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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A trip to Athens' (1/2) or the Endless Quest for Musical Enjoyment

Athens, and cocoon of philosophers and free thinkers, the bridge, the bearing - I'd dare - between Middle East and Europe, culturally, so also musically... but also, and that intrigues me a lot, the New Territory of braveheart audio experimenters music and audio lovers, people attending to symphonic music quite often, not blah-blah guys... but people leaving their own experiences and talking about them.
In my too brief, recent visit to Athens, mostly aimed to finally meet - after years of mails and phone-calls, my dear friend Georges in person, flesh & bones, and, last but not least, to listen to his one-of-a-kind horn system, I had the rare opportunity to enter, red carpet, the Athens' audio community... extremely nice and friendly people, first rate DIYers came from several places to meet, say hello and have a chat.
... and the chatting have been first class, indeed.
The partying involved in meeting at Georges' place was great, pals: surprising the (almost) tuned large system allowed a dozen people crowd to freely have a conversation with music still intelligible and pleasant, not wall paper music... proving that Imay-san of Audio Tekne's fame was SOOOO right, when in an old essay he wrote years ago about music listening at home: "If you feel pain and you can't have a relaxed chat with friends on same sofa, there something wrong in your music system."
The IVIE-IE-30 showed a 78 to 96-98 db peaks from speakers with a noise floor of 53-55db and we had a truly good time, still enjoying music while chatting.
A superb dinner at "da Claudio", an italian restaurant nearby - great food, not tourists stuffs - closed, few hours from my arrival, a memorable day.
The day after... the fine tuning!
Georges allowed and praised for my support and hauling hands and discerning ears, so we sported a very wise approach to improve sound coming from the mighty EMT 927, from Hiraga 20W on 416-8B's large bass baffles with Sony active x-over 24 db/oct. cut-off at 225 hz and Giovanni Riccardi's transformers coupled WE 300B based monoblocks with passive, autoformers based x-overs to RCA 9584 on mid-low, Altec 288-16G on mid-high and Coral H-104 tweeters... I "opened" the speakers, angled a little bit, throwed away absorbing panels which where taming the dipole baffles, raised mid-high horn and used some absorbing panels on floor near mid-low horn mouth which solved a frequency bump visible on IE-30 real-time analyzer... and music flowed like the first day... ONLY BETTER!;-)... much better, and not only my opinion!
More focused, MUCH more natural mid and high and better bass, BUT without any boomyness, with a superb soundstage and details to-die-for.
Yes, quite naive in approach, we mixed IVIE and B&K mike with poetry books;-) to raise horns, waiting for better and sturdier wooden supports, but the results left, both Georges and myself, quite satisfied for a 120 percent cheap fine-tuning session, proving that room placement, that exotic seek for DPoLS' nirvana - i.e. the best sound a room and a speaker and audio combo may reach.
Yes... cables, tweaks and the whole audiophile toys plethora has their weight but taking our time to move around speakers, to find proper volume settings... that's truly important... paramount.
Early that same day afternoon, we met Manolis at his home, where other friends soon enjoyed... and, Holy Shit!!!!
I wasn't prepared to the great, awesome bass horn, about 3 meters high, we had the opportunity to listen to!
Manolis did a great job, designing, measuring, optimizing and building a 40 hz horn using a JBL 15 inchers in a sealed chamber... the whole system is DIY-made, also the El Cheapo DVD/Disk player has been heavily modded... it's still a work in progress, so some inevitable flaws - i.e. - a focus and highs shyness is quite present, BUT the great foundation the bass-horn gives to music is a very solid point to begin with... every record sounded so easy and pleasant and relaxed you could listen to it for hours without pain or listening fatigue.
The grand piano in Manolis' music-room said a lot about his and his wife Masha's love for music and I see and look forward in the very near future a stellar quality music system blossoming from that weird looking audio combo.
... so more chatting... some ouzo on a sea-terrace, and later more listening and chatting again...
The third day, in the morning, we simply, so utterly naturally, had the confirmation of the beautiful, relaxed aequilibrium me and Georges created few hours earlier... also Anne Sophie von Mutter's violin on sometimes clinical Deutsche Gramophone's sounded so nicely we really didn't feel any wish to touch anything... Satori in Athens?
I wish to thanks my Greek friends: Georges for being the gentleman he is, for his exquisite hosting and brotherly friendship, Kostas, George, Manolis, Kostas, Lia, Sofia, Masha, Lorenzo, Dimitris (mo' later...) and all other new friends who joyned us in our music/audio tasting, to the sunny city of Athens and to its beautiful women and fine food and wine.
... some musings, to finish?
"To pedi me to papi" = "Pizza-delivery boys on mopeds" in Athens.

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