Inspired by a visit to a friend’s place in Singapore where I tried out some vinyl on his hi-fi system, I decided to plunge right back into the world of perfect audio reproduction…
To be honest, I am a relapsed audiophile.
I tinkered with audio reproduction systems as a kid but never had any resources then to get anything really good to start with. My house initially had an 8-track system and later an unbranded all-in-one-cassette-tuner-amplifier unit and some home-made speakers. I grew up listening to the Beatles, ABBA, Bee Gees, Anne Murray, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Earth, Wind and Fire, Leo Sawyer, Boney M, Beethoven, Mozart and Simon Hui on that basic setup. From my musical “roots”, it’s no small wonder that I grew up emotionally balanced and normal (or am I?).
The audiophile bug bit me when I came across a very old Hi-Fi Annual by the now defunct Asia Magazine in one of the Berita Bookstore jumbo warehouse sale of yesteryears. The annual contained interesting articles about high fidelity as well as reviews of outstanding systems for that particular year. One of the article in the magazine claimed that every true audiophile’s dream is to have a system that can recreate, as true as possible, the sound of live music. Seeing that I had never heard a live musical event- save the kindergarten and school performances, which I think don’t really count- I took the opportunity to attend a live classical music performance by a traveling youth orchestra. And even in that sonically challenged environment that is the Dewan Tun Hussein Onn of the Putra World Trade Center, I was completely and utterly blown away by the sound. It was reminiscent of a scene in Amadeus where Salieri first heard Mozart performing his clarinet concerto. I was seduced by the live sound that had allowed the performed pieces to transcend beyond mere musical notes to become intangible ethers of absolute beauty, moving hearts and taming souls. At the same time, I was also envious that my system back home could not- no matter how hard I tinkered- sound like live strings and horns.
Without any financial means to upgrade my system, I survived on compact audio cassettes (though I would need to insert a toothpick on the pinch roller of the tape deck to slow it down because it tends to play faster than normal speed) and FM radio. Later, thanks to Bob- a friend and fellow audiophile- I added a mini-compo (that word still gives me shivers) that had a CD-player. The first CD that I ever owned was Enigma’s debut album. It was played over and over and over again just so I could hear how hiss free and clean the sound was. Adding a CD player to the basic home hifi system brought me one step- out of perhaps a thousand- closer to live music but it was a step that has brought about wonderful vistas in the journey to perfect sound reproduction.
But I digress- to cut a long story to be really short, after having a CD player, the passion became cyclical. At it’s high point I have a Marantz CDS5000 CD player, NAD C320 integrated amplifier and Tannoy Mercury MX1 speakers. At it’s low point, I thought that iPods sounded fantastically natural and I switched my Tannoy with my Audio Pro Focus SA-5 floor standing AV speakers because they have a low bass just like- dread of all dreads- an Ah Beng’s car.
Next: SACDs, DVD-Audios and finally, Vinyl.