YC's Capsule Review Section

Of course, the best test is to listen to equipment yourself, but I've decided to put up a small section on my very preliminary opinions on some equipment I've heard around the Adelphi.

JMLab Electra 915 at Asia Sound
This is the smallest floorstander in the Electra series, but its actually quite big. Jeffrey at Asia Sound advises from purchasing it if you don't have a room as large as Asia Sound's listening room. I kind of agree, though I'm disappointed as I was seriously thinking about it. The 'problem' is the great bass. Theres probably too much of it for a small room. This is a neutral speaker with no real flaws that I could discern from first listening. But note: I compensate for the fact that its my audition of it was the first time they played the 915. They're concentrating more on demo-ing the Mini-Utopia and Mezzo Utopia.

Tannoy 'R' Series, including the R2 at Emjay (Peninsula)
Apparently, Emjay has managed to bring in the R series even before Tat Chuan. Anyway, the sound quality of the R2 is a step in the right direction as compared to the M series. It has a lighter, more delicate touch with the sound. Though it still does not sound particularly transparent in absolute terms (compared with more expensive speakers), the sound is well balanced and the bass is well controlled and not boomy (which is a good sign - but note, I'm not talking too much about definition, absolute depth etc. Thats too much to expect from a budget speaker).

Manley Stingray Integrated Tube amp at Stereophile Audio
You can check www.soundstage.com for their usual positive review, but really, I'm still not impressed. I just guess it goes to show that its really hard to make an inexpensive integrated tube amp.

Initially, they hooked up Wilson Cubs to them and they really sounded ummm problematic. The bass seemed to be going off on its own and didn't seem to have any relation to what the midrange was doing. It could be that the Cubs aren't that good (I found them OK at SAVE, but then, they were hooked up to very very expensive amps and sources). Recently, they're being demoed with Soliloquy speakers and the sound is a bit better.

My initial opinion is that it doesn't have the midrange liquidity or other tube amps including the Audio Note Oto SE (a bit overpriced in Singapore), without this, whats the point, cos' a cheaper solid-state amp will give you about the same sound quality (perhaps with better bass even). Manley also makes brilliant mono-bloc tube amps which drove Tannoy Westminsters beautifully [you must listen to this combo - Amanda McBroom's voice is to die for].

Opera 1.5 speakers at Margil (small standmounts)
I do like these speakers. I didn't check the price (for some reason they don't seem to be listed in Hi-Fi Choice but I think they're cheaper - perhaps in the Concertino range) but I daresay they had more 'air' in the top end then Sonus Faber Concertos. without sounding brighter. Perhaps its just the Red Dawn cables. But basically, in my view, there were no serious flaws and so, the entire Opera line is worth a listen. Not everyone likes the Sonus Faber sound (--shocked gasps from SF owners) or the finish :)

System Audio 1130 (small floorstanders)
Recommended by Hi-Fi Choice (but note the UK list of 499GBP vs the S$1.3k price). Its such a small cute standmounted speaker that I wanted to love. Unfortunately, this is a specialised 'classical music' and audiophile recordings only speaker. It does sound lovely, unfortunately, there is a definite midbass 'hump' that increased warmth but really, it makes popular music a bit 'boomy' and murky. This could be cured by aggressive room treatment but since people who buy this speaker are probably short on space, its critical that such speakers are relatively 'room-insensitive' which does not seem to be the case here. Sometimes, I think that my Triangle are too dry and thin, but this swings too far to the other end for me.

Conrad Johnson MF2500 / PFR etc at Kingsley's new room
Very, very good soundstaging. If I put this system in my more fully treated room, I think it would knock my socks off. I've never been able to find anything wrong with the sound from Conrad Johnson. Their lesser products don't get coverage in the audio press - they seem to be always focusing on the Premier series (save for a short flurry of publicity for their integrated amp the CAV50) - but the good stuff is in the 'middle'.

Nautilus 805 (sooo cute standmount)
Oooh, its so cute that I could forgive any idiosyncrasies. However, the price ELPA is selling it at makes one have to think hard about the purchase. (make it $3k flat and I'll almost certainly whip out the cash...) The idiosyncrasy of B&W speakers is the slight nasality of the kevlar drivers. Some say its because the drivers are run in yet. I don't really know. Fortunately, the strange bass that the CDM1SE is famous for is minimised in the N805. I can definitely live with the sound... now, about that price...

Joseph Audio RM22 and 25. (KH marketing in Kampong Ubi)
Big speaker with big sound, its no wonder that they often get rave reviews at hi-fi shows. The sound is arresting, there is also subtlety and delicacy in the sound. Transients are of course superb. But... its a really dry sound. This is the sound of metal drivers. It all depends on whether you like it like this. The other metal driver we all know about is the lovely but rather coloured Monitor Audio PMC series. But, if you're in the market for this kind of speaker, you must compare them to

Hales Revelation - various models (Reference Audio)
The 'big speaker' 'big sound' stereotype. Without the dryness, and the compromise is weaker transient performance. But note that the Revelations are the 'budget' (ahem, ahem) line for Hales...