Martin’s Hi-Fi Journey

Modular Audio’s very own Martin Ng’s Hi Fi journey is quite eventful and of interest to some of you. How did he start? What was his technical background? How does he feel about analogue (LP) as our resident Analogue Expert? With thanks to 1388.com (original article published in 1999) we are happy to reproduce this article here and bringing you back some 30 years. Here it goes…

Martin Ng - Modular AudioFirst of all, I am really grateful to 1388.com for letting me have my own column. Through this column, I have the chance to share my hi-fi experience and thoughts with fellow audiophiles. Well, I know I sounded like those stars during an award ceremony. In my hi-fi journey of over 20 years (editor: now 30 years), I have many “first” and sweet memories.

My First Sound

I still remembered vaguely that during my secondary school days, I DIY my First AM tuner and a simple amplifier by following the instructions of some electronics magazine. The moment the sound first came out of my handicrafts, I was overjoyed and I still smiled whenever I recalled this incident. Soon after that I bought my first system, a low-end 4-in-1 Sansui set comprising turntable, cassette deck, tuner and amplifier.

I had two happy years with this system.

My First Love

After I graduated from polytechnic with an Electronics Diploma, I joined an audio company as an engineer. It was a big company that distributed many famous brands of hi-fi and pro-audio equipment. They also had an audio project section that specialized in implementing audio systems for concerts and I was attached to this section.

Even though I was full of enthusiasm and eager to show off my knowledge and expertise, due to the bad economic situation at that time, the concert scene was very quiet and my company couldn’t even secure a single project.

Well, too bad! Thus, this engineer had to do a technician job – maintain and repair equipment and a salesman too – selling hi-fi in the company’s showroom. As a result, I came to know certain brands, such as Mission amplifiers, speakers and turntables, Acoustat speakers, Spectral pre-amplifier (at that time, Spectral was a new brand and they only produced pre-amplifier), Supex cartridge, David Berning’s Valve amplifier, Polk Audio speakers etc pretty well as I had to study all their manuals and learn about their characteristics, their strong and weak points and the ideal combinations by heart in order to convince customers. This knowledge and experience laid a solid foundation in my future hi-fi journey.

It looked like a lot of learning but in fact I only stayed with the company for two short months before I joined another electronic company as a product engineer.

Unforgettable

The pure, crystal clear and untarnished sound of the Acoustat speakers impressed me so much that I still remembered vividly an incident that happened 20 years ago:

A customer finally forked out HK$20,000 for a pair of Acoustat after auditioning it for 2 nights. This is a “small” sum now but was an astronomical amount to me 20 years ago. Even his friend queried his decision as he thought it wasn’t worth it. The customer said:

“The speaker is just like the woman behind a successful man. She has the right of speech. Don’t forget, the speaker is the component that produced the final sound. If I think it is a good pair of speakers, it is worth half of my budget for the whole system.”

Over the years, whenever I set up a new system, I recalled his words. To me, these are really “Words of Truth and Wisdom”. The speakers I chose must suit my taste and it must be of high quality (as I have good taste :)). I never compromised on this point and it was only logical that I usually spent at least 40 to 50% of my budget on the speakers alone. Many friends who have listened to my system praised the tonality and I think most of the credits should be attributed to the speakers.

My Greatest Love

Actually my greatest love in this hobby is still analogue – LP. My love for LP lasted for more than 20 years and I still cannot and would never discard LP from my system. Even though it may be at times troublesome to upkeep a turntable, with all its accessories and LP are not exactly fuss-free, but its sonic performance is so good that no CD system (not even the very expensive ones) could come close.

Even though I heard that SACD and DVD-Audio (not in the market yet) are excellent (Editor: that was in 1999), I believe they can never beat the performance of analogue. After all, regardless of the format, it is still digital, whereas LP is pure analogue and thus free of the jitter problem that was and still is the biggest headache for the digital format.

I believe I will stick to my LP forever, till death do us part.

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