The publisher First Impression Music is one of these exclusive companies, that cares about the quality of sound and its framing. The protective soul of the company, an art lover, including music, an audiophile, living for many years in Hong Kong Mr. Winston Ma. In the headquarters of FIM, after many years of designing and experimenting an exemplary listening room was created, that is used for control listening to the prepared discs. Involved in its design was among others George Cardas. John Tucker prepared, especially for this application, an universal player and a preamplifier, also a tube preamplifier Tube Research, La Luce gramophone with a Jeff Rowland preamplifier, Model 301 amplifiers from Rowland, a custom designed tube amplifier (class A and 800W per channel!) and Avalon amplifier for the subwoofer are part of the system. Avalon supplied also the main speakers - the monumental model Sentinel. Cables are FIM own make. This Japanese company, aside the discs, proposes also the cabling, power accessories (filters, and similar) and anti-vibration platforms. But the first and most important area of activity is issuing discs. In the catalog of this small company one can find XRCD discs (now XRCD24), HDCD (including gold ones), SACD and CD, and now the first LP should be uncovered. Just like JVC, FIM proposes the re-editions done only based on original master tapes from the first or second generation. Recently discs from the Decca catalog are available. Although FIM is a company with Japanese traditions, its part, named First Impression Music Inc. is registered in the USA, where part of the material is pressed and issued.


First Impression Music
FIM XR24 066 Limited Edition
Carrier: XRCD24
Date of issue: 2005

Track listing:

1. Carmen Habanera Fantasia 3:14
2. Autumn Yeaning Fantasia 11:03
3. I'm A Fool To Want You 7:18
4. A Song For You 8:42
5. Ida Y Vuets 4:50
6. Alone I Ascend To The West Chamber 3:17
7. Amazing Grace 6:27
8. Born Free 3:08
9. The Horse Racing 1:49
10. J K Drum Improvisation 7:05
11. Clair de Lune 5:24



FIM XR24 067 Limited Edition
Date of issue: 2005
Carrier: XRCD24

Spis utworów:

1 The Magnificent Seven 3:31
2 Shenandoah 4:20
3 Mozart Divertimento in D, K. 136 - Excerpt 4:09
4 Mozart Sinfonia Concertante K 364 5:46
5 The Rose 3:06
6 With A Wave of My Sleeve 3:21
7 Take Five 6:59
8 Limelight/Gone With The Wind 5:13
9 Autumn In Seattle 5:49
10 Taichi Concerto for Guqin & Piano - Excerpt 4:38
11 Intermezzo from Carmen 2:57

Two samplers from the series "FIM Super Sound!" tested here are from a limited edition. Both are XRCD24 pressings, edited in a way different than any other disc I know. The enclosure was made from a delicate, natural patent leather, hand sewed, with a golden logo on the front. Interestingly, although all XRCD discs are mastered and pressed in the JVC mastering center in Japan (JVC Mastering Center, Yokohama), both discs bear the writing "Made in USA". But on the second disc itself we find "Made in Japan" and inside the albums, on the booklets again "Made in Japan". It can be assumed, that the disc were made in Japan and the enclosure in US. Regardless of their origin, one can not be not admire those recordings: these are absolutely reference discs, so we assign the amount of points reserved for "The Ideal" for the first time. We find here among others the best recording of percussion I know "J K Drum Improvisation" of Jim Ketler and the best recording of Jacintha, matching the 45RPM LP from Groove Note. The recordings, when listening to them on the Jadis system (JD1 MkII/JS1 mkIII) show incredibly full, detailed sound with a filled, expansive space. On worse systems the samplers can sometimes sound less dynamic, but this only shows the shortcomings of the lower priced devices - compression of dynamics and lack of resolution. When the devices are reasonable, then it will be hard to find better registered music. Let us listen to the recording "I'm Fool To Want You" Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio coming from the disc Misty, and we will see, that it only worse by a hair from the reference LP 45RPM of the same material (review HERE).

Sound quality (both discs): 12/10


First Impression Music
Carrier: HDCD
Date of issue: 2000/2005

Track listing:

1 La Vezina Catina (ATRXRCD 01) 2:53
2 The Swan (FIMCD 026) 6:26
3 Olde London (FIMCD 025) 2:53
4 Fiddler on the Roof (FIMXRCD 022) 7:08
5 Georgia on My Mind (FIMXRCD 018) 5:12
6 Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (FIMCD 003) 2:24
7 Han AR Fodd (FIMCD 001) 0:53
8 Lover's Tear (FIMCD 026) 4:49
9 Misty (FIMXRCD 011) 5:40
10 High Life (FIMXRCD 12/13) 7:27
11 Yang City Variations (FIMXRCD 019) 5:32
12 Excerpts from Messiah (FIMXRCD 2000) 6:39
13 Deer Hunter (FIMCD 002) 3:26
14 Marias Vaggsang (FIMCD 001) 2:39
15 The Look of Love (FIMXRCD 020) 4:07
16 Canon in D (FIMCD 017) 6:42

The disc Audiophile Reference IV is part of the sampler series of FIM. The presented version was re-issued in the HDCD format in a variety called "Super HDCD 24-bit". Although "pressed" is maybe not the right word,as it seems that it was "burned". It is the so called "vinyl" CD (Black Vinyl CD) - with a vinyl pressing on top and black painted substrate layer below. CD-Rs of that kind are being produced by Verbatim. With a printing resembling a LP label, it presents a very good effect, and according to Mr. Ma, also a sound quality improvement. So if those discs were burned in a copy device, there is a large probability, that we have gone around the bottleneck of the publishing process, namely the press - we have a direct transfer from the remaster to the disc. As this is a HDCD version, the source material - analog tape - was encoded in HDCD in the A/D converter from Pacific Microsonics working according to the newest specifications - not 20bits like it was earlier, but 24bits. Let's keep in mind, that the HDCD format allows the final resolution of 20 bits to be achieved.

As we can expect, the sound of the black discs from FIM is not as splendid as the XRCD24. But this is only a part of the truth. Comparing this sampler with other audiophile company's discs it is clearly audible, how fantastic is the work done by Winston Ma preparing those recordings and this remaster. In general, the sound is about 3dB stronger than from FIM's XRCD discs and is smooth, silky smooth. This is the first thing that comes to mind while listening to the recording "La Vezina Catina". I have the feeling, that the overall resolution is slightly lower than on FIM Super Sound!, but to verify this an absolutely top system is required. On most devices below 10000zł both pressings will be absolutely breathtaking. Also here we have an incredible depth of the sound, its three dimensional shape, in the further planes, as well as in every instrument or voice. Sometimes the sound is rather not natural, but super-audiophile, like in the recording "Georgia on My Mind", where the contrabass had very clearly defined strokes, and a bit hard, that allowed to examine the speakers and perfect location of the instrument in the room, but this is not the natural sound of this instrument - somewhat fluid and soft. I am nitpicking, but FIM disc are top pressings (every month we will present a part of it), and on this level, even small shortcomings are presented more clear, than if the other elements would not be as good as they are.

Sound quality: 10/10


© Copyright HIGH Fidelity 2007, Created by B