A breathtaking listening session at AE Divin Lab by Mr KK Wong
Chris and I were on holiday during CNY. We had breakfast together with my son last Friday before we went to Divin Lab. Soon after we arrived, Chris casually played the Bodyguard soundtrack LP to warm up the system. My expectation on the very first song was modest as Zanden Kaun probably takes 30 minutes to stabilise. Immediately, I was utterly captivated by the soul of Whitney Houston as though she was singing in front of me. The realism is beyond words.
My attention turned immediately to the Zanden Jinpu phono which allows curve selection on top of the standard RIAA curve. Chris selected the EMI curve in reverse phase to play it. We went back to RIAA and the sound was obviously wrong. This LP under the Arista Label was produced in the 90s. Why does the EMI curve right the RIAA so much? Chris simply follows the menu from Yamada san of Zanden to choose the right curve with respect to different recording labels.
We both went thru the journey of using Zanden Model 1200Mk3 that also supports curve selection. Yet, the differences before was not as profound as now. Without getting the fundamentals right, all assessments on gears are inconclusive. In Divin Lab, it is not anymore about achieving absolute zero distortion from the engineering measurement standpoint. It is about the transcription of aura into musicality. After all, the human ears is not a linear measurment system. God made our ears a non-linear system.
The extreme realism achieved by Divin Lab is attributed to: (1) minimal phase distortion amongst the drivers of Gobel Divin Majestic speakers. (2) availability of eq curve selection for analog playback. (3) the presence of the almighty Tripoint Elite NG. What followed in the audition were all reference recordings that I knew extremely well except Mahler Symphony No 5. Every time when a track of music was played, my son's reaction was identical to mine - very different from what we listened at home. When Chris switched back to RIAA on the same track, the experiences resembled mine at home. When the right curve was selected, I can hear more pauses and pulses.
The voice of God in Noye's Fludde (Decca curve, reverse phase) was so authoratative coming out from the rock solid Hartvig Statement turntable coupled with Miyajima’s flagship Destiny 天命 cartridge mounted on Thales Statement Gold arm. That stunning voice coming from a height of around 10 feet corresponds to the pictorial descriptions in the pamphlet. This is THE best ever playback on this musical I have ever experienced. It is picturesque.
Next was Mahler symphony No 5 (teldec curve, positive phase) that I seldom listen. We discussed at length on the role of the conductor in the symphony. We could easily feel the pacing of each sub instrument group within an orchestra follows the baton of the conductor. This is amazing. Now I understand why there must be a conductor there. Because each group’s pacing are somewhat different. The conductor’s job is to synchronise them so as to achieve harmonious tonality in a holsitic way from the orchestration.
It is hard to imagine what I experienced at Divin Lab. Next was my favourite Dvorak Symphony No. 9 ‘New World’ by Fricsay, DGG (teldec, reverse phase). This is a very enlightening orchestral piece to describe the challenges and homesickness of Dvorak living in America as his new home. Never could I imagine an audio replay system revealing all the mechanics of orchestration of BPO was so ambivalently emotional under the command of Fricsay. We no longer refer to transparency of audible details. Rather it is the ‘inaudible’ aura that transpires into emotions. Joan Baez, Diamond and Rust in the Bullring is the most favourite of mine. This live recording captured the chorus of the audience like surround sound alongside the reverberation of the huge Bullring stadium. With the correct eq curve setting on Zanden Jinpu, my son and I were repeatedly amazed by the palpability of Joan Baez alongside the audiences. Indeed, we felt like sitting together with audiences singing in chorus with Joan! The magic disappeared once the eq curve was back to RIAA.
Before we ended the audition session, Chris revealed the presence of the new Tripoint Elite NG (Next Generation) in Divin Lab. This is the extreme of extreme grounding technology by Miguel of Tripoint Audio. (Chris told me only 10 would be made to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the partnership between Tripoint and AE). This gorgeous masterpiece was plugged into the Vertere Electrical Phase Management Center, which was chosen as product of the year in 2018 in the AE community. We swapped a Dalby Ode Grande ground cable originally connected to Zanden Jinpu phono from Elite NG to Elite (Side by Side comparison). All the distinction between right curve vs standard RIAA became less distinct!!!! I really mean ALL. My ears could no longer be listening in a relax mode. Palpability of everything collapses. Aura disappears. The NG goes beyond the depiction of more silence. It reveals aura of the venue.
I had learnt so much from this session. The key takeaways are: (1) eq curve selection of Zanden Jinpu matters very much. (2) zero phase distortion of the Goebel Divin is phenomenal. (3) Tripoint Elite NG transcends the listening experience into a virtual reality where I can co-share the space with the performers in the recordings. Chris’ relentless efforts on noise mitigation is the prime strategy for achieving such uncharted performance level at Divin Lab. This is an open known secret. But how many of us have the full conviction to follow?