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13 Dec 2008: Stamatis Giannoulis

Giannoulis-Dec-2008-pic-1

By Tony Pothitos

Musical affairs? Is that a play on words or can music and man have an affair for real? Read on and find out if this Stamatis Gianoulis actually has an affair with his system!

Music is the gift from God to man, to elevate himself to higher levels of experiences beyond himself. Music is the only thing that does good, and never does harm. Music is an expression and thus through it we receive and give messages we cannot otherwise. How we decide to listen to this incredible gift, is our choice. You can hear it through mp3, flac, or wav, live or any other format. But that is not what counts as much as how we want it reproduced, taking into account the amazing things it can do to change our life.

So in reality. How you hear music actually shows others how you experience life’s gift. That is why we at ACA get together once a month at a members home, and we hear how he (the owner and creator of the system) takes in every note played off a digital, or even better an analogue source.

Last night was a perfect example of this inner statement made by Stamatis Gianoulis. It was by far an experience beyond what I was expecting. Which simply means, I understand Stamati a lot more now, than I did the years I know him going to other homes listening to other’s systems. And this was very important indeed.

When you go to someone’s home, you instantly see the creator of his system in a different light sometimes, because you never expected him to be a tube guy, a CD guy, or a semi open baffle speaker guy, for instance, as indeed our host for the evening was. And much more.

For instance let me ask you what you would think of if you went to your boss’s house (a stringent tight lipped doused man) and he heard Rock through an old pair of Bose 901’s which were chained to his ceiling and he only listened to vynl?

Now, getting back to how we want to perceive, and ultimately live the music we have at our disposal. We have said it is everyone’s choice on how he wants this to be. That is why there are no two exact stereos alike in the world. Did you ever think of that? Well if not, think about it now because when people say music is a personal thing, now you know what it means.

Enough theory. Now let us get to the music...

Everything you want to know about the theory of open baffle speakers, and much more is described on Siegfried Linkwitz's excellent web site. I suggest you go there instead of me taking up 10 pages in writing it all up here.

Giannoulis-Dec-2008-pic-12Obviously speakers first and what I saw was a true to life Musical Affairs Grand Crescend. The actual woofer in the speaker is a French made co centric woofer, 12 inches in diameter reminded me at first of the Tannoy range, but only for a second, until you hear what an open baffled co centric speaker with no crossover sounds like, then there is nothing else to compare it to. These speakers are a musical instrument, and this instrument tries, and very well accomplishes in reproducing voice-especially, very true to life.

When you see the EQ work done for this speaker to be open in the back, and not just another enclosed unit, you understand that the amount of money it costs, is worth every penny. The wood is not thick cherry or walnut, but when you knock on the side of the speaker you literally feel like you are knocking on the hull of a guitar, or any instrument made with a hull. Especially violins. And as Stamatis told us, even the last details of the speaker are to make it close to an instrument and further away from something which we see and hear as a box which has a woofer.

The question is, does it work?

Quick reply, yes it does. And not only that, it does more. It teaches us how much time and energy someone has to take to adjust and properly place the speaker for optimal performance. In this case, we could see that the house with a heater on one side and nothing on the other made it even more difficult than any normal box design would be.

Giannoulis-Dec-2008-pic-13Taking that into consideration and the fact that the speaker had no help from any type of listening materials, made it astonishingly interesting that they played anything at all….but they did. And they played some things so well, so clear, so beautiful and lifelike it was scary. In the sense that it was so lifelike and precise.

Connected to the open “baffling” speakers was a Sony CD player, and oldie but a goodie, and a favorite of mine, the Royal from Acoustic Solid. I had the smaller model and know its sound well, but this was better, and the mass media format for vinyl was connected to a CLASS A phono an Art Audio Vinyl One, (according to Stereophile magazine) and a Clear Audio Insider cartridge,. The cables I don’t remember what they were, simply because I could not hear them, and this should tell you everything you need to know about them. In absence of noticing the cable you have a chance to hear the music as it is, rather than with a touch of help from pieces of silver or gold with some sweetening added.

Giannoulis-Dec-2008-pic-2 The Art Audio Diavolo amplification was a new kid on the block for me, at 10 watts single ended valve designs have to go. As his Line Preamplifier: First Sound presence deluxe with paramount upgrade (with 2 p.su, one per channel) were also at hand. I thought the aforementioned were very well matched for the speakers at hand, but more so for voice and rock rather than for classical or string instruments. The mids were insatiable. I wanted more and more, but the lows and highs at high SPL levels was not on par as the mids.

The listening...

The musical selection chosen from Stamatis was a very difficult one to play, by any standards and any speaker. Putting it to such a test meant he was confident, and that was enough for me to take my place between the speakers with a pen and paper and listen to the rigorous musical choices he had in store for us. And this was it:

  • Love me now - Wolfgang Bernreuther
  • Prometheus - Schubert
  • Tears of joy - Antonio Forcione
  • Down from Dover - Marianne Faithfull
  • Cantate Domino - Enrico Bossi
  • Flamenco Passion-Barrio san Miguel - Gino`d Auri
  • Symphony No3 - Saint Saens
  • A song for you - Jacintha
  • Meditation from Thais - Jules Massenet
  • Children of Sanchez - Chuch Mangione

Add some Pink Floyd to the end of that list which was put on for the writer of this article and you can understand it had to go through the triathlon if it was performing in the Olympics!!!!

Love me now shook my bones, but not from the bass, but from the incredible filling of the vocals whose soundstage was so perfect it had no fear to be compared to any speaker out there. The Clear Audio recording was perfect for this baffling speaker and it showed its true color beyond exception. This was the best of all of the tracks played in my opinion.

It was here that all the physics and EQ put into this speaker made sense and where everything was simply perfect. It even stung reality!

Giannoulis-Dec-2008-pic-14Second up to bat had a smaller image, maybe due to the CD instead of the TT playing before, but still envisioned vocals as deep and beautiful as a CD could get. I was starting to think these speakers have VERY few flaws, if any! Through the recording the 2/4 piano placed behind the vocals was purposely done so as to bring out the voice while having the piano as background to that. I loved it. I hate the German language and for very few times in my life I have found it musical, and this was one such time. That says it all for me. This was the second best recording on the list in my opinion and from here on in we finally find something that the semi baffled system could not handle.

  • Tears of joy - Antonio Forcione
  • Down from Dover - Marianne Faithfull
  • Cantate Domino - Enrico Bossi
  • Flamenco Passion-Barrio san Miguel - Gino`d Auri
  • Symphony No3 - Saint Saens
  • A song for you - Jacintha
  • Meditation from Thais - Jules Massenet
  • Children of Sanchez - Chuch Mangione

All the remaining pieces we were to hear had the same characteristics. The classical and acoustic guitar was light hearted, the symbols were not on par with the piano and the tonality as many members mentioned to me was not what was expected.

But what can you expect from a speaker that is semi or open baffled and has no room acoustics to help it?

And what can you expect from a CD player that is first and foremost an SACD player and then a CD player.

As for the speed, it was immaculate. On all accounts, the driver was faster than a bullet, and even though due to volume, the highs were shattering the room and my bones!

The speakers tried the best they could to make this insane owner happy. And I say that because it was so loud, it felt like it was 125 db while everyone said it was well below 100db. I was sitting in the ideal position and let me tell you, it didn’t sound like 100db to me! IT WAS LOUD.

Cantate Domino was played, and while it had its good parts, the system could not bring the entire range this recording has with the 12” woofer it has. Jacintha, was mild and sweet as she always is, but the recording seemed to lack influence of greatness which is historic with the specific recording studio and artist. The flamencos karakas were a bit too staccato for me, with the amplifier showing it was cutting off the higher ends of the spectrum at points. But the clarity was superb and very welcomed indeed. Its precision was not harsh and out of mind when you consider that this is not a 400.000 euro system! Or even close to that!

The last artist played, did no justice to the system and was the worst of the recordings played tonight, in my opinion. Stamatis has to get a hold of some room treatment and a few carpets, and then would it be fair to judge if it was on par as the rest of the music played. He has a great set up, and it would be so much more had he done some room treatment. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Conclusion

Giannoulis-Dec-2008-pic-2I was very lucky to have gone and listened and tasted our hosts system (and amazing food). I found faults only in room acoustics and the fact that our host wanted the speaker to play louder than my car! And maybe the fact that the amplifier although very special with merits beyond mentioning could not drive the bass, as I know this speaker could get to, but was not this evening.

I see our host working on the room, more than anything else. And I see Stamatis breaking more chairs in his home while listening to music and doing other physical activities simultaneously, as every chair in the room had three legs and everyone knew why!!

By the end of the night I had realized that the name of the speaker was not by chance. IT IS A MUSICAL AFFAIR! At least it was for me.

From all of ACA we thank Stamatis for a wonderful evening and for sharing his incredible thoughts on musical reproduction.

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