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Sicily. As this is an audio column, we won't invoke The Godfather; though lovers of crime novels set in Sicily should add Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series to their library. There we'd learn of a Sicilian proverb. All'annigatu, petri di 'ncoddru. Rocks on a drowned man's back. When it rains it pours to English speakers. That's a fitting opener since today's focus are audio firms Audio Point Italia and Angelis Labor, one a new import house, the other a new manufacturing company. For me, it all began with an unexpected e-mail from Placido Pappalardo and Salvatore Giardina. But while we're still in the shadow of Puzo, "the proverbial offer that cannot be refused is said to be Sicilian or better put, its fame is Sicilian but I must say that after being all over the world, after having lived in England from when I was 9 months old until I was nearly 20 (my father worked in the Italian consulate there while I went through all my schooling and the first years of university), the truth is there are more offers that cannot be refused in the rest of the world than in Sicily. But it is good to keep the fame anyway. Sometimes it helps!" But this comment came later. Let's start at the beginning.

"Please excuse me if I allow myself to send this e-mail directly without ever having been presented to you. My name is Placido Pappalardo and together with my cousin Mr. Salvatore Giardina we have founded a new import company for very high-end electronics and speakers in January of this year 2008. We live in Sicily/Italy and our warehouse and offices are in the town of Aci Castello near Catania. In the month of April we took over an existing company (acquired 51%) called Suono e Communicazione which has 18 years of experience in the Italian and European markets. Suono e Communicazione (SC) has always looked after distribution and has about 40 trustworthy shops throughout the country. Five of these are exclusively dedicated to very high-end products. SC is still the exclusive Italian distributor for Naim, Bosendorfer, Klimo, Rega and other well-known brands. SC will look after the distribution of brands we have obtained since then as exclusive for the Italian market - Zanden, Cessaro Horn Acoustics, WHT high-efficiency loudspeakers, PSC Pure Silver Cables, Leben Electronics, Gemme Audio loudspeakers, Living Voice, Bel Canto and others. Our site is still to be completed but most of the above brands are already listed here and can also be seen here.

"My cousin Salvatore and I have a great passion for music. I just love listening to it in the most natural way possible while Salvatore loves listening to music too but is an electronics engineer who studies keenly how music is reproduced. We come from completely different kinds of business backgrounds. Salvatore has a very big electronics company that manufactures whole plants for motorways, hospitals, supermarkets and is deep into the photovoltaic business too. I come from the airline business where I was managing director for Alitalia Airlines in Catania. After 35 years, I retired two years ago. Since then I took on the franchise for Europcar Car Hire for the town of Catania (600.000 inhabitants). I must admit that both of our ventures run quite successfully.

"At the end of last year we decided to invest a good amount of money into an import business for our passion of high-end audio. Our principal aim is to try and change the way the market is headed. We are completely against Internet sales, we are against direct sales to the consumer and we are trying to bring people back into the shops. Hifi and High-End have nearly lost all buyers because people just go on buying the wrong things. They have no one to consult, no one who addresses them nor any after-sales assistance. We know this is a very difficult issue but other than trying to address this, we are also trying to achieve another very important thing - selling our import products only through the dealers' shops at the same price they sell for in their home country.

"This policy will lower the profits very much but it is very important to return trust to the customer. Zanden, Cessaro and our other brands are all very keen on our policy and I must say they are giving us a very big support. Zanden for example has finally drawn up a European price list that must be respected by all their distributors. Ditto for Cessaro. They have also limited the influence of each distributor in their territory, which means we will not sell to a French or British resident if they call on one of our dealers. They will be invited to call on their local distributor instead. Something is moving in this way and we know that if we achieve our goal, the clients will find the pleasure of being addressed and consulted in their choice of electronics. But the most important thing will be that they can listen to what they buy before buying it!

"After we formed our company, we decided to not start selling anything yet. We have all the goods in our warehouse but nothing will leave until after the Milano Top Audio show next month. We visited the Munich show in April and decided to start distributing only after the official presentation of our company at the Milano Show had concluded. We have taken up two show rooms there, one a 60sq meter hall for Zanden and Cessaro (with other brands on static display), the other a big central hall in the Quark hotel where we will be demonstrating WHT speakers and Angelis Labor electronics. These electronics are designed and manufactured by us in our SC laboratories in Bologna, Italy.

"Angelis Labor are state-of-the-art products that take into consideration only one thing - perfection! They are completely hand-made valve electronics at the edge of the art. The debut of Angelis Electronics through Audio Point Italia will be at the Milano Top Audio Show as well. We will have most of the company owners of our various import brands standing by us - Ralph Krebbs from Cessaro; Yamada-San from Zanden with Eric Pheils; Mark Mozgawa and his wife Liz from WHT Australia; JP Boudreau from Gemme Audio Canada; John Stronczer and Michael McCormick from Bel Canto; and Kevin Scott and his wife Lynn from Living Voice.

"As you may know, Angelis Labor means Angels Laboratory, hence each of our electronics is named after a different angel. For instance, the reference turntable is called Gabriel for the most beautiful of angels in Heaven. Our mono amps are called Iah-hel, the preamplifier is Hariel, the phono stage is Daniel, the 13-inch arm for Gabriel is the Gabriel Arm with the matching Gabriel Pickup. We then have a smaller turntable called Mikael and a reference preamplifier Yoliah and finally our reference mono amps Aladiah. All our electronics use external power supplies. I will give you full technical details as soon as possible but I must sit down with my cousin Salvatore who is the expert and one of the designers on these projects. Our factory in Bologna is closed until Monday August 18th after which I will get all the necessary photos of the electronics to you.

"The Gabriel turntable accommodates up to 4 arms. The Gabriel Arm is made in one of the Ferrari factories in Modena where they construct precision parts in highly technical alloys for their cars. The arm is a very sophisticated achievement of which we are very proud. The Gabriel turntable and arm require absolutely no antiskating and in fact have no provisions for it. The turntable system is composed of three parts - the table and base for one to four arms; the 13-inch arm; and the cartridge. The Gabriel frame consists of two cone sections created by overlapping bronze with aluminium. These sections are joined by an aluminum rod. The first cone supports the turntable bearing, the second the arm and its mount. The assembled unit is quite tall and heavy: over 30 kilos. In terms of appearance, this is one of those analog monuments which catches everyone's eye the first time they see it.

"Having to produce a top-class record player trying to get away from the constraints of traditional construction, we had to devise a completely new suspension system. And it is truly disconcerting. Gabriel is a magnetic suspension record player. The repulsive force is used not merely as a suspension system but also to support the turntable. This does away with the need for the traditional pinion thrust-block ball bearing bathed in oil, which is the fundamental critical part for any traditional record player. In practice, the turntable spindle unit is lifted by the force of the magnets while the centering system consists of self-lubricating brass bearings.

"The 12+12-pin motor is synchronous, constrains the rotational speed to the mains frequency and uses an external power supply unit. This outboard unit has a twin control circuit: the first is based on the constant frequency signal generated by a quartz and amplified by an active solid-state circuit coupled to the motor via output transformer and operating as the speed controller. The second control circuit is passive and regulates the timing between the motor windings, compensating for rotational irregularities and reducing the vibrations created by the running motor. Finally, the motor support with its very heavy base and a series of flexible isolators reduces remaining vibrations further. An equally innovative approach was used for the design and creation of the arm. First, the joint system, as for the record player spindle, is a magnetic suspension system as well. To optimize the performance of the arm, three fundamental areas were focused on: considerable actual length to reduce radial tracking error; reduction of joint friction; and resonance damping."

Idealism. Passion. Financial resources culled from successful careers outside audio. Many audio ventures particularly of the statement kind have begun in that way. The matching proverb -- not Sicilian this time -- is "if you want to make a small fortune in audio, start with a really big one". I look forward to meeting up with Dino and Salvatore at the Milan show and page two of this introduction to their new ventures will post when their factory reopens and Dino can forward the first photos of the first components.