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26 Jan 2008: Giorgos Papaemmanouil

Papaemmanouil-jan-2008-sys

By Max Goodman

First meeting of the year and what a way to kick things off! One of the better recent meetings with a large crowd, great food (Loukia did us all proud again!!!), the pita cutting, did I mention the food, great music (finally a fellow classical / opera fan) and a seriously improved system performance from the last visit.
If you are going to start a meeting's listening session LA BOHEME is the way to do it – even if it is on a CD. George is one of the few club members that is CD only – and wouldn't we all like to know how a decent vinyl rig might sound on this system.

The session

Papaemmanouil-jan-2008-1As it happens that CD player produces as analogue a sound as any I have experienced so maybe the gains wouldn't be that much after all. Of course the choice of recordings would be larger and Barbara Hendricks is good but no Callas!!!
Now the interesting things about this first recording was that it put in my mind that there might be an issue with large orchestra's going all FORTE on us on this system. It seemed that whilst the quieter parts were atmospheric and wondrous as soon as the whole orchestra came in the whole thing went a bit flat. I was worried at the time that this might be a system issue but as it turned out I am fairly convinced the issue was in the recording itself as no other playback during the evening exhibited the same problem.

Audiophile's destination

Papaemmanouil-jan-2008-2 When we later listened to the Radetsky March (Strauss) these problems were not apparent (although this CD had the least analogue sound of the bunch and suffered as a result).

Herein, of course, is a problem for the group. Our test recordings that tend to be used to fully assess a system's performance are on vinyl (Scheherezade / Rimsky-Korsakoffetc.). With only a CD player to hand such tests are not possible and we end up dealing with unknown quality recordings on which to base assessments.
On this basis I therefore really have to discard the normal assessment approach and go more on gut feel.

Overall this is a musical system (source CD permitting). It was never harsh nor strained and coped with relatively arduous classical music with aplomb. There is some question over the performance with Rock as the DOORS appeared to lack energy. Again, we face the problem of the recording – especially with the DOORS where the recording quality was never great. As this was really the only rock recording any conclusion would have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

One major change to the system since the last visit has been the introduction of a large Velodyne Sub-woofer.
Largely – over the course of the evening, this did not make its presence felt. This can be a good thing – seamless integration is always desirable, but here I think the combination of the X-over point (40 Hz) and the music selection meant that most of the time it simply wasn't playing.

When it did come in integration was not seamless. There are a combination of factors at play here which were discussed during the meeting but the positioning is most definitely wrong for music (probably great for HT though).

I think there is a fair amount of play to look forward to in order to get more out of this unit. The possible results are hard to predict – I am working on a "might work" basis right now.

Results

In terms of the sonic aspects of the system the following struck me:
1. The soundstaging is excellent as is the image size. The combination lends to a credible reproduction with excellent spatial localization.
2. The midrange on this system is really wonderful. Voices come across strongly as do most of the single instrument renditions. Midrange integrates well with the tweeter so overall we get a good impression of the sonic landscape.
3. The system is extremely musical, if not particularly pacey. It's a great fit for classical to be sure and therefore ideal for the owner (and me).
4. The bass from the speakers themselves appeared to be fine to my ears. Not quite the lowest registers perhaps but as the demo showed us – of the half a dozen or so titles played the sub only made a fleeting but noticeable appearance in one recording.
With George's music tastes one does have to wonder why the subwoofer was added at all. At some point it was switched off with no apparent deleterious effect on the sound at that time.

I have to say that these Rehdeko speakers are growing on me and that has to be a good indication of the improvement. Certainly with their high sensitivity and 150 watts from the VTL they don't lack for punch.
I am not sure what other changes there have been since my last visit. I recall that the previous conclusion were bass-light – this time not so – even with the sub off, different music perhaps...

What was interesting was the split in opinions over triode mode. I preferred it (75 watts is hardly 300B territory) but others didn't. As ever it is swings and roundabouts with changes. Clarity improved – image size diminished. Me... I'd go for the clarity, even with the reduction of image the system was credible.
So, overall then, a really good listening session and a great meeting. I am not sure about the sub and I would love to hear a vinyl front end but other than that – no suggestions as to improvements from this listener.

George, I promise to come round sometime soon and nail the sub thing. Lots of play ahead... If we get it right, then we will be able to raise the X-over point a bit and you might be able to hear it in more recordings (or sense it rather than hear it – ideally...)

Music Program Highlights

  • LA BOHEME, Puccini, Barbara Hendricks, Jose Carreras.
  • KATHLEEN BATLE, Canston de cuna.
  • TITO PARIS, Live in Lisbon.
  • DOORS, Riders on the Storm.
  • ANASTASIA MOUTSATSOU, Mystika Simadia. (auditioned with both triode and tetrode amplifier's operation)
  • JOHANN STRAUSS, Radetzky March.

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