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THE METAXAS MARQUIS & SOLITAIRE AMPLIFIER
reviewed by Thanassis Moraitis, SOUND & HI FI magazine Greece
Amplification units come from Australia many, bearing a Greek name and descent only of one company, METAXAS. It does not bear a relation with the well known brandy, although they are essentially the same, finally getting you drunk by their sound.
You can observe them in the pictures. While the preamp follows almost a conservative path in looks, the power amp follows the aesthetic opinion of Kostas Metaxas, with slopes that are better witnessed than described. As it is natural with such a bold approach, they can make either loyal fans or loyal enemies. One thing is sure, it will not go unnoticed. As we think, on a specially constructed rectangular table, for the necessary isolation from vibrations, made from glass and nickel plated frame, probably will show off better.
Passing to the physical description of this pre/power amp and starting from the preamp we face a construction emanating on the outside finesse and quality. The whole chassis is nickel plated and the frontplate of thick enough, black anodised, brushed aluminium. The rotary knobs are of excellent construction quality and very good and smooth operation. The switches that complement the whole are also of excellent quality and very positive feeling. The rotary knobs adjust from right to left the line inputs, the record outputs, the channel balance and the volume control. The other switches adjust, in the same direction, the choice of phono/line inputs, the tape monitor facility, the stereo function (normal and reverse) and the muting. In the faceplate also exist two LEDs that indicate the status of the preamp (AC) and the existence of DC in the output, where the protection circuit intervenes and isolates the outputs. On the inside the preamp is built around a large PCB board that occupies the whole box. Discrete parts are used in all stages, with the use of ICs only in DC Servo circuits. These parts are of excellent quality and up, the potentiometeres being the blue Alps, all resistors are metal film, the polystyrene capacitors at the decouping points of the supply and the output transistors of each stage metal with cooling fins, as they operate in pure class A. The assembly is of excellent quality with some peculiarities, all for good reason. They have to do with the direct (except for a very short length of wire, approximately 1mm) soldering of the RCAs (of excellent quality) in the board (the preamp does not have balanced inputs/outputs, something that I do not even consider as drawback) and, because of that, the horizontal array of inputs/outputs in the back panel (instead of vertical) for the left/right channel.
The power supply is housed in a separate enclosure (box), made of the same nickel plated steel, separate for each channel and comprises for each channel of a torroidal transformer of 150VA and four capacitors of very good quality, specially made for the company, with the value of 4700mF/40V. The voltages then are relayed to the preamp by a good quality cable, with very good quality connectors, of sufficient length, so that the user can place the supply away from the main unit. Inside the main unit we find additional filtering with four more capacitors of 4700mF value. The preamp is designed to be left on continuously, that is why it does not have an on/off switch. I have also to mention that since the preamp operates in class A, it warms up some, so we should not cover the ventilation ducts on top of the preamp.
The power amp is a visually strange "animal" of rectangular shape that unreels in depth, instead of width. The front plate is made in the exact same specs as that of the preamp. In the frontplate also exists the plate with the company logo and the name of the model. Moving to the back we find a massive output transformer (1kVA) with separate windings for each channel, that is shielded in a metal box with damping for vibrations. Further back and inside the low profile chassis exist the bridges (one per channel) that are formed by six diodes, instead of a large one of the conventional approach, per side so that their resistance is lower and be faster. They are followed by two large, of excellent quality capacitors per channel with total value 54,000mF/63V and the appropriate fuses in the supply lines. If one of them is blown, then the protection circuit is activated, a LED lights up in each channel in the back of the unit, warning the user to replace it. The rest of the chassis is occupied of the excellent quality PCB board with the rest of the components. These comprise of the four pairs of plastic output transistors per channel, the NECs A1227 and C2987. The rest of the components are of the same quality as that of the preamp, that is of excellent quality. The poweramp contains a protection circuit and in the feedback a DC Servo circuit.
The cooling fins are satisfactory for the output of the unit and will never "hum" during regular usage, while the RCAs and the output connectors in the back are of excellent quality. The power amp might, sometimes, if connected to a socket bearing a fuse of 10-15A, to "trip it". There is no reason to worry, simply try again, after restoring the fuse, or try a 20A socket.
The Metaxas couple were tested with many and various partnering equipment. Much of this equipment was introduced in the previous issue or appear in this issue. Overall the results achieved were more or less identical (depending on the quality of the partnering equipment), so the description has a general character. We have to point out that the sonic evaluation is for the couple and not for each unit separately. Anyway the cables that most suited them were the Audioquest Diamond x 2 (interconnect) and Kimber 8TC (loudspeaker), while as a source at the end of the sessions the new cd player by Copland was used, first evaluation indicating a special product. Be patient till the next issue. Starting from the performance of dynamics and the ability to drive demanding loads we have to award the Metaxas couple an excellent grade. The poweramp specifically had no difficulty driving loads, even of the B&W 801FS and Analysis type (Greek, Apogee clones). In all other aspects the combination is very relaxed, with excellent plasticity and three dimensional body, excellent descriptive ability of the recording location (especially with the Celestion Kingston) and equally good rendering of the air.
The performance of various frequencies can, in two words, be described as extremely homogeneous. You will not be able to tell them apart in well recorded material, with able three way transducers. Such a composure exists! The bass is very quick with top grade body and attack, not slowing at all. The mids are very descriptive, with very good detail and purity, soft and extremely sweet. The highs are delicate, with excellent body and special plasticity. The stereo image has excellent dimensions and very good "black" character, and by saying this, I mean the "black" space that separates the instruments and makes them sound as separate entities, with lifelike positioning in space, in well recorded material.
The Metaxas duo is not cheap. On the other hand the quality offered, sonically and in the finish of the product, is one of the best that we auditioned in the Gorgiou studio. If there is something that I have to tell apart from their performance is their amazing homogeneity and composure of sound. Those of you that consider purchasing amplification in this price range, you owe to yourself an audition of this specific duo. Listening to them is definitely not a waste of time!