Metaxas & Sins: the Ferrari of audio

Metaxas & Sins: the Ferrari of audio


Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine

Kostas has graciously provided us with a wide selection of free music from his self-produced recordings—in stellar sound. Available at the bottom of this page.

Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine

If there’s a specialist audio company that better exemplifies the meeting point between high end audio performance and objet d’art aesthetic than Netherlands-based Metaxas & Sins, I don’t know about it. And if you’re inclined to think based on the fantastical designs of its products that Metaxas is a “style over substance” enterprise or that the man behind the company, Kostas Metaxas, isn’t really into sound reproduction, I say banish those thoughts. After my lengthy interview with the man, I can attest without reservation that Kostas is an audio enthusiast through and through, with a keen interest in advancing the state-of-art in playback. Throughout the years, Kostas’s products have earned accolades from the audio press, most recently from The Absolute Sound, whose Jonathan Valin was so impressed by the company’s Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine that he bought it.

And all of it is thanks to the fact that Kostas didn’t get his way, not at the beginning. An Australian of Greek heritage, in his youth Kostas envisioned a career in laser eye surgery, which took him from down under to West Germany, as that part of Germany was then known, to pursue medical sciences at university. Luckily for him and us, his passion for audio intervened. A builder of his own audio equipment since his teens, Kostas had brought his own audio equipment with him on his voyage to Europe, which he ended up playing for some of his colleagues’ audiophile dads. They were impressed, word got out, which resulted in a German audio shop ordering a batch of his handmade wares for resale. Thus began Kostas’ audio business.

Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine
the Phonographic Perambulator turntable

But Kostas was never just an audio guy. He was also interested in the cutting-edge of fashion, into which he diversified professionally, and applied what he learned in that industry to his audio business. “Being with all these crazy people involved in the ultra beautiful jewellery and fashion world,” he said. “Is what opened my mind to the possibilities for hi-fi, which had never been taken as seriously in a  luxury sense as, say, the watch or car industries. So for me, it was important to understand how this aspect could make my work more interesting and stand out.” When I asked if that meant his designs were a sort of retort to what he saw as the ugliness of purist audio gear, he took a moment to search his words and said: “I don’t think it was the ugliness. But I don’t think a component has to look like a box either. That said, back when I first started in audio in the 80s, what differentiated my products from others was the sound. That was the linchpin. At the end of the day, if a component doesn’t sound good, no matter what it looks like—it can be gorgeous—no one’s going to get excited, because it’s the emotional thing that drives high-end hi-fi. So that was my calling. And what I found, in the early 80s, was that I needed a better source to be able to design my products around. At the time, we had turntables—the Linn Sondek and Sotas—but they weren’t anywhere near the quality of a turntable today. It wasn’t until a friend of mine introduced me to Stellavox reel-to-reel tape recorders that I felt closer to the sound of the actual concert.”

Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine, Metaxas & Sins Papillon Reel-to-Reel Tape Machine
the Papillon reel-to-reel tape machine

Reel-to-reel tape machines figure prominently in Kostas’ audio life. Old as their underlying technology may be, he considers them, like many other serious listeners, the ultimate source for sound reproduction, but also for recording concerts, his biggest passion. His company sells an assortment of tape recordings of performances he’s recorded over the years.

Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine, Kostas Metaxas and his Emperor electrostatic speakersspeakers
a tied-up Kostas with his Emperor electrostatic speakers
Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine

“The first concert I recorded was at a kid’s school. I just popped the tape recorder on to a desk, put two mikes up, and I sent copies of that recording to friends who said it sounded like Mercury’s Robert Fine (laughs) and I hadn’t done anything other than pop this thing on a desk and record a kid’s concert. Luckily, the pianist was unbelievable because, obviously, he was the teacher. So that was my starting point with recordings and the recording process and that informed everything since.”

But why go through the expense of building and selling state-of-the-art tape machines in the digital era? “I didn’t plan on it. I built one for myself to help me develop my products and record concerts, and people became interested. You know, if we want to have great recordings for the next hundred years, we have to make them. Unfortunately, a lot of the recording stuff out there isn’t good enough. I’m hoping to stimulate that again. And that’s where the tape recorder comes into its own, because not only is it something that sounds great in your system, you can actually walk out your front door with it and a pair of microphones and record something yourself. The whole point of all this is to be able to do more recordings.”

Like everything else Kostas builds, his reel-to-reel machines are visually striking. Said Kostas: “Where the point came in terms of coming up with the totally unique look of my products was after I’d done a lot of soul searching, because I was about to launch new products, and as you know hi-fi is a bit like fashion, you’ve got to have a new collection every so often otherwise people get bored. At the time, I was working in design at Osteo Dupont in Paris and L’Epée clocks in Switzerland and I got into using all this new 3-D software and I thought “Why can’t we do things that are more interesting in audio?” But the actual idea for what then transformed into the collection you’re seeing today came from a chaise lounge I was doing for an Italian company. That was the hardest part, to come up with that germ of an idea.”

Metaxas & Sins's Sirens speakers, Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine
the Siren speaker, carved from a block of solid aluminum (or titanium)

When did Kostas realize he was an audiophile? “I was about 14—this was in the ’70s—and I bought a pair of Quad electrostatic speakers. That speaker was unbelievable. I was able to listen to recordings on my turntable that I’d built for myself and through the Quads you had this real sense of window to sound. In other words, there was a believability to the sound which made me realize that the system can disappear. When I got a glimpse of that, I started to realize that nothing is impossible. You chase this illusion of something in front of you that has nothing to do really with electromechanics but that gives an emotional connection like you feel at a concert. The important thing is to try to replicate what music is supposed to sound like in space, but even more important is to be able to grab the emotion of the performance, which is basically the guts of what I’ve been trying to do.”

Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine
Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine

People may be surprised to learn that Metaxas & Sins’ workforce consists of only three people: Kostas and his two sons, artist / designer Alessandros and engineer / designer Andreas, both of whom Kostas describes as smarter than him and who will be heir to the business in a modern way. Each son is involved in a different aspect of the manufacturing process, with Alessandros on circuit boards, and Andreas on programming and firmware.

Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine
Metaxas Marquis headphone amplifier, Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine
skull-shaped Marquis heaphone amplifiers
Metaxas Marquis headphone amplifier, Phonographic Perambulator turntable, Metaxas & Sins, Tourbillon reel-to-reel tape machine, siren loudspeaker, audio, audiophile, high-end, hi-fi, PMA Magazine

I asked Kostas—a self-taught electrical engineer with no formal education in the field—if he did all of the design work of his products. “Yes. The only thing I don’t do is the CNC machining, which I outsource to a company in Holland and one in Germany, and the computer programming in the products, which my son does.” The looks of the products? “That’s 100% me. It really is sculpture. I look at these things as objects of art. I hope all my objects, in 100 years from now, will be collectible for their sound and appearance. That’s a big dream of mine.”

Of the components he’s made, does he have a favorite? “I think that when you’re a creative crazy guy, your favorite is always the latest one you’re doing. So right now that would be the Papillon tape recorder. But I’m oscillating between the Papillon and my electrostatic headphones, because that’s been another journey. Because again, what I found when I started looking into electrostatic headphones is that everyone assumes it’s all been done, and it’s not (laughs). It’s like the reel-to-reel tape recorders, where no one bothered to say, well, hold on a second, what if we take it all the way, go crazy. You have to go Star Trek. You have to go to another dimension, because there’s just so much out there, that if you don’t go to that other dimension, you’re going to get lost in the noise.”

So where does Kostas see Metaxas and Sins going forward? “We are a luxury brand. We want to be the Ferrari, the Lamborghini, of hi-fi. Meaning , we want to do crazy. We want to do limited editions. And we want to have fun.” 

KOSTAS’ CONCERT RECORDINGS DROPBOX:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/g4y6jmdox25d1m8/AAA7BOK5gLYu6yE3A4sRiAN0a?dl=0

Concert Videos:

https://exero.com/masterclasse_Library/concert_jazz.html

2024 PMA Magazine. All rights reserved.


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