Malaysian audio critic, Surya Moorthy dropped by our FM Inspiration Room at Diamond 4 of the KLIAV 2018 to give us his honest feedback on the setup. Mr.Moorthy who has had the pleasure of listening to a variety of high-end systems over many years gives us his take on the FM 108MKII Power Amplifier, FM 155 MKII Pre-Amplifier, the FM Acoustics Inspiration XS-3C Speakers, dCS Rossini and Master Clock and finally, the Vertere Acoustics SG-1. All products except XS-3C speakers are using Thixar Silence and Silence Plus audiophile platforms.
Mama mia here we go again.
There is just one winner of the KL International AV Show 2018 and that accolade goes to – Absolute Sound for the full FM 155MKII/108MKII-XS-3C Speaker combo using either the Vertere Acoustics SG-1 or the eye opening dCS Rossini Player with Master Clock digital source.
This is not a system for the faint hearted.
It is fast –lightning fast - transparent-and absolutely coherent from bass to highs – and sonically– and musically, seems to be cut from one cloth. Unlike other high end systems which can sound slow, as if choked by complex crossovers, and gives the impression that it is difficult to drive, this system is most direct, relaxed and open; super dynamic without restraint and surprising easy on the ear.
Above everything else, the phase coherency of the whole is so spot on throughout the frequency range (linear phase correct) that you’d be forgiven for thinking that you are listening to a pair of electrostatics or true full range drivers except that the sound here exceeds every audio loudspeaker in living memory.
To put it bluntly, they are the finest audio loudspeakers I have ever heard.
Whether the source is digital or analogue, this system simply delivers sonic ecstasy. Listening to this system is comforting, knowing that nothing is left out yet the sound is remarkably free of niggly irritations that you get with most high-end systems. Music flows as if unconstrained in its path from the usual distortions, and heavy handed complex cross overs. This character is so apparent that most of you may finger-point your own crossovers for an upgrade. Up until now, I have never suspected crossovers in speakers can radically suck a system dry.
These active XS-3C FM loudspeakers are truly exceptional. The end result is fatigue-free listening that is easy to interpret and digest. Yet, the sound is uncomplicated. The way it unravels detail enables you to listen to this system for hours on end without fatigue nor cringe by the onslaught of harsh, brash and unruly sounds that can create episodic hits of discomfort which eventually robs you of musical pleasure and become a distraction. Digital usually sucks because it cannot somehow manage to complete a song without these moments of offensive spikes of annoyance.
With this system, it is as if there is order and music is presented to you like fine dining – there is balance between sweet and sour- and there are no nasty surprises.
Here you get the same fine balance. You know the chosen vinyl record will give you angry dry bass, the mass horns are loaded and the cymbals will screech yet when the needle hits the groove – the pleasure is yours to enjoy and savour and the experience, sonic bliss.
In all my years of critical listening, (over 40 years), this system redefines finesse and classy sweet sounds. I did not think we could recapture the beauty of transistors in the 1980s when small wattage transistors amplifiers did fly. Amplifiers like ELECTROCOMPANIET (25 WATTER), BEDINI (10 WATTER) ,and AUDIONICS (75 WATTER) all provided that degree of sweetness and refined articulation – now missing from the modern high end . To compound the problem, today’s modern tweeters – Beryllium and Diamond, will impart that unnatural thinness to the sound and make you curl your fingers onto your chair for relief. By contrast, valve amplifiers like the KONDO AUDIO NOTE NEIRO using 2A3 valves and the Silbertone 300B are both accomplished musical instruments where their calling cards are delicacy, sweetness and elegant refinement.
In my opinion, the baby FM amps represents a new standard. It is intensely sweet and airy and highly musical yet has real presence that valve amplifiers lack.
Combine that punch and urge and deep bass control with extraordinary super fast mid-bass reproduction, this amplifier is now my all-time favourite amplifier. Will I sell my valve collection of 2a3 tubes, 300b, 45 ? A big YES! After 40 years of collecting valve amps, this baby FM 108MKII is the best amplifier ever. Beat this amp if you can! And the speakers? No matter your shortlist, this FM XS-3 speaker should be the first name on that list. Too good to be true? Real class and I cannot think of another brand I would rather prefer.
Indeed, after my evaluation, I called my good friend DR RASHID and told him to hock the FOCALS, sell the Mercedes but get these speakers.
Outstanding and has no peer!
All opinions expressed in this review solely belong to Mr. Surya Moorthy and are a reflection of what he experienced at our showcase in Diamond Room 4 at KLIAV 2018.
While we cannot take credit for the astute observations and keen hearing of Mr.Moorthy, we can however, take credit for the precise placement and tuning of the system which led to Mr.Moorthy’s delight and subsequent compulsion to write us this review.