Blog: The Return of Michael Ting

What are you up to for the moment then? From why understand you have some big plans and projects. Can you tell us something more about them?

Early this year I made a decision that I want my children to grow up in Singapore rather than in my home country Indonesia. It is not easy moving from a country with a $3700 per capita GDP to a country with a $60K per capita GDP. Everything becomes much more expensive and it’s not like I have a permanent job to pay for everything there. I’ve never been that ambitious about my business and really this Singapore store is just a way for me to make my plan a reality.

At first we didn’t think we could afford renting a store space in Singapore but we got lucky and a spot opens up in the popular Adelphi mall which is where all the audio stores are at. The level of competition in Singapore is brutal and just about everybody I meet say I’m crazy to start an electronic retail business here. But I’m doing this for my family and so I will take whatever chance and try my best to make it happen.

The good thing is that over the years I’ve been building relationships with many Japanese brands . Their work ethic naturally leads to extremely good products in just about any industry, and perhaps due to their lack of economic growth, prices remain very low in Japan.

In fact price level is so low that the majority of Japanese products are priced similar to or even lower than the products coming out of China (I’m referring to brands, not location of manufacturing. Everything is made in China these days). Despite also being made in factories in China, I find that the products from the Japanese brands are consistently better in terms of design, build quality, and quality control. When I noticed that none of the stores in Singapore are interested in selling sub $200 Japanese earphones, I decided to make this as my entry point strategy.

Does that mean we’ll be seeing Headfonia Stores all over the world soon?

No, definitely not. 😉 I’m just doing Singapore now. Maybe South East Asia next.

Now for something different. I bet a lot of the readers are dying to find out: what  is your favorite DAP – DAC – IEM – Headphone?

I don’t have a single “ultimate” set up. Because I use mostly sub $300 products, it becomes easy for me to own a few and shuffle between them. And since I hand picked all the products that gets sold in the store, quite a percentage of the products are perfect to my liking. For instance, for headphones I use the Phonon SMB-2, Phonon 4000, ATH M70x, and Soundwarrior’s SW-10 and SW-20 headphones. I also use a Fostex T50RP Mk3 at home. It comes with a detachable cable and I made a 5 meter cable for watching Netflix and playing video games. For IEMs, I shuffle between the TTR Co-Donguri, Radius NEF, NHR, and TWF series, TFZ and Zero Audio stuff. I don’t limit myself to a brand. If the sound is clean and the price affordable, I will get it and add it to my collection.

I do have an Ocharaku Flat-4 Keyaki IEM but I only use it occasionally because it’s very expensive and I’m afraid I may lose it in Starbucks or something. I also have a huge collection of headphones that I display in the store but I very rarely listen to them because the newer stuff is good enough for much less money.

For the source I use the Iphone, Radius NePlayer, and the Radius AL-LCH81 DAC. The NePlayer and the LCH81 DAC makes for a very clean sound that competes with a lot of audiophile DAPs and I buy my files from the Itunes store so I can use it with the NePlayer.

I have a desktop tube amp from a little known Japanese manufacturer that is very special, but it’s hard to find a time to sit down and listen to a desktop setup these days. There is also a special portable tube amp from a different Japanese manufacturer, but I am on the road a lot these days and need a simpler set up for the road.

For the Phonon headphones I either use a Fiio X5 3rd Gen to get more power to drive the headphones, or the Radius LCH-81 paired with a JDSLabs CMoy that I modded.

What is your daily setup for on the go?

I travel a lot these days so it’s mostly the Apple Airpods for making phone calls and Bose’s QC35 for watching Youtube, when I’m on the gym, and on the airplane.

Do you still use any of the oldschool stuff?

I used the Sennheiser HD25-1 for a while last year but then I got the Phonon 4000 and it trashed the Sennheiser so bad, I couldn’t listen to the HD25-1 for music anymore. I used it for a while for the gym, but after I got the Bose QC35, I prefer using bluetooth when I exercise.

My daughter now uses the HD25 when she plays game on her Ipad.

What gear, no matter what, impressed you most ever since you got in to audio?

I think the last high end headphone that really impressed me was the Audeze LCD-XC and though it’s still very very good, I never use it because I prefer smaller and lighter headphones. Which brings me to the Phonon SMB-2. The sound is so clean and the background so black. While not LCD-XC level, it’s so much easier to live with daily.

What review do you still remember doing most and which review still has the most meaning to you after all this time being “out”?

The Altmann Tera review. Unbelievable how many people got upset over it! It was about $700 when I reviewed it, but these days people are still looking for 2nd hand units of the Altmann Tera that now sells for about $2000.

What do you think of how Headfonia evolved over the last years, have you been keeping track of the site and its work?

I think it was a good decision to let Lieven manage the site as he is turning out to be a much better manager than I was. I was the founder, but I think after three years the site needed someone who could grow the site and I am very happy to see the work that Lieven has done the past few years.

Is there anything you want to say to the Headfonia readers? After all we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you. Any advice you want to share?

I’ve been out of touch with the high end products scene and I don’t think I can say much about the products featured on the site.

One thing that I can share that may be relevant is that with the hype of DSD-compatible players, it is becoming far too easy to use the DSD label as a guarantee of quality, while in fact it does not guarantee anything but large filesize. What’s important is the quality of the recording and mastering, while the DSD is just a file format. I personally just use AAC out of the Itunes store because the quality of the mastering is very good and in many cases better than CD.

A convenient analogy is from photography. You can take a photo file from a smartphone, save it as a large 100MB TIFF file, and at the end of the day it’s still a lousy file. Or you can take a photo from a good full frame sensor, save it as a 1MB JPEG and it’s still a better file than the 100MB TIFF. The size of the file says nothing about the quality of the file.

Of course what’s more important is taking the photo with the proper exposure and lighting condition. In photography, when the light is good, any photo you take will most probably be good. So, in the case of a recording, when the acoustics are good, any recording you take would probably be good.

At the end is all about the music, which in photography terms is like the scenery you’re photographing. A breathtaking scenery taken with a smartphone camera will move our emotions better than a dull scenery taken with a $7000 Leica. Good music is the most important piece of the system.

And one last question, something people keep asking me all the time: Will you ever be back on HFN for a guest review?

I gave this a serious thought last year but I’ve been out of touch with the type of products Headfonia has been reviewing. I can try to do a product to review but if I have no point of comparison with products on the same price bracket, or previous versions of the product, that would make it a very shallow review.

Thank you for freeing some time for us Mike, it was great talking to you again and having you on Headfonia.com. We wish you, your family and your business all the best. And guys, if you’re living in Jakarta or Singapore, you now know where to go to! 😉

Thank you so much for this opportunity.

 

4.8/5 - (58 votes)

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

27 Comments

  • Reply October 7, 2017

    George Lai

    • Reply October 10, 2017

      Mike

      Thank you George.

      Yes that was it. Did they change the site design?

      • Reply October 10, 2017

        George Lai

        It looks the same as it ever was. However it looks like they are getting out of the headphones business too.

  • Reply October 8, 2017

    johthor

    How nice to have an appearance by Mike. Mike was instrumental in my introduction to headphones in 2009/2010 and consistently steered me in the right direction as my knowledge and acquisition of gear grew. I was sad to see Mike leave Headphonia but he made an excellent choice when he decided on Lieven to run this really excellent site. Cheers and many thanks to you Mike. I also wish you the best of luck in Singapore. The way you treat people should make you successful there and any other place you decide to do business

    • Reply October 9, 2017

      Dave

      He is the reason I got into this hobby as well. I was just looking for a headphone to pair with my iPod, and now I have been writing for headfonia for over 4 years.

      • Reply October 10, 2017

        Mike

        Thanks Dave

    • Reply October 10, 2017

      Mike

      Thanks Johthor.

  • Reply October 14, 2017

    Litho

    As a Phonon SMB-02 owner (bought when on holiday in Japan, along with the Yaxi pads), I can only agree with your opinion on them, and hope you have a chance to tell the readers how good these headphones really are. My only complaint would be the cable. Probably a good length for mixing or DJ’ing at a console, but way too long for mobile use or even desktop computing. That and they’re non-detachable. Other than that, best sub-$600 headphone I’ve owned, by quite a distance. I’d personally love you to come back and concentrate on the sub-$500 bracket, especially with some of these Japanese companies you’re talking about (I really want to know how the Phonon 4000 sounds). I have no interest in anything above $500 these days. Would rather spend that extra on music or refugee donations. I’m Singaporean and will definitely visit your store.

  • Reply October 26, 2017

    Cris

    I’m very curious with the stuff in the store you have, Mike. There isn’t much info in the local market about it, and the price range for it is quite cool. I’m in Singapore, and I found this website from Ultrainferno’s post in head-fi on the M3s, which led me to the store https://www.headfoniastore.sg/

  • Reply January 20, 2018

    Fabio

    Very nice to hear from you Mike!

    From time to time it will be nice to read some of your reviews. Maybe you can write something about the Phonon, it will be great.
    I want to add something about the HD25. I purchase a custom made OFC copper cable, and it was better sounding than the stock cable. I saw you were using the Oyaide cable so I bought one 🙂
    I was shocked that it sounded worst than my custom made copper. Vocals were thin sounding, less bass, more soundstage. All in all, I don’t like the hd25 with the Oyaide. I’ll keep burning in the cable, maybe things will smoothen with time…
    You were always a big fan of the hd25, so it’s strange to read this words from you, I am sure you still love the hd25 🙂

    Cheers!

  • Reply January 27, 2018

    Thomas

    If you ask any Indonesian audio dealer, Michael Ting is universally the most dislike figure for his unethical and rude behaviour.

    In Indonesia, he is the cause of Audio Technica products price tumbling to the point that most dealers have a profit margin of less than 10%. This is because Michael uses his family fortune to purchase large quantities of audio tech products and sell them at low prices to drive smaller players out.

    Another famous story happens a few years back. Michael invited a group of us Indonesian audiophiles to his home for an audio meet. When you have a group of audiophiles, it is bound to be noisy. Michael simply shouted at us for being noisy as we were interfering with his enjoyment of music.

    To many of us, he simply acts the way he does because he is rich and has an influential family. He is nothing but a spoilt child.

    You do not have to trust my words. Just ask anyone from Indonesia who operates in the audiophile world.

    • Reply January 27, 2018

      dale thorn

      I trust the customers more. So far, they are positive.

      • Reply January 28, 2018

        Thomas

        That’s because his staff are actually nice and good people. People like Michael will only work behind the scenes. Furthermore, what’s not to like a store who constantly underprice things?

        Steve Jobs is widely loved by Apple fans worldwide but those who really work with him will tell you what a shit head he is. The same idea applies here too.

        • Reply January 28, 2018

          dale thorn

          I still disagree. Really bad bosses don’t have happy customers. Take Apple – after you’ve been screwed a dozen times by Apple’s extreme actions to steal your memory, kill your older apps, slow down your phone, and 100 other things – you see the real Steve Jobs and his successors. Maybe Michael is the Donald Trump of personal audio, but I don’t get a bad vibe from his customers.

    • Reply February 13, 2018

      Fabio

      I never know him personally. When He was here writing on Headfonia, he was very capable and nice guy. Years ago there was a big community active in the comment section, Mike reply to every question, and peoples constantly seek his advice and new reviews. You can say He was not only good at his job, he was also a very charismatic figure. Many new audiophiles were born in 2010 because of Mike.
      To be fair, sometimes I had the impression He was pushing peoples to buy things (like Fiio Alpen review), but you know, business is business, I’ll not blame him for this anyway.
      Nowadays it’s a bit sad to see many reviews with 0 comments. This site shift from “very popular” to “almost desert” and it’s not because other reviewers are not good at their jobs. This site was born with Mike, and peoples were here because of him. When he left, it was not the same anymore.

      • Reply February 13, 2018

        Lieven

        I did move the site into a new direction and lots of things have changed compared to when Mike was running things. The difference is that HFN now is a self supporting website, and that our numbers of readers and page views have exponentially increased.
        We don’t get as much comments as when Mike was here but that has several reasons. First of all, I simply don’t have the time to reply to all the questions as we’re posting 4 to 5 articles a week now. Second, articles nowadays are more coherent and less shocking, resulting in less trolling and less discussion. Third, after a few years you kind of get a bit bored of replying to the same questions all over again, just because people are too lazy to do a search on Google or the site. And yes, that does result in getting less questions. And last, we’re living in a different time and mind set now. Leaving comments is so 2010.

        Of course you can’t see the numbers and that’s our “cuisine interne”, but I have no big issues with sacrificing some comments in order to keep this site growing/in the position it is in now. To me that’s far more important. Calling the biggest site (after Tyl’s) deserted though, that’s a good one.

        • Reply February 14, 2018

          Fabio

          It’s pretty amazing that you got many articles with 0 comments and the page views are increasing. That makes no sense to me. Anyway, you know your “cousine interne” as you call it.
          To me, this website is a desert because I don’t see peoples talking anymore. There is no dialogue going on, no community. Just a bunch of isolate gear review.
          Leaving a comment is so 2010? There are more than 2000 pages of comments about the Chord Mojo on Headfi. Also, Tyll gets a lot of comments on his channels and he rarely answers. From your comments I understand that You don’t like too much to get in touch with peoples, this is the reason Headfonia lost their community.
          As an old reader, all I can say it was much better with Mike. And I am sure not to be the only one who thinks that.
          Have a good increment of the page views for 2018 🙂

          • Reply February 14, 2018

            dale thorn

            Headfi is like a large zoo. Now there are lots of introductions of new products, lots of advertising, and (amazing!) you can go into some of the endless chat-threads and start talking about an item and suddenly an ad for that item appears on the side. That’s some amazing software! I wish I wrote it!

            One difference between there and here is, here you can say almost anything you want about a product, or steer someone away from a product, and it’s OK. But I got blocked there for a very *specific* instance of recommending something they didn’t approve of. I suggested someone buy the flagship headphone they were asking about, and buy the amp later. They didn’t like that. It looks like free speech sometimes. It’s not. It’s a business site, and they have their own business model that’s unique to them.

            Innerfidelity is a very different place. Tyll is competent in building and measuring products, and he describes their sound pretty accurately, although you really have to read between the lines on those because he doesn’t usually speak bluntly. His commenters are mostly Followers Of Tyll. I got blocked there too, for a funny reason. If the posts haven’t been deleted, the headphone reviews I posted on his site circa 2011-2012 were getting more reads than Tyll’s, and he complained about that. So I started posting reviews on his parent site, but even though they decided to allow me that as a “blog”, the reviews within the blog would not show the number of reads each review was accumulating. So I stopped that.

            Anyway, there are zillions of readers here, which you see when an item like the DragonFlys are reviewed, or especially with a contest.

            But there’s a very important reason that people follow this site, and that’s because they don’t have to work their way through a jungle of ads and comments to get to the data – the reviews. It’s a gold mine, and don’t think that people don’t know that.

            • Reply February 14, 2018

              johthor

              I have not always agreed with you Dale and in fact we got into a bit of a spat when I thought you were being overly negative. This reply you wrote is right on the money. I complained on Headfi about a product I had purchased from one of their advertisers by simply stating what their advertiser had sold me and how they had treated me when I complained about said product. My post was buried by several Headfi moderators as they piled on with multiple posts over several pages. Both Mike when he ran Headphonia and Lieven after he took over have helped and guided so many of us over the years with this excellent site

            • Reply February 14, 2018

              Lieven

              Thanks Dale!

          • Reply February 14, 2018

            Lieven

            We moved/shifted to a different community in a different geographic area. There now are more EU and US readers compared to before.

            Each writer or owner has his own following, you clearly were one of Mike’s and that’s cool. If you’re representing that part however, then I’m not really feeling bad about moving to a different direction.

            Another reason for having less comments is the other/wordpress comment system. I threw out Disqus as it was crap. Many others have followed in the meantime but it does mean we need a name and email address before you can leave a comment. The barrier to post is higher but it does keep the thousands of spam posts out better.

            You also can not compare a forum to our site, it’s very different. And I am happy Tyll’s readers are vocal. I like Tyll, it’s just a little sad he is part of a publishing network with corporate and financial support.

            Anyway, you are more then welcome to post here and keep reading our new style of reviews. You just have to accept things are different now. If you don’t want to that’s fine also, at least you increased our comment count ????

  • Reply February 14, 2018

    johthor

    Fabio you sir are a complete idiot

    • Reply February 14, 2018

      Fabio

      You can call idiot your parents man, not me. Go to the trash you belong.

      EDIT: He means he loves you really 😉

    • Reply February 14, 2018

      Fabio

      Ok Lieven, This is a good answer and I can understand your points.

      What I can add:
      One of the biggest features of the “Old Heafonia” were the multi-comparative review. Mike did a lot. “The usually suspect -12 portable amps compared”, “The Sennheiser Trio”, “Dual Driver, 6 iem compared”
      Those reviews generate a lot of buzzes. At the end, peoples seek advice about what to buy next, and those comparative were a lot of fun to read and were very useful to make a purchase decision. In the new Headfonia, this kind of reviews is completely missing. Maybe you can do something about it.

      Anyway I’ll stop here. You have peoples in the comment section insulting other peoples, and this is not something acceptable.

      PS: The DT770 32 ohm is very good 🙂

      • Reply February 14, 2018

        Lieven

        The comparative reviews are so much work, and with the number of gear to review, the time is just missing. Mike also had the advantage of being close to a shop, and in the end owning one, to get the gear to compare.

        We still do compare gear in each individual review, but I know it’s not the same. It however is not realistic at this time, but I understand and agree that part is missing.

      • Reply February 14, 2018

        dale thorn

        I remember many years ago when I did a comparative review that turned the world upside down and everyone fell off into space. That’s a little bit of humor there, but it showed me that there’s no magic formula to please everyone. But good hard work every day exploring the new products, and using some of the older products for reference, that’s a good way to go.

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