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ECT: Hong Kong High-End 2016’s one-stop head-fi shop

  • At the larger high-end audio shows, the Astell&Kern booth lands spaceship-like into the middle of the main exhibition hall. To Hong Kong High-End 2016 this Korean craft carries overseas visitors known – Andy Regan of JH Audio, Ken Ball of ALO / Campfire Audio, Sankar Thiagasamudram of Audeze.

    Regan could be seen promoting a revised Rosie IEM, Ball his top-flight Andromeda IEM and Thiagasamudram his Cipher-cabled Sine on-ear; each of which represent some of the finest offerings in their respective categories.

    Andy Regan (left) and Ken Ball (right)

    Across the walkway I am introduced to a face unknown. Andrew Chan is Senior Product Officer at ECT Audio who distribute many of the world’s biggest names in head-fi in Hong Kong and (for some brands) in China. Think: Fostex, Final Audio, Chord Electronics, Dita, Campfire Audio, JH Audio, Audeze and, of course, Astell&Kern.

    Chan is young, softly spoken and rumoured to be an accomplished opera singer. In this video, he walks us ’round a large ECT stand before taking us back across to the Astell&Kern booth. We learn that Hong Kong’s headphone hardware choices centre around portability – which explains the nearby DMA / Cafe’s reliance on DAPs and mobile-agreeable earpieces – and that the Chinese are more inclined to buy the bigger, stay-at-home headphone rigs.

    Lastly, Chan introduces us to the Conductor Air from Melbourne’s Burson Audio – a transportable desktop DAC with remote control that failed to reach its US$10K Indiegogo funding target by a not inconsiderable 50%. That doesn’t mean the Conductor Air isn’t a fine sounding DAC/headphone/pre-amplifier but it tells us that crowdfunding isn’t a panacea for funding the development of #futurefi. Or perhaps desktop rigs are slowly being superseded by portables proper?

    Further information: ECT Audio | Burson Audio


    DAR 750 x 290


    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. some random musings to put Hong Kong into context:-

      1) Music, or an average Konger’s exposure to music is rather different than other geolocations. More often than not, especially amongst those under 30, music is something “external”, in that canto or mando pop are rated by “k-ability”, as in how the song would fare in the karaoke market. Many self styled audiophiles are also like that, they are content with audiophile music because they see that as what they are “supposed to listen to” in the role of the audiophile. There are people that I know who subsist only on a diet of Harry Pearson’s record list, Diana Krall and Mando pop. For them, the end game is not an increased emotional or aesthetic connection to music but rather a mix of geeky tinkering and the pursuit of making audio, “visual”.

      to that end, music largely becomes an evaluation tool, and individual music preferences takes a distant second place compared to how much a system reveal the volume of saliva contained within a spittle of Diana Krall on disc 1, track 5.

      2) Like many parts of the world the popularity of personal audio in HK is almost separate from the domestic audio/visual one. The former is younger and (a little) more inclusive (gender and genre wise) as they are more savvy and friendly to streaming and such. Domestic still dominates the above 40 and one-percenter markets.

      3) One of the reasons for the reluctance of trad fiers to venture into head fi here is purely pragmatic and cultural. You will never see a store like e-earphones here because the head-fi depreciates at a much more drastic rate than domestic hi fi, simply because local folks feel that it’s “unhygienic” akin to wearing someone else’s hat (I shit you not). As an example, most headphones with less than 3 months of ownership would depreciate by around 40-60%. you practically have to give it away on trading forums, whereas domestic gear depreciates at 15-20% per year of ownership.

      4) as for why #3 matters at all has a lot to do with consumer rights in HK. There are essentially none. There are no refunds and returns are only for defective cases. Neither are there loan out programmes. This is also why a relatively small city could support so many bricks and mortar hifi businesses. Most audiophiles I know side grade or upgrade within a year, for once again, it makes pragmatic sense, for this enables them to go from gear to gear with minimal outlay, aside from their initial “investment” toward their first system.

      apologies if I went off script completely, but I do find the subculture interesting lol

    2. “compared to how much a system reveal the volume of saliva contained within a spittle of Diana Krall on disc 1, track 5”

      That’s so well described Roy – I would add that I think there are quite a few “Krall spittle” fanciers at most Hifi shows.

      Imagine a Hifi show where they dared to play: talking heads, morphine, massive attack, porcupine tree, tangerine dream, black sabbath, Banco de Gaia, biosphere, death cab for cutie, apex twin, dr Phibes and the house of wax equations, Gomez, kraftwek, happy Monday’s, the La’s, legendary pink dots, morcheeba, nightmares on wax, the Allman brothers, deep purple, the orb, ott, penguin cafe orchestra, underworld, pole folder & cp, led Zeppelin etc…

      the vendors just might sell a truck load of gear to the non pipe & slippers brigade!

      Imagine hearing – ‘love building on fire’ and ‘Kashmir’ on those expensive Wilsons, or ‘apollo vibes’ and symptom of the universe’ on bowers & wilkis 802s or ‘super sex’ and ‘revolutionary kind’ on magnapaners or ‘arriving here but not there’ and ‘cowgirl’ on focal Utopias, or ‘tape loop’ or ‘whipping post live’ on Yamaha NS-5000s wow now that would be exciting……

    DMA / Cafe: quenching thirst for portable audio in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong High-End 2016: a beginner’s guide to dCS