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Innovative Audio in New York City Hosts Metaxas and Sins Reel-to-Reel Tape Machine Introduction

11-01-2023 | By Myles B. Astor | Issue 130

It's been a tad over 15 years since The Tape Project set the audiophile world atwitter with the release of their first, soon to be followed by 29 more, real time duped, high speed, 15-ips tapes. And it was love at first listen for oh-so many of us! In that intervening time, the reel-to-reel tape market has exploded with somewhere between 400 to 500 legally licensed, 15-ips tapes now available from the likes of Acoustic Sounds, Yarlung Records, International Phonograph, Inc., 2XHD Fusion, AudioNautes, Opus 3, HyperAnalogue, UltraAnalogue, Horch House and so many more labels! Representing the best of new and reissued recordings!

So why has it taken so long—given the resurgence of interest in reel-to-reel tape among audiophiles—for a new generation of consumer oriented reel-to-reel decks to make a grand appearance? Preeminent among the long list of reasons given include: 1) There weren't enough reel-to-reel titles to make the investment in time, effort and money to design and manufacture a new machine worthwhile; and 2) Most of the people responsible for these incredible pieces of both art and technology took their secrets to the grave. Not unlike the tube manufacturing industry. In fact, I was told that all the people involved in building the Technics machines are sadly gone and they [Technics] would never release another tape machine. Still, being an eternal optimist, I still hold out hope that Technics will someday design and build a new machine based on their proven transport and all new modern electronics.

Yet in the face of these seemingly overwhelming odds, several new companies have thrown their hats in the round reel ring and begun building for the first time since the 1980s an entirely new generation of reel-to-reel tape machines. Besides their sonic attributes (remember these new reel-to-reel tape machines pay particular attention to the playback circuit and quality of parts, heads, etc), these new turnkey machines are perfect for audiophiles who simply desire a plug and play, no muss, no fuss, option. New machines that don't require an extensive and expensive monetary investment for repairs, reconditioning, recapping, replacing worn heads (and alignment) and other things. Not to mention comes with a warranty. Truth be told, buyers simply don't know what they are getting (and there are plenty of horror stories from those who bought used machines off eBay) when purchasing a used tape unless buying from a reputable source. It's as they say a giant crapshoot unless you can work on the tape machine yourself.

The four overseas companies that have taken up the challenge include Ballfinger, Thorens (apparently a limited edition), Analog Audio Design and the subject here, Metaxas and Sins. The Kostas Metaxas designed Tourbillon T-RX introduced at Innovative Audio by US and Canada importer Jeff Garshon of reel sound distribution is the company's entry level reel-to-reel machine. Kostas Metaxas is, for those unfamiliar with the name, a longtime high-end audio designer and manufacturer with a line of electronics and electrostatic speakers to his name. Kostas is also an avid recording engineer and produced over 300 recordings on tape (I purchased eight of Kostas' original master tapes now ten or fifteen years ago) and an ardent fan of the Stellavox SM8 and TD9 tape machines.

It's no surprise, then, that George Quellet's legendary Swiss-made Stellavox tape machines are the inspiration for the Metaxas and Sins Tourbillon T-RX reel-to-reel tape machine. Chief among designer Metaxas' goals was according to Jeff Garshon, "designing a machine that improved upon the Stellavox's electronics not mechanicals" and was, "an heirloom piece and work of art." Something that, Jeff Garshon added, "the owner would be proud to hang onto for life, not sell or trade in after a year or two." In short, he continued, "visually impressive." Those into horology and watches (that abounds among audiophiles, too) will appreciate that the Metaxas' machine name of the machine derives from mechanics of a watch lever escapement that increases accuracy. That necessitated in part the use of high speed, low torque motors that tape decks require. Built in Holland, the Metaxas and Sins Analog Tape Reproducer is according to Kostas, "the first tape recorder to use same concept to absolutely regulate the speed of the tape through the use of an ARM-CORTEX 'controller' which synchronizes the 4 Swiss-built Maxon motors (two reel motors and two capstan motors) with the two linear ACTUONIX motors which control the 'Dual-Capstan' roller and a fully retractable bar." Whew. Kostas also experimented with heads from several manufacturers before opting for the Italian made Photovox heads. There are no op-amps in the playback circuit path and the electronics use 100% discrete transistors. A six-key keyboard controls the machine operation including Rewind, Fast Forward, Stop, Play, Test and Record. The unit handles 7½, 15 and 30 ips/¼-inch tapes and doesn't like the original Stellavox (and Nagra IVs) require extenders to play 10-inch reels. Finally, the Tourbillon TR-X machine was topped off with the RX Reel carbon fiber reels made in Seattle, WA. Everything here seems well thought out and easy to use. Perhaps the only thing missing from the package is a copy of one of Kostas' recordings!

The Metaxas Tourbillon TR-X was accompanied by a cool million dollar system consisting of Dan D'Agostino Master Audio System electronics including the monstrous 320 pounds per side Relentless 800 monoblock amplifiers and the three chassis Relentless preamplifier along with Wilson Audio Chronosonic XVX speakers. Everything was wired with Transparent Opus cabling save for between the tape deck and preamplifier where Jeff used Metaxas' own custom designed interconnect cables. A little trivia here. The Relentless 800s deliver 800-watts into 8 ohms and when plugged into 220V AC line can double down to 2 ohms. Yes, that's a whopping 3200 watts! Look out Crown! Look out Grateful Dead!

Jeff, who brings many years of experience as a musician, producer and music collector to the table, brought several tapes to demonstrate the Tourbillon including two reels from none other than Kostas Metaxas plus a sampler reel provided by a member of the recording industry with tracks from Steely Dan, Elton John, Billy Joel and Michael Jackson, among other artists. Oh, I couldn't help myself and brought a tape from my collection that everyone would know and love. How's Muddy Water's Folk Singer?

Last but not least, the sound was everything that everyone has come to expect from a top flight reel-to-reel tape machine! Big, bold, spacious and super resolving! The Folk Singer tape, in particular, stood out with its unfettered dynamics, low level resolution and overall ease of presentation! Three of the areas where the 15-ips Folk Singer tape trumps the sound of the many LP reissues, be they of the Classic Records or Analogue Productions, 33 or 45 rpm persuasion! All the beauty of a simply recorded blues recordings.

Special thanks go out to long time Innovative Audio proprietor Elliot Fishkin for graciously agreeing to host this special event as well as providing amazing lunch feast catered by as I later found out by Liebmans, one of my all-time favorite and last of those real (not reel) New Yawk Jewish delis located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. I am, having lived in Riverdale for 23 years, intimately acquainted with that Riverdale landmark's pastrami and brisket sandwiches, potted chicken not to mention to die for matzoh ball soup!

Finally, some great news for audiophiles interested in auditioning the Metaxas tape machines. Or simply interested in hearing what all the hoopla is about reel-to-reel tape. Jeff and Kostas are planning on attending and displaying at both the Florida Audio Expo and AXPONA audio shows where they'll have the Metaxas tape machines on display. If all goes according to plan, show goers will also have a chance to hear Kostas' latest electrostatic speaker design.

US Metaxas Distributor: Jeff Garshon

reel sound distribution


Price: $49,000 with outboard power supply and take up reel

Record option: add $8000

Stand option: Add $8000