Tsakiridis Devices Alexander/Artemis - £1,450/£1,450

Variations in performance levels are disappointing

New to us in the UK it may be, but Tsakiridis Devices is a brand with over two decades of history. A family-run outfit from Greece, it makes valve-based audio with the emphasis very much on affordability. Many of the basic themes will be familiar to valve aficionados, including the use of simple circuits with little or no feedback, thus ensuring that the valves’ character is unchecked, for better or worse.

The Artemis power amp comes with a choice of EL34 or KT88 output valves fitted. Small-signal amplification and drive for the output devices are provided by a pair of 12AT7 valves at the front and the simplicity of the circuit is obvious when one looks inside the case. Of the two large transformers, one is for mains, one for output. Two top-mounted toggle switches give options for more or less feedback and for triode or ‘Ultralinear’ (tapped primary) operation.

The Alexander preamp is built into a large case, mostly made of polished stainless steel (as is the Artemis), with a dark plastic front panel. Again, there’s plenty of fresh air inside, the audio circuitry requiring just one valve (E88CC) per channel and a handful of passive components. Five inputs are provided, four on phono connectors and one on XLR, but this last is not in any meaningful sense balanced as one side of the XLR is connected to ground: the same is true of the XLR output. The volume control is motorised for remote controllability and input switching is by relays.

Sound quality

It’s clear that these amps are much more highly characterised than any others in the group and as such it’s no surprise that they divided opinion among our listeners. At best, they sound lifelike and energetic, with good midrange tonality extending up to a clear and sparkling treble. That suits them well to voices and music for smaller ensembles and indeed they play such stuff very convincingly and with a real sense of verve and enjoyment.

What they don’t do quite so well is bass, be it transient (percussion, plucked bass) or sustained (heavy orchestral brass). It’s not so much that the level is curtailed, but there’s rather limited impact and not nearly as much precision as we heard from some others in the group. It all seems rather splashy and approximate, and rhythm – when it depends mostly on the bass, which of course it often does – feels rather sluggish.

Detail is something of a mixed bag, too. Ultimately it is limited, but there’s a saving grace in that such detail as comes through is cleanly presented so the lack is not as keenly felt as it might be. All the same, side-by-side comparison soon enough shows that some of the resolution of, say, the Cyrus and Rotel combinations is missing and familiar recordings seem to lack the occasional little touch here and there.

In fact, we felt that ultimately the variations in performance with dynamic level are the biggest failing of these amps. Quiet music is lovely, but we can’t recommend £2,900-worth of hi-fi just for that!

LIKE: Some very good midrange tonality and energy
DISLIKE: Given noise level raises concerns about quality control
WE SAY: An intriguing departure from the norm, but we’unsure about ultimate detail

DISTRIBUTOR: Ikon Audio Consultants
TELEPHONE: 01473 217853
WEBSITE: tsakiridis-devices.com