It is my honor to be able to work with an elite group of reviewers around the globe sharing insights and news of High-End audio almost on a daily basis. My high-end journey is only about 9 years old. That's obviously relatively short by comparison to certain 6moons writers. My father has, however, been an audiophile dating back all the way to the 1960s. It could be the fact that I was under his influence since childhood in an unconscious way before waking up to the fatal attraction of Hi-End Audio when I turned 27. My very first system consisted of a Wadia 850 CD player, Jeff Rowland Concentra Integrated amplifier and a pair of Ensemble Animata bookshelf speakers. After my very first system, I ventured into the electronics of Mark Levinson with the No. 37 transport, 360s DAC, 380s preamplifier and 334 power amplifier. The complete suite of Mark Levinson produced a much bigger scale than my first system. Outlines of the musical images were very crisp. The transparency was further raised by a complete wiring harness of Tara Lab The One interconnects, with a pair of Cello Elves speakers before replacing them with an Eggleston Works' bookshelf called the Isabel.

Music was not really important at that stage of my hi-end journey. HiFi sound effects and recognition by peers were the priorities. I was then attracted into the European camp beginning with the Gryphon Sonata Allegro preamplifier and Gryphon Antileon Signature amplifier with my very first floorstanding speakers, the ACT One from Wilson Benesch. The source components at that time was the dCS Elgar Plus/Purcell with Burmester's 979 as the transport. The change from Mark Levinson to Gryphon was a paradigm shift in sound temperature, from very cold/analytical to the very warm/musical. (I only knew cold meant analytical and warm musical at that time, without adequate audio vocabulary and music knowledge.) I then moved to the Boulder 1012 Pre/DAC (sold the dCS and the Gryphon amplifier) purely for the sake of experiencing an expensive brand name before subsequently settling down with Goldmund for 2.5 years.

At this stage, I had begun paying much more attention to rhythm/tempi, which is a major factor in determining the liveliness of any performance. The Wilson Benesch Chimera had been my primary reference speakers during this time. It was within this period that I really understood the difference between sound and music. The learning curve further elevated after making friends who see themselves more as music lovers than audiophiles. I was in the Hong Kong Cultural Center listening to the live performance of Arcadi Volodos's piano recital with Marvel last night. Other than the physical scale of the soundstage experienced in a live concert, I am pretty sure that my current electronics really resemble the timbre/leading edges/harmonic decays and rhythmic drive of a live performance very well. This is what I care the most for now.

Remember, I live in Hong Kong. Brand name is everything in this part of the world. Most of the time, high resale values in the after market automatically equate to good sound quality. So when I began, I became a brand worshipper as a matter of course. What I cared most about was prestige of ownership and compliments from peer groups. The perceived accumulation of experience alongside the status in the circle stems solely from the resume of expensive gear one owns over time. Cultivation of listening skills and the development of music knowledge are basically absent. Looking back, I am most ashamed of such behavior. Unfortunately, this unhealthy culture and mentality still prevails in the local high-end scene - en masse.

It was by mere luck that I came to know a few audiophiles who really view high-end audio as a means to music rather than as an end unto itself. They asked me, "Why do you spend so much on audio if you are not really a music lover? I can distinguish the sound of a viola from a violin with my economical system. Can you tell me via your high-definition equipment? Let's do a test. How does it sound?" Suffice to say, I was very embarrassed because I dared not face this simple test. Ever since that incident, I thought that "maybe it's time to take a break and move on to other hobbies." Perhaps it was my perseverance that prevented me from giving up on audio. Over the next couple of months in 2000, I began to attend live concerts, feeling constantly attracted by Mozart piano concertos. I then began to develop an intense interest in the piano (Horowitz/Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli) followed by violin and cello after hearing the recordings of Nathan Milstein/David Oistrakh and Pierre Fournier/Mstislav Rostropovich.

The choice of my high-end equipment thus focuses primarily on the accuracy of timbre, the opulence of harmonic decays, the vividness of microdynamics and the coherence of the sonic spectrum. I am not the type of audiophile who looks for pinpoint imaging, a large airy soundstage or thundering bass that penetrates straight to my heart.

As I became more familiar with the aforementioned musical instruments from live concerts, my ears became increasingly sensitive to colorations when listening to other high-end systems playing back these instruments. However, constructive criticisms are not too welcome in my part of the world. Most owners would defend their setups with statements like, "Have you ever met David Oistrakh in person before? How do you know which violin he was playing at that time?" These questions may seem very difficult to answer but manuscripts around the world have never hidden any facts of virtuoso-style performers like David Oistrakh, Nathan Milstein, Yehudi Menuhin and others.

Preference of music varies from person to person. Some like Jazz, others prefer classics to pop, others simply love world music. It is however strange to say that one wants the sound of David's violin tone to sound white when in fact his tone is usually warm. In my humble opinion, the more we know about the operation of musical instruments together with the wealth of history behind their main composers/performers, the better we are equipped to gauge the true quality of audio gear assuming one is using high-end audio as a means to an end - music.

Please don't get the impression that Linnman is an academic. I truly understand the multi-faceted fun of high-end audio. I still enjoy the fun of swapping cables from time to time to experience the changes in sound, albeit not necessarily equivalent to improvement. If time allows, I think the art of speaker positioning is something that I really want to explore further. And last but not least is the final barrier of all: room acoustics. In Hong Kong, most people do not have the luxury of a dedicated listening room. Most of the time, the listening areas are constrained by all sorts of unimaginable obstacles. Conquering room acoustics is an area that I am yet to fully comprehend but I am sure I will learn from everyone as time goes by.

Once again, it is truly my honor to become part of an elite team. As an audiophile, I always take the recommendations of famous reviewers in the US, UK and Japan seriously. Rarely would I ever think about sourcing a review from anyone in the Greater China area or Asia outside Japan for references. I hope my future writings will become credible references for many to share, and most important of all, I sincerely hope that more high-quality reviewers from Asia will surface.