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28 Oct 2006: Stamatis Giannoulis


By Tony Pothitos

Sometimes, I wish I was smart. So smart that I could explain what I am about to try to explain, but in reality and not just in words.

Yesterday, we were invited to listen to a system which was recently set up, I could be wrong but I think that neither the preamplifier (Cary's wonderful model 5 running for a chill 15.000 Euro piece of art, being only 5-6 hours in use), nor the amplifier were broken in.

A Symphonic Line 250 watt amp, black as hell, but playing sweeter than heaven was also played while we were there, showing us the differences between high power and low power along with valve versus the mosfet design.

This time around we decided, thanks to Christos Simopoulos idea to talk about what differences we heard between the two amps and our overall thoughts.

I must admit, for a second I though it was going to be a bad idea, but instead, it turned to be much more educative and enlightening than I thought. It is great to be wrong sometimes!

GIANNOULIS-OKT-2006-pic-1Although every member had their say, I was totally against everything they had to say. I was so against what they had to say that I thought I better not talk because if I did they would think that I am crazy, or maybe some ego's might be inflamed as to not accept my choice of wording. So I didn't say a thing. And before this goes live, this article will go to Stamatis and he will either allow or not allow what I have written be up on the site live or not.

So here goes

Just picture this for a second before starting: Two amps, one preamp, one pair of speakers.

Most of the group, except for one person or two, thought that the Symphonic Line was better than the lower powered Cary, which seemed to have lost the entire lower octave. Although it was voiced that it was sweeter, it was not strong enough to drive the speakers to the capability they obviously had.

I thought they both sounded like transistor radios. A hyperbole of course, but the message should have gone through...

I believe, and very likely could be wrong, since I am not as experienced as everyone in A.C.A., that if a single wire would run from the wall, to Stamati's speakers with good amplification, that the sound would have been better.

GIANNOULIS-OKT-2006-pic-2I believe the expensive amp and pre did damage to the incredible sound that the speakers can produce and in general made a mess of things in too many areas!
This is both a gift and an anathema, due to the fact that having such revealing speakers that demand so much power and clarity and silence that it is almost impossible to make them play as well as they should be. Whatever machines you place behind these speakers, they must do the less DAMAGE to music rather than fix the music!

The speakers were much more capable of reproducing sound than anything else he had on his system! I also personally think our host, Stamatis has to fix his room with some serious room treatments as to not let the sound waste from walls and floor reflections. The bass was extended and sharp when needed in the back of the room, while only 3 meters away it was shallow, due to the lack of carpeting and absorption. Of course, there are also other reasons for that but I will not get into it now.

As we were driving home, Max and I talked about my strange thought, and... thank God for me, he generally agreed. Max and I never agree, but this time we did, which makes a point in itself.

As it happens, one area that really seemed to slip through the listening sessions was the source equipment. Again, there is a feeling that there is greatness to be had from that T/T – but we were not quite getting it. In fact one commenting listener felt the CD played better than the vinyl. This is indeed proof positive in this listener's mind that the vinyl was not giving of its best.

Where that issue lies is beyond the scope of our listening time together. It may simply be a setup issue – or it could be a more serious problem of mismatching somewhere between cartridge, arm and phono stage.

System Description

  • Kharma 1.1 speakers, driven by Cary CAD 805 anniversary mono blocks (or Symphonic Line Craft 250 stereo amplifier) and Cary SLP-05 w/ext (or Symphonic Line 'Erleuchtung') preamplifier
  • Analogue source: Pierre Lurne Audiomeca J1 t/t and a Clearaudio insider cartridge (amplified by Rowland Consummate 2 pc phono stage) on a Pierre Lurne SL5 parallel arm.
  • Digital source: Sony 777 SACD player.
  • Wiring: Xaitas gold bi-wire phono cable, Siltech FTM-3 (pre-amp) etc., Yamammura 5000 speaker cables.
  • Power cables/Electr. install.: Various, plugged in power filters and a 3-line dedicated power installation w/ special earthing.

The gathering and listening itself.

The food, the wine, and the whole family, was not only excellent but also inviting, to the point that it was an honor to be there. The music selection was adequate, although I didn't have the time to hear the appropriate classical to get the overall soundstage, which the speakers seemed to be best at, including to top it off a panache of fortissimo staccato in everything it played. For me, it was so blunt that the speakers were underplayed with what was driving them that at points when they did play well, it was shocking, but when the power was needed from the Cary, it clipped and just ruined the intense clarity they proved to have at lower sweeter volumes.

Mind you, we were a lot of people in there, so the host had to really crank it up to get us to clam up and listen!

Conclusion: Stamati, I love your speakers, I think they are better than just great. Your choice of music, your house are both great and your hospitality is even better. I had a great time and loved the fact that your system has the basis of greatness.

If asked what is missing from this system, I would have to reply with a single word: SYNERGY. My feeling is that the cost of the items you should choose to audition from now on, should not be your guiding light. Look for the power of the SS you have in now – with the lightness of touch of the valves and you will be there – then we can look at that pesky T/T of yours and make those speakers just play forever!


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