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16 Sep 2006: George Papaemmanouil

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By Max Goodman

First off the Club would like to thank George and Loukia for their impeccable hospitality, resulting in a warm and friendly meeting. After a long summer break, this was as much a chance for club members to catch up as it was a listening session and so the meeting went on rather later than has been the case for many of the meetings. It wasn't until the small hours that I finally made my way home after a fascinating discussion on the old Digital Vs. analogue issue with various, new for me, points made that are worthy of some consideration.

The System

In comparison to so many of the systems in the club George's is a model of straightforward simplicity. A CD front end, amp, pre-amp and speakers. It really does not get much more simple that this. You can see the details of the system on George's system page on ACA.GR.

The Sound

Papaemmanouil-Sep-2006-pic-1Initial impressions are very positive (at least mine and those of club members I asked were). The soundstage is large and deep – the midrange glorious and there is just enough edge so the sound on the highs to create the illusion of reality at times. The first music I got to hear properly was 'Live at the Pawnshop' with Benny Water. Now I am no fan of Jazz but this just happens to be a recording I too own. This copy was on HDCD and mine on SACD.

It was immediately apparent during playback that the mix on the SACD comes across very differently from the HDCD although whether this is a system or a recording variation is open to debate. On the track – 'Ziggin and a Zaggin' it was noticeable that on George's system the drums appeared to be nearer to the listener than the piano. On my setup the reverse is true. Which is correct (if either) is rather difficult to assess.

This self same reversal of depth was detected on other recordings as well. Whilst I cannot say, categorically, that this particular system is at fault in this my impression is that there are more systems that play with my depth order than as this one does. The width of the soundstage was good – largely due to the placement of the speakers. As is common with digital front ends, however, there was no sense of the soundstage extending beyond the speakers. In this room it was not such a big issue with the distance between the speakers being large enough to accommodate the orchestra when required.

The midrange presentation of the music overall, as stated previously was impeccable although this was very much at the expense of extended bass (see below – some technical theories). Highs were never piercing yet at the same time suitably dynamic so that the music presented itself for violins and soprano voices.

Once the music moved on to classical there was more scope to assess the overall sound. Here there were more marked variations in playback – most related to the soundstage – depth and bass issues. Where solos, small groups of instruments and solo/duo voice was playing the system presented itself well. As soon as the whole orchestra came in, however, the lack of bass in conjunction with disorientated soundstage depth became rather more obvious.

It should be stressed at this point that throughout the listening session the system remained pleasant to listen to and the music itself largely came through – if a little on the light side. It is also patently obvious that this is a sound George himself likes (a lot) and therefore of all the discussions and points here the most pertinent is that this is his system and his sound. He likes it – who am I to argue?

Some technicalities...

Papaemmanouil-Sep-2006-pic-2I have mentioned in this brief review 2 issues over the sound which I would like to pick up on in relation to the chosen speakers and their design. The speakers themselves (Rehdeko RK-175-5S) are interesting in that they are ported, front firing units of considerable size that do not filter the bass thereby allowing the woofer to fill in with the mid-range driver.

This is a slightly surprising design in that the mid-range drivers themselves are large and one would not automatically assume that they need such additional support. Further, with such a designm, one would normally expect speakers of this size to be ported at the rear (if at all). It is also worth mentioning that the ports themselves are both offset to the right of the speaker – giving the appearance of having either 2 left, or 2 right speakers as opposed to a left and right pair.

As George has the speakers set-up now they are positioned in the normal audiophile way in that they are placed well away from the walls with a good meter and half distance to any wall. One cannot help wondering if this is the positioning the designer had in mind for these. With the design being as it is – and the resultant reduction in bass output these speakers would appear to be designed to either go against the rear wall (gaining a nominal 3 dB in the bass registers) or even in the corners of a room (gaining 6 dB).

It is obvious that George's room would not suit such placement and there would be losses as well as gains in the sonic picture were it feasible anyway – particularly to soundstage depth, although it might prevent the apparent reversing of sonic distances noted above.

System Description

  • Rehdeko RK-175-5S speakers, driven by VTL ST-150 amplifiers and VTL 5.5 preamplifier
  • Digital source: Audio Aero 'Capitole' 24bit-192Khz CD player.
  • Wiring: Cardas 'Neutral reference' for interconnects and Kimber 4TC speaker cables.
  • Power cables/Electr. install.: Not special.

Conclusions

George has a very pleasant system to listen to that has some dramatic strengths along with a few drawbacks the correction of which is entirely down to the owner's desires. It is a musical system that comes across slightly light. There is an abundant soundstage, albeit possibly a slightly distorted one, and the reproduction of single instruments and voice is super.

All in all – an excellent start to the A.C.A. winter lis

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