KLIAVS 2014: AV2Day’s Golden Ear challenge!

Article by WL Low


Did you see this on the way in to KLIAV 2014?


AV2Day.com participated in the KLIAVS 2014 as an “exhibitor” for the first time. We received many positive comments and words of encouragement from show goers and industry folks. We’ve even got guys from Hong Kong, China and the UK requesting permission to take our challenge format back to the AV shows of their respective countries! We didn’t patent the format, so don’t be surprised to see similar events in other AV shows in the near future! First, I wish to share a bit about setting up the system and the room first, in a series of articles culminating with the announcement of our “Golden Ear” winners (I know that there are a few out there!)


This challenge came about with Lam Seng Fatt’s request a few months ago for a few of us audiophiles to help him to blind test between two digital transmission methods, the ever popular co-axial (electrical) vs Toslink (optical). We refined the blind test format over a period of three months to weed out the element of luck, minimise the element of cross referencing among participants, and lastly, ensure the privacy of participants’ results. With enough discussion and resources thrown in, we decided to do it, with the enthusiastic participation from the good folks at AV Designs (equipment sponsor), CMY Audio Visual (cables and full prize sponsor) and 3Dot Events(room sponsor), which is the organiser of KLIAVS 2014.


The Audiophile Base rack for the electronics in


Setting up the test rig sponsored by AV Designs was quite a challenge by itself. I now have personal experience of the usual complaints of long loading times, the back breaking work of moving boxes and last but not least, setting up a good sounding system within 2 working days, in an unfamiliar room.


We started working from the loading bay at 3pm, by the time we unpacked all the boxes in room No. 7038, it was past dinner time. We continued to assemble the system piece by piece, connecting all the components together and powered up the system by 1am in the morning. The system worked as planned and we let the system settle in by running our test CD in a loop for the night.


We started positioning the speakers the next day at 3pm. Since the speakers we used were small floorstanders, we had to let them use some of the side wall and room corner bass reinforcement to get some decent bass; that basically dictated the speaker positioning that you see in the photos. Next was a question of fine tuning for sound stage width and depth, and lastly imaging quality (toe in angle). It was past 11pm when we were finally satisfied with the results, which is the sound you heard on the 3 demo, fun & games show days. I wish to personally thank veteran audiophile and good friend, Erik Goh for his generous time and effort to help tp set up and fine tune the system.


Now that I’ve gone through the baptism of fire, I have more newfound respect for the guys who worked so hard and tirelessly for up to 3 days, to set up the good sounding show demos. By the way, stripping down the system and putting them back in to boxes only takes a mere few hours after the last show day!


The system on demo, Sony DVP-9000ES, Bryston BDA-2, Bryston B135, PMC Twenty 23, Wywire Gold, Bryston BIT20, QED Reference cables and Bryston BDA-1


The system that you saw and heard in the Golden Ear room was chosen for its simplicity to set up, realistically priced, yet had to be transparent enough so that we ourselves can hear the differences we intended to blind test for, before others. It must also allow Lam Seng Fatt, who conducted most of the test sessions to switch between the two test cables quickly and easily, without being too readily visible.


The system consisted of the following items (with some last-minute changes):


1)Roksan Caspian CD player as transport (replaced by a Sony DVP-9000ES on demo days due to an intermittent track skipping problem with the Roksan)


2)Wyred 4 Sound DAC (replaced with a Bryston BDA-2 on demo days due to easier switching capabilities which made it easier to hear/identify the differences between the two test cables!)


3)Bryston B135 SST2 integrated amplifier


4)PMC Twenty 23 speakers


5)MSHD Power MSUS-08 Gold power strip (replaced with a Bryston BIT20 power conditioner due to better filtering capabilities to bring down overall system noise floor)


6)Audiophile Base 4 tier isolation rack


7)Wywire Gold for all system and power cabling, except


8)QED Reference co-axial & Toslink as the test cables


9)Bryston BDP-1 digital media player for hi-res music demo duty


While most who strolled into room no.7038 only experienced test sessions in progress, many stayed back and actually requested that we demo some music for their listening pleasure, which we did oblige provided there were no further “Golden Ears” wannabes waiting in line. Many commented on the big bold powerful bass, excellent sound stage, with good depth achieved from such small speakers. The sound was robust yet highly musical, and many stayed back just to listen song after song. While some brought their own CDs to enjoy, the Sony DVP-9000ES just refused to play CD-R outright. Occasionally hi-res music files was played upon request.


All that meant we were often late for lunch, or played beyond our intended test/demo session times, but it was alright, and we hoped that you have enjoyed your stay in room no.7038 as much as we did!


Stay tuned for more on the “Golden Ear’ challenge.


Article by WL Low



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