Sunday, October 1, 2017

Craft Audio C3 pre and C4 power amplifier

After moving out and flatting alone in Auckland in the late 1980's, I was searching for a hifi set to call my own.

I have good memories of coming across the NZ made Craft Audio C3&C4 combination at a hifi shop in Ponsonby (don't recall name of the establishment). There were 2 hifi shops more or less just on opposite sides of the street in the Ponsonby area in the late 1980(s)- anybody?

Reproduction from the C3&C4 was extremely enticing but was priced at more than double of my total budget for a complete hifi set (just started working about a year then and the car was a more important requirement in Auckland, as the density was alike that of Los Angeles then).

Pix of Craft Audio C3 and C4 from AudioEnz

For those not familiar with hifi history in New Zealand, Craft Audio was founded by Gary Morrison who later join Peter Thomson at Plinius - his audio relevant experience help shape the Plinius sound of today.

You can read the NZAudio interview with Gary Morrison about the early days of Plinius and when Gary join Peter at Plinius Audio.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Experiment - Soundmate M1 Wi-Fi music streaming receiver (low cost)

As the local SG prices for a proper audiophile grade streamers costing a bomb, I decided to give this low cost streaming receiver a try. Discovered the unit while searching for something else on the China version of eBay.  It is low cost but capable of receiving streaming from any device which supports Airplay, DLNA and QPLAY protocols - basically any Apple and/or Android device! Power is from an external adapter. Initial setup with password is optional.

The theory is the device will act as a pass-thru for material streamed from my iPad. It will be connected via TOSLINK to the Marantz CDA-94 DAC. Hence the streamer will not be processing any of the audio material. Instead it will only convert the material received wirelessly from the iPad, to the fibre optic TOSLINK protocol for processing by the Marantz CDA-94 DAC. Hence no audio processing will be performed by the el-cheapo facilities within the device. If you did decided to listen to the Soundmate M1 analogue output, quality it's what you paid for... yea, could not resist testing the waters for crocodiles!

Possible connectivity scenario's

Soundmate M1 on a CD cover
Connectivity on rear of the Soundmate M1

Always love listening to THE BREEZE when I was living in NZ, so why not use this as the initial session? Download a internet radio app, select the radio station of chocie and link the iPad to the Soundmate - easy as 1-2-3!
Access via iPad
Resolution available thru the internet radio app on  iPad

Sounds as good as my usual FM tuner, the Audiolab 8000T, so very decent quality indeed!

Did note the iPad performs flawlessly only when accessing the WI-FI AC facility. There were periodic pauses when not using the WIFI AC facility.


Streaming quality mode selector in Spotify


Works just as transparently with Spotify and other similar sources. Sometimes Spotify Premium in the Extreme streaming mode did not sound as good as the FM tuner app for some reason - probably due to the recorded material??? Other Spotify resolution lack the proper details in the reproduction and lackluster-ness prevails.

One strong bonus point is that this setup helps to provide a wonderful sampling opportunity (with decent quality) of what's available on the internet without the high cost of ownership for dedicated devices. You can then buy the CD or high definition version later.

Best of all, you can still use the iPad while it is streaming in the background eg games, internet, word processing, etc.

Hence if you are in the same scenario, you can enjoy the benefits without a large outlay IF you have all the pieces of the puzzle except the board to place the pieces!


Items required are :-
1. WIFI streaming device with TOSLINK
2. smartphone or tablet which supports Airplay, DLNA or QPLAY protocol
3. average quality TOSLINK cable
4. DAC or integrated amplifier with a TOSLINK interface
5. (optional) Best if AC capable WIFI router and devices available. Otherwise may need to amend the app buffering facility (TUNEIN buffer had to be made smaller for non AC capable devices)


Enjoy and discover new content for less than SGD$50!!!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Plinius 3100B

Continuation from Plinius 2b and VII


As per the Plinius "Plint", there does not seem to be much information or pictures of the 3100B on the internet - not even at Plinius own site.

The Plinius 3100B  is a 100W RMS per channel stereo power amplifier which runs in Class-B mode,

From memory it was well built and weight about 15-18kg. It did not run hot, just warm when driving a pair of Celestion SL6s.

Pix of the Plinius 3100B from NZ eBay equivalent

Pix of the Plinius 3100B (rear) from NZ eBay equivalent
How does it sound?

In general, clear presentation but I find the 3100B lack gruntiness with any control at volumes above 10oclock. What I mean is that it's like the older generation of Honda Civic engines - have horsepower but lack torque. So although it can go loud when driving the Celestion SL6s, that's about it. When the volume was at 50% on the pre-amp, the reproduction sound flat. From memory, no details no soundstage; just VOLUME - basically sounding pretty much like the "run of the mill" present day Class-D amps.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

JVC XL-MV33

A friend who knows of my hobby asked for a "loan of them ears" to rate the reproduction from his JVC Karaoke VCD player Model XL-MV33.

Have seen many such units in Karaoke establishments and in the home(s) of die-hard Karaoke fans. It's basically a VCD player with a built-in Karaoke master mixer bundled with the very handy and intuitive VCR-type controls.

To be honest, I had always consider such units to be children of a "lesser hifi "... BOY WAS I EVER WRONG - you really can't judge a book by it's cover!!!

This stock Karaoke VCD machine does not have the posh nor classy outlook of a proper hifi component but once you hear the quality of it's reproduction, you would realise it's a real diamond in the rough!  All the details were in the output but the resulting presentation was just a tad warmer than it should be, strong output with a bit of background cluttering  and the HF(s) was half heartly with-held. Something in the resulting presentation remind me of a past encounter. Best description would be "almost there but you need to get over the hill 1st". This ugly duckling has the potential to be a swan! 

Cost wise I reckon this would be a good unit to recap ... much better than getting a below $100 DVD player.

The ugly duckling
Closeup view of frontal right side

Closeup view of frontal left side

Only outputs available on the MV33


No digital output facility. Only analogue audio and composite video outputs via RCA sockets.


Top view. Transformer towards bottom of pix.

A quick glance of the caps reveal extensive usage of Panasonic EC(s) with a pair of United Chemicon (OOOPS - ELNA's) on the vertical PCB. There are a number of the Japanese poly capacitors encased in a yellowish transparent plastic jacket on the vertical PCB - without examining in detail, my guess to be the audio pathway(s).

My friend could not decide regarding the possibility of recapping to release the full potential of the ugly ducking and would revert in the near future.

Hopefully I will have the opportunity to work on this ugly duckling in the near future.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Rotel RA-820AX

Continuation from Plinius 2b and VII


This was the original amplifier my flatmate was using at the time, the Rotel RA-820AX.

Pix form Google
Pix (rear) from Google

He bought it over from Australia, as he had just graduated and started working in NZ (later half of the 1980's). Unfortunately for the Rotel, it's 20W RMS per channel output had a up hill task of driving a pair of then newish Celestion SL6s!!! Even so, the components in this puny amp did not burn up as per the Plinius Plint - you had to crank up the volume before any decent reproduction came out of the SL6s ...😆

For those not familiar with the Celestion SL6 series of book-shelve speakers, they have a reputation for being power hungry but sounding sweet and decent once driven properly.

It was a shoe string budget setup, so you can't expect much. Reason why he then started on his quest for a proper amplifier to drive the SL6s.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Plinius 2b and VII

Had a surprisingly hard time trying to locate pix for these units on the internet - they were hardly any, not even on Plinius own site. Only managed to locate the following on a NZ audio magazine site.

The Plinius Plint from AudioEnz


For Plinius fans who wish to know a bit more of the original Plinius history in NZ, checkout the following NZAudio interview with Plinius Founder, Peter Thompson.

Before the internet era, I was informed by a local Auckland hifi reseller Plinius came about much alike the history of Lamborghini and Ferrari - Lamborghini made his fortune selling agriculture equipment after WW2 and bought a then much desired Ferrari, only to be severely disappointed; had a bad spate of words with Enzo himself before deciding to show the world what a Ferrari should have been, with his own brand of super cars!

I was introduced to the Plinius 2b & VII in 1988 while flatting in Auckland, New Zealand. My flatmate took home a set of the "Plint" for evaluation, to replace a Rotel integrated amp since the Rotel could not drive a pair of Celestion SL6s properly.

From memory, the Plint sounded decent up to 30% of the volume dial. Between 30-50%, it lacked the punch but still maintained it's poise with dignity.

That was until my flatmate decided to leave it at 50% on the volume dial as he wanted to enjoy the music in the garden - after all, it was a beautiful Summer's day.

About 30min later, our noses picked up a strong burning smell in the air! We started checking around the house but could not locate any smoke nor anything burning. It was not until we enter the living room that we hit the jackpot - the smell was chokingly strong there! After more nos-ing around, we were surprised to discover that it was coming from the Plinius VII!!! Needless to say ... no more good audio that day.😏(true account, not made up)

My flatmate returned the Plint on the next working day. Later that week, he returned with a then brand new Plinius 3100B (article for the near future) and a traded-in Luxman C-02.


Plinius 2c (with extra dial but less buttons; looks similar to 2b). From AudioNZ

Plinius VII from local NZ eBay equivalent site

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Original Mission Cyrus 1&2


When I saw the announcement of a new Misson Cyrus One integrated amplifier, it brought back memories of my original UK made Misson Cyrus 1 & 2 amplifiers.

Mission Cyrus pix from Google
Misson Cyrus 2 pix from Google

There are many reviews for the Giant Killer and it's successor on the net, so there's no need for me to repeat them.

Years ago I was visiting a relative overseas and he had the giant killer hooked up to a pair of big AR floorstanders using the original Monster Cable speaker cables. Source was a 300-CD Sony library player ... it sounded delightful and I remember just enjoying the music from his setup. A few months after returning home, I came across the opportunity to own a Cyrus 1&2 from the reuse market.

I do remember re-selling the Cyrus 2 quickly afterwards but kept the giant killer for a few months longer. I finally parted with the Cyrus 1 by selling it to a local Cyrus amplifier collector as I could not locate the preferred AR speakers for it.

Sometimes I do regret selling the Cyrus 1, as it was a simple amplifier which just delivers the performance reliably time after time. The component which often failed after many years of operation is the flick ON-OFF switch. Oh well ...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mission PCM 4000

This brings backs memories ...

PCM4000 pix from internet


Mission produced an extremely good and sweet sounding CD player in the form of the PCM4000 in the late 1980's. 

Both the PCM4K and PCM7K deployed the infamous Philips TDA1541A DAC chipset along with the Philips CDM2 transport, and the Philips RC5 IR remote facility. These CD players ran quite warm, even with the enlarge heatsinks vs their Philips equivalents. As per their Philips equivalents, the units were largely made of plastic.

I had truly very fond memories of the PCM4K as it always sounded "just right". And the larger display was a nice touch as you could view the displayed information from afar. 

Unfortunately the CDM2 deployed on the Misson PCM4K and PCM7K seem to be it's Achilles heel. For some unknown reason, my PCM4K and PCM7K did not enjoy service longitivity??? I bought a used PCM7000 after the CDM2 on the PCM4000 gave way. A few months later the CDM2 on the PCM7000 gave up as well! These back-to-back Mission CDP failure(s) really put me off Mission CD players ever since. The CDM2/10 on the Philips CD650 seem to be still going strong.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Technics 808 series - 1st Technics fully remote control component system

Was browsing thru www.audio-database.com a few days ago when I stumbled across the pix(s) of the 1st stereo set I ever own - Technics 808 series of slimline components.

Pix from internet - Technics 808-series package

The 808-series was the 1st Technics fully remote stereo set of components, primitive by today's  standards but advance for 1980. My set was in silver as per the pix above and consists of the following components.

SE-A808  - Power amplifier which can be converted into a monoblok

ST-K808  - Integrated Quartz tuner (with presets), pre-amplifier and built in-timer

SH-R808 - Remote control module

RS-M45   - High performance cassette deck

SL-D33    - Direct drive turntable

SB-L50    - 3-way floorstanders


Purchased the set as it was the best deal in town then - was on a "shoe string budget" as still in secondary school. Major purchase decider was the then advance and rare FULL IR remote facility.

Looking back I always wondered if I should have saved up for a proper set based around the then new Sansui AU-717 ...

Reproduction quality of the set was typical of many Japanese sets from that era - neither here nor there. Not suitable for detail listening but good for rock, heavy metal (and the alike) after you crank up the volume!

Cost for the IR remote facility justified for itself when songs I liked were played on any of the sources!!

Personally I find the cassette deck to be the best component in the setup - you can click on the component list(s) above for more information on them. The other memorable item was the Quartz synthesizer tuner as the station lock was just superb.

Anyway ... the Technics 808 set was extremely reliable and perform flawlessly for well over a decade (even after the speaker cone surrounds gave way).


On a sadder note, I wish my parents had advised to leave the money in the bank instead of splurging on a hifiset. Long story short - If I had left the money in the bank account, it would have accumulated (if untouched) to quite a large sum today! Could then have bought a much better setup (actually enough to buy a house!)... sob sob