Singapore Audio Video Expo (SAVE) 1998 (held October 1 - November 30, 1998)
I can't remember if InkWell (the organizers) renamed the previous HEX/SAVE as SAVE only this year or last, but this probably reflects the current state of Audio/Home Theater here in Singapore. For one thing, the region (South East as well as East Asia) is in the midst of a horrendous economic crisis. This I won't discuss, not least because I am unqualified to do so, but also because this would not be the place. Let's just say that times are tough, and it has affected the entire planet.
Secondly, although the High-End (the HE of HEX) crowd is alive, it isn't exactly kicking. In a land where most Audio/Home Theater equipment is imported, it's the movie demos that normally pull in the crowds (with a few exceptions; see later in this report).
Was there anything new here? You decide . . . .
As Usual . . .
. . . I was early. The organizers were a little late getting the show open, so diehards like myself and a few others hung around till they finally got around to letting us in. In the days before recession was on the horizon, the show was a lot larger and was held in two hotels with rooms spread over five floors. This year, it occupied floors 3 and 4 in the Hotel Le Meridien on Orchard Road.
The first rooms I visited belonged to Sony. In one of these I saw the first of many Plasma displays (no one seemed eager to demo TVs, so this is as much as you'll hear about Plasma or other TVs in this report). It was Sony's S$17k PFM-500A1WE 42" Plasma Display Monitor (see photo below, right). There was a DVD playing (unremarkable content), and I found the picture a little washed out. Maybe it needed some warming up. It had, however, a depth of only 152mm. Maybe I'll get one for review and tell you more. In another room was the new Sony E9000ES digital processor. This ES series component does DPL, DD, DTS, MPEG2 and everything else one can imagine. It uses a 32-bit floating-point processor.
Further along, I saw a large 6' tall horn-loaded (made-to-order) Loth-X loudspeaker (Loth-X Audio) driven by tubed amplifiers. No names were visible but you can see from the picture here (left) that they are certainly unusual looking, having a single driver with a large open area right behind where it is mounted. The driver is the same one used in their Azimuth model. The sound? What I heard sounded very much like it was trying to shake off the room. Male voices sounded slightly breathe-y. I didn't stay long. Loth-X has some smaller offerings (the Ion series) which may prove even better sounding (for the price)!
High End Research had the Wilson MAXX playing through Goldmund 29.4 monoblocs (photo at right). The front-end here was mainly a Clearaudio analog rig incorporating the new Symphono phono stage. The preamp was also Goldmund's Mimesis 22 analogue model. Other than some resonance and slight room-induced bloat, I found it difficult to move on. So I stayed awhile.
AV Asia had lots of equipment, none of which was set up for a proper demo, home theater, music, or otherwise (yet; like I said, I was early). They did have several large lists of items for sale (inexpensively) pinned up along the corridor outside, however.
Moving upstairs (told you it was small), I wandered into Farle's music demo featuring the diminutive Dali Royals (Mk 2) with Unison Research amplifiers (I cannot recall the model). See photo at left. The music? Japanese drum. With a powered sub accompanying the Royals, they sounded inviting . . . and surprisingly coherent where they overlapped, especially considering how small the Dalis were.
Another High End Research room featured a locally designed (by Mr S.G. Chan) tube integrated playing through Sonus Faber's Concerto loudspeaker. Aaron Neville sounded better than I've ever heard him. According to Mr Chan, his amps aren't currently available (sigh . . .), and he's actually taking visitor comments into consideration so as to improve them further. I thought they sounded great right now! A photo of the amplifiers driving the Sonus Fabers is shown below, right.
Most other rooms were too small and too crowded. This included the NHT exhibit which had the 3.3s playing about 4' apart. I would've preferred listening to the SuperTwos, which, sadly, were standing silent . . . as were all other members of the NHT family in the room.
The Resart room had a (small) roomful of Celestion A3s. They were being used in a home theater setup as front L & Rs and rears. Loud! Audio 88 celebrated their first anniversary. They import Focus Audio loudspeakers and the Hong Kong-made Huston tube amplifiers into Singapore.
The stands people, Electrades, were there. They carry all manner of equipment and loudspeaker stands (and brought some of these to the show too!) and electronics as well, including NEAR, Sudgen, Milty and Richard Allen. For about S$200 (about US$130), they will send an Atacama SE24 and six bags of sand to fill the bases up with.
In Norman Audio Works, I saw the very impressive looking (and sounding) Audio Refinement (from YBA) complete range of components. These, to quote from their web site (which, incidentally, causes Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.0 Beta to crash), were "conceived to offer the renowned musicality or 'sonic signature' of YBA electronics by Yves-Bernard André in a more affordable range of products" and "benefits from the same design philosophy and attention to minute detail that is the hallmark of YBA".
A local company Acoustics and Engineering Pte Ltd had the Voodoo Board on display (see photo at right). This, according to the very nice brochure, "reduces information dropouts caused by offending vibration interference to laser-optic players . . . radically reducing mechanical stress caused by the over-exertion of loudspeaker coils, especially in regard to low frequency feedback loops commonly experienced with turntables, etc." In other words, if you don't have your equipment nailed into a nice, thick concrete floor, you might want to try the Voodoo board. Does it work? It's heavy (40 lbs), and it looks nice - and DJs love 'em, according to A and E's Michael Yan.
Last but not least were the two Denon rooms (photo at left), which had the new DTS decoder (AVD-1000) on demo. They were playing the system LOUD(ly). And it sounded very good. Maybe one of the better sounding HT demos (and there were many). In particular the one using some Swiss loudspeakers, the Piega P5 in front with the P4C and the P4XL behind, was very impressive. Superb soundfield. My favorite HT demo here. No sub either!
Not exactly a bumper harvest, but nice nevertheless. Now that DVD, DD, DTS, and HDTV are actually here, I guess we need a new format coming down the road.