When most folks think of Singapore, they envision a shopping paradise and the ubiquitous Singapore Sling. Nestled in the heart of South East Asia, the island of Singapore is known as the cleanest city in the world. With a population of around 4 million squeezed into an area of only 647.5/252 square kilometers/miles --or slightly smaller than the New York City area -- it is a multi-racial cosmopolitan city state.

As with every exhibition for the past 5 years, the International Sight and Sound Exhibition 2003 [ISSE 2003] was held at the Le Meridien Orchard Hotel, conveniently located along the bustling Orchard Road. This was probably the largest annual exhibition ever to be held in South East Asia. Patterned after HES, local dealers and distributors traditionally use ISSE to showcase their current range of audio/visual electronics as well as introduce the latest new electronic arrivals to our shores.

This year was no exception - over 50 rooms and function halls covering three floors were taken up over the weekend. Attendance was very good, perhaps due to some pretty interesting attractions?

Vacuum tube electronics seem to have a big impact over here. After all, the world's biggest producers are located a mere 4000 km to the north: China. You can get almost any design you want, ranging from humble EL84 push-pull integrated amplifiers to garden-variety EL34s and 6550s to exotic 300Bs and monstrous 211 power amplifiers, with a price range of US $500 to $10,000 for the latter. I must say that aesthetics have improved tremendously over the last 8 years since Sino-made designs first arrived in Singapore. Most designs now sport CNC-based machining and high gloss polishing - gone are cheap steel chassis or seemingly backyard construction.
In fact, you would be surprised from where some of these designs derive their inspiration! Consider, for instance, the CD player from Original below (yes, that's its brand name). Looks familiar?

Xindak is a fairly new addition to the local Hifi scene, shown here with their impressive looking hybrid integrated amplifiers. The XA6900 SE sports a couple of input tubes partnered with Motorola power transistors. It comes standard with a remote control and was, during the exhibition, selling for a mere US $1100.

Leo Instruments, owned by James Lau [lower right], is based out of Singapore, with factories in China and an R&D department in Hong Kong. They managed to produce a 12-unit strong all-tube lineup for this event.

Last minute arrivals were their flagship 300B push-pull monoblock amplifiers as well as a preamplifier based loosely around the famous Marantz Model 7 circuit. An unusual addition was a 3-channel EL34 single ended integrated amplifier specially designed for multi-channel use!