Adventures of the travelling audiophile: Endgame (nearly)

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First confession: I’m listening to them now.
Second confession: I seem to have come full circle; it isn’t the first time I’ve heard them. Not by a long shot; in fact, they may well have been the first
really exceptional bits of hifi I’ve heard.
Third confession: I don’t know when to stop; there’s the beginnings of diminishing returns, and then there’s $1,000 cables. I’m not quite there yet, thankfully. And I admit I’ve tried to find something better, but fortunately, failed miserably.

You might have noticed I’ve abandoned the in-ear setup from the previous instalments; part of the problem is one of prolonged comfort/sensitivity – namely my ears’ inability these days to feel good about something crammed in tightly for more than an hour or so – and part of the problem is sonic. In-ears also tend to have a very forward presentation that feels like MAXIMUM ATTACK all of the time, and moreso if you have a detailed, hard-hitting monitor. You don’t get the spatial separation and airiness of an open, over-ear can; much less the coherence of just one driver doing all of the sound generation. The problem with in-ears is they either require you to accept some fuzziness and interstitial connections between the notes and the accompanying lack of definition and precision (if a single driver), or have multiple drivers to cover multiple frequencies, then risk tonal imbalance and coherence issues. It’s not easy to get anywhere up to 12 (!!) drivers per ear to play nice with each other. And that doesn’t even start on the 2018 setups that use as many as three types of drivers – miniature dynamic, balanced armature and electrostatic – in each earpiece. I can’t help but think that’s a reliability nightmare waiting to happen too, given the number of tiny components in there. Having gone off the deep end here (to the point of commissioning my own monitors with their own configuration and tuning, and a modest six drivers per ear) – I’ve gone the over-ear route for the aforementioned reasons of coherence and comfort.

There’s only one problem with all of this: the travelling part. I just can’t do it with this setup, but I have the most amazing static listening experience short of probably some six figure speakers.

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Off topic: For the joy of driving…

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Not so long ago, we’d all have laughed if you’d said hybrid and electric vehicles were the way of the future. I know I did; infrastructure being the main stumbling block, the other one simple physical resource requirements and handling (think of all those batteries and limited lifespans). Technological development is much less of a headache whenever there’s large-scale consumer spending involved; look at how fast we’ve gone from phones with buttons to touch everything – though I can’t help but wonder why small scale batteries are still so rubbish given that market must still surely be much larger than electric vehicles. Long story short, given the current state of legislation, misunderstandings of technology* and social media hysteria – internal combustion’s days are numbered. Even the EU has legislated a halt in combustion engines from 2030. I make no secret of the fact that I like cars. And honestly…the vast majority of these modern-produced things are not cars. Where does this leave us enthusiasts?

*Remember diesel? It was cleaner/more efficient then it wasn’t and now it’s non-existent. All in the space of five years. I know I miss 1200+km/tank range and filling up my car once a month…

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Off topic: Why I started making watches, part II

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The unexpected: 19.01, November 2017

Continued from part I.

Our group wondered if there were alternatives. We started looking into independents, and for me personally, those who would be willing to entertain serious customisation without breaking the bank; this meant compromising on the movement side, but as it turns out there were still interesting alternatives to be had. Ochs und Junior took the challenge and gave me very simple (read: reliable) annual calendar and high accuracy moon phase watches, but more than that, forced me to adapt the design to be coherent with the immutable parts (cases, complication locations and indications, production limitations). Until this point, I was still designing; evolving both my movement conceptualisation skills and aesthetics. By now, I’d developed a coherent design language and over 50 watches (including movements) on paper; these watches would represent the first baby steps towards seeing them come to life. But first, the ornamental complexity had to go; design would be reductive instead of additive. It was an interesting process that forced me to really identify and simplify critical elements required for time telling and identifiable stylistic cues down to their bare minimum. The Simpleton and Celestial were the product of those experiments, and it’s probably clear that design elements from both made it into our subsequent watches.

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Off topic: Why I started making watches, part I

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The MING family, as of March 2019

It’s a fair question, and one I’ve been asked frequently enough to properly explain myself somewhere, for the record. I suppose it isn’t just something you pick up on a whim one day, nor is it something that even if you had a burning desire to do – can easily begin by submitting a CV to a headhunter. Watchmaking, in its purest definition, is a vocation – not a profession. You physically have to make something, and in the process of doing so (from scratch, of course) understand everything from engineering to metallurgy to physics to aesthetics. It is the kind of masochistic intellectual pursuit undertaken successfully by only the most dedicated, the most skilled, or the most masochistically insane. I am not a watchmaker in the pure definition, nor am I dextrously skilled, but I am fairly dedicated and probably also insane. After all, eight years ago (has it been that long?) I did quit the top of the corporate game to start all over again as a photographer. And now, not having learned my lesson, history repeats.

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Addressing some rather serious feedback

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The quality of readership here has always been very high, and I owe the audience a big thank you for contributing intelligently to the discussion. But there are some occasions where people go above and beyond to bring something truly special to the table. I therefore feel it is only fair to highlight some of these today and give them the stage and attention they truly deserve.

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OT review: a thousand kilometers in the 2019 BMW M5

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A thousand kilometres (or five days, one long distance trip and some regular urban use) might sound like a lot, but it really isn’t that much time to get to know a car as complex and layered as the 2019 BMW M5, codename F90. It’s like a couple of hundred shots with a Hasselblad, or maybe an handful of tracks with a high end pair of headphones. A taste, an impression, nothing much more. I’m not a car reviewer by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I have the driving skills of somebody like Chris Harris; I merely have some interest and probably a bit too much obsession. For reference, I’m coming from a 2018 F87 M2 as my daily driver, on which I’ve barely passed the 12,000km mark and feel like I’m just about getting to understand it to the point of late night friendship terms, but not quite familial contempt. A description of the character in question thus follows.

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Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas and happy holidays to our readers celebrating from the mingthein.com team – MT, Robin and Praneeth (behind the scenes). May you have a great day and a full area under the tree… 🙂

OT review: the 2018/9 BMW M2, midterm

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I make no secret of the fact that I’m a bit of a petrolhead; at least to the extent possible in Malaysia given the heftiness of our taxes and limited market affordability leading to a fairly uninspiring range of choices for the motoring enthusiast. That’s partially offset by affordable petrol and lax speeding enforcement, but given the state of traffic in Kuala Lumpur – the opportunities to enjoy it are few and far between. Nevertheless, I’ve often made my transportation choices emotionally driven rather than rational; the last time I did the latter, it was competent but not very fun. My options boiled down to either something completely impractical but fun (like a Lotus Elise) but cheap enough to afford a second family car where I would spend most of my time (and thus itself have to be tolerably interesting) – or something that could do double duty and have four seats (but not necessarily four doors). Some of you may recall I had a Z4 some time back. It turns out the limits of the car weren’t that high, no matter what one did to the underlying oily bits – there remained this delayed feeing to the steering that felt too indirect and vague for my liking. And whilst the 2.0T motor put out a healthy ~300bhp at the crank after tuning and on the right fuel, there was always a feeling of fragility given how often it would knock if not on RON 98 or RON 100. Fast forwarding a bit though several sensible diversions, I arrived at the M2 after a) waiting a very long time for a manual transmission and giving up, and b) somewhat regretting the F56 Mini Cooper S I purchased previously.

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In search of clarity…

…will be the theme and title of my monthly column at Mediumformat.com, a community and e-publication focused on the larger things in photography. Mingthein.com of course continues as normal; I just didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to work with an interesting bunch of people. Registrations are open from today. MT

OT: first anniversary!

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With some relief and a big exhalation of breath, it seems the horological venture has survived the first year; let me tell you it hasn’t been easy given we’re effectively trying to start something in an industry that doesn’t have any ecosystem in our country, competing directly against much better funded and experienced players. There have been no end of surprises – both good and bad – for the moment culminating in a nomination for a GPHG* prize for our flagship 19.01. We’re celebrating with a watch (of course) or more specifically two (one is good, more is better) variants of the automatic GMT 17.03 – both in the ever popular blue, with revised and refined dial and hands, and an experiment – because experimentation is what keeps us going. I heat blued 25 grade 2 titanium cases with a blowtorch, resulting in something rather special (and something I wanted to do with my own Ochs und Junior some time ago, but we had the wrong alloy). We made 125 of the regular titanium cased blue dial, and 25 of the Ultra Blue – unfortunately the Ultra Blue sold out within about an hour of announcement, and we have a very long wait list**, but the Blue is available right now at www.ming.watch. I leave you with specifications after the jump and the customary images; experimented with some new lighting techniques in this set, too. MT

*Grand Prix de Horologerie de Geneve, which is effectively the Oscars of the watch world.
**I seem to be very good at shooting myself in the foot when it comes to estimating demand and edition sizes.

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