Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Naim and B&W

Naim 5i/CD5i + B&W 705s on Target stands (lead filled). Using standard Naim interconnects with 3m NACA5. "Rack" is an Ikea filing cabinet :p.

Been living for this set for more than 2 yrs now. Dunno if its my ears but its sounding tired to me. Maybe its just "hifi-degradation" - your own set will always stagnate in terms of the absolute sound experience while your mate's (or dealer's) set will nearly ALWAYS sound better or just plain different. I had some initial reservations about the bass from the 705s, but after loosening up, the bass is alright with a sweet mid-range. However I have been hoping for floorstanders for some time for a really powerful sound. I find that this combo sounds best on instruments and on faster pieces of music.

Hope the new place will have space for me to space out the speakers more - to about 6ft apart. It would be great to get a real cabinet and move the equipment to one side also with a carpet in the middle, should help with the sound somewhat. What I really want though is this - Chords with 800 series B&W...

Monday, January 14, 2008

2008 Mazda 3 mini-review

We did a test drive of the 2008 Mazda 3 the other day. I cannot think of a better choice for someone looking for a keen drive that costs less than SGD60k, and yet is practical for people-carrying. A good suspension setup, fine steering and ok looks both in and out round out the plus points for this car. Good enough boot space and cubby holes as well. Other specs - 0-100kmh is 11.5s, fuel consumption is around 12km/l with the provided 16in wheels.

The only weak link was the slightly anaemic 1.6L engine, however, the saving grace was that the engine was smoother, and not as weak and raucous compared to the Ford Focus. Also, the car isn't exactly a looker as well, the bodykit makes the design look busier than it should and it looses out to more organic designs like the Honda Civic but then, it is nearly 20k less than the Civic and therefore makes good economic sense.
Best color for the car: Black or the Dark Grey.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

2007 BMW 320i mini review

In between Harry's classes, I typically have 1.5 hours to burn. I usually waste time window shopping during the short amount of time to myself but last Sat, I stepped into Performance Motors to test out the BMW 320i since I knew they had an Singapore Air Show edition selling for SGD127k apparently sans Xenons and Cruise control. The "regular" 320i costs SGD134k.

Performance Motors sales people are among the most unwelcoming around. They typically loiter around the main door, sizing up each person who enters - and probably wondering - does this bugger have the money to afford a BMW? After spending a good 20min in the showroom, mainly stepping in and out of every BMW model, someone finally approached me and a sales person was assigned to me - a man with grey hair.

The test car was a light green 320i. Initially step off was weak and the steering felt oh-so strange after 3 yrs with a Jap car. The steering is missing the accuracy and fluency of the old 3-series I reckon. The engine - supposedly a more powerful version of the old Valvetronic model wasnt too impressive as well - where was the damn power?, I felt. All the time, I was wondering.. what the heck is BMW doing? The interior was so-so, the exterior styling is weak (especially the rump area) and the stereo is still the same underperforming one. Bottomline - I dont think any BMW with a 4-cyl is worth buying. In fact, I would only truly lust over the Z4 coupe. However, my sis's 523i was a much more involving drive compared to this 3-series. How the mighty have fallen.

Best color for the car: Graphite. Nobody does metallic grey better than BMW.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Vietnamese Noodles at NUS Arts canteen

These are some great dry Vietnamese Beef noodles at $2.50 only. The fish stock tastes great with the coarse noodles being "al dente" and the beef is nicely BBQed. The whole dish is topped with mint leaves, bean sprouts, fried red onions and chopped peanuts. Much tastier than the version at Pho-something place at Holland Village. The Saigon style rolls behind arent too bad as well at only $1.50, an absolute steal with the free soup if you ask me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

2008 Nikon Lens Setup

Right now, my lens collection (situation?) looks like this:

AF Primes >>>>>

AF Zooms >>>>>
12-24/f4G DX
18-70/f3.5-4.5G DX
24-120/f4-5.6G VR
80-400/f4.5-5.6D VR

MF lenses >>>>>

My most used lenses are the 18-70mm on my D70 and the 50mm coming in a close second. For occasions, I usually pick either the 12-24mm or the 24-120mm but not both. For travel, I usually bring these two lenses or if I am really travelling light, just the 18-70mm. On occasion, I have brought both my F100 and D70 on a trip, in these cases, I will mount the 24-120 on the F100 and the 12-24 on the D70 however the 12-24 will still work with the F100 from 18mm onwards. I have only brought the 70-210mm on a trip once and even then hardly used it. My 80-400mm is my "zoo" and birding lens and the 105mm is my product shot lens. Which leaves me with the 24mm, 50mm and the 85mm. These primes are light, portable and fast and I use them when I want to test my creativity in shots and also indoors.

My MF kit - I ran out of film in March after Europe so I havent been shooting much, however, I tend to use the FEs more than the F3 for some reason, maybe its because of their light weight. My most used lens in the MF kit is probably the 35mm however, the picture quality of the 75-150 leads me to keep that in the bag as well.

I have had these lenses for some time and at no time have I felt that I needed anything more. Of course, I lust for better versions of the lenses I have e.g. 17-35mm f2.8D to replace my 20-35mm, 85mm f1.4D to replace the f1.8 version that I have, 70-200mm f2.8G VR to replace my 70-210mm etc and so on, but my limited shooting just doesnt justify getting better lenses. These are also heavier and I prob will never bring them out for travel etc.

In time, I want to add a small pair of Nikon Monarch 8x42mm binoculars, and I might get a D300 (can reuse CF cards from the D70).

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Personal wine tasting notes

My wife love grapes.

She also loves wine which is good for me since we get to share. 2007 was a good year for us wine-wise, I got to taste some wines which would otherwise be out of reach to me. I havent been a wine drinker for that long to give expert wine opinions to anyone. But I know what I like and wine drinking perferences evolve, these are some of my notes so far of what I had so far:

  1. French Bordeaux red - really complicated. To understand Bordeaux wines, you probably need many many years of tasting and a wine degree. A good start however, would be Wikipedia, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bordeaux_Wine_Official_Classification_of_1855 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bordeaux_wine. The most important thing to note for French wine is the concept of "terroir", wine tastes different because of the region where the grapes were grown. French wine just tastes different. The most outstanding wine I have tasted so far was Chateau Haut-Brion 2003. Although relatively young and accessible, this wine had it all, it tasted good at the beginning, goes down nicely and had a great ending that persists. At 900 bucks pop, not something you will taste every week. Not a First Growth, but I kind of liked Chateau Lascombes as well. These are wines that should be decanted well and can be enjoyed by themselves, or with good cheeses.

  2. Australian Shiraz - most people in Singapore start with Australian wine for no better reason than it is readily available in supermarkets here and because of its easy drinkability. The most distinctive type of wine produced in Australia is made using the Shiraz grape (better known as Syrah, actually Shiraz is a city in Iran where the name was taken). This wine typically is drunk young - about 2-3 yrs old, and besides classics like Penfold's Grange - tastes better young in my opinion. The wine is typically strong and distinctive in flavor, when I first drunk Shiraz, I thought it tasted "spicier" and drier than Cabernet Savignon. I personally think Shiraz goes well with Asian food, especially stuff like Cantonese food although I have cheese with it occassionally. Some examples of good Shiraz I have tasted - the Penfolds Grange/St Henri, Leewin Estate Art Series. Most of the other labels I have tasted are drinkable but not memorable e.g. Mad Fish, Vasse Felix. Maybe its me but Australian wine alcohol levels are rather high compared to other country's wines, 2 glasses and I feel it a bit more. Best drunk relatively warm at around 20degC.

  3. Argentinian Malbecs - I really like this. The zinginess of this wine is great for drinking with steaks and red meat. So far, I have only tried a $20 bottle from NTUC and also a nicer $60 dollar bottle.

  4. Canadian Ice Wines - I think the wines from Inniskilin use Riesling to make it. Too sweet sometimes but nice after a meal. Nice when served really cold, can taste a bit cloying when warm. Great with my home baked carrot cake.

  5. New Zealand Savignon Blanc - great wine to go with a light meal like a caesar salad on a hot day or seafood - think fish and chips. Serve from the fridge - around 10degC? Have had nice ones from Coopers Creek but nearly all from the Malborough region in NZ are good. Avoid overly expensive ones e.g. from Cloudy Bay unless u can afford it.

  6. Western Australian Rieslings - I have tasted Rieslings from Germany and they werent half as good as the one I tasted from Margaret River especially the ones from Howard Park. Rieslings taste like an in-between wine from Chardonnay and Savignon Blanc and they go nicely with grilled pork chops.

Other notes

----> we typically dont drink much Chardonnay (typically over oaked) or champagne (only a little during special occasions). The bad ones taste something awful.

----> A good wine I tasted recently was Leewin Estate's Cabernet Savignon 1998. Leewin is more well known for their Chardonnay but I really liked this one.