is good for the money but no one will mistake this for some cast out of iron high end high cost machine and the remote is still the same rubbery job.

However once you look under the hood, you will see where the money went. There is a toroidal transformer, which is now developed inhouse instead of an off the shelf one from Rotel.

The caps and power supply will embarrass a budget amplifier and all inputs are gold plated. This year there are no rubber RCA protectors, unlike the older 95.

In stereo, using a variety of well recorded CDs, you find that imaging is solid and locked to the centre. 

I did this subjective listening review with mainly Red Book CDs, and through a stereo system. I also tried SACDs in stereo, and some of the digital inputs.

The 105 is what I can an 'anything' machine. If you just want some background music, it can stay out of sight, and let you play some quiet jazz and allow you to listen for hours without feeling fatigued.

On the other hand, when you are in the mood for details, it can then give you plenty to listen to.

The Oppo has details when you sit down and pay attention. The image locks itself just between the speakers and it's what I call a wysiwyg speaker, or what see is what you get... Throw it a bright poorly recorded cd and that's what you will hear. But if you have a well recorded piece, it will reward you with solid sound. It sounds quite neutral, probably more so than the 95, which I felt was a little warmer. The details available are impressive, and given a well recorded session, you will really feel its live.

It sounds very neutral with no emphasis of any part of the sonic spectrum, and how the entire system will hang together will largely depend on the other partnering components. If you favor a warmer sound, spend more on the speakers and choose something of that ilk. The bass is solid, and the mids are detailed, but you won't find a slant towards either end of the sonic frequencies.

I heard the song “Riders in the storm” on a Fringe Episode and bought the song. In this song, you will hear real thunder and rain, and the Oppo / B&W 804 / MF combination delights in bringing out the details, so much so that I had to check if it was really raining outside. The tunes were smooth and liquid, and the voices were realistic. It is no wonder that an Abbey Road studio uses the 800 series. You don’t get the same scale with the 804, but the soundstaging and pinpoint accuracy is there.

I felt the partnership of the B&W with MF and Oppo gives a detailed and neutral sound. For a warmer sound, I would swop out the B&W for something like the Sonus Faber Lueto series, or use a tube amp that can drive the B&W.

For a warmer cd player, I would use a Roksan M series, but that is a pure cd player with no additional capabilities.

So how would it compare to cd players? IMO, the Oppo is probably performing around the level of a $1-2000 cd player, but what you get for the extra cash is all the other enhancements. It's not some super killer player which will make you throw away your top end $10k player, but if you need a good player for a mid to mid-high HT system but you still want solid music playback, then this is a good choice. 

Using the internal DACs via the digital inputs is very much source dependent. Not all sources are created the same, despite what naysayers at certain forums love to say. Using an Apple TV in optical out, the sound was terrible, and devoid of soundstaging, bass and shrill. Switching over to the HDMI output, the sound was much better but when I played the same song on a CD, that was the best sounding by far.

It has video capability and other features that no cd or sacd player has, with many input and output options, that make it a highly flexible player, but bear in mind that you will need higher level partnering equipment than merely your average $1000 AV amp can show, so if you really want to make this system sound great, be prepared to get a separate stereo amp and some decent speakers.

I would suggest the Monitor Audio GX series for starters, or the B&W CM series and the Marantz Pearl Lite. These can be added to your Ht system as well. If you give it better amps and better speakers, this player will reward you with even better sound.

The same caveat applies to this Oppo as to the 103: if all you do is play Blu Ray discs, and use the Hdmi output, you can be better served with a basic Sony player for a quarter the cost and not miss much. On the hand if you wish to explore the music limits of your HT system, this player with the analogue output capabilities can elevate your listening experience to a new level.


Subwoofer buying tips





Having moved from a very budget sub in my early days (Robertson Audio 12") to more expensive ones as my ability to afford them went up, I have some advice for other bass lovers…. I am not expert, there are many more experienced gurus out there, but I do want to spend the least to get the right sub.


Budget:

Sort that out early at the same time as your other HT purchases. The same principle applies: give yourself as big a budget as possible and buy to the point of pain. It’s no point buying something to a certain budget, then regretting it later on, when it doesn’t meet your needs, then you need to dispose of the first one and spend more on the second…

Second hand or first hand:

The good thing about second hand items is the value and price. You can save a lot when others upgrade. But the downside is subs can be driven hard, and unless you are familiar with the items, or know the owner well, there is an inherent risk.

Importing:

Some more intrepid souls will do mass orders of popular subs, especially those which are not available locally. For those subs which are sold locally, my suggestion is to support the local vendor, unless the markup is outrageous. They provide warranty, product support and these cost money.

The price bands (for new sub prices)

Super Budget subs:

Usually these are under $500 and unless you are coming from a home theatre in a box (HITB), you will quickly outgrow them, so I would advice one to stay away from them.

Low priced subs:

From around 500-1000. Here you can begin to find some value, and subs which can hit below 30Hz. Those subs which can only go down to 40Hz are not real subs and are going to miss the lowest notes which can be important in HT.

Models from Hsu, Velodyne, SVS and other suspects come into this band, for their lower models.

Mid-priced subs

From about 1-2k. Here is real value. You can find many excellent subs, which go low, have impact and also have pace.

Many of the ID (Internet Direct) companies have excellent subs in this range. Look for SVS, Rhythmik, Velodyne, Hsu etc.

Mid-high subs:

Here you are going into solid subs, that have massive power reserves, and are able to give the SPL for larger rooms, and yet remain tight and impactful.

Expect to pay 2-3k.

High End:

Here enthusiasts will buy multiple subs, with high end finish, various hookup options, and also built in auto-calibration or setup.

Beyond that, the other vital choice in this range is customer service. This differentiates the vendors who just want to move boxes, or those who will come round, set the sub up, integrate it and this cost money.

In fact the setup is the key. In order to make subs, be they low end or top subs, they need to be well sited, and integrated into the system. One should not be able to localize the sub or make it so loud that the bass notes overhangs the other frequencies.

What to look for in the sub:

Connection options:

A basic sub will only have a LFE input. Better subs will also have XLR, High Pass Inputs, and even outputs.

Some will give equalization options, and allow you to tweak and flatten bass peaks.

Additional niceties include the auto-calibration, but if you already have this built into your HT system (Audyssey XT 32 with Sub EQ is a good thing to have), it may not be needed.

Other goodies include outputs for daisy chaining subs, phase control, and volume.

Build quality:

A heavy sub is not also good, but it is an indication of what goes into the sub. Big powerful subs need big magnets and amps, plus an inert cabinet. They also have good quality feet so your sub doesn’t walk.


Sealed or ported:

A sealed sub can give tighter bass, which can be beneficial for music. A ported sub is more efficient, and can give higher SPL for the same amp or woofer size. But it maybe a little slower and is usually better for HT. Cabinet size also matters and if you want a small wife friendly sub, then expect to pay more for the same bass extension, since the sub will need a more powerful amp to produce the same depth and impact.

Placement:

This is extremely important, and can make a lesser sub sound better, or you may also wonder why an expensive sub sounds so disappointing in your home. Too many others simply dump their sub in a corner and hope for the best. That can be the worst thing you can do. So talk to your partner, and work out what are the options.

Do read up on “crawling for bass”, boundary reinforcement, and the rule of thirds. They are beyond this article.

Renovations and dampening:

A good sub can make the whole room shake, and that can be detrimental if your renovations don’t cater for this. Imagine if you have bought an expensive sub only to find out that it makes your ceiling rattle so much that you can’t turn it up, or it’s so loud and you have no soundproofing so your neighbors keep complaining.

If you are starting fresh, work with your contractor and a sound expert, add room treatment and work on planning that ceiling.

I have previously posted details on how to make the ceiling rattle free:



Demo:

Hearing and feeling is believing, and one should bring some tracks for demo. I have a list of potential tracks below. Apart from shops, one can also visit homes of other HT enthusiasts, which may be better since the sub is set up in a domestic environment already.


However for many subs especially from ID stores, it may not be possible to listen to them. Reviews from websites are useful and user forums. But users especially those in AVS can be a little over enthusiastic about their new purchases, and sometimes one has to take their opinions with a big dollop of salt.



1) Flight of the phoenix- plane crash (as usual)
2) Streetdance 2   - last dance battle scene
3) Max payne       - Gun shots (forget which chapter liao..)
4)Spiderman3     - think is chapter 5 or 6 or7
5)Rambo4          - last battle scene
6)District B13     - forget which scene liao...
7) Ratoullie (cannot spell - ha ha) (BR)- sewer scene
8.) Superman Returns (HD) - when he goes supersonic / saves the plane
9) Day after Tomorrow (BR) - tornado in LA
10) Ice Age II (BR) - ice melting
11) Top Gun  - sound of jets taking off HD DVD
12) Black Hawk Down - Irene (plus good surround use during street fights) BR
13) Terminator II (BR) - motorbike starting in first 10 mins and generally good surround use
14) Next HD DVD
15) Hot Fuzz HD DVD - mid bass impact
16) 30days of night
17) Hitman -- not deep but every gun shots and punch/kick got got punch combination of deep
18) Bank Job DTS-MA 7.1...
19) Dragon Tiger Gate - DTS -MA 7.1
20) Hellboy2 also not bad   Recent movies I like
21) Kungfu Panda,
22) Hulk ( 2008)
21) Batman dark knight
22) Taken - good luck scene
23) Pearl Harbor- initial attack of the Japanese
24) The Haunting- scene where the lady was on her bed then heard a creaking sound then chased by the monsters ghost( is it how it is called)
25) The Incredible Hulk - scene in the university where Edward Norton was caught in the middle of the glass covered bridge down to the helicopter attach on the Hulk - The scene with the sonic cannons.
26) Kill Bill 1 and 2 scene where the lead star was having a fight with a Japanese lady and scene where the lead star was buried alive
27) War of the Worlds scene with lightning
28) Hero the blue room and the scene were arrows are shot at
29) Behind Enemy Lines where the lead star is being chased and has to go through land mines
30) Inception - Street exploding scene
31) How to train your dragon
32) Unstoppable
33) Skyline
34) Tron Legacy - arena scene
35) X-men First class
36) Super 8 - train crash scene
37) Battles L.A - choppers taking the men to the forward base
38) War Horse - the battlefield scene with the artillery
39) U571 - death charge scene
40) John Carter
41) Battleship
42) Das Boot
43) Avengers
44) Finding Nemo - Darla scene, submarine and whale scenes
45) Top Gun - when Goose hit canopy and plane is spinning
46) Monster inc - sock detonation and Boo laugh
47) Fire of Conscience - teahouse shootout
48) Master and Commander - the ship was shot by the canon scene
49) The Last Airbender - The avatar fighting Firebenders with Earthbenders and the last fight scenes
50) Underworld Series - especially Awakening - final battle
51) Lost Bladesman - Donnie Yen aka Guan Yu flies off the horse with his big blade
52) Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow
53) Thor
54)
- lotsa drums, swooshing drum sounds creating lotsa air volume
55) Expandable 2
56) Total Recall (DTS) - 'The Fall' & all the chase scenes...music beat goes really low
57) Prometheus -  good bass in action scenes and also for ambient surround scenes..
58) Dark Knight Rises (DTS) - 'The Bat' fight scene and Soundtrack is awesome...
59) Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - 7.1 DTS-MA - good use of surrounds and bass throughout. Not just for the booms.
60) Halo 4 - Forward unto Dawn (episode 1) on BR - Get this at all cost.  Mid and low bass aplenty.  PQ 4 SQ 4.5 Story 3.5 )
61) Brave - very good surround and occasion bass blasts that really shake my sofa!!
62) Dragon Tiger Gate - for mid bass try the fight scene near the end
63) The greatest game ever played , to test the speed of your sub and the integration with your centre speaker.
64) Flash point , to test the air bouncing effect on the punch impact.
65) True legend , very low rumbling together with mid bass punch at the same time.


We are all at liberty to do as we please in our homes. Those with plenty of experience will be tweaking constantly.

If you don't fall into this category, then plan ahead, so it becomes integral in your renovations. For the average HT user, aesthetic concerns override any potential benefits of future add-ons. Furthermore the lady of the house is likely to veto lots of ugly pads, diffusers and other items commonly used in the dedicated dens that enthusiasts use.

For example siting a subwoofer is a big deal, and having a spot or two for it, with some considerations for sound is vital. And plan ahead - eg buy a subwoofer cable long enough to allow variations in position or install the cables into the walls before. Cables can be affordable and allow such flexibility.

So IMO, it is advisable to plan ahead, work with a acoustic expert, and if needed, tweak it later on, but with the aesthetic caveats mentioned above.

YMMV.

My subs:

I have owned in succesion:
  1. that Robertson Audio 12"
  2. KEF 30B
  3. SVS PB 12+
  4. Rhythmik FV15HP
  5. Velodyne SPL 800i + SPL 1000R
  6. JL Audio F113
  7. Hsu MBM MK II

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

My Setup 12 / 2012




PS64D8000FM Samsung plasma TV



Denon AVR 4520 – XT 32, 11.2 capable with nine amps inbuilt, twin sub out
Rotel 1572: 2 channel power amp with 250W per channel driving the front pair of
804D 
Oppo BR player BDP 105 as CD and HT source
Apple TV (Gen 1) for music and photos
HTM4s centre, Radius 90HD for height and wide channels
Usher 520 for rear back
Monitor Audio RXFX in dipole mode for side surrounds
JL Audio F113 for low bass
Hsu MBM for mid bass (tuned to 50-120 Hz) - sited behind my main seat
QED XT 300 for front and centre speakers
QED Micro speaker cable for the rest
Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI for Oppo to amp
Aiborg flat HDMI cable, LHS and AQ Forest HDMI cable - amp to TV and other sources
Audioquest Snake subwoofer cables
Wireworld Oasis 6 Interconnects
Assorted Xindak, PS Audio and other power cables
MK wall power sockets
Rhodium Right Angle Plug adapters for USA power cables
Auralex subdude platform and under centre speaker
Da lite screen
Glass optical cables







 






For my desktop:
KEF X 300A
Stereo system:
Oppo BDP 83 Nuforce
Oyaide Cables
Sky I/C
B&W 805s
Marantz SR 12 S1 


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

Hobbit - Movie review


It’s been more than 5 year since the LOTR series ended, and at that time, we were all enthralled by the mystical world of Middle Earth, the scenery, the men in armour bonding whilst defeating the forces of evil in adventure after adventure. Since then, fans have been clamouring for the Hobbit to be made.


SO it with great fanfare that we welcomed Hobbit this month, especially after the start stop efforts in making it in NZ, the 48 fps movie making process and just the duress suffered to make this happen.

I must have been a little jaded, but the word is : Rehash…

Sure, there were the heady battles, the camaderie, the fabulous NZ scenery doubling up again for Middle Earth (didn’t spot any chaps in modern clothes or wearing watches this time), and of course the new awesome 7.1 surround.

But somehow it wasn’t as novel, as tight as before and the new band of brothers or dwarfs to be more exact, were more faceless, and more is not always better. There were more members, and it was no longer a surprise to see famous actors being depicted as half their usual size, and with so many more, there isn’t enough screen time to make the 14 members all stand out.

In the cast, you will find a mixture of familiar faces suitably made younger in appearance given that this story was supposed to be the prequel to LOTR, and some new intrepid members who seeks to restore the dwarf kingdom to it’s glory.

The good news is that you don’t need a lot of background to get into this show, and Peter Jackson helpfully begins the movie with some scenes that show the LOTR period before plunging us into the Hobbit era which is about 60 years before LOTR.

So there is more and there is less. …

The quest is less noble and less fraught with danger and the plot seems designed basically to carry us from one action scene to the next, interspersed with more beautiful NZ scenery. Certainly, the action quotient has gone up, and even the sound engineering has improved. You also see the benefit of modern CGI being even better than the awe-inspiring LOTR.

I suspect part of the reason is that all of this trilogy came out of a rather thin book, so the plot is short on details, and long on action, some humor and rather more raucous singing than I like..

There are some redeeming features though, and the addition of Martin Freeman (Watson from the BBC Sherlock Holmes) as the young Baggins was a solid move, and he makes the role his own, whilst keeping to the storyline and taking over from Ian Holme. Guillermo del Toro adds a lot of his personal touch as a director, in terms of all the monsters. The worlds are far more elaborate, and the details on the lairs deep under and on the faces of the various trolls and orcs and other creatures are even more weird and wonderful than before. I bet he was delighted to be allowed to exercise his imagination in a way not seen since his production of Pan’s Labyrinth.. he also likes to work with models and this is something Peter Jackson can identify with.

However if you are an action aficionado, then rest assured the movie won’t disappointed in this aspect as the action comes fast and furious, taking us deep into Middle Earth with new monsters, and cameos of old enemies.

The surround effects and bass will impress too and I have no doubt that the Blu Ray will be a demo worthy one when it comes out.

All in all, that is what I feel, lovely period action movie, with great scenery and some humor thrown in, but it somehow lacks the novelty and impact in the plot as it’s predecessor, which ironically, consists of the latter few books of Tolkien’s writing.

It demands a cinema outing or a very solid home theatre system for the action and sound spectacle, but I feel it lacks the soul and the freshness of the older work.

Worth a watch with the caveats mentioned.

Getting that Rumble in the sofa and the thump in the chest - Bass in your HT system


As those who have been following this blog  will know... I had a new Home Theatre Den created late last year, and have stocked it with a 11 channel HT system, and have since gone through three sets of main speakers, and five subs...

After many years of playing with HT, I figured that I can do a pretty decent job of creating that ambiance, tweaking the speaker levels, delays, placements etc to create an immersive experience for the ultimate home cinema enjoyment.
My bearbug has always been the bass.

The Holy Grail has always been that thump in the chest (mid bass 50-250Hz), and the rumble in the sofa / floor (low bass < 40Hz). I first heard the ultimate bass experience at the bass guru's home, it was a truly visceral experience...

But it was a bit too much for me to be honest, as I am truly conscious of presbycusis and noise induced deafness. I then visited the homes of others and found that in modest setups, they had this magic combination of rumble and thump. I was truly envious...

So began my quest, with many switches, trials etc, but in the course of my experiments, I began to fear the worse as I discovered more about my HT den, which I had carefully planned, thinking that I could then get this much lusted after rumble and thump.

I found that my sitting position was closed to a room null point, where the bass simply disappeared and in my mickey mouse place, I had very little options of moving my sitting position. I could move a foot or so back and forth, that's it and it was hardly helpful.

Using the tried and tested methods of crawling helped just a tad, but essentially it dawned on me that I may not get that feeling I so sought after, despite spending a considerable amount. It may not be the equipment, but just my room and my sitting position. This is indeed depressing news.

Now, two recent developments plus an ongoing one certainly helped.

Firstly, the advent of XT 32, which I already had in the older 4311 certainly helped. But in the new place, Audyssey alone just could not give me what I wanted.

Then I finally got down to using the feature which I had neglected initially: Sub HT EQ. Which essentially is a feature of some higher end AV Amps, that allows the AV Amp / processor to calibrate TWO subs Separately at one time.

I also learnt a lot more about bass, the different kinds of bass, and I attribute this to the kindness of a few people here, who have been patiently answering my questions, and helping me measure.


Now the key developments in the past few weeks that might finally give me some hope:

The mid bass solution:

Two companies, with similar ideas, but vastly different price ranges.

Firstly the Hsu MBM is a cost effective solution, relative to the latter, with a four times price difference.

But the idea was to boost the mid bass, with a second unit, rather than make one sub cover all the frequencies. Furthermore, it could then allow my subs to be placed in less than ideal positions, which would be more WAF or home friendly so my place does not turn into a HT studio.

The MBM (around $700 shipped from USA), and currently sited behind and to the right of my seat, with the levels tuned slightly higher than what Audyssey set, and a Xover of 120 hz, provided a rather nice, seamless integration into my system, adding weight, slam and even making stereo music sound good.



The hard work is how to make it seamless without overcooking the bass and just making it into a one note boom box. This will take some work but the rewards are worth it.

The second solution is more costly, but having heard the results, it's an awesome solution. The main issue - cost. It's much more expensive, yet the sound is clearly superb for HT. The Ken Kreisel DXD 808 or DXD 2012 is a very well constructed sub, with the ability to hit hard, fast and deep. A real game changer, in a way that rival how SVS first wowed us more than 10 years ago. If it was cheaper, I suspect it can be the top selling sub around. As it is, the main factor hampering massive sales is the price.



So the decision will be to see if I can save and use a cheaper solution, or go for broke and get the best sound and finally get both thump and rumble....

I have been advised to run in my main speakers first, and the rest of my new kit, then see how I go. That's good advice.

Then decide on either of the two... choices indeed...

In the course of this series of experiments, I certainly acquired much valuable info on bass, placement and tuning... but I am a novice in this area compared to the bass gurus...

The journey continues and I hope to see daylight sometime. Getting the thump and rumble will be a really solid Christmas present.


EDIT 05 01 2013:

Through the generosity of a friend, I managed to try the 12" MBM and I felt the pace and timing wouldn't be too far off the 13" F113.

I chose the MBM because there are many adjustments for using the right crossover. It involved a lot of trial and errors but it worked.


After the initial Audyssey XT 32 calibration, I then tweaked the levels on each sub manually, and came up with a level for each and the final sum volume which gave sufficient thump and rumble without attraction attention to either one.

The addition of the trio of the MBM, Sub Eq and XT 32 suddenly made my room sound awesome...

What I did:
Place my F 113 on the bay window, which is also a solid concrete thing, covered with a layer of wood that also has rockwool inside. The cone is slightly tilted towards me, about 1 foot from the rear wall and side window.
I then did the ARO on the F 113 - a awesome display of sub power by the way... it could make my front door open...

Then I placed the MBM behind and to the left of my seat, between the Eames chair and the other seat, but not touching the seats, and with half the legs on carpet to prevent the sub moving.





Then I re-did the Audyssey, for 2 subs, and after it was complete, I found the bass a little polite, so I tweaked the settings, increased the volume on the MBM by 3.5 notches on the channel level, and upped the bass on the F 113 by 2 notches.

Then I played some bass heavy movies and the results was rather remarkable. I had depth from the F 113, and presumably since it was free from having to do mid bass, it actually seemed more agile and tighter. The MBM then covered the 50Hz and up to about 130Hz on the dial. And I have tactile bass, which was IMO, enough, even though I could dial in more, I felt that that level I had was enough. Certainly nothing close to Jason's awesome air shifting stuff, but it felt right.

I quickly called my friend who lent me his MBM, and we tried it. I didn't say much but waited for his comments. He was very impressed with the results too, and actually in my hall, the bass could breath more than his apartment room.

But the biggest surprise, was in the stereo music demo. I had initially posted that in my null zone, the 804D were a little disappointing, but suddenly, the music came back! And it was tight. With both subs, and Audyssey, it felt very musical!

The last time, with my other subs, it was fine for HT, with the booms and all, but the bass was flabby on music. Now it was musical and we even preferred it to using my Musical Fidelity Amp in stereo mode!

Of course when I listened at the dining table, in stereo, the bass from the 804D was quite good even though it wasn't run in yet.

I can't move anything around too much. The dining table is well, for dining so unless I grow money on trees and buy a bigger home, sadly that will stay...

I can see that if my entire hall became my listening room, the sounds and the option of moving my chair back a metre or two, will open up my bass more..

As it is, the MBM seems to be a very interesting option.

This was unlike my previous effort with the F 113 alone, where I could hear or locate where the F 113 was. It seems the Sub EQ was able to appreciate that one sub could go much lower...

I tried it with HT, and the results were very satisfying, some may turn up the subs more, but I do want to preserve my hearing... the system can hit 100 db for explosions... not something I want to do all the time, even when the volume for voices was around 70-80db.

With music it was very interesting, since I could use the subs without much detriment. Since I had little mid bass in my null zone listening position, the MBM restored this, and again the integration was quite seamless.

I didn't go for the Ken Kreisel subs in my home, since they cost a lot more and I was already satisfied with what I had. My neighbours might have words with me if I increase the bass anymore too...


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

The Bullet Vanishes– movie review



The Bullet Vanishes– movie review



Lau Ching Wan has played the quiet, reliable man, who is deeper than he looks, and can be depended to turn in a solid performance. Nic Tse has become more than a spoilt brat, and together they make this into more than what the sum of the parts are.

Hong Kong’s film industry has gone down the drain creatively, and it’s sad that they need to hash together this movie from parts and bits from many recent Hollywood hits to make this.

Those familiar with Robert Downing Jr’s Sherlock, and Inspector Galileo from Japan will see many familiar elements. There is an exact duplicate of the slo-mo explosion scene from the first episode, and they even borrow the theme music from Inspector Galileo, and the blackboard scenes… the music, the clothes and the mood and even the grain of the film borrows heavily from the former movie.

But even so, the two protagonists show so much solid chemistry together, that you tend to excuse these and focus on how well the two combine in a reverse buddy cop movie about a murder mystery in a munitions factory, where there is no bullet found and Lau is tasked to come and investigate this.

Lau is the intellect, and Nic Tse is the quick draw gunfighter, with brains. They are the perfect counterfoil, and make for a good team to solve the mystery. The end is a tad contrived, but it’s a solid effort nevertheless.

Plot 3/5

Action the Blu Ray has superb PQ, and a DTS-MA 7.1 sound track is well engineered, with good steering and use of surrounds, and impactful bass. This makes the BR disc a potential demo disc, despite the less than sterling plot

Chick factor: reasonably with some eye candy and a rather forced sex scene… Cecilia Cheung are you watching?

Worth a rental, and for Canton Movie buffs and especially those of Lau, worth the price of the BR Disc.



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

Moving into the world of Home Theatre - choice and getting the components



Welcome to the world of HT and I had some points to add before you commit and end up regretting your move:



For new members considering a whole HT system, and are moving up from a home theatre in a box  (HITB) or are going to dive right in, this is general suggestion based on my own buying experience.


I shoot straight and come straight to the point, so you may or may not like my style of writing.

- Most new home owners live in the the modern pigeon holes we call homes.
You have a relatively confined space, that DOES NOT suit those huge floorstander speakers.
 The only way you can do this is to add a lot of room treatment, and from my experience, most people don't budget for this. In fact if  you have completed renovations that's hard, but if you have not begun, do give this some consideration.

Many new home owners don't look like the sort to spend another 1-2k on room treatment alone. But this is an important thing to discuss with your contractor, and you can read more on this from my previous posts.

Many new homes are devoid of any soft materials, that means the room is going to sound bright, very bright. When you buy those fancy speakers, you will wonder what happened to the sound. Some materials like carpets, thick curtains will help, or pay an expert to have a look.

Now to the main recommendations

Get your priorities right!

Sort out the main items first:
- speakers (esp centre + fronts) and the sub
- amps
- subwoofer

Getting 2nd hand amps do make sense if you don't mind. If the price is reasonable and the seller reputable, that's fine. Eg, I told someone to get my old 2809 instead of a new amp, since he was not interested in 3D. This amp has better amps, parts and is made in Japan. Those newer 21 or even 33 series amps have many new features but the power section is poorer.

ASK YOURSELF: what matters most?

Then stop vacillating and get something! Will a Denon be better than a Pioneer or Onkyo?
IMO, each has their pro and cons. You just read up what speakers users partner with each amp to get an idea of the sonic signature they impart. This back and forth will not get you better sound.

The principles are very simple:

- find out how much money you can spend and spend to the point of pain, so you don't feel the need to upgrade one month later when buyer's remorse sets in when you buy something with less than what you want.
- see what features really matter: eg does 3D or network functions really matter?
- I will put MY MONEY on:
  • auto-EQ eg Audyssey, MACC etc. Just read up on what are the characteristics of each. Eg Pioneer doesn't really calibrate the sub.
  • good amp section - power is more than specs, read up first on REAL POWER all channels driven
  • however in most tiny homes, what the basic AV amps provide will suffice, especially if you have a sub to take care of the lower frequencies.
  • Higher power gets you better dynamics, soundstaging and less chances of distortion, especially if you play at ear-bursting levels
  • pre-outs for adding amps. BUT - if you don't think you ever will add something, then forget this.
  • video chip

Leave money for good or at least decent cables and speaker stands.

Buy cables from LHS in SLT or order online from Monoprice.com to save some money.


So in summary:

BUY THE AMP FIRST, forget the frills. CONCENTRATE ON THE ESSENTIALS.
Then buy speakers which go well with the amp.
You can reverse the order too, and get the speakers first.

Add the sub, centre and cables accordingly.

- SPECS ARE NOT EVERYTHING
- You need to AUDITION
- based on specs alone, those too lazy to audition would not have got the sound they wanted even if it's just $200 difference, it can be worth it
- I have already posted this before but PLAN YOUR BUDGET WELL and spend to the point of pain, otherwise you will end up returning the receiver / speaker etc immediately
- vendors are not just cruel businessmen - work with them. Most are reasonable if you are
- as my army instructor once said: "Do It Once, Do It Good"

All the best!



Ken Krisel Subwoofers

I had a chance to listen to the Ken Kreisel Subwoofers subs recently, thanks to the warm welcome of some friends and also watch a couple of bass gurus at work.

They were also very kind enough to give a tutorial on bass, mid bass, and many other things.

They now belong in my Hall of Wow... along with some other speakers I have heard.

Just a pair of 8" ones, set up properly can give a very solid punch. That's in the higher frequencies than I expected, going up to 240 Hz, which was not what I had expected.

They exhibit speed and slam, and will be very impressive in our small homes.

If that's all you desire, then they will be able to show their superiority to some of our traditional favorites from Hsu, SVS, and even Rhythmik and JL Audio in this aspect.




In the same room we also had the JL Audio F 113, and it was a different kind of sub.

The JL Audio digs deeper, and gives that awesome rumble still, but will lose out in speed and because it can dig so deep, their mid bass and punch isn't able to keep up.

However shifting the JL Audio away from walls will help ameliorate their lower bass and give the mid bass a chance to shine. This can be combined with elevating the sub above the floor onto some solid stands or very heavy support, preferably the same weight as the JL Audio F 113 themselves.

Likewise, many of the traditional killer ID subs will dig deeper, but I suspect will also be lesser impressive than these newcomers in the punch factor.

So should you run out and buy them immediately?

Well, the main drawback is very simple:

One of these costs USD 1995. And for that special punch, you will be buying two or four of them. That places them in the premium category. And you can buy a few SVS, Hsu, Velodyne or Rhythmik subs for the cost of the small 8" subs. If you opt for the 12" ones, the cost is even higher.

So they are indeed impressive, but for those with smaller pockets, be happy with the other brands, especially the Hsu and Rhythmik family, which give very decent VFM.

 http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/subwoofers/subwoofers-reviews/ken-kreisel-dxd-12012-dual-12-push-pull-subwoofer.html



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

As One - Korean Movie review

 As One - Korean Movie review


I like table-tennis and sports movies in general, and this combines the two into a movie based on a real story of the two Koreas, North and South combining in 1993 for the World Championships..






It's a simple premise, of two unlikely partners, so close and yet so different. The movie takes us through the throes of these foes, forced by political reasons to work together to defeat the mighty Chinese juggernaut, and bring home the gold medal.

A touching movie with plenty of action, which I suspect was CGI, but it brought back memories of the battle of the Chinese involving Singapore and the PRC in the recent Olympics.

Recommended for all Table Tennis fans and you don't need to know Korean to appreciate this movie.





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

Key of Life – movie review


Key of Life –

鍵泥棒のメソッド / Kagi Dorobo no Mesotdo




This is a Japanese comedy which garnered much praise in Japan, and even if you do not understand Japanese, and have to rely on the subtitles, it is a movie that you may want to consider.

The plot is relatively simply to begin with. A hitman loses his memory after a fall in a public bath, and a loser part-time actor capitalizes on the situation and tries to assume his identity. This is complicated by a magazine editor, who has set herself a goal of finding a husband in two months.

There is more than meets the eye to the hitman, and he and the editor begin an unlikely relationship, and it is complicated by the people who want someone dead, those who are supposed to be dead and those who want to avoid being dead.

The flow is rather good, and the choice of actors is impeccable, with a stone hard faced Teruyuki Kagawa playing the hitman in question, whilst the buffoon is played by Masato Sakai to perfection. And of course the lovely Ryoko Hirosue, who is still one of the hottest Japanese actresses in the land…

There is a series of misadventures, and you wonder if the classy, slightly stiff and romanced challenged Ryoko will get her man, and will the hitman continue his ways or will the goofy actor assume his identity.

Realism takes a back seat in some aspects, but there is a warmth and fun in this show with plenty of funny scenes.

If you are looking to get away from the typical American rom-com, this is a different take on this genre and is worth a rental or more likely a keeper if you are a fan of Ryoko.

Good to see her back in action.



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

Finding A Friend For The End Of The World




This one was another show which is outside of my usual Micheal Bay-esque actioner, but it was an interesting viewing at 4 am in the morning across the oceans.

Steve Carrell plays another 40-ish man whose wife leaves him and then he decides that he wants to go meet his first love.

However the main kicker is that this show is set in the last days of the earth. In a scenario not unlike Armageddon, a large meteor is about to end life on earth. In three weeks time, to be exact, at the beginning of the show.

So he journeys across USA looking for his first love, and he travels with a hypersomniac in the form of the Kiera Knightly, who looks very different from her Pirate days.

Their travails form the main part of the story, as they look for old long lost parents, loved ones in the midst of an interesting portrayal of how people would be in the midst of impending doom.

An interesting vignette is that of his cleaning lady, who doggedly continues her weekly cleaning of his apartment, even as definite doom and destruction approach. This certainly contrasts to the mayhem as others find it easier to go about their last days with wild abandon.

It’s supposed to be a romantic movie, so this part of the movie isn’t as fleshed out as one would like, say as in an apocalyptic kind of movie.

Nevertheless, portraying love amidst such doom is an interesting plot and makes for at least one viewing.

There is genuine depth in the acting, although the viewer continues to struggle to see Kiera and Steve as an unlikely doomsday couple.

A bit unrealistic, but it still has it's appeal to the romantic at heart..

Baywatch, The Mummy, Megan Leavey

Baywatch: The reboot sees the prerequisite babes, bods and beach, with The Rock taking the lead, and a very pumped up Zac Affron, who is pro...