Publisher Profile


August Edition

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The clear, blue sky of that summer day felt like a blessing to people of all walks of life everywhere on Earth, and for one particular Seattle man in his sixties, who had long grown accustomed to the bustling international inquiries and ordering activities to his business, the dependable peacefulness of the blue sky would soon be replaced by the ringing of his phone…

RING….and a hurried voice pierced through the earpiece…

“Mr. Ma!”

“Yes! Who is this??”

“This is Constantine. How are you, sir?”

“I am well, Constantine. How are you?”

“I am fine, sir. I want to give your CDs away!”

I was calling Mr. Winston Ma, president of First Impression Music, to solicit his sponsorship in the August 2007 edition of “Win With DAGOGO”, and Mr. Ma took it with the most graceful and utterly statesmanship poise.

Throughout the reviewing community, Winston Ma has been referred to as “Mr. Ma” constantly by everyone from the Stereo Sound of Japan to Audiotechnique of Hong Kong. I remember speaking with Mr. Ma in one CES and had to stop at the sight of a legion of Asian gentlemen in meticulous suits, all wearing the Stereo Sound badge, marching towards him and inquiring about his latest recording projects.

Imagine the number of review disc requests he gets globally.

Mr. Ma is the wise, mild-mannered elder from whom generations of audio company and reviewer alike all draw inspirations. This time, Mr. Ma has custom-produced a CD for Mercedes-AMG for its Millennium celebration in 2000, and the result was a golden compilation of select music from the vault of First Impression Music.

This project owes its origin to the fact that the director of AMG is an audiophile himself, who has been collecting discs by FIM. When Mercedes Benz began organization of efforts in a Millennium Celebration Party to coincide with introduction of a new line of automobile models, the director wanted to have an exclusive special music CD to commemorate the event, and asked his secretary to query the interest of various prominent labels.

In response, a number of famous labels offered to provide CDs in any quantities free of charge. When this secretary contacted FIM for a price quote, Mr. Ma, not having the financial resources of large conglomerate in absorbing production costs, offered to custom produce a CD and to provide it at cost to Mercedes Benz. Although Mr. Ma’s offer was rejected initially, this hardworking secretary called Mr. Ma a few months later and informed him of the AMG director’s decision to use his CD nonetheless. Caveat: Mr. Ma has less than a month to provide it.

The end result was a super 24-bit HDCD disc with 14 tracks from the vault of First Impression Music, and Mr. Ma was invited to go to Berlin to attend the party.

This special CD, dubbed Passion, is not for sale and cannot be obtained in any store or website. Its distribution right is reserved exclusively by Mercedes-AMG and First Impression Music, and only they can authorize reprints of copies for non-commercial purposes. Therefore, its status of a collector’s item is guaranteed. And now, one lucky Dagogo reader will be the proud owner of this sealed, brand new disc.

First Impression Music is also making four other discs available for drawing: two sealed, new copies of Jazz in the Pawnshop Volume I & II in hybrid multi-channel SACD (retail value $64), and two copies of the same music in XRCD (retail value $50). If you missed the July Edition of Win With DAGOGO, don’t miss this one. It will end on September 15. See details here.

As for the three lucky winners of our July Edition of WWD, our congratulations!

The Rise Of The Dark Matter

In recent months, Dagogoans Bill Epstein and Jack Roberts have written continuously about the dark matter: contact medium of analog. Bill elaborated the fun he had first with 47 Laboratory’s 4723 MC Bee cartridge and 4718 Shigaraki Phono stage, and then later with 3 cartridges and 2 tables in his DIY Heartland column, while Jack offered ongoing insights in all things vinyl in his Beatnik’s Journey column.

Jack Roberts, former owner of a highly modified Sony SCD-777ES, is becoming a vinyl guru very fundamentally. In recent months, he reviewed a Clearaudio Ambient turntable system, a London Decca Reference cartridge, and in his Auditorium A23 speaker cable review, he is talking about the “one-note” bass “that is so prevalent in the digital world.”

I don’t doubt that many readers will agree with him on this; but for me, the good thing about being the editor, is that I get to write this and say: “Viewpoints expressed within these pages are solely the opinion of the individual reviewer, and does not represent DAGOGO’s official position.” And my position is that digital and vinyl formats have their respective strengths and weaknesses, and the extreme nature of these prospects are responsible for the great divide in format loyalty among us that we are seeing so prevalently.

But a reader reads our reviews precisely because he wants to know what it may be like if he owns the product being reviewed, and the perfect reviewer will impart as much owner-like perspectives as possible, to allow for his readers to see through the reviewer’s eyes whenever they read his reviews.

So naturally, I also wanted to feel what both Jack and Bill have been writing about so badly, that I ended up gotten bit by the analog bug. Despite the fact that I never sold the 100 or so LPs I used to play before the CD era, most of my music is now on CD, so I had to hunt for LPs to make my new analog experience a more viable one. With noted exceptions, my dream turntables were the discontinued direct-drive ones of the 80s, and many of them were models sold only in Japan and/or in Asia, not to mention the fact that even the vintage American models are just as hard to find nowadays as the Japanese ones. My early preference for DD models was for the turntable’s speed stability in reproducing piano music.

But I have been to Jack’s listening room numerously, and I found Jack’s latest, belt-drive Clearaudio Ambient turntable system to have impeccable speed stability as well. Perhaps it was the Ambient’s employment of multiple belts in pulling the platter that ensured such pitch precision. Again, don’t miss Jack’s Clearaudio Ambient review in May 2007.

On the other hand, not excluding myself, digital audio continues to be four other Dagogoans’ preferred source, namely for Ryan Coleman, Ed Momkus, Doug Schroeder, and Chris Redmond. Noteworthy is the fact that Ryan has reviewed the $3,500 Modwright Sony 9100ES Signature Truth and the $16,000 Esoteric X-01 D2 Super Audio CD Player recently, following his review of the $6,400 Muse Polyhymnia Multi Format Digital Player, and he is just getting started. Although the Modwright costs nearly one-fifth of the Esoteric, Ryan has this to say about the American player:

“Listening to Belle & Sebastian’s “Step into my Office, Baby,” there was a foundation, a density to the recorded event that I had heard previously only with the awe-inspiring Esoteric XO1-D2….I’ve lived with components that had more accurate bass but were missing this “foundation” that I’ve found only in the Esoteric and now the Modwright…”

Speaking of affordable digital players, have you read Ed’s take on the $1,495 Music Hall Maverick SACD player in May 2007 per his Esoteric-conditioned ears? Ed also uses the $16,000 Esoteric P70/D70 as his reference, and let us just share an interesting excerpt from this review so you know how much fun I derived from it when Ed sent his draft to me:

“…I was worried that I have gotten so used to high-end digital performance that I could not be objective about a less-than-stellar player. After all, the Maverick plays both redbook and SACD discs, and no redbook player that has come through my door has beaten my existing front-end. Even the exceptional $9,380 Oracle CD 2500 did not accomplish this feat, so how am I going to say anything nice about the redbook playback of a $1500 player?“

Ed, you have no idea what I got planned for you next.

-Constantine Soo

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