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Taking place over the October/November 30-1 weekend in Athen's Classical Imperial Hotel, the Greek HighEnd show 2009 was once again run by the country's Active Press and in the very capable hands of contract show manager Efi Giovanou whose two daughters Nicki and Francesca helped man - er, girl power the reception desk. The Greek High Fidelity magazine was the communication sponsor for the exhibition

The event used to be controlled by another organization whose exhibitor pricing was a lot higher. Under the Active Press stewardship since, standard rooms now demanded €2,000. Bigger rooms such as TruLife Audio occupied were €5,000. No wonder that with the local audio professionals, Mrs. Giovanou enjoys a golden reputation and is much admired. In an amazingly powerful demonstration of support, 58 Greek audio distributors participated. That was eight more than last year, a full 40 more than before Active Press took over. Stin iyá su!

The organizers begin planning for next year's installment as early as February and in open communications with the very people they rely upon to put on the event - the domestic audio importers. Cooperation. Here it's clearly not a hollow concept. The very spirit of cooperation pervaded the show. It was patently tangible in how all the participants interacted with one another. The closest precedent would have been the RMAF show in Denver as I remember it from its early incarnations I attended. Put differently, I haven't had this much fun covering an audio show as I had in Athens in many many years.

The hotel is situated on Karaiskaki Square in a somewhat run-down section of town but its easy access by bus and train plus a plethora of large convention facilities make it the ideal venue for this show.

The eight-storey structure wraps around a covered interior 'court yard' which acts as classy lounge café.

The suspended tree was somewhat surreal but decidedly chic.

The event occupied floors minus 1, 1, 3 and 4 which were accessed by four parallel elevators or three stair cases. Signage was spectacularly efficient as the first flight of steps from the foyer demonstrated. Each floor had its own banner and I counted 8 ball rooms below, 6 very large halls on the 1st floor, 24 rooms on the 3rd and 27 on the 4th. Until one actually saw the sheer density of products and brands represented, one could not fully appreciate just how massive this turnout was for a country of Greece's size with its slumping economy (their stock market crashed in 2001 well before the American-led collapse of the global economy hit everyone last year).

On Friday afternoon, Diyonisius Vervitsiotis and Evagellia Kiosioglou concertized on violin and harp to remind attendees of the real thing while on Saturday, ETYT Ltd.'s KEF exhibit with the giant Muon speakers hosted Greek pianist Vassilis Tsabropolous for a high-energy 2-hour concert. Sunday apparently had two sax players walk the hallways but I left early that day.

If you haven't yet, be sure to acquire a copy of Melos, the Tsabropolous album on ECM with cellist Anja Lechner. It was my favorite disc-overy of 2008 and continues to be spun regularly in Casa Chardonne.

Sitting front-row center just three meters from the concert grand, I will tell you that vigorously played piano gets bloody loud. The difference to audio playback at equivalent levels is that the latter sooner or later shuts down your nervous system while the former does not. Whether that's primarily harmonic distortion or dynamic compression in our electronics and speakers I'm not sure. Still, it's a fact that audio systems cannot duplicate live levels for long before they get unpleasant (unless you're dealing with a solo lute or similar perhaps).

On the subject of great Greek musicians, check out this YouTube serving of Kostas Pavlidis singing "Jastar Amenge Durv". As a Greek Rom, his first official appearance was at the age of 12, his first recorded tracks to be found on the Nikos Kipurgos soundtrack to Menelaos Karamagiolis' movie Rom which was awarded with a prize in the Thessalonica film festival. In 1994 Pavlidis released his first album Ship of the Heart, four years later Spread Your Wings And Fly on FM Records.

Over the last few years, Pavlidis has collaborated with Arleta, Melina Kana, Eleni Tsaligopoulou, Voula Savidi, Lizeta Kalimeri, Petros Dourdoubakis and Petros Tampouris. His Gypsy origins have had a profound affect on his artistic career and today he is the main representative of the Romani music culture of this country - in case you love Gypsy music as much as I do...

Because this was a Greek show, it's only proper that we kick off our report with the country's domestic audio manufacturers. Analysis Audio (planar speakers) and Mythos Audio (dynamic speakers) did not attend but amongst those I recognized—my apologies for unintentional omissions; my not reading Greek was a bit of a handicap—were Audio Spectrum (loudspeakers), Crystal Audio (loudspeakers), Sonus Aeterna (hornspeakers), SPL Audio (speakers and electronics), Tandem (equipment stands), Tune Audio (hornspeakers), TruLife Audio (valve electronics), Tsakiridis Devices (valve electronics) and Ypsilon (hybrid electronics).