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The idea of this shop dated back many years ago. Master Chik said to me, “What if the neighbor next-door would leave one day?” I replied, “I will rent it. Then break the wall between two shops to make it one.” Half a decade later on one afternoon of Aug 16, he called me, “The neighbor is gone”. I replied, “Let’s break the wall!”
In the next 2 months, I saw the Vinyl Master packing his entire record collections into more than 500 boxes day after day. Also, he does not need any assistance due to his own packing algorithm. That is a hell of a big job for him at 62 years old. (Our birthday is coincidentally the same on August 2nd.)
Then renovation began in October. I gave him a free hand on the acoustic design of the new shop. I shall handle the furniture part, Master Kwong on Fung Shui geometry, and Master Bond on renovation/electricity filtering schematic design. They all know each other. We are a team. Synergy is precious. That’s how we work. I rarely went to the shop between Nov and Dec. At some point, I didn’t remember this project due to intensity of the daytime job. That is also a positive reflection of the trust bestowed upon the team. And the end result is staggering.
I invest in infrastructure – custom solutions to deal with different kind of noise: 1. Mechanical. 2. Ground. 3. AC. 4. Electromagnetic. 5. Room – (the most difficult part).
I pre-ordered a SRA Scuttle 3 and a Craze 3 rack as early as Aug 16. Kevin of SRA is a perfectionist. Craftsmanship of craze 3 takes time. Only he knows how to build it. I was told no other people are allowed to enter the room. Anyway, they arrived on time. But then I have forgotten to order Ohio XL+2 amp stand for the JMF 9001 mono amplifier. I hope it will arrive within this week. Of course, we need Tripoint Troy signature to clean up ground noises. But every incoming Troy signature was sold since September 16. I have to transfer mine from home to the new shop. Likewise, all incoming Tripoint Empress to tackle EMI noises are sold too during this period. A pair of them was just received yesterday on time. The JARVIS isolation transformer/filter (30 amp capacity) is installed right at where electricity begins flowing into the shop. All electronics are subsequently either connected to Trinity Master AC Conditioner or JMF PCD302.
I also ordered the triangular diffusers by Audio Replas of Japan to tame all right angle corners. They are something very special. Cost for a pair is a hefty JPY90,000. I ordered 8 pairs. (I am not the dealer of Audio Replas.) I also ordered plenty of acoustic panels from Yamada of Zanden. Not until room acoustics characteristics are fully comprehensible, we shall keep cables as simple as possible. We do not want to over-emphasize the importance of cable when fundamentals are not addressed properly. Likewise, such approach should eventually give even more credit to the consequential selection of cable residing in the system. (Super cables like Argento’s FMR EE and Skogrand’s Beethoven/Stravinsky are all standing by now.) We don’t’ just listen to a few tracks of vocals and make conclusions. Blues, rock, classical, jazz, and even canton pop are used for evaluation. We always stress test the system at loud volume too. Master Chik goes as far as adjusting speaker positions whenever something in the system is changed.
We are always under pressure due to constant search for excellence. Sustaining this attitude requires an open mind to new ideas, appreciation of traditional arts, willingness to take risks, tremendous patience to experiment on field, and the formulation of an articulated strategy to educate customers. This takes time. If it is done well, a positive spiral emerges. Sometimes, it requires a strategy of loss-leaders to achieve the said goals. At AE, it doesn’t matter because masterpieces are often born this way. It is clear that we don’t really follow the market norms. If I do, AE probably doesn’t exist today.
This new venture between AE and Master Chik’s Vinyl shop allows more space for displaying soulful music through the technical mastery of our partners. I am glad to have Robert Leslie coming to Hong Kong to celebrate the opening of the new show room. He will present his very original work – Takumi MC ONE phono stage to our customers. Because it is such a highly technical piece of work on the art of equalization, he will be there to answer questions. It will be paired with the world premier of the Da Vinci Gabriel V3/Virtu arm with Etsuro’s flagship cartridge as the analog source for a suite of JMF electronics driving a pair of Goebel Epoque Reference speakers.
The other system features Cessaro’s Qian Long field coil speakers driven by a suite of Trinity electronics with Dr Tomi’s Disc Rotator/Tourjai’s Vetere Reference arm and Madake Snakewood cartridge. We shall change electronics every quarter so as to allow more customers to understand the philosophy of our partners. For example, many would like to audition Engstrom’s super amplifier – Eric by Lars Engstrom. But that was immediately sold after the show last Jul. There is also a new version of Monica V2 to accommodate the super amplifier.
The new showroom does not require appointment. It is opened daily Mon – Sat from 12:00pm to 7:00pm. The original AE showroom of course remains in operation and appointment is required. At the moment, a complete suite of Zanden Super Electronics – JINPU phono, Chukoh preamp and Chouku power amplifiers alongside a complete Vetere reference analog system are on active display, together with Wadax’s ultimate reference Atlantis system as the digital front end.
I and Master Chik shall see you all on this Sunday (2/12).