In house for more than a month now stands a gorgeous work of art, the Ikarus integrated amplifier, designed by Kostas Metaxas. Not the best match for my rather big speakers but an amplifier that is bound to make some heads turn with both the looks and the sound capabilities. You will be reading more about this amp soon.
Had the chance to listen to the revamped line of Metaxas amps during Munich’s 2016 High End show and there was one aspect of that demo that puzzled me, the system sounded very well with all recordings but was truly exceptional with certain tracks unknown to me. Turned out those tracks were brainchildren of Metaxas, after all he was and still is a well-known music engineer with some 300 and counting recordings on his palmares.
What stroke me the most was the tonality, you might want to call it “natural sound”. The recordings in fact had one thing in common, they didn’t sound like recordings. Not like today’s recordings anyway. They had this sense of ease and a timbre that one can find on good old vinyl records from the days of past. But all this was coming from a DAC.
The trick was revealed to me later on, Mr. Metaxas still uses a Stellavox reel to reel recorder, for those in the “know” a machine second to none. Kostas went on and modified his particular SM8 model by further simplifying the circuits. Moreover his usual recording setting involves a small number of top notch microphones from Bruel&Kjaer (4033 and later on the 4135) or from Neumann (TLM50 or M150 tube microphones), usually four of them placed in a way that captures primarily the instrument but also some of the room’s acoustic ambience. All this goes to a Stellavox AMI48 mixer and from there uncompressed to a Sony analog to digital converter and then straight to CD. This is among the shortest paths from musician to audiophile ears you can find.
Kostas gave me permission to share with you several of his demo tracks, the same he uses on audio shows, so feel free to download them and listen to some music recorded with the less is more, analog way of doing. A few complete albums are available on iTunes like the fantastic performance by Martin Breeze but for those who really crave the best possible sound Master Tape Sound Lab actually offers 1st generation master tapes!