Publisher Profile

Audio Note ONGAKU Integrated Amplifier Review

The $79,350 Audio Note ONGAKU Integrated SET amplifier Review

By: |


Past coupling of the large Tannoy to various amplifications re-affirmed the degree of driver control as put forth by the seemingly modest-powered Ongaku. For the Tannoy exhibited such unprecedented control of dynamics and scale as I’ve never seen before, that either the Ongaku’s NOS 211 tubes, or its triplet of the 1:2-ratio Audio Note™ silver-wired Perma 50 Nickel HiB double C-core Super-radiometal transformers, or both, were contributable to the superb feat.

Audio Note’s $39,775 AN-E SEC Signature that I reviewed in January 2006, now priced at $43,350, was also driven by the Ongaku for several months following the speaker’s review. Supposedly a mirror image of the impedance curve of Audio Note’s own amplifiers, the AN-E SEC Signature unveiled a tonal palette as driven by the Ongaku with an even higher manifestation of tonal complexity than I had observed in the review. A seemingly methodical and yet lightning-fast excitability attached itself to the suites of instrument harmonics as the speaker’s Sogon LX-hardwired drivers were infused by the Ongaku energy.

AN-Ongaku-8Violin solo Giuliano Carmignola and his 1722 Petro Guarneri violin in First Impression Music’s Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons hybrid SACD carried a textural sweetness so suggestive of an actual instrument through the Ongaku-driven AN speaker, that its power of persuasion would compel you to listen to it again and again at increasing volumes.

Perhaps the most impressive feat of the Ongaku/AN speaker in their supposedly perfect matching of impedance was the perfectly compression-free presentation of all music types. The aforementioned Guarneri violin had never sounded so open and persuasive before the Ongaku was installed. Similarly, climactic orchestral passages from the Fritz Reiner/CSO JVC XRCD Scheherazade via the Ongaku/AN-E SEC Signature divulged a most divine tonal openness even during the busiest of sections, which nonetheless became utterly liberating at once upon transforming into the Andantino.

I reckon I was experiencing sounds of instrument that was seemingly more convincing and seductive than the actual thing.



Highly personal and subjective a listening impression that mine undoubtedly was, all the esoteric components that Peter put into his $80k integrated amplifier and $42k loudspeakers are intended to achieve the most balanced of component virtues and to produce the highest level of purity in signal reproduction. It follows that attempts at tonal manipulation can only succeed in the incorporation of parts of varying grades, and in the case of the Ongaku, those parts could only result in lower fidelity level, since all the parts Peter put into it are already the best.

Earlier this year (2006), Peter Qvortrup, Audio Note UK proprietor, made arrangements for me to review his top DAC, preamplifier and integrated amplifier together: the $64k DAC5 Signature, the $68k, 3-chassis M10 preamplifier and the $80k Ongaku.

Life got really tough when I wanted to own even just one of them, as the sonic revelation these top gear imparted was clear as the sparkling water, and assimilation by the DAC5 Signature and Ongaku combination for their level of refinement was a very literal and instantaneous process, especially when the DAC5 Signature displayed its sonic superiority so readily over the $34k DAC5 Special of mine.

But the Ongaku represented an even higher stake in the scheme of things.

Integrated amplifier is seldom the top product in most companies’ R&D and marketing portfolio, and to most audiophiles, integrated amplifiers are also the least flexible components, requiring the concurrent arrangement of new preamplifier and amplifier for an assessment of either. Audio Note, on the other hand, is long known for its positioning the Ongaku integrated amplifier as the best amplification device.

Yet, Peter and his engineers created the best amplifier I’ve ever experienced, sparing no effort and finance, and they made it into an integrated design, one that not only puts forth the most consummate suite of sonic properties in an SET, but also one of such competency as to demonstrate a superiority over many other companies’ separate amplification designs.

For me, music-listening as a form of relaxation is much too base a notion to contemplate when the Ongaku takes helm, as a level of mental preparedness would precede each listening session in anticipation of powerful insights that the AN would bring forth from the same music. From the instance you put the jewel box of the meticulously selected CD in your hands and remove its disc from within, a pure and powerful sensation conjures from within you, one that compels you incessantly to prepare yourself mentally and to absorb the sonic richness put forth by the Ongaku.

I had never been able to forsake the surrounding environment of a concert hall completely as to emulate the concentration-inducing home listening experience; but the Ongaku attained such unprecedented and colossally consummate level of sonic finesse that its music reproduction via the likes of the Tannoy Churchill Wideband and the company’s own AN-E SEC Signature rivals the impact derived from live performances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popups Powered By :