I have long maintained that it makes a lot of sense to consider the system as a whole rather than gambling on individual components. What do I mean by gambling on individual components? Well if we assume that all components in a stereo system have a sonic signature or “voice” then it stands to reason that some voices will work together better than others. Indeed, you could take lesser voices but together generate more harmony than putting better individual voices together that are out of sync.
I am not suggesting that the mix and match to stereo building can’t work, or can’t yield superior results; however, for that to be successful it is important to have a wealth of experience to know exactly what a component is likely to offer your system before shelling out large coin on said component based on reviews or forum posts (in which most of the advice is coming from people who have never heard your stereo in your room).
So what advantage does the system approach to buying a hi-fi stereo provide? Well first and foremost you know what the company’s sonic aesthetic. Sure an amplifier maker may claim they believe in Neutrality and Accuracy but that is meaningless since so many makers claim this is their goal from SET makers to kilowatt Solid State makers, from manufacturers making single driver open baffle cabinets to the makers who believe in small speakers as a point source to those makers who believe more drivers in massive cabinets is better.
So enter Roksan. Roksan has been around since 1985 when they came out with their very well regarded Xerxes turntable. I suppose a comparison to Linn may not be out of line since arguably both companies are known mainly for their turntables, and both companies make complete stereo systems. The K2 or Kandy 2 system is Roksan’s current entry level system consisting of an integrated amplifier, one box CD player, and a set of TR-5 two way standmount speakers. Roksan also makes their own interconnect cables and speaker cables though this review is sans cables.
Why is listening to a system important? For starters I came across Roksan’s system (with their bigger floorstanding FR-5 loudspeakers (reviewed by dagogo’s own Sandy Greene: http://dagogo.com/View-Article.asp?hArticle=384) while living in Hong Kong. I was surprised at what I was hearing – a system that wasn’t fatiguing or grainy or generally thin like so many solid state based systems. The dealer, T.H. Yu of Elephant Holdings, has some serious top end tube amplifiers from Audio Note and Einstein at serious price tags. With space at a premium in Hong Kong, dealers have to be selective of what they carry in order to keep the lights on. T.H. noted that Roksan serves the music on a budget. After listening to Eva Cassidy’s “Live at Blues Alley” and a couple of my own discs I was surprised by the valve qualities the system provides – and even some goose-bump factor that frankly is rarely achieved in most systems.
When one thinks of 125 watt SS integrated amplifiers and speakers using ribbon tweeters the word “warmth” doesn’t usually come to mind. And this is why it is important to audition a “system” so you have an idea of what the manufacturer is after in music reproduction. Indeed, many years ago I auditioned a prior Kandy amplifier in a mix and match set-up and wasn’t too impressed. And unfortunately such systems can place blame on the wrong components.
Kandy for Christmas
In Hong Kong the holiday season has Chinese New Year following closely after Christmas, so T.H. Yu was able to send me his demo gear. This is nice because it saved me from the break in period. While I can’t comment on break-in for my review, it should be noted that the Roksan has a short 30 hour recommendation for their loudspeakers which isn’t onerous compared to many other manufacturers.
The well used amp and CD player arrived along with the elegant and very well built and finished speakers. Indeed, the speakers are pure class all the way through and while Roksan may not be noted for their speakers they should be because they’re genuine stars. I will get to them later but be prepared.
The K2 amp and CD player are a little hard on the eyes and won’t win any beauty contests. They’re both brushed aluminum affairs and understated. The CD player is solidly constructed with a front loading mechanism that seems fairly robust, and which reads discs quite quickly. The display is small and hard to read at a distance, though you can read the track number well enough. Around the back the player offers well spaced analog outputs and three digital outputs including Toslink, Balanced AES/EBU and coaxial. The supplied touch screen remote, which takes 4 AAA batteries and is quite heavy, is quite impressive and has a matched brushed aluminum surface (nice touch). It deserves a few words here from their manual.
The LCD display & the hand set will turn on as soon as the batteries are inserted. If the handset is left untouched for 90 seconds, it will automatically turn off the LCD to save battery life. The handset is equipped with a motion sensor and thus will ‘wake up’ as soon as it is picked up. The Back Light will only come on when the back light button is pressed and will stay on during operation. Back light will turn off automatically after 10 seconds if none of the buttons are pressed.
The remote control also controls the partnered integrated amplifier, and it took me only a short time to adjust to the way it functions. I had to remember to push the Amp/CD button on the remote to control volume, and then the same button to switch back to operate the CD player. The remote is well built and the buttons are nice and big and easy to read. After owning a few surround receivers, I was very happy to be able to use this one without earning a Master’s degree in computer science to figure out how to press play. If I can do it, I am betting anyone can. The fact that I didn’t need the manual to get it going is always nice.
The K2 amp is a powerhouse for integrated amplification, being rated at 125 watts into 8 ohms and 190watts into 4ohms. There are 5 line level inputs as well as a MM phono stage (naturally) and a switchable bypass input as well as pre-out for subwoofer (or for using an external power amplifier). Also included is a headphone output. I referred to this as a powerhouse but granted, this is coming from a guy who owns a 10 watt Audio Note Single Ended Pentode (SEP) tube amplifier. Still, I can’t imagine owning speakers that will need this sort of power (and the Roksan speakers proved not to either) but if you do have such speakers then the Roksan Integrated won’t disappoint, and you need not worry about a lack of headroom for the vast majority of loudspeakers.
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