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15 Nov 2008: Konstantinos Dalkalitsis

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By Max Goodman

Why is it that whenever one knows the system one is going to listen to one builds a level of expectation as to the sound.

In some ways this is not abnormal – but, as so often happens, the resulting sound that greets one’s ears is so very different from that expectation you would really think this listener, at least, should learn his lesson.

The session

Dalkalitsis-Nov-2008-pic-1 So here we are at Kostas’s house, facing a pair of B&W 800 D’s with Krell SX 400 amp, and Audio Research Ref 2 pre-amp. You just know there is going to be stomach pounding bass... and yet...

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Konstantinos hosted an excellent evening, delicious food, fantastic selection of vinyl (how many records does he have anyway? I’d guess several thousand and so many seriously desirable classical recordings.

Once we got the administrative stuff out of the way (which seems to take longer each meeting these days...) we finally got to settle down to listen to a very varied music program of some 10 disks.
One thing this listener learned from the experience. If you have a TT with a lid – leave the lid open – it appears to play significantly better – who knew? Not that I have ever owned a TT with a lid – but it is now a filed fact in the recesses of my brain.

Sadly this was pointed out (and demonstrated) after the listening program – so comments on the individual records below should be viewed in that light.

Audiophile's destination

Dalkalitsis-Nov-2008-pic-2 1. Haydn Piano Trio No.7

A Philips recording, not audiophile but that is often not indicative of what awaits. A strange recording to my ears. The piano was over-miked so came across as rather bright (rare in Philips in my experience). The strings came across with “good wood” – none of that metallic edge to the violin so often apparent on CD recordings. A slight imbalance between left and right channels was noted – and as this was common over the majority of recordings I heard (I owned the sweet spot for this session) I think a slight balance adjustment is in order.

2. Espagnoles des 15 sieckes – Vilancicos.

Not a recording I am familiar with – but a good example of the Baroque period. As opposed to the previous recording the soundstage was expensive (hey – the previous recording was a trio- what width was I expecting?) and went well beyond the confines of the speaker positions. Bass came across as rather light on this recording (mental check – these are B&W’s – yes – strange). Impact was good however, in the mid-bass with lots of leading edge to the sound. Definitely a better recording than the previous record.
3. Elvis – 30 hits.

Are you lonesome tonight – now this sounds rather more like a B&W should. Guitar sounds good and the voice is strong. Sneaking suspicion that this system favours Rock over classical – which would be odd in light of the record collection, which, varied as it is, appears to be predominantly classical.

4. Greek – M.Plessas

OK – completely out of my ability to assess. Sort of new age Greek music…er…. Zorba meets Jean Michel Jare I suppose. A lone trumpet sounds great but I cannot learn much from this piece. It’s quite pleasant though.

5. Loylobikos ton something – Xatzidakis

Again who am I to comment. The strings sound great. I sense the female voice is a bit weak or rather – light (might be the recording). Again – not quite what I was expecting from B&W.

6. With Horn - Shirley Horn

The first audiophile recording as far as I can tell. Very smooth mellow sound. Double bass comes across well – although again lighter than I was expecting. Large broad sound-stage. Brass came across very well.
7. I wonder why – Bernreuther

Another audiophile recording and by far the best thus far. Excellent sonic balance. Nearest we have come to a live sound – yet still without quite getting there – certainly came across as a superb recording though. This is the 7th recording and we still haven’t “gone live” – something is wrong – I wonder what.

8. My Romance - Ben Webster

Another good recording (although I though the previous one the better). Generally good in parts but never quite live again.

9. Water Falls – Sara K

Guitar hits home properly – it is a B&W afterall. Voice though, again a touch light.

10. Private Investigations – Dire Straits

Now this is a recording I do have some experience of. In some ways it plays the best yet – although I have a few tonal questions. The various guitars are clearly distinguished, there is good pace and some impact.

The System

Dalkalitsis-Nov-2008-pic-3Well that was the program. After eating there was quite some discussion over the sound. Most agreed something was not quite right but no-one was really confident enough to put their finger on what was disturbing the sound. Those that did were promptly contradicted by the next comment – with the exception of the lid thing mentioned already.

Frankly, I have spent some time contemplating this system and am still none the wiser. There didn’t appear to be anything too horrendous with the room. The equipment was all proper audiophile fare that should, both on paper and according to experience, match well. There is no reason to query the interconnects, speaker cables, power cables and the rest – in my opinion of course.

The only thing I have to offer here is that, on leaving a CD was playing (on a 30 euro player apparently). It sounded good – too good. My thoughts therefore turn to the TT. I am not casting aspersions as to the unit itself - but a once over on the setup would not go amiss. Start with the tracking weight – then the overhang, azimuth and so on. Something, somewhere ain’t right.

My conclusions therefore are that this is. Konstantinos – yours must be a good system that simply did not play properly for us this night. I have a feeling it is something to do with setup that is awry – so it might be a pain to find but not a cost issue (other than time of course). This system should have much more to give – it just needs to be persuaded to do so. If you do find out whatever it is – we want to know – I would love an opportunity to review it again once you do.

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