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A gateway to hi-fi nirvana - Part 1 of 4 (From Mr. Zanden)

Dear fellow AE readers,

Although I' not sure everyone here wants to go to heaven, I'm almost certain those who regularly browse the many articles in this forum would like a find a way to reach hi-fi nirvana.

Let's cut to the chase, I have spent several months in tweaking my large system in order to give me constant elusion of sitting in the middle of the 5th row in the concert hall and to appreciate the living presence and soundstage of an orchestra as well as the ability to follow the performance and tonality of the instrument of the soloist. A little less than 2 weeks ago Friday, designer of Cessaro horns and the AE duo paid a visit to my hi-fi abode and PT commented he was surprised to hear a system could sound this good, when JLam arrived, he made the similar remark. In the ensuing 2 days listening to other systems in very different environment, I felt my system has its merits and also room for improvement, therefore, it's better to consider oneself as an ardent student of hi-fi reproduction instead of a hi-fi guru like many of those fat and middle aged hi-fi reviewers (you are welcome to name a few !).

Having been absent for some time from this forum and contrary to popular belief, my passion in hi-fi has not diminished in any way, in fact, it has grown in certain areas which I consider critical, however, for simplicity sake, I will share my experience with fellow readers in the following order : 1) Source, 2) System and 3) Room acoustics.

Allow me to move back in time to cover my experience at the AE 2 first plus my subsequent visits to 2 different but very good sounding places which music lovers should pay homage to.

So much has been raved about by fellow AE customers on the superb sounding AE 2 in the past few months but I never had the chance to experience this very compact studio until I was invited by PT to hear the latest Zanden 6000 integrated amp driving the new Cessaro Chopin speakers with a pair of custom-made subwoofers. I arrived on Sat. morning (week b4 last) when Ralph (designer of Cessaro) had just finished fine-tuning his speakers & subwoofer setting. After listening to PT's classical CD which I was not familiar with and it did not impress me, I brought out my test disc, Aaron Neville's Warm Your Heart. I quickly (after several seconds) noticed the left channel had been connected to the right hand side and the bass was easily 4-5 db too much for this small studio.

After PT confirmed he had connected the cable the other way round and Ralph turned down the subwoofer output from around 12 o'clock to 9 o'clock (so I was told), the sound was clean, fast and coherent, the difference was huge and PT & Ralph were happy. We then proceeded to serious listening on the many CDs I had brought with me plus the house CDs.

I was aptly impressed by the new Zanden integrated amp, it had the Zanden DNA, tonality was its immediate forte, voice and instruments sounded organic and real - one must give 'full credit' to the Chopin for reproducing recorded sound faithfully. The amp was able to reproduce dynamic and micro-dynamic contrast very well, obviously, to all users of medium-sized speakers, the system would be the one to aspire to own or in my words, to die for, however, since I am using the Beta system, the dynamic headroom is simply greater but one must evaluate any system based on its merits and its physical limits. The Zanden 6000 which I was told, took Yamada-san 2 years to develop, I am certain he will have better things to offer to the high-end community later this year based on this new design. I also think the superb resolution of the Zanden/Cessaro system was attributed to it being fully wired by you-know-what interconnects, speaker cables plus the grounding.

In summary, musicality and excitement were the descriptions I can give to this system in AE 2, I am sure after nearly 2 more weeks of breaking in, the system should sound better by now. I reckon it can give PT a certain yardstick to aim for in fine tuning the maga-buck system in AE 1 as it was not really singing as good as when I last heard it several months ago.

After the audition at AE 2, we had a quick lunch before paying a visit to the record shop of 直師父 (AE ANALOG SCIENCE 總顧問). Master 直 owns a vinyl record shop which has almost most of the best sounding LPs you can find and want to own but alas at a price and he only accepts cash. At the far end of the shop, one can see another pair of Chopin driven by a full Zanden system consisting of Zanden pre-amp, the legendary phono stage, 300B-power amp with Da Vinci turntable. The sound from this system was simply the best I had ever heard in a commercial environment, it had one of the best tonality and musicality by any standard, one of reasons I think was because of the room, long and fairly narrow, this allowed bass to travel with weight and extension.

After playing the LP version of Aaron, I was rather surprised to find it was recorded in reverse phase (CD was in normal phase I hasten to add) and the equalization was cut in EMI curve (the damn A&M recording was made in 1991). Upon further listening, I noticed although the system was immensely musical with pretty good details, it lacked the complete transparency of the top-notched system. I later looked at the wiring of the system which did not appear to be those I am currently using or AE is offering, I hazard a guess a complete change to you-know-what cables would transform this system into a top-notched system in no time.

In the evening, AE threw a dinner party in the honour of Ralph Krebs of Cessaro so that he can meet his desciples. To the very nice gentleman sitting next to me who was happily using an old pair of Flemish loudspeakers partnered by a pair of muscle-amp from Deutschland, I am sure he will be in audio ecstasy if one day he changes to Cessaro speakers driven by Zanden (PT, pls inform me if this day does come, I will bring a bottle of champagne to celebrate this special occasion).

The sound of Redemption.....

Sunday, the following day, we went to Danny So's place. I had been there in numerous occasions and was sad to find why the Cessaro speakers reproduced such unfamiliar sound, in short, the tonal signature of the large bronze looking Japanese amps simply masked all the details of every recording he played and tonality was the same on every record.

On this visit, Danny finally saw the light by changing to a complete Da Vinci pre and power amps, Zanden phono stage plus Da Vinci turntable. The sound we heard was a major transformation in every positive aspect, tonality was real, image was palpable with a very impressive dynamic headroom. Danny had finally redeemed himself for choosing these superb amps with all the lovely characteristics of the best tube amps I have heard. The weekend ended with a lovely note as we all enjoyed the sound from these different systems that had inspired me to further fine tune my own later on.

Well AE readers, that's all for now and I am now charged with excitement to share with you in the upcoming write-ups on how to improve your hi-fi system at 'zero cost' to achieve 10-15% improvement in sound but this will require hearing/listening skill which needs constant practice because there is no free lunch in this world, okay.

Until then, happy listening !

Mr Z


  • To Danny,

    How does redemption feel like?

    Congratulation! After all, the Asian coloration was a thing of the past.
  • Danny,

    Remember to get the THOR ground wire. Plug into the circuit ground of the Da Vinci Nifty. You will then know the true meaning of "silence".

    Tailored made a banana to banana version! I gave up Wavac and joined the Da Vinci camp too!
  • edited March 2012

    cables also play a big role in my redemption. Once I hook up the La Source to my turntable this weekend, I will be in heaven.


    Welcome to Da Vinci camp! I truly believe the magic of the Thor and will try it later. I already made some adaptors for my Da Vinci amps and therefore do not need the banana version.
  • 昨晚等到成11:00pm才去PT家拿取绝對創造的La Source電源. 急不及待飛的士回青衣聽下. 呢條已完全煲起, 立即用上Neodio transport上. 第一個感覺是明靜, 是十分明靜, 音符中間的空間感好靚. 鋼琴的實體感能夠延續到音箱後方, 前後感好透切. 無論我播小提琴, 大提琴, 人聲都有好强的出後感. 我所指的不是吹漲了中音所得的立休人頭感, 而是人聲背後的空間距離感. 有了這種分析力,播鋼琴是十分之勵害. 小提琴的琴箱的那個小洞, 我也能感受到一種空間的感覺, 是好強的分析力.

    和添大哥電源比較, 添的中低能量較大, 所以插前後較有優勢; La Source能量較少, 但幼细萬分; 例如用添插Neodio CDT聽Jazz天后Ella F的一張發燒錄音, 我能清析聽到她換氣的位置; 插La Source聽同一段, 我竟然聽到她换氣前, 原來也錄到喉嚨吞口水, 有一種嘩了出來的感覺! 添大哥的tonal balance是明顯較暖些少. 起初用La Source有點不習慣因為明靜感極強, 我將Speaker移出一寸後搞掂翻個音色平行度.

    今次我也上了一貨, 平時一味用粗電源插CD和訊源其實是有得有失. 中低多少少在大部份系统都有聽感上的着數, 總言之音色入耳便收貨, 致於立體感這分面好似冇音色的重要性, 其實我認為兩者一樣重要. 我反覆試了用和不用La Source在CDT上, 一不用整座鋼琴向後伸延的實體感立即冇! 表現者又左至右彈出彈入的立體感變回平面, 我火四朗服.
  • 對不起, 我有職業病.

    你的文有別字: 上了一課, 不是一貨
    你的名是: 火四郎, 應該不是火四朗吧

    Mr.Zanden的文章文法正统, 句子流暢, 而且帶有一種師尊的寫
    作風格. 他連標點符號也完全冇犯文法上的錯誤. 我把他的文章印了出來給城大學生參考. 就算是一個發燒友也可以有一手好英文. 其實Marvel的文法也很好, 但缺乏風格, 句子没有起落, 但總體十分整潔. 我的學生能寫到Marvel的水平已經算不錯.

    Sorry, 火兄, 我十分認同你對La Source的評價. 它將Neodio提升了去另一個境界. 你形容詞十分豐富, 我沒有補充.
  • 火四爺, 叫左你要勤力讀書啦! 幾十歲人錯別子! 知不過你套系统昨晚真係升了班, 播樂器好堅! 鋼琴的前後實體感真是不易還源到呢個水平.
  • 我知我讀書少.....書到用時方恨少....但揸小巴都養大一家, 有錢玩下音響, 我已好滿足了.

    昨晚和麥sir繼續玩La Source和泰斯比較. 比較在轉盤和解碼. 立體感始终係绝對創造明顯勝出, 高音能直上雲頂. 泰斯高音較有body但不能去到最高. 低音量感, 素斯較多, body感强;法國佬較快和清楚.

    兩條線也很靜, 但感覺不同. La Source所表達的是大家在房內不發一言, 但你會聽到大家偶爾的呼吸聲. 泰斯的靜就好似大房熄了燈, 大家仍是不發一言, 呼吸聲未必聽到最请楚, 但仍感受到一班人在房內期待一些事的發生.
  • edited March 2012
    English Teacher, thanks for your commendation. I am flattered. Of the years working in a financial institute and in the field of information technology, I have to admit that the form of my writing is more inclined to 'functional' if not 'technical'. Moreover, I wrote most of my comments in the forum in an iPad or laptop always done in parallel with my music listening. Some of the comments were just 'direct dump' from what I felt whilst listening so they come unstructured and without much coloration per se.

    Over the years, I keep learning how to write better and with more emotions through PT, Mr.Zanden, AlecY and many others.

    By the way, I was discussing with PT on the sonical difference between 绝對創造之訊源 and 泰斯. I have not compared them on the spot but based on my listening session, I believe both are good for source. 绝對創造之訊源 present the virtual space BEHIND the musical images is phenomenal giving it an edge over 泰斯 on this front. On the other hand, 泰斯 gives me a stronger impression in terms of bass weight and solidity.

  • 绝對創造之訊源 takes 1 full week to settle down. Be patient.
  • 香港的朋友大家好,

    火兄弟對"绝對創造之訊源"的形容栩栩如生, 我大部份也同意. 今黄昏時段, 我和朋人在Cessaro房欣賞昔日Teresa Berganza女中音的華麗歌聲(是Yamada san of Zanden必聽較聲的其中一把天籟之聲). 在绝對創造之訊源在CD轉盤的洗禮下, 我第一次"看"到她企了在我房. 是一個人站立起來, 不只是一個頭加咀巴, 而是活生生一整個人.

    這一種驚人立體感是包括了錄音所捕捉到的空間, 前後左右也感受到. Raymond兄長的經驗與我一致. 它要極長時間煲練, 比大哥添更需要時間. 我更認為佢的平行度比添更為精凖, 不是一般發燒朋友所追求的暖和中音的線材. 以小弟愚見, 未體驗過這種象真立體的重播水平, 應該去學習一下, 思想一下, 再交流一課.

    Jeff (台北)
  • Jeff大哥大,

    老實說, 我看到你對La Source的評鑑後雖大致同意, 但頓感有點誇張了一點. 在火四爺家中以巨匠K10前級推FM811, 一對Maxx3已經把鋼琴立體臨場感還源致連樓上學彈琴的姐姐也以為火兄換了家中個女的鋼琴, 真係好堅, 震憾整個青衣!

    但是反而播人聲真係做唔到"企"出來的感覺. 昨天肥仔PT在城大講學完後, 飛的回家, 因他要証明Jeff所形容的他也能在Cessaro Beta做到. 我和火四爺帶了數張人聲天碟來挑一挑肥仔PT. 第一隻是陳潔儀. 點知肥仔突然話停,話要轉"反相"! 他走去將喇叭線正負對掉後, 然後叫我按NEODIO 搖擯的PLAY.

    琴鍵極度立體, 人聲一出, 我立刻暈倒. 原來呢隻CD是這樣的. 真係成半個人企了出來, 非常象真, 我地完全感受到錄音室內的空間和房間聲効特性, 是一種總體還源的感覺, 十分厲害! 然後,肥仔真係靠害, 再播Jeff兄那張Teresa B姐女中音, 真係無野講, 真係企了出來, 主體人聲原地發聲, 中高音爆發上頂的能量控制得有如真人在唱, 堂音洋溢豐富. 倘若個天花加了Wing diffusor, 我絕對相信整個人可以站立起來.
  • Jeff及各位前輩,
    雖然我還未有把「訉源」電源用在系統一試,但也曾有一經驗把tidal喇叭的toe in angle減少一點,立體感頓然増大,音像不但突出了,而且還企高了!想各位賜教一下這與用上「訉源」有異曲同工之效,還是有過之而無不及?
  • 麥兄弟,

    小弟耳朵雖應未能和Raymond兄長或Mr.Zanden等前輩比較, 但我從不跨張自己的言論 (我認識Marvel老弟多個春秋, 他十分了解本人). 今次PT老弟能實証給你們感受就最好不過.

    我在台北已先後和多條頂級電源比試 (包括AE自身代理的FMR, 泰斯大電流, 絕對創造的大哥添等), 結論是一同: 在訊源位置, 絕對創造的La Source是拋離任何對手.

    RCA的一張名盤 - LIEUTENANT KIJE, 指揮是EUGENE ORMANY (The Philadelphia Orchestra) - 用"反相"重播Track 13/14的火鳥, 我們全被管樂 組的聯奏所表現出的層次感嚇了一跳. 是一種好自由表現的立體感, 是定位和實體音色的超平行表現的結果. 管樂組在"火鳥"扮演重要角色, 沒有速度和層次就表現不了這樂章的音樂感.

    Marvel兄, 我所講的立體感極為深奧, 你應該在AE1感受過. 用了La Source後的立體感只能感受,非小弟筆墨所能形容.

    (一定要200小時後才能見真章, 請耐心一些.)
  • Jeff et all,

    Any comments on the "staging resolution" of La Source from your gangs? I find it absolutely ming boggling when playing live recordings.
  • The La Source leapfrogs the musicality of my modest system through enhancing the spatial resolution of the staging. From a bottom up perspective, the revelation of microscopic details with a dimensional perspective (even at the bass area) tailors various sub musical scenes within macro landscape. The musical plot is all set. Peeling of whatever noises then unveils hidden tonal color inviting my senses into the music. The La Source is a benediction, period.
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