HiEnd Asia 2023, Part 1 | Singapore 2023

hiend asia

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this HiEnd Asia 2023 show report in the wake of the recent atrocities that have taken place in Israel and Gaza. Regardless of one’s position on the matter, there is a commonality among us that no one desire to see innocent children suffer. They are suffering because of someone else’s hatred, which they were never given a choice not to be part of.

Somehow, it feels very wrong to enjoy my life when so much suffering is going on. Despite my enthusiasm toward this wonderful audio show, please know my heart is solemn as this tragedy unfolds. I wish for all of us lucky to live in a peaceful country to strive to make the world a better place through love, not hate, so that our children can have a future.

Words and Photos by Richard H. Mak

HiEnd Asia is an all-new show put together by Lewis Chew, a movie director at Stardust Motion + Picture. Quiet and unassuming on the surface, Lewis is way more than meets the eye. To call him a “Ball of Fire” is an understatement. He has proven himself to be a visionary leader who has vaulted the new Singapore audio show onto the world stage, offering not just high-fidelity equipment but a whole weekend of music and lifestyle experience making it into a music festival.

I was skeptical when he told me in May that he was just starting to organize a show for October. “Say what?!! In only four months? You must be kidding me!” I did tell him that if he was serious about HiEnd Asia becoming Asia’s number-one show, then he would need to do all the things that are lacking with the smaller shows I’ve seen over the years such as proper marketing, pre-show promotion, upscale venue choice, floor signages, press-kits, and proper staffing.

“Not to worry,” Louis said. “We will do all of that, plus plenty more which you haven’t thought about.” He appeared calm and confident, but could he pull it off as a newcomer?

lewis chew and richard mak
(Left: Louis Chew, Show Organizer; Right: Richard Mak)

To reach a high bar in my book,  HiEnd Asia would be have to be something that can rival the undisputed number one show in the world, the Munich show. Years ago it might have been the CES, but it was unfortunate how they managed to shoot themselves in the foot and handed that crown to Munich. For Asia, that crown has long been held by The Hong Kong High-End Audio Visual Show, organized by Audio Technique Magazine’s Lincoln Lai and Rebecca Chin. None in Asia can rival the HKAV show in terms of size, scale, and the number of attendees. Combined with Audio Technique’s marketing power, they are an iron-clad machine that’s difficult to match. 

But both Munich and Hong Kong are showing some cracks beneath the surface. While the Munich airport can handle the capacity, the traffic going into and out of the show venue has always been a nightmare. Exhibitors also complain about Munich’s bureaucratic logistics – you must fill in a form just to get a chair.  

The Hong Kong show draws a big crowd, but it is a bit big for its venue and attendees complain of overly crowded rooms and poor ventilation. Besides, the Hong Kong airport is starting to become outdated. The city’s economy has suffered massively after the multiple setbacks of recent years.  Property values, the city’s leading economic indicator, are down 20-30% with no end in sight. The city has witnessed a mass exodus of the upper middle class and a brain drain, which some economists have argued may lead to a stagnation similar to Japan’s lost decade. Nobody knows the exact figure, but some have suggested a number as high as 250,000 people have left the city.

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(Singapore Changi Airport – with a 120 ft tall indoor waterfall)

Singapore is a city on a shining hill, however, offering the best of both worlds. The Singapore airport is undisputedly the world’s best and the only one that can rival the capacity of Las Vegas’s Harry Reid International Airport. After stepping off the plane, you are literally out on the taxi lane in just 10 to 15 minutes. Singapore’s GDP per capita in 2022 is at a staggering $87,000 USD in 2023, higher than Munich’s $58,000 and Hongkong’s $44,931. No other city in Asia can match Singapore’s economic power, multiculturalism, transportation network, and the world’s most excellent venues to boot. So watch out – Hi-End Asia in Singapore checks off all the right boxes and could be right in your rear-view mirror.

Of the 50+ audio shows I’ve been to in the past 20 years, Louis Chew’s Hi-End Asia ranks high on the list despite being a relatively new and small show. It is obviously no Munich or the old CES, but it reminded me of the vibe of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, which was also small but considered by many to be one of the best shows on earth.

Success is not determined by size or scale but by the overall experience of the exhibitors and the attendees. The elevator and hallway conversations can tell you more about a show than the show reports. Nearly every exhibitor I chatted with, including the ones who weren’t exhibiting, told me they were definitely coming next year. And for the attendees, nearly everybody loved the 5 Star Sofitel because the rooms are well-ventilated and the amenities are plentiful. Some visitors returned to attend the second day, and some even the third. The expression on their faces suggests most got what they bargained for, and nearly every feedback I received was positive.

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(EB Duet: Eve Wong, Vocalist; Billy Ho, Guitarist and Producer)

A full schedule of live performances was lined up from the beginning of the show right to the very end, which gave the show a lively vibe throughout the duration. Louis brought in Jacintha Abisheganaden, who has been a long-time favorite of many audiophiles. Other Asian celebrities from EB Duet, Yao Ying Ge, Ozzy Wong, Oopib, and Linion all gave superb live performances which stole the spotlight from the many fancy hi-fi systems, captivating attendees, many of whom stayed for hours at a time listening to the live performances.

Each performer also held a meet and greet, photo, and autograph session, so attendees were thrilled to obtain autographs and picture ops to brag about on Facebook. The highlight for me was to meet Jacintha for a private interview where she told me how Stevie Wonder influenced her career. I walked away happily with a stash of her autographed records.

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Ozzy Wong is another exciting discovery for me; his unique deep voice singing Cantonese covers from the 80s brings back memories of my childhood in Hong Kong. I always appreciate artists from Asia as I find them underappreciated. His unique vocal texture, combined with the superb recording quality of his album, makes the show worthwhile to attend – even if it’s just to hear him sing. I have decided to buy every one of Ozzy Wong’s records and his future releases.

ozzy wong
(Ozzy Wong)

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But now, let’s get back to show business. This year, I had to do video film coverage on top of a written show report, so I had no time to do room-to-room coverage. Instead, I decided to bring to you the “Best of This and That,” so let’s get right to it.

The Best Sound of HiEnd Asia 2023: Bayz Audio, Grandinote & Totaldac

The much coveted yet over-hyped catchy title, “Best Sound of the Show,” is, first of all, an unofficial award determined by one person – yours truly, me. But this year, it is more by consensus based on hallway chit-chats. I actually passed by the room a few times, before I mustered enough courage to push the crowd out of the way, only to be forced out due to the lack of oxygen.  

The room was popular, and it was always packed. Desmond Tan of Project Perfect (Local Distributor/Dealer) ought to be double-paid for enduring all that recycled CO2-filled air.

bayz audio

Thankfully, Desmond offered me a private session before the show opened Sunday, so I got the VIP recycled CO2-free private session.

Stealing the spotlight is Bayz Audio’s conversation piece, a futuristic-looking omnidirectional speaker, the Courante 2.0 in carbon fiber finish ($75,000 SGD). The speaker and the system was put together by its distributor Horizon Acoustics, while Project Perfection is their show partner representing Furutech, Dita Audio (ear-phones), etc. The rest of the system consists of the Grandinote Genesis Preamp ($24,000 SGD), Demone Monoblock Amplifiers ($35,000 SGD), Totaldac Streamer/Clock ($10,500 SGD) and Totaldac Triunity DAC ($36,000).

Typically, I find speakers that are placed along the length of the room to be challenging. The toe-in has to steep to obtain center focus with the trade-off of a reduced soundstage depth; the alternative would be no toe-in, which leads to a larger-than-life center image with very little focus.

The Bayz Audio speaker is almost like, “Yeah, we are doing it the hard way, cos WE CAN.” And they can, indeed, with a spectacular “tour de force” soundstage. They give the listener an immersive holographic experience of 3-D soundstage imagery with clarity, power, and definition. You are no longer watching a live performance. You are surrounded by a sphere of music as if you are on stage and sitting beside the performer or the instrument. They remind me of the MBL 101 X-treme or the age-old 6-panel Magnepans, except you are looking at 5x the money with the X-treme. And good luck fishing the 6-panel Magnepans out of some museum or some 85-year-old guy’s room; they are as rare as dragon eggs.

I know what the skeptics are thinking. Will the bass response be delayed traveling through that C-shaped cabinet? Will there be coherence issues? Will you get that bass punch? Want to find out? Why not make an appointment with Desmond to have a listen?

Lest we forget, the Grandinote Demone amplifiers and the Genesi Preamp probably played a crucial role in the sound. The tonality of the whole system is balanced, not overly colored and not overly analytical – sort of perfect right-in-between neutrality. Overall, it was a fantastic job-well-done setup in a tough room.

So yeah, best sound of the Hi-End Asia 2023. 


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bayz audio

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The Biggest Rig & the Biggest Sound – Hi-Fi.com.sg

Desmond Poon’s hifi.com.sg is one of the premier dealerships which always does things in style, from his outsized showroom right on top of the Adelphi (shopping mall in Singapore, which houses nearly 90% of all the brands) escalator to his super-sized rig occupying the 2nd biggest room in the entire show. Hifi.com.sg are the boys that bring out the big guns to pamper you in exquisite style, unforgettable sound, and audacious quality.

(Air-Tight, Avantgarde, Audio-Note & Lithosphere)

I must thank Desmond for allowing me to conduct one of my turntable setup seminars in the room right smack in the middle of the most crowded time at the show on Saturday afternoon. Of course, in a very gentlemanly way, he invited everyone out of the room and gave me an hour of celebrity-like treatment. Hats off to the gentlemanly CEO, who remained composed, even when kicking people out in style. 

The sound of the rig? Unforgettable. I also cannot forget the comment from the spouse of a friend who is a “civilian” (meaning non-audiophile): “I loved the sound of these trumpets for giants with a live concert-like presence.”

Trumpets for giants with a live concert-like presence. That just made the day for Avantgarde, I bet.   

avantgarde trio

The Avantgarde Trio G3 ($91,000 USD/pr) is the 3rd generation of the Trio in 30 years, which tells you product cycles are long at Avantgarde.  There won’t be any upgrades on whatever in the next year, or the year after.

The Trio G3 has an efficiency of 109 dB, meaning if you supply them with just one watt, they can put out 109dB of sound at one meter. Sitting beside the horn is the single driver “Spacehorn” subwoofer ($65,000 USD/pr), which resembles a luggage check-in terminal at the airport. You normally see them placed on their sides, and in between the two horns.    

The made-to-order only, top of the line Air Tight 211 ATM-3211 is a dream come true for those seeking the unrestricted top end of 211 tubes yet lusting for the dynamics of high power amplifiers; the ATM-3211 puts out 120W of power in a push-pull configuration. These monsters run in class A up to 30 watts, meaning that the sweet spot people lust after just got bigger than ever. I wouldn’t say they have the power of a 500W KT88 push-pull amp, but the same KT88 push-pull amp will never match the top end of these ATM-3211s either.

They certainly delivered a 300B-like top end, but they also possess the dynamics of a high-power KT88 tube amp, almost. Not that you’d need that much power anyways for these 109dB horns.

The ATM-2311, combined with the Avantgarde Trio G3, does give you the best of both worlds, and I wouldn’t even call it a compromise. What they do well, they do exceedingly well. The system can do saxophone better than anything I’ve heard coming out of my own system with a conventional cone speaker. It also gave a commanding live presence on large-scale orchestral performances, with more grandiosity than my own system.  

This rig probably gave the most commanding presence of the entire HiEnd Asia show, it is one system that you can probably go without because once the sound gets in your head, it will take a while for most people to get used to the “smaller & humbler” sound coming out of our own rigs. If you want a large-scale horn experience with lots of air, texture, and high-intensity volume, look no further. The tonality is more neutral, expect more accuracy, and less coloration or artificial warmth. They do not sound like the Japanese GO-TO horns, or any of the “wooden horns” on the market. 

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Sitting in the middle of the room at HiEnd Asia is the Lithosphere Labs’ “Giverny” Turntable, which commands attention with its gold buttons and matching audio rack ($150,000 SGD). Debuted for the first time in Asia, designer Emmanuel Lebreton explained that the Giverny turntable is made from a solid block of die-cast aluminum, following the footsteps of the famous tables of the ’60s such as EMT, Studer, or Garrard. Die-cast aluminum does not resonate the same way as extruded aluminum, which is far cheaper to make. This allows a very lovely decay to the sound, which is natural and pleasing. He calls the platter light weight, but it does weigh 60 kg. That, to me, is very heavy. 

As an analog lover, I am lusting after the Air Tight ATE-3011 phono stage. If not for anything, I’m drawn in by the large and illuminated dial display, which indicates the choice of 5 available equalization curves: RIAA, NAB, AES, FFRR, and FLAT. Jack Miura San explained to me that all Air Tight is a product of passion, which runs in his blood.   

The ATE-3011 took three years to develop; it employs 3x 12AX7 tubes and a circuit that places strong emphasis on the careful deployment of film capacitors. Unlike most Japanese tube designs, Air Tight does not use step-up transformers with the ATE-3011. The emphasis of the design is to be truthful to the sound, without excessive coloration.


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(With Airtight Designer: Yutaka “Jack” Miura San)

The Most Amount of Gear at HiEnd Asia – Audioline

Audioline’s CEO Bobby Ng brought a ginormous amount of gear to the show, making the second biggest room look smaller than next door’s hifi.com.sg. True to the style of his shop, which is located on a golf club on the island’s north side, visitors to his store and to his HiEnd Asia room at the show are exposed to more candies than any other dealer in town. From A to Z, he probably has a brand with every character of the alphabet. In fact, I seldom see this amount of gear even at the big shows such as Munich or the CES, and the numbers probably add up to over $2 million dollars worth of equipment.


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Bobby swapped between TAD’s top-of-the-line Reference One TX ($160,000 USD), and the Diesis Audio “Roma Triode” speakers ($84,000 Euro, with Wood Panels), Nagra electronics powered both speakers:

Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable S$280,000.00

Nagra HD Preamp S$100,000.00

Nagra Classic Phono Stage S$30,000.00

Nagra HD Amp $130,000

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TAD’s CEO Shinji Tarutani San, always fly in to support Bobby’s shows. Audioline is one of the biggest TAD sellers in the entire world. By now I have heard the TADs dozens of times at various shows and showrooms. They carry a consistent neutrality regardless of the choice of front-end equipment. Excessive coloration or fictitious hi-fi effects are never associated with the TAD sound. They are truthful, accurate, and elegant; and will truthfully reveal the sound coming from the front-end equipment and music sources. 

(TAD CEO Shinji Tarutani San)

Diesis Audio Loudspeakers is an Italian company new to me at HiEnd Asia, and it has all the hallmarks of Italian products: supple leather-wrapped enclosure, unconventional design and  enclosure, and wood, lots of real solid wood. Very Italian. 

The completely customizable Roma speaker is an open baffle design, meaning the drivers are mounted on a board without any cabinet enclosure. The 15” woofer cones are made of untreated paper and a cloth suspension to ensure high damping and rapid response. Sitting atop the woofers is a super tweeter and a mid-high coaxial compression driver, 2-inch (mid) and 1-inch (high), loaded with an exclusively designed, handcrafted, and polished exponential horn made of Corian. The ginormous 21” sub-woofer called “Bonham Tribute” is priced at $ 11,000 Euro w/wood panels. The crossover adds another $4,950 Euro.

diesis audio

The sound? They are a completely different animal vs the TAD, and nothing else at the show sounds like them. They are unrestricted, open, fast, and transparent – but the placement of the speaker relative to the room is essential, as the room literally turns into the speaker enclosure. To the tune of Dominique Fils-Aimé’s “Strange Fruit,” the room was packed, and there wasn’t even a whisper; everyone was captivated by the music. 

Video: Strange Fruit

The Two Most Expensive Turntables

The two most pricey turntables are found in Audioline’s room. The Acoustic Signature Invictus Neo at $199,000 USD is a cost-no-object all-out assault design that combines German precision with blingy gold-plated aesthetics. The Nagra Reference 70th Anniversary Table Limited Edition isn’t too far off, at $175,000 USD.

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nagra turntable

Undoubtedly, they are both the epitome of German and Swiss engineering, timeless designs combined with the latest technology. Which would I pick?  Neither. Yours truly just recently moved out of his mother’s basement but has yet to cash out on this week’s Powerball ticket, which is running at $ 1.7 billion dollars by the way. So, never say never, but until then, I’d have to live with my 1980 Micro Seiki RS5000 and the 1979 La Platine Verdier.

The Best Looking Product of HiEnd Asia 2023

Pictures do not do justice to the absolutely stunning looks of the all-new Goldmund Tethys loudspeaker, so I had to steal the official photos from Goldmund’s website. Priced at $75,000 USD, the Tethys just entered the most competitive space with contenders such as the Wilson Alexa V ($67,500 USD), Magico M3 ($75,000 USD), Peak El Diablo ($65,000 USD), or the Paragon Harmony PH5 ($ 65,000 USD).

goldmund tethys

The Tethys is the only passive floor stander in its entire lineup which begs the question, will Goldmund shift its focus back to passive designs? After all, audiophiles are a picky bunch who overwhelmingly believe in big chassis, cable risers, and, for some, Voodoo Magic. We like to have external amps, preamps, expensive cables and cables risers in between.

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Even with today’s technological advancements, not too many countries or manufacturers can produce a metal finish that can rival the Goldmund Swiss’ workmanship. The rippled side panel of the speaker with its matte finish is silky smooth to the touch, it is machined with utmost perfection with no detectable flaws whatsoever. The company’s brochure at HiEnd Asia describes it as “Art Meets Technology.” True to its claims, its sleek design boasts a Swiss elegance that is unrivaled and unmatched. Goldmund sets the standard once again.

The Tethys is a 3-way design, housing a tweeter and a 7” mid-range driver on the top chassis, which is mechanically decoupled with the bottom bass cabinet that houses a 9” bass driver. It has a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, and it is 89 dB sensitive. 

The sound at HiEnd Asia? Very “Goldmund” like: elegant, balanced, transparent, neutral, and properly composed.  It is what investment research reports would say “a strong buy!” 

The Best Bang For the Buck – Advance Acoustic Labs LS3/5a

$400 Singapore dollars. You read it correctly. Marked down from its original MSRP of $500 dollars, which usually means the real MSRP is $400 bucks. You can begin your foray into the world of the legendary BBC L/S35a, or very close thereof.  Arguably the most iconic speaker of all time, the BBC Monitor L/S35a is one of the few speakers in the world that has a Wikipedia page devoted to it.


For a complete history of the Rogers LS3/5a, none is more knowledgeable than Joseph Ki Cheong Ming of Malaysia. He likely has more pairs of LS3/5a than anyone else on the planet, and there have been magazine articles written about his journey on collecting the LS3/5a. The guy has a whole wall of it, and one day I will make the pilgrimage to the Mecca of LS3/5a to pay my respects. 

Rogers Audio was the first to be granted the BBC license to produce the speakers, and over the years, there have been a number of different renditions ranging from 15 ohms, 16 ohms, 12 ohms, and 8-ohm models of the speaker, each with a slightly different variation. Then there are numerous clones of the original Rogers, such as the Stirling Broadcast model, followed by Spendor, Falcon, Linn, J R Speakers (who set up J R Speakers Ltd following the collapse of Rogers), KEF, Harbeth, and Audio Dandy.  We can now add “Advance Acoustic Labs” of into the mix, and they are, without dispute, the cheapest clones on earth.  For $100 or $200 dollars more, you can opt for the slightly improved version or a better wood finish.    

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I suppose there isn’t much meat left on the table for marketing at HiEnd Asia, so a Google search of the name Advance Acoustics Labs yielded no results.  It took more than an hour of intense searching with Google Photos to finally hunt down their Taiwanese website:  http://www.aaa-audio.tw/. And it is in Chinese only. 

How do they sound? Seriously? For $400 dollars, do I really need to comment on the sound? I am quite certain that they do not come with KEF drivers, without even researching it. But I’m willing to bet they sound better than a whole lot of $400 dollar speakers because I haven’t heard a bad-sounding LS3/5a clone before. The box of WBT RCA connectors I just purchased for my cable cost more than $400 dollars, and there are plenty of cables at HiEnd Asia costing more than $40,000 dollars. I am still trying to let it sink in, $400 Singapore dollars. How many pairs do they need to sell just to break even on the show?

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I didn’t actually get the chance to hear the Advance Acoustics 3/5a as they played the slightly bigger 5/7a speakers. In case if you’re wondering, these are not the Sonus faber Special Edition EX3MA ($30,000 Euro). It would be tough to argue the 5/7a is an original design given their remarkably similar appearance.  It must be a pure coincidence, like I was born just yesterday. I also remember seeing a wall poster that said “Rodgers 3/5a for $400. That’s Rodgers, not Rogers.” Not sure if was a spelling mistake or a rub against the original. 

The Advance Acoustics Labs 5/7a will set you back just $2000 SGD, that’s 1/20th the price of the Sonus faber.

The speakers come with wood (or likely just fake wood veneer) side panels in a two-way design. The bass driver material resembles Kevlar, but the speakers are not listed on their website so no information can be obtained. The bottom line: They sound pretty darn good for $ 2000 dollars; they will likely serve well as a stepping stone until your piggy bank is fat enough for the Sonus faber.

The Best Collectable Item

The Audio-Technica name is an industry heavyweight. They started 60 years ago with a vision to provide high-fidelity to everyone. By that, they mean they want their product to be like today’s iPod.  The company’s philosophy has remained faithful to the same vision today.  

audio technica

They started as a cartridge maker and have since become an industry standard for many turntable cartridges, turntables, microphones and commercial equipment. Many people own Audio-Technica without even knowing it as they are the OEM for several cartridge names and other components.

Debuted for the first time in Singapore, the Audio-Technica “Narukami” is a headphone amplifier and a pre-amp, so users can switch it to the pre-Amp mode to use it as a functional preamp. It’s named after the “God of Thunder” in Shintoism, symbolizing the power and vitality of sound, reflecting the passion of music lovers in their pursuit of hi-fidelity.   

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The Narukami chassis is made from Kurogaki wood, which is over 100 years old.  They are also the same wood found in “The Shōsō-in (正倉院),” the treasure house of Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara, Japan. The temple is one of the powerful Seven Great Temples of the city of Nara, hence, Kurogai wood has a special meaning in the history of Japanese treasures. 

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The Narukami utilizes four sets of Japanese-made Takatsuki TA-300B vacuum tubes and four ECC83S in a “Shunt Regulated Push Pull Circuit,” incorporating a Lundahl Amorphous Core silver transformer. 

The Narukami at HiEnd Asia carries a close resemblance to the antique cash register that I have at home, and if I were to buy one, I best clear out all the cash in that register. Only 10 sets of Narukami have been made worldwide with a retail price of $110,000 SGD.  Go get in line, cause special commemorative items in Japan tend to sell out fast.

The Best Discovery

Well, this has to be the best of HiEnd Asia because it is also the only one found at HiEnd Asia.  If I had missed others, then they failed to catch my attention.

There is no information on the Zeromax HD1 on the internet; the company does not even have a website. A search on Zeromax leads to a webpage selling gearboxes and transmissions, so it is the wrong company. But could this new discovery be the best record-cleaning machine yet?  

In the past few years, the ultrasonic craze has been sizzling down as many have been reporting repeated failures. Our audiophile group jumped on a particular brand, and we have over 10 of them within our group. Yet all of them failed at one point, and all had to be sent to the factory, only to come back with repeated breakdowns.  I am the only person who remained skeptical and remained loyal to my Loricraft which has served me well for 15 years.

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As seen at HiEnd Asia, the Zeromax HD1 is about the same size as the VPI recording cleaning machine. It has an arm fitted with Keith Monk style “thread,” which sits in between the suction pinhole and the record suffice. But it is also fitted with a suction brush, aka Clearaudio/VPI style brush vacuum. They even added a pressure gauge, almost like the one on my espresso machine.

What I like the most is the hidden compartment which houses the cleaning and dirty fluids. Those of you who own the Loricraft will know the hassle of the hanging glass bottle on the side of the machine. These boys seem to have studied the Keith Monks, Loricraft, VPI and Clearaudio machines, combined their best traits, and put everything into an all in one for $3,688 SGD (about $ 2,700 USD)

I have asked for a review sample, so before I give it the official green light, let me try it out first.


Part 2 of HiEnd Asia is coming soon…

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.