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19 Nov 2006: Apostolos Raptis

Raptis-Nov-2006-pic-sys

Introduction

This is the first A.C.A. meeting I have attended on a Sunday morning. As far as I know, it might well be the first ever – but only the President knows for sure.

It appears the timing did affect the turnout somewhat – and this is most unfortunate as Apostolos treated us to quite an audio extravaganza of both high end equipment and high tech solutions encasing a simply glorious sound.

First order of business is to thank both Apostolos and his family for their magnificent hospitality. Second order – to apologize for any strife we might have caused / may yet cause due to the addition of the suggestions section of the meeting. Many a wild and wonderful plan was hatched to further enhance the sonic backdrop – heaven knows the battleground we have left in our wake...

And so, back on to the business of the meeting, the system and the music, although hopefully not really in that order. Let us, at least pretend, it is still all about the music.
The System

Raptis-Nov-2006-pic-1High end is the description that immediately springs to mind. Everything from the speakers themselves (Martin Logan's) to the Amps (Audio Research mono-blocks) to the stands and cabling were of the highest quality. Capping it all (for this listener) a turntable of the gods – the Goldmund complete with their reference Linear Tracking arm.

I don't think we need to cover all the items in full detail – they are available on Apostolos' page on the site. I will mention, however, the remarkable digital source which was actually a full computer with a built in 7 inch touch screen, Windows XP (at a guess) and a DVD / CD player. Hard to know, ultimately, how good sonically this unit is as the system would make an MP3 player sound good – but there was certainly a difference between it and the analogue – as there should be.

The Sound

Basically, every thing you would expect from such a system and maybe a bit more. Congratulations are due to Apostolos for his achievement in matching the disparate elements into a complete sound.

Soundstage width and depth admirable, bass extension remarkable in such a cavernous room (helped in no small part by the sub-woofer) mids and highs as wondrous as one would expect panels to produce.

I think we need to add, at this point, that whilst this review is of a 2 channel system it is in fact merely a part of an entire home cinema setup – complete with projectors, screens, surround sound speakers, centre channels and a plethora of high quality amps to drive the sound.

In other words this is a superb 2 channel system that has (presumably successfully – although we never tried the home cinema aspect) merged both functions into a single installation.

I don't want to over-state this – but I have never seen this feat accomplished with such aplomb. Of course – the home cinema may be dreadful for all I know (I just don't think it will be somehow.)

Was it perfect? No. Can any system be perfect? Not in my experience to date. Flaws? Yes – but none in relation to the system itself - one a simple issue of physics and the other of physical space.

Raptis-Nov-2006-pic-2Now I should state, for the record if nothing else, that the above described sound applies to the system AFTER the minor changes wrought by Christos Simopoulos. The simple expedient of moving the speakers slightly nearer together and the left hand speaker out of the 'corner of death' made all the difference in the world. It was good before these adjustments but it was brilliant afterwards!

We played everything from Opera to Jazz, from Callas to Dire Straits and from CD to 200 gram vinyl. I think it telling that by the time I left (after 6 hours listening) there were still over half the members still present.

The flaws

Now I mentioned that there were flaws – one of which has already been explained. It seems that the compromise of merging home cinema and the stereo meant that the speaker had to be shoved into a ill-suited corner (and directly in front of the sub woofer) to make space for the projector.

Should Apostolos decide to implement a change to his rack – replacing it with a lower version – then the screen can be shifted to the right and the speaker can climb out of that terminal corner.

This will fix one of the flaws.

The second flaw cannot be fixed – in my opinion. Simply put – huge room, panel speakers. You cannot quite get the volume the music demands and the SPL's it deserves. I lost count of how many times we had to lower the volume as the right speaker pinged its distress at us.

Of course a possible solution is to not have a listener present who owns a pair of Westminsters and a penchant for parting a listener's hair with innumerable acoustic watts...

To be serious for a moment – there is simply no way of getting that panel airy sound and depth along with the horn loaded volume some of us love, in the same package. With this in mind can we call this a criticism?

It is harsh to do so – but even for those of us with less space consuming speakers than the mighty Westminsters there were too many times that the volume was left wanting.

For a small group (maybe of one), late at night with the family asleep this problem might never arise – but oh the devil in the volume dial that begs so sweetly to traverse the clock face. Most of us mere mortals could not resist.

Music Program Highlights

  • Dire Straits 'Brother in arms' (Warner Bros records 25264)
  • Dead can dance 'Into the Labyrinth' (DAD 3013)
  • Eillen Ferrel 'sings torch songs' (Ref. Rec. RR-34)
  • The Best of L. Armstrong (AFSD 6132)
  • Gregorio Paniagua 'La Folia' (Harmonia Mundi HM 1050)
  • Garry Carr 'Adagio d' Albinoni' (Super Analogue KIJC 9125)
  • Prokofiev 'Romeo and Juliet - Excerpts' (Los Angeles PO/Leinsdorf, Sheffield Lab-8)

System Description

  • M. Logan CLSIIz + active sub REL 'Stendor' speakers, driven by 2 x Audio Research VT150 monoblocks and Audio Research SP10 (+phono) preamplifier
  • Analogue source: Goldmund Studio t/t and a VdH grasshopper IISE cartridge on the Goldmund T3 arm.
  • Digital source: Re-wired Home Theater PC with touch screen 7".
  • Wiring: Siltech SQ 88 BG3 & Mena silver (HTPC to pre) for interconnects and Siltech LS180 G3 for speaker cables.
  • Power cables/Electr. install.: Various cables but not special installation.

Summary

As delightful a system as I could not live with. Oh, it would get me though every night for the next 20 years – but even I crave a little volume once and again.

Of course – we replace the rears with a pair of Horn loaded speakers, scrap the home cinema and use one of the spare amps to drive them. Face the window for the gentle pleasure of panels – face the rear wall to sonically restyle the coif... hmm... I might be onto something.

Congratulations Apostolos – a damn nice system.

By Max Goodman

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