Nothing on TV? Watch a DVD with HiFi quality sound using the T+A K2Blu Blue Ray DVD and CD player with FM and AM Radio for complete entertainment. This unit will power five speakers (4ohm) with it’s 150w amplifier.
Combined with our AudioPro T60 speakers, the sound was amazing and added to the realism of the film.
Arriving soon is a second generation the CS Port audio turntable, the TAT2.
This model incorporates the same fundamental design ideas of the LFT1 top of the range model in a one piece design. Price is £25’000 including the air pump. The linear tracking arm AFU1-2 is priced at £11’500
A conventional tone arm can be added in conjunction if required.
Turn Table Unit floating in the air
Finally TAT2 appears with high stable and very quiet performance as the second line. By surely inheriting the flagship DNA, TAT2 creates rotation with much less fluctuation by the compact design and integrated unit. The granite base weight is 19kgs, The stainless platter is 17kgs and the stabilizer is 2kgs. In order to eliminate servo noise into the audio band, TAT2 is equipped with the open control motor. Also TAT2 is able to keep away from any kind of vibration and noise. It certainly can follows only the groove on vinyl.
Super heavyweight turntable
In order to suppress micro vibration from the floor,19 kgs granite turntable base is equipped.Also 17kgs stainless platter is lifted by air bearing and rotates very stably and quietly. The platter is only loaded by a few hundred grams in the lateral direction by the yarn belt to support the rotation.
Non-servo motor drive
Noise of servo control motor may come into the audio band. TAT2 does not function with the rotation control. The open control motor just supports the high moment of inertia of the platter to eliminate micro vibration. In addition, the yarn drive does not transmit the vibration of the motor. This yarn Kevlar (four-net aramid fiber) that is has much less elongation and is harder to break than iron to drive the platter reliably.
2-arm installation available
The base plate specified for the customer’s arm is attached normally. Also it is available to mount the linear tracking arm AFU1-2 (sold separately). In addition, it is possible to mount the second arm and as expandability, up to 3 different arms can be installed. (Sold separately from ordering the second arm base)
Highly Silent air pump with double hermetic structure (sold separately)
The air pump(POU1) is equipped with the motor system for long-term stable function that is used in medical. POU1 supplies the compressed air without vibration and to lift up the heavy platter. It has a double hermetic structure that prevents vibration noise from leaking and keeps highly silent in your music room.
Base ……….. JIS0 grade granite table base
Platter ……. High inertia stainless steel platter
Base … 19kg
Platter ……. 17kg
Drive system Crystal-follow No feedback motor drive XFD method
Rotation transmission method Yarn drive (four-fiber aramid)
Drive motor DC coreless low noise motor
Rotation speed 33 1/3 ・ 45rpm
Speed accuracy ±0.3%
Wow and flutter
Wow 0.2% , Flutter 0.04% less
Power supply AC100 / 120 / 200 / 240V, 50 / 60Hz
Power consumption 40W
Size 440W x 128H x 320D
AC power cable, 2 drive yarns, air tube Φ4,
One arm attachment (processed according to the arm specified by the customer)
Player board LPB2
Air pump POU1 (DC cable included)
Linear tracking arm AFU1-2 (air tube Φ4 included)
Warranty period 5 years (excluding consumables) registration is required
An optional air pump POU1 is required for use. The specifications, design, design and price may be changed without notice. Due to the use of granite, stone patterns and colors may vary depending on the production lot.
Kondo Kagura Mono Amplifiers
Original review posted on Stereo Times
Audio Note Kondo has a rich history in building state-of-the-art tube amplifiers that spans over three decades. Established in 1976, Hiroyasu Kondo is the founder of the Audio Note-Kondo. Driven by Kondo san’s passion for music propel him to experiment and create the best possible material to get the highest sound quality using an expensive metal which had never been used in audio design. Kondo san was the first person to use silver wires in audio designs; later he was given the name Audio Silversmith for his revolutionary use of aged annealed silver in his audio equipment. The sound of his silver is warm yet vivid and can fully express the vitality of music through its innate purity. Kondo designed and utilized the legendary handmade silver output transformers and hand wound silver foil signal capacitors in Kondo products.
[do not confuse products like Audio Note UK with Audio Note Kondo Japan. The two companies have no relationship whatsoever.]
The legendary Ongaku, which stands for music in Japanese, was designed by Kondo san in 1989 and instantly became a true legend. Nearly a quarter of a century later, the fanfare surrounding the Ongaku still lives on. Audio Note is known for utmost care and detail in design and execution. Though Kondo san is no longer with us, he has been ably replaced by Masaki san to take control of Audio Note Kondo here and into the future.
My first encounter with the Kagura was back at the 2013 CES. All I can remember is what a truly magical experience it was even under show conditions (consider a noisy hotel room). Still, the sound demonstrated purity in timbre, tone and delicacy that held me hostage. While enjoying a Beethoven Piano Trios disc, I knew it, right then and there, that the Audio Note Kagura’s extraordinary tonality and pitch makes it among the best products I have everhad the pleasure of listening to (in a noisy hotel room no less!). I did hear them again in Munich the following year (photo above), and again was overwhelmed by their intense sense of harmonic rightness.
The name Kagura in Japanese means Music for a Shrine or Music for the Gods. Based on the extended period of time I have been fortunate enough to spend with this incredible musical transducer, I think the name fits it just right. As I have already mentioned, my experience with the Kondo-Audio Note gear has been a most enlightening one. The sound was pure in timber, delicate in touch and utterly compelling while enjoying a Beethoven Piano Trios disc. I knew it, right then and there, the Kagura is extraordinary and is among the best products I have the pleasure of experiencing anywhere.
At the 2014 CES, Kondo-Audio Note of Japan debuted their new flagship Kagura mono-block amplifiers. I was once again taken by the unforgettable purity of the Kagura. The sound – if you can call it that – of the Kagura was so natural and intense that I said to myself “I’ve got to hear this AT HOME” (not that I could EVER afford one). I revealed my enthusiasm to CEO of Kondo-Audio Note Ashizawa Masaki-san and he referred me to Bob Visintainer of Rhapsody Music & Cinema who serves as Kondo-Audio Note’s sole US distributor here in New York City. Visintainer assured me he would arrange for a review in the near future.
Audio-Note Kondo does things a lot differently than other manufacturers when it comes to designing a new product. Most often, manufacturers introduce a new product and after a year or two they follow with a model that bears a “Mark II” type upgrade; or they come out with a different model altogether. Well Kondo is not like the others. Their current models stay in production without any upgrades or updates for several years. The idea of creating the Kagura (instead of improving on the Gakuon II) begun more than 5 years ago by Masaki. The Kagura was designed by Katsura Hirakawa (head designer) and tuned masterfully by Masaki san. The actual engineering of the Kagura started back in 2011, and after more than 2 years, the design was complete. Masaki-san found, what he described as “some weak points” in the Gakuon II when playing certain types of music which required “a very gentle, relaxed, and sweet performance.” He recognized the need to improve in these areas, with a performance similar to their 8-watt SE model called the Souga. Masaki-san decided to maintain all the positive attributes of the Gakoun II: dynamics, power, passion and soundstage, while improving on what he called its “feminine side.”
After trying various ways to improve on the sound with their current components and existing circuit design, Masaki and Katsura came to the conclusion that it would not be possible to hit their target performance unless they started everything from scratch. Masaki decided to design the Kagura from the ground up as a new statement product rather as an improved version of the Gakoun II. This design was a very challenging project; it had to be better than the already state of the art Gakuon II.
The Kagura is a parallel Single-Ended Triode pure Class-A design. It uses two 211 output tubes in parallel producing a powerful 50 watts per channel. A 12AU7 and two 6SN7 tubes are used for amplification and two 6SN7 (cathode follower) for the driver stage and four GZ34 rectifier tubes are also utilized. Already revered as the best in their class, the Kagura utilizes custom-made in-house components. As a standard, Audio Note Japan tested many different materials and components to achieve the improvements they’re known for. Masaki-san is known as master tuner: he has golden ears and knows how different materials work in each component. Masaki-san is a perfectionist, not only does he use different core materials for the transformers, he even goes as far as using different materials for transformer and choke cases.
Yes, it does take about eight weeks to build a pair of Kagura amplifiers. The Kagura only uses custom made components built in house (or out-sourced from small artisanal specialty machine shops). Kondo inspects every production step for the out-sourced components from their contractors to ensure the utmost quality. Newly designed silver foil capacitors and new transformers (choke, power transformers and output transformer) are incorporated in the Kagura. A new circuit was designed for the Kagura starting with two power cords; in their research, isolating the power supply of filaments from rest of the circuit results in an unbelievable improvement in signal-to-noise ratio. The company boasts its power supply as the heart and soul in its design (it’s a well-known fact that Audio-Note Kondo’s power supply is considered the best in the business). Both channel’s “oversized” power supply utilizes three power transformers and four choke coils. They are installed to form 3-tier, independent power supply circuit with three different voltages (+/-200V, + 450V, and +900V). The 211 heater circuit is mounted using large capacitors (40000uF x 2) to minimize ripple elements while residual noise level is kept quite low thanks to a hum balancer circuit. Brilliantly, Katsura-san uses Cut-Core transformers for the Kagura instead of the EI-core transformers normally used (except the power transformer for filaments). It is a common understanding that EI-core transformer is best for audio. Although controversial, Cut-core transformers are utilized to produce a wider and flatter frequency response than the EI-core. As expected, Katsura-san used nothing but the best Kondo legendary hand-made silver output transformers (which handle output impedances of 4, 8 and 16 Ohms.)
By selecting positions at the speaker impedance switch and changing relevant jumper plates, speaker impedance switchover is done with an NFB level always set to the designed level -3dB. To push the envelope even higher their renowned silver foil capacitor was redesigned; a new silver foil signal capacitor was designed on a core concept of further minimizing the vibration to improve the purity of the sound (lower distortion). When current flows through the capacitor, vibration is created and it causes signal contamination. To prevent this, Kondo used higher grade material for the core of the new capacitor (this material has never been used before). A new 1000V oil-filled capacitor is also an important contributor to the Kagura’s sound improvement. Instead of putting 500V + 500V capacitors in a series, this new 1000V oil capacitor lowers the impedance of the high voltage power line. This results in a much quieter background, less distortion and wider bandwidth. The internal construction of the Kagura is further optimized for the shortest signal/power paths. Components are hand wired on a module with 3D assembly; transformers and capacitors are placed just under the tubes; the input stage, driver stage and power stage are closely packed so that signal lines are truly as short as possible.
Physically, the Kagura amplifier is drop-dead gorgeous. Each chassis is massive at 137 lbs and measures 12.6” wide by 14.6” high by 22” deep. It sits on beautifully crafted aluminum footers giving the Kagura an regal appearance. Powering on the 211 tubes illuminate the unit showing off its majestic two-tone color. The Kagura is machined out of high-grade aluminum; its faceplate and back plate are made of aluminum with a black finish and the top and bottom plates are made of copper (its side panels are, copper over a black aluminum finish). The copper top plate gives it a strong appeal contrasting with the black front and side plates and an island of transformers and chokes occupy the rear real estate. The layout of the front panel is classically simple yet functional. A single round power-button at the lower center and the Kagura name above it. On the rear of the Kagura, located on its left, there is a pair of single-ended high quality custom-made RCA jack composed of silver rhodium and brass as core material. There is a mute toggle switch, and the beautifully crafted Kondo-designed copper binding posts are all silver. On the right bottom are the two IEC plugs, one for main and other for the heather. The chassis sports a well ventilated top cover and back panel as well.
Bugatti of Audio!
As I have already mentioned, my experience with the Kondo-Audio Note gear has been a most enlightening one. Sonically speaking, the Kondo gear was so good that it touched my soul with an emotion which is hard to measure. After my review, while living without the Kondo-Audio Note gear, I was in audio purgatory. However, lucky me, I was later given an opportunity to have the Kagura in my reference system in for a review.
One beautiful weekend last spring Bob Visintainer hand delivered the Kagura, the G70, along with Kondo’s silver cables. Setting up the Kagura was straightforward; all tubes and sockets were clearly labeled. I used the Kondo Silver cables and my reference Jorma Design Unity cables throughout the system. My listening was done with the G-70 as a matching preamplifier for this review. I was so impatient that I couldn’t wait until I turned it on. When I first powered up the Kagura, I was in heaven without even cueing up a song. The Kagura looked beautiful with its 211 tubes softly glowing from my listening seat. From the very first notes on the very first album, it was something extraordinary. Even without warm up time, the Kagura was superb. As a matter of fact, in my experience, the stellar sounding equipment that I reviewed didn’t really need any warm-up time at all. Don’t get me wrong, after it’s fully warmed up, it does normally sound better. But you don’t really need to wait an hour or two hours to hear its full potential. The Kagura sounds great as soon as you turn it on. It lets you enjoy the music right away by placing you in a trance.
The Kagura produced the rich harmonic palette expected from only the very best tube designs, and as a result voices appeared very dimensional and lifelike – on top of the fact – this transducer rendered the most glorious timbre, liquidity, open, and midrange purity I’ve ever heard in recorded music. The Kagura’s naturalness in rendering of timbres was as close to what I have heard in a live performance as I’ve experienced in any amplifier. Transparency and retrieval of detail are extraordinary with a sense of PRaT (pace, rhythm and timing) that is without peer. Just imagine the music, instruments, and notes magically popping out from your favorite recordings in the most wholesome and natural way you’ve ever heard. For the past few months, my experience has been truly amazing, genuinely enchanting and most humbling. The Kagura totally lacks any mechanical or artificial artifacts, instead rendering voices and instruments with a natural and organic quality.
There is more to the Kagura than unusual purity, transparency, and liquidity. The Kagura rendered large-scale symphonic works with seemingly limitless dynamic contrast along with a powerful and full bodied low-end. My reference Conspiracy loudspeakers has a nominal sensitivity rating of 92 dB and is relatively easy to drive, so they were an excellent match. The Kaguras also drove the recently reviewed Kharma DB9-S effortlessly, which has a sensitivity of 89 dB, proving the Kaguras will drive a wide range of loudspeakers without the traditional limitations of the SET design. This is no ordinary amplifier with a modest output of 50W; based on its control of the lower octaves and bottom-end extension (including dynamics). One thing’s certain, that in terms of sheer power I never got the sensation I was listening to SET. The orchestral crescendos are reproduced with great control and authority. I noticed this on Dvorak’s Symphony N0.9 in E Minor, Op.95 (London CS 6217) with maestro Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony. The Kagura produced an enormous size and scale on a soundstage with realistic dynamic swings. From pianissimo to fortissimo, the system handled it all with great realism. Dynamic transitions were uncommonly convincing. The soundstage was phenomenal-wide, deep, and holographic, and beautifully layered with a wonderful sense of bloom and space between instrumental images. The Kagura literally removes the walls of your room. My Conspiracy loudspeakers simply disappeared. Depth was incredible and listening to classical recordings, images far back in the stage had the density and roundness of those located in the front rows. Whether listening to soloists, small ensembles, and large orchestras, all were presented with precisely the right sense of emotion, scale and space. Listening to live orchestral concerts crescendos not only got louder, they got bigger and filled my listening space completely.
I put on a beautiful recording of Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in G. Minor, RV 416 (Naxos 8.550910) performed by Raphael Wallfisch and Andrew Watkinson conducting City of London Sinfonia. The sound was warm and captivating. The Kagura’s rendition of the cello and the string orchestra had an incredible solidity and weight, which extended all the way up the frequency band. Listening to the Kaguras, the cello’s textural and tonal clarity and physical focus were better than what I’ve heard in other amplifiers. The sonic picture possessed a substantial, undeniable physicality that was more lifelike than anything I’d heard in my system. The Kagura takes the musical experience a few steps further by imbuing images with more life and vitality.
The first Audio Note product to make it into my listening room was the Overture integrated amplifier (reviewed here). After that, Audio Note separates that included the Ongaku with the G70 preamplifier made their way into my humble abode. I wrote in that particular review, that I found its legendary sound truly captivating. I don’t recall having heard any design that could compete with the Ongaku’s high levels of purity and tonal accuracy. This purity, exacted out of only 27 glorious watts of Class-A power, was so stunningly good, that it was then where I realized that power only tells a fraction of the musical story behind an amplifier’s design. With the Ongaku, the music flowed with effortless type liquidity that had nothing to do with power no matter the source or genre. The Ongaku had no problem driving my Conspiracy loudspeakers at respectable volumes when necessary with an absolutely astonishing amount of finesse and purity, which I consider Kondo-Audio Note’s signature sound. Sadly after my review, while living without the Kondo-Audio Note gear, I was in audio purgatory. However, lucky me, I was later given an opportunity to have the new flagship Kagura in my reference system in for a review.
In comparison, remarkably, the Kagura does everything it does and more. Unfortunately I am basing these impressions solely on memory because the Ongaku had to go back to its US importer. Boasting 50-watts per side (almost double the power of the Ongaku), the Kagura delivered startling low-frequency performance in my listening space. It outperformed the Ongaku at delivering a deeper, tighter, and more precise bass. The double bass was definitely more alive sounding, coming through with greater control and visceral weight. The Kagura rendered large-scale symphonic works spectacularly and unlike anything I’ve heard in my space. It produced the most impressive scale and drama of a full orchestral crescendo that I’ve heard with an ease and grace that had to be heard to be believed. The soundstage was wider and deeper as well, making my front wall and side wall disappear while making my loudspeakers vanish. Of course, this created the most impressive and natural soundstage ever in my room. The Kagura’s portrayal of individual images is exemplary, revealing a better even touch than the Ongaku. The layers of small detail and nuance were eerily transparent through my Conspiracy loudspeakers when driven by the Kagura.
As much as I was thrilled about the Ongaku’s ability to render the human voice, and as sure as I was that it couldn’t get any better, the Kagura proved beyond compare. It offered an even more fabulous midrange, more palpable images and an awe-inspiring tonality. Music of the Gods may seem over the top to some alongside the Kagura’s bold sticker price of $150k. As I stated previously, based solely on my extended time spent with this incredible musical transducer, I couldn’t dream of anything that could outperform the Audio Note Kagura. It’s rare when a product lives up to its billing while I’ve hardly ever heard a product sound better than all the hype it has already produced. The Kagura is the only product that has done that for me thus far. In my opinion, banded with the right associated equipment, the Audio Note Kagura reigns as the supreme amplifier in the here and now.
I couldn’t believe that the Kondo-Audio Note sold ten Kaguras when they first debuted at this year’s CES. Now that I have reviewed the Kagura in my own system, I might just be the eleventh (If only I could afford one). The Kagura’s sonic consistency from top to bottom was revelatory. Listening to my music through them was poetry in motion. They produced magic with every listen, without homogenizing the faults of poor recordings. My hat’s off to Masaki-san and Katsura-san for creating a new benchmark for which all others ought to be measured against. I’m sure Hiroyasu Kondo-san would be very proud of this latest achievement. The Kagura has earned my Stereo Times 2014 “Most Wanted Components” award! In fact, it is the single most impressive product I have had the luxury of reviewing thus far.
Regardless of its asking price, it’s Highy recommended!
Product: 211 parallel single ended monaural poweramplifier
Rated power: 50W @1kHz, 5% THD
Frequency response: 8Hz ～ 40kHz (+0dB, -3dB @1W)
Input / Impedance: 1pc (RCA, unbalanced) / 50kΩ
Output: 4, 8, 16Ω (switchable by internal jumper plates)
NoiseLess than 0.5mV
Vacuum tube: 211 x2, 6SN7 x2, 12AU7 x1, GZ34 x4
Power consumption: 270W
Dimension(excluding protrusions): 320mm(W) 370mm(H) 558mm(D)
Hi Fi literally means “high fidelity or truth”. The goal of all HiFi is to recreate the original recording as accurately as possible.
Accurate bass is the most difficult thing to reproduce as well as unearthing the detail in the recording,
A high end audio system will enable you to listen and enjoy a wider range of music as the music is brought to life and is captivating.
The best speaker system we have heard uses a unique field coil design, Electromagnets are more powerful than the permanent magnets used in most designs. Field coil speakers were first used in the 1920’s and Maxonic Audio from Japan have rejuvenated this principle to great effect.
Blues Audio is the sole UK distributor for these exquisite Swiss products, designed and built by audio engineer, Corrado Faccioni.
We are so confident you will like these products, that we offer a no quibble 30 day money back guarantee with postage paid.
The speaker cables are made from 500 strands of pure copper, coated with silver Cost £2’000. These cables are an improvement on our previous cables that cost considerably more.
The accentuators fit on interconnects and phono cable up to 13mm diameter. No other cable manufacturer uses this technique. Cost £200 each.
CSPort make two turntables, we stock the flagship LFT1 model with the three peice base that is hewn out of granite, and the 27kg platter is forged from stainless steel. Air suspension is provided from a medical grade pump that runs silent.
The tolerance between the platter and base is so precise that a cigarette paper will not fit between the two with the pump switched off. The pump also suspends the linear tracking arm that gives 100% playing consistency unlike a conventional tone arm.
The platter speed is calibrated by an easy to operate strobe light and a unique fine four strand kevlar belt keeps the suspended platter rotating at the desired speed. An optional extra is the IMe1 anti static device that demagnetises records and reduces static caused by removing the record from the sleeve and the stylus diamond and vinyl interaction when an LP is played. More information is gleaned from the record in this way.
The CS Port phono stage is also available for demonstration, a rechargeable battery powers the unit to remove mains electric interference.
Ultimate TV sound
This stereo pair will supply you with a full-bodied TV sound that surpasses the one of soundbars, due to its stereo effect. And it will not only give you an open and spacious sound stage for your TV-sound, it will also deliver the music for your party as well as your everyday listening. Each speaker contains a 75w Class D amplifier.
These new design speakers come in white or black, price £700 with a 15% discount for £595! . Play TV or your own music for a party with hifi quality sound.
This offer applies to any Audio Pro product.
We have recently replaced the Dan D’Agostino MLife solid state amplifier with the Kondo Overture valve which is half the price of the MLife and a noticeable improvement in sound quality has ensued. Maxonic speakers work well with low power valve amps.
Music can be played at a low volume yet the detail and music presentation is crystal clear.
Kondo make the finest valve amps, The Ongaku amp (£100k) are used by the Living Voice speaker company in it’s demo’s in Munich. These speakers are made in the UK in Northampton and sell for over £700k !
Below is a review of the Overture amp and Kondo Phono stage.
There’s a lot of things Japanese that I’m fascinated with.
Japanese, whiskies, Japanese art, Japanese films, Japanese culture in general – especially their cult-like devotion to vinyl records, and their practically religious reverence for American jazz music from the 1950s, and 1960s – both vices I share. Having developed a predilection for high-efficiency Japanese horn speaker systems over the years, I’ve come away with a constantly renewed respect for this particular path of recorded-music worship. I guess that’s why I’m fascinated most of all with sub-40 watt Japanese tube amplifiers, and preamplifiers – some in particular are the rare offerings of Kondo Audio Note, a company started by Hiroyasu Kondo in 1976 within Tokyo’s Saiwai Ward.
Few circuit designs get listeners as close to the recorded event as those based around valves in my opinion, and after low-power tube amps were relegated to the history pile of hifi in the early ‘70s (watts are cheap), it was a dedicated group of Japanese audiophiles, and engineers like Kondo who laboured to bring back traditional single-ended triode (SET) valve-amplifier designs which had enjoyed a vaunted run from the ’20s to the ‘60s (along with push-pull valve designs which after the adoption of negative feedback in circuits allowed PP amps to deliver more power) before being unceremoniously swept aside by most for the convenience of solid state circuit pathways.
Overture II tube compliment.
Usually spoken about in hushed reverence by valve acolytes, Kondo circuit design execution is more art form than technical achievement in my mind. In Munich last year I encountered Kondo’s musical prowess firsthand through the KSL M-77 Ongaku-Pre in the Living Voice demo room, and the Kagura 211 power amplifiers paired with the G-1000 preamplifier, Ginga turntable, and IO-M cartridge in the Kondo demo room. I was so impressed there that I lingered far longer than my schedule allowed for to listen. The relatively new Kondo Overture II integrated amplifier (32 watts/channel, Class-A, push-pull circuit design) was on display near the Kaguras, but sadly, only in static form. It was as gorgeous as a plain metal box could be, and the solidity, and attention to the most minute details of construction were apparent, which at $30,000 USD (current exchange rate), can be more the exception, than the rule.
It was this experience in Munich that cemented my desire to hear a Kondo-based system in my home, and fast-forwarding to October, Lawrence Lin of Excel Stereo in Toronto contacted me about just such a review opportunity. An Overture II arrived within weeks, soon followed by the GE-1 Phono Amplifier, Operia SPc-2.5 speakers cables, KSL-VcII interconnects, ACc-Persimmon, and ACz-Avocado power cables. Having what amounted to a holistic Kondo system in my home, and seeing first hand the meticulous workmanship of their point-to-point wiring, thick solid-copper chassis plates, and painstaking attention to detail right down to the screws used to affix the top, and bottom casework covers, left me deeply impressed with the level of commitment to design integrity the company imbues its products with.
Operia SPc-2.5 speaker cables by Kondo.
A mix of Electro-Harmonix, and Svetlana Electron Devices valves from the Overture II.
But it was, ultimately, the Kondo gear’s fidelity to musical reproduction that had the greatest affect upon me. I started with adding only the Overture II to my current system, the inclusion of which instantly brought about a smoothness, along with a subtle ripening to tonality, and timbre that I had rarely experienced personally (I kept thinking about the difference between the first sip of a fine wine, and how much better the second sip is once your palette has adjusted). Next was the music between the lower-octaves, and their definition, and here I was reminded of the variance between approximation of piano or standup bass notes, and the actual, live playing of these instruments.
Full copper plane construction.
The amp features four EL34 pentode output valves, two 12AY7, and two 12BH7 valves for the line/input stage. Input valves are Electro-Harmonix, and output valves were branded Svetlana Electron Devices. All are from Russia. Through the Overture II instruments took on a more human presence to their playing – a forcefulness if you will – but not only that, a competence to the playing that I had not been able to recognize previously. Recorded jazz quartets, quintets, and solo performances took on each artists intent during listening sessions, imbuing every CD I played with a palpable emotional connection that left me spent after the first hours-long sit down with the amp.
I then substituted in the ACz-Avocado power cable over the plain-Jane stock cables I use initially with reviews, and was greeted with an even more transparent window onto personal renderings of songs. Peter Gabriel’s Passion – Music for The Last Temptation Of Christ, (CD Geffen GEFD 24206) is an album long used by audiophiles for critical listening. In the best systems it becomes a deep, layered soundstage where a visceral, living, breathing entity writhes with aural complexity. In lesser systems in tends to dry, crisp, and flat in it’s presentation. Passion’s opening cut “The Feeling Begins” features an intricate percussive interplay between Manny Elias’ surdo bass drum play, and Hossam Ramzy on tablas, and duff drums. Through the Overture II with the ACz power cord in place the tension created between Elias, and Ramzy can be felt as the tempo inexorably builds to a crescendo, and comes crashing down into silence.
The delicate point-to-point wired electron pathways which grace the underside of the integrated amplifier’s exposed chassis.
Helping to keep things silky smooth, discreet, and quiet: ALPS volume attenuator.
It is this silence, or blackness, I’d like to touch on next.
The Overture II is one of the quietest amps I’ve ever experienced, as I could have my ear next to the tweeters on my speakers and hear nothing. Not all great tube amplifiers are capable of this feat, and to me this is crucial because the silence between notes being played conveys a huge amount of spatial information which translates into an accuracy, and realism of placement to performers within the recorded space. It is the accuracy of this information which to me allows for the most lifelike playback from a component. The weight to the keystrokes of the 1860 concert grand piano from Maison Pleyel which Edna Stern plays on Hélene De Montgeroult (CD Orchid Classics ORC1000063) cannot, in my estimation, be overstated. Every felted-hammer strike of the strings conveys an assertion by Stern that she is making this piano hers on these recordings, not Montgeroult’s, and it is the bloom, and decay of the notes into the mute background that gives the determination of the size, and placement of the instrument within the recorded frame of reference at the Philharmone de Paris.
Mixing in the KSL-VcII interconnects during listening showcased the attack on leading notes in the 12 Etudes included on the disc. The startling momentum of Stern’s depictions made the Overture II a rival in speed to the solid state CH Precision L1 preamplifier/M1 power amplifier combination I reviewed in early 2017 ($32,975/$51,000 USD respectively), albeit with more refinement to the solidity, and texture of notes. The final addition of the Operia SPc-2.5 speakers cables during an extended session with One Flight Up by Dexter Gordon (CD Blue Note RVG Edition 724359650524) produced noticeable frequency extension in those most upper octaves, and those most low. The SPc seemed to extend the boundaries of the recorded space, subsequently infusing more bloom, saturation, and decay of notes into the silent ether of background. Art Taylor’s cymbal, and high hat work took on more desert-air shimmer, Gordon’s tenor sax became further imbued with tonal colour, and Donald Byrd’s brassy trumpet work took on swagger – in my mind I could clearly see every change in embouchure. The bass licks that Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen lays down throughout “Tanya,” and “Coppin’ the Haven” took on a playfulness, with a more definitive texture to his slaps, and fretwork.
Turning my focus next to the addition of the GE-1 phono amplifier, I ran the KSL-VcII interconnects from it to the Overture II, and ran a step-up transformer into the GE-1 (34dB gain, and similarly equipped with Electro-Harmonix tubes, here it is a trio of 12AY7 dual-triodes) from my current long-term review turntable, and moving-coil cartridge. The GE-1 is a moving-magnet phono stage, capable of switching between two separate cartridge inputs, with an adjustable input impedance selector, which I set to 50K Ohms. Like the Overture II it is constructed to the strictest standards, possesses a solidity, and heft to its casework, and the same attention to circuit detail throughout. Aesthetically, it is a very pleasing match to the Overture II, sonically it provides the same emotional connection to music that had me wearing a path into my living-room rugs between my sofa, and sound system as I swapped out CDs.
Internal valve layout of the GE-1 Phono Amplifier.
GE-1 by Kondo.
The first thing I noticed going from digital to analog playback was almost no change in the palpability of each recorded performance – a nod to system synergy in my opinion. The corporeal impact, and sound stage of playback continued to shift from recording to recording as it should, as well, the lifelike scale of performers, and instruments maintained appropriate dimensions, and weight.
Analog front end of the Thales TTT-Slim II, with Easy Tonearm, EMT JSD VM cartridge, and A23 EMT SUT.
With Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers Keystone 3 (LP Pure Audiophile PA-008 (2)) spinning on the turntable, I lowered the cart into the run-in groove, and was fully immersed in the venue of this 1982 performance recorded live at Keystone Korner in San Francisco. Half-speed mastered by legend Stan Ricker, and plated, and pressed at RTI, this translucent red 180-gram pressing is dead quiet, and I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the GE-1’s paucity of background noise, and that of the Overture II. Blakey’s almost spiritual – and absolutely effortless – crash, and ride cymbal work on the opening of “Waterfalls” left no doubt who was on drums, or who led this sextet. Known to continuously tighten his kit if it doesn’t sound right, I’ve heard few of his performances that seem to present such taut skins as through the GE-1 here. The power, and liquidity to Branford Marsalis alto sax work was only matched by the now obvious call-and-reply between his brother Wynton on trumpet in “A La Mode,” obvious because the Kondo phono stage revealed what had previously seemed merely energetic, was actually symbiotic.
Switching gears to new wave, I found my 2009 reissue of 1983’s Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order (LP Rhino Records R125308) had taken on an anxiousness to the propulsive opening track “Age of Consent.” Where before I merely felt compelled to bob my head to Stephen Morris’ incessant percussive intro, it now was tinged with apprehension, and lead singer Bernard Sumner seemed ill at ease vocalizing “I’m not the kind that needs to tell you/Just what you, want me to.” Regardless of what I played through this Japanese-amplified combination I was alternately left with tears running down my face, or spontaneously clapping, and jumping up-and-down on my sofa. Few manufacturers are capable of invoking so much emotional response from me through playback of recorded events, but Kondo Audio Note did this every time I allowed the electrons to flow from source to transducer through their exquisite circuit topology, and in fact, despite their price point, both components had me contemplating a call to my bank manager regarding a loan to acquire the review pair.
Beyond my reach, but worth every penny.
In the end, they are simply beyond my financial means, but should you have the ability to procure such bespoke arbitrators of electronic signal reproduction, and consider yourself among those who value tone, timbre, and natural flow to music above all else, I implore you to seek out the Overture II, and the GE-1.
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