HiEnd Asia 2023, Part 3 | Singapore 2023


For Part 1 of Richard Mak’s coverage of HiEnd Asia 2023, click here. For Part 2, click here.

The Newest Debut at HiEnd Asia 2023 – Wilson Sasha V

These were so new at HiEnd Asia 2023, the speakers’ wrappers were still on. Behold the Wilson Sasha V – the “V” is the alphabet V, not the Roman numeral 5. At $69,000 SGD the Sasha V is the latest rendition to replace the Sasha DAW, with the added two-position front spike that allows you to lift the top unit, which houses the tweeter and mid-range. This allows users to adjust the time alignment of the tweeter and midrange vs the bass driver. 

Words and Photos by Richard H. Mak

Wilson is a brand continuously innovating its model line, so there’s almost something new every year. Prospective buyers who want Wilson speakers should not wait for the latest model because you will be waiting forever. There have been so many “upgrades” since the days of the Watt Puppy 1, later 2, later 5, 6, and so forth, and in between, there are crossover upgrades or numerous revisions that it is almost impossible to keep track. Have your cake now cause it will never be the “Final Revision.”

sasha changes

The Sasha 1 has a flat upper module. In Series 2, the tweeter changed the angle slightly. Then came the DAW, which changed the top module, and now the V is tiltable. There are also the “V” vibration sorption materials placed between the top and bottom modules.   

Wilson makes a lot of the components in-house on the Sashas. The component feet, the capacitors, the connectors, and the hardware between modules are all designed and made by Wilson. It does not use off-the-shelf materials.   

(The Wilson “Flat Jack”)

IMHO, the best innovation that Wilson has devised is their “Flat Jack.” The nifty little tool allows you to slide it beneath the speaker with minimal ground clearance and gently raise it enough to adjust the footer height. They only come with the larger Wilson models and not the Sashas.

flat jack

toe jack

A cheaper solution would be to use an automotive toe jack, but it may leave unintended marks or scratches on your speaker if care is not taken. Toe jacks typically have a ground clearance of about ½ inch, but since the “lip” for the jack that lifts the speaker is about 1” deep, it is not as secure as the Wilson jack. They go for about $200 bucks on eBay vs $1,100 USD for the Wilson Flat Jack; the former is easier to find than the latter. There is also a motorcycle jack that does the same thing as Wilson’s for around $220 on eBay.

Back to the sound at HiEnd Asia 2023. I am not a fan of the “old”  Wilson sound, and by old, I don’t mean two years ago with the Sasha DAWs. I mean the days of the Watt Puppies or the early 90s, and strange enough, it was precisely that sound that made Wilson famous.  

In those days, very few speakers sounded like Wilsons; the tightness of the bass punch and the snappy top end was the hallmark of the Wilson Sound, but it was also a fatiguing sound – impressive at first but tiring after a few sessions. The titanium tweeter was particularly hard-sounding, upfront, and in your face. Bass notes on them are much larger and tighter than in real life, and they do not sound realistic. 


But the Wilson sound has evolved over the years, going from titanium domes to silk domes, which has moved far away from the old hard analytical sound to a much more natural and mellower presentation, with the biggest change in the mid-range to the positive. Some have stereotyped Wilson as sounding “hard and analytical,” but that was then, this is now, and many have failed to recognize the evolution.   

Snap out of it and listen to the newer Wilsons. They are different animals.

How did the “new” Wilson, the Sasha V, sound at HiEnd Asia 2023? It’s fantastic, especially with the Pass Labs XP2 Preamp ($9,500 USD) and XA60.8 Mono Blocks ($14,250 USD). The Wilson V retained the positives of their original traits, with tight and solid bass, and have added body, voluptuousness, and weight to the mid-range. The treble is responsive, detailed and, most importantly, not metallic or grainy. With each successive new model, my old biases have all been eroded, and I can go so far as to say that I wouldn’t mind having a pair of these in my listening room.  That cannot be said about the Watt Puppies or the Grand Slams of the past.

But what we heard at HiEnd Asia 2023 also had much to do with the Pass Labs that were driving the Wilsons. Pass Labs’ house sound has remained consistent over the years, and unlike many others, Pass Labs’ MSRP has risen but not exorbitantly. Some have considered it “Mid-Fi” because they didn’t add another zero to the price tag. They are just as good and on par with some of the best and the biggest names in the industry, and I would not be afraid to put Pass Labs up against anything.  

The Pass Labs sound is realistic, clean, and revealing. It has no artificial smudging, smoothness, romance, or rolled-off trebles. You hear the good with the bad, which is certainly true with this setup at HiEnd Asia. It was life-like, clean, revealing, and snappy – very nice sounding.


The Honorable Mention at HiEnd Asia 2023: McIntosh

Why? Cause it’s my favorite brand. I have to cover McIntosh. It runs in my family’s blood, and we’ve had McIntosh since 1955, beginning with the MC-60.   

Ong Radio showcased a system at HiEnd Asia 2023 with the McIntosh C2700 Preamp, MS500 streamer, MCD600 SACD Player, and MC611 Power Amplifier (600W per channel), powering a pair of B&W 804 D4 speakers.   

The C2700 is the newest in a lineage that began with the C2200 twenty years ago. Much has changed over the years. The C2200 only came with MM phono; they added the MC phono beginning with the C2300. C2200 had eight tubes, four 12AX7s, and four 12AT7s, and that changed to a combination of six tubes, now five 12AX7s and one 12AT7 in the C2700. With the mess in Russia, so goes the supply of Russian tubes. Expect to see Chinese tubes in the C2700. The tubes were visible on the top of the chassis from C2300 to C2600, but they are no longer visible on the C2700.


The C2200 was an extremely musical sounding preamp, and by “musical,” I mean the sound is pleasing to the ears – smooth, rounded, and with a slightly blurred image. The C2200 didn’t have the highest resolution, but it never induced listener fatigue. It is a soft and romantic sounding preamp, the “Monet” of audio equipment.



Beginning with the C2300, the sound changed quite a bit, with increased resolution and detail but eroding the “mellow” McIntosh house sound. At HiEnd Asia, the C2700 went further in the same direction as the C2300 and further away from the C2200, but certainly not too far into the other end of the spectrum. It is still a McIntosh, and McIntosh just doesn’t go there.

The B&W 802 D4s, like the Wilsons, have come a long way since the old Matrix 802s of the 1980s. Sonically, they have gone in the same direction as the Wilsons, albeit less dramatically. The B&Ws were not as “hard” and “tight” as the Wilsons to begin with. The trebles on the new 802 Ds are a lot smoother than the very old Matrix 802s of the 80s. The old B&Ws Matrix 802s had a treble that stood out like a sore thumb, and it was very difficult to tame. 40 years later, the new 802s are much better sounding, and they are quite neutral in character, with a seamless coherence between the tweeter, mids, and bass drivers. If you want a warm-sounding speaker with organic qualities, look towards names such as PMC, ATC, Pro-Ac, Peak, Harbeth or along those lines. They are not as fast as Magicos or Tidals and not as slow as ATC or Harbeths. Somewhere in between, in a pleasant way.

The McIntosh 611s are a great match with the 802D as they require a lot of juice. When McIntosh says 600W, they usually mean 750W in reality, so they suit the B&Ws quite well. Be prepared to run the 802s with big, powerful amps, as they sound better with lots of power.


The Oldest Name and the Big Elephant in the Room: JBL

What is an older name than even McIntosh and commands the same level of respect?   It is none other than JBL.

JBL was founded in 1946, three years before McIntosh. James Boullough Lansing (hence the initials JBL), who founded the company, has been making speakers under the Lansing Manufacturing Company since 1927. Later on, Lansing Manufacturing became Altec Lansing, which morphed into JBL shortly thereafter.

1927- that’s nearly 95 years ago- and JBL, together with McIntosh, remains the pride and pillar of America’s audio industry, and it still is one of the world’s most revered names.

Antiquity was not the reason for McIntosh and JBL’s fame. They have earned their respect because they are engineering-based companies that take pride in making premium quality products not based on hype, marketing, or pseudo-science. The benchmarks are numbers and measurements, not the emotional flareup of some artisan or some quasi-pseudo scientific bullshit. 

One hundred years later, when our decedents look back upon the industry in 2123, I wonder how history will judge some of the exorbitant prices and bullshit peddled by a number of manufacturers today. I suspect many of them will not be the JBLs of our time but will instead be the laughing stock in the annals of Audiophools.


Keith, manager at the Sound Gallery (Singapore distributor for JBL) assembled a system at Hi-End Asia 2023 with exceptionally high-quality sounds based on the JBL L100 classic ($7,299 SGD), and the 4329P Active Studio Monitor ($6,999 SGD). I was lucky enough to listen to both pairs of the JBLs in a private session, and I must say, they deserve to be named one of the best-sounding rooms at the show (together with Project Perfect/Horizon Acoustics’s Bayz speaker setup).   

The L100 Classic, featured at the HiEnd Asia show in a gloss piano black finish, is a re-release of the legendary L100 Century of 1970. Not only is the L100 one of the best-selling speakers of all time, it is an intricate part of Rock’n’Roll history. The legendary “L100 Century” was released in 1970 as the consumer version of the highly reversed “blue-faced” JBL 4310 studio monitors. Later versions include the 4311 Studio Monitor and the L100A.

The L100 was also famous for its Quadrex foam grills. They bring back memories of the “Post Modern 70s” look, which would have fit nicely into the famous living room of Stanley Kubrick’s movie “A Clockwork Orange.”jbl

Everyone who sees the foam wants to poke at it, but the Quadrex foam disintegrates into dust over time, so if you see an old pair, avoid poking at them. None of Quadrex foam lasted beyond the 1990s.  Thankfully, replicas can be found on eBay if one desires the old look, but now that the JBL L100 has been re-released, you can buy replacement foams directly from JBLs.

How did they sound at HiEnd Asia? To those who weren’t born in the 70s, well, how do you judge a speaker designed in the 70s using your 2023 ears? The 1970s were a time when the majority of amplifiers were still tube-based, audiophile cables were non-existent, and the JBL sound was the industry’s standard. They were the sound that other speakers were judged against, as JBL was the standard in “high-end audio” speakers.”

My first JBL speaker was a pair of  L56 from 1981, and I did not replace them until 1996. The JBL sound has anchored itself in my heart and left a lasting impression – it will remain the sonic standard. There are speakers with higher resolution, tighter bass, more vivid trebles, and sweeter mids, but the old JBL sound has always been the most natural to my ears, including these L100s.   

To characterize the JBLs with today’s terminology, the old JBLs of the ’70s had a boxy sound that was also nasal. This trait is, by and large, almost absent in these newer models, so they must have figured out a way to make them sound cleaner while retaining the boxy shape.

At $7,499 SGD, these have not even kept up with inflation. A pair of L100 cost about $400 USD in the 1970s, but $7,499 for the L100 is beyond just a dollar figure. The L100 represents a piece of audio history, so before we get too critical with our “newly” minted audiophile ears, please play “Stairway to Heaven,” “Hotel California,” “Imagine,” “Born to Run,” “Let it Be,” “American Pie,” and “Stayin’ Alive” on the L100 because that’s how they sounded like back then, in their most original form. And you can now experience that once again in 2023.


The Right Direction

I love exotic turntables, I really do. The $300,000 oil rig-like multi-level, multi-directional, multi-whatever infused with unobtanium limited-release Gold plated version – is all good. I do love them all. But when more and more manufacturers are focusing narrowly on billionaire clientele, it doesn’t leave much room for young people or the common man to get into the hobby. The billionaires will also get smart when they slowly come to the realization of their true value in the secondary market. 

There are now way too many manufacturers crowding at the top of the pyramid and too few fanfares for the common man. The industry is heading in that direction en masse, which is unsustainable and unhealthy. So when I saw two reasonably priced, solid turntables that “some” young people can afford at HiEnd Asia, I was ecstatic. 


The JBL TT350 is not a statement product. It is not one of those “WOW, what is that thing” turntables. It has no exotic high-end appeal, but it is well-made. It comes with a tonearm and cartridge, and it does everything well – which was how things were back in the early days of high-end audio before the industry got all tainted by bullshit and marketing.  

Truth be told, this JBL is better than a lot of $10,000+ turntables I have tried in my system. Well, at least when I lower the lifter, the cartridge doesn’t come down diagonally. The speed is stable. The VTF doesn’t fluctuate. There is no belt to slip off (it is a direct drive). It doesn’t require flipping over to adjust any spring. JBLs got all the basics done right, all for just $1,499.

audio technica

And if the four-figure dollar sign is still too much, you can get the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT for $659, which also comes with a set of wireless headphones.  How do you beat that?

My favorite of these entry-level turntables, unfortunately, was not at the show. It is the Yamaha TT-N503 MusicCast Network Turntable ($958 SGD, currently under review). Priced in between the JBL and the Audio-Technica, the Yamaha has the additional feature of a built-in MM phono stage, and it can be connected to your network to play Spotify or Tidal. It can also be connected to any wireless speaker with Bluetooth so that you can do away with any cables altogether.

I highly recommend any of these three tables. Thank God consumer friendly products are coming back onto the market. It is not a mere coincidence that all three of these companies have a long history as engineering-based companies that set the standard for consumer electronics, even today.

liam neeson

Another New Discovery at HiEnd Asia: Paragon Harmony + TAD

I thought I had run into Liam Neeson when I met Karsten Dan Andersen at HiEnd Asia; they look and sound very much alike. He is the founder of Scandinavian Audio Group APS of Denmark, the parent distributor of Paragon Harmony.

PH Audio is a new name to me, but Scandinavian sound is not. I was drawn into the room by the lively-sounding PH5 speakers driven by TAD’s new electronics. 

The €55,000 PH5, which debuted for the first time in Asia, represents Paragon Harmony’s first foray into this market. The famous “copper-colored center cone” of the SEAS drivers is all too familiar, as they are also found in Joseph Audio, Coincident, and many other high-quality names that utilize similar SEAS drivers. The PH5 features an all-aluminum cabinet, internally braced for added rigidity to eliminate resonance and standing waves. PH5 sits in the middle of their lineup, consisting of the PH1 and the PH7. Perhaps if the Magico S5 were to mate with the Joseph Perspectives, they’d give birth to a Paragon Harmony PH5s. Sonically, they are not as warm as, say, the Peak Consult Sinfonia but also not in the direction of the Magico S5s, which is more vivid and snappy. I’d say sit in sonically neutral territory, sort of in between the Magico S5 and the Joseph Perspectives.


Also heard for the very first time is the TAD Evolution series, namely the TAD-D1000TX-S / TAD-D1000TX-K CD Player, TAD-M1000 Amplifier, and the TAD-C1000 Preamp (all priced at around € 20,000 ea). The TAD-M1000 produces 500W/4ohms, and 250W/8ohms. The minimalist design, combined with their small foot price, is aesthetically and spatially conscious for Asian and European living spaces.

I have not heard the PH5 or TAD Evolution equipment separately, so I cannot gauge their sound independently. The combo at HiEnd Asia, however, delivered an accurate and neutral sound that has definition and clarity and a pace that is tuneful and inviting. A sound that would invite me to sit down, kick back, and relax to the tune of welcoming hi-fidelity.


The Cutest Thing at the Show

At the 2022 Singapore show, I commented that Tombo Audio’s Vattana Prasertnasung, founder and CEO, was the most enthusiastic and hardest-working man in audio. This year he is back, doing hourly demonstrations of the cutest item at the show. The “Meow” grounding device is his signature item, selling like hotcakes in Asia. The Meow is to be placed on top of equipment or physically attached to the grounding post as you do with a grounding box.  

The market has no shortage of grounding boxes such as the Entreq, which can be thousands of dollars. But none are as small, cute, and low-priced as The Meow, which comes in 3-4 colors and finishes. At approximately 2cm by 4cm, The Meow is said to be an electro-acoustic device that treats both acoustic and electrical grounding, i.e. it is a mini version of the Entreq Grounding Box.


Exactly how it does the magic is unknown, and whether you can hear a difference on a blind test, is controversial. Some swear by them, and some swear at them. I’d buy it just for the looks!

Tombo does not only sell The Meow, they also make various accessories, such as spikes and pucks for speakers and components, that are worth investigating!

lu kang

Time Was Running Out

I had to do three turntable setup seminars, a written show report, and video coverage, I simply ran out of time at HiEnd Asia 2023.  There were a lot of rooms and interesting products that I wish I could have more time with. Here’s a few of them:

Lu Kang Audio had a pair of bookshelf speakers which were called “Spoey.” Fantastic bookshelves that sounded bigger than they looked.


Nirvana Audio showcased the cutest tiny speakers of the entire show, Boenicke W5. They remind me of the little “buddy droids” of Star Wars. The amp was an integrated Heed Obelisk Si3 connected to the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge network streamer.

However, the system was put together to showcase a USB key-like device called the “Chronos Optimizer.”  The USB key costs $3,950 USD, and does not require power!

The Chronos Key has a lengthy brochure that says a lot, but it does not tell you exactly what it does.  It is almost a magic bullet that promises to “optimize system performance,” “achieve comprehensive improvement,” “maximize dynamics and energy density, “and” solve issues with standing waves, reflection, and resonance.” It also claims that “sound density is increased by superposition of energy,” with “Quantum Mastering.”


My comprehension of the technology behind this is, at best, elementary. I confess I do not know what “superposition of energy” means. All I know is that the CERN particle accelerator, which positions energy particles, costs €21 billion and is bigger than a football field. If this can do the same thing for $3,950, then I see a Nobel Prize in the cards.


It is not the first time I’ve encountered things I do not understand, such as my “Shun Mook” record clamp. To this day it is still a mystery to me, but I have 4 of them, costing much more than the Chronos. Mystery has its advantages.   

There in lies a difficulty. I don’t even have a USB port in my system, so where do I begin?


Sound Decision, dealer of Amphion, Perreaux, and Synergistic Research in Singapore, brought in the all-new Amphion Kryotpn 3X from Finland. At $12,000 “per speaker,” it is Amphion’s reference project 25 years in the making. 

The speaker features an 8” mid-range and a 10” hidden, side-firing woofer, which makes the speakers sound much bigger than they appear. They must be doing something right as they filled the space with a very involving sound without overpowering the small hotel room. Well done. 

pall mall

The Best Part of HiEnd Asia 2023

All good things must come to an end, and for me, the end was the best part of HiEnd Asia 2023. Bobby Ng (Audioline’s CEO), Shinji Tarutani San (CEO, TAD), Nick Korakakis (CEO, Signal Project Cables), and I made the trek to Singapore’s hottest wine club, the iconic 67 Pall Mall located at the top of the Shaw Center.

The 67 Pall Mall space used to be the residence of the late Runme Shaw. Together with Run Run Shaw, the two of them are known as the “Shaw Brothers.” They were the pioneers in the film and entertainment industry of Southeast Asia, and many of the Jet Li movies were made by them. His residence was turned into the iconic 67 Pall Mall wine club with one of the world’s most stunning collections of single malts and fine wine.

pall mall

The club’s open rooftop houses the famous blue neon “SHAW” sign, the Asian equivalent of the “Hollywood” sign in Santa Monica. The blue neon light turns all patrons into blue smurfs on any photo.

The Hi-End Asia 2023, was a huge success in Singapore, and I look forward to providing coverage in 2024.  If my hunch is correct, the 2024 show will be much bigger, and even better than 2023.

The End.


About Richard Mak 39 Articles
Richard Mak is the Analog Editor and Vinyl Guru for Part-Time Audiophile. He is also the creator of AnalogMagik, the premier audiophile solution for all cartridge alignment needs. Check out Rick's complete system here.