In this new series, we take a look at various home hi-fi setups! First up is a long time friend, Amir aka Sonixdeathmonkey. You might recognize him from his days working at Hear records, around various gigs around the city, or as a key figure of the Identite gig series at Homeclub back in the day. Amir is a full blown music head, a true champion of our local scene and like all of us, is heavily invested in the love of a great sounding system to enjoy his music on. We catch up with him in this interview.
How did you get started with the itch for music?
Amir: I guess since i was a little kid, I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by awesome music. I remember always being brought over at my late grandparents place while my parents were out for work.
Having aunts and uncles who are really into disco, 70’s rock, Malay oldies, Malay rock (and being surrounded by all of these records, 8 tracks, tapes and my grandparents Technics hi-fi set up, with a pair of huge arse speakers!) was the main catalyst that ignited and ingrained the itch in me, and being in a household with parents who always loved music sealed the deal of my deep dive into the ‘devils music’.
I would say there’s never been a day that my house is not filled with any form of music. Through the years I’ve seen friends falling out of it or even jumping back at it again. All i can say is I've always been on the itch, and hopefully the itch remains till the day i’m gone. (and hopefully I get to hand it down to my kids if I were to have any…)
Run us through your setup – turntables, cart, mixer, amp, speakers! How did you come to decide on each piece of kit and whats the story behind it?
Amir: Ok… Autobots, transform and roll out!!!
I run a pair of 1979 Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables, Shure M447s, Ortofon MKII carts, a 2018 Allen & Heath Xone 2:02 mixer, a 1972-74 Marantz 2270 receiver / amp, a 1975-77 Marantz 5220 cassette deck, a 1979 Teac C-2, a 1988-89 Coomber system cassette deck and a 1986 Denon DCD-1500 CD player.
There are stories and a bit of history in every piece of gear. This would be the 3rd set up in my lifetime (and hopefully my last hahaha), the most thought-out, kinda planned (and sometimes unplanned) and THE MOST satisfying set up for me ever!!!
With all of my collection that i have built up through the years, I guess its a justifiable and substantial upgrade. I'm guessing there won’t be any further upgrades other than maybe a digital streamer that i’m thinking of adding, but it’s just a maybe, we’ll see. The objective is to build up an all-analog set up based around the mid 70’s - early 80‘s, reminiscent of my childhood growing up - because that's how I enjoyed listening back then, thats how I enjoy listening today, and I love the build and aesthetics of such setups. I've always been a big fan of that era and that's definitely why I am such a big sucker for anything analog. There are no wireless pieces of kit in my set up.
Frankly, if you to ask me in my honest opinion - they don’t make equipment like they used too. What actually triggered all these thoughts was when i was handed over with a pair of Technics decks that once used to grace Home Club (#RIP) after they shut down. I should say that I also managed to find and build the rest of my set up eg. amps, decks with much luck and patience (via constant searching on carousell and venturing to vintage places, thrift stores etc). With my inclination/ love for vintage gear, the satisfaction comes in knowing that I am able to refurbish them on my own. (BIG thanks to Youtube and online forums). I would say 50% of my entire set has somewhat been DIY’ed by me in one way or another. So you can say there's a sentimental and personal attachment in every piece of gear I have!
We notice you run a pair of technics 1200s – why run two?
Amir: Like i mentioned above, it’s a relic/ momento from Home Club(#RIP)! They were kinda beat up when i first got them, and that was my very first project in restoration. With some patience and determination, I've managed to get them refurbished, looking awesome and spinning well. Guess reason two was kinda appropriate then, as i used to be a “wannabe” bedroom DJ. Guess now i’m more of a selector sometimes in my very own room (when i’m in the mood). Most of the time now I prefer to have a dig, sit back, spin some and drift away to the music with a cuppa in hand. Given that my amp has two phono inputs, I rarely use my mixer! Unless i’m feeling like a selector hahaha…
The newest addition to the monkey’s vault seems lovely, tell us a bit more about those speakers! How would you rate them and what kind of music do you enjoy running through them?
Amir runs a pair of vintage (red faced) JBL L100s as his main speakers.
Amir: Ohhh jeez thanks for noticing! Hands-down the best purchase I’ve made for my set up and my lucky find for THE year. Long story short, the seller turned out to be an old friend from Lasalle who I had not met for ages and guess I got a sweet deal out of it.
They're 48 years old now, and seriously they are 10 times better than any of my other speakers that i used to own! They better even my previous JBL 4401 monitors, which sound small compared to these… Seriously these babies are definitely packin’ a punch to the gut and straight to the soul!
I definitely love the bottom end and the awesome soundstage it gives. The gd ol’ "West Coast Sound" as they called it. I do have to admit, I do have quite an eclectic taste in music that could go from the strangely weird, noisy and abrasive, all the way to the mainstreamy poppy stuff, the most relaxed and tame to the loudest and most chaotic. Generally, this pair of speakers can handle all of it pretty well in my opinion. Currently i just loveeeeee feeding them music by Sault, gd ol’ Nina Simone and some punky Chubby and The Gang.
How important is gear to you when enjoying music? Do you have a bit of a philosophy when it comes to hi fi kit?
Amir: When i started off with my very first set of gear (an all-in-one Kenwood hifi set with turntable), it wasn't bout the gear, it was more about playing whatever i wanted to play and i would be happy and content. As i grew older, wiser (hahaha), earning my own keep and beginning to learn and appreciate more of what's coming out of the system than just sound… I would say other than gear or gears, the room / surrounding plays a big part in the experience.
It's taken me a long aural journey of trial and error to arrive at this current set up of mine. All i can say is, you could choose to go really expensive or really cheap; THE bottom-line question has got to be whether you're enjoying whatever you're playing or not. If you're not, maybe something is wrong somewhere…
Frankly, everyone who is into sound / hifi has their very own different opinion/s, preferred brands and budgets etc. One could go deeper into the rabbit hole or simply not… All i can say just trust your ears and work things out within your means and liking. What I've learnt and will always believe in is “The one enjoying your system is you.” Sometimes, things sound good to others, but not to your ears, or not in your listening space and vice versa. So, trust thy own ears, don’t follow the herd and do your research! Research! Research! Research! Patience is a virtue too, don’t rush on things, and lastly, work on that budget. Enjoy! That's the keyword to all this.
If you could give the younger version of yourself any advice when he was just starting out, what would it be?
Amir: Don’t give too much of your attention to what others say! Trust yourself, your pocket, your ears, be patient, and as much as buying records is important, building up your system is equally important too, AMIR! And pls make sure you’re there at your grandparents and save that Technics hifi system and all those records, 8tracks and tapes before they throw them out! And don’t forget to stock up on them M447s!!!