Guys and girls, I am among the first few who submitted to Audio Review when it first set up and there are a lot of hifi products appear since then. Frankly speaking, most of the current products in the market now are not up to the standard. This is just like our cars, washing machines and things like that. In the good old days, these products are old-fashioned and looked boring. However, they were made of the best steel, the best engine and the best workmanship. Now all the products around us, including vehicles, household products and of course high fidelity products look much more fancy, with more function and SEEM to have more R&D and so on. Butthe simply truth is now the parts used are of lower quality. There is not much advancement in the circuit design. Those designers just twist the designs so as to match the so-called trends in the audiophile circle. For example, in the old days when people used LP and phone as the source, there were not much demand for "high-speed", "high-resolution" and "highly-detailed" sound. Moreover, the cable and amplifier designers would try to boost the middle frequencies so as to make the early CD sound more warmth and with more texture. Those were the days!
Now we are entering an era with SACD, DVD-Audio and CD with 24-bit format. The high frequency ends have much more extension. The newer format has higher contrast. The CDs now are more clear and have much more details. They also sound much more faster. The stereotype "digital" sound has been gone. We should opt for pre-amplifiers and amplifiers with much better extension at both the high and low end, with much better resolution, much faster and with the continuing improvement in the CD recording, much better linearity.
The product of B&D starts with the simple objective in mind that signal amplified should not be twisted and should look like a straight wire. Now I have purchased the Model 7A Pre-amplifier. This pre-amp. has all the attributes I just mentioned, and much more, provide music with good texture. The most important of the products by Ben Lau is that the parts used are all of military grades and of the best quality. My pre-amp. is wired all with 5N pure silver cables. The design of the circuit is examined thoroughout. This does not imply that it is an old-fashion car. On the contrary, the machine sound fast, authoritive and most important, musical. The reason I bought this unit is because the Model 10 is simply too expensive. This unit only costs about USD2,800.
I am a man of trust. If you do not believe in what I just said. You can try to listen to, say, Mark 38 or 38S for their dry sound, or to Cello for their lean sound, to Jeff Rowland for their slow and blur sound. Just try and see if I am correct. Talk to you guys later.
B&D Research produces both the pre-amplifers and power amplifers. The products are produced in the United States and the designer Ben Lau is in Hong Kong. Their older product the Model 8 was very famous in the early ninties in the Las Vagus Show. Now the highest model is the Model 10. The Model is available in Taiwan and the Hong Kong Market. The outlook of the model, I have to say, is not very fancy, but the build quality and the material they use, I have to say, is the best I have seen, much better than those used in Mark Levinson, in Cello and so on.
Let us remind ourself, the most important function of the pre-amplifer, is to have say, 10 times amplification for the incoming signal. There should be no distortion to the signal, i.e. there should be little coloration added to the musical signal (For those who think otherwise, there is no need to go further on my review). More important, the signal should go through the pre-amp. pretty fast, meaning that the pre-amp. should provide excellent transient, dynamic and punch for ALL signals. The Mark ML-26 S, although is very linear and a very musical piece, but every experienced audiophile knows that it is way too SLLLOWWW. Moreover, the resolution and definition of the pre-amp. should be first-rated. Some pre-amp., like the Jadis JPL2 and the now reborn McInstosh C-22, though very warm and rich, lacks a lot of details. The performance in the treble area is terrible! Much more, the image and reproduction of the musical arena should by very 3-dimensional. I have to say that the First Sound Presence pre-amps. are rather good in this area, although I still find that the FSP, using tubes and a lot of capacitors, are a bit slow and somewhat chaotic with respect to large scence, like playing the Tchaikovsky 1812 (I like the Mercury version a lot) or the Beethoven sym. 9 (the Karajan 60's version are among the best). At last but not at least, the price/ performance should be reasonable. The Cello Suite, although is rather good, but don't you think they are charging too much a price for their products. I still don't know how can they put their brand-name over the Apogee D/A's, claiming that it is their design and charge skyrocketing price. Moreover, how can a product charging this price range give you a case joining just by the rough bolt! At least the Cello should provide a case as good as that from the Jeff Rowland, or an all aluminimum case like the one by Wadia 2000. You guys know what? The high-end audiophile market is killing itself. People just want to make quick money and care less and less for research, quality parts and build quality. For example, the NBS cables charge such an extreme price for their copper products, and where are they now in Hong Kong? It is the reason why Mark and Krell are producing AV products. The truth is: Fewer and fewer people could only able to buy their extremely priced PURE audio products (and I doubt whether their products are really that high-ended. Ask the audiophiles who have attended the Krell Show in the Exhibition Center in Wanchai last year. Ask them the comment on the brand new Krell 25 D/A-player-pre- amp. combo and the extremely powerful power 1000W power amp.. I am sure a lot of them will tell you that, other than sheer power and punch, it is no musical at all. Frankly, when I was there, I can not feel any music. The sound are noisy, very rough. Violin looks like a cello. Vocal is very hard and bah bah bah.)
Anyhow, back to the review. The B&D, unlike Mark, Krell or Cello, spend very little on advertising and hence is not very famous world-wide. But I can guarantee you that the sound quality is of first-class. Pals, do not fall into the trap of the ads. and the so-called review in hifi magazines. Don't you know that every magazine is just a money-making place. They have to please their customers, which are the ones who supply the ads., not you and me. Do you know that the nick-named "Spring Yeung" of the "Fevel Audiophile" is the distributor of the Tara Labs in Canada. The guys in the magazine also own shares in Sonic Frontier. That is the main motive why they praise the cables like The One, The Two and the SF Line 1, 2, 3 and so on that much. It seems that I am off the track too much. The Ben Lau products, instead spending on ads and review in trying to fool you guys, give you the real performance of what you have paid for. The laid-out of the circuit is very professional and excellent. The research and design is parallel to that of Spectral. And the quality of parts are of military grades. Pal, do you know that grades of components are divided into industrial grades, commercial grades (the usual audio products are all commercial grades), the military grades and the aerospace grades. Those commercial products I just mentioned above only give you components of the commercial grades, not very good, not too bad. B&O products all use the military grade, which is more durable and most important, much more accurate. Although the outer apperance is so so by some judgement, but we should judge an audio product by its build quality, parts quality, design and service, right ?
Talking about the sound quality, it has all the attributes I have mentioned about the best pre-amplifier. It is extremely accurate. The transient is excellent. The linearity is a straight line. The treble extends to the heaven. The punch has layers and resolution, unlike the bulk quantity of Krell. The resolution of the sound is like you use the Leica Lens, rather than the cheapy Canon, Minota and so on. The dimensionality is very natural. I realy do not know what to say. What I can describe it has the ingredients that other top-end performers owes. And most important, unlike other, Ben is an engineer and not a salesman. He makes money in a decent and very professional way (ask any customer who have talked to Ben before and all will concur.) His products are priced very reasonably. The performance of this Model 10, I am sure, beats the so-called "Big Cello", not to mention the products by Mark and so on. On the other hand, the price of the product is extremely reasonable, judging by the audiophile benchmarking.
I am just an another audiophile who try to speak the truth in WWW (The WWW is so popular, because we get less and less place to get the truthful comments, right?). I am just another customer of Ben. I do not work for him. I am not dealer in the Audio market. I am just another guy who hate people lies, who feel products are charging unreasonable price and manufacturers who use technical words to threaten the potential customers. Pals, if you are thinking of buying the best pre-amp., you should think that the money you pay for can probably buy a car, or pay for the downpayment for your mortgage. It is the blood and flesh we earn by working days and nights in the office, by enduring the bad temper of our boss, by suffering work-related physical and mental disease and so and so forth. It is our customer right to get the largest possible consumer's surplus (check your Economics 100 textbook for the definition of the consumer's surplus) for what we pay for. NOW, we live in the Y2K. It is THE MILLENNIUM. We audiophile are no more FOOL (That is the reason why I submitted my review on the Micromega Stage 3 player and the faulty Jadis DA-60 sometime ago). We will not make purchase by reading a few review in this and that magazines, or noticing the ranking, like A, B, or C from the Stereophile, or just by listening to the sweet "coach" of the salesman (remembering that they earn their bread out of your purchase). In Year 2000, we are knowledgable, clever, smart, independent-thinking audiophile having our own taste. I am not saying the B&D products suit the taste of everyone. What I am suggesting is try to extend our horizon outside the one fed on us by beautiful photos and ads. and look for products with real values. B&D's Model 10 may be the one you look for long. Try to listen to the Model 10 and I am sure you will agree with what I commented on. Try to talk to Ben, the designer, on 852-25783609 (check the dial code to Hong Kong in the country you live) and see how things go. Remember it is our money which spent. Don't be fooled by those so-called guru who try every means to grab your money!!!
For the Model 10, I will give it a five star *****
For Ben the designer, I will give ********** for his professionalism and ethics.
Purchased a pair of Norman Model 10's in 1978. They are great. Wish the comany was still around. Over the years have the breaker switches in each cabinet have become corroded. Would like to replace or repair but I can't see how they can be removed. Any ideas?Read More »