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18 Feb 2012: George Kopsaftopoulos

Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-system

By Tony Pothitos

ACAvision (As one might say Eurovision)

Preface

I know Kops for over a decade it seems, he was still a bachelor, as I was, and spent every dime and minute he had on music and machine. His passion for Hi-End was nothing though compared to his passion for music, and this was what made him so special amongst us.

Most ACA members are machine-music oriented, meaning that they will listen to the music if the equipment is up to the job, otherwise, they probably won’t. Kops was the opposite and it was a fresh view for us mechanical freaks of nature.

Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-system2Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-system2aKotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-system3Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-Viva-amplifier

I remember first going to his home where cables for his stereo outnumbered the wires in the entire building he resided in and the entire house was filled with music, or articles about music. He had a pair of Sonus Fabor speakers which were as sweet as the finest Alabama sweet corn and as musical as a romantic rainstorm orchestrating the bible, rather than writing it.

He hated bass, and he hated what I stood for. I was a hard core bass man, my car was a driving stereo rather than a vehicle then and my system made peoples bones rattle. Female listeners did admire the buzz of the chair though!!

So to make a long story short, I loved his music, but hated the way he listened to it. I figured he was a tight ass righteous snob and he thought I was from the Bronx.
So, after a decade what do you think happened when I got a glimpse and some time with his system?

Read on and see for yourselves.

The full story...

The night’s listening session began with Hatzidakis. For those of you who do not know the song, Another Market, I suggest you give it a listen and see for yourselves what expressionism means with notes. It actually pulls an era, or movement of an entire world within one piece of music. The specific piece though is so charismatic that it can be heard on a one dollar Chinese radio with a problematic battery!

Tonight we were lucky enough to hear it at its best and when I say best, I honestly do not know how it could have been better. Sure it could have had a larger image, superior staging and bass, but with the price to sound ratio we are talking about here, I sincerely doubt it.

The dCS Debussy (DAC), with its latest revision was riveting, and grasped everyone’s attention, while the Hansen Audio speakers, specifically, the Knight, simply put speakers two to three times the size and money to shame. The strokes of the violins were simply luscious and so correct it could mesmerize any high end music lover within seconds. The synchronized beat of the music had our heads and feet bobbing and moving to the rhythm before we knew it, and it was the best way to start an evening of listening.

The host had explained to us upon our entrance that we would be touring the world tonight with his music, and I at least was very curious to see what could possibly top the first song he put for us.

Le Trio Joubran was then put in the BMC transport, and we travelled via the wind instruments and dancing notes to yet further destinations totally unexpected to the previous song played. For some reason despite the entire fathom and eras of psychology, the two songs had a continuation which enticed the listener to never be aware of his travel, but be united with the music despite the completely different character each song had. This was done by keeping the timing of the music the same, so even when changing melodies, the three quarters beat was kept and the travel from one type of music to another seemed desirably enviable. The host had taken time and effort to think things through and it paid off.

I would like to point out here that the specific piece of music, although 4.41 minutes in length seemed to be close to 2 minutes long and by the time it was over most of us wanted more!

The music was beyond the speakers, and by closing your eyes your focus was your soul rather than the system. That is something that people cannot buy at any amount of money.

High End music is not about just listening to music as if it was live. High end music appreciation is the honor to experience what the creator of the music was thinking and emotionally feeling while playing the piece. This is in fact priceless. So the next time you hear high end, don’t think about the price alone.

The experience to travel throughout the world in one night is possible with a plane. Nothing though can transport you to your soul without moving an inch. Drugs included! Or so I thought.

Next up we had Dhafer Youssef-Electric Sufi being more specific, and it was simply sublime. It had the effect of a shot of the best Tequila in the world and was staggeringly mind blowing music. Here the vocals were so realistic and inspiring that few people in the room could not help but be drowned with emotions of higher meaning. I rarely get to feel lucky enough to be alive, but this musician on this system simply was one of those rare moments indeed.

Despite the differences people claim all religions have, one common element holds them together. If I had a choice to pick one, I would pick music, and this is the finest example of what I mean. The stereo was invisible to the eyes, if for no other reason than the pure fact that our eyes were closed most of the time while listening, and the sensation that we had transpired into a different realm or domain of life for the night.

The Arabic music which was played for us next, by Renaud Garcia Fons-La Linea del Sur shows its influence from Syria, but with a pizzazz which makes it so special in a form of world jazz. Sure, New York or Paris might be the scene for the strict jazz enthusiast but Fons does it all so well, as to be compared with equal promise and envy with anyone in today’s jazz scene.

The system at hand tonight albeit small in footprint, and an amplifier way too small for the sensitivity of these speakers was a goliath in emphases when it came to jazz, and if you are a jazz, blues man as I am, you just had to be there to experience the elevation in spirit this system has on you. We had travelled almost half way around the world, and song after song I thought it couldn’t get better but it did.

Or did it?

The Anne Sophie Mutter album "Carmain Fantasie" -D.G was then placed for audition and to most of the ACA members in the room, we felt that classical music was not the forte of this system at all. It seemed the Achilles heel was found and things were not as beautiful and musical as they should be. I was despaired and distraught with the sound and I sincerely needed to stop listening as the piano seemed distant and the orchestra sounded so digital it was as if another stereo was placed in front of us.

And then it came to me. It must be the medium used, I said to the person sitting next to me, and while he nodded I looked around and saw the same question on the listeners faces. Is something wrong?

Well to our dismay, there was nothing wrong with the system, and I say that fully understanding that I wish it was the system so I could have something negative to say about it, but it wasn’t. I know that because later on we heard a much more complete and sophisticated piece of classical which endeared a stereo from heaven to reproduce it, and it did so with flying colors. So it was all down to the medium. So be aware. What you put in the BMC transport is what you are going to get.

Then our travels went to North America and what more representative than Yellow, with there new Touch album. A fancy throw of fast beats with rhythm to top it off. We had gotten into the four quarter timing and things were warming up. The bass came alive and the deep voice threatened the room with speed turning chords being played. I was deeply infused with a beautiful high which kept my foot tapping and my body feeling it was 18 again. If you haven’t figured it out yet. I was impressed! I never thought a bulb with 22 or 24 watts playing an 87 dB sensitive speaker could ever do this. Seriously! This was either magic or someone was hiding another amplifier somewhere.

The next song I had first heard from Connie Francis, Once to every heart, but had forgotten that Murphy’s version.

This song is evidence that albums which are wasting away, can and are worth retrieving and keeping alive. The smooth voice and passion could not have been more true. Anyone can play a note, but if you do not feel passion you cannot reproduce it, either in life or in a song and in this case it was evident that Murphy was nothing but HEART.

Song eight was "Can't we be friends" from E. Fitzgerald & L. Armstrong, "Ella and Louis" - Verve. This is where I expected a complete fall of the system since I have heard it close to 100 times in the past 12 months and I consider myself fully qualified to attest to a stereo’s incapability’s or not in how it reproduces it. I never expected the depth and width of Armstrong’s voice to be heard from such a small speaker and I still do not believe the staging and 3 dimensionality it had. The bass is inclusive in this statement as well. At the end of the song I wasn’t sure if I should start clapping or not.

That is how good it was. If that was not enough, La Vie En Rose was next and the sublime just continued.

What a song. I mean, what a song! How many songs can you have as an epic to an era to Paris. “....And when you speak Angels sing from above, Everyday words seem to turn into love songs, Give your heart and soul to me and life will always be LA VIE EN ROSE” will always leave an imprint on my innermost memories in life. The trumpet on this song is known throughout the entire world, from the Congo to Athens, and from New York to Tokyo this song is played with one thing in mind, and this system just laid it out for us to hear, plain and simple. If you do not remember the song, look it up on youtube and you will instantly remember the moments of your life when you heard it, and if not, you will remember when you soon will. Just an encompassing sound with “this reproductive system”, as an M.D might use but in a different context.

Second to last we visited Carnegie Hall, where Harry Belafonte was with us tonight offering his best for a very very thankful crowd. This is where I am going to stop though and focus on what was the last piece for the evening.

Anton Bruckner - Symphony No.9 was not played as usual in D Minor from Opus, but in Scherzo by a Telarc recordins. A blissful flowering symphony which by itself is difficult to play, imagine reproducing, so a feat was completed with the final test being the most difficult of all, revealing every weakness the system could and would have had, and it did.

It proved one thing beyond a doubt. Something which I never mentioned before since I never cared to because it was not vital to, until now.

The room which we were listening in was a basement which couldn’t handle the symphonies bolts of bass and high sound pressure levels, nor could the room handle the amount of people in it. I was until then ignorant of the fact that we were so many people listening downstairs. I was in my own world for the evening until then, but in the end the only problem I saw and faced with the sound in mind was the room we were in.

This system needs a home. The speakers can only trick you if you look at them, the VivA Solista mk3 integrated amp is beautiful, but don’t let that fool you. If this system was a human being, it would have a black belt in Karate a PhD in psychology, a dance degree and last but not least a magician to boot!

P.s Great night indeed George. Thank you for your wonderful choice of music and taste in system for the evening. I cannot end this five page review though without revealing my personal respect for Antonis, who is George’s partner and who is one of the hardest working lovers of high end in Greece. The store in question might be called Stepcom-UltraAudio, but as of tonight I call it something different.

Insatiable musical drives! You simply can’t get enough.

The Music

  • Μ. Hadjidakis album "The Other Marketplace"
  • Le Trio Joubran album "As Far"
  • D. Youssef album "Electric Sufi"
  • R.G. Fons album "La Linea del Sur"
  • Anne Sophie Mutter album "Carmain Fantasie"
  • Yello album "Touch"
  • M. Murphy album "Once at every heart"
  • E. Fitzgerald & L. Armstrong album "Ella and Louis"
  • L. Armstrong "La Vie En Rose"
  • H. Belafonte album "At Carnegie Hall"
  • Anton Bruckner - Symphony No.9 / Scherzo

The System

  • Speakers: Hansen Audio, The Knight
  • Integrated Amplifier: Viva audio, Solista MK3
  • CD Transport: BMC Audio, BDCD 1 (belt driven w/flyweel)
  • DAC : dCS Debussy (latest 2011 revision)
  • Interconnects & speaker cables: Jorma Design Unity
  • Digital cable: Jorma Design Digital
  • Power cords: Jorma Design Origo and zenSati #3
  • Rack: DIY

Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-01Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-02Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-03Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-04Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-05Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-06Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-07Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-08Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-09Kotsaftopoulos-Feb-2012-pic-10

  • Kotsaftopoulos Meeting 18-2-2012 Video 01
  • Kotsaftopoulos Meeting 18-2-2012 Video 02
  • Kotsaftopoulos Meeting 18-2-2012 Video 03

George Kopsaftopoulos' Member Page

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