What do Thomas Thielemann, Dan Barber, and Edward Pong have in common? The first two men are celebrated chef-proponents of from-farm-to-table organic cuisine. In Ed’s case, he is at the helm of everything in the recording chain: from the choice of music instrument, musicians, venue, equipment, right down to the equalization of the particular open-reel tape he uses for the final product. In other words, he is in complete control of every factor in this one-man venture. I had a most enlightening experience chatting with Ed on a chilly November evening at his home in Pickering, Ontario where all his recordings are made.
Lawrence Lock: How did your project all begin?
Dr.Ed P0ng: It all began with my love for music. My wife Amy and I happened to meet a lot of interesting people. And they in turn introduced us to other interesting personalities. I was so fortunate to have Tony Ma as my neighbour. He lives in Whitby, which is the neighbouring town. His passion is building stereo equipment. Tony is quite an interesting fellow: born and raised in Hong Kong, he went to school there, and moved on to study electronic engineering in Japan. He can naturally read all the electronic manuals written in Japanese. Some of the best tube circuitries had been designed by Nobu Shishido. He wrote this bible of a reference book whose title can be roughly translated as “Converting transmission tubes to single-ended”.
Like most audiophiles, at first I bought commercially available equipment. I started off with a nice amp from Italy. Then one day Tony offered to modify it. In the beginning he was only into modifying, not so much designing. I simply acquired all the parts and asked him to do whatever he wished with them. The sound after each mod would always turn out to be better than the original. It wasn’t long before I began to challenge him to push the envelope……
We would listen and compare different tubes, wires, and plugs. My monitoring system upstairs took five years to build. The very first product was the line stage. We started off with copper transformers. Then we substituted silver. Every time we put silver in, there was a marked improvement: timbres just became all the more real and alive. So after a while we decided to build everything with silver transformers.
LL: This is just like Audio Note and Kondo, where everything is priced according to the amount of silver used.
EP: With sound, you can never tell the difference until you compare things side by side. After selling all my amps, I commissioned Tony to build a 300B amp for my Quad ESL-63 speakers. Its all-silver power supply unit alone weighs in at 60 lb! We also found the WE 437A input tube to be the best sounding, albeit its price at $200 each. By comparison, an average 6DJ8 costs only 10 bucks. But sadly there’s no more of it. Western Electric will have it listed for at least $750 each, if they have any left. We certainly spent all our money on parts. The look is really nothing
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