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kotmj

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Everything posted by kotmj

  1. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Paul Graham, nowadays a billionaire venture capitalist, but once an admirer of paintings, wrote that it is incredibly difficult to paint a lifelike portrait. Humans are as old as the universe, and it turns out we are very good at differentiating a reproduction of a face from a real face, having evolved over millions of years looking at each others' faces. For this reason, most portraits are not interesting. They do not hold your attention. There are various parts of them that are obviously "wrong" and "off". Nobody takes those portraits seriously, because they are obviously fake. But, once in a while, the culture and practices of the times make the manual reproduction of human faces a valued skill. Geniuses enter that field because they can do it, and they are very esteemed by society when successful. Such was the world da Vinci was born into. Over a lifetime, he worked on painting the human face with such realism that observers come to regard the subjects of those paintings as alive in a spiritual sense. You can stare at them for hours, and they look alive to you. They hold your attention. Similarly, we are also very sensitive to the human voice. When it is not reproduced truthfully, we know we are listening to merely a reproduction. But what if a loudspeaker reproduces the human voice with such realism that you start searching the room to identify the speaker? Such was the goal of Alan Shaw of Harbeth. He kind of succeeded.
  2. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Let's kick off this thread with a jacket I found in the workshop. The owner of the jacket had brought it to a cutter to have it copied. The cutter, in turn, gave it to the coatmaker with a "Nah, copy." To be clear upfront, I do not like this coat. Let's look at the coat. What catches the eye first is the barchetta breast pocket, immediately signalling a Neapolitan origin. The second element that announces itself is the miles upon miles of super-obvious pick stitching, which upon closer inspection, reveals a machine origin. Once upon a time when tailoring was still honest, pick stitching is supposed to be as inconspicuous as possible. It says so in every tailoring textbook. It also actually had a structural function of keeping edges crisp, or of holding pieces of cloth together. This particular pick stitching, OTOH, is purely decorative and is so loosely sewn, it has no hope of holding anything together. What really bothers me about this pick stitching is that you find it even on the front dart. What purpose could it possibly play there? Indeed, it is unfortunate we need front darts to achieve shape, which is why tailors press it so flat so as to make it less obvious. Puttting in a row of that super-puckering pick stitching makes the darts draw attention to themselves. But notice also the severe puckering around the front of the sleevehead on both sides. It is clear the coat has been dry cleaned before, and by a second-rate dry cleaner at that. The buttonholes were machined, but I have to say they are very good imitations of hand-sewn buttonholes. The lapels are padded by machine. Everything about this jacket is machined. In the picture immediately above, you notice black and burgundy shapes in the blurry background. I shall have more to say about those. They just could not let go of the pick stitching. You find more of that obnoxious stuff on the inside of the jacket. I have never seen anything more exuberantly pick stitched. Hah, made in Spain, eh? But why the barchetta? Here's why: Which explains everything. The black and burgundy shapes belong to a very expensive jacket in the making. It represents the successful conclusion of a salesman's salesmanship, and it is an embodiment of somebody's dream of elegance. Both the cloth and the lining is Loro Piana. Unfortunately, it is black, and it is fused.
  3. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Feeling a little self conscious about the slenderness of my RM10/m speaker cables, I thought an upgrade is in order. I bought it online and met up with the seller's son, who tells me he's studying Business at Monash. The cable is 3x thicker and heavier than expected. Left, my previous speaker cables. Right, the one I just bought. I immediately felt something was wrong when the boy handed me the cable. It weighed a couple kilos. It is thick like the sort bitcoin mining operators use to steal electricity with. It's the sort TNB uses to supply electricity to factories. Won't my speakers topple backwards from the weight of the cable? What if the binding posts deform from the weight?
  4. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Hifi being a very new interest of mine, has opened up to me a hitherto obscure field. I am far deeper into hifi than I may be letting on here. Along the way, I've observed so much. The meshing of design, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and retail. I see so much in it that is directly relevant to any business, including tailoring. To end this post, I just want to express how absurd the whole edifice is. It's a joke. The business of hifi is an incredible joke. It can only exist due to the ignorance and nonchalance of the buying public. The whole thing is so cynical. It's pure business. I keep looking for the art. I find it in minute niches only.
  5. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Two young Malay women in a Bezza came to my house. Part of some banci. They worked with prehistoric tools: pen on paper. They asked a hell lot of questions. Very invasive. Occupation? Tukang jahit. I love telling, say the police, this. They lose interest in me when I tell them this. It's like saying you work in a warong. Income? Now this is a bit complicated. I thought I should give an income that is so low that it helps me blend in with the rest of the population. The truth doesn't matter. What matters is stealth. Don't want to get Hasil all too excited. I said 3k, which I thought was very disingenuous of me. The woman remarked: You make so much as a tailor! She has no clue. If I told her the truth, her brain might explode.
  6. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    All hail the Harbeths (center and right). They are similar in size to the Castles (left). All these little speakers are about the size of the legendary BBC LS3/5a broadcast monitors. These Harbeths in particular are drop in replacements for the LS3/5a, which Harbeth also manufactured. They were made in the 1980s. I just picked them up this morning from the previous owner in Metropolitan Square. The Harbeths are of course legendary. In the short listening that I did, I find they sound very similar to the Castles. Had I known this earlier, I might not have bothered with the Harbeths. These speakers are not for blasting rock at an outdoor party. They were conceived for near-field listening, where the speakers are just 3 or 4 feet away from you. Like computer speakers. They don't do well at high volumes. They are best when whispering into your ear. This model has been updated every 10 years or so. You can buy its most recent incarnation here: https://s.lazada.com.my/s.XnS7Q A visit to Harbeth:
  7. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    So, did this modification change the sound? Absolutely! After I changed the capacitor in series with the tweeter, I found that 90% of the sibilances were gone. The zzzzz! at the end of spoken words, the lispiness, was gone. I'm beginning to think they were never in the recording, and are an artifact introduced by the cheap capacitor unable to properly control the tweeter. After changing the capacitor which feeds the woofer, the bass notes became punchier and more textured. I am extremely happy with the changes.
  8. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Above is the crossover of the Mission 773e speaker. These were built in the 1990's in the UK, using drivers by Audax which then were made in France. Back then, British companies made things in Britain. French companies made things in France. A few years later, all these would be offshored to China. Notice that the cabinet is made of particle board, which some speaker designers believe sound better than mdf. A common modification to older speakers is to replace the electrolytic capacitors. There are two of them in this speaker. These capacitors age and their specifications drift. Also, they have never sounded good. They did the job, but they are not for sound gourmands. Here, I removed one of the capacitors (Tesla branded) which feeds the tweeter. I am about to replace it with a film capacitor. Boom! Film cap is now in! These capacitors were not made for size or cost reasons. They cost about 30X more than electrolytic capacitors, were individually hand made, and are huge. They exist for only one reason: to sound good. And BOOM, I replaced the other one. It is so huge I just mounted it on top of everything. Another view.
  9. kotmj

    The watch appreciation thread

    Hour Glass saleswoman: Our procedures require that we enter your name and contact number into this Excel sheet. Which we don't actually use anymore because it's pointless. So why don't you leave while I pretend to do that.
  10. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Just had a 40 minute conversation with Jeff, the owner of Jeeves. He's like IQ 140~160.
  11. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2021/health/global-covid-vaccinations/ The above gives the latest info on vaccination rates by country. Vaccination rate in Malaysia as of today is below 1%. Even in Singapore it is only 8%. Remember, they started vaccinations in December last year. The Singaporean gov tells its people that everyone will be vaccinated by September. It just doesn't look that way to me. Remember, I was previously a project manager. I never believe what any programmer tells me when he will be done with his module. I form my own estimates based on what I see. 2021 will be another lost year.
  12. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Her shouting is mostly fine. Only not when amplified 3X. Hilux always! Jeeves called again today. I was asked if I could meet with the owner and the bizdev guy Thursday morning. I said sure. I asked what it is about. He said it is about a business partnership; details will be discussed in person. They will come to see me. I no longer think it is about being a collection point. I think it might be a new venture.
  13. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    I was expecting to be blown away when he started playing his system. The white speakers alone are RM20K. The electronics are a combined RM20K (there is a lot of redundant electronics on his hifi rack, which I am not counting). The power cables maybe 2k, the interconnects another 2k, the speaker cables maybe 3k. The isolation pads on every device and the speakers maybe another 3k. The massive power conditioner which you see on the floor on the right is maybe 5k---its job is to deliver the precise and stable power that TNB couldn't. He then started playing. It was very loud. The tweeters were harsh. But, I can hear that it is admirable. Personally, I prefer to play at a volume where you can imagine a real human singing in the room. The human voice has a certain volume. Beyond that, is simply electronic amplification. The believability is lost. The brain knows it is listening to reproduced music, instead of a human in the room, when the volume is implausibly high. Well anyway, it was too loud for me. Like a very loud club. Yes, you can physically feel the music, simply because there is so much of it. But, I am not accustomed to such high volumes. Also, Beyonce's voice was reproduced in a harsh and brittle way. Like she's screaming at me. I mean, everybody who made all these equipment and did the recording tried so hard to create believability. They were collectively trying to create the illusion that Beyonce is giving you a private performance in the room. By turning up the volume to club levels, you destroy that illusion. It then just becomes like a rave party. When you attend a classical music concert, you'll notice that the music is relatively soft. Partly, this is because an acoustic instrument made of wood and dried animal gut can only make a certain level of sound. Partly, the musician's ear must survive decades of being inches away from the instrument. If merely playing an instrument causes deafness, music would die. To get a bigger sound, you need multiple such instruments. But, there can only be one soloist. So, the volume is quite low at a concert. That's the level to listen to classical music! That's how classical music was for hundreds of years! Amplification is a very recent invention. When you do something, don't miss the POINT of it.
  14. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    I keep treating them as I would have liked to be treated when I was young. They're not worth it. I'm now managing them like hotels would manage their employees. 2 cctv cameras just came in. The idea of monitoring employees via cameras was so alien to me. I resisted the idea for so long. Yet, it has to be done. I actually spent many years in factories. I never liked the management methods there. I guess the faster I acknowledge reality the faster JT progresses. Jeremy, these are just low caliber workers. Pay them as such and manage them as such.
  15. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    When I hired my first couple of full-time employees a few years ago, I did not want to impose a rigid structure to their working hours. Because all my life, I detested such an imposition by my employers. Punch-in, punch-out? What is that? This is not to say I am unproductive. I achieve my productivity differently from most people. I thought one is most productive when one is uniquely productive, i.e. you work in a way that is optimised to yourself. The way, say a Toyata Hilux is optimised for rough terrain, and really suboptimal for highway driving. Alas, I've come to the realisation that for most people, a rigid, punitive structure to their working days is necessary. Without it, their productivity is very low. If you look at their lives, they achieve very little that is unique. There is a lack of an internal motive force. They mostly do what they are forced to do. This force may come from parental expectations, societal expectations, or by dint of necessity (they need money, now!). For these people, your typical employment agreement makes perfect sense. I find myself in the unenviable position of drafting such agreements for small people who lead small lives. Anti-humanistic agreements which I would never myself sign.
  16. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Someone from Jeeves (the dry cleaners) just called me. He said the owner would like to have a collaboration with me. He didn't give further details (this is to come via email) , but I suppose JT is to function as a collection/pickup point.
  17. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    I just handed over a suit. I'll be in China in a few days, the customer said. You'll be bringing along this suit? I asked him. You managed to get yourself into China? With great difficulty! he said. We had to speak to the government. The embassy here isn't issuing any visas. And yes of course I'm bringing this suit along.
  18. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    I saw a new customer this afternoon. As our long session came to an end after he ordered 2 suits, I asked him what else he has planned for the day. "To go and find the money to pay you," he said.
  19. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Visited a project manager (IT infra), currently unemployed. What a setup.
  20. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Tall stands for the speakers. The column is partially filled with sand. Everybody can see that I use audiophile level speaker cables. Costing RM10/m. It's not entirely due to parsimony. I told the salesman/owner of the shop I bought them from that I'm keen on some premium German cables. He looks at me and says he uses these cables in his demo room, and that there is no reason to buy anything more expensive. So, I took his advice.
  21. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    All hail the Castle Cliftons. Wood grain so rich it makes my solid oak table look dull. 30-year-old compact bookshelf speakers made in England to a very British hifi tradition. Cherry veneer. It makes a smooth, full-bodied, mellow sound you can listen to all day without fatigue. It's veneered even at the back. Many British loudspeaker manufacturers don't bother with the back. They paint it black. Next to the Dali Spektor 2, which while technically superior in every way, leaves me unengaged. I can stop listening to the Dalis anytime and go home. A great speaker keeps you engaged, reluctant to leave. I shall put the Dalis to TV service in my parents' house. That's the lowest tier of service possible. One of the perks of being the ultimate boss is, I can have anything I want at my workplace. I decide who to hire, when to fire, etc. Most people just have to endure. I can *determine*.
  22. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    The goal of a speaker designer should not be to produce a technically perfect passive sound reproduction device. Any idiot can achieve this. His/her goal should be to produce a sound so sweet and beguiling that the owner switches on his hifi not so much to listen to music as he does to enjoy the sounds the speaker makes. The music is an excuse to listen to the speaker.
  23. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    Today, I went to a seller of used hifi gear. I intended to buy a highly regarded and relatively expensive set of studio-grade British-made speakers (ProAc). So I auditioned the speakers. As the familiar tracks streamed from my phone to the Logitech Bluetooth receiver to the Class A 35W/channel amplifier to the speakers, I listened intently, expecting to be wowed. But I wasn't. The speakers were great, but most expensive speakers are. It covered the entire frequency range, it was uncoloured/neutral, and it was transparent, reproducing every nuance in the recording. It reminded me of a more polished version of the Dali Spektor 2 which is currently serving up music in the shop. Except, this costs several times more. I dislike the Dali. It is a current production, heavily engineered, budget bookshelf speaker. It does everything well, seemingly without any audible weakness. It is very well reviewed. But, I find it unengaging. In the 3 months that I've had it, I never marvelled at its sound. I tried getting rid of it. I much preferred my various other speakers. I was auditioning its potential successor. And I can't find much enthusiasm for it. Right behind the ProAcs were Castles. They cost a fifth as much. I asked the seller to switch to them. I was expecting a sound as loose and flabby as old Tannoys or Paradigms. I expected cheap veneer. Instead, I realised I was listening to the mythical traditional British monitor sound. Unreal in-the-room human voices, sweet treble, and truncated in the highest frequencies to prevent irritating the ear with high frequencies. A sound that is coloured, editorialised, manipulated, and as a consequence, smooth, mellow, soothing. It's the kind of speaker you connect to an old AM/FM tuner and listen to the BBC all day. Enjoying, not just the content of the programmes, but marinating in the timbre of the human voices. I inspected the veneer. I got goosebumps at how good it is. I shall take pictures to show you. The whole evening, I've been listening to the Castles. I'm loving it. They will replace the Dalis.
  24. kotmj

    Dress shoes

    PhiloVances pair of old distinguished Edward Greens before restoration. The quality wafts from the screen...
  25. kotmj

    The suiting thread

    I've learnt long ago that I need to look at every garment shortly before the customer looks at it. This cannot be delegated. Staff seem not to see anything. They're almost blind to problems in the garment. It doesn't matter that I have inspected the garment weeks or months ago. I need to look at it 24 hours before the customer comes to collect it. Many things can happen to a garment even in storage for a couple of weeks. I need maybe 6 seconds to look at a garment. But it takes a lot longer to find the right garment to look at. I also look at the invoice, to make sure the whole order is in front of me. In earlier years, I often did not have the time to do this. The pace was too hectic. But, by and by, operations became more efficient. So, just now, I had to look at a suit and three shirts. The customer is coming to collect tomorrow. Even before looking, I already know that I will need to re-iron one of the shirts. It's pink in colour, and was used on a mannequin under various jackets for months. I recall it being very wrinkled when I removed it from the mannequin to put into storage. So, I gazed at it. Am I looking at the right shirt? Because the pink shirt in front of me is not wrinkled. Very puzzling. It looks freshly ironed. But it wasn't, yet had spent months crushed by a jacket on a mannequin. Then I recalled it is from the Alumo Voyage bunch. It's non-iron.
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