The Kondo Audio Note room is one of the highlights of my CES visit. There is something very mystical about the Kondo sound. While many other manufacturers pride themselves with engineering accuracies, Kondo prides itself in the creation of art. Their company slogan is the “Reincarnation of Dormant Art”.
The Kondo sound is not the most dynamic, it is not the most accurate, nor is it the most realistic sound which I have heard. Yet, there is something very seductive about the Kondo sound that once it gets into your head, you will have a very hard time getting it out.
Accompanying me to the Kondo room is a friend who is not so much an addicted audiophile as I am. You should have seen his face when he asked me to describe the Kondo sound to him.
This sound is pure liquid, the music flows like water. It has no hard edges but at the same time, it is not rolled off or congested. It is smooth, it is seductive, and it is musical.
“I have no clue what you are talking about”, said he.
The Kondo room is no doubt one of my favourite rooms at the show, that is until he asked me about the price of the entire system. Once you have the cost of them added up, you will need a shot of Sake or two.
Charles Tse, International Marketing Manager of Kondo Audio Note, was kind enough to provide me with a walk through of their products.
New for 2012 is Kondo’s soon-to-be-released G-1000 Flagship Preamplifier ($60,000 – $85,000). Other than the fact that it looks very similar to the old, dual-chassis M1000 Mk II Preamplifier (¥ 7,150,000 or approximately $92,000), very little information is provided on the unit. Neither the MSRP or the release date has been set. The unit on display is version 1 of their working prototype. They alreadhy have version 2 and 3, and are getting closer to the final release product. The launch date will be in mid 2013, and the price will be approximately $60,000 USD.
And to avoid hospitalizaton due to sticker shock, Charles Tse recommends the G-70 Preamp which offers similar performance at a much friendlier price of $29,000.
The new GE-1 Phono Amplifier ($13,000 – $18,000) and the CFz step-up transformer ($3,000 – $4,000) are alternatives to the higher price M7 Phono Preamp and the KSL-SFz step up transformer. The CFz uses the same winding technique as the KSL-SFz, using copper instead of silver wiring. The transformer core is also the same KSL-SFz model.
Also on display were the Kondo Ginga Turntable ($85,000 – $125,000), the Kondo IO-M Cartridge ($10,000), and the Biruya speaker which features full field coil magnets. The Biruya is about to start production, the cost will range between $50,000 to $75,000 the pair depending on options.
Dionysus is a speaker manufacturer from Taiwan which is unfamiliar to me. Apparently, they are famous for their “Oak” speakers which are made of real French oak wine barrels, and are granted two U.S patents for their internal construction. This photo is taken from their website.
Unfortunately, the “Oak” barrel model was not on display. It was interesting to note that the company’s brochure does not tell you the model number of the actual speaker on display. I had to find out from their website that they are called the M-801. The M-801 retails at around $6,000.
Equally interesting as the speakers, Dionysus has a very unique amplifier on display called “The Curve”.There was no product brochure, nor information given out from the representative, other than the fact that it originated from a company called “Designburg”. A search on Google reveals that the Designburg is a company for jeweleries, leather products and fasion accessories. The amplifier is a joint effort between Jadis and Designburg founder, also named Jadis but with the last name Cheung.
(Fork and plate would help, too. – Pub.)
In the Avantgarde room, they have their new XA-Pre, XA Amplifier and the Duo Grosso G2 loudspeaker ($37,000) making great tunes.
Their new XA-Preamp (€ 9,500) features a patent pending “DC flow circuit”, which flood the entire signal path with direct current. The stable power current also flows through the volume control and input selector. The face plate is available in varous finish: Black, silver anodized, jacaranda aura rosewood, birdseye maple, cherrywood or walnut.
The XA Amplifier (€ 8,800) is also new for 2012. It also has the same patent-pending “DC flow circuit”, and delivers 150W per channel. The front panel is available in the finishes offered with the preamp.
A Dr. Feickert Blackbird turntable ($13,000), mounted with a Kuzma Stogi Reference arm ($3,800), and a Jelco SA-750LB arm ($630) was driving the Avantgarde equipment.
Italian manufactuer Pathos has three new products this year. First up is the InpolRemix intregrated amplifier with built in D/A converter. It features a zero-feedback, pure class A 10W-per-channel circuitry. The InpolRemix retails at $6,000.
Very little information was provided on this new DAC which will be released very soon. For now, it is yet without a model name or release date.
Another new product which will be released very soon is the Musicidea touch-screen music server and DAC. The unit probably has one of the largest touch-screen on the entire music server market. It has a built-in transport, a DAC, and a 1 TB, expandable hard drive for storage. It retails for $7,000.
Vienna Acoustics always press the right buttons in me. At the TAVES show, I thought both of the rooms with Vienna Acoustic speakers were the best sounding.
New for 2012, Vienna Acoustics debuted their all new Beethoven Imperial Grand speakers which will be priced at $9,000. According to Patrick Butler, Sales Director, the speaker on display is a dummy which is still under development.
The speaker uses a coaxial driver with technology borrowed from its larger sibling, The Musik. The 7-inch bass drivers are made by SEAS. The cones are made in Austria for Vienna Acoustics using a proprietary material, and then shipped to SEAS for final assembly.
Danish speaker manufacturer Davone had their full model line on display. Depending on how you look it, some say they blend in well with Art Deco furniture, other say they belong to Austin Powers. Peronally, the Rithm (€ 3000) is my personal favorite, a furniture of beauty and a conversation piece.
Below, we have the Ray (€ 5,000)
The Grande (€ 15,000)
And the all new Mojo for € 1700
NTT Audio Lab
After I left the Davone room, I went to see something drastically different. Mr. Michael Le introduced me to his all new 103 Mk II loudspeakers which were making some very big sounds. The 103 has a sensitivty of 95 dB, which means they can be easily be driven by a 20W tube amp.
Each of the drivers are housed by individual separate compartments, and the angle can be adjusted to accommodate different room requirements. Despite their size, the NTT are by no means aggressive or imposing, I find them to be rather intimate with politeness. The 103 Mk II are priced at approximately $155,000.
The Piega sound is not new to me as I used to own a pair of Piega C10s myself. New for 2012 is the Coax 90.2 speakers shown in black anodized aluminum finish. Sensitivity for Piega speakers have much improved over the years, the new new Coax 90.2 is rated at 92 dB vs. 86 dB for the C10s I owned. The 90.2s are priced at $18,000. Although not cheap by any standards, you are actually getting more for the money as the large -sized C1 coaxial ribbon system was previously utilized in the flagship C40 and the Master One models only.
Piega speakers are extremely transparent. The coaxial ribbon tweeter blends the mid and high frequencies seamlessly with the woofers without any hint of incoherence.
These cigar shaped speakers with a circular footprint are the all-new Meridian M6 Digital Active Loudspeakers. Priced at $9,000, the M6 is designed to compliment Meridian’s Audio Core 200 multiple-input preamp unit, as it is designed to accept digital inputs only. It is a 2-way bass reflex system powered by an internal Class D amp rated at 150W.
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